Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Politics'

Can Andrew Little win next year’s election for Labour? A reluctant assessment.

Andrew Little

If you type ‘Andrew Little’ into the Search box on this site you’ll find several posts in which the current Leader of the Opposition’s name appears. If you take the trouble to read them all – personally I don’t recommend it – you’ll discover that Brian Edwards thinks that Andrew Little doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever becoming Prime Minister of Godzone and that,”maybe, just maybe, Andrew Little is a man for the time.”

Hold on, both of those statements can’t be true, can they? Oh yes they can! And if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll try to explain.  See, I think this Andrew Little is a pretty good guy. Here’s what I said about him just after I’d come to that conclusion: “Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t ‘come across’ on television and radio your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced. Which brings us to Andrew Little. I thought his reply when questioned about why he had won the Labour leadership that ‘it must have been my bubbly personality’ was great. But the irony behind that answer was also a clear indication of his awareness that he doesn’t meet the ‘performance requirements’  that commentators like myself regard as essential in the aspiring political leader. Indeed, in a previous post I wrote him off as ‘a grim-faced, former union leader with little chance of ever becoming Prime Minister’. When his supporters subsequently spoke of his having ‘a dry wit’, I said I was more inclined to regard it as ‘arid’.  So his ‘bubbly personality’ response was encouraging.”

I’m no longer encouraged. After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he said y’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

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Shock! Horror! Wife defends husband!!!!

 

 

In recent posts I’ve made some fairly trenchant comments about David Cunliffe, primarily about his media performance. Others, including some of his Caucus colleagues, have gone even further. The now resigned Leader of the Opposition has been under sustained and often vitriolic attack from friend and foe alike since Labour’s catastrophic showing in the General Election just over a fortnight ago. The media have feasted on his downfall.

Political survival and the retention of one’s self-respect require stoic denial from a political leader in these circumstances. To reveal hurt will  be taken as a sign of weakness. The response to Helen Clark’s tears at Waitangi in 1998 when Titewhai Harawira angrily challenged her right to speak on the marae is evidence enough of that.

But no politician can be totally indifferent to personal attack. David Cunliffe has admitted to being ‘close to tears’ following the 7-hour Caucus bloodletting after the election. That admission took courage and  should be admired rather than derided. A politician without feelings would be a dangerous creature indeed.

But what of the politician’s family, whose hurt or rage can be aired only in private, who must literally suffer in silence. For such  is the convention. So it was for Ruth Kirk and Thea Muldoon who kept just such a dignified silence in the face of the abuse, rumours and scuttlebutt that attended their husbands’ public and private lives. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Tough call!      Read the rest of this entry »

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Some acting experience an advantage but not required.

hamletolivier.a

If David Cunliffe were an actor, his preferred acting style might best be described as Shakespearean – declamatory, expansive, grand in tone and gesture, rich in soliloquy.

It is a style suited to the stage but unfortunately totally unsuited to the more intimate vehicle of television and in particular to the television interview or debate in which small groups of people in their living rooms at home eavesdrop on an equally small group of people in a studio talking and debating.

Cunliffe’s failure, and the failure of his advisors to draw this distinction between what is appropriate to the stage and what is appropriate to television was in my view a significant factor in Labour’s defeat. He was too big, too loud, too OTT. You could see that he was acting.    Read the rest of this entry »

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A dissenting view of Aaron Gilmore

Rod Emmerson's cartoon in The Weekend Herald 11/5/13

Rod Emmerson’s cartoon in The Weekend Herald 11/5/13

[After Question Time in the House today (Tuesday) , Aaron Gilmore made a considered speech, in which he expressed regret for the events which had ultimately led to his resignation from Parliament. He apologised to the Prime Minister, his colleagues in the House and the National Party at large for any embarrassment his conduct had caused. His words were without rancour, accusation or blame. They were greeted with applause from all members. It was, in my view, a dignified exit.]

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It’s possible that only the Germans, whose language is full of nouns composed of (sometimes several) other nouns joined together, could have invented the term ‘Schadenfreude’. Schaden means harm and Freude means happiness or joy. So the two joined together can be roughly translated as ‘joy at other people’s misfortunes’.

There was, it seems to me, a significant degree of Schadenfreude in the nation’s response to the downfall of Aaron Gilmore. It was combined with the righteous indignation of a populace seemingly without sin and therefore more than willing to cast not just the first stone but a positive volley of stones. The Germans could no doubt produce an exceptionally long word to describe this phenomenon.

Prominent among the righteous were Gilmore’s former friends, colleagues and acquaintances a number of whom, preferring to shun the limelight, took to dobbing him in for a variety of past crimes, real or invented,  via the honourable device of the anonymous leak.  Read the rest of this entry »

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$5 on Key to step down before the middle of next year thanks.

One of the pleasures of our daily morning walk around Ponsonby/Herne Bay is stopping and chatting to other locals enjoying their long blacks and flat whites outside the numerous restaurants and cafes. Politics is the most popular topic with left and right more or less equally represented. There are few arguments and, remarkably, few disagreements. While we each have our loyalties and preferences, none of us is one-eyed. This also goes some way to explaining why Michelle Boag and I rarely disagree when we’re on Jim Mora’s Panel. Reasonably intelligent people… an example of false modesty, since I actually think I’m hugely intelligent and Michelle is quite smart … reasonably intelligent people are likely to agree on most things.

Until recently the talk has been around David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party and his chances of being our next Prime Minister. The left/right consensus has been that Shearer is the wrong man for the job, but if he survives beyond mid-2013, he’s likely to get it anyway. A Labour-led coalition will win by default.

But the really interesting development among the Ponsonby/Herne Bay political intelligentsia is the number of right-wingers who expect John Key to stand down in the middle of next year. While I’m not going to risk $5 on iPredict, I’m reasonably sure there’s a more than 50:50 chance that they’re right.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Question: Can being fabulously rich and still in one’s prime affect a Prime Minister’s approach to the job?

 

liberation.typepad.com

This question arose in my mind a day or so back: how, if at all, would being fabulously rich and still very much in one’s  prime affect a Prime Minister’s approach to the job?

I was of course thinking of John Key, billed ‘the fifty million dollar man’ when he first came to the public’s attention as a potential prime minister in the early 2000s. It would be reasonable to assume that Mr Key is worth a lot more now. He could presumably have lived quite comfortably off his parliamentary salary and perks for the last ten years, and certainly for the last six as Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister. So even if he’d been earning a measly 5% on his investments, he could theoretically have increased his wealth by 50 percent. His $50 million could now be $75 million.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about Key being rich and I don’t begrudge him the money. What I’m interested in is how such absolute long-term financial security might affect a 51-year-old former investment banker and  foreign exchange trader’s approach to his future career. How might a graduate of the bourses of Singapore, London, Sydney and Wall Street feel about settling down to a long-term career as Prime Minister of New Zealand or, heaven forefend, as Leader of the Opposition?   Read the rest of this entry »

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I find myself wondering…

I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party whose philosophical and moral values are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition.

I’m a socialist at heart and, whatever it is, New Zealand Labour is not a socialist party. It wasn’t just Rogernomics that scotched that idea; Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, a significant influence on the Fifth Labour Government, was really just a watered down version of Douglas’s ‘trickle-down’ economics. The ‘third way’ was, by definition, a ‘middle-way’, neither one thing nor the other and ill-suited to political idealism of any stripe – a Clayton’s political philosophy.  

I read that Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, wants to move the party to that ideological no-man’s-land that is ‘the centre’. National already occupies that space but, as the distinctions between Key and Shearer lose focus – both promising to deliver ‘a brighter future’ and the Labour leader ditching policies specifically directed at putting more money into the pockets of the poor – I’ve no doubt that an accommodation can be reached between centre-right and centre-left. The centre is a wide church.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Random thoughts on why Labour did so poorly in the election

 

Josie Pagani, Labour’s candidate for Rangitiki in the last election and, incidentally, my researcher for two years on Top of the Morning, has penned an interesting opinion piece in today’s Herald  which the paper has headed “Workers lose faith in party with glum message”. Her theme is essentially that making people feel miserable about their lives is not a good way of getting them to vote for you. Helen Clark sometimes used the term ‘”shroud waving” to convey a similar message.

I think Josie has a point, though it’s difficult for an opposition Labour Party during an election to avoid talking about poverty, unemployment, kids going to school without breakfast, the minimum wage and the appalling and widening gap between rich and poor in this country.

Josie’s column led me to thinking of some other reasons why Labour did so poorly in the election. Some can be summarised in just a few words:

  • The extreme improbability of any political party in New Zealand being voted out after just one term in office;
  • The nation’s love affair with John Key, without doubt the greatest exponent of the photo opportunity and ‘skinetics’ in the history of New Zealand politics;
  • The relative lack of voter enthusiasm for Phil Goff;
  • Earthquakes, mining and shipping disasters which, in media terms, disadvantage those not in power and unable to influence events;
  • The Rugby World Cup, a convenient distraction for National shortly before the election;
  • The general euphoria that winning the Cup produced;
  • Widespread voter disengagement from politics, particularly on the Left.
  • The self-fulfilling nature of three  years of polls branding Key and National  sure-fire winners and Goff and Labour sure-fire losers.
  • Labour’s courage in advancing policies that made long-term economic sense, but were highly unattractive to voters in the short term: a capital gains tax and raising the age of eligibility for the pension.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Lazy – or just plain ignorant? Why the under-25s aren’t voting.

More than a quarter of the under-25s haven’t bothered to get themselves on the electoral roll.  Again. The media and the politicians are wailing that they’re not showing civic responsibility, that they’re not exercising their democratic right, that they don’t care about politics. Again.

Every election year we go into this chant about the irresponsibility of the young; every election year we seem surprised that the same old pattern reoccurs, as if some miracle or mind-shift might have happened in the ensuing three years.

Well, we shouldn’t be.  We should be amazed and grateful that so many young people actually do enrol and vote, because we’re giving them damnall incentive to do so.

In other democratic countries Civics is taught in secondary schools. The kids learn how government works nationally and locally, how policy is developed, how it becomes or fails to become law, and the part citizens play in determining their own future.

In New Zealand first-year Law students have to be taught all this, first-year Politics students have to be taught all this – and nobody else gets taught this at all.  So it’s not very surprising that our young people have little or no interest in politics. It’s very hard to be interested in something you don’t understand and even harder to become interested in something you know nothing worthwhile about.

Of course they always have the endless knee-jerk opinions of those around them. They may listen, may parrot, may believe. It’s what they do believe that’s the worry.  If they listen to the voices in the bars, the voices in the street and the voices in the workplace what they’re likely to hear is that politicians are rogues and vagabonds, that those in Parliament are intent on making our lives as difficult and as costly as possible and that there’s no point in voting because one lot is as bad as the other. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bored with your Monaco millions? Why not buy an election?

 

On The Nation this weekend, ex-pat Owen G. Glenn magnanimously offered to pour over $100 million into youth initiatives after the election. Here are a couple of extracts from the interview:

Q: Are you giving any money this election to any political party, or just advice?

A: Well, I’m giving everybody advice, aren’t I? I’m coming back in October and I’m going to hold a press conference. And I’m going to announce some pretty major initiatives.

Q: Is that money going to be spent here?

A: In New Zealand.

Q: For?

A: Mainly for New Zealand youth. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Then I’ll be happy to answer any questions you want to ask me. [laughs]

Q: Well, let’s explore it. And I’m not going to ask you to shoot your bolt right here and now…

A: It’s  not ready…

Q: So we’re talking about hundreds of millions invested in New Zealand youth?

A: Let’s say at least a hundred.  …..

Q: Does it matter who wins the election as to whether or not you proceed with the plan?

A: I think very much so.

Q: So you would think about not doing this initiative…

A: Well look, let’s put it in perspective. I think National has a better shot at it, particularly if ACT is part of it. Because, if I say ACT goes a little bit hard on the Right, if there is temper [?] there, they’re not bad people, actually very good people.

Q: OK. Can I ask you then: you’re prepared to invest hundreds of millions in New Zealand education, for young people…

A: I said at least a hundred million…

Q: … if National and ACT win the next election?

A: That’s correct.

When we’re strapped for cash, performing dentistry on a gift horse could be regarded as bad form. Never mind that  $100 million is a drop in the bucket compared with Government’s spending – it’s a very large drop in a very small bucket.

The problem is that the generous Mr Glenn has probably committed an offence under the Electoral Act 1993 by tagging on the proviso that he will give the money only if National/ACT win the election in November: Read the rest of this entry »

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I devise a failsafe recipe for full employment – lower the Minimum Wage! (with thanks to John Key)

I see that left-wing liberal bleeding-heart, Tapu Misa, doesn’t believe the PM when he says that raising the minimum wage from $12.50 an hour to $15 an hour will put thousands more Kiwis  out of work. 

After quoting a whole lot of economists  (whom none of us have heard of) to support her argument, Ms Misa conveniently ends her column in this morning’s Herald  by admitting that, ‘There isn’t the space here for an exhaustive discussion of the research’. Very convenient!

This doesn’t stop her claiming that, ‘recent evidence is forcing a rethink about what was once accepted economic wisdom.’

Well, I’ve been having a bit of a rethink about this myself and it’s blindingly obvious to me, as it must be to any other reasonable person, that what the PM is saying just has to be right.

It’s just common sense that if an employer has a choice of employing someone on $12.50 an hour and someone else to do the same job for $15 an hour, he’s going to employ the first bloke. And if he can’t afford $12.50 an hour, he’s not going to employ either of them. That’s simple economics. We could call it ‘John’s Law’: The higher the hourly rate, the higher the number of unemployed.

The corollary of John’s Law – let’s call it ‘Bill’s Law’ – must then logically be: The lower the hourly rate, the lower the number of unemployed.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Of Politicians and Porkies – Are our elected representatives by nature incorrigible liars?

Tony Blair giving evidence at the Iraq War Inquiry

Made an appearance on Russell Brown’s Media 7 programme last night with fellow commentators David Slack and Sean Plunket. We were there to discuss whether politicians are by nature incorrigible liars.

The public seem to think so. Polls asking people which occupations they trust, and which they don’t,  have our elected representatives languishing near the bottom of the rankings with those other devious and dissembling rogues – journalists and used-car dealers.  

But the media consultant, the speech writer and the interviewer last night tended to the view that, in New Zealand at least, Members of Parliament were not generally given to telling porkies.

That is certainly my experience. In almost half a century of living in this country I can count on two hands (and with a finger or two to spare) the number of MPs found guilty of lying to Parliament. And if we’re talking about  premeditated, shamefaced lying to us, the voters, the number probably isn’t  much higher.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Why are the police dragging their heels in the Darren Hughes case?

It is now almost three months since Darren Hughes returned  to his  Wellington lodgings in the early hours of March 2,  accompanied by an 18-year-old man who is said to have later run naked from the house in a state of considerable distress. The 18-year-old subsequently laid a complaint ‘of a sexual nature’ against  Hughes, the precise nature of which has  yet to be revealed. Hughes later resigned from Parliament.

Only two people, Hughes and the young man, know precisely what happened that night. They are the only first-hand witnesses.

This makes it both easier and more difficult for the police to decide whether to prosecute Hughes. Easier, because there are only two first hand witnesses; and more difficult because independent corroboration of either  of their stories seems virtually impossible.

Their creditability as witnesses will therefore lie at the core of the police’s decision whether to accept the young man’s complaint and charge Hughes or to conclude that there is insufficient evidence to undertake a prosecution.

Hughes’ resignation from Parliament cannot be taken as evidence of guilt. The very existence of a complaint of a sexual nature against him made his position as an electorate MP and front bench Labour spokesman untenable. He could not go on doing his job.

As for the 18-year-old, aspects of  his behaviour seem to require explanation:   Read the rest of this entry »

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The President’s Speech

The horrors of training George W. Bush to speak English.

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John Key on HardTalk

The interview mainly consisted of criticisms gleaned from NZ commentators, which were then put as propositions. This allowed the PM to counter them, which he did without difficulty. Stephen Sackur’s lack of knowledge of New Zealand and its politics meant he was unable to follow up Key’s answers and probe deeper. All we got was the next proposition. It sounds knowledgeable, but it’s surface stuff and easily batted back. More like practice in the nets than a real game. That aside John Key handled this HardTalk interview well and seemed relaxed and confident.

Major criticisms:

Someone had raced round and found a batch of model kiwi and waka and other Newzild stuff and scattered it round the set. Tacky, tacky.

And Key’s diction! The trick seems to be: Never use four syllables if you can get away with two. It may be OK for speeches at the United Nations – they have simultaneous translators – but the overseas audience would have needed subtitles to get the drift of his answers in this interview.

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The Hollow Men – free DVD of the documentary

Last night we watched Alister Barry’s documentary The Hollow Men.  An excellent film, based on Nicky Hager’s book of the same name.

If the details of the 2005 election have faded into the mists of time this is an eye-opener. It’s also well worth reminding ourselves about some of the shenanigans that went on, with Don Brash now leading the Act Party.

This is your chance to get a copy of the documentary. Trevor Mallard has copies to give away. If you email your name and address to me at: judy@brianedwardsmedia.co.nz, I’ll send it on to him. Trevor’s only request – pass it on when you’ve watched it!

And my own suggestion – read the book as well, for the extra details. Apart from being a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, it’s a real page-turner. The Hollow Men, by Nicky Hager, published by Craig Potton.

UPDATE Still a few DVDs available – Trevor has a secret store!

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Who won? A question by question, answer by answer, analysis of Sean Plunket’s ‘The Nation’ interview with Phil Goff. [Spoiler Alert: Definitely not the viewers!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Plunket is an intelligent and informed interviewer but seems more preoccupied with confirming his reputation as a tough  interrogator than with asking questions  that are relevant to voters six months before a general election. It would be hard to imagine a week in which the political pendulum has moved so quickly or so far, yet in his interview with Phil Goff on Sunday’s The Nation, Plunket spent almost 90 percent of the time nitpicking his way through the Labour Leader’s past history.

Like all interviewers of this stripe – and we have more than our fair share of them in New Zealand – what Plunket was looking for was ‘the king hit’, the knockout question that leaves the interviewee floundering and defeated. As I indicated in a previous post, Goff is no great television performer, but his stubborn refusal to yield to any of Plunket’s propositions, combined with Plunket’s seeming inability to provide supporting evidence for those propositions, left the interviewer with only one avenue of attack – to keep repeating the  question in the hope, one presumes,  that Goff would eventually tire of denial and give way. He didn’t.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with my comments. I identify seven basic propositions which Plunket puts to Goff:  Read the rest of this entry »

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A Hypothesis: Let’s assume for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth.

Cartoon by Webb

Let’s assume just for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth when he says he did nothing wrong when he took an eighteen-year-old back to his lodgings in the early hours of March 2.

Let’s set the bar even higher and assume that Hughes is not just relying on the letter of the law when he says he did nothing wrong, but  that  nothing of a sexual nature, nothing ‘improper’ in any way  took place. They had a cup of coffee and continued talking politics until the 18-year-old left.
And finally, let’s not worry about the probability or lack of probability of these assumptions or where this leaves the 18-year-old and his complaint to the police.
We’re simply considering a hypothesis: Darren Hughes is completely innocent.
This hypothesis was debated  on last night’s Close Upby three very experienced and very knowledgeable commentators: former Labour Party president, Mike Williams, former Labour MP, John Tamihere and Dr Bryce Edwards, blogger and lecturer in Politics at Otago University.

Asked whether Hughes political  aspirations were dog-tucker even if no prosecution were taken against him – effectively a declaration that he had broken no law – all three agreed that that was indeed the case. One expressed the reservation that if the police dealt with the matter quickly, there was a chance that Hughes might survive – a reasonably unlikely scenario, given the cops’ historic tardiness in dealing with this sort of matter.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Herald offers the inside story on Darren Hughes’ ‘fateful night’. Read it and be there!

 

Andrew Gorrie/Dom Post

Here are the known facts about the Darren Hughes matter:

On March 2, after taking part in a humorous debate, MP and Labour Party Chief Whip, Darren Hughes, went with a dozen or so students to the Matterhorn bar and restaurant in Wellington’s Cuba Street. Mr Hughes was next seen with a group of people at The Establishment in Courtenay Place. The President of the Victoria University Debating Club, who saw him there, described him as ‘just having a chat to people around him, being a good guy. He wasn’t particularly drunk. He seemed fine.’

Mr Hughes left the Establishment Club with an 18-year old male student. The two went to Annette King’s home where Mr Hughes boards. Mrs King was in bed asleep at the time. The student left some time later and is reported to have ‘run into a police car’. He then made a complaint to the police about Mr Hughes. The complaint has been widely reported in the media as being ‘of a sexual nature’.

Police are reported to have  questioned Mr Hughes and to have  visited  Ms King’s house and taken items away. They confirm that they are investigating a complaint against an MP.

Mr Hughes, who yesterday volunteered that he was the MP concerned,  has been given leave by Labour Party Leader Phil Goff and has voluntarily stood down as Chief Whip and Education spokesman.

Mr Hughes is adamant that he has ‘done nothing wrong’.

[That explanation took 231 words.]

The New Zealand Herald devoted the greater part of its front page and all of Page Two  to what it called the ‘LABOUR MP SAGA’.

Its front page headline (and its billboard) read ‘Inside Accused MP’s fateful night’.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Poor choices? Or just poor?

 

NZ Herald/Mark Mitchell

I grew up at a time when being ‘on the dole’ was shameful, when single women were forced by circumstance and social pressure to give up their babies,  when women with children often stayed in bad marriages because financially there was no alternative. We weren’t very tolerant, we weren’t very caring. ‘You made your bed – now lie in it!’

I’m still a card-carrying member of Gary McCormack’s  Pull-Yourself-Together Party, so I was surprised at my own anger this morning when I read the Prime Minister’s statement that beneficiaries go to food banks because of their own ‘poor choices’.  He said:

‘…anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.’

Well, here is the news: Some people have unexpected bills, Mr Key. Some people’s cars break down, because cheap, old cars are all they can afford – seen a repair bill lately? Some people need dentistry – seen a dentist’s bill lately? Some people need to pay the rent, which they can’t afford even with an accommodation supplement – seen the news on Auckland rentals recently?

I don’t think those are poor choices. I don’t think those are choices at all. Read the rest of this entry »

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