Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?
“What’s past is prologue“
“Class war” – not a piece of left-wing jargon I normally employ, as it has connotations that are seemingly out-of-date in the 21st Century.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“!
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 ,”
Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,
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,
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,
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,
“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
The tax cut last year exacerbated that growing gap between the rich/high income earners and those on middle/low incomes,
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.
The Right Strikes Back
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.”
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.
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”.
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,
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,
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.
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,
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
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,
Would become this,
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.
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.
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.
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?
Things To Come
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.