Sunday, 29 May 2016

Hiding peoples illgotten gains leads to good life.

The exiled leader of a former Soviet republic and a well-connected New Zealand lawyer, who divides his time between Auckland and a chic home in one of South America's most fashionable towns.
What could they have in common?

They are linked through a five-bedroomed terraced house - in London's Belgravia, one of the wealthiest districts in the world and just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace.
The connection is made through a complex web of offshore companies and trusts, established to obscure the beneficial ownership of the property. Read more:

"The quintessential offshore lawyer"
Cone Marshall were among several firms who lobbied the Government in 2014 over fears the trust industry would be shut down by Inland Revenue. It followed a troubling report in which IRD warned the Government that the industry was criticised around the world "along the lines that we are a tax haven".
Eight weeks ago the leaked computer archives of Mossack Fonseca shone the spotlight on how prominent politicians, business leaders and celebrities were using the firm to run offshore entities to keep their finances secret.
Geoffrey Cone: "the quintessential offshore lawyer"
The Panama Papers revealed Mossack Fonseca and Cone Marshall had an active business relationship, dating back to 2009. Legal news website Law Fuel has described Geoffrey Cone as "the quintessential offshore lawyer".
His Uruguayan home featured recently in a lifestyle magazine with a picture of Cone reclining on the lawn, shirt unbuttoned.
At Casa Marron, Cone and his wife lead a "laid back lifestyle" with pink flamingos on the lawn and "wild and legendary parties".
In the glossy spread, Cone's New York-based wife is quoted as saying: "We have developed rather eccentric habits. Whenever I've completely trashed a ball gown, I 'retire it to Uruguay', so I wear old ball dresses around."
Cone declined an interview, citing client confidentiality.

But it would seem the PM is relaxed about this behaviour...what is your view? That's the real question. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Was it a budget or a PR stunt

1. New Zealand currently has a housing crisis, with people being forced to live in cars and garages in Auckland due to a bubble and insufficient state housing. So is the government doing anything about it in today's budget? There's the $41 million of emergency housing spending over four years, and an inflation adjustment to income related rents subsidies (because rents are skyrocketing while incomes are stagnating). In other words, business as usual, rather than a credible response to the crisis.
Meanwhile, they're shoveling money at the spies, with an extra $178 million over four years. GCSB gets an extra ~$15 million a year and SIS between $18 and $35 million extra a year to hire more staff to deal with the "threat" of "foreign fighters" and invade our privacy even further. But really, what's more of a threat to New Zealand? Homelessness? Or imaginary "terrorists".
This speaks volumes about National's priorities. No money for the real needs of real kiwis, but buckets of it for spies.

2. “The Government had an opportunity to fund public hospitals and health care properly after years of funding shortfalls – and decided not to,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.
He was commenting on the Government’s Budget outlined today. A preliminary analysis shows an overall operational funding shortfall of $304 million, including a funding shortfall for district health boards of approximately $131 million.
“There have been significant funding shortfalls for at least each of the last five years,” says Mr Powell.
“This latest shortfall means that public hospitals’ continuing struggle to resource health services adequately in the coming year will get even worse. More New Zealanders will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get the health care they need.”
“It’s very disappointing that the Government has, once again, failed to invest adequately in our public health system. While it will undoubtedly talk up the numbers as a win for health funding, the amount set aside in this Budget is anything but.
“Senior doctors and dentists, along with nurses and other health professionals, now face another year of holding the public health system together while the Government looks the other way.”
- See more at:

3. “Today’s Budget is pitiful in the face of the biggest housing crisis since the 1930s Depression.
“With thousands of people homeless in Auckland alone, Bill English’s Budget is an insult to their desperate and immediate need,” says AAAP spokesperson Sue Bradford.
“The Government says it will increase land supply in Auckland, but under the current regime all this is likely to do is create more opportunities for private developers and investors.
“English confirms a $41m budget for emergency housing that offers no new beds over the coming year, despite demand which grows by the day.
“He adds a tiny amount – $200m over four years – to the grants available to meet social housing need. Much of this will be soaked up by rising costs and subsidies without creating significant new housing.
“Yesterday Paula Bennett served up a revised version of an earlier announcement, offering up to $5000 to 150 families to move out of Auckland into districts where locals already face employment and housing issues.
“In the unlikely possibility that this is a success, it will still be a tiny drop in an ocean of need.
“Anne Tolley also partially backed down yesterday on MSD’s demand that beneficiaries should be made to repay all debt incurred when Work & Income places them in overpriced, shoddy accommodation, but with no clarity on how this will work in practice.
“National continues to flounder hopelessly in response to the homelessness crisis.
“AAAP calls on the Government to immediately drop its commitment to state housing privatisation and commence a major state house build and acquisition programme, employing and training some of the 280,000 jobless people who are also largely ignored by this Budget.
“The consequences of National failing to deal with the emerging catastrophe in Auckland and elsewhere will be felt for years to come in downstream welfare, education, health, housing and justice costs.”
“This is hardly the responsible fiscal management so dear to Bill English’s heart, nor the kind of compassionate conservatism once espoused by some in the National Party, including the Finance Minister himself.”

4. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said there was only one way to describe today's measures - "the get stuffed Budget".
That was the message to first home buyers, people living on the streets, young families worried about the future, students concerned about debt and future jobs, and regional New Zealand including farmers worried about the bank manager's call, Mr Peters said.
"Now the PM may sleep like a baby. But hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders can't."
The New Zealand First leader held up a chart showing home ownership by income decile. Heckled by National MP David Bennett that he was holding the paper upside down, Mr Peters didn't miss a beat.
"You are exactly right. What ought to be up is down...and Mr Bennett, when we gain power, we are going to put it the right way up."
Mr Peters attacked the Government policy, announced by Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett yesterday, of paying homeless people to leave Auckland.
Why should people who have lived in Auckland for generations "make way for an immigrant", Mr Peters asked. NZ First was the only party with the courage to attack the country's "mass immigration" policy, he said.
"There is an elephant that is so big in the room that nobody else can get is putting enormous costs on New Zealand and impacting every government service...the rest of New Zealand is missing out."

5. A boost to some areas of tertiary spending has not helped relieve stress on pressure points for students and institutions, commentators warn.
Projected conditions meant the number of students enrolling in tertiary courses would stay steady. However, Joyce said ratios within different courses were expected to change, with a small decrease in university and polytechnic students forecast, and a rise in industry training such as apprenticeships.
The expected decrease in higher learning would be matched to a decrease of $3m for student allowances and $1m for student loans, since last year.
NZ Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey disagreed university and polytechnic enrollments would fall, and said loans and allowances should have been increased.
"Students are living in real hardship. This is a concern for staff and a concern for our students and for tertiary institutions.
"The Budget shows a lot of moving around money, and there's been a lot of little cuts here and there; we're getting less and are expected to do more with it.
"It really is a Budget that does nothing overall for anyone who's in tertiary education."
Massey University Students' Association president Nikita Skipper had also hoped for more social assistance for students.
"We've said the Government needs to look at the parental income cap [to qualify for] student allowances.
"Increasingly, we're seeing more people reach that cap, and not get any real support."
Gradual increases in the salaries of students' parents meant less students qualified for support. Paired with increasing costs and hardship, it created more need.
"We need to stretch the dollar around more people."
"University funding had not increased in six of seven years, because of the global financial crisis … it's the everyday business of supplying libraries and buildings [that institutions are struggling with]… most of this seems attached to doing new things."
Any additional stresses on students' ability to access loans and allowances would be expected to have an effect on numbers enrolling, finishing courses, and course choices.
"For things like clinical psychology, they study for five years, so they run out of money near the end, and it means it actually changes their ideas about whether they want to become clinical psychologists."
First-year veterinary science student Stephanie Hpa said financial pressures on students were causing real difficulty for some. Committing to a long, expensive course of study meant "not thinking about the cost", she said. 
"The price of living is going up and up and up."
Funding to keep a high quality level in teaching, tuition and equipment was a concern, and "pretty important to us", her flatmate, final-year science student Miranda Berry said. 

6. Government plans to bribe voters next year, true or false?

Mr English rejected opposition claims the government was storing up cash to lavish on tax cuts during their election campaign next year.
"I don't think they should be quite so cynical.

Labour leader Andrew Little said income thresholds should be looked at, with a view to pushing them up.
Mr Little said there would be much greater demands on any spare money for health, education and superannuation fund contributions than for tax cuts, but thresholds could be reconsidered.

"There is a case to say, yeah, of course you should review those thresholds. But when you've got a ‘boast’ from the prime minister, now - $3 billion of tax cuts - well, that's the stuff a lot of people would find disturbing given the social deficits that we've got.
"In the end, just constantly talking about those tax cuts, it actually takes away from the argument about what it is we're doing to lift incomes," he said.
Mr Little said looking at thresholds periodically should be a routine thing anyway. He said budget projections show real wages will actually fall in 2017 and 2018, and the government would be better to focus on pushing up people's incomes.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said this was not the time to cut government revenues, as the country faced real challenges such as homelessness and climate change.
"This whole thing feels a lot like an election bribe," he said. "Absolutely I think it's all about timing. What they're saying is there could be a tax cut in an election year, or even more cynically, the following year. In other words, re-elect us and we'll give you a tax cut - which is a straight out voter bribe," Mr Shaw said.

So you decide if this budget was nothing more than a sham, it doesn’t help the needy, it damages students even further, it continues to cut health spending, but it gives millions to the GCSB, the SIS and a massive boost to the military to fight American wars and support Israeli aggression… I can just imagine John Key kissing the feet of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton while sending more sheep to Saudi Arabia… 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Paying the price for government stupidity

Guest writer Peter Grove

Wheeler's Corner guest contributor Peter Grove, is not young, in fact he is in his eighties, which means he’s experienced a hell of a lot of life. It is often thought that people Peter’s age don’t understand just how difficult it is for young people to survive these days. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peter writes with feeling with emotion and with experience, qualities which give his comments their power. His contribution below proves that many folk his age understand the harm that neoliberal beliefs and clap-trap have done to our society and communities. Wheeler's Corner thanks Peter G for his heartfelt contribution and willingly shares it amongst the good citizens of Aotearoa NZ.
 1. Peter wrote;
“If you go back in history and look back on our own situations you will find the cost of housing was not markedly different to what WINZ is doing. My wife and I have been on the home ownership ladder since 1960. Our first house, I built with an SAC loan of 2,500 quid.
Six years later we moved towns to another house which we financed with another loan, then in 1969 moved to Palmerston North to a pool house at pool house rental, from there a year later into our own house and a new mortgage; Five years later we moved back to Lower Hutt and another pool house, until we bought a permanent home, still in Lower Hutt.

Fifteen years later we moved to OZ and for four years lived in two different rental properties until moving back to Lower Hutt in 1994, where we lived with our daughter and son in law, rent free for three years. In the interim we had a couple of flats our daughter had purchased on our behalf with our finance, while we were in OZ.

We later sold these around 1997 at quite worthwhile capital gain and bought our present house for around $176, 000 financed with another loan this was paid off in short order with the proceeds from the sale of the two flats and we have lived here rent free for best part of eighteen years.

Our story is not too different to that of our contemporaries most of whom went through similar travails on the journey to home ownership. Most of our generation had the benefits of reasonable access to home ownership with Building Societies, State Advances Corporation, Group Housing and low interest loans of around 3%. Our journey started out with a loan of $5,000 and over the next 38 or so years, culminated in a mortgage for our present house before we paid it out shortly after purchase.

O K. I worked all those years in full employment, my wife likewise, after the youngest was at school in 1975. Most of my life I enjoyed good wages being a chippie. The arbitration Court in its determinations saw to it that our wages were on a slightly higher scale to other tradesmen due to the arduous conditions under which most of us worked.
For two or three years while living in Masterton I travelled to Lower Hutt daily to work for a Lower Hutt Company. Wages were quite good and my earnings were around 20 quid a week.

Because I was one of two of us driving the company bus from Masterton to Lower Hutt and back each day, a week about with the other driver. My wages were about 40 quid a week. The bus run started at 5.30 am and finished around 6pm at night. I was running a job for most of the time and believed I was earning every penny received.
Looking back our journey to home ownership was quite expensive and quite likely on a par with the conditions you have described, courtesy, The Daily Blog. It is likely those people caught up in that maelstrom qualify for the accommodation allowance from WINZ which is a direct transfer of taxpayer funds to the Fat Cat Rent Seekers in our midst. Most of our generation will have similar tales to tell.

What mine reveals is the extent to which working conditions have been allowed to deteriorate in this country. Gone is the protection of wages and conditions fought for and gained by the trade unions. Gone also, are most of the allowances which supplemented the weekly wage, tool money, overtime, travelling time and other little perks that pertained to our trade.
Worst of all in my view is the provision that now requires our qualified tradesmen to work in the rain. I have had the arse for refusing to work in the rain.

RNZ's John Campbell
My earlier offering was to show that Home Ownership has always been a hard rocky road for most of our generation, given some relief by the help of the Governments of the day which obviously put home ownership by the masses high up on their lists of priorities. If you want to publish my comments you are welcome. I doubt very much that my story will be too much different to that of others my age. We all seemed to be much in the same boat in those far off days. The real saving grace was full employment.
Click on  then click on RNZ’s John Campbell report
Peter G continues;

“I have now watched John Campbell’s contribution. Had I watched it earlier I would have had to keep my big trap shut. $1200 and $1300 a week for substandard housing is completely outrageous. Certainly when you consider sixty and seventy year old State houses are being torn down to leave completely bare sites with NO evidence of any replacements. Most of the houses still in Housing NZ ownership are virtually hovels due to substandard maintenance. I worked for a few months refurbishing some of those houses. Everything was done on the cheap. I turned over wooden bench tops to reveal the unused underside, and replaced the bottoms of kitchen drawers where they had abraded away from years of continual use. Instead of makeshift repairs such as those, all the kitchen units should have been replaced with new modern kitchens I found doors missing. In one bedroom I repaired seventeen holes in the Gib wall linings. In another house the hardboard lining had been stove in leaving a shape of someone’s head.

I worked on State Housing from 1950 onwards for six or so years. They were built to a good standard of mainly Ordinary Building Rimu which through the ensuing years was subject to attack from borer. Compared to treated Radiata Pine, now in universal use, Rimu was definitely a very substandard building material which has contributed greatly to the overall very poor condition of those early state homes.

If you consider the plight of the people in Campbell’s session, there are very real parallels to the plight of our university graduates now being hounded for repayment of Student Loans. The money was handed out seemingly, carte blanche with little by way of guidance as to how it should be used. In the hands of virtually teenagers, the opportunities for big nothing themselves would have proved overwhelming, leading to the mess they find themselves in now.

Good on John Campbell for striking yet another blow for the little people in our midst. So much for our long vaunted Welfare State. Welfare for the obscenely rich it is turning out to be. How much of the three billion dollars for tax cuts that are throwing Bill English’s budget into disarray will find their way down to the lower levels of our society It will likely be a repeat of the increase in GST which financed earlier tax cuts!