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Archive for February, 2012

Blogger’s Lament – The Ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom

29 February 2012 3 comments

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Rami al-Said - Blogger, Citizen Journalist, and a gutsy bloke

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Last week, a Syrian blogger and citizen journalist,  by the name of Rami al-Said paid the ultimate price; he was killed by the military forces of despotic dictator, war criminal,  and disgusting excuse for a human being,  Bashar Assad.

Rami al-Said was reporting from the Syrian city of Homs – which as most of us know by now – is being pounded to rubble by a mad dictator’s army. Rami al-Said refused to leave, and instead chose to report on the genocide that was taking place.

One of  Rami al-Said’s last posts on his Facebook page stated,

“”Baba Amro [a suburb of Homs] is being wiped out now, complete genocide, I don’t want you to tell us our hearts are with you because I know that, I want projects everywhere inside and outside I want everyone to go out in front of the embassies in al…l countries everywhere because we are soon to be nothing, there will be no more Baba Amr – I expect this is a final letter to you and we will not forgive you.””

People have an instinctive fear of harm, injury, violence, and death. It’s part of our sense of self-preservation – that intrinsic, evolutionary urge to stay alive and stay out of harm’s way.

But every so often, human beings set aside that sense of self-preservation; their anger and indignation at an injustice overcomes their most basic fears (or at least pushes it to one side); and individuals and groups refuse to run away. They stand, and by the gods, they fight back.

History is full of such deeply heroic people. Whether they be poorly armed resistance fighters in various occupied countries during Europe’s darkest days under the tyranny of  Nazism; or young Hungarian teenagers facing tanks from the Soviet Red Army in 1956; or unarmed citizens in China’s Tiananmen Square in  1989 – there is an indomitable spirit that refuses to bow down and surrender.

I don’t know what it must feel like to experience such a sense of self that confronts bombs, bullets, torture, and death. Living in a comfortable, peaceful, existence here in New Zealand, it is an utterly alien concept to me. I can’t even begin to guess at how and why such ordinary, heroic, people can set aside their fear of death to stand up to bullies who can bomb a city into dust.

But I can – and do –  feel a deep abiding respect and admiration for people like Rami al-Said, who died when he could have escaped Homs; and whose only “fault” was being there, and reporting to the outside world what crimes were being committed against ordinary men, women, and children.

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Rami al-Said

1986 – 2012

Blogger & Citizen Journalist

Husband & Father

- One of the good guys  -

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Rest assured, Rami – one day Syria will be free. Your death – and those of your fellow Syrians – will not have been in vain.

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Additional

Syria blogger reportedly killed in shelling

Syrias citizen journalists: we expect to be killed

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Categories: Global Tags: , , ,

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#2)

29 February 2012 7 comments

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Full Story

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Mana Party leader Hone Harawira accuses National of  of “beneficiary bashing”.

That’s because what Key, Bennett, et al, are doing is beneficiary-bashing.

For example,

From July, up to 14,000 teenagers aged 16 and 17 who are not in education, work or training and teen parents aged 16 to 18 will be coupled with a private provider to help them with budgeting courses, parenting courses, training or job-hunting.

Their basic costs such as rent and power will be paid by the state, and they will have a payment card for living costs that can be monitored to ensure they do not buy alcohol or cigarettes.” – Source

Strange…  I thought it was already illegal for retailers to sell alcohol and  cigarettes to 16 and 17 year olds?

What is the point of a payment card when 16 and 17 year old should not be sold these products in the first place? If retailers are breaking the law, then isn’t that a legal matter instead of a welfare issue?

Another example,

This package is about upskilling those people, getting them the right training and I just love that it’s got that incentive element to it so … instead of being punitive and sanctioning, we’re actually saying they can get up to $30 a week extra and I think that is really rewarding and what is needed.” – Paula Bennett, 28 February 2012

“Upskilling” and “training” – Righto…

In which case, Ms Bennett might care to explain why she cut back on the Training Incentive Allowance which she herself benefitted from, when she was on the DPB?

Ms Bennett doesn’t like to be reminded of her own experience on the DP,  given that she used the Training Incentive Allowance and other state assistance, to put herself through University,

I’ve always proudly stood up and said I’ve had benefit from the welfare state and I’m incredibly grateful for it. To now have that being used against me, I think is offensive to those people who are on benefits and trying to better their lives.” – 21 July 2009

Her faux sensitivity is in marked contrast to a remark she made, two years later,

I know many people are frustrated that they and their colleagues and family work hard to support themselves while people on benefits receive state assistance.” – 14 August 2011

Classic doublethink, Ms Bennett! Doubleplusgood!

John Key and his colleagues should be fully aware that there simply aren’t the jobs for the 150,000+ unemployed,

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Source

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There we have it,

New Zealand finance bosses are feeling good about the economic recovery, but research shows that optimism doesn’t extend to hiring new staff.

And when there are job vacancies, we get tragic situations like these,

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Any employment opportunity is being snapped up as the New Zealand job market continues to tighten, with a new supermarket in New Plymouth receiving almost 10 applications for every job available.  Progressive Enterprises’ new Countdown store, which is due to open in a month’s time, has created 160 new jobs, but the grocery giant received more than 1100 applications for the position.” – NBR, 25 June  2009

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“…about 1000 people applied for just 90 jobs at a new McDonald’s in Mount Maunganui, which is due to open next month.” – BoP Times, 10 June  2010

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Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason said he was not surprised at the flood of people applying for the McDonald’s jobs – about 10 people for every job available. “It’s clearly a signal that the employment market is tight,” he said.” – Ibid

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Increased competition in Nelson’s job market saw more than 100 jobseekers pack out a room and queue at a Tahunanui tavern yesterday for one of up to 20 jobs at KFC’s new store. ” – Fairfax News, 5 August 2010

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When a new supermarket opened today in Auckland it created 150 new jobs, but that was a small comfort for the 2550 people who applied for jobs there and missed out. ” – NZPA, 17 August 2010

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Applications have flooded in from jobseekers hoping to be a part of the new Bunnings Warehouse team in Glenfield.Advertisements were placed one week ago for the 124 jobs in sales, administration, customer-service and trade specialist areas, and over 1500 applications have been received so far. ” – Scoop.co.nz, 23 May 2011

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After reading about the restaurant’s open recruitment day in The Daily Post, Mr Watson joined 349 people who queued to be interviewed by Wendy’s staff on Thursday last week. He waited for almost two hours for an interview and he was contacted last Friday night to be told he had a job… Initially Wendy’s had planned to employ a crew of 45 but marketing manager Fay Stretch said yesterday the calibre was so good they had employed 51 people and were considering a further six.” – The Daily Post, 15 July 2011

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It seems fairly self-evident to all but the most ideologically brain-dead, that the large queues of job-seekers greatly outnumbers the limited vacancies available. The above cases are only the tip of the iceberg.

So for John Key to say that,

“…there are jobs out there, but people aren’t always willing to do them.” – Source

… is a gross insult. Especially when John Key’s own administration is resulting in hundreds of state sector workers being sacked on an almost weekly basis,

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Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa

Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement

Air NZ may cut scores of jobs

Ministry plan puts 50 jobs on the line

Housing NZ staff face further cuts

Review suggests more part-time soldiers

Ministry to lose fifth of staff in radical cuts

‘Broken promise’ claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Foreign Affairs Ministry confirms 305 jobs to go

Housing NZ to cull 70 jobs in changes

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Thankfully,  National pledged 170,000 new jobs at the last election.

So far, we have this  ‘outstanding’ success in National’s job-creation policy,

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Source

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215 jobs instead of 4,000?!?! Please excuse my lack of over-enthusiasm…

The whole point of National’s welfare “reforms” is not to “incentivise” the unemployed off welfare and  into jobs. Even demonising welfare recipients is not the main goal of the Nats.

No, National is seeking an advantage in shifting blame for our stubbornly high unemployment rate onto welfare recipients.

By continually making public statements that point the finger at welfare recipients for being unemployed, they are engaging in a propaganda war to blame the jobless for their predicament.

That lets National off the hook.

This is about National shifting responsibility for the mess that our economy is in, so that the public look at the victims of the recession and government mis-management – rather than asking the Hard Questions from John Key; what are you doing to facilitate job-creation?

National cannot afford to be seen as sitting on their hands, doing nothing.

Yet, they are a neo-liberal Party that fully believes in the minimalist-government approach to employment; their core belief is that it is up to the “market” to create jobs, not government.

But in holding firm to this ideology, National finds itself trapped; the “market” is not creating new jobs; welfare numbers are still high; and the government is percieved as doing nothing, because of it’s adherence to minimalist government/free market  principles. Even the business sector, last year, was asking National; where is your plan for economic growth?

National’s “Plan B”/Get-Out-Of-Jail-Card? Shift the blame on to solo-mums; invalids, widows; and those made unemployed during four years of recession and stagnant growth.  Blame the parlous state of the economy  and limited job-opportunities on those at the bottom of the economic scrap heap?

Charming.

John Key knows all this. In fact, he has even had to admit it in the media, even while he and Ms Bennett were lambasting widows, invalids,  solo-mums, et al,  for daring to be out of (paid) work,

It’s true, ultimately if every one was to get off welfare we’d need to create even more jobs, but that’s the Government’s whole agenda is to have a vibrant economy that does produce jobs. I  certainly accept there’s not a job for every single person, but I don’t accept there aren’t some jobs out there.” –  John Key, 28 February 2012

Yes, Mr Key; there are “some jobs out there“. Just not enough.

Certainly not the 4,000 you promised through your cycleway project.

And definitely not the 170,000 you pledged last year, during the election campaign.

By blaming welfare recipients for a lack of jobs, National evades responsibility for the stagnant state of the economy. The subtext is that the “jobs are there but those lazy benes just don’t want to work – see it’s not our fault!“.

Funny isn’t it… the right wing continually demand that people take responsibility for their actions. So where is National’s responsibility in making the economy fit-for-purpose and creating jobs?

Paula Bennett said,

 “I think any jobs a good job.”

Indeed. We just need more of them.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

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Previous Blogposts

Unemployed job-seekers: Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

Paula Bennett:  Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Additional

Chris Trotter: Just Leave Us Alone

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How Can A Minister of Finance Get It So Wrong???

28 February 2012 4 comments

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Five days ago, Finance Minister Bill English released a statement on the part-privatisation of several State Owned Enterprises. It is worthwhile re-printing his statement in full, and responding to it, point-by-point,

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Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

by Hon Bill English, Finance
23 February 2012

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Speaking to an Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University business lunch today, he said the challenge was how the Government pays for forecast growth in taxpayers’ assets over the next few years.

“Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

The rationale for offering New Zealanders minority stakes in four energy companies and Air New Zealand is quite simple, Mr English says.

“First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

“Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.

“We would rather pay dividends to New Zealanders on shares they own in the energy companies than pay interest to overseas lenders on more borrowing.

“The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.

“Most nights on television, we see the consequences of countries in Europe and elsewhere borrowing too much. We don’t want that for New Zealand.”

Secondly, under the mixed ownership programme New Zealanders will get an opportunity to invest in big Kiwi companies so they can diversify their growing savings away from property and finance companies.

“Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

Thirdly, mixed ownership will be good for the companies themselves, Mr English says.

“Greater transparency and oversight from being listed on the stock exchange will improve their performance and the companies won’t have to depend entirely on a cash-strapped government for new capital to grow.

“We already have a living, breathing and successful example of mixed ownership in Air New Zealand, which is 75 per cent owned by the Government and 25 per cent by private shareholders.”

In his speech, Mr English reiterated the Government’s economic programme this term would focus on rebuilding and strengthening the economy.
It’s main priorities are:

  •     Responsibly managing the Government’s finances.
  •     Building a more productive and competitive economy.
  •     Delivering better public services within tight financial constraints.
  •     Rebuilding Christchurch.

“So there will be no big surprises from this Government,” Mr English says. “We have laid out our economic plan and Budget 2012 will focus on implementing that plan.”

Source

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Firstly, let’s call a spade, a spade here. Whilst National ministers use the euphemistic term, “mixed ownership model”, the issue here is partial-privatisation of state owned enterprises.  National’s spin-doctors may have advised all ministers and John Key to always use the phrase “mixed ownership model” – but the public are not fooled.

To begin, I take great exception to English’s opening statement,

Opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow an extra $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders…”

Opponants of National’s part-privatisation do not “need to explain” anything. It is up to National to explain why it feels the need to part-privatise tax-payer owned corporations that are efficient and give a good return to the State.

Demanding that the  opponents of the Government’s mixed ownership programme need to explain” their opposition is the height of arrogance.  Governments in western-style democracies are accountable to the public – not the other way around.

English then goes on to say,

Taxpayers own $245 billion of assets, and this is forecast to grow to $267 billion over the next four years. So we are not reducing our assets. Our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt.”

Pardon?

“…we are not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Selling 49% of Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power, Air New Zealand (from 75% to 51%) down to a 51% holding is “not reducing our assets” ?!?!

Bill English’s command of his namesake language is strange at best. I believe this is what George Orwell wrote about in his dystopian novel, “1984“, when he described “doublethink“,

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…”

English laments that “our challenge is how we pay for their growth, while getting on top of our debt”.

This involves two distinct issues;

Paying for the growth of state assets.

Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand are all profitable enterprises in their own right. In the 2010 financial year, these  assets made a combined profit of $581 million dollarsNone of these five SOEs are loss-makers.

They can each pay for whatever growth programme they require, using their profits.

Where National interfered in SOE operations, the results were highly distorted,

Genesis paid out no dividend and had a zero yield on its operating profit of $293 million.

It had a 30.5% shareholder return on total assets.

Meridian had a dividend yield of 10.4%, achieved by paying out 428.8% of its profit. The increase came from the $300 million special dividend it received during the sale of Tekapo A and Tekapo B stations to Genesis, which was forced by the Government to borrow to pay for the purchase.” – Source

The reason that there is a  “challenge [in] how we pay for their growth”  is simple: National demands high dividends from these  SOEs (often by forcing them to borrow) leaving little for the companies to reinvest in their own growth.

Under-funding is a problem only because National has created the problem.

Getting on top of debt.

Linking  New Zealand’s $18-plus billion dollar debt to funding the growth of SOEs is  deliberate sophistry (ie; a deliberate deception).

The reason we have out-of-control debt is because,

As a society and as an economy, we had no control over the first two crises to hit us.

But we sure had control over our taxation policy, and doling out generous tax cuts to millionaires and wealthy businesspeople was a luxury we could not afford. (Many maintain that National was “rewarding” certain affluent socio-economic groups for electoral support at the ballot box.)

Next. English states,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

???

National appears confused (as with most of its ad hoc policies) as to the proceeds it may gain from the partial sales. Only a year ago, Key stated authoritatively,

“If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.” – John Key, 26 January 2011

Then again, as recently as eleven days ago, English let slip that,

I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes.  That’s an honest answer.” – Bill English, 17 February 2012

The best description of Key and English on asset part-sales: clueless.

It is also worrying that National is selling state assets to pay for  “other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets“.

Every householder will tell you that if  you have to sell of your furniture; whiteware; tv, family car, to pay to maintain your home – then you are in deep financial trouble.

What National is doing is “selling the household furniture to pay for painting the house”.  Selling off assets to pay for maintenance is not sustainable – eventually you run out of stuff to sell. It is a really dumb idea.

But more than that, it indicates that National is not “earning” enough, by way of taxation revenue to pay for it’s house-keeping. If we have to borrow or sell assets to do simple things like paint schools or properly resource hospitals – then it is a fairly clear indication that taxation revenue is insufficient for day-to-day operations of public services.

It also indicates that we are paying for the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts by selling state assets.

This is not “fiscal prudence” – this is foolish profligacy.

Bill English again demands, in his speech,

Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks.”

No,  Mr English. Perhaps you should “honestly explain to New Zealanders” why you believe it makes greater commerciall sense to part-sell  profitable assets that are returning a higher yield on investment, than what the government pays to borrow?


The Government is estimating a $6 billion reduction in net debt after the sale of the state-owned enterprises – but concedes the savings on finance costs will be less than what it would have booked from dividends and retained earnings if it kept them.

Treasury  forecasts released today in the Government’s budget policy statement outline the forecast fiscal impact of selling up to 49 per cent in each of the four State-owned power companies – Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy – and by reducing the Crown’s current shareholding in Air New Zealand.

They assume a price of $6 billion – the midpoint in previous estimates of a $5 billion to $7 billion sale price – and a corresponding drop in finance costs of about $266 million by 2016.

But the trade-off is the loss of an estimated $200 million in dividends by 2016 and the loss of  $360 million in forecast foregone profits in the same year.

Documents supplied today state that the overall fiscal impact of selling a partial stake in the SOEs is a reduction in net debt, but the Government’s operating balance will also be smaller, because foregone profits would reduce the surplus.” – Source


Yet, only a year ago, Bill English was forced to concede that state owned power companies were indeed, highly profitable. In fact, he was complaining bitterly about State-owned generators  “earning excessive returns”,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect. But if you look at those returns being generated particularly out of the electricity market, the Government has taken the view that that market is not as competitive as it should be.” – Source

The State will be losing money on the deal; earning less dividends from the SOEs than the cost of borrowing. The sums simply don’t add up.

There also seems to be some confusion (no longer a surprise) as to what National intends to do with sale proceeds.

On the one hand Bill English sez he wants to reduce debt,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.” – 16 February 2012

And a week later, English is spending it,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion…  to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals…”  – 23 February 2012

I guess Mr English is hoping that no one is paying attention?

Further in his speech, English makes this rather candid admission,

The fact is, the Government is spending and borrowing more than it can afford into the future. So it makes sense to reorganise the Government’s assets and redeploy capital to priority areas without having to borrow more.”

And there we have it, folks: the clearest statement yet from our Minister of Finance that the partial-sale of our state assets has little to do with giving “mum and dad” investors a share in our power companies; or making them more efficient; or paying down any of our $18+ billion debt; or putting a new coat of paint on your local school – the government is desperate to raise cash because it  “is spending and borrowing more than it can afford “.

The tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 were never “fiscally neutral” as National kept insisting.

The “tax switch”  left a $1.4 billion “hole” in the government’s revenue and this is how they are attempting to “plug that hole”.

We have been conned.

The tax cuts will be funded by the sale of state assets that we, as citizens of this country, already own. And because the bulk of tax cuts benefitted the highest income earners/wealthy – who are also in a better position to acquire shares in Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy, Might River Power,  and Air New Zealand – the transfer of wealth from low and middle income earners will be two-fold.

The legacy of John Key’s government will be to make the rich richer, and for the rest of us, we can look forward to,

  • more expensive power
  • losing half ownership of our taxpayer-created state assets
  • and the top 10% to increase their wealth even more

But, to be generous, I will leave the last word to the Hon. Bill English,

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"Would you be willing to increase the mortgage on your house to go and borrow the money to buy shares on mighty river power?" Bill English, 16 February 2012

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John Key: another day, another broken pledge…

28 February 2012 1 comment

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National’s hatchet-job on our state service continues – and appears to be getting worse.

Fresh from news that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade  about to sack 305 people; and 295 uniformed personnel are to be fired from the Defence Force,  we learn that Key’s government is about to fire at least 70 staff from Housing NZ,

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Full Story

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This is on top of Housing NZ recently announcing that it will no longer assist low-income families with social needs,

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Full Story

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Worse still, on top of the redundancies, is the planned closure of offices; and replacing front-line staff with an 0800 number Call Centre.

The sackings are a direct breach of Key’s promise to New Zealanders that the cutting of the  state sector would not impact on front-line staff – and indeed he has stated that front-line numbers would be strengthened,

It’s time to focus public spending on front-line services that make a real difference in people’s lives, rather than paper-shuffling and report-writing that does not

We are not going to reduce the number of front-line staff. Let me make this absolutely clear – under National the numbers of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police and other front-line staff will grow

In addition, we are not going to radically reorganise the structure of the state sector. Our focus will be on delivering services. Just as Labour has done, we will take opportunities to make changes to some agencies as part of the usual business of government. However, there will be no wholesale reorganisation or restructuring across the state sector… ” – John Key, 12 March 2008

John Key has broken every aspect of his own committments that he made to the nation, nearly four years ago, and which he has been repeating ad nauseum ever since.

Not only is his government sacking front line staff – but they are radically reorganising the state sector. Key’s most bizarre recent proposal was contracting out government services to Google. I kid you not: Rise of the Terminator Keybot!

A proposal to replace 1,000 full time soldiers in the Defence Force with “reservists”, who are “on call”, is a depletion of front-line personnel. This leaves NZ ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet our international committments for U.N. peacekeeping duties, or local disaster relief operations.

Soldiers are front-line personnel. In fact, the term “front line” is a military term.

For those of us with fairly decent memories, we may recall the 1990s; when a Bolger and Shipley-led National governments cut the state sector until health, housing, social services, etc, were failing to meet the needs of ordinary New Zealanders.

At one stage Prime Minister Jenny Shipley was mooting moving or demolishing the Beehive Building so that an extension to the main Parliamentary Building could be undertaken. The cost to taxpayers was estimated to be in the region of $94 million (1997 dollars).

All whilst rentals for State houses were set at market prices; ex-psychiatric patients were living in public toilets; and on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

And all during the 1990s, the wealth/income gap between the top 10%  and the rest of New Zealand widened further and further.

Sound familiar?

By 27 November, 1999, New Zealanders had had a gutsful and threw out the National government.

History is repeating.  The question is, how bad will it get this time?  Perhaps as bad as families living in caravans?

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Additional

‘Broken promise’ claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Review suggests more part-time soldiers

Families in caravans, cars as Housing NZ gets tough

Housing NZ proposal poses dangers for staff

HNZ: Housing New Zealand proposes changing how it delivers its services

2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

On Colin Morrison 1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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Oh the irony…

27 February 2012 2 comments

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From National’s website, I found this little “gem”,

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Source

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Now, considering that the whole sorry saga of the  Leaky/Rotting Homes fiasco began with the  Building Act 1991 – when the then Bolger-led National government de-regulated the New Zealand building industry – it seems that National has not learnt a single, damned thing about that failed experiment in de-regulation.

As Auckland Mayor John Banks says, “It was a previous Government that put in the legislation that allowed for untreated timber, cavity-less walls, chicken wire and plaster. So they should at the least accept an equal liability with local government.”

Mr Banks should know. He was a member of the Jim Bolger-led National Cabinet that passed the permissive 1991 Building Act which was naively based on the premise that National’s developer mates could be trusted not to cut corners.” – Source

Fast forward from 1991 to 2012,

Fast-track building consents for standard, multiple-use building designs ” ???

Make building law changes to allow more do-it-yourself building, and to make a broader range of minor and low-risk building work consent-free “???

It is appropriate that #55 – “Leaky Homes: Develop a $1 billion financial package to help owners of leaky homes get their homes fixed” – follows on from #53 and #54. Because de-regulating Building Consents and making DIY easier, without professional over-sight, will probably end up with yet more dodgy building; more rotting  homes; and more New Zealanders having to pay thousands of dollars to repair shoddy workmanship.

Nice one, Mr Key, Mr English, Mr Brownlee, et al.

Never let it be said that you guys “waste any time”  learning from your previous mistakes…

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Additional

Wikipedia: Leaky Homes Crisis

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A job! A job! My kingdom for a job!

27 February 2012 5 comments

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“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Despite John Key’s election-pledges in 2008 to see wages rise in New Zealand, the opposite seems to be happening; wages have either mostly stagnated, or, in some very public instances, are being actively driven down.

The maritime workers in Auckland and meat workers for meat-processing company, AFFCO, are facing an unprecendented attack on workers’ right and conditions which would see many (if not all) of them casualised and suffer a cut in wages.

This is hardly an “unrelenting… quest to lift… economic growth rate and raise wage rates“. It is, in fact, more akin to Bill English’s remarkable admission on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 10 April last year that having wages 30% lower than our Australian cuzzies was a “a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

Unions representing various  groups of workers have had a gutsful, and are asserting their right to strike,

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Full Story

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The casualisation and reduction of real wages is not just a threat to the families of working men and women – but a threat to our economy as well.

National and ACT voters might care to reflect that just recently, BERL released a report outlining the value of blue-collar workers to the economy,

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Full Story

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We simply cannot afford to lose  skilled blue-collar workers heading of to Australia, or elsewhere in the world. Australia already has plenty of our doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, etc.

As Berl chief economist Ganesh Nana said,

If you reduce the amount of trained and skilled labour out there, not only are you reducing the quantity available to businesses, you are also increasing the cost of the labour … because it’s in short supply.”

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half director, Andrew Brushfield, said recently,

 “Where there is currently a need for skilled people in Australia, that need is just as prolific in New Zealand.” – Source

So let’s be clear about this;

Instead of short-sighted, selfish,  employer-driven vendettas against their workers – which achieves nothing except a form of reckless  economic self-sabotage – this country should be looking at ways to increase wages, which then leads to increased business turn-over; generating greater economic growth;  and ultimately, a more prosperous society.

I do not believe – not for one micro-second – Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell, when he said,

Frankly, I think most employers would like to pay more if they can, I don’t know any employer who genuinely wants to pay less.” – Source

That is 100%, unadulterated crap.

It is crap because many employers can pay more,

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Full Story

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They just choose not to.

Once again, from Mr Key,

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"The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes." - John Key, 21 December 2011

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And as we all know, John Key is a Man of His Word. Right?


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Propaganda as an industrial dispute weapon?

27 February 2012 14 comments

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Whilst the Labour Party is taking great pains to keep an impartial, neutral position on the port dispute in Auckland – the PoAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) shows no such inclination toward restrained behaviour.

According to a recent report by Fairfax Media, PoAL has taken another step to ratcheting up the dispute with a new (and somewhat bizarre) propaganda tactic,

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Full Story

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A casual check of two right wing blogs – one with strong National Party connections – yielded the following result,

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Source

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Source

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Sending out a Press Release on the progress of negotiations is one thing.

But for a company such as PoAL to send information specifically to right wing blogs, that publish material from employers on a no-questions-asked basis,  is something relatively new to our industrial scene.

This is obviously a propaganda campaign – though one wonders what might be the purpose of such a campaign. Considering that probably 99% of Auckland ratepayers have never heard of “Kiwiblog”, and even fewer  “Cactus Kate” – feeding those two bloggers might appear to be somewhat of a pointless exercise.

Unless, of course, they are expecting David Farrar to parrot that information on his column in the NZ Herald? (And what would “Cactus Kate” do with her “Ports of Auckland Fact Sheet”?)

This should give cause for concern for PoAL’s shareholders – in this case the Auckland City Council (through it’s holding company, Auckland Council Investments Limited).

Whatever actions taken by the PoAL Board and especially it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, will ultimately reflect on the Auckland City Council, and it’s mayor, Len Brown.

At this point, I am wondering what Auckland councillors and mayor are thinking, knowing that their company is engaging in some weird propaganda exercise with two right-wing bloggers? Actually, do they even know?!

Is this professional behaviour from a Chief Executive who commands a $750,000 annual salary (+ perks) – eight times the figure allegedly paid to maritime workers?

PoAL’s behaviour suggests that there is not a shred of “goodwill” on their part to resolve the port dispute with it’s workers. Any such suggestion would be laughable. Instead, the propaganda campaign marks nothing less than open warfare designed to undermine their Union, and by default, the entire employer-employee negotiations.

Not exactly the best way to engender good relations, loyalty, or productivity from staff?!

Whilst David Shearer and Len Brown have adopted a “hands-off” stance, to allow both parties to come to a resolution, it appears that PoAL have no hesitation in “getting down and dirty” in this fight. Which means that whilst the port workers are effectively on their own – the Right are mounting a more and more agressive campaign, and bringing in every ally they can muster.

Some might say this is “class war”. And to be honest, it appears more and more that way every passing day.

This is not resolution – this is escalation.

Who will PoAL call upon next?

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Sent to Mayor Len Brown

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Len Brown <len.brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Port Dispute – Escalation?

Sir,

As you may or may not be aware, Ports of Auckland Ltd have taken to sending information to right wing blogs – namely “Kiwiblog” and “Cactus Kate” – regarding an alleged Ernst & Young “audit” of PoAL employees salaries.

This audit was released only to right wing bloggers (as far as I am aware), and not to the media.

Questions arising from PoAL’s actions,

1. Were you and Council members aware that PoAL was engaging in the release of such an inflammatory report to selected recipients?

2. Is it policy from Auckland Council that ratepayer-owned businesses engage in such provocative and unprofessional behaviour, in the midst of an industrial dispute?

3. Do you, and Council, believe that such provocative behaviour is indicative of “goodwill bargaining” by employers?

4. Does Auckland Council endorse these tactics from PoAL?

5. What was the purpose of PoAL releasing this “audit” to right-wing bloggers?

6. After this release of information, do you and Council still have confidence in PoAL chief Excecutive, Tony Gibson, who appears to be engaging in escalation rather than negotiation?

In case you have not see the material I am referring to, the relevant information is here: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/propaganda-as-an-industrial-dispute-weapon/

It is my assessment that Mr Gibson’s position of PoAL chief executive has become untenable, as he has alienated his workforce and resorted to tactics that are inflammatory. His actions in sending material to rightwing bloggers cannot be considered anything except highly provocative. One must question Mr Gibson’s  judgement in engaging in such unprofessional behaviour.

As mayor and leader of Auckland, responsibility for resolving this confrontation devolves to you, Mr Brown. Mr Gibson seems unable (or unwilling, for reasons known only to himself) to resolve this dispute.

It is time, sir, for you to take immediate and decisive action.

It is time for Mr Gibson to step down as CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd.

It is time for a new CEO to be appointed – one who can engage with maritime workers and act constructively to resolve this dispute.

Regards,
- Frank Macskasy
Blogger
Frankly Speaking

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown

On behalf of Mayor Len Brown, thank you for your email.

The Mayor receives a large volume of correspondence and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards,
Office of the Mayor
Auckland Council – Te Kaunihera O Tamāki Makaurau

http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
Follow Len Brown on Facebook & Twitter

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After a month, the following reply is received from Mayor Brown’s office,

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 11:56 AM
subject:    RE: Port Dispute – Escalation?
    

Dear Frank,

Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown regarding the current dispute at the Ports of Auckland. I am responding on his behalf and please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Mayor Brown’s position is to continue to encourage both sides of the dispute to return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith on the collective agreement.

Both sides are aware of the need for a sustainable settlement because the Port is essential to the Auckland economy and delivers ratepayers a return on their investment. The two sides need to find a solution and this cannot be imposed on them from outside.

Mayor Brown supports retaining the port in public ownership and not privatising it, which means it is important that the port work as efficiently and effectively as possible for the people of Auckland.

Ports of Auckland Ltd is an independent company that is run and managed by its own board. It is not appropriate for Mayor Brown to step in on every industrial dispute as it is the two sides that need to come to agreement.

However, Mayor Brown remains concerned about the ongoing impact of the dispute on the Auckland economy, the return to Auckland Council and the working relationships on the wharves. He will continue to encourage both sides to enter mediation and resolve the dispute in a sustainable manner.

Kind Regards,
Donna Lovejoy | Mayoral Correspondence
Office of the Mayor, Auckland Council
Level 1, Town Hall, Queen Street, Auckland
Visit our website:  http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

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It is disappointing that Len Brown’s response addressed none of the points I raised and answered none of the questions.

If Len Brown believes that he is safe by sitting on the fence,  he should consider Humpty Dumpty’s fate. Deserting your constituents who voted for you is not a particularly smart thing to do.

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Additional

Chris Trotter: The Auckland Ports Dispute – An Open Letter To David Shearer

Chris Trotter: Equal and Opposite

Matt McCarten: It’s time to step up, Mr Mayor

Maritime Union: Ports of Auckland management “fact sheet” short on facts

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