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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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Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

18 December 2012 37 comments

Continued from: Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions

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reaching-out-300x196

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To re-cap,

Allyson Locke and a handful of other New Zealanders are suffering from Pompe Disease – a terminal condition. Their only hope is an expensive drug – Myozyme – which they cannot afford.

Allyson and her fellow Pompe sufferers have appealed to the Prime Minister for assistance.

They are appealing for equal treatment to breast cancer sufferers,  who gained extra funding for extended herceptin treatment, as part of John Key’s election campaign promise in 2008.

This blogger supports Allyson and her fellow pompe sufferers to plead for mercy from John Key.

Considering that Key and National found over $200 million to support last year’s rugby world cup tournament(Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m), it is inconceivable that they cannot fund medicine which seven New Zealanders desperately require.

The alternative is death.

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Full story

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On 22 November 2012, Tony Ryall sent this response to the blog author,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-22-nov-2012

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In turn, on the same day, I emailed Mr Ryall with this correspodence,

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Date:Thursday, 22 November 2012 9:41 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    Grant Robertson <grant.robertson@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    “Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    “news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
    “news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    “primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>

Sir,

I am in receipt of your email dated 22 November, regarding Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) for sufferers of Pompe Disease. I understand you have already been in contact with Ms Allyson Lock on this matter.

You state that your reason for not supporting funding for ERT is – and I quote you – that “as a Minister I am prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”.

I refer your attention to the 2008 election campaign where your Party pledged to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer, from nine weeks to twelve months, even though Pharmac had up to that point been resisting all such requests on the grounds of cost and efficacy.

Post election, after becoming government, you implemented your election promise, and you stated in a press release dated 10 December 2008,

“We are extending funding for Herceptin to allow patients and their doctors to have a choice of a 12 months course. The nine-week treatment option also remains funded and available.”

I refer your attention to the following press releases from yourself and the Prime Minister, announcing additional funding for herception, despite PHARMAC’s initial decision opposing the move;

12-month Herceptin treatment now available

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00083.htm

Government honours Herceptin promise

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00082.htm

I have three subsequent questions, which you may be able to clarify;

1. If you are unable to intervene in PHARMAC’s  decision making process – what process did you use to fund herception from nine weeks to twelve months?

2. Where was funding obtained from?

3. Why are you unable to use the same process to fund ERT as you did for Herceptin?

I hope this problem can be resolved with some urgency, as Pompe Disease is terminal, and seven New Zealanders are facing a death sentence unless help is forthcoming.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

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Four days later, I received this response,

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From: “Nicole Hine (MIN)” “Nicole.Hine@parliament.govt.nz”
To: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: RE: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
Date:  Monday, 26 November 2012 9:14 AM

Dear Mr Macskasy

On behalf of Hon Tony Ryall, Minister of Health, thank you for your further email of 22  November 2012 about ERTs.

The Minister has asked Ministry of Health officials to advise him on the matters you have raised.  Please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, a personal reply to your letter may take some weeks.

Kind regards

Nicole Hine
Private Secretary – Health
Office of Hon Tony Ryall

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*** Up-Date ***

Finally, Mr Ryall’s response, dated 5 December was as follows,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012

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It is interesting to note the following comments from Mr Ryall,

1. “… in December 2008, the Government decided to fund herceptin outside the PHARMAC model

[...]

The 12 month course of Herceptin was funded directly by the Ministry of Health…”

As Ryall stated in his 22 November correspondence,

I am prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process.”

But by “tapping” into the Ministry of Health’s budget, this allowed National to circumvent the  legislation surrounding PHARMAC’s independence and sideline that organisation entirely. In effect, the Ministry was turned into a giant “slush fund”, to allow National ministers to pay for their election bribes promises.

Allyson Lock and her six fellow Pompe disease sufferers could be funded by precisely the same means; directing the Ministry of Health to purchase the Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) necessary to keep them alive.

But it’s not an election year.

The Minister’s final statement was that “… in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.”

It seems paradoxical that whilst National ministers cannot afford life-saving medicine “in the current fiscal environment“, that they have found funding for the following;

  • $1,400 spent on a limousine hire for two days (Source)
  • $2,000 per day spent on a “Special advisor” to Bill English (Source)
  • $453,450  (conservative estimate)  spent on parties, welcomes, farewells, and other booze-ups  (Source)
  • $500,000 from this Government’s Major Events Development Fund spent on a  NZPGA Pro-Am Championship tournament held earlier this year  (Source)
  • $3.1 million spent by members of Parliament on airfare and accomodation in just three months,  (Source)
  • $4 million spent by Tourism New Zealand  to attract China Southern Airlines to New Zealand (Source)
  • $20 million spent on advertising by the NZ Defence Force (Source)
  • $21.9 million spent by  Treasury on consultants in 2012-13  (compared to $2 million in 2007-08), including  $20,000 paid to Cato Partners NZ to redesign the Treasury website and  $37,000 paid to Bill Ralston and Janet Wilson for media training  (Source)
  • $54 million spent by state owned enterprises  on “performance bonuses” to their employees (Source)
  • $75 million spent from 2009-11 to movie studios in taxpayer funded subsidies (Source)
  • $120 million in  subsidies paid to Warner Bros to produce “The Hobbit” in NZ (Source)
  • $220 million spent on the Rugby World Cup (Source)
  • $300 million subsidies spent on the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Source)
  • $910.5 million spent from 2008 to September 2012,  on consultants (Source)

If the  above list shows anything, it is that National can find money (or subsidies) when it wants to.  There appears to be no restraint due to “the current fiscal environment.

And yet, perhaps “the current fiscal environment” is not as bad as Mr Ryall makes out – especially in the health sector,

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Pharmac 'saved DHBs billions' in medicine costs

Source

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Another attempt to persuade the Minister to see the logic of this situation,

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Date: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 9:17 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: In response to your letter dated 5 December
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,

Re; Pompe Disease sufferers

Thank you for your letter dated 5 December explaining the circumstances and means by which Herception was funded outside of normal PHARMAC channels. Using the Ministry of Health to directly fund an extension of Herceptin for breast cancer sufferers was certainly a novel approach.

It occurs to me that the same process can be employed to fund Enzyme Replacement Therapies (ERT) for the seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal condition known as Pompe Disease.

I do not accept that, as you suggest in your 5 December letter, that  ” in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments” since your government seems to find funding for e vents such as the Rugby World Cap ($220m); advertising by the NZ Defence Force ($20m); bonuses for  state owned enterprises employees ($54m); millions spent on tax breaks and advertising campaigns in the movie indsustry, etc.

There appears to be no valid reason that Pompe Disease sufferers are not offered the same “lifeline” that you extended breast cancer sufferers in 2008.

It is my contention that through clever negotiations,  government should be able to secure necessary ERT medication at a reasonable price, perhaps by offering contracts in others areas.

At least we have established that government is not constrained by legislation surrounding PHARMAC and that  flexibility exists with funding mechanisms.

I urge you to reconsider this issue and to find ways and means to facilitate a positive outcome for Pompe Disease sufferers.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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After one week, no response – or even acknowledgement – has been received by this blogger to the above email. The Minister appears to have ‘gone to ground’ on this issue.

It seems fairly clear to this blogger,

  1. When National wants  something – it will find the necessary money required.
  2. This is not a matter of available funding, but rather one of political will (or lack of).
  3. There seems no difference between funding herceptin for breast cancer sufferers in 2008, and  funding medication for Pompe Disease sufferers.

If money was available from the Ministery of Health (thereby circumventing the law preventing Ministerial direction of PHARMAC to purchase specific medicines), then one has to wonder why Ryall does not employ the same mechanism for Pompe disease sufferers?

One wonders  how the Prime Minister and Tony Ryall decided that breast cancer sufferers merited life-saving drugs – but Pompe disease sufferers do not deserve equal assistance.

One thing is for certain; the intransigence of Tony Ryall and John Key will have life-threatening consequences for Allyson Locke and many others in this country.

 

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= fs =

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

17 December 2012 4 comments

Continued from: New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

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polyp_cartoon_Arms_Trade_Profits

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On 12 December, this blogger reported that two domestic investment funds, the government’s National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund had “ interests in collective investment vehicles ” that were investing in  Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and L-3 Communications.

These three corporations  manufacture weapons known as “cluster bombs”, which cause horrific injuries, maimings, and death to innocent civilians.

See: Wikipedia: Cluster munition

New Zealand law is quite unambiguous on this issue,

Part 2, sub-part 1,  Paragraph 10, Sub-paragraph 2 clearly states in unequivocal terms,

A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”

Source

Accordingly, this blogger wrote to Finance Minister Bill English – to which no reply has yet been received. (See: New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame)

Emails to the National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund yielded this media statement being received on 14 December,

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GSFA public statement

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It seems inconceivable that legislation can be side-stepped so effortlessly, simply by employing a “third party” – in this case an investment strategy known as a “collective investment vehicle”.

I can think of no other legal situation where a person can circumvent the law simply by relying on a third party to commit an illegal act. At this point, conspiracy laws would surely kick in?!

No wonder Bill English has not responded to my email. This is a can of worms he doesn’t want within eyesight or earshot.

Especially when the law banning investment in cluster weapons - Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009  – was actually legislation authored and passed by National, in 2009.

This blogger emailed a follow-up set of questions to Mr Tyler, cc’d to Finance Minister, Bill English,

1. By investing in certain  “collective investment vehicles”, which are investing in corporations that manufacture banned cluster weapons, are not the National Provident and Government Superannuation Funds simply attempting to  circumvent the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 which specifically prohibits such investment practices “knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions”?

2. Are you aware that you may be risking prosecution under the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009, and that your explanation that “the Authority has no control over the CIVs, however, nor over the corporate securities they hold”  may not be a legal defence?

 
3. Why does the National Provident and Government Superannuation Funds simply not switch collective investment vehicles?
 
I await your response to these questions and hope that this issue can be resolved.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
 
CC: Bill English, Minister of Finance
 
 

 

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The longer these investments are allowed to continue, the longer our country is complicit in the use of a banned weapon that kills indiscriminately.

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= fs =

Putting the boot into boot camps

17 December 2012 39 comments

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crime n law n order

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The genesis of National’s “boot camps” lay in a January 2008 document,  “A Fresh Start for New Zealand “,

They will be designed to give young offenders what they need to make a fresh start – structure, routine, clear boundaries, intensive support and a sense of self-discipline and personal responsibility.  

The programmes will last up to one year and will include up to three months of residential training at, for example, army facilities. Young people sentenced to Fresh Start Programmes will be intensively supervised by high-quality staff dedicated to getting them back on track.   

Fresh Start Programmes will be designed to address the problems underlying a young person’s offending and may include, for example, drug and alcohol rehab, outdoor and physical fitness training, literacy and numeracy teaching and work towards NCEA credits, teamwork exercises, and reinforcement of community values.”

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Six months later, the policy was re-iterated in another election-oriented document – this time included in a mish-mash of  “get-tough-on-young-hoodlums” policies. The policies were highly punitive – basically  “raw meat” politics for National’s core voter-base (as blogger, Bomber Bradbury correctly assesses it).

The one difference was that the Nats had put a costing to their boot camp ideas; $35 million a year.

To really frighten the voters, John Key said in his  opening paragraph,

We need to urgently deal with the kids who pose a serious threat to the security of our communities.”

See: 2008 – Policy on Youth Justice

Serious threat “?! Wow! These kids from (mostly) troubled homes must come armed with weapons of mass destruction?

It doesn’t take a PH.D in psychology to realise that the policies do  pretty much sweet F A to address root causes of troubled youth. A mental image of a sticky plaster on a gaping raw red wound comes to mind.

But at least we now knew how much of our taxes the Tories intended to throw at this problem; $35 million.

Responses to National’s boot camp proposals ranged from the wide-eyed enthusiastic – to the eye-rolling dismissive.

Garth McVicar from the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust ” waxed lyrically,

Call it what you will – discipline, accountability, responsibility works. We’ve just become politically correct and operating a social experiment. It’s been a dismal disaster. I think what John Key is putting out there is the first time I have seen a political party offer some constructive policy which I believe will turn this around.”

See: Support for National’s boot camp

McVicar used all the right phaseology; “politically correct ” and “social experiment “.  So he must be correct, eh?

Even Kim Workman – a more liberal, common-sense  advocate of sentencing reform and director of the Prison Fellowship – supported the “Fresh Start ” programme, and  said,

A recent international review of prisons and boot camps confirms earlier research – that they have no positive impact on offenders and usually result in an increase in recidivism.

Fresh Start, on the other hand, promises to use the most advanced expertise in youth offending that New Zealand has to offer, and describes an environment which provides a mix of accountability and support.”

One of the reasons for the failure of earlier programmes … has been the lack of support and mentoring after the offender completes the sentence. The policy has recognised this as an issue and that’s a promising start.”

See: IBID

By April 2009, Mr Workman’s disappointment in Key’s “Fresh Start” programme became public,

When John Key announced the ‘Fresh Start’ programme in March 2008, he stated that that he would use “the best expertise in youth intervention that New Zealand has to offer.” Those experts included people like Dr Ian Lambie, Dr John Langley, Professor John Werry, Professor David Fergusson, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft – and they have all have spoken with one voice against the proposal. Yesterday, a wide range of organisations joined the chorus – including Unicef, Barnardos, the Families Commission, the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, NZ Law Society, and the Mental Health Commission. There will be more organisations joining in the criticism in the weeks to follow.

The proposal was also heavily criticised at three significant conferences in the last two months – Victoria Universities Institute of Policy Studies Conference on ‘Causes of Crime’, the Taumata Whanonga Hui on Behaviour Management in Schools, and the Ministerial Committee on the Drivers of Crime. At each forum, there was a clear consensus against the proposal.”

Programmes like Fresh Start are not new, as the government suggests. When traditional boot camps didn’t work in the USA, ‘second generation boot camps were developed; military type training that ‘added on’ mentoring, post release support, drug and alcohol treatment and so on. What the research shows clearly is that they were no more successful than their predecessor.”

The experts have spoken with one voice – it’s a pity they weren’t consulted before the government decision was made to proceed with the programme. The $35m could be much more effectively spent on early intervention programmes which address the underlying causes of crime. These same people are able to assist government to put together interventions that work – if government is prepared to listen.”

See: Government Response to Boot Camp Critics Disappointing

Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft was quite adamant, “we overwhelmingly know it doesn’t work“.

The offenders were better fed, healthier, stronger and faster but they were still offenders. Putting together young people with disorder problems and cannabis dependency meant their treatment and rehabilitation took twice as long as sustained intervention in the community.

See: Judge says ‘boot camp’ treatment doesn’t work

Unfortunately,  when it comes to a choice between mindless  ideology or common sense and experience by those working at the “coal face”, National will always opt for the former; mindless ideology. It  must be hard-wired into their DNA – right next to their dominant Stupid Gene.

A year later, in November 2010, the first ten young “graduated” from National’s boot camps. John Key met them personally and announced with glee,

I’m impressed with the way the 10 young men who graduated today have stepped up to the challenge presented to them.

Each of these young men has the potential to turn his life around, and this camp has given them all some tools to make that happen.

I want serious young offenders to have every chance to turn their lives around and reach their true potential.

These camps are tough – and that is how they should be. They also give young people the skills they need to change their behaviour and move into the workforce so they can make a positive contribution to our communities.

This Government introduced Fresh Start legislation to hold young offenders to account and encourage self responsibility.

The next phase is critical, but these young men will get the support and encouragement they need to keep moving forward.”

See: PM encourages fresh start for young people

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was also present at the Christchurch “graduation ceremony”, and said,

They will face challenges and temptations but I’m backing them because I believe if they work hard they can turn their lives around.”

Of two boot camp “classes” in 2009 and 2010, involving seventeen youths, the results by July 2011 – three years after the ‘launch’ of National’s Policy on Youth Justice, the results were revealed to the people of New Zealand. Said results were hardly “flash”.

  • fifteen of  seventeen youth offenders had  reoffended,
  • four of the seventeen were in jail,
  • in a weak attempt at positive ‘spin’, the MSD report stated that “eight of the fifteen who had reoffended did so less frequently than before, and nine committed less serious offences than before”.  Hooray.

See: Most boot camp youths have reoffended

Bizarrely, Assistant Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, said that  “there was no magic wand that could be waved to instantly fix the problems with the country’s most troubled young people”.

MACs are the last ditch attempt to turn these kids around and stop them heading to adult prison and a life of crime.”

See: IBID

Which leads one to the inescapable conclusion that National simply has no idea. Not a clue.

Bennett added,

This Government is determined to keep trying to break entrenched offending.”

See: IBID

Hmmm, I doubt that.

Especially when the epic fail of 2011 seems to have been repeated this year.

On 11 December, National and it’s bureacrats refused to allow further release of information regarding the boot camp programme. A report by Fairfax media stated,

Requests for information about the 78 participants in the seven camps run since were refused by both the Ministry for Social Development and its Associate Minister Chester Borrows, who said making public the information about the “nature of offences or offending” could identify the youth involved.

When queried if this was because the crimes were high profile, such as homicide or rape, the minister declined to answer.

See: Minister keeps a lid on boot camp failure figures

Yeah. I’ll bet he wanted to refuse to answer.

Because Associate Social Development, Minister Chester Borrows knew full well that the following intake of “participants” would also yield similarly shocking poor results.

A report by TVNZ News a month later, on 14 December, showed us the reason by Mr Burrows was so ‘shy’ in releasing the figures.

Of the 31 young people who completed and left a Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) prior to April 2012, 19 reoffended in the first six months after finishing the camp, according to  CYF (Child, Youth and Family).

According to Kim Workman,

When you consider that two-thirds reoffend after six months, what we’re saying is after two years that figure is likely to increase to 85% – 90% which is pretty near what you’d expect if you did nothing at all.

When it was announced it was highlighted as a major part of the Fresh Start programme, and the military type thing captured the public imagination, because many people have had an experience of that kind and have benefited from it.

You’ve got very serious young offenders, many of them have drug and alcohol problems, about 20% probably, have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – these are the sort of kids who aren’t going to take orders and understand the consequences of their actions.

The effort is wasted on them. It’s a question of where do you want to put your money, and it seems bootcamp is not the place to invest large amounts of taxpayers’ money.”

See: Boot camps criticised over re-offending rates

To which Minister Chester Borrows still claimed that “overall the Fresh Start reforms have had a positive effect on young offenders”.

Fresh Start is about getting smarter in how we deal with young offenders. While it is still early days, these results are an encouraging indication that we’re on the right track.”

See: IBID

He has to say that. Any admission that National’s boot camp programme was failing young people and  wasting time and taxpayer’s money, would also be a public  admission that National had implemented a badly flawed policy.

And if boot camps was a flawed policy – what else has John Key implemented that was also poorly thought out and not delivering results?

Perhaps their job creation policy?

National will probably persevere with the policy and then quietly drop it. They cannot afford more statistics of failure such as the last three years have been delivering. Not when other negative statistics such as rising unemployment; increasing migration to Australia; business collapses; near-zero economic growth; a housing shortage; etc, etc are still appearing in our media on a daily basis.

Expect boot camps to be given the boot. (Or “amalgamated” into other programmes.)

Which will then leave National with a serious conundrum; how do they address this country’s worsensing and deepening underbelly of poverty, resultant hopelessness, alienation, and anti-social youth?

National does not believe in State intervention in social matters (except where it concerns beneficiary bashing). They call it “nanny state” government.

But they will have to intervene and look at new measures to combat growing social problems.

That will put them on a collision course with their voter base – many of whom are conservative, right-wing, low-information, and disapproving of  “big government” and “Nanny State”.

As ‘Bomber Bradbury’ said with his usual insight on his blog, Tumeke,

This Government is not about empirical evidence, it’s about raw meat reactionary ignorance for their rump voter base. National’s voter base hate young criminals and especially hate young brown criminals, as far as National’s rump are concerned the fact these crims can still walk and breath is too good for them. The idea of running them ragged through a boot camp pleases National Party spite, and that’s all that matters.

The course doesn’t need to actually work, and it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t, what’s important is the perception that young crims are being disciplined and given a hard time in a military boot camp.

Rehabilitation is considered a weak cop out by National rump voters, they want to see these teens in chain ganged orange jumpsuits, breaking rocks on the side of the road singing Old Man River.”

See: Labour are wrong – Youth Boot Camps a screaming National Party success

This will be interesting.

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*

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

The same could be said of most right wing policies.

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*

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Sources

National Party: A Fresh Start for New Zealand (29 Jan 2008)

National Party: 2008 – Policy on Youth Justice (17 July 2008)

NZ Herald: Support for National’s boot camp (3 Jan 2008)

Kim Workman: Government Response to Boot Camp Critics Disappointing (30 April 2009)

NZ Herald: Judge says ‘boot camp’ treatment doesn’t work (14 May 2009)

National Party: PM encourages fresh start for young people (29 Nov 2010)

Fairfax Media: Key meets first boot camp graduates (29 Nov 2010)

NZ Herald: Most boot camp youths have reoffended (20 July 2011)

Fairfax Media: Minister keeps a lid on boot camp failure figures (11 Nov 2012)

NZ Herald: Half of boot camp youths continue to offend – report (13 Dec 2012)

TVNZ: Boot camps criticised over re-offending rates (14 Dec 2012)

Other blogs

The Standard: Boot camps yet another Key failure (15 Feb 2011)

The Standard: Choices, choices: pointless boot camps (17 April 2012)

Tumeke: Labour are wrong – Youth Boot Camps a screaming National Party success (14 Dec 2012)

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= fs =

John Banks, ACT, and miscellaneous laws

15 December 2012 8 comments

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mad ACT tea party

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ACT is very, very BIG on law and order.

In fact, they often refer themselves as the “law and order” Party.

Their website is unequivocal about ACT’s hard-line, no-compromise, approach to Law and Order,

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ACT - law and order

Source

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ACT even refers to the  “broken windows” concept; attacking crime at the beginning when “criminal activity is significantly less likely to escalate when caught and punished early “.

ACT even has a “One Law for All” policy,

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ACT -  one law for all

Source

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Their “One Law for All” refers to Maori – but one assumes that ACT intends this policy to apply equally, to all people living in this country.

Right?

Well… maybe not,

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Banks seeks Dotcom court excuse

Full story

 

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One law for all, huh? That apparently demands a Tui.

However, Banks’ lawyer, QC David Jones stated that,

‘‘Mr Banks will comply with any lawful direction of the court to attend the court as required.’’

Well, that’s jolly big of him.

This case will be a test; are our elected representatives – especially those in positions of ministerial power – bound by the same laws that the rest of us mere mortals are?

After all, “criminal activity is significantly less likely to escalate when caught and punished early “.

Let’s wait, watch, and find out…

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= fs =

How many more? For god’s sakes, how many more?!

15 December 2012 9 comments

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Mass shootings at US elementary school

Full story

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How many more?

How many more people must die in the United States before the body count becomes too much, even for the most obsessive, hardened,  gun-”fans”?!

Twenty children plus six adults. Is that the price of American’s “right” to own lethal weapons?

God help your nation.

Because it sure seems that you people are incapable of it.

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= fs =

Categories: Global Tags: , ,

Spitting the Dummy, John Key Style

13 December 2012 7 comments

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Key - Peters' dislike of me impedes deal

Full story

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When it  comes to sheer, naked audacity – John Key has it by the Kenworth truck-load.  And just it appears that Dear Leader has reached stratosopheric heights of effrontery – he goes one better.

A few days ago, Dear Leader lamented the very real possibility Winston Peters would choose to coalesce with Labour, rather than National, at the next election.

If anything, this was worthy of a good, hearty  laugh!

To understand why, we must cast our minds back to 2008, and the donations scandal that enveloped Winston Peters when he denied knowledge of a $100,000 secret donation from billionaire, Owen Glenn,

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Phone records contradict Peters

Full story

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During this affair, John Key had plenty to say about Winston Peters,

National Party Leader John Key says Winston Peters would be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by him unless Mr Peters can provide a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn saga.

“Labour Party donor Owen Glenn’s letter to the Privileges Committee completely contradicts Winston Peters’ version of events about the substantial $100,000 donation made by Mr Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

“Mr Glenn’s letter represents a direct challenge to Mr Peters’ credibility, from the only other person in the world in a position to know the facts.

“From Parliament’s point of view, the Privileges Committee provides an appropriate vehicle to resolve the points of conflict and to hold individuals to account. But from the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s point of view, that is not enough.

“Governments and Ministers must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament and, ultimately, the public. Faced with today’s revelations, it is no longer acceptable for Mr Peters to offer bluster and insults where simple, courteous, honest answers are required.

“It is no longer acceptable or credible for Helen Clark to assert a facade of confidence in her Foreign Affairs Minister and to fail to ask the plain questions of him that she has a duty to the public to ask.

“Faced with today’s revelations, Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a Minister. That is what I would do if I were Prime Minister. Helen Clark has stood Ministers from Labour down for much less.

“Unless he can provide a credible explanation about this serious issue, he should be unacceptable to Helen Clark as a Minister in her Labour-led Government.

“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation”.

See: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

In early 2011, Key was still adamant that he would not countenance working with Peters in any future coalition government,

“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead,” he said at a press conference today.

“Historically, he has always been sacked by prime ministers. It’s a very different style to mine and it’s rearward-looking.

“I’m about tomorrow, I’m not about yesterday.”

[...]

“If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government,” Mr Key said.

See: Election date set; Peters ruled out

And just prior to last year’s electons, Key had this to say about Winston Peters, all but accusing the NZ First leader of being an unreliable, destructive political force in Parliament,

Prime Minister John Key warned voters yesterday that a new government after Saturday’s election could be brought down on any issue by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters unless National won enough votes for “strong, stable, dependable leadership”.

[...]

Said Mr Key: “What Winston Peters is saying to New Zealanders is that on every Budget, on every issue, there could be a general election. How could New Zealand govern itself over the next three years, which is likely to be a volatile period in the world economy, when at any stage the whole Government can be brought down by Winston Peters?”

See: John Key’s new target: Winston

I think it’s fairly clear that up until recently, Key had ruled out working with Peters. He was unequivocal in his condemnation and distrust of Peters.

There now appears to have been some kind of quantum-shift in John Key’s approach to Peters,

“I think that the argument that he really really dislikes the Greens, let’s put it politely, that’s all true . . . but he’s not overly enamoured with me,” Mr Key said.

He and Mr Peters had chatted during a trip to Samoa as part of a New Zealand delegation.

“I had a brief chat to him but realistically I think he will go with Labour . . . Even if we were prepared to change, and that would be a big if, he was always going with Labour . . . in 2008,” he said. “I think it’s just personal.”

See: Key: Peters’ dislike of me impedes deal

“…but he’s not overly enamoured with me,” says Dear Leader?!?! No sh*t, Sherlock! When did that *news flash* come to Key’s attention?!

Let me state at the outright; John Key’s questioning  of Winston Peters’ behaviour in 2008 was perfectly justified. In a functioning multi-party democracy, we rely on opposition Parties to keep governments honest.

Without an active, critical Opposition, we end up like Zimbabwe or a One Party state like Nth Korea. Without an Opposition there simply would be no democratic system in this country.

So whilst it may have been irksome for Labour supporters and the Left, in general, to have a coalition partner under a spotlight for alleged corrupt practices (undeclared donations) – John Key was doing the job that the taxpayer was paying him for.

But whilst condemning Peters in 2008 and the following three years – by flirting with Peters as a potential coalition partner, we see a further measure of the man that John Key is.

In 2008, Key considered Peters “unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by him unless Mr Peters can provide a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn saga“.

Since no such “credible explanation” was ever forthcoming – what has changed?

In 2008 and 2011, Key tried to destroy NZ First to deny Labour a potential coalition partner.

Now, with National fast running out of coalition partners (except for the one-clown bands known as ACT and United Future); with the Maori Party’s continuing survival no means a certainty; and the Conservative Party at 1% or less in the polls – the answer is prosaic; National is desperate for a Coalition partner.

Unfortunately for Key, his utterances stand in the collective consciousness of other political parties; the media, and the blogosphere.

Courting NZ First in such a very public way, and voicing indignation  at being rebuffed, will simply make Key look very foolish indeed. It will be yet another indication to the voting public that Key’s word cannot be taken at face value.

On it’s own, it would mean nothing of significance to the public and media.

But Key has back-tracked on so many policies, promises, and pledges that this will be another nail in his political coffin.

He may have started out as an “ordinary bloke” and non-political politician – but that has gradually changed. With his point-of-difference gradually eroded, what makes him any different to any other politician?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

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Previous relared blogosts

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

Sources

NZ Herald: Pressure mounts on Peters as Key all but shuts door  (27 Aug 2008)

Scoop:  Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government   (27 Aug 2008)

TV3: Owen Glenn piles the pressure on Winston Peters over donation (9 Sept 2008)

NZ Herald:  Phone records contradict Peters (10 Sept 2008)

NZ Herald:  Timeline: The NZ First donations saga (23 Sept 2008)

Other blogs

The Pundit: The art of not predicting politics

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= fs =

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

12 December 2012 32 comments

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polyp_cartoon_Arms_Trade_Profits

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Aside from our “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” scam with which we’ve been deceiving inbound tourists, New Zealand has another dirty little secret.

This one kills people.

This is about two New Zealand investment companies which are investing in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs – one of the most deadly and pernicious weapons ever devised by the sickest minds of human beings.

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large_20081203_Cluster_bombs

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As the diagramme above shows, cluster bombs release hundreds of small ‘bomblets’ that can wound, maim, and kill civilians (and is not very healthy for military personnel either – imagine our men and women encountering these obscene things whilst on peace-keeping duties overseas).

As Bill Meyer wrote in an article, on 3 December 2008,

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.

The group Handicap International says 98 percent of cluster-bomb victims are civilians, and 27 percent are children.”

See: Nearly 100 nations sign treaty to ban cluster bombs; U.S., Russia don’t agree to give them up

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated on 17 February 2010,

The Secretary-General welcomes this major advance on the global disarmament agenda, and notes that the Convention’s entry into force just two years after its adoption demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons.

Cluster munitions are unreliable and inaccurate. During conflict and long after it has ended, they maim and kill scores of civilians, including many children.”

See: Cluster bomb ban reaches ratification

In 2009, to their eternal credit, National passed legislation banning these obscene weapons from our country – including the possession, retaining, stockpiling, assistance, encouragement, or even inducement to deal with them.

Furthermore, the law specifically banned all investment and development of these damned things,

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Cluster munitions prohibition Act 2009 Part 2 Activities related to cluster munitions

Source

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Part 2, sub-part 1,  Paragraph 10, Sub-paragraph 2 clearly states in unequivocal terms,

A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”

As a trenchant critic of this government, I happily re-print many of the fine comments that National ministers said, during one part of  the debate in 2009,

This bill implements New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which requires legislation. The convention establishes a wide-ranging prohibition on the use of cluster munitions, which cause unacceptable human harm. The convention is a significant development in international humanitarian measures, and, therefore, its implementation is a key disarmament priority for this Government. Cluster munitions pose a particular threat to civilians. They have a wide area effect and they very often leave behind a large number of unexploded devices. Decades after their use, the tragedy of lost lives and horrific injuries is still apparent.

[...]

Our work will not end there. The more States that commit to the convention, the stronger the norm against cluster munitions will become. New Zealand will be a strong advocate for the convention. Through diplomatic channels we have pressed upon other States the importance of the convention and we have encouraged the ratification of it. I urge all States that have not already done so to sign and ratify the convention as soon as possible. I hope that our legislation will be useful to other countries as they strive to implement the convention themselves. Efforts to universalise the convention are key to creating a sense of moral repugnancy and to rid the world of these hideous weapons. New Zealand has a profile on disarmament and arms control issues far above our size or place in the world. We have long taken a strong position on the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, and we have taken a central role in the development of the convention. I am extremely pleased to continue that tradition with this bill. I am proud that New Zealand is truly committed to a world without cluster munitions, and that I stand to represent the Government and the people of New Zealand in making that stand. I commend the bill to the House.” – Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control)

I think that the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill is among the most important that we will put through Parliament this year. It was a pleasure to have this issue before our Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and to have members from all parties totally united in preparing the report back to the House. I am just looking back through Hansard and I notice that the bill first came to our attention in late July of this year, so in parliamentary terms we have done quite well. I commend the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Georgina te Heuheu, for pushing so hard to make sure that we got the legislation through in this calendar year. I should also like to commend the Leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff, for his stewardship of this issue in his term in Government, and my colleague Don MacKay in the ministry, who was our lead negotiator on the legislation.” – JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)

It gives me pleasure to speak in support of the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill. The committee took some time to work very closely together to deliver a good bill for the House. Like all members, I believe that the sooner we get this into law, the better. Thank you.” – TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua)

It is not often I say this, but kudos to National for taking this step and passing one of their better laws.

Internationally, Britain supported the ban.

Only the rabid, right-wing lunatics of the Bush Administration; the paranoid  Israeli government;  and the amoral, money-hungry, regimes in Russia and China, resist joining the ban.

The Bush Administration went so far as to state,

The Bush administration says a comprehensive ban would hurt world security.

“Although we share the humanitarian concerns of states signing the (accord), we will not be joining them,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “Such a general ban on cluster munitions will put the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk.”

See: Nearly 100 nations sign treaty to ban cluster bombs; U.S., Russia don’t agree to give them up

How saving the lives of innocent civilians puts “the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk” is  a matter of conjecture that only gun-happy militarists can explain. God knows what goes through their flaky thinking.

The Israelis generally engaged in their usual political deflection,

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said his government had decided not to join the treaty, and instead believes the issue of cluster bomb use should be addressed through the U.N. Convention on Conventional Weapons.

See: IBID

And recently, the despotic Syrian regime  was shown to be deliberately using cluster bombs against civilian targets,

New evidence has emerged that the Syrian air force has used cluster munitions in recent days, Human Rights Watch said today. Many of the strikes were near the main highway that runs through Ma`arat al-Nu`man, the site of a major confrontation between government and rebel forces this week.

[...]

Residents from Taftanaz and Tamane`a confirmed in interviews with Human Rights Watch that helicopters dropped cluster munitions on or near their towns on October 9.

See: Syria: New Evidence Military Dropped Cluster Bombs

The Cluster Munitions Coalition stated,

Amy Little, Campaign Manager for the CMC, said: “This new evidence confirms our worst fears. It now appears that in the past week the Assad regime has used cluster bombs in numerous locations, including in populated areas, risking the lives of far too many civilians. This absolutely has to stop. We urge the many states that have already banned these indiscriminate weapons to publicly condemn Syria’s actions and to call for a complete halt in cluster bomb use. We encourage other countries to also make this demand in recognition of the danger these weapons pose to civilians.”

Human Rights Watch has confirmed that the cluster munition remnants shown in the videos are Soviet-made RBK-250 series cluster bomb canisters and AO-1SCh fragmentation bomblets. It is not known at this time from where Syria acquired them.

See: Syria use of cluster bombs confirmed – states must publicly condemn this outrage

Which brings us to the Government Superannuation Fund Authority and National Provident Fund.

It is disturbing to learn that both Fund management companies have been investing in U.S. corporations that manufacture cluster bombs,

Answers to Parliamentary written questions lodged by the Green Party show that the Government’s National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund invest, through trusts and investment vehicles, $2.2 million in three companies that are involved in the production of cluster bombs, despite section 10 of the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 which specifically prohibits it. The companies involved are: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and L-3 Communications.”

See: Govt Found Investing Illegally In Cluster Bombs

See: Green Party Parliamentary Questions to Hon Bill English, Minister of Finance

Bill English’s response to concerns raised by the Green Party was disturbing, to put it mildly,

As at 31 October 2012, some NPF schemes held units in NPF’s Overseas Equity Fund of the Global Asset Trust which in turn directly held shares in some of the named companies.

[...]

Some of the NPF schemes also have interests in collective investment vehicles, such as unit trusts, that owned some of the  named companies at 31 October 2012…

[...]

The NPF schemes invest in these vehicles to get exposure to equity markets more efficiently. In these cases the Board cannot influence the individual investments made.”

The GSF Fund does not own directly any of the shares named. All are excluded investments under the GSF Authority’s Responsible Investment Policy, details of which  are publicly available on the Authority’s website http://www.gsfa.govt.nz, including a list of excluded shares.The GSF Fund also has interests in collective investment vehicles, such as unit trusts, that owned some of the named companies at 31 October 2012…

[...]

The GSF Fund invests in these vehicles to get exposure to equity markets more efficiently. In these cases the Authority cannot influence the individual investments made.”

See: IBID

By stating that “in these cases the Board cannot influence the individual investments made” because of the nature of certain “unit trusts” beggars belief.

In effect, a Minister of the Crown, sworn under Oath to uphold the laws of the land, has justified breaking Parliamentary legislation that National itself authored and passed!?

Since when is it acceptable to by-pass the laws of our land by engaging a third-party conduit?

Are there any other laws that we could side-step because they happen to be “inconvenient”?

Especially if side-stepping laws means we can “get exposure to equity markets more efficiently” (ie; make more money)?!

Does life get any weirder when I am even having to ask questions like this?

It seems inconceivable that New Zealand companies, operating under legislation that has jurisdiction over us all, are able to flout a law that has crystal clarity with it’s wording and intent;

A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”

Accordingly, I have written to  the Government Superannuation Fund Authority, National Provident Fund, and Finance Minister Bill English;

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Date: Sunday, 9 December 2012 4:30 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: NZ companies investing in banned weapons
To: Bill English  “bill.english@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,
 
Re: NZ companies investing in banned weapons.
 
It is my understanding that you have recently been made aware that the  National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund have investments in overseas companies that are manufacturing banned weapons, namely cluster munitions.
 
As you are no doubt aware, such investments contravene the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 which your government wisely passed three years ago. In part, the law states,
 
Part 2, sub-part 1,  Paragraph 10, Sub-paragraph 2,
“A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”
 
Will you directing the National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund to divest their investments from companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and L-3 Communications ( and any others that may be involved)?
 
If you will be so directing the  National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund, what time-frame will you be giving them to carry out your instructions?
 
If the  National Provident Fund and Government Superannuation Fund fail to carry out your instructions, will you follow through with prosecutions for breaking the Act?
 
I await your response in this matter.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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Date:  Wednesday, 12 December 2012 8:43 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: Government Superannuation Fund Investments
To: Keith Taylor “enquiries@gsfa.govt.nz”

 

 

Keith Taylor
Board Chairperson
Government Superannuation Fund
 
 
 
Sir,
 
Re: Government Superannuation Fund  investing in banned weapons.
 
It is my understanding that you have recently been made aware that the  Government Superannuation Fund has investments in overseas companies that are manufacturing banned weapons, namely cluster munitions.
 
As you are no doubt aware, such investments contravene the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 which the current government passed three years ago. In part, the law states,
 
Part 2, sub-part 1,  Paragraph 10, Sub-paragraph 2,
“A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”
 
The production of these lethal weapons is a matter of deep concern to many New Zealanders and requires your immediate attention and action. Too many innocent people – including children in warzones such as Syria – are being maimed or killed by these horrendous weapons.These weapons injure, maim, and kill indiscriminately. By investing in their manufacture, in effect New Zealanders are complicit in the deaths of innocent people. This is unacceptable. Our own peacekeeping troops may also be at risk from these lethal devices. Should a New Zealand soldier be harmed or killed by a cluster weapon, I believe media and public attention will quickly focus on companies such as yours, which effectively financed their injury or death.You should also ask yourselves; are your careers really worth the money that your Fund may make from these investments? Is this what you want to be remembered for?

I believe not.

No profit is worth the lives of fellow human beings.

Accordingly;

1. Will you issue a directive to divest  investment in  companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and L-3 Communications ( and any others that may be involved)?
 
2. If you will be so directing the divestment of such investments, what time-frame will you be allowing to carry out this action?
 
3. If you have no intention of divesting these investments, are you aware that you and your fellow Board members may be laying yourselves open to prosection?

I request that this matter be raised and discussed at the earliest opportunity at your next Board meeting. Please convey my email  to your fellow Board members.
 
I await your response in this matter.

Please note that I am in the process of blogging on this issue. With your assistance, I hope to present a positive outcome and resolution on this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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Date:  Wednesday, 12 December 2012 8:53 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: National Provident Fund investments
To: Catherine Savage “enquiries@npf.co.nz”

 

 

Catherine Savage
Chairperson
Board of Trustees
National Provident Fund
 
 
 
 
Sir,
 
Re: National Provident Fund investing in banned weapons.
 
It is my understanding that you have recently been made aware that the  National Provident Fund  has investments in overseas companies that are manufacturing banned weapons, namely cluster munitions.
 
As you are no doubt aware, such investments contravene the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 which the current government passed three years ago. In part, the law states,
 
Part 2, sub-part 1,  Paragraph 10, Sub-paragraph 2,
“A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.”
 
The production of these lethal weapons is a matter of deep concern to many New Zealanders and requires your immediate attention and action. Too many innocent people – including children in warzones such as Syria – are being maimed or killed by these horrendous weapons.These weapons injure, maim, and kill indiscriminately. By investing in their manufacture, in effect New Zealanders are complicit in the deaths of innocent people. This is unacceptable. Our own peacekeeping troops may also be at risk from these lethal devices. Should a New Zealand soldier be harmed or killed by a cluster weapon, I believe media and public attention will quickly focus on companies such as yours, which effectively financed their injury or death.You should also ask yourselves; are your careers really worth the money that your Fund may make from these investments? Is this what you want to be remembered for?

I believe not.

No profit is worth the lives of fellow human beings.

Accordingly;

1. Will you issue a directive to divest  investment in  companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and L-3 Communications ( and any others that may be involved)?
 
2. If you will be so directing the divestment of such investments, what time-frame will you be allowing to carry out this action?
 
3. If you have no intention of divesting these investments, are you aware that you and your fellow Board members may be laying yourselves open to prosection?

I request that this matter be raised and discussed at the earliest opportunity at your next Board meeting. Please convey my email  to your fellow Board members.
 
I await your response in this matter.

Please note that I am in the process of blogging on this issue. With your assistance, I hope to present a positive outcome and resolution on this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

 

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References

Wikipedia: Cluster munition

GovernmentSuperannuation Fund Authority board members and the management team

GovernmentSuperannuation Fund GSF Act Requirements

National Provident Fund Board of Trustees

National Provident Fund Management

Green Party Parliamentary Questions to Hon Bill English, Minister of Finance

Sources

Nearly 100 nations sign treaty to ban cluster bombs; U.S., Russia don’t agree to give them up (3 Dec 2008)

NZ Parliament: Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill 2009 (21 July 2009)

NZ Parliament: Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill — Procedure, Second Reading, Third Reading (10 Dec 2009)

NZ Parliament: Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 (17 Dec 2009)

Cluster bomb ban reaches ratification (17 Feb 2010)

NZ celebrates global cluster bombs ban (1 Aug 2010)

Syria use of cluster bombs confirmed – states must publicly condemn this outrage (13 Oct 2012)

Syria: New Evidence Military Dropped Cluster Bombs (14 Oct 2012)

Govt Found Investing Illegally In Cluster Bombs (7 Dec 2012)

Govt still investing in bomb business (7 Dec 2012)

Govt funds still invested in cluster bomb makers (7 Dec 2012)

Organisations

www.stopclustermunitions.org

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= fs =

Open message to the Middle Classes about the threat of the TPPA…

6 December 2012 6 comments

… never mind.

Go back to your reality TV and talkback radio.

John Key – our beloved smiling Dear Leader – is about to sign us up to a  “free” trade agreement that will undermine Pharmac (and increase the cost of our medicines). You see, Pharmac is the envy of the world and allows us, as a country, to bulk-buy cheap medicines once their patents have expired.

Pharmaceutical companies hate it. They’ll be looking at the TPPA to stop this and make Pharmac more “transparent”. (By “transparent”, that means opening up ourselves  to lawsuits by foreign companies.)

But never mind, there’s a great cooking show on Prime TV – Masterchef  Uzbekhistan, I think.

Meanwhile, the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) is being negotiated in secret, behind closed doors. We won’t know what’s in it until the final document is presented to Parliament. Whereupon National, John “Cabbage Boat” Banks, and Peter Dunne, will pass it into law.

Hey, there’s a marvelous home improvement show on TV2 (or TV3? TV5? Oh, they’re all the same) called “Garden Shed 60 Second Challenge…

Once the TPPA is enacted into law, it will open the door to corporations suing us, as a nation, if we doing anything wrong to impact on their profits. I kid you not.This is how a tobacco company sued the Australian government over the plain-packaging policy that was about to be implemented. (The tobacco company lost. But only because the case was tried on Australian soil; under Australian jurisdiction, and laws. The TPPA lawsuits will be carried out in secret, by overseas Tribunals.)

It’s part of the agreement relating to investor’s rights”, as outlined in this leaked, draft copy;

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section B - investor-state dispute settlement

Source: http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tppinvestment.pdf

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No, no, go back to your TV… or Talkback Radio. I hear Michael Laws is having another go at dem Mow-rees, or gang patches, or whatever he happens to be wanking on about tonight. Because gang-patches, as we all know, is Really Important Stuff that we need to be Really Concerned About.

So while our country is sold out from under us; and jobs are exported to some Third World country; and our kids can’t find work so have to bugger off to Australia (which is rejecting the Investor-State lawsuit Section, I might add, because our Aussie cuzzies aren’t quite as gullible as we are) – just think about what is Really Really Important…

Home Improvement; cooking; and other Reality TV shows on nearly every free-to-air TV channel, plus SKY!! How f*****g cool is that?!

And for all you guys out there with mother-daughter fantasies, the Ridges might be back on TV3 next year!! Woohoo!!

Well, I’m glad we’ve cleared up what is important in our lives.

As John Key said to me in a hall in Lower Hutt, last year,

Don’t you worry about asset sales or anything. It’ll all be alright.”

So, what’s on TV tonight, my sleepy little Hobbits?

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= fs =

TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

6 December 2012 3 comments

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TPPA - Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

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The debate of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is hotting up.

Recent pieces in the NZ Herald by Professor Jane Kelsey and right wing columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, gave opposing views on  the current secret negotiations.

As usual, Professor’s Kelsey’s column was a reasoned, critical analysis of the potential consequences of  a TPPA on our society, and economy. Kelsey deals in facts and her writing did not disappoint. (See: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan)

By contrast, O’Sullivan’s pro-TPPA piece was a bizarre rant and whinge as to why Auckland University was not promoting pro-TPPA arguments. As if it was compulsory for Universities to promote and advance right-wing, “free” market ideology and agendas?   (See: Anti-trade camp running debate)

Another piece in the Herald, by lawyer Daniel Kalderimis, assured us that  disputes between investors and states were  real, but could be addressed.

No one would sanely deny that there aren’t risks.  But the key question is are those risks a deal breaker or can they be mitigated? I think they can be mitigated.”

See: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Kaldermis is a trade lawyer who makes his living  from “mitigating”  international investor-nation disputes.

(The vultures are circling already…)

Another somewhat equally ludicrous pro-TPPA piece came from Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the NZ US Council and the NZ International Business Forum, on 18 Ocober,

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Stephen Jacobi - TPP - more trade, less conspiracy

Full story

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Jacobi’s statements demand a critical de-construction…

A recent survey of 1018 New Zealanders found that over 60.5 per cent believed New Zealand needed to do more to connect with global markets. While 85.7 per cent could not name the deal under negotiation with the United States and other Asia Pacific economies, when prompted 51.6 per cent said they had heard of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). 56.3 per cent said they supported TPP and only 13.4 per cent said they opposed it. 30.4 per cent said they had no view or didn’t care. “

It’s hardly surprising that the issue of the TPPA does not rate more highly in New Zealander’s consciousness.

With few exceptions, our media has been woefully lacking in promoting informative debate on complex issues faces this country.

Fairfax media has been gutted, as sub-editors and other reporting staff numbers have been seriously cut back.

Even television current affairs programmes ( The Nation, Q+A, and Think Tank) are relegated to early morning time slots on the weekends.

The only in-depth, serious  coverage on radio is by Radio New Zealand.

This blogger recently had an opportunity to listen to what passes for “News” on ‘The Rock‘ – a Wellington radio station. It’s two-minute long hourly “news” programme consisted predominantly of crime stories. Items of a political nature or social issues are rarely, if ever,  canvassed.

Talkback radio? Idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

No wonder that the most critical trade agreement in our history is about to be passed, and “30.4% said they had no view or didn’t care“.

If New Zealanders realised that our medicines might increase by 50%, 75%, 100%, or X% – then perhaps more New Zealanders might care.

I know! Let’s put it into terms that even the most dimmest low-information voter can compehend,

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TPP could quash film funds

Full story

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Amokura Kawharu said her conclusions were based on the leaked text of the investment chapter.

“If that is the final form for the TPP then there will be an extensive provision in there prohibiting what are called ‘performance requirements’.”

It prohibited incentives for supporting local industry.

See: IBID

So there we have it; no government subsidies = no movies = we can kiss bye-bye to our little hairy-footed mates if the TPPA goes through.

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The Hobbit Banned

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That should grab our collective attention by our short’n’curlies.

Returning to Mr Jacobi’s written piece in the Herald,

The Government will need to decide what best meets New Zealand’s interests in this area but it is more likely to do so in the context of domestic policy processes rather than a trade negotiation.”

That is either highly disingenuous – or Mr Jacobi has an almost quasi-religious faith in our government.  Which is strange, as neo-libs generally have very little faith in the State and are constantly railing that private enterprise “does it better” than governments.

At any rate, the last 30 years of de-regulation, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost to overseas nations with cheaper labour costs, prove the lie to that claim. If governments’ policies were truly determined by “ what best meets New Zealand’s interests …in the context of domestic policy “, neo-liberal de-regulation would never have been implemented on such a wide-ranging, destructive scale in this country.

Successive governments since 1984 have been hand-cuffed to de-regulated marketplace and fiscal policies.

That’s also why this process needs to take place behind closed doors, at least until consensus is forged.

This is not the same as secrecy – it’s no secret TPP talks are taking place in Auckland in December.

Wha-???

A process taking place behind closed doors is not the same as secrecy?!?!

Since when was the definition of secrecy re-written without anyone’s knowledge?

What other definitions has Ms Jacobi re-written, on the sly?

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redefined (1)

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redefined (2)

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redefined (3)

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redefined (4)

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redefined (5)

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So let’s not forget; for TPPA supporters, something taking place behind closed doors is not the same as secrecy.

”  At that time any public stakeholders who register their interest will be able to meet with negotiators as they have done in every other negotiating round. “

Meaning what, precisely? Will that allow journalists; members of Parliament; and other interested parties the right to full disclosure of information regarding  the TPPA?

If not, then Mr Jacobi’s comments are meaningless drivel.

” Those on all sides of the TPP debate will do so and they should, to ensure negotiators are aware of their concerns. New Zealand negotiators are extremely open to this and meet regularly with those for and against TPP.

Ok, now Jacobi is of into La La Land, on a Jet Star flight of fancy…

I wonder who, precisely,  New Zealand negotiators are meeting regularly, who are “against the TPP“?

Once their job is complete the fruits of their labours will need to be presented to Parliament for ratification and all New Zealanders can participate in the select committee process.  That’s how we make treaties and change laws in this country.  “

Yes, Mr Jacobi, that is precisely “ how we make treaties and change laws in this country” – on Planet Key.

Unfortunately, things are not quite so rosy and wonderfully democractic in New Zealand, Planet Earth.

For example; public submissions on the issue of partial privatisation of our state assets numbered 1,400. Less than 1% were in favour of privatisation.

National has ignored the remaining 99% of submitters and is proceeding with asset sales. (See:  Asset sales protest gears up)

Where is the “participation in the select committee process” that Mr Jacobi speaks of?

The bigger picture behind all this is why New Zealand needs to participate in trade negotiations at all. The answer can be found in the difficult economic environment in which we find ourselves today. All around the world governments and citizens are asking what can be done to boost economic growth, create jobs and meet the expanding social needs of our communities.”

Mr Jacobi is being hopelessly naive if he believes that free trade agreements “create jobs”.

Well, they do, actually. They take jobs from countries such as New Zealand – and create them in low-wage countries such as India, Pakistan, Fiji, China, etc.

In fact, the United States seems to have not done very well out of a previous free trade agrement called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),

NAFTA’s opponents attribute much of the displacement caused in the US labor market to the United States’ growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. According to the Economic Policy Institute, rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,900 U.S. jobs by 2010.  Critics see the argument of the proponents of NAFTA as being one-sided because they only take into consideration export-oriented job impact instead of looking at the trade balance, also known as net exports. They argue that increases in imports ultimately displaced the production of goods that would have been made domestically by workers within the United States.

The export-oriented argument is also critiqued because of the discrepancy between domestically produced exports and exports produced in foreign countries. For example, many US exports are simply being shipped to Mexican maquiladores where they are assembled, and then shipped back to the U.S. as final products.  These are not products destined for consumption by Mexicans, yet they made up 61% of exports in 2002. However, only domestically produced exports are the ones that support U.S. labor. Therefore, the measure of net impact of trade should be calculated using only domestically produced exports as an indicator of job creation.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico under NAFTA, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.  Certain states with heavy emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these job losses. For example, in Ohio, Trade Adjustment Assistance and NAFTA-TAA identified 14,653 jobs directly lost due to NAFTA-related reasons like relocation of U.S. firms to Mexico. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center attributed 150,000 job losses in the state to the rising U.S. trade deficit. Since 1993, 38,325 of those job losses are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. Although many of these workers laid off due to NAFTA were reallocated to other sectors, the majority of workers were relocated to the service industry, where average wages are 4/5 to that of the manufacturing sector.

See: NAFTA’s effect on United States employment

An increase in domestic manufacturing output and a proportionally greater domestic investment in manufacturing does not necessarily mean an increase in domestic manufacturing jobs; this increase may simply reflect greater automation and higher productivity. Although the U.S. total civilian employment may have grown by almost 15 million in between 1993 and 2001, manufacturing jobs only increased by 476,000 in the same time period.  Furthermore from 1994 to 2007, net manufacturing employment has declined by 3,654,000, and during this period several other free trade agreements have been concluded or expanded

See: North American Free Trade Agreement

And our free trade agreement with China is resulting in similar loss of jobs,

An announcement today 430 jobs are set to go at Fisher & Paykel Appliances’ Dunedin factory, virtually spells the end of the line for whiteware production in New Zealand.

F&P is following the lead of New Zealand garment manufacturer Icebreaker which does design and research in New Zealand but manufactures in low-cost China.

See: Fisher & Paykel move ‘damages iconic brand

How many jobs were “created” in Dunedin’s Hillside railway yards, when contracts to build locomotives were awarded to Chinese manufacturers? See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

How many jobs were “created” by Rakon Industries, as they shifted their production to China? See: Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

How many jobs did Dynamic Controls “create” when they shifted manufacturing to China in 2007? See: Jobs to go in closure of Dynamic Controls wing

And the list goes on… 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost, since 2008.   ( See: National’s Hands-Off Approach Failing New Zealand)  Many of those jobs have been ‘exported’ to China, since the FTA was signed between that nation and New Zealand on 7 April 2008 and came into effect on 1 October of the same year. (See: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement )

So is Mr Jacobi lying or woefully ignorant of the facts? Let the reader decide.

Next, from Mr Jacobi,

A conservative estimate is that TPP could add $2.1 billion to the New Zealand economy by 2025 or just under 1 per cent of GDP.”

Really?

Who gets that $2.1 billion, Mr Jacobi? Is it workers? Local businesses here in New Zealand? Or corporate shareholders somewhere else?

And how many more unemployed, Mr Jacobi?

Who pays for thousands more unemployed? The taxpayer no doubt.

Meanwhile, that $2.1 billion heads of to Never Never Land

But the strangest, most laughable comment from Mr Jacobi comes when he admonishes TPPA critics with,

Rather than giving in to doomsday scenarios we should listen to New Zealanders who instinctively know that trade works and this country’s economic livelihood is to be found in global markets.”

Yeah, we can’t have “doomsday scenarios”, eh, Mr Jacobi. Like the muppet who made this moronic comment,

No one wants to see prices go up or the internet collapse.”

See: Stephen Jacobi: TPP – more trade, less conspiracy

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Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey (29 Nov 2012)

Gordon Campbell and a Canadian analysis of the TPP (3 Dec 2012)

Gordon Campbell on Tim Groser’s ‘political projectile vomiting’ about the TPPA (4 Dec 2012)

 

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Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

5 December 2012 9 comments

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Rena stranding - oil spill - East Coast - Gerry Brownlee - protesting deep sea drilling

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Sanity has prevailed – albeit perhaps temporarily – as Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, has announced it’s withdrawal from further prospecting in the Raukumara Basin, off the East Coast of New Zealand.

Petrobras was first granted a prospecting permit on 1 June 2010. The signing was met with approval by Dear Leader,

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Oil exploration

John Key, Gerry Brownlee, and Marcelo Carlos Lins Vertis, on 1 June 2010

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Gerry Brownlee (then Minister  of Energy) granted Petrobras a five-year exploration permit covering  12, 330 sq kilometres (red lined area in map below),

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Petrobras permit

Acknowledgement: unattachednz: Petrobras Protest

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Sixteen months later, on 5 October 2011,  the MV Rena smashed into the Astrolabe Reef, also off the East Coast of New Zealand,

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MV Rena aground on astrolabe reef

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Oil began leaking from the stranded ship, eventually dumping an estimated 350  tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (1)

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Much of this oil eventually washed onto East Coast beaches, killing an estimated 20,000 local birdlife,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (1)

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Volunteers cleaning up the mess were faced with heart-breaking  sights like this,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (01b)

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Meanwhile, John Key was otherwise engaged in more important government duties,

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Christchurch rocks for All Blacks

Full story

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Whilst it is unclear why Petrobras has backed away from continuing to exercise it’s license to prospect the Raukumara Basin for gas and oil, there are many New Zealanders who will be giving a sigh of relief.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (5)

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It  was fairly obvious to most people with a modicum of common sense that New Zealand was ill-prepared for a major oil spill disaster, as happened in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.

Our own Rena oil-spill created an enormous ecological disaster,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (2)

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Meanwhile, our witless National ministers can’t even get their stories straight. Energy Minister, Phil Heatley issued this explanational why Petrobras was leaving,

I’ve met with them and they’ve said pretty clearly that it’s sort of technical reasons and prospectivity, meaning that they didn’t find enough to keep them sort of on the string so they want to regroup in Brazil. But we believe that there’s opportunities out there in the Raukumara Basin; others might pick up those particular permits and we might still see opportunities.”

See: Petrobras pulls out of NZ oil exploration

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rena stranding oil cleanup (3)

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If Petrobras “didn’t find enough to keep them sort of on the string ” – why would any other oil company be interested?! At $1 million a day, no oil company would be interested in taking the prospecting permit for the Raukumara Basin if  there was nothing there.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (6)

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Indeed, if Petrobras is  in dire financial straits, we are fortunate that they have pulled out now. One can only imagine a cash-strapped oil company, engaged in risky deep-sea drilling, and cutting safety corners .

The Pike River Mine disaster springs to mind what happens when companies ignore basic safety in the pursuit of profits.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (7)

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Indeed, the Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine disaster found  that the company put profits ahead of safety,

The Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Pike River Mine disaster has slammed mine management and the Department of Labour for a lax attitude toward health and safety.

It highlights a culture of “production and profits before safety” which was enforced by managers, and paints a damning picture of ignored safety warnings and sidelined investigations into previous accidents.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (8)

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Now consider a deep sea drilling rig  operating under similar circumstances – taking into regard New Zealand’s lax laws under our current de-regulated safety regime (courtesy National,  1992)  – and the potential for a repeat of the  Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 becomes wholly apparent,

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Deepwater Horizon

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The initial explosion killed 11 men working on the platform; injured 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

The water depth was approximately 1,260 metres.

The crisis lasted for  eightyseven  days.

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Deepwater Horizon diagramme

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By comparison, the Rena stranding was on the sea surface and relatively easy to access,

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Rena diagramme on reef

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It took over five weeks for  salvage crews to  finish pumping 1,454 tons of oil from the Rena. After fourteen months, the wreck of the now-submerged vessel remains, in pieces, on the reef along with an unknown number of sunken containers.

Now compare the depth of  where Deepwater Horizon was operating in the Gulf of Mexico (1,260 metres), with that of the Raukumara Basin,

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raukumara-basin-map

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It took the Americans 87 days; with all their technological prowess; their Coastguard and navy;  and billions of dollars, to cap an oil spill that was in waters 1.26 kilometres (1,260 metres) deep.

Parts of the Raukumara Basin are over 6 kilometers (six thousand metres) deep.

Despite constant questions to Key and his Ministers, there is no indication that New Zealand is in any way prepared to deal with an oil blow-out that is six kilometres under water. National has consistantly fobbed off questions of concern regarding this country’s ability to address a critical oil spill.

As recently as 24 October, this exchange took place between Dear Leader and Russell Norman, of the Green Party.,

Questions for oral answer

5. Oil and Gas Exploration—Deep-sea Oil-drilling and Environmental Risk

5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “We’re not environmental bandits. If we don’t believe drilling can take place in a way that is environmentally sustainable and wouldn’t put at undue risk the environment, we wouldn’t go with it.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my full statement, which included that we want to balance our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities; because it is true.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when just this month Dayne Maxwell of Maritime New Zealand said about the Government’s oil response equipment: “Most of the response equipment that we have is designed for near-shore sheltered conditions, and really there isn’t available internationally any equipment specifically designed to operate in the rough kind of conditions offshore that we have in New Zealand.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, that is one person’s view. I think it is also worth remembering that if somebody gets a permit to go and undertake these activities in the exclusive economic zone, not only would this Government be filling a gap that was previously left open but also there would no doubt be conditions on that. Finally, as I said yesterday, there have been 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Is the member arguing that all of those wells were a high risk and should have been closed up?

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when the head of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said in April 2011: “You know, there is no absolute guarantee that disasters won’t happen, and if you had a major catastrophe, it would be just as bad as you have in North America.”—aka Deepwater Horizon?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I mean, the member asked me yesterday about the head of Anadarko. One of the things he did say to me in the meeting was that there were a lot of learnings that had come out of that situation, and that they can be applied so that those things do not happen again. Secondly, if the member is reflecting on a comment by an individual that basically says there are no guarantees in life, well, actually, that is true, but, on the same basis, the member will never get on a plane again, never get in a car again, never get on a train again, never do a lot of things he does, because the risk is that something very bad can happen.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk when a leak at 2.5 kilometres under water cannot be fixed by divers, and companies are forced to rely on robots and relief rigs, and this is diametrically different from operating in shallow water, like the case in Taranaki, where the deepest production well is only 125 metres deep?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of those issues in mitigation of any risk would have to be considered as part of an application to drill in the exclusive economic zone.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, given that the Gulf of Mexico disaster was stopped only when a second rig drilled a relief well, and this Government will not require a relief rig to be on site during deep-sea drilling operations in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is jumping to conclusions. He does not know what conditions will be set. But, in the end, I mean, this is really the fundamental problem, is it not, with the Green Party. What Green members are arguing is that everything contains some risk, so they do not want to do anything, except that they want to give lots and lots of money away, which is why they come up with the only solution that that person could come up with—print it!

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not a question about the Prime Minister’s former job as a currency speculator. It was about deep-sea oil production. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think we will consider it a draw at that point.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Prime Minister is putting enormous weight on this new piece of flimsy legislation, the exclusive economic zone Act, how does he think that this particular piece of legislation will plug an oil leak at 2.5 kilometres under water? Does he plan to shove the legislation in the hole? Does he think that might work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is unlikely a couple of bits of paper will work. But let us cut to the chase here. We are a Government that is actually filling a gap that has been missing from our environmental protection. That member has been in the House for how long? And how many members’ bills has he put in about this issue? Oh, that is right—none. What he is focused on is printing money. That is his focus of attention.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about the Prime Minister’s currency speculation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion I invite the member to reflect on the question he asked. It kind of invited the sort of response he got.

Dr Russel Norman: Why has this Government taken a major anti-environmental turn since the 2011 election; is it because of the rising influence of Steven Joyce and others—environmental bandits within the National Party—who now dominate Cabinet and the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Shock, horror! It is Steven Joyce’s fault. No. It is because this is a Government that wants, in an environmentally sensible and considered way, also to grow the economic opportunities for New Zealanders. That member wants to go down to the West Coast and say it is really bad that people are losing their jobs, potentially, at Spring Creek, while at exactly the same time he is stopping them getting a job down the road. I call that hypocrisy.

Source

I have re-printed nearly all the text of that exchange to show the reader that,

  • National has no answer to critical safety issues surrounding deep-sea drilling,
  • National is willing to engage in risky commercial behaviour for short term gain,
  • John Key has a cavalier, foolish attitude when it comes to serious issues like this.

Should foreign oil companies engage in deep sea oil drilling, and should a disaster similar to Deepwater Horizon occur, this is what we can expect as a consequence;

1. The economic fallout of any off-shore disaster involving a massive, uncontrollable oil-spill, will impact on our “clean and green” image and will cause incalculable harm to our tourist industry.

2. The harm to our fishing industry in an affected zone will result in lost exports and jobs.

3. As with the owners of the Rena, and BP’s reluctance to pay full costs for the Gulf of Mexico spill, we can expect the owners of a failed deep-sea drilling rig to evade paying for the full clean-up costs and compensation to local businesses that suffer as a consequence.

4. National will hold a Commission of Inquiry into any deep-sea oil spill.

5. Such a Commission will find the oil company  at fault – but not National, who allowed deep-sea drilling to take place without adequate safety precautions in place, in the first place.

6. A token gesture of a ministerial “resignation” will take place. Then followed by John Key wiping his hands and insisting  that,

“The Royal Commission found the Department of [insert name]  itself did not have the focus, capacity or strategies to ensure [insert company]  was meeting its legal responsibilities under health and safety laws, blah, blah, blah…”

See:  Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigns in Pike River report fallout

National governments – they permit things to happen.

But never take responsibility.

I doubt John Key and Gerry Brownlee will be helping to clean up the next oil-fouled beach, somewhere on our coastline. That responsibility will go to others, who had no making in the decision to allow deep-sea drilling in our waters.

Never underestimate National politicians (and their supporters) to do dumb things.

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

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Sources

unattachednz: Petrobras Protest (31 March 2011)

OFW Magazine: Salvage crew returns to NZ ship (Rena, 13 October 2011)

NZ Herald: Rena: Oil clean-up chemical worries Greenpeace (25 Nov 2011)

Business Insider: BP Only Wants To Pay $15 Billion To US Authorities Over The Gulf Oil Spill (9 June 2012)

Business Insider: 19 Months Later, Here’s What We’ve Learned From The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (3 Dec 2012)

Radio NZ: Petrobras pulls out of NZ oil exploration  (4 Dec 2012)

Previous related blogposts

On the smell of an oily rag (11 Oct 2011)

Additional reading

It’s Déjà vu All Over Again

Gary Taylor: Sloppy oil mining rules too risky

World’s Largest Oil Rig Sinks

Rena timeline

Other blogs

TangataWhenua: Petrobras pulls out of Raukumara Basin

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John Tamihere – Back to the F*****g Future

3 December 2012 12 comments

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Tamihere blasts journalist ‘You stupid little girl’

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Barely 48 hours back with the Labour Party and John Tamihere was playing the “Anti PC Tough Guy” again, on TV3…

On Paula Bennett,

Within hours of being allowed back into the Labour Party, John Tamihere was already shooting his mouth off, calling the Social Development Minister “that bloody fat girl”.

See: TV3 – Tamihere comment targets hit back

I have no great liking for Bennett – she is a hypocrite of the worst sort for having used the DPB and other WINZ entitlements to support herself when she was a solo-mum; to gain a free tertiary education; and buy a house, at tax-payer’s expense . All of which she has denied other solo-mums.

But what has her size got to do with things?

On homophobia,

I don’t have a problem with gay people,” says Mr Tamihere. “I have a problem with gay marriage.”

See: IBID

So why the problem, John? Don’t marry a gay fella. Easy. Sorted.

Mind you, your constant references to gays kinda makes one think… you seem awfully preoccupied with Homo Sexual Men. Anything you want to share with us?

On women and sexism,

When asked about sexism, he responded, “What is that? I’m a man, you’re a woman”.

See: IBID

Oh for god’s sakes…

On female journalists,

“Tova, go jump in the lake you stupid little girl,” he said.

“I’ve had a gut’s full of idiots like you trying to position people like me.

“Pimply little girls in a newsroom trying to position you for being cut up on a little news bite. Tova O’Brien, where the hell do you come from?”

See: TV3 -Tamihere blasts journalist: ‘You stupid little girl’

The sad thing is that John Tamihere is an intelligent, experienced political figure and media operator. He’s not some redneck from the backblocks whose parents also happen to be brother and sister.

He proved his skills by  hosting on TV3′s  “Think Tank”,  making that current affairs ‘chat show’ must-see television.

So why the ignorant outbursts?

Why waste energy on offensive remarks against women, gays, etc?

His outbursts may satisfy a certain sector of society – a sector that probably gets it’s “information” from the inanities of Talkback Radio. But does his redneckery add anything to our understanduing of issues?

He certainly did not behave like this on “Think Tank”.

Time to grow up, John. We need your skills as a mature man – not a self-indulgent adolescent.

We don’t need a brown version of Paul Henry.  One is enough.

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Additional

Tamihere a ‘shock jock’ with insults – Shearer

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TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

3 December 2012 6 comments

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scaling the heights of  capitalism

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When it comes to misguided, New Zealand does it very well.

If the actions of 50+ businesspeople, professional lobbyists, and an ex-politician are anything to go by, some folk have yet to learn the lessons of the last thirty years of failed orthodox neo-liberal economic dogma.

Fifty people today (3 December)  put their names to an open letter to the Prime Minister, in support of TPPA negotiations. The letter was signed by former prime minister Jim Bolger and fortynine others. (See: Open letter to Prime Minister)

Firstly, this blogger supports the right of freedom of expression for these 50 individuals to write to our Dear Leader.

Just as I have a freedom of expression to tear their letter apart and reveal it to be dangerous, naive BS, with little thought for our future or consequences.

The letter started with,

We, the leaders of major New Zealand companies and leading business organisations, write to underline the importance of international trade and investment for New Zealand and to express our support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations now underway amongst eleven APEC economies.”

Economies“?!

Don’t they mean “countries”? Or “nations”?

The use of “economies” was prevalent  in the 1980s when neo-liberalism took hold around the world. It suggested that, as Margaret Thatcher maintained, there was no such thing as “society”. There was only the Individual; the family; and contractual transactions.

All pure ideological claptrap, of course.

Try taking the concept of society away from  social creature like humans and the result is predictable,

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We are conscious that TPP is a work in progress and that judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work.”

Now this really gets my goat.

How can these 50 intelligent, well-educated, highly experienced and business-savy men and women profess to support a document they have not read and  suggest that  ” judgement about the final outcome needs to be withheld until negotiators have finished their work”?!

How many contracts have these 50 people supported and signed without first reading the text?!

It beggars belief that businesspeople who run million-dollar (or billion dollar!) enterprises, are endorsing a document, sight unseen?

Because very few people in this country – or any other country – have read the proposed TPP Agreement.  In fact, out of 29 chapters, we are privy to only five – and only because they were leaked.

Our aim in writing is to endorse the effort now underway and to outline our conviction that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region and of ensuring that business can play its full part in the region’s continuing recovery and future economic growth.

I’d still like to know how these 50 Esteemed Gentlemen and Ladies know that “that this effort should continue in the interests of building a more prosperous and sustainable Asia Pacific region“.

Their faith is almost bordering on the religious. Have angels been whispering in their ears?

We note that the treaty ratification process requires there to be consultation on the negotiated outcome before its adoption by Parliament.”

Which, by then, may be too late. Especially if – as many suspect – Key will sign up up to some horrendous agreement that,

  1. Undermines the viability of Pharmac to buy cheaper, generic drugs,
  2. Results in New Zealand being vulnerable to investor lawsuits should Parliament pass any law that “damages” their profitability (See previous blogpost:  Dispatches from Planet Key)

How can there be democratic oversight by the public and Parliament if a completed Agreement is presented to Parliament as a fait accompli?

This may suit business – but then, businesspeople and National supporters tend not to support democracy as much as the rest of the country might like.

This will assist economic growth and job creation in New Zealand.”

Rubbish. It will do no such thing. In fact, if the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is anything to go by, we can expect more jobs to be lost, exported to overseas manufacturers which ‘enjoy’ a cheaper labour force.

NAFTA’s opponents attribute much of the displacement caused in the US labor market to the United States’ growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. According to the Economic Policy Institute, rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,900 U.S. jobs by 2010.  Critics see the argument of the proponents of NAFTA as being one-sided because they only take into consideration export-oriented job impact instead of looking at the trade balance, also known as net exports. They argue that increases in imports ultimately displaced the production of goods that would have been made domestically by workers within the United States.

The export-oriented argument is also critiqued because of the discrepancy between domestically produced exports and exports produced in foreign countries. For example, many US exports are simply being shipped to Mexican maquiladores where they are assembled, and then shipped back to the U.S. as final products.  These are not products destined for consumption by Mexicans, yet they made up 61% of exports in 2002. However, only domestically produced exports are the ones that support U.S. labor. Therefore, the measure of net impact of trade should be calculated using only domestically produced exports as an indicator of job creation.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico under NAFTA, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.  Certain states with heavy emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these job losses. For example, in Ohio, Trade Adjustment Assistance and NAFTA-TAA identified 14,653 jobs directly lost due to NAFTA-related reasons like relocation of U.S. firms to Mexico. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center attributed 150,000 job losses in the state to the rising U.S. trade deficit. Since 1993, 38,325 of those job losses are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. Although many of these workers laid off due to NAFTA were reallocated to other sectors, the majority of workers were relocated to the service industry, where average wages are 4/5 to that of the manufacturing sector.

See: NAFTA’s effect on United States employment

An increase in domestic manufacturing output and a proportionally greater domestic investment in manufacturing does not necessarily mean an increase in domestic manufacturing jobs; this increase may simply reflect greater automation and higher productivity. Although the U.S. total civilian employment may have grown by almost 15 million in between 1993 and 2001, manufacturing jobs only increased by 476,000 in the same time period.  Furthermore from 1994 to 2007, net manufacturing employment has declined by 3,654,000, and during this period several other free trade agreements have been concluded or expanded

See: North American Free Trade Agreement

We are already losing thousand of manufacturing jobs. A TPPA will worsen the situation,  as  local businesses make use of cheaper labour elsewhere. This means more unemployment for us;  further downward pressure of wages; and more of our taxes spent on welfare.

A prime example is our current Free Trade Agreement with China.

Thousands of jobs have been lost in New Zealand as manufacturers such as Fisher & Paykel have relocated their assembly plants to China, where labour is much cheaper.

In April 2008, we lost 430 jobs to China,

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Fisher & Paykel move 'damages iconic brand'

Full story

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All due to our FTA with that country. Now imagine this scenario multiplied ten-fold.

As ABN Amro analyst Dennis Lee said,

They are moving their production to low-cost countries. It’s a world-wide trend. The indication is quite clear. They have to find the place that can provide them with the lowest cost production.”

So the promise of  ” job creation in New Zealand ” is utter garbage.

It will certainly increase profits for shareholders.

But more jobs? Don’t count on it.

Local and worldwide experience – especially in the United States where cities such as Detroit have had their manufacturing hollowed-out – should serve as a clear warning (See:  Police: “Enter Detroit At Your Own Risk”). Free trade agreements are not about jobs; they are about strengthening corporate power and maximising dividend returns to shareholders.

It’s just a shame that the fifty people who put their signatures to the open letter to Dear Leader couldn’t be more honest about it.

The open letter ends with this,

We stand ready to assist negotiators in this effort and to participate with other members of civil society in a dialogue about how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country, its people and the people of the wider region to which we belong.

A good start to ” how TPP can contribute to what is best for our country ” would be to make the negotiations public and reveal the contents of the proposed Agreement.

That would be a jolly good start.

Addendum I

A lawyer, Daniel Kalderimis, assures us that  disputes between investors and states are real, but can be addressed.

No one would sanely deny that there aren’t risks.  But the key question is are those risks a deal breaker or can they be mitigated? I think they can be mitigated.”

See: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He’s a trade lawyer specialising in international investor-nation disputes.

Interestingly, Mr Kalderimis also commented that,

While people pointed to the possibility that Philip Morris could sue New Zealand over tobacco laws, “Philip Morris can already sue New Zealand“.

See: IBID

Yes, that is true. Just as Philip Morris Asia Ltd  sued the Australian government last year.

The one difference that Mr Kalderimis conveniently forgot, in a John Key brain fade moment, is that such corporations can only currently sue within our own jurisdiction, under our own laws.

Under the TPPA, an investor-nation lawsuit will be conducted using  secret, foreign tribunals.

This is what National is negotiating to achieve.

And this is what 50 short-sighted, self-serving, and misguided people are supporting.

Addendum II

The TPPA is perhaps the single most important political policy National is undertaking.

If anything in this blogpost concerns you, I encourage you to do the following,

(1) Write to the Prime Minister and express your concerns. Email him at: john.key@parliament.govt.nz

(2) Share this blogpost with your friends, family, workmate, etc. The more folk who know what is going on, the more chance we have of stopping this dead in it’s tracks.

(3) Write a letter to your local newspaper and demand to know why the TPPA negotiations are being held in secret. What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it? If it’s so good for us – wouldn’t the Prime Minister be the first to tell us?

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nikki kaye - yeah right

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Sources

NZ Herald: Businesses launch PR campaign to fight TPP ‘scare-mongering’

NZ Herald: Open letter to Prime Minister

NZ Herald: TPP risks can be mitigated – expert

NZ Herald: Jane Kelsey: Pacific deal masks bigger plan

Additional

U.S. To Consult Internally On Ag Export Competition; Next TPP Round Set For New Zealand

Groups

Pro TPPA: Trade Works

Anti TPPA: It’s Our Future

Office of US trade Representative: Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

NZUS Council: Kiwi businesses out in support of TPP negotiations

Wikipedia: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement

Wikipedia: North American Free Trade Agreement

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Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

1 December 2012 11 comments

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Citizen A

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Jane Kelsey & Lori Wallach

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29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

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Prologue – Some Context

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, had this to say about Jane Kelsey and the anti-TPPA movement,

Academics who understand liberalisation are not often quoted publicly to provide a contrasting voice.

A university as dominant in New Zealand’s intellectual life as the University of Auckland should surely be ensuring a counter-balance to Kelsey’s activism. Here’s a question for University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon. Why don’t you encourage some of your expert business academics to take an open stance on trade liberalisation instead of allowing debate to simply be dominated by law professor Jane Kelsey and her NGO mates?

Kelsey has joined up with other anti-trade activists such as Lori Wallach, from Public Citizen, and Sanya Reid Smith, from the Third World Network, to host media seminars in Wellington today and tomorrow in Auckland.

The media seminars – no photographs please – are to hear from “International Experts in New Zealand for the 15th round of TPPA Negotiations”.

Others who will front include Burcu Kilic (Global Access to Medicines Programme, Public Citizen) and union leaders.

 A range of other NGO players will take part in various public events next week designed to question the TPP process and shine a light on some potentially negative outcomes.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Kelsey.

I have debated with her over the years and shared an occasional single malt in five star hotels elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of international forums such as Apec. Regular readers of this column know I am in the pro-trade camp (with provisos) and – declaration right upfront here – have actively promoted New Zealand’s engagement in free trade agreement negotiations with nations such as the US and China.

There are plenty of others in this pro-trade camp – businesses, academics, farmers, politicians and foreign affairs officials.

But for some reason academics who are deeply across the major market liberalisation moves in the Asia-Pacific – such as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – are not often quoted publicly to provide a contrasting voice to the anti-trade lobby.

Kelsey – who, according to the latest bunch of publicity, is also now associate dean (research) – talks a good game.

But I’ve yet to read any Kelsey works that support open markets or come up with concrete suggestions about how New Zealand can deal with the impact of trade diversion if it stays out of the negotiations, which will result in deeper economic integration in the Asia-Pacific.

A university as dominant in New Zealand’s intellectual life as the University of Auckland should surely be ensuring a counter-balance to Kelsey’s activism. Particularly if it cherishes its reputation.

The university does employ highly-experienced academics such as Rob Scollay (long-time head of the Apec Study Centre) and Hugh Whittaker, from the Business School, who has studied in some depth the impact of global supply chains on international trade.

But they should merely be the nucleus of a big bunch of academics who are sufficiently versed in New Zealand’s trade agreement platforms and right across our myriad agreements, to be seen as “go-to” commentators on trade issues.

It is a fundamental problem because there are issues relating to the TPP which do need to be debated.

The Prime Minister has said New Zealand won’t sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal unless it includes an agreement to progressively abolish tariffs on agricultural products exported to North America.

Key also told his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday that it would not be a “good look” if New Zealand made concessions that undermined the status of its drug-buying agency, Pharmac. It’s highly unlikely that New Zealand would concede these areas in the first place.

It would make a nonsense of its history of mainly signing up to top-quality, comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements, or regional trade deals, if New Zealand allowed itself to be pushed about on this score.

The negotiations will be tough when it comes to reducing high agricultural tariffs.

Canada’s dairy tariffs are as high as 300 per cent. Canada will argue – yet again and falsely – that Fonterra is a state trading enterprise.

The agricultural upside will be considerable if the TPP goes through and tariffs are removed over lengthy phase-in periods.

But the real issue – which is not adequately debated – is the intellectual property component of the TPP.

New Zealand’s concentration on agricultural liberalisation might be blinding negotiators to the potential impact of adopting the US IP platform. The US – like Singapore before it – wants to set the rules for what is in effect a major economic integration of the Asia-Pacific.

Our companies in the ICT and high-tech manufacturing space have mixed views on what is proposed.

First problem is they don’t know enough of the TPP detail.

Second problem is an emerging sense that not enough intellectual thought has gone into studying the upsides and downsides of the proposed IP framework or into exactly what platform New Zealand should be pushing to enable its own companies to thrive in 21st century trade regimes.

This is important.

Victoria University has done some work in this area.

But I would argue that this is fruitful territory for the University of Auckland.

Key said on Monday that for New Zealand to do a deal, “It has to be a deal on our terms”.

Trouble is, not enough open work has gone into determining what those terms should be for industries other than the agricultural sector.

Let’s face it: Fonterra has not taken advantage of all the concessions New Zealand scored for dairy in the China FTA (such as for infant milk formula).

But the dominant business voices on trade are mainly from agriculture.

It is not too late to ensure NZ’s interests on the IP front are advanced. Stuart McCutcheon take note.

Source: Anti-trade camp running debate

Which puts the following into proper context…

Citizen A – TPPA Special

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Issue 1: Why should NZers be concerned with signing up to the TPPA?

Issue 2: Why would our Government agree to a deal that didn’t benefit NZ interests?

and issue 3: How much is the TPPA a manifestation of the American-Chinese new cold war in the Pacific?

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Acknowledgement

Re-published with kind permission from Tumeke

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Dispatches from Planet Key…

1 December 2012 5 comments

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key-loves-you

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This week has been a busy one for Dear Leader…

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Perhaps the most far-ranging trade agreement that New Zealand has been involved with, since CER with Australia took effect in 1983, the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) is currently under negotiation between eleven nations (including New Zealand).

Negotiations are  being held in absolute secrecy, with no Parliamentary or public oversight. Quite simply, New Zealanders have no idea what National is signing up to, until the deed is done and we are committed to god-knows-what.

There are suggestions that part of the TPPA may contain,

(1) The right of corporations to sue governments for “loss of profits”. This is no better illustrated than the recent attempt by tobacco companies to force the Australian government to back down over plans to introduce plain-packaging in that country. (See: Tobacco packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case)

Tobacco manufacturer, Philip Morris, moved it’s subsidiary shares from Australia to Hong Kong so as to exploit a 1993 trade agreement between the two jurisdictions and was thus able to sue the Australian government. (See:  Smoke signals: plans of Big Tobacco plain to see)

This barely-concealed attempt to exploit an obscure trade agreement should serve as a sign of things to come.

(2) Stricter intellectual property rights that may undermine Pharmac’s ability to buy cheaper, generic medicines, after patents have expired.

It is by this process that PHARMAC  can purchase cheaper drugs from overseas and pass those savings on to all New Zealanders.  The US pharmaceutical industry recognises the threat that PHARMAC poses to their profits – especially if the PHARMAC-model is adopted by other nations.

More of what pharmaceutical corporations are demanding can be found in this article, by  Keira Stephenson; TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics.

John Key recently stated,

We’re not prepared to see dairy excluded. And in terms of abolition, yeah, I mean that’s the aim. There might be a time frame under which clearly there’ll be a phase out. But in the end New Zealand can’t sign up to the TPP if it excludes our biggest export.”

See: Key says NZ won’t sign up to TPP unless dairy included

Key also said it would “not a good look” if  concessions undermined the status of  Pharmac.

See: Ibid

Unfortunately, we have good reason to be concerned. If past experience is anything to go by, John Key’s reassurances are mostly meaningless and more changeable than our weather.  Key has changed his position on matters such as,

If there is one thing we’ve come to expect from John Key – he can flip-flop on his promises and committments with all the ease of  a Nigerian scammer.

So when Dear Leader says he is committed to…

We’re not prepared to see dairy excluded. And in terms of abolition, yeah, I mean that’s the aim. There might be a time frame under which clearly there’ll be a phase out. But in the end New Zealand can’t sign up to the TPP if it excludes our biggest export “…

And,   it would “not a good look” if  concessions undermined the status of  Pharmac…

We should immediately be concerned.

The man is simply not to be trusted.

Corporate welfare

In October 2010,  Key categorically rejected spending taxpayers money on corporate welfare for the movie industry,

Mr Key reiterated that the Government was prepared to move at the margins when it came to money but it did not have an open chequebook.

He said Warner Bros were asking for “lots and we’re not offering lots”.

“If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

See: PM: I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

Two years later, and our Prime Minister is dishing out taxpayers money to the movie industry like it’s growing on trees,

The Government wants to offer better incentives to get more foreign TV shows filmed in New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key, in Matamata yesterday for the opening of the Green Dragon Pub at the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, said attracting television series was the next step to aiding the creative industry after movie work such as Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.

“Blockbuster movies are very, very large … but they have big peaks and troughs and during the troughs that’s really difficult for people working in that field, so we can fill those gaps with television,” Mr Key said.

Under Mr Key’s lead the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Film Commission and the Inland Revenue Department are jointly reviewing the incentives offered to overseas producers to film TV series in New Zealand.

See: Key talks up sweeteners for TV

And yet, on 16 September this year, Key specifically rejected all suggestions of subsidies to other industries – especially exporters – to help save jobs,

But there will always be job losses, Shane. There will always be parts of the economy where, for whatever reason, there’s a change in pattern. So years ago, we all did different things from what we’re doing today. The point for New Zealand is if we’re going to sell more to the world than we buy from the world, if we’re going to earn our way in the world and not spend more than we earn, then we have to have a highly focused, competitive economy. And we need to have three things: access to capital, access to markets and access to skilled labour.

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If I just take you back to your point, many of the countries you are pointing to that are paying out these levels of subsidies are backed up by governments that are hugely indebted. So the whole problem in Europe, the whole reason why you’re seeing countries like Spain, like Greece and right through Southern Europe in the sort of mess they are is they have huge levels of government debt. So the answer in New Zealand is not necessarily coming up with a make-work scheme funded off taxpayers’ taxes. It comes off New Zealand having a competitive industry, making sure that we have flexible labour markets, making sure that we are investing in things that will make the economy go faster, like science and innovation.”

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

When it comes to holding two diametrically opposed beliefs, simultaneously, (aka ‘doublethink‘)  John Key excels.

I cannot recall any politician in the last forty years who can flip-flop so easily on any given issue.

Statistics & John Key

When the Household Labourforce survey was made public on 8 November, the data showed a dramatic leap in unemployment from 6.8% to 7.3%. (See: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high) There are now at least 175,000 people without work in this country.

Dear Leader’s response?

He rejected the figures outright, in this Fairfax story,

In the end these things bounce around quite a bit… it’s at odds with what most of the economists thought would happen. Like a lot of surveys, from time to time, it can produced usual data, let’s see what happens in the next one. But it’s not going to make the Government change tack.  These are challenging international conditions … but I don’t think we should change course I think we’re on the right track. “

See: Shock rise in unemployment to 7.3pc

On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 November, Key was just as  reluctant to accept the HLFS results,

The Household Labour Force Survey is a survey. It’s a survey of 15,000 people. It has a quite significant margin of error and it bounces around a lot. Quite a number of the bank economists, in their review of the last number, said it’s notoriously volatile. So I can’t tell you whether it might go up a little bit or go down a little bit. What I can tell you is that’s not the relevant point. The relevant point is is the government doing everything it can to create an environment to allow businesses to create jobs?

See:  TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Which makes it even stranger and more comical when – having trashed the reliability of the Household Labour Force Survey over the last month – he suddenly invokes the very same Household Labour Force Survey to back up his position (which depends on what day it is),

There’s always a range of different data series. QS [Quarterly Survey?] is one. That’s obviously another. Household Labour Force is another. All I can tell you is we’ve looked at [garbled gibberish] … The concensus view and that was the previous government’s view as well, is that HLFS was the best measure of the economy. Sometimes it produces numbers I don’t like. But if you look at their data series what they are saying is, in broad terms, over the last four years, the number of jobs in manufacturing is roughly about the same.” – John Key, 27 November 2012

Source: Radio NZ – PM rejects jobs statistics

It is fairly obvious to the ordinary bloke and blokette in the street that relying on John Key’s word will generally result in disappointment.

Back to Pharmac, the TPPA, and John Key’s “reassurances”

Last year, on 13 June, Fairfax reporter Nikki MacDonald wrote an excellent piece on how TPPA negotiations may impact on Pharmac’s drug-buying policies,

 Pharmac was established in 1993, to rein in rocketing drug costs and distance the government from drug-buying decisions. Its task is to spend its $710 million annual budget to achieve the best health gains for Kiwis.

Broadly, Pharmac works by referring drug-company funding applications to the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee, made up of senior doctors and pharmacists, to examine whether or not the drug is effective, and whether it is significantly better than anything else already on offer.

The committee then gives the drug a low, medium or high funding priority and Pharmac’s board decides whether or not its benefits justify the price tag.

Pharmac’s cost-benefit analysis, which takes into account average patient age and the number of good-quality years gained by the treatment (called quality adjusted life years, or QALYs), is similar to that in Australia’s scheme.

The major difference is that Australia funds everything meeting a given cost-effectiveness threshold.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has a fixed budget, so has to decide whether it can afford to fund a drug in any given year. Pharmac must also consider the opportunity cost of a funding decision – what do you sacrifice to spend $20 million on the latest cancer drug?

Pharmac uses various bargaining strategies so it can buy more for its drug dollar. These include:

Reference pricing: Where a newer, patented drug has similar benefits to a cheaper generic drug, Pharmac might subsidise the newer drug only to the same level as the lower-cost alternative. The drug company then either drops its drug price to the subsidy level, or the consumer pays the difference.

Sole-supply tenders: When a drug patent expires, Pharmac tenders to get the best price for a generic replacement. Drug companies can offer much cheaper deals because they’re assured of a large market share.

A 2004 price comparison found Australia paid up to 20 times more than New Zealand for some generic drugs, because it did not use tenders. (Legislation has now bridged some of that difference, by enforcing staged price drops for generic drugs.) A Canadian study found generic drugs were up to 93 per cent, and on average 58 per cent, cheaper in New Zealand.

Package deals: A costly new drug that works well but is not cost-effective can be funded by negotiating cheaper prices for other drugs made by the same pharmaceutical company. Glivec was funded using this method.

Negotiated contracts. On the numbers Pharmac has been spectacularly successful. In 1985, a basket of commonly prescribed drugs cost 37 per cent more in New Zealand than in Australia. Between 1993 and 2006 New Zealand’s drug spending grew by 11 per cent, while Australia’s soared by 212 per cent. Pharmac estimates its aggressive pricing policies save almost $1 billion a year.

See: Pharmac: The politics of playing god

Most New Zealands either have no idea what the potential impact on Pharmac may be, if US pharmaceutical companies get their way through TPPA negotiations – or are too busy watching the latest “Masterchef Botswana”, “X Factor Bolivia”, or gawking at a celebrity’s tits on some vacuous “reality” show.

It is only when Pharmac’s ability to buy cheap drugs is undermined by the full power of pharmaceutical companies, levied through the TPPA, and the costs for medicines suddenly doubles, trebles, quadruples, will New Zealanders wake up to the fact that we’ve been rorted.

And it all happened on the watch of  our  smiling, waving, Prime Minister – that ever so-nice Mr Key.

By then it will be too late.

So when Key  reassures New Zealanders that,

“…it would “not a good look” if New Zealand made concessions that undermined the status of its drug-buying agency, Pharmac.”

See: Mr Key, reiterated today NZ will not sign the Trans Pacific Partnership unless it provides for the abolition of tariffs on agriculture

See: No TPP deal unless dairy and Pharmac are in, says Key

See: TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics

… it is time to be worried.

Like all his other assurances, pledges, promises, and committments that have been broken or backtracked, our Prime Minister is not a man who stands by his word.

When it comes to the health of our economy, he has failed.

Let’s not allow him to do the same to our own health.

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Sources

US free-trade deal suspect (19 Dec 2010)

Pharmac: The politics of playing god (13 June 2011)

Pharmac faces trade ‘threat’ (26 Oct 2011)

Leaked TPPA document leaves NZ position on software patents unclear (22 June 2012)

Leaked document on Investor Rights to sue sovereign governments

No TPP deal unless dairy and Pharmac are in – Key (26 Nov 2012)

TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics (29 Nov 2012)

Navigating the choppy waters of the TPP (1 Dec 2012)

Right Wing Reaction

Anti-trade camp running debate (28 Nov 2012)

Other blogs

The Standard: TPP Negotiations Auckland next week

Tumeke: Citizen A TPP special with Professor Jane Kelsey & Lori Wallach

Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: TPP in crisis?

Werewolf: Into The Cave of Dreams – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: Selling the Farm – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: The Neutering Of Pharmac – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: Head First Into The Spaghetti Bowl – Trans Pacific Partnership

Public Citizen: Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda

It’s Our Future

Groups

TPPA Action Group

Additional

NBR:  OPINION: TPP – Groser trades away tech to save agriculture

Fairfax:  CTU seeks answers over trade agreement

NBR:  Govt accused of ‘sellout’ on trade pact negotiations

NBR:  NZ must stay staunch on TPP

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