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Mostly Useless

Entry 1429, on 2012-08-23 at 12:37:47 (Rating 4, Politics)

I like to occasionally offer an appraisal of the performance of the New Zealand government. Generally I'm not very positive about the right-wing parties we have here (and often rather less than totally enthusiastic regarding the left as well) but when the current National-lead government first came into power about 4 years ago I thought they were OK. But since then they have steadily gone down in my estimation and now I would have to rate them as "mostly useless".

Actually mostly useless is a bit too generous because "useless" implies they just have no real positive merit, but in this case no government at all would be preferable because in general this lot are worse than useless. However I am prepared to be charitable and rate them simply as "mostly useless". Yeah, I know, I can be very generous!

Anyway what is it about Key and his cronies which has incurred my wrath to the extent that I feel the need for yet another rant against them? Wow, where to start... Just about everything they have done has been a failure. Even the areas where they are allegedly competent - such as stimulating growth in business - seem to be a less than spectacular success. So let's move on to some specific examples...

When he was in opposition John Key said the number of New Zealanders moving to Australia was a vote of no confidence in the Labour government of the time. During the election campaign Key said he would reverse that trend and that although it couldn't be turned around overnight they were already making progress. Apparently going from 28,000 in Labour's time to 54,000 now is progress according to John Key. If that's how he does his maths it's no wonder the economy is also such a mess!

At the moment 1000 people per week give up on the government's promises of a better life here and leave for Australia... strangely enough, where they have a Labour government!

National supporters usually trot out some trite excuse like "it is all the previous Labour government's fault - they left the country in such mess it will take years to fix it". Is that right? And how many years exactly are we talking here? I don't expect miracles but shouldn't things be getting gradually better, not worse? Maybe an alternative explanation is that National just don't know what they're doing. Isn't that also a possibility?

Another sign of the misguided dogma National are following is their employment policy. The latest change is to allow employers to employ new staff on less than the terms of the collective contract. OK, maybe they think that will encourage more employment or make the economy more efficient or that it might have some other amorphous benefit, but the labour minister insists it will be good for workers and give them more freedom. Surely no one really believes this. Employers already have the opportunity to offer better conditions so all this allows is for them to offer worse. How is this good for employees?

And the minister seems to think that this will encourage employers and employees to negotiate and reach a mutually beneficial and amicable solution. Wow, these people really do live in cloud cuckoo land, don't they? New employees can't afford to negotiate, they just have to take what they're offered. Imagine how they would be viewed by the government if they refused a job because of poor conditions and then had to rely on the welfare system. There is no room for negotiation, but the Nats either don't understand this or deliberately ignore it.

I agree that employment conditions here have created a few new jobs. For example Heinz moved a factory from Australia to New Zealand to exploit our low-wage economy. About 150 jobs were lost in Australia and 50 new ones (many casual) were created here. Is this the way we really want to progress? Is offering a low wage workforce with no bargaining power the best we can do? Is stealing jobs from our neighbours and encouraging virtual slave labour conditions here the right path forward? Apparently from their lofty heights the top 1% (including Key and his rich friends) think so.

And finally we come to the policy which really defines right-wing governments here: their continual insistence on selling off the assets that the people of this country own, even though the record in the past on these deals has been very poor at best (some would say disastrous). But the asset sales have hit a few roadblocks: Maori claims on water (which I discussed in a blog post "More Sabotage" on 2012-07-12) and recent poor performance of one of the assets up for sale, Solid Energy, have put them on hold.

Apparently the government only wants to sell assets which are performing well. Is this a common business strategy? Most companies sell off the assets which aren't working for them and tend to keep the ones which are generating a good return. And yes, I know that the better the asset is the more you get for it, but compared with the long term income possible this seems like a very unwise and short-sighted strategy.

It seems that learning from history is not something the political right like to do, which is odd because conservatives often like to live in the past. There are so many examples of failed privatisations that you have to wonder how they can justify more. The New Zealand rail system was sold, virtually destroyed by its new owners, and had to be bought back by the government. Air New Zealand was sold, almost bankrupted, and rescued by the government. Our phone system was sold, turned into a monopoly, and now has had to have a lot of government intervention to make it work efficiently. It's just one disaster after another yet they just don't seem to see it. They even want to sell our share in Air New Zealand again! As my old science teacher said: "everyone makes mistakes but only a fool makes the same mistake twice."

I know that the initial wave of privatisations was done by a Labour government in the 1980s. But that was a party which had been hijacked by the same factions which now control National. I will never forgive Labour for what they did in the 80s but at least they have moved back to a more sensible, centrist position when they realised the great promises of neo-liberalism were fake. National seem intent on pursuing them even though they have been a total failure.

Everything Key and his morally corrupt friends do seems to be designed to increase the gap between rich and poor, to drive down conditions to third world levels, and to create an overclass of greedy, self-centered people who care about nothing except making more for themselves no matter what the cost. I can understand why the top 1% would vote for a party like this but it's bizarre that anyone else would. On the other hand I do have to agree that the main opposition party, Labour, is extremely uninspiring, both in its leadership (nice guy but not an extremely effective politician) and in its policies (are they really that different from the government's which Labour criticises?)

Of all the parties out there the Greens are the only one which I have much confidence in and even then there are areas in their agenda which I disagree with. Of course it's unreasonable to think that there should be a party which agrees 100% with my opinions so I really should accept that I need to choose one which is the least bad instead of one which is perfect.

One thing's for sure though: this government has to go. I could possibly get over their clear right wing agenda if there were any real benefits apparent from it, but they can't even get that right. If I went back through their actions I think I could find some which have achieved a good outcome (no one is 100% wrong) but I can't think of anything right now. As I said before, my most generous appraisal can only be "mostly useless".

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Comment 1 (3322) by Anonymous on 2012-08-23 at 14:40:59:

OJB said: I like to occasionally offer an appraisal...
Anon said: Yet to see anything from you that even suggested political positivity.

OJB said: and often rather less than totally enthusiastic regarding the left as well...
Anon said: oh, when ???

OJB said: Actually mostly useless is a bit too generous...
Anon said: You really must stop spending so much time at university - "no government" being better "any government" is discernibly nuts.

OJB said: At the moment 1000 people per week...
Anon said: Labor Australia is a shambles. Prior to her election, Gillard is now known to have been dismissed from her law firm for involvement in dishonesty. She organized the coup against Kevin Rudd and Labor Australia is now as DEAD as she is.

OJB said: National supporters usually trot out...
Anon said: If you spent some time on facts (which almost every Leftist I've ever met never does) the relevant facts will uphold that National's "excuse" is correct.

OJB said: And the minister seems to think...
Anon said: Who doesn't understand it????

OJB said: And finally we come to the policy...
Anon said: There is no right wing government here - only idiots who haven't bothered to understand what "right wing" means could postulate such crap. National's policies are mostly left of centre.

OJB said: Apparently the government only wants to sell assets...
Anon said: To anyone with such a lack of economic understanding, explanation is quite pointless.

OJB said: It seems that learning from history is not...
Anon said: Conservatives live in the past? Every Labour conference pays homage to M J Savage - and how many years ago did he snuff it?

OJB said: I know that the initial wave of privatisations...
Anon said: The Douglas reforms were completely, utterly and totally necessary. Lange's interference wrought the subsequent problems.

OJB said: Everything Key and his morally corrupt friends...
Anon said: Morally corrupt? Oh my!!!

OJB said: Of all the parties out there the Greens...
Anon said: The Greens are a bunch of over-educated loonies with absolutely nothing in the way of administrative abilities.

OJB said: One thing's for sure though: ...
Anon said: Who do you think would bother to read this opinionated load of unsubstantiated tripe?

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Comment 2 (3323) by OJB on 2012-08-23 at 14:43:23:

Anon said: Yet to see anything from you that even suggested political positivity.
OJB replied: From my blog in late 2008... I actually agree with this one: "I did not vote National because of their past misdeeds, but I am very very impressed with the way John Key has taken the reins. Up and at it and performance is the criteria." Yes, true. At this early stage I am impressed with John Key as well.

Anon said: oh, when ???
OJB replied: From this very blog entry... I do have to agree that the main opposition party, Labour, is extremely uninspiring

Anon said: You really must stop spending so much time at university - "no government" being better "any government" is discernibly nuts.
OJB replied: Clearly a rhetorical point.

Anon said: You must read Hoskins' article - it has a far more realistic base, with far better examples, to support its argument.
OJB replied: The numbers speak for themselves. Hoskins was talking crap.

Anon said: Labor Australia is a shambles. Prior to her election, Gillard is now known to have been dismissed from her law firm for involvement in dishonesty. She organized the coup against Kevin Rudd and Labor Australia is now as DEAD as she is.
OJB replied: I agree Labour in Australia is dead. The point is even given that people prefer Australia to New Zealand under Key!

Anon said: If you spent some time on facts (which almost every Leftist I've ever met never does) the relevant facts will uphold that National's "excuse" is correct.
OJB replied: And yet these facts, while often mentioned in communications never materialise.

Anon said: The employer's interests have to come first: they take the risks with capital and provide the jobs.
OJB replied: No. Everyone'e interests need to be considered so we have a fair environment where everyone can benefit.

Anon said: If self-serving leftists assisted by the unions don't like it, they could always try and take on such risks for themselves. Fat chance, it's easier to criticize employers while you goof off.
OJB replied: Not everyone wants to rake risks. many people want to work and be creative and productive instead.

Anon said: Who doesn't understand it????
OJB replied: The minister of labour clearly, or she's lying to us.

Anon said: There is no right wing government here - only idiots who haven't bothered to understand what "right wing" means could postulate such crap. National's policies are mostly left of centre.
OJB replied: Well that's totally untrue. I have shown you where National sits on independent political graphs. You're just talking garbage again.

Anon said: To anyone with such a lack of economic understanding, explanation is quite pointless.
OJB replied: What a well thought out and meaningful response... not!

Anon said: Conservatives live in the past? Every Labour conference pays homage to M J Savage - and how many years ago did he snuff it?
OJB replied: That's sort of what conservative means! Look it up in a dictionary: "holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion."

Anon said: The Douglas reforms were completely, utterly and totally necessary. Lange's interference wrought the subsequent problems.
OJB replied: Oh wow. Amazing... Want an interesting re-interpretation of history.

Anon said: Morally corrupt? Oh my!!!
OJB replied: Indeed. It's a problem.

Anon said: The Greens are a bunch of over-educated loonies with absolutely nothing in the way of administrative abilities.
OJB replied: Well a lot of people would disagree.

Anon said: Who do you think would bother to read this opinionated load of unsubstantiated tripe?
OJB replied: Currently my blog has had 1,650,744 page views. How about yours?

So yet again you're wrong about everything!

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