Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When's a bribe not a bribe?

Don't you just hate it when someone has a novel idea, and then the Governmental grinches drop on it from a great height?

Last week Kim Dotcom announced he would be offering free wi-fi to the Upper Harbour electorate as part of his Dotcom political party's campaign for the 2014 General Election.

By my reckoning looking at proposed boundary changes it appears my electorate has changed from Helensville to East Coast Bays meaning an avoidance of being lumped into Upper Harbour. So there is no vested interest in the Dotcom Party's intention.

But even if there was, it appears the Dotcom Party's offering could be construed as an election bribe.

This is where there is a problem.

What actually constitutes an election bribe?

Obviously cash in the hand to vote for someone is a bit blatant, or is it?

Cast your mind back to 1975, and if anyone happening to have read this far who was born after that date doesn't know what happened then read on.

There was a certain gentleman purporting to represent the Conservative Party of the day, a bloke by the name of Rob Muldoon. He went up and down the country berating a New Zealand Superannuation Scheme that had been introduced by the Labour Government of the time which involved compulsory contributions by the working population. And it would be available for anyone over the age of 60.

Muldoon had reds under the beds, dancing Cossacks appearing in television election advertisements. He reckoned the Labour Government would buy up every industry in the country with the stash of money it would have. It was nationalisation by stealth. Apart from the fact that by statute it was impossible for the guardians of the Superannuation Fund to invest anything more than 15 percent in any one company, this went down well to a generation brought up on the worth of the McCarthy era, and I don't mean the rugby commentator Winston McCarthy.

Muldoon had them all thinking this compulsory superannuation scheme was the closest thing to communism they could imagine.

So what did he do?

Muldoon said he would do away with the New Zealand Superannuation Scheme and replace it with a National (remember that was the name of the 'Conservative' Party he led) Superannuation Scheme that no-one would have to contribute to. That's so those who supported him would remember forever where their Super came from.

It would be payable from the age of 60, and if those of that age felt like they wanted to carry on working, well they could have their salary from their employment, and Rob (that's Rob Muldoon) would pay their superannuation as well.

Of course, the generation that had fought a World War and had lived through the Depression of the 1930s were not even going to think twice about that. They became known as the 'greedies'.

It didn't matter that the scheme they voted in, because that's what they did, en masse, was the closest thing to communism it was possible to imagine. Their retirement was going to be paid for by a generation of baby boomers who were already coping with double digit inflation, and double digit mortgage interest rates.

Now if that's not a bribe I don't know what is?

And, of course, the country paid for his scheme in a huge way with more mad schemes, (remember the Sheep Retention Scheme when Muldoon paid farmers to keep their sheep that the world didn't want in the vain hope the world would recognise the fault of their ways and suddenly realise sheep meat was needed) resulting in the crisis that hit the country in 1984.

All of which leaves me feeling short-changed (deliberate pun that!).

Does it really matter if the good folk of Upper Harbour get free wi-fi or not?

Is it doing anyone any real harm?

It might create some wi-fi envy in other electorates.

But is it going to have the long-term cost that Rob Muldoon's superannuation scheme had?

Which 'bribe' has the greatest cost?

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