Posts by Russell Brown

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  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    Rob, I'll have to look it up, but in other areas my recall is that in 1999, Labour had policy detail coming out its orifices.

    Anyway, to be going on with, here's the March 5, 1999 Hard News.

    I was angry: National was trying to fan a drugs panic. Nothing Labour has said or done this year comes close to being as offensive as this was:

    Roger Sowry's slimy little press release, released the night before the Prime Minister's statement, but after she'd made it known she'd be making it, is a particularly nasty work of spin. In fact, apart from spin it has no content whatsoever.

    "Helen Clark has never criticised the insidious drug culture which wrecks thousands of New Zealand families every year," is its opening sentence. Ah. So she's immediately hung for what she hasn't said.

    "There are a lot of intellectuals out there," that is, uppity feminist common-room types like Helen Clark and her mates, "Who think cannabis and designer drugs do not harm young people. Well, they should know better," Sowry says.

    Yeah. Bloody intellectuals. Round the buggers up. Well, it worked for Pol Pot, didn't it? But the Prime Minister had better lose those new glasses, or people might think she's one. Not, I might add, that there's much danger of that.

    "The thousands of disadvantaged families seen by social services and the justice system have multiple problems," Sowry continues. "Almost always one of these is drug or alcohol abuse. I'm stunned that Labour is prepared to risk childrens' lives, by not supporting this tough plan the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has outlined."

    My God, that bitch Helen Clark is risking the lives of little children! Living in bad, overcrowded housing and getting meningitis isn't too good for them either, but that's not the issue right now. So shut up.

    The clincher comes at the end: "Helen Clark should stop knocking the police and support all efforts to prevent drug abuse and catch the people responsible for destroying New Zealand families."

    That's the final straw, isn't it? Helen Clark has been knocking the police. So that's families, young people, children and our boys in blue that she's against. She should be put away herself. Thank goodness Jenny Shipley know what's right.

    I never did like Roger Sowry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Island Life: National Landslide, or…,

    Which is exactly what Labour did when in that position
    No policies and just niggle ,niggle and it worked

    I fear your memory is faulty. Labour in the late 90s was bursting with policy ideas. Not all of it actually turned up as government policy, but there was a lot of detailed wonk-work done. What Labour thought should happen was no mystery in 1999.

    But yes: I suspect some Labour longtimers are thinking about how it feels to be on the other side.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    Um, I don't think that would mean much if Cunliffe ends up getting shredded in the middle of a typically bloody health sector pay round. There is actually a good reason why successive Health Ministers have kept their extremities out of that particular bear trap.

    You might also say it's the kind of risk Labour actually needs to take. And it's worth noting that the last two Prime Ministers both proved their mettle in the Health portfolio. If you get out of that alive (as opposed to political roadkill like Pete Hodgson) you just might be up to the big job.

    Well, spank my arse and call me Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, RB, but I think both National and Labour are going to have a hell of a time *cough* managing expectations around tax cuts for slightly different reasons. Time will tell, I guess.

    It's a simpler point than that. Key made a wild promise: will anyone notice?

    Well, I'm equally disturbed by the way Clark seems to keep getting away with avoiding questions too (on the rare occasions they're asked). Let's not forget, a few weeks ago the new big picture was raising the school leaving age. Folks may differ, but I thought Clark was allowed to get away with clinging to her talking points like grim death.

    Both Clark and Key's January speeches were fairly empty, and neither camp could provide the degree of detail that you'd expect of something called policy. But Key was annointed the winner by the nation's small club of newspaper leader writers. Go figure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    If National do go on to win this year, I'm not that bothered. It's not like Whaleoil's going to be Prime Minister. Brash and the people around him really scared me in 2005, but I think National is fairly hemmed in by its promises in 08, and Labour made its own bed by not bringing in enough fresh blood (why Phil Twyford didn't get a good list place is beyond me) and, consequently, failing to reinvent itself after 2005.

    Still ... I'll expand on this in a post (probably more than once), but the most underrated achievement of the Clark governments is the introduction of stability. The confidence that produces is an important component of enterprise: people who feel insecure don't leave their jobs to pursue the big idea.

    But the freakishly soft press Key gets does trouble me. Okay, let's give him the benefit of the doubt on "I'd love to see wages drop", but surely that tax promise gets headlines. I can't help but feel that the only reason it didn't was because Michael Cullen put out a press release about it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    He makes a series of "we will" promises - I counted more than 20. Most of them involve spending more money (that's, er, your taxes). If I had the time, I would itemise each one and "fisk" the whole damn speech, but I'd rather this was done by somebody who's actually paid to do this. None of them has. Not even close.

    The parties with a chance of leading a government, and therefore of getting their legislative programmes through, should be subject to exactly this sort of scrutiny -- do the numbers add up?

    One of the things that bugged me most in 2005 was National's costing of its corrections policy. They were going to abolish parole (a really crass, stupid, headline-grabbing idea) build more prisons, etc, for not that much more money. It just didn't seem to add up.

    And the costing for universal DNA testing of everyone arrested (never actually clear, but they seemed to be saying $5m annually) was nonsense -- I did some numbers and it was more like $20m annually. It just wasn't serious policy.

    I did call this one right though:

    Certainly, the number of those already tested would climb in succeeding years, eventually to the point where only the 40,000 never-previously-arrested people every year would need to be sampled. On the other hand, the cohort from the early 90s baby boom is just now reaching crime-committing age (expect many panicky headlines about an explosion in youth crime in the next three or four years).

    They also claimed they'd cover a $350m cut in education spending by cracking down on "the bureaucracy". It was complete tosh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    And I wouldn't take a Labour Party press release about what Key might or might not have said on KiwiFM as gospel.

    By the same token, I wouldn't think they'd fabricate a quote either.

    And, in fact, he did say it (to Wallace, not Wammo) here, at about 3.47".

    That sort of two to three hundred dollars a month that we would be delivering to them will make a real difference.

    In context, he is promising this to people "around New Zealand", with specific reference to the TV makeup person (they aren't high earners) with whom he had been discussing financial pressures. He isn't talking about

    So yes, he did promise between two hundred and three hundred a month in tax cuts to "lots of" ordinary income earners. That's a lot of money. Perhaps a reporter could ask him about it ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    You could well be right - but what a truly appalling way to select the leaders of the country. "Damn the actual legislative program they'll put in place or their policy intent - let's just let them cage-fight it over pointless and irrelevant soundbites"

    Which was roughly the point of Frewen's column. He's always bagging the gallery for ignoring the actual legislative process, but in the case of some reporters, I think he's right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    If Cunliffes' handling of health so far is the best example of Vision and Talent they can come up with they're in huge trouble.

    Really? I'd have thought the fact that he drew applause from both Matthew Hooton and Laila Harre on the radio this morning would suggest otherwise.

    His handling of the adverse hospital outcomes report -- which could have been a bomb in the wrong hands -- was also very composed. Compared to Pete Hodgson (and that's the second time I've done that recently) he looks in quite good shape.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: What the people want to hear,

    FWIW I think Key meant to say 'wages gap' - it seems obvious from the contrxt, but what do I know.

    Possibly. It hadn't occurred to me to make it make sense by adding a missing word; or to Key either, it seems.

    it does seem like a genuine mistake

    Probably. But Key could easily have said so, instead of sliming the reporter, claiming it was a joke, etc, etc. It's his response I've found dubious, especially what seemed to be an attempt to bully the paper into retracting the quote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Not so much ironic as outrageous,

    Having two kids whose whole view of the world is determined by their non-standard neurophysiology, I've gained real insight into the ways we are all different, at the core.

    It's challenging, and sometimes amazing. But I do know that if an already disturbed 13 year-old loses the plot, the correct response is not to beat him with a riding crop. Bob McCoskrie (who seems to be edging towards an apology) said that was what "any reasonable parent" would do. It just isn't.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

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