Monday, June 04, 2007

Power Games

I never cease to be amazed at the distances that the Left will travel to spin in their favour, at the expense of truth and human dignity. The death of Folole Maliaga is the case in point.

Let’s look at the facts now in the public domain. Folole Maliaga was morbidly obese. She was suffering from critical respiratory failure, as a result of that morbid obesity. She was released from hospital, with a stiff cocktail of drugs and a breathing machine, to deal with that respiratory failure, and was told that her death was imminent if she did not dramatically change her lifestyle.

Instead of taking the drugs, Mrs Maliaga rejected them in favour of “traditional Samoan medicines”, while continuing to use a very non-traditional oxygen machine. It has also become clear that that machine was not designed or expected to support life.

Mrs Maliaga did not pay her power bill. She also did not pay her telephone bill. What tends to happen, when people do not pay their utility bills, is that they get cut off. There really is little point in having chargeable utility services if nothing happens when people don’t pay them.

When the power to Mrs Maliaga’s home was disconnected, Mrs Maliaga’s family sat around and sang hymns for a period of three hours.

Mrs Maliaga died.

This is a story that can be interpreted in several different ways. The mass media-driven hysteria, emphasised in the blogosphere and among left-wing activists with barrows to push, is also becoming more subdued with a critical eye being cast on what really happened. The "Mercury are Murderers!" brigade is looking more ridiculous as the other contributory factors in Mrs Muliaga's death come to light.

There are already far too many players in this absurd scenario.

When the story first broke, SOE Trevor Mallard called for calm, requested that the public wait for a police investigation into the affair, and refused to comment on the situation. Ducking for cover? Well, not quite. It’s difficult for a Minister without the information to make a useful comment without appearing heartless.

Doug Heffernan from Mercury didn’t help his own career prospects by wading into the argument as soon as the news broke, defending Mercury. When you’ve got an hysterical family member making accusations against the company, it simply isn’t wise for a CEO to even attempt to counter the accusations immediately.

His response should have been: “We are extremely sorry that Mrs Muliaga died. We will be conducting a full investigation into what we did, will cooperate with any police inquiry, and will take full responsibility for any consequences that occurred as a direct result of Mercury’s actions. Our thoughts are with Mrs Muliaga’s family, and we will do anything we can to help them.”

Easy press release to write. It doesn’t accept culpability for her death, doesn’t suggest Mercury will dodge responsibility for it, and gets rid of the beat-up for a bit. The PR guy who thought otherwise should be fired, and Heffernan’s own head will probably roll for his naivety in failing to do just that.

But the two most troubling aspects of the case concern two of the most vocal self-appointed Mercury critics, and the media’s blind, uncritical acceptance of what they have said.

Brenden Sheehan, who has variously been described by sloppy journalists as Mrs Muliaga’s nephew, her son-in-law, and “relative”, is not a media novice. He is the chief shit-stirrer for the Public Service Association. In recent times, he has led PSA strike action against TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and the Public Trust.

Sheehan is head of the PSA in the Hawke’s Bay. With his very calculated usurping of Mrs Muliaga’s spotlight, and particularly given the nature of some of his public comments, it’s not certain whether Sheehan is pursuing the interests of the Muliaga family, or his own political interests.

It is understandable that when a person dies in tragic circumstances, that family members may seek outside parties on which to scapegoat their grievances. What is astonishing is that the media can allow a seasoned political manipulator such as Sheehan to use the tragedy for downright opportunism.

The second unforgivable personality is Helen Clark.

Clark’s potential choice of targets was broad. They included:

  1. The hospital that discharged a critically ill woman with an oxygen machine at home, reliant on her continuing to use a complex cocktail of drugs to assist her to breathe. Hard for Clark to take this option, at it would undermine public faith in a public health system that she has poured billions of dollars into.
  2. The social welfare system that was sufficiently inflexible as to provide the means for a critically ill woman to pay either her power bill, or her phone bill. Again, Clark has championed how much better social services are under Labour, so this isn’t viable.
  3. Annette King, who as health minister began a vastly expensive anti-obesity campaign, which in Mrs Muliaga’s case, hadn’t filtered through. Difficult to criticise her own Minister.
  4. Mrs Muliaga and her family, who chose not to call an ambulance when the power was disconnected. Hard for a Prime Minister to make that call without appearing heartless. Given Clark’s historic reputation for warmth and tenderness towards other people generally, it would be out of character for Clark to take this step.
  5. Mercury Energy. A subsidiary energy retailer of an SOE. Potentially a big, callous, corporate beast that Labour voters love to hate. The risk of criticising the energy retailer is that it will lead to massive shareholder value, but given the public’s general loathing towards utility companies on the whole, it’s much harder for the energy retailer to look good.

Of course, the PM could have simply stayed out of the debate completely, allowed the police to conduct an investigation, and for the facts to rule, but the chance of the media exposure when she needs it most became too good to miss.

She did it with a style that only she can manage: she refused to acknowledge Mighty River Power executives outside Mrs Muliaga’s home, and has pointedly ordered Mighty River to apologise for their role in Mrs Muliaga’s death. By doing so, she has effectively jeopardised Mighty River’s legal position before an autopsy has been carried out, and by sanctioning the blame against Mercury before a police inquiry has been carried out, has led to a massive loss in shareholder value in the state-owned company.

For what benefit? A couple of photo opportunities at a time when she needs them most.


Anonymous said...

Stirling post Mr IP. I was wondering all the way through this what this jerk Sheehan's agenda was.

Hopefully, any corners report and police investigation will come back to bite Helen as well.

Barnsley Bill said...

Brilliant summary of what most of us have been thinking about sheehan and clarke. Her comments to the assembled media about hoping to pop in unnoticed was right up there with the venal self serving behaviour we have seen from that woman over the years.
It really is a shame you are not posting more frequently.

Razork said...

SPOT On mr IP.

Captain Crab said...

Clarks electioneering for Mangare already.Shameless cow. And still the people in Mangare fall for it without a whimper as they dont realise what she is doing. The fact she knows that too makes the abuse of the situation by Clark even worse.

Insolent Prick said...

It would be uncharitable to predict that Brenden Sheehan will be Labour's Mangere candidate at the next election.

Anonymous said...

Insolent prick you are. Get lost cunt.

Anonymous said...

Barnsley Bill is spot on. It truly is a pity that you do not post more often. And that anonymous nerd uses the acronym of a Caring Understanding Nineties Type. That was unfortunate, but apologists for this terrible regime turn up like bad pennies.
Keep up the good work. It is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I agree too, good post IP. Concidering the delicate topic, it's an appropriately concidered missive.

But Steve, I'm not sure that's what anonymous meant.

I wondered for a second - why would anyone pick "Get Lost Cunt" for a moniker, and use that to sign off?

But after re-reading his deep but yet, succinctly lefty critique of IP's post, I suspect that it's probably something this person has heard so often in their life, they mistakenly think it's a cool nick name.

(I wonder if it was Helen?)


Dave said...

What you have written is true, however have you considered the role of the Electricity Commission? It has a written agreement with power companies stating such companies are to advise customers of assistance they can get from welfare orgainsations - and monitor whether such guidelines are followed.

These guidelines are not followed nor does the commission monitor them.

so why is Helen Clark covering another politically appointed Commissions arse again while blaming power companies for something they did not do?

Seamonkey Madness said...

I see Helen is also due to attend the funeral of the morbidly obese woman.
That should be worth a few percentage points, eh lads?

Helen, politicing the symptom. Key (visiting the worst street and promoting "Tory charity") politicing the cause.

spam said...

I understand that one of the unions key problems here is that when the MED was disbanded into the SOEs, union membership dropped by 20 or 30,000. Hence their wish to renationalise it....

Insolent Prick said...


You make a good point, which I will address below, but I simply don't believe that the conduct of Mercury in disconnecting the power is actually the issue. Mrs Muliaga was a gravely ill woman. Anyone who claims that her death was caused by the disconnection of a life support machine is talking nonsense. It wasn't a life support machine, and at best the disconnection of power was a very minor contributing factor.

We have the bizarre situation where it's not in the government's interests to tightly regulate the credit control of its own SOEs. So-called "social responsibility" is a socialist con, and SOEs can never achieve that. This government seems much more concerned about regulating privately-owned monopolies, such as Telecom, for consumer interests than it is in regulating state-owned assets. I don't think there's any long-term solution to regulating energy retailers until the government gets out of the business of owning them.

The Electricity Commission is a feel-good bunch of highly-paid hippies who sit around chomping muffins and swigging lattes in Wellington. They aren't taken seriously by the industry. They deal with, what, three complaints a month? It doesn't take thirty staff to come up with a decent consumer-focussed regulatory regime, and it speaks volumes about its lack of political clout that after several years and all its resources, the electricity commission hasn't had buy-in from an industry primarily owned by the government.

Jon said...

Does anyone actually know what the relationship between the family and Brenden Sheehan is?

It does seem to have changed and last night I noticed he is simply refered to as "spokesman for the family"

Billy said...

The whole thing has taken on a Bonfire of the Vanities quality. No-one is actually concerned about the facts. They are simply using this poor woman's death as an opportunity to push their particular barrow.

Mallard had it right on the first day, when he said everyone should wait until all of the facts were established. Unfortunately, Auntie Helen seems disinclined to take that advice.

Anonymous said...

Great post. And why can we not read anything like this in the traditional media? Perhaps they are not doing their jobs.

Anonymous said...

I guess with Helen making the play in South Auckland that she has unofficially declared the election open, garnering Polynesian support for Labour in the Mangere seat?

What a callous %$&*@#$!

Oswald Bastable said...

Slightly off topic, but when did the wicked witch of wellington last front to the funeral of a soldier or policeman who died in the line of duty?

That's right- no votes to be found there...

Barnsley Bill said...

Just when you thought she could go no lower. A new low today with her performance at the funeral, the shark has been jumped. Surely senior labour party members must be plotting to unseat the bitch now?

Anonymous said...

Fascinating to watch Mr Sheehan desperately trying to stop the Police inquiry. All sorts of rubbish. He was making tenuous links to the evils of capitalism, privatisation, etc, etc,

Surely we should establish the facts, Mr Sheehan ?...

Would hate it to come out and point out that there might have been other factors at play........

Dave said...

John, Sheehan is related to the family by marriage - and if he cared so much for his family he would ensure that the family got its entitlements through WINZ and IRD

Anonymous said...

I applaud Helen Clark for being supportive and understanding towards the family's situation. She even stated that she would look at getting compensation, too, if the same thing happened to one of her family members.

I think Mercury is to blame, particularly that fellow sporting the moustache that is on the top echelon at Mercury (forgot his name). Ont he news, that man looked as though he was bored being at the family's house and he didn't look or speak in a way which I think is sincere. He looks like he's the type of man that is trying to get people to pay in full as soon as possible because it looks good for the company and probably gets him a bit of a bonus. Needless to say, that has backfired. When it comes down to it, you can't get blood out of a stone. He, and his work buddies, need to realise that the majoirty of people that do not pay their bills on time can't afford to. They are not usually withholding money just ot be a pain to Mercury of anything like that.

As for that Sheehan guy, I think he's just an opportunist, it's as simple as that. There are probably many other people that are capable of representing the family in a more professional way. It seems to me that he is shamelessly using this tragedy to get into the spotlight.

Sue Bilstein said...

It's worth spelling out exactly why Clark took the approach she did. Her government was elected by the party vote in South Auckland. She's trying frantically to suck up to this constituency.

Personally I think the street theatre, with the Mercury executives waiting humbly outside the Muliagas' house and being cut dead by Clark, was all engineered by the Leader herself. She owns the company, she would have told them to be there at x o'clock with their lavalavas on.

As for the loss of shareholder value in Mercury, means nothing for an SOE, does it? Helen is the shareholder.

Heine said...

Funny that the UNITE union is also cashing in on this too. Is there no end to the shameless shown by the left?

Anonymous said...

Good to read an intelligent take on this sad episode. You could have added that the family shouldn't hide behind their culture either. Is it Samoan culture to do nothing when your life is potentially in danger? I don't think so.

Out of Here said...

The likely outcome of this whole thing is 1) more regulation of utilities meaning 2) higher utility costs but of course 3) these are only for those that actually pay their own utility bills because 4)now people who for any reason "cannot" pay their bills will have them paid by the state; which, we all know, really means 5) higher taxes for those of us who 6) actually pay our own utility bills - see 3). In short and as usual, its those of us who actually work for a living that will have to rally round to chip in so that those whom "society has failed" can still tithe ten percent of their income to some scam, oops I mean church and continue to enjoy their rights, because now (according to anonymous on norighturn and other similar sites), utilities at other people's expense is now a right.

Welcome to the Socialist Teacher's Republic...

brenden sheehan said...

Hello All

Am I still some opportunistic prick or do you now accept that I was telling the truth all along? Perhaps you now see it is Mercury who have withheld the truth and the reason that I have been so vocal throughout this ordeal. It is easy for PR companioes to spin and spin but a lot harder for the average person to get across the truth. Egg on all your faces. By the way Foloe's son is asleep on my couch right now, as he has been for the past month. If you don't understand the family ties that bond then I feel pity for you. You are always welcome at my place.

Brenden Sheehan

Insolent Prick said...


You're taking the piss and doing a Judith Tizard office trick, right?

There has been no evidence presented in the public arena at any stage that suggests that the reason that Mrs Muliaga died was that the power was disconnected. There is, however, a great deal of evidence that Mrs Muliaga made some poor lifestyle decisions which directly contributed to her death.

Just because Mercury Energy happened to act like a bunch of incompetent shits does not make them liable for murder, as you have alleged in your attempt to get compensation for the death that Mercury did not cause.

I think it is excellent that you have been concerning yourself with the welfare of Mrs Muliaga's family. I make absolutely no judgement on the fact that your concern for their welfare appears to have become your priority only once Mrs Muliaga's death became a media issue.

Anonymous said...

"By the way Foloe's son is asleep on my couch right now, as he has been for the past month."

I hope then that you are taking the ooportunity to feed him some healthy food. All Mrs Muilaga's kids looked to be well on their way on their own journey to heart disease land.

iiq374 said...

I just wish the new ad with Jonah that our money has so recently funded could be changed to say:

"My life depended on electricity, so I paid the bill"