More Back Benches!

I realise that this may seem to be the only thing that I’m doing lately, which is not true, but I’m just not blogging here about other stuff I’m involved in.

So, moving right along, this week’s lineup is:
Labour MP Phil Goff, Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira, and National MP Michael Woodhouse.
Details here.

Could be worth attending for the fireworks.
TV7 is still likely to be closing down mid-year, so if you’ve ever enjoyed participating in the circus that is live filming of pub politics, come down.

I once again failed to make it along, but there was certainly a good crowd handy, have a look here. Phil Goff got a minor ragging from Wallace for his first appearance ever on the show (not ever having been a Back Bencher while the show has been recording before now) and both Hone Harawira and Michael Woodhouse had strong showings.

Otherwise, my lovely green friends, you will have to suffice yourselves with Pints’n’Politics, the latest brainchild of the local branch worthies, who fancy sitting and talking about politics without the intrusion of floor managers, cameras, Damian or Wallace.

There was a trial run at the Southern Cross in Te Aro CBD a while back, and it’s being mooted as a ‘first-of-the-month’ travelling circus, so that the day of the week varies each month to capture all those people who are busy every Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday, etc and won’t commit to another regular event.

Kick-off is Sunday April 1st, prolly around 3pm, and venue still being disputed, I mean discussed. I’ll keep you posted about how that turns out, and provide details if the decision comes down that it is to be widely promoted. *sigh*

Farrar’s dodgy statistics in energy SOE privatisation debate

David Farrar posted at Kiwiblog yesterday in response to a statement by Phil Goff on energy SOE privatisation:

So in Auckland [listed company] Contact [Energy] is cheaper than the three SOEs. The total opposite to what Goff claimed. They are in fact $178 cheaper than the most expensive SOE, not $500 more expensive… [In] Christchurch … Contact is cheaper than two of the SOEs. … In Wellington they are more expensive, but by only $13 to $148. … [In] Dunedin … Contact is cheaper than two of the SOEs.

On the face of it, that seems to be an argument that a listed privatised company delivers domestic electricity supply as cheaply or cheaper than the SOEs do. But what Farrar has done is cherry-pick only the November 2011 statistics from the Consumer Powerswitch website.

Here’s a chart from that site of the prices for the various electricity retailers to Dunedin over the last three years:

Contact actually had substantially higher prices in Dunedin than any of the SOEs for the entire period between November 2008 and August 2011.  It has been only the last four months that it has been (slightly) cheaper than Meridian and Mercury, but still significantly more expensive than Genesis.

Similarly, in Auckland, Contact was more expensive than any of the three SOEs between July 2010 & July 2011. In Wellington, Contact was most expensive between November 2008 and November 2011– the entirety of the last 3 years. And in Christchurch, Contact was most expensive between March 2011 and July 2011.

Farrar also fails to take into account the pricing of Contact’s 100% owned subsidiary, Empower, which where it provides retail electricity supply has significantly higher prices than any of the three SOEs for the entire three year period (see links to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch prices above).

Farrar might be right to call out Goff on the $500 annual price differential he claims between Contact and the SOEs – that figure seems to me to have been either exaggerated or cherry-picked.

But to dogwhistle that privatisation will bring lower electricity prices is simply not supported by the evidence.

Incidentally, I’m somewhat suspicious about the sudden and dramatic drop in Contact’s domestic electricity prices from August 2011, just after National’s SOE privatisation announcement.  I’m wondering if this is a loss-leading exercise to gain market share before the SOEs are privatised.

You scumbag, scumbag, scumbag!

Absolutely disgraceful behaviour (at 2:08 in the video) from National MPs in Parliament today, following someone with a grievance against Work and Income attempting to protest by jumping over the balcony from the public gallery:

I’m no fan of Phil Goff, but this reflects very, very badly on a number of National [other] MPs.

Update: Difficult to tell from the video who said what, but as noted in the comments thread, journalists who were present report that it was actually Labour MPs who were shouting “scumbag” and it was in response to Key shouting “You should be ashamed of yourselves” towards the Labour benches. In any case, it was a very bad look by all those involved. This is the sort of behaviour that brings Parliament into disrepute.

Phil Goff

Yesterday’s other big political speech (i.e. the one not by Jeanette): platitutes to middle New Zealand, beneficiary bashing, telling Maori that he knows what is good for them, a cap on public service salaries and an obstinate focus on economic growth rather than social well-being.  The question that this raises is Phil Goff trying to be Winston-lite or Brash-lite? I imagine some core Labour voters are starting to get a bit antsy about this sort or rhetoric – do they really want to win at ‘any’ cost?

And what’s with this sudden inconsistent support for the $15 minimum wage? The Greens and others were talking about $15 years ago when some other party than National was in power and $15 was about two thirds of the average wage. Since then inflation and the average wage have risen significantly – the real progressive political discussion should be about linking the minimum wage to two thirds of the average wage.

Les mofos riches et les blancs

Chris Trotter opines on Phil Goff’s “Nationhood” speech:

To these New Zealanders he was saying: “It’s okay, you and I think alike on this. I’m not going to brand you a racist because, like me, you were offended by Hone Harawira’s obscenities; or because you were repelled by the dirty dealing between National and the Maori Party over the ETS legislation.”

Well, I too was offended by Hone Harawira’s obscenities – although no more than I was by Trevor Mallard calling Chris Finlayson “Tinkerbell” in Parliament – , and I’m certainly repelled by the dirty dealing between National and the Maori Party over the ETS legislation.

If Goff had confined himself to that, he would have been, to use Trotter’s words, “taking the first, and absolutely necessary steps towards Labour’s rehabilitation – and re-election”.

But he didn’t confine himself to that.  Goff found in necessary to dog-whistle to racism by regurgitating a thinly disguised version-lite of Don Brash’s “Nationhood” speech.  Even worse, he defended the status quo on the foreshore and seabed.

The Foreshore and Seabed Act is racist legislation.  It nationalised without compensation all foreshore and seabed for which the Court of Appeal found iwi or hapu had the right to make claim to customary title before the courts had even had the chance to consider one single such claim.  But it didn’t nationalise any of the over 12,000 parcels of foreshore and seabed in private fee simple ownership.  It deprived one specific group of New Zealanders of their right to have their claim to property rights determined by the Courts.  The fact that the group of New Zealanders so deprived were defined by race makes the legislation racist – pure and simple.

As recently as July we looked to be finally working towards a political consensus on the foreshore and seabed, with Labour Shadow Attorney General David Parker stating:

National’s change of heart has established an opportunity to revisit the Act, which we support. John Key said in April that our submission indicated ‘there could well be agreement between the three of us, National, Labour and the Maori Party, (in) which case you’ll get a much better solution and one that’ll achieve what we want…’ ”.
We hope this remains the case. Changes which need to be made include restoring the ability for iwi and hapu to gain a customary title to the foreshore and seabed.”

But now we have Goff’s shameful backtrack to again supporting that racist legislation:

But for all the criticism I have heard, most people accept that the current foreshore and seabed rules aren’t broken and they’re a good foundation for moving forward. They believe its good legislation for all New Zealanders.

It’s hard to see why the country should be put through all the grief just to put a new brand on law that’s working.

Trotter is right to remind us that a class analysis is required, and that Goff needs to return Labour to its egalitarian, socialist roots.  He needs to also recall that the Labour Party has some racist roots, exemplified by things like the Foreshore and Seabed Act and the lower rate of unemployment benefit for Maori that persisted through to the 1950s.  Trotter is wrong to assert that it is all about class and not at all about race.

The people who waged the wars and made the laws that alienated 63 million acres of Maori land and nationalised the foreshore and seabed without compensation were not just les mofos riches – they were also les mofos blancs.

Goff – Down with Don in the sewer

Don Brash, 27 January 2004:

Is it to be a modern democratic society, embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state?

Or is it the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour Government is moving us steadily towards?

Phil Goff, 26 November 2009:

We can choose our future based on principle and with the interests of all New Zealanders at heart.

Or we can have a country where one New Zealander is turned against another, Maori against Pakeha, in a way that Labour strongly rejects.

And both speeches were entitled “Nationhood”.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m as angry as anyone about the Maori Party’s sellout in supporting watering down the ETS to something that will be completely ineffective.

Goff was right to attack them on that (even though Labour’s ETS would itself have been been only minimally effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

But he didn’t stop there – he’s crawled down into the sewer with Brash by dog-whistling the racist underbelly of society. Disgusting!

Labour: South of the Mason-Dixon line

Scratch the surface, and you see deep-seated racism alive and well in New Zealand.

Unfortunately for those of us on the environmental left, it is alive and well in the Labour Party which, I guess, is another good reason to be Green.

Hone Harawira was attacked by Phil Goff – not for the stupid sexist “rape” and “motherfucker” terminology in his ill-advised email (for which he has apologised) – but on this basis:

When you come out and you make a comment like that, where you brand a whole ethnic group in this country in the most obscene and vile way, and then apologise for the language, but not for the meaning, there is no place in parliament for that.

Harawira’s actual words were:

“White motherfuckers have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries…”

Which is true. Harawira didn’t implicate white people in general. But some white colonists and their descendants did precisely what Harawira describes – starting with legislation designed to alienate Maori land in the 1860s and, shamefully and most recently, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen – both of whom I otherwise hold a lot of respect for – through the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It pains me that otherwise astute and well researched commentators such as Marty G at The Standard have bought into the Goff line. I’m not sure if they actually believe it, or if it is just blind loyalty to the Labour Party.

As Zetetic, another commentator at The Standard says:

It’s clear that Turia and Sharples will always go with the elite. Harawira represented the Maori working class.

Harawira’s clearly been deeply unhappy with the direction Turia and Sharples have taken the party. Betraying the Maori working class on issues like tax cuts and ACC. Cuddling up to the bosses’ party.

Right on! Despite his silly choice of language, Hone is one of us.

So I’m sure he won’t mind me posting this song by a bunch of white motherfuckers, albeit leftie and environmentalist ones, for him:

Power in the darkness

Seems it’s the week for political gaffes. First we had Labour Leader Phil Goff proposing that the unemployment benefit should, at least temporarily, be exempted from abatement because of the unemployed person’s spouse’s income.

Now, I actually back Goff’s idea – I’d go even further, and suggest that it shouldn’t just be for the recession if we’re genuine about opposing discrimination on the basis of marital status.

But to use Bruce Burgess, whom it was later revealed owned two investment properties, as his poster boy to back his proposal is just plain dumb. It opened him, and what I believe to be a sound policy proposal, up to ridicule which he duly received even from his own backers.

Then, to top off the week, we see National’s Justice Minister Simon Power proposing a major reform to stop the sexual history of rape-case complainants being brought into evidence.

The problem for Simon Power is that it hasn’t been able to be admitted as evidence for over 20 years. Former Auckland District Law Society President and senior barrister Gary Gotlieb responded:

I’m just gobsmacked that we’ve got a lawyer who is Minister of Justice who has got no idea what the law is. How much confidence does that give you in our politicians who are making law and don’t know what the law is.

Power subsequently attempted to defend his speech by stating:

But this relates to sexual history with people other than the accused. Mr Power said currently the previous sexual relationship between the complainant and the accused does not need the judge’s agreement before being brought up in court.

I don’t believe that explanation for a minute. Like Goff, Power was caught out trying to get the big media hit without doing his homework.

Make it permanent, Phil

Labour leader Phil Goff is reported in the NZ Herald as:

…challenging the Government to seriously consider temporarily paying the full unemployment benefit to workers laid off because of the downturn regardless of the income of their spouses.

He said those losing their jobs were carrying a “disproportionate burden” of the recession and the National Government was not doing enough to help them.

He suggested the requirement that a spouse’s income be means-tested be suspended, if only during the recession.

Why only during the recession, Phil? Despite the Human Rights Act, New Zealand’s welfare system continues to discriminate on the basis of family status. If someone is unemployed and their partner earns over $80 a week, their benefit entitlement is abated by 70 cents for every additional dollar earned. If their partner earns as little as $534 a week (before tax), they are entitled to no benefit at all.

Couples are taxed as individuals, so why don’t they receive benefits, which are really just negative taxation, as individuals?

And, in contrast to unemployment and sickness benefits, weekly compensation under ACC is an individual entitlement, and has no spousal income test.

Isn’t it time we started to bring the welfare system into the 21st century and get rid of the spousal income test there too – not just for the recession, as Phil Goff has suggested, but permanently.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett scoffed at the Goff’s suggestion:

I doubt many Kiwis would consider that a good use of the considerably fewer resources this Government now has. I’d be interested to hear what Mr Goff would cut, or which taxes he would put up, to fund such an initiative.

Well, okay, it would be expensive, but the discriminatory provisions applying to benefits could be progressively phased out over a period of time so the cost doesn’t all hit at one. Fairness and justice don’t always come cheap.

And how to fund it? Well we could start by reversing last year’s income tax cut, so the money goes to those who most need it.