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The Gamebreaker

Goff thought that the Capital Gains Tax would do it - he was wrong - it went down like a lead balloon.

The Brains Trust thought that Asset Sales would do it - the annoying placards just grate.

But make no mistake, the real game-breaker is at hand.

One disaster, bad luck; two, very unfortunate; but three - ignore the facts, it's bad management.

The sight and sound of John Key desperately defending the lack of action over the first four days was painful, and I am sure to most in the heartland, the final straw. The next polls will tell the story, but I suspect that we will see the Greens approaching 15%, and with the self destruction of ACT, the prospect of a Labour/Green/Maori coalition is at hand.

Such huge turnarounds are not unknown in our recent political history, and they have occured in a flash of an eye, or drunken interview. People in this country can be very forgiving of foibles, and mangled syntax, but at some point an imperceptible move to clean out the stable takes place, particularly when financial credibility is lost.

Now is that time, and although there has been very limited attempt to take advantage of the wreck on the part of Labour (unlike young Mr Hughes, who is having a field-day on behalf of the Greens). Mr Goff verged on a "I told you so" in last evening's interview, but discretion finally overcame valour, and he veered off when asked what he would have done -"I am not an expert ...........etc".

The sight of totally inadequate and flustered senior Wellington public servants dealing with this and the Pike River situation brought tears to the eyes. A black suited female HOD in this case (and in the Pike River Inquiry), who have no doubt risen up through the ranks by assiduously studying the Government Gazette each week, suddenly faced with a crisis of this nature epitomize everything we love to hate about Wellington. I bet they all have their annual subscriptions to Downstage, the Opera, the Symphony and the Ballet booked well in advance. Dealing with a rowdy crowd in Maketu was not in the job description - you can bet on that.

The problem does appear to be just too big for JK - he is almost lost for words, and looks pathetic as a result, rather than going in boots and all to attack the shipping company, Filipino crew, and anyone taking political advantage. This is no situation for the faint hearted.

Internationally, shipping is no longer a gentle affair involving highly trained officers in crisp white uniforms swinging around the globe with obedient Lascars manning the boilers. Economics and past disasters have led to a situation where ownership is tied up in labyrinthine networks of companies registered in Monaco, with ships registered in Monrovia, Liberia, and other ports of convenience, and a network of owners, charterers and crew who manipulate the maritime rules of countries around the World to secure the crumbs left around by the major liner operators - in our case the Maersk Line. Armies of lawyers ensure that liability is limited, and owners anonymous.

The grandly named Mediterranean Shipping Company as charterer, and Costamare Shipping Company as owners are in the 'feeder' category - sending their under-maintained rust buckets, manned by Filipinos and similar to all the secondary ports like Nelson and Bluff to pick up and deliver to major terminals like Tauranga. International containers are then transferred, mainly (in this country) to well maintained, and crewed (6,000 plus container) Maersk Line vessels that circulate through the main terminals around the globe. 

The economics of the international liner trade are so precarious that Maersk is even threatening to centralise consolidation of NZ containers in an Australian port, or ports. It makes sense from their point of view when outfits such as Costamare and MSC could easily clear all the NZ ports, including Auckland and Tauranga without further double handling. This horrifies Auckland and Tauranga port authorities who would lose a substantial proportion of their income from the loss of the current entrepot trade.  

The Maritime Union is correct in one respect - the 28 days allowed for these medium sized (2-3,000 container) foreign flagged vessels to circulate our coast on this feeder trade is perfect to get vessels here from Australia (where they are up to the same trick), or Singapore, do a circuit or two, and return from whence they came. The idea of New Zealand crewed vessels competing in this trade is laughable, and it has been going on for 20 years or more. This situation will not change, but supervision (as with mines) may well be tightened, belatedly.

The idea of this Government proceeding with East Coast oil exploration following this debacle is beyond belief, and at some point between now and the election, expect a reversal. It would be political suicide for John Key and his cohort to equivocate from this point. The country will have to find a more acceptable way to replenish the coffers - deep sea oil will not cut the mustard, any more than Schedule 4.

All of a sudden, we have an interesting election - watch this space.


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Reader Comments (1)

If people decide who they are to vote for on the basis of newspaper pictures then we will continue to be taxed heavily in the lower economic group. Have we forgotten that the first action of JK on election was to lower the tax on the wealthy and later to increase GST which hits those who have to spend most of what they earn. He has warned he will sell off to the wealthy, NZ assets that the earlier taxpayers built, and will continue to sell our land to overseas corporates for their control and manipulation. This is still the 'New Rights" flawed concepts. Saying that the land can't be taken away ignores where the goods and profits go.

October 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H Wood.

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