Red Alert

Archive for January, 2011

Key in Denial

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Tonight on TV3 news, John Key said fees aren’t going up at ECE centres.

What planet is he on? More to the point, why is he being so badly briefed by his Minister of Education?

His claim flies in the face of reality as One News reported tonight, where they visited a centre where the fees are going up $50 per child per week because of Keys cuts to ECE.

Parents all over NZ know their fees are increasing and some are having to make tough decisions because they cant afford the increases 

Maybe John Key thinks he is so bullet proof that he can tell outright fibs on TV – never mind those thousands of families who are having to stump up more money because of his cuts.

For the record, the funding cuts affect around 2300 ECE centres throughout NZ where more than 100,000 children are enrolled. Ninety percent of those centres report they are increasing fees, as well as cutting staff, field trips for the kids, reducing building maintenance and a whole range of other measures.

Its not a good look for the PM to misrepresent the reality. They are in trouble on this one.


Our nation is becoming unhinged – an email exchange

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

As MPs we often get email from people expressing their opinion on one subject or another. I got one from ‘Denis’ obviously with an axe to grind about Maori issues. I share it below, sorry it’s a bit long but I’m interested in opinion on both Denis’ perspective and mine.

Subject: Our Nation is Becoming Unhinged

Dear Kelvin

A group of students climbed to the top of Mount Egmont for an ‘epic barbecue’ and also cleared rubbish from the mountain – they were denounced by Maori groups and by DOC for ‘trampling on Maori dignity’. Since when have state institutions been given the mandate to uphold Maori spiritual values and practices? Officially, our secular state has no place for imposing religious or cultural practices on us. One Maori leader claims there are ‘cultural values’ all around the country that should be protected, including all mountain peaks – that people should not even go near the summit of a mountain! Incredible. The bi-cultural movement in New Zealand is subverting democracy, erecting ethnic boundaries between Maori and non-Maori and promoting a cultural elite within Maoridom. Supported by you with policy and finances, it has led to a rapid increase in the rights of Maori over the rest of NZers plus a mountain of race-based policies. You people continue to promote the Maori separatist movement at huge cost for all NZers in terms of loss of assets and resources. This concerns all of us Kiwis. The foreshore and seabed is next with more property and asset takeover down the track. It’s time you folk put the brakes on and governed justly for ALL New Zealanders.

Regards,
Denis

Denis

So you’re telling me your world view should prevail over the Maori world view. Don’t you think your attitude is as exclusive as the ones you criticize? For as long as you hold the views you do some Maori will hold the views they do. You are part of the problem, but none of the solution. You won’t be able to see that though.

Kelvin Davis MP
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The War on News

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

I’ve had a bit to do with Martyn (Bomber) Bradbury lately.

First met him a few months ago when we were on opposing sides of a debate. His team won and though I, and my fellow team mates Shane Jones and Marcus Ganley, put up a credible and somewhat witty fight, we were outclassed by Bomber and Ginette Mcdonald (aka Lynn of Tawa).

Bomber is a bit out there. Maybe that’s why I like him. He’s not afraid to challenge the establishment, and he’s passionate about the values that I hold dear. One of the things he talks a lot about is the state of our mainstream media.

As do I. I know I don’t make myself popular talking about this, but I care enough about it to prevail.

I’m going to post Bomber’s weekly war on news rants on Red Alert. Won’t always agree with him on everything, but he’s a voice that needs to be heard.

Bomber delivers a weekly current affairs programme Citizen-A! The show broadcasts weekly on Triangle/Stratos TV and on Scoop. Bomber also posts on the Tumeke! blog: www.tumeke.blogspot.com. He’s also on various radio stations.


2011 is the Year of the Rabbit

Posted by on January 31st, 2011
Fireworks light up the night sky in Auckland from the Telstra Clear Events Centre, near Redoubt Road Intersection, a project that former Manakau Mayor now CORIN DANN: Right.</p>
<p>JOHN KEY: ...and the reason that's a problem is not that we can influence necessarily directly always what you do as an individual, but the rating agencies are looking at a combine debt and actually Spain has a very similar profile to New Zealand. Last week, I might add by the way, all this stuff is real, Standard and Poor's downgrade Japan, so it's...-Mayor of Auckland championed. Road users who have benefited from the new intersection have even suggested it should be named: ‘Len Brown’s Bypass’.

Fireworks light up the night sky in Auckland from the Telstra Clear Events Centre, near Redoubt Road Intersection, a project that former Manakau Mayor now super-Mayor of Auckland championed. Road users who have benefited from the new intersection have even suggested it should be named: ‘Len Brown’s Bypass’.

Congratulations must be extended to Michael Wood for his first successful appearance in the Chinese community.

At the WTV Chinese New Year celebration at the TelstraClear Events Centre on the weekend, Michael was met with rapturous applause by the 800-strong audience when he greeted the crowd in perfect Chinese. He even gained a nick-name from festival-goers – ‘Labour’s handsome candidate for Botany’.

Chinese New Year falls on February 3 this year and with it brings various New Year celebrations, culminating in the two biggest events – the Chinese New Year and Market Day Festival at the ASB Showground’s and the WTV Lunar Festival at the TelstraClear Events Centre, with both events attracting more than 60,000 visitors.

Phil Goff was greeted warmly at both events and stuck a chord with the audience during his two speeches.

Sitting back on reflection of the two functions, it was striking from the way that the audience interacted with Phil Goff that the country needs a man of substance as opposed to a ‘smile and wave’ leader.

A constituent later told me that she felt grateful to John Key for his ‘honesty’ in showing National’s true colours. She said it appeared National had no plan
in how to grow the economy apart from selling our precious national assets.

For the Chinese community (like any other ethnic community) creation is preferred to speculation when it comes to the economy.
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John Key says government debt low, private debt high, private sector should borrow more to buy state assets

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Weird moment of truth from Key on Breakfast this morning. He admits government debt is low and private debt is high. Why then does he expect Mum ad Dad Kiwis to borrow to buy shares (which they already own) in SoEs. Bill English says it is to pay down that, already low, debt.

This makes it clear the agenda is ideological and driven, like his tax cuts, by a wish to make the wealthiest NZers wealthier and have the rest of us pay for it through increased power prices.

And of course the same thing will happen as with Contact – it became mainly overseas owned.

John Key on Breakfast

CORIN DANN: I just want to pick you up on that because there was some criticism about the debt issue. I think it was Professor Bowden from Victoria University who called it spin doctoring, because he argues, in fact New Zealand’s government debt is some of the lowest in the world.

JOHN KEY: It is.

CORIN DANN: So isn’t it the private sector and in particular the big four Australian banks who are the – who are the worry, not the Government’s position?

JOHN KEY: Well I wish it was spin doctoring. You’re right, New Zealand’s government debt as a percentage of GDP relative to the other countries is low, in other words we don’t owe very much. Vis a vis, say – and we’re about 20-odd per cent of GDP. If you go and look at Japan it’s 200 per cent of GDP. But the difference is New Zealand domestic consumers, mum and dad, they owe a lot of money. So on a combined basis we owe 85 per cent…

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iPredict this week

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Going to be interesting to see what happens when the farm sales hits the mainstream polls. In the interim Hooton’s view on iPredict numbers :-


*    National and Greens gain from “state of the nation” speeches while Labour slips back
*    John Key forecast to govern, needing support of just one of the Act, UnitedFuture and Maori parties
*    Probability of new left party involving Hone Harawira rises
*    West Coast-Tasman now marginal

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In God’s own country

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Last Sunday, the Sunday Star Times surprised and delighted by leading, no less, with a story about a survey showing people are increasingly concerned at the growing gap between rich and poor in this country, God’s Own which once prided itself on being egalitarian. http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/news/4571307/Wealth-gap-divides-nation

Yesterday it followed up with a major feature  http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/4594815/Mind-the-income-gap providing more detail, including a graph from the book The Spirit Level which shows NZ was 18th out of OECD 23 nations in terms of the gap between the richest and poorest 20%.

At Labour’s excellent Summer School over the weekend, Otago University academic David Craig reproduced GINI data which suggested in fact we are now the most unequal society. (He’s sending it and I will post up the link.)

Yesterday’s SST article quotes Brit Tory leader David Cameron as saying of The Spirit Level that it showed that “among the richest countries, it’s the more unequal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator…”

“We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it.”

Cameron is doing more than mouthing the words. Last year he appointed former Observer editor and long-time campaigner on equality and a ‘stakeholder’ society, Will Hutton, to head a pay equity review. (I am currently reading Hutton’s latest book Them and Us but more on that at another time.)

So you might think there is the chance for a reasoned debate here in NZ, if not Government pick-up?  Accompanying the SST feature yesterday was commentary from both CTU economist Bill Rosenberg (agreeing) and Roger Kerr, director of the Business Roundtable.

I can’t find an e-version of Kerr’s comments (although the BRT website carries this  http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/assets/Beware_False_Prophets_Jul_10.pdf but he starts by saying: “Other things being equal, I prefer less inequality in incomes and wealth rather than more…”

Kerr then goes on the pan the book and story and dismisses the idea of better equity by saying:  “Equalising incomes, was, of course the socialist goal…”  No one is talking about equalizing incomes, that’s stupid and out of line even with a Tory Prime Minister. What we are talking about is a more equitable society, where the gap between rich and poor is reduced because otherwise everyone suffers.

It is simply obscene, for example, for the Westpac  chief executive in this country to be commanding a salary of $5m+ a year as we struggle out/through a recession for which banks have to take some responsibility. Banker JP Morgan had a rule that his executives should not earn more than 20 times that of his lowest paid employee. Westpac call centre people earn around $45,000 a year. That would take their CEO to around $1m.

That’s the sort of ceiling in place for state sector chief executives. Even then you have to ask why some SOE CEOs are earning twice + what the Prime Minster earns.

John Key is unlikely to follow the line taken by David Cameron. He is more likely to support Roger Kerr’s defence of the growing pay inequity gap and argues opposition is the politics of envy; that we should simply stop redistributing wealth (as if no redistribution has happened) and look at growing the economic pie.

No argument with that if the growth is sustainable but there’s no evidence provided that this is enhanced by paying someone 50 or 100 times what their workers earn.

Moreover, The Spirit Level graph of inequality appears to suggest that more equitable societies are more stable. Spain at tenth on the list of most equitable is the first truly troubled economy to be listed. The USA is second most unequal, just ahead of Portugal.

Neither our economic stability, nor our growing equality gap now perhaps the worst in the western world will be helped by tax cuts heavily favouring top earners. And another dose of state asset sales pushing up power prices won’t close the gaps either.


Let’s talk about these green jobs

Posted by on January 30th, 2011

A few years ago, before I became an MP, I attended a property services conference in Helsinki, run by the Global Union for Cleaners, UNI.

I was struck by a presentation from ISS, a global facilities service provider, who talked about how cleaning jobs could be revolutionised, particularly with the growing emphasis on green buildings.

At that stage, most cleaners (including NZ) were employed in the traditional way. As the office staff clocked out, the cleaners clocked in – out of sight, out of mind, working for low wages – working at multiple sites and for multiple employers, often wandering from site to site during the night.

ISS talked about this could change – how cleaning could take place during the day, with cleaners working alongside other staff and perhaps expanding their skills beyond cleaning to pick up other facilities work.

So I was interested to read in Saturday’s Dom Post “that there is office cleaning revolution gathering pace in NZ, where the days of mops and wringer buckets filled with unsafe chemicals and sloshed along office corridor floors and noisy vacuum cleanings trailing long chords are numbered.”

ISS NZ is changing the equipment issued to cleaners to lightweight adjustment aluminum mops, microfibre cloths and battery powered quiet vacuum cleaners. Beginning at Te Papa a couple of years ago, ISS, who employs around 4000 cleaners says that the new system has now been adopted by 25% of their clients.

And the biggest change : changing from nighttime cleaning to daytime cleaning, bringing savings for companies in electricity and security.

While ISS says the savings are great for companies, I think the changes can create a revolution for the traditional job of a cleaner, in a number of ways. Firstly, they are more integrated as part of the building staff, not a group of “fairies” who magically appear while we’re at home sleeping. The higher visibility of cleaning staff during the day should raise the overall awareness of the process and more respect towards cleaners, especially when they see them working to keep the building clean. Coming face to face with the cleaner means greater care is often taken by staff and visitors to keep the building clean.

Secondly, daytime work offers much more family friendly options for cleaners and could make the work much more desirable.

I’ve always said cleaners are undervalued. They are responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment, and now they’re at the forefront of sustainablility in our downtown offices, our airports, schools and hospitals.

The big question is whether that means cleaners’ jobs become worth more (currently, the rate is set at $13.10 an hour), whether there can be decent, full time jobs created through upskilling to take on other work in the day to day life of an office.

NZ’s model of competitive tendering means that more often than not, cleaners are transferred to a new employer who expects them to do the same amount of work for fewer hours.

So, let’s have a revolution in office cleaning, but if it’s still work for vulnerable workers who have to work two or three jobs to make a living, it’s only a revolution for the better off.


The power to shut us down

Posted by on January 30th, 2011

Have just come across this piece on NBR where Vodafone NZ has passed on this release on how it has responded to the Egypt telco and internet blackout. And revealed that Vodafone NZ has been affected becasue of the call centre it runs in Egypt.

The ramifications of the shutdown on communicatiosn are huge. It’s led me to ponder how it’s done, and what would be the circumstances that would lead a regime to make the decision to do so. Clearly unlikely here.


Jane Young – social media and political change

Posted by on January 30th, 2011

Jane Young is a leading journalist from Invercargill who now lives in Montreal. Her Pundit blogs are always worth reading. This one on the role of social media in revolutionary change is great.

A new generation of practical revolutionaries in the Middle East is daring repressive regimes to bow to popular reform rather than resort to brutal crackdowns. They are armed with little more than the power of social media and a belief that the basics in life trump Islamist ideology. 

No wonder dictators and fundamentalists fear social media as it seems to have played midwife to an extraordinary revolution unfolding before our eyes in the Middle East

and

Social media has political power, and has done since text messaging rallied crowds whose sheer force secured the ousting of the Philippines’ Estrada at the turn of this century.

The Chinese, Burmese, Iranian and other repressive regimes work tirelessly to shut down any dissident behaviour that threatens to go viral, but with US assistance to the tweeters and facebookers, the mobile phone users and the rest of the texting generation, surely the autocrats can be left playing catch-up.

Once the the world is delivered the genie of information and pictures, they can’t be stuffed back in the bottle. It is fair to say that stage has been reached.

Iranian citizens put up a gallant fight against all odds with their tweets and phone videos, and while they did not win immediately, they must take heart that the Tunisian domino with its perceptible shift from ideological politics to the call for practical improvements and good governance will eventually reach them…and hopefully their Muslim counterparts and Arab neighbours in the region. This new generation deserves indigenous democracy that is creatively and tirelessly supported by the both the wider Arab world and the West.    


The Financial Elite have Gambled away our Future

Posted by on January 29th, 2011

Yesterday’s Press Editorial welcomed the PM’s announcement on the beginning of National’s privitisation programme for our country’s assets with the words “John Key was able to demonstrate…the value of his background in the financial industry”.  Excuse me?  Did the Press miss the Global Financial Crisis, where “the over-paid heroes of Wall Street and the City worshipped the gods of globalisation, financialisation and speculation”?   The quote is a teaser for the best of the five books I read over the summer break: “The Gods that Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away our Futures” by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson.  The first edition of the book was subtitled: “How Blind Faith in Markets Has Cost us our Future”.  The second edition (published in 2009) has an extra chapter, which as one reviewer said could have been titled: We Told You So.  The authors of this book are economics editors, Elliott with the Guardian and Atkinson, the Mail on Sunday.

The metaphor that drives the narrative is inspired by the twelve gods of ancient Greece that lived on Mount Olympus.  Elliott & Atkinson have styled the super-financiers and the international organisations, (central banks, IMF, World Bank, WTO), the “New Olympians” and the twelve gods of the modern Mount Olympus: globalisation, communication, liberalisation, privatisation, competition, financialisation, speculation, recklessness, greed, arrogance, oligarchy & excess. 

“Greek mythology provides plenty of raw material for a book about the failings of modern financial markets.  There is the story of King Midas, who found the ability to turn all he touched into gold a curse. The tendency of markets to veer between the wild optimism of booms and the manic depression busts is akin to the life led by poor Persephone, condemned to live every six months of every year in Hades. But Pandora – a gift from the gods whose beauty belied her baleful influence on the lives of mortals – makes the best metaphor.”

As they said August 9 2007 was the moment the lid came off the modern version of Pandora’s box.  And the rest is history, which is why I believe this book must be read, because unless we learn the lessons of history, we condemn ourselves to repeating it.

This book is well-researched and easy to read.  It contains a chapter called ‘Last Tango on Wall Street” which has a very simple explanation of how the New Olympians (our Prime Minister’s background the Press values so highly) found ways to make money out of nothing – creating securitised financial products like “collateralised debt obligations” out of the subprime market and then hiding the risks behind AAA rated institutions.  The New Olympians made personal fortunes with bonuses they never had to repay when it all turned to custard.  And they were happy to see the taxpayers pick up the tab for their trillion dollar insanity. 

I conclude with this quote: ‘Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise.  But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation’.  That was John Maynard Keynes in 1936.  When will we ever learn?


New candidates, new pages, worth watching

Posted by on January 29th, 2011

It is going to be an interesting year for how candidates use social media. I blog a bit here and have fun with my 5000 Facebook friends. But some people do these things really well.

Have a look here to see how David Clark who will be the next MP for Dunedin North has an interesting page. And tick “like” to keep following.


Selling Our Country

Posted by on January 28th, 2011

While we now know John Keys plan for NZ ….. Sell it all and give your mates a commission on the trades, there are alarming moves in the private sector also. Banks are squeezing businesses and foreign investors are lining up to take control of some of our important sectors. A recent announcement that Agria, an Asian company is applying to raise it’s stake in PGWrightsons from 19% to 51% is one more such move. PGwrightsons is our biggest primary sector service company and benefits from a huge part of every activity in our primary economy. The silence by farmers and their leaders has been concerning also. People must realize that the land is important but only part of our rural economy. The businesses that operate on and associated with it need also to be owned by us unless we are prepared to be servants to our future, not the owners of it.
Put this with John Keys selloff of SOEs and we should be worrying. Time to vote this Tory Government out of office as we did in 1999!!


Business leader opposes asset sales

Posted by on January 28th, 2011

Great column from Selwyn Pellett, a business leader who is involved in the high tech area.

Firstly, the justification for the plan is invalid or at least greatly exaggerated. New Zealand doesn’t have anything like the same Crown (government) debt as Portugal, Spain, Iceland or Greece. The combination of private sector debt — via our foreign banks — and Crown debt is unacceptably high at around 90% of GDP. However the difference in New Zealand’s case is that a greater proportion of our debt is private sector debt. A default on this debt impacts on the balance sheets of foreign banks not the New Zealand government.

Our Crown debt is, by global standards, still low. Lumping these two types of debts together, as the Prime Minster is doing to attempt to justify this policy, is at best mischievous and at worst dishonest.

and

The dividend stream that flowed out of Telecom – and indeed out of the country – would have been enough to see our broadband infrastructure in place a decade ago, with all the positive effects on GDP growth. Telecom’s ability to extract monopolistic pricing effectively became a foreign tax on all New Zealanders and a handbrake on our economic development.

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Poor tired boy

Posted by on January 28th, 2011

The National Party MP to be for Botany JamieJami-Lee Ross aged 24 was too tired to go on the radio this morning.

Sign of the new energetic National Party ?

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Key approach to housing – sell the home – live on the street

Posted by on January 28th, 2011

There are lots of areas to debate around asset sales and I intend to do some short posts over the next week or so. Number one :-

Key’s approach is a bit like selling the family home to pay off the mortgage.

Sounds great in theory until you either end up paying more each week in rent than you did on your mortgage so your (foreign) landlord can make a profit – or you end up sleeping on the street.


Sell the Donkey

Posted by on January 27th, 2011

For those who have not seen the Herald today, Emmerson’s take on asset sales.

Herald Cartoon


Mums, Dads and other spin

Posted by on January 27th, 2011

Its always interesting the morning after a big announcement to look at the spin and lines that get trotted out. National pay a lot of attention to this stuff, and Crosby Textor and Mr Joyce have been working hard to get their lines and their “independent” commentators out there. Let’s just look at a few examples:

“Selling assets will give Mum and Dad investors a chance to get a stake”. Well, to start with Kiwi Mums and Dads already have a stake in them, since along with the rest of us Kiwis they already own them. For a large number of Mums and Dads they are worried about paying the power bill, not owning the company.

As an aside I find the omnipresence of Mark Weldon talking about how good this will be is hilarious. Mark is the CE of the NZ Stock Exchange, I kind of expect he might like the idea. Its in the same vein as bank economists being put up as the commentators on interest rates. Just a slight vested interested there.

“This will not increase power prices” So, what exactly will the new investors in these companies be looking for? A warm feeling of social responsibility? No, presumably a profit, which won’t exactly be helped by lowering power prices. There is a discussion to be had about how we best leverage our collective ownership of these assets, and whether the dividend policy needs to change to help address power prices, but I am damn sure that wont happen by selling them off.

“We have to sell assets and further slash government expenditure because we have a huge debt problem” Where to start? Perhaps where John Key said “we don’t have a debt problem, we have a growth problem.” Of course any government needs to be a prudent manager of the economy, but the truth is that our debt is quite different from the PIGS. Their problem is soaring government debt. In New Zealand the National Party inherited zero net government debt. It has increased under National’s watch, but even still not to the point of being anything like the PIGS.

If we are in such a parlous state, perhaps its time for John Key to look in the mirror, Two Budgets with tax cuts targeted at the wealthy and no economic recovery plan. Time for National to take some responsibility.

“Which schools and hospitals would you not build if we did not do this” Utter nonsense. This is pure spin developed to meet the polling results that New Zealanders want to see better investment in education and health. Investing in schools and hospitals is a priority totally seperate from the ownership of SOEs.

But my favourite piece of spin comes directly from the PMs speech

I am convinced that Air New Zealand would not be run as well, nor provide as good a service to customers if it was owned 100% by the government

Let’s remember Air New Zealand was bailed out by the 5th Labour Government after it was driven into the ground by its private owners. A bailout incidentally opposed by National at the time. For New Zealand a functioning airline is essential, and it was highly at risk without government involvement. As it happens I think one of the reasons Air New Zealand has been innovative is that it has had the security of government ownership.

There is more, and feel free to contribute any other myths and spin in the comments.


Barry thinks she has it in the bag

Posted by on January 27th, 2011

Maggie Barry hasn’t got the Botany selection yet. Notwithstanding her endorsement by John Key she is way behind in the race.

Why then was she having the studio photoshoot for her campaign material done in Grey Lynn yesterday ?

I think Maggie on the National Party back bench would like Steele, Thorne, Blumsky and others, continue a tradition of mediocre members who didn’t live up to their reputations from previous lives.

So I support her selection – as long as it is done in a fair and democratic way.


Isn’t it Strange…

Posted by on January 27th, 2011

…How last year, John Key had the media believing National was doing a good job of pulling NZ out of recession and suddenly yesterday he has decided we are in the cart big time (he said we have the same debt profile as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain)  and we need to sell off the family silver to survive. What happened over Xmas?

…That the mythical mum and dad investors are going to buy up the family silver so we are not gobbled up by foreigners. Now John, would they be the Mum and Dad investors who lost their lifesavings to financial institutions in 2008 or are they the ones who have  saved up a big nest egg over the past two years while wages have stagnated and prices keep going up? Surely, your not going to try and sell the line that it will be the KiwiSaver accounts that you gutted to make them as meaningless as possible?

…That National’s solutions to the nations problem now, look exactly the same as in the past – tax cuts that favour the wealthy, cuts to health and education and asset sales to privatise the nations wealth.

Play it again John. Didnt work then, wont work now.