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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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Wishing Death Upon Him…

21 December 2011 4 comments

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A week or two ago, I happened to catch a segment of    Lindsay Perigo’s TV blog,  “Perigo!“, on Stratos TV.  It is a Libertarian response to  Bomber Bradbury’s more left-wing “Citizen A” and “War on News”, on the same network.

Lindsay Perigo holds some views that are similar to mine – and others that are  diametrically opposed. It’s all part of the fascinating, grand political rainbow upon which we all move.

The episode in question was a repeat  of one broadcast by Stratos TV on  July 12, 2011, and was Perigo’s commemoration of the passing of Roger Kerr, Chief Executive of the Business Roundtable.

In part, Perigo said this,

When Roger’s illness was made public, there was an outpouring of that unique kind of hatred only the Left are capable of. One poster on one political blog said:

He is getting what he deserves.

Millions of ordinary Kiwis have suffered because of HIS greed and desire to turn us all into a nation of slaves.

Let’s see you try to take all your money with you now, you TRAITOR.

This is why God exists, BECAUSE there MUST be a hell for evil of the likes of Roger Kerr, Ruth Richardson, Jenny Shipley, Rodger Douglas, etc etc.

Actually, there is a place beyond hate, (which is how ordinary Germans felt about Jews), caused by years of hardship and suffering), and it is where my reaction to Roger Kerr, et al is, and I would quite happily send the Business Round Table to the gas chambers.

And their families too. Why? Because you MUST get the evil OUT of the gene pool.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we’re up against. Generations of New Zealanders conditioned to believe they shouldn’t have to pay for anything; the world via the government owes them a living and any expectation they should make any effort themselves is a cosmic impertinence. Government should be all-providing … and all-powerful. Not merely mediocrity but sub-mediocrity is the goal … and those who would beckon us to a higher path should be gassed and damned to hell for it. This envy-and-hate-ridden, mindless, soulless and soul-destroying mentality brought us to the brink of catastrophe in 1984 and is threatening to do so again. Roger Kerr has fought the good fight against it for decades.

Whatever they may have said about him, most of his detractors, who are legion, have grudgingly, respected him. In their hearts they know he’s right. The prosperity of all us depends on wealth creation, and wealth creation flourishes under conditions of small government, minimal regulation and low taxes, underpinned by personal freedom and responsibility. Hanker though they might for the former Soviet Union or East Germany, the present-day North Korea or Zimbabwe, the socialists know that if prosperity rather than equality of destitution is our aim, then the Roger Kerrs of this world are … on the money.” – Source

At about this point, I switched channel. Not because I disagreed with certain aspects of Perigo’s views – but because in my view he was exploiting Kerr’s death to “have a go” at the Left. Quite distasteful. Bad form.

And I say that as a left-winger who disagreed with much of Kerr’s views.

However, the comment made by the “left winger”, that Perigo quoted, was  somewhat… familiar. So I employed that great Oracle of the  21st Century – Google.

And I discovered from whence that derisory comment had emanated from. It  most certainly was  not a “Blog” – leftwing or otherwise.

It was from a messageboard belonging to “Trademe“.

Yes, folks, that great icon of  innovative, Kiwi capitalism; Trademe. Here’s the link to a website that has ‘captured’ and stored that particular Thread, entitled simply, “Roger Kerr“. The comment was actually made by an anonymous User, “321mat”, in Reply 2 – though it is visible only as a “reply-to-reply 2″, under a post made by Username “Silas”.

I remember the post from “321mat” quite clearly. I myself recall posting on that same Thread (which has not been ‘captured’ by this website, “boardreader.com”). I made my own views quite clear; one may disagree with Kerr’s political opinions, but to wish him dead was simply  unacceptable. By all means let us be passionate in our views – but not psychotically so.

Wishing Kerr dead was as obscene as Cameron Slater wishing the same on Winston Peters, as he did today,

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Source

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I would add that I am no fan of Winston Peters. In fact, during the late 1990s I was a trenchant critic of him; his Party; and his fellow NZ First MPs. But I cannot recall ever wishing him to fall under a bus or similar fate. There is a vast gulf of difference between opposing the man’s ideas and actions – and desiring his demise.

Perigo might care to reflect that it is an unfortunate fact of life that fantatics exist in all religions;  in every political grouping; and throughout the left-right spectrum. This does not reduce the possible validity of a  philosophy – it simply means that disturbed individuals tend to gravitate to more extremist religious/political groupings.

That, Mr Perigo, is what we’re up against…

… extremists.

… and political commentators who use the death of a public figure to “have a go“.

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Sources

Boardreader: Thread – Roger Kerr (originally published on Trademe)

Roger Kerr Special—Peritorial: Capitalism Derangement Syndrome

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National’s Standards: F-minus

21 December 2011 2 comments

Former education minister, Anne Tolley, and John Key have some serious explaining to do,

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It is a serious matter for a Minister of the Crown to allege that a news-media story has been fabricated. Aside from being potentially slanderous – it is a distasteful mis-use of ministerial power. It is State power attempting to intimidate and destroy the credibility of the media.

This is Third World, banana-republic stuff.

It is not what we expect from our elected representative. (And make no mistake, MPs are our elected representatives – well-paid civil servants.)

Some background,

John Hone Riiwi Toia Mutu and wife Debroah Anne Mutu have been deregistered as teachers and ordered to pay $20,000 each in costs after a hearing by the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal.

Mrs Mutu was a principal at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe in 2004 when her husband, who was a teacher at the school, was found on a mattress with a 15-year-old student.

Mrs Mutu tore up the student’s written complaint about the incident, which occurred when she was home alone.

Mr Mutu was suspended by the school’s board of trustees in 2007 and his wife resigned in 2008, but she was later employed as a principal at a Kaitaia school before being appointed one of the Education Ministry’s 46 student achievement practitioners.

The practitioners are ministry-appointed experts sent into schools to help them implement national standards.

Labour has accused Mrs Tolley of misleading Parliament and the public after education spokeswoman Sue Moroney raised questions at the final question time last term on October 6.

Mrs Tolley replied, saying “that principal has never been suspended”.

A ministry spokesman said the information it had provided Mrs Tolley “at the time was correct” and it became aware of the allegations against Mrs Mutu only subsequently, when she appeared before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal a few days later.

“The minister did not know at the time she answered questions in the House that Mrs Mutu had been stood down.

“Debroah Mutu had not fully disclosed the serious nature and extent of the charge against her to the ministry at any time prior to October 10.”

The ministry terminated Mrs Mutu’s practitioner role when it learnt she was before the tribunal, the spokesman said. It had since reviewed its secondment process.” – Source

This raises several issues,

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  • If, as a ministry of education spokesman claimed, “the information it had provided Mrs Tolley “at the time was correct” and it became aware of the allegations against Mrs Mutu only subsequently, when she appeared before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal a few days later” – why did Tolley not issue a correction in the House at the first available opportunity?
  • Key was asked if Tolley should have issued a correction  when she discovered the principal had been stood down and Key replied,  “That’s one option always available to a minister to make sure they correct that.”
  • Will Tolley be issuing an apology to Radio NZ?
  • How does the apparent incompetence of the Ministry of Education relate to this government’s on-going cuts to civil servants? Are we going to see more of these horrendous mistakes as National makes further cuts to government departments – until their efficiency is serious degraded to such a level that they cannot function in any meaningful fasion?
  • And is this how the leaky homes fiasco  and the down-grading of the mining safety Inspecorate began?

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Conclusions based on public information seems to indicate the following;

  1. Anne Tolley mis-led Parliament by making statements denying that the Mutu’s had been struck off.
  2. Tolley’s intemperate remarks attacking Radio NZ were an abuse of ministerial power.
  3. Tolley was advised within a week about the Mutu’s being struck off – and did nothing about it. Despite knowing the true situation, she made no effort to correct her earlier statement to the House.
  4. The effectiveness of the Ministry of Education, and other government departments, may be threatened as ideologically-driven cutbacks began to have inevitable consequences to public service  competance and productivity.

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Considering that Ms Tolley is now Minister of Police, I believe the public need to be confident that she is competant and not prone to lashing out at news media who raise valid issues.

This blogger considers that she is not up to the task, and should stand down.

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Additional

Tolley ‘didn’t know of charges’

Not much festive cheer for MPs’ staff

MPs get pay rise package of $7000

Further scrutiny of Tolley’s Mutu answer

National MPs: Anne Tolley

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John Key, Minister for Tourism, MIA

20 December 2011 4 comments

John Key is Prime Minister of New Zealand.

You wouldn’t believe it – but he’s also Minister for Tourism,

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Source

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As Prime Minister, he has been an almost omni-present figure on television, radio, internet, print media, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

As Minister for Tourism, though, his presence has been more akin to a human “stealth-politician“. One has to think very, very, very hard to actually recall any achievements that Key has made in his role.

In fact… he has achieved practically nothing.

Even his cherished “baby“, the nationwide cycleway, has not been the outstanding achievement he proudly predicted it would be,

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs. ” – Source

It is worthwhile considering that of sixteen tourism-related press releases issued since February 2010 to December of this year, Key’s office was responsible for only eight. The remainder (twelve) came from then-associate Tourism Minister, Jonathan Coleman’s office. Source

And when it came to tourism-related  speeches made on this ministerial portfolio;  four were made by Jonathan Coleman; and three, in total,  were made by John Key  since his victory speech on 8 November 2008.  [1], [2], [3]

Not exactly an over-exertion on Key’s part. In fact, it’s a mediocre performance.

Perhaps the most extraordinary contradiction  of Key’s tenure as Crown minister is that he appears to be Minister of Hawaiian Tourism.

Every year, John Key takes his family – not to a New Zealand destination – but to his  holiday residence on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Personally, I wouldn’t  care a jot if John Key was Minister of Housing or Energy or Mushroom Farming – his choice of holiday destination would be irrelevant.

But Key is Minister of Tourism. His brief is to advocate on behalf of New Zealand and to promote this country as every holidaymakers’ first destination-choice.  As Key himself stated in a speech to the Hotel Industry Conference on  14 May, 2009,

It is a privilege to be New Zealand’s Minister of Tourism, to lead tourism in our beautiful country, and to promote our incredible scenery, our fine food and wine, our rich Maori culture, and the 100% pure experience.

Tourism is one of New Zealand’s most interesting industries. It has many different operators and many different customers.

And its success is hugely important for our future. Already, one-in-ten working New Zealanders are employed in the tourism sector. It accounts for around one dollar in every five of our export earnings. And it makes up about 10% of our economy.

We need to keep this in mind, because it shows just how much we stand to gain if our tourism industry keeps lifting its game.” – Source

I can’t see John Key promoting New Zealand from a beach in Hawaii.

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It’s not exactly a Vote of Confidence in our own tourist  industry if our own leader takes of to overseas destinations. What signal does that send to others – that a beach on Maui is more desirable than Ninety Mile Beach or the Marlborough Sounds in NZ?

By contrast, his predecessor, Helen Clark, routinely holidayed locally. Her tramping trips into our incredible scenic wilderness – which Key refers to in his comment above – were legendary.

We should remember the excellent Colenso advertising campaign in 1984, which encouraged New Zealanders “Don’t Leave Home Till You’ve Seen The Country“.

If John Key is serious about encouraging tourism to “lift it’s game”,  he definitely needs to  either take the role more seriously – or pass the portfolio on to one of his colleagues.

Preferably one who actually enjoys holidaying in our own country.

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Additional

Politicians relax with family

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The Story of Asset Sales – In Very, Very Simple Terms.

16 December 2011 Comments off

National’s plan’s to sell of our state assets – starting with Mighty River Power – doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s very simple to explain…

Once upon a time…

… our Dear Leader was being driven through his Kingdom of New Sheepland. He decided to stop and address his loyal serfs  subjects,

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He had a very busy day, but he still found time to do lotsa nice prime ministrary stuff with us. What a luvly Dear Leader he is. He is so kind, he  even gave his empty coffee cup to a nearby serf  subject, to take home for the little subject-children to play with. What a jolly nice Dear Leader he is,

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Once inside the vast ‘Moonbeam’ auditorium, named after Dear Leader’s favourite pet, he  was welcomed by his adoring serfs  subjects, with rapturous applause,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!"

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Dear Leader greeted them all,  with a gentle smile and wave,

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Dear Leader then told the excited throng that he had an announcement to make,

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"I have an announcement to make!"

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The good, simple serfs folk of New Sheepland waited in anticipation. After so many decades, was the much-promised wealth about to trickle down upon them?

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Dear Leader then said,

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"My loyal serfs, er, I mean subjects! I have decided that the power generators that you have all slaved, er, worked so hard to build, can now be yours!"

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The loyal serfs  subjects erupted with rapturous applause! The wealth they had worked all their lives to build, would now belong to them. Everyone was happy,

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"Hooray!"

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Dear Leader then cheerily added,

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"Yes, for only a week's wages, you'll be able to buy your very own SHARES in Mighty River Power! How cool is that, my Loyal Subjects!"

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The serfs Loyal Subjects paused, stunned, and one brave mud-caked fellow timidly asked,

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"Wha-?!?! But, Dear Leader - "Mighty River Power belongs to us, already! We built it!"

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Dear Leader dismissed the serf’s  loyal subjects concerns with deep, heartfelt, empathy,

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"Shhhh! Now, now, muddy little man! This will be your chance to own it. Otherwise, the Big Bad Ogres from a far away land will come and take it away for themselves!"

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Another serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"What 'ogres'?"

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Dear Leader replied (just ever so little crossly, because he had other places to visit and other  muddy serfs  Adoring Loyal Subjects to talk down to) ,

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"The Big Bad Ogres from far away! That's all you need to know! So if you don't buy Mighty River Power, they will!"

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The muddy serf Loyal Subject pressed the point with Dear Leader,

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"Oh really? Well here's an idea, Flash Harry! Don't sell the bloody thing! We already own it!"

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Dear Leader was not amused,

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{"Christ-on-a-stick, why do I bother...?"}

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Another even-more-muddy serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"Well, why sell it at all? What'll you do with the money?"

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Dear Leader beamed and replied authoritively to the mud-caked serf Loyal Subject,

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"Tax cuts, my little muddy Subject! Tax cuts!"

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To which, all of Dear Leader’s Loyal Serfs Subjects gave a resounding cheer,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!!"

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But the Muddy Little Serf Peasant woman Loyal Subject seemed suspicious,

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"What tax cuts? How much do we get?"

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Dear Leader smiled benignly, making a mental note to place this woman on the International Terrorist WatchList. She was just too damn lippy.  He said in a very patient, almost (creepy) uncle-sort of way,

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"Everyone will get a tax cut, Good Lady! Whether you're a serf, er, worker or a Lord! Everyone!

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The Muddied and Quite Smelly Serf Peasant Lady Loyal Subject raised an eye-brow in a very Spock-like fashion, and asked,

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"Oh yeah?! And how much do the Lords get, then, eh?"

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Dear Leader replied, sternly, and hoping that one of his Diplomatic Protection Squad would “accidentally ” taser this woman,

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"The Lords and Ladies of the Manors of the land will recieve 100 bars of gold, and a bushel of emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. Also, several million in US dollars, deposited into their Swiss Bank accounts. Anything else, peasant woman?"

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The Peasant Woman’s boyfriend,  Barry, looked up and asked,

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"Yeah? What do we get?"

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Dear Leader replied,

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"If you behave, you'll get a balloon."

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The peasant woman (her name was Susan), demanded,

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"A balloon?! How is that fair???"

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Dear Leader smiled; his special, somewhat menacing shark-smile, and replied slowly,

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"It's not. But you voted for me. Any other questions, Loyal Subject?"

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Clutching at a sod of earth,  Susan said,

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"Yeah. I have one."

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"What is it?"

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"Can I have a yellow balloon?"

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Moral: If you voted National – what did you expect? Just be happy with the balloon you got.

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Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Asset Sales

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Haere ra, Carmen

16 December 2011 1 comment

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Full Story

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You got my vote, Carmen. You were one of those special people; unique and your own person.

The world is a slightly lesser place because of your passing.

Farewell…   

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Categories: People Being People Tags: ,

Good onya, mate…

16 December 2011 1 comment

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Full Story

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The problem I have with these “Honours” is that the public have no say in the matter.

As far as I can see, they are issued to politicians and wealthy businesspeople – not exactly community-minded, and often on dubious grounds.

I’d be more inclined to offer these Honours to the folks working in our community, helping the vulnerable; mentally unwell; troubled children; abused women and families… the ones who pick up the pieces from negligent government policies.

For example, Women’s Refuge which this year suffered an $800,000 cut from government – whilst the NZ Defence Force received $20 million funding for advertising. “Advertising“?!?!

Personally, I’d rather see an Honour given to Bryan Bruce who recently produced the excellent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty“. Bruce has earned our respect for his diligence in reminding us that NZ faces some seriously critical problems surrounding  poverty.

If that doesn’t merit recognition – what does?

As for Ritchie McCaw – I wish him a long and successful career. He’s an excellent role-model for our young folk. (And a good sportsperson as well.)

Sometimes, the best recognition doesn’t need a title.

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Once Were Warm-hearted…

16 December 2011 10 comments

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Once upon a time…

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1935 First Labour government takes office

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The first Labour government assumed office as a result of its landslide victory in November’s general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, it is best remembered for its landmark social welfare reforms.

One of the most significant aspects of this welfare policy was the 1938 Social Security Act, which has been described as ‘the greatest political achievement in the country’s history’. The Act combined the introduction of a free-at-the-point-of-use health system with a comprehensive array of welfare benefits. It was financed by a tax surcharge of one shilling in the pound (5%). The family benefit was extended to all mothers irrespective of the family’s income, increasing the number of allowances overnight from 42,600 to 230,000. This policy, which was often described as looking after New Zealanders from the ‘cradle to the grave’, was a key factor keeping Labour in power until 1949.

- nzhistory.net.nz

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Which led to the beginnings of our modern society – a society which placed a high value on fairness; healthy families; and giving children every opportunity to grow up healthy. It truly was a concept of “no child left behind” – but put into practice and not just empty rhetoric,

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The family in the 1930s and ’40s

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The need for the New Zealand government to promote national interests during the Depression and the Second World War created a renewed appreciation of the role of the family within society. From 1935 the Labour government’s social policies supported young families with children, and from the 1940s there was an emphasis on preventative child welfare.

Much of this concern for children and their families stemmed from the perceived need to maintain a healthy nation: one capable of providing robust workers and, if necessary, soldiers for defence. It was also felt, in the spirit of egalitarianism, that everyone should have access to the nation’s resources.

Housing

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By the early 1940s there was a serious shortage of adequate housing in inner-city areas. A ‘needy families’ scheme, administered by the Child Welfare Branch, was set up in 1941. This provided assistance, primarily by re-housing large or poor families to maintain the household unit. By 1946 the scheme had helped over 900 families and more than 5000 children.

The Family Benefit

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In October 1945, Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash introduced legislation for the Universal Family Benefit. The maternal figure of the family was to be sole beneficiary. William (Bill) Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, explained: ‘We have to create such enthusiasm for the service the mother renders, that it will be lifted to the highest pinnacles of service in the nation.’ This benefit and other measures such as cheap housing and a well-funded health system did much to contribute to stability of household income and, in turn, to raise living standards.

- nzhistory.net.nz

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Which in turn led to this, perhaps one of the most ambitious programmes to lift the health of our nation’s children,

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1937: Free Milk Every Morning

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Young New Zealanders once lined up for a free bottle of milk at school every morning. This scheme was introduced in 1937 to help children who had become undernourished during the Depression. It was also enthusiastically supported by famous dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, when he visited this country in 1934. And so, for the next 30 years, school children sat down for their daily half-pint. Crates of bottles were carried into the classroom by official milk monitors, who were also responsible for collecting up the empties after the session. Occasionally, an older amber glass bottle would arrive with the morning delivery and prove an attraction for keen consumers.

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Linton schoolboys delivering the school milk c. 1941.

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School milk bottles in the 1950s had cardboard tops which had a small hole for the straw and were often put to further use. Lengths of colourful wool were wound tightly around a pair of these cardboard discs to produce a decorative pom-pom.

In the 1960s 3,500,000 gallons of milk was distributed to the schools of New Zealand each year, but the value of the scheme was now being questioned. There were mixed views on the matter; some felt it had become unnecessary and was a disruption to the class, while others claimed that a number of New Zealand children still came to school without an adequate breakfast…

- kiwianatown.co.nz

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1967: End of free school milk

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…  The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 ml) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to over 80% of schoolchildren. For a few years during the Second World War, pupils also received an apple a day.

The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it on cost grounds — and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk…

- www.nzhistory.net.nz

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I’m of the age where I can vaguely recall the crates of milk left in the concrete “pill-box” at my Primary School. I recall the “powerful” position of the Milk Monitor… and using the straws as make-shift blow-guns to fire small paper darts at my near-by class-mates.

It is interesting to consider that by 1967, the government-of-the-day decided that school milk was no longer required. Perhaps Keith Holyoake, the Prime Minister of the day, considered that it was a relic from a by-gone age of Depression, poverty, and extreme childhood health-problems that by the mid-1960s were but a distant memory.

New Zealand in the 1960s was healthy; single-incomes were sufficient to live on; and the country exported more than it earned because of our special relationship with Great Britain. But all this was to change…

  • Britain entered the EEC in 1973, impacting on our sheep-meat trade with that country. Suddenly we had lost our  major export market.
  • The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 drove our balance of payments into the red, as we struggled to cope with  higher and higher fuel-prices.
  • Property prices skyrocketed in 1979, as people abandoned the outer suburbs and satellite-towns, in favour of inner-suburbs, to cut down on fuel costs.
  • Inflation soared, unemployed rose.
  • And in 1984, New Zealand elected a Labour Government with a secret agenda to implement neo-liberal “reforms” to create a free-market; reduce and eliminate trade trariffs; implement a  massive programme to sell state assets; and “reduce government expenditure” (ie; cut services).

We were assured that the implrementation of these “reforms” would generate wealth and that this would “trickle down” to lower socio-economic (ie, poor people) groups in our society.

The rest, I think, we can all remember without too much trouble.

“Trickle down” has proven to be a singularly poor joke – without much of a punch-line.

Wealth has certainly been generated – at the top.

We went from one income to double-incomes to maintain a household. Now even that is insufficient for many families.

Seven tax cuts have benefitted mainly high-income earners and the wealthy.

And wealth disparity has become so bad that even the OECD has taken notice and commented on it, in a recent report.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has his own thoughts on why we having worsening poverty in our once egalitarian country,

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.” – John Key, 17 Feb 2011

Thank you for that, Dear Leader.  By the way, how is your  pay increase of $11,000 p.a. that you were recently given?

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How is it that we have arrived at a situation where, once again, we are returning to 1937 – and having to resurrect milk-in-schools?

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Full Story

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Full credit and kudos to Fonterra for going ahead with this plan.  There are many low-income families that find it hard to buy sufficient quantities of good, wholesome, nutritious food for everyone. After rent, power, rates, phone, etc, is paid for, food is usually at the bottom of the list.

This is especially so for the 90,000+ people who have lost their jobs in the last four years as the global recession hit our economy and impacted on communities.

However, ingrained poverty has been with us since the 1980s, and many of the gains of the last century have been lost.

Little wonder that Bryan Bruce’s recent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty” generated such a heavy, nationwide response.  Bryan Bruce laid it out for all to see, that poverty had returned to this country and that governments had no idea how to address this growing crisis. Or were unwilling to.

Clearly, we have a choice in front of us. Do we continue down our present course, and keep hoping for the best? Or admit that policies over the last thirty years have been a failure;  change tack; and proactively address the root causes of wealthy disparity and income gaps?

If the latter, then we have the wrong government in power to make good on three decades of failed economic policies.

Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning (16 December), and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring,

Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Why has the government not set measures in place – that it expects of every other government department to assess what value they give back to taxpaters?

And how does English’s rejection of measures compare with the National-ACT coalition agreement which stated, in part,

Key features of the agreement are:

• Continuation of ACT’s focus during the last term on publicly monitoring progress on improving the country’s economy wide performance using international benchmarks, and building on the work of the 2025 Taskforce, with a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the progress being made to improve the quality of institutions and policies, raise productivity, and reduce the income gap with Australia.Source

So the “country’s economy wide performance” will be measured using “international benchmarks” – but the Ministerial Committee on Poverty “won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures“?

Ok, got it.

We’ve got that, if anything, it is apparent that the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” is simply going to be another talk-fest, along the lines of the “Jobs Summit” in early 2009. Does anyone recall how many jobs came out of that “summit”? Perhaps this many.

At most, the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” appears to be little more than a sop to  Maori Party members, to justify the decision of party leaders to coalesce with National.

So here we are: New Zealand, circa 2011A.D.  Poverty. Low incomes. School milk. Growing wealth gap. New Zealanders migrating en masse to Australia. And paralysis/inertia in  our political leaders.

Seventysix years after Michael Joseph Savage implemented radical, bold, policies to create a new, egalitarian society – we are back at Square One.

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SAD STATISTICS

Children who go to school without breakfast – 17 per cent.

Households with children which run out of food – 22 per cent.

Households with children who use food banks – 10 per cent.

Source: Ministry of Health 2003 survey of 3000 children aged 5-14

Source

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Postscript

To all the food-faddists, right wing reactionaries and Me First people – your negative reaction to Fonterra’s plan to reintroduce milk to low-decile schools is simply apalling. Your knee-jerk hostility is not only unhelpful – but is a stark illustration as to why this once healthy and wealthy country is slipping further down on nearly every international and local  indicator-ranking.

Food faddists:  If you think milk is evil – fine. Don’t drink it. But leave our kids alone. They have the rest of their lives to live, whilst your particular food-fetishes come and go with the latest seasonal-fad. Their growing bodies need the calcium, vitamins A, D, etc, and other nutritional benefits of this simple food. Children cannot live on fresh air and sunshine  alone.

Right wing reactionaries: New Zealand has been the experimental “hot house” for neo-liberal, free market policies, since 1984. That’s about 28 years. In that time, the top income earners and 150 Rich Listers have increased their wealth. The rest of society has stayed still or gone backwards.

Latest reports confirm that the wealth-gap continues to widen – and you can’t dismiss  the OECD as some dastardly socialist satrap.

How much longer before this experiment is labelled a failure?

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Additional

Govt likely to back milk inquiry

Minister seeks parliamentary milk price probe

Woolworths lifts NZ supermarket earnings

Special inquiry into milk prices opens today

Soft drinks win in milk debate

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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Waka vandalism heartbreaking! Time to pitch in and help!

15 December 2011 32 comments

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Full Story

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Anyone wanting to pitch in and help with a donation would be helping out immensely!

Details are;

Account name: Te Rau o te Rangi ki Otaki

Account no: 38 9011 0573809 00

Bank: Kiwibank

Every bit helps! Let’s give these kids a hand!

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Some thoughts on the anti-MMP campaign

15 December 2011 1 comment

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With the referendum come and gone, it’s worthwhile looking back at the anti-MMP clique,  the so-called “Vote for Change“.

As far as campaigns go, “Vote for Change” had to be one of the most amateurish in living memory.

First, it was uncovered that “Vote for Change” was to be organised by National and ACT apparatchiks. People like Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Jordan Williams – all deeply connected or associated,  in one way or another, with right wing politics,

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If those revelations were deliberately “leaked” to the media for free publicity – it was not a “good look” to let the public know that “Vote for Change” was a front-organisation for National and ACT.

If that leak was not authorised, then someone in the “Vote for Change” camp was not happy. An unhappy camper was not a very auspicious start.

Then, it was discovered by another blogger, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, of “Tumeke”, that one of “Vote for Change’s” supporters was a white-supremacist who advocated nazi-style racial separation,

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Vote for Change” was quickly developing an image as an elitist club for assorted right wingers.

The only exception to “Vote for Change’s” roll call of conservative businesspeople; right wing politicians; and National/ACT activists was former Labour Party president and Waitakere mayor, Bob Harvey.

But he quickly realised the political bed-fellows he was associating with, and made his own call to quit,

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Full Story

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These were fatal blows to the anti-MMP lobby group. They never really recovered from these gaffes and the public perception was of a conservative organisation that was wanting to take New Zealand backward, to the days of single-party Parliamentary rule.

Even “Vote for Change’s” announcement on 29 October that their group had chosen SM (Supplementary Member) to promote as an alternative to MMP was seen by many as a return to FPP-by-the-back-door. It was another blow to their credibility; “Vote for Change” was not advocating change at all.

It was a strategic mistake for “Vote for Change” to promote SM. SM was the least known of all electoral systems, and in the 1992 referendum had polled the lowest at just over 5%.

If  “Vote for Change” had really wanted change – they should have chosen STV. But they did not – STV is also a proportional system and that is the last thing Williams, Lusk, Farrar, et al wanted for New Zealand.

It was blindingly obvious that their  agenda was to destroy any semblance of multi-party government and replace proportional representation with a system that would allow for single-party rule.

They were seeking absolute power for National.

Most people, I believe got this. Older, Baby Boomers, of a liberal persuasion, had unpleasant memories of the outrageous  abuses of power by Muldoon, Douglas, Bolger,  Richardson, et al.

Younger people who had no experience of FPP regimes most likely had no interest in a system that favoured only two parties and reduced their choices. (Neo-liberals, in this respect, had successfully socially re-engineered NZ society to prefer choice over a two-party, take-it-or-leave-it, offering.)

Aside from National Party supporters, New Zealanders did not want to take A Giant Leap Backwards.  “Vote for Change” offered nothing except an old, discredited electoral system, and fear-mongering,

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Source

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Using Winston Peters as a scare-mongering tactic was not just clumsy – but evidence that “Vote for Change” had no real intellectual rigour in promoting their cause. Demonising one man – as disliked as he might be by some voters – is not really a sensible reason to throw out MMP and turn our entire electoral system upside down, on it’s head.

This was the tactics of spoilt children who could give no other reason to cater to their whims except, “do it -  or else!”.

Not exactly a  convincing  argument.

But perhaps the best example of a *facepalm* situation was having National Party candidate, Simon Bridges (now MP),  on their website,

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Source

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Bridges was positively fuming when he complained,

It gets under my goat that list MPs are not subject to direct democracy.  They’re chosen by a small power elite in each party, so MMP has taken power off the voter.”

FYI: Simon Bridges was #30 on National’s  Party List. Had he not won the electorate of  Tauranga, he would have returned to Parliament as a Party List MP.

That would’ve been interesting.

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Additional

Pundit: I’ve just been internalising a really complicated situation in my head

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Two camps…

14 December 2011 Leave a comment

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Which one should we be really horrified  at?

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Two worlds…

14 December 2011 Leave a comment

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Puts things into perspective, I think.

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One Little Blue Marble…

14 December 2011 Leave a comment

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Categories: Global, Social Issues

We have one year

14 December 2011 Leave a comment

… before John Key sells our first publicly-owned, state asset,

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Full Story

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In that one year, the government will be highly vulnerable to the following,

  • A growing public resentment and opposition to asset sales, putting pressure on National MPs – especially those like Nicky Wagner   (Majority: 47)  and  Nikki Kaye     (majority: 717 )    – who stand to lose their respective electorate because of narrow majorities.
  • Public pressure on Peter Dunne.
  • A defection from National’s ranks.
  • A by-election should one of National’s MPs be forced to resign for whatever reason. There were four by-elections, during the previous Parliamentary term.

John Key must be praying that every single one of his MPs remains healthy; scandal-free; and dedicated to the National Party.

It would take the loss of only one MP from National’s ranks for Key’s house-of-cards to come crashing down.

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Our own Christmas Grinch, MP for Northcote

14 December 2011 2 comments

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Sacking three of his five staff this close to Christmas?

Classy, Dr Coleman, real classy.

If this is how you reward loyalty and dedication, I’d hate to see what you do to staff who slack off. As for sacking someone who has been at your side for four years – I wonder what new staffers will be thinking? How much loyalty can you expect from people if they know they can be shafted at any moment, for expediency and “to make a step up”?

Not much, I’d wager.

Dr Coleman can’t claim that this is saving taxpayers’ money in one breath, when next he states,

This is the time to do it because if they get let go now they get a good package and this is when the jobs [in Parliament] come up.

”It would not be helping to wait until all the options have been exhausted. And people want to know.”

So basically what he is saying is that he has made them redundant; paid them three months pay-out;  and they may be able to apply and win new jobs for another MP?!

If this is saving us, the taxpayer, money – we’ll be broke by the end of the year. Especially if any of these people are rehired as “advisors” at $2,000 a day

I sincerely hope that other government MPs are not following Dr Coleman’s actions. It could end up a very expensive exercise – more expensive than Key’s wasteful spending on 34 new ministerial BMW limousines.

I’m hoping National doesn’t cancel Christmas this year as a further “cost cutting” exercise.

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Privatisation of our schools?!

13 December 2011 5 comments

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This bizarre policy was never presented to the public during the recent election campaign and is a patent privatisation-by-stealth.

National are implementing this crazy right wing policy as a time when New Zealanders are tired  of politics and the Christmas shopping season is nearly upon us.

It is also the time when the news media winds down.

In effect, National and ACT are pushing a quasi-privatisation agenda far greater in scope than anything John Key disclosed to the public.

The questions that now beg to be asked are,

  • How far is National planning to go in this second term?
  • What else is on the block for privatisation or semi-privatisation?
  • Will socially conscious, liberal-minded National MPs accept this? Or will one or two balk at this a-bridge-to-far step?
  • Will schools accept this extreme policy? Or will we be seeing wide-scale resistance to this policy in the education sector?

How will National hope to implement such a controversial policy when they had considerable opposition to National Standards?

And what mandate does National have for such a plan? The answer is: none whatsoever.

What is even more paradoxical is that “Charter Schools” is an American concept – and yet their education system lags far behind ours in a recent OECD report,

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New Zealand came seventh on the OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance, just below Canada and Singapore.

Our American cuzzies, by contrast, came fifteenth-equal with Poland and Iceland. The full rankings list can be seen here.

The obvious question that springs to mind is; why is National pursuing an education programme from a country that is lower down on an international ranking-list of educational outcomes? What possible gain is there from borrowing a system from a country that has worse outcomes than we do?

And why stop at a US system? Why not follow Kyrgyzstan, which is at the bottom of the OECD scale?

The only answer is that  National’s intention to adopt this dubious programme is based on ideology and nothing more. Like partial asset sales, National is banking on the free market and competition to improve education outcomes for our  low decile schools.

A laudible goal – but choosing a programme from a country that has education outcomes worse than ours? That is simply insane. Especially when, according to at least one comprehensive study, “Charter Schools” produce minimal improvements to education outcomes.

Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide. On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small

[abridged]

…Perhaps most revealing is the distribution of charter school effects relative to their immediate TPS comparison groups. Realistically, the relative standard of performance – whether charter schools are producing student outcomes that are at least as good as the schools in their community – is a fairly low threshold.

This study provides a level playing field for that test. The Quality Curve shows that there are a substantial number of charter schools that provide superior and outstanding results for their students; 17 percent of the charters in this study deliver learning gains that are better than the results that their TPS peers   achieve. These schools fulfill the promise of charter schools — both for the students they educate and for their collective demonstration that such schooling is feasible.

But the good news of the top performers is diminished by the preponderance of charter schools that do not perform to that high level. Thirty‐seven percent of the charters in this study produce learning gains that are significantly worse than what equivalent TPS students accomplish. This proportion is both alarming and regrettable. These underperformers put the better charter schools and the more general charter school promise at risk.” – Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, CA – http://credo.stanford.edu – June 2009

Yet again, we have a right wing government motre interested in  ideology than common sense.

“Charter schools” appears to be part of National’s secret agenda to transform schools into quasi-business models and transfer responsibility for management from the State, to private enterprise and organisations.

Our own educators seem thoroughly unimpressed,

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But even our American cuzzies seem to be viewing “Charter Schools” with suspicion,

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Full Story

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What are we going to cut and how’s that going to impact our students? How many teachers are we going to have to lay off, how many Kaplan programs are we going to get rid of, how many early childhood education programs are we going to have to cut?” asked Unified Board member David Reeves. Ibid

It seems that “Charter Schools” are not simply intended for low socio-economic areas.  Parents living in more affluent suburbs should take note of what may lie in store for them,

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Parents in Remuera, Khandallah, and Fendalton should take note, perhaps?

As with so many New Right “reforms”, it appears that ideology outweighs common-sense and communities are left to deal with the consequences of policies that have dire consequences and questionable outcomes.

This is the experiment that National is planning to dump on us.

The next three years will not be a happy time for this country, I fear.

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Additional

Listen to a representative of principals on Radio NZ Checkpoint

TVNZ Close-Up:  What is so special about Onehunga High School?

OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

Report: Charter School Performance in 16 States, CREDO, Stanford University, CA, USA

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

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Some thoughts on MMP…

13 December 2011 20 comments

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Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, helps to put up one of the first MMP billboards for the Keep MMP Campaign.

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With the referendum over, and the New Right assault on MMP defeated, it’s time to have a look at proposals  for changes to MMP…

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Waka-jumping Law

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It’s been suggested that we need a new “waka jumping” Law to prevent MPs from leaving their political party, once elected into Parliament.

This was a considerable problem in the 1996-99 Parliament, where MPs were deserting their home-Parties at a dizzying speed; Alemain Kopu from The Alliance; and eight MPs from NZ First.

However, since then, it has not been a problem and we’ve not seen such defections for over a decade. Two notable exceptions,

Turia, a junior minister, once informed that voting against the government would appear “incompatible” with holding ministerial rank, announced on April 30, 2004 her intention to resign from the Labour Party. Her resignation took effect on May 17, and she left parliament until she won a by-election in her Te Tai Hauauru seat two months later.” – Wikipedia

Hone Harawira’s  resignation from the Maori Party caused the Te Tai Tokerau by-election, held on 25 June 2011, which he won with a majority of 1117.”

My view is that a Waka Jumping Law is not required as  both Turia and Harawira resigned from Parliament, forcing by-elections which they both won.

Furthermore, there may come a time when an MP leaves his/her Party because a policy change is so radical and inimical to their Party’s original manifesto, that they cannot in good conscience continue to be a member.  Jim Anderton’s resignation from the Rogernomics-dominated Labour Government of the 1980s is a clear example.

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5% threshold

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There has been suggestion that the 5% threshold for Parties to gain seats in Parliament is too high.

In some countries that use various system of proportional representation, the thresholds are set low or are non-existant.  In Israel, the threshold is 2% (previously 1%). In Italy, the threshold is 4%.

If we lower the threshold, expect one or two additional smaller parties to win seats in Parliament. For example  (if my math is correct),

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Actual and Potential Seats Allocation in Parliament under Actual 5% Threshold and Possible 4% Threshold:

2008 General Election – Actual Results – 5% Threshold

Seats

2008 General Election – Theoretical Results – 4% Threshold

Seats

National

58

55

Labour

43

42

Green Party

9

9

ACT

5

5

Maori Party

5

5

Jim Anderton

1

1

Peter Dunne

1

1

NZ First

0

5

Total Seats in Parliament

122

123

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Under a 4% threshold, the addition of five seats for NZ First changes the seat allocations for National and Labour, and alters the dynamics of possible Coalition arrangements,

National + ACT + Dunne = 61

Labour + Greens + NZF = 57

The five Maori Party’s  seats becomes critical and effectively a “king maker” in this scenario,

National + ACT + Dunne + 5 MP = 66

Labour + Greens + NZF = 57

or

Labour + Greens + NZF + 5 MP = 62

National + ACT + Dunne = 61

Personally, I’m neutral when it comes to a 5% or 4% threshold, as both allow for representation for reasonable number of voters.

However, I would not favour a lower threshold, as that becomes overly complicated with numerous smaller parties gaining seats.

Voters are concerned enough with the mythical “tail-wagging-the-dog” bogeyman, without adding just cause to their misinformed belief. I would want to see MMP embedded more solidly in our collective consciousness before going below a 4% threshold.

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Electorate Seat Threshold/Dispensation

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As well as the 5%  Party threshold, there is a secondary “threshold” – the Electorate Seat Win.

As the law currently stands, a Party must win 5% of the Party Vote to gain seats in the House. But, if a small Party wins an Electorate Seat, the 5% threshold is dispensed with. Extra MPs, from the small party’s Party List can enter Parliament, on the “coat tails” of the Electorate MP’s success.

(Hence why National supported John Banks’ efforts to win Epsom. )

This curious situation can result in the contradictory result where, in 2008, NZ First won 4.07% of the Party Votes – but gained no seats in Parliament because they did not cross the 5% threshold. At the same time, ACT won 3.65% of the Party Vote (less than NZ First) – but gained five seats in Parliament; one electorate and four Party List seats.

Because ACT’s Rodney Hide  had won an Electorate Seat, they gained a dispensation for the 5% threshold, and Hide brought four extra MPS into Parliament as a result.  (3.65% Party votes = 5 seats in Parliament)

It seems  manifestly unfair that ACT’s 85,496 Party Votes translated into 5 seats in Parliament – but NZ First’s 95,356 Party Votes got them no seats at all (because they didn’t cross the 5% threshold or win an Elecorate Seat).

It is my belief that the Electorate Seat Threshold/Dispensation be done away with. There seems no practical rationale for it’s existance and merely serves to throw up contradictory inconsistancies such the the example above.

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Electorate Candidates vs Party List Candidates

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This may well be the major debating issue for any reform of MMP; whether or not candidates should be able to stand for both an Electorate Seat and on the Party List as well.

Currently, a candidate for Party X can stand as an Electorate Candidate as well as have their name on his/her party’s Party List. Or, the same same may stand only as an Electorate Candidate – but not appear on the Party List. Or vice versa.

Some people have suggested that having a candidate stand in both an Electorate and on the Party List is somehow “undemocratic”. The most common disparagement is that “losing candidates sneak back in on the Party List“.

I disagree.

Not only is that criticism indicative of a lack of understanding of how MMP works – I suggest it is, in itself, a “sneaky” harking back to the days of FPP (First Past the Post), where the “winner takes all”.

Judging by electorate-by-electorate results, those who oppose MMP tend to be National Party supporters,

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Electorates that voted to Change from MMP

Electorate Vote to Keep MMP Vote to Change from MMP Preferred Alternative Winning Candidate
Bay Of Plenty

49.50%

50.50%

FPP – 48.4%

Tony Ryall (Nat)
Clutha-Southland

44.60%

55.40%

FPP – 58.1%

Bill English (Nat)
Helensville

46.60%

53.40%

FPP – 44.4%

John Key (Nat)
Hunua

46.40%

53.60%

FPP – 49.4%

Paul Hutchinson (Nat)
Kaikoura

49.60%

50.40%

FPP – 52.5%

Colin King (Nat)
North Shore

49.40%

50.60%

FPP – 37.9%

Maggie Barry (Nat)
Rangitata

48.30%

51.70%

FPP – 57.9%

Jo Goodhew (Nat)
Rodney

46.40%

53.60%

FPP – 44.9%

Mark Mitchell (Nat)
Selwyn

49.40%

50.60%

FPP – 50.8

Amy Adams (Nat)
Tamaki

47.30%

52.70%

FPP – 38.1

Simon O’Connor (Nat)
Taranaki-King Country

46.70%

53.30%

FPP – 53.3%

Shane Ardern (Nat)
Tukituki

49.80%

50.20%

FPP – 49.3%

Craig Foss (Nat)
Waikato

47.60%

52.40%

FPP – 52.1%

Lindsay Tisch (Nat)
Waitaki

47.60%

52.40%

FPP – 55.3%

Jacqui Dean (Nat

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Electorates that voted to Keep MMP – By Narrow 1%-4% Margin

Electorate Vote to Keep MMP Vote to Change from MMP Preferred Alternative Winning Candidate
Coromandel

50.30%

49.70%

FPP – 52.3% Scott Simpson (Nat)
East Coast Bays

51.30%

48.70%

FPP – 42.2% Murray McCully (Nat)
Epsom

50.10%

49.90%

SM – 35.9% John Banks (ACT)
Invercargill

50.80%

49.20%

FPP – 58.1% Eric Roy (Nat)
Napier

51.40%

48.60%

FPP – 49.3% Chris Tremain (Nat)
Northland

52.00%

48.00%

FPP – 50.8% Mike Sabin (Nat)
Pakuranga

51.10%

48.90%

FPP – 42.9% Maurice Williamson (Nat)
Rangitikei

50.70%

49.30%

FPP – 51.1% Ian McKelvie (Nat)
Taupo

50.50%

49.50%

FPP – 52.0% Louise Upston(Nat)
Tauranga

51.50%

48.50%

FPP – 45.9% Simon Bridges (Nat)
Waimakariri

51.10%

48.90%

FPP – 53.3% Kate Wilkinson (Nat)
Wairarapa

50.50%

49.50%

FPP – 51.9% John Hayes (Nat)

Sources for Data

Electorate Status

Referendum Data

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Not one single electorate that returned a Labour candidate voted to change from MMP.

Which is ironic, considering that the candidates who “sneak back in on the Party List” often tend to be National candidates – and often quite high ranking ministerial ones, at that.

Two cases-in-point; Paula Bennet (Nat) and Hekia Parata (Nat),

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Waitakere: Electorate & Party Vote Results

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Candidate Electorate Votes Party Votes Result
Carmel Sepuloni (Lab)

13,468

11,577

Electorate win to Lab
Paula Bennett (Nat

13,457

12,534

Party Vote win to Nat
Difference

Sepuloni +11

Bennett +957

Source for data

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Mana: Electorate & Party Vote Results

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Candidate Electorate Votes Party Votes Result
Kris Faafoi (Lab)

16,323

12,999

Electorate win to Lab
Hekia Parata (Nat)

14,093

13,754

Party Vote win to Nat
Difference

Faafoi +2,230

Parata +755

Source for data

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In both cases, each candidate did well, winning in separate categories of either Electorate Votes or Party Votes.

If  candidates were prevented  from standing in both Electorate and on Party Lists, then had Parata and Bennett stood only in their respective Electorates, both would be out of Parliament.

There appears to be no rational reason to ban candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms – except that it appears to be a reactionary resentment from some partisan voters against unsuccessful Electorate candidates from making it into Parliament – even though those same candidates appear to win more Party Votes than their opponants.

Claiming that Bennett and Parata have  “sneaked back in on the Party List” ignores the fact that both women won more Party Votes than their opponants. In effect, Bennett and Parata  earned their right to be returned to Parliament.

We should also consider that banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms could have unintended consequences;

  • Creating an unnecessary division between List and Electorate candidates that would serve no useful purpose, except to satisfy heavily partisan voters.
  • A return to the concept of “safe seats”, where prominent/popular candidates would stand in such “safe seats”, and less popular/prominent candidates would be nominated for more marginal seats, making  strategic placings of candidates  more likely.
  • More highly valued candidates would be List only candidates, as Parties would not want to risk losing certain talents on risky Electorate contests.
  • A marginalisation of List candidates at Electorate candidates-meetings. One might envisage community meetings where Electorate candidates are invited to address the public – but List Candidates are not, as they are not seen to “represent” any particular geographic area.

It appears to me that banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms actually creates unnecessary separation and  reduces our choice of candidates.

People who promote banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms may actually be shooting themselves in the foot. They may find that far from making MMP fairer, such an arbitrary separation of Electorate and List candidacies may have unintended consequences that they may regret.

Judging by comments on various internet Forums, it appears that most proponants of banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms are partisan National voters. They should take a moment to consider that at least two  high ranking Ministers (as well as others such as Chris Finlayson and Kate Wilkinson, in 2008) would no longer be in Parliament if  List and Electorate candidacies were separated.

As usual, the  Law of Unintended Consequences applies.

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Related stories

Public’s views on MMP must be heard

How to fix MMP

Electoral Commission: Results by Electorate for the 2011 Referendum on the Voting System

Electoral Commission: Official Count Results – Electorate Status


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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

Booze – it’s time for some common sense

12 December 2011 3 comments

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Full Story

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I sympathise with Newtown residents. This country has a glut of alcohol outlets, and most folk have had a gutsful.

The ready availability of cheap booze satisfies heavy drinkers; liquor companies; and naive libertarians, none of whom care greatly about communities – but I think it’s time that NZ called “time” on our growing liquor problems.

Enough is enough.

The “liberal pendulum” has swung too far to the “rights” of drunkeness and crime, and we need to get back to the simple notion of community responsibility.

No one is suggesting prohibition or returning to 6PM closing, but as a society it’s time we returned to moderation, balance, and a sense obligation to create safer communities.

It’s time that communities were allowed to regain control of their own neighbourhoods.

And it seems that many communities are doing precisely that,

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Full Story

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When 88 submissions were lodged, opposing the relicensing of Fantame Liquor Store, and people are sufficiently angry and galvanised  to take to the streets in protest – then that should be a clear indication that the community has had enough.

The growing community resistance to liquor outlets is cropping up throughout the country, and sometimes all it takes is for one courageous individual to take a stand and show leadership,

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Full Story

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Good on you, Mr Hawker. If New Zealand had more gutsy people like you, politicians would have to take heed of communities crying out for common sense decision-making  that make safer neighbourhoods – not create a preponderance of liquor outlets, selling cheap booze to hard-core drinkers at all hours of the day and night.

Jim Anderton, MP for Wigram (ret.), made an impassioned speech on this issue. I think he summed matters up quite nicely,

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Enough is enough – liquor outlet community protest

- Jim Anderton’s speech at liquor outlet community protest

20/08/11



Another liquor store is the last thing we need. Public drinking is a serious problem for this area. It’s got worse since the earthquakes closed the inner city. Just two weeks ago, four students were arrested, cars were vandalised and police were pelted with bottles in Riccarton.

How much of this behaviour do we have to take before we say it’s too much? It’s too hard for communities to oppose liquor outlets when we feel there are already too many in our neighbourhoods.

More places selling alcohol, a lower drinking age, and longer opening hours – it all adds up. It adds up to more alcohol abuse. It adds up to more harm to communities.

Communities are in a good position to judge for themselves whether there are too many places in an area to buy liquor.

Residents are good at gauging for themselves whether there are enough places.

But the law doesn’t give local communities enough say. The result is that it is too hard for a community to respond to increasing alcohol abuse.

You don’t have to be a wowser to say the rules are too heavily weighted in favour of alcohol. But ‘wowser’ and ‘zealot’ and the labels that the alcohol industry puts on anyone who expresses concern about the harm caused by alcohol – Sensible people like Doug Selman, from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago, and Ross Bell, from the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

Liquor lobbyists like the Hospitality Association say drinkers should take personal responsibility for their own actions. That sounds reasonable. But it is the opposite, and it’s just as cynical as the arguments the tobacco industry used to use.

Those who are addicted to alcohol or affected by it are generally the least well equipped to deal with it responsibly. The hospitality industry knows this only too well.

I often ask myself what some of those same people would say if their own children or family members became addicted to an illegal drug such as methamphetamine.

Would they blame the children alone, or would they put some responsibility on the dealers.

The same goes for the alcohol industry.

We have a serious alcohol problem in New Zealand.

Sixty per cent of criminal offences are committed when the offender is under the influence of alcohol. There are 1350 violent physical assaults which take place in New Zealand homes each week fuelled by alcohol abuse.

If we want less crime and safer streets, we need to make alcohol less available.

This community is taking action. Everyone here today is taking personal responsible for making this community safer. We deserve to be listened to. We are entitled to say enough is enough.

We don’t need more drinking nor more places to drink.

What we need are safer streets and more respect for the wishes of this community to control the number of liquor outlets in our neighbourhood. Source

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And just to put this issue into monetary terms (for those who give no credence to concepts of community), a BERL report on alcohol abuse revealed the following costs to tax-payers,

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Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

- Adrian Slack

Client: The Ministry of Health and ACC

Authors: Adrian Slack, Dr Ganesh Nana, Michael Webster, Fiona Stokes and Jiani Wu

Date: July 2009

This research estimates the social costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use, excluding tobacco, in New Zealand.  Harms related to drug use include a wide range of crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources.  Harmful use has both opportunity costs, which divert resources from alternative beneficial uses, and psychological or intangible costs, such as reduced quality or length of life.

The report provides four broad answers.  It estimates the:

  • total social costs from harmful drug use in 2005/06.

  • potential level of social costs that are avoidable.

  • cost to society stemming from alcohol and other drug-related injuries

  • social costs from harmful drug use borne by the government

The study shows that harmful drug use imposed a substantial cost on New Zealand in 2005/06.

  • Overall, harmful drug use in 2005/06 caused an estimated $6,525 million of social costs.

  • Harmful alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4,437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare.

  • Harmful other drug use was estimated to cost $1,427 million, of which $1,034 million were tangible costs.

  • Joint alcohol and other drug use that could not be separately allocated to one drug category cost a further $661 million. If the joint costs are split proportionately, total alcohol and total other drug costs equate to $4,939 million (over three quarters) and $1,585 million (just under one quarter).

  • Using estimates from international research, this study suggests that up to 50 percent ($3,260 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use may be avoidable.

  • The research indicated that 29.9 percent (or $1,951 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use result from injury.

  • The costs of harmful drug use from a government perspective amount to an estimated $1,602 million, or just over one third (35.1 percent) of the total tangible costs to society.  Source

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At least $4.4 billion lost in harmful  alcohol-related incidents. That’s $4.4 billion in tax-payers money. The cost by now is probably much higher.

Meanwhile, liquor companies continue to make huge profits selling their products.

Let’s be  honest; this country has a serious problem with alcohol abuse. The ready availability of cheap booze; late opening hours of bars; heavy advertising to promote a drinking culture – all contribute to problems of violence, property damage, lost productivity, added stresses on families; and preventable injuries and deaths.

This is not about peoples’ freedom to drink. This is about returning power to ordinary citizens and communities to say “enough is enough”; we don’t want our streets unsafe because of drunken idiots; our hospital A&E Wards filled with people who are half-dead with alcohol poisoning, or injured in fights; police resources stretched to the max dealing with drunkeness and alcohol-fueled crimes; and billions wasted on this problem.

We can curtail alcohol abuse in this country and still buy a bottle of wine to drink with our meals. Or go out on a Friday night for a quiet druink at our local. In fact, it may even be a safer, nicer experience.

But not if we’re going to continue down our current road of excess.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne has been a ‘busy’ lad, suppressing surveys with damning data,

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Full Story

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Peter Dunne – the same minister who passed an amendment to legislation to make “kronic” illegal within a matter of weeks.

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I guess we know where his priorities lie, eh? (Clue: not with alcohol abuse.)

Peter Dunne, and others like him in this National Government are irrelevant.

It’s up to communities to reassert their values and protect their neighbourhoods.

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Additional

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Full Story

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Perhaps this should be a case of Three Strikes – Permanent Loss of Licence?

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Source

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Additional

Dunne accused of keeping alcohol survey quiet

Stay away from our city, Croatian tells Kiwi drunks

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Related

A kronically inept government

Community Needs vs Business Demands

New Zealand 2011AD: Drunken Mayhem and a nice Family Day Out

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse

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Post mortem #5: Election results, coalition deals, and other matters…

10 December 2011 5 comments

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Electoral Commission official results;

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Source

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Source

Other results, including Electorate Seats

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At 61 seats out of 121, the National+Dunne+Banks Government has a bare one seat majority. My money is on this majority disappearing when the first by-election takes place. (Last term, there were four by-elections.)

The Maori Party, more than ever, finds itself in a position of considerable strength – and precarious vulnerability.

Odds are that this National Government will be far more right wing than the previous Administration, if policies announced thus far are any indication.  Does the Maori Party wish to be tarred with the same right-wing brush?

If so, it will suffer total electoral annihilation in 2014.

Because with a one seat majority, National can still push through asset sales; welfare “reforms”; semi-privatisation of schools; etc. The Maori Party will not be able to stop these  policies from being implemented, even if they vote against it.

So being a part of said National government, as a coalition partner will put them on a path for a hiding to nowhere.

Electoral annihilation. 2014. Guaranteed.

But by sitting on the cross-benches, a-la Greens and NZ First, the Maori Party will still be able to vote for policies they support and against policies they oppose – for precisely the same gain – but none of the side-effect of tarred-with-the-same-brush.

Then, when National loses it’s first seat in a by-election (or defection of an MP) – thereby reducing it’s numbers from 61 to 60 – the Maori Party will be well-placed to support a Labour-led Coalition.  It may then regain some of the electoral support it lost in November.

If the Maori Party is getting anything resembling decent political advice, it should arrive at precisely the same conclusions I have.

If not… Hāere ra, Maori Party, 2014.

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+++ Updates +++

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Full Story

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Prime Minister John Key says that “National does not need the Maori Party’s support but its three votes will be a big help“.

Oh, I’m sure it will be, Dear Leader.

As for the Maori Party, I guess they will be consigned to History’s rubbish bin, following Mauri Pacific and Mana Motuhake.

It beggers belief, that the Maori Party’s constituency is happy with this unholy alliance.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says the party only agreed to the deal after consulting its members.

He says it conducted over 40 meetings which were attended by more than 1000 people.

It was unanimous that we should continue to be at the table in the capacity that we were last time and that’s not just confidence and supply, it’s really a relationship accord with confidence and supply.”

Unanimous“?! More than 1,000 people were “unanimous” in supporting a coalition arrangement with National???

I find that somewhat hard to believe.

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Full Story

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The Maori Party has agreed to support the National Party on confidence and supply votes but is free to oppose it on all other matters, including partial asset sales.”

If  Sharples and Turia think that they will not be tainted with the same  brush of scorn that with be liberally applied to National (as well as Peter Dunne), then they are truly more naive than I thought possible.  Just because Sharples and Pita are ” free to oppose it on all other matters, including partial asset sales  ” will not absolve the Maori Party from the same oppobrium that will grow over the following three years, as it becomes apparent that this government implements right wing policies.

When John Key says that the Maori Party  “will not make any difference to the passage of the legislation because the 61 votes it has without the party’s support is still a majority” – he is showing his usual optimistic facade . He knows full well that his “majority” is one by-election or defection away from being utterly dependent to the Maori Party.

Listen to John Key on Radio NZ Morning Report

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Full Story

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A “Committee on Poverty” will be led by Deputy PM, Bill English, “and will issue progress reports on poverty twice a year”.

Well, excuse my scepticism, by I can really see a committee achieving a lot.

At the very least, I guess a committee will give jobs to those sitting on said committee.

This is a sop. Like committees and reports before it, this committee will achieve very little – if anything.

There have been countless reports, committees, Commissions, etc, in the past. Here is a list of some of them.

They have all come and gone and been forgotten. Meanwhile, joblessness; lack of good, affordable housing; the growing gap between poor and rich; etc, remain as indictments of a society that has gone seriously off the rails since the rogernomic-”reforms” of the late 1980s.

The “trickle down” theory not only has not worked, but the “trickle” has been a tsunami upwards.

If the Maori Party think that National has policies that will address growing poverty in this country, then then are more gullible  than I thought.

National is a right wing party, and as such right wing governments are not concerned with poverty. Their focus is purely on implementing “free market” policies;  minimal government; reducing social policies; selling state assets into private ownership;   “business-friendly”;  and lower taxes – especially for higher income earners.

This government will be a re-run of the last three years of the Bolger/Shipley administration in the late 1990s. That National government cut taxes; reduced social services; and csaw a widening disparity in incomes.

We are witnessing a reliving of recent history, which most folk seem to have forgotten.

The next three years will not be happy ones.

The flow of New Zealanders to Australia will become a flood.

And 1,058,638 voters may be sorry for voting for John Key.

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Additional

Chris Ford: An open letter to Labour’s new leadership team

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How To Lose Skilled Staff To Australia Made Stupidly Easy

10 December 2011 4 comments

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How do we go about making sure that we lose more skilled workers to Australia? Obviously losing 35,000 (net) New Zealanders to Australia isn’t enough. We must do better.

In an effort to help the National government (which 1,058,638 voters kindly helped re-elect) de-populate this country and boost Australia’s economy, MidCentral District Health Board took the contract to provide specialist medical testing from Canterbury Health Laboratories in Christchurch, and instead gave it to Auckland-based, LabPlus,

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Source

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Oh, jolly well done!

This achieves three strikes against workers in this country;

  • It removes job security. Obviously if your job can be taken away at the stroke of a pen, via a “contract”, and given to someone else in Auckland (or Sydney, or Mumbai, or Tashkent), then you can no longer plan for your future. Buying a house is out – you don’t know if you’ll be able to service a mortgage in a years’ time. Planning a family? Forget it – how will you  pay for Little Johnny or Jenny’s music lessons/soccer lessons/food/clothing/medical bills/education/orthodontic braces if your job is contracted to someone else? No home, no children, and probably no job in New Zealand?  Australia beckons.
  • Lower wages? Most likely. Service contracts are usually awarded to alternative providers because of lower costs – and wages constitute a hefty portion of business costs. So by driving down wages (as CMP Rangitikei/ANZCO meat processing company is trying to do to it’s workers, by cutting their wages by up to 20%), MidCentral District Health Board is assisting central government to drive down wages in New Zealand. (see details below) That will ‘motivate’ skilled workers to reconsider their “living arrangements.” Australia beckons.
  • Gutting Christchurch’s infra-structure? What two major earthquakes started, National intends to finish. For starters, the Nats have canned 167 full-time-equivalent teaching positions in Christchurch, effective next year. Next, the re-build is being slowed to a crawl by a lack of enrollments for trade training courses in  Christchurch. Of course, even if we train new tradespeople, Bill Englishl will ensure that wages are kept screwed down – therefore ensuring that builders, electricians, plumbers, glaziers, etc, heed the call to migrate to Australia.  Australia… beckons.

In case anyone is in doubt that taking away jobs from skilled workers won’t motivate them to give this country the ‘Big Flick‘, and leave for Australia – the following comparison of salaries for skilled Medical Laboratory Technicians and Scientists should remove that doubt,

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New Zealand – Medical Laboratory Technician

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Source

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Australia – Medical Laboratory Technician

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Source

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New Zealand – Medical Laboratory Scientist

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Source

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Australia – Medical Laboratory Scientist

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Source

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Medical Laboratory Workers Union president, Stewart Smith, says “staff are already leaving the sector because they are disheartened by the fickle way in which contracts are awarded“.

Of course.

It’s all part of the grand, “master plan” from neo-liberals to transfer the entire working-population of New Zealand to Australia. This should be quite apparent to anyone trying to figure out just WTF this country is doing to it’s workforce. (If anyone still believes in the fairy tale that National is actually trying to raise wages – they haven’t been paying attention.)

Does National really have a “master plan” to de-populate New Zealand?

Of course they do.

They just don’t know it.

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Additional Report

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Source

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Just what the  local  economy – hit hard by two major quakes – needs right now. More redunancies; more uncertainty; more upheavals in peoples’ lives.

And notice a lack of a certain Prime Minister who is nowhere to be seen on the ground, during this time?

Not many photo-ops when people are losing their jobs and having their lives turned upside down, I guess.

Workers at Hillside Railways Engineering, in South Dunedin, must know what it feels like,

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Australia beckons.

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Dunne’s Double Talk?

10 December 2011 3 comments

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As a part of coalition negotiations with John Key, quasi-National MP,  Peter Dunne, says there is no conflict between his new  role as Associate Conservation Minister and being an opponent of the use of 1080 poison. In a Radio NZ report he stated that,

[I] would like to see 1080 banned altogether but only when there are effective alternatives, for example better trapping methods.” – Source

Really? Are you quite certain of that, Mr Dunne?

Because his United Future website states a quite different position,

““UnitedFuture is generally opposed to the aerial application of 1080 unless it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that the terrain in the treatment area is such that it would be impossible to carry out a successful ground baiting operation and it is far enough from population centres to present no danger to the public,” said Mr Dunne.” – Source

And,

UnitedFuture believes that all New Zealanders have a birthright to enjoy our unique, diverse landscape. Our strong outdoor heritage is central to what it means to be a Kiwi.

Our key policies to achieve this are

…Curtailing the application of 1080 poison and replacing it with new and more environmentally friendly forms of pest-control.” – Source

 

Mr Dunne seems to be having a “bob each way” on this issue, depending on who his audience happens to be.  He appears to be attempting to pander to anti-1080 opponants (many of whom appear borderline hysterical or maniacal on this issue), whilst presenting himself as “moderate” to the general public.

The reality is that there is no real alternative to 1080 that is both economic to use and easy to disperse. Without 1080, this country’s bush would be quickly over-run with possum and rats,

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Possums eat a huge amount of vegetation and are also known to eat chicks and eggs.

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Peter Dunne most likely understands this – but is also looking over his shoulder at votes from the anti-1080 lobby group.  A classic case of a politician attempting to send different messages to different audiences.

This works… until the media puts a spotlight on such conflicting messages.

The hunters dislike 1080 as it impacts on their game-species (and hence why the hunting fraternity are so heavily involved in the anti-1080 lobby-group).

The real issue here is our choice,

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Perhaps Peter Dunne should be more concerned with our endangered wildlife, rather than scoring votes from fringe lobby groups.

 

Additional Reading

DoC: 1080 questions and answers

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ACT woefully behind the times?

10 December 2011 9 comments

ACT appears to be somewhat behind the times,  if their website is any indication,

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Source

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The above screenshot was taken this morning (Saturday, 10 December 2011).

Now, I’ve been known to be wrong in the past. Last time I think it was 22 November 1996.

But I think I’m on fairly firm ground when I recall that we had a General Election two weeks ago.

I also think it’s safe to say that ACT no longer has five MPs. And that none of the five pictured above (and ringed in lovely socialist red) are MPs any more.

And shouldn’t John Banks picture be listed under MP(s)?

Yup, I think I’m right here.

It’s ironic that ACT – the party of entrepreneurial uber-efficiency is still showing individuals as Members of Parliament who either resigned or were not re-elected, two weeks ago.

No wonder John Banks got it horribly wrong when he mistakenly claimed that Onehunga High School was a “Charter School”, when in reality it is not. (More here.)

ACT – the party of efficiency in business, society, hospitals, schools, etc – needs to get their act together. They don’t seem to know how many MPs they have.

Hopeless.

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Additional

ACTresses & Air-Heads

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Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

6 December 2011 8 comments

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What’s past is prologue

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“Class war” – not a piece of left-wing jargon I normally employ, as it has connotations that are seemingly out-of-date in the 21st Century. It is a term I normally associate with 1960s-style, cloth-cap marxist-leninist or maoist cadres, addressing factory workers as they’re about to “Down Tools and All Out, Bruvvers“!

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In 1947 a union official addresses London dockers. In the post-war years efforts were made by the unions to recruit new workers coming into British industry.

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However, “class war” seems to pretty well describe what this ‘new’ hard-right wing government is planning.

Since the Election on November 26, it is  apparent that this government has moved well away from the centre-right position it occupied from 2008-11.  There is a definite undertone of  cold harshness about this ‘new’ government. The old “smile and wave” has been replaced with a grim tension as the National-Dunne-ACT Coalition begins to announce policies that were never announced during the election campaign.

It is as if the facade of the  cheerful “vacant optimism” of John Key has been allowed to fall away – to be replaced with something cold and quite alien. I think New Zealanders are waking up to a Prime Minister that they never voted for.

It appears that the  first term of National was to “bed in” this government and lay fertile ground for their real policies – policies that are intended to transform this country as Rogernomic did in the late 1980s. National has declared war on our   social services,  remnants of our egalitarian past when most or all New Zealanders had a fair go.

Since Rogernomics, we were promised that increased wealth creation would “trickle down” to middle and low income earners, and  as a result incomes would rise. This has not happened. in fact, quite the reverse.

The OECD  (not exactly a left-wing organisation)  has warned “about the rise of the high earners in rich societies and the falling share of income going to those at the bottom, saying governments must move quickly to tackle inequality ,”

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Full Story

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Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,

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Full Story

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Buffett has stated,

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

The same could be said of high income earners and wealthy throughout the world, including here in New Zealand.

Since 1986, there have been seven tax cuts in New Zealand. Gst was introduced at 10% in the same year, and increased to 15% this year (despite assurance by John Key that he would not raise gst).

GST impacts disproportionately on low-income earners as they  spend all their income on necessities, whilst higher-income earners/wealthy invest, speculate,  or “park” their money. “Parking” wealth does not lead to increased spending in the economy and businesses suffer accordingly. Investment does not always lead to more jobs or higher wages either – simply an increased return to the investor.

The growing disparity between rich, middle-classes, and low income/poor began in earnest in the late 1970s,

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It is noteworthy that right-wing governments in the UK (“Thatcherism”) and USA (“Reagonomics”) implemented neo-liberal government policies such as tax cuts for the rich;   reduced social services and government spending; and stagnant wage-growth, at the same time – the late 1970s.

Could there be a link? Of course there is. Only a fool would deny the causal factors of neo-liberal governments and growing wealth disparity.

In New Zealand, right wing neo-liberal policies were introduced a little later, in the mid-1980s.

The result has been predictable, and follows overseas trends,

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Full Story

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Income disparity has been a growing problem and despite endless promises that “trickle down” theory works – wages have stayed static and those earning minimum wage barely have sufficient to surevive.  When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, Bill English agreed,

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GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

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The tax cut last year exacerbated that growing gap between the rich/high income earners and those on middle/low incomes,

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Source

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Only the most politically partisan – blinded by misplaced quasi-religious beliefs in neo-liberal ideology – can ignore the ample evidence that so-called “free market”  policies serve to make only the rich, richer. Meanwhile those at the bottom are mired in poverty. The middle-classes become debt-laden, as they have to borrow more and more to keep afloat financially.

We have created a recipe for disaster and in 2008 the fiscal chickens came home to roost.

In November 2011, 957,769  voters cast their ballot for a charismatic Prime Minister who seemed to be fairly centrist and common sense.

957,769  voters were duped.

This was not the same John Key nor National government they elected in November 2008.

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The Right Strikes Back

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Charter Schools

Charter Schools is nothing less than gradual privatisation by stealth. Instead of announcing to New Zealanders that schools will be put on Trademe and sold to highest bidders, the “Charter Schools” policy is far more subtle; and done piece by piece; step by step.

99% of New Zealanders would never countenance our schools being put on the chopping block and flogged of to Heinz Watties, Church of Scientology, Toyota, the Mormons, Uncle Tom Cobbly, etc. But that is precisely what “Charter Schools” is about. Under “Charter Schools”, a religious group or corporation can fund and take control of  your local school.

A Radio NZ report states,

Christian school leaders say the Government’s plan to trial so-called charter schools could give them a way to reach the most needy families.

Charter schools are part of a movement in the United States and Britain to get business and non-profit organisations to run government-funded schools free from many of the rules that govern regular state schools.

The schools are not allowed to charge fees, but can set teacher pay and their own school day and year.

A trial for such schools in South Auckland and central and eastern Christchurch was part of the confidence and supply agreement reached between the National and ACT parties on Monday.

Christian school leaders say the proposed schools might give Christian schools a way round current restrictions on their enrolments.

Most are integrated schools and must focus their enrolments on Christians. Charter schools would get the same funding, without those restrictions.

Christian school leaders say that will interest schools that want to help poor communities.

They say the schools would be fulfilling a Christian mission and would not try to convert people to Christianity. ” – Source

So if a christian fundamentalist group like “Exclusive  Brethren” took over my local primary school, they would not be replacing the science curriculum with Creationism? Or teaching girls to be “silent and obedient to men”? Or canning sex-education?

A NZ Herald article had this to say about “Chart Schools”,

The National party yesterday agreed to incorporate charter schooling as part of its government support deal with the Act Party, allowing private entities such as businesses, church groups and iwi organisations to take over management of schools but retain state funding under the scheme.

The charter school scheme will be trialled in South Auckland and Christchurch within the next three years.

Groups representing teachers and principals are outraged at the proposal.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president Robin Duff labelled the charter school trial nothing but a “social experiment” on already vulnerable students.

“Why are they not putting a school like this in Epsom? I think some honest answers are needed.”

He said models overseas were ineffective; Stanford University research showed students at only 17 per cent of charter schools did better than at traditional schools.” – Source

When John Key was interviewed about the new  “Charter Schools” policy that ACT and National had jointly announced, he replied on Radio NZ,

“‘That’s MMP for you, isn’t it? That you agree to different proposals.”

Rubbish.

Once again, Key is spinning a lie to cover his backside.

The facts are simple, and a  visit to National and ACT’s website yields some interesting information.

National

There is no mention made whatsoever of “Charter Schools” in National’s policy, “Education in Schools“.  Nothing even remotely close.

National makes policy on employing unqualified people off the street to teach our children,

We will make it easier for schools to employ people with specialist skills who may not be a registered teacher, but who can undergo basic teacher training. That training may be on-the-job training.

They even hint at League Tables,

They also have clear targets they can measure their own achievements, and the achievements of their school, against.”

National will make secondary school performance information available to parents, so they are informed about their child’s learning environment.”

Improve reporting of system-level performance, including investigating school level reporting.”

National wants to psyco-analyse people to gauge their “disposition to teach”, in a quasi-Nanny State/Big Brotherish kind of way,

Improve the quality of initial teacher education, including a move to a post graduate qualification and minimum undergrad entry requirements, as well as a formal assessment of a ‘disposition to teach’.”

And National isn’t “quasi” in some of it’s Big Brotherish surveillance of ordinary New Zealanders,

Track students who leave school before 18 and make sure they are in some form of education or training.
Schools will be asked to report students who are leaving school and not going onto further training or employment, so we can support them and ensure they don’t end up on welfare.

So, if you’re 17 and about to leave school, for whatever reason, expect the eyes of  The State to be watching you.

National also makes some very grand, heart-warming, claims stating their supporting for schools in Christchurch in their “Education in Schools”  policy,

Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.”

However, they make no reference to the fact that, in September, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced cutting 167 full-time equivalent-positions from Christchurch schools, effective next year.  This lapse in painting a full picture of National’s policy and track record in Christchurch is another unpleasant example of dishonesty from this government.

But a big Nothing/Nada/No Way reference to “School Charters”.

ACT

Quite predictably, ACT, and it’s website, is a right-winger’s Onanistic delight.

Again, there is no mention of  “Schools Chart” in ACT’s education policy. Though they do rabbit on about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  “

In fact, this is ACT’s full education policy,

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Source

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It’s interesting that ACT (and to a lesser degree, National) both make out that our education system is in dire straits.  Their inference is that only their policies will achieve grand outcomes – no one elses.

And yet, things are not as bad as they would have us believe,

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Full Story

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Ok, so we’re not ‘perfect’, and obviously we “Can Do Better” on our OECD Report Card. But matters are not so desperate that National has to implement a policy that neither they nor ACT campaigned on.  National, specifically, has no reference coming even remotely close to “Charter Schools” in it’s education policy.

Quite simply, National has ‘sprung’ this on the public. They have no mandate for such a radical re-shaping of our education system.

Trying to blame it on MMP and suggesting that it is ACT policy is duplicitous. They have deceived the elecorate – and as such parents, teachers, students, and the rest of the community have a legitimate right to resist implementation of this policy.

I suspect that “Chart Schools” is merely the tip of the iceberg. National and ACT have other surprises in store for us, and New Zealand will be in for a rude shock.

The Right Wing are in ascendancy in Parliament and they will run rampant with their “reforms”, mandate or not.

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Denniston Plateau

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Yet more evidence (if we ever really needed it) that this National-led coalition has taken off  the kid-gloves and has adopted an agressive, uncompromising,  right-wing posture. As well as ramming through  policy that was never presented to the electorate, expect National to be more open and brazen in breaking promises.

National’s intention to mine the ecologically-sensitive Denniston Plateau was made public by “Conservation” Minister Kate Wilkinson, a mere one-working day day after the election.  She could barely wait for the ballot papers to be counted before issuing a public statement that broke  a promise to make  future applications to mine on the conservation land  publicly notifiable.

On 20 July 201o, after mass protests throughout the country opposing mining on Schedule 4 Conservation land, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson issued this statement,

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After carefully considering the feedback received on the Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and Beyond discussion paper, the Government has agreed that:

  • i. No areas will be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
  • ii. All of the 14 areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4 will be added to the schedule.
  • iii. A technical investigation will be undertaken of Northland (in strategic alliance with Northland Regional Council, the Far North District Council, and Enterprise Northland), the West Coast of the South Island and various other highly prospective areas in the South Island – excluding any Schedule 4 areas. This will identify mineral deposits and assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.
  • iv. Areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas (for example, national parks and marine reserves) will in the future be automatically added to Schedule 4. Such classifications will be agreed by Cabinet.
  • v. Significant applications to mine on public conservation land will be publicly notified.

- Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson – 20 July, 2010

Source

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Australian mining company, Bathurst Resources, wants to mine an additional 50-80 million tonnes from the area over a 35 year period. Forest & Bird state,

The adjacent Stockton Plateau has been half destroyed by opencast mining in the past few decades. The Denniston Plateau has a history of underground mining, but has been spared – until now – this fate.

A new opencast coal mine proposed for the Denniston Plateau would destroy 200 hectares and increase New Zealand’s coal exports by up to 63% per year. But that would only be the beginning. The Australian company holds mining permits across the Plateau, which would generate an estimated 50 million tonnes of coal.” – Source

In effect, this,

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Denniston Plateau

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Would become this,

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Stockton Mine

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National’s open contempt for the democratic process; honouring election committments; and public consultation – should now be apparent to everyone. Worse still is their contempt for the people of this country.

How else does one explain a government that has so blatantly gone back on so many of it’s promises?

Wilkinson’s readiness to go back on her word is something that she – and her colleagues – should be deeply ashamed of.

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Urgency laws?

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National’s previous term saw the highest use of  “Urgency” to ram through legislation, in decades.

Expect more of the same, as they implement their right wing agenda at breakneck speed, before 2014. This is the method used by Douglas and Prebble in the 1980s.

Indeed, Douglas boasted at the speed at which he and his cronies introduced their “reforms”. The result was that public opposition to their agenda was difficult to mount.

The right wing have little time for the democratic process and public consultation. That should be readily apparent to us all by now.

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ACC

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I’ve no doubt that whilst ACC will not be privatised – that workplace accident compensation will be opened up to “marketplace competition”. This will be a rehash of National’s earlier experiment in accident insurance competition in the late ’90s.

Neo-libs. They love to recycle old policies, whether or not they were ever successful.

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Maori Party

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The Maori Party has not yet gone into formal coalition with National. They are currently conducting consultation with their constituents, by holding Hui around the country.

I have no doubt in my mind that Maori Party members will bitterly denounce any suggestion that they coalesce with National. To many, the last week has already been a fore taste of the right wing whirlwind that is about to hit this country.

For the Maori Party to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the impending storm will be a colossal misjudgement on the part of Maori Party leadership – and will guarantee their political demise in 2014.

Wise heads will try to warn Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia, and Te Ururoa Flavell, that entering into coalition with National and it’s coat-tailing little mini-Nats (Dunne and Banks) will be the death knell for the Maori Party.

The question remains; will they heed that warning? Or will they suffer the same fate as Tau Henare’s Mauri Pacific Party in 1999?

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Things To Come

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Let no one be under any illusion that this National Coalition v.2 is nothing like it’s predecessor from 2008-11. This is a fully-fledged, ideologically-driven, determined Right Wing Government.

And it has nothing to do with ACT.  ACT is a political corpse, and John Banks is carrying on in name only.

Despite MMP being designed to reign in the executive power of large parties, and prevent FPP-style single-party rule – National has managed to rort the system by creating proxies – Peter Dunne and John Banks – who are essentially National Party ministers-by-default.

National did not fail in their fight to win an outright majority in the House. They succeeded.

I hope that the voters of Epsom and Ohariu knew what they were doing when they voted for Banks and Dunne (and Green and Labour voters when they failed to vote tactically). Because they have helped achieved the near impossible under MMP:  a single-party government.

And we know what happens when a single-party government rules Parliament. What does a single-party government do?

Whatever it wants.

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References

National: Education in Schools Policy

ACT: Education policy

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Additional Reading

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

Save the Denniston Plateau:Ours Not Mine

On income inequality – Gordon Campbell

The gap between NZs rich and poor

New Zealand wealth gap alarms charities

Wealth gap divides nation

Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

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Video

2011-12-06 – 3News – OECD: Inequality Growing Fastest in NZ

OECD: Record inequality between rich and poor

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Dunne’s Dumb Deal?

5 December 2011 3 comments

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Full Story

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What Mr Dunne gets:

- No sale of KiwiBank or Radio New Zealand.
- Statutory limits will be introduced on the sale of public asset to no more than 49 per cent of shareholding to private interests and limits would be put on the extent of single entity ownership.
- A ban on guided helicopter hunting on conservation land will be introduced to Parliament.
- The budgets of both Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand will be maintained.
- The Families Commission will be revamped.
- There will be public consultation on Mr Dunne’s Flexi-Super policy.
- Guaranteed access to rivers, lakes, forests and coastline.
- An agreement to reintroduce Mr Dunne’s income sharing legislation which failed to win enough support in the last Parliament.
- Free health-checks for over 65-year-olds would also be investigated.

Whoa…! Back up that coalition-pony, sonny boy!

No sale of KiwiBank or Radio New Zealand?!?!

Since when did National advocate or campaign on the privatisation of Kiwibank or Radio New Zealand?

In fact, John Key made it a campaign promise that Kiwibank was not up for sale, and that the only state assets on the block were Genesis Power, Meridian, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand. No mention whatsoever of Radio NZ or Kiwibank.

What’s going on here?

Either Peter Dunne is telling fibs and creating a false “victory” – or else National had a secret agenda of further asset asales!?

Someone is misleading the public.

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+++ Updates +++

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Full Story

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The above article starts out positive and seemingly Dunne has succeeded in saving TVNZ7 from disappearing and being replaced by a shopping channel…

Until one reads this in the same piece,

I would have preferred to have got a much more explicit agreement regarding the future of TVNZ 7 but the National Party wouldn’t go there.”

And Dunne  then adds,

TVNZ keeps saying it needs to run as a commercial body, and it obviously makes its own decisions, but I think it needs to recognise there is a significant chunk of the population that prefers the approach TVNZ 7 takes and would be very disappointed if that channel was to close.

So he really hasn’t “saved TVNZ7″ at all. In fact, Dunne admitted as much this morning (Dec 6) on Radio NZ, when he said on “Morning Report“,

” …I wanted to get an absolute committment  to the retention of TVNZ7. We weren’t able to get that. The government wasn’t prepared to make that, uh, concession…”

Ok, so let’s sum this up,

  • Dunne get’s a promise from National that neither Kiwibank nor Radio NZ will be sold.
  • But National never suggested selling Kiwibank or Radio NZ in the first place.
  • So what kind of “victory” is it to get a committment on something that the Nats weren’t intending to do anyway?
  • Dunne then negotiates to get an absolute committment to save TVNZ7.
  • And fails.

Have I missed anything?

Moving right along…

“Free health-checks for over 65-year-olds” – ???

Great. More rip-offs from my generation, the Baby Boomers. Everyone else has to pay for health checks – but all of a sudden we get freebies?

Yet again Baby Boomers – being a sizeable bloc of voters – gain tax-payer funded social services whilst everyone else has user-pays.

No doubt these “free health checks” will be funded from that sale of state assets. Once again Baby Boomers are ripping off future generations for our own selfish benefit.

The word obscene comes to mind.

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***

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Email  Peter Dunne to let him know what you think about asset sales:

p.dunne@ministers.govt.nz

ohariu.mp@parliament.govt.nz

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You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

4 December 2011 16 comments

This is perhaps the clearest example of neo-liberalism forcing itself on nations that cannot resist the influence of western corporatism – even when it places people at risk from unsafe products,

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Full Story

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Whilst WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that Samoa’s enytry into the WTO would  “enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development” - Otago Medical School Associate Professor, Nick Wilson,  was less than enthusiastic,

From a public health perspective the decision to allow turkey tails … will fuel the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are hitting Pacific Island nations.

Mean, a spokesperson for our Trade Minister, Tim Groser, supported lifting the ban.

Trade bans on selected items are unlikely to be effective in addressing obesity and health issues.”

Really?! So if a government allows an unhealthy product to be put on their supermarket shelves; and is then consumed by members of the public – Tim Groser is saying that’s ok?

That sounds like a fairly good rationale for legalising and selling heroin.

After all, it could easily be said that banning heroin is   “unlikely to be effective in addressing …health issues.”

Just what the South Pacific needs: more unhealthy food by-products distributed and sold cheaply, and which will ultimately result in yet more Pacifica peoples dying from obesity-related diseases.

Are we in the West proud of  ourselves, yet?

The greatest irony is that, in the 1970s,  New Zealand fought a diplomatic war against the French to stop atomic weapons-testing in the South Pacific, because of fears that radiation would harm the environment and ourselves.

What is even more obscene is that US corporate interests are quite open in their campaign to market unhealthy, destructive foods to low-income, under-developed societies,

The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council welcomed the end on the ban, telling Bloomberg that it was the “consumers’ right to determine what foods they wish to consume, not the government’s.

Under the guise of “free choice”, corporate interests will peddle their cheap, toxic, foodstuffs to Pacifican people – and will reap profits, whilst local governments pick up the social costs of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related diseases.

Surely by now, we in the West must be revelling in pride at this accomplishment.

This is the raw, naked face of unfettered free market capitalism that is not bound by morality, nor concerns for human welfare. This is profit-making without due regard to consequences.

And this time, the blood of Pacificans are on our hands as well; “Fiji banned mutton flap imports in 2000 and New Zealand responded by threatening to refer the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).   New Zealand later withdrew plans to approach the WTO and the ban still stands (as of March 2009)”,

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Full Story

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I wonder how we might feel if another nation exported unhealthy products into our country – perhaps targetted at our young people – and we were powerless to stop it?

How would we feel, for example, if all restrictions on alcohol and tobacco products had to be removed at WTO insistence – because companies that manufactured those products were unhappy that their profits were being undermined?

We’d be pretty pissed, I’d guess.

But it’s ok if we do it to another country; to our neighbours in the Pacific?

WTO critics claim the Washington based International Food and Beverage Alliance, formed by Kraft, Coca-Cola and General Mills, is behind the pressure to end food type bans.

“This is not true,” spokeswoman Jane Reid said.

“(The Alliance) has had no involvement whatsoever in this issue.”

Yeah, right.

It is high time that New Zealand led by example and halted the sale of unhealthy meat by-products to our Pacific neighbours. Otherwise we are practically conducting war-by-poor-nutrition against the peoples of the Pacific.

It is time that New Zealand led an international  campaign in the WTO against rules that allow toxic foods to be sold without restraint.

International trade rules that favour corporate “rights” and unfettered trade are anathema to the values that we hold dear.  In the final analysis, governments are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their peoples – not to corporations and their profits.

Perhaps Tim Grosser; the National Government; the WTO; the International Food and Beverage Alliance; the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council; et al; would care to dine out on mutton flaps and turkey tails for a few years?

I guess not.

After all, they can all afford proper, nutritious food.

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Previous blogpost

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Additional Reading

New Zealand’s impact on health in the South Pacific: scope for improvement?

Trade in Everything: Turkey Tails

Critics challenge exports of mutton flaps, turkey tails and expired eggs to Samoa

Nutrition Facts: Turkey Tail

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