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Q+A Panel Discussion - Gabriel Makhlouf interview - 13 Oct



In response to Gabriel Makhlouf interview

We’re back with the panel. Dr Raymond Miller, Annette Sykes and Fran O’Sullivan. Well, Gabriel Makhlouf didn’t want to talk about the politics, but we certainly will. Raymond, how is it that this small faction on the far-right of the Republicans, the Tea Party, has got so much power and is causing so much damage?

DR RAYMOND MILLER - Political Scientist
Well, the American governmental system works well where there’s a modicum of goodwill and cooperation between the various branches of government. But we see that it’s incredibly vulnerable to small groups that might exercise considerable control within one of the Houses of Congress. I mean, here we have a deeply, deeply parochial group, extreme group, holding their own party to hostage, who in turn, because of basic fear that this group has more influence than it actually has, are afraid to do anything other than to back it. And the crazy thing about it is that this can then have an impact on the world economy. And these people who are responsible for this, you know, we talk about Little Englanders. In fact, these are Little Americans who basically don’t see past their own political self-interest and who are probably unaware of the extent of damage they could do to the world economy. And you have raised the question, ‘Do they really care?’ And, I mean, this is a bizarre situation we’re facing.

SUSAN Yeah. Fran, I was reading a wonderful piece in The Rolling Stone yesterday, researching this. And the terrifying last line of it was these Tea Party people- they likened it to a ball game. They’ve thrown the ball in. They don’t know the end game. They don’t actually have an end game around this. They just wanted to get this thing going and to have damaged Barack Obama.

FRAN O’SULLIVAN - NZ Herald Columnist
Yeah, and that’s absolutely what is happening, of course, because Barack Obama’s international standing has certainly plummeted. I’ve just been up at the APEC Meeting this week, and very instructive at the business summit. Leader after leader - some more pointed than others - making the point that America needs to get its act together. And also some jibes against democracy American-style, because for many years, of course, everyone has banged on from the Western world about how some of these command economies have managed themselves, and then people say, ‘Well, hang on. If you can have this bunch of absolute lunatics totally destroying their own civility in government, the ability to get stuff done and also the standing.’ I mean, one of the points is even when they raise that ceiling, and they probably will - the balance is they probably will at the eleventh hour - but that extra debt, it’s not going to be funded by the US. A lot of that debt’s going to be funded by China and places like that, and they’re going to say, ‘Well, do I really want to have more exposure if you have this sort of absolute volatility and complete madness?’

SUSAN Because it’s the system there, Annette. Every year, they have to go through this whole cycle again of re-funding the debt.

ANNETTE SYKES - Mana Party President and Lawyer
It’s an attack on democracy, because really what it is about is an attack on ObamaCare and the health care system, and they’re holding to ransom the nation and now the world to put an ideology that has been rejected that was tested in the Supreme Court. ObamaCare came out. It was passed again, and he got a mandate to get into Parliament, and they persist with this disruption. Now, that needs to be tackled fundamentally by within their own party. They’re down in the polls, but it’s actually corrosive into the whole state of democracy.

FRAN Yeah, I think that’s true, but there’s also the other point to where I just sort of really worry that, you know, you’re going to raise the debt ceiling yet again, yet again. Where does it stop? Sooner or later, America is going to have to start balancing, and that is going to suck demand out of the economy and the world, and they can’t ad infinitum keep rolling it up. It’s just a nonsense.

RAYMOND And there has been this crisis in the past that happened under the Clinton administration. The Treasury Secretary may be unaware of that. And there are three more years to run in this Obama administration, so it could happen again. And it’s not just ideological. I agree that it is, but it’s deeply personal. I mean, it’s a deeply personal opposition to Barak Obama. It threatens to actually immobilise-

SUSAN Well, it’s racism. Let’s use the word. There’s a big chunk of race in it.

RAYMOND Well, there must be an element of that.

SUSAN There’s got to be an element in it.

RAYMOND It immobilises the whole governmental system, and, in a sense, it holds the whole world to ransom, not just the Republican Party.

ANNETTE 800,000 workers are now being held to ransom because now they don’t have any guarantee of an income.

SUSAN That’s right.

ANNETTE You know, it’s not right.

SUSAN Quick comment from both of you. Fran, I’ll get you on this first on 2.5 per cent growth on NZ. Gabriel Makhlouf was talking about the jobs starting to come through. When do you think we’re going to actually start to feel better off?

FRAN Well, I think we are feeling better off. But, you know, I think it was the point that was being made, you know, many times by Bill English. It’s grumpy growth. We’re not going to have the booms that we had and the great exuberance and all the rest when we were just rocketing along and living on our credit cards. That’s how it was really fuelled, our booms in the past. It was consumption-led. Yes, you’re right, it hasn’t filtered out, and what’s happening in Christchurch is fairly self-contained. If anything, it’s going too slow, because the government isn’t moving fast enough in Christchurch. All sorts of approvals are held up for getting some of these major projects underway, and often it seems like the statements coming out of there are more sort of geared toward keeping the ego of the Minister for Canterbury puffed up rather than actually putting the pressure on to get absolute action there. And that is a problem. It should be moving faster.

SUSAN Annette, comment on when do you think it will start to filter though? Big push at the moment, of course, about living wages and raising the minimum wage. I don’t know how people do it on those, actually.

ANNETTE There needs to be more tax of the rich. It’s really simple. The structural inequity that’s occurring right now. I mean, 98 shops have closed in Rotorua. 1000 people are leaving on airplanes to go to Australia. There is no trickle down happening in the economies that are heartland NZ. So that needs to be confronted in any plan forward, and it’s not enough to say that we’re not going to have big booms. But, frankly, we’ve got to have something that gives regions confidence that workers are valued, that families are valued and that they can live fairly.

FRAN I think you’re making a really good point there. But if you look at places like Auckland where it’s too expensive almost for workers to actually live, why aren’t our businesses thinking about relocating more of their operations to the provinces where the cost of living is cheaper?

SUSAN We could talk about this all day, because it is such a big issue in NZ. Sorry, panel, I do have to leave it there.


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