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Facts to arm voters at the polls

14 Jan

“Labour and the Greens require Mana’s Hone Harawira to retain Tai Tokerau and bring in a couple of others. Co-operation to take Waiariki away from the Maori Party is critical to them.”

By Matt McCarten

(Reprinted from the Herald on Sunday, January 12, 2014)

This is election year, and here are 10 things punters around the watercooler tomorrow should know.

1. Polling indicates all party support levels are pretty consistent. Past elections show polling numbers don’t change a lot in election year. Therefore the election will be close and determined by the minor parties’ fortunes.

2. The respected Pundit website’s poll of polls shows National is likely to get 58 seats and Labour and the Greens 59 seats. The minor parties get six MPs: Maori Party three; Act 1, United Future one and Mana one, making 123 MPs in total. NZ First and Conservatives fall under the threshold.

3. If the above happens on election day there will be an “overhang”, and any prime minister would require support from 62 MPs to govern. John Key wants the Maori Party and either Act or Peter Dunne. David Cunliffe obviously needs the Greens. Mana needs three MPs to get the left across the line.

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Just one MP may call the shots

9 Jan

It’s on the bus for parliamentarians who lose their seats – and their perks

By Matt McCarten

(Reprinted from Herald on Sunday, January 5, 2014)

I know you may think it’s too early to think about politics, particularly as we are all in switch-off mode after the Christmas and New Year stress period. How many resolutions have you broken so far? Are you looking to your 2014 career prospects with dread or optimism?

It’s election year this year. It’s life and death for our politicians.

When the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, every MP – apart from the handful of MPs voluntarily resigning from Parliament – would have thought: “I want to keep my job and perks”. Then they would resolve to get themselves better prospects in 2014.

Here’s the challenge for them. Under our adversarial electoral system, for any MP to get a job, someone else has to lose theirs. For any MP to get promoted, someone has to lose their job. All MPs must watch their backs to keep their jobs (they really are trying to knife each other) and they have to kill someone to get their next promotion. It’s a kill or be killed environment.

Opposition parties’ official job really is to defeat the Government parties. If they are successful, the Government ministers lose their power, perks and pay. Their staff go, too. Instead of having a chauffeur on call they have to catch cabs. If they lose their seat they get to wait for a bus. For many politicians, the thought of getting a real job is worse than death and they’ll do anything to prevent it.

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Insult to send tour supporters

16 Dec

By Matt McCarten

(Reprinted from Herald on Sunday, 15 December 2013)

What an insult that John Key appointed Jim Bolger and Don McKinnon as part of a five-person New Zealand delegation to Nelson Mandela’s memorial services.

Both were members of a National government that supported apartheid and labelled Mandela a terrorist. They cynically used the Springbok rugby propaganda tour in 1981 to whip up the redneck base for electoral purposes. On the back of the carnage the tour caused, their party called a snap election and scraped home by one seat.

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Vote to save last of family silver

10 Dec

By Matt McCarten

Reprinted from the Herald on Sunday December 1, 2013

Dad tells his family he’s selling a number of rental properties the whanau owns through a family trust, which their ancestors have built up over generations.

This genius informs his beloved that he’ll use the asset-sale money to pay off household debt. Given the properties earn a healthy 8 per cent return that already services the debts, there’s an uproar.

His children and grandkids point out that while he’s the family boss, he is only a trustee. It’s their heritage he’s selling. They predict that once he has sold off the first round of assets he’ll just keep selling until there’s nothing left.

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Selling our future for $75 each

2 Dec

By Matt McCarten

Reprinted from the Herald on Sunday December 1, 2013

Only a scriptwriter for a Hollywood blockbuster film about a Texas multi-national scouring the world to extract wealth from other people’s communities would come up with the name Anadarko.

When the topic of Anadarko’s deep-sea drilling in our waters came up on last Sunday’s Q + A on TVNZ, host Susan Wood quipped “I do want to get us back to the money here, because that is the real issue.” She is right. It is about money.

The companies that extract oil in New Zealand are almost entirely foreign owned.

Despite their claims that they are “only” keeping 58 per cent of their profits, a report funded by the Government estimates the share of profits sent overseas for any future oil finds will reach 90 per cent.

Our government’s current take (royalties plus taxes) is the fourth lowest in the world.

Even the Texas good old boys must feel guilty about taking advantage of our naivety.

The Government and the oil corporations frame the debate around job creation and economic benefits.

Most of us get bamboozled by corporate cheerleaders and their spin doctors. It is deliberate. Any opposition is sneeringly written off as fringe loonies. But we do have to enter the debate, even if it is a dishonest game of jobs versus environment.

There are fewer than 5000 jobs in oil, gas and coal mining. Dirty energy acolytes claim that if we let them have their way they could double the numbers.

Compare that with the 111,000 jobs in tourism that rely on our clean, green image. In manufacturing, we employ 190,000.

In the present Government’s term, 40,000 of these jobs disappeared without John Key lifting a finger. Is it really about jobs?

Half of all New Zealand jobs and 70 per cent of our export revenue are directly linked to our clean, green reputation. Deep-sea oil drilling interests claim our Government could receive $300 million from it. That’s $75 per New Zealander. We trade away our best marketing brand for that?

The future of this country is in clean energy. PricewaterhouseCoopers says future jobs will be in clean technologies and could be worth $22 billion a year. Investment New Zealand estimates we can create a $150b high-value, low-carbon export economy in 12 years.

Then there’s the small matter of climate stability we rely on. If more than a fifth of the current discovered fossil fuels is burned, the earth’s heating will increase by more than two degrees.

That’s the irreversible tipping point for climate change. It beggars belief that we are enthusiastically pursuing an agenda that will result in crippling droughts and storms that will destroy our economy.

Long-term destruction of our agricultural nation is being traded for short-term gains for a few oil barons. There is a lunatic fringe. But it’s not us.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

Matt McCarten: Row clouds already nasty issue

12 Nov

By Matt McCarten

From Herald on Sunday, November 10

Matthew Hooton is so far right he sneeringly derides the National Government as communists. But on human rights and social issues we are fellow travellers. We chatted on the morning of our usual Thursday panel with Radio Live hosts Willie Jackson and John Tamihere. Matthew was incensed over what he believed was Willie and JT’s attitude to the predatory behaviour and almost certain rapes of girls by the Roast Buster gang.

I had only listened to one taped interview of a teenager identified as Amy and read a few print reports. None of it was good.

Unlike print and television, talkback radio is live. Hosts never know what a guest will say. On most occasions there is no time for editing or planning an interview. Given the outrage over organised girl rape parties, any questioning of this girl needed careful sensitivity.

In the interview, there was much emphasis on mitigating circumstances for the males and little for the girls. What matters if they snuck out at night or what they wore? You could feel stunned disbelief in radio land when JT asked Amy at what age she lost her virginity.

There is no mitigation for males providing drinks to stupefy 13-year-old girls into sex. It’s called rape. Filming it and public gloating is doubly violating.

The conduct of these young men tells us a lot about where society is. I am keen to be part of a discussion rather than caving in to a lynch mob mentality, however tempting. Locking up a couple of creeps will happen eventually. Then what? Problem solved?

I wanted to discuss how the debate on the show had been handled; the disturbing role of the cops; corporations promoting sexualisation of film, music and youth culture; lolly alcohol aimed at girls; parents; schools; education; peer pressure; plus personal conduct and accountability.

I arrived late just as the show was starting. I wasn’t aware Matthew had tweeted widely before the show that our hosts were in for a drubbing.

Talk about cutting the air with a knife. There was none of the usual banter. Matthew’s opening that the Amy interview was “morally and journalistically cretinous” ended dialogue.

JT’s sneer that Matthew was carrying out a predetermined stunt was quickly followed by Matthew’s swipe at JT’s on-going defence of former top cop Clint Rickards’ sexual behaviour. Pandemonium exploded. Matthew’s stormy exit was so fast I didn’t have time to react.

Thursday’s show was great theatrics, maybe even good radio. But it wasn’t part of a discussion we need.

Next Thursday we need to continue the debate with Matthew’s intellect and energy. Otherwise last week was our last panel. And that’s a shame.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

Labour has found its mojo at last

23 Sep

By Matt McCarten, Herald on Sunday 22 September, 2013

After five dark years, the Labour Party have their mojo back.

The past month of quality presentations by David Cunliffe, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones was a great success.

New Labour Party leader David Cunliffe

Day after day the media covered confident and articulate candidates espousing policies the faithful wanted to hear. The Prime Minister was pushed to the sidelines for the first time.

Luckily for the sake of party unity, Cunliffe’s win was decisive. The overwhelming members’ vote and the even higher support by the unions is a huge mandate. Even in the caucus, Cunliffe surprisingly got 16 MPs to Robertson’s 18 – a difference of one MP.

The mana of Robertson and Jones has increased, too. Robertson will be leader one day and Jones has cemented himself back as a future contender.

It was always unrealistic to have any of the three being a loyal deputy to the other. David Parker was a good compromise. He’s the brains and the policy wonk.

Competing with the Greens for the same vote is a zero game. Cunliffe is smart and knows it’s the 800,000 voters who didn’t bother to turn out at the last election he has to win over to be Prime Minister.

Some pundits pose that Cunliffe has to move to the centre. That’s silly. The centre doesn’t exist. Parties win by convincing the majority of their policies – whether left or right. If the electorate supports left policies, by definition the centre moves leftwards. If it supports right policies, the centre moves in the other direction. The centre is never some fixed point.

Cunliffe’s policies of forcing up wages, opposing asset sales, investing in public services and spreading the tax base are unabashed left policies. What matters is that they are popular and could potentially motivate hundreds of thousands of non-voters to turn out.

To do that, the parties of the centre-left have to build a machine to get the Auckland vote out. They were creamed in our biggest city in the past two elections.

Who wins Auckland, wins government. With this new momentum for the left, I hope they can capitalise on next month’s local elections.

Postal ballots for local government across the country are hitting mailboxes this weekend. In Auckland, there are hundreds of candidates contesting more than 200 positions. Len Brown will romp home, of course. The only interest is how many votes John Minto gets on his left and John Palino on the right.

The real contest is for the council. Currently it’s a third on the right; a third on the left, and a third in the centre. Most voters don’t have any idea where many candidates’ political allegiances lie.

The Auckland trade unions have 150,000 members. They have assessed all the candidates against the three campaigns they are running: Protecting the Assets – no privatisation; A Living Wage – starting with council workers; and Sorting out the Port – force the incompetent ports bosses to settle a fair deal with their workers.

Most candidates support the unions’ campaigns but the unions don’t want to split the centre-left vote. Most unions are non-partisan. For the first time, the Auckland unions steering group, of which I am a member, is recommending a single candidate it believes has the best chance of winning, for each elected position. You can peek on

Union members of course will vote for whoever they like. But for those who want to use their vote strategically the recommendations could be decisive. Wards have an average of 10,000 union members. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s good to see the Labour Party getting its act together. Hopefully, workers will unite to win too.

Herald on Sunday

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