from: Frank Macskasy <email@example.com>
to: “The Wellingtonian” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Wed, Aug 27, 2014
subject: Letter to the editor
.The Editor“The Wellingtonian”
At a time when the Capital Coast DHB is so strapped for cash that it is cutting back on services for the mentally unwell (see: Fears for mentally ill forced to streets), our esteemed Prime Minister – or the “Prime Minister’s office – there is evidently a distinction – is once again attempting to bribe New Zealanders with tax cuts.Never mind that, collectively, as a nation, we have a $69 billion dollar debt that accrues millions in interest payment, and must be paid back.Never mind that we have 250,000-plus children living in poverty as the jobless and working poor cannot afford the high cost of living.Never mind that people in Christchurch face a housing shortage and massive rent hikes. Evidently, according to earthquake-minister Gerry Brownlee, the free market will sort that out.It beggars belief that we have a major political party so irresponsible with finances that it is willing to spray money around to win votes, rather than address our multi-billion dollar debt and critical social problems confronting our nation.They do not deserve to be re-elected government.
[address and phone number supplied]
Fairfax media: Fears for mentally ill forced to streets
Fairfax media: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
= fs =
Acknowledgement: Garrick Tremain
NZ, Wellington, 29 June 2014 – About one hundred people took part in a peaceful – if noisy – protest on a Saturday night outside Wellington’s sea-front museum, Te Papa. The National Party had booked Te Papa for a cocktail evening, with flash tuxedos and expensive frocks de rigueur for the evening.
Needless to say, low-income families and beneficiaries were not overly represented at this exclusive soirée.
The protest action was organised by Pōneke Action Against Poverty, a recently formed grass-roots pressure group fighting the widening gap between rich and poor in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
In a widely distributed statement, PAAP spokesperson, Kassie Hartendorp, said,
“While the Government has been lauding a drop in the number of people receiving the benefit, real unemployment has stayed the same. Instead of lifting people out of poverty, this Government has been refusing to support those who need help.”
The group statement condemned National current economic, social, and environmental policies;
While previously refusing to acknowledge the reality of being poor in Aotearoa, in May of 2013 Finance Minister Bill English declared “We don’t believe there is a solution to poverty in general.”
At the same time this Government is supporting the wealthy to become richer. From tax cuts in 2010 to asset sales and the ongoing expansion of mining, drilling, and fracking, this government is supporting big business while ignoring those who need help.
Pōneke Action Against Poverty stated that they wanted to see a Government working to support the most vulnerable in our society. Kassie Hartendorp said,
“We want to see a rise in the benefit (for the first time in decades), and the introduction of a decent Living Wage which is tied to the average wage in this country.”
Judging by the style of clothing worn to the Te Papa cocktail party, poverty was not a problem for attendees.
Many of the attendees had to walk the gauntlet between two rows of protesters. In case anyone believes that is “unfair” – consider that 250,000-plus children living in poverty is also unfair. Let this be a reminder to National Party members of the consequences of the policies they support;
This was a salient reminder to those middle class aspirationists and One Percenters that there is real, palpable anger out in the community.
There was sustained, loud, enthusiastic chanting from the crowd;
“One, two, three, four! Stop the war on the poor!”
“What’s the story, filthy Tory?”
“Whose streets?Our streets!”
“When workers rights are under attack – Stand up fight back!
If those National supporters think sixty protesters were too noisy, imagine 250,000 children all screaming out for help. Something that Minister and National Party campaign strategist, Steven Joyce, might bear in mind, as he walked by;
Some clear messages for the National Party, and it’s supporters;
(Acknowledgement: Mick McCrohon)
When the Prime Minister himself puts down the poorest of the poor in this country, is it any wonder that people will react accordingly? These signs say it all;
Even the cetaceans aren’t safe from this government;
Co-administrator of the ‘John Key has Let Down New Zealand‘ Facebook group (current membership: 14,605), Karen Jones (R), with her two daughters, Katie (L) and Tracey (centre). Karen is the very proud mum of two very sharp, and dedicated, young activists;
And speaking of young people, these teenagers – not part of the protest – were curious to know what was going on;
We explained to them that it was a protest against National’s social, economic, and environment policies. They immediately wanted to know if it related to mining on the Denniston Plateau and drilling in marine reserves! They were thoroughly clued up on contemporary environmental issues,
“New Zealand’s such a unique landscape, why ruin it, just for money?”
“Money is such a short time thing but then, like, our environment is a long time thing, and you can’t really replace [it].”
It would be a mistake to believe that young people are disinterested in the critical issues of the day. They were knowledgeable, and they were articulate. They were firm in their opposition to mining and drilling in our national parks and marine reserves.
They are the future hope for our country.
Greenpeace’s envoy from the arctic, the polar bear, tried to pass on the message of global warming threatening our world. Predictably, National Party supporters were more interested in cocktails and canapés, rather than climate change, as they hurried by;
Police presence numbered around ten to a dozen, with additional private security guards to boost numbers. The One Percent must be very afraid of their tenuous hold on power.
The protesters re-grouped to face the courtyard in front of Te Papa. By this time, their numbers had swelled to around a hundred. They were no less vocal, as National Party members, Ministers, and assorted MPs kept arriving.
When Tony Ryall walked by, I asked in a fairly loud voice,
“Mr Ryall, do you have anything to saying about a quarter of a million children living in poverty?”
I asked the question three times. He walked past, with no answer.
Towards the end of the protest, Police arrested one person – Darren – for “Offensive Behaviour”. Darren had allegedly used a can of “spray string“, aimed at National Party members. As this blogger was present and witnesssed the incident, Darren did not “spray paint” the museum, and reports to that effect are untrue.
Police were quick to move in and arrest Darren seconds after he discharged the can. As the photos clearly show, Darren was relaxed, smiling, and at no time offered any physical resistance;
Several dozen of the protesters – many holding various electronic recording devices (including this blogger, ‘armed’ with a camera and Voice Recorder) – looked on. At this point I asked one of the constables,
FM: “Are you arresting this gentleman, are you?”
Policeman: “We’re just speaking with him at this stage.”
People were watching and perhaps this kept Darren’s arrest restrained and non-violent;
As this image clearly shows, Darren was not only not resisting, but stood casually beside them and made no attempt to flee;
After being questioned, Darren was led to a ‘paddy wagon’, some few metres away;
Three minutes after my first query, as policemen held Darren’s arms behind his back, I asked,
FM: “Excuse me, is he under arrest?”
Policeman 1: “That’s up to him. That’s up to him if he wants to tell you that.”
I asked again;
FM: “Excuse me, is this gentleman under arrest?”
Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”
Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”
FM: “No, no I’m not.”
Policeman: “Well don’t interfere with them, while they’re doing their job.”
FM: “No, no. No, no. Not doing anything [to interfere].”
FM: “Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with? Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with?”
[No reply from police.]
Darren: Offensive behaviour apparently.
FM “Offensive behaviour? [to police] Is that correct?”
[No reply from police.]
Darren: “Offensive behaviour.”
Policeman: “Hey look, if you want to video, I’ll take it that’s fine, but what I’ll just ask you to do is keep your distance while we’re dealing with this? “
FM: [holding my hands up]: “Not going to touch you guys, not coming anywhere near you guys.”
Policeman: “If you could just, yeah, like I say.. that’ll be great -“
FM: “Yep, yep, arms length.”
As Darren was handcuffed, I asked, I asked Police,
FM: “Is it necessary to handcuff him? He wasn’t being violent.”
Policeman: “Standard procedure -“
FM: “It’s what, sorry? Standard procedure is it, to handcuff him?”
Policeman: ” – when we’re dealing with him.”
There seemed no apparent reason for hand-cuffing Darren. He gave no resistance, and he fully complied with their instructions.
The following three images have been brightness-enhanced, but otherwise un-retouched. They show Darren hand-cuffed; and led into the paddy-wagon;
About half an hour later, as it became apparent that no further guests were arriving to the function, the protesters packed up and moved away without further incident.
On Sunday evening, following Darren’s arrest and release, I interviewed him on-line to ascertain what had happened.
Frank: Firstly, can you tell us what happened last night [Saturday]?
Darren: I was at a protest against the 2014 National Party Conference outside of Te Papa, where National Party Members were meeting for an evening function.
Frank: Can you tell us what the protest was about?
Darren: The protest was about a number of issues that people are angry at the National based government for pushing through despite public opposition, including the selling of prospecting rights on marine reserves to foreign multinational oil companies. At approximately 7:30pm I was arrested for ‘Offensive Behaviour’.
Frank: I was present when you were arrested. You used one of those party “string” spray-cans. You weren’t spray painting Te Papa, as some reports have stated, were you?
Darren: Yes at one stage I was holding a “string” spray-can. I did not spray paint the building. I, like other protesters, was offended by the behaviour of our so-called National Museum Te Papa that allowed an undemocratic right-wing political party, who I as a Citizen of New Zealand am opposed to, to book their premises.
Frank: Indeed, many people present can vouch that the spray can you were holding was not a paint can. So, what happened when you were arrested? You were handcuffed?
Darren: When I was first arrested a police officer took hold of my arm, I did not resist. They ‘patted me down to search me and confiscated all my personal items, wallet, cellphone, flat keys etc. I was ordered to put my hands behind my back and they put metal handcuffs on me. I was then told to enter the police van, where I sat for what felt like about ten minutes. Then I was let out and told to get into the back of a police car.
Frank: I was present when that happened, Darren. There seemed to be some uncertainty that the police charged you or not. Did they say they were charging you with anything?
Darren: I asked then what they were arresting for and was told the offense was ‘Offensive Behaviour’. They started asking me questions and I told them that I was remaining silent, which is one of my ‘Miranda Rights’.
Frank: Were you still handcuffed when they transferred you into the police car?
Darren: Yes, by that stage my wrists were bruised from the cuffs. The office sitting next to me attempted to put a seat belt on me, which would not fit because of the cuffs. I told the police that the cuffs were hurting my wrists but they would not take them off until I was processed at the police station some minutes later.
Frank: Ok. So all up, how long do you think you were handcuffed for? And can you confirm that you offered no resistance whatsoever? Because when I was present from the moment they caught you, using the “string” spray can, to the point they put you in the paddy-wagon, you showed no resistance at all. Was that your behaviour later, after they transferred you to the police car?
Darren: I think I was handcuffed for about twenty minutes, although it was hard to tell exactly as one of the first things that they confiscated was my wrist watch. The only time during the whole ordeal in which I showed any resistance was near the beginning when you were nearby, the policeman took hold of my right arm, which was technically an assault. I simply shrugged to get him to loosen his grip, which did not work. From then on I offered no resistance whatsoever and I remained silent for most of the time except to answer questions about my identification and residence etc and to make some general references, ie about the weather etc which had no bearing on my conviction.
Frank: Did they take you to the station to be formally charged and processed?
Darren: Yes, to my limited knowledge, it was done by their ‘book’. They processed me, gave me the formal charge of ‘Breach of the Peace’, photographed me, asked my intimate questions about my physiological and mental health, took my shoes, my belt and my ear rings and said that all my possessions would be kept in their safe while I was put into a holding cell for two hours. I was not allowed a telephone call or to contact legal representation, even though they mentioned that the police could provide me with ‘free lawyers’.
Frank: Did you ask to contact a lawyer or anyone else?
Darren: They briefly mentioned a lawyer when they were reading me my ‘rights’. I chose to remain silent except when an officer was padding me down and confiscating all my remaining property. I told the officer that when people are that intimate with me that they normally buy me a restaurant meal and a few drinks. The offer of a lawyer was not made again, and I was photographed and then marched into a holding cell, where I was left with no food, drink or telephone for about two hours, despite me telling them that I am diabetic.
At not time during the two hours did I have access to a telephone or my cellphone, even though I do remember asking for my cellphone back
Frank: So what time were you finally released? And have you been given a date to appear in Court?
Darren: It was about 9:40pm when they returned my watch and all my possessions. I think that they were annoyed that I remained silent and did not provide any resistance. According to my Breach of Peace Release Notice: “Subsequent enquiries have now established that: *(a) No charge will be laid against you in court and you are now free to leave the Police Station, OR” (sic) The notice was signed by the officer in charge. I was then marched out the vehicle entrance of the police station and told to go directly home.
Frank: How are your hands, after being handcuffed?
Darren: I did some wrist flexing exercises in the holding cell, that I remembered from going to a gym, to get the circulation back, but they are still bruised.
Frank: Any other observations you’d care to share with us about your Police experience? Do you think their detention of you was excessive?
Darren: Yes it was excessive. They didn’t need to handcuff me, they didn’t need to take every single personal item off me – what harm could I have done with my ear rings, for example. They could have asked if I wanted a glass of water or to make a telephone call. I had an ice coffee in my satchel, which they could have asked if I wanted to drink etc. The cell had a thin rubber mattress and a metal toilet, but that was all. They also didn’t need to hold me for two hours after processing me.
Frank: Will you lay a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Authority, do you think?
Darren: Probably not. No photos were taken of my wrists and the cuffs did not draw blood or cut off the circulation. No charge was laid against me and I don’t want to aggravate the police to change that decision.
Frank: Ok. Lastly, has this put you off taking further protest action do you think?
Darren: Not at all.
Frank: So we’ll see you on the next protest action then?
Darren: It depends upon what the next action is, but if the issue is important enough I will be there.
Frank: Thanks, Darren!
Ministers really should car their ministerial limousines in legal car-parks – not just anywhere it suits them. These two were parked on a pedestrian plaza and across a motorcycle parking bay;
But I guess National ministers pretty well do whatever they like these days. The law doesn’t apply to them, obviously.
As I took these photos (on my way to my legally parked car, for which I had to pay a car-parking fee), Darren was still locked in the police paddy-wagon.
For him, the law meant hand-cuffs.
Note: apologies for poor quality of images. The camera I was using was not the one I usually use. – Frank Macskasy
Dominion Post: National Party protester arrested
Aotearoa Independent Media Centre: PAAP takes on Nats
Copyright (c) Notice
All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ 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 or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 July 2014.
= fs =
After my uncompromising critique of an episode of TV’s The Nation, broadcast on 24 May, I was gratified and relieved that the producers and hosts of the programme had returned to a degree of journalistic/media professionalism that we should expect as the norm for current affairs in this country (and which is too often lacking).
The Nation, broadcast on 14 June, was good, solid, current affairs which left the viewer better informed after watching it. Hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower, and reporter Torben Akel, were on form with their respective interviews.
First up; Hekia Parata, on what is rapidly devolving into another of National’s disastrous, ill-considered attempts to insert neo-liberal “reforms” into our education sector. National’s $359 million so-called “Teaching & leadership career pathways” has been roundly condemned by the primary school staff union, NZEI, and the Principals Federation asserting that it is unacceptable and unworkable.
[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Hekia Parata]
A decidedly ‘robotic’ performance from an automaton-like Hekia Parata. (Have National Party strategists and contract scientists actually built a look-a-like android replacement replacement for Parata, to minimise potential stuff-ups from the mishap-prone education minister? And how did they make the android more realistic than the original?!)
Whether she actually convinced teachers and parents watching her performance is doubtful. When politicians avoid giving direct answers to questions, the inescapable conclusion is that they’re hiding something.
What is Parata hiding?
Perhaps the very real likelihood that the so-called “Teaching & leadership career pathways” policy is National attempt to introduce performance-pay-by-stealth?
In fact, my money is precisely on that call: performance-pay-by-stealth.
At any rate, she stayed on-message, and it was fairly obvious that Parata had been well-schooled by her tax-payer funded media-minders. She passed National’s Standard for evasiveness to questions.
Next up, a serious look at one of this country’s worst pressing social problems – child poverty. The Right can bleat on about “SkyTV aerials”; ill-informed moralists who lead ‘saintly lives’ can pass judgement on “poor parenting”, and the middle classes can turn a blind eye – but none of that will diminish a growing social crisis in our midst.
Prior to the introduction of neo-liberalism; the “free” market; de-regulation; and “more choices”, the term “child poverty” was unknown. Food banks barely existed, as this 2005 Child Poverty Action Group report pointed out;
There have always been foodbanks in Auckland, but until recently these were small- scale operations and, like the soup kitchens, were there to deal with emergencies and the requirements of the handful of indigents that have always been present in the urban areas of New Zealand. Data from the Presbyterian Support Services Foodlink Directory5 shows there were 16 foodbanks in Auckland in 1989. By 1994 this had mushroomed to over 130 (Mackay, 1995).
Nationally, the number of foodbanks exploded following the 1991 benefit cuts, and the passage of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). For those in already low-paid and casual jobs, the ECA resulted in even lower wages (McLaughlin, 1998), a situation exacerbated by the high unemployment of the early 1990s (11% in 1991). The benefit cuts left many with debts, and little money to buy food (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). In 1992 the introduction of market rents for state houses dealt another blow to state tenants on low incomes. By 1994 it was estimated that there were about 365 foodbanks nationally, one-fifth of which had been set up in the previous year (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). This figure was an estimate, based on information from the 1994 foodbank conference. There were no nationally collated figures, a weakness that persists in the sector today.
Regarding what in some cases was a quadrupling of demand for food parcels after 1991, Mackay cautiously hypothesizes that “it is likely that much of it was driven by the benefit cuts of April 1991” (Mackay, 1995). Foodbank workers themselves were unequivocal that the 1991 benefit cuts were the key driver of increased foodbank use. Reflecting those most likely to be unemployed or on low wages, up to 90% of foodbank users were dependent upon some form of income support, and Maori and Pacific Island families were over- represented among those seeking assistance (Mackay, 1995).
Lisa Owen interviewed Jonathan Boston (Professor of Public Policy at Vic, co-chair of Child Poverty Expert Advisory Group), who has written New Zealand’s first book on Child Poverty in this country. That interview was followed up by Commissioner for Children, Dr Russell Wills.
[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Jonathan Boston & Russell Wills]
Both interviews made for compelling, informative viewing.
Dr Wills and Prof Boston are professionals; academics; with a deep understanding of problems and issues confronting our society. Neither men have a political agenda – theirs is simply to inform anyone who will listen that child poverty is a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.
Dr Wills made this simple statement in a level, calm tone – but which was nevertheless dramatic for it’s content;
“My weekend will be full of poor mostly Maori and Pacific preschool children with infectious diseases that our English registrars often haven’t even seen before. Now we see acute rheumatic fever. We see tuberculosis. We have admissions to intensive care with children with illnesses that should have been treated in primary care but they couldn’t afford to go. We just don’t see those kinds of issues in our elderly people and I think that’s a great shame.”
OWEN: But these are tight financial times as you would appreciate; you have said previously the questions is: are we prepared to give up something for the vulnerable. So who is the ‘we’ that has to give up something?
WILLS: It’s people like us Lisa. The fact is that we have large numbers of poor children in New Zealand who are missing out on things that our kids take for granted. So the kids that I see on the children’s ward often live in cold, damp, crowded houses. They often can’t afford to go to the GP. They commonly don’t have their own bed. They frequently all crowd around together in the living room to sleep.OWEN: I appreciate what you’re saying there but when you say it’s people like us, that’s a nebulous concept. Don’t we need to pin down where this money is going to come from? Isn’t super or capping or raising the age, isn’t that a place where we can get a certain lot of money?
It’s almost as if Lisa Owen had taken Margaret Thatcher’s dogma (“there is no such thing as society“) and applied the notion to the question. Has New Zealand society become so individualised; so fragmented – that it is now a “nebulous concept“?
[FULL TRANSCRIPT: Colin Craig]
Gower started the interview with this bizarre exchange – almost reminiscent of a school Head Master dressing down an errant pupil;
Patrick Gower: I want to start with this extraordinary political cry for help that you made this week, effectively asking the Prime Minister to pull a candidate out of a seat for you.
Colin Craig: I didn’t do that.
Gower: Yes you did.
Craig: No, I didn’t.
I was expecting an impatient, testy, Gower to stand, pick up a nearby cane, and instruct Craig,
Gower: Right boy, that’ll be enough fibbing! Bend over for six of the best!
Craig, of course, supports beating children, so this scenario would not be entirely implausible. And no one would have blamed Gower in the least.
Gower then asked Craig this salient question;
Gower: So which one of those could you beat? Which one of those three candidates could you beat? And tell the truth.
To which Craig responded;
Craig: Well look, I don’t think I could beat any of them unless we run a fantastic local campaign and people get behind us. Last time I –
Interesting because of what was not said, rather than what was. No outrage over “dirty deals” in this interview, as Mr Gower expressed recently regarding the Mana-Internet alliance;
I suspect, however, that the difference in style in Gower’s critiquing the deals between the Right – and that between Mana and Internet (no deals in recent times have been proven between Labour and other parties on the Left, despite claims) – is not so much a matter of bias, rather one of common acceptance.
In short, we are used to an ex-trader Prime Minister doing behind-the-scenes deals so it is the ‘norm‘ when the Right does it.
But not the ‘norm’ for the Left because, to date, such deal-making has been rare.
Yes, of course it is.
But nothing will ever change because (a) the public have more or less accepted such political wheeling-and-dealing as par-for-course amongst right-leaning politicians and their parties; (b) it serves the interests of the Right, and (c) the media can get stuffed (in the eyes of the Right) because in the end, what matters is political power – not chest-thumping from a few media talking-heads.
That’s the way it is.
The Left can (a) adapt and engage in their own deal-making or (b) remain “above it all”; maintain a holier-than-thou attitude; and hope the voting public notice and duly reward them with their votes. Option ‘B’ is like going to a gunfight armed with a knife and hoping the gun misfires. There is no Option ‘C’.
The last interview, by Torben Akel, with Todd Barclay – the National candidate replacing outgoing MP, Bill English in Southland – was perhaps the most curious.
At only 24, Todd Barclay is one of Parliament’s youngest MPs. In itself, this not a negative factor, as we need representation from and for young people in our House of Representatives.
What was at issue was Barclay’s relative lack of life experience.
As Torben Akel asked in a introduction voice-over,
“But age aside, does Barclay have the real world experience to be an MP. Or does he represent the rise of an insulated careerist political class?”
National’s own website highlights Barclay’s limited life-experience;
Working in Wellington and then Auckland, Todd worked for Bill English and cabinet ministers Hekia Parata and Gerry Brownlee. He left Parliament to work for one of New Zealand’s leading public relations consultancies, before taking on a role as Corporate Affairs Manager for Philip Morris.
To be fair, one has to wonder just how much life experience a person can achieve by age 24. Though Barclay’s experience, thus far seems constrained to working for various ministers in Parliament and for a tobacco company that peddles products that kill people.
Not exactly a CV to be proud of.
In fact, it could be said that politics and public relations revolve around manipulating reality rather than living in it.
All up, a good interview; low-key and yet illuminating. Torben Akel did a good job presenting the person and his record, and then let the viewer decide for him/herself what to make of this young man.
Now it’s up to Southlanders if this is who they want as their representative.
The parameters “child poverty” nz on Google returns 178,000 results;
Not exactly something to be proud of, eh, New Zealand?
It is has been said before and it is worth repeating again; the greatest disservice that TVNZ and TV3 programming managers have done to the viewing public; their own staff; and to their entire network is to ‘ghettoise’ “The Nation” and “Q+A” on early morning and late night time-slots in the weekends.
Maori TV schedules “Native Affairs” on Monday evenings at 8.30pm. This suggests that the management at Maori TV have sufficient faith in their ‘product’ that they are willing to give it a prime time viewing slot.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for TVNZ and TV3.
(And no, we will not settle for “Seven Sharp” or “The Paul Henry Show“.)
National’s media release on it’s “Teaching & leadership career pathways” was published on it’s on party website; the Beehive website; and on Scoop Media. There’s a slight ‘risk’ in publishing an official party policy communique on an independent website – you never quite know what else is going to appear alongside the text;
I’m sure Parata, Key, et al in the National Party would be “delirious with joy” at having a political advert for Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party nested within their pride and joy educational policy statement release…
Radio NZ: NZEI, principals unite against policy
TV3 The Nation: Interview – Education Minister Hekia Parata
TV3 The Nation: Interview transcript – Education Minister Hekia Parata
Salvation Army: Hard to swallow – Child Poverty Action Group
BWB Books: Child Poverty in New Zealand
TV3 The Nation: Interview – Jonathan Boston & Russell Wills
Wikiquote: Margaret Thatcher
TV3 The Nation: Interview – Conservative Party leader Colin Craig
Twitter: Patrick Gower 29 May 2014
TV3 The Nation: The new breed of career MPs
National Party: National Selects Todd Barclay For Clutha-Southland
National Party: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways
Scoop Media: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways
Previous related blogposts
Facebook: Inside Child Poverty
Bryan Bruce: How to vote strategically improves children’s lives
Tuesday 17 June, 5.30pm
Panel discussion with Jonathan Boston,
Damon Salesa, Susan St John and Russell Wills. Chaired by Tracey McIntosh.
Fale Pasifika, University of Auckland
26 Wynyard St, Auckland
Thursday 19 June, 8.00am – 4.00pm
Inequality: Causes and Consequences
Student Union Memorial Lecture Theatre
Victoria University of Wellington
Friday 20 June, 5.30pm
Lecture and book launch
Speakers include: Justine Cornwall, Jonathan Boston, and Cathy Wylie
Royal Society of New Zealand
11 Turnbull St, Thorndon, Wellington
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2014.
= fs =
In the last three years I have been truly outraged and sickened only twice when watching a current affairs/documentary programme. The first was Bryan Bruce’s “Inside Child Poverty“, broadcast back on 22 November 2011.
Bryan presented the viewer with a country of increasing child poverty, disease, low-quality housing; and growing inequality that few of us (except hardcore ACT and National supporters) would have believed possible in a wealthy country like New Zealand. Especially a country which once prided itself on egalitarianism, fairness, and looking after those less fortunate than the privileged Middle Classes.
The second time was just recent – watching TV3’s current affairs programme, The Nation, on 24 May. The one word that came to mind as I watched the episode was: revulsion. Not revulsion at the fact that our once proud egalitarian nation is now one of the most unequal on the face of this planet – but revulsion at the injection of humour in interviews; panel discussion, and levity between the hosts, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower.
I am not even referring to Patrick Gower “interviewing” Ben Uffindell, editor of the satirical blogsite, The Citizen. Though one certainly has to question why this segment was deemed worthy of insertion? What was the point of suggesting that children living in poverty – many of whom go to school without food (or are given “food” that is of dubious nutritional value); no shoes; no rain coats; or lacking other items which Middle Class families take for granted – would find it funny to be given ice cream or a South American animal?
I recall a legend of someone else trying to “make light” of the plight of the poor. That person suggested cake, in lieu of ice cream.
The highly talented Mr Uffindell has never been invited to comment on other pressing issues and problems confronting our country. So why start with inequality and associated problems with child poverty? A question I posed to The Nation, via Twitter;
So why is levity suddenly the order-of-the-day when poverty and inequality is under the media microscope?
Because we are “just laughing at ourselves” some might say?
No. We are not “laughing at ourselves”. We are laughing at the thought of children, living in poverty, being given free ice cream and llamas.
We are not “laughing at ourselves”. We are laughing at children and families living in poverty – at their expense.
That is the difference.
Funnily enough, there was certainly no humour on The Nation (10 may) when ACT’s Jamie Whyte proposed a flat tax policy. Where was the mirth? The satirical hilarity? Where was the wink-wink-nudge-nudge repartee between The Nation’s hosts?
Any humour must have been lost amongst the rustling sound of $100 bills been eagerly counted…
On top of which, was Torben Akel’s piece on “fact checking” looking at whether or not inequality in New Zealand has increased;
“But first, a bit of good old fashioned fact-checking“, said Patrick Gower, as he introduced Torben Akel’s piece. A pity, then, that no one at The Nation bothered to “fact check” Akel’s reporting.
Bill English stated in the above video,
“Income inequality has not got worse. In fact we’re one of two developed countries where the OECD has recently as yesterday have said it’s stable since 1994. And in fact in the last few years there’s some indications it’s fallen slightly.”
Torben Akel asked for evidence to back up English’s claims;
“What we got was a page lifted from a new OECD report with a graph showing income inequality here in 2010 was less than it was in the mid nineties.”
So the “new” OECD report was based on data, taken in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and resulting Recession?! Data that was four years old?!
Akel continued with this – and here is the relevant bit;
“As for what had happened in the last few years, we were directed to the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes report, released last July. And specifically, this graph, which shows why the Beehive [is] so sure our income gap isn’t growing.”
A cover of the Report flashed on our television screens;
The document above is Bryan Perry’s Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011. It used data from Treasury to assess child poverty in this country;
“To calculate disposable income Statistics New Zealand uses the Treasury’s tax-benefit microsimulation model (Taxwell1) to estimate tax liabilities for individuals and benefit units. The resulting personal disposable incomes are summed to give disposable household income. Disposable household income is sometimes referred to as net income or after-tax cash income.”
“The Treasury has also developed a set of weights for use with its HES-based tax-benefit microsimulation model, Taxwell. The Taxwell weights include the number of beneficiaries as one of the key benchmarks, in accordance with Treasury’s primary use for the HES in the Taxwell model. Treasury’s Taxwell weights therefore provide a better estimate, for example, of the number of children in beneficiary families, although to achieve this there has been a trade-off with achieving other benchmarks…”
“We know that the estimates using Statistics New Zealand’s weights consistently under-estimate the number of beneficiaries compared with the administrative data. Generally, the estimates using the Treasury’s Taxwell weights are closer to the administrative data, but the sampling error from the HES can still lead to either or both weighting regimes under- or over-estimating the population numbers. “
The relevance of all this?
As reported back in February, Treasury had under-estimated the level of children living in poverty, as Bernard Hickey wrote on the 28th,
“Treasury and Statistics said in a joint statement they had double counted accommodation supplements in estimates of household disposable income between 2009 and 2012, which meant incomes were over-estimated by NZ$1.2 billion and the number of children in families earning less than 50% of the median income was under-estimated by 25,000.”
For those who want to read the actual Media Statement from Treasury, can be found here: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements. Refer to the table headed “Miscalculation – Scale – Key statistics affected”.
Bryan Perry’s revised report can be found here: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014. In it, he states,
“The revised trend-line figure is 32.9 compared with 32.7 [Gini Co-efficient] before the corrections. The trend line is still flat.”
(The Gini Co-efficient measures inequality, with the higher the value, the lower the equality in income.)
The”trend line” may still be “flat”, but I submit to the reader that for a family on low income; paying exorbitant rent; in a cold, damp house, with very little food in the pantry and fridge – it matters very little.
What does matter is that since 1984, before the Neo-Liberal “revolution”, the Gini Coefficient was only 28.
It is now 37.7.
We are going in the wrong direction.
So not only are National’s claims not backed up by evidence; not only has data been found to be incorrect; but also Torben Akel and The Nation’s research team missed the obvious; inequality has worsened since 1984.
Falling home ownership rates are another indicator which confirm increasing inequality in this country (and throughout the rest of the world).
The Nation’s comedic episode continued with this exchange between hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower, and panellists, author Max Rashbrooke, and right-wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton;
Lisa Owen: “Let’s change to a lighter note. The Civilian Party. Let’s be clear. That was a bit of fun. It was tongue in cheek, if anyone’s confused about that out there. Do we need this in an election year. Do we need some humour?”
Max Rashbrooke: “Oh I think, absolutely. I mean it’s great to see Ben do his thing with the Civilian [Party].
If there’s a problem though, it’s that some of his policies which he puts out as satire, are actually quite close to reality. I mean he talks about we should tax the poor, more. Well actually, if you add up income tax and gst, people on low incomes are paying pretty much the same proportion of their income in tax as people at the top half. If you added capital gains into that story, the poor are probably paying a bigger chunk of their income than the rich are.”
Patrick Gower: “And, and, I, I agree with you there. Because llamas, in my opinion have been dodging tax for years and years, and until someone moves on that loophole, um…”
[general hilarity ensues]
Then Matthew Hooton had to go spoil it all by getting All Serious again, and witter on about Paradise in Scandinavia with more of his skewed ‘spin’ on those country’s taxation system.
Yup. Poverty and rising inequality. A laugh a minute.
What next on The Nation – point and laugh at people with disabilities?
“Jolly good fun”!
TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 May also had Ben Uffindell as a guest. As usual, his wit was on form. The big, big difference between Q+A and The Nation? On the former, he satirised and poked fun at politicians. On the latter, the targets for laughter were children in poverty.
Draw your own conclusions.
TV3: Inside Child Poverty
Twitter: Frank Macskasy/The Nation
Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011
Hive News: Inequality data error revealed
Wikipedia: Gini Coefficient
Statistics NZ: 2013 Census – Trend of lower home ownership continues
The Standard: Snapshot of a nation: inequality
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2014.
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- Focus on Politics -
- Friday 23 May 2014 -
- Brent Edwards -
A weekly analysis of significant political issues.
Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm
Youth unemployment has decreased since the last election but that still leaves 75 thousand young people in New Zealand who are not doing any kind of work, training or education.
Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 23 May 2014 ( 17′ 5″ )
- Budget 2014, Paid Parental Leave, Free medical care for Under 13s
- Income inequality & child poverty
- Youth unemployment (NEETs)
- wage growth, jobs
- external deficit, exports, China, dairy industry, tourism
- housing, capital gains tax
- government surplus, research and science, innovation
- health spending, education spending, superannuation spending
- superannuation age of eligibility, Bill English
- tax cuts
= fs =
Right Wing blogger and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, wrote in the Dominion Post on the day after the Budget,
“By contrast I expect debate on the New Zealand Budget to be over by Monday morning.”
Don’t you believe it, sunshine.
National’s sixth budget contained spending on;
- $171.8 million to extend paid parental leave (PPL):
- Additional four weeks, starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016.
- Extend eligibility of paid parental leave to caregivers other than parents (for example, “Home for Life” caregivers), and to extend parental leave payments to people in less-regular jobs or who recently changed jobs.
- $42.3 million to increase the parental tax credit (PTC) from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increase the payment period from eight to 10 weeks, from 1 April 2015.
- $155.7 million to help early childhood centres remain affordable and increase participation towards the 98 per cent target.
- $33.2 million in 2014/15 to help vulnerable children, including eight new Children’s Teams to identify and work with at-risk children, screening of people who work with children, and additional resources to support children in care.
- $90 million to provide free GP visits and prescriptions for children aged under 13, starting on 1 July 2015.
It was perhaps the last item – free healthcare for Under 13s – that took the media, public, and Opposition by surprise. As others have stated, it was a policy lifted straight from the policy pages of Labour, Greens, or Mana.
Other increases in funding included increased funding ($10.4 million) for sexual violence services
Sexual violence services have been critically under-funded since 2012 and many were forced to cut back on staffing as funding dried up in Wellington, Auckland, and elsewhere. It is fairly evident that funding increases for child healthcare, parental leave, and sexual violence services have all been left for 2014.
Which conveniently also happens to be election year.
As far as cynical self-interest goes, these Budget funding-measures are an obvious – if utterly crude – attempt at currying public favour as Election Day bears down on this government.
Why was funding for sexual violence community groups not made available earlier, so that full staffing levels and services for survivors could be maintained? $10.4 million dollars out of a Government revenue of $64.1 billion is not massive by any standard. In fact, it is just a shade under one year’s worth of Ministerial travel, at $11 million.
By comparison, National gave a tax-payer funded bail-out of $30 million to the Rio Tinto aluminium smelter last August – three times what was eventually budgetted for sexual violence services.
Even the $2 million of taxpayer’s money paid by National to a Golf Tournament over the last three years would have assisted these much-needed groups keep their services intact and skilled counsellors employed, until this month’s Budget.
Leaving critical funding till Election Year is tantamount to abusing the victims of sexual violence all over again.
The same could be said of funding free healthcare for Under 13s. If it is a good idea now – why was it not a good idea two years ago?
It’s not as if John Key did not acknowledge the growing under-class in this country only three years ago;
And a year later, this staggering headline appeared in the media – a story few of us would ever believe would happen here, in Gods Own;
Little wonder then, that Dr Nikki Turner, from the Child Poverty Action Group, was less than impressed by National’s sudden transformation into a quasi-social democratic party with a newly-cloned heart, and a belated attempt to improve children’s health;
A child lobby group says free doctors’ visits and prescriptions will make little difference to reducing child poverty without also improving the incomes and the housing conditions of the very poor.
“Without adequate income, without adequate warmth and housing, we’re not going to (make) a lot of difference at this stage to our children’s health.”
Indeed. Without addressing the core causes of poverty-related diseases, National’s free health-care plan is simply a multi-million dollar band-aid. The root causes of those diseases will still be present in many households up and down the country.
If Key and English thought that their band-aid solutions would be gratefully accepted by an uncritical, compliant media and public, they were mistaken.
An un-named author of an editorial in the Dominion Post on 16 May stated,
“This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?”
The same editorial went on,
“The other glaring black hole in the Budget is the housing crisis. More and more New Zealanders cannot afford a house, and the Government’s response is muted and inadequate. The Budget promises to remove tariffs on building supplies, a sensible step following revelations about the high price of such materials here compared with Australia. But the change will cut only a few thousand dollars from the price of a house.
Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.”
This is where John Key and Bill English have mis-calculated badly, and which no one (?) has picked up.
After all, if a problem with children’s health was not critical, why would a fiscally conservative government fund free doctor’s visits to the tune of $90 million? Indeed, as Trevor McGlinchey for the NZ Council of Christian Social Services said, on 16 May,
“In providing $500 million of support for children and families over four years the Government has recognised many of our families are suffering.”
The key-word here is “recognised“.
In funding free healthcare, National has admitted to anyone who will take notice that a problem of some magnitude exists in this country. They can no longer hide behind platitudes.
As the above editorial went on to state,
“At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.”
The author of that piece is being optimistic. By acknowledging that a problem exists; by acknowledging that state funding is required; and by acknowledging that a “radical” (for National, this is radical stuff) solution is required – they have left themselves wide open in this election campaign.
A campaign manager with a posse of motivated, clued-up, and capable strategists, will be able to use this in the up-coming election campaign. Like a game of chess, in trying to show how “clever” they were in manipulating public perception, National have left their “social policy flank” exposed and vulnerable.
So much for Kiwiblogger Mr Farrar’s misplaced optimism that “I expect debate on the New Zealand Budget to be over by Monday morning”.
Quite the contrary, David.
By shining a bright, $90 million spotlight on this problem, they can no longer deny that it exists or is “improving”.
It’s only just begun.
The cost of financing this country’s $59 billion debt is shown in this Dominion Post graphic;
The cost of financing our debt is shown to to $3.9 billion, per year.
Two years ago, the Green Party used Parliamentary Library information to estimate the cost of the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts;
“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 cost of those tax cuts is roughly the equivalent of what we are now paying to service our overall debt.
So much for National’s “prudent fiscal managing” of the government’s books.
Someone at the Dominion Post seems to have a rather shocking memory. At the bottom of Page A4, in their 16 May edition, this item was published;
Promised tax-cuts in 2009 were not “axed”. As this IRD page explained;
Key even made this helpful suggestion to those who did not want their tax cuts to donate them to charity,
“I am just as sure there are many who are in a position to donate some of that extra income”.
Which would make it hard to donate non-existent tax cuts, as the author of the Dominion Post article claimed.
This graph from Treasury (with a minor enhancement by this blogger) shows our borrowings from 2003 to 2013, with subsequent estimations.
According to the graph, we can see how Labour paid down the country’s sovereign debt, leaving New Zealand well-placed to weather the on-coming Global Financial Crisis and resulting recession. Something even Key and English have had to admit on occasion;
“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”
Dominion Post: English spreads the lolly far and wide
NZ Treasury: Key Facts for Taxpayers (Part 1)
Manawatu Standard: Boost for rape crisis services welcomed
Fairfax media: Rape crisis line forced to cut staff
Dominion Post: Wellington rape centre forced to cut hours
NZ Treasury: Government Revenue
Fairfax media: MPs’ travel costs rise
NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto
NZ Herald: Golf event tots up $2m in Govt aid
NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing
Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops
Radio NZ: Child lobby sceptical of budget moves
Dominion Post: Editorial – The crowd goes mild at Budget
Parliament: Inequality—Assets and Income
Scoop media: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting
Dominion Post: Child poverty still not being corrected
Otago Daily Times: Key says donate tax cuts to charity
NZ Treasury: Net debt peaks as a share of GDP in 2014/15
National.co.nz: Mixed Ownership
Previous related blogposts
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 May 2014.
= fs =
- Focus on Politics -
- Friday 21 February 2014 -
- Brent Edwards -
A weekly analysis of significant political issues.
Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm
Disagreement about how to reduce poverty and inequality is looming as one of the big debates of election year.
Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 21 February 2014 ( 16′ 38″ )
= fs =
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $18.40/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- Guest Author: The Rock Fuels NZ Roastbuster Rape Culture
- Dunne won’t read ‘muck-raking’ Dirty Politics
- Whale spotted off Wellington
- Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 1 September 2014
- Call for Aaron Bhatnagar’s resignation from govt body
- National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited
- A positive story of political co-operation!
- “Dirty Politics” – the fall-out continues…
- Letter to the Editor – a message to Cantabrians
- Letter to the Editor – fiscal irresponsibility by National
- Letter to the Editor – the PM? Or PM’s Office?
- Party Lists – Election 2014
- The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next Leader of the National Party?
- Letter to the editor – fiscal prudence or another election bribe?
- Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 25 August 2014
- Radio NZ Debate: Bill English vs David Parker
- The Donghua Liu Affair: Evidence of Collusion between the NZ Herald and Immigration NZ?
- So who’s a “conspiracy theorist” now?!
- Letter to the Editor – Key’s credibility, blown in the wind…
- My political compass…
- I do not condone this…
- Letter to the Editor – Transparency in government – do we have it or not?!
- Letter to the Editor – The Marianna’s Trench or Pluto?! WTF was Key holidaying?!
- Letter to the Editor – Just what is the Prime Minister’s role?!
- “Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man
- 2014 – Ongoing jobless tally
- Letter to the Editor: no phones in Hawaii, eh?
- When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*
- Key’s ducking for cover – utterly unbelievable!!!
- Letter to the Editor: National’s blighted future?
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