Sunday, October 15, 2017

Auckland Council: Why this blood-sucking Dracula needs to be staked

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Brisbane City, which is normally compared to Auckland, has a population of 2.3 Million, has a staff of some 8,000, of whom, only 149 earn more than A$100,000.
Auckland City with some 1.4 Million people has a staff of 11,893, of whom, 2322 earn more than A$100,000 (with 49 earning over $300,000.)
What did Rodney Hide promise us with this monster-SUPER CITY?
Economies of scale, staff reductions, reduced debts, efficiency, better accountability, improved service?
And Auckland literally has a case where a Town (pun intended) is trying to run a Super City. The buck stops at CEO, and my article seeks many questions. 
Prime among them is, in a Third World City, Suva, we were miles better in financial discipline, staff management and providing effective service to ratepayers. Most importantly, we respected other people’s money. In comparison, Auckland is a bottomless-pit, just increase the rates.
Many heads would have rolled if Suva was as dysfunctional as Auckland. 
But in Auckland, the elected officials are the “dogs” who are wagged by the tails, the CEO and that bulging bureaucracy of overpaid unelected officials.
Auckland Council has degenerated into a Dracula sucking our blood, where Elected Officials have abdicated their promise to ratepayers, and have become lapdogs of the staff who run the show. 
This Dracula needs to be staked…read on
Contrary to initial optimism, Auckland Super City appears to have degenerated into an uncontrollable Frankenstein Monster- and a blood-sucking Dracula. Here, the elected representatives have been forced to abdicate their powers. Shots are called by the so called Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) and overpaid unelected bureaucrats. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. 

Rodney Hide created a monster, which has become a Dracula, sucking our blood. It needs to be staked to save us. Did Super city achieve economies of scale? Did we have reduced staff? Have wages deceased? Have services improved? Has borrowing reduced? Has spending reduced? What has Super City achieved? Isn't it time we killed this creature?
We have had so many complaints going to deaf ears. People took consolation from the fact that Mayor, Phil Goff would make a difference. Disappointingly, it appears he himself is intrigued by this monster and remains uninformed. 

NZ Herald of 5 October, 2017 made shocking reading:
One in five staff at Auckland Council is earning more than $100,000 as the wages bill for the Super City blows out for the third year in a row.
………..number of executives earning more than $200,000 has increased by 25 per cent in the past year, from 155 to 194….
 The council and its six council-controlled organisations (CCOs) employ 11,893 staff, of whom 2322 earn more than $100,000.
Brisbane City Council - often compared to Auckland Council - employs about 8000 staff, of whom 149 earn more than A$100,000.
 The advice I gave to Andrew Little when he took over from David Cunliffe was to remove dead-wood and ineffective Labour management team that had led to fall of their previous leaders. Unfortunately, he ignored it at his peril.

I have a feeling of déjà vu when giving a similar advice to Mayor Goff, a former Labour leader: Please clean up the mess you have inherited - please remove (read sack) the CEO and let him sign his redundancy cheque. 

Economies of scale, staff and salaries reduction, as aimed by a Super City has not been achieved. Almost 40 staff are paid over $300,000. At the same time, a city equal to, or larger than us, BRISBANE, has much fewer staff as well as only 149 paid above $100,000 compared to 2322 of ours. What do Council staff PRODUCE to warrant such pay? They only use OUR RATEPAYER money to overpay themselves. This table shows how out of control Auckland Council's pay has become. There has to to be a rethink of our pay-structure.
CEO is ultimately responsible for the lackadaisical performance, neglect of duties and busloads of ratepayer dissatisfaction. If CEO of Fonterra creams up the company for how well it does, similarly, CEO of Auckland Council deserves the guilt and blame of ignored sewers and a growing dysfunctional monster.

As a former Director Administration and Operations at Suva City Council (second to CEO) I am bewildered by lack of accountability, dereliction of duties, shoddy communication channels, sloppy financial discipline and abdication of power by the elected Councillors to bureaucrats who have overpaid themselves.

People who voted in Mayor Phil Goff were optimistic that he will make a difference. One year on the job, he seems not to know what is happening, and seems to be informed about dysfunction in the Council via media. This author's experience at Suva City Council shows that heads would have rolled if such dereliction of duties of the CEO and Mayor were seen in a Third World Fiji. We all are disappointed. 
Auckland Council needs to learn protocols and managerial discipline from Suva City, a Third World Local government. Our CEO and Council Staff held the elected Councillors in high esteem, even feared them. The Mayor, CEO, Senior Executives and all relevant parties were in constant touch, operated on same frequency and were always well-informed. We were modestly paid, in fact lower than private sector. Our Councillors received minimal per diem, but were always in control. They held CEO (and staff) and the Mayor accountable. And the CEO kept the Mayor continuously informed. Most important, we diligently practised financial discipline – and respected ratepayer money.

Those in the ivory tower need to come down to earth to see how we ratepayers feel about an out-of control Auckland Council.  A time has to come when people will call for action from Government to make Auckland Council more accountable to its ratepayers. Perhaps time has come for Government to review operations, effectiveness and efficiency of Auckland Council.
Auckland Council need to learn from Fijians. Do we have effective Human Resources, Finance and other relevant committees? And do the Councillors in relevant Committees know what is going on? Why we have such a big mess? Why deviation from budgets and objectives? Do they have one-to -one weekly or monthly meetings with CEO and Mayor to ensure things are moving according to budget, plans, and objectives? Do we have credible and effective communication channels?

This article is not written by an over-paid Council’ communication staff or a consultant. This is done by a migrant who was rejected to add colour to Council’s Communications department. Why the Mayor learns about Council dysfunction from the media? And who advised the Mayor that the flooding in New Lynn was due to global warming? You need not be a rocket scientist to know if a month’s rain fell in one hour, no Council reticulation system can handle this Act of God. It seems I need to hold a training session for Council’s wanting Communication department!
Weekend Herald (7.10.17) tells of blatant mismanagement of senior management pay, spiralling out of control. In three years to 2017, we saw 25 % increase in Auckland Council, 21.5% in Auckland Transport and eye-watering 89% in ATEED. This was when inflation was running below 2%. Heads would have rolled if this had happened in Suva.
In contrast, the biggest saving of 20% was made by Watercare, which is headed by a migrant Fijian, Raveen Jaduram. It shows the benefits of employing people with wider international exposure from Third World Countries. They value limited resources, have tendency to be miser and possess better appreciation of other people’s money. This can only happen in an environment where cronies, people from old school-boys club, political connections and other social contacts do not access rear entry to executive, boards and other key positions. Unfortunately, migrants like me lack opportunities of such backdoor entries.

Auckland Council is still considered a white institution, The Mayor agrees that some 40% of Aucklanders are born outside of Auckland. Is this reflected in either the makeup of the Governing body of its staff make-up? Statistics speak quite the opposite. Wonder how many in this picture represent those 40%!
NZ Herald recently reported on the colour of the Council - it is still very White. And there is no ethnic or brown (read Maori) executive up to second tier of the whole organisation. Ironically Mayor Goff admitted in Q+ A (8.10.17) that 40 per cent of Aucklanders are born out of New Zealand. I wonder whether that is reflected in the makeup of the Council and its staffing.


  • Remove CEO for lack of performance. 
  • Give powers back to elected representatives.
  • Freeze pay and staff-intake
  • Undertake staffing and pay structure, in line with similar overseas comparatives. (Brisbane)
  • Terminate contract of top executives, to re-apply. 
  • Review internal reporting, communication channels and financial discipline.
  • Set up proper measurable KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), linking pay increases against stringent measures.

Failing this, the incoming government should institute Section 10 of Local Government Act 2002, and seek Ministerial invention, even to appoint Crown Review Team or Manager. 

Please new Minister for Local Government-tell your officers to brush up Section 10 of Local Government Act 2002, and put up a case to you why you should not call up Auckland Council to provide special answers from concerned ratepayers, in particular, FIJI PUNDIT. Fijians are now ridiculing this First World Local government to learn accountability and financial discipline from Suva City Council. Please stake this Dracula-Auckland Council, before it sucks more of our blood.
We ratepayers are fed up. We call the Government to put a stake through the heart of this Dracula, created by Rodney Hide. It has grown too fat, gone out of control, and is fast sucking our blood.

Please Minister, free us from this misery!

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Garba for Girmitiya Descendants: The Changing face of Navratri Festival for Fijian Diaspora

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As a child growing up in rural Rarawai, Ba, Fiji on a cane farm, we celebrated Ram Naumi, Holi, Diwali and other religious festivals originating and associated with North India- Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They were Ayodhya and Ram-oriented, but Krishna pooja also featured in our lives, with a mixture of South Indians as well.

Navratri (or Navratam, as some Indo-Fijians called it) for us in rural Fiji was time for Devi pooja –and that was it –just Durga pooja. We never knew about celebrating Navratri through Garba dance. This was confined to Gujarati business community of Fiji, largely settled in urban centres only. The only Garba we knew was what we saw in the movies.

The dance teacher, Sonar Chand Ngangom, with ladies elegantly dressed for Garba.
Even Girmitiya descendants residing in urban areas did not show much interest and enthusiasm in Garba/Dandia as it was considered a “Bombaiya” or Gujarati event. In fact Fiji is a tale of two Indian communities. One was descendants of Indentured labourers, mostly cane-farmers, living in rural areas, generally on the lower end of economic scale. 

The other was relatively richer free-settler Gujarati business community who came to Fiji to establish businesses from Gujarat, India. There was very limited social interactions, with Gujarati families being very highly stratified, with strong caste system, while girmitiya descendants had discarded this trait through suffering and sacrifices of their Girmitiya forebears in the cane fields. (That is story by FIJI PUNDIT for another day.)

Hence as a child or adult, I never got exposed to Garba. When my family migrated to Auckland in 2004, we were in more liberal and somewhat “westernised” Indian community where there was greater interaction with all classes and types of Indians, because of our limited population in a “foreign land”. Our festivals started being celebrated on community basis when Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) formed by Girmitiya descendants from Fiji initiated Diwali in 2000 and then Holi five years later. Today this has been emulated by others and we have huge multiple religious and social festivals. WIA also tried to expose us to Garba some years ago. However, due to lack of interest, this was discontinued.

MOTHER-DAUGHTER: Ragni Singh Chand, with mother Shashi Kala Singh.
Sunita Sharma, with her mother

Kashmin Kumar with daughter, Pooja Kumar
Then a miracle happened in West Auckland when Shri Ram Mandir, managed by Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust completed its very ambitious temple and community centre in Henderson in 2015. Its Managing Trustee Pravin Kumar was passionate about introducing and exposing Indo-Fijians to other Indian religious, cultural and social observations. His objective was that a Mandir should be more than just a place of worship-it should develop into a social and cultural hub where communities also socially interacted for networking and community wellbeing.

Celebrating Navratri in Gujarati style was one of such initiative. Here, the Girmitiya descendants were exposed to this beautiful, and graceful dance.

Three years since its inception, Ram Mandir has been holding Navratri and associated Garba dance, and progressively escalated its celebration, and encouraged us to embrace something different. They took a very commendable step of teaching the steps of Garba to those for whom it was foreign. I, with my wife, were such people, who leant the steps of this very graceful way of worshipping Devi in this entertaining form of dances. It also was a good excuse for exercising. 

We are thankful to maestro of cultural dances and dance teacher, Sonar Chand Ngangom, who has been present over the years on hand to teach us steps, and now I am quite comfortable with what was taught. Combining those steps with Bollywood Garba-oriented songs make very enjoyable Navratri celebrations. This teaching continues till today, every day of the festival. Increasingly the descendants of Girmitiyas from Fiji have learnt the art of celebrating Navratri in Gujarati style, with Garba dance.\

The Mumbai Raas Garbha group: From left: Sandeep More (Dhol), Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir, Pravin Kumar, Lead Singer, Bhavesh Mehta, female vocalist, Rini Dadheech and Milind More - (extreme right, on organ)
This year, thanks to Shri Ram Mandir in general and its Managing Trustee, Pravin Kumar who arranged artiste from India to come here and provide live music for the whole Navratri festival. We were blessed with Mumbai Raas Garbha (also called Garba) Group from India. This was led by lead vocalist Bhavesh Mehta, supported by female vocal artist, Rini Dadheech. Of course the life-blood of any Garba is the enthralling and rhythmic drum or dhol. Sandeep More, as the rhythm artist kept us right-footing with the booming dhol. And of course, no Garba is complete without the soothing religious, as well as enthralling Bollywood numbers. And for this you need an accomplished melody artist. We were lucky to have Milind Dhotre performing very skilfully. They all combined to create a religious and devotional musical atmosphere for those dance steps that many were still trying to perfect.

The Audience 

Our people are slowly coming forward to celebrate what had been foreign for us. At times yours truly, Thakur becomes the only Krishan Kanhaiya, (male) with all female Gopis dancing, as there are few men dancing. Hope in time to come, more menfolk will join us to grace the floors of the Mandir to happily and gracefully celebrate Navratri-Gujarati-style. We are thankful to Shri Ram Mandir for initiating this rich cultural and religious enlightenment to the descendants of Girmitiyas from Fiji.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Saturday, September 30, 2017

ELECTION 2017 - The Battle’s won, but the War is far from over for National

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Those with knowledge of Mahabharat (The Great Hindu War) would know about the Chakravyuh battle that was won by Kauravas, but the war was ultimately won by Pandavas. We have a similar case here - National has won the battle, but…… 

Chakravyuh battle is a labyrinth or web and refers to an army formation in which one can enter but cannot exit easily. We have a parallel here. New Zealand First has entered this labyrinth, with the campaign slogan: “Had Enough? Party Vote New Zealand First.” 

They have entered, seeking change. They cannot exit, without losing its credibility, honesty, morality and standing in society, if they decide to choose status quo. They would be accused of treachery by voters, who had enough, and abandoned National to join them.

Can Winston Peters come out of this web unscathed? Sure can, if he chooses to side with those who were also seeking change - Labour and Greens.

Both Bill English (left) and Jacinda Ardern (centre) are waiting for decision of Winston Peters (right) to support whosoever he thinks is fit to rule the country. But Peters cannot be accused of holding the country to ransom before he gets the COMPLETE results. If people question suitability of MMP, they should also question the time it takes to finalise the remaining 15 % special votes.

Campaign objective
Labour, Greens and New Zealand First fought the election to remove the current National Government. NZ First were most emphatic. They enticed people to shift to them if they needed change. It would be hypocritical, deceitful, unethical and insincere if now they decide to support the Government they campaigned to remove.

Therefore, if NZ First were to follow through their slogan for change, then they need to walk their talk and work with like-minded parties who campaigned on the same objective - CHANGE.
It, however is understandable for them to wait until the remaining 384,000 votes are counted, as this may further change their political fortunes.

Similar Policies
Among others, policies of Labour, Greens and NZ First agree fundamentally on at least the following issues:

TPP opposition, Pike River entry, Reserve Bank changes, Immigration, Housing, Retirement age and Shift of Auckland Port. Therefore they have more similarities than differences.

Despite many economic success stories told by National, spiced with lies, majority of New Zealand population has passed a clear message. And that is that they need more than a strong economy - they needed a change. And this has been overwhelmingly said by Maori who are at the receiving end of National’s neglect. Their party has been annihilated by Labour as a punishment for siding with the party which has ignored their plight for long.

Winston Peters will be confronted, among others, with such “achievements” of National:

The veteran politician enjoys being the King-maker, deciding whether to click right (National ) or left (Labour). Who knows, for a change, he may be known as the Queen-maker! (Source: NZ Herald cartoon)

Sale of land and water to overseas interests, foreign control on NZ, increase in homeless people, “houseful” signs in hospitals, degeneration of education and health services, increasing poverty and mental illness, stagnant wages , sale of social housing, people sleeping in cars, motels and Marae, uncontrolled immigration stressing and rising income inequality.

Final Act
For somebody who has been pushed out of Tauranga and now Northland and who has been habitually humiliated, latest in leaking of superannuation details by National, he needs to tread extremely gingerly.

While his European  blood in him will urge him to click right to support a party working for the rich, interests of largely businesses, the affluent and white people, his Maori ancestor genes  will urge their son from North to click left, to right the wrongs on forgotten people of his homeland.

This has been NZ First campaign billboard. Now, will  NZ First voters, who have had enough of National's rule for three terms and voted for a change, will agree to statu-quo? Would not it be hypocritical, deceitful, unethical and insincere if NZ First now decides to sleep with the Government they party campaigned to remove?

Whichever way Peters goes, you cannot remove the fact that a frail lady’s entrance changed the sum, put a fright on the right, and transformed the political landscape of Aotearoa. 

Jacindamania has ensured that even National has to shift left and do better for the ignored vulnerable population.

Hence ultimately, whichever way the dice falls, the final decision delivers well for all.

What Jacindamania has done to National is a medical miracle - it has given them a heart.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

History repeats itself: Jacinda Ardern to accomplish a Bob Hawke miracle on election night.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Many harbouring reservations about Labour’s ability to unseat a three-term rule of National Party may feel this is a colossal task for rookie leader, Jacinda Ardern.

Among others, this means turning around a rudderless and crippled ship in such a short lap of time. Has this phenomenon ever been achieved before? No? Never? Impossible? Unhistorical?

Either you have a short memory, or were not even born when it happened.

JACINDA ARDERN: Next Prime Minister of New Zealand will bid farewell to Bill English from the 9th Floor Prime Minister's Office in the beehive in Wellington.

This phenomenon happened in Australia some 34 years ago. There, a new Australian Labour Party’s leader Bob Hawke, squeezed an electoral victory in just four weeks as the leader. He soundly defeated the siting PM Malcolm Fraser’s ruling Liberal Party coalition government in 1983. 

What caused this miracle for Labour? Australia was going through some tough economic times in early 1980s. At the time of proposed election in 1982, the economy suffered from high inflation, industrial disputes and high unemployment, accompanied by a prolonged drought. 

Opposition Labour Party then was led by Bill Hayden. Similar to New Zealand situation, they were also going through disputes, infighting, disunity and instability.  A faction of Labour Party wanted to roll Hayden as party leader in favour of Hawke. Prime Minister Fraser was well aware of the disunity in Labour, and took advantage of this by calling a snap-election.

Despite predictions of all political pundits and polls, FIJI PUNDIT predicts a repeat of history when a new Labour leader, Bob Hawke (left) assumed leadership four weeks before snap election, and went on to defeat veteran Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (right). Same will happen in New Zealand, with Jacinda Ardern squeezing a victory, despite all odds, and people ridiculing my prediction and faith in the uprising of the Millennials .

He prematurely dissolved parliament and called for election on 5 March, 1983, unaware that Hayden had resigned and was replaced by Hawke. Under leadership of Hawke, Labour Party reassembled, realigned and recovered. It gained its lost territory, credibility and support. They surprised all political pundits. On the election night, Labour Party experienced a massive swing and wrested back power.

Time Magazine of 14 March, 1983 ran the following self-explanatory story:
Voters bet on a chummy, charismatic new leader
Barely a month ago, was Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke, 53, a fledgling parliamentarian with a mediocre record as his party's spokesman for industrial relations. Last weekend he was elected Prime Minister of Australia, leading to victory a listless, often divided Labour Party that has held power for just three of the past 34 years. Hawke and his Labourites ended the 7½-year reign of Incumbent Malcolm Fraser and his Liberal/ National Party coalition. 

Now, let us compare this 1983 Australia situation to 2017 election in New Zealand.

Leadership in Labour Party in NZ took place just some seven weeks before the election. The party had been going through instability and uncertainty since departure of Helen Clark - they failed to anchor the party with any leader since she left. Political good-fortune eluded them and they were in a free-fall with National Party gearing up for a historic fourth-term as the government.

And then a miracle happened! Very admirably, Andrew Little made a Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern in a smooth, non-controversial and unanimous leadership change.   And as they say, rest is developing into a history.  

The unsung hero and Queen-maker, Andrew Little who abdicated to ensure a doze of oxygen for Labour Party, by relinquishing leadership to Jacinda Ardern.

In the polls that have been taken since Ardern took over, they have shown one thing clearly - Labour’s consistent march forward, breaking new grounds in polls and preferred Prime-Minister’s choice. What Jacinda also brought to Labour was that zing, x-factor, and identity with the millennials –the new generation. 

The resulting Jacindamania positively echoes one cheer from her re-assembled Millennials- a knockout punch on the election night, with Ardern in driver’s seat.

The meteoric rise for Ardern is contrasted by a drop in support for National, their desperate negative campaigning, and boring Bill , contrasted by Ardern’ s positivity and charisma.

They say, you get a government and leader you deserve: It is Ardern's positivity versus English's lies, scaremongering and dirty -campaigning.

Media worldwide will run similar news story as the Time Magazine story above, after NZ election on 23 September, 2017. My prediction is that this Australian history will repeat in New Zealand. The new leader, Ardern, who took the driver’s seat just recently, would execute a Bob Hawke punch on Bill English. She will wrest back power, and spell good political fortunes for Labour Party and New Zealand’s vulnerable people ignored by National. 

The sceptics who consider this as a mammoth task for Labour Party in general and Jacinda Ardern in particular, are correct. However it is not impossible, and very probable, considering the tell-tale signs already evident. And this is backed by historical precedent. And it will happen again.

Jacinda Ardern - the Queen that Andrew Little help make

Yes indeed, history does repeat itself. It will eventuate in New Zealand on the night of election, 23, September, 2017.

Jacinda Ardern will execute a Bob Hawke stroke on Bill English, to floor him on the count- thanks to Andrew Little"s Hail Mary Pass.

But will happen to Bill English?

For those of you who have seen  "Back to the Future" should know that this would be second defeat for him on his run to be an elected Prime Minister. They will appreciate this NZ Herald cartoon. 

Hence, for Bill English, it is back to the....

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Thakur Ranjit Singh

National Party seems to carry the legacy of its past leader, recently Knighted Sir John Key, in copying him to win an election. The hallmark of National’s win in 2014 election was its indulgence in Negative Campaigning.

National’s campaign model was to use outside groups to deliver hard-hitting “mongrel –type” messages on behalf of the Party, while protecting the leader. 

The government machinery rubbished Nicky Hager’s claims raised in his 2004 book, “Dirty Politics” and Key won, largely due to a weak and divided opposition, and effects of negative campaign. (Read analysis of Dirty Politics in KIWI PUNDIT blog, parts 1 to 5. 

Since departure of Key, leadership in National passed to Bill English. National’s smooth and confident fourth-term run was rudely interrupted by Andrew Little’s Hail Mary pass to Jacinda Ardern. Positive poll results for Labour and Jacindamania have been causing uncertainty, desperation and perspiration in National Party.

National Party's smear campaign of discrediting Labour Party was well-depicted by NZ Herald cartoon of 18 September, 2017. This depicts how a scarecrow, usually a figure of a person in old clothes is set up to frighten crows or other birds away from crops. Here the imagery is that National Party is using advertisements of imaginary taxes to scare away the voters.

With departure of Key and the ‘hounds” of National Party being exposed and kennelled, the negative campaigning became obsolete.

Under Bill English, a new form has taken shape- Dirty Campaigning. This involves picking up things that are lies, borders on hypocrisy, using scare tactics and relying on negativity. You discredit opposition because you cannot stand on your own merit, spending all your energies and advertising dollars in smearing your opposition with information that is not even correct.

Their hypocrisy was rudely exposed by Corin Dann of TVNZ . Very cleverly he pulled up Bill English on Q + A (17.09.17) on National’s desperate attempt to discredit Labour. When asked by Dann if there would be any interest increase under National, English replied that no government could guarantee that. Dann retorted, then why National was sending lies in campaign flyers claiming that interest would go up if Labour came to power?  He asked, whether it was not hypocritical, lies and scaremongering, when National could not guarantee interests themselves?

Nicky Hager's 2014 book, "Dirty Politics" that was discounted by National Party as mischief-making. But it revealed how John Key had two-pronged strategy where his hired hounds discredited opposition, while he maintained good clean image, that came to be known as  the"smiling assassin"

English retorted that interest would go up as Labour would have to borrow more. He was again proved a liar and scaremonger by Dann who stated that National’s debt went up from 9% of GDP to 25 % and yet interest rates dropped. Hence, National was relying on misinformation. 

On the $11.7 billion hole, nobody could prove there was one, yet National was still using this as scaremongering in campaign. The other forms of taxation: inheritance, income and capital gains have all been shelved. And fart tax? But why were they still being used by National with negativity in Radio campaign. 

On water tax, there would not be substantial difference, so why are lies presented to people? Lies, and more lies. In a politically-motivated farmers protest in Waikato, we had a scenario made famous by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. In his book, “Things Fall Apart” which I studied as school literature in my Fiji Secondary school, I still recall one memorable adage: “outsiders crying louder than the bereaved”. This was the case at Waikato protest, orchestrated by National supporters, but very conveniently, denied by Bill English.

Federated Farmers, who organised the protest where few of those who attended would ever be affected by such royalty.

Key (pun intended) players in National Party's Negative Campaign, as revealed by Nicky Hager's "Dirty Politics: From left-Cameron Slater, Simon Lusk, Jordan Williams, Carrick Graham and Cathy Odgers ( NZ Herald photo)
Of the 1.2 million hectares of farmland in Waikato, only 20,000 (1.6%) is irrigated, and only 15,000 ha (1.25 %) are dairy farms. Hence, the protest in Waikato was indeed like a funeral where the outsiders cried louder than the relatives of the deceased. The event does not escape the scrutiny that since it was organised at the home ground of Jacinda a few days before election smacks and stinks of Dirty Politics.

Indeed, some farmers felt threatened by a 37 year old woman and held a protest march, strategically in her hometown. For a moment, ignore the fact that many of those farmers have their own water supply, or never irrigate, hence the tax will not affect them. But the fact that the march started and ended  at the local RSA shows how  serious they were, and I suppose they had a good piss-up and enjoyable time after the protest, which ironically was called ‘non-political.

What is very evident in this election campaign is negativity of National versus positivity of Labour. 

Over the last nine years, National has so many skeletons in their closet, but Jacinda is too decent to use them in Labour’s ad to degrade them. If she wanted she could have exposed skeletons that John Key and Bill English amassed in National’s closet.


But no, Jacinda is too decent. If she wanted, she could have arranged a union protest, and gone to Bill English’s back yard, as National supporters descended on Morrinsville. 

She could have organised it in a small town in the Southland region of New Zealand, located 20 kilometres south of Lumsden and 60 kilometres north of Invercargill. In there, she could have taken a dip in local Oreti River, and come with a ton of dirt. That would have been the clean Oreti River of Dipton, hometown of Bill English!

If she really wanted to be nasty, she would have prepared this campaign ad:

What happens when a lying Foreign Affairs Minister misleads a sleeping Prime Minister, and equally intellectually- lazy Finance Minister, who pays $30 million dollar of your money as bribe to a Saudi Arabian middleman to obtain a trade deal that never eventuated? And that payment was based on legal threats, from a legal opinion that never existed!
Now, can you trust such an intellectually-lethargic Finance Minister as your next Prime Minister?“ End of Ad.

But you will never see this advertisement.

Jacinda Ardern is too decent to degenerate and descend to the gutter level that National has sunk to.

This ad will just blow away like National’s Fart Tax in smear campaign.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Unsung Queen-Maker: When Andrew Little stands tall

Thakur Ranjit Singh

In 1936, British monarchy faced a crisis when King-Emperor Edward VIII, had to abdicate the throne because he proposed to marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson. As a result of that abdication, today we have Queen Elizabeth II as Head of Commonwealth. This was when her father George VI took over from his brother Edward, and the Queen inherited the throne through that historical sacrifice for love.

Abdication by King-Emperor Edward VIII in 1936 created Queen Elizabeth II. Abdication by Andrew Little in 2017  created Queen Jacinda Ardern.

There have been other cases in history when such twists and turns of events carved out our history with renewed opportunities and changed fortunes. The coming generations in New Zealand will view similar anecdotal sacrifice and political history that took place just months before 2017 election.

After departure of Helen Clark, New Zealand Labour Party never really experienced stability due to lack of clear succession plans, among others. Leadership was like musical chairs, with Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little temporarily occupying the shaky chair.  It was always expected that the leadership change would spell better political fortunes. But with infightings, poor internal management, a wanting media and communications cell, inability to communicate clearly and a lack of charisma from the leaders, good political fortunes evaded the party. According to the polls, Labour was expected to lose the game, with election months away. They appeared to be in a death-spiral, with National confidently gearing up for a historical fourth-term. They needed a miracle. And miracle they did get - with a Hail Mary Pass before the last whistle!

Best wishes after the ultimate sacrifice: Andrew Little greeting Jacinda Ardern, and wishing her all the best in the election.

Those familiar with American Football would know that a Hail Mary Pass is a very long forward pass made in desperation, towards end of the game. The ball is thrown as far as you can throw, hoping your player can catch the ball and win the game.

And the Labour team’s Captain, Andrew Little admirably made that long frantic pass. And the ball is caught by the new Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern. She is now in a desperate run for political touchdown, with Kelvin Davis in the flanks, with a looming victorious touchdown.  

Andrew Little had big burdens on his shoulders. With election just months away, and polls really hurting Labour, he had to rise to the occasion. He thought, Labour would be in better hands with Jacinda at the helms, as she offered better alternative government. As a die-hard Labour man, he had to do something.

And he made the ultimate sacrifice - an admirable and unprecedented call. This came unexpectedly, very suddenly, but very decisively. He handed over the leadership to Jacinda Ardern. What a wonderful gesture, and an exemplary action that dashed the possibility of him ever becoming a Prime Minister. Very few would let that chance go by, never mind how remote the possibility. 

Andrew Little -the unsung-hero, the Queen-Maker

But like a true gentleman and a devoted party Marshall, he made the Hail Mary Pass.  This gesture gave rise to Jacindamania (also referred to as Jacinda - effect). And it created another history - that this Labour transition in leadership was bloodless, without controversy and without opposition. People who had seen enough blood in the past Labour leadership battles would have passed this leadership move as a Sunday school picnic.

Political Editor of NZ Herald, Audrey Young observed this appropriately:

Ardern’ s elevation has been the cleanest transfer of power by any leader in recent memory, way surpassing that of Key  to Bill English last year, in which he faced a couple of faux rivals. Part of the reason for this transition is that it had no origins in a coup or scandal or undertones of a selfish decision, as Key’s had.”(Weekend Herald-6 August, 2017)

We salute Andrew Little - the unsung hero who brought good political fortunes to Labour, culminating in Jacindamania which will rival Bob Hawke’s miracle in Australia. 

Andrew Little's stands Tall, after abdicating, and making way for Jacinda Ardern

Former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke took over Labour Party just a month before a snap election in 1983 and led the party to a landslide victory. And that historical Bob Hawke miracle looks certain to be repeated in New Zealand by Jacinda Ardern. (Read article on Bob Hawke punch by Jacinda Ardern, later in FIJI PUNDIT)

King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, for his love, and created Queen Elizabeth II. 

King Andrew abdicated in 2017, for love of Labour Party, and created Queen Jacinda!

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Thakur Ranjit Singh

While dosing off for a catnap, I dreamt a Jeannie-  THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX.

In the dream, I was in the final Leaders’ debate between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern. And a major issue emerging out in the election 2017 is tax in general and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) in particular. 

Mike Hosking is the moderator, and his right leaning is very subtle. He has asked a difficult “Sudden Death” question towards end of the debate, and needs a do or die response.

Sir John Key, former Prime Minister of New Zealand who did nothing to arrest spiralling house prices and speculations. Through his neglect in housing governance, real estate values have skyrocketed, and new generation's dream of owning a home is out of reach. And he was able to sell his Parnell mansion at reportedly $20m dollars to a Chinese buyer.. I wonder what do you call a leader (or a former one) who gains out of his neglect?

Mike Hosking: Jacinda Ardern, we come to the final segment of this final debate. Your voters need the answer. Labour wishes to introduce CGT in New Zealand. Why should it make a difference here when it failed to arrest house price rise in Australia. The capital gains tax was introduced in Australia in September 1985 by the Labour government of Bob Hawke, over 3 decades ago. Then, the median Sydney house price was just A$92,000 ($102,000), compared with A$1.1 million in 2016. Please tell us, if it did not work there, how it will make a difference here.

Jacinda Ardern: Since you have asked this complex question, I hope you will listen to my explanation without interruption.

Mike: Agreed, and hope Bill English will also maintain his silence, as his government maintained inaction in this matter. (Love you, Mike)

Jacinda: Thanks. Now listen. Before you jump to the conclusion that CGT is ineffective in limiting property prices, you need to know the reasons why it failed in Australia.

The first reason is that it was never intended to limit house price growth. In Australia, the CGT was intended to raise money for the Government and to ensure that those people who were lucky enough to have investable assets paid tax on those gains, in the same way others pay tax on their wages.

Since the aim was to maximise revenue, GST was applied to any investments, be they houses, other property, shares, bonds, works of art, or whatever. Thus, the intention in Australia was NOT to shift investment away from housing to other areas. To illustrate, Australia example is shooting with a scatter-gun, M16, for wide tax coverage. Labour Party’s policy here can be likened to a sniper gun, with telescopic lens, homing on, (excuse the pun) addressing booming house prices and property speculations.

Our CGT will target housing. Investors here will now think twice before rushing headlong into housing. Australians did not target housing, hence it did not deter people from house investment. That is why their form of CGT failed to address booming house prices.

To make matters worse, when Liberal Government of John Howard came into power in 1999, they reduced CGT by half and removed inflation adjustment provision. My tax advisory team would learn from pitfalls of Australia. This was one of many generous financial benefits Howard handed to his core constituency of middle class voters. The result is many of those voters' adult children now can't afford their own homes. That is exactly what National Government did here, by not doing anything to arrest the situation. And my generation is paying the price for a lackadaisical attitude of National Government for the last 9 years. For the sake of new generation, we need a change.

FIJI PUNDIT, yours truly, Thakur, had a dream- he dreamt a Jeannie (Genie) which in the current election is CGT. He dreamt of the final leader's debate where moderator, Mike Hosking cornered Jacinda Ardern on why Capital Gains Tax failed to arrest house prices in Australia. And Jacinda gave a very informed response. 

Subsequent to an enquiry, the Reserve Bank of Australia explained how the capital gains tax interacted with other tax concessions for property to actually encourage investors to buy up houses. One of such incentives is negative gearing. We have already announced we will scrap it.

Mike Hosking: Perhaps you will explain to your voters what this monster, “negative gearing” is.

Jacinda: This is where losses made on investments can be deducted from taxable income derived from other sources. Negative gearing and the lowered CGT discount combined together to encourage Australian investors to invest in residential property which was having the effect of pushing up house prices and lowering rates of home ownership. Same as our situation.

These tax perks encourage investors to make a loss and to focus not on rental returns but on capital gains. They are able to get refund on their high salaries or other income by claiming house interest and other losses on the house, while gaining handsomely on capital gain of the house.

Apart from Australia only two other OECD nations allow full tax deductibility on this negative gearing - New Zealand and Japan. 

It is ironical, we invest money to make money. Under the system in NZ, people invest to lose money, but gain twice - through tax deduction and capital gain. 

As a result, many residential investment properties are designed to make a loss to take advantage of the tax deduction.

We have learnt from Australia experience. We will introduce CGT, and also remove negative gearing that fuelled higher price rises in Australia.

As the next Prime Minister, I will put a stop to this and allow my generation to once again fulfil the dream of owning a house in Auckland…….”

And my alarm went off, and I woke up. We hope New Zealand voters also wake up-especially the new generation millennials. 

Hope somebody can brief Jacinda Ardern about my dream, as I believe Mike Hosking will ask this question in the final leaders debate. I am sure Labour management has more qualified people than my dream, to brief Jacinda on this subject. I can rely on my Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford to do this- Let's do this , Phil!

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer, a media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]

Thursday, August 31, 2017

$18 Cabbage: Mother of Misinformation and Ignorance

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Disinformation and misinformation on Labour Party’s water policy shows why it is so urgent for New Zealand’s education system to strengthen its third “r”, arithmetic in particular, and maths in general.

It appears many political leaders, journalists and media commentators are very grossly misinformed, without ability to differentiate between a litre (just one litre) and cubic metre (1,000 litres) of water.

When Labour Government comes in power in a month’s time, it should have special Arithmetic classes for journalist and some elderly political leaders, to ensure they do not make a laughing stock of themselves. As a first lesson, they need to know the difference between a litre and a cubic metre of water. 

Extremely nonsensical misinformation propagated by some ignorant politicians priced a cabbage at $18 each. And at Labour's proposed taxation price, this giant cabbage must require few swimming pools of water to grow. (1.8 million litres). This is ignorance at best, and sheer stupidity at worst.

A litre of milk uses some 960 litres of water to produce. At Labour's proposed tax of 1 cent per cubic metre (1,000 litres of water) this will cost less than a cent per litre. So what is the issues here? Where do they get their figures from?

No wonder, National Government should have invested in maths teachers, so politicians and general public can grasp simple arithmetic. And Beehive need to have maths classes for Parliamentarians, so that people like Winston Peters, and Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy get better informed and enlightened on intelligent water debate and modes of measuring volume.

Nathan Guy made a spectacle of himself when he could not differentiate and distinguish between a litre and a cubit metre of water. This Guy said it took 900 litres of water to make a bottle of wine, and a 10c per litre charge would add $75 to a bottle's price. Where did he get his figure from? He does not even appear to have facts as a Minster to credibly debate an issue.

Labour’s environment spokesperson MP David Parker corrected Guy, and pointed out that Labour would charge by the cubic metre and not by litre. Hence, a tax of 1 cent per cubic metre would therefore lift the cost of a 750ml bottle of sauvignon Blanc by less than 1 cent.

Those politicians, radio talk back journalists and misinformed DJs at radio stations not comprehending simple maths need to distinguish water measures between a litre and cubit metre. Under farms taxation, you pay only one cent for 5 x 44 gallons (204 litres) drums of water (1,000 lit). For a cabbage to cost $18 each, it needs to take 8, 800 of 44 gallon drums or 1,800,000 litres (you talking million litres) of water to grow. That can fill a few swimming pools.

Any irrigation irrigates thousands of plants, and at Labour's proposed rates, it would not even amount to a cent per each plant.

Water spokesperson for Labour Party, David parker said that Labour Party was proposing charging 1 or 2 cents for each 1000 litres farmers use - but the details are yet to be hammered out with those involved. He said erroneous claims that such levies would equate to $50,000 a farm are rubbish.

"It would be about $100m across the whole of the country for a year," he told Q+A .
Perhaps Winston Peters can tell us which thirsty cabbage would need a few swimming pools of water to grow.

Labour’s environment spokesperson, David Parker said that NZ First's cabbage example was "amusing" and at a million litres of irrigation, it would indeed make one extremely watery cabbage.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political observer and media commentator and journalist. He runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT, and lives in Auckland]