Rebuttal to Gareth Hughes

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Debate on Prime Minister's Statement

Kia ora

Prime Minister, I’ve sat and listened to all your speeches opening Parliament and I’d like to congratulate you on delivering your 8th speech.

Very kind on its face.

It’s a real accomplishment and you must be now thinking how history will remember you.

I doubt it – I think the PM is focused on delivering on the government’s promises and priorities. But I recognise this assertion is needed as a premise for the next section of speech.

Just outside of this debating chamber are the portraits of our great leaders.

From Seddon, to Savage and Fraser to Kirk how do these giants who established universal suffrage, a caring state in the midst of a depression and world war and a modern independent, bicultural New Zealand compare with you?

Is the flag it?

No – Key’s legacy will be for others to argue over when he stops being Prime Minister, rather than now. For what it’s worth I reckon his legacy will be a combination of these things:

  • A sure-footed response to the global financial crisis; which erupted almost simultaneously with the election of the National-led government in late 2008.
  • Incremental and ongoing economic reform driving a more competitive and productive economy.
  • The adoption of an innovative social investment approach topublic services, driven by results targets;
  • Rebuilding Canterbury post the devastating earthquakes; and
  • Overall, the building of a more confident, globally ambitious and prosperous New Zealand.

Gareth can ignore all these things if he wants to in order to create a caricature of the PM focusing on the possible flag change as a legacy project – but it doesn’t make them true.

Your desperate, lumbering, grasping attempt at building a legacy with a flag won’t mask the realities.

Opinion. Holding a referendum on changing the flag was, in fact, a National Party election policy in 2014 (it was also Labour party policy, by the way – the Greens putative coalition partners when they’re getting along okay).

Hungry kids up

Would be interested to see the source for this claim. The latest MSD Household Incomes Report says that the numbers below a European standard measure of absolute hardship, based on measures such as not having a warm home or two pairs of shoes, fell from 165,000 in 2013 to 145,000 (8 per cent of all children) last year, the lowest number since 2007.

The government has been very focused on those less fortunate in society:

  • Just recently the six millionth KickStart breakfast was served
  • Budget 2015 raised base benefit levels for the first time in 40 years
  • The proportion of children living in benefit-dependent families is at its lowest since the late 1980s.

Inequality up

Incorrect – the latest MSD Household Incomes Report says that “there is no conclusive evidence yet of a rising or falling long-run trend since the mid 1990s …"

Pollution up

Gareth doesn’t say what type of pollution.

Despite the Greens claims this government has a proud environmental record:

  • Created a record number and area of new marine reserves
  • Created the Environmental Protection Authority and a proper system for managing environmental effects in New Zealand’s huge Exclusive Economic Zone (before this there was nothing)
  • Insulated over 300,000 old, cold, damp homes.
  • First government to set national minimum water standards
  • First government to start reforming how we manage freshwater
  • Introduced tighter environmental standards on new and second-hand imported vehicles and toughened them again in 2012.
  • Creating the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary – one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas on earth
  • Created the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases

To name just a few.

Debt up

True; but fails totally to acknowledge that fiscal deficits were inevitable when the GFC hit in 2008. I strongly doubt the Greens wanted the government to run balanced budgets post 2008; doing so would have meant massive cuts in government welfare spending (hurting the very people the Greens purport to care about) and would have meant no money for rebuilding Christchurch.

So this is a disingenuous critique; even more so when you consider that the Greens have opposed every bit of spending restraint the government has actually implemented post 2008.

Housing costs up

Fairly broad assertion. Again the latest Household Incomes Report has some data on this:

“Overall, in HES 2014 around 27% of households had high OTIs – that is, housing costs of more than 30% of their disposable (after tax) income. There has been little change in this rate since HES 2009.”

Electricity costs up

Correct – but at a much slower rate than under Labour and the Greens. National’s electricity reforms have created a more competitive, secure and more renewable electricity system. From memory they’ve gone up around 26% since late 2008; under Labour they went up 72% in nine years.

Foreign ownership up

Xenophobic rubbish. So what? The Greens seem to only be the party of progressive internationalism when it comes to human rights and climate change treaties; not when it comes to individuals and companies investing in or trading with people in other countries.

Corruption up

Presumably based on our drop to third (third) in the Transparency International index. Third in the world is excellent. This is not a fair claim.

Once you may have been a national leader but now you look like just a National Party leader.

Nice line; although weirdly implies Gareth thinks at one point he was a good (national) leader, which I strongly doubt is the case. If not, perhaps Gareth would like to tell us when he was a “national leader”.

Once you attacked the nanny state of efficient lightbulbs but then presided over the most wide reaching mass surveillance state in our country’s history, passed the Skynet law, sacked elected councils and then refused elections.

Weird contrast drawn between the CFL lightbulb policy of 2008/9 and other policies enacted by the government. Linkage is unclear.

Environment Canterbury was sacked for gross incompetence. Almost every stakeholder agrees the appointed commissioner have done a much better job since. Elections are on their way back – there’s a Bill before Parliament to do just that.

You’re our first selfie PM, our first comedian PM - a derping, planking, rape-joking expert at getting us on late night American comedy shows.

Key is only the first selfie PM because he’s been PM since the iPhone became popular. If Clark had become PM does Gareth seriously think she would not have done them too?

Rape-joking remark is wrong and offensive. As was documented at the time, he didn’t understand the reference.

At a time of growing inequality, rapid global change and systemic economic problems we got basically a chilled out entertainer.

Inequality is not growing. Also David Brent was funny – you are not.

On Election night 2011 you first thanked your pollster.

Actually it was election night 2014; but no matter. And who cares?

You are our most poll-driven PM ever, yet after all these years we still don’t know what you stand for bar the jokes and three line slogans.

Rubbish. Every PM and party polls people (and reads them), including the Greens.

Claim about not knowing what he stands for is also rubbish. Read any of his major speeches in his last ten years as Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister.

Do you see more for New Zealand than just China’s dairy farm and America’s spy station?

Nice line but grossly inaccurate. New Zealand is much more than that economically, despite the Greens constant claims that we are only about dairy and Christchurch. Look at the recent outstanding tourism and wine export numbers, for example.

Prime Minister, why, just last week, on our national day did you run from debate at Waitangi – once again into the arms of rugby players.

He didn’t go to Waitangi because he wasn’t invited (or at the very least it was extremely unclear); and in particular it wasn’t clear he would get a chance to speak on the Marae to rebut some of the silly claims you and others have been making about the TPP.

To the 300,000 kids growing up in poverty are you saying ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for Serco, Sky City, Saudi Sheiks, Media works, Warners, and Rio Tinto?’

300,000 kids are living in RELATIVE income-defined poverty; not “poverty”. The distinction is important; although the Greens never make it because it doesn’t suit their purposes.

Actually the latest Household incomes Report shows that the number of kids living below a standard measure of absolute hardship is at their lowest level since 2007.

Rest of the paragraph is just a pathetic attempt to invert John F Kennedy’s famous remarks with a laundry list of Green hate targets.

Under your leadership scientists have been ridiculed and silenced and NGOs have had their funding and voice cut.

Well some NGOs have lost funding. Because the government has moved to a model of funding results – and they haven’t delivered.

Public science investment by government is up massively since 2008 – to $1.5 billion per annum, a 70% increase.

Rape crisis centres are closing and food banks are doing a brisk trade.

A couple have closed, yes, but services to victims haven’t stopped. In fact more money has gone in – an additional $10.4 m in Budget 2014.

Kiwis are noted for their generosity and hospitality but Prime Minister, under you, New Zealand has become more welcoming to oil companies than refugees.

Oil is a large export earner for New Zealand; so yes the government has been welcoming. We are taking 600 Syrian refugees. Comment is unfair.

Whenever there is a Government scandal, extreme benefit measures are floated, and ‘look over there – pandas.’

This argument that the government floats “extreme” benefit measures as a distraction device is a common theme in left-wing social media but isn’t borne out by the facts.

I thought the Greens liked pandas!

Prime Minister, you may not have a plum in your mouth like your hero Holyoake, but you’re exactly the same – an arrogant, born to rule, out of touch, short-term, kick the can down the road style of leadership.

Just personal invective masquerading as high rhetoric.

You delivered tax cuts the country couldn’t afford and leave $120 billion in debt, a superannuation crisis, crippling student loans and a generation locked out of home ownership.

The tax cuts were fiscally neutral; and even on the Greens own past analysis aren’t responsible for the debt figure used here.

Reference to “superannuation crisis” is odd given the Greens policy is to maintain it at the age of 65 and also oppose compulsory superannuation.

Student loans are not crippling. This is a common Green Party criticism that has no basis in fact. The Student Loan Scheme is one of the most progressive and equitable public policy schemes ever created by any government. The Greens should back it; not criticise it.

You might call that a legacy, I call it intergenerational theft.

Call it whatever you like; your comment is not based on facts.

Once, we were one of the richest nations in the world. Now Kiwis work some of the longest hours, for some of the lowest wages and pay some of the highest costs of living in the developed world.

The comment implies we were one of the richest nations in the world before National came along; when the reality is our economic performance relative to the rest of the world has been problematic since the 1960s. National has been working extremely hard at turning that around with encouraging progress. Sadly most of these steps have been opposed by the Green Party.

After selling our assets you are now selling out our sovereignty to corporates and the Hollywood industrial complex.

Clearly a reference to hopeless “sovereignty” argument advanced by TPP opponents. The reality is TPP no more adversely affects our sovereignty than numerous other international treaties NZ is a party to. This criticism is deeply hypocritical given the Greens are obsessed with a legally-binding international climate change agreement.

Your small army of spin doctors tell us again and again you grew up in a state house but now that you’re on the 9th floor you’re even selling them too.

Yep – it’s all about growing the community housing sector and providing better quality care for tenants. This criticism is strange given the Greens 2014 housing policy was very enthusiastic about the housing “third sector”.

But you seem like a good guy to have a beer with. No one else in this room could have got away with your stunts, gaffes and antics.

Professional jealousy. I encourage Gareth to keep the personal abuse of Key up – it hasn’t worked for 7 years and there’s little indication it will work now.

How have you gotten away with it? We could ask Crosby and Textor and point to the biggest of big business bucks and the dirtiest of dirty tricks operations in New Zealand history.

Apparently National’s success is not down to millions of NZers voting for them in successive elections but because of “big business bucks” and “dirty tricks operations.” And Gareth has the temerity to call Key “arrogant.”

Kiwis are a good people, a caring people and we can reclaim our democracy from big money and dirty politics.

Big money doesn’t dominate our politics. For one of many examples look at how much ACT spends each election (or the Conservatives in 2014) and how few votes they get. Money doesn’t buy votes.

One of your legacies is what you cynically call the rent a crowd is growing into a real political movement for change.

Assertion – but let’s see.

Another legacy of your term is a Green Party stronger than ever before. Thank you Prime Minister.

I guess he had to say that but the Greens went backwards in 2014. And the Greens increased vote since 2008 hasn’t come from National; but from Labour.

Prime Minister as you reflect this may be one of your last opening speeches to Parliament I have no doubt you will go down in history as one of the most successful politicians of a generation. By ‘politician’ I mean the way it’s written on the Stuff comments section.

Never read the comments Gareth.