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

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john key cartoon garrick tremain

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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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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(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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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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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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The Nation - Patrick Gower - Hekia Parata - TV3 - National - education

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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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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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And…

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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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Budget 2014 – How has National exposed itself in Election Year?

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2014 election

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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.”

Really?!

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.

(Source: Treasury)

 

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;

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Key admits underclass still growing

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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;

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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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.

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Postscript #1

The cost of financing this country’s $59 billion debt is shown in this Dominion Post graphic;

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Revenue and expenses 2014 budget new zealand government

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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.

Postscript#2

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;

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Past budgets 2009 - Dominion Post - 16 May 2014

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Promised tax-cuts in 2009 were not “axed”. As this IRD page explained;

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IRD technical tax area 2009 

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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.

Postscript #3

This graph from Treasury (with a minor enhancement by this blogger) shows our borrowings from 2003 to 2013, with subsequent estimations.

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Treasury New Zealand debt

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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.”

Indeed.

 

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References

Dominion Post: English spreads the lolly far and wide

NZ Treasury:  Key Facts for Taxpayers (Part 1)

NZ Herald: Budget 2014 – Building products tariffs lifted temporarily

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

IRD: [2009] Tax cuts for individuals

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

Letter to the Editor: playing politics with rape victims, National-style

Letter to the Editor: $3000 offer to the Unemployed is a joke – and not a very funny one!

Letter to Radio NZ: $3000 offer to the Unemployed is a joke – and not a very funny one (v.2)

 

 

 


 

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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 18 May 2014.

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 21 February 2014

23 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 21 February 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

Disagreement about how to reduce poverty and inequality is looming as one of the big debates of election year.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 21 February 2014 ( 16′ 38″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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TV3 Polling and some crystal-ball gazing

10 February 2014 5 comments

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Red Green Up

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The latest TV3-ReidResearch poll confirms what many are beginning to accept as a growing reality; unless Labour (or the Greens) have a major stumble, there will be a change of government at the end of the year. The only caveat to this is the unpredictable Winston Peters.

Normally, I place little faith in polls other than the Roy Morgan poll (and of course, the only poll that counts: election day) because none of the other pollsters call cellphones. As the Census showed last year, only “85.5% of households had access to a landline telephone at home, down from 91.6% in 2006″.

This means that 14.5% of households did not have access to a landline.

That is quite a chunk of the electorate. Especially when indications are that this year’s election will be a close result between the Left and Right bloc.

Because Roy Morgan is the only polling company that (currently) calls cellphones as well as landlines, it is more accurate than companies that call only the latter.

What makes the TV3-Reid Research poll so interesting is that, this time, it seems to mirror the last Roy Morgan poll taken between 6 January  to 19 January, 2014.

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Roy Roy Morgan poll 6 – 19 January 2014 TV3 – Reid Research Poll 2 February 2014
Right Bloc

National

43.5%

44.05%

Maori Party

2.00%

1.00%

Conservative Party

2.50%

2.10%

ACT

0.00%

0.00%

United Future/Peter Dunne

0.50%

0.00%

Left Bloc

Labour

33.50%

33.50%

Greens

12.50%

12.40%

Mana

0.50%

0.30%

Wild Card

NZ First

4.00%

5.70%

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In both polls, National is losing support, whilst Labour is gaining. (The Greens have lost support in one poll, but gained in another.)

Interestingly, both the Maori Party and Mana poll higher in the Roy Morgan poll. This is unsurprising as the constituents of both parties are more likely to rely solely on cellphone communications rather than landlines, and Roy Morgan is subsequently better placed to poll these voters.

As I wrote on 30 January, though NZ First polled at 4% in the Roy Morgan poll – just under the 5% threshold – this blogger believes Peters will pull his Party up, and return to Parliament. (The only qualifyer to this is if the public are sufficiently  spooked by Peters’ continuing refusal to indicate which Bloc he will support, post-election.)

The TV3 Reid Research poll seems to back this up, though it remains to be seen if this burst in support will be reflected in the next (more accurate) Roy Morgan polling.

Regardless, this blogger believes that NZ First will be returned to Parliament, with between 5% to 7% Party Vote.

National will continue to bleed support as Labour and the Greens present a credible alternative to National’s ad hoc spending decisions (giving money to billion dollar corporations whilst cutting back on public services).

Other factors that will impact on National’s poll rating,

  • rising mortgage interest rates – estimated to reach 7% to 8%
  • rising fuel prices as the global economy picks up, and the demand for oil increases
  • a bounce upward in unemployment, as businesses attempt to cut costs by reducing staff
  • an on-going shortage of affordable housing
  • young New Zealanders forced out of the housing market, due to National’s sign-off on Reserve Bank policies
  • continuing wages lagging behind CPI increases
  • worsening balance of payments and another credit downgrade by Standard & Poors, Moodies, and/or Fitch

In desperation, expect National to,

  • Do deals with Act and the Conservatives
  • Cosy up to NZ First
  • Engage in more beneficiary-bashing
  • Engage in more personal attacks on Labour, Green, and Mana MPs
  • Whaleoil to release nasty ‘dirt’ on various Opposition MPs
  • Suddenly find money to spend on worthy public services
  • Hint at a further round of tax cuts

Barring any more major screw-ups by Labour (or by the Greens), we are on course (as this blogger has been predicting since 2011) for a change of government.

A personal note to David Cunliffe

Labour’s focus on the “Best Start” policy – whilst flawed at it’s release – was an excellent kick-off to the 2014 Election Campaign. In effect Labour and the Greens have set the agenda for this election.

The economy is no longer an election issue – things are bubbling along nicely, according to media reports.

The so-called economic “boom” will be to National’s undoing, as voters expect more to be spent on education, health, housing, and alleviating chronic child poverty. After six years of demanding “where is the money coming from”, National will find itself with a higher tax-take and then explaining why programmes such as universal food-in-schools is still “unaffordable”.

My strongest advice to David Cunliffe is to follow up on the focus on children. With child poverty a massive millstone around this nation’s collective neck, it is a growing social disaster from which we cannot escape unless addressed.

Please, Mr Cunliffe – announce to the Nation at the next appropriate policy release, that when you lead the next government later this year, that you will take on the role of Minister for Children.

Nothing will send a clearer message to the electorate that you are giving this matter the highest priority.

Nothing.

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References

TV3: 3 News-Reid Research poll shows Peters as kingmaker

Previous related blogpost

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua) (12 December 2013)

Latest Roy Morgan poll bad news for National (30 January 2014)

Other Blogs

Robert Guyton:  Cobbling together a coalition – Key

The Standard: Latest TV3 poll

The Standard: Dear RadioNZ – the largest party does not necessarily win the election

The Dim Post:  Brief thoughts on the TV3 poll

The Daily Blog: Brothers & Sisters of the left, there is no joy in TV3s latest poll

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National Act

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 February 2014.

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Metiria Turei’s Waitangi Day speech on Te Tii Marae at the powhiri for party leaders

- Metiria Turei, Green Party Co-Leader

Metiria Turei.

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Tēnēi au e tū whakaiti nei i raro i a Ranginui, i runga i a Papatuānuku, e titiro kau ana ki ngā maunga whakahi me ngā tini uri o Tane.

Ki a koutou o Ngati Rahiri, o Ngā Puhi-nui-tonu, e rere haere ngā mihi o mātou Te Rōpū Kākāriki ki a koutou mō tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi wiki.

Kua tae mai mātou ki te mahara, ki te maumahara, ki te whakanui i tēnēi taonga o a tātou, Te Tiriti o Waitangi me He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga.

Ko te whakahonoretanga o Te Tiriti tētahi wāhanga whakahirahira rawa atu o te kawenata o ngā Kākāriki.

Mihi mai i runga i te kaupapa e whakakōtahi nei i a tātou, arā te oranga o a tātou whānau me te whenua o a tātou tūpuna.

Kua tatanga ahau me tōku pāti ki te noho ki te tepu o te kāwanatanga mō te huanga o tātou te iwi Māori.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou i tēnēi rā ki te whakanui i tēnēi rā.

It is an extraordinary honour to speak here today.

This is an historic opportunity for me, as a Māori woman and political leader and for the Green Party, the most consistent voice in parliament for the interests of Maori over the past 15 years.

Getting our kids out of poverty; protecting the moana from deep sea oil drilling; warm healthy homes for every whānau; honouring te tiriti o waitangi; this is the Green kaupapa, my kaupapa.

And it’s urgent. For every day that goes by more of our kids are being robbed of their future.

Deep sea oil drilling robs our kids. It robs them of a clean ocean, of safe food, of sustainable jobs when they grow up.

The Greens are the leading political voice in the fight to protect our oceans.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to clean and oil free seas.

The education system still denies rangatahi an education and traps them in poverty, robbing them of a fair future.

The international results showed that only 4.5 per cent of Māori 15 year olds achieved in the top two levels in 2012.

We could gather up the first hundred kids we see running around this atea; we take just five and say “you will achieve and do well”.

The rest, well, some will struggle through. And many will not make it at all.

And it’s getting worse. Our kids are now much less likely to achieve at the top levels of school than they were before National came to power.

National refuses to do anything about the reasons for educational underachievement: inequality and poverty.

And when they are challenged on this failure, they make personal attacks.

But offer no solutions for our kids.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to an education.

The Greens put kids at the heart of everything we do. And that’s the difference we bring.

We know that if the most vulnerable kids have what they need to do well, like healthcare, free lunch, after school care, then every single one of our kids will have the best chance to be the best they can be.
We will protect our workers, increasing the minimum wage and making industries like forestry safer, so men stop dying trying to make ends meet for their whānau.

We are committed to honouring the treaty, honouring our people and honouring our whenua.

The Green Party will sit at the heart of the next progressive government.

We will have a big role to play in that government.

For Maori, it’s worth remembering that a party vote for the Green Party is the best opportunity you have to have a say at that table and change the government on behalf of our kids.
A vote for the Green Party will not be a wasted vote, like it could be for some of those other parties.

Soon, I will be the only Māori woman leader in parliament.

I help lead a whole team of MPs who are all committed to addressing inequality, righting the wrongs of the past, fighting for clean water and fighting for all our whānau to lead good lives and have a fair future.

The message this election year is clear.
National’s time is up. The time of the radical right making laws for their rich mates is over.

This is the message the country is sending, that Maori are sending.
My presence here today is evidence of that.
The time for our children, for our whānau, for our whenua is here.

National may not like it. They will lash out with venom and bitterness.

They will reduce the most pressing issues our kids face to being about the colour of my suits, but to do so they let all New Zealanders down, particularly Maori, and particularly kids.

But whether the message is delivered by a Maori woman standing in jandals or a Maori woman in a suit, make no mistake, change is coming.

And that change is Green.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou I tēnēi rā. Tena koutou katoa.

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250px-Green_Party_of_Aotearoa_New_Zealand_logo.svg

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Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Brian Easton – 7 February 2013

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- Nine To Noon -

 

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- Friday 7 February 2014  -

 

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- Kathryn Ryan & Brian Easton -

 

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Income inequality in New Zealand is set to become a central election issue, but is it really getting worse?

Brian Easton offers a solution how to address income inequality. Listen and find out what he suggests.

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon with Brian Easton

 

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Click to listen: Brian Easton, Economist ( 13′ 37″ )

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

(Hat tip: Murray Simmonds)

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Portrait of a Clueless Politician

This is a joy to watch.

A politician is asked a very, very simple question that had never occurred to him.

Perhaps it shows one thing; some politicians enact bad laws and policies based – not on other people’s realities – but on their perceptions and prejudices.

This is what happens when one politician reveals his cluelessness on an issue he is going to legislate on…

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Acknowledgement: Upworth.com

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The same could apply to certain politicians here in New Zealand, whose policies have  not helped the poorest people in this country. Perhaps certain politician’s perceptions and prejudices might be at fault?

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Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Source: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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Here’s a question for the Prime Minister; could he explain why someone on welfare; a low-wage job; or even an average income,   cannot afford to buy shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian, and Air New Zealand after they’ve paid their rent, power, phone, food, prescription fees, petrol, car rego, car WoF (or public transport), clothing, shoes, etc, etc…? Why can’t we afford to buy our own state assets?

Perhaps this might go some way to explain things. Whilst this is US-based, it most likely applies to New Zealand as well – especially since our wealth/wage gap continues to grow, despite John Key’s earnest promises in 2008,

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Acknowledgement: Upworth.com

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And the real question for the Prime Minister; does he think it is right that  the gap between the rich and the poor is widening? And if not – if he doesn’t think this is  right – why have things gotten worse in the last six years, instead of better, under his watch?

Why?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 January 2014.

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References

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

John Key: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

NZ Herald: Census data revealed: What we earn and how your pay rates

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 31 January 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

This week was the time for David Cunliffe to put his mark on the Labour Party just months after taking over the leadership from David Shearer.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014 ( 17′ 18″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Letter to Radio NZ: Key, the flag, and irrelevancies

30 January 2014 2 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:     "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT:  Flag
DATE:     Thu, 30 Jan 2014 07:53:28 +1300
TO:       Checkpoint RNZ <checkpoint@radionz.co.nz>

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Kia ora Geoff & Simon,

It should be fairly evident to all by the most naive that
raising the flag is Key's juvenile attempt at distracting
voters from the real problems confronting this country.
Chief amongst those is rising child poverty, wage/wealth
inequality; high unemployment; shortage of affordable decent
housing, etc.

With all these problems facing the country, Key focuses on 
irrelevancies and suggests a referendum.

We had a referendum on the sale of state assets and he
ignored the results. So now he wants another referendum and
he'll respect the results of that one?

Pathetic and laughable.

-Frank Macskasy

(phone number supplied)

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vote election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

13 January 2014 6 comments

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It all began in 1984…

But first, let’s look at the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae’s 2014 New Year’s speech,

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"As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home."

As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home.”

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My initial reaction upon hearing this statement from the Governor General was, thank god that the issue of deprivation facing children in our country is finally ‘trickling up’  the coridors of The Establishment.

It’s not like we haven’t been banging on for the last few years about the problems confronting us with child poverty; increasing inequality; homelessness; unemployment, under-employment; the growing wage-gap with Australia; etc, etc; etc; etc…

Once upon a time, New Zealand was one of the most equal societies on this planet. And we took great pride in that fact.

But then, something happened. Something disastrous which we were aware of; initially viewed with alarm; and then, like the frog in the pot of water steadily heating up, we got used to it.

We got Rogernomics.

Later followed shortly thereafter by the nastier, “crack-cocaine” version referred to as “Ruthenasia”.

From there, despite all the rhetoric and promises of wealth “tricking down”, things got worse. Much worse.

Sir Jerry’s speech was duly reported in the Otago Daily Times on 1 January;

The release of Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills’ report into child poverty in December found a quarter of Kiwi children were under the standard 60 per cent income poverty line, of which, 10 per cent were in severe and persistent poverty.

The report also highlighted the links between the lack of affordable housing and the preventable diseases spread through overcrowding.

Sir Jerry said while the structure and dynamics of New Zealand families had changed, the desire of parents to raise their children in a caring, loving environment had not.

“I often hear people say that everyone should have a New Zealand childhood.

“The care we provide to our most vulnerable citizens – our children – is a barometer of the wellbeing of our families and our society.”

But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them, Sir Jerry said.

IBID

Perhaps families could have coped better had National – not “life” – not thrown these challenges at them;

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English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Source

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Note how only a month after being elected into office, National was already spinning the public meme that Labour was to blame for the consequences of National’s impending ACC levy-rises? Such would be National’s modus operandi for the following years; everything blamed on the previous Labour government; accept no responsibility whatsoever.

If National wins a third term in office this year (unlikely), will they still attempt to use Labour as a scapegoat for their unsuccessful policies?

In the meantime, National continued their policy of raising government charges and taxes,

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Budget 2010 - Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

Source

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English’s promise that income tax cuts would be “more than offset the rise in GST” ended up  hollow when more government charges were further raised;

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Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment'

Source

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Yet more indirect tax rises were forthcoming;

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Petrol prices creep higher

Source

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And cuts to funding for social services. Again, children were targetted;

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Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

Source

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And hefty user-pays charges implemented and increased;

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Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Source

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With perhaps this, being the most odious and damaging of all to struggling low-income, poor families;

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Prescription fees increase

Source

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Although NZMA chair, Paul Ockelford, asserted that prescription charge increases were “unlikely to be a barrier for most”, that statement appears to be the kind of arrogant, self-delusional nonsense that people out of touch with reality readily express amongst polite company, at well-laden dinner tables, of the tut-tutting affluent classes.

As writer, Herman Melville pointed out,

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

Reality away from the likes of  Mr Ockelford’s genteel circle  is much different, and grimmer;

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Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Source

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From the above Herald story,

Nikki Turner, who works as a GP in Wellington as well as sitting on the Child Poverty Action Group, said any assumption that the $2 increase was a minor issue was not looking at the bigger picture.

“For a lot of people that’s fine, but for many people there are a lot of barriers to access to primary health care.”

New Zealanders on lower incomes, particularly those with large families or complex medical problems, would find the hike in prescription costs as another barrier.

“We know from the Ministry of Social Development’s own data on severe and significant hardship that many families don’t pick up prescriptions because of costs. If they’ve got a small amount of money left over, then prescriptions will go or they’ll delay picking them up,” she said.

Source

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And remember – National presided over two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Cuts which benefitted the highest income earners in the country.

It is abundantly clear that those tax cuts were paid for by massive borrowings; state asset (partial-)sales; raising GST; cuts to funding for  state services; and raising user-pays charges for other State services (often for the most spurious reasons).

In simple, easy-to-understand-terms, low and middle income earners (but especially those on low and fixed incomes) ended up paying for tax cuts for the rich,

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Tax cuts - High earners set to benefit most

Source

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This is what National does.

In the meantime, unemployment is still at 7.1% and – according to the Children’s Commissioner, in his first Child Poverty Monitor – child poverty has dramatically worsened,

The 2013 Monitor shows that one in four Kiwi kids are growing up in income poverty and one in six are going without the basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house, decent shoes and visits to the doctor. Ten percent of children are at the hardest end of poverty and three out of five kids living in poverty will live this way for much of their childhood.

[...]

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills says the project is about giving New Zealanders the full picture on child poverty rates and to get Kiwis talking about it.

“265,000 New Zealand children are living in poverty. Is this what we want for our kids?

[...]

The Child Poverty Monitor is funded by the J R McKenzie Trust, an organisation with a long history of involvement in important social issues. The Trust’s Executive Director Iain Hines says they initiated this project because they saw an opportunity to make a difference for children missing out.

“We are concerned that the rate of child poverty in 2013 is twice that of the 1980s. We think this is unacceptable. If New Zealand’s road toll was twice that of the 80s there would be outrage and immediate action taken to reduce it. We need the same momentum and action on child poverty.

It is mind-boggling that we have arrived at a state of affairs where child poverty is increasing each year – and successive governments seem unable/unwilling to tackle it.

To our shame, governments seem more interested in throwing money at multi-national corporations and yacht races rather than the nation’s children – our future.

National, in particular stands guilty of inaction.

This was clearly highlighted when it was revealed that the Children Commissioner’s report was funded by a private organisation, the J R McKenzie TrustKey’s government refused point-blank to fund the investigation and subsequent report. Instead, the cost – $500,000 – was paid by the Trust.

By contrast, National found it easier to hand out corporate welfare such as $30 million to the Rio Tinto private aluminium smelter. Or millions to the Rugby World Cup tournament. Even Southern China Airlines got a $4 million tax-paid hand-out, courtesy, National.

One thing is for certain – Dr Russell Wills should not be expecting to be re-appointed Children’s Commissioner when his term is up. Not if the Nats are still in office by then.

Just to remind the reader, in his speech, Sir Jerry said,

“But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them.”

Source

Unsurprisingly, I take great exception to Sir Jerry’s comments. It is not “life” that is throwing “challenges” at New Zealand’s families: it is successive government policies and inaction. And nor are they “inevitable”. The sun rising every day is inevitable – government policies are not.

Polices such as these have been carefully planned for years prior to National winning the 2008 election and  have been methodically and unscrupulously executed with deliberate  intent to further an agenda of gradual “transformation” to a user-pays, low-tax, minimal-State economy.

It is shameful and sickening that Sir Jerry now laments that  “not all families could cope”. Once again, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are blamed for their precarious position. Unfortunately Sir Jerry, not all of us can live at the Governor-General’s residence at tax-payers’ expense.

Some families, however, can cope better than others,

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The NBR Rich List 2013 - The Rich Continue to Get Richer

Source

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Perhaps equally galling is that even while our social problems worsen and poverty increases, people like John Key and Bill English continue to insist that things will, eventually, get better.

John Key in January 2008,

“This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.

[...]

National knows New Zealand has a great future if we embrace good ideas and put them into action. And my sense is that in 2008, New Zealand is ready for those new ideas – ready for a fresh start.

At this election, the National Party has the chance to harness the growing mood for change and march New Zealand towards a better tomorrow.

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

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

Five years later, John Key, in December 2013,

“I am passionate about the future of New Zealand, and I’m in politics to make a difference for the better of our society.

By 2038, young people of today will be our leaders – whether it be in politics, business, academia, education, sport or arts.

They will guide the values, principles and direction of the country in years ahead.

One thing I’m sure of is while we will still be a young country, we will be a more confident multicultural country than we are now, a country that was built on a bicultural foundation. And today’s young people will help guide that future.

From the calibre and talent I see in our youth today, there is cause for real optimism about the years ahead.”

According to Key and other right-wing politicians, we just have to keep persevering with their policies.  So that, sometime in the future, things will “get better”.

Even as they get worse.

Getting worse since 1984…

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2014.

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References

John Key:  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 [2009] tax cuts, SME changes

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

Dominion Post: Petrol prices creep higher

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

Dominion Post: Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment’

Sunday News: Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Work-Unemployment

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

Radio NZ: Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Otago Daily Times: Governor-General urges Kiwis to care for children

Radio NZ: Challenge to help vulnerable families

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Scoop media: NZ’s first monitor of child poverty released

Scoop media: Wellington philanthropic trust helping with survey of child poverty

Scoop media/NBR: The NBR Rich List 2013: The Rich Continue to Get Richer

NZ Herald/John Key: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

Facebook: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Scoop media: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Previous related blogpost

A Blighted Future – the price of an apple

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Journalists encouraging irresponsible government policy?

6 January 2014 2 comments

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John Armstrong - Cutting tax tempting for National

Source

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Sorry, John, but precisely WHO is talking about tax cuts?

Because so far, all I’m hearing is a couple of journos putting the question to Dear Leader and his faithful little side-kick, Lassie Bill English. No one else is seriously contemplating cutting taxes – not when New Zealand’s sovereign debt is now $60 billion as at 9 November this year – and  increasing by $27 million every day since Key’s hopelessly  incompetent government came to power in 2008.

According to Hamish Rutherford, writing for Fairfax Media, this equates to $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand – and expected to increase by another $10 billion by 2017.

We need to address this problem – not fuel it by increasing consumption of imported goods, thereby worsening our balance of payments.

For god sakes, stop encouraging National to engage in any further irresponsible slashing of revenue.  National’s two previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 did nothing to  help stem the growth in our sovereign debt. Not when revenue fell by up to $4 billion after those tax cuts.

We have other priorities.

For example, why is the Wellington City Mission short of $2 million to carry out it’s valuable work to assist the poorest in our society? It is obscene that the Mission will have to consider reducing some services, as Chief executive Michelle Branney recently suggested.

Why are New Zealand’s poorest families unable to afford basic  medicines since this government-for-the-rich increased prescription charges in January 2013? When National cut taxes, it attempted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising GST (despite promising in 2008 not to) and increasing government charges such as for prescriptions, Court fees, etc.

Why are New Zealanders needlessly suffering from rare diseases because PHARMAC cannot afford life-giving medication?

Why are poverty-related diseases making a come-back with such a vengeance?

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills…

… report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.

“Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking,” Wills told the Herald on Sunday, “but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”

Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.

English found himself so cash-strapped after their tax cut profligacy that, by 2012, he was even reaching into the meagre pay-packets of newspaper delivery boys and girls to grab extra tax revenue.

Instead of frittering away taxes, we need to be looking at the real problems confronting us;

  • Address child poverty problems

When children go to school hungry because families cannot afford sufficient food after paying high rents, electricity bills, etc. then there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Especially when we are now seeing children eating out of rubbish bins because there is no food at home for them. I refuse to believe that most New Zealanders want this kind of society for their children.

This is not the New Zealand I grew up in.

The next Prime Minister must make this a #1 priority, and begin with taking on the role of Minister for Children and implementing a comprehensive Food In Schools programme (not the shonkey half-measures undertaken by National earlier this year).

Next on the agenda; returning welfare payments to pre-1991-slash levels (inflation indexed); reduce prescription prices for medicine;  and implement a massive job creation programme.

  • Pay down debt

From 2000 to 2008, Clark’s administration not only paid down debt, but also posted Budget surpluses,

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Government Debt

New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Source

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Government Budgets

New Zealand Government Budget

Source

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To be fair, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen did not have the Global Financial Crisis to contend with. But by exercising fiscal prudence –  instead of  tax-cut lolly-scrambles demanded by the then-National opposition – he left the country in a fit state to weather the on-coming financial storm that was about to envelope the planet.

By the time National came to power in 2008, the global financial crisis was well and truly upon us, with the collapse of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008. The GFC had started earlier, and signs were apparent to all but the most intransigent optimist that dark storm clouds were on the horizon.

As unemployment rose and economic activity slowed, National persevered stubbornly with it’s tax-cut programme – a move that would further indebt this country and put our government’s books back into the red again. At one stage, National was  borrowing $380 million  a week to make up for the shortfall.

This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that we were facing a dire crisis, as Tracy Watkin and Vernon Small reported on 23 April 2009,

The recession was expected to blow a $50b hole in the economy during the next three years, plunging the Government further into the red as costs climb and tax revenues fall.

“That’s $50 billion we will not recover as a nation, and $50 billion that cannot be taxed by the Government,” Mr English told a business audience in Auckland.

And yet, despite his own candid admission, English went ahead with tax cuts that we could ill afford, and had to make up with massive borrowings; cuts to government services; increased user-pays; mass sackings of state sector worker, and eventual partial asset sales. Even welfare was targetted for “reforms” (read; cost cutting) to claw back government spending.

Little wonder that by September 2011, credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors had downgraded us.

  • Invest in upskilling the unemployed

Why are we importing tradespeople from overseas when we have 7.1% (153,210) unemployment in this country?

National’s response to the skills shortage was this ideological fob-off from Bill English, in June 2011,

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the companies that expect to rebuild Christchurch to ensure that they have the skills.

And to ensure that everyone understood that National was maintaining it’s long-held tradition of shirking responsibility, he added,

Of course it will be tight, because they are competing with very, very large salaries, particularly those in Western Australia where something like $250 billion worth of capital projects are in the pipeline.”

IBID

That’s the problem with a government that places it’s faith in a free market solution to everything (except corporate welfare) – nothing happens.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer free skills training to every unemployed person in New Zealand, along with subsidised accomodation in Christchurch for workers moving from other towns and cities to take up work offers?

There would have been a cost, to be certain. But that would have been off-set by (a) reduced welfare payments; (b) upskilled workers who would continue to use their new training for subsequent building projects; (c) more taxes paid by more employed workers;  and (d) a flow-on effect to other businesses as income-earning workers spent their wages.

The $4 billion frittered away in tax cuts would have made a considerable dent in our unemployment and given a much needed boost to our economy. And by providing work to the unemployed, the government would have saved millions in welfare.

But by sitting on it’s hands and doing nothing, National has maintained the status quo; 160,000 unemployed wasting their time, and requiring more of our taxes to be paid for the dole.

Is this crazy or what?

Hopefully an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?)  will have more sensible policies than what we’ve seen thus far from National. (Which won’t be hard to achieve.)

And other areas which desperately require State intervention,

  • A fairer taxation system, including reducing (or even eliminating) GST; introducing a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax;  looking at a Financial Transactions Tax (or “Robin Hood” tax, as Mana refers to it); making the first $20,000 tax free; and increasing tax for the top 1%.
  • A sensible pricing system for electricity especially for low/fixed-income earners.
  • Increase funding for early childhood education.
  • More state housing, so our fellow New Zealanders have a decent roof  over their heads.
  • Invest in public transport, especially in Auckland, before the city grinds to a stop.

Those are the things we need to look at. Not cutting taxes for the well off (which is usually what the Nats end up doing).

These should be the priorities of a sensible government. Anything, everything,  else is grossly irresponsible.

Otherwise, what the hell are we leaving our children?

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debt-mountain-cartoon.

May I have some food, a home, parents

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Postscript

Armstrong’s article on tax cuts features a large image of a smiling David Cunliffe. Note; Cunliffe. Not English, nor John Key.

Is there a subtle sub-text being conveyed here that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m getting the wrong ‘message’ from Armstrong’s piece, especially when he finishes with this intriguing comment,

Overall, English will not want to tie himself to future tax cuts without more solid evidence they can be sustained.”

My… that almost sounds like a veiled warning, doesn’t it?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2013.

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References

Bill English: Dr Cullen maintains tradition of tax-cut denial

Wikipedia: Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: $50b hole in economy

TV3 News: Double credit downgrade a double blow for NZ economy

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

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

The Press: Irish rush for quake jobs

NBR: Chch rebuild companies will have to find skilled workers – English

TV1 News: Rise in prescription charges ‘not fair’ – Labour

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

Dominion Post: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: Pharmacies ‘carry cost’ of increases

NZ Herald: Child poverty ills rising

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Fairfax media: Mum Not Prepared To Wait And Die

Radio NZ: PM defends record of helping poor families

Radio NZ: 5th year in deficit at City Mission

Radio NZ: Funding declined for housing project

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cutting tax tempting for National

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

Sources

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Budget

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter (6 Nov 2013)

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed (5 Dec 2013)

Statistics NZ: 2006 Census

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census

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The REAL reason for the drop in welfare numbers

22 December 2013 22 comments

There is an underlying reason for this headline,

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Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed - 16.7.2013

Source

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In the above July 2013 article, Social welfare Minister, Paula Bennett proudly asserted,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said today there are now 309,782 people on a benefit compared with 320,041 last year.

[...]

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

IBID

Nowhere in the article does it state where those 10,000 welfare beneficiaries ended up.

Was it in paid work?

Did they go back into full-time education or other courses?

Or were they simply dumped from WINZ’s books?  Like the recipient of these letters that were recently provided to me? (We will call him/her “Citizen X” – all identifying details have been redacted to respect his/her privacy and protect him/her from possible reprisals by Bennett, her office, or MSD official. Same for the WINZ officials whose names appear on the letters.)

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (1)WINZ letter dec 2013 (2)

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A few days later, “Citizen X” received this letter. Adding insult to injury, they were demanding that an outstanding amount (an amount between $200 to $300) be repaid;

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (3)

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This was despite that “Citizen X” had had her/his unemployment benefit cancelled – not because s/he had found paid employment (s/he hadn’t) – but because s/he had fallen foul of National’s harsh new welfare laws.

In part, the MSD website states,

On Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months

If you still require Jobseeker Support after 52 weeks you’ll have to re-apply for your benefit. We’ll let you know when you have to re-apply and tell you what you need to do.

When you re-apply, you’ll also need to complete a Comprehensive Work Assessment. This will identify what steps you’ve taken to find work and what help you might need from us to be more successful in getting a job.

Source

In effect, National has placed a one year time limit on all unemployment benefits. They haven’t advertised it as such – they refer to it as “re-applying”.

As Simon Collins reported in the NZ Herald back in January (2013),

The Council of Christian Social Services pointed yesterday to “a growing gap between those who receive a benefit and those in genuine need who are either losing or unable to obtain social welfare assistance”.

Unemployment increased in the two years to last September from 144,500 to 170,000, but those on unemployment benefit dropped by almost a quarter from 65,281 to 50,390.

Sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit have also dropped in the past year. Rules for both benefits were tightened in September 2010, when unemployment beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled if they failed to reapply after a year.

Sole parents were required to look for part-time work when their youngest child turned 6, an age reduced to 5 last October.

Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said his members were reporting increases in demand for their services as people found benefits harder to get.

[...]

Ironically, the tighter welfare rules may also partly explain the rise in unemployment, as beneficiaries are counted as unemployed only if they are actively looking for work. Employment slipped only slightly from 63.6 per cent to 63.2 per cent of adults in the two years to last September, but the “jobless” rose from 7.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent because those not looking for work fell from 29.3 per cent to a record low of 28.4 per cent.

Source

What this  means is that eventually a significant number of people simply give up re-applying for the minimal amount that the dole pays ($206.21 per week).

Constant, repetitive, incessant demands for information and a less than helpful attitude created by MSD policy create an atmosphere of naked hostility.

The complexity of applying, with the multitude of 73 pages of WINZ  forms and other bits of paper, may also prove to be a dis-incentive for many – especially those for whom English, reading ability, and general low education is a real problem.

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73 pages of WINZ forms

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The massive number of WINZ forms and other documents handed out to applicants has been covered in this previous blogpost; WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

These are some of the bureacratic barriers which National and MSD have created for the most vulnerable and dispossessed people in our country.

All done to “massage” beneficiary statistics.

As Bennett said, back in July,

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

No doubt, National will use this “success” at the next election and a sizeable portion of the voting population will be sufficiently uninformed and  gullible enough to accept this without question.

It will be up to those who oppose National and it’s virulent brand of right-wing politics to spread the truth; under this party, poverty and inequality will continue to worsen.

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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Because even the Prime Minister has had to reluctantly concede the enormity of what we are facing,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Source

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Pushing people off welfare, regardless of whether or not they have jobs to go to, just to massage welfare statistics, is a vile obscenity.

This will not “lift people out of poverty”, as Key has promised.

It is increasing poverty.

How long will it be before this growing poverty, sense of hopelessness, and constant attacks by National and MSD results in the inevitable outbreak of violent civil disturbance? Desperate people tend not to care – especially for the empty promises of well-fed, well-housed, comfortable politicians.

Is this really what New Zealanders want for their country?

The clock is ticking…

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clock.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 December 2013.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits

Fairfax media:  Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

References

Work and Income:  Jobseeker Support

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare -The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

Previous related blogposts

<p>. Source . National today announced that ” href=”http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/random-thoughts-on-random-things-4/?relatedposts_to=8882&relatedposts_order=1″ rel=”nofollow”>How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Random Thoughts on Random Things #4…

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

The REAL level of unemployment

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A short, open letter to the new leader of the Labour Party…

5 September 2013 3 comments

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poverty-pass-it-on

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Kia ora and g’day…

Firstly, congratulations on winning the leadership of the New Zealand Labour Party. With the “primaries” out of the way, it’s now time to knuckle down and work together to throw out this self-serving, incompetent government. A Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) coalition is a government-in-waiting and there is much work to be done to rebuild our society.

Our first concern should be child poverty. This is a pernicious problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”) which creates a toxicity that seeps through every aspect of our society and economy. Even National-voting comfortable middle class aspirationists cannot escape the consequences that child poverty creates in our country.

New Zealand once had a great record of being at the top of the OECD for child welfare. (We’re still near the top of the OECD PISA ratings in education, despite what supporters of ACT’s misguided Charter Schools policy might say.)

Some estimates suggest around quarter of a million children living in poverty.

This is unacceptable and it beggars belief that some New Zealanders think it is not their problem. Well, I’ve news for those naive people; it is our problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away. One way or another, we all pay for this ongoing cancer in our midst.

Our current Prime Minister, John “What-me-worry?” Key, is Minister for Tourism. He diligently carries out his duties to promote tourism by lounging on the warm, sunny beaches near his holiday home on Hawaii’s island of Maui. Quite how this benefits New Zealand tourism escapes me… but I’m no expert on this matter.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister can do much better. (In fact, I can’t see how he couldn’t.)

It is my belief that the new Leader of the Labour Party, and incoming Prime Minister, should declare to the country the seriousness of child poverty.

This can best be done by creating a new role of Minister for Children.

It would send a clear signal to every New Zealander that this is our number one priority and that the obscenity of child poverty will no longer by tolerated by decent, fair-minded New Zealanders.

There is no need for a Ministry of Education or any similar bureaucratic body. My suggestion is for an ODESC-style agency comprising  of representatives from various ministries; departments; and NGOs  which would liaise and draft policies and agendas to attack child poverty.

Child poverty is a crisis in our once egalitarian country. There is simply no excuse for a society that considers itself fair and decent to permit this to fester.

As for those who bury their heads in the sand by playing the blame-game – suggesting that parents are at fault for having children when their social-economic circumstances are dire – should reflect on these points;

  1. Children do not choose which families they are born into.
  2. Parents circumstances change. Prior to the global financial crisis, we had low unemployment at around 3.4%. It is now approximately double that. Parents do not choose global financial melt-downs, nor the poverty it creates.
  3. The neo-liberal economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s promised us a “trickling down” of jobs and increased prosperity. None of that has happened and instead wealth has trickled upward. It is now harder and more expensive to raise a family than it ever has been since 1984.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand will not have the luxury of lying under a Hawaaian sun on a beach in Maui.

As Minister for Children, he will have his work cut out for him. This will be a real working Prime Minister.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 September 2013.

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A Tale of Two Prime Ministers…

What we once had…

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And what we have now…

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Meanwhile…

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Government told there’s no excuse for child poverty

3:23 PM Saturday Jul 20, 2013
Photo / Getty Images  

Photo / Getty Images

The government’s being told there’s no excuse for its failure to act on the high number of children living in poverty.

The Child Poverty Action Group says latest figures show one quarter of all New Zealand children are living below the poverty line.

Its convener, Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, says that hasn’t changed from a year ago.

He says that may not be surprising, as the government hasn’t done anything to make any difference.”We’ve seen enough material from a whole range of sources to know the extent of child poverty and I guess I would have expected there would have been really concerted effort from the government to respond to some of those reports and the data that we now have.”

Dr O’Brien says New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty damages the country’s international reputation.

Source: NZ Herald – Government told there’s no excuse for child poverty

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As the next election looms, it is time to mobilise and fight. We can have a decent society again. And by god, I’ll be doing my bit.

 

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The wealthy pontificating to the poor…

30 June 2013 4 comments

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed. - Herman Melville, 1819-1891

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And with that comment in mind, our household watched, and cringed, and boiled with anger, as we watched The Vote on TV3 last Wednesday (19 June).

First of all was the  question that TV3 deemed we should consider and reply to;

Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree? Yes. No.”

What a loaded question!

Why not, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s low incomes?

Or, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s successive governments enacting neo-liberal policies?

Or – and I personally love this one –  “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s the middle classes who have grown  comfortable with their lot and have given up on the notion of an egalitarian society?

The problem with the alternative questions is that they involve complex ideas;  recent history; and looking at choices that Middle Class voters have made since 1989. In short, those questions involve thinking.

As the question stood on the night; “The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting” – there was no real thinking involved. It was all about how people  felt on trigger words such as  social welfare; solo-mums; parental responsibility; etc.

Once those trigger words began to percolate through the minds of aspirationist middle class and angry working-class viewers, the results were wholly predictable; 63% voted ‘Yes’. (And the 36% who voted ‘No’ correlates roughly with the percentage of voters who supported Labour and the Greens at the 2011 general election  – 38.54%).

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The Vote 63 - 37

Source: The Vote

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If we were ever truly a caring, sharing, egalitarian society, it’s hard to see  how.

The very nature of the question invited an emotive, rather than an considered, intelligent, response.  It practically demanded plain old repetitive bigotry rather than insight, and the three panellists, Christine Rankin, Bob McCoskie, and Hannah Tamaki – all social conservatives – were more then happy to oblige.

Platitudes; cliches,  mis-information,  and smug instructions on how to feed a family on $20 a week… all came from the well-fed; well-clothed; expensively groomed; healthy; and high-income earning likes of Tamaki, McCoskrie, and Rankin.

It fed perfectly into every stereotype that New Zealanders have seen and heard since Once Were Warriors blew in our faces on our big screens in 1994.

And right on cue, the prejudiced; the mis-informed; and the plain spiteful came out and vented their bile on The Vote’s Facebook page. I was going to provide a  few examples – but why bother? We’ve seen that kind of bigotted response already.

So how accurate was the voting response? There were claims that people could send in multiple votes from the same ‘platform’ (cellphone number, IP number, Twitter account).  If so, the result would be rendered meaningless. One could imagine 3,000 Destiny Church members texting repeated ‘Yes’ votes with unholy speed.

Ten text messages, on average, from each member would equate to 30,000 “votes”. And with texting fees kindly waived by telcos, people could text to their hearts’ content. Free of charge. Ad nauseum.

(By contrast, our household studiously played the game fairly; we each voted once only, by text.)

However an unattributed statement from TV3’s ‘The Vote‘,  on Bryan Bruce’s Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, stated categorically that “you can only vote once on each platform“.

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The Vote - only voting once

Acknowledgement: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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If that is true (and it is by no means a given), then that raises equally disturbing questions about the nature of our society.

If the 63% “Yes” voters are reflective of New Zealanders then that says something about our much vaunted reputation of being a fair-minded, compassionate, egalitarian society.

Perhaps it was never so. Perhaps only a third of us can lay claim to being fair minded and tolerant – whilst the remainder two thirds simply make use of the generosity of their more liberal fellow-Kiwis?

I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think that is not true.I desperately want to believe it is not true.

Instead, perhaps the real emotion at play by those Two Thirds is not hatred of the poor – but fear of becoming like them. Add to that mix an unwillingness by many to even accept that poverty exists – hence endlessly repetitive  cliches such as “Real poverty only exists in Africa” or “They spend all their money on Sky, pokies, booze, and cigarettes”.

It’s all a defense mechanism, of course. By denying a problem, you don’t have to do anything about it. Nor feel guilty at not doing anything about it.

My belief is that the poor are being blamed not simply because they are poor – but because they have not succeeded under neo-liberalism. They are poor despite the promises neo-liberal “Bright New Future” . The architects and builders of this Neo-liberal Nirvana don’t like being shown that their new paradigm is severely flawed not working as it should.

That is why there is so much anger being directed at the poor. They are the proof that the School of Chicago theory of economics – that the Market  shall provide – is a fraud.

Neo-liberalism’s acolytes, the  politically powerful; the wealthy; the aspirationist Middle Classes; the technocrats – all  stand accused of failure  by the poorest; most powerless; most vulnerable people in our society. The mere presence of the poor and dispossed points an accusatory finger at the neo-liberal establishment and those in society who support it.

And doesn’t that just piss them off?

So come 2014 (if not earlier) let’s piss Neo-liberal’s Acolytes off a little further. It’s time for a center-left wing government to take office. Because after my shame, anger, and frustration wore of, I was filled with even more determination to play my part in changing our society.

We need to re-set our nation’s moral, social, and economic compass.

And watching The Vote was just the determination I (and our household) needed. So thank you Ms Tamaki, Ms Rankin, and Mr McCoskrie – I feel more motivated than ever to make New Zealand a decent society again.

We will not surrender.

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We need to give the homeless and other disenfranchised a voice. Homelessness is not a choice, a decision, a lack of effort.

When I first came to New Zealand there were hardly any homeless people but now there are heaps, so where have we gone wrong?” – Simon Buckingham, Auckland Lawyer and one-time homeless person

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Meanwhile, in another Universe far, far away…

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£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

Acknowledgement: The Guardian – £13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2013.

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Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: 126 Meals for $20 – show us how?

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A conversation that never happened…

22 June 2013 3 comments

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There are, unfortunately, people who actually believe this sort of thing…

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louisa Johannes Myburgh

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Let’s put it to the test, shall we?

*ring, ring.

ring, ring.

ring, ring.

ring-*

 

Hullo, welcome to  Meridian Electricity. How may I help you?”

“Hi!   I have a $250 power bill and I’ve run out of money. Can you flag it? I have lots of love in our household and we are very morally upstanding people.”

“That’s no problem. I’ve deleted your bill. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you. God bless.

See? That’s how you deal with poverty.

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Categories: Social Issues Tags:

The Vote, Electricity, and Sex! (That’ll grab your attention!)

18 June 2013 6 comments

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TV3 The Vote  18 June

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Question: How would it feel to be pregnant?

Answer: No idea. I’m not a woman.

Question: How would it feel to be a billionaire?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never had that kind of wealth.

Question: How would it feel to be intellectually handicapped through foetal alcohol syndrome.

Answer: No idea. I’m not intellectually handicapped, nor affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

Question: How would it feel to be in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never been in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people.

Yet, TV3 is asking viewers – many of whom are reasonably well-off, comfortable, secure, well-fed, warm,  middle class families – to understand the effects that long-term, ingrained poverty has on families?

The question tomorrow (19 June) will be;

Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree?

It a ludicrous question, of course.  Those who’ve never experienced poverty have little idea what it’s really like.

What is even more stomach-turning is that the debating team that supports the Question – that The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting – are these following characters,

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The Vote - Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie has a background in teaching and accounting, having graduated from Auckland University in 1986 with a Masters of Commerce with Honours, and a Diploma in Teaching from the Auckland College of Education. He lectured in accounting, taxation, and commercial law at Manukau Polytechnic for four years, before becoming Director of Youth for Christ (YFC) South Auckland in 1990. In 1994, he set up the Papatoetoe Adolescent Christian Trust (PACT) working with at-risk youth and their families in schools and the South Auckland community. In 1996 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In 2002, he joined the Rhema Broadcasting Group as Breakfast / Talkback Host on their nationwide programme, and Television presenter on their Current Affairs show “NZone Focus”.In 2006 he left RBG to establish the advocacy and research organization Family First (NZ) and is its National Director. Bob is married to Tina, and they have three children.

The Vote - Hannah Tamaki

Hannah Tamaki

Hannah is the co-founder of Destiny Churches New Zealand with her husband, Bishop Brian Tamaki. The church movement possesses one of the largest Maori memberships in the country. In addition to being a grandmother of 10 adoring grandchildren, Hannah’s role involves senior level leadership as well as ground-floor mentoring and counselling with families requirement spiritual and practical input and guidance. Besides running a very successful and well attended women’s ministry, Hannah founded Healing Hands Trust which assists women and their whanau with acute medical conditions requiring urgent surgery, and she has played a lead role in establishing a school and early childhood centre. Hannah’s unwavering passion for people is evident in everything she puts her hands to.

The Vote - Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin is a former Families Commissioner, CEO of the ‘For Sake of Our Children Trust’ and has recently taken up the position of CEO of the Conservative Party. Christine was on a Domestic Purposes Benefit and had no University Degree before taking on a temporary job with the Department of Social Welfare in 1978. By 1998 she had worked her way to the top, becoming the youngest director in the country. She was later appointed General Manager and then Chief Executive of Work and Income New Zealand, responsible for around 5500 staff. Christine is committed to the well-being of children and is renowned as a speaker on leadership, culture change and political/social issues, as well as sharing her own story of making it against the odds.

Acknowledegment: TV3 – The Vote

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Why are three middle class, affluent, well-resourced, high-income earning individuals pontificating about the effects of poverty on this country’s poorest people? What the hell would they know?

It’s like having men debating the effects of pregnancy and/or abortion on women’s bodies and minds.

It’s like having white anglo-saxons denying the existance of racism.

And really, none of those three are in any position to moralise.

One is an advocate of beating children and is openly homophobic.

Another has grown bloated-rich on the backs of her poor (often Maori) congregation.

And the last – well, I’ll keep my knowledge of the “Ear-ringed One’s” past proclivities to myself.

The question is utterly meaningless in the wider context, and the “Yes/No” nature denies the complexities of the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

For what it’s worth (admittedlynot much), we’ll be voting a firm,

‘No’

Text 3665.

Or, vote on-line.

If only to show that there is more to this than playing the ‘blame-game’.

As for Rankin, Tamaki, and McCoskie – I don’t expect much from them except tediously-repeated prejudice, rhetoric, and stereotyping.

Prove me wrong, you three.

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Labour promises to cut power prices

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NBR - Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

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Industry critics shocked by chairman's report

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Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment, in October 2010.

Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.

Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises.

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) statistics show average power prices rose from 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on average in May 2001 to 26 cents in May 2011.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Power prices double over decade

Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. The reality is that, we, the public, have been subsidising business. (On top of which,  electricity costs for business are tax-deductible – unlike for residential users.)

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MED domestic business electricity prices

Acknowledgement: Ministry of Economic Development (MED) – Prices

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The MED graph above is fairly crystal clear.

So much for Layton’s scare-mongering  bullshit – some of which was published on the right-wing publication, the NBR (National Business Review).

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electricity - Electricity Authority - NZ Power - rising power prices

Brent Layton – scare-mongering for his National mates?

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Grey Power is 100% when they state;

“We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”

As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece and cadre for the “market”, is part of the problem.

This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority – and sacking Layton.

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Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

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On the issue of  Bob McCroskie and his ultra-conservative, right-wing group, Family First, they have released a report called “R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand – A Critical Review”.

The report criticises sex education in New Zealand, with the author, United States psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman, stating,

A premise of modern sex education is that young people have the right to make their own decisions about sexual activity, and no judging is allowed. Risky behaviours are normalised and even celebrated. Children and adolescents are introduced to sexual activities their parents would prefer they not even know about, let alone practice. It’s reasonable to ask: is the ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ foisted on young people all over the world about sexual health, or sexual licence?

While most of these resources claim to promote sexual health, we find, overall, little encouragement of restraint or self-discipline. Instead, students are informed that at any age, sexual freedom is a ‘right.

The information is not accurate, comprehensive, or up-to-date. Sex is seen as risky only when it’s ‘unprotected’. The efficacy of condoms is overstated, in some cases vastly so. The quantitative data about their use is absent. The vulnerability of the immature cervix and the hazards of anal intercourse are omitted. Chlamydia is incorrectly described as ‘easily cured’. Young people are led to believe that sex is easily divorced from emotional attachment. Worst of all, critical life and death information is distorted or ignored.

Students are left misinformed, and with a false sense of security. Surely this is the last thing parents want.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Sex Ed Preaches Sexual Licence, Not Sexual Health

The Scoop press release issued by Family First describes Dr Miriam Grossman thusly,

“Miriam Grossman MD is known internationally for her courage in breaking ranks and calling foul on the sexuality education industry. She has lectured at the British House of Lords and the United Nations. Dr Grossman is board certified in psychiatry and in the sub-specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry. Dr Grossman visited New Zealand last year.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

So who is Dr Miriam Grossman? And why has she provided an anti-sex education report for the ultra-conservative Family First?

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Dr Miriam Grossman - anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

Dr Miriam Grossman – anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

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Because Dr Miriam Grossman herself is an  anti-sex education, ultra-conservative.

Without re-writing what has already been written about this person, instead I will quote from GayNZ. Their comments mirror mine precisely,

For a change, Grossman isn’t a fundamentalist Protestant or conservative Catholic- although she is a religious social conservative, namely an Orthodox Jew. It should be noted that not all Orthodox Jews subscribe to co-belligerency with the Christian Right, wary of the troubled fundamentalist and Catholic pasts insofar as anti-Semitism is concerned. However, Grosssman doesn’t fall into that category- she is a regular guest of US Christian Right organisations like Focus on the Family and participates within the World Congress of Families, a US Christian Right-centred international networking annual conference, to be held in Madrid in May 2012 this year.

And as one might guess, the “World Congress of Families” is fixated on a narrow range of religious social conservative obsessions- opposition to feminism, opposition to LGBT legislative reform, opposition to abortion rights, opposition to comprehensive sex education and nothing that really affects real families all that much. According to the March 2012, our own beloved Family First isn’t a ‘partner’ like notorious antigay organisations Americans for “Truth” about Homosexuality, Focus on the Family and Family Research Council (US), Christian Concern (UK), Endeavour Forum and the Australian Family Association (Australia), REAL Women (Canada), Human Life International and Tradition Family and Property.

Grossman’s forte is attacking comprehensive sexuality organisation as produced by mainstream evidence-based organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and our own Family Planning Association. This involves indoctrinating young women with propaganda about STIs and psychological stresses involved with initiating and maintaining sexual relationships, while neglecting important correlates like self-esteem education and information about contraception. These ‘fear-based curricula’ don’t actually prevent teenagers from having sex, and they do lack information about how to protect oneself from HIV/AIDS and STI through condoms and other forms of contraception. Needless to say, Grossman toes the religious social conservative party line when it comes to homosexuality too- on the basis of extremely biased ‘evidence’ from the exgay NARTH organisation, she argues that sexual orientation can be easily modified. She herself is associated with the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, a US antifeminist research organisation. People For the American Way has excellent articles on insight into their agenda on their website, which provide useful rebuttals of the ‘science’ involved.

It’s easy to speculate what sort of ‘research’ will be cited at this event. We are supposed to be blinded by the fact that Grossman has professional qualifications without asking whether her particular opinion is congruent with evidence-based research and practise from mainstream professional opinion and practise. Whenever one encounters religious social conservative professionals, one is met with badly designed ‘research’ methods and practise, selective citation or distortion of others research if it contradicts religious social conservative dogma and ‘cherry picking’ of selective data sets compared to a wider body of research that shows some inconvenient conclusions that refute their case. In two words, junk ‘science’

No wonder Family First invited her to their Forum. I would also hazard a guess that her involvement suggests that Family First may be becoming increasingly dependent on the US Christian Right and its Canadian, British and Australian satellites for its survival in terms of propaganda, tactics and strategy. I could only count four fundamentalist small business donors for the Forum this year- Business and Tax Advisors, FetchALamp, Pharmabrokers and Leaning Options. Obviously, the recession is biting deep into their pool of available donors, judging from the meagre nature of this list. Family First is also actively involved in propagandising for one of her books, of which there are two, published by conservative US imprints Regnery and Sentinel.

How convenient to be so forewarned.

Acknowledgement: GayNZ – Who is Miriam Grossman?

Dr Miriam Grossman, Family First, and Bob McCoskrie – all advocating that when it comes to sex education, ignorance is bliss.

And McCoskrie is appearing on Third Degree The Vote, tomorrow night, debating against the concept of poverty’s affect on children?

More ignorance is bliss no doubt.

Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Dr Miriam Grossman: when you want some fear-mongering in your sex ed

Frogblog: Family First gets it wrong on sexuality education also

Herstory: Dr Miriam Grossman, lies, bent truths, and irresponsible medicine

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= fs =

Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment. Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

11 June 2013 3 comments

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Free Milk - Auckland School Children 1939c free milk 1937-1967 ATL

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1. We’ve had the ‘chat’

We should all know the facts and stats by now;

In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)

By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)

A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

The same UNICEF report rated our country  third for clean air and fourth for children’s education outcomes in reading, maths, science and literacy. I’m sure clean air and high achievements in readin’, writin’, ‘n ‘rithmetic, will mean a lot to young chldren going to school with empty bellies… (Note sarcasm.)

In 2011, Dennis McKinlay, executive director at Unicef New Zealand, said,

New Zealand currently spends US$14,600 ($17,500) per child whilst, in comparison, Scandinavian countries spend US$50,000 per child under six. Other countries, like the Netherlands, spend less but have better outcomes. The stark reality is that poor outcomes for children are costing New Zealand $6 billion per year in areas such as health, welfare services, crime and justice.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Study: Quarter of NZ kids in poverty

McKinlay was 100% on the mark when he said spending  on children should not be considered as a social cost but as an economic investment for the future of the country.

We have lost our moral compass when we demand tax cuts ahead of good policies that benefit our children.

The situation is so dire for many families that their households are often empty of food. After rent, power, and other fixed costs are  taken out of their meagre incomes, there is simply not much left for discretionary spending on things  like food, medication, clothing, etc.

As a blogger, “Burnt out Teacher” (Amanda Kennedy),  recently wrote on The Daily Blog,

You have $440 dollars after tax from your minimum wage job. $290 of it goes on your rent. You have $150 left. You pay $198 towards your power bill. Your car needs registering at a cost of $290.97. You owe Watercare $58.20 for last month. You need at least $15 of petrol to get to the doctor and back (the doctor will cost another $20 per child) because your children have asthma and your house is damp and cold. Both kids need new shoes for winter. Your boyfriend just beat you up. You are crying. How much debt are you in, and what are your kids going to eat today?

Acknowledgement:  The Daily Blog – Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

To those who care enough, I encourage you to read “Burnt out Teacher’s” full blogpost. It makes for sobering reading.

2. More ‘chat’?

On 7 May, Children’s Commissioner, Dr  Russell Wills, wrote an op-ed piece for the Dominion Post;

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Time for a chat on food in schools

Acknowledgement: The Dominion Post – Time for a chat on food in schools

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As Dr Wills said,

We need solutions that recognise the many complex causes of child hunger and poverty if we are to use the limited resources we have to make a real difference to children’s education and health outcomes.

Blaming parents is unhelpful and simplistic.

So far, so good.

However, in the next sentence from Dr Wills gave cause for concern,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Dr Wills may or may not realise that by  issuing the statement that “fully state-funded school cafeterias… tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence…” – he is perpetuating several unhealthy prejudices which the politically rightwing and conservative religious groups use to oppose food in schools for children.

Namely the extremist neo-conservative group, the so-called “Family First”, which also stated,

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided…

[...]

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided.

Acknowledgement: “Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

Hopefully it is a mere coincidence that Dr Wills’ comments seem to mirror the extremist views of “Family First”.

Where Dr Wills’ op-ed piece falls down is his proposals for how to provide food in schools. Dr Wills proposed that schools be responsible for growing their own food, and to operate in partnerships with businesses. He promoted philanthropy rather than state intervention.

I asked for feedback from the principals of  two low decile schools, and from Bryan Bruce, documentary-maker,  child poverty campaigner,  and producer of  the documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“, on Dr Wills’ proposals.

I first asked all three;  having read Dr Wills’ op-ed piece, “Time for a chat on food in schools”, what was their overall view on the points he had made?

Ruth O’Neill
Principal, Cannons Creek School

The points he makes are quite valid. I think he is right that we do need a different approach to the way cafeteria type models run overseas.  NZ general has its main meal in the evening – however in saying that these children often only eat what they are given at school and don’t eat much in the evening. To form a group to look into the best way to supply food is a good idea.

Mike Fackney
Principal, Taita Central School

 

Overall, his comments are generally valid and his suggested solutions have merit – but only if you regard the solutions as short-term solutions. The real solution to child poverty is for structural changes to NZ society and changed government policies, particularly ensuring a decent living income for all. With this approach, all families would be able to afford the food, afford the time to put into their kids (not working 2 jobs, or working early morning shifts, etc). Education for parents to help with budgeting, cooking, etc would also fill a gap. Without this approach, the proposed solutions rely on businesses, charities, and schools.

I then asked, what was their view on Dr Wills’ suggestions that,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Ruth O’Neill
 

I think he is right.  We need to look for a nutritious alternative that does not take school time – we are there to provide education not food.  The food needs to be provided by an independent source that is reliable.

Mike Fackney
 

I worked in UK schools for 4 years from 1999-2002, and saw the ‘school dinners’ (lunches) programme in operation. I don’t know about the cost to the authorities, but I don’t think it took up much school management time. The food quality was variable, but this is easily changed with the right will, as showed by Jamie Oliver’s crusade to make school dinners healthy.

Bryan Bruce
Documentary Producer

You can find good and bad examples of state funded cafeterias. So we know how bad it could be – let’s regulate the process from the start and model ourselves on the best ones – like the one I visited in Sweden . It is in a migrant area and the food was nutritious, tasty and much enjoyed by the kids .

My next point;  Dr Wills suggested that, “in some schools parents and whanau are encouraged to help garden, harvest veges, cook and serve the food. This teaches gardening and cooking skills, and helps build relationships between parents, whanau and teachers

Ruth O’Neill
 

This is a glorious hope – but it wont work in the long term.  Yes it is great to grow veges and encourage parents to be involved but this won’t supply the lunches everyday. The parents are not reliable enough to turn up everyday and make lunch – for it to work properly it needs to be a commercial venture.  Schools have to have a fully guaranteed liunch programme everyday that they don’t need to worry about.

Mike Fackney
 

Great if it works. Problems include vandalism to gardens, and difficulty to have parents regularly available. Yes it may help with relationships but not necessarily – relationship are better built over students’ education.

Bryan Bruce
 

While I think its a very good idea to teach kids how to grow food, but the idea of sustaining a school food programme on a grow your own basis would take up most of the playing fields and leave the kids with little time for anything else .

I then asked, is this practical practical in the short term? Long term? Would gardening, harvesting veges, cooking and serving the food be more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals?  Where would vegetables be cooked?

Ruth O’Neill
 

I have no idea where the food would be cooked on a large scale.  You have to employ people who have the skills to provide food on a large scale everyday.  We would have nowhere at present that you could cook or eat on a large scale.

Mike Fackney
 

I believe it would be [more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals].

With the UK school dinners, the schools have commercial kitchens. This school [Taita Central School] certain doesn’t have the necessary kitchen facilities.

Bryan Bruce
 

Food is a fundamental health need. Let’s put in the Swedish model – full time caterers and school restaurants. This will create jobs, ( for chefs, cooks, builders) which will stimulate our economy, reduce our health spend on crisis care for obese, diabetic and future adults with dodgy hearts.

Dr Wills further claimed that,  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme.”

Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?

Does reliance on “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food” take students away from an already packed curriculum and place more demands on teachers and other staff?

Ruth O’Neill
 

Teachers do not have time to do this on the scale that is needed to feed the whole school.  Being out in the sunshine gardening is lovely – but what about winter!!!  We won’t get to National Standards in Reading, Writing, and Maths if we are out gardening all day.  To have small class gardens that we have where children grow vegetables and take them home is great and teaches the skills of growing food but this won’t work on an everyday basis to feed everyone.

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills suggestion that  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme” – Mike Fackney responded,

This is fine, but not something which can really continue on an on-going basis, particularly with all the other expectations the government has on schools.

And when asked “Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?” – he replied,

It’s never really a desirable proposal for schools to rely on private support.

Bryan Bruce
 

Bryan Bruce was even less enthusiastic at Dr Wills’ proposals,

We seem to be going back to the 19th Century idea of relying on charities and volunteers to look after the poor. Haven’t we learned anything ?

In my view it’s like this – teachers are not hired to be caterers. They are doing it out of compassion. Are we now asking them to be full time gardeners as well.

Dr Wills also said ; “In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

He also states,

However, I think there could be two potential roles for government funding. First, there is a place for a co-ordination role to bring together schools and businesses, and manage the programme and the workload for principals and business owners.

Second, there is an argument to match government funding to philanthropy on a sliding scale.

For example, $3 for every $1 raised in a decile 1 school, decreasing for better-off schools.

Matched funding like this encourages communities to build and own their own solutions, and incentivises businesses to give to their communities rather than replacing philanthropy with taxpayer funding, which has the opposite effect. Funding could be made available only to programmes that adhere to agreed standards, raising the quality of programmes. None of this requires legislative change.”

Dr Wills appears to be promoting a State/Philantropy Partnership policy. Is this a practical means by which to promote food in schools, or is it an abrogation of duties which should be the State’s responsibility on this issue?

What happens where businesses or private philantropy is not forthcoming – especially in poorer areas with high unemployment and few businesses? And would private businesses expect a quid pro quo, ie, advertising on school grounds?

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Upper Hutt School

Photograph:  Upper Hutt School, Upper Hutt

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Ruth O’Neill
 

This again puts pressure on schools to spend time on activities other than teaching children!!  There is no money in the community. $10 is alot of money in Cannons Creek.  We do not charge more that $2 or $3 for a school trip and subsidise the rest with school money. We have no school fees and provide such things as sunhats, beanies, shoes, socks, etc ourselves.  I think there needs to be further investigation into how poor is poor.  It may only be small groups of decile 1 schools that need this support.

 

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills’s comment that  “in many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

Mike  replies,

A far easier way is that it’s organised through the taxation system (i.e. a fairer taxation system) and provided by government – as schools are.

As for the rest of Dr Wills’ comments above, Mike says,

All of this sounds like an organisation nightmare.

Bryan Bruce
 

If we want to rebuild a fair an equitable society where every child gets a fair go you can’t have kids in poor schools gardening to grow their dinner while kids in rich schools get their lunch provided and spend their school time doing maths and reading. If the public school system does not treat every child equally (and it already isn’t) then watch the gap between the rich and the poor get bigger and bigger.

Dr Wills also suggests that ,  “ … we need a small project to bring together schools, NGOs, officials and experts to reach a consensus on what food in schools done well looks like. From there we could develop guidelines and standards for food in schools programmes.
Is this a viable, necessary step? Or a case of “talking heads around a table” whilst the problem of hungry children goes unaddressed?

Ruth O’Neill
 

This sounds like a great idea – count me in. If this is going to be addressed properly and a long term healthy solution found then it needs a focused approach. With the right people and funding it could move quite quickly.

When I asked, can we afford Dr Wills’  suggestion “Maybe it’s time for a cup of tea on food in schools?“, Bryan Bruce was less than impressed,

Bryan Bruce

 

Forget the cup of tea and the charity and poor kids being constant gardeners – let’s get on and feed our kids properly so the teachers are freed to do their job and our kids can learn the 21 st Century skills they will need to earn money, pay their taxes and grow our economy.

Ruth also offered her thoughts on  matters arising  from Dr Wills’ ideas.
Questons such as; who cares and tends to the gardens during school holidays? Are school staff expected to tend to garden plots during holidays?

Ruth O’Neill

I can tell you that the class gardens all go to seed over the xmas break and then it takes all of term 1 when the soil is rock hard to get them up and running again.  Then in the winter they are like a bog!!! On any given weekend people will come into the grounds and trash them, throw alcohol and broken glass bottles in them. Urinate in them – would you want your child doing the gardening?? Or people steal the veges.

What about schools that have little or no spare land for gardens?

 Exactly??? Or who have high vandalism.

I then asked how much food can be grown to sustain anywhere from thirty to a few hundred school children in any given school? The respone from Ruth was fairly predictable,

You could not grow enough food to maintain the whole programme. It is also a question of having the right veges on the right day to make the soup or the sandwiches. You need lettuces and tomatoes everyday!!

And of course the also-obvious question which I put to Ruth –  what do children eat whilst crops are growing?

Exactly – totally impractical unless it is on a massive commercial scale for a big group of schools and the funding to buy in produce when needed to supplement supplies.

 

And is a “chat”  really necessary – or is it time to Just Do It; to get on with feeding our children and leave the “conversation” to some other time? (It’s easy for middle class professionals to want to engage in public debate. Especially on a full belly.)

Ruth O’Neill

It needs addressing and in a timely manner – the chat would need to lead to actions and funding.

Mike Fackney

All of the above are very valid concerns.

This blogger concurs with Bryan, Ruth, and Mike; Dr Wills has suggested some positive ideas – but the prospect of turning our schools into vast agricultural plots to feed hungry child is simply not practical.

Children go to school, first and foremost, to learn.

Those children from low-income or impoverished families should not be made to become mini-farmers.

Teachers go to school, first and foremost, to teach.

They do not expect to add Farm Manager to their C.V.

Child poverty is here, in our country. Whilst right wing conservatives  ‘tut-tut’ and wag their judgemental fingers at the problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”), children through no fault of their own are going hungry and their  learning experience is diminished.

As a nation, it is almost as if we have embarked on a deliberate course of increasing poverty and ensuring the advent of the next generation of impoverished New Zealanders.

If that is our aim, then we are exceeding all expectations. The UNICEF report referred to above proves that poverty is a growth industry in this country.

The time for “chat” is over.

3. “Feed The Kids” Bill in Parliament – Chat with MPs

The Mana Party in Parliament has a Bill before the House. The bill is designed to fund nutritional breakfasts and lunches to all their students in decile 1 and 2 schools.

For more info, see: Feed the Kids Bill

As their website points out,

  • Feeding the kids should be our first priority as a nation.
  • The Bill aims to set up government funded breakfast and lunch programmes in all decile 1-2 schools.
  • It’s a simple, easy and immediate way to address growing levels of child poverty in Aotearoa and has been a key recommendation of leading organisations such as the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.
  • The Bill is expected to come before Parliament for its first reading on Wednesday 5 June. So far Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, and Independent MP Brendan Horan have agreed to support it.
  • We need one more vote to get it passed and to a select committee for further consideration.

One more vote.

That’s all it will take.

Accordingly, Documentary-maker and child poverty campaigner, Bryan Bruce, is encouraging people to write to all MPs, asking that they vote for the Bill. As Bryan wrote on his Facebook Page,

You’re 7 years old. It’s winter. You haven’t had breakfast and you’re hungry. What do you want to hear?

“Why doesn’t your Mum feed you in the morning? I hope you’re not going to grow up to be a bad parent like her?”

OR

“Hey! Here’s some Milo. There’s toast over there and weetbix , milk and fruit on the table. Help yourself.”

We can’t change tomorrow if we don’t do the right thing today.

Please contact your local MP and ask them to support the Feed The Kids Bill. You will find their email addresses here:

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Bryan even suggests a pre-formatted letter to send,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

My name is…………. I live in your electorate . I urge you to commit to cross- party talks on how to end Child Poverty in New Zealand.

Please begin by agreeing to Cross-Party discussions on how we can implement a policy of supplying healthy meals in schools and show good faith by supporting the Feed The Kids Bill as a first step.

Yours faithfully………

Even something as simple as,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. Nothing is as important as ensuring that all children have a decent chance in life.

Yours faithfully………

Or,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. This is so important to me that I’ll be basing my vote at the next election for those candidates/parties who support this Bill.

Yours faithfully………

The MPs email addresses,

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Adams, Amy National Party, Selwyn
Ardern, Jacinda Labour Party, List
Ardern, Shane National Party, Taranaki-King Country
Auchinvole, Chris National Party, List
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh National Party, List
Banks, John ACT New Zealand, Epsom
Barry, Maggie National Party, North Shore
Beaumont, Carol Labour Party, List
Bennett, David National Party, Hamilton East
Bennett, Paula National Party, Waitakere
Blue, Jackie National Party, List
Borrows, Chester National Party, Whanganui
Bridges, Simon National Party, Tauranga
Browning, Steffan Green Party, List
Brownlee, Gerry National Party, Ilam
Calder, Cam National Party, List
Carter, David National Party, List
Clark, David Labour Party, Dunedin North
Clendon, David Green Party, List
Coleman, Jonathan National Party, Northcote
Collins, Judith National Party, Papakura
Cosgrove, Clayton Labour Party, List
Cunliffe, David Labour Party, New Lynn
Curran, Clare Labour Party, Dunedin South
Dalziel, Lianne Labour Party, Christchurch East
Dean, Jacqui National Party, Waitaki
Delahunty, Catherine Green Party, List
Dunne, Peter United Future, Ohariu
Dyson, Ruth Labour Party, Port Hills
English, Bill National Party, Clutha-Southland
Faafoi, Kris Labour Party, Mana
Fenton, Darien Labour Party, List
Finlayson, Christopher National Party, List
Flavell, Te Ururoa Maori Party, Waiariki
Foss, Craig National Party, Tukituki
Genter, Julie Anne Green Party, List
Gilmore, Aaron National Party, List
Goff, Phil Labour Party, Mt Roskill
Goldsmith, Paul National Party, List
Goodhew, Jo National Party, Rangitata
Graham, Kennedy Green Party, List
Groser, Tim National Party, List
Guy, Nathan National Party, Otaki
Hague, Kevin Green Party, List
Harawira, Hone Mana, Te Tai Tokerau
Hayes, John National Party, Wairarapa
Heatley, Phil National Party, Whangarei
Henare, Tau National Party, List
Hipkins, Chris Labour Party, Rimutaka
Horan, Brendan Independent, List
Hughes, Gareth Green Party, List
Huo, Raymond Labour Party, List
Hutchison, Paul National Party, Hunua
Jones, Shane Labour Party, List
Joyce, Steven National Party, List
Kaye, Nikki National Party, Auckland Central
Key, John National Party, Helensville
King, Annette Labour Party, Rongotai
King, Colin National Party, Kaikoura
Lee, Melissa National Party, List
Lees-Galloway, Iain Labour Party, Palmerston North
Little, Andrew Labour Party, List
Logie, Jan Green Party, List
Lole-Taylor, Asenati NZ First, List
Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam National Party, Maungakiekie
Macindoe, Tim National Party, Hamilton West
Mackey, Moana Labour Party, List
Mahuta, Nanaia Labour Party, Hauraki-Waikato
Mallard, Trevor Labour Party, Hutt South
Martin, Tracey NZ First, List
Mathers, Mojo Green Party, List
McClay, Todd National Party, Rotorua
McCully, Murray National Party, East Coast Bays
McKelvie, Ian National Party, Rangitikei
Mitchell, Mark National Party, Rodney
Moroney, Sue Labour Party, List
Ngaro, Alfred National Party, List
Norman, Russel Green Party, List
O’Connor, Damien Labour Party, West Coast-Tasman
O’Connor, Simon National Party, Tamaki
O’Rourke, Denis NZ First, List
Parata, Hekia National Party, List
Parker, David Labour Party, List
Peters, Winston NZ First, List
Prasad, Rajen Labour Party, List
Prosser, Richard NZ First, List
Robertson, Grant Labour Party, Wellington Central
Robertson, Ross Labour Party, Manukau East
Roche, Denise Green Party, List
Ross, Jami-Lee National Party, Botany
Roy, Eric National Party, Invercargill
Ryall, Tony National Party, Bay of Plenty
Sabin, Mike National Party, Northland
Sage, Eugenie Green Party, List
Shanks, Katrina National Party, List
Sharples, Pita Maori Party, Tamaki Makaurau
Shearer, David Labour Party, Mt Albert
Simpson, Scott National Party, Coromandel
Sio, Su’a William Labour Party, Mangere
Smith, Nick National Party, Nelson
Stewart, Barbara NZ First, List
Street, Maryan Labour Party, List
Tirikatene, Rino Labour Party, Te Tai Tonga
Tisch, Lindsay National Party, Waikato
Tolley, Anne National Party, East Coast
Tremain, Chris National Party, Napier
Turei, Metiria Green Party, List
Turia, Tariana Maori Party, Te Tai Hauauru
Twyford, Phil Labour Party, Te Atatu
Upston, Louise National Party, Taupo
Wagner, Nicky National Party, Christchurch Central
Walker, Holly Green Party, List
Wall, Louisa Labour Party, Manurewa
Wilkinson, Kate National Party, Waimakariri
Williams, Andrew NZ First, List
Williamson, Maurice National Party, Pakuranga
Woodhouse, Michael National Party, List
Woods, Megan Labour Party, Wigram
Yang, Jian National Party, List
Young, Jonathan National Party, New Plymouth

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I leave the final word to Bryan, from his Facebook page,

OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Significance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.


If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you,
Bryan

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2013.

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Acknowledgement

My sincerest appreciation and thanks go  to Bryan Bruce, Mike Fackney, and  Ruth O’Neill for taking time out of their busy schedules to respond to my questions.

Other Blog Posts

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

References

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Scoop: Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels   (30 May 2012)

NZ Herald: Poverty not only reason for suicide spike, says Key (30 Oct 2012)

Fairfax Media: Time for a chat on food in schools (7 May 2013)

Additional

Mana Party: Feed the Kids #fact sheet

Feed The Kids

Facebook: Community Campaign for Food in Schools – NZ

Ten Myths About Welfare

The Children’s Social Health Monitor: Child Poverty and Living Standards

Other blogposts

The Pundit: Children’s Commissioner fronts for Nats on food in schools: Corporate agenda rules

And from the nasty side of Conservative Rightwing politics

“Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

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Shock News: Roy Morgan predicting change in government!!!

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Red Green Up

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A current shock Roy Morgan poll predicts a  change in government, if the results are carried through to the next general election.

The poll results are as follows;

National: 41% (down 3%)

Labour: 35% (up 3%)

Greens: 12%  (unchanged)

NZ First: 4.5% (down 0.5%)

Conservative Party: 2.5% (up 1%)

Maori Party: 2% (unchanged)

ACT:  0.5% (down 1%)

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged)

Mana Party: 0.5% (down 0.5%)

A Labour-Green Bloc together would win 47%  of the Party Vote – beating National’s 41%.

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Latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll

Acknowledgment: Roy Morgan

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What makes this poll stand out above recent television and Fairfax-IPSOS polls are;

  1. The poll results appear more realistic in terms in terms of negative public sentiment to National’s policies,
  2. Roy Morgan polling has been more consistent,
  3. The polling takes into account respondents contacted via cellphone – a major criticism of other polls which only contact landlines.
  4. The figure of 41% echoes a comment made by National Party supporter and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten, on Citizen A on 16 May.

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The fact that polling is including respondents who may rely solely  cellphones gives Roy Morgan an added advantage over other pollsters, who only call land-lines.

As Statistics NZ tabulates it’s recent census data, we will soon have a better understanding of how many households rely solely on cellphones, with an absence of landlines. (See related blogpost: Census, Surveys, and Cellphones)

As well, note Matthew’s comment at 27.15, where he says,

“The impact of gay marriage. The private polling by the major parties shows both National and Labour sharply down. National in one private poll has a poll number with a ‘3’ in front of it…”

His ‘slip’ (?) and reference  to “a poll number with a ‘3’ in front of it” backs up Roy Morgan’s poll results perfectly.

The National Party hierarchy must be fully aware that the TV and Fairfax polls are inflated and unrealistic. Which is one reason why the Nats recently ‘caved’ to public pressure and implemented a restricted ‘Claytons‘   food-in-schools programme.

National’s support of State provision for  feeding children came as a bizarre  after-thought to the main Budget, and it could only have occurred if massive public pressure had been brought to bear. This kind of socialised service provision does not come naturally to a right wing Party like National.

Keep an eye on future Roy Morgan polls.

We are witnessing the inexorable decline of one government – as the next,  government-in-waiting, prepares to take the reins.

However, one Big Question remains: what will a new, left-wing, Labour-Green government do, once in power? For a further viewpoint on this vexing issue, read Morgan Godfery’s blogpost; What the left can learn from Lusk.

Do we unpick and wind back neo-liberalism? Or should we be content merely to ‘contain’ it?

NZ Power was a good start and received favourable support from the electorate. But that is only a start.

After thirty years of failed neo-liberalism, and with around 270,00 children living in poverty, there is much work to do.

The rebuild of Christchurch is under way.

The re-build of New Zealand is yet to begin.

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Previous related blogposts

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

References

Roy Morgan Poll 29 May 2013

Citizen A 16 May 2013

Other blogposts

What the left can learn from Lusk

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Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

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Maria and the children of the poor - "Metropolis" (1927)

Maria and the children of the poor – “Metropolis” (1927)

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There is a problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in schools…

First, to re-cap, there was no announcement made in the Budget on 16 May regarding meals in schools,

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Key tight-lipped on food in schools

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be  weeks away,

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food in schools

Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme

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Interestingly, whilst National is luke-warm on the idea of feeding hungry children in our schools, they have little  hesitation in throwing our tax-dollars at private, profit-making businesses such as Charter Schools. What next – state subsidies for farmers to produce fatty sheep meat and a butter mountain?

National – the self-professed champion of the free market – throwing taxpayer’s money at private enterprises?

Regarding food in schools, Bill English had this to say about the subject on Maori TV’s Native Affairs last night (20 May),

Mihingarangi Forbes prefaced the interview by reminding viewers of a statement made by John Key with he was leader of the Opposition in 2007,

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: ” [John Key]… from the Opposition benches, promised, a Food In Schools programme.  Back then he said he wouldn’t wait because “kiwi kids deserved better (see: National launches its Food in Schools programme). So earlier today I asked Bill English why, after six years, thousands of  kids still wait.”

BILL ENGLISH:   “[...] but I think we should keep it in perspective. In the budget there was a wide ranges of measures that are going to have a positive  impact on the complicated problem of children and families who suffer from  persistant  disadvantage.”

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: “Can I ask, do you personally support, believe that central government should be providing food for children?”

BILL ENGLISH:   “I think we have to deal with the reality that children turn up to school unable to eat, we believe that it’s parent’s respons-,  unable to learn.We believe it’s parent’s responsibility to feed their children. And I think we would find that where children are turning up hungry, there’s probably any number of other issues in the life of that family that are difficult and need resolving. But we need these kids to learn, we can’t punish them for the circumstances that  they’re born into or living in and so that’s why we support feeding them so they can learn.”

When asked when National would implement a plan,  Mihingarangi reminded English that Key had stated that it  was just a “couple of sleeps away”, he responded,

BILL ENGLISH:  “Well, look, I think you should just wait for the announcements in a couple of weeks.”

Acknowledgment: Maori TV – Native Affairs (20 May 2013)

So what is  the  problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in school that I referred to above?

Firstly the Nats appear to having some kind of internal crisis on this issue – leading to Bill English   delaying any announcement for two weeks after the Budget was released.  (Some have suggested that there is a ‘power struggle’ going on behind the scenes in Cabinet? It has been suggested that an announcement was going to be made on Budget Day – but was pulled at the last minute.)

But the real problem of any food-in-schools programme?

National has not budgetted for it.

The Mana Party “Feed the Kids” Bill is estimated to cost $100 million to implement (see: Mana Party – Fact Sheet). Any plan from National – unless it is half-hearted and watered down – will also require considerable resourcing.

Where is National’s Budget allocation for implementing any meaningful food in schools programme?

There does not appear to be any.

As National continues to dither and delay on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”), there is a feeling of  growing dread within me that National ministers are going to deliver the biggest cop-out to the country since… whenever.

No food, no money, no solutions.

Message to John Key & Bill English

Prove me wrong.

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Leaving the Rich untouched

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References

Mana Party: A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget:  Increasing Poverty, Not Reducing Poverty

Scoop: National launches its Food in Schools programme ()

Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

  1. As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see:  IBID)
  2. According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ -Addressing housing demand).  This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
  3. Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
    In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
  4.  A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

In the past, one of the principle means by which  New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the  destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See:  HNZ -Income-related rent)

For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.

Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still  hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

The principle of  housing is not just to provide a roof  over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.

Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is  where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor)  can  create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.

The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and  forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.

Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,

It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve.  We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.

We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”

Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed

Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.

It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.

It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.

Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.

It will also inevitably  increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.

What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.

And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.

All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?

Remember the stats above?

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

National has never been a Party to promote  socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).

The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.

But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.

It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.

A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.

In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,

The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on  17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see  Budget: Stirring state house voters)

Williams further stated,

Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.

What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.

The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.

On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.

Acknowledgment: IBID

A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be  out of office. And Key is out of a job.

Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat  at the next election.  Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.

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References

Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)

Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)

Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…

A letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times, based on a response on a previous blogpost, National on Child Poverty?!

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:28 AM
subject:     letters to the editor

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The Editor

Sunday Star Times

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I would fully support meals in ALL schools, regardless of decile ratings. It would eliminate labelling a school as “poor”. Feeding kids in all decile schools would be a benefit for parents for  less pressure on them to daily prepare meals for their children – especially where both spouses might be working and busy in the mornings. School breakfasts and lunches would remove some of the early morning pressures and stresses.

The good thing, though is we would once again be on a road to egalitarianism. Imagine if all kids, regardless of class, had the same meals (taking into consideration personal needs; allergies, religion, etc).

If our cuzzies in Britain, Canada, and Scandinavian nations can achieve this, I’m dumbfounded why so many think this is beyond our capabilities. Are we, as a nation incapable of doing what needs to be done??

I don’t believe that. Not for a moment.

And if National and Peter Dunne can plow $200 million into the Rugby World Cup, their excuse that this is somehow “unaffordable” simply doesn’t wash with me.

So, ok, we start with Decile 1 and 2. I’m a realist. I understand we need to take this one step at a time. The Right Wing in this country are in a frothing-mouthed hysterics over this plan. It would be a major reversal of our current neo-liberal, Me First culture.

This isn’t just about feeding hungry children – this is about the soul of our nation.

This is where we decide what kind of society we want to live in.

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-Frank Macskasy
(phone number and address supplied)

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It’s time to raise our voices on this (and other) problem.  As election time nears, they will have one eye on polls and the other on public opinion.

Now is the time to grab their attention.

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