Brian Edwards Media

Why I wouldn’t trust John Key as far as I could throw him – A Response



In my previous post I made the unequivocal statement that “I wouldn’t trust John Key as far as I could throw him.” Several people commented that I really ought to provide some evidence in support of that conclusion. I could perhaps respond that the general theme of the post was that our opinions of other people (and politicians in particular) are often based on feeling or intuition unsupported by demonstrable facts and incapable of empirical proof. Intuition can be a pretty reliable tool for judging others. Nonetheless, I think the question ‘Why would you not trust John Key as far as you could throw him?’ deserves an answer.

You’ll find part of the answer in John Key – ‘There There’ Prime Minister which I posted on March 2. But you have to look to the ‘pokies for payola’ deal which Key negotiated with Sky City to really understand where I’m coming from. What that deal told me was that our Prime Minister is a man devoid of social conscience or a moral compass.

The Hippocratic Oath, sworn by many doctors around the globe, contains the following sentence:

“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone.”

It seems to me that this principle of never doing harm to anyone can properly apply to any person whose decision-making power can influence the lives of others. Politicians certainly come into that category and none more so than a president or prime minister.

It’s worth noting that Hippocrates’ principle  is tempered in the oath by the physician’s ‘ability’ and ‘judgement’. He/she must understand the consequences of their actions and use their judgement to make an informed decision.

So in negotiating a deal with Sky City was John Key informed on the social harm which granting Sky City the right to increase the number of pokies on the casino floor by 230 while further adding an additional 40 gaming tables, making it possible for 17% of pokie machines and automatic table games to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20 and  introducing card-based cashless gaming technology on all pokie machines and automatic table games… was the Prime Minister informed on the social harm which those measures would inevitably cause?

Quite clearly he was. But his and his government’s expressed view was that the benefits which would accrue to Auckland and New Zealand in terms of job creation, increased tourism and cash outweighed any harm which the concessions to the casino operators might bring.

It was, if you like, a price worth paying.

It was certainly worth it to Sky City. Investment bank Goldman Sachs estimated the new pokies and other concessions could add $42 million a year to the casino’s profits.

So John Key was certainly informed about the social harm which his deal with Sky City would do; he used his judgement to weigh that harm against the largely financial benefits to Auckland and New Zealand which the deal offered; he made a deliberate decision to proceed. So in my book he must take credit for both the benefits and the subsequent social harm.

The funny thing about pokies is that they look like the most innocent form of gambling: chuck a few coins in the slot, press the button, enjoy the excitement of the lights, the noise, the spinning numbers, your heart racing and every now and then the thrill when the machine pays out, the coins tumbling into the metal tray.

But pokies are the most addictive form of gambling. The pyrotechnics are all part of that; the occasional payout is there to keep you interested, a form of partial reinforcement. And though the individual punter may very occasionally strike a big payout, the generic punter always loses. The machine is engineered to ensure profits for the casino, not for you. How else do you think those additional machines, courtesy of John Key, could add $42 million a year to Sky City’s profits?

Well, there’s harm and harm. Maybe I’m exaggerating. And if this were an academic exercise I just might be. But this is a very personal issue for me. I have seen the devastation that addiction to the pokies has caused first hand, in my own family and in Judy’s. I’m qualified to say that this is an addiction up there with heroin and P. It destroys marriages, breaks up families, leaves men and women without jobs, children without parents. It leads to despair and, not infrequently, to suicide.

To be informed about all of this, to weigh these outcomes in the balance against financial profit, whether for a company or a city or a country, and to decide that the inevitable social harm was a price worth paying…  That is what John Key did. And that is why I say that that this Prime Minister is a man without conscience or moral compass.

John Key is what he is and has always been – a dealmaker and a bloody good one.  But I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

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  1. If it really is a case of a PM and Government should do no harm…

    why did you assist in the election of a Prime Minister and Government that did NOT reverse the folly of allowing a casino in the first place, and instead sent in the bulldozers to level the loathsome place to the ground?

    Don’t think you have to answer to defend yourself, as it isn’t intended as a game of “gotcha!”

    Except in exceptional cases of the truly amoral, we all make make trade-offs between the moral poles of principle and practice. Your intuition may be right. However, I think it more likely you have confused Key’s allegedly “devoid of social conscience or a moral compass” as a case of him making the trade-off at a different place from you. The rest is quibbling over details and justifying one’s stance.

    But while demonising those with a different opinion may be self-satisfying, it seldom leads to a meeting of the minds. Or considered discourse. I await comment from the usual suspects…

    • If you have a look back at my previous comments on casinos and pokies on this site, you’ll find that I have been protesting about both since the day Sky City was opened by Jenny Shipley. I also criticised my good friend and former Governor General Cath Tizard, a Labour stalwart, for being there. You have also no idea what views I expressed to Helen Clark on casinos. As for your comment in response to my post, I would say that it was a perfect example of ‘gotcha!’ You can reply to this if you like. But don’t expect anything further from me in response. I’ve leant that that is really a futile endeavor.

      • Like I said, “The rest is quibbling over details and justifying one’s stance”.

      • I despise gambling with a passion. I understand that like many things gambling can be addictive and it destroys people financially and socially. However I think that many on the left are hypocritical when it comes to the casino and convention centre deal. I acknowledge you were against the casino establishment and changes since then to accommodate the casino. I also believe that privately you would have expressed your concerns privately, but did not speak out publicly and there will be good reasons for that. My point is that many things in life are addictive. I wonder if the issue of increased gambling addiction is overstated. The addiction to pokies is in the pubs in the suburbs, at the TAB, At the lotto shop. I don’t believe a larger gambling facility will make me addicted any more that a larger wine section at the supermarket will make me an alcoholic.

        The other issue I have is that under Clark a not dis-similar deal was done. But the left want to be purer than driven snow when this deal was brought into the discussion.

        And finally is the cost to some people ( if you believe the increased addiction) outweighed by the benefit to NZ as a whole by having the international convention centre at no cost to the taxpayer ( and probably a net benefit in terms of investment, jobs and tourism. For my part I say go for it. The convention centre is worth is. Obviously the left have tried to beat this up for three years. Simply has not worked and John key and national have read the view of the majority as similar to mine. And that is the strength of John key. After eight years as leader of national he continues to read the people of NZ well. And connect with them.

    • Anyone who uses addictions as a reason to do business, is probably amoral rather than immoral….
      The real horror is that it appears most of NZ doesn’t see it by the latest polls.
      Keep talking BE…hopefully people might listen.
      There actually are some truths more important than money but not with this PM.

      • Fair enough.

        I take it you are 100% behind Hone and Mana in heart and deed to ban tobacco, and end forever the pernicious practice of governments pocketing the excise?


          False equivalence. Gambling and smoking are both harmful and addictive, but people here are not proposing to ban gambling. They are proposing restrictions on gambling or curtailing of activities that encourage gambling, both of which exist for smoking.

          • False equivalence even when it was in response to the statement, “Anyone who uses addictions as a reason to do business, is probably amoral rather than immoral….”?

            Refer also to my question to Lee Chapman, as I think Sandi’s statement qualifies as an imperative in deontological ethics:

            “But wouldn’t a Kantian really respond with, “forget about quibbling over minimising. We shouldn’t EVEN have allowed this in the first place” and then proceed by legally permitted means (nationalisation/compulsory acquisition with compensation to the owners) to get rid of the thing?”

    • Well said Kimbo. BE won’t respond and justify his hypocrisy as there’s no way he can logically defend the advancement of gambling NZ saw under the Clark govt, including a similar deal.

      Nor can he appreciate that people of good faith and intentions weigh different values when coming to decision. So instead he resorts to the infantile ‘you disagree with me therefore you are immoral’.

      Such cheap character assassination doesn’t make for powerful argument Brian

      • Now, now. It was at least a variation on his dismissive “Jesuitical nit-picking” reaction when the logic and facts of his arguments are taken to task. You used the word hypocrisy. That wasn’t really what I was arguing, although I could see how you got there, and how the passion of BE’s views leaves him open to the charge. But that’s the thing – it is a view dominated by passion, and fair enough too, because the devastation that gambling has wrought in peoples lives requires a stronger response than just inexorable logic and facts. But you are right on the button that people with different views should be accorded the benefit of the doubt regarding their “good faith and intentions” – unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. Despite the assorted garish claims to the contrary, I’ve discerned none from the assorted amateur psychoanalysts and Key-whisperers who gather to graze in these parts.

        Trying to at least do Brian’s intent justice, you could at least argue that politicians should do as “little harm as possible”. That is a better application of a their brief, rather than the poorly chosen analogy of the Hippocratic Oath for a different (but not entirely) vocation.

        On that basis, leaving aside whatever new gambling initiatives occurred under the 5th Labour Government (and I have not researched and am not familiar with the details) because they are irrelevant to the moral responsibility Key bears, you can make a good case the deal is bad.

        Mind you, it still comes down to a judgement call. Roger Douglas was always adamant – his reforms were to avert later and much more serious harm to the country. Indeed, shades of BE and the Hippocratic Oath, he usually framed it in the analogy of a doctor administering tough but necessary medicine. It is up to others, using the selection and arrangement of the facts, logic, as well as passion, intuition and willfulness to decide if he was right.

      • 1.3.2

        Actually Mark the number of pokies available not just in casinos but generally fell significantly under the Clark government as a matter of specific government policy which imposed a ceiling and what was effectively a ‘sinking lid’. I know this because I was involved in the decison to adopt this, and in the oversight of its implementation It came ultimately from the Alliance/ Progressive coalition partner and was the work of Phillida Bunkle who you may recall was a Green who stayed inside the Alliance instead of decamping with the rest in 1999. Getting rid of pokies and casinos at the stroke of a pen was not a practical option and this was the alternative (which you may or may not agree with but that is the fact of the matter)

        • And that maybe sums up the difference between Key and Clark.
          Both at some point make “practical” trade-offs.

          Nevertheless, Clark’s guiding principles were to minimise the harm she could as much as practically possible – and have the courage to push the boundaries by incremental rather than radical change that created new social realities. Her ending of sports sponsorship by tobacco and non-smoking in pubs and public buildings is an example. The resulting years added on to thousands of lives is something over which she has covered herself in deserved political and social glory. When it didn’t go well, like the “showerhead” initiative (which was never hers!), it lost her significant political capital and the ongoing ability to “do good”

          Key’s pragmatism and social goals, likely guided by his informally held (i.e., non-academic) libertarianism would likely view the harm/benefit trade-off as continually negotiable. In this case the location and number of pokies was not a significant increase to a social ill that is here to stay – and there were significant financial/social benefits to be gained. Like the partial state asset sales, he was prepared to risk a loss of popularity because he genuinely believed it to be a good financial/social deal, and he backs his skills to minimise the political fall-out.

          Ones moral philosophical framework concerning human nature, both individual and collective will determine which you consider is correct. Clark’s approach undoubtedly holds the moral high ground. Mind you, I’m reminded of Russell Marshall’s desire for Labour in 1972 to campaign vigourously on the fashionable moral issues of the time – Mururoa, Springbok tours, Vietnam, etc. Norman Kirk’s (reasonable) rebuke was that the economy WAS a moral issue. Not that Big Norm would have had any time for casinos in the economic equation…


            Remove the Reptilian

            This reply supports the claim that the prime minister is way out of his depth regarding harm minimization and social responsibility



              Demonstrated facts linked with logic are usually necessary to show others the truth of ones assertions.

    • Pre-empting responses with “I await comment from the usual suspects…” in the same paragraph that begins with “But while demonising those with a different opinion may be self-satisfying …[etc]” is the most clear cut case of self-contradiction I’ve seen in a while. Unfortunately it consigns your preceding attempted defence of Keys behavior to the same duplicitous trash can Key himself uses. Principle and practice are not dichotomous – one results as a consequence of the other. The polarity is defined by what is moral and amoral on the part of decision makers … which is quite separate from the desires and expectations of those who helped put them there. No doubt it’s left you “satisfied” as you point out. The most satisfaction you deserve, in my opinion, is that you were dignified with a reply at all.

      • “Principle and practice are not dichotomous”.

        Indeed. I said they are poles, not dichotomous. You can make moral decisions on the basis of principles (deonotogical ethics) or their pragmatic (teleological) effect. Both are equally valid means. Sometimes it is a combination of the two.

        I’m not demonising the “usual suspects”. I acknowledge the intelligence and professional and life-expertise of many who post. That’s why I graze here. However, having observed the content of threads stretching back a number of years I’m just surprised the comments seems so repetitious, and seldom adding anything significantly new – or challenging already entrenched positions.


          Confusing the distinction between deontological and teleological ethics with the distinction between principle and practice is a mistake. They aren’t the same thing.

          Case in point: value pluralistic consequentialisms will often require tradeoffs.

          • Quite right – I defer to your expertise. I brushed up on some of my (very old) undergraduate studies. “Principle” and “practice” was my imprecise mental short-hand to differentiate and make them applicable.

            However, would it be fair to say that Key’s ethical approach in the matter was telelogical? – assume for a minute he has some. I’m know your academic qualifications and expertise mean you are capable of that :))

            e.g., I can create more good for my country from the economic opportunities that accrue out of this deal, compared to the likely small decrease in gambling harm minimisation, i.e., a couple of hundred extra pokies concentrated in a specialised gambling zone rather than scattered around the city where they are more accessible?


              Fair enough.

              The objection to that is that it is an inappropriate exchange on Kantian or consequentialist grounds. Either victims are being used as a means to society’s or someone else’s end, or that the bad consequences in the form of externalities aren’t being properly counted because they are likely to be externalised to individuals and their families rather than society as a whole.


                Perhaps the best argument is the rule utilitarian argument encapsulated in an old joke.

                A man walks up to an attractive woman in a bar and asks if she will have sex with him for a million dollars.

                “Sure”, she says smiling.

                “So”, he asks, “will you do it for ten dollars?”

                She replies, outraged: “Do you think I am some sort of whore?”

                He replies: “We have already established that. Now we are simply negotiating the price”.



                But wouldn’t a Kantian really respond with, “forget about quibbling over minimising. We shouldn’t EVEN have allowed this in the first place” and then proceed by legally permitted means (nationalisation/compulsory acquisition with compensation to the owners) to get rid of the thing?

          • …and would it be fair to categorise the impertative “you must never decrease gambling-harm minimisation” as a deontological ethical approach?

  2. I would suggest that a ‘bloody good dealmaker’ secures a deal that goes down well for all concerned and has some longevity. Key has been an abject failure in achieving that.

    But then wait his prime skill base is making money, fast and bugger the consequences. Sadly, that’s why he appeals to a large section of the NZ electorate.

    Perhaps Cunliffe should ask Key ‘show me the results’.

  3. thanks for trying to clarify, Brian…i trust him to do the best for the business known as NZ Inc..or aka, that small country in the South Pacific known as New Zealand..what he does in his private imagination doesn’t interest me.

    • What on earth has ‘his private imagination’ got to do with anything. There was nothing private about this deal and it’s consequences will be very real for a great many New Zealanders and their extended families.

  4. Allow me to be the first of the “usual suspects”. Is it not fair and reasonable to say that the absence of someone doing an extreme and illegal thing, knocking down a casino when it could have been possible with the last government, does not convict them of hypocrisy now when they judge a politician for his dealings with sky city.

    The trouble with quasi debaters like yourself is that you invent the lowest part of your opponents argument and seek to characterize their whole argument by its implications.

    Is saying the Prime Minister cannot be trusted really an act of demonization? It is as legitimate a position as concluding that the behavior of Vladimir Putin is pushing the Ukraine into dire uncertainty. It is an opinion based on certain evidence. Disagree and refute what you will, but embracing moral relativism by releasing Key from his responsibility since his perspective is different, is vacuous and politically ludicrous.

    • “The trouble with quasi debaters like yourself is that you invent the lowest part of your opponents argument and seek to characterize their whole argument by its implications….Is saying the Prime Minister cannot be trusted really an act of demonization?”

      No, it isn’t.

      I’m also not saying “others did it, so Key is automatically absolved”. Kay may be wrong and untrustworthy – but weighing it up, I don’t think so.

      But neither is it me characterising the “whole” of BE’s argument. Instead, an EXTREME non-negotiable interpretation was put on the moral principle “do no harm”, and then applied to a politician’s character, judgement and actions…and an equally EXTREME non-negotiable judgement was arrived at at: “And that is why I say that that this Prime Minister is a man without/devoid (of social) conscience or (a) moral compass”.

      Not “partly”, “significantly”, or “almost completely”, but…”without/devoid”. No chance of nuance? Nope!

      Sounds like demonisation to me.

      People who throw around those extreme sort of judgements, and statements of authority such as,

      “…this is a very personal issue for me. I have seen the devastation that addiction to the pokies has caused first hand, in my own family and in Judy’s. I’m qualified to say that this is an addiction up there with heroin and P. It destroys marriages, breaks up families, leaves men and women without jobs, children without parents. It leads to despair and, not infrequently, to suicide”

      …have to be prepared to have the full implications of their reasoning process examined and applied back to them – along with an acknowledgement of their genuine compassion, righteous anger, and humanity. Just as plenty of us, including my extended family and probably yours too KNOW first hand the horrors of gambling. Just like alcohol, smoking, easy-finance…

      I’d suggest NO politician can live up to BE’s expectations of “social conscience” and “moral compass”. Drawing out the REASONABLE implications of BE’s morality concerning casinos, Clark’s government was an accomplice collecting tax revenue from gambling.

      Bear in mind that one of a number of BE’s public departures over the years from the ranks of the Labour Party came as a result of broadcasted disagreement with Norman Kirk over housing for the homeless. Norman Kirk, probably more than any other NZ PM possessed a very keen and principled “social conscience”, and “moral compass”. Which is why BE is always a fascinating man, whose opinion is worth hearing and considering. But agreeing with it? Ya pays yer money, and ya takes yer pick…wrong metaphor!

      And as far as his interpretation of “do no harm”? Well, maybe Hone and Mana would nationalise/utilise compulsory acquisition of the casino by legislative means prior to demolition. But what about the harm to the hard-working low-income tax or rate payer who would otherwise have to stump up the cost for a convention center or incur the opportunity costs of lost employment by passing it by? Scorn those if you will, but THAT, along with the acknowledgement gambling is legalised evil that is here to stay so ‘we should make the best of a bad situation’ (whatever that may be) wasn’t even weighed in the equation!

      But then BE rather gives the game away by arguing “Intuition can be a pretty reliable tool for judging others”. Yeah, nah. Not when it is a cover for willfulness – which is BE’s prerogative as with everyone else.

      Fluff it up in polished prose, but this is just a “haters gonna hate” post. It didn’t have to be. But it is.

      Time for a reality check. I know that politicians’ family-lives are often packaged for public consumption in a certain way. Fair enough. Nonetheless, the realistic slices of life that we get of Key with his family demonstrate he is a caring and concerned spouse and father in what appears an emotionally normal and stable family. Just as I’m sure Clark’s was, and as Cunliffe will prove to be when that part of his life is presented in more detail this year.

      People who are “without/devoid (of social) conscience or (a) moral compass” can’t pull that off.

      And, also, no. The tenor and content of your post lifts you well beyond the level of “the usual suspects” in my less-than-esteemed opinion.

      • Ah, but living on ‘planet key’ it is not necessary to have a social conscience or a moral compass to appear to be normal. There is no normality on planet key just as there are no toilets, only golf courses.

        Who was that again playing the fiddle while Rome burned?

        • And this, for Joseph Boon’s benefit IS one of the usual suspects!

          Yes, I forgot the premise from a couple of posts ago. Rather than John Key “being relaxed” as most people find him, he instead spends his whole life “acting relaxed”.

          I’m pretty sure Key is firmly grounded on planet earth, but in the case of those pushing the above narrative…let me know when your space shuttle lands.

  5. Perhaps the same comments could be applied to members of the Lange government, still hanging around like a bad smell, who wrought untold damage to the social fabric of this country using the same argument that the benefits outweighed the harm. In many ways we are still paying the price for the members of that government, “without conscience or moral compass”.

    If you would like a more recent example excoriate the hypocrisy of Labour MPs who raged against the Sky City deal but who then happily accepted the hospitality of Sky City at Eden Park.

    By all means criticise the moral compass of Key, but do not forget the venality and hypocrisy of those who share your political persuasion.

    Even those who profess to care for the disadvantaged are not immune from the lure of cash for the sake of expediency. Witness the seeming willingness of Mana to take the money from KDC, a rich prick in the worst sense of the word, who underpays his staff and happily steals other peoples’ copyright.

    Who precisely would you trust? At least you know where you stand with Key. You may not like him and you may not like his actions but give me an honest rogue any day than the weasel mouthed hypocrite who now leads the Labour Party.

    • “At least you know where you stand with…” has been used to mitigate the excesses many politicians. I’ve said it about Muldoon (who wasn’t, I maintain, as bad as many painted him, though Brian may have a different view).

      That’s okay, as far as it goes. There’s much to be said for consistency in a leader. But there’s also much to recommend someone with less hubris – who might proceed cautiously, stopping occasionally to measure the effects of what had been done so far.

      The last leader to admit he wasn’t omniscient – and nor were his Ministers – was David Lange. But when he wanted to “stop for a cup of tea” and assess the impact of the Douglas / Prebble reforms he was portrayed as weak and indecisive by much of the media and by his own party. One of our potentially greatest PMs (IMHO) ended with a whimper, handing over to a clearly ill-suited successor because his caution had left his career mortally wounded.

      I thought then, and I think now, that we would benefit from leadership by someone willing to, in the words of the old road safety caution, “stop, look and listen”. Perhaps if we had, NZ society wouldn’t have been hit by quite so many buses.

    • Well, this is the ‘ya boo sux’ style of argument. If you cared to go back to the columns I wrote for the Dominion Sunday Times during the Lange administration, and later published in a collection called ‘Intemperate Outbursts’ you’ll find the most trenchant criticism of Roger Douglas and Rogernomics, including a column titled ‘This Labour a Government does not speak for me’. What’s infuriating about so many of these replies is the suggestion that I’m no more than a mouthpiece for the Labour Party. It’s really insulting.

    • 5.3

      There is a difference between causing harm from misguided idealism, which I think was true for a time of certain members of that Labour government, and causing harm because you simply don’t care about people or because you want your own way. The recent asset sales debacle being a good example of the latter, and the pokie machine deal the former.

      The point about Sky City hospitality is well made, though.

  6. I think it’s fair to say there have been too many untruths spoken by him too???… Seems to be the case… and covering for others… All documented if we care to look… some people though think that is ok???



    Nothing more needs to be said other than an update to the list would make it a lot longer.

  8. An excellent piece, Brian. (Just shows you what a Raro holiday can do.) I reckon the Sky deal was about the most cynical act I’ve seen any NZ government carry out.

  9. 9

    You really have to wonder just what it is about John Key that most irritates Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Is it his fortune, his highly effective easy affability, very canny communication skills, fact he is advised by possibly the best Prime Minister we never had in Bill English?
    The implied venality seems to be an equal opportunity trait across all party lines, so apart from ‘He has the power…’ what exactly is the problem please?
    Roger G

    • “his very canny communication skills”

      are you seriously talking about John Key? Of his questionable skills I would not consider his communication as one of his better, in fact when I see him in international media I cringe to think he is representing me. Obama comes across as authoritive, Key comes across as shifty and anything but eloquent. If he was to face off against historically great orators like Helen Clark or David Lange the difference would be VERY apparent. Sometimes he mangles his words so badly he almost comes across as intoxicated…

      Or do you mean ‘canny’ as in, subterfuge?

      • 9.1.1

        No I mean Mr Key comes across as someone who hasn’t had ‘media training’…and out here in the real world that’s a good thing in a pre-packaged media environment. If he occasionally mangles a word or even uses the wrong word…so what, he’s like the rest of us.

  10. Brian I agree with everything you say about the deal that was done by John Key with Sky City. The social consequences will continue to be horrendous and all of us collectively will suffer and pay for this decision.

    John Key does come across as a good Kiwi bloke, but a joke he made the other day after his visit to China reminded me just how gauche he really is.

    He joked: “You can now convert New Zealand dollars into renminbi, if you are of such a mind to do so. So, life after politics, I might go back to the foreign exchange markets and smack around the renminbi. Maybe not.” NZH

    Not the sort of comment a Prime Minister should make of a major trading partner’s currency I would have thought. Yet the majority of NZers still think he is a great guy and no doubt laughed at his joke!

    • Maybe its because our national character is a bit gauche, and our social egalitarianism (don’t the left wing argue this is a positive aspect of our cultural capital?!) means that in Key we see a reflection of ourselves.

      That also means we have more important things to worry about than “the sort of comment a Prime Minister should make”

  11. Well said Brian. The foundation of this deal probably lies with JK’s background as a currency trader, where gambling and money for nothing are stock in trade. This has become a national malaise, with speculation and gambling highlighted as legitimate ways to get rich. Unfortunately, as you point out, casino-style gambling enriches the provider and almost never the consumer, and there are severe social consequences. This is a step beyond currency or property speculation, but they share a common philosophy in the idea that one should not have to actually create anything worthwhile in order to gain the right to consume at the expense of one’s fellow citizens.

    • Well said, Euan. I maintain that John Key has never done a genuinely productive day’s work in his life.

  12. Given the choice I would close down every casino in the country and consign every pokie machine to the scrap heap.

    However since that is not going to happen I do wonder if we have to have these wretched machines, whether they are not better in a location such as Sky City where they are unde some sort of scrutiny, rather than in every pub and club.

    Even had the Sky City proposal been turned down the social harm done by these machines would have continued to escalate. Perhaps the anger should be directed at the government/minister who began the whole process of liberalising the gambling industry (someone will no doubt remember). The genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Who took the cork out?

    It always surprises me when I look at the lists of community organisations that supposedly benefit from the grants from these machines. Many of them I know are opposed to pokies yet continue to accept the grants.

    Those who oppose the machines also need to check that community groups with which they are involved are not beneficiaries.

  13. Ben,

    I agree. I am president of a society that obtained a superb piece of equipment from the proceeds of gambling, and I shudder a little inside whenever I see it. We are all caught up in this madness. It is embedded in our society and our institutions, and it requires a legal remedy.

  14. Hear hear Brian.
    In life. right is right, and wrong is wrong.
    The fact that most of us (certainly many above)simply don’t have to courage to live by this simple moral code, shows how easily humanity can be swayed when personal profit is involved (it takes great courage to be an honest man/women and live by that code).
    John Key knows that if you wave a $ carrot, the greedy donkey will always come a running! Neigh National, neigh!
    So in life, it doesn’t matter what the justifying distortion of the truth is, right ‘IS’ right, and wrong ‘IS’ wrong. Very simple really.
    Someone who regularly does wrong, while constantly justifying their motivation, has what is called in psychology, a ‘personality disorder’.
    John Key has a personality disorder without a doubt , and a sizable one at that (inability to tell the difference between right and wrong is one of the main indicators as is lack of empathy for others). The trail of self justification and repeated looks of feigned disinterest that Key displays tell you that he is highly narcissistic (self serving)and is playing the role of PM for his own benefit, not ours. And there it is in a nutshell.

  15. It’s interesting how these debates so quickly seem to become the left versus the right or “the guys on my side were less wrong then the guys on your side”.

    BE expresses an opinion that he wouldn’t trust someone as far as he could throw said person. He explains why he holds that view. Even his stated view that the PM has no moral compass is nothing more than his opinion. I applaud him for having an opinion and being willing to share it and even explain to some degree why he holds it. I applaud the fact that I live in a country where I am entitled (as are the other writers here) to disagree openly if I so wish.

    Isn’t it fascinating how angry some become on either side.

    We might all be hard pressed to find any politician in recent times who we could say is (or was) completely honest and truthful (or trustworthy).

    It could be argued that the first casualty of politics is the truth. By its very nature, being elected requires elements of dishonesty at the very least by omission if not outright lying!

    Same applies to management in business surely?

    Is it realistic to expect “management” to divulge all information about everything being proposed even while it is still only something being considered?

    Do the words “honesty” and “truth” have the same definition in politics (and/or business)?

    In everyday life we all make arrangements, plans or commitments which at times for whatever reason we are unable to keep. In other words, we break our promises.

    We don’t consider ourselves or our friends or families dishonest for doing so nor do we accuse them of breaking promises.

    Why we demand our politicians stand by promises made (often years ago) despite changes in circumstances (which may simply include a change in position) is rather strange don’t you think?

  16. “Why we demand our politicians stand by promises made (often years ago) despite changes in circumstances”

    Because unlike friends and family we elected these people into positions of power based, in part, on their promises.
    We also elected these people believing we could trust them.
    Hence the debate about can we trust this one or that.

    “We don’t consider ourselves or our friends or families dishonest” for breaking promises. Bollocks ! Say that to a woman who’s husband cheated on her.

    Why are we so willing to “forgive” our politicians their broken promises, deceptions and outright lies.

    • Good point Richard. I would add that in this country there seems to be also an expectation from the electorate that a leader will act positively and actually lead somewhere.

      Key seems to be content just ‘being’ the leader. He is not acting at playing leader, he is just being himself by the way he turns up at parliament to crack a few jokes at the oppositions expense, attend sausage sizzles, drink out of a bottle and crack a few more jokes with the boys, fly off to junkets in exotic locations and play a few rounds of golf with various heads of state. Not to mention posturing through the media on any subject that is currently topical.

      He could almost be an unintentional political parody to the Fred Dagg character of the 1970’s.

      This is perhaps why those who ‘expect’ more from the leader are not that enamored with Key. There are those that have lower expectations though.

      • I think they have different expectations, not lower.

        I remember a woman calling in to talkback radio (yeah, I know – quality data source!) in the dying days of the Clark Government, putting her case as a small-business battler, struggling with what she saw as a plethora of regulations at her expense designed to make things more easy “the stupid and the lazy”.

        Not particularly charitable, but my intuition discerned her frustration was genuine, rather than the usual political shill. Key, whether in reality or psychological perception addresses that concern. THAT’S why he meets their expectation. Hence the moral tolerance now for the Sky City deal when there are tax-payer funded social services to mitigate the worst effects. We do care. Our taxes demonstrate our commitment to a shared social dividend.

        Rather than condemning and haranguing her as greedy/selfish/wrong Cunliffe’s task is to convince folks like her that there is a genuine need to re-calibrate the expectation to (as per your very prescient comment on the last thread) “The economy is an important factor and I would add the management of the economy for ‘all’ even more important”. Until such time as he can, rather than preaching to the choir, Key will continue to reign supreme.


          Why don’t you use your actual name, “Kimbo”? Why should anyone take seriously the views of a person not prepared to be identified with them?

          • Because, like most who post I prefer to let the merits of what I write speak for who and what I am, and what I think, believe, and judge to be true. Or at least I try to adopt that default position regarding the motives, honesty and conscience of all who post – unless there are clear facts to the contrary.

            You have a problem with that? If so, why are you singling me out with that question?

  17. You don’t like John Key’s decision to allow Sky City build the convention centre, knowing that it could exacerbate the harm with problem gamblers. He’s made a business decision, believing that the many benefits outweigh the social costs.
    John Key adopts a position, you don’t like; however, does that make him untrustworthy, or a “man devoid of social conscience or a moral compass”? How is this different from the many clubs, such as: RSAs, cossie clubs etc, which have the pokie machines? Are the executive committee members also devoid of social conscience or a moral compass?

    From my own standpoint, I’d like to see Sky City’s gambling areas, totally obliterated. They are hateful as they are soulless; a place for the walking-dead.

  18. When all the facts are placed on the table, what is morally correct for the average New Zealander? The Nats would never want to play this game on a level playing field while the Left is always concerned with issues involving social justice and fixing the ills that a right-wing gov’t perpetrates on its working people.
    The housing market, the casinos, food distribution are set up to provide an unlevel playing field for those who are living on a stringent budget. National and Labour are to blame for not having the balls to address important issues.
    As a former banker, John Key, is not concerned with the working class, those who would never vote for him. He sees success as money in the bank and forgets that his biggest asset is people, the blood and guts of this country. Why would anyone want to destroy the humanity of this country just to line the pockets of a few???
    Same old comments from the Kimbos of this world, who are desperately trying to hang on to this environment of an uneven playing field. His debate is always based on black vs white extreme examples, never the grey area in which we live our lives. Then there is the “playing the man” approach……get a reality check please.
    In the end this whole exercise comes down to money: The Love of Money… the root of all evil.

  19. Bloody hell. The case argued by BE is compelling and credible.
    But then Kimbo argues the opposite case. Compelling and credible.
    This confusion happens to me all the time. It is why I should steer clear of politician’s speeches, auctions and garage sales.
    On balance of course John Key is the most dangerous PM we have had. His blokey persona and his skill it dodging “awkward contradictions” allows him outrageous inroads into NZ integrity and erosion of democracy. Boiling the frog is his special skill. Look at Mike S post above and his list of breathless Key lies and deceptions and this confirms for me that ” I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”

  20. When in Auckland I quite enjoy going to the casino for a few hands of blackjack. I find it a reasonable proposition in terms of the cost/fun trade-off. A much better proposition is a sports gambling bet. Put $5 on a routine rugby/soccer/league game and a potentially boring couple of hours suddenly becomes exciting. Many people have addictive personalities and gambling and alcohol can ruin their lives. Most people don’t have this problem and can enjoy a little gambling or a nice glass of wine. Consequently making rules around these kind of activities is always going to be problematic and you’re never going to please everyone.

    “But his and his government’s expressed view was that the benefits which would accrue to Auckland and New Zealand in terms of job creation, increased tourism and cash outweighed any harm which the concessions to the casino operators might bring.”

    Exactly so. It seems a perfectly reasonably trade off to me. Was it not part of the deal that the sum total of pokie machines in Auckland reduced as part of the deal ? Sorry, not to have the detail at my fingertips.

    I note that Sky City’s share price has not shot up through this deal. That pretty much refutes cronyism allegations. Sky City have made a commercial arrangement that has pluses and minuses, just as the Government has.

    Politicians have to be able to make big decisions. Big decisions inevitably involve doing harm to someone’s interests. To insist that politicians do no harm is absurd.

    It seems perfectly reasonable to me to not like or approve of the deal. But to conclude from the deal that John Key “has no moral compass” seems to be a stretch at best and absurd at worst.

    • “To insist that politicians do no harm is absurd” is, itself, a ridiculous statement. Unless it is based on the assumption of a society in which interests of two or more groups are opposed and incompatible. Which, while being the case in NZ society, is, also, a ridiculous situation. NZ society is organised to serve the interests of a wealthy elite. Anything left over is divided amongst pressing social problems – primarily those which may effect an approaching election.
      So, your statement is valid only in the context of a society organised to do harm if necessary – in achieving its primary goal – private profit. Social cost is secondary.

      The NZ economy produces enough wealth to solve all social problems many times over and to raise living standards to unprecedented levels. And while “unprecedented living standards” are enjoyed by the wealthy, we are told this is nonesense by those who oppose such ideas – I suspect you included.

      And before you scoff and whine, remember that if NZ workers didn’t go to work, there would be no profit – so yes, profit is generated by NZ workers who are then well down the list of those served by the economy they work in. So, to insist that any society is organised to not harm those who create it, is both sensible and necessary.
      Yes, John Key has a moral compass – he will happily make decisions intended to line wealthy pockets at huge social expense to those who actually do the work – and he will happily wallow in the self-deception trough provided for the soothing of his “troubled” conscience.