by Graham Adams ·
Above: Prime Minister John Key speaks to media while National MPs, Chris Finlayson, Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee look on. Photo: Hagen Hopkins / Getty.
The latest uproar over homelessness, Auckland house prices and immigration marks the end of an era when voters looked the other way at the government’s behest.
“Never believe anything in politics until it is officially denied” is an adage attributed to Otto von Bismarck. But in 21st century New Zealand so much is denied by the National-led government and so many problems swept under the carpet it has been almost impossible for many people to know what to believe, what is true or even what matters any more.
According to our current government and its Denier-in-Chief John Key, there is no housing bubble or crisis in Auckland; record immigration is not a problem; the steel in our roading projects is fine; plummeting milk prices are not a huge worry because dairy constitutes only six per cent of the economy even if it is 20 per cent of exports and so on and so on.
The list of denials is long. The only pressing problem that the government has enthusiastically and straightforwardly acknowledged in the mainstream media this year seems to have been the possibility of sexist slogans on the sides of Wicked Campers vans corrupting the minds of the young.
Until John Shewan’s report appeared in late June, there was no problem with foreign trusts either. Even after Shewan unequivocally declared our current disclosure regime was inadequate, John Key downplayed the vast discrepancies between what he and the tax expert had said.
John Key has proved himself to be the Houdini of modern politics, repeatedly wriggling out of seemingly impossible situations by his own particular brand of evasiveness, effrontery and selective amnesia.
His cabinet understudies often try to emulate their audacious leader with their own denials and obfuscations, but with less success. Nick Smith has the least aptitude of any of the ministers in this area, despite stiff opposition from the likes of Judith Collins and Paula Bennett (who invented new emergency beds that already existed). In fact, Smith often seems to be unhinged from reality to a degree that would be frightening in an ordinary person, let alone a minister of the Crown. In June, for instance, he claimed that sharply falling home ownership rates among Maori and Pasifika over the past 25 years was because of their poor educational success and consequent lack of employment opportunities — as if these groups had been so much more successful academically and vocationally a few decades ago.
Pete Says: The age of blatant lying isn’t over.