Friday, May 9, 2014
Cabinet Clubs and Singing Money
Anyone can join National's clubs of influence as long as you can afford to pay the entry fee.
Money sings a sweet song for this Government and the source appears to make no difference to them. Gambling, deep sea drilling, fracking, coal from conservation parks, dividends sucked from SOEs, wealthy Chinese donors with dodgy backgrounds...as long as it's money!
National Ministers claim that they will see and support anyone, income is no barrier. While I am sure that they do meet with a wide range of people there is an overwhelming perception that certain kinds of people are more likely to gain access and a listening ear.
The support and time given to Chinese businessman Donghua Lui, seem excessive, given that he gained citizenship against official advice. Lui later provided the National Party with a donation of $22,000. Although Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse claimed that he had no knowledge of the donation, it does seem unusual that a Minister of the Crown would personally visit Lui at his hotel to discuss personal immigration issues. There are many stories of refugees and less affluent migrants who struggle to have their cases even heard and yet a wealthy businessman gets exclusive support.
The fact that Maurice Williamson, in his capacity as a Minister, felt it perfectly proper to remind Police that Liu was, "a very large investor in the building and construction industry", is a huge concern. There was an implication that when someone is being charged with domestic assault that different rules apply if they are wealthy.
There are so many examples of singing money during this National Government's term of office and, as a teacher, the most shocking still must be the bailing out of Wanganui Collegiate. The Private Secondary School for 400 elite Students was bailed out by the State against Ministry of Education advice by $3.9 million, despite owning land and assets worth a similar amount. At the same time two schools catering for low decile children and special needs had to take court action to fight forced closure despite having no management issues. Both cases were won and yet Salisbury School has had its funding cut and Phillipstown is being closed regardless.
Key claimed that Wanganui School deserved to be saved because of its high academic standards and yet I would have thought that any school would do well if all students came from wealthy homes and staffing ratios were twice as good as public schools. We are left wondering how many wealthy parents of students at the school are supporters of the National Party.
When I launched my Invercargill campaign I used the Greens' community hub plan as the focus for the evening. We had a broad mix of people attending; businessmen, education workers, parents and members of the Pasifika community. There was no cost to those attending but membership forms for the Party were available and people could make donations to our campaign if they wished. Attendees had free access with our Co-leader Metiria Turei and MP Catherine Delahunty.