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Posts Tagged ‘free market’

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlooks

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlook for 2013

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What are we manufacturing today

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We need businesses producing high-value products for overseas markets and businesses using R&D to develop those products which drives other benefits, like better production processes and marketing.  Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy.

We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. Our world-leading dairy industry also owes much of its success to innovation.” – Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

See: EDANZ National Economic Development Forum – Speech Notes

It’s a funny old world we live in…

Sunrise Industries…

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Central Auckland super brothel approved

Full story

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tobacco-deal-creates-50-jobs-in-petone

Full story

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skycity-deal-puts-laws-up-for-sale

Full story

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Another liquor outlet set to open

Full story

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Sex, gambling, tobacco, alcohol – the new profitable industries of the 1st century? We seem to have left out other “growth” industries, the modern sex-slave trade in women and children, and arms manufacturing.

Oh. Wait. Maybe not,

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Govt funds still invested in cluster bomb makers

Full story

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Oh well, National and it’s  free-market fellow-travellers will be delirious with joy. If there’s a buck to be made from vices and weapons, they’ll be happy as a pig in mud.

Now if only they can find the price of a soul, and a market for it…

And the Sun sets on…

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Sounds silenced by $20m debt

Full story

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Borders, Whitcoulls under administration

Full story

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Real Groovy Wellington to close

Full story

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Closing chapter for fine arts bookshop

Full story

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Bookstore another victim of public sector cuts

Full story

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Marbecks music shop closes down

Full story

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Meanwhile…

Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy. We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. - Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

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Rakon cuts full-year profit guidance

Source

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F&P confirms job losses

Full story

Warning as Haier wins all

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Oh well, one (Tait) out of three still seems a ‘goer’. How long for, I wonder?

Meanwhile, how are our export and related sectors doing?

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

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And the stats back up the ODT story above,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Not too good it seems.  The red-highlighted sectors all declined from 2006 to 2011.

National’s “hands off” doctrine, in deference of the ‘Invisible Hand of the Market’, is certainly achieving one result; giving advantage to our exporting competitors from other nations. The Nats seem resigned (hellbent?) to more job losses; more exporters going under; more skilled tradespeople leaving for Australia; and a further decline ineconomic growth,

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Job losses inevitable in declining industries, say ministers

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What the hell!? The export sector is a “declining industry“?!?!

When even National’s allies – the Manufacturers and Exporters Association – are calling for government intervention about the high New Zealand dollar, it really drives home the seriousness of the crisis. An economic crisis that this time had it’s origins on Molesworth Street – not Wall Street.

For National to persist in it’s “hands off”  and obedience to Free Market dogma will have nasty consequences for our economy.

For 2013, expect,

  • unemployment to rise
  • the export sector to worsen
  • growth to remain low, under 1%
  • an early election this coming year, as Dunne and the Maori Party desert the National-led coalition.

It’s easy to predict – we’ve seen it all before.

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

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outlook for 2013

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The Benign Neglect of the Free Market

25 September 2012 3 comments

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Nuplex joins a long line of other industries, manufacturers, retailers, government departments, SOEs, etc, who plan to shed jobs,

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Full story

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The announcement of redundancies adds to a shocking list of job losses this year alone,

What sets Nuplex’s announcement apart from others was this extraordinary statement from New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association president, Brian Willoughby,

New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Brian Willoughby said Nuplex’s decision would have come after all other options were exhausted. “Nuplex would have been working really hard to be as effective as it could, like the other companies that have announced these closures and layoffs. This is the end game – they can’t make it work.”

He said the Government, and past governments, clearly understood the reasons why manufacturers and exporters were facing such challenges.

“They have all operated with benign neglect and let it get to this,” said Willoughby. “There are so many buttons that could be pushed.”

He said the Reserve Bank could lower interest rates, which would help keep the New Zealand dollar’s strength in check.”

See: Ibid

Benign neglect“, Willoughby calls it.

Another term is the free market in full operation.

Were it not for the fact that thousands of New Zealanders are losing their jobs on a weekly basis, pushing up the unemployment rate, I would find Willoughby’s remarks laughable.

Businessmen and women are quick off the mark to demand less State interference and more market de-regulation to suit their vision of a pure free market.

Both National and Labour governments  have been happy to comply, reducing company tax rates, as well as personal marginal tax rates for high income earners.

In the last four years, company tax rates have been slashed from 33% to 28%.

See: IRD – For businesses and employers

Industrial labour “reforms” have included the 90 Day “trial rate” to allow employers to take on more staff more easily (and still unemployment is rising?!) since 1 Aprl last year.

See: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – 90 Day Trial Period

And FTA deals are being planned all over the place.

If National was any more “business friendly”, politicians would be literally climbing into bed and sleeping with business people. (No inferences made.)

And business sector groups are now whinging that past governments  ” have all operated with benign neglect “?!

Ungrateful buggers.

As if Brian Willoughby’s whining wasn’t enough, Catherine Beard, executive director of Manufacturing NZ, made this stomach-churning complaint,

She said measures the Government could take to address the strong dollar included reducing debt, to take the pressure off interest rates, and putting an end to “poor quality spending” such as Working for Families and student loans.

See: The axe falls: Industry boss blames cuts on Govt

Yeah. Why should families raising kids  and young people starting out in life get all the breaks, huh?

I look forward to Ms Beard advocating  an end to namby-pamby laws protecting workers’ conditions so that children can have real choices in life.

Like whether to work in sweat shops or clean the insides of chimneys.

Choice is important.

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When a failure of neo-liberal policy is pointed out to a right winger…

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… they will always default to one of three positions;

1. Blame the previous government
2. Blame the welfare state and/or beneficiaries
3. Blame the global recession (but not for an increase in welfare beneficiaries – that’s a “lifestyle” choice”)

Pick a public on-line messageboard at random. Look at the postings on  political discussion-threads. Note the response from right wingers and neo-liberals.

When confronted by a failure of the ‘free market’, the neo-liberal and/or right winger will always respond with one of the three  options above.

Rule #1 of the Right Wing mentality: never accept responsibility. (That’s only for  welfare beneficiaries and the poor.)

It’s all they have to explain the failure of their ideology.

 

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A little trick borrowed from the former Soviet bloc…

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Full Story

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In the late 1970s, I had the opportunity to visit my parent’s homeland, behind the Iron Curtain. It was possibly the most educative experience of my life, and I had an opportunity to witness, first hand,  an economic and social system that was quite alien to me.

Some of the lessons I learnt…

  1. Extreme economic policies – whether marxist-leninist or neo-liberal – don’t work, and will ultimately fail. Neither cater for human needs, individually or socially.
  2. It’s true what they say about centralised planning and the public transport system; it was incredibly cheap, efficient, and very user-friendly.
  3. Alway take extra jeans with you to sell on the black market.
  4. Do not mess with the local police. Ever.
  5. Unemployment doesn’t exist in a socialist country – though they have three or four people doing the job of one. That’s the trade-off; unemployment or over-staffing. Which do you prefer? (At least with over-staffing, there were few idle hands for mischief-making and you didn’t have to waste money on unemployment benefits.)
  6. New Zealand was actually more egalitarian (or socialist or whatever you want to call it) in the 1970s, under Norman Kirk and Robert Muldoon – than an actual Soviet Bloc country. Weird – but that’s how it felt.
  7. There was no such thing as inflation. Oh no – they just changed the labels. So Brand X of coffee at 100 forints would disappear off the shelf, to be replaced with Brand Y, at 110 forints. Or a lower weight. That was marxist/leninism’s version of capitalism’s “creative accountancy”.

And it appears that, judging by recent media reports, New Zealand businesses have caught on to Item #7. Instead of raising prices, simply reduce the content.

The only thing is… it didn’t work very well for the Soviet Bloc, and their economies  eventually all but collapsed by the late 1980s, or early 1990s.

Just a thought for us smug Westerners. Reducing content and/or brand-name replacement is only a temporary sticky-plaster and hides fundamental problems with the economy.

As if the lessons of the global banking crisis and resultant recession wasn’t enough of a clue for the West…?

Ok, who’s up for a 150 135 gr bar of Cadbury?

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“Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?”

9 April 2012 7 comments

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Full Story

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Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?” asks right-wing Auckland Councillor;  National Party member; supporter of ACT politicians; and one-time almost-ran National Candidate, Cameron Brewer.

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ACT MP John Banks, David Lumsden, Cr Cameron Brewer

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Cr Brewer is complaining about the transformation of  Auckland’s “Gold Mile” in Queen Street. He says,

Now it has come down to these little shoebox shops selling absolute rubbish.

You really have to wonder the logic of the council wanting to spend nearly $500 million on CBD and waterfront upgrades over the next 10 years, when at the same time it’s signing off these awful little developments.

It completely runs counter to the mayor’s vision of creating a world class city centre.

Pocket traders would only send good retailers and shoppers away to the suburbs.

Only five years ago Queen St had about $50 million of ratepayers’ money spent on it, and more recently the same amount was spent on Aotea Square and millions on turning some side streets into shared spaces.

Then council allows this. It’s very frustrating. The planning department needs to start talking to the economic development department, because things have got to change.” – Ibid

Then he added, quite oddly,

Sometimes it’s more about getting a migrant visa, than creating a sustainable business.”

Am I getting the impression that Cr Brewer just took a ‘dig’ at immigrants?!

The irony here is that Mr Cameron is a National Party member, and has worked for ACT’s Rodney Hide and John Banks. Part of  the National/ACT ideology is that the free market determines the nature of business – not the State.

This is the same Free Market ideology which allowed dozens of state assets to be privatised; electricity production to be corporatised and sold at a profit; removal of tariffs and flooding NZ  with cheap goods from low-wage countries; the de-unionisation of the workforce; corporate competition forcing down wages; and which determines the price of everything from anzac biscuits to Zoo tickets.

This is the ideology which has transformed many Council Organisations from previously council-run enterprises – to independent, profit-oriented, corporate entities.

In short, the New Right, neo-liberal ideology is that the State has no business being in business, nor creating “unnecessary” impediments and restrictions  to business.

Cameron Brewer is not averse to supporting business, as he stated in a press release on 20 September 2011,

Auckland Council’s draft economic development strategy was peer reviewed by Greg Clark who advises international cities on how to lift their performance. Mr Clark believes Auckland’s number one priority should be creating a “business-friendly well run-city, with enabling business and investment climate”. “

When Cr Brewer asks “Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?“, the answer is quite simple: the free market is what happened.

And that’s the thing about the “free market” which I would point out to Cr Brewer;  control of our society; the way our communities live; is now at the mercy of  market forces.The bottom-line rules; the Consumer is King; and everything is by the power of the Contract.

Welcome to New Zealand, post-1984.

Eventually, of course,  those same market forces will impact our lives in unintended ways, and cause consequences   that the Cameron Brewers of New Zealand, will not welcome, and will bitterly resent.

After all, how many people in South Auckland angrily resent the proliferation of alcohol outlets in their communities, selling cheap booze at all hours of day and night?

How many people revile the pokie machines that suck  millions of dollars out of families’ pockets, and impact so tragically on communities throughout the country?

Even as Cr Brewer quoted Greg Clark above,

…Mr Clark believes Auckland’s number one priority should be creating a “business-friendly well run-city, with enabling business and investment climate”. “

So Cr Brewer need wonder no more as to “Whatever happened to the Golden Mile?

He got what he voted for.

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Related Blogposts

A kronically inept government

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Booze – it’s time for some common sense

Unfortunate Outrage

Media reports

NZ Herald:  Shoe-box retailer debate heating up

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National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender (Part #Rua)

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When National took office in November, 2008, unemployment was on the way up. From a record low of 3.4% in December 2007, it stood at 4.8% a year later.

By December 2009, the Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate had risen  to 7.3%,

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Source

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The unemployment rate has since dropped back to 6.3%, for the December 2011 quarter. The slow drop from 7.3% to 6.3% has taken two years to achieve – and even the cause of that outcome is debateable, as New Zealand  “baby boomers”  start retiring and others  escape our stagnating economy to Australia.

I will make one thing clear; I do not lay blame nor responsibility for the doubling of our unemployment at the feet at National. The 2008  global banking crisis, ongoing recession, and massive debt-problems were issues beyond any political Party in any country. National inherited an international situation not of it’s direct making. (Though National does espouse a neo-liberal ideology which most certainly contributed to the crisis in capitalism.)

As an interesting aside; National and it’s groupies  (quite rightly) blame the 2008 recession for our high unemployment rate. However, they conveniently ignore the 2008 recession when engaging in beneficiary-bashing – then the issue of  increased unemployment is a “lifestyle choice”.

However, this blogger maintains that whilst the rise in unemployment was not National’s fault – that National has been derelict in it’s duty to address the crisis in joblessness. Bashing beneficiaries and painting them as lazy layabouts indulging in a “lifestyle choice” will not create one single job.

Blaming beneficiaries for a global situation they had no hand in making is an abrogation of responsibility by National.

I think we all know by now that National hasn’t a clue when it comes to job creation. They have no policies to generate jobs, and what what they have been doing has been tragically counter-productive,

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Full Story

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This blogger is aware of one solo-mum who used the TIA to go through University; upskill; find a well-paid job;   move of welfare; and is now a tax-paying member of society. But I guess that is not the meme that National wants  entering the public consciousness. Their agenda is better served by scapegoating solo-mothers. (But never solo-dads.)

See:   Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Paula Bennett  used the TIA to put herself through University; upskill; and then move on to a more well-paid benefit; she became Minister of Welfare.

See: Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s axing of the TIA and other cutbacks in training and upskilling is what is colloquially known as a false economy.  It may save a few million bucks now – but will only delay the Day of Reckoning when we end up with an untrained, low-skilled society.

Even John Key made this a theme of his speech four years ago,

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The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  

Because the hard truth is that Labour’s economic underperformance hasn’t delivered the social dividend they promised us.  

So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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John Key finished of that speech  by saying,

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We will not sweep problems under the carpet.  We will not meet the country’s challenges by quietly lowering our expectations.”

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So how has National performed?

Not so good, I’m afraid. (But that’s hardly surprising.)

Aside from cutting back on training, National seems to be engaged in a clandestine programme to actually keep wages depressed. Bill English admitted as much last year, on TVNZ’s Q+A when he let slip that New Zealands lower wages were a competitive advantage to Australia,

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“”Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

“… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

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Despite a low-wage economy being counter-intuitive for a multitude of common-sense reasons, it appears that – with National’s coded  assent – some local industries are attempting to drive down wages and develop a low-wage economy.

The current industrial disputes with AFFCO and Ports of Auckland Ltd are based purely around driving down wages  by cutting conditions; casualisation; and crushing unions in the workplace.

In October last year, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels that their industry needed more cheap foreign labour,

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SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.” ” – Source

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See: Is this where New Zealand is heading?

See: Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

The prospect of slave crews on foreign fishing vessels in our territorial waters was a step too far, even for right-wing blogger and National Party cadre, David Farrar. He seemed horrified at what a ministerial inquiry and US journalist had uncovered. (Or perhaps it was faux-disgust, to try to distance National from slavery on New Zealand’s high seas. Who can tell.)

See: A Slave By Any Other Name

However, it was not a good look for one of our industries to be lobbying National to permit more cheap labour into New Zealand. Even if it was to be far out at sea, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, our US-based clients were not too happy when they found out what was going on under our noses, and from which we were seen to be profitting,

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Now, National’s inaction on job creation, training, and upskilling is beginning to bite. Reliance on the free market has not achieved any desirable, measurable goals. In fact, business is still luke-warm at hiring and training new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s director director, Andrew Brushfield, expressed surprise at  the “cautious hiring predictions among New Zealand CFOs”. Really? No sh*t, Sherlock.

So where does that leave us;

  • A National government that is cutting training allowances
  • No government employment-creation programme to speak of
  • No state apprenticeship programme
  • Leaving job creation and training to the ‘market’
  • The ‘market’ being reluctant to generate employment

No wonder unemployment is still at 150,000.

And little wonder that, with 150,000 jobless, and no jobs training, the Christchurch re-build is now hampered by a shortage of skilled tradespeople,

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Full Story

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To illustrate how short-sighted National (and it’s right wing hangers-on and sycophantic businesspeople),  Weltec offers seventeen week (full time) courses in the painting trade,

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Source

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If has been fourteen months since the tragic, devasting quake of 22 February 2011. We could have had a small army of in-training workforce ready to go by now.

FBG Developments managing director, Fletcher Glass,  could have his 50 painters – and more – instead of complaining bittlerly,

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You can’t train skilled tradespeople in two years, and even if you could train 24,000 tradespeople, you would over-saturate the market after the rebuild.  If you get tradespeople from other parts of the country, you will deplete those places of tradespeople, and that will drive rates up. That will make house prices go up, so buying a house would be even less achievable.’

Hiring overseas workers would prevent Christchurch from turning its problem into a nationwide problem. If you need 6000 painters at the peak of the rebuild, that’s every painter in Dunedin and Wellington.” – Ibid

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What absolute rubbish.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Glass , like SeaFIC, is seeking  painters from Southeast Asia because they will accept minimum wage.

So we can add the following to the above list, as to why we have a shortage of trained tradespeople to take part in Christchurch’s re-build,

  • Employer self-interest

As a point of interest, the above media article also conducted a poll. It asked a simple question,

Should New Zealand fast track visas for overseas tradesmen?

Yes, we need more workers urgently
85 votes, 20.4%

No, we should train more NZers
332 votes, 79.6%

Nearly 80% of New Zealanders have enough common sense to realise what we should be doing. Obviously, none of those 80% are represented by any of National’s current  59 members of Parliament.

In case anyone is foolish enough to accuse this blogger of being fiscally naive, I refer to a BERL report, last year,

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Industry training has billions in benefits – study

A new study suggests the country could lose between $7.2 and $15.1 billion dollars annually if the Government withdrew its investment in industry training.

The study by the Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) sets out to quantify the costs and benefits of industry training both to businesses and to the country.

According to one model, it found a cut in all public funding towards industry training would result in a loss in gross domestic product of 0.6 to 1.8 percent by 2014, and between 2.9 and 6 percent by 2021.

That equated to a loss of between $1.2 and $3.7 billion annually in the short-term and between $7.2 and $15.1 billion in the long term.

BERL said under such a scenario, the loss of skilled labour would have a detrimental effect on the export sector, crimping its capacity and reducing its competitiveness as industries competed for a smaller pool of talent.

The report, commissioned by the Industry Training Federation, said the results underlined how the country’s skill levels could ”positively impact on the quality and value of the goods and services produced, and the standard of living in New Zealand”.

However, it also noted the economy was complex and warned that ”any attempts to prioritise or isolate particular industries, sectors, occupations or skills as being more or less important are economically unsound  “.  – Source

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Training up unemployed New Zealanders who’ve lost their jobs over the last four years of recession; it’s not just a good idea or a “nice to have” – it’s bloody well obvious!

National’s faith in free market forces is admirable. But the rest of us gave up believing in Father Christmas, Easter Bunny, and Superman as we grew up. (Though having Superman around might be useful.)  It is high time that John Key and his Merry Band gave up their quasi-religious belief in the Invisible Hand of The Free Market.

Ideology will not re-build Christchurch. We need many hands – trained up and paid well – to do the work. 150,000 pair of hands!

I leave (almost) the last word to  Dear Leader,

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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. ” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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Wouldn’t that be a fine thing?

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History Lesson – Toru – Jobs

20 March 2012 4 comments

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Another look back into our recent history. Just to remind ourselves, that what is past, is prologue…

Firstly, too many of our simple-minded fellow New Zealanders still cling to the bigotted fantasy that those on welfare benefits are there “by choice”.  Currently, our unemployment stands at 150,000 – or 6.3% of the workforce.

But was it always so…?

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6 June 2002

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14 September 2002

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New Zealand’s growth rate in the early to mid 2000s was between 4% and 6%, and the skilled labour shortage reflected an economy that was doing well,

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Tony Alexander, the BNZ’s chief economist, was reported to have said that “businesses are also going to have to consider helping with basic education. They are going to have to take on less  skilled people and train them up in reading, writing, and arithmetic“,

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24 October 2002

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Unemployment dropped to a record low of  3.8%  by December 2007. Interestingly, as the recession impacted on our economy, unemployment soared. It is no secret that unemployment and recessionary periods are closely intertwined,

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28 October 2002

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Our GDP (per capita, adjusted by purchasing power parity) rose steadily in the 2000s, levelling of post-2008,  as the global banking crisis hit New Zealand, creating into a full-blown recession,

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The result of leaving everything up to the free market – a skills shortage. It became readily apparent that businesses demanded well-educated, trained, experienced workers – but were not prepared to pay for that upskilling. That was the role of the State. So much for the State staying out of  the Market – when the Market could not/would not, invest in skills training as required,

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20 November 2002

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As the economy boomed, the government post surplus after surplus. (So much for the mischief-making  from certain National/ACT agitprops who scurrilously spread the lie that the previous Labour Government mis-managed the economy.) The actual data is  on record for all to see,

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Which, in turn, allowed Labour’s finance minister, Michael Cullen to pay down our sovereign debt,

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As always, the building industry was affected. Which is in marked contrast to builders who, in the last couple of years were finding work hard to come by. But in 2002, it was a completely different world,

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25 November 2002

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Even though the economy was growing and unemployment was dropping, it was evident that people’s skills (or lack of) did not match the demands of employers for their businesses. This failure of the Market to upskill workers, to meet the needs of business, is  yet more clear evidence that without State assistance and intervention, economic growth is stifled.

If the self-regulating “Invisible Hand” of the Marketplace acted as per theory, then unskilled unemployed should be upskilled by businesses as required.  This did not happen,

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2 December 2002

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The point of this history lesson is that a poorly performing economy will not maximise the use of available human labour. Or to put it more plainly, if the economy is in recession – expect high unemployment.

That is fairly simple to understand.

Those politicians, and their groupies, who talk about a “welfare lifestyle” or “welfare dependancy” are being deliberately disingenuous. These  politicians are well-educated, sophisticated men and women who have a clear understanding of economic forces and their consequences.

Politicians understand that very few people are on welfare as a “lifestyle”. And “dependancy” should actually mean being dependant on state assistance – or the alternative being to starve. Those who are unemployed are as “welfare dependent” as an astronaut in space is “spacesuit dependent”.

In truth, when the likes of John Key, Paula Bennett, et al, talk of  “welfare lifestyle” and/or “welfare dependancy” – they are using ‘code’ to paint welfare recipients as being the architects of their misfortune.

Because, dear fellow New Zealanders, as we all know, the unemployed here in New Zealand were sitting in the Boardrooms of  Goldman Sachs, AIG, Bank of Scotland, General Motors, Lehmann Bros, etc, etc, etc, and were responsible for the chaos and misery of the 2008 Recession.

When a politician attempts to paint a welfare beneficiary as “welfare lifestyle” and/or  “welfare dependancy” – they are shifting responsibility from themselves – the people with power – onto welfare reciepients – the most powerless in society- for the pitiful state of the economy here in New Zealand, and  throughout the world.

I wonder if welfare beneficiaries know that they crippled the revered demi-god of Western Capitalism, and brought Wall St and City of London, to it’s knees?

Damn crafty, these benes, eh?

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The “Invisible Hand” of the Free Market?

5 January 2012 1 comment

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The latest evidence of the inability of the “invisible hand” of the Free Market to cope with  the modern complexities of 21st Century society and economy. From an article by Richard Meadows,  in  todays Faixfax website;

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Despite unwillingness to hire, New Zealand businesses paradoxically saw the lack of a skilled workforce as a major impediment to growth in 2012.

Grant Thornton New Zealand partner Peter Sherwin attributed the apparent discrepancy to an overall caution among employers after ”a couple of false dawns”.

Firms did signal concern about the availability of skilled workers 39 per cent, which was 12 per cent higher than the previous period in 2011, he said.

”We have unemployed people but do they have the skills for the jobs that are going to be available? This gets back to one of the real challenges for New Zealand, which is to get a better match between tertiary education and industry.”

Sherwin said there was ”a clear disconnect” between what the education system was producing and industry demands, and he called for a collaboration between industry, the education sector and government to improve the ”connection’‘.” – Source

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What?

Since when does the “invisible hand” of the free market required assistance from the State?

At what point did Business decide that it requires Central Government to fulfill it’s needs?

Since Roger Douglas implemented his neo-liberal “reforms”, the State was to be rolled back and private enterprise allowed to get on with it. We were told time and again;

  • business is more efficient than the state
  • business can meet its own needs
  • the State cannot meet the needs of an economy – that is the role of  business
  • Business = good, Government = bad
  • Business does not need subsidies
  • etc, etc, etc.

In which case why is private enterprise not training and upskilling it’s own workforce?

Why is the “invisible hand” of the free market not providing a skilled workforce, according to laws of Supply & Demand?

Because, my dear fellow, New Zealanders; like the “trickle down” theory, the “Invisible Hand” of the free market is bollocks.

The “free market” an  ideological scam; a confidence trick fed to the public to justify rolling back the State; cutting social services; implementing User Pays; and reducing taxes for the rich. Like a carefully constructed religious cult, the New Right scammers have their loyal  followers who have been sucked into this little ‘game’, to spread the “Gospel of Greed”.

Every so often, though, aspects of the truth appear and we glimpse the reality behind the facade.

The reality is that a modern state cannot function without government; an effective civil service; and social services that are available to all citizens regardless of their material wealth (or lack, thereof).

The reality is that taxes cannot be cut without cutting something in return;  healthcare; education; public transport; and the back-office support staff that allow these services to function.

If we cut the back-office support staff – as this government has done in the last three years – be prepared for some serious stuff-ups. As Anne Tolley discovered recently to her discomfort.

And ultimately, we will see more of this,

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Full Story

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National handed out two tax cuts – April 2009 and October 2010 – and that money had to come from somewhere. Much of it was borrowed from overseas (at $380 million a week) – and the rest was achieved by cutting back on social services.

Like education.

And jobs training.

Which means businesses complaining about a lack of skilled workers;  “Despite unwillingness to hire, New Zealand businesses paradoxically saw the lack of a skilled workforce as a major impediment to growth in 2012.

As BERL pointed out in December last year,

A new study suggests the country could lose between $7.2 and $15.1 billion dollars annually if the Government withdrew its investment in industry training.

The study by the Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) sets out to quantify the costs and benefits of industry training both to businesses and to the country.

According to one model, it found a cut in all public funding towards industry training would result in a loss in gross domestic product of 0.6 to 1.8 percent by 2014, and between 2.9 and 6 percent by 2021.

That equated to a loss of between $1.2 and $3.7 billion annually in the short-term and between $7.2 and $15.1 billion in the long term.

BERL said under such a scenario, the loss of skilled labour would have a detrimental effect on the export sector, crimping its capacity and reducing its competitiveness as industries competed for a smaller pool of talent.

The report, commissioned by the Industry Training Federation, said the results underlined how the country’s skill levels could ”positively impact on the quality and value of the goods and services produced, and the standard of living in New Zealand”.

However, it also noted the economy was complex and warned that ”any attempts to prioritise or isolate particular industries, sectors, occupations or skills as being more or less important are economically unsound”.” – Source

Because many of our skilled workers have had a gutsful and left for Australia.

And around and around and around it goes…

Why? Because relying on the “free market” to achieve certain outcomes is akin to waiting for The Rapture to arrive. Folks, it ain’t never gonna happen.

Eventually the good people of New Zealand are going to realise that National is spinning us a yarn, and is simply relying on ideological dogma for better times.

Personally, I’m putting my money on The Rapture coming first.

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Acknowledgement

To Fear Facts Exposed for source.

Additional Blog Entries

Greed is Good?

“Building better public services” – Really?

Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

Rich list shows rich getting richer

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Industry training has billions in benefits – study

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Party like it’s Nineteen Fifty Two!!

1 January 2012 7 comments

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Superintendent Paula Rose, the public face of road safety policing in this country, reported that the road toll for last year (2011) was the lowest on record since 1952. Certainly, 284 fatalities is a remarkable feat when compared to the 800+ that was killed in just one year alone in the decade of the 1970s.

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Source

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Even more remarkable when the population was almost half what it is now, and with a lower vehicle-fleet on the roads,

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About now, you might be wondering what this piece has to do with politics.

It’s quite simple.

The drop in road crashes, fatalities, and demands on our hospital services was not a natural occurrence that happened spontaneously.

The lowest road toll since 1952 – despite a steady increase in population, vehicle fleet, roads, and social mobility- happened because society and successive governments took decisive measures to achieve certain objectives.

Through a mix of advertising campaigns; tough legislation; proactive policing; and measures that extended into every aspect of our lives, work, recreational pursuits, etc – society acted collectively to meet desired outcomes.

The free market; individualism; neo-liberal ideology had zero part to play in reducing the road toll from 800+ in the 1970s to 284, last year. If anything, laws that were enforced regarding,

  • reducing drink-driving
  • wearing seat belts
  • reducing speed
  • outlawing cellphone usage whilst driving
  • toughening up on vehicle WoF safety
  • etc

… all played a part in ensuring that 500 people are alive today that – had the road toll not changed – would be dead and in the ground, or scattered ashes, last year. This is where the Cult of the Individual and the Free Market falls down badly. Not with just road safety – but the needs of society as a whole. Those who decry the collective action taken to reduce the road toll as “Nanny Statism” might care to reflect that they themselves could have ended up as a statistic in a walnut coffin.

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Instead, the collective action of governments and community action has kept them alive.

The amazing reduction of the road toll is a vivid example of what  society can achieve when it works together, for the common good.

The enacting of laws; diligent policing; ubiquitous advertising campaigns; and communities that had had enough of losing loved ones to an endless series of horrific crashes – achieved a goal of saving lives. It was (and still is!) an incredibly complex programme – but determination from government; enforcement agencies; and communities working  in unison made it happen.

Imagine if we, as a nation, and starting with good leadership from the community, determined that our goals for the next few years would be;

  • eliminating poverty
  • creating jobs
  • reducing the wealth-gap
  • ensuring a healthy environment for our children

In a previous Blog piece entitled New Year’s Wish List for 2012, I outlined just such goals. A correspondent, Debbie -bless her heart – asked,

However, what are the chances?”

I think the chances are about the same as the magnificent achievement that Superindentant Paula Rose was congratulating us for.

There is no reason on Earth why the four goals above cannot be made into reality.

The benefits would be as positive as reducing the road toll and our country would truly be the envy of the world.

What are the chances, Mr Key? Mr Shearer?

And will you rely on the free market to do it? Because as sure as evolution made little green apples – it wasn’t the free market that saved 500+ people from the grave last year.

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Additional

Inside Child Poverty

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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The “Free Market” is a fair-weather friend.

23 September 2011 2 comments

Ir seems quite likely that New Zealand will soon be joining the ranks of Japan and San Francisco, where earthquake insurance is either highly expensive, or unavailable to home owners,

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Full Story

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee may chest-thump and bellow till the cows come home, but if insurance companies – as Chris Ryan is suggesting – no longer consider New Zealand property a safe risk to insure against earthquakes, then he had better start taking notice.

Internationally, the insurance industry has been hard-hit after the severe floods in Queensland; two major quakes in Christchurch; and a triple-whammy in Japan; earthquake, tsunami, and atomic reactor disaster.  Insurance companies have been hard hit, as Reuters reported in March,

“Some analysts said the disaster, combined with heavy losses already suffered this year from floods in Australia and last month’s New Zealand earthquake, could push up global insurance prices, boosting insurers’ shares.

“In our view the loss will be so large that it will probably provide the trigger to ensure a re-rating of the non-life sector,” Panmure Gordon analyst Barrie Cornes wrote in a note.” Source

Climate-related disasters were also impacting on the insurance industry,

“Climate change is largely to blame for Australasia putting in almost a quarter of the world’s natural disaster insurance claims last year.

Data from major reinsurance provider Munich Re, shows that from 1980 to 2009, Australasia was responsible for 3% of natural disaster insurance claims in dollar terms. But after the Christchurch earthquake, floods in Queensland, and enormous hailstones in Melbourne and Perth, that skyrocketed to 22% last year.

Munich Re, in its own report on the deluge of natural disasters, said climate change “is real and continuing” and cited floods in Pakistan and wildfires caused by a heatwave in Russia. The Christchurch quake was not climate-change related.

Munich Re said 2010 was one of the warmest years since 1850 and featured the second-highest number of loss-related weather catastrophes since 1980, when it started keeping data.

Niwa principal climate scientist Dr James Renwick agreed that weather events like heavy rain were linked to global warming. “It’s possible part of the change since the 1980s is natural variation, but I’m sure there’s a climate change component. We know the globe has warmed and it’s well-documented that the occurrence of extreme rainfalls around the world has increased in a way that’s consistent with the climate models,” he says.

“It’s just what you’d expect – you warm things up, more moisture, more energy, more rain falls. There’s definitely a climate change component in extreme rainfalls around the world.” ” Source

So it seems a little strange that Gerry Brownlee is (a) attempting to dismiss Chris Ryan’s warnings as “scaremongering” and (b) is in denial that re-insuring properties in this country will not be a major problem in future. Of course it will be a problem! How can it not?

Insurance companies and their re-insurers have suffered billions of dollars worth of claims over the last year – $34 billion estimated for the Japanese ‘quake and tsunami, alone, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mr Brownlee should know how the free market works. After all, his party – National – espouses the doctrine of the free market as part of it’s core-philosophy.

Even as we face the prospect of the insurance industry abandoning  New Zealand households – we may be  left  to our own devices when it comes to insurance. Which may be the EQC.

Whilst the EQC is not a full-insurance company in the sense of Tower, AMI, AMP, etc, it has provided a level of protection to New Zealanders since it’s inception in 1945.

The only thing is – it’s broke. Two calamitous earthquakes in Christchurch have effectively emptied the Commission’s ‘war-chest’. Source. As John Key said in February of this year,

“”The good news part of the story is that EQC had about $6 billion before that (quake), that’s going to be exhausted, but we pay in on a continuous basis and we had significant re-insurance in the order of $5b, that will be exhausted.””  Source

Irrespective of Mr Brownlee’s futile rantings against the Insurance Council, it should be abundantly clear that in the near future we will not have the insurance cover that we once enjoyed. Those days are over.

We will have to rely on our own resources and our own ingenuity, whether we like it or not. (Most likely ‘not’, going by past experiences of Baby Boomers who like to Spend Now, Pay Later (or Never, preferably – let the kids pay). To that end, the Greens – as usual – have once again realised what must be done,

“So, it seems, the Greens were right all along – a special levy to fund the costs involved with the Christchurch earthquake still makes good sense, if only (this time around) to replenish the funds available to the Earthquake Commission. Yesterday, it became apparent that the likely cost of the Christchurch rebuild had risen by a massive $4 billion.

This blowout means the EQC couldn’t cope with an additional major disaster (ie anything costing over $2.5 billion) and the government would have to pick up the tab, directly. There are three options on the table : (a) a special levy on all taxpayers (b) a further additional charge attached to insurance premiums already expected to rise significantly, or (c) a rise in income taxes.”  – Gordon Campbell,  Source

However, in the light of Chris Ryan’s warnings, we may have to reconsider the role of the EQC to adopt a more wide-ranging, pragmatic role in earthquake and flood insurance. The EQC may have to step in where private insurers once provided a service – or else face the prospect of uninsured properties.  That would have serious consequences for current and prospective building owners.  (Banks currently insist on full insurance cover before they will consider extending a mortgage over a property.)

Once upon a time, we owned an insurance company called – quite simply – State Insurance.   State Insurance was sold in June 1990 by the Bolger-led, National  government of the day.

It now seems that may have been a mistake (as most asset sales were). The people of this country may yet discover that the Free Market is a Fair Weather friend and when times are tough, we will  have to step up and put in place our own, Very Kiwi Solution(s).

The time for a new State-owned insurance company – “EQC-Plus” -  has come.

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A Taste of the Free Market?

1 September 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to the Free Market, a-la New Zealand, where anything goes…

Brothel manager, Grant Thomas, said he “did not consider the sign to be in bad taste”. Well, that probably sez more about Mr Thomas’s standards of taste than anything else.

Personally, I have nothing against sex work, nor the industry as a whole, nor the reforms that the previous Labour government implemented in 2002. What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms (or a hired bedroom) is their business, and not mine.

But standards of appropriate advertising apply to ALL commercial activities. That includes the sex industry. The liberalisation of prostitution was not meant to be a carte blanche to do whatever/whenever. Rules and standards apply to all businesses.

The sex industry is expected to abide by them.

High milk prices? Well, now we know why…

26 August 2011 2 comments

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I guess this explains why milk, other dairy products, tomatoes, etc,  are so expensive.

And the Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, can save taxpayers the expense of a Parliamentary inquiry into why milk is so expensive here in NZ…

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I guess it wasn’t such a bright idea to allow supermarkets to buy each other up, until we had only two, nation-wide chains remaining. Duopolies are not noted for promoting competition and keeping prices down.

New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly:

Progressive Enterprises

Foodstuffs

Chalk up yet another cock-up for the free market, unregulated economy?

I think so.

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+++ Updates +++

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Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee inquiry into milk prices gets under way,

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Full Story

Full Story

Full Story

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Related issues

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

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Silly Idea # 341,907,774

26 August 2011 56 comments

Floating cities: PayPal billionaire plans to build a whole new libertarian colony off the coast of San Francisco

  • Ocean state would have no welfare, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons
  • Platforms would house 270 people and hundreds could eventually join together

PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s novel about free-market capitalism – that he’s trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: ‘The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn’t do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?’

Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco

Green land: An aerial view of the city, complete with landcaped gardens. Mr Thiel believes many of the islands could eventually be joined together

Design for living: This island even has a high-level helicopter pad. The cities would be constructed on oil-rig like terminals

The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.

Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an ‘open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’.

After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: ‘Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world.

‘We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’

Light city: Peter Thiel called the project, Seasteading, an ‘open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’

Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

Mr Thiel said: 'the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level'

Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.

The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.

‘Big ideas start as weird ideas,’ Mr Friedman said.

He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.

But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it’s not without its critics.

Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: ‘it’s a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.’

Big ideas: A close-up of how one of the islands could look. The billionaire founder of Paypal has invested $1.25million to create a floating island utopia

Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: ‘There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible.

‘That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.’

I fully support founding such a colony. In fact, I’ll donate $100 for a (one way) ticket for Don Brash to migrate there.

I’ve suggested – on several occassions – that neo-liberals who want to live in a free-market, minimalist government, zero-tax, user-pays society have just such a country to migrate to: Somalia.

Somalia is perfect and meets their criteria in every respect.

Of course, as part of user-pays, they would have to pay for their own security; their own private police force. And why shouldn’t they? After all, why should other taxpayers pay for protection of someone elses’ property, in a User Pays nirvana?

Strangely enough, as far as I’m aware, no neo-lib has ever taken up my offer.

And stranger even still, neo-libs seem to prefer living in New Zealand; a country built on collective efforts by it’s citizens to build up every aspect of present day society; electricity sector, education, railways, health, roading, police, bridges, libraries, etc. Even telecommunications, airlines, and television started off as tax-payer funded services. All paid by our taxes.

Private enterprise was focused on providing citizens with supermarkets, clothing, shoes (once upon a time), and other consumer goods. It was a good balance.

“Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”

No minimum wage? But… who would clean their toilets?

No building codes? On a free-standing oceanic city? Oh, I can see that working… not.

Few restrictions on weapons. I can see gun nuts loving that. Including gentlemen like Anders Behring Breivik, David Gray, Martin Bryant, et al.

Call me cynical, but I doubt if Peter Thiel’s  ‘Seasteading’ project will succeed. For one thing, human nature is involved – and as we all know, human nature can be a bugger of a thing to deal with.

Secondly, what happens if Thiel’s ‘island’ gets in trouble? Perhaps struck by a hurricane? Will the Seasteaders expect rescue from the international community? And will they be willing to PAY for assistance? (User pays, of course.)

The article further states,

“The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.”

Uh oh. That sounds perilously close to that pesky concept popularly know as “de-mo-cra-cy”. Damned dangerous, that “de-mo-cra-cy”. What happens if, in time, the population of ‘Seastead’ elect a government that is more interventionist?

Will Thiel then build another libertarian community? To get away from the first ‘Seastead’, taken over over “leftists”?

Personally, I think Somalia would still be a cheaper option.

Let’s be honest here, though.

This is about one thing: money. Thiel wants to keep as much of his money as possible and not pay taxes.  There may be other, immensely wealthy individuals, who feel lifewise.

Well, I say “good luck” to them. Let them set up their little sovereign “Island State”. Let them learn the hard way that a functioning, balanced,  society involves more than just having a bloated bank balance. A dynamic society is a collection of mutually supporting groups and individuals – not just a handful of wealthy people.

My guess is that this little “Profit Paradise” will not last long. Nor will it be self-sufficient. And, the inhabitants will still want to spend (most of) their time on the US mainland, socialising, doing business, and all the other things that the rest of us enjoy.  Their Island State will be nothing more than a taxation “bolthole”; a floating bank account.

And herein lies the dishonesty of such an idea.

But if billionaires want to spend their entire lives on such an Island, and not leave, then they are welcome to it.  Imagine being forced to live your life in one little area; never leaving; and associating only with others of your ilk.

It’s called “prison”.

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

16 August 2011 7 comments

Perhaps the greatest urban-myth, perpetrated and perpetuated by those whose interests it serves, is that the unemployed are there-by-choice, and unwilling to work.

Of course, this is absurd and an outright falsehood.

Fact 1:  The New Zealand December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment stood  at 3.4% . This was prior to the global recession hitting NZ.

Fact 2:  By the end of 2008, the New Zealand December Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rose to 4.6%.

Fact 3:  The New Zealand December 2010 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rate increased to 6.8% .

Fact  4: In three years, the Household Labourforce Survey unemployed doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%

Fact  5: In other countries such as the US, unemployment went from 4.8%  in the fourth quarter of 2007 to stand at 9.1%  by July of this year.

Whether the largest economy on Earth, or one of the smallest, the impact of the global banking crisis and following recession caused companies to collapse; down-size; and “rationalise” (reduce) staff. This caused unemployment to skyrocket.

Events in Wall St, USA, had an impact on Main Sts, New Zealand;

“Jobs to go at textile factories”

“Headlines do not reveal true picture of job losses”

“‘Another kick in the guts for rural NZ’”

“Job losses to hit military next week”

“Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut”

“Hellaby’s closes: 18 jobs go”

“Australasian Colorado shops closing”

“Grim day of redundancies”

“Jobs to go at troubled baker Yarrows”

“KiwiRail plans to lay off Dunedin staff”

“Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa”

“Ovation confirms 304 job losses “

“Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement”

“NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs”

“Ballantynes faces post-quake job cuts”

“Lane Walker Rudkin 470 Redundancies A Tragedy”

And many more here .

As unemployment increased, the number of job-seekers increased. Even the Prime Minister, John Key, has remarked,

“We’re part of a global environment so we can’t control all of the factors that affect New Zealand, but all the indications we have is that 2011 will be a better year.”

Dozens, and often hundreds of unemployed job-seekers would turn up at businesses, that were hiring staff;

It is apparent that the global recession has caused the demise of some businesses, and forced others to greatly reduce staffing numbers. This is beyond the control of any individual in this country.

So why is there a perception amongst some individuals and groups that the jobless have chosen their unemployment as some kind of “lifestyle choice”? Especially when is it clear that WINZ unemployment benefits are nowhere as generous as some might believe.

Trying to apportion responsibility for people losing their jobs is victim-blaming  and is utterly  repugnant. Such victim-blaming is an unwelcome aspect of the human capacity for bigotry.

Why do people do it?

* The Opportunists.

It serves the purpose of some political parties such as National and ACT to blame unemployed for their predicament.

It allows National the opportunity to escape any possibility of responsibility at addressing this critical economic and social problem. And it’s a vote-winner with the next group,

* The Greedy.

For many neo-liberals who cherish the ideology of the free-market and minimalist-government, any form of taxation by the State is “theft”. And when the State hands over some of that tax-money to the Unemployed so that they can survive – they resent it. And do they complain bitterly!

These neo-liberal free-marketeers resent having to contribute their fair share to the society they live in. (Though they think nothing of driving on tax-payer funded roads; being cared for in tax-payer funded A&E Hospital Wards; protected by tax-payer funded Police; educated in tax-payer funded schools, etc.)

Greed – it does funny things to peoples’ humanity.

* The Perpetually Angry.

The uninformed, perpetually angry, people who obtain their information through TV news and/or Talkback radio. They have friends,, who know someone who has heard of a person, who apparently lives in luxury on the dole

These are people who have very little experience of the society they live in and generally have a circle of friends who validate their misconceptions.  For them, everyone is a dole-bludger; the recession happened to Someone, Somewhere Else; and everyone should be living comfortably, regardless of circumstances. Their worldview generally doesn’t extend much past their front door.

Anger – it stops people thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, The Greedy and The Perpetually Angry have no constructive solutions to offer us.

One hopes that  the National government will reconsider their decision to  cut almost $146 million from skills training.

Nor does it help when we export jobs overseas,

“Army shifts $2m contract to China”

“Chinese firm beats Hillside to KiwiRail contract”

So not only are New Zealanders losing their jobs because of corporate greed and mis-management in Wall St, USA – but our current policies actually encourage contracts to be awarded to other countries,  in effect “exporting” jobs.

Is this making sense to anyone?

Is it little wonder we have high unemployment, who need the dole to simply survive?

Because demonising a vulnerable group in our society will not achieve a single damn thing; create a single damn job; nor give us the Decent Society that we once enjoyed living in.

So far, my fellow New Zealanders,  there is precious little decency going on here.

And so it came to pass…

12 August 2011 2 comments

It is a basic tenet of belief, amongst the Left, Liberals, and Social Democrats, that everything in a society is inter-connected, whether we like it or not.  That inter-connection applies as much to macro-economics and  governmental policies as it does to how much money you and I have in our pockets to spend.

Accordingly, where there are severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness – which co-exists with a consumerist society; upwardly mobile professionals; and wealth accumulated by a small minority – there is a powder keg of frustration waiting to explode.

Four days ago, the explosion happened in London.

It was predictable.

And the UK’s  “Guardian” newspaper did predict it, here,

Note the date: Friday, 29 July:  one week before the riotting exploded onto London’s streets.

The article describes severe cut-backs to various local community groups. These are the groups trying to pick up, and hold together, the fragmented pieces of a society stressed by the inhuman forces of neo-liberalism.  As unemployment escalates and even the safety net of the welfare system is cut back – wealth continues to accumulate in the hands of a privileged few.

Unfortunately, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, just doesn’t seem to get it,

This is not about poverty, this is about culture,’ David Cameron told parliament. ‘In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.

The man is either deluded, or is playing to a very angry public audience.

In case my fellow New Zealanders believe that the powder-keg of social unrest cannot happen in Godzone, it may do us well to reflect in the following;

»  We have a National-led government that is pursuing policies similar to the Conservative-led government in the UK; cutbacks; attacks on welfare beneficiaries; resisting wage-growth; opening up the economy to foreign control; and not addressing unemployment in this country in any meaningful way.

»  Tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010 benefitted the highest income earners in the country. Those on the bottom recieved not just less in tax cuts – but found themselves paying more for food, goods, and services as GST increased from 12.5% to 15%.

»  The top 150 wealthiest individuals in New Zealand increased their wealth  from $38.2 billion to $45.2b – about a 20 percent increase.

»  Unemployment is still high, at 6.5%. Youth unemployment in NZ is at nearly 18%. The figure for Maori (25%) and Pacific Islanders (28%) remains high.

»  Government is cutting back on social services; reducing government workers via forced redundancies; and has launched an election-year campaign targetting welfare recipients.

»  Despite the devastation in Christchurch, employment in the construction sector actually  fell by 12,700 people compared to a year ago.

As Irish comedian, Andrew Maxwell put it, so very succinctly,

“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper. “

In essence, the same conditions that exist in Britain, as ouitlined in the “Guardian” article – exist here in New Zealand (though probably not yet on the same scale).

The riots on the other side of the world should serve as a salient warning to us all; society cannot endure severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness  – without consequence.

With the economic mess in Europe and a near-bankrupt United States, it is obvious that the unfettered unregulated “free market” has left us all much worse off. The neo-liberal experiment is as much a failure in economic ideology as the old Soviet marxist-leninism. Both are extremes. Both are inflexible and thus vulnerable to crises. Neither offer a practical solution to the demands of society and commerce.

The question is – do our leaders have the wit to realise this?

Or more important still – do we?

And what are we going to do about it?


What killed Rugby?

11 August 2011 24 comments

We all know the saying about killing geese that lay eggs made of precious metals… But the the lesson seems to have firmly evaded those who organise rugby in this country, and indeed, worldwide.

It seems that huge truckloads of cash has severely blinded the IRB and NZRU to what this game should be about;  enjoying rugby.

Instead, it has became an exercise in marketing, ticket sales, squashing anyone who wants to sell pizza, and branding. It’s all about money, money, and more money.

Firstly, common sense has eluded the mind of Rugby World Cup minister Murray McCully, who okayed the use of cans at all rugby venues.

Up till now, beer had been served in featureless, light, disposable plastic cups. This was to prevent cans and bottles being used as unguided missiles by intoxicated rugby fans.

But Heineken is a major sponsor, and they want their brand prominent at all 13 games. That means selling cans, with the brand-name ‘Heineken’ clearly visible, instead of the safer, unbranded, plastic cups.

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So what Heineken wants, Heineken gets: cans.

Never mind if  someone is injured by drunken hoons tossing cans. That evidently doesn’t matter. Evidently what matters is branding. Heineken wants you to know that the can that flew across the bleachers and concussed you was a Heineken – and not one of their competitors. This is important – so please remember to tell the medics when they arrive to treat you.

Money speaks with a very loud voice.

Then, in April, we heard the unbelievable situation that RWC fans will only be able to use cash, or mastercard (another sponsor) eftpos terminals at the games’ stadia.

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Evidently a third form of payment will be available; “Tap & Go” cards. But these are not re-chargeable and fans will have to pay $5 to $10 for each new card.

So expect your method of payment to be controlled.

Though I’m surprised the WRC organisors haven’t tapped John Key on the shoulder and asked for a law change. At present, cash is the legal tender of this country. Imagine if the IRD/NZRU could deny fans the right to use cash.

Though I guess the government could always re-print our currency, with an WRC sponsor’s name on each bill. Why not? They’ve already shown a willingness to change our laws for other corporations.

Perhaps the worst example of greed is local bodies charging extortionate amounts for local businesses to amend their hours to cater for the influx of rugby fans.

For example, “to open later on game days, Papa’s Pizza and nearby businesses will have to pay between $7500 and $12,800 to a special Rugby World Cup “enabling” authority to hurry up the usual resource consent process.”

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“Enabling Authority”? More like a local protection racket! But all quite legal according to the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010, Part 3.

What a money-extorting piece of legislative bureacracy this is!!

And all enacted by a National Government that constantly harps on about how bureacratic “red tape” is strangling entrepreneurial business in this country.

So what gives with the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act?!

If this isn’t political interference in little business – then someone tell me what is?!?!

Auckland Council licensing and compliance manager Carole Todd admitted that costs to applicants for Part 3 approvals were “fairly high”, and said that,

“However these charges are set down in regulations and cannot be modified.”

The Ministry of Economic Development administers the Act.  Ministry senior solicitor Robert Rendle said,

“There are going to be a lot more people in Auckland who are going to be frequenting bars so it might be financially beneficial to pay the cost.”

In other words – pay up, schmuck! Or Luigi over there will put the heat on ya, reallll good.

Perhaps that is not as cheeky as Heineken/DB Breweries secretly reducing the size of their beer  glasses from 425ml to 400ml – whilst keeping the price of each pour the same. So 25ml less beer – for the same price. DB has also increased keg, Heineken, Export, Tui, Monteiths and DB Draught tap prices.

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It seems that milk drinkers aren’t the only ones being milked in this country. Although the irony here also hasn’t escaped me; we were expecting to “swindle” overseas visitors with high accomodation charges – not be rorted ourselves.

In answer to media questioning, DB Breweries’ hospitality general manager Andrew Campbell said,

“In light of events in Christchurch, and in recognition of the challenges many operators are facing in this recessionary environment, we decided to delay our price increase [from April 1] until June.”

They’re blaming price rises and furtive reduction in glass sizes on the earthquakes in Christchuurch???

WTF???

Well, I guess that makes a change from blaming sunspots, I guess.

And of course, there will be special “Sponsor Police” roaming the country, looking for anyone daring to “cash in” on the WRC without “authorisation”, or to prevent “ambush marketting”.

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Economic Development Ministry solicitor Rob Rendle said there were no plans to set up special courts in New Zealand, to catch and prosecute unauthorised business activity although it could be appropriate to have judges on call to consider urgent matters that came up. “It’s just a possibility at this stage.”

Special courts? Oh, perish the though, Rob. Just summary execution out the back of the Stadium.

There.

Sorted.

Are we having fun yet, peeps?

In case not, even those offering free, humanitarian assistance are being targetted by the vengeful alien fiends that currently pose as human beings running the WRC.

I refer to the St Johns ambulance service (the humanitarian assistance – not the vengeful aliens).

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Yes, my fellow kiwis, the WRC organisors have “leaned” hard on St Johns – forcing them to cover up the sponsors of their ambulances, equipment, and clothing that may have been sponsored by community groups or business organisations in this country.

St Johns is a charity that relies on the generosity of businesses (such as the ASB) so they can go out and save lives.

St Johns is not a business itself.

St Johns has not charged a blimmin cent (that I know of) to the WRC for their services.

In return, to show their gratitude, the WRC have demanded that St Johns cover up the ASB logos of their sponsor. That’s pretty damned low.

If I’d been St Johns, I would have politely told the WRC to go take a flying leap into White Island, and hire their own medics and ambulances. Let the NZRU pay for emergency services if they’re going to be so miserly.  At the very least, I expect NZRU to make a very generous donation to St Johns for all this carry-on.

And when I say “generous”, I’m talking six figures, minimum.

What are the chances? Well, judging by the common sense and generosity of spirit shown by the WRC and sponsors… Nil.

Contemptible.

Perhaps the most bizarre of all this naked greed; shameless price gouging; and merciless strong-arm tactics is this,

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To quote the NZ Herald, to show I’m not making up this farce;

“Heineken is keeping a close watch on Lion Nathan after its Steinlager “white can” advertising campaign inched near to breaching its Rugby World Cup rights.

And the brewer – represented by DB Breweries in this country – is confident World Cup rights managers IMG will blow the whistle if its future ads go too far.

Heineken is an official sponsor of the tournament at a global level, while Steinlager is a sponsor of the All Blacks team. This means it can use its association as the All Blacks’ official beer, but it can’t claim any association with the Rugby World Cup.”

Both Breweries are sponsors – but they sponsor slightly different aspects of the event. I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly absurd this situation is.

Not content with harassing fans or small businesses, even the sponsors are beginning to cannibalise and consume each other?

Which brings us to the present, and current debacle,

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Perhaps someone from On High can explain to me, and to 4.4 million other New Zealanders; how did we get to this?

How did we get to a situation where a foreign corporation now owns the clothing rights to a  “brand” that is one of our  most cherished institutions (the All Blacks – in case you had forgotten what this was all about – and I bet you had!) and can sell goods back to us with that “brand”, at exorbitantly high prices?!?!

Of course, I guess this was inevitable, really. We’ve been busily selling off our state assets, businesses, and farms to all and sundry – and then buying back the products/services that we once produced ourselves.

I bet it was only a matter of time before it happened to one of our most iconic institutions.

How did it get to this?

The answer is idiotically simple. We allowed it to happen. Because, truth to tell, my fellow New Zealanders – sometimes we are none-to-bright when it comes to dealing with big companies apparently offering us truckloads of money.

Oh, for the simple days, when rugby was rugby, and sponsorship consisted of a few plastic-corflute boards placed around a playing field.

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We have well and truly given away our innocence. That, folks, is what killed rugby.

Are we having fun yet?

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+++ UPDATE: More RWC Silliness +++

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Full story

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Full Story

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Full Story

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Copy of sign seen in Greater Wellington Region, erected by supermarket. Clever buggers! (Sign’s corporate colours and company name have been redacted. This blog has no wish to assist RWC “sponsorship police”.) Note the blackened-out rectangle – what could that possibly signify?

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Further Reading

Tew threatens to pull out of next World Cup

NZRU boss Steve Tew lobs a grenade at the IRB

Aussies back NZRU over World Cup complaint

NZ must reap what it has sown over World Cup

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Are we being milked? asks Minister…

7 August 2011 1 comment

So the Commerce Commission decided not to hold an inquiry into milk pricing in New Zealand?

But Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, still wants a Parliamentary inquiry to investigate the matter?

Hmmmm…  it’s not because the election is only three months away, and National is fearful that Labour and the Greens will be making this an election issue? Surely, politicians can’t be that cynical and manipulative?

Of course not.

What was I thinking.

Perhaps if I might be so bold, and offer Mr Carter a word of explanation as to milk pricing. The price of milk is determined by the free market. The same free market that National endorses, advocates, and embraces with all it’s manly  ‘love’.  The same free market that National has ordered TVNZ to pursue, by cancelling it’s Public Charter. The same free market it chases with the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

Yes, National is the party of the Free Market. As John Key told our American cuzzies on 22 July,

“At the most basic level, we share a commitment to the democratic, capitalist system.”

So there you have it, folks.  In a nut-sell. Or milk bottle, if you prefer. We are a capitalist system,which means that the price of milk is determined by what you, the public, are willing to pay for it.

Something to consider of 26 November – Election Day.

As for Mr Carter’s call for a  Parliamentary Inquiry – my money is on nothing ever coming off it. Much like National’s much-vaunted Jobs Summit in February, 2009.

Remember that little farce?

Postscript #1;

On TVNZ’s Q + A,  David Carter was interviewed by Guyon Espiner, who asked the Minister if two supermarket chains offered enough competition at the retail end of milk distribution. Carter replied that there was competition and said,

“Well, if people want to buy the expensive brands, they can pay $4.80 up to $5.40. They can buy a cheaper brand at that supermarket for $3.30. They can go round the corner to a dairy, quite often, depending on where they live, and perhaps buy that for $2.90. What I’m saying is there’s a big variation on the retail price of milk.”

‘Scuse me?!?!

Milk is cheaper at corner dairy’s, and on sale for $2.90?!?!

Pray tell, Mr Carter – what colour is the sky on your planet? Because on our world, corner dairy-stores are the more expensive option to buy goods.

National members of parliament – out of touch with reality since 1936.

Full transcript of interview

Postscript #2;

Postscript #3;

*sighs* I didn’t have to be Ken Ring to know this was going to happen (though Ken would’ve been a month wrong in his predictions).  It’s Election Year. This is when politicians play silly buggers up to November 26th…

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