The myth of the centre
This is a repost of a comment I left at The Standard, responding to a guest poster’s assertion that
It may upset some Labour members who position themselves to the Left in the Labour camp, but in broad terms Labour should seek to target and capture the support of those who generally consider themselves centrist. And those who would consider themselves to be an intermittent Labour voter. This is the real ground to be captured in 2014.
I feel like this phrase is key:
those who generally consider themselves centrist
Because what it says to me is that we’re not talking about policies or ideology, we’re talking about appealing to people who don’t see themselves as having an ideology. That’s where National’s jibes about the “far left” come into play: it’s the view that a lot of New Zealanders call themselves centrists because “left” means Stalin and “right” means Colin Craig.
I feel like a lot of people who would call themselves “centrist” are really pretty leftwing/non-National in NZ political terms, i.e. of wanting people to get a fair deal, having a safety net when times are hard, getting a good free education and healthcare system for their kids.
But we’ve allowed this myth of the “centre” to dominate. It’s the Peter Dunne approach: he doesn’t get votes because he’s strongly for a particular political perspective, he gets them because he’s seen as an ideology-free “common sense” kind of guy.
I don’t think we recapture those voters (if that’s who we really want to recapture) by cuddling up to what National are doing. I think we do it by reminding them that all those values they believe in and take for granted are leftwing values.
And to his credit, David Cunliffe has already started doing this:
“If putting a warm dry home around every Kiwi child and making sure their tummies are fed and they have shoes on their feet is suddenly far-left, well go ahead with that tag,” he said.
Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu are not second-class names
So Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has officially recorded the names of our two main islands, Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu, or North Island and South Island.
But there’s a problem.
Even in the Minister’s own media statement – so I can’t totally hate our media for reporting it this way – the decision is described thus:
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson today announced the recorded English names of the two main islands of New Zealand, the North Island and South Island, will be formalised.
“I have also approved the Geographic Board recommendation to assign official alternative Maori names for the two islands, Te Ika-a-Māui (for the North Island) and Te Waipounamu (for the South Island).
Um, fuck you, Maurice, and fuck your racist colonial framing of this decision.
Sorry, jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Land Information New Zealand has to say about the alternative naming proposal:
The Board is seeking the public’s views on whether or not to formalise the names ‘North Island’ and ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, and ‘South Island’ and ‘Te Waipounamu’, for the two main islands of New Zealand.
This means that, if the proposals are agreed, the existing English names and the Māori names for the islands will be able to be used officially, either individually or together. This also means they can be referred to as the ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Māui’, or the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’ – or both names can be used together.
Spot the difference?
This issue has widely been discussed as though “North Island” and “South Island” have always been official – which they haven’t – and that the Māori names are “alternatives”. With the clear implication that they’re just an afterthought, a backup, a sop to the bleeding-heart liberals who probably aren’t even Māori anyway.
Both names are equally official and formalised, and have become so through this decision. Both names carry the same weight. Exactly as it should be.
But it’s not surprising we can’t discuss this properly. Elsewhere on LINZ’s FAQ you find this:
Everyone already knows the North and South Island names – why not just leave them as they are and forget about Māori names?
There is no legislation that formally assigns the names to the islands. The Board has a function to collect and encourage the use of original Māori place names.It should also be noted that both the English and Māori names for these islands appeared on early maps up to the 1950s, following which – for reasons we are unable to ascertain – the Māori names were omitted. In fact Captain Cook only showed Māori names (with different spelling) on his charts of New Zealand.
Yes. For “reasons we are unable to ascertain” indeed.
Related reading: my previous post on the issue
[Daily Blog reposts] Binning the MMP review: is it just kneejerk antidemocratism?
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 16 May 2013.
So, the National-led government is basically canning the huge amount of work and Sacred Taxpayer Dollars which went into the review of our electoral system – because, as aptly demonstrated by Holly Walker of the Greens and Lianne Dalziel of Labour, they don’t like it.
What don’t they like? The common assumption is that it’s about the recommendations to eliminate lifeboating – i.e. Peter Dunne winning Ohariu again and dragging in a bunch of fundies with him – and to balance that out by reducing the party vote threshold to 4%.
What I don’t get is why.
I mean, Walker is going with the (very strong) line that it’s because National are reliant on Banks and Dunne, who both probably have delusions of one day regaining extra seats in the House.
I am no political scientist, nor do I have access to the magical beast which is internal party polling, but this makes little sense to me. Does anyone see Banksy keeping hold of Epsom? Does anyone see the electorate swinging behind United Future again, after the hilarious debacles which have always ensued – and always get recited whenever Dunne seems to be courting the Reasonable Middle Ground demographic?
On current polling, of the minor parties, only NZ First has a shot of returning to Parliament, and that’s assuming Richard Prosser can keep his mouth shut until the election (I don’t include the Greens as a minor party these days). The Conservatives are on 1.5%. Wouldn’t it make much more sense for the Right to just euthanise ACT, drop the threshold, and hope that Colin can pull in enough votes to get over the line? Who knows how many hard-blue Nat voters would strategically jump ship to ensure their party wasn’t dependent on Winston? And to those voters, getting from 1.5 to 4 looks a hell of a lot easier that 1.5 to 5.
Are the Nats just that stuck in an antidemocratic, anti-MMP mindset? Do they still harbour dreams of ruling alone, even though it’s probably impossible in general and much less so when you’re going for a third term and the wheels are starting to come off the wagon?
This post is almost entirely made up of questions to which I have no answers, but I’m genuinely puzzled. Spin me your theories in the comments.
Cabinet vs Shadow Cabinet: the identity politics
Just because I’m a numbers nerd, here’s a breakdown of a few key factors in the National and Labour top 20.
The Labour list is taken from here; National from here.
Gender, identity and bumping uglies
Labour’s lineup is 35% women, 100% cisgendered, 15% queer.
National is 30% women, 100% cisgendered, 5% queer.
Race and origins
Labour is 20% Māori, 5% Pasifika and 75% Pākehā. One MP was born overseas (Su’a William Sio).
National is 15% Māori, including Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges, whose Māori ancestry is mentioned in their Wikipedia articles. One MP was born overseas (Tim Groser).
Labour is 60% electorate MPs, and three were born in their electorate or thereabouts – Damien O’Connor, David Parker (having formerly held Otago), Chris Hipkins.
National is 80% electorate MPs, and six were born in their electorate or thereabouts – Gerry Brownlee, Anne Tolley, Nathan Guy, Chris Tremain, Nikki Kaye, and, technically, Bill English.
As far as I can tell, all 40 are currently able-bodied.
17 out of 20 on Labour’s list and 18 out of 20 on National’s have a university education. Both parties have two members with a stint at Harvard mentioned on their Wikipedia page: David Cunliffe, Shane Jones, John Key and Hekia Parata.
Does that make you think?
Have National’s asset sales officially cost more than they’ll earn?
In a previous post at The Standard I did a wee bit of math and came to the conclusion that National has already made $5.26 billion worth of spending promises out of the Future Investment Fund, the not-actually-a-fund chunk of cash they plan to make from selling taxpayer-built infrastructure to their mates.
Things have developed.
First, there’s this post from James, noting that the sales process itself has already cost $124 million. And this estimate from the Greens of the cost of the Government’s interest-free loans to Meridian investors.
And then there’s this acknowledgement from John Key that the original five-to-seven billion dollar estimate for the profits from the sales are pretty much shot to hell.
So now we’re left with:
- Maybe $5 billion in income – only 2.1 billion of which has come in so far
- $5.26 billion in promised spending
- $124 million in process costs
- $55 million in bribes to investors
Costs we’re still not including:
- National’s promise to reduce our debt by $6 billion
- Ongoing loss of profits to the Crown, as outlined in James’ post
- The ongoing maintenance of all the projects they’re promising to fund – because shit needs to be staffed, maintained, cleaned and managed after you’ve built it or it’s a complete waste of time.
So at the most generous estimate?
We’re already in the hole for four hundred and thirty-nine million dollars. Taking the promised spending and costs to date away from the actual funds received?
Three point three billion dollars in the red.
That’s the sound fiscal management of the National Party.
Rino Tirikatene in the Hooooooouse
Literally! And taking it to Dr Pita Sharples, who gave answers so not-on-the-topic that Lady Gardiner couldn’t have done better.
Long may Rino Tirikatene ask Shane Jones’ questions for him.
See also: Morgan Godfery – Symbolism vs substance: is the Maori Party doing anything?
This not-really-a-post brought to you by my flubbing the scheduling, which meant two went up last night.
Fuck the bludgers
Following a piece in the Herald on “high-wealth individuals” who pay fuck-all tax, John Minto has declared at The Daily Blog that he’s had a gutsful of low-life bludgers. And I think he makes a bloody good point.
Wage and salary earners pay tax on every dollar we earn and every dollar we spend but these layabouts hide their money in trusts, overseas bank accounts and tax havens of all kinds and leave the rest of us to keep the country running. Most of them have never done an honest day’s work in their lives. Miserable pricks.
But let’s just look back at that Herald article, shall we? At the multiple quotes given to act like people worth over $50 million paying less tax than a construction site foreman in Auckland is somehow not a problem:
“They do it because if there’s a way you can pay less tax, why wouldn’t you? I think they are a small minority though. The average person has got relatively little opportunity to avoid tax other than by reducing their liability, for example buying duty free.”
Oh, it’s okay because they’re a small minority! A small minority whose combined wealth is worth at least eight billion dollars. And note the assumption – made by a fucking academic at the University of Auckland – that everyone would pay less tax if they could, and thus it can’t be a bad thing.
Or how about Andrew Ryan – yes, it’s almost too perfect, isn’t it? – who thinks that actually rich people – people who have the resources to arrange their wealth into nearly two hundred separate legal entities – are totally paying their fair share of tax:
“These high-net-wealth individuals will most probably be paying more GST than most individuals. In order to get a true reflection of the tax paid by the wealthiest individuals, it is necessary to include the tax paid by their companies and trusts.
“Not paying personal tax on income at the top tax rate does not mean that an individual is not paying a fair share of tax, once tax paid by their associates is factored in.”
Gee. Wouldn’t it be nice if you or I could be arm-twisted into “paying more GST” because we’ve hidden our incomes and have lots of lolly to spend on super-yachts and designer clothing? What a terrible burden rich people bear.
It’s simple logic: if there were no financial benefit to fiddling with their income, rich people would’t have lawyers from Minter Ellison Rudd Watts on standby to fiddle with their income for them. Of course they’re not “paying their fair share”.
Let’s be fucking blunt here, shall we? We have an income tax to tax income. If you’re deliberately obfuscating your income in complex financial and legal arrangements so you pay less of that tax than a person on standard PAYE? You’re fucking scum. You’re a cheating, lying, dishonest, unethical shitheel. Sure, the law may draw fancy lines between “avoidance” and “evasion” and our political masters may continue to prop up a really complex tax system to help you on your way, but at the end of the day, you are profiting off New Zealand and refusing to pay your fair share.
(32 of you fucks aren’t even filing tax returns!)
You’re a dick. And please, please fuck off to somewhere where it’s “easier to do business”. You ain’t going to be missed.
And this brings me back to That Roofpainting Anecdote. Because sure, if you, as a party/leader of the left, want to try to adopt the inherently-individualistic Personal Responsibility message, go right ahead. But can’t you at least be consistent? Yeah, side with Random Guy Who Totally Exists about his evil bludging beneficiary neighbour. But then maybe you could also say something like,
Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.
He said: “see that guy over there, he’s a multi-millionaire, yet he pays less tax than I do. That’s not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”
From what he told me, he was right, it wasn’t bloody fair, and I said so. I have little tolerance for people who don’t give back to the society which has provided them and their business huge amounts of support like tax breaks, investment incentives, infrastructure, and basic law and order and social welfare which may not go directly in their pockets, but is integral to being able to operate a business secure in the knowledge mobs of disaffected starving peasants aren’t burning your Auckland head office down.
Speeches to fap to Vol. II
Well we’ve got news for SkyCity: unlike other political parties we didn’t take your campaign donations and we didn’t go to your corporate box at the rugby; your tools of crony capitalism don’t work with us because we work for the people of New Zealand and if the people of New Zealand tell us to turn off the tap on your blood money, then we bloody well will.
Dr Russel Norman, being a badass dude.
When the right is failing even in terms of their own rhetoric
I really, really hate the phrase “NZ Inc” and would not be said to see all those who use it uncritically fired into the heart of the sun.
We’re not a corporation. We’re a fucking sovereign nation.
(Damn, that should be the chorus line of an epic anti-neoliberal rap. If only I were vaguely talented in that particular oeuvre.)
But the thing about the classic righty propaganda about “balancing a budget being just like balancing a chequebook” is that it says so much when they can’t even measure up to their own framing.
Anyway, Russel Norman said it better in a piece over at RadioLive. Warning for the obnoxious use of black background/white text.
If the New Zealand economy was a business; the management team that has a business plan to increase losses to $17 billion a year while selling some of our best earning assets would be treated as rogue traders.
And yet that is what the National Government is doing to the New Zealand economy.
Through the efforts of its highly paid spin doctors and friends with vested interests, it manages to portray itself as “sound economic managers”.
But the facts just don’t back that up.
Finance Minister Bill English is depicted as predictable and safe. Yet the CFO of NZ Inc has been recklessly borrowing money. He started borrowing the minute he took on the job and hasn’t stopped since.
On top of this National gave pay rises (tax cuts) to the wealthy. NZ Inc couldn’t afford this dividend to wealthy investors at this time. It was seriously bad management.
The only fly in the ointment, and the truly depressing thing about all this, is that this is pretty normal business practice in many parts of the NZ private sector. Look at Solid “oh shit, where did all this debt come from?” Energy. Look at every collapsed, taking-out-your-life-savings-with-them finance company.
So I guess that the Nats really are running government the way they would run a business. We just should have double-checked what kind of business.
Rachel Rayner: Resources for accessing abortion in NZ
Rachel Rayner has a seriously good post up containing a lot of resources for people seeking – or wanting to know more about – abortion in New Zealand.
Isn’t it interesting how, for all their platitudes about “full information”, you don’t see antichoicers actually trying to educate people about this issue?
Rachel also made a great post on the whole decriminalisation issue. It’s completely past time for a review of our laws around reproductive rights – but I can see a lot of our politicians, even the awesome liberal ones, not necessarily having the stomach for another drawn-out battle with lying, vindictive, panicmongering fundamentalists.
I just hope they can reflect on how great it must have felt to do the right thing in voting for marriage equality, and try to get that buzz again by giving the pregnant people of New Zealand dignity and choice.
(Not to presume that all MPs who are pro-marriage equality are necessarily pro-choice – and not to presume that all MPs who are pro-marriage equality or pro-choice would feel free to vote with their actual consciences, while being bombarded with lies and threats from the fundy scum.)