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Archive for December, 2012

Why the Remuneration Authority just doesn’t get it

27 December 2012 20 comments

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PUT-THE-POLITICIANS-ON-MINIMUM-WAGE-AND-WATCH-HOW-FAST-THINGS-CHANGE

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When you read media stories like this, you know that Alice has company in Wonderland,

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MPs pay rise less than other workers - authority

Full story

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(Or is it La La Land?!)

When Remuneration Authority, chief executive John Errington says,

Since fiscal year 2009 general salaries and wages have increased by 5.6 per cent and the Consumers Price Index has increased by 8 per cent. Parliamentary salaries . . . have increased by only 2.9 per cent. This still leaves members of Parliament receiving lower remuneration increases than the general population.

See: IBID

For the record, the increases mean the following,

$419,300 Prime Minister ($7790 increase)
$297,400 Deputy PM ($5600)
$262,700 Crown ministers, the Speaker, Leader of the Opposition ($4900)
$158,700 Party leader base salary ($3000)
$144,600 Backbench MPs ($2800)
$52,676 average NZ wage

See: Christmas rise gives PM $3900 backpay, $150 more a week

On top of which, the increases,

  •  are back-dated to 1 July 2012
  •  exclude a $2,000 increase in 2011, and a $5,000 increase in 2011, to “compensate MPs for the loss of their international travel perk and a significant drop in their domestic travel bill”
  • exclude a $24,000 a year subsidy toward their rent/accommodation in Wellington
  • exclude $16,100 a year for expenses such as new luggage, flowers, gifts, memberships, and meals.

Nice work if you can get it.

Meanwhile, back in the Real World,

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Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Full story

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When the Prime Minister, our very own Dear Leader, John Key was presented with the situation of rest home workers being paid an apalling figure of around $14.61 an hour, his response was,

“Travel is one of those areas where we are looking at what we can do,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

However, the Government could not afford to give DHBs the $140 million required to enable rest homes to pay their staff more.

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

“You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

“What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.”

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

Interesting that there is plenty of tax-money for subsidising businesses; rugby world cup tournaments; politician’s salaries and perks – but when it comes to the lowest paid, hardest working, people in our society  – Key’s response is; ” It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash “.

Yup. It’s La La Land.

Here’s a thought; why not link the minimum wage to that of Members of Parliament?

So when politicians get a pay increase – so do those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

In fact, let’s make it a point that any increase also applies to those earning minimum wages receiving similar perks to politicians; eg; travel and food subsidies, in the form of   weekly vouchers for petrol, food, and electricity.

The lowest paid people in our society might actually start looking forward to salary and perks increases for our MPs and Ministers. And MPs would have a whole new fanclub.

What are the chances?

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Previous related blogposts

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

References

Fairfax media: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Fairfax media: PM: No money for aged care workers

Fairfax media: MPs pay rise less than other workers – authority

NZ Herald: Christmas rise gives PM $3900 backpay, $150 more a week

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Why arming our Police is not such a flash idea

27 December 2012 27 comments

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No more anarchy

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When the National Rifle Association’s  Wayne LaPierre suggested that the “solution” to mass shootings in US schools was to arm teachers, the response of  trhose with more common sense was one of  (a) disbelief (b) dismay and (c) disgust. (See previous blogpost: NRA response; more guns. Common sense sez otherwise. )

And rightly so. Escalation of  America’s internal arms race could not be viewed by any sane human being as anything other than compounding the madness that is part and parcel of  their fixation on guns.

New Zealanders generally shook their collective heads at the sheer stupidity of  Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion.

But it seems that we, ourselves, are not above knee-jerk reactions when it comes to crime, drunken mayhem, Police, etc.

As is usual now with the de-regulation of the booze industry and our laws on alcohol (courtesy of the “free market” and the Cult of the Individual), theend-of-year “festive season” now includes a routine plethora of out-of-control parties and public displays of alcohol-fuelled violence.

As if we should be surprised that the easy availability of cheap booze would have any other consequences?

This year was no different, with several instances of Police having to deal with alcohol-fueled fights and other public dis-order.

The intensity of the violence has taken a new turn, with Police themselves coming under direct attack.

One was particularly nasty,

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Attacks on police lead to call for arms

Full story

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In one, big, reflexive jerk of the knee, Police Association vice-president, Luke Shadbolt, repeated the call to routinely arm police,

Increasingly, members are calling for general arming. And we know, amongst the staff … more and more are leaning toward general arming as well.”

See: IBID

Thankfully, though, others in the Police force were able to exercise a modicum of common sense. Whangarei area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips stated the blindingly obvious,

I don’t know what would have happened [if he'd been armed] but firearms are easier to use than Tasers.

See: IBID

That’s right, folks; one of the drunk partygoers had taken the constable’s taser and had tried to use it on the unconscious police officer.

The complexity of the weapon defeated the drunk idiot.

Now replace the taser with a handgun.

Instead of two bruised and battered police officers, we would have at least one – probably two – dead police; grieving families; and two more names to add to a sad list at the Police College of fallen policemen and women,

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Police Remembrance Day 2012 v3

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In this case, the lack of guns probably saved two lives.

Meanwhile, as if we needed to emphasise the point, in 2010 seven American  police officers were killed by their own weapons that had been taken from them. (See:  FBI Releases Preliminary Statistics for Law Enforcement Officers Killed in 2010)

We have a problem in this country, but it is not with unarmed Police.

Our problem lies with the ubiquitous availability of dirt-cheap booze; a gutless National “government” that has kowtowed to the liquor industry; and an attitude in this country that alcohol abuse is someone elses’ problem.

Anyone who seriously thinks that giving guns to police will solve this deep malaise in our society has probably had one too many.

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Additional

The Press: New liquor laws ‘dog’s breakfast’ – Dickerson (12 Dec 2012)

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Citizen A 2012 year in review with Chris Trotter & Phoebe Fletcher

24 December 2012 2 comments

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Citizen A

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Chris Trotter & Phoebe Fletcher

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20 December 2012 – 2012 year in review

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Citizen A 2012 year in review with Chris Trotter & Phoebe Fletcher

Issue 1: Who were the best and worst politicians and political parties for 2012?

Issue 2: What were the biggest political and economic news stories for this year?

and Issue 3: what flew under the news radar?

Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV: Citizen A will move to Sky TV on their new public broadcasting style channel ‘Face TV’ February 1st 2013.

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See Also

Tumeke: The Tumeke Media Love/Hate Awards 2012

Tumeke: Tumeke Political Review 2012 & 2013 Predictions

Acknowledgement

Re-published with kind permission from Tumeke

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On the First Day of Christmas…

23 December 2012 11 comments

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The 12 days of Christmas

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… My country gave to me:
a PM we can all respect!

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johnkey5

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On the second day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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Nzbc-presents-logo-pgb

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On the third day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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6a00d83451d75d69e201538f605755970b-500wi

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On the fourth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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clean river, dirty river

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On the fifth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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The miracle of full employment

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On the sixth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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welcome-to-the-east-cape-petrobras

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deepsea-horizon-explosion

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On the seventh day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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andrew-maxwell-uk-riots

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On the eighth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Less spent on roads, more on public transport,
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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public transport

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On the ninth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
No secret free trade ‘deals’
Less spent on roads, more on public transport,
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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TPP - why so secret

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On the tenth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Free school meals for our kiddies.
No secret free trade ‘deals’
Less spent on roads, more on public transport,
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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school meals3

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On the eleventh day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Fully funded free healthcare,
Free school meals for our kiddies.
No secret free trade ‘deals’
Less spent on roads, more on public transport,
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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bed-patient

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On the twelth day of Christmas,
My country gave to me:
Real free education,
Fully funded free healthcare,
Free school meals for our kiddies.
No secret free trade ‘deals’
Less spent on roads, more on public transport,
A raise in minimum wages,
An end to fracking ‘n’ deep-sea drilling,
Lots more jobs, less bene-bashing!
Much cleaner rivers,
No state asset sales,
A new public service TV
and a PM we can all respect!

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free education for all

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… and of course, there is much, much more. But these will do for starters.

Thank you to everyone who has taken time to read my scribblings and to share their thoughts, by leaving comments.  From this blogger and his family, we wish everyone a happy Christmas; time to catch up with loved ones;  and a safe and  even better New Year.

Merry Christmas, Meri Kirihimete

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my fellow New Zealanders!

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mistletoe2

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Categories: On A Lighter Note

National and the Cult of Buck-Passing

22 December 2012 12 comments

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said no teacher ever 2

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Successive National governments have had a problem.

New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes.  National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige  and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a  year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeezeTax hikes disguised as reinvestment’,   Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.

What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.

Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.

Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,

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Schools face teacher cuts threat

Full story

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The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,

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Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Full story

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Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do.  National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.

This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.

The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.

Others included,

  • the ongoing Novopay fiasco
  • the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
  • the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See:  Parata did not heed warning over closure),
  • Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)

It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.

The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.

Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,

Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.

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Lesley Longstone - John Campbell - TV3 - Ministry for Education - Campbell Live - Hekia Parata

Full story

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Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.

As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.

The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe.   Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See:  Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )

One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the  touristy-destination of  “Middle Earth New Zealand”.

During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announces Longstone's resignation

Full story

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So to re-cap,

  1. Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
  2. She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
  3. When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
  4. The  entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
  5. Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
  6. And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.

Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!

So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?

Apparently, he was busy,

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See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.

Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.

It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

See: John Key’s midterm blues?

I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

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Addendum

National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,

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Work and Income boss quits

Full story

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And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case   (See:  Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).

At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,

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Dr Evil John Key

“National does not tolerate failure, Ms Longstone. Would you like a Speights or water with your Professional Cyanide Pill?”

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References

Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious

NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits

Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns

Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

NZ Herald: Is Parata next?

Fairfax media: Education secretary quits

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NRA response; more guns. Common sense sez otherwise.

22 December 2012 44 comments

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Wayne LaPierre

“If we truly cherish our kids, more than money, more than our celebrities, we must must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained – armed – good guy.”

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The NRA’s, Wayne LaPierre, finally fronted up to a shocked global society by offering their nightmarish solution to gun-shootings in American schools; more guns. Specifically, armed guards in every school in the United States.  (See: NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools)

Aside from the bizarreness of this proposal, the sheer cost would be astronomical.

According to one source, in 2009-10 there are 138,925 educational institutions ranging from “Elementrary” (our primary schools) through to Universities. (Source: National Centre for Education Statistics: Educational Institutions)

If a minimum of one private, full time, guard was placed in every  institution, at a median cost of  US$28,834 per person, (see:  Salary.com: security guards) the full would be an astronomical US$4,005, 763,450 per annum. Many institutions because of their size would need two, or more guards.

Considering Republican’s (who are allied to the NRA)  lack of appetite for increasing taxes, it is hard to see where the money would come from.

No wonder that there was protest at Wayne LaPierre’s speech yesterday,

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It is highly doubtful that  arming teachers or hiring security guards would achieve anything. Being the United States, how long would it be before the first mentally disturbed security guard or teacher pulled out his/her legally-sanctioned gun and started blasting away at the people they were mandated to protect?

Or, the guard was simply in another part of the school grounds?

Or, more likely, was the first victim of any deranged shooter?

Only in the US would one countenance the totally lunatic proposal that more guns equates to more safety.  This is the United States; a culture where guns are revered in their entertainment value as the solution to complex problems. Mass murder can even be made to look cool, with cool clothing, cool sunnies, and cool background music. Killing becomes a fashion-statement – in the US, anyway,

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Is that how mass-murderers see themselves?

Meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion fall flat on it’s distorted face  when it is pointed out that Columbine High School did indeed have an armed guard on duty;  Sheriff’s deputy, Neil Gardner.

On 20 April 1999, despite Mr Gardner’s presence, twelve students and one teacher were gunned down  by two deranged students.

The NRA are not the solution – they are intrinsically part of the problem.

And unfortunately we have our own gun nuts here in New Zealand. See:  Firearms – Libertarianz

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Additional

The Guardian: This sacred text explains why the US can’t kick the gun habit

The Guardian: Wayne LaPierre and the NRA: so defensive it was downright offensive

The Guardian: NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools

Slate: Wayne LaPierre Wants Armed Guards at Schools. Columbine Had an Armed Guard

Wikipedia: Columbine High School massacre

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John Key: liar, liar, pants on nuclear fire!!!

18 December 2012 13 comments

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In early 2010…

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Key - we cut taxes not raise them

Yeah, National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes…What I’m saying is if we do a half decent job as a government at growing our economy I’m confident that won’t be happening and that’s not on our agenda.”

Source

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December 2012,

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Petrol, road charges hikes are 'bad news'

Full story

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Interesting…

After two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, National is now having to raise taxes in other areas to make up for the billions it has lost in revenue.

English admitted as such in this Fairfax Media story,

This morning Gerry Brownlee announced plans to increase excise tax on petrol by 3 cents a litre, in each of the next three years. This would raise Government income by up to $300m a year.

While English said the increase would have an impact on the Government’s accounts, he denied it was done to ensure the forecasts showed a surplus.

“Without the changes, we would have fallen short of the surplus track.”

Today’s announcement also saw forecasts that by 2015-16 the New Zealand Debt Management Office would borrow $6.5b more than it forecast six months ago.

“That is a concern,’’ English told reporters.

See: Growth forecast cut, debt seen higher

Yeah, I’ll bet “that’s a concern“.

This is in stark contrast to warnings we were given in mid-2008,

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Nats to borrow for other spending - but not tax cuts

Full story

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Well, we got our tax cuts. (Mostly for the top 1%, as usual.) And National borrowed hand-over-fist to make up the revenue shortfall.

It was not enough.

Which is why National is partially selling off our state power companies, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand.

But it’s still not enough.

So the Nats will be slyly raising taxes and government charges (eg, road user charges, medicines, etc). Even children delivering newspapers were targetted.

All to re-coup the lolly-scramble they initiated in 2009 and 2010.

This, however, does not surprise me.  Since the Muldoon Era, I have realised that National’s so-called reputation for being “prudent fiscal managers” is a myth. Most likely perpetrated and perpetuated by National’s taxpayer funded spin doctors.

National is no more “fiscally prudent” than a shopaholic who justifies his/her spend-up by explaining that  ” I saved heaps – it was all on “Sale”And I put it on the Card !!”

When Key and his cronies promised us tax cuts in 2008, it was well into the Global Financial Crisis (see: Blog Timeline – specifically Year 2008). The Nats knew full well that tax cuts were unaffordable.

Michael Cullen tried to warn the country.

But 1,053,398 voters in 2008 took the bribe and thought nothing about who or how we would pay for National’s promises.

Well the answer is blindingly obvious; we are paying for it.

And now we’ll be paying for it every time we fill up at the petrol stations.

How happy are National voters now, I wonder?

Silly buggers – shafted by the Party they voted for!

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Acknowledgement

Gordon Campbell: On last night’s debate between John Key and Phil Goff

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