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Archive for October, 2011

Country of Origin Food Labelling – A Big Green Tick!

31 October 2011 2 comments

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Full Story

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The issue of country-of-origin labelling on food is one of my pet-peeves (along with those horrid little sticky labels on apples,oranges, pears, etc – yes, we know they are apples, oranges, pears, etc!)  when I do my grocery shopping.

When I buy food, I look at several factors; fat/salt/sugar content; price-per-kilo; and country-of-origin. All three hold equally high priority for me. Though I will usually always lean toward locally-produced items. At the very least, I prefer to support local manucturers who employ local workers and I can be (reasonably) assured of good quality ingredients and high standards of production.

In short, I am a fussy b*stard when it comes to grocery shopping.

As a consumer, I demand the right to know the source of my food.

So when John Key’s spokesperson sez,

“”The primary reason for not adopting mandatory labelling is that the costs to consumers, industry and government outweigh the benefits…“” Source

… then I highly  unimpressed.

I’m sorry, Mr Key, but as an elected representative of the people of this country, it is not up to you to determine that something will be a “cost to consumers, industry and government outweigh the benefits“! You are neither my Nanny nor my Daddy to tell me that.

Your job, Dear Leader, is to ensure that the needs of the public are met on such issues – not to tell us what we do or don’t need.

Jeezus H, it’s not Labour that was a “Nanny State” – it’s this current government that keeps telling us what is/isn’t “beneficial” for us.

Thank god the election is only 25 days away.

Green Party – you get the big Green tick from this blog! It’s refreshing to see politicians looking after the needs of the folk who elected them into office!

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Addendum

Silliest country-of-origin label  seen on a food item: “Made from local and imported ingredients”. Said item was a leg of ham. *facepalm*

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Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!

30 October 2011 2 comments

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“Supplementary Member” – It’s a rort!

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Full Story

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When “Vote for Change” spokesperson, Jordan Williams makes the claim that, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” – he is, of course creating a new “reality” to suit his group’s political agenda.

For one thing, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise” – is not true. There is no such “consensus”, growing or otherwise.

In fact, a poll conducted by UMR Research Ltd in May showed only 3% of voters supported that system,

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Full Story

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Williams’ claim that “Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” is also nonsensical wishful thinking.

MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) is a proportional system.  The number of MPs is determined (generally) by the percentage of Party Votes that a political party wins.

For example, if the Greens get 10% of the Party Vote, they get 10% of the seats in Parliament: 12 (10% of 120 = 12)

FPP (First Past the Post) is not proportional. The results of how many seats a political  party wins is purely random. In fact, in 1978 and 1981, Labour won more seats than National – but because of the vaguaries of FPP, National was given more seats in Parliament. (FPP is quite  arbitrary in the results it throws up.)

SM (Supplementary Member) is simply another version of FPP – but with “add-ons”.  It is not proportional.

To quote the Electoral Commission’s own website,

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SM – Supplementary Member

There are 120 Members of Parliament. There are 90 electorates, including the Maori electorates. Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP.  The other 30 seats are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs.
Each voter gets two votes.
The first vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.
The second vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote. The share of the 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote.
For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 9 List MPs in Parliament (being 30% of the 30 supplementary seats) no matter how many electorate seats it wins.
This makes SM different from MMP where a party’s share of all 120 seats mirrors its share of the party vote.
One or other of the major parties would usually have enough seats to govern alone, but coalitions or agreements between parties may sometimes be needed.

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To paint a picture of the difference between MMP and SM;

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MMP

Proportional?

- Yes

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

- Yes. With some rare exceptions,  parties gain only as much seats as the percentage of Party Votes they win.

Eg; 25% of Party votes = 25% of Parliamentary seats (30)

50% of Party votes = 50% of Parliamentary seats (60)

Etc.

Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

- Generally, no.

Is MMP fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

- Yes. Supporters of smaller parties stand a better chance of representation than under FPP or SM.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under MMP?

- No. This is a myth. Party List MPs are firstly selected by their own Party members. Then, to win a seat in Parliament,  that Party must win over 5% of the Party List votes (or an electorate). So the Green’s 9 MPs were elected into Parliament by 157,613  New Zealanders voting for them. Likewise, ACT’s 4 MPs were elected by 85,496 New Zealanders voting for ACT.

How many seats will there be in a MMP Parliament?

- 120

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SM

Proportional?

- No

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

- No. A Party can win more seats than voter support. That is, because as with FPP, a candidate can win a seat with as little as 30% of the electorate vote. There is little correlation between percentages of voter support to final seat numbers.

Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

- Yes. As with FPP, this will be quite likely.

Is SM fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

- No. Smaller parties who can’t win electorate seats, and rely instead on the Party Vote, will win only a few seats.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under SM?

- No. Again, Party List MPs will be voted in by ticking the appropriate Party Vote. The big difference is that there will be a under-representationfor those New Zealanders who happen to support parties other than National or Labour.

How many seats will there be in a SM Parliament?

- 120

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An example of what a SM-style election result might  look like would be  the 1984 General Election, which was held under FPP,

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Final results for NZ General Election (1984)

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Under MMP, the final shape of Parliament might have looked like this, given the same percentages translated to Party Votes,

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Final results for NZ General Election (1984) - Projected, under MMP System

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Anti-MMP proponent, Jordan Williams, claims that SM “ is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post“. It clearly is nothing of the sort.

MMP is already a compromise between FPP and proportional representation because  70 of the seats in Parliament are still elected under FPP. The rest, 50,  are proportionally allocated according to each party’s Party Vote.

SM is simply FPP, with add-ons. The small number of proportionally-allocated seats under SM (thirty out of 120), do not result in a proportional Parliament. It does not give fair representation for smaller Parties. And more importantly; it returns dominance to the Big Two: Labour and National.

And by sheer “coincidence”, the majority  of “Vote for Change” supporters are also National supporters. This is because under FPP or SM, National (or Labour) could govern on their own, without any real break on their executive power.

Past history has shown us – whether under Muldoon’s strictly regimented, centralised economy  – or under Labour’s Rogernomics – than both National and Labour will ram through policies without smaller parties exercising a “braking” effect on their political power. In effect, they have “unbridled power”, as Sir Geoffrey Palmer once said.

Personally, I do not trust politicians with such unbridled power (even ones I vote for). Not because politicians are inherently “evil” – they are not “evil” – but being human, are liable to make mistakes like the rest of us.

MMP at least gives us an opportunity to put the brakes on politicians.

SM is taking the brakes off – and putting your foot on the accelerator for three years.

No thanks. That is why, on 26 November, I will tick the MMP box, to Make Mine Proportional.

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“Vote for Change” and a Big Leap Backwards…

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Having looked at the “Vote for Change” website, their statements are highly subjective and some are downright misleading. For example,

MMP allows List MPs who have been voted out by their local electorates to sneak back into Parliament on party lists.”

This is only half the truth. What V.f.C has “forgotten” to tell the reader is that any candidate  who enters Parliament on the Party List is there because New Zealand voters ticked the Party List vote for that particular party.

Eg; The Attorney General, Christopher Finlayson, stood as National’s candidate in the Rongotai Electorate in the 2008 election. Finlayson failed to win in Rongotai, and was beaten by Labour’s candidate, Annette King.

However, Chris Finlayson won 10,594 Electorate Votes (as opposed to Ms King’s 19,614 electorate votes) and also won 11,950 Party List votes. In total, Finlayson won 22,544 votes.

So Chris Finlayson did not “sneak” back into Parliament: he was elected with 22,544 Electorate and Party votes.

Opponents to MMP, generally, will often skew situations to suit their own p.o.v.

There is more on V.f.C’s website that is a blatant misrepresentation of  the truth… but I’ll leave that for another day.

Instead, I can reaffirm that this blog author supports retaining MMP, and will vote accordingly on 26 November.

I encourage you to do likewise.

Thank you.

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Additional

Electoral Commission: Referendum 2011

Campaign for MMP | Facebook

Campaign for MMP

“Vote For Change”

MMP Or SM? A Big Decision Looms For New Zealand Voters

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58,000 Youth Unemployed

30 October 2011 3 comments

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= 2008 =

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In July 2008, John Key made these committments to New Zealand voters;

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National wants all young people to have the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances, abilities, or track record.

We expect that all those under the age of 18 should be in work, education, or training. To make this possible, National will provide a universal educational entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds.

We know there are plenty of 16- and 17-year-olds who have jobs and are learning from them. We also think there are some who might be more motivated and who might achieve more if they could learn in a non-school setting.

This Youth Guarantee will be different from the education entitlements of the past – because we won’t presume that in the 21st century, school will always be the best place for every young adult to be educated.

Our policy will help a large and potentially productive group of young people make a smoother transition from school into further education.

OUR PRINCIPLES

• Building opportunity for all.
• Encouraging ambition.
• Higher standards in education.

NATIONAL’S PLAN

The Youth Guarantee

National will provide a Youth Guarantee – a universal education entitlement for all 16-and 17- year-olds.

This will allow them to access, free of charge, a programme of educational study towards school-level
qualifications.

Most will continue their education at school, but others might be more motivated and might achieve more if given the opportunity to learn in a non-school setting. They might choose to continue their education at, for example, a polytechnic, a wananga, a private training establishment, or through an apprenticeship.

Courses offered under the Youth Guarantee will have to meet strict quality criteria.

This new entitlement will be on top of, not instead of, the education entitlements young people have now.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds who are not working, and who fail to take up this new entitlement, will not be eligible to receive a benefit.

National estimates these new initiatives will cost $65 million a year.

Source

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= 2011 =

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Since then, New Zealand’s youth unemployment has burgeoned from the 25,000 quoted in John Key’s speech, to over double that:  58,000 young New Zealanders.

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Full Story

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Far from “those under the age of 18 should be in work, education, or training“, National has actually scrapped or severely cut back programmes that assisted  young people  into skills training,

Govt cut $146m from skills training, Goff says

Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Even policies designed to specifically create jobs have been either failures, or undone by other National policies. For example, National promised the following,

” * $5.3 million to encourage developers of cycleway projects to hire 500 young people”

* $2.6 million for extra training places in the defence forces

Source

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Actual results,

Morale slumps as job cuts hit Defence Force

Cycleway jobs fall short

Army shifts $2m contract to China

Since then, National’s policies for unemployed young people consist of, tinkering with youth welfare benefits,

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Full Story

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Amongst National’s  “bold” ideas is,

Anyone aged 16 or 17 on a benefit – other than the invalid benefit – would be also paid in a different way…

… Money for basic living costs like food loaded on to a new payment card that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettesSource

Which is kinda bizarre, since it is already illegal for retailers to sell cigarettes and alcohol to 16 and 17 years olds.

Another of National’s  “bold” initiatives is to return to youth rates, which Labour abolished in 2008,

Nats propose starting-out youth wage

Election explainer: New Zealand’s minimum and youth wage rates, what’s happened in the past, and why they are an election issue – interest.co.nz

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To some people, introducing a youth rate to give young school leavers and unemployed a chance to get into a job sounds fair and reasonable.

Unfortunately, were it that simple.

A youth rate is counterproductive on several levels.

  1. There is often little difference in productivity between a 19 or 21 year old. So it’s an issue of fair pay for fair work.
  2. A youth rate simply shifts job opportunities from one age bracket to another. There is no net increase in employment.
  3. A youth rate is another driver toward reducing wages in the country – and we already lag far behind Australia.
  4. Employing young people on youth rates certainly won’t mean cheaper “charge out” rates for services (or products)  – employers would simply make a larger profit from lower-paid workers.

Even John Key admitted last August,

While a youth minimum was a factor, the Government didn’t want the public to believe it was the only factor. “Because I think if it’s the only factor someone’s getting employed on, we’re probably getting off on the wrong track here.” Source

It seems obvious that National has no real plan to address our growing youth unemployment. Their reliance on fiddling with youth unemployment is ad hoc tinkering; their plan for a “bene card” is laughable; and their proposed policy to re-introduce youth rates is basically an admission of surrender.

Instead of creating new jobs, National’s plan will simply shift employment from one age group to a younger, cheaper group. It pits one sector of society against another – an all to common tactic in right-wing politics, that values Individualism above Community.

National’s track record on this problem is abundantly clear,

2008: 25,000 unemployed young people

2011: 58,000 unemployed young people

Plus, on top of that, valuable policies designed to train and upskill young people into jobs have been cancelled or suffered funding cutbacks.

The answer is blindingly obvious. We need more jobs – not lower wages for some unemployed. This is not what John Key promised us  in 2008, when he said,

Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, “2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

By National’s own Standards, they have failed to deliver on their promises.

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Additional

Speech by John Key: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Youth rates will not solve youth unemployment

Return of youth wage unlikely – Key

Youth unemployment a growing problem

Nats propose starting-out youth wage

Making young poor won’t help jobless

Editorial: Hiring policy leaves youth vulnerable

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That was Then, this is Now #9

28 October 2011 2 comments

Evidently, we Voters are stupid – John Key

28 October 2011 3 comments

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According to John Key, we voters “don’t fully understand what we’re [National] doing“, when it comes to National’s stated intention to sell  half of certain state assets,

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Source

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They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Excuse me?! Am I wrong in thinking that has to be one of the most arrogant statements ever uttered by a New Zealand politician?

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing…”

Au contraire, Dear Leader.  We understand fully what your Party is attempting to con us with; to sell us state-owned assets that we, The People, already own; to sell us shares that many of us will be able to ill-afford, as we meet the daily necessities of life; and that, like Contact Energy, will mostly end up in foreign ownership.

My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Again, au contraire, Mr Prime Minister, Sir.

When I attended two public meetings in the Hutt Valley (24 May at Marsden St Church, Lower Hutt, and 2 August at  “Expressions” Centre, Upper Hutt), members of the public were invited to ask questions. Several people, in both audiences, asked you critical questions regarding asset sales.

One man in particular, stood up and challenged you on your assertion that Kiwi “mums and dads” would be given preference to buy shares, and was vocal in his criticisms of your plans. He stated matter-of-factly that once sold, those shares could easily be re-sold, and there could be no control over their final ownership.

Even National Party members are uneasy about asset sales,

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State asset sales are proving to be a bone of contention even within National’s own ranks as its grassroots members question whether crucial assets will be flogged off overseas.

The government has struggled to reassure Kiwis that its plan to sell a 49 per cent stake in the remaining state owned power companies won’t see them end up in foreign ownership.

But it also appears to have done a poor selling job among its own members with Finance Minister Bill English facing questions from party members during a public session of the National Party conference in Wellington today.

Mr English said the government was working on ways to ensure Kiwi investors were at the front of the queue but acknowledged there was no way to stop them selling shares to overseas buyers.Source

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So, Mr Key, you are being disingenuous when you claim that “ no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.” People do put their hands up, and they are generally quite annoyed.

I would also suggest, Mr Key, that it is hardly reassuring if people do not ask you questions.

It generally takes at least two terms for a Prime Minister to believe his own spin doctors and be carried away with his artificially-created “public image”.  For John Key  to make such arrogant utterances in only his first term is not a good sign. It implies that he views us Voters as children who “don’t fully understand” and must be treated with paternalistic patience.

Have a care, Mr Key. Such politicians often end up out of a job after Election Day.

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Additional reading

Deutsche Bank, Craigs win mandate for advice on $7 bln of NZ state asset sales

‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’ – Bill English

National Party members question state asset sales

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Two lost votes for the Nats

- Teresa (Stokes Valley)

We have enough tagging in Stokes Valley without someone doing it to election hoardings as well. I thinks it’s obvious who vandalised these hoardings.

Frank we were going to vote National again but after what we’ve seen my mum and I will be voting for someone else. Maybe NZ First.

To whoever did that spraypainting you’ve cost your cause two votes!

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Entrance to Stokes Valley , taken this afternoon

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The MMP Party - tagged!

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Labour - Tagged!

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Another one - tagged!

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Greens Party - tagged!

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National - NOT tagged! Why is that?

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It’s a bit poor when National Party supporters treat our community with this kind of disregard. If they think this will win them votes then they are so wrong!

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Nats ‘Get Tough on Crime’ – NZ First alleges theft of favourite policy!

26 October 2011 2 comments

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“Getting tough on crime” – that has to be one of the most worn out, cliched “policy” which any Party can announce at Election time,

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Full Story

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I mean, really?

Despite Dear Leader admitting that “the Government’s proposed crackdown on bail will affect only about 50 offenders a year” and “there was already a reverse onus of proof for offenders seeking bail“?

It occurs to me that when a political party is not confident of public support, it will resort to “dog whistle politics“, or scare-mongering populism, to attract votes.

If, as John Key admits, such a policy would affect only a possible 50 offenders per year – it seems an awful lot of effort to be spending on such a small number of people. Especially, when, it is already within Police powers to oppose bail.

Why  spend so much time campaigning on issues of such little substance? If 50 offenders can attract National’s policy-wonks, then surely, 58,000 unemployed young people should be worthy of considerable more attention?

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Full Story

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Or, put another way that we can understand,

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What does National offer as a solution?

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Food stamps for young beneficiaries?! “Clamping down” on youth? “Money for basic living costs like food loaded on to a new payment card that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettes“? (When it’s already illegal for retailers to sell these items to 16 and 17 year olds.)

What about something more constructive, like skills training?

Nope. Can’t have that: National has actually cut $146 million on skills training.

It quickly becomes apparent that National has no real policies or ideas how to address a growing crisis of 58,000 unemployed young people. That seems to have been consigned to the Too Hard Basket.

Instead, National is fixated with 50 offenders. Cost: $4.5 million, to ” be funded out of existing budgets”.

(Which begs the question; how can Government use money to pay for one thing, that has already been committed to pay for something else? Anyone for a game of sleight-of-hand tricks?)

“Getting tough on crime” used to be the policy-of-choice of small parties such as the near-dead ACT, and the zombie-like, refuses-to-stay-dead, New Zealand First. It was their preferred  method of attracting votes from low-information voters, for whom “getting tough on crime” was a panacea for society’s ills.

For National to use this tactic – including on one of their billboards – suggests to me that they are worried about maintaining public support. A recent Horizon poll put National at 36.8% – hardly the 50%-plus that other pollsters give them.

My suspicion is that National’s own private polling has produced similar outcomes. National is more vulnerable than we, the public, realise.

Why else engage in populist issues that are suggestive of vulnerable, small-party,  desperation?

Why indeed.

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That was Then, this is Now #8

26 October 2011 1 comment

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #7

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Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising

25 October 2011 4 comments

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National currently has a set of eight billboards, each featuring Dear Leader’s face, plus a short “statement of intent”, such as “Balance the Books Sooner“, “Building Better Public Services“, etc. They’re catchy and  positive-sounding.

But when compared to National’s real track record over the past three years, the current crop of National Party election hoardings is right up there with Soviet-style propaganda and Orwellian Double-Think. The phrase  “barefaced strangling of Truth”  comes to mind.

Let’s ‘test’ National’s “statements of intent”…

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The first question is “sooner than who“? No one else is currently in government. And when Labour’s term of government ended, they had paid down net debt to about 5.6% of GDP. In dollar terms, Labour paid down NZ’s sovereign debt from approximately $25 billion in 2001 to about $10.2 billion by 2008.

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NZ Net Sovereign Debt 2001 - 2009 (Source NZ Treasury)

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Considering that only half of our sovereign debt  – $18.4 billion – is due to the cost of rebuilding Christchurch,  the remainder is due to two tax cuts (April 2009 and October 2010) which we could ill-afford as a nation. Those tax cuts mainly benefitted high-income earners and the top 10% of this country’s wealthiest.

The top 150 “rich listers” wealth increased by a staggering twenty percent in just this year alone.

So really, we are borrowing money from overseas, to stuff into the pockets of the richest people in this country.

Does that sound remotely sensible?

The second question is who pays to “balance the books”, after borrowing billions to pay for tax cuts?

Answer: who do you think?

So the next time you see one of these billboards, promising  to “Balance the Books Sooner” – don’t forget why those books need “balancing” in the first place, and who will be paying for that “balancing”.

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When I see this billboard around town, all I can see is this: “EXPORT MORE REAL JOBS”.

Like the case of the contract for new  rail wagons that was awarded to Chinese companies, rather than our own workers in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley. Result; around 70 jobs lost.

Little wonder that Dunedin’s mayor, David Cull was angry,

This is frankly a form of economic vandalism. What are we mounting here? An economic development strategy for China?”  Source

Minister of Transport Steven Joyce responded by saying,

The reality is KiwiRail has been treated like Cinderella for too long. This Government will not place requirements on KiwiRail which we don’t on any other government or private-owned company.” Source

It’s obvious how little Steven Joyce cares about his fellow New Zealanders losing their employment.

It seems we’re already very good at exporting… Dairy products… Seafood… Timber… And jobs.

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All I can say to this is that starting the rebuilding seems to be taken an awful long time.

In the meantime, we’re losing timber sawmillers through lack of demand. At a time when the construction industry should be going through massive growth – we are seeing Fletcher shares dropping in value and uncertainty in the industry. How can Fletcher’s profits be falling at a time when an entire city requires re-building???

Other jobs are also being lost in Christchurch. And the dole queues grow.

But yet again, it seems that this government is quite content with “exporting” jobs to overseas workers.

Despite Dear Leader’s cheery (if vacant) smile on the billboard, there seems little to be happy about. Certainly the lack of leadership, action, and jobs is nothing to be happy-clapping about.

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This particular billboard has a weird, dark, ominous feeling to it.

What, precisely, is the “welfare incentive to work”? If National is hinting that it plans to abolish or reduce social welfare – let them come out and announce it to the public.

At the same time, they can announce where the neccessary 154,000 new jobs are, to take on the unemployed.

Let’s not forget that those on unemployment are not there by choice. Let’s not forget that the December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate stood at 3.8%.

Then the full impact of the banking crisis and global recession hit us.

Unemployment reached7.3% in the  December 2009 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey.

As of August this year, the jobless rate has fallen to 6.5 per cent – just under twice that of 2007.

So, Mr Prime Minister, an “incentive to work” can be something as simple as having jobs available. But having contracts to manufacture rail wagons going to China, or allowing Irish builders to work on Christchurch’s reconstruction will not be very useful to anyone.

Threatening the unemployed with “the stick” is not as effective as offering them a “carrot” – a job.

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Building rail“?!

What new rail are you referring to, Dear Leader???

In fact, as far as I am aware, Mr Key, your government is cutting  back on funding public transport in Auckland,

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Full Story

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Telling fibs again, Dear Leader?

As for the rest,

  • Building roads. Yes, you are. But wouldn’t greater investment in public transport make more sense?
  • Fast broadband. Again, yes. This government is subsidising  telcos to the tune of $1.5 billion to build a fast broadband network throughout the country. (I thought subsidies were a naughty thing in the world of the free market?)

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This one is probably one of the top two most asinine claims for National to be making. The voting public would have to be practically braindead, with the IQ of a wild mushroom, to put any credibility on this statement. Of all the campaign statements that National has ever uttered, nothing screams Arrogance! better than this billboard.

Less debt“? “Less debt” than who – Rarotonga?

The government’s borrowings have exploded almost exponentially, until we currently owe $18.4 billion to various lenders overseas.

If  more borrowing equates to  “less debt” , I’d like to see my bank manager agree to lend me a few million!

As for “lower interest rates” – obviously no one in the National Party campaign committee passed this by the Finance Minister, Bill English,

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Full Story

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Can I send impending increases in my mortgage rates to Bill English or John Key to pay?

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Again, I’ve no idea what this statement is supposed to mean; “staying strong on crime”.

Does it mean locking up offenders for longer periods?

Does it mean more prisons?

Well, not according to Bill English, who recently admitted that prisons were a “moral and fiscal failure”,

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Full Story

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And the Prime Minister has recently suggested that we might not need any new prisons,

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Full Story

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So what, exactly, does “staying strong on crime” mean? Well, nothing really. It is basically a meaningless utterance that panders to the red-neck, lock’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key element in our society. As long as these low-information voters are kept happy, National is assured of a few more votes on Election Day.

This last billboard is probably the one that would most rankle with many people – especially those 2,000+ who have lost their jobs in the last few years, as government cuts back on state workers,

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I’m not quite sure with how a “better” public services can be “built” when this government has effectively been gutting it. Despite clear committments from John Key and Bill English that National would only cap the civil service and not cut numbers,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.” – Bill English

If National is elected to lead the next government, I personally guarantee that we will:  ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health a education by capping the number of bureacrats…” – John Key

That promise has been well and truly broken.

Sacking over 2000 workers who have worked with dedication and loyalty is hardly a fitting reward.

For such political statements to be made successfully, and without looking like liars and fools, politicians require only that the Voter has not been paying attention. Otherwise politicians would not dare put such rubbish out for  public consumption.

It’s simply amazing what garbage politicians will feed us, if they think they can get away with it.

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Additional

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Of Polls, Politics, & Pollution

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“Do as I say, Not as I Do”, is not a particularly savvy way to relate to an important electorate such as Epsom,

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It beggars belief that a Party leader could ask voters in a given electorate to vote for the candidate of another Party – whilst he himself supports his own Party’s candidate.  John Key has stated categorically,

“‘I’m going to vote for Goldsmith. I am the National Party leader and I am going to vote for the National Party candidate and give my party vote to National.Source

One wonders how National supporters in Epsom must be feeling.

The leader of their Party hints that they should vote for ACT’s John Banks, whilst Key himself votes for the National candidate, Paul Goldsmith?

And if Paul Goldsmith is the “sacificial lamb” – why is he standing as an electorate candidate anyway?  National could just as easily – and more honestly – simply not stand a candidate and mount a publicity campaign for the Party Vote only,

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In effect, National’s  electorate candidate is not really campaigning to win. And if he doesn’t want to win, why is he standing? To give  Epsom National supporters a “wink and a nod” to Electorate Vote ACT and Party Vote National?

And if such is the case – what possible legitimacy does that give ACT when they can’t attract electorate support on their own merits?

So much for ACT being a Party that encourages success through merit. Especially when they apply the merit-based principle to Maori:  Maori Must Earn Auckland Seats On Merit .

As the ACT statement sez;  “Let our bright boys and girls EARN their seats.

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ACT and National’s  machinations in Epsom are, of course, due to ACT’s low poll ratings. Practically every single poll has them around the 1.5-3.5% mark. Under MMPs rules, if they cannot cross the magical 5% Party Vote threshold – or – win an Electorate Seat, they will end up like  The Alliance and NZ First: out of Parliament.

(Despite what critics of proportional representation would have us believe, MMP is not a very ‘forgiving’ system to small Parties.)

The latest Horizon Poll makes for very interesting reading. Horizon is the only polling company that prompts Undecideds to state a preference. Under this system, the results appear to give a far more realistic result of Voter’s intentions, rather than the ‘fantasmagorical‘ results that have National at 53-55%-plus,

Horizon is the only polling company publishing results for don’t know voters.

Horizon’s results are for

  • Decided voters
  • Undecided voters with a preference

who are

  • Registered to vote and who
  • Intend to vote.

The poll finds

  • National has 36.8% of registered voters (down 2.7% since September 22)
  • Labour 25.7% (-1.1%)
  • Green Party 11.6% (up 0.9%)
  • New Zealand First 6.2% (- 1.1%)
  • Mana Party 2.3% (+ 0.3%)
  • Act 3.4%  (down 1.4% from September and down from a high of 5.3% in May shortly after Don Brash became leader)
  • Maori Party 1.7% (+0.7%)
  • United Future 0.4% ( 0% in September)
  • Conservative Party of New Zealand 2.2% (new party, first time measured)
  • New Citizens 0%
  • Other parties 1.2%

National has highest voter loyalty:  76.2% of its 2008 voters still support it. It has picked up 19.9% of Act voters and 9.1% of Labour voters (while Labour has picked up 7.6% of National’s).

The Greens have 68.7% voter loyalty and are gaining 2008 voters from the Maori Party (23.1%) and Labour (14.6%).

Labour has 63% voter loyalty, losing 14.3% to the Greens, 9.1% to National and 3.7% to New Zealand First.

The Maori Party has 30.8% voter loyalty, losing 23.1% of its 2008 voters to the Greens and 19.1% to Mana.

Assuming John Banks wins the Epsom electorate seat for Act, Peter Dunne retains Ohariu-Belmont, the Maori Party retains its four electorate seats and Hone Harawira retains Te Tai Tokerau, a 122 seat Parliament  would result, with a two Maori Party seat overhang, comprising:

National 50

Act 5

Maori party 4

United Future 1

Current governing coalition: 60 seats

Labour 35

Green 16

NZ First 8

Total: 59 seats

Mana 3

Horizon Research says a great deal depends on the support New Zealand First attracts at November 26.

Horizon polls have had the party at 6% or higher since November 2010. (Note the poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.2%).

Source

If correct, National is in trouble.  Their chances of a second term are not guaranteed, and judging by the public’s low opinion of National’s performance of the grounding of the m.v. Rena; the double credit-rating downgrades; the questionable veracity of the so-called Standard & Poors  “email”; and various promises made that have not been kept, John Key’s “teflon” image is definitely beginning to show signs of wear and tear.

And with the RWC behind us, and the public “partyed-out”, a return to politicking may be a welcomed diversion for many. Especially as people begin to focus on issues such as asset sales and the sales of farmland – both contentious and highly unpopular with the public.  In a way, the RWC may even strengthen opposition to asset/farm sales to foreigners.

After all, if we’re good enough to beat the world in rugby, then  why the dickens aren’t we good enough to hold on to our taongas?! Explain that, Dear Leader!!

On the other hand, though Labour leader Phil Goff has consistently polled lower than Key, his dogged determination to persevere and not fold under media scrutiny may actually earn him “brownie points” with the public.

Goff can wear the label of  “underdog” with real credibility. If Labour can play on this in a subtle manner, and show that Goff does not cave under pressure; that he keeps on like the proverbial ‘Energizer Bunny’ when all seems lost; and that he doesn’t rely on shallow charisma and meaningless smiles and utterances – he is in with a fighting chance.

God knows that lesser mortals would’ve probably chucked it in long before now, and call for a replacement from the “benches”.

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Another Horizon Poll has shown what many suspected would be the reaction from New Zealanders over the grounding of the m.v. Rena: that the government was slow of the mark and wasted precious time in delaying action,

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Source: Horizon Polls

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Taken in isolation, the grounding and response from government and statutory bodies would probably have raised no more than slight annoyance from the public.

But the grounding of the Rena is now the third major disaster this country has experienced; on top of the Pike River Mine explosions and the Christchurch earthquakes.

In both instances, central government made promises to locals that – in hindsight – may have been unrealistic at best, and irresponsible at worst. Public patience with the ever-smiling, waving, John Key may be wearing just a bit thin.

Then on top of all that, was the near-disaster of the Rugby World Cup’s opening night. The government had well and truly taken their collective eyes of the ball that night, and it is pure good luck that no one was seriously injured or killed in the mayhem.

Unrealistic promises and slow responses were only the beginning.

We also have the government intending to bring deep-sea oil drilling to our coastal waters. More than half the country by now must be asking themselves,

Just hang on a mo’, Mr Prime Minister! If we can barely cope with a single stranded freighter, sitting on the surface of the sea – how the heck are we going to cope with a major oil disaster that might be two or three times the depth of the Gulf of Mexico disaster?! Aside from hoping for good luck that nothing goes wrong, we’re not really prepared are we, Mr Key?

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To make things worse, is the disquieting suspicion that our de-regulated safety regime; lax building codes; and continual cutbacks to government workers are  contributing to a systematic running-down of essential services. Especially when even  emergency services are now starting to feel the blades of National’s  savage cuts,

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When the aspirational middle class Baby Boomers start to feel that their comfort zones are threatened, government politicians should take heed. That’s when we throw out governments. We don’t like our “comfort zones” upset. (It upsets our delicate tummies.)

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Now let’s really stir the political pot of discontent;   our youth seem to have re-discovered their own political power and realised that leaving matters to the Older Generation (us) may not achieve the outcomes they desire. God knows our generation has succeeded in wrecking the global economy; threatening the stability of the Eurozone; and bringing the once great super power that is the United States, to it’s knees.

Young folk have woken up to the world around them – and they are not very happy at what they find,

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The recent government interference in Student Union affairs (forcing voluntary unionism upon people who may not necessarily wish for it) should be a stark wake-up call to young people that National governments – far from being “hands off” and opposed to “nanny statish” behaviour – can be just as controlling as their counterparts allegedly were.

In fact, more so. After all, this “hands off” government did force almalgation on Aucklanders without any democratic referendum being conducted. National had no hesitation in passing legislation to ban cellphone usage whilst driving (but not banning  applying makeup or eating whilst driving). Then they lifted the driving age. And have begun liquor law reforms. And John Key is even now contemplating the ungodly “Nanny Statish” policy of making Kiwisaver compulsory!! Oh dear gods – whatever next?!

Oh, that’s right – National wanted to  extend Police powers to allow greater video surveillance in the community. (Which even ACT decided was a step too far.)

All in all, the gloss has worn away from this government, and it’s track record of the last three years cannot be dismissed with a smile and a wave, with a hollow promise chucked in for good measure.

And young New Zealanders are starting to flex their political muscle.

Not too bad, on top of winning the rugby world cup, eh?

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The Art of ‘Spin’

21 October 2011 1 comment

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The Art of  ‘Spin’ – or misleading the public – is a tool that every politician knows how to use almost in their sleep. For a successful politician, they must know how to ‘spin’ an issue so it appears in the public domain in a way that is favourable to the poli.

Of course, a politician could adopt a radical practice of telling the truth (as s/he sees it) – but they either worldn’t last long, or would be pilloried in the media and public. (Hone Harawira is a prime example of a politician speaking his mind – and getting publicly vilified for it.)

When the public say they want “honest politicians”, I suspect this is not true. I suspect what the public really wants is for politicians to say what the public want to hear (John Key and David Lange are also prime examples of this), and if they’re fibbing or stetching the truth – the public don’t want to know. Especially if it’s a particular party we each support.

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Occassionally, though, politicians become ‘unstuck’, and their “spin” is unmasked for what it is: bullshit.

Case in point: what is the role of the SAS in Afghanistan? John Key assured us that  it was ‘mentoring‘,

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Only problem is… it wasn’t quite true. SAS soldiers were ending up dead – casualties in firefights with insurgents (or local families disputes).

Eventually, Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp had to come clean and admit what we all suspected to be the plain and simple truth;  the SAS’ “mentoring role” of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (ACRU) was actually more of  a “substantial combat component”.

In other words, they were shooting at the enemy, and the enemy was most definitely shooting back.

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Ironically, Key and Mapp still attempted to put a ‘positive spin’ on their previously unsuccessful ‘spin’,

Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp has admitted the SAS’ mentoring role of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (ACRU) has morphed into a role with a “substantial combat component”.

However, neither he nor the Prime Minister believe this means the SAS are in Afghanistan in a combat role.” Source

So as the TV3 headline sez, the SAS is in combat, but not in a combat role?!

As Manuel used to say in a certain Torquay hotel,

Que?¿

How does that work – being in combat, but not in a combat role???

Oh well, I guess National’s Ninth Floor spin doctors were having such a hard time reconciling the disparate comments from Dear Leader and Wayne Mapp, that they just decided that any old BS will do. After all, at 50%+ in public opinion polls, I guess it doesn’t really matter if the public believe their latest ‘spin’ or not.

However, that leads on to a somewhat more serious and deadly matter,

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Judging by John Key’s and Wayne Mapp’s earlier “assurances” about “mentoring/combat” roles, I find it hard to accept anything that comes out from this government. Hell, if John Key tells me it’s October, my first inclination would be to check my calendar!

I sure as hell hope that when Defence Force Chief Lieutenant-General Jones says that there was “no complicity in torture or any other international crime by New Zealand or members of the NZDF by partnering with the CRU” – that this is the pure, unvarnished truth.

Because if it ever comes out that we’ve been lied to and NZ troops were complicit in torture – then that will be a dark stain on our country’s reputation. It also makes us liable to be charged at the International Criminal Court for being accessory to war crimes.

To John Key, I say this; if we are playing some kind of covert role in supporting torture in Afghanistan, even in an indirect manner, then be aware of one thing: eventually the truth will come out. Secrets do not stay secret for long.

And you will be known as the NZ Prime Minister who sanctioned torture.

Do not play “silly buggers” with this issue, Mr Prime Minister. Take it from me that secrets do not last.

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Additional information

Minister releases report on Afghan detainees

Listen to Radio NZ  Checkpoint interview with Wayne Mapp

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Labour on farm sales – NOT good enough!

21 October 2011 1 comment

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Labour has stated that,

A Labour government would ensure sales were declined unless potential foreign buyers of farm or forestry land also invested in new processing or other related jobs.Source

Sorry, Mr Goff, but that is totally unacceptable and is merely ‘tinkering’ with the problem.

The sale (or leasing) of our productive farmland means that we lose profits to overseas investors. It means that a foreign owned farm will (a) export their produce (b) make a profit (c) remit much of that profit back to overseas investors, who look for returns on their investment.

It means that New Zealand farmland is priced out of reach of our own people, who cannot hope to compete with Americans, Germans, Chinese, etc. The purchase of the Crafar  farms by Shanghai Pengxin’s over a Michael Fay-led local consortium should ring alarm bells in our heads.  (More here)

Labour needs to lift it’s game on this issue.

There has to be a total ban on the sale/lease of farmland to anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen.  Anything less will ultimately undermine our long term prospects for wealth-generation and prosperity.

We would end up tenants in our own country.

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Nanny State, Daddy State, poor state?

20 October 2011 1 comment

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National intends to sign up all workers?

Isn’t that… compulsion?

Isn’t that… “Nanny Statism“?

Isn’t that what National complained so bitterly about in 2008, promising to undo the dreaded tentacles of Nanny State?!

Well, let’s see…

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Source

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Source

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Source

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Perhaps I’m being unfair on National.  Calling them hypocrites on “Nanny Statism” may be unwarranted.  After all, National voted against the Repeal of Section 59 (“anti-smacking legislation), right? They voted against the Green Party initiative, right?

The legislation also carries an amendment agreed earlier by Prime Minister Helen Clark and National leader John Key that says the police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent where the offence is considered to be inconsequential.”  Source

Oh, no! National did vote for the Repeal of Section 59!!

It seems apparent that the term “Nanny State” was nothing more than a very clever election “bogey”, designed to paint Labour as some kind of authoritarian Party that loves to do nothing but micro-manage our lives.  It was a clever ploy, and it certainly played it’s part in helping to defeat Labour in 2008.

But as with the banning of using cellphones whilst driving or launching a “Food in Schools” programme, National is not averse to legislation to enforce “social-engineering” policy.

Their change-of-heart in regards to Kiwisaver may be viewed as  a further step into so-called “Nanny State” heartland. But, like other changes to the way in which we organise our society and manage our economy, it is a necessity which we cannot do without.

Some folk may jump up and down and whinge till the cows come home, that compulsory enrollment is a violation of their right to exercise choice; that it is not necessary; etc, etc.

Well, newsflash, my dear fellow Kiwis – it is necessary, and it is long overdue. The spend-up we’ve been having has been financed through massive borrowings from overseas – and the credit agencies have taken notice of our borrow & spend habits.

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Source

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Much of our debt is private debt – fuelling our housing bubble – and based on other peoples’  savings. Very little of it goes into the productive sector. In effect, the property speculation is based on borrowed money.

And the party, people, is rapidly coming to an end.

Kiwisaver will do for New Zealand what Australia’s compulsory super-scheme did for that country:  save.

Australia has amassed savings of over $1 trillion dollars,

After more than a decade of compulsory contributions, Australian workers have over $1.28 trillion in superannuation assets. Australians now have more money invested in managed funds per capita than any other economy.” Source

It is little wonder that Australia is a wealthier society than New Zealand. Their superannuation savings scheme – compulsory since 1992 – has meant that Australians do not rely on foreign capital to the same extent that we do, here in NZ.

By contrast, New Zealanders voted away a compulsory savings scheme in 1975, when we voted for Robert Muldoon and his National Government. His (in)famous “Dancing Cossacks” election ad was sufficient to “spook”  us – as was a certain measure of self-interest. We simply didn’t want to save for our future if we could get away with it. And Muldoon was only too happy to be elected into power and oblige us.

The current National Government – a different creature from the one in the 1970s – understands the sheer necessity to wean us off foreign borrowings. That is why they  belatedly support Kiwisaver after initially condemning it when they were in Opposition.

However,  it seems that Key and English haven’t quite got the stomach and cojones to make Kiwisaver compulsory, as in Australia. They will be offering an “opt out” clause to voters.

I guess they don’t want to be devoured by that mythical beast they created, the dreaded Nanny State.

Daddy State will have to do.

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Additional information

Dancing Cossacks anti Labour party political TV ad

Superannuation in Australia

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Tui Time!

Sent in by an astute reader,

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The irony of this billboard is that it is not a parody.  It’s a real billboard spotted on someone’s front lawn.

Obviously this particular hoarding-facing was designed before news that  government  borrowings have increased from $16.7 billion to June this year, to $18.4 billion to October this year.

Or that interest rates will most likely rise, due to credit downgrades by Fitch and Standard & Poors. And with an imminent announcement Moody’s – also likely to be a down-grade – expect your mortgage repayments to rise soon.

I suspect these particular billboards may come down very shortly. The embarresment factor may be somewhat irritating for the encumbent government.

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Acknowledgement

Thanks to ‘Sandman’  for sharing this image with us.

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Priorities?

19 October 2011 65 comments

National Government priorities:

Amount spent by government on the Rugby World Cup: $39 million

Total amount of public spending: $200+ million

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Amount spent on  ‘plastic waka’: $2 million

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Extra amount spent on “party fanzones” to cater for extra crowds: $5.5 million

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Amount spent by government on 34 new ministerial BMWs: $???   (“Commercially sensitive” – but retail cost, $200,000 each.)

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Amount spent by MPs on accomodation and travel  in just six months: $7.69 million

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Amount required to keep five people alive, who suffer from the rare Pompe disease:  overpriced  (according to the government),

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It seems that this government can spend millions on rugby, party zones, luxury limousines, ministerial travel and other perks – but spending money to save the lives of our fellow New Zealanders is “unaffordable?

Well, at least this illustrates the priorities of this government like nothing else does. It is obvious what is more important to John Key and his colleagues in the National Party.

What makes this tragedy even more ghastly is that in 2008, John Key campaigned on behalf of  women suffering from breast cancer for Pharmac to fully  fund herceptin. Pharmac at that time had decided to fund only a nine week course – whilst campaigners were demanding a full 12 month period of funding.

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Source

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Perhaps the difference between Mr Hill’s case, suffering from Pompe’s disease, is that 2008 was an election year and National was campaigning hard against an incumbent Labour government, led by an experienced, politically savy,  and fairly popular  prime minister.

National of course, won the 2008 election and Key “made good” on his election promise to force Pharmac to extend funding for herceptin,

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This year, is also an election year – but National is high in the public opinion polls and John Key is considerably ahead of his nearest rival, Phil Goff.  John Key therefore has no need to “play to the public“. He can afford to be “somewhere else” when a dying man knocks on his office door.

This is a shameful state of affairs. This government can find money to spend on luxury items; spend-up large on a rugby tournament and party zones; etc – but $5 million is somehow “unaffordable”?!?! Only the most soulless government could behave in this manner.

How craven for a Prime Minister not to have the courage to meet a dying man. And how gutless to have security guards do the Dear Leader’s dirty work in turning away Mr Hill.

Perhaps it’s not the sort of photo-op that Mr Key favours?

Mr Prime Minister – I challenge  you to  extend full treatment to Laurie Hill and other sufferers of  Pompe disease. I challenge you to do for sufferers of  Pompe disease what you promised for breast cancer sufferers in 2008.

Hell, I’ll even close down this Blog if you do. It’ll be one less critical voice niggling at you and your government.

Are you up for the challenge, Mr Prime Minister?

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+++ Updates +++

An email sent to the Prime Minister and  Minister of Health,

from:    [email]
to:    Tony Ryall <tony.ryall@parliament.govt.nz>,
Prime Minister John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
bcc:    [email]
date:    Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Sirs,

You may be aware that there are five people in New Zealand who desperately require assistance to treat their condition, Pompe’s disease. These people are dying from their illness and require a treatment of myozyme to survive.

Three years ago, you campaigned to have herceptin extended from a 9 week treatment, to a full 12 months – effectively over-ruling Pharmac. This was done at the desperate request of women suffering from breast cancer.

I ask that you do the same for sufferers of Pompe’s disease. I’m sure you know who these people are.

You are your colleagues were only too happy to spend $36 million on the Rugby World Cup. Plus another $5.5 million on extensing the “Partyzones” in Auckland. Well, we now need that same generosity of spirit to help save five lives.

You may do it from a senseless of generosity and knowing it is the right thing to do.

Or, you may do it because it is hardly the sort of election issue that you want clouding your campaign.

The important thing is that  the right decision is made – there are five people counting on you.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Useful Email addresses

Prime Minister, John Key

john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Health Minister, Tony Ryall

tony.ryall@parliament.govt.nz

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Additional reading

Editorial: Behind a penguin on priority list

New Zealand Pompe Network

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Acknowledgement

Thanks to Sharlene for bringing this issue to my attention.

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Evidently it’s a “balancing act”?

19 October 2011 2 comments

The latest “vacant optimism” from John Key,

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Answering queries about offshore drilling, Key said it was a “balancing act” between business and the environment.”

“Balancing act”? Jeez, has this man learnt nothing from the last couple of weeks???

Is this man for real?

New Zealand  is hit with the worst environmental disaster since Whenever, and John Key maintains an equanity stating that “we need to protect the environment as much as we can but not to the point where we do absolutely nothing. This is a tragedy that’s occurred of no fault of any New Zealander -  this is a boat that’s run aground and accidents do happen whether they’re on land or on sea or on the air.”

Well, excuse me, Mr Kiey – but the explosion that blew apart the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year, killing 11 men, and spewing 4.9 million barrels (780,000 m3) of crude oil into thre Gulf Of Mexico – was also no doubt an accident.

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Of course accidents happen. Only a fool denies that. But it takes a wise person to weigh the risks and arrive at a sensible conclusion. In this case, it seems blatantly obvious that (a) New Zealand could not handle the grounding of one single freighter, the “Rena”  (b) cannot extract 1700 tonnes of oil and 200 tonnes of diesel  (c) has had 300+ tonnes of oil leak into the sea, and (d) more may end up in the sea, as the ship eventually breaks up.

So the multi-billion dollar disaster of the Gulf of Mexico should serve as a very loud warning to us all: we have no way of dealing with a really bad oil spill.

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The “Rena”  was one ship; on the surface; run aground; with a (relatively) small quantity of oil aboard.

Now imagine an oil rig blowing apart, as the Deepwater Horizon did last year, spewing millions of tonnes of oil into our coastal waters, as happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now let’s re-read John Key’s statement; “we need to protect the environment as much as we can but not to the point where we do absolutely nothing. This is a tragedy that’s occurred of no fault of any New Zealander -  this is a boat that’s run aground and accidents do happen whether they’re on land or on sea or on the air.”

Is the man clueless or what?!

Just to remind us all what is at stake,

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Containers from the 47,230 tonne Liberian-flagged Rena float next to it after falling from the deck, about 12 nautical miles (22 km) from Tauranga, on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island October 12, 2011, a week after hitting the Astrolabe Reef. The captain of the Rena has appeared this morning in the Tauranga District Court over the incident and has been remanded on bail, and about 70 containers fell from the vessel amid heavy seas last night, according to Maritime New Zealand.

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A volunteer removes thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Volunteers remove thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials remove dead seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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A volunteer looks at dead seabirds on the shore as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials remove dead seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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A volunteer removes fuel oil from the stricken container ship Rena that washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground last week. Authorities said up to 300 tonnes of the ship's 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil had already escaped, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials search for dead and injured seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

Source

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The unfortunate aspect to National’s plans to allow deep sea oil drilling is that governments come-and-go.  But the effects of their actions live on for years and decades.  Rob Muldoon’s canning of  Labour’s superannuation scheme n 1975 and the ‘Think Big’ projects, and Roger Douglas’s so-called “reforms” are but a few well-known examples.

Long after John Key has vacated Parliament, deep sea drilling rigs will pose an ongoing risk to our coastal waters and environment. This is simply not acceptable.

It is up to New Zealanders to call a halt to such madness when they enter the Ballot Booth on 26 November.

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Additional information

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill by the Numbers

Wikipedia List of oil spills

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Is this where New Zealand is heading?

18 October 2011 3 comments

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SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.

Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.

New Zealanders did not like being at sea for weeks at a time, working in uncomfortable conditions and living in an isolated and enforced alcohol and drug free environment.

“It is not seen as an attractive work place for many people.”

SeaFIC says FCVs [Foreign Controlled Vessels] hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.”

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

Air New Zealand uses Chinese crew on its China service who are paid less than New Zealanders doing the same jobs.

Without referring to the Rena grounding it said most ships operating on the New Zealand coast are crewed by people from the same low wage countries used by FCVs.

It said New Zealand was seen in other countries as a source of cheap skilled labour and pointed to Qantas hiring New Zealand crews at rates lower than Australians would get. The New Zealand film industry was based on cheap labour, SeaFIC said. 

There were not enough New Zealanders to fill vacancies created if FCVs were ordered out.

The inquiry opened public submissions in Wellington today. It will hold hearings in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

It was set up following a University of Auckland study into FCVs and media reports citing cases of labour abuse and exploitation.

Last year an aged FCV, Oyang 70, sank off the Otago coast, killing six.

The government in setting up the inquiry said they were concerned at the damage to reputation New Zealand was suffering over FCVs and allegations it  was a form of human trafficking.

SeaFIC say there is no evidence that FCV companies are failing to pay their crews according a code of practice which requires crews to receive the New Zealand minimum wage.

New Zealand’s reputation is not a function of compliance by the companies, but the result of public opinion.

“The intensity of comment in the media, whether based on fact or allegation, may present risk to international reputation.”

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

“A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

Through FCVs, the fishing industry was transferring over $65 million annually to citizens of developing countries.

By comparison, it said, the New Zealand Government gave just $31 million to Oxfam and Volunteer Service Aboard to work in such countries.

SeaFIC admitted that their submission was not supported by all its members and amounted only to a majority view of fishing quota owners who use FCVs.

Source

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Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says reports alleging the failure of some FCVs to comply with proper employment requirements, including crew working conditions, and vessel safety standards imposed by New Zealand had raised the Government’s concern.

We also acknowledge the recent concerns expressed by the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and others representing the interests of crew members regarding these issues,” says Ms Wilkinson. Source

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It seems that the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC ) has a novel solution to  Ms Wilkinson’s concerns:  instead of strengthening monitoring and enforcement of New Zealand’s employment laws and regulations -  SeaFIC wants to eliminate those ‘pesky’ laws for overseas workers, and import more cheap labour.

It’s akin to resolving the drink-driving problem in this country by simply eliminating blood-alcohol laws. Result; no more convictions of drunk drivers.

Sorted.

Yeah, right.

SeaFIC’s plea for importing more cheap labour is perhaps one of the most rotten and bizarre of neo-liberal ideology. It is not just immoral, it is a threat to workers throughout New Zealand.  It is also based on some rather strange ‘facts’ that bear no relation to reality.

The SeaFIC submission states,

“SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.  Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.”

But SEEK.co.nz and Careers NZ indicate that this is not the case. SEEK had only two vacancies listed,

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Source

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Careers NZ states,

What are the chances of getting a job?

Job opportunities for fishing deckhands are average.

According to Department of Labour estimates, the number of fishing deckhands declined by about 9% between June 2006 and June 2011 – from 1,856 to 1,694. Despite this, opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

Regular opportunities on deep-sea fishing boats

Although few new positions are being created, the demanding nature of the work and the long periods spent away from home mean turnover among fishing deckhands on deep-sea fishing boats can be high, and positions regularly become available.

Positions usually become available on a boat at the end of each fishing trip, though these are normally filled by at-sea seafood processors already working on the boat. Starting out as an at-sea seafood processor is a good step towards getting work as a deckhand on a deep-sea vessel.

How to increase your chances of finding work

Most jobs for fishing deckhands become available before the start of each fishing season. The season varies by fish species – for example, the hoki season usually starts in late July, so fishing companies look for deckhands in June and early July. 

Gaining a pre-employment qualification in vessel operations or seafood processing, or having experience processing fish onshore will also help your chances.

Fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands. So, a good way to improve your chances of finding work is to approach a fishing company or skipper directly, and give them your CV. Source

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Not only is there no mention of a labour shortage, but it is stated quite clearly that fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands.

Businesses that do not advertise for staff usually do so because it is unnecessary.

The website also states, that  “…opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

A high turn-over does not equate to lack of staff. Other industries such as the fast food/restaurant industry can have up to  90%  turn-over in staffing. New employees are generally easy to find. This “churn” is often the result of staff moving on to better-paid employment elsewhere as well as other influences.

SeaFIC claims,

A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

This is contradicted by both Careers NZ and Talleys,

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Source

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Acording to Career NZ, fishing deckhands can earn from $35,000 to $85,000, depending on various factors, including whether the vessel is in-shore or deep-sea fishing. With a potential salary of $90,000,  SeaFIC’s concerns appear to be exagerated.

However, if SeaFIC is concerned that the low-entry salary of $35,000 is insufficient remuneration to attract new staff, the answer seems blindingly obvious: pay more.

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Source

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The wages mentioned above seem to refute SeaFIC’s claims.

If it is correct that “FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies ” -  that is a problem that should be addressed without extremist policies that negatively impact on local  jobs and incomes.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of SeaFIC’s comments is this,

SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.“”

This, then, seems to be the underlying subtext of SeaFIC’s submission to the Ministerial Inquiry: to import low-waged workers to New Zealand.

The implications of such a proposal are stunning in their audacity – and probably the most subversive since Roger Douglas first began neo-liberal “reforms” in this country in the mid-1980s.

Effectively,  the SeaFIC proposal would mean that cheap labour would be imported into NZ and would quickly  replace higher-waged New Zealanders. New Zealand workers would be competing with workers from Fiji, Philippines, China, India,  etc.

The nett effect would be to drive down wages in this country.

Eventually, the SeaFIC proposal could be extended throughout the country. Workers from Third World countries could be employed for all manner of jobs. Once precedent was set by SeaFIC, it would be difficult for other industries not to follow suit.

This would be an attack on workers like no other in the history of this country. It would make the 1951 Waterfront Dispute  and the de-unionisation of New Zealand workers pale into insignificance.

It would be interesting to learn how the SeaFIC proposal could possibly  be contemplated or enacted by a National-led government, given that John Key has made raising wages one of his administration’s prime policies.

If you’re starting to wonder at how an organisation such as SeaFIC could be bold enough to make such a repugnant proposal  – re-read the article above.

There is no name penned to the submission.  Aside from the organisation name given as the source – no individual(s) have put their name to the submission.

I am guessing that none would dare.

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Top 5 companies

  1. Sanford Ltd
  2. Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd
  3. Sealord Ltd
  4. Talley’s Fisheries Ltd
  5. Ngai Tahu Fisheries Settlement Ltd

Source

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Seafood Industry Council – Current Board members

Dave Sharp, Chairman

Eric Barratt, Managing Director, Sanford Ltd

Peter Vitasovich, Chair, Aquaculture New Zealand

Jeremy Fleming, CEO, Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd

Ross Tocker, General Manager Operations, Sealord Group Ltd

Andrew Talley, Director, Talley’s Fisheries Ltd

Daryl Sykes, Executive Director, New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council

Tony Threadwell, Director, Pegagus Fishing Ltd

Source

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Related stories

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

 

 

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

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A New Public Image Being Born?

16 October 2011 3 comments

Recieved today – and like John Key’s mysterious Standard & Poors “email” – my source will remain anonymous as well…

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national party billboard

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national party billboard

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national party billboard

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I assume the above three images depict the billboard facings coming down – not going up.

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national party billboard

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national party billboard

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Hmmmm, obviously the “artist” had a point to make about our Dear Leader, and not the local candidate? It will be interesting to see what other graffiti makes it on to National’s hoardings.

It is also interesting to note that, this graffiti aside, there seems to have  been remarkably little vandalism toward political hoardings. Are people that apathetic toward the 2011 election that even the vandals can’t be bothered?!

You have to wonder what they are putting into our drinking water…

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John Key’s foot-in-mouth syndrome

16 October 2011 2 comments

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In Parliament last week (4 October), John Key quoted a mysterious, anonymous, “email” which he daid  “inferred”  that, “when Standard and Poor’s was giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what it did say was that there was about a 30 percent chance that we would be downgraded. That is what happens when one is on a negative outlook. It did go on to say, though, that if there was a change of Government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

However, a quick glance at the official government website, the NZ Debt Management Office not only doesn’t support that claim – but actually shows the reverse: Labour  actually RATES BETTER than National/Rogernomics governments.

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[Click on image for full size version]

Source

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Note that three credit downgrades happened duting three National governments; 1991, 1998, and this year. And if you include the Rogernomics period – that makes FOUR neo-liberal governments that were downgraded.

Do credit ratings agencies  seem “risk averse” to new right governments? Do they prefer centre-left governments?

First, look at 10 September 1998 (National government) – AA+ (negative outlook)

But when Labour came to power – 7 March 2001 – AA+ (stable outlook)

Stable outlook?!

Nah, must be a mistake. Let’s have another look at a following period…

6 August 2008  (Labour Government) – AA+ (stable outlook) re-affirmed

“Reaffirmed”?!

Well, bugger me! It  rather does seem that credit agencies look favourably upon  centre-left government policies rather than centre-right administrations.

Whoda thunk?!

John Key – wrong again. It’s rather getting to be a habit with the ‘infallible’ Dear Leader.

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Reference Sources

Hansards – 1. Credit Rating Downgrade—Effect on New Zealand Economy

NZDMO – New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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We Are The 99% – Expect Us

15 October 2011 4 comments

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OCCUPY WELLINGTON ON NZ NEWS MEDIA
“A group spurred on by the Occupy Wall Street protests in the United States is planning a week-long protest at Civic Square, (Wellington) starting on Saturday (15th Oct). The Occupy Wellington group is also planning to protest in front of the Reserve Bank from November 5 to 30. Groups have been set up in Auckland, New Plymouth, Christchurch and Dunedin and all are planning events starting on Saturday.”

Facebook

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Full Story

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There are those cynics  and “aspirational” middle class supprters of the status quo, who deride these protests as “meaningless”, “pointless”, and without a firm agenda.

Such Cynics/Aspirants ignore the most obvious point: the protests are the point. They are expressing their anger. Protestors are pissed off that our economy is not meeting their needs; that social disparities are widening; and the promises of jobs, success, and security are not there.

The protestors are pissed off that vast corporations with billions of dollars receive bail-outs – but if you just lost your job because of these corporate vampires, then you receive no bail out. If you’re lucky, you might get a social welfare payment that will not meet your needs. And of course, you’ll get the smart-arses who will then deride you as a “bludger” because you’re on the dole – not knowing that only a few weeks/months ago you were in paid employment.

The protestors are pissed of that the top 1% earn/own most of the wealth whilst the remaining 99% barely get by. (Middle class aspirants please note: if you honestly think that one day you’ll end up as a member of that exclusive 1% – think of your chances of winning Lotto. Take it from there. )

The protestors are pissed off because a minority of wealthy parasites have taken the wealth; wrecked the planet’s economy in the process – and then we have to pay for it in rising taxes (gst, ACC, other government charges); higher mortgages/rents; and endure cut backs in social and community services.

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It is no coincidence that our government cut early childhood education back by $400 million – whilst cutting taxes, predominantly for the most well off.

It is no coincidence that thousands of government and private sector workers have lost their jobs – whilst unemployment figures continue to rise.

It is no coincidence that as we face rising costs and stagnant wages – the top 150 richest people have increased their wealth  by almost 20 per cent in one year. Have your wages/salary gone up by 20%?

It is no coincidence that as the economy stagnates and more businesses go under, more and more people are losing their homes in the process. Five families lose their homes every single day, in this country, to mortgagee sales.

And our Prime Minister’s reaction? Whilst   billionaire Graeme Hart tops the NZ Rich List list with a $6.5 billion fortune – John Key (himself with a fortune of $55 million) describes the Rich List as a “joke“. But then again, this is the same Prime Minister who said this, of the unemployed victims of the Great Recession,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.Source

John Key would know about “choices”, I guess, like which champagne to drink,

There were lunches where we drank a lot of Moet and fine wine, and that was nice.” Source

This is the growing social and income disparity that many protestors are pissed of about. That the top 1% have obscene wealth – whilst the rest of the population barely gets by with increasing prices; job insecurity; and wondering why we have to cop the fall-out from Wall Street’s crazy excesses.

Other protestors are pissed of that we crap all over our landscape; polluting lakes and rivers; threatening  our Conservation Estates and Parks with mining. Or that our government signs up oil companies for deepsea drilling – when we can’t even cope with a single stranded freighter spewing oil into our coastal waters.

When swimming in the Manawatu River is considered a health hazard – that is a sign of something seriously screwed up.

What are the 99% protesting about?

Oh, there is plenty to choose from. In fact, it’s not to dissimilar to this scene,  from the 1953 movie, “The Wild One“,

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I hold the protesters – whether in New York or New Zealand – in the highest regard. Like the young people of the 1960s and early 70s, they are protesting the greatest loss of all, in the mad rush for greed -  the collective soul of our humanity.

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Categories: Social Issues, The Body Politic Tags:

That was Then, this is Now #7

15 October 2011 4 comments

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #6

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Beginning of the End?

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A recent Horizon Poll, at the end of September had National far lower than other polling has presented up till now;

 

National: 39.5% (up 2.2% since July),

Act: 4.8%

United Future: 0.8%.

National led coalition:  46.2%

National – ACT – Maori – United Future coalition:  61 MPs

Labour : 27% (no change)

Green Party: 10.7% (+ 0.5%)

New Zealand First: 7.3% (+1.3%)

Labour-Green-New Zealand First coalition: 45%

Labour – Greens – New Zealand First: 58 MPs

Labour would need Mana to govern.

Source: Horizon Polls, 25 September 2011

Taken by itself, the Horizon Poll is but one of many. However, that poll seems to have greater significance when online betting and predictions site, Ipredict,   had this interesting result,

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Source

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Can it be that Brand Key, like Brand Adidas, is finally losing some of it’s sheen?

It will be intreresting to see  other polling results.

 

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Public scrutiny of our MPs?

It seems that something is making our politicians very nervous,

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This is not democracy and transparency in action. More likely a response from John Key after his “throat slitting” gesture got caught on TV3′s cameras, making him look like a prize twat.

(And why ‘Bomber’ Bradbury got banned/uninvited from Radio NZ, after criticising Key’s objectionable behaviour in the Debating Chamber.)

This is yet another restriction on what the public sees in Parliament. It is yet another attempt to remove scrutiny over our elected representatives.

And ironically – National wanted to pass through a Police Video Surveillance Bill that would allow Police to secretly videotape members of the public. (That Bill was significantly amended by Labour and ACT, to remove several questionable aspects, including a retrospective aspect to the Bill.)

Does anyone else comprehend the rich irony here?

And as politicians are so fond of reminding us; if they have nothing to fear, why are they wanting to restrict televising  of proceedings?

What is the John Key-led government afraid of?

C’mon, Mr Prime Minister, we thought you luvved photo-ops?

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Additional

Politics-Free Zone? “Tui” time!

State Media Bans Dissident!

National’s popularity takes a dive

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BS is right

The verdict of the Broadcasting Standards Authority on the Prime Minister’s recent one-hour on Radio Live is in,

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Source

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This has to be one of the most gormlessly  naive decisions from a government watchdog in memory.

Of course it was an election programme – it’s election year, for god’s sakes. Do the simple folk at the BSA really, really, really think that the Prime Minister took an hour (plus travel-time to and from the studio) out of his busy schedule to appear on a major radio station out of the goodness of his heart? Because he had a spare few hours up his sleeve? Because he had nothing better to do that day?

Was the Prime Minister  on the BBQ with Prince William because the government couldn’t find someone to cook the meat?

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Did John Key mince up and down a catwalk because the parade organisers had run out of professional models to wear the apparel?

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Oh, puh-leese!

They were all election programmes. Just as kissing babies, shaking hands, mincing on a fashion catwalk, and RWC photo ops are election programmes.

To the simple folk at the BSA: when the Prime Minister does something in public, it is done for various reasons. One such reason is to promote himself in his leadership role. Politicians do that in many ways; opening a new public facility by ribbon-cutting cutting; planting a tree; and appearing in the media doing interesting things.

These are all designed to positively promote the image of the political figure as a “decent, down-to-earth person”.

That the BSA did not understand this is simply mind-numbing.

BSA stands for Broadcasting Standards Authority.

It can just as well stand for Bull Shit, eh?

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Related

Politics-Free Zone? “Tui” time!

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Oh for Christs’ sakes, what next???

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More to come.

But seriously, Mr Prime Minister, we can’t afford any more your your government’s “fiscal prudence”!!!

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