From Northland? Thumbs down to “the virtuoso of slick”.


The message from Northland – thumbs down to “the virtuoso of slick”.

The Northland rout must have been a shock to the National Party government, which has been acting as if it has the right to virtually rule New Zealanders. And many will have watched with amusement, well flavoured with schadenfreude, the recent sudden encounter with reality John Key himself underwent. Described by the Dominion Post as “the virtuoso of slick”, Key’s initial, arrogant dismissing of Winston Peter’s chances as “absolutely zero” and his later stating with what many would viewed as political sour grapes, let alone discourtesy, that he wouldn’t pick up the phone if his candidate lost, was accompanied by National Party threats and bribery.

Suddenly everything changed. Surprise, surprise: It was going to be a close thing after all. So bridges were going to be widened, ultra-fast broadband access prioritised. The limousines with ministerial presences – were, with a lamentable lack of judgment – sent to impress the proletariat. And with a possibly even greater lack of judgment, Key himself – damned if he did and damned if he didn’t – bestowed himself on a less than grateful electorate…very possibly the kiss of death to National’s chances.

We can contrast’s Key’s boorish behaviour with Winston’s Peters’ basic kindness in the post- election exchange with Mark Osborne, an apparently thoroughly decent man. When Osborne called him “very generously” to concede, Winston in turn told him not to take the loss to heart, that “he was in the most impossible position of trying to make up decades of neglect and it wasn’t his fault – and he wanted his wife and family to know that”.

Moreover, (as a former politician confides) Osborne, “as a newbie, would be listened to even less than the tea lady. One thing that has become abundantly clear is that the current National government is totalitarian-minded in its decision-making process. A few chosen ones at the top, notably Key, English and Joyce, apparently make all the policy…The rest are primarily ballast to provide numbers in the house. Outside Parliament, they are essentially {marketing paraphernalia} for the government.

As columnist Jane Bowron describes it, Key’s “swaggering boast” at the beginning of the by-election (that Peters was on a hiding to nothing) contrasted markedly with his about-face, and “only made an overlooked electorate more determined to back a man who was born and bred in Northland, knew them in their bones and had bones in their land”.

The significance of National losing the “safe” seat it held for more than 50 years has been recognised by most New Zealanders – as much as this government downplays it. But then the gurus of the mass media, long out of touch with the respect with which Winston is held by heartland New Zealand, apparently predicted (as on Q + A, with their usual misplaced sangfroid) that National would win the seat.

Describing Winston as “mythologized as the hero of heartland”, Bowron shares the lack of awareness of most media mouths who have seemingly been programmed to ignore or disparage Peters’ achievements while in government. There is also an airily dismissing of the fact that of all New Zealand’s politicians, Peters is widely regarded as apparently the only one with a sufficient knowledge of history, and a sense of the significance of what is happening in the Pacific…for example, of the threat to New Zealanders by an undoubtedly predatory Communist Chinese government – and of the loss, little by little, but accelerating – of our land, our companies, the threat to our strategic assets – and the buying up of our housing market – with its grave implications. The ridiculous media baying of xenophobia, as a fob-off, does not impress New Zealanders at large.

Like other media who tend to echo the current opinions of the mass media commentariat, Tracy Watkins was also quite wrong in recently stating that it was only six months ago that “National was carried back into power by that huge wave of political support “ in the November elections. There was no huge wave of political support. National actually lost one seat. And it apparently can’t be repeated enough that the party is estimated to have gained approximately 36% of the total votes – compared to those who voted for other parties – and that, factoring in the number of registered voters who didn’t vote, National gained only 33% of the votes of the country…less than those who voted for other parties.

John Key’s similar claim to the effect that it was a landslide victory could be charitably described as overly imaginative. The reason why National squeaked home (and anything less than 50% of the country’s votes is not a mandate to claim majority support, as is Key’s practice) is that the vote of the opposing parties amounted to a dog’s breakfast, more or less – a right mess of unprecedentedly different factions.

Make no mistake: a government which thumbs its nose at the expressed will of the people – as John Key’s government did from the beginning – is not regarded as democratically representing majority New Zealanders. What are increasingly now viewed as National Party patsies all fell into line from the very beginning, when Key took it upon himself to forbid conservative parents to decide when it would be legitimate and helpful for a disruptive child to receive a well-deserved smack. The pattern became established of John Key knows best. And when National’s leader pushed through the utterly unnecessary and costly Emissions Trading Scheme – and the disturbingly undemocratic Marine and Coastal Area legislation – (in the face of considerable concern from within his own party) then it became plain that the country no longer operates as a democracy.

As many commentators are now pointing out, it is now a virtual dictatorship – or at least governed by an oligarchy – in which political power and control rests in the hands of a very few people. In this case, those ensconced in the inner sanctum of the National Party hierarchy have to date been able to be relied upon to be the fall guys, or can-carriers, for their leader.

The shift towards governing with presidential type power, however, began even before the National Party’s more recent governing terms. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark exercised exactly the same sort of control over Labour Party politicians, to such an extent that MPs such as Phil Goff dodged its consequences with regard to the anti-smacking prohibition which has seen a marked increase in the number of disobedient, disrespectful, disruptive and assertive children, who know their “rights” – and of frustrated and fearful parents. The forcing through of this legislation has not assisted with the real issue of child abuse in the country – (which has nothing to do with an occasional much-needed smack) and has helped those who determinedly avert their eyes from that sector of the community where most family violence occurs.

It has also added to the list of prohibitions which increasingly has New Zealanders concerned that in speaking out – essential for the healthy functioning of any genuine democracy – they are going to be vilified by determinedly abusive, politicized factions with manipulative cries of racism, xenophobia, homophobia. Yet very few would argue that driving dissent underground, and inhibiting thoughtful assessment of the directions of the day, is a plus for us as a people. And many feel concern about what is regarded as a general social, even moral deterioration in this country, viewed as once more stable, crime-free and unified.

So, too, with one issue about which Winston Peter apparently has a far more statesmanlike appreciation than Key himself – and our other parliamentary representatives. This is the question of exactly what is Communist China’s interest in intruding into the Pacific. If the usual feel-good, think-bad advocates of a mindless “diversity” could be persuaded to actually engage their minds on this issue, even they might come to a conclusion, no matter how reluctantly, that it is more than time that we had a politician who represents New Zealanders’ interests – rather than those wealthy enough to buy their way into our country – and then buy New Zealanders out of owning it.

On the China front we hear no protest at all – ever – from our government about the continuing and increasing pattern of repression, cruelty, even torture and imprisonment of those Chinese brave enough to confront the CCP – Chinese’s ruling and corrupt Communist hierarchy. John Key voices no public concern, reportedly because he does not want to create an awkward situation when functions are held at Wellington’s Chinese embassy.

National’s leaders are seemingly quite happy about the fact that the country is operating in a moral vacuum, with regard to foreign policy. The National Party seems to have come to the conclusion that the country is going to ignore what it does not even bother to deny – that the GCSB has been scandalously misusing its powers to spy on those competing with Trade Minister Tim Groser in his quest for a lucrative overseas position. The fact that he did not win it does rather raise the question about whether there was, in turn, any productive spying (from those backing overseas candidates) into Groser’s own political career, which may not have been to his own advantage – an irony which will not be lost on those concerned about the rampant intrusion of the State into what should be fellow democracies.

Nor is New Zealand, with its see-no-evil approach, joining other countries voicing their concern about the Islamic targeting and murder of Christian groups and individuals overseas. There is not a squeak from our government about the appalling crimes being committed against women – their total subjugation in the Muslim world; their stoning to death for any perceived or invented transgression; their sexual mutilation to be forced to conform to Muslim practices.

We are exhibiting no concern that the US’s apparently rogue president has now manoeuvred a more than dubious deal with Iran – without even the minimum quid pro quo of insisting Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist. This, when the fact that Iran has been close to facing economic collapse, means the potential to achieve a far better result has been squandered. It has been left to the Arab nations themselves to express their concern about what they see as a weak American president whose problem in fact may not be weakness at all – but a dubious personal agenda, and a determination to get his own way….cost what it may.

In short, New Zealand is failing to publicly protest on a number of issues where not to do so can be argued as morally derelict – as is the case with China’s repression and even torture of dissidents – increasingly so, even – and, in the case of  Raif Badawi – shockingly and inhumanely sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison for risking his life and freedom for questioning disturbing aspects of life in Saudi Arabia – including the domination and oppressive role of religion.

NZers are on the whole very decent people, and most would prefer to see this country’s politicians publicly raise concern over issues such as these. What have they got to lose? It would be hard to see the media dissent – e.g. about the arrest and persecution of fellow reporters overseas.

It is rather late, too, for an American expert on China itself to be having a rethink. A recent article by David Shambaugh confesses to his now having second thoughts about what he has argued for years – that China is reforming to become “a responsible stakeholder”. Heaven protect us from those experts who belatedly come to the realisation of what commonsense has long brought home to the people of a country – and in this case it is that Communist China cannot be trusted…and never could. That the Chinese practice of keeping friends close, but enemies even closer has served it well – that, faced with the lack of understanding, the ignorance, the self-serving thinking, or even the simple stupidity of our politicians. Shambaugh is now expressing concern that China isn’t joining the rest of the world, but turning into a predator.

There is no question of “turning into”- as his epiphany suggests. China’s Communist politburo has long regarded the West as its enemy. But will his belated acknowledgement that President Xi Jinping is a despot cause our own government to dampen down its excessive enthusiasm for deals between our two countries? After all, if our National Party government shows no interest in admitting that “Xi’s regime has stopped almost every experiment with better governance”, and that China’s multimillionaires are fleeing the country, then it is answerable to New Zealanders for its lack of oversight in allowing the buying up of so much of this country by Communist Chinese investors. The Americans, for example, are critical of Britain’s agreement to join a bank set up by China to fund Asian developments, as “they see this correctly as a means to protect Chinese power without the tiresome scruples of existing institutions” – and have persuaded Japan, Australia and South Korea to stay out.

What New Zealanders basically want to know is what is happening in this part of the world. The realisation has belatedly come that financial capitalism has now superseded Adam Smith’s concept of the free exchange of goods and services operating in a moral environment.

Financial capitalism basically involves corporations and individuals making money out of making money – basically what John Key did as a currency trader. It produces no basic goods or services. It appears to operate very much in the kind of moral vacuum which profits, for example by on-selling debts which others cannot pay, and in contriving extraordinarily complicated financial arrangements almost beyond comprehension by the public at large – but hugely profiting those who deal in the manipulation of money. However, it brought about the 2008 collapse, which had the Queen herself asking why the economists had not seen this coming.

We can repeat her question, charging it to our politicians. Why have they not foreseen the inevitable consequences of a policy of lending to institutions, individuals or countries – as China is doing in the Pacific with its multi-million-dollar loans to small Pacific countries which have no hope of repaying them? What is China’s agenda in so doing?

Our government is also apparently not keen to look squarely at the problem of far wealthier overseas investors in foreign owned companies making bigger profits as the economy grows, and helping to push up the current account deficit, reportedly from $175 million to $2.6 billion for the December quarter. Imports grew faster than exports, and Finance Minister Bill English appears, as ever, to obligingly act as his master’s voice, deflecting criticism of the fact that the deficit is expected to worsen this year with overseas companies earning more from their investments in this country than New Zealanders are earning from the overseas investments.

Most New Zealanders have no problem appreciating what this government avoids acknowledging, that selling off our assets to foreign-owned companies which pay virtually no tax in this country, but take their profits offshore, reduces the amount of taxation available in this country to pay for essential goods and services. No need to guess who will make up the shortfall. It certainly won’t be very wealthy New Zealanders, able, as John Key has acknowledged, to structure their financial affairs to minimise their payable tax.

What has been very much brought home to New Zealanders is that this National-led government does not represent the interests of the country at large. The Northland by-election has shown the rest of the country the way. But what we still have to take on board is the fact that the routine exchanging of one political party for another – simply to eventually throw each out in turn as the excesses and arrogance become too great for the country to stomach – is not enough. And it certainly does not ensure that New Zealanders have any genuine say in the decision-making that is imposed on us.

What we urgently need is a reconfiguration of our political system… so that it is New Zealanders themselves – as in the case of Switzerland, the most successful and democratic country in the world – who have the final say on all parliamentary legislation – and on all issues affecting the well-being of the country.

We need the initiative of the 100Days – Claiming back New Zealand movement – and we need the information about its very real potential as an apolitical, grass-roots movement to be passed right around this country.

And we need heartland New Zealanders on board to help – and to pass this on.

Will you? See to come aboard and support us to claim back our country!

Amy Brooke – Convener –The 100 days – Claiming Back New Zealand