Three Jokers and an Ace
This has been one of those strange weeks that only a National-led government can give us. Part of that strangeness has been described in a previous blog, with the antics of Paula Bennett, Pita Sharples, and a slow train-wreck called ACT.
But before the weekend was over, there was more neo-liberal nonsense to follow. One thing you can always count on with the Nats – they’re good for a facepalm on a regular basis…
First Joker: David Carter
Local Government Minister, David Carter’s performance on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 20 May, was an exercise in National’s ‘Daddy State‘ policies revving up several notches.
Not content with forcing assets sales, fracking, and deep sea drilling on us – the NPPB (National Party Politburo of Bunnies) is now issuing diktats from on-high to local body councils.
Firstly, Kommissar Karter instructed local bodies what was acceptable “core services” by local body councils,
Okay, core services – what on earth are core services? Because there seems to be a lot of scope in what a core service is and what a council should be taking care of.
Well, it’s certainly clear what core services are, and they are rates and rubbish and water, et cetera. But this legislation’s not about saying to councils, ‘You can only embark on core services.’ It is still the responsibility of the council to engage with its community and find out what services that community wants. But we want that debate to be far more transparent than it has been in the past.
Well, hold on. It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this. They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not. Which way is it to go?
We are not saying that councils can only do core services. If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park. You could argue that’s not a core service. The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that. The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make. It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister. “
Then the Minister advised the Great Unwashed what was not acceptable “core services”,
We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes. In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing. I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone. It cost local government in that area a lot of money. We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity. And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past. “
So according to Kommissar Karter,
- V8 car races – out
- Flower shows - in
- Asset sales – in
- local democracy to choose our own expenditure: out
- centralised, National Party control over expenditure: in
- core service by councils – tba
The Minister then added, for good measure in case the proles had not understood his Diktat from On High,
You’re hitting on the essence of the relationship that should be between local government and central government. It has to be truly a partnership, but it’s not on for local government then to step into the space which is clearly central government’s role. And it is central government’s role to establish the education system in this country. It is central government’s role to establish parameters of measuring the success of that. We can then work with Len Brown and his council, particularly as he tries to develop solutions to some of the social problems in South Auckland, and we’re happy to work with him in a partnership. But the core responsibility still remains with central government. “
Which, if implemented, would mean that Otorohanga’s Council-led and community-based initiatives – which has seen unemployment and youth problems plummet – would not be a core Council responsibility?
Had National’s policy of curtailing Council activities been in full-force, youth unemployment and associated problems would remain unchanged, or probably much worse in that small town.
See also: Youth unemployment a growing problem
How would National’s policy, to “reign in” local Councils, impact on other towns and cities that attempted to take steps to address our growing social problems? Would Auckland prohibited from pursuing a programme similar to Otorohanga?
David Carter’s performance on Q+A was simply breath-taking. If anyone thought that Labour was guilty of creating a “Nanny State” – they had to watch Carter to see National go several steps further. In effect, central government will be dictating to local bodies what they can or can’t do.
Democracy? Not in our towns or cities, according to Minister Carter.
National is taking over.
Curfew at 7PM.
See transcript: Q+ALocal Government Minister David Carter interview
The irony here is that whilst National stands by and watches unemployment soar, local communities, through their elected representatives, are taking steps to address this growing problem.
Meanwhile, National’s response to unemployment is not to implement job creation programmes – their response is to fiddle with welfare.
Which leads us to the next issue…
Second Joker: Paula Rebstock
Q+A’s interview with Paula Rebstock – appointed by Welfare Minister Paula Bennett to head a board to oversee the implementation of National’s welfare “reforms” – is continuing National’s mission to demonise the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), and others who rely on social welfare to survive.
Since National has no job-creation plan, Dear Leader and Paula Bennett are shifting responsibility for lack of jobs onto welfare beneficiaries. (Because we know that welfare pays for the mansion, limousine in the drive-way, and the beach house in Hawaii. Oh, wait, no, that’s John Key.)
It is a most pernicious form of scape-goating.
It is shameful, and panders to the nasty prejudices that reside in the dark depths of our vestigial reptilian hind-brain. For the Working and Middle Classes, who have always had the sneaking suspicion that welfare offers an opulent lifestyle – until they themselves are made redundant – only to then discover the true nature of just how paltry welfare actually is.
To put this issue into some context, New Zealand’s unemployment doubled after the global financial crisis and resulting recession,
Rebstock headed the infamous “Welfare Working Group” in 2010. Some of the recommendations of the WWG were so punitive and inhumane as to return to the Victorian Era. Even John Key was moved to reject many of Rebstock’s extreme proposals.
In November 2010, Rebstock was interviewed by Paul Holmes on Q+A,
So that means a bit of government intervention, that means government providing these [jobs], presumably.
Well, I don’t know if it does, and I think this is a really important point. If we look at how the labour market in New Zealand has performed, it is true we’ve been in a recession and we’re now moving into a slow recovery and jobs have been an issue, but since 1986 this economy has created more than 500,000 jobs. Now, it responded as well as almost any economy in the world to the economic environment. We had one of the highest employment rates in the OECD. I think that it is a little bit of a cop-out to say that we can’t deal to some of the issues around long-term benefit dependency because of the job market.
Oh, come on, Paula, the jobs simply aren’t there. I mean, if you look at 2006, there was a 30,000 net gain of jobs. In 2008 it had gone down a bit – 9,000 net gain. God knows what it is this year.
We actually are experiencing a gain in jobs. The labour statistics that came out last week show that. I’m not saying that we haven’t been in a recession, Paul, but this is the time right now to prepare people for the recovery. They need to be ready to take the jobs that are there. “
Unfortunately for everyone, the jobs were not “out there”. With the recession is full swing, exports were down, and companies were laying off staff in their hundreds.
Unemployment in November 2010 was 6.4%. By January 2011, it had reach 6.8%. The rate moved up and down, and currently sits on 6.7%.
Fast forward 18 months, and despite the economy continuing to stagnate, National is pursuing it’s scape-goating of unemployed and solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), and Rebstock and Bennett are both still ‘singing the same song’.
On 16 May, Bennett said,
” The cost of today’s total number of beneficiaries is estimated at $45 billion. It makes good economic and social sense to provide targeted support up front to get more people into work sooner.
This new approach will be embedded at all levels of the welfare system and the board will be responsible for ensuring accountability and overseeing the delivery of reforms that will see fewer people on welfare for long periods. “
Not. One. Word. About. Job. Creation.
National is displaying an almost Obsessive-Compulsive antipathy on welfare issues. Their sole focus is on welfare and welfare beneficiaries.
As if 80,000+ New Zealanders decided to chuck in their jobs in the last few years, and instead live the life of luxury on $204.96 a week (net).
Yet, not too long ago (29 April), Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett actually admitted,
No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.
See: TVNZ Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview (29 April)
So why is National spending $1.1 million on Rebstock’s ‘Work and Income Board’ to oversee WINZ – when it ain’t welfare that’s broke. It’s the job market that is 160,000 jobs short?!
Bennett goes on to say,
“ I’ve got fantastic frontline staff, I’ve got fantastic upper and middle management that are working hands on with policy changes and implementing that frontline. “
“Fantastic front line staff”.
“Fantastic upper and middle management”.
“Working hands on with policy changes”.
But no jobs.
Third Joker: John Key
National’s “Gateway” scheme had its origins during the Mana by-election, in 2010. As some will recall, it was National’s grand plan to beat the Labour candidate, Kris Faafoi.
National’s candidate was… Hekia Parata – the current Minister for Education.
Ms Parata lost by 1,406 votes to Labour’s candidate. (The margin widens when adding centre-left votes for the Greens and Matt McCarten.)
It appears that the “Gateway” scheme was little more than an election bribe for Mana voters; a “lolly” to entice people to vote for Parata. National lost, and were stuck with fulfilling their policy pledge.
(Damned inconvenient when that happens, I guess.)
Heatley touted the scheme, grandly proclaiming,
“It is important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership. Affordable homes schemes such as Gateway is another way we can assist more people into a home of their own.”
But by May of this year, it seems that it was ‘no longer important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership’.
John Key announced it’s cancellation last week.
For a man who was raised in a taxpayer funded, and subsidised, state home with his siblings and widowed mum, and who benefitted from a societal value that decent housing was a basic human right – John Key has some very strange attitudes toward providing shelter for the poor and vulnerable,
The Gateway scheme details,
* For first home buyers earning under $100,000 a year
* They can get a mortgage to build or buy a house on state land
* Must have at least a 10% deposit
* Have 10 years to buy the land
It’s interesting to note that Key is unable to deliver “low cost” housing for couples earning under$100,000 and says,
“The Government has looked at that programme and decided that’s now not the most effective way of going forward.
So we think the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower.
“If you have a look at the average home owner in New Zealand, they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government.” – Ibid
His comments raises several issues,
- It says a lot about Key’s impression of what constitutes “lower income New Zealanders” when the threshold is up to $100,000 per couple. Perhaps by his multi-million dollar standards, a couple on $100,000 is “poor”?
- Derides the previous Labour government and claims credit for lower interest rates, by stating “they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government“. As if current low interest rates are a result of National’s intervention? (Interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank, and are currently low because our economy is stagnant. National can take credit for the latter, but not the former.)
- How can providing decent, affordable housing for low income earners be “not the most effective way of going forward” ?
- Key is living in a millionaire’s fantasyland if he seriously believes that “ the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower“. Dear Leader doesn’t understand that the interest rate can be irrelevant if people can’t afford to buy a home in the first place.
If ever there was ever an instance of the Silver Spoon mentality – look no further than our current Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable John Key.
New Zealanders are deluded if they think this man can relate to their ordinary, everyday, lives.
The Ace: John Tamihere
As mentioned in a previous blogpost, John Tamihere is hosting an excellent, low-key, intelligent, current affairs chat show on TV3 (Sunday mornings) called “Think Tank“. Last Sunday’s (20 May) episode focused on child poverty in New Zealand and what practical steps were required to address this growing social crisis.
Last week, it was pokie machines and their effects on communities.
As the show’s name suggests, the goal is not just to look into critical social issues – but to come up with solutions. The show’s panel of four people offers solutions; and the guests scrutinises each suggestion.
It’s a chat show for sure – but instead of superficial inanities, the conversation is serious and fit for adult consumption.
This is good television. This treats the viewer as intelligent and capable of considering complex issues.
This blogger can only live in hope that this is the turning point of 21st century television, and we are seeing an end (or at least slow reduction) of the execrable rubbish we have been served up, since commercialisation and dumbing down became the norm for broadcasting in this country.
John Tamihere is perfect for the role of host for the show. Not a polished or trained media front-person, John Tamihere has walked the hard yards in life and has moved from the tough neighbourhoods of South Auckland to the halls of power in Parliament. He’s lived life. He’s seen things that Middle Class New Zealand has no wish to see or experience, outside of comfortable television shows.
This blogger’s only criticisms revolve around scheduling and lack of promotion.
Scheduling “Think Tank” on Sunday mornings ghettoises the show. It relegates it almost as an ‘after thought’. It would be an act of naked political subversion to broadcast it during prime time viewing. (That should give National’s/NZ on Air’s, Stephen McElrea something to howl about!)
The show also needs more promo on TV3. This blogger discovered it only by sheer fluke. Not promoting it leaves us wondering if TV3 doesn’t really want to draw attention to it? Perhaps doesn’t want to draw the ire of certain National Party ministers?
One hopes not.
TV3, as your print-media colleagues used to say, Publish and be damned !
It’s a good show.
Be proud of it.
= fs =
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For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ Minimum wage @ $15 p/hr
~ Marriage equality
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- What’s the beef, guv?
- 2013 – Ongoing jobless talley
- Four schools to close in Aranui, Christchurch
- KGB, CIA, STASI, SIS… Facebook?!
- The Vote, Electricity, and Sex! (That’ll grab your attention!)
- A playful “tiff”?!
- The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!
- He Couldn’t handle the Truth…
- Mediaworks, Solid Energy, and National Standards
- The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do.
- Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders
- Project Loon…
- Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!
- Radio NZ’s new CEO is announced…
- The fabulously talented Kim Hill…
- Is Labour snatching defeat from the jaws of Victorysaurus?
- 14 June – Issues of Interest
- For Edward Snowden…
- Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys
- Citizen A: Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter & David Slack
- Judith Collins – Minister of Talking Crap
- Judith Collins, Peter Dunne, & Backbenches
- 12 June – Issues of Interest
- National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP
- 11 June – Issues of Interest