Why Advance N.Z./N.Z. Public Party are a danger to New Zealand

On Saturday afternoon,hundreds, possibly thousands of people marched into Auckland’s Aotea Square protesting. They were there because two politicians – an elected M.P. and a political wannabe – were going to speak about a perceived assault on New Zealand’s civil society.

New Zealand Public Party and Advance New Zealand are two political parties on the fringe that only formed in the last year. Yet in that time, whereas other parties would have struggled to gain any media traction, the A.N.Z./N.Z.P.P. alliance has become one of the most controversial features of the New Zealand political spectrum. Their message is one of fear: A Communist plot to take over New Zealand led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; a bioengineered weapon is being spread by the new 5G telecommunications technology. The United Nations wants a New World Order and wealthy people like Bill Gates are trying to develop population control medicines.

Now, that sounds quite quack doesn’t it? I certainly believe it is bat crazy. But these two parties genuinely believe this stuff.

There are several aspects of their conduct that I find extremely thoroughly alarming:

  • Their willingness to spread known lies
  • Their deliberate targeting of vulnerable parts of the community, who have been disenfranchised by the Government in the past
  • Their leaders Jami-Lee Ross (Advance N.Z.) and Billy Te Kahika (N.Z. Public Party) genuinely believe what they are saying
  • They are exploiting the legitimate fear that is generated by the uncertainty of COVID19, the unprecedented safety measures that have had to be rolled out

As Martyn Bradbury notes, there are conspiracies that we should be concerned about. They are beyond the scope of this article, except to say a bioengineered virus being spread by the next generation of telecommunications equipment is not one of them.

Far more dangerous to society is the massive unsustainable consumption of resources that has seen human kind in the 1 minute of geological time it has been on the face of this planet wipe out at least half of the known flora and fauna. That is right. If you condense the entire geological history of planet Earth into a day, human kind has been around roughly one minute and at the current rate of resource consumption, the human race might not get out of this century alive.

Far more dangerous to society is the fact that since the Cold War ended, the Americans and Russians have abandoned nearly all of their nuclear weapon limitation treaties. Defence spending has continued to grow and this year the United States defence budget was U.S.$721.25 billion – about N.Z$1.07 TRILLION. The fact that there are no checks and balances in Pakistan or India to stop an accidental missile launch makes them probably the most dangerous countries in the world with regards to nuclear disarmament.

What is not dangerous to New Zealand society is the honest efforts of experts like Drs Siouxsie Wiles, Ayesha Verrall, Michelle Dickinson and others who have dedicated their professional lives to helping New Zealand understand science in a way that we can make meaningful good from. What is not dangerous is the fact that the New Zealand Government to its massive credit has brought the best knowledge and practitioners of epidemiological science to bear front and centre in our fight against COVID19.

What is not dangerous to society is getting a flu vaccination. There will be a few people who have reactions, but the very vast majority of people will just feel a slightly dead/heavy arm sensation which will go away. Its success in large part stems from the willingness of so many people to get innoculated

Interestingly enough, many of these people are also Donald Trump supporters. They support a United States President whose legacy is likely to be measured in the number of COVID19 body bags that have been used in the last 8 months, and the many thousands more that are likely to be needed in the near future. They support a President whose aim many of my American friends genuinely believe is to start a race war or – worse still – a second American Civil War, by stoking hatred and distrust between black and non-black communities to the point that they start openly fighting each other.

Are these the kind of people you want in New Zealand politics? rabble that incites protests where people genuinely think that the Bill of Rights Act 1990 has been repealed or is going to be repealed. I am an Amnesty International member and Amnesty keeps a close eye on legislation in Parliament. If there were a degree of even vague truth about it, Amnesty would be mobilizing its massive membership to bring to bear pressure that has never been applied in a New Zealand context.

Stop and think about that.

Just how taxing is Labour’s income tax announcement?

(Sung to the Telethon tune) “Thank you very much for your kind taxation. Thank you very very very much”

The above was a National Party advert criticizing the proposed tax policy of then Prime Minister Helen Clark’s government in 2005. Dr Don Brash was leading the National Party, which had finally found its voice to the delight of National’s conservative base.  As the 2020 election campaign begins to ramp up, the political parties are starting to release their major policies after a considerable concern that the 2020 contest was not going to be about ideas.

Interestingly enough, Dr Brash’s proposed tax policy in 2005, despite being leader of the National Party was actually steeper than the announcement yesterday by Treasurer Grant Robertson. Dr Brash had proposed the following brackets (but not as steep as those of Dr Michael Cullen (bold)):

  • Up to $12,500 = 15% ; Up to $9,500 = 15%
  • $12,501-50,000 = 19% ; $9,501-38,000 = 21%
  • $50,001-100,000 = 33% ; $38,001-60,000 = 33%
  • $100,000+ = 39% ; $60,001+ = 39%

In contrast, social activist John Minto once upon a time proposed a 100% income tax on income over $250,000. In other words if you earned that much money, you did not get to see a cent of it. For obvious reasons, aside from Mr Minto not standing for Parliament, his proposals never went ahead. But it was that kind of extremism that prevents me ever supporting a bid by him to stand for public office.

I mentioned my own thoughts about income tax rates in June.

Many on the right will grumble about wealth being taken away from successful, hard working New Zealanders. Wealth and income are quite different classifications. Income is the hard money that your bank account sees, whilst wealth is ones cumulative assets – house/s, car/s, luxury items like boats, expensive jewellery and so forth. One might not have a huge day to day income, many have a share portfolio, investments in gold and so forth.

National and A.C.T. will invariably grumble, as will the Taxpayers Union. What these parties and the T.U. will never admit is that even some prominent former New Zealand politicians, such as former Prime Minister Jim Bolger believe high income New Zealanders should be paying more tax. Which is why it will be all the more interesting to see what their tax policies are and how they will fund expenditure.

Some on the left will grumble too. For entirely different reasons, namely they do not think the changes go nearly far enough. This will include the left-wing of Labour, the Green Party and social activists. They will argue that the Government is not serious about using income taxation to reduce poverty.

Others like me, however, will argue there are other ways in which poverty can be reduced. Tax is certainly useful as a lever to encourage, discourage certain behaviours and to fund programmes, but anyone who has studied poverty in depth will know there is a lot more to it than just this.


Matariki an ideal replacement for Queens Birthday

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that if re-elected, Labour will introduce a Matariki holiday to celebrate the Maori New Year.

National and A.C.T. – unsurprisingly – are against it. A.C.T. says the Prime Minister is unfit to govern if she believes this is a good idea. National’s Paul Goldsmith said it would need to be replacing another holiday. New Zealand First also opposed it on the grounds of “New Zealand needing more hard work”.

I completely – and vehemently – disagree. I know New Zealanders across the political spectrum who believe that we should introduce Matariki as a holiday. Aside from holding significant importance to Maori, there are as I will describe shortly, significant reasons for for non-Maori New Zealanders to get behind it. Before that, though, I want to acknowledge the work of Laura O’Connell Rapira of Action Station, and Lewis Holden who is former Chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement. Both had a significant role in making this possible.

Thank you.

When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brother and I to Hagley Park to watch the 21 gun salute. It would happen on the first Monday of June and be at midday, which everyone knows to be Queens Birthday, the official day of celebration of the reigning Monarch’s birthday (the actual day of her birth is in April). I think it was more for the novelty of four 105mm guns letting off blanks than for any real respect for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II that we were taken along.

But as I grew older, I began to question the relevance of the Monarchy in New Zealand. I think this nation has grown up enough that we can reasonably have a conversation about whether or not the Monarchy is still relevant to New Zealand. Over the years since World War 2, if we look at how many other nations have gained their full political independence from Britain, and then look at at the diminishing number that are still to become a Republic (I am guessing that this will be more formally discussed when the reigning Monarch deceases), it is probably an inevitability.

On one hand there are thousands of New Zealanders who seemed genuinely excited to see Prince Harry on his recent trip, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2014. Their down to earth nature contrasts with the at times aloof nature of other senior Royals. I can appreciate the older generation which suffered so much from World Wars 1 and 2, will have a particular affinity with the Royal Family and in particular Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. When Camilla Parker-Bowles and Prince Charles visited in 2019, I think there were probably just as many people more interested in meeting the Prime Minister who was showing them around Christchurch Cathedral.

Then there are those who wish for the three day break to remain simply because it means a long weekend. All that is well and dandy but there are New Zealand events such as Matariki, the Maori New Year, which we could celebrate instead. Matariki refers to the star cluster called the Pleiades, whose appearance between late May and mid-June signals the start of the New Year. Matariki began on 2 July 2020 this year. Next year it will start on 13 July.

I also think that this could be made to tie in with school holidays in late June-early July.

But what about those of us, who whilst respecting the Monarchy, have no links whatsoever to British and identify as outright New Zealanders when we fill the census form in every five years? I am one. As far as I know all of my family as far back as the late 1800’s were born and raised in New Zealand. I am a New Zealander and this is the only country I have known. The same can be said for many other New Zealanders too.

And if we could move our annual fireworks addiction to Matariki, the Fire Service would probably welcome the reduced risk of fires for good reason.

Lets address our Members of Parliament properly

How many of you have had a conversation about New Zealand politics, that involved naming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern? And when you had that conversation, how was she addressed – or not addressed?

Her name is Jacinda. Her full name is Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern.  It is not “Cindy”, “Taxcinda”, “Cinderella”, or “Jacindef******rella”, as I saw someone type her name last week.

For the same reasons we should not call United States President Donald Trump “Donnie”, “Trumpy” or similar; former Prime Minister John Key “Wonky”, “Shonkey”, “Donkey” and so forth, we should avoid calling our Members of Parliament names, however much we dislike them. I do not call A.C.T. leader David Seymour “Davie”, “Seymie” or anything else along those lines, for the same reasons I will not call the Prime Minister any of the aforementioned names.

What one says to friends, colleagues is one thing, but to put these names into print as Ms Collins’ husband David Wong-Tung did when he posted to a National Party meme page on Facebook “Unite against CINDY-20”, is quite another. That it used the same graphics as the COVID19 flyers, social media and scan pages is a separate matter.

That reason is simple:

It diminishes them as an elected office holder. It diminishes the office they hold and ultimately the authority of that office. It also lowers the bar for future holders of that office.

But also it simply smacks of immaturity and lessens the quality of the discussion being had.

Columnist Andrea Vance wrote a useful column yesterday outlining these very concerns.

An honest conversation about COVID19: The science

This is an attempt to answer a few basic questions from my stand point about COVID19.

One of the most noted aspects about the New Zealand response to COVID19 is that the Prime Minister did not assume to know better and decided to follow the advice of her chief Science Advisor, Director General of Health and others. The Prime Minister saw the danger with the “herd immunity” approach in Britain, where thousands have died, where the idea was to simply let the coronavirus get into the community and and rely on the population gradually becoming immune.

The numbers of people that that would have potentially affected in New Zealand is truly terrifying. The very first estimate suggested a death toll of 80,000 New Zealanders or 1.6% of the population. Some people screamed alarmism, but forget that very little was known about COVID19, the international response was patchy and no plans were really in place. This was simply unpalatable to the Government.

Are we going to get rid of COVID19 completely?

I would like to think so, but the answer is probably not. At some point in the future, New Zealand will have to open our borders, albeit carefully and with priority given to those countries that have a semblance of control – Australia, Taiwan, our Pasifika neighbours and maybe a few other countries. But that might not happen until maybe February or March 2021, whilst we try to buy the hopes of a vaccine a bit more time.

COVID19 might come in waves over time. Those waves may eventually diminish in strength, but for the immediate future whilst it is still rapidly evolving in many countries COVID19 means that the borders must stay shut for the time being. I do not envisage international air travel resuming before March 2021.

Will we have a vaccine?

The international race to get a working vaccine has been underway for a number of months now, but even if the world co-operated – which it is not – it would still take time to find out what could realistically work, design a test and agree on the parameters of the sample group. After testing the sample group, the test results would have to written up, peer reviewed and governments briefed. If assuming after all this things are going well, plans for production can be started, but that will include finding suitable facilities  to manufacture it, who takes priority – do nations do it by their most vulnerable categories, by age groups, among other concerns.

But all this assumes we as nations develop a common and agreed understanding of COVID19. In this fractured world, politics is as big an enemy a result as the virus itself.

Should we trust the science?

Absolutely! Science has come a long way in the 100 years since the Influenza outbreak of 1918, which resulted in the deaths of about 50 million people around the world. That was transmitted by soldiers returning from World War battlefields, who picked up in the hell that was the trench environment, a pandemic that would kill 8,500 New Zealanders. Social attitudes have changed since then too. Whereas economy of death might have been acceptable to practitioners then, no medical practitioner worthy of being called one would contemplate such a ghastly idea. Understanding of hygiene and matching standards have improved society’s ability to fight back against.

Although we still have a long way to go in fully understanding how COVID19 works, enough is understood to know that COVID19 can spread very easily. In Washington State, a single person managed to infect 52 people in a 61 member choir. A single dormitory in Singapore has been linked to 800 cases there.

Although the flu vaccine is not related to COVID19, one of the best things one can do is have the vaccine anyway. This is for the reason that COVID19 has the potential to put a lot of people in hospital, and by having a flu vaccination, one is potentially freeing up a bad that might be needed by a COVID19 patient.

Should I trust the Government?

I am not going to make that decision for you, but I am going to be very clear that I do not condone in any shape or form COVID19 denialism. Nor do I condone people who are actively calling for measures that risk undoing all of our hard work and which may put more vulnerable society members at undue risk.