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Posts Tagged ‘child poverty’

Deep thought vs Deep prejudice

2 October 2014 3 comments

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Unemployment

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This letter to the editor appeared in The Listener, on 27 September, and caught my attention;

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letter to editor - the listener - Peter Dawson - child poverty - 27 september 2014

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Mr Dawson wrote in response to one of those typically unthinking comments which  condemned the poor for their “unbridled, reckless breeding“. The previous letter writer, a Mr Smith,  parrotted the usual prejudice,

For too long, family numbers have blown out of control, because the state, funded by people who took a responsible attitude towards family numbers, has been there to pick up the tab, and this has bred a culture of entitlement

The problem with people like Mr Smith is that no thinking is required when making such puerile statements. He just repeats what he’s heard from elsewhere.

It’s worthwhile recalling that before the Global Financial Crisis – caused by well-educated, white old men (and predominantly, they are usually always White Old Men) – unemployment in New Zealand in  the September 2007 Quarter stood at 3.5% – or around  79,000 people.

By 2012, that had rocketed to 7.3% – or 173,000 of our fellow New Zealanders.

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That’s 95,000 men and women who went from wage and salary earners – to the “lifestyle choice of luxury living on unemployment” .

Even with unemployment currently at 5.6%, there are still 137,000 people unemployed – 58,000 more than seven years ago. Factor in a growing problem of under-employment, and it becomes apparent very quickly why we have growing child poverty in this country. Especially when the definition of being ‘employed’ is working only one hour  a week (or more), whether paid or un-paid.

When public or media attention is focused on high unemployment and poverty and government policies – the causation of   these problems is slated home to the GFC.

But taken in isolation, when the focus is on families suffering the effects of unemployment and poverty – the problem is slated home to “individual responsibility”.

The ignorance of people like Mr Smith is a kind of self-inflicted, Orwellian, double-think. No brain-power required.

By blaming individuals, and pointing to a so-called lack of ‘personal responsibility for indulging in irresponsible sexual activity’, Mr Smith is saved from the task of having to think through the issues. (Or else he’s just jealous he’s not ‘gettin’ some action‘, as our American cuzzies phrase it so eloquently in ghetto/under-class idiom?)

The next time Mr Smith or one of his clones parrots the same preconceived prejudice, they should be posed the question; what do we do with the children of workers who were in work, but now aren’t?

Do we;

Option A: Adopt the Eastern European gangster method and sell them into sexual slavery?

Option B: Adopt the Asian method, and chain them to sewing machines in sweat-shops, churning out Nikes and trendy t-shirts bearing witty  social-justice slogans for Western consumers?

Option C: Or just go with the ISIS technique of mass extermination?

Once we sort out that little “issue” (because actually calling these things problems then demands solutions – an ‘issue’ only requires a cuppa tea and a chat), we can turn our attention to more pressing matters, according to our esteemed Dear Leader;

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Damn. Which one?

Maybe we should ask Mr Smith. Perhaps it’s something he has thought deeply about?

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References

The Listener: Letters to Editor 20 September 2014

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2007 quarter

MoBIE/Dept of Labour: Labour Market Reports – Employment and Unemployment – March 2008 Quarter

NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high

Reserve Bank NZ: Employment

Statistics NZ: Labour market statistics for the June 2014 quarter  –  Media Release

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Definitions

Statistics NZ: Introducing new measures of underemployment

Irregular Times:  Celebrate Labor Day Without Outsourced Sweatshop T-Shirts – wear a sweatshop-free shirt instead

Fairfax media: Key moves for poll on change to flag


 

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if you work one hour a week

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 September 2014

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Teflon Man No More

19 September 2014 3 comments

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On 26 August, as Nicky Hager’s expose on New Zealand’s right wing politics hit public consciousness and confirmed our worst fears, I wrote,

“Dirty Politics” has achieved more than simply revealing  unwholesome machinations between National party apparatchiks, ministers, and halfway-insane right-wing bloggers. The book has explained the nature of Key’s seemingly “Teflon” nature. The secret is revealed; the mystery is stripped away; and now, when Key is confronted by a media pack, the brown smelly stuff is sticking to him.

Two days later, I repeated my belief that Key’s seemingly air-of-invulnerability had been swept away;

The Teflon Man is no more. He has been terminally weakened by his own ‘kryptonite’ – truth.

My perception of Key’s new status as just another garden-variety politician has been born out by this extraordinary exchange between TV3’s Lisa Owen, and our soon-to-be replaced Prime Minister;

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Lisa owen - john key - TV3 - The Nation - election 2014

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Until 7.05, the rather routine discussion between Owen and Key centers around National’s options to govern, post election. Coalition options and minority government are discussed, and Key confidently handles each scenario thrown at him by the host.

At 7.05, however, matters take a turn for the worst for Key when Lisa Owen raised the subject of child poverty and asked Key,

“One of the big issues this election has been child poverty. And you have said, just last year, you said ‘we are proud of the government’s record  tackling child poverty. Do you stand by that?”

Key replied,

“I absolutely I do.”

At Owen’s further questioning, Key responded by saying that he was proud of his government’s track record in dealing with child poverty.

Owen then lobbed this “grenade” at him, namely a quote from John Key himself, reported  in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 September.

  “Our opponents say more children are living in poverty than when we came into office. And that’s probably right.”

This frank admission runs counter to every line uttered by Key, Paula Bennett, other National ministers, right wing commentators and bloggers, et al. In fact, with four simple words, Key has effectively demolished his own government’s insistence that child poverty has been reducing over the last six years. Crosby Textor’s spin doctors must have collectively moaned in despair when they read that comment.
From this point on, Key squirmed uncomfortably as he tried to wriggle out from this admission to the Sydney Morning Herald – including at one point revealing his frustration by  blurting out (@ 9.15),
“Lisa, don’t be silly!”
Owen persisted challenging Key as he tried to wiggle out of his SMH comments – but she would have none of it.
For possibly the first time since Stephen Sackur interviewed Key on Hard Talk in May, 2011, this was a moment when our Prime Minister faced serious hard questioning and was not allowed to wriggle his way out with nonsensical, glib answers.

Since Nicky Hager’s revelations and the sacking of Judith Collins, Key’s preternatural teflon-shield has been stripped away. He is now just another politician, and if by some miracle he successfully leads the next government post 20 September, he will find  his interactions with journalists becoming harder and harder.

It may not be what he says that lowers his esteem in the public eye. It will be the way he says it.

Lisa Owen was simply the first.

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References

TV3:  John Key – Minority government possible

Sydney Morning Herald: The Key factor

Youtube-BBC:  John Key on Hardtalk (Part 2)

Previous related blogposts

The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next Leader of the National Party?

“Dirty Politics” – the fall-out continues


 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 September 2014

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Letter to the Editor – fiscal irresponsibility by National

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:          “The Wellingtonian” <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date:      Wed, Aug 27, 2014
subject: Letter to the editor

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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.

-Frank Macskasy

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media: Fears for mentally ill forced to streets

Fairfax media: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Protest against National Party soiree results in one arrest – for bugger all!

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Acknowledgement: Garrick Tremain

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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;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (2)

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This was a salient reminder to those middle class aspirationists and One Percenters that there is real, palpable anger out in the community.

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There was sustained, loud, enthusiastic chanting from the crowd;

“One, two, three, four! Stop the war on the poor!”

“Shame! Shame!”

“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;

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Some clear messages for the National Party, and it’s supporters;

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anti-National protest - Pōneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington

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(Acknowledgement: Mick McCrohon)

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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;

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Even the cetaceans aren’t safe from this government;

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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;

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (22).

And speaking of young people, these teenagers – not part of the protest – were curious to know what was going on;

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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;

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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.

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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.

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anti-National protest - Poneke Action Against Poverty - 28 June 2014 - Te Papa - Wellington (10)

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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;

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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;

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As this image clearly shows, Darren was not only not resisting, but stood casually beside them and made no attempt to flee;

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After being questioned, Darren was led to a ‘paddy wagon’, some few metres away;

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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?”

FM: “Sorry?”

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].”

I persisted,

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.”

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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;

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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.

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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!

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Postscript

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;

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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.

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Note: apologies for poor quality of images. The camera I was using was not the one I usually use. – Frank Macskasy

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References

Scoop media: Pōneke Action Against Poverty to protest National Government

Dominion Post:  National Party protester arrested

Aotearoa Independent Media Centre:  PAAP takes on Nats

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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.

 


 

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Team key - me myself  and me

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 July 2014.

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Review: TV3′s The Nation – When current affairs gets it right

20 June 2014 1 comment

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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.

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Hosts for TV3's "The Nation", Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

Hosts for TV3’s “The Nation”, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

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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.

Parata responded to questioning from Patrick Gower;

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[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.

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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.

 

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TV3 - The Nation - Lisa Owen - Interview Dr Russell Wills

L-R: Lisa Owen & Dr Wills; Lisa Owen and Jonathan Boston

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[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.”

I wonder, though,  if the inquisatorial approach taken by Lisa Owen to interview Messrs Wills and Boston was applicable in this instance? The inquisatorial style works well for political or activist public figures who may not always be forthcoming in disclosing facts.
But when it comes to academics and professionals such as Professor Boston and Dr Wills, I submit that such people will usually always  be forthcoming, even when academics are often loathe to talk in terms of absolutes, or provide simplistic answers to complex questions.
For example, Lisa Owen asked Dr Wills;

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?
There was something a little  disturbing about the suggestion that “when you say it’s people like us, that’s a nebulous concept“.

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“?

Sometimes we learn more from the interviewers than from  the people they are charged with interviewing.
Both men had a wealth of insights and knowledge to share with the audience. Their interviews could easily have been doubled in length to facilitate deeper under-standing of the issues involved. Perhaps canning Hekia Parata’s drivel would have provided extra time?
The audience would certainly have ended up better informed. (We already understand the fact that politicians often spout rubbish; talking a lot, but saying nothing.)

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Next up; the one and only (some might breath a sigh of relief at that), Colin Craig. Perhaps one of the oddest political aspirants to hit our political stage in recent times, Colin Craig had some very strange things to say in his interview;
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The Nation - Patrick Gower - Colin Craig - Conservative Party - TV3 - National - election 2014

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[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.

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;

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance

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And…

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance (2)

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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.

Unfair?

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’.

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The last interview, by Torben Akel,  with Todd Barclay – the National candidate replacing outgoing MP, Bill English in Southland – was perhaps the most curious.

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The Nation - Torben Akel - Todd Barclay - Southland electorate TV3 - National - election 2014

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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.

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Postscript #1

The parameters “child poverty” nz  on Google returns 178,000 results;

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child poverty - google results - Google - search engine - new zealand - nz

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Not exactly something to be proud of, eh, New Zealand?

Postscript #2

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“.)

Postscript #3

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;

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (1)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (2)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (3)

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scoop media - internet party - 359m for teaching  leadership career pathways - national party - government - education (4)

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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…

… Not!

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References

Beehive: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

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

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

Beehive: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Scoop Media: $359m for teaching & leadership career pathways

Previous related blogposts

Review: TV3′s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty

Bryan Bruce: How to vote strategically improves children’s lives

Child Poverty Action Group

 

Events

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


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2014.

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Review: TV3’s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

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TV3 - The-Nation - poverty - inequality

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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.

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Hosts for TV3's "The Nation", Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

Hosts for TV3’s “The Nation”, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

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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?

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TV3 - The Nation - Ben Uffindell

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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;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  Twitter feed 24 May 2014

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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…

TV3 - The Nation - Torben Akel

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;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  household incomes in New Zealand - Bryan Perry

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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.”

- p25

“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…”

-p33

“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. “

-p128

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.”

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -GINI inequality 1992 - 2012 - Bryan Perry

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(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”!

Postscript

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.

 

 

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References

TV3: Inside Child Poverty

TV3: Child poverty doco ‘apolitical’ – filmmaker

TV3: Party calls for free ice-cream and llamas

Twitter: Frank Macskasy/The Nation

TV3: ACT leader steals thunder in minor party debate

TV3: New Zealand’s record on inequality

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

NZ Treasury: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements

Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014

Wikipedia: Gini Coefficient

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census – Trend of lower home ownership continues

TV3: Panel – Patrick Gower, Max Rashbrooke and Matthew Hooton

Other blogs

The Standard: Snapshot of a nation: inequality

 

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

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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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 23 May 2014

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 23 May 2014  -

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- Brent Edwards -

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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.

 

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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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

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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