Gordon Campbell on the government’s impotence towards the banks, and Iran

One of the defining features of this government’s political style is how often Prime Minister John Key chooses to sound like a mere observer of political events. The public may think that they elected him to lead, and to be the captain on the field but – time and again – he seems far more comfortable in commenting from the sidelines. The banks’ refusal to pass on the RBNZ’s interest rate cuts? They’re charging 20% interest on credit cards when interest rates are barely flickering above 2%? They’re pillaging New Zealand to the tune of $4.59 billion a year in profits? They’re making New Zealanders pay through the nose for the banks’ own increased costs of international borrowing?

Jeepers, that’s simply how the system works. They charge: you pay. Oh, and Labour wants to do something about it – by engaging critically with the banks and/or passing legislation to ensure they pass on interest rate reductions to their customers? “They just don’t understand how the banks operate,” Key says, while standing on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets.

Not his problem. After all, the predatory nature of the New Zealand banking system is only a problem for families with mortgages, for farmers in trouble and the like. And if they complain… well evidently they too, just don’t know how the banking system operates.

It’s not as if there aren’t viable options, either. According to Finance Minister Bill English on Q&A last weekend, “competition” between the banks is the only, best solution for ordinary Kiwis when it comes to dealing with any tendency to price gouging by the Aussie banks. Leave aside the fact that there is little or no competition between those banks on credit card interest rates, a field in which they seem to operate as a virtual cartel. If English is serious about the virtues of competition, then shouldn’t the government be putting more capital into Kiwibank to enable it to compete more successfully with the Aussie banks? But no, the government isn’t doing that, either. Oh, Key can express sympathy and he will remember to furrow his brow in the relevant photo ops, but don’t expect too much. Essentially, he’s the nation’s best mate, its Re-Assurer In Chief. Jeepers, that must hurt. Now, what about this flag idea of mine? Pretty neat, huh?

Mind you, on the few occasions when Key does try to play the leadership card, you almost wish he wouldn’t. In Parliament yesterday, Key seriously offered his solutions to the nation’s problems (a) the reform of the RMA, which has turned out to be token at best (b) the signing of the TPP, which will deliver barely discernible gains over the course of 15 years, and (c) the government’s investment in irrigation schemes, which will raise the cost of a product that the rest of the world is already producing in excess, more cheaply than New Zealand.

Selling Iran

In the wake of the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif this week, New Zealand clearly senses a trade opportunity. Now that sanctions against Iran have been lifted in return for their compliance on nuclear development, the Key government seems keen to resume trade with what was formerly our fifth most important trade partner. Given Iran’s appalling human rights record, some people will still have qualms. At his post Cabinet press conference on Monday, Key did say he’d raised human rights with Zarif. And, Key added, Zarif had told him that those being executed were almost entirely Iranians, and were drug smugglers. And in any case, Key also added, many other countries around the world have the death penalty, including the United States.

All up, it was a good illustration of just how token the ‘raising of human rights questions’ are in these diplomatic settings. No mention by Key about the vast scale of the Iranian executions, in which the male population of entire villages are reportedly being executed or the troubling incidence of the execution of juvenile offenders.

Like the rest of the world, New Zealand is using the figleaf of reform embodied by the so called ‘liberal’ Iranian government of Hassan Rouhani to justify the resumption of trade ties. Clearly, human rights mean very little when weighed in the context of trade opportunities. To the point where one has to ask: is there any country in the world with which New Zealand on principle, would not trade? Short of those countries subject to explicit UN sanctions, the answer is a resounding “No”.


Rihanna’s recent Anti album has been a really admirable use of superstar clout. Formerly a reliable hit machine, Rihanna chose to exclude all her 2015 hits from this collection – “Work” the new single with Drake is the sole concession to chart imperatives – and the three bonus cuts are literally leftovers. The core of the album explores betrayed expectations and obsession… and it’s sourced musically via bluesy doowop (“Love On The Brain”) folk (“Never Ending”) metallish guitar ( “Woo”) piano ballads (“Close To You”) indie pop (she does a lovely version of Tame Impala’s “Same Ol’ Mistakes”) while “Higher” is a harsh, desperate piece of late night bar-room emoting and bad-idea phone calling…

Hard to imagine Beyonce coming up with something like this. In the context of an album that demands NOT to be sampled as single tracks, this is a terse, impressive piece of work:

And this defiantly old school styling is pretty good, too…

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6 Comments on Gordon Campbell on the government’s impotence towards the banks, and Iran

  1. Depressing, isn’t it? Not sure if our Dear Leader has noticed but National has been banging on about the RMA for 15 years and yet…the environment continues to be degraded and inappropriate development continues apace. Free trade has become a vehicle for protecting industry incumbents and big corporates, and irrigation schemes are just another infrastructure fix aiming to enrich one group while the cost is shouldered by everyone else.
    And despite all this possible traction, Labour still can’t come up with an alternative, more democratic vision.

  2. Labour as it is controlled opposition is just another head of the Cerberus(aka part of the illegitimate Crown NZ govt) .
    With bankster policies coming to us through the govt from a foreign banking cabal the banksters will continue to design policy that will transfer wealth from the people, feeding the Crown and its many “arms length” corporations.


  3. And we get the likes of the not-very-independent economist Shamubeel Eaqub loudly confirming Key’s comments in every MediaWorks outlet available, as the Authoritative Voice of Reason. This from a guy who used to work for both Goldman Sachs and a big Australian bank (ANZ), and now MediaWorks.

    I’m also frankly pretty tired of his arrogant, patronizing attitude, calling Andrew Little’s notion of legislating that interest rates be passed on to consumers “terrifying”. Terrifying? Really? Sorry, no. The Reserve Bank clearly lowered rates so they’d be passed on, and as you pointed out, there’s clearly a cartel going on. Key’s government, and Eaqub, believe we should just continue to let the market rule. It’s clearly working that way all too well.

  4. My view of Obama is that he took the standard left democrat/ labour approach for a mainstream leader by trying to look staunch on defence, in his first years and maintain a fair degree of fiscal tightness and then move away towards defense cuts and higher level of health and social spending. That can be seen clearly in the social and defence policies of blair/ brown and clark/cullen. It is even more true of Obama who intially appointed a fairly right wing Republican team in the military and intelligence leadership field. But in recent years Obama has move to doves and women as his military and intelligence leaders and greatly reduced the size and power of the military largely withdrawing from Iraq. I always think Obama was simply horrified by the ruthless/ effective Marine actions taken at places like Faluja in Iraq and lost enthusiasm either for cautious professional militarist like General Pretorious
    The US Nuclear deal with Iran is partly based on the idea that in reality letting them get the bomb would result in stability through nuclear deterence as apparently was the case during the cold war. It wasn’t and the leading Russian and USA thinkers were moving to more flexible conventional and limited nuclear war plans by the early 1960s. From the Kennedy/ MacNamara period and even more during the Kissinger/ Nixon period, US maintained conventional weapon strength- carriers, gun cruisers, B52s, F111 and even some of the strategic weapons notably the Posedion ICBMs were developed with realitively low kilton yied for actual military war fighting targeting.
    By the 1980s both the USSR and US were planning war winning first strike strategies largley through communication intercepts to hit strategic and attack subs simultaneous with large conventional and small nuclear wareheads. The Soviet Union was never much deterred by the US bomb, continuously hassling western submarines, quite often attempting to ram them and in contested areas, sometimes firing torpedoes at western subs too slow and short ranged to engage. The Russians relentlessly interfered in western nations, nb Canada, Germany and Britain with blatant and intelligence nations and tried to impose their social model in unlikely places like Chile, Afghanistan, Grenada.
    Deterrence, in the form of the other side having the nuclear bomb hasnt stabalised North Korea and it won’t succede with Iran it will just give the Iranians more opportunity to use their advanced conventional and WMD missiles, submarines, fast attack craft and generally intimidate the west. Unlike all the other arab and middle east states, Iran has a sophisticated military industrial base and research capabilities and has recieved a wide range of cutting edge military technology from the Russians, Americans and British whose tech transfers even in the early 1970s Shah period is still of destabalising danger providing 45 knot destroyers and the most advanced US missile and aircraft tech.
    One should note that in the recent Russian Putin apporved bombing of Syrian targets, the Russian Blackjacks and Backfire bombers usually flew back through Iranian airspace and we are not dealing with lovers of the west and peace here.

  5. The United States had always strongly favoured the spread of nuclear power as a power source and that inevitably encourages proliferation because o fuel recyling can often produce weapon grade plutonium. Obama has really given up trying to influence most dissident nations with the military big stick and Obama and his cabinet is really prepared to accept Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, after a respectable passage of time, and with the assumption than when Iran acquires them, unlike North Korea there will not be any detectable public tests and the status like Israels or South Africa’s past nuclear arsenal will remain a matter of speculation. The argument is often made in Washington that deterrence is a good thing and the cold war nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR stabalised the world. But only if it was assumed that they would be prepared to use them. There would have been little chance that Britain would have or that there was any independence in the British cold war deterrent and that the missiles were invulnerable. In reality, few of LeMays B-52s would have got through after 1960, that indeed was the point of the LeMay bomber force, they were a sort of slow, first strike and probe, which took 6 hours to get there on every Soviet screen, and could be called back. The so called invulnerable SSBN force were anything but, as the Walker brothers spies provided the USSR the ability to replicate, USN strategic communication, coding, systems and break every USN and RNZN Naval code including the vastly more sophisticated coding , on the SSBN in real time. The RNZN cold war coding machines were the same type as those on HMNZS Belfast in the Thames. All the USAAF minuteman were in few mid west farm states, so like the US Navy they were easy enough to destroy simultaneously.
    Irans nuclear weapons will not be so much for use, but to help prevent attack on major Iranian cities and military sites, giving it more scope to conduct intimidation with long range conventional missiles and other weapons.

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