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Archive for January, 2013

2013 – More redundancies…

31 January 2013 4 comments

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Job-Hunting-10-Tips-for-When-Your-Unemployment-Checks-Stop

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Last year’s talley of redundancies – by  no means complete – which added to the rise in unemployment to 175,000 New Zealanders looking for work;

The year is barely one month old, and reports are starting to come in of redundancies,

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Wool spinner to sell Oamaru plant

Source

Listen to more on Checkpoint

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This is yet another business that has been affected by the high exchange rate – the same high Dollar that Steven Joyce has resolutely maintained is “not a crisis”,

There is no generic crisis in manufacturing but I would certainly acknowledge it is challenging for some companies.”

See: Currency intervention a fool’s paradise, says Joyce

Strange – I would have thought that the loss of 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the last four years would qualify as a crisis?

And why is it, I wonder, that National is willing and happy to throw $65 million (of our taxes)  at Warner Bros (a multi-billion dollar overseas company), as a subsidy, to “create” 3,000 jobs,

I’m proud our Government took action to make sure The Hobbit films were made here. They created 3000 jobs and poured millions of dollars into our regions.”

See:  National – Celebrating The Hobbit

If my ‘take’ on this is correct,

  • 3,000 jobs ‘created’ – good
  • 40,000 jobs lost – meh!

And ironically, Key’s claims of 3,000 “new jobs” created may not even be correct! (see:  Key denies Hobbit job numbers made up) Dear Leader may be pulling another ‘swiftie’ on us, as he did with the Skycity convention-construction numbers. (See: Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs)

So by the numbers, for this year:

Expect this list to increase on a weekly basis.

This blogger also has ‘inside information’ that Veridian Glass – a Wellington-based glass-supplier for the glazing industry – will also be shedding an unknown number of staff, including truck drivers.

Last year’s shocking news that unemployment had reached 7.3% (175,000 men and women out of work) may only be the beginning.

The next Household Labourforce survey data may see unemployment rising even further.

Meanwhile, as the manufacturing and export sector suffer from an over-valued dollar;  more and more jobs are being lost; and business-owners are demanding action from National.

Meanwhile, Steven Joyce reminds us,

Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.”

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Business people are supposedly National’s core constituents.

You wouldn’t think  so.

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“Nope. No manufacturing or export sector crisis down here.”

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Did we just hear Steven Joyce sh*t all over his colleagues?!?!

31 January 2013 14 comments

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Government sticking with Novopay - for now

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Government sticking with Novopay – for now

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Steven Joyce,

Steven Joyce revealed that Education Minister Hekia Parata, Finance Minister Bill English and former education minister Craig Foss approved the use of Novopay despite being told that it had bugs.”

See: IBID

In colloquial terms, that is what is known as ‘dropping someone in it’ – “it” being brown, smelly, and heading for waste-treament ponds.

Is there a civil war going on within National, comprising two factions with one led by technocrat Steven Joyce and the other by neo-liberal Bill English?

Or is there something even more disquieting going on within National’s ranks.

Joyce added,

There was definitely knowledge there were bugs at the outset of going live. But the advice of all involved was that the thing should proceed. I doubt they’d give the same advice today.

Noticeably, when queried by media, all three Ministers had similar responses – obviously coached by the same tax-payer funded Party spin-doctors and media-minders,

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Mr Fix-It has Novopay plan

See: Mr Fix-It has Novopay plan

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Hekia Parata

I think hindsight’s a wonderful thing....

Bill English

In hindsight....

And the tongue-tied Craig Foss,

Well in hindsight… is a benefit of hindsight...

See: IBID

You can always tell when a politician has been coached; they use the same words and phrases over and over again. Spin doctors/media-minders develop a mantra, and their clients are expected to learn and parrot it, by rote. It takes a skilful journalist/interviewer to peel away the carefully-crafted coaching and get to the truth.

This indicates that Parata, English, and Foss had been pre-warned of Joyce’s press conference and admission of the three Minister’s actions.

So is this some sort of carefully managed internecine warfare?

Or a very subtle, clever strategy to neutralise possible Opposition disclosures in Parliament?

Joyce’s statements that there will be on-going problems with Novopay could be seen as an attempt to minimise future media reports on Novopay errors.After all, if National admits that there will be ongoing problems – does that make it news when it happens?

Whichever is the case, this is Steven Joyce at his most cunning, and the Opposition will need to be on their toes. As will the media, if they are not to be out-manouvered by National’s “Mr Fix It”.

“Mr Fix It” does not apply to sorting out computerised pay systems. “Mr Fix It” fixes political messes.

This certainly qualifies as the Mother of all Messes.

Addendum

As is common with National, Joyce attempted to shift blame onto advisors/bureacrats/Uncle Tom Cobbly, when he stated,

There was definitely knowledge there were bugs at the outset of going live. But the advice of all involved was that the thing should proceed…

My bet is that we will never, ever see this “advice”.

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Judith Collins and the Bain of her ministerial career…

31 January 2013 3 comments

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Bain compensation decision months away

Source

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It must be true; David Bain has an enemy in the current National Cabinet. Someone (Collins?) has taken it upon her (his) self to ride roughshod over the Privy Council, the re-trial, and retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie, to come to their own conclusions.

If anyone ever wondered what it would be like to have political control of our judicial system – this is pretty damned close to it.

“Justice” Minister Judith Collins is quite openly holding up David Bain’s claim for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

After publicly trashing retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie’s Report into the matter – along with his reputation – Collins sought a “peer-review” from Robert Fisher, QC.

Fisher duly rubbished Binnie’s report and recommendation for compensation as “flawed” (see:  Bain compo recommended but Binnie report ‘flawed‘). In turn, Fisher’s “peer review” was rubbished – evidently he hadn’t read up on the Bain case!

Months have passed, it appears that Collins is stonewalling. Evidently, a final decision is yet more “months away”.

Now there is talk of Collins requesting another “independent” review.

Well, I hope she’s not going to be looking overseas. After National’s crass, insulting behaviour over Justice Binnie, I doubt any other Jurist would take up an offer from this current National government.

Instead there is talk of an “independent panel”.

Oh, really? How independent? Not too independent, I think – Commissar Collins might not like it.

And if an Independent Panel came to the same conclusion as Justice Binnie – what then? Best of five – two more “independent reviews”!?

If an independent panel deliverers the “wrong” result, perhaps Collins could ramp up the decision-making process. Perhaps a nationwide referendum? We could poll all 4.4 million New Zealanders whether or not to pay Bain?

If we go down the referendum road, it should be a low-cost affair. After all, the Nats are struggling to balance the books and are practically taking money from schoolboys and girls doing paper rounds. So a referendum should be done on the cheap.

Maybe via electronic means?

Facebook!?

Imagine deciding a human being’s fate – by just a click -  *Like* or *Don’t Like*.

The Village Mob, 21st century-style.

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internet_lynch_mobs_Cleverbot_said_Im_correct-s391x337-96144-535

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Thank the gods for progress.

[Note to National: This blogpost was mainly satirical and suggestions to use Facebook, or any other electronic means, to determine whether or not Bain should be compensated were an exercise in satire. My suggestion is, quite simply; stop farting about and PAY the man!]

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References

Radio NZ: Minister not ruling out new report on Bain claim

Dominion Post: Bain compensation decision months away

Other Blogs

The Pundit: Crowdsourcing the Binnie report (and the Fisher report on the Binnie report …)

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The Absurdities of National’s policies – a continuing saga

30 January 2013 5 comments

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National’s policies continue to harm the most vulnerable in our society – including those working hard trying to make a “go” of it and better themselves.

Their latest exercise in absurdity and sheer mongrel stupidity is setting up barriers for people to get off welfare,

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New law nips student mum's dream in bud

Source

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How this helps people attain an education; find a job; get off welfare; and pay taxes – is beyond my comprehension. It is simply erecting another barrier in front of people who are doing it tough already.

Worse still, some incredibly thick people  (must be ACT supporters?) are actually supportive of this mean, penny-pinching policy. People like this individual,

RossRonald

“I count it, that she’d get around $620 in the hand per week – not counting an accommodation top up benefit if she’s entitled. The story’s pretty poorly written and somehow suggests the dpb is $172… Nup.
I pay a mortgage, have bought up 3 kids solo with Zero help beside working for families – and am trying to figure how to send my daughter to Uni next year…. and seeing non contributors like here sucking the system gets me riled. $6 grand student debt – please pass me the worlds smallest violin. Last thing NZ needs is another 50 year old shrink. BTW – Mr Anus? Hugh?? I think you’re assuming a lot – Cliff made perfect sense, it’s just that you don’t get to hear it said often enough, cos it’s a bit impolite to be honest about this sort of self indulgent waffle. Let her throw a few more K on the student loan, that’s what my kids have had to do. Welcome to the big sandpit”

Or this one,

Jackie10000

“Ms Merson also forgot to mention that she has shared custody and receives a good amount of child support each month! Student allowance, child support and DPB for the last two years!Time she got a real job and paid us tax payers back!”

Source: IBID

Such wilful ignorance… where does one start?!

Perhaps we could start with John Key, our current Prime Minister and owner of $50 million.

Dear Leader went to University at a time when tertiary education was free. No student fees. No student debt. In fact, the State paid students an allowance, to help with their studies and living costs.

Or we could start with Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett.

Ms Bennet was once receiving the DPB, as she raised her daughter. Nothing wrong with that.

(Bennett also used WINZ payments to buy a house for herself. See: Bennett knows about life on Struggle St)

She received a Training Incentice Allowance, to pay for her University Degree. Nothing wrong with that either.

She evidently tried part-time work whilst studying, but gave up her job because it was too hard to study and raise a child. Ok, we can understand that.

What I (and many others) find impossible to understand is why Bennett then canned the Training Incentive Allowance.

The same Training Incentive Allowance Bennett  used to further her own education and get a job afterwards.

The same Training Incentive Allowance that an acquaintance of mine received, whilst she raised two sons single-handedly; one with ADHD and Aspergers; and completed a University course; and now earns a good salary paying taxes – instead of being on the DPB.

Isn’t that what we want?

Or is there a nasty, punitive, streak in our collective psyche – as expressed by the vile comments posted by RossRonald  and Jackie10000  – that demands that those receiving welfare and  the “undeserving poor” should be destined to rot in perpetual, unrelenting poverty? How can our once egalitarian society now be producing quasi-Scrooges with such malicious and monstrously shameful comments as RossRonald  and Jackie10000 wrote?

One can only hope that those two represent only a tiny sector of our society – perhaps no more than the 23,889 who voted for ACT, in 2011.

Getting back to the issue, Ms Merson is quoted in the above story as saying,

It seems a shame. It’s been my passion for years, and I was so close.”

Talk about pulling the rug out from under people.

All because we have a political Party in government that panders to the lowest common denominator; naked self-interest.

All because National blew $2 billion a year in unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010.

And all because, with the shortfall in tax revenue, National is having to scrimp and scrape and slash social and State services, to find the money to “balance their books”.  Just like they did in the late 1990s.

The top income earners have done very well out of National’s  unbridled generosity in giving money away. Key and his cronies  practically hosed it from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive to the waiting One Percenters  below.

But not Ms Merson.

She’s having to pay for those tax cuts by losing out on an education.

“Bright Future” my arse.

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Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

“One law for all” – except MPs. (Part Rua)

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…

Class act, National – taking money of widows?!

References

Dominion Post: New law nips student mum’s dream in bud

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Karma for Key?

30 January 2013 5 comments

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John Key, on Hekia Pata, nearly a fortnight ago,

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“I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

“I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

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Hekia Parata, confirming Dear Leader’s assertion that she is  “one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had”,

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'Karma' strikes unpaid Education Ministry staff

Full story

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It takes a profound and deeply  callous indifference to make light of the ongoing Novopay fiasco and the resulting stresses on teachers and school admninistrators.

Parata may have been ‘joking’ when she made  her  “Karma” quip.

The joke, though, is on her and on John Key. I suspect that the moment this story hit the headlines, that Key was on the phone quick-smart and gave her a simple message; “shut the  -------- up!”.

As pundits have reasonable postulated, Key has evaded demands that Parata be despatched as Education Minister. (After all, only eight days ago he fired two other Ministers  who were nowhere as masterful in the  incompetance stakes  as Ms Parata.)

The difference, as the pundits have most likely correctly guessed, is that sacking Parata would’ve been seen as caving in to teacher’s unions, school boards, parents, and anyone else that she has pissed off in the last year or so. It would’ve been a major coup for the Opposition, who are now only 22 months away from becoming the next government.

So instead of sacking Parata, Key went for Plan B; side-line her so she is Minister of Education in name only, and assigned  National’s “hatchetman” – Stephen Joyce – as the real Power-behind-the-Ministerial-Leather-Throne,

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Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

Full story

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In the meantime, Key’s message to Parata would’ve been simple,

Sit there.

Smile vacantly.

Shut up.

And do nothing.”

As I wrote in my previous blogpost (see: National and the Cult of Buck-Passing )  on 22 Decemberlast year,

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).

It seems that two of my “predictions” have come  to pass,

  1. A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies.” Enter: Stephen Joyce.
  2. Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).” With her bizarre comments, she certainly is giving voters something to think about.

When Hekia Parata referred to Karma today, I think she was missing the Big Picture. See the bite marks on Key’s $50 million arse?

That’s  karma.

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References

Otago Daily Times: Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

NZ Herald: Parata safe in her job – Key

Dominion Post: No pay for Education Ministry staff

NZ Herald: ‘Karma’ strikes unpaid Education Ministry staff

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David Shearer – New Solutions or Time-Honoured Answers?

29 January 2013 7 comments

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Wainuiomata, Sunday, 27 January 2013 -  It was a scorcher of a day throughout most of the country – and the Wellington region was no exception.  The Met Office was predicting 23 degrees – this blogger scoffs at that and thought it nudged closer to 30.  Not for the first time, I thanked the Human Race for the invention of air-conditioning inside a car.

This was not the first time I had heard Party leaders speak. My very first occassion was Bill Rowling, in the 1975 election campaign.  According to my memory, he seemed a nice enough guy and had some good things to say.

Unfortunately forLabour – and for the nation – Muldoon made “mince meat” out of Rowling; won the ’75 election; trashed Labour’s compulsory super-savings scheme; and set the country on a course for future dependency on foreign bankers. Nice one, Rob.

My most recent encounter with a Party leader had been John Key, in Lower Hutt and then in Upper Hutt, in 2011 in the lead-up to the general election.

Impressions? I understood why many people likened politicians to used-car salesmen.  There was something about Key that instinctively made me feel uneasy and doubt every word he uttered. At any moment, I expected him to offer the audience shares in the Wellington harbour bridge. (Soon, he’ll be offering us shares in companies we already own. So I wasn’t far off.)

Back to the present…

At first, I thought the Wainuiomata Rugby Club – at a far-flung corner of this little village – was an odd place for a public meeting. But maybe not. In some ways, Wainui represents New Zealand  in the wider world; tiny, isolated, out-of-sight of the rest of the country and mostly forgotten. As a microcosm of New Zealand, surrounded by verdant green-covered hills, it was a perfect setting.

The Rugby Club car-park was jam-packed. Decided to park across the road. Smiled nicely at the Wainui Bowling Club folk who must’ve been wondering what was going on across the road, and legged it.  Bloody traffic had been slow all the way through the Hutt Valley and through Wainui and the ” star attraction” was due to start his speech within minutes.

The host’s introductory speech was just finishing, and David Shearer walked – strided confidently – from a rear annex where he had been waiting with one of his staff.

There was good applause from the audience, perhaps a third or half of whom were Labour party members or supporters.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Shearer was in good form as he opened his speech,

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Tena koutou katoa.

Greetings everyone and thank you for being here together on a Sunday.

It’s great to see so many friendly faces.

It’s wonderful to see so many of you prepared to give up some of your summer break to talk about the future of our country.

There is nothing more important. And nothing more urgent.

I can tell you that today I’m refreshed, I’m fired up, and I’m raring to go.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This year will be a big year for Labour – a year where we not only hold the government to account, but also show there’s a better way.

A way of hope, where there is a place for everyone and where we fight for a world class NZ that we can all be proud of.

Today I want to lay out the challenges before us, the need for change and our focus for the year.

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Shearer started off well – and for the most part, maintained a vigorous energy as he gave his twenty to thirty minute long speech.

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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NEW ZEALANDERS WHO INSPIRE US ALL

A book I was given for Christmas tells the stories of 50 inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so.

Reading about their lives, they share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.

As scientist Ray Avery says: ‘we have no respect for the status quo’.

These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.

Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.

New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s idea of what was possible took him to the very top of the world.

Kate Sheppard’s idea of what was possible made New Zealand the first country to give women the vote.

Alan MacDiarmid’s idea of what was possible took him from Masterton to winning the Nobel Prize.

We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.

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Interestingly, this is the same book that Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, referred to on numerous occassions during the 1996 general election campaign.  He often mentioned it in his speeches, highlighting how New Zealanders had struggled to overcome adversity during their lives.

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I see that same attitude in families and schools, businesses and sports teams as I travel up and down the country.

People overcoming adversity, dreaming of something better.

When I see a single mum put herself through polytech to build a better future for her kids, I’m inspired.

When I meet New Zealanders well into their retirement, who after a lifetime of service are the first to volunteer come Daffodil Day, I’m inspired.

When a kid, who the stats say should fail, becomes the first member of their family to graduate from university, I’m inspired.

It’s inspiring because Kiwis don’t lie down.

From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.

They deserve a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed.

A Government that says: you do your bit, we’ll do ours.

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Shearer used the phrase “you do your bit, we’ll do ours” several times throughout his speech. It’s a phrase that can mean different things to different people.

In a centre-left context, it can suggest an interventionist hands-on government. Though it  harks back to the famous Marxist expression, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs“, I doubt if 21st Century Labour’s speech writer  had Karl Marx in mind.

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That’s what a Labour Government will do.

That’s what a government I lead will do.

 NATIONAL’S EXCUSES ARE HOLDING US BACK

 But this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.

For 4 years we’ve been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.

It’s the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem.

We are told we have to accept second best.

There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead. For why we can’t be a leader in this field or that.

For example, the National government aspires to being a fast follower when it comes to climate change.

Hold that thought. What is a fast follower exactly?

Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

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Good point; “Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

Writing his speech, I would have referred to New Zealand’s leadership during the French anti-nuclear tests at Muroroa, and our opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Whilst our Aussie cuzzies were lukewarm in their support of Norman Kirk’s decision to send a frigate to the test site, we went ahead and did it anyway.

We were The Mouse that Roared. And this would have tied in beautifully with his references above to “ 50 inspiring New Zealanders”.

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But a leader with no clue about where they’re going.

That’s not good enough with an issue that is so important to our planet, and our country.

We deserve better than that.

I refuse to accept that for New Zealand.

And so do the Kiwis I meet.

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Strangely, this seems reminiscent of Key’s January2008 speech, “A Fresh Start for New Zealand“,

We know this isn’t as good as it gets.  We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting.  We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward. 

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves.

The reason I point this out is that Shearer’s speech writer(s) should be wary of using too much generalised rhetoric. In many cases New Zealanders have heard it all before.

If rhetoric is used, make it original and make it something unique to social democratic precepts. There has to be a different language; different words – a different brand – to that of the Nats.

Otherwise Labour’s message will be diluted and lost within the political-media maelstrom.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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 FORGOTTEN NEW ZEALANDERS

 But this Government has forgotten the hard-working and inspiring people I come across every day.

In a pub in Napier, a guy came up and said to me “I’m working harder than ever, I pay my taxes, we’re trying to bring up our kids the best we can, but we simply can’t seem to get ahead”.

He went on to say: “I just feel nobody is standing up for me”.

So many others I have met feel the same.

They’re busy helping organise school galas, donating their time to charities, running the sausage sizzle to fundraise for local sports clubs.

They are at the heart of our communities helping make our country the great one it is.

I’ve run into that spirit amongst many small business owners.

They’re the kind of people who pay themselves for 40 hours but work 80 just to keep the doors open.

They’re not asking for an easy ride or a hand-out.

But like thousands of others across this country, they’ve been taken for granted.

They feel the Government has forgotten them.

Kiwis across the country are working harder than ever.

They’re doing their fair share. Playing their part.

We all have that responsibility.

But they feel let down.

My promise to you as Prime Minister is that I will always stand up for the hardworking, forgotten New Zealanders.

You’re doing your bit, it’s time you had a Government that did its bit too.

 NEW ERA – HANDS ON GOVERNMENT

 We desperately need real leadership now more than ever.

The Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom.

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Now we’re getting to the knitty-gritty. Recent history backs up Shearer’s statement 100%  that  the “Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom“. This is reality and only the most hard-line rightwing National/ACT Party devotee  would attempt the futility of arguing to the contrary.

This is where National is vulnerable (amongst a truckload of other vulnerabilities).

In point of fact, whilst Key may not have been personally responsible for the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis – his profession certainly had a hand in it’s making.  Key has admitted as such, two weeks after the 2008 general election (notice not before the election),

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Source

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In turn, despite the lies from National MPs (more on that in an upcoming blogpost), Labour left the New Zealand economy in a fairly positrive state,

  • unemployment was low at 4.6% (source)
  • sovereign net debt mostly paid down from 20% to 5.6% of GDP (source)
  • and Labour was posting surpluses, as even Key had to admit, with open derision (source)

These are all positives that Labour shouldn’t be afraid to remind New Zealanders – many of whom suffer from long-term memory-fade at the best of times.

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The National Party believes the financial crisis is just a blip to get over. Their solution is to apply their failed ideas of the past over and over.

They are wrong.

The hands-off, simply leave it to the market approach has failed all over the world.

We are on the cusp of a new era – when new thinking and leadership is needed to build wealth we can all share in.

The world has changed…

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Why not offer a few examples?

- Examples of hands-on State intervention.

- Examples of governments re-taking control of their currencies.

- Examples of people throwing out right wing governments and replacing them with centre-left administrations.

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…National hasn’t. It’s stuck in the past.

We need a government that recognises times have changed.

We need a Government that finds the courage to act, not better excuses for why we can’t.

We need a government prepared to stand up for hardworking forgotten Kiwis.

We need a smart, hands-on Government.

A government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator.

That will be a Labour Government, and the Government I will lead.

It’s about getting our priorities right, being thrifty about our economy.

Bringing our debt under control.

But being smart about how we tackle the massive challenges ahead.

Above all, this country needs a government that chooses to act. Let me tell you what I mean.

When a young couple is putting off having kids until they buy a house, and yet despite saving hard, prices always slip beyond their reach, it’s time to act.

That’s why I’m committed to putting 100,000 families into new homes.

It’s ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government’s hands off approach that leaves it to the market.

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Ambitious? Of course – but also doable. This is not beyond our means and it’s laughable that those right wingers who poo-poo the idea as “too hard” or “too costly” are always – always – the same ones who defend against similar   criticisms levelled at  National’s “pet projects” for their business mates.

Evidently subsidising Warner Bros (a multi-billion dollar corporation) or a rugby tournament with our taxes is “not hard” and “not costly”. It’s called an ‘investment’.

So why is building homes for our own people “too hard” or “too costly”?!

Right wingers have a blinkered view of the world and a narrow idea of what is an ‘investment’.

Housing for our citizens is a human right and something we’ve always taken pride in. This is Labour’s core strength; ensuring a roof over peoples’ heads.

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They see through the tinkering with the RMA.

They see through the latest excuse – to blame the local Council.

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Well sussed.

Key has been blaming everyone and everything for the poor state of our economy; rising unemployment; growing poverty, etc.

  • In 2008 he blamed his money-trader mates
  • He’s blamed the Global Financial Crisis
  • He’s blamed people receiving welfare payments
  • He’s blamed “dodgy statistics”
  • He’s blamed the Labour Party
  • He’s blamed the Greens
  • He’s blamed Winston Peters

And now, recently, Key and his National cronies have taken to blaming local body councils,

We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape…

… It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.

And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.

See: John Key’s State of the Nation speech – post mortem

I’m waiting for him to next blame aliens, Illuminatii, et al.

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It’s just not credible.

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Damn right it’s not.

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It’s also why Labour will introduce a Capital Gains Tax to move investment into business and away from property speculation that is pushing house prices through the roof.

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Problem, solution.

Good.

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When a student graduating from university faces 7.3% unemployment and little chance of getting a job, it’s time to act.

They’ve done their bit, we need to do ours.

It’s heart-breaking watching parents waving goodbye to their kids at our airports.

People want to work – they just need the jobs.

Two days ago, John Key had an epiphany: We have a youth unemployment problem – we need apprentices.

Good on him. I thank the focus group that brought that to his attention.

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There was thunderous applause from the audience at this point.  The remark referring to “government by focus group” is a quip  that National constantly  tossed at the Clark government.

It applies equally well to National’s term. Let’s keep using it.

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There are now 20 per cent fewer apprentices today than when he took office. We are now importing foreign labour to meet skills shortages in the biggest rebuild in our history in Christchurch.

Is he just waking up to this now? Is this government asleep at the wheel, completely out of touch?

You don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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There was a touch of humour as Shearer said, “you don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.” The audience loved the wry touch and laughed. The laughter was at National’s expense.

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I have been serious about youth unemployment from the day I was elected leader.

Labour’s plans are out there. I’d be delighted if this government picked them up and ran with them.

For example:

We’ll pay employers the equivalent of the dole to take on apprentices.

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More loud applause. Everyone welcomes the idea of apprentices – what’s not to like? Taking young folk from our 85,000 Unemployed or Not in Education or Training(NEET); training them into a trade; adding to the skills base of our country – this is real investment.

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We’ll back Kiwi businesses to get their slice of the $30 billion dollars the Government contracts out every year – but we will require them to take on apprentices and trainees in return.

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This is the kind of  social contract that only a centre-left government can enact. National’s neo-liberal dogma could not allow such a hands-on, visibly interventionist, policy. It flies in the face of everything they hold dear; that only the “Market” can create jobs.

Labour (or any other centre-left and left Party) has no such constraints. They can be utterly pragmatic and do whatever it takes to generate jobs.

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We’ll give tax breaks to companies doing world-leading research and development, so the innovations – and the jobs – they create stay right here in New Zealand.

Another thing.

When I see talented people forced to leave their home town because there’s nothing on offer for them, it’s time to act.

That’s why we’ll work with councils on projects that support their provinces. Projects like the Gisborne to Napier rail link to boost economic development and create jobs.

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This was well received by the audience, with good applause and rowdy cheering. The audience seemed to understand perfectly well the long-term value of rail.

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When I hear of high value manufacturers shedding jobs because our high dollar cuts them off at the knees, it’s time to act.

We’ll make changes to monetary policy so that our job-creating businesses aren’t undermined by our exchange rate.

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Problem, solution.

Excellent.

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When a 5 year old girl falls asleep in class because she had no breakfast before she left home, it’s time to act.

Labour will put food in schools, to make sure all our kids get the same chance to learn.

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Problem, solution.

On a roll…

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When a mum and dad work long hours but still can’t afford healthy food for their kids, it’s time to act.

We’ll lift the minimum wage and champion a living wage to make sure hard work can provide a decent living.

This is what I mean when I say we need a smart Government prepared to act.

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Problem, solution.

Good stuff!

Plenty of applause at these statements.  And plenty of material for the electronic media,

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And print media,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This is where National will continue to be on the back-foot. Come 2014, (if the Nat-led Coalition lasts that long – by no means a foregone conclusion) Key and his administration will have been in office for six years. Aside from balancing the books (oh f****n hooray), what will be their legacy? What practical achievements can they present to the voting public after two terms in office.

Bugger all, I would suggest.

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A Government that says we will back you if you’re prepared to do your best.

Yes, we face huge challenges, but by being hands on we can turn our biggest challenges into opportunities for the future.

Since we announced KiwiBuild last year, excitement is growing. Architects, construction companies and designers around NZ have been in touch.

They see an opportunity to build affordable, energy-efficient – even energy generating – houses.

Houses that use home grown sustainable materials.

Houses that families will be proud to call home.

This is an idea the country is embracing.

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And it’s also 100% feasible. There is no reason why any of Shearer’s suggestions cannot be implemented. It is, after all, part of our innovative, “number 8 fencing wire” mentality that we love to espouse as a Kiwi characteristic.

Ok, well let’s put that into operation. Not just to make money for overseas corporates like Warner Bros – but for our own young people.

This is the kind of talk that cuts through the free market, neo-liberal BS. This is what will encourage New Zealanders to call  this country home – and not just a launching pad for overseas destinations.

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More than 70 per cent of Kiwis support our KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 first homes.

New Zealanders are also behind our other new ideas and those numbers are growing.

Most people see the need for a Capital Gains Tax on investment properties.

Nearly six in every ten New Zealanders support our idea to make KiwiSaver universal.

And nearly two-thirds of you back our pledge to protect universal superannuation for future generations by gradually lifting the age of eligibility.

The forces of conservatism said that reforming Super wasn’t the right thing to do.

It wouldn’t be popular – so we shouldn’t do it. They were wrong.

New Zealanders are forward thinking and are prepared to do what it takes to create a better future.

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When New Zealanders understand the long-term implications of their decisions, and vote accordingly for sensible policies on Election Day, we can achieve great things.

But when we vote through sheer stupidity for selfish reasons – as many did on 29 November 1975 for Robert Muldoon – we inevitably achieve short term gain. But loose out Big Time on long term benefits (see related blogpost:   Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late).

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National has a big idea of course – it’s to sell our best assets.

And, with them, goes another chunk of our future.

That is their plan.

Most Kiwis hate it. And we are behind them fighting that idea all the way.

 HANDS ON – A GLOBAL TREND

 Labour isn’t alone in knowing the time has come for active government.

A movement of leaders and people across the world have realised the old hands-off solutions take us nowhere.

It’s a new way of thinking and it’s evolving.

New Zealanders are looking to a government that will roll up its sleeves and back them.

You do your part, and we the government will do ours.

In 2014 that’s the Government I will lead.

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And that it pretty much what persuaded voters to support Labour and it’s coalition partners in 1999. The do-nothing, slash-and-burn mentality of Bolger and Shipley  was driving New Zealand to a yawning chasm. Neo-liberalism was creating a nightmarish society of high unemployment, degraded social services, missed opportunities, and widening gap between the rich and poor.

Sound familiar?

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 AGENDA FOR 2013

Kiwis won’t have to wait until the election to find out what I stand for and what I’ll do about the issues that matter to them.

I’ve already put clear stakes in the ground on housing affordability, quality education, growing jobs and the economy.

There’s more to come.

For Labour, this year is about preparing for Government.

We want New Zealanders to know that we’re ready to govern.

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It’s simple: appear confident and act like a government-in-waiting – and they will flock to you.

Note, this applies also to NZ First, Mana, and the Greens. The public want to see Opposition Parties working together for the good of the country as a whole. By all means offer your own policies for public debate – but take note that there’s a very fine demarcation between debate and squabbling.

Any hint of squabbling and the voters will turn of.

There have to be positive reasons for voters to take a punt on voting for the Opposition.

Work together, in a cool, calm, methodical, professional manner – and they will flock to you.

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That’s why today I’m setting out my agenda for the year.

Number one is jobs.

It is our most urgent priority and cuts across everything we do.

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Damn straight.

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Labour’s plan to build new affordable homes will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.

A job is more than a weekly wage, it’s gives people a purpose and pride in themselves. That’s why I’m focussed on jobs.

Our housing proposals are at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency.

This year we will bring together the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others to a housing conference.

I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office.

First-home buyers shouldn’t have to wait.

Jacinda Ardern, my Social Development spokesperson, will produce an alternative white paper this year, setting out our direction to help lift kids out of poverty.

There are 270,000 children in hardship in this country, and the government is failing them.

Kids deserve the best chance in life regardless of their parents’ wealth, and with Labour they will get that.

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And those of us on the Left will be supporting, encouraging, and where necessary, nudging, a Labour-led government to maintain the focus of these problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) .

It is simply unacceptable to have poverty in this country and tackling this cancer in our society must rank at the top, along with job creation and caring for our children.

On this note, I would suggest that David Shearer demonstrate his total commitment to addressing child poverty in this country by taking on the role of Minister for Children.

There is nothing more important to the future of our nation than our children. (Some rightwingers don’t get this simple fact – but then, they do suffer from a brain-deficit in comprehension of social problems.)

John Key made himself Minister of Tourism – and spent his holidays in Hawaii. I guess he’s Minister of Tourism for Hawaii, and we just didn’t hear that part of the announcement.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister’s portfolio must be Minister for Children.

No ifs, buts, or maybes – that will set the tone of an incoming Labour-led government.

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Their best opportunity is from a world-class education system.

We’ve already set out our plan to put food in schools and extend reading recovery so our kids aren’t destined to be drop outs from their first day at school.

This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs.

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Suggestions;

1. Can Charter Schools. These are parasitic neo-liberal constructs which add nothing to our education system.

2. Look at Finland. They’re at the top of OECD PISA tables for achievement. I suggest they have a wealth of knowledge we can  gain from them. (Finland does not use the “Charter schools” model.)

3. Whether of not NZ First joins the Coalition on an official basis, I would strongly suggest that MP Tracey Martin be given an education or health or Associate Minister of Children’s portfolio. This woman has talent and should not be over-looked. (Disclaimer: I’m not a member, supporter, or even fan of NZ First. But I recognise talent when I see it.)

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85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training.

It’s a flaw in our system.

I want to see our schools seamlessly connect to further training opportunities.

I want every child to go through school with a purpose and plan of where they’ll end up.

Because every young Kiwi deserves a shot at a career that excites and motivates them.

Without this we’ll continue to see kids, without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks.

And our employers will continue to struggle to find the skills they need.

That’s not a future I want for my kids or yours.

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Pretty damned obvious, eh?

I mean, really, it’s so fricken insanely straight forward.

In fact, it’s so patently obvious that voters have a clear choice,

A. Vote National and more of the same – 85,000 not in work, education or training.

B. Vote for a centre-left Coalition and get these kids into apprenticeships.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t get this?

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I’ve spoken of a clean, green, clever economy many times.

We need our environment to drive our economic success and our economy to keep our environment clean.

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Despite warnings from the likes of Dr Mike Joy that our environment was hardly the fiction of  being “100% Pure” or “Clean & Green”, right wing spin doctors (see:  When spin doctors go bad) and our Dear Leader don’t seem to understand the simple fact that much of our economy is predicated on our marketing brand (see:  John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth).

Dr Joy was lambasted by Mark Unsworth – a rabid right-wing lobbyist for a professional “government relations consultancy” company, Saunders Unsworth – who condemned the scientist as an economic “saboteur” on 21 November, last year.

Now, as our environmental mishaps begin to compound, the chooks are coming home to roost – and crap all over everything,

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NZ works on agreement on residue in milk

Source

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The reality is we will not create more better paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder.

We’ve been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers.

Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high tech, or the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources.

It will be built by those that see the promise and opportunity of a clean, green future.

Great ideas are emerging from organisations like Pure Advantage, and from thousands of innovative can-do Kiwis.

A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of my vision. That’s why our manufacturing inquiry that starts tomorrow is an important first step.

But the commitment is lacking from government.

Well I am committed to this future.

There is simply no other option.

That is why I have asked my colleagues to develop a clear plan to diversify our economy.

A plan we can put in front of New Zealanders, not airy fairy concepts.

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There was more applause to this…

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All of these areas – jobs, education, housing and building a new economy – are critical to rebuilding our second largest city.

I am committed to rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down.

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A part of me thinks that “rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down” may be the toughest, most demanding of Labour’s promises.  300,000 Cantabrians may have 300,000 opinions as to what should be done.

At the very least, a Labour-led government must put an end to  school closures and the prospect of the Charter Schools experiment. Christchurch has enough stresses without central government adding to the woes of an already vulnerable community.

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That’s why I’ll be talking to Cantabrians about how they see their future.

To ensure their voices are heard.

That’s what we’ll work on in the coming months.

These ideas will make a difference.

These are ideas National simply can’t see.

CONCLUSION

The difference between the forces of conservatism and the need for change has never been wider.

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Indeed. On almost every level, there is a world of difference between the expectations of National Party supporters and those who support Labour, the Greens, Mana, and NZ First.

The differences are best epitomised by the issue of child poverty.

National/ACT supporters play the blame-game and deride parents for making “bad choices”. Key himself validated this belief in February 2011, when he said,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

This attitude of selfishness can become vicious and downright psychopathic in cruelty. Perhaps the nastiest I’ve seen was Damien Grant’s piece in the NZ Herald yesterday – see:  Damien Grant: I’d rather a better phone than feed a hungry child.

People like Grant – and those who posted vile messages in support of his comments – are the mean spirited, self-centered, dark side of humanity. Their vision of  society would not be too dis-similar to to Dickens’ Victorian-era world.

Though strangely enough, Rightwingers/National Party supporters are never quite able to explain  how a child can choose to be born into a family ridden by unemployment, poverty, dysfunction, addiction, abuse. Strange, eh?

Labour/Green/Mana and probably NZ first supporters see problems such as  child poverty as a societal problem that affects us all. They understand there are many reason why a family may be living in poverty.

With 175,000 New Zealanders now unemployed, it’s hardly surprising that poverty is increasing. Contrary to the bizarre fantasies of right wingers and low-information voters, the dole is not very generous. No one in their right mind would give up a job earning $600 a week, to go on the dole for $204.96 a week, net (see:   WINZ Unemployment Benefit – current).

A priority of an incoming Labour-led government should be  to un-do the benefit cuts of Ruth Richardson in 1991. It is an indictment on Labour that it never carried out this positive reform during it’s tenure in office.

Aside from being the right thing to do, Labour should ask itself; why should the poorest in our society vote for them if they don’t un-do the policies of previous right-wing  governments?

What’s in it for them?

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Come 2014, New Zealanders will face a choice more stark than any in a generation.

A choice in the direction of their country.

A choice between staying as we are and managing our decline, or being part of a hands-on

Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders.

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Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders“.

Code for the fickle middle classes?

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A government that chooses action over excuses.

A government that understands the world is entering a new era and we need to change with it.

One that shares the determination and passion of those Kiwis who inspire us most.

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There was more loud applause at this point. Despite not giving specifics, the audience seemed to like what they were hearing; the direction that Shearer was moving the Party.

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That’s the Labour Government I will lead.

But I can’t do it alone.

Today, I am asking for your help.

I want you to be part of my team and play a part in the next government.

I want to hear your hopes for this country and your ideas of how we get there.

I want each of you to take the Labour message out to your neighbours, your co-workers, your congregation, and your friends.

Tell them yes, we in the Labour Party are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.

We will not accept the status quo.

A tide for change is building.

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Indeed. And that tide for change is not just the poor; the unemployed; or the low-paid. Even businesspeople seem to be getting mightily pissed of at National’s arrogant  hands-off, do-nothing, Leave-It-To-The-Marketplace attitude,

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The managing director of a company that makes and exports a device that protects crops from hail stones said comments from the Government that his sector needs to get smarter are “insulting and unnecessary”.

Mike Eggers said he is sick of hearing politicians telling him he has to up his game if he wants to survive – when the high dollar makes it more and more difficult to operate.

“We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

A scrap-copper manufacturer told the inquiry the Government can’t continue to do nothing about the exchange rate.

A W Fraser managing director Gordon Sutherland said the over-inflated dollar is crippling exporters and it was disappointing when the Government told them to keep making efficiencies to remain viable.

“We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”

Joyce’s immediate response?

“Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.”

Mr Joyce said there was no simple answer to the problems the sector are facing, except to keep working hard to further improve their businesses.

See: Radio NZ – Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high NZ dollar

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If Joyce and his little  National buddies think that kind of response will win them the next election – they must be more deluded than I thought imaginable.

Joyce might as well have saved time and simply told exporters and manufacturers, “Go vote Labour”. The effect will be the same.

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Change that guarantees everyone gets ahead, not just those at the top.

Change so we once again stand tall as a country.

A country where we strive to be a leader – not a follower.

A country where the Government is hands-on and backs its people.

A country we can be proud of.

Friends, join with me to build that future.

Because, together, that’s what we will do in 2014.

Thank you.

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With that, Shearer concluded his speech.  As the audience rose to their feet, cheering enthusiastically, he left the stage,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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So, what to make of  Shearer’s performance?

Shearer spoke from a pre-prepared speech (hard-copy provided to this blogger) which he more or less followed. He spoke convincingly and  passionately and though perhaps not as charismatic as a Jim Anderton or younger Winston Peters or late Rod Donald, it was sufficient to present his message to people in the  Hall.

Reading a pre-prepared speech, this Blogger scores Shearer  a 6/7  (where 10 is in the league of Lange/Kirk/Savage and 1 is one-dimensional to the point of being robotic.)

The speech scores a 5/6. It was adequate – but perhaps something was missing. Something that would make a listener sit up, with the proverbial lighbulb switching on.

After Shearer left the stage, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard, invited the gathering outside to enjoy the beautiful hot day in an adjacent park, as well as a free sausage sizzle for all,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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A traditional Kiwi sausage sizzle provided free snacks – though there were suggestions that NZ Herald journo, Audrey Young (not pictured) pay for hers in the spirit of Market User Pays,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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It also gave Shearer an opportrunity to meet the press outside, to answer questions. Most questions  seemed focused on  Labour’s recently released Housing policy,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Patrick Gower (at left, with pink tie) was the main questioner,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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At times the questions were so intent on detailed house pricing; number of bedrooms; location; location; location, that they  seemed more suitable for a real estate agent than a Party leader. But they were fair questions and this blogger has no quibble with them,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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I stood with the group throughout the Q + A session, listening and recording the exchange between Shearer and msm journos.

My impression? He has improved significantly since his earlier days as Labour’s mumbling, incoherent,  leader. Occassionally there is still hesitation, and that requires further training to make his speech patterns more fluid, natural, and assertive.

In any case, except for an occassional moment or two, he answered journo’s questions reasonably  well.

The question is – is he ready to go head-to-head with The Great Car Salesmen, aka, our Prime Minister John Key? Currently, I’m not sure. By 2014, with more practice and experience, and as his confidence grows, he has a fair chance.

What the Labour Party needs to do is ensure that not only does Shearer get the training and experience, but that he is 100% well-versed in every aspect of Labour policy and funding mechanism.

National is vulnerable right now, and this blogger  believes things are about to get a whole lot messier for the Tories. 2012 was only the beginning of their eventual demise as government.

There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and every critic and opponant of National must do their bit; Party activists; MPs (which means side-lining hopeless non-performers and elevating those who are taking it to the Nats); bloggers; and disaffected ordinary New Zealanders who’ve had a gutsful.

2014 is ours to seize.

Other moments and faces of the day

Rimutaka MP, Chris Hipkins, (“Kennedy for President” t-shirt) and friends,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Hutt Mp, Trevor Mallard, chatting with two members of the public,

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Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, and supporters,

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And Labour leader, David Shearer, listening intently to a fellow New Zealander,

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Other blogs

The Jackal: Anti Shearer faction loses traction

The Standard: For a February leadership vote

Disclaimer

This blogger has no links or preference to either “Team Shearer” or “Team Cunliffe”, and is mostly neutral in the leadership stakes.

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

Citizen A – 24 January 2013

27 January 2013 1 comment

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- Citizen A -

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- 24 January 2013 -

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- David Slack & Dr Wayne Hoper -

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- National Party cabinet reshuffle  -  First Political Poll of 2013  -  Ratana & the Maori Party -

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Issue 1: National Party cabinet reshuffle – rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or the boldest political move of the 21st Century?

Issue 2: First Political Poll of 2013 – National up and Labour down – what does David Shearer need to do?

and Issue 3: Ratana this weekend – has Maori political influence peaked – what is happening in the Maori Party?

Citizen A broadcasts on Auckland UHF and will start transmitting on Sky TV on their new public service broadcasting channel ‘FACE Television’ February 7th February 2013.

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*

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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= fs =

John Key’s State of the Nation speech – post mortem

25 January 2013 28 comments

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John Key today delivered his State of the Nation speech. This is my appraisal of the contents of his address to the people of New Zealand…

Whether it’s welfare reform, law and order, education, the rebuild of Christchurch, or continuing our improvements in public services, it’s full steam ahead.

But no mention of jobs?

We’ve made a huge turnaround in the government’s books, we’ve brought in the biggest changes to the tax system in a generation, and we’re making significant changes to reform the welfare system and strengthen work obligations.”

Still no mention of jobs!

Among other things, we’ve introduced 90-day trials; set time limits for the consenting of large projects under the RMA; introduced a competitive new system for awarding oil and gas exploration permits; got ACC back into good financial shape; and kick-started a multi-billion dollar programme of infrastructure investment.”

Where are the jobs?

” …an economy that was left unbalanced, and in poor shape, by the previous government.

Bullshit. Aside from being National’s “Big Lie“, Labour posted several Budget Surpluses, and payed down debt.  How long can National keep blaming Labour for non-existant ‘mis-management’?

“…  the impact of the Global Financial Crisis

That was FOUR years ago – what has National been doing in the meantime – aside from banging on about welfare “reforms” and adding to unemployment by cutting back on the State sector and under-mining the export sector by not addressing the high Dollar?!

Since the bottom of the recession, in mid-2009, the economy has grown at an average of just under 2 per cent a year, and economists are expecting that to strengthen further.”

Yeah? Reallllly???

Which economists? These ones; Rodney Dickens finds economists consistently over-estimated growth?

And how can it be ‘strengthening’ when unemployment is rising; the export sector is being knackered by our high dollar; and government austerity is dampening growth?

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Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low - RBNZ

Source

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Key is practicing more of his “vacant optimism”, and bugger all else.

Our employment rate is very high in comparison to other countries, with over three-quarters of all New Zealanders aged 20 to 64 in work. There are still too many people looking for work who can’t find it.  But forecasts show employment continuing to increase and unemployment falling.

Bullshit. Unemployment has risen in the last four Quarters,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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By what stretch of his money-addled brain is he expecting it to fall? Especially when the 170,000 new jobs predicted in 2011 by a vacantly optimistic Key, have yet to materialise.

Interest rates are at 50-year lows.

Oh, puh-leeese.

Interest rates are not determined by government. They are set by the Reserve Bank. And current interest rates are low only because the economy is weak.

Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard said: “New Zealand’s economic outlook has weakened a little since the March Monetary Policy Statement.

“Political and economic stresses in Europe, along with a run of weaker-than-expected data, have seen New Zealand’s trading partner outlook worsen. Furthermore, there is a small but growing risk that conditions in the euro area deteriorate more markedly than is projected in the June Statement.

The Bank is monitoring euro-area developments carefully given the potential for rapid change.“Increased agricultural production and the weakened global outlook have driven New Zealand’s export commodity prices lower.

The resulting moderation in export incomes, although partially offset by depreciation in the exchange rate, will weigh on economic activity in New Zealand. Fiscal consolidation is also likely to constrain demand growth going forward.

See: Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Statement June  2012

Is Key taking credit for a weak economy?! Go on, Dear Leader, I dare you to do it!

Prices for primary exports are holding up, and our terms of trade remain high.

Say whut? Has Key been caught out fibbing – again?  Terms of  trade are not “remaining high”. Quite the opposite,

New Zealand’s terms of trade fell to a three-year low in the September quarter as the country’s strong currency ate into returns from an increasing volume of dairy exports.

The terms of trade, which measures how much imports can be bought with a fixed quantity of exports, fell 3.2 per cent in the three months ended September 30, according to Statistics New Zealand. That’s more than the 1.8 per cent forecast in a Reuters survey of economists. Export prices sank 6.3 per cent, ahead of the 3.6 per cent expected, while import prices declined 3.3 per cent versus an anticipated 2 per cent fall.

See: New Zealand Herald – Terms of trade hit three-year low

Primary export prices are not “holding up”. They are falling,

Dairy, which accounts for about a quarter of New Zealand’s exports, was the biggest contributor to the falling export prices and rising volumes, with volumes surging 32 per cent in the quarter, even as prices sank 13 per cent.

See: IBID

This isn’t a “State of the Nation” report – it’s a work of goddamn  fiction.

That will be centred, of course, on Christchurch, where the spend is now estimated to be around $30 billion. But construction is also expected to pick up in other areas, and manufacturers across the country will be gearing up to supply materials.”

Again, more vacant optimism from Key.

If two major earthquakes had not trashed Christchurch, where would the “growth”  come from? What would be driving economic growth and employment? Faith in the Free Market?!

Volumes

Total manufacturing rose 2.6 percent.
Excluding meat and dairy product manufacturing, sales fell 1.4 percent.
Meat and dairy product manufacturing rose 13 percent.

Values

Total manufacturing rose 1.6 percent.
Excluding meat and dairy product manufacturing, sales fell 1.1 percent.
Meat and dairy product manufacturing rose 9.3 percent.

See: Statistics NZ Economic Survey of Manufacturing: September 2012 quarter

In any three-month period in New Zealand, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs disappear, and between 100,000 and 200,000 new jobs are created, as businesses start up, expand, contract and close altogether.”

Is Key suggesting that there are “100,000 to 200,000 new jobs” created within a three month period?!

The man is in la-la land.

Statistics NZ revealed that for the Setember 2012 Quarter,

The number of people unemployed increased by 13,000 people.
The employment rate fell 0.4 percentage points, to 63.4 percent.
The number of people employed decreased by 8,000.
The labour force participation rate remained unchanged, at 68.4 percent.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

I see no evidence of 100,000 or 200,000 new jobs anywhere. Unemployment, however, rose from 6.8% in the June 2012 Quarter  to 7.3% in the September 2012 Quarter.

Key’s speech mentions none of this, and is as vacantly optimistic as he was last year, or 2011, or 2010, or 2009…

Because the truth is, you only get jobs and growth in the economy when people invest money, at their own risk, in setting up a business or expanding an existing business.

[...]

But the only way net new jobs can be created is by private investors putting their money into businesses in New Zealand.”

Which brings us to the matter of Market failure. We simply are not seeing the number of new jobs required to soak up any of the 175,000 unemployed.

Since 2009, a net total of 114,200 Kiwis left for Australia and elsewhere (see: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). One could only imagine the staggering level  of  unemployment if Australia  wasn’t an economic “safety-valve” just across the ditch.

” Governments can encourage investment but they can also discourage investment.

A government can load up big costs and uncertainties onto business.

It can make people unwelcome because they are considered to be the wrong nationality to invest here, or in the wrong industry.

And it can lock up the resources of the country.

That would certainly discourage investment.

But as I said, we have to be a magnet for investment.

That’s why my Government is working hard to reduce costs and uncertainties for business.

That’s why we welcome investment that benefits New Zealand.

That’s why we are keeping our own costs down.

That’s why we are ensuring people have the right skills to contribute to the workforce.

That’s why we are ensuring the country has the infrastructure it needs to grow.

And that’s why we’re focused on opportunities to use our natural resources productively and sustainably.”

Ok. So again – where are the jobs?!

After four years of National’s “working hard to reduce costs and uncertainties for business”, “welcoming investment that benefits New Zealand”, “keeping our own costs down”, “ensuring people have the right skills to contribute to the workforce”, “ensuring the country has the infrastructure it needs to grow”, and “focused on opportunities to use our natural resources productively and sustainably” – why are we not seeing this translated into more jobs?

Instead we are seeing unemployment GROWING – not reducing.

Something is terribly wrong here.

” This year we are launching five new vocational pathways that clearly signpost the subjects young people should take to prepare for vocational careers in construction, manufacturing, the primary sector, the service sector and social services.

This year there will be over 4000 places available in trades and services academies, allowing young people to explore vocational career opportunities while still at school.

And there will be around 8700 Youth Guarantee places for young people to study fees-free outside the school environment.”

Two years after the earthquakes that levelled Christchurch?! National has belatedly realised that Market failure is not delivering the number of skilled tradespeople required, and government intervention is needed?

Oh well, better late than never. At least they didn’t wait till after the 2014 elections… Or the turn of the next century… Or the Second Coming…

“Under Labour’s wasteful management, up to 100,000 people a year listed as being in industry training were in fact “phantom trainees” who achieved no credits and in some cases were no longer alive.”

Oh, how original – more Labour-blaming!!

I suspect that figure of  “100,000″ is pure Key bullshit. But regardless, how long is National going to use Labour as a scapegoat?! Especially since, I suspect, that had National kept Labour’s apprenticeships scheme, we’d have the necessary numbers of tradespeople to help re-build Christchurch.

But I guess it’s easier for the Nats to do nothing; wait for the Market to deliver results – and then blame Labour when that nutty idea crashes and burns.

I hope Key realises that the finger-pointing of Labour-blaming is wearing rather thin? People are wondering when the Nats will start taking responsibility for their actions. Especially since National is the Party of personal responsibility,

We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.” – John Key, 30 January 2007

Source: National Party

“That has freed up some very significant funding to re-invest in expanding apprenticeships.”

Oh? How much?

Is this “new” money?

Or money stolen from other budgets such as Vote  Health, eg;   for grommet operations for kids with glue ear? (see:   Grommet cuts fear )

One will excuse my cynicism, but with National’s current maniacal obsession with balancing their books, they are constantly robbing Peter to pay Pauline. The net result is that state services are being cut back and no  part of our community is safe from National’s cost-cutting slash-and-burn activities.

One thing is for sure – some other part of the community may find their services wound back to pay for National’s “expanding apprenticeships”.

” So today I am announcing a new initiative to expand and improve apprenticeship training.

This has a number of parts to it:

1. From 1 January next year, we are…”

“Next year”?!?!

Well, never let it be said that National moves with decisive speed when confronted with critical economic and social problems.

Initiating their “new” apprenticeships scheme will mean another year that Christchurch suffers a shortage of trained workers; another year we could have been training some of the 85,000 unemployed youth in this country. Another year – wasted.

This isn’t a government “on top of things”. This is procrastination by deliberate design. Perhaps Key is hoping that the Market will do the job in the next twelve months, giving National an excuse to quietly forget and drop this scheme?

“…we estimate that around 14,000 new apprentices will start training over the next five years, over and above the number previously forecast.”

This sounds remarkably familiar… Didn’t we get a similar promise in 2011,

Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – John Key, 19 May 2011

See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

Which was backed up on their 2011 election flyer,

“National’s Brighter Future Plan will help businesses create 170,000 new jobs over the next four years.”

Source: National Party

That one didn’t work out very well either.

Key went on to say,

“The whole idea is to kick-start new apprenticeship opportunities ahead of the curve, so that thousands of New Zealanders get to learn a new trade that will last them a lifetime.”

I have a simple question for our smile and wave Dear Leader; why didn’t they do this immediatly after the 2008 election? Why didn’t this come out of the Jobs Summit in 2009?

And why, as he’s said above, are they now leaving this critical problem to be addressed next year???

All in all – there is little here to create new jobs, now, when we need it the most. Even his comments regarding infrastructure are just so much ‘fluff’,

“Moving on to infrastructure, the Government will this year continue its significant programme of investment, which supports thousands of jobs across the country.”

Well that “support for thousands of jobs across the country” hasn’t worked out so well. Unemployment has risen four quarters in a row. Redundancies were happening across the board, up and down the country. 175,000 New Zealanders are now out of work. Three months prior, that number was 162,000.Before that, 160,000. (see previous blogpost: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: employment/unemployment ) The numbers are going the wrong way.

“In terms of housing, the Government is itself planning to build more than 2000 houses over the next two financial years…”

Two thousand?

That number is derisable and falls woefully short of the 20,000 new houses  required to be built each year to keep up with demand. As Warwick Quinn, from the Registered Master Builders Federation, said last October,

New Zealand had fallen way behind the required build rates of 20,000 homes a year, hit by the global financial downturn that began in 2008...”

See:  20,000 houses for Chch in next five years

Two thousand new houses over the next TWO years?

That doesn’t cut it, Mr Key. Not even close. In effect, what Dear Leader has done is acknowledge that a critical housing problem exists – but that National is unable/unwilling to address it in any meaningful way.  Their ideological attachment to free market dogma binds their actions at every turn.

Two thousand new houses over two years is a joke. Not a particularly funny one at that.

” We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape.”

Now THAT comment worries me.

Didn’t we go through a de-regulation of the building industry in 1991? And didn’t we end up with billions of dollars of poorly built homes that leaked and rotted?

And wasn’t the end result of that disaster a situation where  liability ended up with local body councils paying 25% for repairs; central government 25%; and  home owners were lumped with 50%?! Oh indeed that IS the case!

Up to 89,000 home owners were affected by the “red tape” de-regulation of the early 1990s – and Key appears to be staggering drunkenly  down the same route. (see: Leaky home payouts start tomorrow )

Will this be a  repeat of the same errors of history all over again?!

Key went on,

” It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.

And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.”

Why not? After all, National demands whatever taxes and government fees they want. Eg; rising petrol taxes; increased early childhood costs; increased ACC fees; raised GST, etc.

But when backed into a corner, default to Strategy #1 – blame Labour. As Key then said,

” Labour’s so-called ‘plan’ to build 100,000 houses doesn’t do anything to fix the actual cost of building – so will either fail miserably, deliver dwellings that people don’t want to live in, or require massive taxpayer subsidies. It’s dishonest and it doesn’t stack up.”

Well, Key would know about dishonesty: John Banks. Raising GST when promising not to. Mystery email regarding Standard & Poors. Clandestine meetings with Skycity executives. Pledging meals in schools, then recanting.

Key derides Labour’s plans to build 100,000 new houses, proclaiming it will “fail miserably”.

This from the smile and wave man who lives in a multi-million dollar mansion; has a holiday home in Hawaii; and god knows what other property – while young New Zealanders are desperate to buy their own homes. (See: Frustrated home buyers want investors to be discouraged)

This from the same smile and wave man who offers New Zealanders 2,000 new homes over TWO YEARS.

It beggars belief how anyone can take John Key seriously these days. The man is a joke.

Key then took the stick to local body councils,

“But if councils aren’t able to change their planning processes, then the Government would have to get a lot more proactive, because we are very serious about resolving this issue.”

Oh really? “Very serious”, eh? So serious that in four years National has done nothing about our housing shortage?

Moving from blaming Labour, Key now seems to be beating up on  local body councils.

Does National ever take responsibility for anything?!

On the environment…

” New Zealand is rich, for example, in minerals. The Greens and Labour oppose it, but we are going to continue to encourage development of our country’s oil, gas and mineral resources.

Looking across our resource base as a whole, what’s clear is that we need a much better system of planning and resource management – one that enables growth and provides strong environmental outcomes, and does so in a timely and cost-effective way.”

National’s ‘devotion’ to “strong environmental outcomes” is amply illustrated by their abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol; watering down the ETS,  and scrapping the five yearly State of the Environment Reports, despite John Key having endorsed it in September 2008 as one of National’s own policies. (See: National scraps crucial environmental report , Government shuns second Kyoto committment )

Anything Key, or one of his ministerial muppets, utters about environmental concerns can be safely dismissed as empty platitudes.

On the TPPA,

“The Greens and their fellow travellers say the TPP is anti-democratic. That is nonsense.”

Interestingly, Key does not say why claims that  the “TPP is anti-democratic” are “nonsense”.

Nor does he acknowledge that the TPPA negotiations are currently held in secret. The public and media are excluded from proceedings. Eventually, the TPPA presented to Parliament will  be a done deal, with no chance for media analysis and public oversight. If that’s not anti-democratic then I fear that Dear Leader has no concept of the principles of democractic participation.

Considering Key’s penchant for secretiveness when it comes to deals with corporates such as Mediaworks, Skycity, et al, It’s not clear to me why we should take him at his word.

On asset sales…

” Subject to the Supreme Court’s decision, this will start in the first half of the year with our offer of up to 49 per cent of the shares in Mighty River Power.

We also want to proceed with another IPO later this year.

The whole share offer programme will be a shot in the arm for New Zealand’s capital markets.”

Really? So National is flogging of half of Meridian, Genersis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-selling Air New Zealand… to satisfy “New Zealand’s capital markets”?!

Key’s background as a money-trader appears to have besotted him. The Big Sell-off has begun, and he’s positively salivating at the prospect.

Meanwhile, over 75% of New Zealanders don’t want a bar of state asset sales. But hey, so what? Anyone would think this was a democracy?

“At the same time, the Government will maintain majority ownership of the companies, and will use the proceeds to invest in other public assets, like schools and hospitals.”

Rubbish. National will use the proceeds to balance their books. Any other suggestion to the contrary is patent nonsense.

“That’s because overseas investment in New Zealand adds to what New Zealanders can invest on their own.”

?!?!

That makes no sense… Typo? Brain-fade? A drunk speech writer?

“It creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow.”

*sighs*

So much bullshit…

Let’s remind ourselves  for the zillionth time that,

  • unemployment is up
  • the income gaps between New Zealand and Australia continues to widen
  • the economy is “growing” at a snail’s pace and as it does, our Current Account deficit grows. Why? Because increasing economic activity boosts profits for foreign owned companies, which means more  profits remitted overseas, which results in a worsening Current Account deficit. That, in turn, impacts on the interest rate we pay for our own capital (borrowings for mortgages, etc),

John Key knows all this – but he ain’t sayin, Billy-Bob boy.

And businesses aren’t so happy either,

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The axe falls - Industry boss blames cuts on Govt

Source
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On Science & Innovation…

” Finally, despite tight times, the Government is continuing to put a real priority on science and innovation. Research funding will be greater this year than it ever has been, because new ideas are a key driver for a modern economy.”

Didn’t National remove the 15% R&D tax credit soon after winning the 2008 election? If that’s putting “a real priority on science and innovation” – I’d hate to see the Nats in full-flight when they positively hate something. (Oh yeah, kinda like beneficiary bashing.)

So back to default Strategy #1,

“But I can guarantee you one thing – Labour will oppose almost all of it.”

Yeah. Piss poor of Labour not to support National when Key demands absolute fealty. In fact, Labour, Greens, and NZ First should just bugger off and leave National to govern on it’s own… and we know what that’s called, don’t we?
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dancing cossacks
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Perhaps  New Zealand would be better served if – instead of constantly deriding and blaming Labour, the Greens, NZ First, local body councils, and Uncle Tom Cobbly – that National focused on the problems confronting our nation; our economy; and our society.  Fixating  on  Opposition Parties for eighteen  paragraphs is not a good look. Defensive, much, Mr Key?

John Key’s constant reference to Labour makes him look fearful – and perhaps so he should be.

By 2014, National will have been in office for six years, with very little to show for it. If Key goes to the election with nothing more except playing a bitter blame-game against Labour, voters will desert him in droves. Voters want results; something reassuring to make them feel better -  not excuses. Certainly not high unemployment, a stagnant economy, growing child poverty, lagging wages, more and more people taking flight to Australia, etc.

” As for the National-led Government, our plan will encourage investment, strengthen the economy and boost jobs.

People know what that plan is, we have stuck to it and we will continue to stick to it.”

Well, I’m happy-as-larry that National has a plan. Because most people haven’t got a clue what Dear Leader and his Nat mates are up to. Aside from cutting state and social services,  asset sales, and subsidising multi-billion dollar film companies, most New Zealanders are scratching their heads wondering precisely what this wonderful “Plan” is.

In 2011, business leaders were asking precisely the same thing,

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Business NZ sees no economic plan

See: Business NZ sees no economic plan

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Key’s speech can be summed up threefold;

1. Consisting mainly of wishful fantasy – with facts and the last four years disproving almost everything he claimed as a “success”,

2. Constantly blaming others for his own Party’s policy-failings. Grow a pair, Mr Key; man up and own your failings.

3. National’s faith in the ability of the Market to produce economic growth, jobs, and higher wages has been sadly misplaced. His announcement on 2,000 new homes over two years is an insult, and National’s new apprenticeship scheme is two years too late, and too little.

National’s neo-liberal policies are more faith-based dogma than anything rooted in Real Life – and the chooks are coming home to roost.

This wasn’t a State of the Nation speech – it was a Statement of  National failure. A Hekia Parata-style own-goal.

If this is National’s idea of a “bright new future”, they’ve just sent Labour and the Greens a very long concession speech for the next election.

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References

NZ Herald: Full text: John Key’s state of the nation speech

Other blogs

Pundit: Mom, apple pie, apprenticeships & not much else

Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow: The Ruminations of Robert Winter: The Negative Mr Key

The Dim Post: All part of the service

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= fs =

Did National knowingly commit economic sabotage post-2008?

24 January 2013 16 comments

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cheesecolour tax cuts

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By now, it has become fairly well known that National’s tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 were unaffordable and impacted disastrously on government revenue (and subsequent spending) in following years.

In 2008, National tempted voters with promises of “self funding” tax-cuts. (Though “self funding” was never very clearly explained.)

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

[...]

This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.

Source: Economy – Tax Policy 2008

The pledge of  “no requirement to cut public services  ” was also one that was made (and subsequently broken in dramatic fashion).

In May 2008, Key was making bold statements  of  “meaningful”  tax cuts,  “north of $50“,

John Key…  said National would be looking at economic figures and what other promises Dr Cullen made in the budget on Thursday… But he was very confident” National could deliver an ongoing programme of tax cuts, like that promised in 2005”.

See: National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key

Despite the growing black clouds of  a global downturn, Key was still optimistic. When questioned by Sue Eden of the NZ Herald whether National’s tax cuts programme of 2005 were still credible given uncertain economic circumstances, Dear Leader replied,

Well, I think it is.”

See: IBID

By early August 2008, as United States mortgage-institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  were  sinking into a credit crisis, Key remained defiant in the face of looming recessionary forces,

National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party’s leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National’s quicker and larger tax cuts which would be “hermetically sealed” from the debt programme.

The admission on borrowing comes as National faces growing calls to explain how it will pay for its promises, which include the larger faster tax cuts, a $1.5 billion broadband plan and a new prison in its first term.

It has also promised to keep many of Labour’s big spending policies including Working for Families and interest free student loans.

Mr Key today said there would be “modest changes” to KiwiSaver.

See: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

How does one ” “hermetically seal” tax cuts  from the debt programme ” ?!

The ‘crunch’ came on 6 October 2008, when Treasury released a document known as the “PREFU” (Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update). This Treasury report analyses and discloses the fiscal and economic state of the nation, with short and medium-term outlooks, based on international and local trends.

The 2008 PREFU started with this dire warning,

The economic and fiscal outlook has deteriorated since the Budget Update

In the five months since the Budget Update was finalised, we have witnessed a number of significant domestic and international developments: in particular, the deepening of the international financial crisis, the slowing housing market, and growing pressure on households and businesses. These developments are key factors in our updated view of the economy and the government’s finances set out in this Pre-election Update.

We are now expecting weaker economic growth over the next few years, resulting in slower growth in tax revenue and higher government expenditure. Combined with increases in the costs of some existing policies, these factors lead to sustained operating balance deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios.

The economic outlook is weaker …

Imbalances have built up during nearly a decade of sustained growth, including inflation pressures, an overvalued housing market, high household debt and a large current account deficit, with implications for interest rates and the exchange rate. With the economy slowing, these imbalances are starting to unwind – as are imbalances in the global economy – but there is a long way to go.

See: PREFU 2008 – Executive Summary

The opening statement went on to state with unequivocal frankness,

The international financial crisis has deepened and is having an adverse impact on global economic growth. New Zealand is expected to feel the effects of the financial crisis principally through the tighter availability and increased costs of credit, but also through a fall in business and consumer confidence, falling asset values and lower demand and prices for our exports.

[...]

The weaker economic growth that we are forecasting is reflected in reductions in our tax revenue forecasts. Compared with the Budget Update, we expect tax revenue to be on average around $900 million lower for each of the next three years.

  • The weak outlook for the household sector will have a direct impact through GST, which is forecast to grow by around 4% per annum over the next five years, compared with 7.5% over the six years to 2007.
  • With firms’ margins under pressure and profitability low, underlying corporate income tax is forecast to decline by 3% in the 2009 June year, and growth is expected to be negligible in 2010 as accumulated tax losses offset profits.
  • A relatively robust forecast for wages over the next few years helps to keep underlying growth in PAYE up at around 5% per annum.

The largest single change in government spending in the Pre-election Update is an increase in the expected costs of benefits. Compared with the Budget Update, benefit expenses are around $500 million per annum higher, reflecting both an increase in numbers of beneficiaries as a result of the slowing economy, and the impact of higher inflation on the costs of indexing benefits.

[...]

As a result of the various factors set out above, the government’s debt outlook deteriorates. This leads to higher debt servicing costs, which are forecast to be around $500 million per annum higher

See: IBID

Treasury continued – in considerable detail – to outline the gloomy prospects  for New Zealand’s fiscal and economic short-term and medium-term outlooks (see:  Fiscal Outlook),

In Risks and Scenarios, Treasury wrote,

Since the Budget Update, global developments have been more in line with the alternative scenario than the Budget forecast and global financial and economic conditions have worsened significantly. On the domestic front, finance companies have continued to face reduced debenture funding and more finance companies went into receivership or moratorium in the past three months. The speed and magnitude of the slowing in domestic demand has been more abrupt and greater than forecast in the Budget Update.

Reflecting these recent international and domestic developments, we have made significant downward revisions to our growth forecasts in this Update. However, the financial turmoil has intensified since the finalisation of our economic forecasts. As a result, we have seen the downside risks to our growth forecasts increase markedly, particularly in the years to March 2010 and 2011.

See: 2008 PREFU – Risks and Scenarios

Unlike his “lack of knowledge” over the GCSB monitoring of Kim Dotcom, or the Police report on John Banks, John Key cannot feign ignorance over the 2008 PREFU report,

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.”

See: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts

Especially when Bill English admitted his knowledge of the PREFU,

The figures outlined in the Prefu are a bit worse than we expected, and we are currently digesting them. However, National is not content to run a decade of deficits.”

See: IBID

In an example of black-humoured irony, English went on to say,

New Zealand can no longer afford Michael Cullen and Labour’s big-spending low-growth policies.”

See: IBID

But evidently New Zealand could afford National’s  “ big-tax-cutting low-growth policies“?

On 6 October 2008, Key reacted to the PREFU (proving he had full knowledge of it’s contents, and made this astounding comment when questioned about National’s planned tax cuts, at 0:40,

“REPORTER: What is your growth programme, does it include tax cuts?.”

“JOHN KEY: It certainly does include tax cuts. We have a programme of tax cuts.”

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Key reacts to 2008 PREFU figures

See: Key reacts to [2008] PREFU figures

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Key’s comments following 0:40 seem equally bizarre, and at 2:28 admits that “… we can’t deliver anything other than, ‘yknow,   a legacy of deficits for New Zealand…” – and still continues to warble on about cutting taxes, including trying to justify “debt for future growth“.

The consequences were a $2 billion hole in government tax revenue (see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b;   Govt’s 2010 tax cuts ‘costing $2 billion and counting’); budget deficits (see:  Budget deficit $1.3b worse);   increased borrowings (see:  Govt borrowing $380m a week); cuts to the State sector in terms of services and jobs (see:  Early childhood education subsidies cut; 10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts, 2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved); and surreptitious increases in government charges and taxation elsewhere (see:  Petrol price rises to balance books; Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restrictedPrescription charges on the rise); and asset sales  (see: Govt says asset sales will cut debt).

The point of this blogpost is simple.

It’s not to look back, at the past…

… it is to look forward to the future.

When National makes Big Promises, be wary of the nature of said promises, and the underlying , invisible “hooks” contained within them.

Quite simply when the Nats offer you a “tax cut”, the first question that should pop into your head is not, “Oh goody, I wonder how much I’ll get!”

The first thought should instead be, “Uh oh, I wonder how much that’s going to cost me!”.

Because as sure as evolution made little green apples and the sun will rise tomorrow, the Nats care very little about your pay packet.

They care only about “rewarding hard work” [translation: more income for the rich] and “making the veconomy more competitive”  [translation:  implementing their neo-liberal agenda for their ideological crusade to turn this country into a Market-driven economy, away from an egalitarian society].

In the process, if they have to turn our country into a slow-rolling, economic train-wreck, then so be it.

They can always blame someone else,

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Key blames Labour for his Govt's wage gap failings

See video: Key blames Labour for his Govt’s wage gap failings

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Key even blames Labour for the  global recession !? (see @ 0:48)

In the meantime, did National recklessly  damage the New Zealand economy with unaffordable tax cuts, despite Key & Co being given ample warning by Treasury – simply to get elected in 2008?

Draw your own conclusions.

The evidence speaks for itself.

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I lied  get over it!

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Additional reading

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds (16 Sept 2012)

References

National Party: Economy – Tax Policy 2008

NZ Herald: National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key (20 May 2008)

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts (2 Aug 2008)

The Treasury:  Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 2008 (6 Oct 2008)

NZ Herald: $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts (6 Oct 2008)

BBC News: Bank shares fall despite bail-out (13 Oct 2008)

Bay of Plenty Times: John Key: We cannot afford KiwiSaver (11 May 2011)

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Christians – can we vote on YOUR marriage now?

22 January 2013 13 comments

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Lobby group presents petition against same sex marriage

Source

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72,000 signatories to Family First’s petition want the right to vote on other people’s right to be married?

That would be fair – if the rest of us had a chance to vote on whether or not those 72,000 Christians (?) should be married or not.

We could make it totally democratic and run on-going Referenda on  couples, through Facebook. Each couple could state their case to voters and the public could vote “Yay” or  “Nay”.

Is it too late to have a belated vote on whether Mr MCoskrie (and Garth McVicar!?) should be allowed to be married? (Not to each other, I mean. Although… )

This is how ridiculous it gets, that so-called “Christians”  think it appropriate to vote on other peoples’ private lives.

Little wonder that so many view religious fundamentalism as intrusive in our lives.

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Facebook-Like-or-Dislike

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(Note: with apologies to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Pantheists, etc, who are more tolerant. )

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Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Marriage equality and polygamy

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Phil Heatley

22 January 2013 5 comments

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Whangarei MP Phil Heatley demoted in reshuffle

Full story

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Was Heatley pushed because he wasn’t rebuilding State housing fast enough – or because he wasn’t selling off state housing stock fast enough?

National’s track record and a good dollop of cyncism suggests the latter.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. The whole lot has done inculable damage to our economy and should resign.

We need a fresh election. This year. Stat!

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= fs =

Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

Garrick Tremain sums it all up in one cartoon!

22 January 2013 4 comments

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All my blogposts summed up in one, concise cartoon…

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I want a job_we want a house_I want a safer community_I want us to catch up with Ozzie_they tell me they want our assets sold

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Acknowledgement

Peter Martin

Related blogpost

Thieving Tories chomping at the bit to sell our state assets

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Thieving Tories chomping at the bit to sell our state assets

22 January 2013 31 comments

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'Early' SOE partial sale if court rules in favour

Source

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Even through the printed word on an internet news-site, it’s pretty obvious that Key can barely contain his zealous obsession to partially-privatise Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-sell Air Zealand.

There is a reason for this.

National is nearing it’s Use-By date and is only one by-election away from losing the government benches. The Nats are living on “borrowed time” and need to get at least one asset sale completed to balance their books.

In case anyone was still deluded in thinking that Key wanted to give “mums and dads” the chance to “invest” in our own power companies – think again.

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386402_2653224578692_1661820281_n

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National is desperate to balance the books and return to a slim surplus by 2014/15. (See related blogpost:  “It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne)

This is by no means a “done deal” and the public can still make life uncomfortable for this shonkey “government”. Large numbers of New Zealanders voicing their opposition to what amounts to the theft of our state assets will keep pressure on Key and his cronies.

One such opportunity will be a mass public rally on Wednesday, 13 February, at Frank Kitts Park on the Wellington waterfront. This blogger will be there to cover the event, and encourages everyone to turn up.

And bring a person with you. That will effectively double the numbers!

This will be our opportunity to send a strong message to National.

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frank kitts park no to asset sales 13 feb

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Frank Kitts Park

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Addendum 1

Feel free to pass the link to this blogpost on to others via email, Facebook, etc. Full permission is given to re-post; re-publish; print, and distribute.

Frank Kitts Park – see you there!

Addendum 2

Can’t attend but still want to make your voice heard?

Email Key at:  John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>

Send letters to the editor at: Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>

NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>

The Press <letters@press.co.nz>

Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>

Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>

Make your voice heard loud and clear!

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= fs =

Nick Smith

22 January 2013 10 comments

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Parties say Smith doesn't deserve to be minister

Source

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Whether or not Nick Smith “returns” to a Ministerial post is, in my mind, a distraction.

1. With ministers like corrupt liar, John Banks, in cabinet, Nick Smith could be viewed as a “breath of fresh air”.

2. This entire government is rotten to the core and is driving this country backward with short-term, ineffectual, rightwing policies. “Boot camps”, anyone?

3. After four years, are we any better off?

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Previous related blogpost

Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

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Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late

21 January 2013 19 comments

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It started with the 1975 election campaign,

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It’s consequences, 37 years later were,

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private sector debt 1988 - 2009 (% of GDP)

Source: Private-sector debt and factors affecting it

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Private debt shot up like an unguided missile, into stratospheric heights. There were no limitations on our private borrowings.

By comparison, up until 2008 (Global Financial Crisis), Crown debt has been falling,

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Treasury - government debt to gdp ration - june years

Source: NZ Economic Chart Pack – April 2012

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In the 1975 general elections, 763,136 voters decided the course of New Zealand’s social and economic history.

By electing Muldoon, under the manifestly unpredictable and unfair First Past the Post electoral system, Labour’s compulsory superannuation scheme was ditched the following year.

As a young lad in his first job, this blogger vividly recalls receiving a cheque from my then-employer, as a reimbursement of my previous super-contributions. I recall looking at the cheque and the pitifully tiny amount it was made out for.

I recall a feeling of disquiet…

Even as a teenager, barely politically conscious, I was uneasy that the scheme was being canned by Muldoon and wondering how we were going to pay for superannuation in the future. I was also  aware that bank mortgages were extremely hard to come by, as New Zealand had a low savings record. Businesses and industries competed with people seeking home-mortgages from banks.

A year later, I bought my first house and the experience was one I shan’t forget.  By 1978 mortgages were nigh-on impossible to obtain; vendors’ Second Mortgages were a necessity (where the house seller left part of the sale price as a Second Mortgage to the Purchaser); and interest rates were high.

New Zealanders simply weren’t saving enough.

Which is why, when the incoming (secretly right-wing Rogernomics-controlled) Labour government was elected into power, they de-regulated  New Zealand’s exchange rate and allowed overseas investment to flood into the country.

As a temporary, short-term “fix”, home ownership became easier. Second mortgages all but vanished. Interest rates dropped, as availability of finance met local demand.

On a long-term basis, the consequences created a rod for our economic backs.

Private borrowings from overseas skyrocketed, leading to ever spiralling-upward housing prices,

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total household liabilities 1978 - 2007

3.1 Trends in household liabilities
Total household liabilities have increased in both real and nominal terms. However, until 1990 the growth was moderate (Figure 1). Following the deregulation of financial markets, the growth of liabilities accelerated, and in the past five years has been driven by lower real interest rates and rising house prices.

Source: Debt in the aggregate balance sheet of households

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With no limit on the amount we could borrow from offshore lenders, there was no natural ‘cap’ on prices. That meant we could demand more for our properties and the banks would happily comply, and borrow more from China, Japan, America, or where-ever. The banks “clipped the ticket along the way, amassing billions in profits in the process (see:  ANZ profits up 17pc to $1.26b).

As the National Business Review reported in August 2010,

Last Wednesday Mr English bemoaned New Zealand’s debt problem, saying that in 2000 the country’s debt to the rest of the world was about $100 billion but now it was close to $180b, and forecast to hit $250b by 2014.

See: Key cautious over compulsory super

Essentially, we’re now chasing our own tails, borrowing more to buy more expensive houses; then on-selling at a “profit”; and borrowing more to buy higher-priced housing.

Gareth Morgan pointed out in May 2012, when he criticised the futility and destructiveness of property speculation,

“ So lubricated with the credit availability we all pile into the asset in unison and drive up its price. Hardly rocket science.”

See: House prices a cancer for the economy

Which led to the inevitable,

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Home-ownership falls dramatically

Full story

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And,

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Frustrated home buyers want investors to be discouraged

Full story

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It’s interesting to note that the above Herald story had an associated poll that yielded a rather telling result,

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Do you support a Capital Gains Tax on the sale of residential investment properties

See: IBID

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The 39% who responded with ‘No’ corresponds roughly with National’s core support.

The 15% who responded with “Yes, as long as it’s not too high” are those who will vote for whichever political Party best meets the needs of their wallets – and the long-term repercussions for the country be damned. They still want to profit from property speculation, so long as said speculation doesn’t push property prices beyond their own reach.

Those 44% who voted “Yes” indicate a growing maturity and understanding that everything has a consequence – including property speculation. These voters perhaps  understand that,

  1. The money has to come from somewhere – and it is coming from overseas lenders,
  2. High levels of borrowing are ultimately damaging to our sovereign credit rating
  3. Housing speculation is not just a giant legal pyramid scheme – but is harming the future of our own children, who then have to escape to Australia to be able to afford a home of their own

See: IBID

Again, as Gareth Morgan said last year,

This is the legacy of the last 30 years. And it has become so entrenched in our psyche that our ability to build businesses and create wealth and employment has been numbed.

A bit like growing your own veges or preserving the summer harvest, it’s a lost craft. The cost to incomes is high, the consequence being our GDP per capita continues to slip down the OECD charts.

As we contemplate economic recovery some thought at least should be given to the quality of the recovery we’d prefer – do we want it to be a housing-led one again where we all seek riches through a speculative race for property; do we want it to be a business-led type where jobs and incomes take priority; or do we really not care? Is it all too much to think about?

The sense one gets is that politicians at least couldn’t care less, just bring recovery on, any recovery.”

See: House prices a cancer for the economy

A further comparison;  Australia’s  superannuation scheme (also referred to as the Superannuation Guarantee) -  made compulsory in 1992 – has amassed savings of over $1 trillion dollars. In September 2010,

After more than a decade of compulsory contributions, Australian workers have over $1.28 trillion in superannuation assets. Australians now have more money invested in managed funds per capita than any other economy.”-  Source

Two years later, by September 2012,

Total estimated superannuation assets increased to $1.46 trillion in the September 2012 quarter. Over the 12 months to September 2012 there was a 13.0 per cent increase in total estimated superannuation assets.” – Source

No talk of  “nanny statism” here. Our Aussie cuzzies knuckled down; made hard decisions; and did the hard work. In 2006, the Sydney Morning Herald proudly proclaimed,

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Australia 'tops' in managed funds

Full story

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The Aussies have  earned the benefits.

By comparison the NZ superannuation Fund – begun in 2003 – made this announcement in October 2012,

New Zealand Super Fund breaks $20 billion mark; releases 2011/12 Annual Report

Posted On: Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund reached an end-of-month record high of $20.08 billion in September.
The Fund, which commenced investing in 2003, was set up by the New Zealand Government to help pay for the increasing cost of universal superannuation. It is managed by the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation.

See: New Zealand Super Fund breaks $20 billion mark; releases 2011/12 Annual Report

As for Kiwisaver, in the five years to June 2012, Kiwisaver has amassed  $12.9 billion in contributions.

See: IRD – KiwiSaver Annual Report 5

That’s around NZ$33 billion saved here in New Zealand – compared to A$1.46 trillion saved by our Aussie cuzzies.

By contrast, investment strategist and analyst, Brian Gaynor estimates that had New Zealand kept the Labour superannuation schemem it would be world approximately $240 billion dollars (See:  Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth). As Gaynor explain,

Without this decision we would now be called “The Antipodean Tiger” and be the envy of the rest of the world. We would have a current account surplus, one of the lowest interest-rate structures in the world and would probably rank as one of the top five OECD economies.

We would still own ASB Bank, Bank of New Zealand and most of the other major companies now overseas-owned. Our entrepreneurs would have a plentiful supply of risk capital and would probably own a large number of Australian companies.

Most New Zealanders would face a comfortable retirement and would be the envy of their Australian peers. The Government would have a substantial Budget surplus and we would have one of the best educational and healthcare systems in the world.

See: IBID’

Never underestimate the capacity for some people to vote stupidly.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, we are only just waking up to the mistakes we made 37 years ago,

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Strong support for universal KiwiSaver

Full story

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Oh well, 37 years… rather late than never.

Which rather paints this current ‘government’ as a thing of the past; unwilling to learn from our historic mistakes; unwilling to learn from the Australian experience;  but willing to take the easy road; and playing Muldoon-style politics with our country’s future economic stability,

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John Key - We cannot afford KiwiSaver

Full story
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The question now is – have New Zealanders learnt enough history from 1975 to get rid of this inept, inward-looking government? Or will it be John Key – Muldoonism v.2 ?

As always, the choice is ours; a future of debt and under foreign ownership or “Antipodean Tiger” ?

National Party supporters – take note.

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bromheadhouse

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Previous related blogposts

Nanny State, Daddy State, poor state?

References

Horizon Poll: Strong support for universal KiwiSaver

Fairfax: Compulsory Super regret for most Kiwis

NZ Herald: Foreign ownership shortchanging locals

Reserve Bank: Dealing with debt

Treasury: NZ Economic Chart Pack – April 2012

Treasury: Private-sector debt and factors affecting it

Wikipedia: 1975 General Election

NZ Herald: Govt eyes blind to housing crisis

NZ Herald: House prices a cancer for the economy

National Business Review: Key cautious over compulsory super

Bay of Plenty Times: John Key: We cannot afford KiwiSaver

NZ Herald: Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth

Update

Radio NZ: NZ housing ‘seriously unaffordable’

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Has Garth McVicar finally lost the plot?!

20 January 2013 15 comments

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image 003

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As reported in Fairfax, on 20 January – Garth McVicar, of the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust”, seems finally to have  “lost the plot” with this gobsmacking rant at a Parliament Select Committee hearing on marriage equality,

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Lobbyist links gay marriage to crime rise in NZ

Full story

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McVicar went on to state, in quite unequivocal terms,

Furthermore, the bill represents a further decay and erosion of the traditional family that society has been founded on.”

See: IBID

So if we understand McVicar correctly, there will be a  “decline” in  ” the traditional family ” if marriage equality is allowed to go ahead?

Aside from the sheer nonsensical and unproven nature of such a bizarre belief, it occurs to this blogger that ” the traditional family ” has been under stress for a long time – before marriage equality became an issue these last couple of years.

Take for example the story of 19 year old Robert Moulden.

Reported in the same issue of Fairfax media as the story above, Mr Moulden recently pleaded guilty in  Auckland’s District Court last year, to desecrating and vandalising Jewish graves,

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desecrated graves

See: Merciful Jews forgive Nazi grave vandal

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Mr Moulden, to his credit, took responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty. In an act of human compassion and forgiveness, the Auckland Jewish community has rallied to support the young man to undertake further, higher education to turn his life around.

Mr Moulden’s background is all too common from young men and women who have become socially alienated,

His parents split up at an early age, he then goes from pillar to post . . . he goes to different schools, he’s shifted around, he has no stability, no base to call his own.”

See: IBID

Which indicates to me the depth of  Garth McVicar’s ignorance and bigotry.

Dysfunctional families have been with us for decades (centuries, even).  A cursory study of the backgrounds of those dysfunctional families of beaten, sexually abused, and  murdered children will reveal one salient fact; they all had heterosexual parents/guardians/partners.

If  Garth McVicar wants to be critical of the circumstances surrounding declining  ” traditional families “, he’s looking in the wrong place. Perhaps he should first look at three decades of neo-liberal reforms which has resulted in increased poverty; fewer jobs; a widening gap in incomes; and small towns losing their economic base as industries have closed down,

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Raetihi

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And if he’s got this so horribly wrong – what else is he stuffing up? Could it be that his “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is also built on a swampy mire of mis-information and ignorance?

McVicar has done the cause for marriage equality a great service. He’s demonstrated how shonkey and intellectually corrupt opposition to equality actually is.

Has it ever been different when a group in society struggles for justice? Emancipation for women? The universal right to vote? The Black civil rights movement in the United States? The struggle to end apartheid in South Africa?

So it goes on, to this very day. New struggles for equality – facing the same old bigotted arguments why some should not have equal rights.

Get back to your cave, Garth.

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“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key

20 January 2013 26 comments

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Key faces questions over extra Antarctica funding

Full story

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There are two issues involved with the above story.

Firstly…

The Government spends $26 million on climate research every year. The Prime Minister says that will increase.

There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects.”

Climate research is a fine endeavour, and this blogger has no problem with that.

What this blogger has a real problem with is when National’s quango’s come up with nasty suggestions like this,

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story

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Or, National point-blank refuses to fund life-saving medication in instances like this,

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

Full story

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There seems to be a multitude of “worthy causes” for National in invest our tax dollars in; subsidies for film makers such as Warner Bros; subsidies for the rugby world cup; loans for media companies (which they initially lied about); grants to businesses; advisors; consultants; staff bonuses; MPs travel expenses, and of course, salary rises for members of Parliament.

But when it comes to grommet operations for our children and medication for sick New Zealanders, the response is not quite as generous, as Tony Ryall ‘explained’ to me on 22 November last year,

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

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And then explained on 5 December, explained  how he had pulled a neat little trick to fund National’s promised extension for Herception treatment, outside of PHARMAC rules,

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

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(Note: in all fairness, Tony Ryall is perhaps the only Minister who has the balls to actually respond to my queries. The rest are either evasive, or like Bill English do not reply at all.)

Secondly…

In the above article at the top, TV3 reporter, Samantha Hayes, wrote,

It’s that variability New Zealand scientists want to investigate, using funds from a joint public and private venture – the newly formed Antarctic Research Institute.

See: Key faces questions over extra Antarctica funding

Pardon?

Why is the Antarctic Research Institute a “joint public and private venture”?

What does the private sector hope to gain from research by the Antarctic Research Institute?

On 21 August 2012, the NZ Herald reported,

The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute was launched by Prime Minister John Key last night at Premier House.

It will operate as a public-private partnership.

The institute will be closely aligned to the crown entity Antarctic New Zealand and its chairman, Rob Fenwick, will chair the institute as well.

See: $5.3m gift sets up Antarctic research unit

About Mr Fenwick,

Rob Fenwick is an experienced businessman and company director with interests closely aligned to promoting sustainable development. He has had a long association with Antarctica: for nine years until 2007 he was a director and later chairman of Landcare Research, one of several CRIs involved in Antarctic research, and is a former chairman of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. In 2005 the New Zealand Geographic Society named the Fenwick Ice Piedmont in the Ross Sea for his work in Antarctica. 

He is a co-founder and director of Living Earth Ltd, New Zealand’s principal organic waste management business and is active in policy development around waste minimisation and climate change, and has been a member of several Government working groups in these areas. He is a special advisor to the Department of Conservation and was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Natural Resources, honoris causa, by Lincoln University this year.

See: antarcticanz.govt.nz/rob-fenwick

The Herald article goes on,

The institute’s director will be Professor Gary Wilson of Otago University, who said the goal was to strengthen Antarctic research capacity in New Zealand through international collaboration on research projects.

“Antarctica and the Southern Ocean hold the solutions to many of the key questions scientists and policymakers need to answer in order to manage the threats of climate change and global resource depletion.”

“Global resource depletion”…

One has to wonder what was so important that our Dear Leader, John Key, had to make the eight hour long flight – after collapsing at a Christchurch restaurant?! Surely not to return three bottles of whiskey to Shackleton’s hut??

Why is the private sector involved in a joint public and private venture with the newly formed Antarctic Research Institute? PPPs are usually formed  where there is the potential for profit by the private investor.

Or is it that Gareth Morgan has a point when he sez on his blog,

Taking care of Antarctica requires a constant diplomatic effort. John Key’s visit may look like the usual smile and wave routine, but the symbolism is much stronger. His presence is simultaneously reasserting our claim, bolstering our position at the negotiation table, and recognising the wonderful contribution the Scott Base installation has made for so long. Declaring to the world that Antarctica is important to us and we want it managed well is central to Mr Key’s visit. New Zealand has a long history of leadership in Antarctica.

See: Key Antarctica trip more than waving at penguins

Methinks there is more to this story than we’ve been told.

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Other blogs

Gareth  Morgan: Key Antarctica trip more than waving at penguins

References

Beehive Press Release

Antarctica New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

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

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Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

18 January 2013 12 comments

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Muppet #1 – Hekia Parata

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I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

See: Parata safe in her job – Key

Prime Minister John Key says Education Minister Hekia Parata will be safe in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, … because she is hugely talented and one of National’s best communicators.

See: Parata’s job safe in shuffle

*snort!*

I’d be a happy chappy if the Nats DID have more like her in Cabinet!!

If she’s one of the Nat’s “best communicators”, I’d luv to know why she’s kept ducking calls for media interviews and instead sent Lesley Longstone to cover for Parata’s f**k-ups,

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2 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (2)

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3 October 2012

Ministry of Education admits some errors in data

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4 October 2012

Education Minister avoids her critics

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26 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (3)

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29 October 2013

Longstone challenged to find solutions

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14 November 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (1)

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28 November 2012

lesley longstone Schools still beset by Novopay problems

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When Lesley Longstone’s resignation was announced last year on 19 December, Hekia Parata was still nowhere to be seen. The announcement was handled by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie (see:  Education secretary quits),

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19 December 2012

lesley longstone Education secretary quits

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20 December 2012

lesley longstone Parata, Key refuse to front over education debacle

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Parata’s office explained why she couldn’t front,

Parata is currently on holiday and has refused to front on Longstone’s resignation, but in a statement released this afternoon she thanked Longstone for her efforts in leading the Ministry.

See: Education Ministry boss quits after ‘strained relationship’

Hmmmm, judging by Parata not fronting for most of last year, was she on holiday for most of 2012?!

“Smooth communicator…”!?

Ye gods, this deserves a Tui billboard.

Roll on 2013 – it’s going to be a great year.

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Muppet #2 – Paula Bennett

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Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB

Full story

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Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, has a relationship with hypocrisy, bene-bashing, and mendacity that can only be described as “intimate”.

Since 2011, she has derided and denigrated the unemployed; solo-parents; widows, invalids, the sick, and young people, and blamed them for being in a position requiring welfare assistance.

Never mind the fact that the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/08 has seen unemployment skyrocket from 3.4% in 2007 to the current 7.3%.

Or that welfare recipients as a whole were at their lowest in 2008.

National’s entire strategy for getting people off welfare has not been about job creation – that has beemn left to the “Market” to sort out – but about punitive sanctions targetting those receiving welfare.

See previous blogpost for full list of sanctions targetting welfare recipients: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

Even Dear Leader had a go at welfare recipients in February 2011,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.” – John Key, 17 February, 2011

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Key had even more daft things to say about welfare recipients here; National to push 46,000 off welfare . But not a single word about generating jobs for the unemployed. Not. One. Word.

Now that 5,000 sole-parents have mysteriously “dropped off” from  DPB welfare, I have a question for Ms Bennet and Dear Leader;

Will those sole parents be acknowledged for finding work (a questionable assumption in itself) in a tough marketplace where unemployment stands at 7.3% (175,000 people) and where, it was announced today, growth in the jobs market has slowed? (See:  Unemployment rate set to hold as job ads flatten out – ANZ, Job growth slows, says Trade Me)

Will Bennett acknowledge that people  are on welfare – not because it is an opulent lifestyle – but because of sheer necessity?

Will the Minister – who successfully exploited the welfare system for her own benefit; bought a house using WINZ funding; and gave up paid employment because it was “too tough” to  study, work, and care for her daughter simultaneously – acknowledge that it was not National’s punitive bene-bashing policies that found work for 5,000 sole-parents, but the parents themselves?

Or will she grab the kudos for herself?

More than half of that drop happened in the last three months of the year, after the introduction of Ms Bennett’s policy required sole parents to get part-time work when their youngest child turned five and fulltime work for those whose children were older than 14.

Ms Bennett said 3221 sole parents had returned to work since that came into force in October.

See: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB

Yup. She’s taken the credit for herself.

Addendum

The numbers quoted in the Heral story are at variance with those from the Ministry of Social Developement.

From the NZ Herald,

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Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB - beneficiary numbers

Source

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From the MSD,

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Numbers of working-age clients receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 - 2012

Source

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Even the Herald’s own trance of figures is not consistent.  The DPB figures are compared between 2011 and 2012. The remaining two trances – All Types of Benefits and Unemployment – are compared between 2010 and 2012.

Dodgy.

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Muppet #3 – Judith Collins

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Remember “Crusher” Collins? Remember New Zealand’s own Iron Lady who brooks no sh*t from criminals, boy racers, or stroppy Labour MPs?

Remember how Collins was going to deal to crims who had been awarded compensation for breaches of their rights,

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New Bill ensures victims can lay claims against prisoner compensation

Source & More

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The Nats love to thrash the Law & Order  issues. It appeals to low information voters, rednecks, and right wing simpletons and is great for the Tories to  score a few thousand extra votes at election time.

In reality it achieves zip to actually reform and rehabilitate prisoners, and address core problems in their offending; alcolhol/drug abuse; illiteracy; unresolved psychiatric problems; and off course the number one factor; no prospects for employment.

Which is why it’s a bit of a surprise when a National minister appears to See The Light, and backtracks on one of their core,  Get-Tough-On-Crims policies,

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Collins backtracks on jail compo

Full story

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It’s nice to see a National minister shy away from mindless knee-jerk law-making that appeals to the Talback Radio mindset – but achieves very little except nudge New Zealand closer to being an autocratic state.

Until the next election, of course,

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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Other blogs

Tumeke: Paula Bennett and her amazing vanishing beneficiaries

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= fs =

NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

17 January 2013 10 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s no great secret that the news media in this country – with perhaps one or two exceptions -  has been going downhill  in the last three decades.

As an example, the previous entities, the ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘ in Wellington,  once employed three reporters – two full time and one part-time – to cover  local body politics and events in the city.  No councillor or mayor could pass wind without one of the journos picking it up. If something smelled rotten, the journos would sniff it out fairly smartly.

Now, with continuing cutbacks at Fairfax media, and most sub-editors gone, the combined entity known as the ‘Dominion Post‘ has one journalist covering City Council activities on a part-time basis. Coverage has becomes sporadic, disjointed, and out of context.

Which is why Wellingtonians now have little idea what’s happening at their  Council.

TVNZ and TV3 once had current affairs programmes, at prime time, conducting in depth investigations into government activities and dubious behaviour from dodgy politicians.

Many of those programmes, ‘Holmes‘, ‘Assignment‘, have gone.  ‘Sunday” was an hour long on Sunday nights – that’s been cut to thirty minutes.

The main current affairs prpgrammes – TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3′s ‘The Nation‘ – have been relegated to Sunday mornings at 8am and 9am. Hardly conducive to encouraging the public to be aware of political issues in our country. Only insomniacs and the  most committed political junkie would be willing to forego a Sunday morning lie-in to watch TV journos in action with our elected representatives.

Private and State radio is perhaps  the only part of the  industry that has remained consistent.

Talkback Radio – idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

It is the realm where superficial “knowledge”  is the main currency and shrill prejudice holds sway over calm reasoned analysis on issues. Imagine allotting a bunch of bigoted, ill-informed rednecks  equal speaking time at the Oxford debates, shouting down their more knowledgeable and wiser debating opponants, and that gives an insight into talkback radio.

Even the talkback “hosts” are not ones to rise above the common, noisome mud of prejudice and wilful ignorance, as happened last week,

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

It’s all part of the commercial radio game; win as many listeners as you can by being as offensive and outrageous as you can. That wins ratings, which in turn let’s you sell more advertising, leading to higher profits, which results in  increasing dividends to ever more demanding shareholders.

In a free market society, being offensive and prejudiced (or even better still, offensively prejudiced) is profitable. (See: Laws told off for ‘shoot rabid reporters’ comment)

Ever wondered why radio stations and newspapers “love” Michael Laws so much? Wonder no more. He sells advertising.

Ironically, when radio stations like NewstalkZB are then held to account for  offensive behaviour, the additional publicity they gain – as in the case of the subsequent NZ Herald story above – gives them even more public attention. And higher ratings. And sell more advertising… It’s a win/win for them.

Radio NZ – after the political assassination of TVNZ7 – the last remaining non-commercial, public service media in this country.

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story

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It’s fairly obvious why Peter Cavanagh is resigning as  Chief Executive: National has plans to commercialise Radio NZ.

This will no doubt be aided and abetted by Radio NZ board chairman, Richard Griffin. As well as having been a former Radio NZ political editor, Griffin took the job of  press secretary to former National, prime minister, Jim Bolger (See:  Richard Griffin to chair Radio NZ board).

The stage is set…

For National,  non-commercial SOEs such as Radio NZ and TVNZ are anathema to their free market ideology – the very same ideology that saw the closure of TVNZ7 by deliberate political design, despite public support for the channel,

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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The commercialisation of  media such as TVNZ is of considerable benefit to National Party (and perhaps Labour?) politicians, for two very good reasons,

  1. They yield a profit to the State, thereby making government’s job much easier to balance The Books.
  2. Commercialisation encourages ratings-driven programming. Hence the preponderence of crime ‘drama’, reality TV shows of every description, cheap US sitcoms, home improvement shows, and more cooking programmes than you can shake a wooden spatula at.

The second rationale has a by-product that governing politicians welcome with cunningly-disguised glee; ratings driven programming does not include current affairs shows and documentary making. These are now funded by NZ on Air – and even NZOA has been captured by National’s party apparatchiks,

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

See previous blogpost: NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

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It is no coincidence that the gradual demise of intelligent programmes that inform and challenge  the viewer has been consistant with the rise and rise of commercialisation of the media – especially the state owned “public broadcaster”, TVNZ.

Quite simply, junk programmes such as cooking porn;  MaF officials measuring the size of fish in someone’s bucket; and crime ‘dramas’ depicting the latest grisly murder (usually a female victim) in ghoulish detail, is what sells advertising.

And it should be no surprise that as the media shies away from serious reporting of current affairs, we had the lowest voter turnout last year since 1887 (see:  Steve Liddle: Election apathy shows need for civics at school).

The Americanisation of our media (“if it bleeds, it leads”) is creating the Americanisation of our electoral process (apathy and low voter turnout – see: Voter turnout in 2012 US presidential elections 9% lower than 2008 ).

Major political parties – especially those on the Right, such as National – love this kind of thing. An unsophisticated public results in low-information voters. Low information voters allow  governments to get way with all manner of dubious policies such as cuts to services; more user pays; environmentally-damaging activities, and further implementation of neo-liberal ideology.

It literally encourages the dumbing-down of society until the consequences are satirised in movies like this,

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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Idiocracy” was produced as a speculative “what if” sf movie. It’s now more like a documentary. If you haven’t see it – this blogger strongly recommends that you do. You’ll be feeling a creepy sense of deja vu throughout it (and you’ll never look at ‘power drinks’ in quite the same way again).

It now appears that we, the New Zealand public, have till the end of the year to mobilise to pressure National not to interfere with the running of Radio NZ.

A statement from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting on 16 January, said,

The real story here is that the National Government – having fully commercialised TVNZ and done away with non-commercial TV channels Stratos, TV6 & 7 – is also slowly strangling RNZ to the point that it cannot survive. In 2007 a KPMG report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage found that RNZ was already running as efficiently as possible. It recommended a funding increase to allow RNZ to continue its high standards. But the following year, the National Government froze the RNZ budget and that freeze still exists with RNZ operating on the same budget as 5 years ago.

The CBB believes this is a shockingly poor way to treat our national radio broadcaster: the station we rely on in times of emergency, disaster and crisis. We note the repeated absence on RNZ of our Prime Minister (who prefers to goof around on commercial stations) and many of his Cabinet colleagues. This fact and frequent remarks made by Ministers, makes it clear that the decision to freeze funding to RNZ is an attempt to influence the station’s ability to present in-depth news and current affairs. This contradicts statutory requirements that the government does not influence RNZ editorial stance and may even be illegal.

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

The under-funding of Radio NZ has been abysmal, with National wilfully attempting to strangle the broadcaster by a lack of money.

The situation for Radio NZ has become so dire that in late 2011, the Crown Entity registered itself as a charity,

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

This is a deliberate campaign against Radio NZ and constitutes political interference – something that is strictly forbidden by law. National has found a way to circumvent that law.

Make no mistake, the dumbing down of Radio NZ is National’s final mission-plan to eliminate all critical, in-depth  media analysis and reporting  in this country. Turning Radio NZ in a radio-version of TVNZ would destroy any remaining  semblance of serious current affairs programming, resulting in another medium for mindless, unquestioning, consumerism.

This is the neo-liberal agenda at it’s nastiest. To be successful in re-shaping a society into a “free market”, the new right must first remove all critical elements in society and either destroy it or marginalise it.

The commercialisation of Radio NZ would be the beginning of that marginalisation. Next would be a partial privatisation, followed by a full-scale sell-off.

This blogger encourages the reader to;

1.

Join Save Radio New Zealand on Facebook. Get your friends and family to “Like” the facebook page – the more the better! Support a replacement for Peter Cavanagh  who will  maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

2.

If you have a National MP as your electorate MP, let him/her know your your vote in 2014 will depend on what happens to Radio NZ.  Tell your National MP that not only will you vote for another Party, but you’ll be making a donation to them as well! Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

3.

Write a short letter to your local newspaper and voice your feelings on this issue. The deliberate demise of TVNZ7 was bad enough – but attacking Radio NZ is the final straw. Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

4.

Write to Labour Leader David Shearer and demand that, if he expects voter support, that Labour reverse National’s  policies and undoes any commercialisation of Radio New Zealand.

On Point #4, the demise of TVNZ7 and impending commercialisation of Radio NZ  underscores one very critical issue: that important services such as Radio NZ must be protected by entrenched legislation that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for incoming  National regimes to to undermine such Crown entities.

It is unbelievable that an organisation such as Radio NZ – which has been operating in one form or another since 1925 – is vulnerable to the ideological machinations of a “government” that has been in office for only the last four years.  In existence for 88 years – vulnerable to attack in four?!

A new Labour-led government’s Broadcasting Minister’s first task must be to enact legislation that;

  • entrenches protection for Radio NZ,
  • denies right governments any opportunity to commercialise the broadcaster,
  • ring-fenches funding and ties it to the rate of inflation – perhaps by the Remuneration Authority which also sets MP’s salaries and perks.

The same protections must be in place for any new non-commercial public TV broadcaster that is set up by an incoming Labour-led government. Crown Entities must be free of covert political interference by the likes of Key, English, Joyce, et al, who cannot resist sticking their grubby fingers into places they shouldn’t.

At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, this issue is not just about saving Radio NZ from commercialisation. This is a battle for the minds and souls of New Zealanders.

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

Despite its budget freeze, National Radio continues to do an excellent job. Its current affairs programmes are intelligent and objective. That’s why you rarely hear the prime minister on Morning Report or Checkpoint. As the recent BBC Hardtalk episode showed, Mr Key becomes dangerously exposed when interviewed by a tough, intelligent journalist. He tends to send in street-smart Gerry Brownlee to take one for the team on Radio New Zealand, while he has a cosy yet inane chat with ex-children’s presenter Petra Bagust on Breakfast or talks to Veitchy on sports radio about hot chicks. That’s far more fun than explaining to Mary Wilson why parents are going to have to pay more for childcare.”

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes (late Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria, United States, etc), despots control the media with an iron fist. Members of the state security apparatus watch every word printed; every word uttered; every picture or video screened.

In the West, we do despotic control of the media in more subtle ways. We use “market forces” instead of  secret police forces.

The Western model is far more successful because the general populace doesn’t realise it’s happening. In fact, the general populace rather like “Master Chef Albania” or “CSI Timbuktu” or “Mumbai Squalid Home Improvement”. Unfortunately, watching such drivel doesn’t make the populace any smarter or informed. It simply prepares them for Talkback radio.

It’s up to the rest of us to lead the fight and stop National in it’s tracks.

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

References

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

NZ Herald: Radio Network apologises for ‘dyke’ slur against Alison Mau

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

Brian Edwards: TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

Tumeke: Is the NZ Herald a newspaper or a Police press release?

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

Whoar: “..Radio NZ tops 2012 ratings..”

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= fs =

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne

16 January 2013 11 comments

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student debt

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In a recent blogpost (see: Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall) the nadir of National’s cost-cutting to funding of our public services was revealed in a succession of NZ Herald stories,

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Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Full story

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In a repeat of  (then-Health Minister) Bill English’s cost cutting of the public health sector  in the late 1990s, National is once again targetting social services that will impact most harshly on our youngest and most vulnerable – our children. It defies understanding  and flies in the face of our supposed reputation for being “a great place to bring up children”.

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Govt's proposed health cuts could affect children - Labour

Full story

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As one respondent stated on a previous blogpost,

“One of the major reasons in combatting glue ear is improving a child’s academic performance.

Ensuring academic success with today’s children offers the best prospect of growing tomorrow’s economy, reducing unemployment, increasing the living standard, generally reducing the country’s/ world’s problems, etc.

Is this not a smart investment? How National fails to understand this is bewildering.” -  ‘Procrastinator’, 12 January 2012

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story

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“Bewildering”, indeed.

Until one starts to “connect-the-dots” and a slightly new – though all-to-familiar – picture emerges.

To complete the picture, some more “dots”,

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Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

Full story

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Budget 2012 - 'Paper boy tax' on small earnings stuns Labour

Full story

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Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

Full story

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Meds price hike - 'Children will die'

Full story

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Petrol price rises to balance books

Full story

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And the latest,

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Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

Full story

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Revenue Minister Peter Dunne sez,

It’s fundamentally a fairness issue.”

I call “bollocks” on that.

This has as much to do with “fairness” as the US invasion of Iraq had to do with locating Saddam Hussein’s mythical  “weapons of mass destruction”.

Let’s be upfront and honest here, Mr Dunne. This has squat to do with “fairness”.  After all,  if  National ministers and their coalition “partners” truly wanted to make this an issue of  ” fundamental fairness “, then perhaps Mr Dunne and his colleagues should look in the mirror first.

Starting with Peter Dunne himself…

Peter Dunne ” graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1977 with a Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, and has also studied business administration at Massey University ” (see: Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne ).

With student loans for tertiary education fees  not kicking in until 1992 (see: Timeline of New Zealand history), Peter Dunne’s own University education was  free.

He paid nothing for his Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, nor for his  business administration studies at Massey University which were most likely carried out prior to 1988, when he was an Associate Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management (see: Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne ). I can find no record indicating whether or not Dunne graduated from his business course at Massey.

On top of his free education, Dunne probably also qualified for a student allowance – again courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer and non-repayable.

The Prime Minister, John Key, and Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, also gained their respective University education free of charge – courtesy of the taxpayer. In Bennett’s case, she used the WINZ Training Incentive Allowance to pay for her tertiary education – which she later cut back so it is now no longer available for other solo-parents (see: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her).

Peter Dunne was partially correct in one respect, though,

There’s a certain sense of annoyance amongst people who stayed in New Zealand and diligently worked to pay off their loans that these freeloaders overseas are, in some cases, getting away with it.”

See: Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

The free-loaders though, are not the students who’ve escaped the double-standards; hypocrisy; and sheer plain selfishness of our country. The real free-loaders are every single Tory politician and bludging right-winger who gained a free taxpayer funded tertiary education – and then proceeded to force subsequent generations of young New Zealanders to pay for their University education.

The real free loaders are hypocrites such as Peter Dunne who paid nothing for his years at  University – whilst now expecting others for pay. And on top of that, using the full force of the State to enforce payment.

No wonder that so many New Zealanders, like Matthew Fraher, who  left for Australia in 2000, are justifiably angry. As he pointed out about politicians, they,

“… didn’t pay a dime and they’re having a go at us.”

See: Student loan debtor: I’m better off in Australia

And the system is actually encouraging graduates to leave the country. As Mr Fraher correctly stated,

I was paying about $10,000 a year just doing the minimum amount for the last three and a half years.

When I go to Australia I’ll be paying back $3000 a year.

They’re actually making an incentive to leave the country. “If anyone thinks that’s sensible or good policy, their head’s not right.”

See: IBID

None of the student fees/loans/debt makes any sense. Not socially, not economically, and certainly not for our country’s future as we continue to bleed people to Australia and further afield.

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evansknowlegewave

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Only  certain politicians and the low-information voters who voted for this mess could possibly think any of this was a good idea.

The sad thing is that New Zealand was warned of this eventuality in the 1990s by social commentators, left-wing activists,  and political parties such as The Alliance.

The real motive for National’s under-funding and cutting social services; taxing newspaper-delivery boys and girls;  and their latest witch-hunt to grab back every cent they can manage to ring from ex-students, is quite simple: National is desperate for cash.

After two unaffordable tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010, which cost this country in billions of dollars in lost revenue (see; Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, Deficit halved, but still higher than forecast), National is scrambling to cut services to save money and to raise revenue from every possible source.

All for promises of two tax cuts we couldn’t afford in 2008 – and still can’t afford now, five years later.

Alex Tarrant, from Interest.co.nz,  summed matters up succinctly when he wrote last year,

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Treasury lowers govt's forecast for 2014 2015 surplus to NZ$66 mln

Full story

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Mr Tarrant left out one vital factor: the tax cuts. He refers to “government receiving almost NZ$8 billion less in tax revenue over the next four years” – which is precisely the figure that The Green Party uncovered after some judicious political detective work,

The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6–$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.

“The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“Borrowing $2 billion in 18 months to fund upper-income tax cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

“National’s poor economic decisions have led to record levels of government debt and borrowing.

“They have also broken a promise to the electorate when they said their tax cut package was going to be fiscally neutral.”

See: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dr Norman is correct – National did indeed promise that tax cuts would be “fiscally neutral”.  But more than that, in 2008, National also pledged,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

See: National/Economy/Tax Policy

That has to be the biggest,  bare-faced lie from National since John Key took over leadership of that Party in November 2006.

It is also worth noting that  National’s expected surplus for 2014/15 is a mere $66 million. That is a fraction of the $72.9 to $74.9 billion in Core Crown expenses for the 2014/15 period (see:  Fiscal Outlook). It’s the cost of a damaged bridge-repair  or other unforeseen circumstance requiring government expenditure.

Little wonder that Ministers are directing their departments to scrimp and scrape to save every dollar they can get away with.

The reason this is so vital to National?

Because every other economic and social indicator is either stagnating, or getting worse. With their free market “hands off” policy, National is unable to intervene directly in the economy  in any meaningful way (except provide subsidies to certain industries like multi-billion dollar movie conglomerates).

National finds itself unable to engage in job creation programmes – that is the role of business, said Dear Leader,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. ” – John Key,  24 August 2012

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

National can’t even bring itself to help Cantabrians with housing – that is the role of private enterprise, said Roly Poly Leader, Gerry Brownlee. (see:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’)

With much of the economy “off limits” on ideological grounds and National unwilling to address critical social problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) – there is only one area where Key and his Party can show the voting public that they are an effective Party in power and “on top of things”: government spending.

In a bizarre form of political roulette, Key and English are gambling their political reputations on one throw of the dice; returning to Budget surplus in 2014/15.

That’s all they have. Most other economic and social indicators are worsening on an almost weekly or monthly basis and National’s Party strategists know that come the  2014 general election, they are in for a real nasty hiding if they cannot demonstrate to the public that they can return to surplus. After all, if the Nats can’t achieve even that, then voters would be scratching their heads and wondering what on Earth Key has been doing for six years.

That’s when Labour, NZ First, et al, will be showing clips of John Key dancing at radio stations, Gangnam-style. Or gormless-style.

Peter Dunne was being dishonest when he said, “It’s fundamentally a fairness issue“.

Rubbish. It has nothing to do with “fairness”.

What Dunne was really saying was, “It’s fundamentally a fiscal  issue”.

If Dunne was really interested in fairness, then I suggest that he, John Key, Paula Bennet, Stephen Joyce, et al, all pay back the full amount of student fees and living allowances that were paid to them when they were at University. Plus interest.

It might not dent the debt that National has accumulated since 2009 – but at least they’d be setting an example to the country, and not engaging in rank hypocrisy.

What about it, Mr Dunne – will you be paying for your University degree?

Addendum 1

Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2013 at 0:06
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Student debt
To: “peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz” <peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora Mr Dunne,

You have been recently reported in the media as pursuing student loan holders who have left the country and who are not re-paying their student loan debt.

In the NZ Herald you are quoted as saying,

“There’s a certain sense of annoyance amongst people who stayed in New Zealand and diligently worked to pay off their loans that these freeloaders overseas are, in some cases, getting away with it.”

It is common knowledge that you yourself (along with John Key, Paula Bennett, Stephen Joyce, et al) are all beneficiaries of a free, tax-payer funded tertiary education.

The record states that you graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1977 with a Master of Arts Degree with Honours in Political Science, and has also studied business administration at Massey University.

You may even have been in receipt of a taxpayer funded and non-repayable student allowance.

To show true leadership on this issue and to set an example to student loan holders, can we assume that you will be paying the cost of your tertiary education, along with repayment of any allowances received; plus interest?

To many people it seems curiously hypocritical that you are demanding payment for education from other people whilst not paying your own fair share.

As you said in the NZ Herald on 10 January,

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue.”

Let’s put it to the test, shall we? It’s fundamentally a fairness issue that you pay for something that others have to pay for as well.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

Addendum 2

National’s (tax payer funded) media spin doctors have been using a particular ‘line’ when it comes to cost-cutting our social services; instead of reducing government debt, they say that “savings will be reinvested” in other areas of state services.

Here are a few examples from above,

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.”

See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Joyce says the changes will slice $250m off the loan book and create $60m to $70m per annum savings for the Government, which would be re-invested in the tertiary sector.”

See: Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

The Government has announced it will make the first increase in prescription cost in 20 years at next week’s budget to fund reinvestment in the health sector in lean economic times.”

See: Meds price hike: ‘Children will die

It’s such a subtle piece of BS spin that it’s hardly noticeable. But it all a lie, of course. The cost-cutting – which they refer to as “savings” – will be used to reduce borrowing. And the borrowing is necessary because of the unwise, progligate taxcuts of 2009 and 2010.

Eventually, of course, most New Zealanders become weary of constant cuts to essential services and vote for a return to a Labour-led government. The re-building of our social services then begins in earnest,

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$1.5b injection for health - 9 December 2001

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Been there. Done that. Lost the t-shirt off my back.

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Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

The Great New Zealand Scam

An Expensive Lesson?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Greed is good?

References

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

NZ Herald: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b

Fairfax media: Budget 2012: The main points

Scoop.co.nz: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media: Student loan repayments hiked, allowances restricted

Dominion Post: Ten students owe $2.9 million in loans

NZ Herald: Student-loan dodgers face tough crackdown

NZ Herald: Student loan debtor: I’m better off in Australia

Beehive.govt.nz: Peter Dunne

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Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

11 January 2013 25 comments

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hodgson-cartoon-12-sept

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There was a time in New Zealand when health professionals like the legendary Doctor Smith created the first health system in the Hokianga without a single bureaucrat in sight. Until health management was corporatised under National 20 years ago the Coast had some outstanding no-nonsense characters in the public system but the intervening period has seen such people increasingly undermined by irrelevant bureaucracy and absurd political agendas.” - David Tranter, 9 January 2013

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After the spectacular cock-ups by Education Minister, Hekia Parata, it seems that the Health sector is next in line for the “National Treatment”.

Tony Ryall has demanded that the Health Budget be cut by $30 million this financial year (see:  Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery) Cuts to elective procedures that National’s spin-meisters “deemed to be of little benefit” are being planned – and details released to the media during the new season/holiday period when the public’s attention is focused on relaxation, barbecues, beaches, and “sinking a few coldies“.

Most of the mainstream media is also still “on holiday”, with minimal current affairs and investigative reporting being carried out by Radio NZ, TV3, and TV1. Only print media is reporting National’s covert cost-cutting programme – and even then, the Herald seems to be printing comments such as,

The National Health Committee has to find savings of $30 million this financial year from elective procedures deemed to be of little benefit.

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.

See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Note no quotation marks anywhere through those two paragraphs. The statements are presented as reported fact – not as government media  statement reflecting National Party policy.

This appears to be a re-run of National’s disastrous  “health reforms”  of the late 1990s,

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[National] Govt refuses extra ENT funding - ODT - 27 March 1997

Govt refuses extra ENT funding – ODT – 27 March 1997

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Call for funds  - ODT - 1 April 1997

Call for funds – ODT – 1 April 1997

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Wait for grommets a worry - ODT - 16 April 1997

Wait for grommets a worry – ODT – 16 April 1997

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Child health-care 'neglected' - ODT - 22 May 1997

Child health-care ‘neglected’ – ODT – 22 May 1997

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Sick children wait 2 years for surgery - ODT - 28 July 1997

Sick children wait 2 years for surgery – ODT – 28 July 1997

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Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

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By the time Labour came to power in late 1999, the public Health system was a mess. National had gutted healthcare through funding cuts; increased management-bureacracy; closures; low salaries for front-line staff; and a slavish adherence to right wing dogma over the needs of communities and people.

The new incoming Labour-led government had much to re-build,

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$1.5b injection for health - 9 December 2001

$1.5b injection for health – 9 December 2001

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(When National supporters talk of Labour “wasting money” during their nine years in government – this is what they are actually referring to: the re-building of our public services.)

Note the weasel-words from Roger Sowry, National’s health spokesperson, in the above article,

Roger Sowry dismissed the announcement as a cynical, political move to hose down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay.

[...]

“It’s about politics. It’s not about the patient. It’s about saying we’ve got a problem with health, we can get a story out that there’s   a big lot of money coming down the barrel – it’s  about buying a comfort level for the next election.”

Roger Sowry should know about “hosing down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay” -  that is precisely the mess that National  left this country up until they were booted out in 1999.

The above stories are just a tiny few of the headlines from the 1990s.

Here are a few more that Mr Sowry might recognise – or should recognise. They all happened on his watch,

Claim many burned out by health sector reforms – 21 December 1996

Minister asked to halt job cuts  – 24 December 1996

Retiring GP pleased to escape growing bureacracy – 3 January 1997

$1m of health funds spent to date on rent for empty office space – 25 January 1997

More health changes tipped – 8 March 1997

Health reforms ‘harebrained’ – 15 March 1997

Rural abdication mockery of health system -  22 May 1997

Must pay for ‘wants’  – 19 July 1997

Cuts to hospital services expected – 8 August  1997

Move for sick to pay more  – 12 October 1997

English gives surgery pledge -  12 October 1997

Death The Northland Way – The Star – 15 October 1997

CHE announces cuts to public nursing hours – 15 October 1997

The Nation’s Health – 1 November 1997

‘Serious flaws’ in Govt’s health funding formula  – 31 January 1998

Privatising the public health system  – 2 February 1998

GP hits out at health reforms – 3 February 1998

Acute heart surgery list nearly 400  – 5 February 1998

Funding for Dunedin eye clinic slashed –  26 February 1998

Anger on heart op delay – 12 April 1998

Poorer patients put off doctors’ visits –  29 March 1998

Shipley, Bolger sorry for deaths of patients – 3 April 1998

Booking systems risky process, surgeon says  – 8 April 1998

Deaths hangs over boost in health funds – 9 April – 1998

Life on the waiting list uncertain – 9 April 1998

English may review waiting list funding -  11 April 1998

Health cuts spell doom for services – 30 April 1998

English agrees system flawed – 19 May 1998

Hospitals now owe $1.3 billion – 4 June 1998

100 drop off surgery lists  – 10 October 1998

Health sector needs stability, minister says – 28 January 1999

Four forced off waiting list die  – 15 March 1999

Patients ‘no better off’ – 29 March 1999

Widow says little improvement seem – 3 April 1999

Hospital waiting lists nudge 200,000 – 4 April 1999

Staff shortages could hit patient care, say nurses  – 4 May 1999

NZ heart attack victims likelier to die – 7 August 1999

Public hospital ills blamed on funding – 20 August 1999

Health spending rates poorly – 24 August 1999

Home Invasion – 24 June 2000

etc, etc…

That was the way we were in the 1990s; hospital budgets slashed resulting in chronic under-funding; growing privatisation of  healthcare; medical staff leaving New Zealand; bureacratic management growing; and people like Rau Williams, Colin Morrison, and others dying on waiting lists… all while a National-led government blundered on.

Things became so bad that even medical professions like the Royal Australasian College of Opthalmologists took to placing advertisements in newspapers, absolving  themselves of all blame and responsibility for the country’s chaotic and collapsing health system,

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Cataract surgery fact & fiction - advertisement - 6 October 1998

Cataract surgery fact & fiction – advertisement – 6 October 1998

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And while medical professions around the country distanced themselves from National’s non-stop bungling, others were jumping in, keen to exploit people’s fears and uncertainties for profit,

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Heartwatch Insurance Cover - advertisement - Otago Daily Times - 21 February 1998

Heartwatch Insurance Cover – advertisement – Otago Daily Times – 21 February 1998

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If you feel uncertain about the future…”

Talk about manipulating people’s fears.

What sort of society were we becoming that the callous exploitation of people’s   misery was somehow acceptable behaviour?! Was this the path that New Zealand had taken?

Or was our collective disgust finally being voiced with this statement,

I get a sense that the public is saying in quite a specific way, enough’s enough, we can’t take any more, you’ve got to stop, you’ve gone to far.” – Ian Powell,  Association for Salaried Medical Specialists, on Health cuts by the National-led government, 1 November 1997

The Minister of Health at the time, Bill English, and his colleagues – many of whom are still in Parliament (like Tony Ryall) – have much  to answer for.  For this was their legacy.

It now appears that they have not learned the lessons of that dark decade.

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Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Full story

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Govt's proposed health cuts could affect children - Labour

Full story

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story

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Oh dear lord, not again!!

It appears that National may be hell-bent of repeating it’s ghastly performance of the 1990s – especially the late ’90s, where people died as a result of the then-National-government’s ineptitude.

And didn’t we go through a similar exercise in reducing grommet operations for our children in 1997 and 1998?!?! Oh yes, we did.

The three Herald articles above repeat the same mantra over and over again,

The National Health Committee, which is responsible to Health Minister Tony Ryall, is trying to find $30 million of savings in the public health system for reinvestment in more effective or better-targeted treatments.

See: IBID

What  investment could possibly be “more effective or better-targeted “ than  treating glue ear in children???

What “investment” could be better than removing a potential barrier for children to learn at school – a barrier called deafness, caused by glue-ear?!

The so-called “National Health Committee” are not new to this kind of narrow, anti-social thinking. They’ve been around for quite a few years and were involved in National’s blundering healthcare “reforms” – policies which led to the needless deaths of Colin Morrison, Rau Williams, and others.

This media report in the “Sunday Star Times”, on 12 October 1997, illustrates the sort of repulsive “philosophy” which this nasty little ‘Quango’ comes up with, from time to time.

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Move for sick to pay more - Sunday Star Times - 12 October 1997

Source: Sunday Star Times

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Note the comments high-lighted in red,

Patient charges could be increased to pay for more health care, according to a draft report by the high-powered Government adviser the National Health Committee.

[...]

If user part-charges were high enough, the report said people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding which demands for publicly-funded services should be met.

Make no mistake. What these invisible, faceless, nameless bureacrats were suggesting to the then-National government was that raising “user part-charges” would deter certain classes of people from accessing the health service.

For example, if you were poor.  Or unemployed. Or a solo-parent. Or a pensioner. Perhaps Samoan or Maori. This was the power of the State being used to determine who lives and who dies – not on clinical grounds – but on your ability to pay.

The article goes on to state,

The report said funding for health and disability services should be directed at services which:

  • Showed good effectiveness or benefit with those standing to gain the most receiving services first.
  • Are the best value for public money.
  • Are a fair use of resources

[...]

It said people must be prepared to made trade-offs to achieve  a sensible mix of proven, cost-effective services.

I don’t know about the reader, but these remarks chill me to the bone. These are bean-counters giving advice to the Minister of Health; advice which measures outcomes according to “ the best value for public money” and if  “user part-charges were high enough…  people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding” who has access to life-giving medical care.

The only thing missing here is what do they advise we do with the corpses of people who did not have the  “ability and willingness to pay”  for “ high enough user part-charges“.

Perhaps ovens…? User-pays of course. With the bill for incineration being forwarded to next-of-kin…

Which leads us to the next question;

The “National Health Committee” – Who Are They?

Who are the so-called “National Health Committee” and what are their qualifications to be making recommendations on our healthcare system?

The Committee comprises of these kindly-looking folk,

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NHC members

Source

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Mrs Anne Kolbe

Chair

- specialist paediatric surgeon and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland’s School of Medicine.

Dr Mark O’Carroll

- is a Respiratory Physician at Auckland City Hospital with subspecialty interests in Cystic Fibrosis, Lung Transplantation and Interventional Pulmonology.

Mr Craig Climo

- management.

Mr Ross Laidlaw

- retired corporate lawyer.

Ms Sharon Mariu

-  consultancy  in strategic and business development.

Mr Alex Price

- Chief Executive of Fertility Associates [...] He holds a chemical engineering degree, an MBA from IMD, Switzerland and a graduate certificate in reproductive medicine from the University of New South Wales.

Source

Of the six committee members, only two have medical qualifications  as practititioners. The rest are ex-lawyers, bean-counters, pricey consultants, and business-types.

These are the bean-counters – faceless and nameless no more – who are now suggesting that savings in the country’s Health budget could be made by effectively stealing $30 million away from our children who need grommets for their ears.

The committee members – with their usual euphemisms – called the cost-cutting, “disinvestment“. I kid you not. See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

So taking away a surgical procedure which gives our children a better chance at school – because they can actually hear what is being said in the classroom – is “disinvestment“?!

I call it naked selfishness and thieving from the vulnerable. So this is what the term “stealing candy from a baby” means.

I think every one of these “kindly-looking folk” should hang their heads in shame and resign their arses from this odious little quango. We have enough child poverty and poverty-related disease in this country without people like this lot, funded by us the taxpayer, adding to it with revolting policy-advice.

The New Year is just barely over a week old, and already we are reading stories of National’s intentions toward us and our children.

How many will suffer and/or die this time?

Addendum

Date:   Fri, 11 Jan 2013 at 1:45
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject:Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?
To: “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz” <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>
Bcc: 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>,
Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
“joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz” <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>,
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Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
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Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>,
“wellington.news@tv3.co.nz” <wellington.news@tv3.co.nz>

For the Health Reporter:

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?

http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/childrens-health-not-a-high-priority-for-health-minister-tony-ryall/

The “National Health Committee” recently recommended stripping $30 million from the Health budget by cutting back on grommet operations for our children. According to the NHC,  the insertion of grommets is the only elective procedure specifically targeted for “disinvestment”.

Question: Who are the “National Health Committee” ?

Question: What advice did they give to the National government in the late 1990s, which effectively would have meant high “part charges” for medical care, and more people dying needlessly?

Question: Did National try cutting back on grommet operations in the 1990s? What were the consequences?

Question: Why is the “National Health Committee” – an unelected quango that comprises of four business/consultant/lawyer-types and two actual medicos – giving advice to a government that might result in suffering and poor education outcomes for our children?

Question: why has a blogger demanded that the entire “National Health Committee” resign their arses out of that quango?

It’s surprising what one can uncover with a bit of digging around.

-Frank

Blogger

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Cartoonconsult

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References

Scoop: Tony Ryall – Reduction in State agencies confirmed

NZ Herald: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

NZ Herald: Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

NZ Herald: Govt’s proposed health cuts could affect children – Labour

NZ Herald: The Hobbit: should we have paid?

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

National Health Committee

Previous related blogposts

Priorities?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Inequality & Poverty

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give the rich tax cuts

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The rhetoric:

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.

[...]

Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. ”- John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: IBID

When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

[...]

So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.

The list goes on and on.  The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.

We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key,  27 Aug 2011

See:  ‘Socialist streak’ just means we have a heart, says Key

The results:

Interestingly, whilst Key’s 2008 speech (A Fresh Start for New Zealand) started off describing New Zealand’s growing underclass, National’s Dear Leader went on to describe a series of punitive actions that his Administration would undertake, if elected to power.

The following sub-headings in Key’s speech are illuminating,

  • Youth Plan (education, youth crime)
  • Youth Guarantee (education, training, universal educational entitlement, threat of benefit sanctions)
  • Youth Justice (extending Youth Court; tougher sentences for youth offenders; new Youth Court orders)
  • New powers for the Youth Court
  • First, the power to issue parenting orders.
  • Secondly, the power to refer young offenders to mentoring programmes.
  • Thirdly, the power to refer young offenders to compulsory drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes.
  • Tougher sentences
  • The first is longer residential sentences.
  • In addition, National will fund a new type of programme for teenagers who aren’t bad enough to be put in a youth justice facility but who need a serious dose of intervention.
  • National will fund a new range of revolutionary ‘Fresh Start Programmes’. (boot camps)
  • Finally, we think the Youth Court needs better teeth for following up serious youth offenders when they are released back into the community.

This was John Key’s “vision” of a “Fresh Start for New Zealand”; more punitive action against youth offenders – but precious little to address the root causes of youth crime; poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, worsening health, lack of training and apprenticeships, etc, etc, etc.

Key’s “solution” was to treat the symptoms of this country’s growing underclass.

So it should be hardly any surprise that those symptoms worsened, and the underclass; prison population; domestic violence; hungry children; poor housing – all grew.

The truly unbelievable aspect to Key’s shonkey speech in 2008 was how comprehensively New Zealand voters sucked it up, en masse.  (We seriously need to introduce comprehensive  Civics courses in our schools, to teach young New Zealanders how to recognise and deconstruct political BS.)

Tax cuts:

Whichever way we look at it, New Zealand in the last four years has become a more unequal society, and with growing poverty.

The first causal factor was the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, which gave the most to the highest income earners and most wealthy New Zealanders,

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tax-cuts-april-2009

Source

Additional info

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When, on 1 April 2009,  then-Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene asked John Key in Parliament,

How do low-income New Zealanders benefit from the tax changes introduced today?”

Dear Leader replied,

They benefit because 630,000 New Zealanders—the New Zealanders who do not have children and who have been relatively low-income New Zealanders, and who got absolutely nothing under the previous Labour Government for 9 years—get $10 a week, or $500 a year. It is a small start, and it will be welcomed.”

See: TheyWorkForYou Blog – Tax Cuts—Implementation

At least Key wasn’t bullshitting us this time; for those on minimum wage up to  it was indeed small. Someone on $100,000 would receive two and a half times more than someone on minimum wage.

The following year’s October tax cuts were hardly better – but this time the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%,

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Budget 2010 - What the tax cuts mean for you

Source

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The impact on low-income families – along with increased costs for medicines (see:  Prescription charges to increase), and other user-pays government fees – would be harsh.

Contrary to the NZ Herald’s claim above, the average earner would not be “better off”. The $15 a week “extra” would be quickly swallowed up in rising government charges; medicine prescriptions; increased petrol taxes; and the flow-on inflationary effects throughout the economy.

This was not a “tax switch” – it was a tax-swindle – with the richest making the biggest gains.

Interestingly, ACT’s Roger Douglas – commenting on the 2009 tax cuts – realised that National was having to borrow heavily to finance said tax-cuts,

Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Eric Leeper’s statement in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin that counter-cyclical fiscal policy could actually be counter-productive; if not, why not; if yes, why, then, is he borrowing $1 billion plus interest a year in order to give tax relief of $1 billion?” – Roger Douglas, 1 April 2009

So much for National’s promises in 2008,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

[...]

This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.”

See: National – Tax Policy

Salvation Army Report: The Growing Divide – A state of the Nation Report 2012

This document by the Salvation Army is one of the most insightful and far-reaching analyses of current economic stagnation; political factors; and related social problems. It pulls no punches.

This blogger encourages people to read the Report (it’s written in plain english; very little jargon; and contains excellent data, with references). It should be put into the letterboxes of every home in this country. Click here to link to the report.

[NB: The report was written at a time when unemployment was at 6.3%. Since then it has increased three consecutive Quarters to the current 7.3% (see: Unemployment January 2012 to November 2012.]

Amongst the Report’s findings,

1. Inflation, higher prices, increased GST, raised indirect taxes (eg, fuel taxes), and government charges, have off-set the tax cuts of October 2010.

2. If New Zealand is to return to the historically low rate of unemployment of 3.8% in December 2006, (from the then-figure of 6.3%), we would require  90,000 jobs, in on top of  25,000 to 30,000 jobs required each and every year just to keep up with the growth of the labour force. The figure of 90,000 will have increased as unemployment now stands at 7.3%.

3. The rapid growth in the labour force participation rate of people aged 65+ (from 14.1% in December 2006, to 19.5% in December 2011)  has been at the expense of  falling employment participation of young people in the 15 – 19 year old age group.

Those in the 15 – 19 year old age group, the Report states, have “borne the brunt of the recession and tightening of the job market”. Unemployment for this group rose from 14.3% in December 2006, to  24.2% in December 2011.

It is also this group targetted by National’s harsh “welfare reforms”, which attempts to blame young people as “work shy” – a ‘double whammy’ from the Global Financial Crisis and a right wing government keen to shift blame for rising  unemployment onto powerless victims of the Recession.

4. The numbers of welfare recipients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis and resultant Great Recession. DPB recipients dropped from a peak of approximately 111,000 in late 2003, to 96,000 in mid 2008. Since 2008, and as redundancies increased; unemployment rose; and jobs disappeared, the number reversed. DPB recipients skyrocketed to an all time record of 114,230 benefits by December 2011.

Far from being “bene bludgers” opting for the DPB as a “lifestyle choice”  (which is constantly parrotted by ill-informed conservatives and low information voters), solo-parents are as vulnerable to recessionary forces as other  workers.

5. In the year to December 2011,  average weekly earnings rose a only 2.6% from $991.05 to $1016.95. Taking annual inflation of 1.8% into account, weekly earnings rose  by a fractional 0.8%. With increases in rent, fuel tax, and other government charges, that increase will have vanished altogether.

6. The Report gave as an example of unequal wage increases the difference between hourly earnings in the finance sector increasing by $1.01 per hour, from $36.63 per hour in June 2011 to $37.64 in December 2011.

By contrast, the average wage in the traditionally poorly paid accommodation sector increased by only 3 cents an hour from $16.40 to $16.43 per hour.This was a clear illustration of  the average hourly earnings of the highest paid sector increasing 2.3 times more than those for lower paid workers.

7. Most of the increase in State benefit payments  over the past five years was made as  higher spending on New Zealand Superannuation (43% of the increase) and  Working for Families (37% of the increase). Approximately 568,000 people were receiving superannuation by June 2011.

This compared to 319,000 of other welfare recipents as at December 2011 – up  from 264,500 from December 2006. Welfare numbers were dependent on the economy and increased only because of the impact by the GFC-caused Recession.

8. Food parcels issued to families and people in need doubled from 24,250 in 2006, to 53,360 in 2011. Again, this was in accordance with the advent of the GFC in 2007/08; skyrocketting unemployment; and a lack of job-creation policies by National, once it won the election in late 2008. (John Key admitted to this on 18 October 2011.  See: Key admits underclass still growing)

9. Inflation of living costs for  2011 was fractionally higher for Low-Income Household CPI at 2.1% than it was for the All Groups CPIs, at 1.8%. Low-Income Households were more vulnerable to increasing costs such as rent, government charges, and gst increases.

10. The Report correctly predicted  that levels of unemployment would rise during 2012, and would negatively impact on growth in wages and salaries of poorest paid workers.

For a full understanding the the Report, it is recommended that people read the document in it’s entirety, as I have  abridged and condensed much of the information contained therein.

The Report reinforces anecdotal evidence, facts, and  stats, that are already in wide circulation and confirms that jobs, incomes, and those receiving social welfare assistance are all affected by the global downturn over the last four to five years.

After all, John Key uses that very excuse to explain away National’s poor economic performance,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis... ” – John Key, 11 Sept 2011

See: View from the top

Ministry of Social Development: The widening gap: perceptions of poverty and income inequalities and implications for health and social outcomes

In New Zealand, income inequalities have increased since the neo-liberal reforms and benefit cuts of the late 1980s and 1990s, although the rate has slowed this decade (Blakely et al. 2007, Ministry of Social Development 2006, Ministry of Social Development 2007). The New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report showed a million New Zealanders living in some degree of hardship, with a quarter of these in severe hardship. Despite the buoyant economy and falls in unemployment levels, not only was there a slight increase in the overall percentage of those living in poverty between 2000 and 2004, but those with the most restricted living standards had slipped deeper into poverty (poverty defined as exclusion from the minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of inadequate resources) (Ministry of Social Development 2006, 2007).

[...]

This greater income inequality has seen New Zealand move into 18th place out of 25 in the OECD in terms of income inequality from 1982 to 2004 (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Over the preceding two decades New Zealand experienced the largest growth in inequalities in the OECD (2000 figures), moving from two Gini coefficient points below the OECD average to three Gini points above (Ministry of Social Development 2007:45-46). One indication of the impact of these inequalities has been that relative poverty rates, including child poverty rates, have increased.

Source: MSD

OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?

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Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average (Table 1). In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average. In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

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Source: OECD

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At present, across OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%. While this ratio is much lower in the Nordic countries and in many continental European countries, it rises to around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, to a high of 27 to 1 in Chile and Mexico. The Gini coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality that ranges from zero (when everybody has identical incomes) to 1 (when all income goes to only one person), stood at 0.28 in the mid-1980s on average in OECD countries; by the late 2000s, it had increased by some 10%, to 0.31. On this measure, income inequality increased in 17 out of the 22 OECD countries for which data are available (Figure 1, left-hand panel). In Finland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the Gini coefficient increased by more than 4 percentage points: and only five countries recorded drops, albeit small ones .

Source:  IBID

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[See also Addendum 2 below.]

So it’s official – the Great Experiment in free market reforms from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, has produced growing inequality here in New Zealand. Indeed, the trend has been global,

Income inequality followed different patterns across OECD countries and there are signs that levels may be converging at a common and higher average. Inequality first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States, followed by a more widespread increase from the late 1980s on. The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States. But countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend: in fact, inequality grew more in these three countries than anywhere else during the past decade. However, some countries recorded declining income inequality recently, often from high levels (Chile, Mexico and Turkey).

Source:  IBID

It is no coincidence that the trends “first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States” – that is the precise period when Margaret Thatcher won office in May 1979 and Ronald Reagan became US president in January 1981.

Our turn came three years later with the Lange/Douglas government that ushered in “Rogernomnics“.

The OECD report above is simply being ‘coy’ by not connecting-the-dots.

What is more telling? Any person reading this would not be surprised. We have become innured to an unfair economic system which produces unequal outcomes and great disparities in incomes and wealth. As the OECD report states with alarmingly candour,

Increases in household income inequality have been largely driven by changes in the distribution of wages and salaries which account for 75% of household incomes of working-age adults. With very few exceptions (France, Japan and Spain), wages of the 10% best-paid workers have risen relative to those of the 10% least-paid workers. This was due both to growing earnings’ shares at the top and declining shares at the bottom, but top earners saw their incomes rising particularly sharply (Atkinson, 2009). The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle.

Source:  IBID

Furthermore, as the OECD report points out, “…more working hours were lost among low-wage than among high-wage earners, again contributing to increasing earnings inequality“.

The OECD report is backed up by Statistics New Zealand,

As with total employment, the drop in full-time employment mainly reflected a decrease in male
full-time employment, which was down 12,000 (down 1.2 percent).
Usual hours worked decreased 0.4 percent – down to 79.6 million hours over the quarter. The
changes in full and part-time employment reflect the fall in the number of hours people usually
work during a week. Over the quarter, the number of hours people actually worked decreased
0.8 percent, down to 73.2 million hours.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Ministry of Social Development - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Whilst New Zealand has no formal or official measure of poverty or material hardship/deprivation, there are studies and conclusions leading to reports that offer a disquieting insight into the state of income inequality, poverty, and child poverty in our country.

One  such report was conducted by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development in August 2012, entitled the “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011″ – a 195 page study.

The full report is available here: MSD - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

A much-condensed precis of the Report;

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2012 MSD Household Incomes Report ‘Summary’

  1. Household incomes BHC (before deducting housing costs) rose in real terms for all income groups from 2007 to 2009, continuing the steady growth that began in 1994,
  2. Income inequality increased significantly between 1988 to 2004, then fell from 2004 to 2007 as a result of the WFF package, and was still around the same level in 2009 as in 2007,
  3. Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
  4. From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
  5. Median Household  incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
  6. This fall followed a long and strong rise in the median from the mid 1990s to 2008-09 averaging 3% pa in real terms. GDP per capita increased at 2.5% pa over this period on averagwe,
  7. Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
  8. At the very bottom (P15 down), incomes were flat from HES 2010 to HES 2011 (protected by benefit rates being CPI adjusted and NZS being wage related),
  9. Inequality decreased significantly from HES 2009 to HES 2010 then rose from HES 2010 to HES 2011 to its highest level ever. This volatility reflects the impact of the GFC,
  10. On the AHC (HouseHold income after deducting housing costs) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high  ‘outgoings-to-income’  (OTIs),
  11. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  12. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 children (22%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001,
  13. Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011 using the ELSI measure. In part, this reflects the falling incomes of those in deciles 3-6, some of whom may already have been in a precarious financial position – the loss of income has been enough to tip them into hardship even though their incomes are still above the poverty threshold,
  14. Chronic poverty (as defined in the Incomes Report) is about having an average household income over seven years that is below the poverty threshold over those years. Looking at children in poverty in a HES survey (cross-sectional), 60% of them are in chronic poverty in any survey and 40% in temporary poverty. In addition there are others who are in chronic poverty but not in current poverty in that one year – this group is about 20% of the number in current poverty.
  15. In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
  16. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  17. In 2009, just over one in three poor children were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, down from around one in two before Working for Families (2004),
  18. Income poverty rates for single person working-age households trebled from the 1980s to 2007 (10% to 30%) and were 35% in 2011. One in 9 poor people and 1 in 4 poor households are from this group. The rates are higher for the older group living on their own (45-64 years) than for the younger group,
  19. In 2001, 42% of households in the lowest income quintile had high ‘outgoings-to-income’, but this fell to 34% by 2004 reflecting the introduction of income-related rents, and has remained steady since then (33% in 2009),
  20. In 2009, 37% of children lived in households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’, a rise from 32% in 2007, and 26% in 2004 – the 2004 figure was the lowest proportion for some time, following the introduction of income-related rents in 2001 (when the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ was 32%),
  21. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  22. The child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  23. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  24. Just over two of every three two parent families were dual earner families in 2009, up from one in two in the early 1980s, but down from nearly three in four in 2004,
  25. Children in sole parent families have a higher risk of hardship (46%) than those in two parent families (14%). This reflects the relatively low full-time employment rate for sole parents (35% in 2009) -  73% of sole parents were in receipt of a main benefit in 2009,
  26. The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
  27. People living in sole parent households are a relatively small subgroup, making up only 8% of the population.    Only 3% of those in sole parent households are found in the top income quintile.  On the other hand, a high proportion have incomes in the lower end of the income distribution.
  28. High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low to middle income households.  Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education,
  29. For the bottom quintile, the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ reduced from 2001 to 2004 with the introduction of income related rents, then remained steady in 2007 and 2009 at the 2004 level.1   For all but the bottom quintile, the proportion with high housing costs rose strongly from 2004 to 2007.  From 2007 to 2009, the situation for the second quintile continued to worsen, such that by 2009, each of the two lower quintiles had one in three households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  30. From 2007 to 2009, median household incomes (BHC – HH income before deducting housing costs) rose by 4.3% pa in real terms (8.6% in total).  This continues the steady growth in the median from the low point in 1994.  The AHC (HH income after deducting housing costs) median rose less rapidly (3.2% pa), reflecting the relatively rapid rise in average accommodationcosts,
  31. The increasing dispersion of household incomes from the 1980s through to 2009 is clear. For the period as a whole, incomes for households above the median increased proportionately much more than did the incomes of households in the lower three deciles Real equivalised household incomes (BHC) decile boundaries, 1982 to 2009   .
  32. In 2009 the incomes of the bottom 30% of the population were on average only a little better in real terms than those of their counterparts two decades earlier in 1988. On the other hand there were more substantial gains in the period for the top half of the distribution. The income distribution is therefore much more dispersed in 2009 than in 1988,    Real equivalised household incomes (AHC) decile boundaries (2009 dollars)  .

  33. The most significant structural change to the income distribution over the two decades from 1984 to 2004  is a significant hollowing out of the middle parts of the distribution from $12,000 to $30,000 (equivalised) and a corresponding increase in the proportion of the population in higher income households.  There was also a small increase in the proportion of the population in low-income households in this period.  From 2004 to 2007, the impact of the Working for Families package in that period is very clear for low to middle income households.The income distribution was more dispersed in 2004 than in 1984.  From 2004 to 2007 income inequality decreased.
  34. The significant change in shape of the income distribution from 2004 to 2007 reflects two main factors: (A) the impact of the WFF package on low to middle income households and (B) the reduction in the number of people in households whose main source of income is an income-tested benefit (100,000 fewer in 2007 than in 2004)
  35. As recently as 1996, the government of the time in New Zealand was openly disapproving of any poverty discourse.  However, in 2002, in the context of the Agenda for Children, the government made a commitment to eliminate child poverty, and in the Speech from the Throne in November 2005, the Governor-General described the Working for Families package as “the biggest offensive on child poverty New Zealand has seen for decades”.   The current National-led government, like the previous Labour-led government, espouses the principle that ‘paid work is the best way to reduce child poverty’. New Zealand does not however have an official poverty measure.
  36. The rise in moving line child poverty rates from 1990 to 1992 was driven by two factors: the rise in unemployment, and the 1991 benefit rate cuts which decreased real incomes for beneficiaries by a greater amount than the median fell in the period,
  37. From 1992 to 1998 the 60% of median moving line poverty rate for children fell as unemployment rates fell and incomes for those around the poverty line rose more quickly than the median in the period,
  38. From 1998 the median continued to grow in real terms, but the incomes of many low-income households with children remained fairly static through to 2004.  This meant that the moving line child poverty rate rose to 2004, indicating that low-income households with children were on average further from the median in 2004 than in 1998,
  39. On the After Housing Costs (AHC) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of HouseHolds with children with high OTIs (‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio),
  40. From 2004 to 2007, the poverty rate fell strongly … for the working poor than for the beneficiary poor. There were no further policy changes to housing assistance from 2007 to 2009 – the maximum rates of assistance remained fixed and did not move in line with movements in housing costs, and net housing expenditure rose for low-income households with children.  This is reflected in the rise in child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009 using the moving line AHC approach.

.(Report Note: when a household spends more than 30% of its income on accommodation it is said to have a high “OTI”  -  ‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio)

The above is a heavily condensed version of Bryan Perry’s report. For a full report, please refer to: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

It is fairly clear that income inequality is not only still prevalent – but increasing. The ‘Gini’ does not lie – and the Inequality Factor has risen from 30.2 to 33.5 (the higher the figure, the more inequality).

Child poverty is still with us, and remains  New Zealand’s most critical problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

Despite John Key’s fine words and stirring rhetoric, National has failed to change it’s core “values” and adheres to a dogmatic faith in the Market to deliver solutions to poverty in our country.

Yet, John Key should know precisely what needs to be done. As he told the nation five years ago,

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

The State invested heavily in Mr Key – as it did with many other people prior to the Rogernomics roll-backs of the late 1980s – and New Zealand benefitted accordingly from that social investment.

The social welfare system is designed as a safety net for citizens in time of need. Whether through job losses or injury or raising children single-handed, our society – through the State – demands that no one suffers. (Never mind the deranged ravings of the ill-informed on talkback radio.)

However, there is another role for our welfare society; to guarantee that the young from impoverished and vulnerable families  are accorded the same opportunities that other, luckier parents can provide for their own children.

This is a country of plenty. There is no reason why we cannot eradicate poverty; poor housing; disease; lack of adequate, nourishing food for all children; and low schooling/training outcomes.

The only reasons that this blogger can see for the perpetuation of poverty is a double curse on our country, namely,

  1. An irrational prejudice against the poor
  2. A debilitating lack of will

Until we resolve both of these collective “disabilities” to our vision for a better society, we will continue to reap the rotten fruits of our inaction.

On 28 November 2006, John Key said,

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.”

I see no evidence of that.

Indeed, six years later, Key admitted that the underclass he spoke of has not diminished,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Full story

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Addendum 1

It is interesting and worthwhile to compare the rhetoric of John Key’s speech, A Fresh Start for New Zealand, with the data contained in the Salvation Army report, “The Growing Divide“.  Both are worth reading. It rapidly becomes clear how Key cynically mis-represented facts to suit his Party’s election agenda.

Addendum 2

It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,

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OCED_New Zealand_GINI_coefficient 1970s_late_2000s

Source: OECD Income distribution – Inequality (GINI co-efficient)

A high GINI factor (close to 1 or 100, expressed as a percentage) indicates maximum inequality. A figure at zero indicates absolute income equality.

New Zealand’s GINI Coefficient rose (income became more unequal) from the mid-1980s to around 2000. At the mid-2000s, the GINI Coefficient began to reduce – indicating incomes are becoming less unequal. (Though has not addressed growing poverty in this country.)

What factor intervened in the mid-2000s to stem the rising inequality of incomes?

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working for families

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The same policy introduced by the preceding Labour Government,  which Dear Leader, John Key, once described as “communism by stealth”  (see: National accuses Government of communism by stealth) – but  by 2008 had decided that he liked “Working for Families” after all (see:  National to keep Working for Families unchanged).

After 2010, the GINI coefficient begins to rise again, as effects from our stagnating economy and National’s policies begin to over-take the positive income-redistribution aspects of ‘Working for Families’.

Income inequality in New Zealand is once again on the rise,

Gini scores (x100) for market and disposable household income, 1986 to 2011 (18-64 yrs)

HES year

Before taxes and transfers (market income)

After taxes and transfers (disposable income)

Reduction (%)

1986

36.4

26.4

27

1991

42.4

31.3

26

1996

43.1

32.9

24

2001

43.1

33.1

23

2004

41.7

32.9

21

2009

40.3

32.3

20

2010

38.3

30.2

21

2011

42.2

33.5

21

 Source: MSD - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Additional

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

 

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Inequality and poverty

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=fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlooks

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlook for 2013

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What are we manufacturing today

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We need businesses producing high-value products for overseas markets and businesses using R&D to develop those products which drives other benefits, like better production processes and marketing.  Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy.

We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. Our world-leading dairy industry also owes much of its success to innovation.” – Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

See: EDANZ National Economic Development Forum – Speech Notes

It’s a funny old world we live in…

Sunrise Industries…

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Central Auckland super brothel approved

Full story

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tobacco-deal-creates-50-jobs-in-petone

Full story

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skycity-deal-puts-laws-up-for-sale

Full story

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Another liquor outlet set to open

Full story

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Sex, gambling, tobacco, alcohol – the new profitable industries of the 1st century? We seem to have left out other “growth” industries, the modern sex-slave trade in women and children, and arms manufacturing.

Oh. Wait. Maybe not,

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Govt funds still invested in cluster bomb makers

Full story

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Oh well, National and it’s  free-market fellow-travellers will be delirious with joy. If there’s a buck to be made from vices and weapons, they’ll be happy as a pig in mud.

Now if only they can find the price of a soul, and a market for it…

And the Sun sets on…

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Sounds silenced by $20m debt

Full story

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Borders, Whitcoulls under administration

Full story

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Real Groovy Wellington to close

Full story

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Closing chapter for fine arts bookshop

Full story

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Bookstore another victim of public sector cuts

Full story

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Marbecks music shop closes down

Full story

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Meanwhile…

Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy. We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. - Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

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Rakon cuts full-year profit guidance

Source

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F&P confirms job losses

Full story

Warning as Haier wins all

Full story

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Oh well, one (Tait) out of three still seems a ‘goer’. How long for, I wonder?

Meanwhile, how are our export and related sectors doing?

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

Full story

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And the stats back up the ODT story above,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Not too good it seems.  The red-highlighted sectors all declined from 2006 to 2011.

National’s “hands off” doctrine, in deference of the ‘Invisible Hand of the Market’, is certainly achieving one result; giving advantage to our exporting competitors from other nations. The Nats seem resigned (hellbent?) to more job losses; more exporters going under; more skilled tradespeople leaving for Australia; and a further decline ineconomic growth,

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Job losses inevitable in declining industries, say ministers

Full story

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What the hell!? The export sector is a “declining industry“?!?!

When even National’s allies – the Manufacturers and Exporters Association – are calling for government intervention about the high New Zealand dollar, it really drives home the seriousness of the crisis. An economic crisis that this time had it’s origins on Molesworth Street – not Wall Street.

For National to persist in it’s “hands off”  and obedience to Free Market dogma will have nasty consequences for our economy.

For 2013, expect,

  • unemployment to rise
  • the export sector to worsen
  • growth to remain low, under 1%
  • an early election this coming year, as Dunne and the Maori Party desert the National-led coalition.

It’s easy to predict – we’ve seen it all before.

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

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outlook for 2013

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: trade

9 January 2013 2 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Trade

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The rhetoric:

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more exports more jobs

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The reality:

In simple terms, we, as a country, have continued to  import more than we exported,

2008/09

The trade balance for December 2008/January 2009  was a deficit of $341 million. This compared with a surplus of $38.5 million  in December 2007/January 2008. (See: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade)

2012

The trade balance for September/October 2012 was a deficit of $718 million. This compared with a deficit of $226 million  for September/October 2011. (See: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade)

As reported in the NZ Herald on 27 November 2012, the annual deficit increased to $1.37 billion. (See: Trade deficit widens as dairy values fall)

In graph form,

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New Zealand Trade Deficit Narrows in October

Source: Tradingeconomics – Balance of Trade

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On top of that, what we did export earned us less with the increasingly high value of the New Zealand dollar,

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NZ Dollar

Source: Tradingeconomics – New Zealand Dollar

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As Bloomberg wrote in October,

New Zealand’s annual trade deficit swelled to the widest since 2009 as exports fell to a 20-month low amid a decline in dairy shipments and a rising currency.

See: New Zealand’s Annual Trade Deficit Swells to Widest Since 2009 – Bloomberg

The high NZ Dollar not only affects the value of our exports (and thus helps to pay for imports)  but has a direct, inescapable impact on our employment,

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

Full story

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Whilst governments around the world were – and still are – manipulating their currencies downward, with several techniques (including “quantitative easing”) National remains wedded to a hands-off policy of allowing the “market” to determine the value of our dollar.

So while we are playing by purist, Market rules – other countries have thrown the rulebook away and doing whatever it takes to boost their economy and create jobs.

The “reward” for National’s obedience to dogma? Massive job losses,

Fears high dollar pushes some firms close to edge

Rakon blames job cuts on high dollar

High dollar blamed for job losses at wool plant

The outlook? Not good,

Currency outlook tough for 2013

National’s response?  Abject surrender,

If ever  a lesson was needed to illustrate the sheer futility of single-minded perseverance with a failed economic ideology, it is National’s committment to it’s  hands-off policy on the New Zealand Dollar.

And yet, when it comes to “sexy” industries, National will climb over broken glass to throw tax-payer subsidies at the likes of  “Lord of the Rings“,  “The Hobbit“,  Rugby World Cup, et al.

Whilst Key  will crow about “3,000 people have been employed because of the Hobbit” (see: John Key pushes Hobbit benefit) – meanwhile 40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since this Government took office in 2008 (see: Loss of work hits hard).

If, by now you are feeling anxious and upset, don’t panic. It simply confirms you are still sane.

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Report_Card_trade

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= fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Social welfare safety net

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On the other hand this is still the best country imn the world to be raised as a child - yeah, right.

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The rhetoric:

It started well… National’s bad old image as a “bene-bashing Party, pandering to the ill-educated; the mis-informed; and the downright  ignorant, appeared to be a thing of the past.

John Key was a product of a civilised society where social welfare could give kids from the most disadvantaged households a chance to better themselves.

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work.

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My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me. ” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

Key even seemed to “steal” policies from the centre-left Labour Party,

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Full story

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Perhaps National, under Key’s leadership, had learnt from it’s mistakes in the 1990s?

No such luck.

The Reality:

As the Global Financial Crisis plunged most of world’s nations (China and Australia being the two lucky exceptions) into recession, the ranks of the unemployted swelled.

As Brian Gaynor, executive director of Milford Asset Management,  wrote in the NZ Herald on 18 August 2012,

At the end of May, the 34-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent.

Nearly 48 million were out of work, 15 million more than when the financial crisis began in 2007.

The unemployment rate continues to rise in the eurozone and is now 11.1 per cent.

See: Baby boomers clogging the job market

Here in New Zealand, unemployment skyrocketted from 78,000 in late 2007/early 2008, to the current 175,000 – over a doubling in only four years.

That’s 97,000 who had jobs prior to the Global Financial Crisis who are now out of work.

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new zealand unemployment numbers jan 2007 - jan 2012

See: tradingeconomics.com – Unemployment numbers

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If it weren’t for the 114,200 who have migrated to Australia in the same four year period, soaking up thousands of potential jobless New Zealanders, one shudders at the unemployment rate we would now have (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). Thank the mercies for our more affluent, and clever,  neighbour.

It’s fairly obvious to all but the most entrenched, bene-bashing, Talkback Radio moron that New Zealand has not escaped the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

National’s devotion to market-forces has caught Key, English, and Joyce in a  trap of their own making.  Their dogma dictates that the State “cannot create jobs” – only the Market can do that, as Key stated on several occassions,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key,  24 August 2012

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

When the “Market” fails to behave as neo-liberal doctrine demands – then there is a problem. National cannot admit that it’s free market policies have failed. (It took the Russians seventy years to finally concede that their centralised market policy had failed them.)

For the National politburo, who cannot concede Market failure, there must be another reason why jobless numbers are increasing – not decreasing. It must be the fault of those on welfare. The unemployed must be to blame, as the Market is never, ever wrong.

Accordingly, from early-2011 onward, National began a concerted campaign against those receiving welfare assistance. It was a vicious, de-humanising, de-moralising campaign against those whose only “crime” was,

  • having lost their jobs,
  • had little access to training or apprenticeship,
  • raising children on their own,
  • were sick, injured, or disabled

From 2011, we started seeing headlines like these in our media,

Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Baby turns one, so get to work mum (6 June 2011)

Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homes (13 June 2011)

Single mum on DPB for decades (20 Sept 2011)

Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum (21.2.2012)

Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ (8 May 2012)

Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs (12 May 2012)

And if local bene-bashing stories weren’t sufficient to drive home the agenda of demonising this sector of society, National and it’s media corporate-whores could always rely on some excellent shock-value stories from overseas,

Man who fathered 30 kids says he needs a break – on child support (21 May 2012)

This next one was very popular at Federated Farmers – that well-known bastion of liberal sensibilities. The way that Bill English played his audience of cow-cockies and sheep-herders, with a barely-disguised smirk on his face, spoke volumes…

Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted (28 June 2012)

Benefit cuts for drug users defended by PM (2 July 2012)

Said Paula Bennett,

There’s two words we don’t use often enough in this country and that’s self-responsibility. The size of someone’s family is their business, so long as they don’t expect someone else to pay for it.”

So saith the woman who was on the DPB; had free taxpayer funded tertiary education; gave up her part-time job at the time because it was “too hard”; and had WINZ assistance to buy her own home…

Big families mean big welfare dollars (15 July 2012)

Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’ (23 July 2012)

Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut (6 Sept 2012)

Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan (7 Sept 2012)

And to really, really make sure we’ve been paying attention to this Nazi-style demonisation propaganda,

Beneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime (12 Sept 2012)

And in case we missed it first time, Fairfax gave the political dagger-in-beneficiaries-backs another good, hard, twist,

Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion (12 Sept 2012)

Though Bill English promised, hand-on-heart, that this was not an exercise in “bene bashing,

Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’ (13 Sept 2012)

Then the Nats came up with the idea of a law change of  “one strike and you’re out”  for welfare beneficiaries who turned  down any “suitable” job offer from July 2013. Which would be laughable, because both Key and Bennett  have conceded that there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone.

So what would be the point of a “one strike and you’re out” for the unemployed, except to paint them as “work shy” and “lazy”?

Propaganda. Nasty stuff.

‘One strike’ rule for beneficiaries (18 Sept 2012)

Funny thing… the media never compared welfare beneficiaries entitlements with that of politicians. How many beneficiaries get free air-travel for the rest of their lives for themselves and their spouses? Or a gold-plated superannuation scheme none of us are entitled to?

Those were just some of the media stories and headlines that assaulted our sensibilities and attempted to paint the unemployed  – the victims of the GFC – as “bene bludgers”.

All because National could not cope with the growing numbers of Kiwis losing their jobs, and had no plan to address growing unemployment.

So default to Setting ‘B’: Blame the Benes.

When Key stated that the most recent jobless stats – 7.3% unemployed -  had “come as a bit of a surprise” (see: Unemployment surges to 13-year high ), he obviously had not been paying attention to yearly figures from New Zealand Statistics.

Jobless numbers had ‘only’  been rising since the beginning of 2012,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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The scary headlines above were only partially offset by other media stories of New Zealand’s increasingly visible ‘underbelly’. Poverty was no longer staying behind closed doors, away from “polite society”,

Hungry kids scavenge pig slops (11 May 2012)

Welfare rejig carries whiff of hypocrisy (12 May 2012)

Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless (13 May 2012)

The same hate-campaign was being conducted overseas,

Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control (18 May 2012)

No food, no shoes and kids kept home (23 May 2012)

Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels (30 May 2012)

And then we came to the attention of the United Nations. Quasi-nazism – not exactly the “cool look” we want for New Zealand and it’s tourism industry,

Struggling families borrow to buy food (21 July 2012)

UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries (2 Aug 2012)

Principal wants taxpayers to fund breakfast scheme (12 Aug 2012)

Ministry memo critical of plan to drug test beneficiaries (17 Aug 2012)

Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU  (24 Aug 2012)

Playing politics is not helping kids (26 Aug 2012)

Even multi-millionaire, Gareth Morgan, had to state the bloody obvious for those voters who were still less-than-fully-brain-functional,

Bennett accused of dehumanising beneficiaries (6 Sept 2012)

Precious little sense on Planet Paula (17 Sept 2012)

Belt tightening won’t reduce unemployment (23 Sept 2012)

Experts lament state of NZ child poverty (24 Sept 2012)

And when the Nats did try to address a social problem, the result would have been comical – had the issue of murdered children reminded us what was at stake,

Child-abuse funds ‘blown on hype’ (1 Dec 2012)

Social welfare – the stats:

From the Ministry of Social Development’s website;

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Numbers of working-age clients1 receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 – 2012

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End of quarter

Unemployment Benefits 2 Domestic Purposes Benefits 3

Sickness Benefits 4

Invalid’s Benefits Other main benefits 5 All main benefits
September 2002

112,147

109,078

37,275

64,596

21,613

344,709

September 2003

94,527

109,366

40,802

68,361

19,366

332,422

September 2004

65,764

109,021

44,110

4,067

17,624

308,158

September 2005

50,153

105,692

46,067

73,813

16,440

292,165

September 2006

41,027

100,579

47,527

75,988

17,026

282,147

September 2007

23,158

96,673

48,995

78,268

16,140

263,234

September 2008

23,273

98,473

48,208

83,618

16,036

269,608

September 2009

60,660

107,658

56,384

85,015

17,094

326,811

September 2010

65,281

112,765

58,661

85,305

16,200

338,212

September 2011

55,661

114,147

58,651

84,524

15,513

328,496

September 2012

50,390

110,738

59,595

83,570

16,649

320,942

Notes:

1 This report defines working-age clients as aged 18 – 64 years, to reflect the minimum age of entitlement of most benefits and the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

2 Comprises Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Benefits – Hardship.

3 Comprises Domestic Purposes Benefits – Sole Parent, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Care of Sick or Infirm, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Women Alone, and Emergency Maintenance Allowances.

4 Comprises Sickness Benefits and Sickness Benefits – Hardship.

5 Comprises Emergency Benefits, Independent Youth Benefits, Youth Payments, Young Parent Payments, Unemployment

Benefits – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Hardship – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Student Hardship, Widow’s Benefits, and (until April 2004) Transitional Retirement Benefits. Youth Payments and Young Parent Payments replaced Independent Youth Benefits from August 2012.

Source: MSD – September 2012

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Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis.  Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate.

Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis. Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate. The rising red line, signifying Sickness/Invalid beneficiaries is linked to ACC discharging it’s clients onto welfare, to make their own books “look good”.

Source: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

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Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Source: IBID

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The above data yields three interesting observations;

#1 Beneficiary numbers mirror Global Financial Crisis

Unsurprisingly, the numbers receiving social welfare benefits shot up just after the Global Financial Crisis hit New Zealand’s economy,  impacting on employment. The effects of the GFC continue to this day to create redundancies and unemployment throughout the country.

Low-information voters and the lunatic right-wing fringe element in our society maintain the fantasy that welfare is a “lifestyle choice”, where beneficiaries are attracted by “big money” paid out in benefits.

Not only are welfare payments usually abysmally low (just barely sufficient to survive on) – but the stats above clearly show the correlation between the GFC and rising beneficiary recipients.

There were 51,334 more people receiving welfare benefits in September 2012 than there were in September 2008. This increase can be sheeted home to,

  • the Global Financial Crisis destroying jobs,
  • National’s lack of proactive job creation policies helping to push up unemployed numbers,
  • ACC’s policies with regards to to injured and sick (see below).

Such is the folly of relying on the “Market” to deliver jobs.

Such is the hypocrisy of Bennett, Key, English, Joyce, et al, who blame welfare beneficiaries for being out of work – and threatening them with all manner of sanctions.

#2 Overall beneficiaries are down

Surprisingly, those receiving welfare benefits up to September 2012 still number 23,767 fewer than September 2002. Overall beneficiary numbers are not increasing anywhere as much as what Paula Bennett, John Key, and their right wing fellow-travellers are insisting.

There are two possible reasons for this.

Firstly, 114,200 (net) New Zealanders left our shores for Australia from 2009 to 2012 (see previous blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration). Many left to find work overseas. These migrants might have added to unemployed and solo-parent  welfare recipient numbers, had they stuck around here in New Zealand.

Secondly, see #3 below.

#3 Unemployment Benefits vs Household Labourforce Survey Unemployed

It is a ‘quirk’ of New Zealand’s welfare system that married or de facto couples cannot receive welfare assistance if one should loose his/her job, but the other remains in paid work.

On the other hand, two people not in a relationship (eg; flatting in the same house), are eligible for welfare should one become unemployed and the other remains in-work.

There seems no logic to this contradictory situation and is even more unfair when one considers that the married/de facto couple both paid taxes, prior to one losing his/her job. That’s New Zealand’s bizarre welfare rules for you.

Which may explain why those receiving Unemployment Benefits from WINZ numbered  50,390 in September 2012 – whilst the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) recorded 175,000 unemployed people (see:  Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter).

WINZ records only those paid an Unemployment Benefit.

The HLFS records everyone, within a more inclusive criteria, irrespective of whether they receive a benefit or not.

Addendum 1:

Interestingly, the figures above  for Invalid and Sickness Beneficiaries rose significantly from 2009. This ties in with a NZ Herald report, dated 23 June 2012,

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The proportion of long-term ACC clients moving on to benefits has surged since the corporation adopted a tough new stance, which has fuelled allegations that they are being forced off compensation before they are rehabilitated.

Figures supplied by the corporation yesterday also show it has slashed the number of long-term claimants on its books by a quarter since mid-2009.

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But yesterday’s figures show that the proportion of long-term claimants leaving ACC and going on to health-related, unemployment or domestic purposes benefits rose sharply from early 2009.

In the five years to 2008, the proportion going on to benefits was 12.1 per cent, but during 2009 that rose to 16.4. In the first five months of 2010, the most recent data held by ACC, the proportion rose to 19.4 per cent.

ACC figures also showed the corporation had reduced the number of long-term claimants on its books by 3644 or 25 per cent to 10773 in the three years since June 2009. That reduction is well ahead of ACC’s targets.

See: More ACC clients going on to welfare

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Throughout all these events which are beyond the influence and control of the unemployed, solo-parents, widows, invalids, sick, etc, National’s demonisation of those on welfare has been  a shocking indictment of  John Key’s leadership.

What is it in the mental make-up of politicians like Paula Bennett, John Key, Steven Joyce, and Bill English, that treating those who have lost their jobs, or looking after children,  as  “bludgers” is morally acceptable?

Especially when they must have access to precisely the same information that I, as a blogger, have.

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Benefit myth busting

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Addendum 2:

National’s response to unemployment is the introduction of “reforms” to social welfare legislation,

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday introduced the second round of reform legislation.

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill replaces the current benefits with three new categories: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment.

It also includes provisions allowing payments to be cut if beneficiaries fail a drug test, have an outstanding arrest warrant, or if parents who do not meet “social obligations” for getting their children into health and education programmes.

See: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

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As Bennett admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

The question that begs to be asked: how many new jobs will this create?

Addendum 3:

So what did happen to National Food In Schools programme, that it launched with such fanfare in February 2007?

Not surprisingly, Key’s attitude seems to have gone through a Reverse Road to Damascus Experience,

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Key in poverty 'la la land'

Full story

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Govt guarded on free school meals

Full story

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But then, going from Opposition to Government will do that to politicians.

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Social Welfare Safety Net

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= fs =

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