Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Gerry Brownlee’

What if they gave an election and no one came?

14 December 2013 2 comments

.

2013 local body elections

.

Much has been made of the low voter turn-out at the recent local body elections, with pundits, media, bloggers, et al, trying to figure out why voters weren’t motivated enough to bother filling our their ballot.

This is my insight into the problem…

1. Brand Politics

I’ll start with the easy one first, and refer to “brand politics”.

Quite simply, unless you happen to be follow local body politics and community issues – one is left scratching their head as to what each candidate stands for.

What are their political leanings on the Left/Right spectrum? For example, how many people in Dunedin knew that Hilary Calvert – standing for the mayoralty and Council – had previously been an ACT MP?

Calvert’s political background and extremist libertarian views would have a direct bearing on any position she was elected to. For a Party that garnered only 23,889 party votes (1.07%) in the 2011 general elections, how many Dunedin voters  knew they were voting for the radical, card-carrying, member of a failed ideology when they cast their vote for her?

Where do candidates stand on the issues such as “core services” vs civic involvement by Councils?

Or on contentious issues such as water flouridation? One Dunedin candidate simply listed “water flouridation” as an issue of interest on his election leaflet – without any indication where he stood. Not very helpful.

This is where party or group branding is a useful tool for voters. Standing under a group banner with specific policies makes it easier for voters to understand who to vote for.

As Auckland mayor, Len Brown said,

But we still have this fundamental issue that nobody knows who their councillor is and what council does, and until we address that you can have any system you like – you can have compulsory voting even – but if people don’t know what the hell they are voting for, it’s pointless.”- Len Brown, 13 October 2013

Source: Minority rules in low voter turnout

At the same time, Madeleine Foreman from Generation Zero, referred to “a lack of information” as well as  “an information overload“.

Source: IBID

The situation below does not constitute meaningful “information”,

.

Christchurch_local_election,_2013

.

The Auckland group, City Vision, gave voters – who might not otherwise be familiar with candidates – a better idea who to vote for (or not), according to their own political beliefs.

Voting in general elections is relatively easier because of political “branding” via Parties. We don’t need to understand what every candidate stands for, because their Party “brand” is a short-hand explanation. (Though on occassions, such  Peter Dunne’s crackpot  rag-tag fellow United Future MPs in 2005,  we still didn’t know what we were getting with our Party Vote.)

I would advocate a greater use of umbrella groups such as City Vision and Citizens & Ratepayers Association (now known as Communities and Residents). 

As we lead busier lives with more constraints and demands on our time (eg, the fracturing of the country’s electricity supply into a “market”, meaning we now have to shop around for “cheaper” prices) , umbrella groups could make the voting process easier for those wanting to participate – but not quite knowing who to vote for.

One wonders how many Dunedin voters voted for Hilary Calvert without knowing her right wing, ACT connections?

2. Postal Ballot

Postal voting is a great idea for some – but not for everyone.

The problem with postal voting is that ballot papers can be misplaced; piles of other correspondence placed on top; and otherwise forgotten.

We need to run the postal voting system alongside the voting station option.

The best rationale for returning to ballot booths is that they are a visible reminder for people to vote.

I recall the very first time I ever voted. It was the Wellington local body election and I was driving past the old Wellington Children’s Dental Clinic in Willis St.

I had forgotten that the local body elections were being held (being a young man, I was more focused on young people’s stuff), and seeing the Voting Booth signs on the footpath, I immediatly pulled over and went inside to do my civic duty. (I voted for Labour candidates, as otherwise I had little idea as to what other candidates stood for.)

Voting stations may be more expensive, but cost should not  be a determinant for democracy. As well as reminding people, they are a community-oriented means by which to cast your vote. There are others around you doing the same thing and this builds a sense of social cohesion and purpose.

It is the “watering hole” for local democracy.

There’s nothing much community-minded to tick a box on a piece of paper and posting it. Or sitting at your computer clicking on a box via e-voting.

Sometimes, doing things the “old fashioned way” should not be automatically dismissed as “obsolete”.

3. Central Government

The biggest fault and brick-bat for the low voter turn-out, I reserve for this current government. John Key’s administration has done more to marginalise local body democracy and engender growing apathy than any other causal factor.

National has undermined local democracy by using it’s central government powers to over-ride democratically community representatives and impose it’s own policies;

Auckland Super City

In April 2009, ACT MP and Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, refused to allow Aucklanders the chance to voice their opinion – via a referendum – whether or not to create the Auckland “super council”.

In Hide’s view,

The difficulty with a referendum is it would cost a million dollars and it would just ask `yes’ or `no’.

What I’m picking up, very clearly, is that a lot of people favour a super city but they’ve got particular views about how it should be structured and run — it’s not just a `yes’ or `no’ question, that’s why I’ve been so actively engaged with the mayors.” – Rodney Hide, 24 April 2009

Source: Hide rules out referendum on ‘super city’ proposals

So one man decided the fate of 1.4 million Aucklanders? Is that democracy? What would this chap say to Hide, I wonder…

.

stalin - hide

.

The people of Auckland had no voice in the matter.

Ecan

In March 2010, National  sacked every councillor from the Environment Canterbury, replacing them with unelected, appointed commissars commissioners:

  • Margaret Bazley (Chair)
  • Hon. David Caygill (Deputy Chair)
  • David Bedford
  • Donald Couch
  • Tom Lambie
  • Professor Peter Skelton

To date, Ecan still has no elected councillors and it’s governing body is appointed by John Key’s government.

The new powers of the commissioners were such that they could   implement regional plans for Canterbury but which could not  be appealed to the Environment Court. (See: Environment Canterbury commissioners named)

In April 2010, Forest & Bird uncovered an agenda by central government,

“...to abolish Environment Canterbury to fast-track large-scale irrigation.

Papers obtained by Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act show that from September last year briefings to Ministers and Cabinet papers focussed on the Hurunui and Rakaia rivers and how the Crown could help remove “blockages” to their progress.

“The Government was looking for a way to fast-track irrigation in Canterbury and undermine protection of the region’s over-allocated rivers,” Forest & Bird Canterbury Field Officer Jen Miller says.

Source: Forest & Bird uncovers Government plan to push irrigation

It appears that National had less-than-transparent reasons for dismissing Ecan’s councillors and replacing democratically elected representatives with hand-picked appointees.

The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)

Coming into effect in late Match 2011, CERA was created by Commissar Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee as a super organisation with powers never before seen in the country. As Brownlee himself admitted in a Beehive press statement,

“…CERA would have wide powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations which would be used responsibly and for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery.” – Gerry Brownlee, 29 March 2011

Source:  New authority will deliver for Canterbury

Brownlee tried to reassure New Zealanders that National was not creating a monstrous government organisation that essentially gave dictatorial powers to the Minister,

These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”

Source:  IBID

Considering National’s track record on riding rough-shod over community concerns; subverting local democracy; ignoring public opinion; and prepared to dismiss the forthcoming referendum on asset sales – Brownlee’s assurances ring hollow.

In fact, National had such faith in the democratic process – including “checks and balances” – that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill 2011 was rushed through under urgency in July 2011.

CERA’s un-elected CEO is Roger Sutton, who is appointed and answerable solely to Minister Brownlee.

The people of Canterbury had no voice in the matter.

Auckland Housing

National’s interference in Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan and housing policy is, by now, well known.  As The Aucklander reported on 14 March this year,

The Government is becoming increasingly heavy-handed over Auckland’s housing shortage, with talk of a new Crown agency to free up more land.

Environment Minister Amy Adams has suggested stripping the Auckland Council of some planning powers for three years to allow a Crown agency to play a role increasing the city’s residential land supply.

New Housing Minister Nick Smith has also released a Government report which, he says, shows a worrying trend of reduced land availability and soaring section prices.

Last week, Dr Smith vowed to break the “stranglehold” of Auckland Council’s policy of containing urban sprawl – a policy he said was “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices.

Source: Govt piles on pressure for housing land

National’s heavy-handedness on this matter was in direct response to Labour’s (well-founded) accusations that the current government was not addressing a critical housing shortage in this country.

National was content to see urban sprawl for short-term political gain, with Nick Smith’s outrageous hyperbole that the Unitary Plan would result in “killing the dreams of Aucklanders“.

The Nats also refused to enshrine the Unitary Plan in law, as they apparently had their own agenda. (See: Nick Smith and Len Brown’s relationship put to test)

The government-Council dispute was apparent to all when, on 25 March, a meeting scheduled to last for two hours was cut short after only one hour. (See: Len Brown, Nick Smith meeting breaks up without agreement on Auckland house plan)

Despite the Auckland super-city being a creation of the National-ACT government, they were unwilling to allow Aucklanders the chance to solve their own problems.

One wonders if it wouldn’t  be cheaper to simply abolish the Auckland Council and appoint Nick Smith as Commissar for Auckland, and run directly from the Beehive? At least it would be more honest.

Interestingly, on 10 October this year, Nick Smith was keen to reassure voters that that was no housing crisis in this country,

I don’t accept that there is a crisis and the duplicity of parties like Labour is exposed when the affordability index was a whole lot worse in 2008 and they rejected any notion of there being a crisis then.”

Source:  No housing crisis in Auckland or Christchurch – Smith

That’s an awful lot of effort that Smith and his ministerial cronies are putting into an an issue that isn’t really a crisis at all.

Go figure.

Christchurch Housing

Earthquake recovery minister, Gerry Brownlee, has an almost  ‘schizophrenic’ attitude when it comes to the housing crisis in Christchurch.

On 20 March last year, Minister Brownlee stated that Christchurch’s critical housing shortage was  “best left to the market” to resolve,

However, the Government was careful about how it influenced the housing market, he said.

If it had jumped in earlier, it could have artificially lowered the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors, he said.

Source: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’

Not much help to Cantabrians living in garages or cars. But at least Minister Brownlee is living comfortably in a tax-payer funded ministerial home. (See: $18m state housing bill for new Government tenants)

But by 22 November of this year, Brownlee appeared to have belatedly realised that Christchurch did indeed having a growing housing problem. His language was disturbingly dictatorial,

Christchurch City Council has been given an ultimatum – sign off the city’s land use recovery plan or the government will go it alone.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has lost patience with councillors and says he’ll meet them on Friday in a final bid to solve the problem.

If that doesn’t work he’s going to use the powers parliament gave him to ratify the plan himself.

The plan allows more buildings on existing sections in urban areas and Mr Brownlee says its a vital to get house building moving.

Source: Brownlee gives Chch council an ultimatum

So much for Brownlee reassuring New Zealand that, with the creation of CERA,  that National was not giving dictatorial powers to the Minister,

These are essentially reserve powers and there will be checks and balances on the use of these powers so the public can have confidence they are being used wisely and with restraint.”

Source:  New authority will deliver for Canterbury

Brownlee’s strong arm tactics worked, and the Commissar for Christchurch got his own way,

We agreed a process that officials from both sides will work on over the weekend and early next week. They intend to endorse the land use recovery plan next Thursday and we will take it to cabinet the following Monday.”

Source: Chch council agrees to endorse plan

This is what centralised government rule, from a small clique of ministers, looks like.

Central Government issues diktat for “core services”

In case local bodies were still unclear on National’s policy of centralised planning and control, Minister Nick Smith last year released a plan euphemistically called “Better Local Government”. (See: Govt puts the squeeze on councils)

It was an agenda to control Councils’ operations and return to “core services”. Council planning and policy-making would no longer be left to local voters – but would be determined by government appointed officials such as the  Local Government Efficiency Taskforce , the Infrastructure Expert Advisory Group, and the Productivity Commission. (See: IBID)

More here: Dept of Internal Affairs – Better Local Government

Interestingly, Smith never actually defined what constituted “core services”.

A day later, Dear Leader Key backed up Smith by stating categorically,

In narrowing their purpose clause, it may exclude them from providing those services, or at least challenge their thinking about whether those services should be provided.

One has to ask the question, if central government isn’t providing those services, then really should local government step in and fill the breach? Because there might be a very good reason why central government hasn’t done it.”

Source: Councils must focus on core business – Key

So, for example, if central government decides not to house the poorest people in our communities – by reducing state housing – that evidently means that local bodies must also sit on their hands and see homelessness increase? Is that how it works under a centralised National regime?

That is what I take from Key’s comments.

What voters want is apparently irrelevant.

What central government wants trumps local communities needs.

Any one or two instances of central-government interference in local body affairs could be dismissed and quickly forgotten. But taken together, there is a growing, pernicious perception (perception?!) that important decisions are emanating from The Beehive and independent local body representation is little more than illusory.

One has to wonder how motivated people are to engage in local body politics, knowing that the decisions of their locally-elected representatives can be over-ridden by a minister from central government?

If that doesn’t foster apathy, what will?

Key and his henchmen/women need to keep their grubby paws of local body bodies. They should have enough on their plate with high unemployment; high debt; critical housing problems; struggling manufacturing sector; environmental problems; etc.

We don’t need a Keygrad and National Politburo micro-managing our communities. This is one instance where the State (or at least central government) can – and should – stay out of our lives.

If National is re-elected next year, we may not be seeing much more of this kind of local, grass-roots democracy in action…

.

Local-Board-Members-Against-Contracting-Out

Photo acknowledgement: The Daily Blog

And supreme irony of ironies, it was the Nats who labelled the previous Labour-led governments as “Helengrad”. In reality, Labour was a Libertarian party in comparison to this neo-Muldoonist system of centralised planning and control.

I am reminded of Russel Norman’s words earlier this year,

Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy.

But we have seen all this before… Robert Muldoon would recognise this Government as one after his own heart, but with better spin doctors and a smilier disposition.

Mr Key may not look like Muldoon but he sure as hell is acting like Muldoon.” – Russel Norman, 1 June 2013

Source: Norman: Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 November 2013.

.

.

*

References

TV3: Ex-ACT MP Calvert eyes Dunedin council

The Press: Minority rules in low voter turnout

Fairfax media: Christchurch Rent Crisis ‘Best Left To Market’

Elections NZ: Local Body Elections

Wikipedia: New Zealand local elections, 2013

NZ Herald: Election results Around the country

Dept of Internal Affairs: Local Authority Election Statistics 2010

Previous related blogposts

How To Guide: Voting in Auckland

Guest Author: Dunedin election – my guide to who’s left and who’s not

Other blogposts

The Daily Blog: “What If Our Government Tried To Guide Democracy, Rather Than Dictate To It?” And Other Rhetorical Remarks

The Daily Blog: Why You Need to Vote in the Local Body Elections

The Daily Blog: Housing: Auckland Needs Real Practical Solutions – Not Grandstanding By Desperate Ministers

Waitakere News:  Is the Government set to undermine Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit?

Frogblog: National’s approach to local government is all over the place

.

.

= fs =

Letter to the Editor: the Christchurch by-election

2 December 2013 1 comment

.

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

.

from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 8:41 AM
subject: Letter to the ed

The Editor
Sunday Star Times

National’s supposed earthquake recovery minister, Gerry Brownlee was on Morning Report on 2 December, complaining that the small turnout was more about apathy than a “sea change” in public opinion wanting to see a change in government.

He said, ” I acknowledge they won a seat that they’ve always held. That was expected.But to sort of say on such a small turnout that it represents anything other than [an] indication of voter apathy is questionable.”

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2578314

Is that right, Mr Brownlee?

Does that mean that the same can be said of the 2011 election results, which was the lowest voter turn-out since 1887, where over 800,000 New Zealanders did not vote?

Or is it a “good result” – despite a small voter turnout – only if the Nats come out of it looking good?

- Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

.

.

= fs =

Pita Sharples, Spooks, Maggie Barry, and Bully-boy Brownlee

.

Pita Sharples – gone

.

Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Pita Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

.

Pita Sharples has effectively taken responsibility for the Maori Party’s poor showing (third place) at the  recent Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election.  That result was an indictment on the Maori Party’s decision to support an increasingly shakey government that is losing support in more accurate polling.

The internal leadership struggles between himself and Te Ururoa Flavell has also taken it’s toll on the 71 year old,

“It’s clear that the leadership issue…has taken a toll on the Maori Party and our people deserve a united Maori Party.”

Acknowledgement: Domninion Post – Sharples quits Maori Party leadership

It’s also something that is focusing closer scrutiny upon an increasingly unstable government. The toll thus far;

  • Hekia Parata – lost part of her port-folio. In essence, a partial sacking.
  • Aaron Gilmore – forced to resign from Parliament.
  • John Banks – facing charges in Court. If found guilty, he will hve to resign.
  • Peter Dunne – Party de-registered; lost his ministerial portfolios; and becoming increasingly oppositional to National’s policies.
  • Pita Sharples – standing down as Maori-Party co-leader

An early election this year (or early next year) is becoming more likely with each passing crisis.

Not a good time for National.

.

The spooks have a new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security…

.

On 1 July, John Key announced that Paul Neazor would be replaced in his role as  Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (for the SIS and GCSB) by former-Judge  Andrew McGechan.

Key says that McGechan’s role will be on an  “interim” basis, instead of the usual three years, as the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is currently being considered  by a Parliament Select Committee.

However, with Peter Dunne wavering on this issue; with mounting public opposition; and god-only-knows which way Winston Peters will jump; the passing of the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is by no means guaranteed.

In which case, National has two options remaining,

1.

The office of the Inspector-General must be expanded; properly staffed;  and appropriately funded. At present, the  Inspector-General’s role is a part-time position, with no permanent staffing. Our Inspector General is faced with oversight of two intelligence agencies with a combined staff of around 520. In effect he is out-numbered, out-resourced, and consequently, out-manouvered.

By contrast, our Aussie cuzzy’s  version of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has approximately 20 people working full time for the Inspectorate (see IGIS Annual Report 2011-12  Part three: Management and accountability )

This, I believe is the real problem surrounding our security-intelligence agencies – not the legislation needing “tightening up”.  The legislation is tight enough as it is.

It just needs to be obeyed.

2.

The Labour Party’s call for a full public commission of inquiry on this matter cannot be ignored any longer.  If Key wants cross-party support and public buy-in to secuirity/intelligence issues, then it must be open to all political parties and the public to contribute to the debate.

As matters stand now, if National forces through  unpopular, undemocratic,  and ultimately counter-productive laws – an incoming government will be bound to amend or repeal it entirely. This is grossly wasteful use of the Parliamentary process and taxpayer’s money.

This blogger hopes that the  GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill is set aside.  Aside from National ministers and a few misguided rightwing bloggers, there is very little support for this proposed legislation.

Additional

Parliament: External oversight of intelligence agencies: a comparison

.

Egg; Face; Maggie Barry

.

Ex-radio host-come-National politician – known for her acerbic and often nasty tongue in Parliament’s debating chamber – has copious amounts of egg on her face.

Ever the loyal, obedient National Party foot-soldier for towing the OPL (Official Party Line), she loudly parroted her party’s opposition to the Auckland rail link. She expressed her “well wishes” to  Len Brown after he won the 2010 Mayoralty race with this graceless message,

The morning after National’s resounding victory she sent a strong message to Auckland mayor Len Brown, saying there would be a CBD rail link before a second harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Maggie Barry’s line in sand

Charming.

But political Karma being what it is,  National’s change of heart on this issue had made her look foolish. Her senior fellow politicians have now endorsed Len Brown and Auckland Council’s plans for the Auckland rail link,

.

Auckland Mayor celebrates Government's agreement to support rail loop

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz – Auckland Mayor celebrates Government’s agreement to support rail loop

.

Ms Barry, not quite bringing herself able to tow the new OPL, endorsed only certain  aspects of Auckland Council’s transport plans,

North Shore National MP Maggie Barry said there was a “flurry of excitement” about the suggestion the North Shore could get another link to the city.

“It is essential and long overdue, and it would make a phenomenal difference to the North Shore.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key to give Auckland a crossing

I suspect there’s enough egg on Ms Barry’s face to cook up a decent size omelette.

.

Bully-boy Brownlee

.

Not content with creating the Auckland super city without first putting it to Auckland ratepayers through a referendum

Not content with pushing more laws through Parliament under “Urgency” than probably any other government in New Zealand’s history…

Not content with dis-establishing Environment Canterbury in March 2010; replacing it with un-elected Commissioners; whose decisions cannot be appealed to the Environment Court…

Not content with usurping the authority of the Christchurch City Council with the creation of CERA…

Not content with being given sweeping political power in the Christchurch re-build, via the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act which  effectively gives unbridled power to National Ministers  for five years…

Not content with expanding the surveillance powers of the GCSB, where no one will be safe from being spied upon by the State…

Not content with moving to take control of Christchurch

Gerry Brownlee is now putting none-too-subtle pressure on Auckland City to sell its assets to help pay for the Auckland rail loop,

.

City's shares eyed for rail

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail

.

Acting more reminiscent of a feudal Baron ruling over his fiefdom, Brownlee is treating Mayor Len Brown as a vassal, forcing Auckland City to obey National’s diktats.

I wonder what Aucklanders think of this kind of high-handed Ministerial control being exerted over their city – all the way from Wellington?

It must be demeaning for Aucklanders to realise that their elected local representatives are being treated like puppets, and that real power is being exerted from the Beehive?

So much for the quaint notion of democracy.

So much for Aucklanders being in charge of their own destiny.

So much for the  “partnership” that our mendacious Prime Minister promised, three years ago,

The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland council to improve the city’s transport systems, Prime Minister John Key says.

He said today the Government shared Mayor Len Brown’s vision of getting Auckland moving and it was a government priority as well.

“The Government will work in partnership with the new Auckland City Council on what comes next, and contribute its fair share to the continuing goal of improving transport,” Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.

Acknowledgement : NZ Herald – Govt will work with council on Auckland’s transport

Having a Minister of the Crown attempting to bully Auckland to sell it’s assets in not a “partnership”.  And just because National has engaged in an act of wilful economic sabotage by it’s agenda of partial asset-sales – is no reason to expect others to follow that lunatic policy.

Gerry Brownlee should take note. He is playing with political fire, and a million votes in Auckland may come raining down on his (and other National MPs’) head.

If I know Kiwis as well as I think I do, they will not take kindly to being bossed around. (The Americans found this out, to their cost, when the Lange-led Labour government passed our nuclear-free legislation.)

How much does Brownlee really want to piss that many voters off?

Tread carefully, bully-boy.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2013.

.

.

= fs =

Nigella Lawson, GCSB, Christchurch re-build, and Malcolm Burgess on Campbell Live

.

Nigella Lawson

.

Is that the applause of millions of women (and men!) I can hear as Nigella Lawson re-takes control of her life?

.

Nigella Lawson moves out, blender and all

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nigella Lawson moves out, blender and all

.

If there’s any possible good that came out of this ghastly incident, it is that women (and a few men, perhaps) around the world have witnessed the stark reality that spousal abuse is not confined to just their lives. Even the rich and famous can be affected by this kind of violence.

On 18 March 2013, Judge Peter Boshier (Law Commissioner);  Jennifer Wademan (Barrister), and  Thomas Dewar Sziranyi Letts (Solicitor) presented a report entitled Domestic Violence and the Impact on Children’s Lives at the 6th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Sydney, Australia.

The contents of their speech was disturbing, as well as instructive;

For a country with just over 4 million people, New Zealand has a staggering 80,000 domestic violence cases a year. This level of abuse has resulted in over 200 women and children being killed as a result of domestic violence in 12 years and countless numbers of adults and children carryingthe physical and psychological effects of that violence with them through their lives. The cost inhuman and economic terms is horrific.

[...]

New Zealand has a history of high levels of domestic violence, in part, we believe, because we are open about the problems that face us. While international research estimates that up to 80% ofdomestic violence goes unreported, and certainly that has been our experience in practice, in 2012 New Zealand Police recorded almost 47,000 incidents of domestic disputes, and initiated almost 100,000 Family Violence investigations. Of these investigations, children were present in almost 60% of cases.  If we assume the average household has 2 children, then at least 65,000 children were affected by domestic violence, in one year, in a country as small as New Zealand. Tragically, a third of all deaths from domestic violence involve children.

Source: Ministry of Justice – Domestic Violence and the Impact on Children’s Lives

I have little doubt that Ms Lawson’s experience at the hands of her husband three weeks ago was a nasty, violent, and humiliating experience. I also strongly suspect that what went on behind the walls, closed doors, and curtained windows of their family home was most likely  no less violent.

If Charles Saatchi could almost throttle his wife, in public, in a fit of rage – god only knows what he got up to out of sight.

There may well be women in our own country, also  the victims of spousal abuse, who have seen Ms Lawson make the decisive move to leave her violent husband and seek refuge elsewhere. Abused women and their children may see Ms Lawson as having escaped – and this may encourage them to do likewise.

How many will be thinking,

If she can do it, then so can I!

Whether Nigella Lawson may appreciate it or not, she may well have saved the lives of women and children here in New Zealand and around the world.

The next time I see her on TV, I’ll see Ms Lawson in an entirely new light; a woman with inner strength and a survivor.

Let’s hope others do as well.

.

I have a date…

.

… with a Parliamentary Select Committee in a week’s time.

Yep, I sent in a submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. This is the Bill which will legitamise the Bureau’s spying on 4.4 million New Zealanders.

As the Clerk of the Committee, Lesley Ferguson wrote in an email to me,

Thank you for your submission on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. A copy of your submission has been distributed to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee which is considering this bill.

 The Intelligence and Security Committee is to hear submissions orally. In accordance with your request to meet with the committee to give further evidence, a date and time of  Friday, 5 July 2013 from 10.20am to 10.40am has been allocated for you to appear before the committee to present your oral evidence.

 The committee will have read your written submission. It will therefore not be necessary to read your written submission to them. Instead, the committee will be expecting you to elaborate further on your written evidence.

 The venue for the hearing is Select Committee Meeting Room 2, Bowen House, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Please ensure you are at the venue at least 15 minutes before your allotted time.

 Please provide me with the name(s) and designation(s) of those who will be presenting to the committee.

 Your submission is released publicly upon you giving oral evidence to the committee.  The committee intends that hearings will be conducted in public. You may however apply for any or all of your evidence to be heard in private or secret. The committee would require reasons before agreeing to such a request. Please contact me if you wish to make such an application.

 While the evidence you provide to the committee is covered by parliamentary privilege, please note that a Court ruling held that a person may be liable in defamation if that person makes a defamatory statement in a situation that is protected by parliamentary privilege (such as an oral presentation to a select committee) and later affirms that statement (without actually repeating it) on an occasion that is not protected by parliamentary privilege.

 

 Now all I have to do is figure out what the heck I want to say…

I have a couple of ideas.

Anyone else?

By the way – I wonder what the SIS and GCSB thought of my submission?

.

The Christchurch re-build…

.

… seems to have engendered a detente between the Mayor and Christchurch City Council on one side, and Gerry Brownlee and Central Government on the other. It’s probably a somewhat shakey detente – one liable to crack, splinter, and fall apart at even a low  political seismic event.

.

Govt announces Christchurch rebuild funding

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – Govt announces Christchurch rebuild funding

.

It was only a month ago that Key was pressuring Christchurch City Council to sell it’s strategic assets to finance part of the rebuild,

It is for the council to say ‘do you want the nice-to-haves.  Then they’ll ask how are you going to pay? That could be through rates or asset sales.

Key referred to  “partially floating assets, so the council remained in control but still raised money”, was “ incredibly logical .

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Asset sales could help pay for rebuild – Key

Mayor Bob Parker and the Christchurch City Council rightly rejected the idea. After all, why should Christchurch be asset-stripped simply because of events beyond it’s control?

At least National’s decision to partially privatise state assets was as a result of it’s own folly by giving away billions in tax cuts that the country could ill afford. Future generations will be the ones to pay for National’s short-sighted decisions.

If Christchurch needs extra cash to assist in it’s rebuild then I have a suggestion: bonds.

Like the War Bonds during World War 2,

.

War Bonds

.

But instead of Bonds for Destruction – these would be Bonds for Construction! Not Bonds to Bomb – but Bonds To Build!

If every New Zealander, on average, bought $100 worth of  Bonds To Build that would assist Christchurch to the tune of around $440 million.

The government could assist by diverting  student debt repayments from New Zealanders abroad, into Bonds To Build.

It might even help if National post-poned further partial SOE sales and instead encouraged “mums  and dads” investors to buy Bonds instead.

Imagine stirring up our latent patriotism as Kiwis; getting kids involved to save their “pennies” and with every dollar, they bought a Bond To Build! I’m imagining Campbell Live jumping onboard and going school to school to film children buying Bonds.

Perhaps it sounds ‘goofy’ – but if bonds were useful during wartime, then just maybe we could resurrect this old idea and put it to good use again.

I know our household would be “in”!

.

Malcolm Burgess on Campbell Live

.

On Wdednesday night, 26 June, TV3′s Third Degree presented evidence which was the clearest indication to date  that Robin Bain did indeed commit familiy annihilation, killing his wife and children, and then turning the rifle on himself.

The evidence was in the form of marks on Robin’s thumb and finger which have been recognised by forearms experts as gunpowder residue – caused when a rifle clip is reloaded, and thethumb or finger scraps against the top of the ammo-clip.

Pictures of Robin Bain’s hand, and the gunpowder residue marks are visible – when you know what to look for,

.

Bain case - Two dark lines on thumb point to father as killer -  image

.

robin_bain_hand_with_magazine_marks_circled__david_bain_case__2_3_4_N2

.

The twin lines are the same width as the top of the ammo clip, resting to the left of  Robin Bain’s hand. Third Degree conducted tests with the rifle and found that similar marks were left on the thumbs/fingers when others re-loaded the rifle; twin streaks. Gunpowder residue.

The following evening (27 June), John Campbell interviewed Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess,

.

Campbell Live - David Bain - asst police commissioner malcolm burgess - new evidence - gunpowder residue

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Campbell Live – ‘It isn’t a powder smudge’ – Asst Police Commissioner

.

Burgess’s responses to John Campbell’s questions were enlightening…

At 5:00, Burgess suggests that the marks are not gunpowder residue but cuts,

“ …one of the other alternatives that hasn’t been properly considered is that this is in fact a nick on Robin Bain’s thumb…”

John Campbell then pointed out that Police Pathologist, Dr Alex Dempster photographed and recorded every cut and abrasion on Robin Bain’s hands, and said, “he appears not to have photographed the cuts”.

Burgess couldn’t answer Campbell’s question, except postulating that “beyond perhaps observing that he would’ve clearly been  interested in fresh injuries   this indeed, if it is a nick or a cut,  does not appear to be a fresh injury”.

Campbell then pointed out that the distance between the two marks on Robin Bain’s thumb was “absolutely consistent with the distance – absolutely consistent with the distance in  the magazine [clip] – and  absolutely consistent with the kind of smudging that we see from the residue of  people who have  been loading magazines after discharging”.

Burgess steadfastly rejected the new evidence and said,

I’m not convinced that what we’re seeing is indeed what  was portrayed last night”.

Campbell then asked Burgess if the NZ Police would conduct similar tests to that carried out by the Third Degree team on 26 June. It was a fair question.

However Burgess’s response was luke-warm, at best,

Well, I guess we’re always open to look at exploring,  or I guess eliminating doubt, John, but that works from the principle that indeed what we’re seeing there is a powder smudge. I guess what we’re saying and what we’re suggesting by virtue of the fingerprint evidence is that perhaps that’s not indeed the case.  That’s it’s a cut, or a nick to the thumb, or some other mark there rather than a powder smudge.  So I think you’ve got to be a little careful which, what the basis of your hypothesis is before you start reaching [for] firm conclusions. We’re very happy, and indeed had we known this story was going to air in the form that it was , we would have been very happy to discuss the fingerprint evidence with Mr Bain’s team and see whether that enabled them to reach a [garbled] sustainable conclusion

When Campbell asked if the Police was not going to “stage any kind of test” to see if it was possible that the marks were gunpowder residue, Burgess replied,

Well I think the key for us is to try and  determine whether in fact  it’s an injury, whether in fact  the fingerprint evidence  can help us make that call – ”

Campbell, “How will you go about  determining that?

“ – and that therefore  in fact eliminates or tends to eliminate the possibility that it’s [gun]powder [residue].”

Burgess added near the end of the interview,

We’re interested in trying to establish the truth

No, he’s not.

He’s not trything to establish the truth whatsoever. His purpose is  solely to protect his backside and that of the NZ Police as a whole.

Every response from Burgess referred to “fingerprint evidence”. In Burgess’s  mind,  according to those  finger-print records taken by Police in 1994, the marks were  “cuts or nicks”, and not gunpowder residue.

He has already pre-judged this issue and come to a pre-determined conclusion: they are “cuts or nicks”, and nothing more.

Is it any wonder than police have stuffed up so many investigations, which have resulted in innocent people ending up in prison? How can an investigation be conducted with an open mind if officers like Burgess are pre-disposed to an outcome?

This is the kind of thinking that over-looks critical evidence.

This is the kind of thinking that sends innocent people to prison.

This is the kind of thinking  that misinterprets evidence.

For example, Robin Bain’s fingerprint file doesn’t show two cuts at all. It shows one mark on the lower part of his thumb that could be anything (which, remember, Police Pathologist, Alex Dempster, did not record as a cut or abrasion when he examined Robin Bain’s  hands),

.

Campbell Live - David Bain - asst police commissioner malcolm burgess - new evidence - gunpowder residue - fingerprints

.

So where is the second “nick or cut” on Robin Bain’s thumb-print? It isn’t there.

I won’t be waiting for the Police to review this new evidence. Burgess has made it abundantly clear that they have already dismissed the marks as “nicks or cuts”. Accepting the marks as gunpowder residue would mean the following;

  1. The clearest evidence yet that Police bungled the most basic aspects of the murder/suicide investigation,
  2. The best evidence to date (aside from the bloodied sockprints) that Robin Bain was the killer.
  3. An inability for the Police to consider new evidence where it threatens their image and reputation.

Of those three points, I find #3 the most disturbing.

With a supercilious smile and more than a hint of arroganance, Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess  essentially told the public to “go get stuffed”; the NZ Police  will not countenance new evidence that may threaten their credibility or reputation.

This is ominous in a way that I can barely describe;  the Police are refusing to  look at new evidence impartially.

Does this mean  that their  first obligation is to themselves and their own reputation,  and not the law?

If so, they have become a law unto themselves.

If you doubt what I am telling you -  look at the video again.

Now tell me it doesn’t make you uneasy.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 June 2013.

.

.

= fs =

More dispatches from Planet Key

17 March 2013 4 comments

.

planet key

.

Planet Key’s #3 Moon “Brownlee”; Largest of the Moons, it tends to disturb other bodies through it’s presence. “Brownlee” has a rough surface and highly abrasive atmosphere that many find obnoxious. “Brownlee’s” gravitational influence has a negative, perturbing,  influence on nearby bodies such as Planet Christchurch.

Brownlee recently let rip at Christchurch City Council for not carrying out repairs to council-owned community housing fast enough,

.

Brownlee says housing councillor should go

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

.

Consider for a moment that Brownlee, as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery  Minister, is in constant contact with CERA, Christchurch’s mayor, and anyone else remotely connected with that city and it’s re-build.

Brownlee has channels of communications that are open to him that allows him to discuss issues and problems as they arise.

So what was the purpose of this display of public excoriation of the Christchurch Council and especially the vilification of one Councillor, Yani Johanson?!

Does Mr Johanson not have a telephone?

Email? Skype? A paper letter? Smoke signals? (The latter seems to work well for the Vatican.)

Could Brownlee not have sat down around a table and asked the most basic of questions,

How can we help?”

Or is the public display of testosterone-fuelled machismo Minister Brownlee’s new modus operandi when dealing with those who fall within his ministerial orbit?

This kind of authoritarianism may be the norm in Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea – but here in New Zealand it comes across as the cries and foot-stamping of a petulant child.

Meanwhile, National ministers should look in their own backyard when it comes to housing,

.

Pomare housing demolition begins

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post

.

Christchurch has been wracked by two massive earthquakes and thousands more quakes since. Every aspect of their basic infra-structure was damaged or ruined to varying degrees.

I think we can cut them some slack when it comes to re-building an entire city, from beneath ground-up.

Meanwhile, nearly eighteen months later, with no earthquakes or any other major disasters (unless one  calls a National Government a major disaster), one wonders why National ministers have not progressed any further to re-build Pomare’s state housing?

After nearly a year and a half, all we’re seeing is a vast vacant lot, where once peoples’  homes existed,

.

Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

.

Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

.

Any ideas, Mr Brownlee?

(More on this issue in an up-coming blog-story)

.

Planet Key’s #4 Moon “Dunne”; covered in a dense, white atmosphere; “Dunne” is known to move from Planet Key to Planet Labour depending on which mass is greatest. The largest surface object on “Dunne” is the ‘Make Me a Minister’ volcano, which erupts whenever there is a nearby power-source.

As Minister of Revenue and Flashy Hairstyles, Peter Dunne is charged with taxation issues in this country.

No doubt his job was made considerably harder with two tax cuts (2009 and 2010) which considerably reduced taxation revenue for the State. (see:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b) Indeed, English was forced to tax children and their paper-rounds. (see:  Key rejects criticism of ‘paperboy tax’)

Taxing kid’s meagre earnings. That’s how low and desperate National ministers have gone, to make up for the 2009/10 ‘lolly scrambles’ when the Nats  gave away billions in unaffordable tax cuts.

To try to fill the fiscal hole that Bill English, Peter Dunne, et al, have put themselves into, they’ve been scrambling to raise government charges  and tax everything and anything else that moves. (see: Prescription fees increase, see: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase, see: Student fees rise faster than inflation, see: Petrol price rises to balance books)

The latest attempt to raise new taxes is Peter Dunne’s ‘carpark tax’,

.

Business will evade car park tax

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media

.

Well, well, well… a new tax?

A new fringe benefit tax?!

This is interesting.

Because John Key has always insisted that his Party cuts taxes and doesn’t increase them. Specifically, way back on 4 April 2005, when National was in Opposition,

.

National Party Finance spokesman John Key has signalled an overhaul of the Fringe Benefit Tax, during a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club today.

“The next National Government will cut the red tape and compliance costs that are choking our businesses and preventing them from getting off first base,” he says.

“A practical example of what I am talking about is in the area of Fringe Benefit Tax.

“Today I want to announce that National will revamp Fringe Benefit Tax to remove a substantial amount of the paperwork that currently occupies too much administrative time for many of our businesses, especially the small ones.

[...]

- We won’t entertain suggestions of applying FBT to on-premises car parks.” 

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

And again in 2010, when a video was uncovered where Dear Leader was quoted as saying,

National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.

See: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

When challenged on this in the House, just recently,  Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, responded with this bit of bovine faecal material,

I would say that I think a fair amount has changed since that statement was made back in April 2005, which was when Don Brash was leader of the National Party. Since that time we have had three leaders of the Labour Party, and maybe a fourth leader of the Labour Party

Source: Parliament Hansards – 9. Tax System Changes—Employee Car-parks

Yeah. Lot’s of things have changed. Like, for example, the difference between being in Opposition and Promising the Moon – and being in Government and having to explain why the Moon is still out of reach.

And when the Nats have to make smart-arse comments about Labour’s leaders, then you know they’re really on the ropes. Defensive much, Mr Joyce?

Like Key’s broken promise on GST, the “carpark” tax is another instance of National breaking it’s election promises. Which indicates, mainly, that National’s tax-cuts were never as affordable as they made out in 2008.

.

Special Edition Tax cuts today - John Key

Acknowledgement: National Party

.

Planet Key’s #5 Moon “Bennett”; “Bennett” originated from the asteroid belt, where many poorer dwarf-planets with low mass; minimal mineral wealth; and mostly invisible, are locked in orbits that will take them nowhere. “Bennett” gravitated to the National Zone where her mass and mineral wealth increased by close association with  Planet Key and it’s many  moons.

.

To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012,,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

To quote Minister Bennett’s latest utterances on this issue, on 12 March 2013, when hundreds of  people recently queued for just seven jobs at Carter Holt Harvey in Auckland,

“Well I am absolutely thrilled that 200 turned up quite frankly we’ve got more than 50,000 on the unemployment benefit but work expectations of them I think the fact that they are lining up that they want those jobs um speaks for itself and about peoples’ motivation to get work.”
 

“There’s always a lot of people going for certain types of jobs and if in particular if they are lower skilled they feel they can do them, they don’t have a lot of work experience, they have been out of work for some time.”

 
“No I don’t feel there is a job for everyone and I think it’s damn tough but I am incredibly proud of New Zealanders and their  motivation and the fact that they want them and I know that the economy is improving and we are going to see more happening.”

See: TV3  – Campbell Live:  Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs

Acknowledgement for transcript:  Waitakere News – Don Elder, Paula Bennett and the rest of us

Ok, so the lightbulb has finally clicked in Bennett’s head. New Zealand has a problem. We do not have enough jobs for the number of unemployed and solo-parents who want to work.

It’s not often that a politician acknowledges the bleedin’ obvious – so kudos to her for having the  courage to do so. (John Key might learn a thing from Bennett in terms of not ducking  issues.)

However, if there are not sufficient jobs to go around – what is the point in wasting taxpayers’ money and Parliament’s time on this exercise in futility,

.

Welfare reform bill passed into law

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

.

And why is language like this used by Bennett,

.

Reforms to help beneficiaries out of 'trap'

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

.

If there are insufficient jobs – as Bennett herself has now acknowledged on at least two occassions, then ipso facto, the following must be true;

  1. The only ‘trap’ is a lack of work – not welfare
  2. Why “reform” the welfare system  when welfare itself is not broke – it’s the economy that is not working (as are 170,000 people)
  3. Why muddy the waters with  rhetoric like  “trap of benefit dependency“; “introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work“; or that welfare had “become a bit of a trap for quite a few people“?

What does “a bit of a trap for quite a few people” mean? That it’s a “little” trap as opposed to a “big” trap? Or is she attempting to minimise the impact of her beneficiary-bashing by trying to soften her rhetoric?

So the “dog whistle” rhetoric filters down to the right wing; the ill-informed; and other welfare-hating cliques in our society – but the message is watered-down for the Middle Classes who are uncomfortable with victimising the unemployed, or who may even know someone who recently lost their jobs.

That’s the trouble with beneficiary bashing during times of high unemployment. Most of us know someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Bennett is walking a tight-rope here.

Eventually, people will be asking; why are National ministers  wasting time on pointless welfare “reform” when it’s jobs we need?

Once that message percolates into the collective consciousness of the masses, National will be left standing naked – their corrupt, bene-bashing, dog-whistle politics exposed for all to see.

A few questions for Ms Bennett,

Why are you messing around with welform “reform”, when it’s jobs that we need?

Why aren’t you and your well-paid ministerial colleagues reforming the economy to create more jobs?

How much are these “reforms”  costing us, the tax-payer?

How many extra jobs will welfare “reforms” create?

I don’t expect answers to these questions because, really, they are unanswerable.

.

*

.

Links

Facebook: Pomare save our community

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

.

.

= fs =

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

9 April 2012 6 comments

|

|

All ministers have a coterie of staff. They consist of  PAs, researchers, speech writers, policy analysts, media experts, and… ‘spin doctors’. Actually, any of the previous list can be labelled a “spin doctor”.

“Spin Doctors” take a piece of information and presents it in a certain, carefully constructed way, that makes their respective Minister look good to the public.

Example; National’s recent policy on 16 and 17 year old unemployed youth was “reformed”, announcing that they would be issued “purchase cards”, to eliminate wasting their benefit on cigarettes and alcohol.

End goal: to make National look good in the public eye, by getting “tough on welfare”.

(Except for one thing. It’s already against the law for retailers to sell tobacco and alcohol products to 16 and 17 year olds.  The law is already in place to deal with this issue. And if retailers are selling these products to 16 and 17 year olds, then it’s a RETAIL problem – not a welfare problem.)

But the Spin Doctors quietly ignored that salient fact and simply pushed the message: National is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s the message being spun and put out to the public to absorb. One simple line.

Anyone who doubts the efficacy of spin doctoring of  such messages should check letters-to-editors and on-line fora to see how many low-information, National-friendly “armchair experts” now repeat that one, simplified Official Line; the government is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s “spin”.

Today, Bennet’s media people released this apparently positive news into the public arena,

|

Source

|

But not before her Spin Doctors got their hands on it first,

More than 5000 people cancelled their unemployment benefits because they found jobs last month.”

It could well be that 5,000 “cancelled their unemployment benefits”.

But as to how she could possibly know that they all “found jobs last month”? How could she possibly know that?

Those 5,000 could easily have been part of the exodus of New Zealanders moving to Australia,

|

Kiwi exodus to Aussie at new high

11:30 AM Wednesday Mar 21, 2012

New Zealanders continued to abandon their home country for Australia, with the speed of annual departures accelerating to a record 53,000 last month.

New Zealand lost a net 39,100 people to Australia in the 12 months ended February 29, 4,100 of whom left in the month of February alone, Statistics New Zealand said today.

That’s the biggest-ever annual net loss to Australia, as just 13,900 people crossed the Tasman to live in New Zealand, though short of the monthly record of 5,000 in February 2001.

People have been quitting New Zealand for Australia for years as they seek higher wages and a better standard of living across the ditch, and in 2008 the National Party won office campaigning on a promise to stem the outflow. ” – Source

|

If any one of those 5,000 entered into a relationship or marriage/civil union with a working partner – they are no longer eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 began a part time or seasonal job – they may no longer be eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 went on to ACC; a programme of some description; jail; or died -  they’re no longer eligible for welfare.

Nek bit,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the number of people on that benefit is now at 53,479, which is the lowest March level since 2009.”

When they’re raising welfare as an election issue, National spins the figures high, and quotes all recipients of  state assistance,

More than three quarters of all beneficiaries will be forced to seek work or face cuts to their payments under sweeping recommendations from the Government’s Welfare Working Group…

That would more than double the numbers required to look for work from 133,200 of the 360,000 people presently on a benefit to 277,200. ” – Source

At such times, it suits National’s agenda to “spin” the figures as high as possible and accentuate them in the media.

When it suits their purpose to paint themselves in a good light, they quote low figures, and focus on those. The “spin” is more positive.

Moving along,

Ms Bennett is particularly pleased that 2800 young people who were beneficiaries moved into work last month.”

Let’s give Minister Bennett the benefit of vthe doubt. Let’s assume that every single one of those 2,800 young beneficiaries is now in  paid work. Let’s assume that work is full time, and not a part-time burger-flipper. Let’s assume it’s ‘permanent’ and not seasonal fruit-picking.

What  has the media release not covered?

Answer: it doesn’t state how many young beneficiaries there were to start with. And the figures are tragic,

|

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Full Story

|

Though undated, Duncan Garner’s blog-entry was written during National’s party conference in August last year.

So in one month, 2,800 young people moved into employment. Let’s hope that those jobs are permanent, because at 2,800 young people per month, it will take National just under two years to move all 58,000 into employment. That’s not counting new school leavers, graduates, young people returning to New Zealand, etc.

Next,

The National Government has shown real leadership with initiatives for youth employment, including the recently announced Job Ops with Training.”

That’s highly arguable. In fact, National has made a fetish out of leaving job creation to the market. Aside from the cycleway, it has created very few new jobs. Quite the opposite, they’ve thrown 2,500 state sector workers onto the unemployment scrap-heap.
As the media story states,

Overall the number of people on benefits fell by 6698 in March to 322, 951.”

And again, there is no way of telling where those 6,698 ended up.  In employment? Gone overseas? Prison? Shifted on to ACC? Entered new relationship? Died? Kidnapped by aliens?
As a point of interest, New Zealand’s ranking of NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) Youth 15-24, is near the OECD average. We are stacked between France and Portugal.
|
|
By contrast, our Scandinavian/Nordic cuzzies are all within the top twelve on the ranking list.

Finland is #9.

We are #19.

I think Gerry Brownlee needs new Spin Doctors. Maybe he could borrow Paula Bennett’s?

|

|

= fs =

Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat (Part #Rua)

27 March 2012 3 comments

|

|

Brownlee’s “apology”,

|

I’m sure that New Zealanders have been the butt of all sorts of jokes at various times and not taken offence at such a thing,” he said.

“If I’ve offended people, I’m sorry about that, all I can say it was meant to be humorous and I apologise for people not seeing the humour in it.

Source

|

Gerry Brownlee is sorry because “people [did not see]  the humour”   in his obnoxious comments?! How does that constitute an “apology”??

Gerry – shut the hell  up! You’re digging a bigger hole for yourself and continuing to insult a nation and people that have done nothing to earn your mis-guided  derisory “humour”.

You are an embarressment, Gerry.  I suggest you take a holiday. A longgggg holiday. In fact, don’t bother coming back.

|

* * *

|

Additional

Facebook Page: Send Brownlee to Finland

Scoop: Lyndon Hood: Brownlee Fighting To The Finnish

Finnish Embassy in Canberra Email address:   “Juha Parikka” <sanomat.can@formin.fi>

|

|

= fs =

Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat

26 March 2012 11 comments

|

Source

|

Brownlee’s apalling gaffe requires a full apology. He has not only needlessly insulted an entire nation of people – but has brought our own country into disrepute.

Mr Brownlee is a lazy, obnoxious, narrow-minded bigot who has exhibited gross incompetance as Minister in charge of Christchurch’s re-build.

Accordingly, I have expressed my own views on Brownlee’s repulsive remarks, to the Finnish Embassy in Canberra,

|

Subject: An apology
Date:       Monday, 26 March, 2012 5:32 PM
From:    “Frank Macskasy” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To:          “Juha Parikka” <sanomat.can@formin.fi>

Dear Sir,

It is with utmost regret that one of our elected representatives, Gerry Brownlee, has made uncalled-for derogatory remarks about your country, Finland.

Mr Brownlee is not a very cultured man, and has been elected largely on the popularity of our current Prime Minister. Many New Zealanders view him as a clown; with disdain; and he does not speak for our country.

Please accept my sincerest apology.

Regards,
- Frank Macskasy

____________________________________________________________

“Frankly Speaking”——————————http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com
____________________________________________________________

|

Of course, my words are “essentially humorous and satirical“.

|

* * *

|

Previous Blogpost

Finland, some thoughts

Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

Additional

Helsinki Times: No room for complacency in Finnish schools system, expert warns

Helsinki Times: Lessons from the Finnish classroom

Yle.fn: New Zealand Minister attacks Finns as uneducated, unemployed

Video of Gerry Brownlee’s comments in Parliament

OECD Country statistical profile:  New Zealand 2011-2012

OECD  Country statistical profile:  Finland 2011-2012

|

|

= fs =

Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

24 March 2012 3 comments

|

Full Story

|

Are we being treated as children by National’s Gerry Brownlee?

It certainly appears so, when he refuses to release information relating to the Ports of Auckland dispute. It appears that any information Brownlee is witholding is being done because it would be embarressing to National.

Let’s be upfront here; National leaks information when it suits their agenda.

The Nick Smith/Bronwyn Pullar situation is one example. Who leaked Pullar’s name and details to the media?

Who leaked Michelle Boag’s email, that had been sent to ACC Minister Judith Collins (and subsequentlyt forwarded to ACC)?

It could only have been one of two ‘players’ in this politi-drama; ACC or a Minister of the Crown. My money is on the latter.

And now, in the last 24 hours, we have the leaking of pay and conditions of MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs &  Trade) staff to the media. Again, judging by the detailed nature of the information leaked, it could only have emanted from a Ministerial desk.

And in July 2009, we had the open release of  Natasha Fuller and   Jennifer Johnston’s WINZ details to the media, by Welfare Minister, Paula Bennet.

The condemnation of Bennett’s unethical behaviour led to complaints to the Privacy Commissioner (still awaiting resolution).

I suspect that the odium laid upon Bennett’s head over her abuse of Ministerial power served as a warning to other National ministers. Now, instead of releasing information openly, they now do it through  clandestine means, employing third parties such as feral bloggers.

It is obvious that Brownlee has something to hide – that is the only interpretation of his outright refusal to release information to the public. (Information, by the way, which we taxpayers have paid for.)  Brownlee is hiding information that is most like embarressing and could shed some light on the machinations of POAL management, Board, and ministerial involvement.

After all, if the information wasn’t potentially damaging to Brownlee and National – wouldn’t it  have served their purposes to have released it by now?

In fact, wouldn’t they have leaked it already?

|

|

|

Related Blogposts

Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat

Finland, some thoughts

|

|

= fs =

A Slave By Any Other Name…

9 March 2012 5 comments

.

slavery

slav·er·y

[sley-vuh-ree, sleyv-ree]
noun
1. the condition of a slave;  bondage.
2. the keeping of slaves  as a practice or institution.
3. a state of subjection like that of a slave: He was kept in slavery by drugs.
4. severe toil; drudgery.
Origin:
1545–55; slave  + -ery

Related forms
pre·slav·er·y, adjective, noun

Synonyms
1.  thralldom, enthrallment. Slavery, bondage, servitude  refer to involuntary subjection to another or others. Slavery  emphasizes the idea of complete ownership and control by a master: to be sold into slavery. Bondage  indicates a state of subjugation or captivity often involving burdensome and degrading labor: in bondage to a cruel master. Servitude  is compulsory service, often such as is required by a legal penalty: penal servitude. 4.  moil, labor.

.

doublethink

dou·ble·think

[duhb-uhl-thingk]
noun
the acceptance of two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time.
Origin:
double  + think;  coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984  (1949)

- n    
deliberate, perverse, or unconscious acceptance or promulgation of conflicting facts, principles, etc

Dictionary.com

.

Last week, right-wing blogger; pollster; and National Party activist, David Farrar wrote this eye-opening piece for the NZ Herald,

.

Full Story

.

The story revolves around abuse, violence,  and exploitation of foreign seamen on Foreign Charter Vessels, as this Department of Labour media statement outlined on 5 March,

.

Department of Labour takes tough action against Foreign Charter Vessel

The Department of Labour has found that there was major non-compliance with the Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew and the Approval in Principle (AIP) to employ foreign crew by the New Zealand charterers of the ship, the Shin Ji.

The Department started its investigation into the Shin Ji after crew walked off the ship in protest at the conditions they were facing last June.

The Code of Practice requires payment of the minimum wage plus $2 per hour for actual hours worked, but in no case less than 42 hours per week over the course of the engagement. Deductions may not take wages below the minimum wage for all hours worked.

The New Zealand Charter Party is required to keep accurate records and make these records available to the Department on request, but insufficient documents were provided to make a full financial assessment on crew remuneration. As a result the Department was unable to verify whether the crew of the Shin Ji had been paid their minimum requirements or whether AIP and Code of Practice conditions were met.

In addition, there were allegations of mistreatment made by several crew that present a prima facie case that the provisions of the Code of Practice in relation to fishers’ welfare were not met. A final conclusion could not be made in this area as the New Zealand Charter Party Administrator, Tu’ere Fishing, failed to respond to these allegations.

The Department has now decided that all work visas under the most recent AIP will be cancelled.

The acting head of Immigration New Zealand, Steve Stuart, says the sanctions imposed by the Department show how seriously breaches of the Code of Practice are taken and reflect a tougher approach by the Department.

“Our auditors have carried out a meticulous and thorough investigation and it shows very clearly that the New Zealand Charter Party failed to comply with the Code,” Mr Stuart says.

The Government has already accepted a recommendation by the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs) to update the Code of Practice and strengthen the immigration approval process for crew.

The Department is also to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement of FCVs and increase the thoroughness of inspections. The Department has improved its auditing system, with the first audits being undertaken by external auditors next month.

Source

.

A Ministerial Inquiry released a similar report, highly critical of crew-abuses on FCVs,

.

Foreign Charter Vessels Inquiry report released

Thursday, 1 March 2012, 12:43 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon David Carter
Minister for Primary Industries
Hon Kate Wilkinson
Minister of Labour

The Government has resolved to take a stronger line on the operation of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in New Zealand waters, say Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

The Ministers today released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels.

The Inquiry, which was initiated by the Government last year, focused on several issues, including labour standards and protecting New Zealand’s reputation.

Mr Carter says the Inquiry panel has done a thorough job.

“The report is clear that the issues are not widespread in the New Zealand commercial fishing industry, but they are serious where they occur and need to be addressed in a co-ordinated manner, backed by legislative change,” says Mr Carter.

The 15 recommendations touch on a wide range of ministerial portfolios, including fisheries, labour, immigration, transport and foreign affairs and trade.

The Government has already decided to accept in principle, and act on, the Inquiry Panel’s first six recommendations.

The first three recommendations are for practical improvements that can be addressed quickly, and in some cases are already being made.

“The recommendations include updating the Code of Practice and strengthening the immigration approval process – both of which will help ensure better conditions for workers on FCVs,” says Ms Wilkinson.

“We will also be adopting a recommendation that the New Zealand fishing companies chartering foreign vessels have to show the Code is being followed. This is a significant move as it puts the onus on those companies, rather than the Department of Labour, which currently has to prove the Code has been breached.”

The Department of Labour is also to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FCVs and increase the frequency and thoroughness of inspections.

MAF is to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of FCVs, including placing an observer on all FCVs fishing in New Zealand waters and considering non-fisheries offences when making FCV registration decisions.

Maritime New Zealand is to strengthen enforcement of FCV compliance with maritime safety standards.

Recommendations 4 to 6 propose closer inter-agency co-operation, to be overseen by an inter-agency steering group. This includes setting up a pilot programme for at-sea monitoring of compliance with fisheries, vessel safety and labour standards – targeting high-risk FCVs.

The remaining recommendations cover legislative amendments, ratifying international conventions, and significant policy changes. The Government is further considering the Inquiry Panel’s report and these recommendations before announcing any decisions.

View Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels Report:

http://www.dol.govt.nz/News/Media/2012/foreign-charter-vessels-2012-ministerial.asp

http://www.maf.govt.nz/news-resources/news

Source

.

Foreign Charter Vessels are a means for local fishing companies to use cheap labour to fish New Zealand’s 200km territorial waters. It can be a profitable operation, paying crews from mostly Third World or developing countries such as Indonesia, much lower rates of pay than their New Zealand counterparts. (Congratulations to ourselves – we’ve found a way to import “sweat shops” from Asia to our territorial waters.)

The Seafood Industry Council (SEAFic) made this statement about Foreign Charter Vessels on their website. It is important to note that, as SEAFic stated quite clearly,

A charter vessel from another country is not foreign countries catching our fish – it is a hired vessel working for a New Zealand-owned company.

This is important because although the “charter vessel is from another country” – it is still covered by New Zealand law. That includes labour legislation such as minimum wages. The crew cannot be paid under the minimum wage ($13.50 per hour) whilst operating in our territory. SEAFic goes on to’paint a picture’ outlining the obligations of Foreign Charter Vessels to follow NZ law,

Chartering a vessel to catch your quota is like hiring a bus to get your sports team to another town.  You wouldn’t buy a bus just for the one trip.  The bus driver, who is trained and qualified to do the job, comes with the bus.  You cannot ask the driver to do anything outside the law.  You cannot, for example, let the driver continue driving without break for excessive hours, even if he or she wants to.

Furthermore, as SEAFic explained,

The crews of charter vessels are entitled to the same employment rights and conditions as anyone working in New Zealand. However, the crews do not qualify for social support services or ACC and therefore do not cost the taxpayer.

And,

The crews of charter vessels are entitled to the same employment rights and conditions as anyone working in New Zealand. However, the crews do not qualify for social support services or ACC and therefore do not cost the taxpayer.

The Ministerial Inquiry found that not only were FCVs violently abusing their crews, but were not paying them properly. Any complaint from a crewmember often resulted in that crewman being removed from the Vessel; shipped back home; and not paid for any of his work,

The terms of the first contract, the “real” one, would later haunt him. In it, IMS spelled out terms with no rights. In addition to the agent’s commission, Yusril would surrender 30 percent of his salary, which IMS would hold unless the work was completed. He would be paid nothing for the first three months, and if the job were not finished to the fishing company’s satisfaction, Yusril would be sent home and charged more than $1,000 for the airfare. The meaning of “satisfactory” was left vague. The contract said only that Yusril would have to work whatever hours the boat operators demanded. ” – Source

Crew members were also abused, assaulted, and sexually harassed,

The boatswain would grab crew members’ genitals as they worked or slept. When the captain of the ship drank, he molested some of the crew, kicking those who resisted. As nets hauled in the catch — squid, ling, hoki, hake, grouper, southern blue whiting, jack mackerel, and barracuda — the officers shouted orders from the bridge. They often compelled the Indonesians to work without proper safety equipment for up to 30 hours, swearing at them if they so much as asked for coffee or a bathroom break. Even when fishermen were not hauling catches, 16-hour workdays were standard. ” – Ibid

This abuse came to the attention of the US media and various companies that bought the product that had been caught and processed by FCV crews. The article below was written for a major US business website, and reveals cases of violence and exploitation on FCVs contracted to New Zealand companies, and working in New Zealand’s territorial waters. I encourage people to read it,

.

Full Story

.

To put it mildly, American clients and the US government were not happy. No company wants to have it’s reputation tarnished by allegations of slave labour associated with their product. Customers tend to feel queasy buying something they know was produced by another human being who was treated as a slave. Not a good look.

And up till now, New Zealand has being getting away with it because,

Asked about allegations that FCVs in New Zealand employ slave labor, [Ashley] Hawkins said [U.S. supermarket chain] Whole Foods is “in compliance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, New Zealand is not considered high-risk.” “- Ibid

It seems that our luck has run out, and National has had to sit up and take notice,

“The Government has resolved to take a stronger line on the operation of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in New Zealand waters, say Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

The Ministers today released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels.

The Inquiry, which was initiated by the Government last year, focused on several issues, including labour standards and protecting New Zealand’s reputation.

Mr Carter says the Inquiry panel has done a thorough job.

“The report is clear that the issues are not widespread in the New Zealand commercial fishing industry, but they are serious where they occur and need to be addressed in a co-ordinated manner, backed by legislative change,” says Mr Carter.” – Source

Which brings us back to Mr Farrar’s opinion-piece in the NZ Herald on 2 March.

As described at the beginning of this piece, Farrar is a right wing blogger and National Party activist. Which makes his ‘Herald’ opinion piece somewhat more surprising.

Farrar repeats the background litany of abuse that the FCV fishermen have been subjected to,

A failure to pay minimum wages under NZ law (which the FCVs have agreed to do) is the least of the abuses. They get told they will lose the little pay they do get unless they lie to the NZ authorities about how much they are paid. Any complaints can see them lose bonds worth more than their earnings. They are forced to work long and dangerous hours with no regard for safety.

But even worse than there, there are several documented cases of physical violence, sexual abuse and even rape of the (mainly Indonesian) staff who work on these vessels. They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

At this point, it is worth reminding ourselves that Farrar is a member of National – a right wing political party that does not like trade unions very much. As National MP, Jami-Lee Ross, said on 11 January, about the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute,

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland…

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.” – Source

Traditionally, National  has always been anti-Union and pro-business. That’s just the way it is.

Farrar has stated that,

“I do not regard National as always right, but it is the party which I believe gives me the greatest opportunity to achieve the New Zealand I want.” – Source

So what to make of Farrar lamenting the condition of workers on FCVs,

These abuses have gone on for far too long. New Zealand has even ended up on the watch list of the US State Department whose annual Trafficking in Persons Report mentions fishing in New Zealand as a problem area.”

Or this part, which bears a remarkable similarity to Union-style concerns,

New Zealand law and policies require staff on board FCVs to be paid the at least $2 an hour over the New Zealand minimum wage, or $2,700 a month gross for a 42 hour week. But in reality many of the Indonesian fishers get paid little more than $150 a month or less than $1 an hour. They get told they must sign two employment contracts – one for the NZ authorities, and the real one which details a much lower rate of pay.”

If one were to be generous, it could be asumed that the sickening abuse of FCV fishermen is a step too far even for a hardened rightwinger like Farrar. A free labour market market is one thing – but slavery? Nah, that’s the line he will not cross. In fact, Farrar even says,

“They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

It is interesting that Farrar uses the term “slaves” – twice! – and once in the title of his opinion piece! – but more on that shortly.

If, however, one were to read “between the lines”, certain aspects of his piece offer another motive for his (faux?) concerns,

These vessels fish in our exclusive economic zone, on behalf of NZ companies that have quota allocations in different fish stocks…

New Zealand has even ended up on the watch list of the US State Department whose annual Trafficking in Persons Report mentions fishing in New Zealand as a problem area…

The Ministerial inquiry has not recommended phasing out the use of FCVs. The main reason for this is it seems there is not enough capacity in New Zealand to fish all of our quota ourselves. This surprises me with so many people unemployed, but I guess not many people want to be out at sea for weeks or months at a time. There are also issues of capital and specialist equipment…

This means that even these changes may prove ineffective, and the eventual solution may have to be require all vessels fishing in our EEZ to be New Zealand flagged ships. This would have adverse economic consequences…”

Taking these comments into consideration, the subtext appears to be  one that is more alligned with economic concerns – i.e. “adverse economic consequences” as Farrar himself says at the end.

So, which is it; a hidden streak of concern for workers and their rights which heretofore has never been seen in David Farrar?

Or a deep concern that these abuses are an annoying distraction which might have “adverse economic consequences” on our profit/loss end-of-year bottomline?

Luckily, we have Mr Farrar’s own blog, Kiwiblog, upon which to draw further insights from.

David Shearer says Labour is not taking sides the in Ports of Auckland dispute, but here are two of his MPs on the picket line.

I guess they have no choice as the Maritime Union is actually an affiliate member of the Labour Party, and one of their donors. Not even the documented examples of union hostility to female and non European workers is enough to shake their support of the union.” – Labour Not taking sides, 27 February 2012

Strangely, Farrar states that “here are two of his MPs on the picket line” at the Maritime Union/Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) dispute – as if it were a bad thing?

Can it be that Mr Farrar disapproves, or may even be hostile, to the POAL workers who are on strike? Let’s keep reading further blogposts from Mr Farrar,

Phil Twyford blogs:

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs. …

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security. …

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

This is the same Phil Twyford who spent years saying that Wellington should not dictate to Auckland, yet is now trying to bully Len Brown into putting the interests of the Labour Party (for the Maritime Union is part of the Labour Party) ahead of the interests of Auckland.

Len knows he would be toast if he kneecapped a Council subsidiary, just to please the Labour caucus in Wellington.” – Maritime Union wants total control, 29 February 2012

After weeks and months of strikes, and a growing loss of business to other ports, it was inevitable that Ports of Auckland would go down the only viable path left to them, which is contracting out.

The Herald reports:

Ports of Auckland said the decision to introduce “competitive stevedoring ” was partly the result of the impact of long running industrial action on its business.

Redundancies would begin later next week, with striking staff encouraged to apply for new positions, he said.

“This decision has not been made lightly, but we believe it is vital to ensuring a successful and sustainable future for the Port, including protecting jobs over the long term,” he said.

Ports of Auckland Chairman Richard Pearson said the company’s priority was to win back lost business.

“This decision will reassure the wider market and customers that we plan to achieve a sustainable lift in the port’s competitiveness as soon as possible.

One can’t continue with a situation where you get paid for 43 hours and only actually work 28.” – Maritime Union succeeds in getting their workers sacked, 7 March 2012

Oh, dear, not looking terribly good for poor Mr Farrar. His comments above do not seem to be very sympathetic to striking workers – workers who are not seeking higher pay as their main claim, but are desperately trying  to stop POAL employers from casualising the work force and contracting out their jobs to stevedoring companies.

And next,

Last night on 3 News they interviewed a couple of staff working at the Port of Tauranga. What a stark difference it was to the Ports of Auckland. They talked of a culture of getting the job done, and even pride about increasing efficiency.  An extract:

Throughout the Auckland dispute, the Port Of Tauranga has been held up as an example of how Auckland could operate – profits are at a record high, and the port seems to have a contented workforce which gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

David Hone has worked at the port for 18 years and, like 90 percent of employees, is a shareholder in the company.

He says “working in a place that you’re part owner [of]” means he’s more invested in the success of the business.

It’s one of the key reasons the port is so successful, according to chief executive Mark Cairns.

“If you have a stake in a company your behaviour changes when you’re an employee,” he says.

I’m a huge fan of employees being shareholders, and POT seem to be a great example of how well this can work. It is such a shame that Mike Lee a few years back deprived POAL employees of this opportunity.

Profits and efficiency do not need to be the enemy of having a happy workforce. It is just when dinosaur unions get in the way, that it does not happen. Look what has happened at POAL since the unionised staff went off the job:

Ports of Auckland chairman Richard Pearson says flexible rosters increase productivity and the 50 non-union workers have proved that.

“We’re operating at a 25 percent production improvement on what we were achieving 3 or 4 weeks ago before the strike,” he says.

“They don’t want to go slow so they can get another shift, they just want to work.”

Imagine the incentive at the moment. If you can delay a ship for another 90 minutes, then you get an extra eight hours pay.

There’s a lot of focus at the moment on the possible expansion of the Port into the harbour more. POAL makes the point that if they can lift labour productivity by a conservative 20% it would give them the equivalent of two new berths, allowing the Port to accommodate five extra ship calls each week.” – What a difference, 8 March 2012

Ok, it’s fairly clear that David Farrar has little or no concern for workers on the Ports of Auckland – workers who are his fellow Kiwis.

So one has to view his faux concern for workers rights on Foreign Charter Vessels with a little more than just a passing suspicion.

Farrar stated that,

“They are basically treated as slaves during their incarceration on the vessels. Actually many slaves in the Roman republic were treated better, than what has happened to these workers in our territorial waters.

It is interesting that Farrar refer to the term “slaves” in the context of the Indonesian fishermen on Korean FCVs.

The Maritime Union – representing it’s members – is struggling to preserve hard-won conditions that have been built up over the years. Without a Union, workers in this country would be abused; cheated out of wages – or paid a subsistance sum; exploited; over-worked; expected to work in dangerous conditions, risking injury or worse; and generally treated like… slaves.

The Indonesian fishermen had no Union to protect their rights. And strangely, New Zealand observers had reportedly “seen nothing untoward,

When asked for comment, Chief Executive Officer Eric Barratt said Sanford’s observers, which the company placed on all their foreign-chartered vessels (FCVs), reported that the ships “don’t have any issues with labor abuse.” – Source

Remarkably, Farrar sees nothing incongruous with his clearly-stated anti-Union beliefs.

Either he is incredibly naive – or else is a skilled practitioner at the art of ‘doublethink’. Perhaps he truly believes that workers do not need the protection of trade unions? And that all employers will treat their workers fairly?

Shall we ask some crewmen from Korean FCVs whether they need a Union or not?

Or perhaps they can rely on their Korean ‘masters’ to treat them well and pay them fairly?

What say you, Mr Farrar?

.

Addendum

In October last year,  SEAFic stated,

‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’

.

New Zealand’s fishing industry needs more cheap Asian labour not less, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels.

FCVs, flagged in mainly Asian states, operate New Zealand’s deep sea fishery with around 2000 low wage crews from Third World countries.

SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.” – Source

.

* * *

.

Previous Blogposts

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

Additional Reading

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Slavery and Food Security: The Fishing Fleet

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council: Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

.

.

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint…

2 March 2012 7 comments

… what could be the link, you wonder?

Those of us with reasonably long-term memories can recall the industrial dispute between Actor’s Equity and Peter Jackson, which became public on 27 September 2010.

The s**t quickly hit the fan, with allegations; counter-allegations; hysterical threats; and quite a bit of egoism.

There was even a panic that “The Hobbit” would be taken out of New Zealand and made in Eastern Europe, or Kazahkstan, or Outer Mongolia. None of it was true, as an email dated 18 October 2010, between Jackson and Economic Minister, Gerry Brownlee clearly stated.

But it certainly ramped up the public hysteria; the moral panic against the “hairy arm of unionism”; and seemingly threatened our very national identity.

In response, the government did something quite extraordinary; they passed legislation to change the status of all employees  “so that workers involved with film production work will be independent contractors rather than employees“.

.

.

It was done unilaterally and it was done within twenty hours. Assent by the Governor General was given the following day,

.

Legislative history

28 October 2010 Introduction (Bill 229–1), first reading, second reading, committee of the whole House, third reading
29 October 2010 Royal assent


Reference

.

It usually takes a natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions, or a Declaration of War, (or the passing of MP’s superannuation regulations in the deads of night) to effect legislation at such breathtaking speed.

Legislation usually takes months to pass, from First Reading; to Select Committee;  to the last Reading; passing; and enactment.

The last time Parliament passed legislation at near light-speed was in the late 1980s, when they passed a law regarding their superannuation entitlements. That was done late at night; when the media were absent; most of us were asleep; and took a matter of hours.

(When the media  discovered this, and duly reported it, public odium was heaped upon politicians – even more than usual.)

So it was unusual and quite bizarre that National passed what was called the “Hobbit Law” in one day flat.

Something must’ve spooked the horses. Perhaps our politicians were dazzled by the bright lights of Hollywood glamour?

Korean and Indonesian fishing boats, by comparison, are not quite so dazzling and glamourous. In fact, they stink of fish; the crew look wretched; and the fishing boats themselves are dangerous rust-buckets that will sink with little provocation.

Yet, in the last couple of weeks, the fishing industry and our use of FCV (Foreign Charter Vessels), with the cheap, exploited labour of their Korean, Indonesian, and other nationals’ crews, has hit the international headlines. All of a sudden, the New Zealand fishing industry was in the global media spotlight – and for all the wrong reasons.

The world had discovered that we were using cheap, exploited labour to do our dirty work. The New Zealand fishing industry was practically engaging in slave labour,

.

On March 25, 2011, Yusril became a slave. That afternoon he went to the East Jakarta offices of Indah Megah Sari (IMS), an agency that hires crews to work on foreign fishing vessels. He was offered a job on the Melilla 203, a South Korea-flagged ship that trawls in the waters off New Zealand. “Hurry up,” said the agent, holding a pen over a thick stack of contracts in a windowless conference room with water-stained walls. Waving at a pile of green Indonesian passports of other prospective fishermen, he added: “You really can’t waste time reading this. There are a lot of others waiting, and the plane leaves tomorrow.”

[abridged]

The experiences of the fishermen on the Melilla 203 were not unique. In a six-month investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek found cases of debt bondage on the Melilla 203 and at least nine other ships that have operated in New Zealand’s waters. As recently as November 2011, fish from the Melilla 203 and other suspect vessels were bought and processed by United Fisheries, New Zealand’s eighth-largest seafood company, which sold the same kinds of fish in that period to distributors operating in the U.S. (The U.S. imports 86 percent of its seafood.) The distributors in turn sold the fish to major U.S. companies. Those companies — which include some of the country’s biggest retailers and restaurants — sold the seafood to American consumers.”

Full Story

.

On the 25th of this month,

The Government has received a report from the ministerial inquiry into the use and operation of Foreign Charter Vessels. Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said they would consider its recommendations before announcing any decisions. The inquiry was charged with looking at labour, immigration, maritime safety and fisheries laws around the use and operation of fishing boats. Former labour minister Paul Swain chaired the panel, launched after a series of damning revelations about slave labour conditions and abuse. ” (Source)

Five days later, the report from the Ministerial Inquiry was released  to the public,

.

Source

Radio NZ: Listen to more from Checkpoint

.

There we have it;

  • New Zealand had been using slave labour to fish it’s territorial waters, and exploiting the crews of FCVs for our profit,
  • Fishing companies like Sanford deny that any problem of abuse and exploitation is occurring,
  • and most astonishingly, our government is dragging it’s feet on this horrendous situation and implementing only  six of fifteen recommendations from the Ministerial Inquiry’s report.

In an interview on Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint“, on 1 March, the Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, had this to say in response to being questioned on this issue,

.

RNZ: “So fifteen recommendations – you’re acting on the first six? Why not take them all onboard?”

Carter: “Because some of the others require two things; legislative change and we need to investigate how we can progress that through the House. And equally importantly, some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry.

That is why we have released the Report today. We want the industry to comment on the other recommendations so that we can do some more work on them and take something back for a Cabinet process [interuption] in a couple of months.”

RNZ: “In the future do you see that these recommendations  will be taken on?”

Carter: “I think a good number of those recommendations will be taken on.”

RNZ: “How many?”

Carter: “Well at this stage we’ve, ah, ah, we’ve certainly kicked of the first six because they’ve been able to be done without legislation. As I say, the others now need further investigation to find out what their impact will be  before we agree to do them. But one thing the government is absolutely determined to do is raise the standards so there is no chance for abusive labour practices occurring on foreign charter vessels whilst they’re in New Zealand waters.”

RNZ: ” Will you take on the recommendations that have – that may cause problems economically? Make it unviable?”

Carter: “What we want to do is… the first thing I’d like to make is that foreign charter vessels operate and improve the efficiency of the New Zealand fishing industry. We therefore want to know what would be the economic impacts of these further changes.

Radio NZ: Minister talks about crackdown on foreign fishing vessels

.

What comes out of David Carter’s comments is that,

  1. The governments wants to consult with fishing companies before implementing any further recommendations. These would be (some of) the same fishing companies that contracted and used Foreign Charter Vessels to catch fish for them, to sell for big profits to overseas markets.
  2. The govermnment “want[s] to know what would be the economic impacts of thse further changes – before implementing any further recommendations. Obviously, “economic impact” is more important than the maltreatment, abuse, and exploitation of other human beings?
  3. According to Carter, the government will have to “investigate” the recommendations further as “ some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry“?

Two months?!

And yet this is the same government that passed legislation through the House in one day, to satisfy the demands of Warner Bros corporate executives!

Where were the concerns of government on that issue? Where was the investigation into what “economic impact” that would, or could be, in fast-tracking law through Parliament at a speed rarely seen in this country?

Where was the desire for thegovernment to seek comment from the  film industry, before considering  legislation”?

What we are seeing here is the amorality of a government that values the glitter and glamour of a Hollywood “epic” movie above  the fact that modern-day slavery is taking place in our territorial waters, and New Zealand companies are profiting from the misery and violence   inflicted on other human beings.

The NZ Seafood Industry Council laid it all out last October (but we were too pre-occupied with lost penguins and hillside signs, to take note of this news item,

.

‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’

.

New Zealand’s fishing industry needs more cheap Asian labour not less, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels.

FCVs, flagged in mainly Asian states, operate New Zealand’s deep sea fishery with around 2000 low wage crews from Third World countries.

SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.

Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.

New Zealanders did not like being at sea for weeks at a time, working in uncomfortable conditions and living in an isolated and enforced alcohol and drug free environment.

“It is not seen as an attractive work place for many people.”

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.”

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

Air New Zealand uses Chinese crew on its China service who are paid less than New Zealanders doing the same jobs.

Without referring to the Rena grounding it said most ships operating on the New Zealand coast are crewed by people from the same low wage countries used by FCVs.

It said New Zealand was seen in other countries as a source of cheap skilled labour and pointed to Qantas hiring New Zealand crews at rates lower than Australians would get. The New Zealand film industry was based on cheap labour, SeaFIC said. 

There were not enough New Zealanders to fill vacancies created if FCVs were ordered out.

The inquiry opened public submissions in Wellington today. It will hold hearings in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

It was set up following a University of Auckland study into FCVs and media reports citing cases of labour abuse and exploitation.

Last year an aged FCV, Oyang 70, sank off the Otago coast, killing six.

The government in setting up the inquiry said they were concerned at the damage to reputation New Zealand was suffering over FCVs and allegations it  was a form of human trafficking.

SeaFIC say there is no evidence that FCV companies are failing to pay their crews according a code of practice which requires crews to receive the New Zealand minimum wage.

New Zealand’s reputation is not a function of compliance by the companies, but the result of public opinion.

“The intensity of comment in the media, whether based on fact or allegation, may present risk to international reputation.”

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

“A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

Through FCVs, the fishing industry was transferring over $65 million annually to citizens of developing countries.

By comparison, it said, the New Zealand Government gave just $31 million to Oxfam and Volunteer Service Aboard to work in such countries.

SeaFIC admitted that their submission was not supported by all its members and amounted only to a majority view of fishing quota owners who use FCVs.

Source

.

Words fail me.

Actually, no. I do have words.

On this issue, the people and government of New Zealand  has let itself down badly. For the pursuit of money, we have turned a blind eye to naked, brutal, exploitation. We have lost sight of  simple, common decency and how to treat foreign workers.

As far as I’m concerned, if the U.S. government, or Europe, decided to boycott our seafood exports – then we richly deserve it.

This is what happens when a society is governed by the dictates of the “free market”.

Where do we go from here, as a society? Do we continue down the road of valuing profit before human dignity? Or do we reassess our priorities and decide that we need to regain some of the basic  values of fairness that we seem to have forgotten in the last 27 years?

It’s our call.

.

***

.

Previous Blogpost

Roosting Chickens

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Additional Reading

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Slavery and Food Security: The Fishing Fleet

 

.

.

Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 2 comments

.

.

It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

.

Full Story

.
Full Story

.

So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

.

.

Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

.

***

.

Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

.

.

Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

6 December 2011 8 comments

.

What’s past is prologue

.

“Class war” – not a piece of left-wing jargon I normally employ, as it has connotations that are seemingly out-of-date in the 21st Century. It is a term I normally associate with 1960s-style, cloth-cap marxist-leninist or maoist cadres, addressing factory workers as they’re about to “Down Tools and All Out, Bruvvers“!

.

In 1947 a union official addresses London dockers. In the post-war years efforts were made by the unions to recruit new workers coming into British industry.

.

However, “class war” seems to pretty well describe what this ‘new’ hard-right wing government is planning.

Since the Election on November 26, it is  apparent that this government has moved well away from the centre-right position it occupied from 2008-11.  There is a definite undertone of  cold harshness about this ‘new’ government. The old “smile and wave” has been replaced with a grim tension as the National-Dunne-ACT Coalition begins to announce policies that were never announced during the election campaign.

It is as if the facade of the  cheerful “vacant optimism” of John Key has been allowed to fall away – to be replaced with something cold and quite alien. I think New Zealanders are waking up to a Prime Minister that they never voted for.

It appears that the  first term of National was to “bed in” this government and lay fertile ground for their real policies – policies that are intended to transform this country as Rogernomic did in the late 1980s. National has declared war on our   social services,  remnants of our egalitarian past when most or all New Zealanders had a fair go.

Since Rogernomics, we were promised that increased wealth creation would “trickle down” to middle and low income earners, and  as a result incomes would rise. This has not happened. in fact, quite the reverse.

The OECD  (not exactly a left-wing organisation)  has warned “about the rise of the high earners in rich societies and the falling share of income going to those at the bottom, saying governments must move quickly to tackle inequality ,”

.

Full Story

.

Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,

.

Full Story

.

Buffett has stated,

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

The same could be said of high income earners and wealthy throughout the world, including here in New Zealand.

Since 1986, there have been seven tax cuts in New Zealand. Gst was introduced at 10% in the same year, and increased to 15% this year (despite assurance by John Key that he would not raise gst).

GST impacts disproportionately on low-income earners as they  spend all their income on necessities, whilst higher-income earners/wealthy invest, speculate,  or “park” their money. “Parking” wealth does not lead to increased spending in the economy and businesses suffer accordingly. Investment does not always lead to more jobs or higher wages either – simply an increased return to the investor.

The growing disparity between rich, middle-classes, and low income/poor began in earnest in the late 1970s,

.

.

It is noteworthy that right-wing governments in the UK (“Thatcherism”) and USA (“Reagonomics”) implemented neo-liberal government policies such as tax cuts for the rich;   reduced social services and government spending; and stagnant wage-growth, at the same time – the late 1970s.

Could there be a link? Of course there is. Only a fool would deny the causal factors of neo-liberal governments and growing wealth disparity.

In New Zealand, right wing neo-liberal policies were introduced a little later, in the mid-1980s.

The result has been predictable, and follows overseas trends,

.

Full Story

.

Income disparity has been a growing problem and despite endless promises that “trickle down” theory works – wages have stayed static and those earning minimum wage barely have sufficient to surevive.  When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, Bill English agreed,

.

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

.

The tax cut last year exacerbated that growing gap between the rich/high income earners and those on middle/low incomes,

.

Source

.

Only the most politically partisan – blinded by misplaced quasi-religious beliefs in neo-liberal ideology – can ignore the ample evidence that so-called “free market”  policies serve to make only the rich, richer. Meanwhile those at the bottom are mired in poverty. The middle-classes become debt-laden, as they have to borrow more and more to keep afloat financially.

We have created a recipe for disaster and in 2008 the fiscal chickens came home to roost.

In November 2011, 957,769  voters cast their ballot for a charismatic Prime Minister who seemed to be fairly centrist and common sense.

957,769  voters were duped.

This was not the same John Key nor National government they elected in November 2008.

.

The Right Strikes Back

.

Charter Schools

Charter Schools is nothing less than gradual privatisation by stealth. Instead of announcing to New Zealanders that schools will be put on Trademe and sold to highest bidders, the “Charter Schools” policy is far more subtle; and done piece by piece; step by step.

99% of New Zealanders would never countenance our schools being put on the chopping block and flogged of to Heinz Watties, Church of Scientology, Toyota, the Mormons, Uncle Tom Cobbly, etc. But that is precisely what “Charter Schools” is about. Under “Charter Schools”, a religious group or corporation can fund and take control of  your local school.

A Radio NZ report states,

Christian school leaders say the Government’s plan to trial so-called charter schools could give them a way to reach the most needy families.

Charter schools are part of a movement in the United States and Britain to get business and non-profit organisations to run government-funded schools free from many of the rules that govern regular state schools.

The schools are not allowed to charge fees, but can set teacher pay and their own school day and year.

A trial for such schools in South Auckland and central and eastern Christchurch was part of the confidence and supply agreement reached between the National and ACT parties on Monday.

Christian school leaders say the proposed schools might give Christian schools a way round current restrictions on their enrolments.

Most are integrated schools and must focus their enrolments on Christians. Charter schools would get the same funding, without those restrictions.

Christian school leaders say that will interest schools that want to help poor communities.

They say the schools would be fulfilling a Christian mission and would not try to convert people to Christianity. ” – Source

So if a christian fundamentalist group like “Exclusive  Brethren” took over my local primary school, they would not be replacing the science curriculum with Creationism? Or teaching girls to be “silent and obedient to men”? Or canning sex-education?

A NZ Herald article had this to say about “Chart Schools”,

The National party yesterday agreed to incorporate charter schooling as part of its government support deal with the Act Party, allowing private entities such as businesses, church groups and iwi organisations to take over management of schools but retain state funding under the scheme.

The charter school scheme will be trialled in South Auckland and Christchurch within the next three years.

Groups representing teachers and principals are outraged at the proposal.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president Robin Duff labelled the charter school trial nothing but a “social experiment” on already vulnerable students.

“Why are they not putting a school like this in Epsom? I think some honest answers are needed.”

He said models overseas were ineffective; Stanford University research showed students at only 17 per cent of charter schools did better than at traditional schools.” – Source

When John Key was interviewed about the new  “Charter Schools” policy that ACT and National had jointly announced, he replied on Radio NZ,

“‘That’s MMP for you, isn’t it? That you agree to different proposals.”

Rubbish.

Once again, Key is spinning a lie to cover his backside.

The facts are simple, and a  visit to National and ACT’s website yields some interesting information.

National

There is no mention made whatsoever of “Charter Schools” in National’s policy, “Education in Schools“.  Nothing even remotely close.

National makes policy on employing unqualified people off the street to teach our children,

We will make it easier for schools to employ people with specialist skills who may not be a registered teacher, but who can undergo basic teacher training. That training may be on-the-job training.

They even hint at League Tables,

They also have clear targets they can measure their own achievements, and the achievements of their school, against.”

National will make secondary school performance information available to parents, so they are informed about their child’s learning environment.”

Improve reporting of system-level performance, including investigating school level reporting.”

National wants to psyco-analyse people to gauge their “disposition to teach”, in a quasi-Nanny State/Big Brotherish kind of way,

Improve the quality of initial teacher education, including a move to a post graduate qualification and minimum undergrad entry requirements, as well as a formal assessment of a ‘disposition to teach’.”

And National isn’t “quasi” in some of it’s Big Brotherish surveillance of ordinary New Zealanders,

Track students who leave school before 18 and make sure they are in some form of education or training.
Schools will be asked to report students who are leaving school and not going onto further training or employment, so we can support them and ensure they don’t end up on welfare.

So, if you’re 17 and about to leave school, for whatever reason, expect the eyes of  The State to be watching you.

National also makes some very grand, heart-warming, claims stating their supporting for schools in Christchurch in their “Education in Schools”  policy,

Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.”

However, they make no reference to the fact that, in September, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced cutting 167 full-time equivalent-positions from Christchurch schools, effective next year.  This lapse in painting a full picture of National’s policy and track record in Christchurch is another unpleasant example of dishonesty from this government.

But a big Nothing/Nada/No Way reference to “School Charters”.

ACT

Quite predictably, ACT, and it’s website, is a right-winger’s Onanistic delight.

Again, there is no mention of  “Schools Chart” in ACT’s education policy. Though they do rabbit on about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  “

In fact, this is ACT’s full education policy,

.

Source

.

It’s interesting that ACT (and to a lesser degree, National) both make out that our education system is in dire straits.  Their inference is that only their policies will achieve grand outcomes – no one elses.

And yet, things are not as bad as they would have us believe,

.

Full Story

.

Ok, so we’re not ‘perfect’, and obviously we “Can Do Better” on our OECD Report Card. But matters are not so desperate that National has to implement a policy that neither they nor ACT campaigned on.  National, specifically, has no reference coming even remotely close to “Charter Schools” in it’s education policy.

Quite simply, National has ‘sprung’ this on the public. They have no mandate for such a radical re-shaping of our education system.

Trying to blame it on MMP and suggesting that it is ACT policy is duplicitous. They have deceived the elecorate – and as such parents, teachers, students, and the rest of the community have a legitimate right to resist implementation of this policy.

I suspect that “Chart Schools” is merely the tip of the iceberg. National and ACT have other surprises in store for us, and New Zealand will be in for a rude shock.

The Right Wing are in ascendancy in Parliament and they will run rampant with their “reforms”, mandate or not.

.

Denniston Plateau

.

Yet more evidence (if we ever really needed it) that this National-led coalition has taken off  the kid-gloves and has adopted an agressive, uncompromising,  right-wing posture. As well as ramming through  policy that was never presented to the electorate, expect National to be more open and brazen in breaking promises.

National’s intention to mine the ecologically-sensitive Denniston Plateau was made public by “Conservation” Minister Kate Wilkinson, a mere one-working day day after the election.  She could barely wait for the ballot papers to be counted before issuing a public statement that broke  a promise to make  future applications to mine on the conservation land  publicly notifiable.

On 20 July 201o, after mass protests throughout the country opposing mining on Schedule 4 Conservation land, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson issued this statement,

.

After carefully considering the feedback received on the Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and Beyond discussion paper, the Government has agreed that:

  • i. No areas will be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
  • ii. All of the 14 areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4 will be added to the schedule.
  • iii. A technical investigation will be undertaken of Northland (in strategic alliance with Northland Regional Council, the Far North District Council, and Enterprise Northland), the West Coast of the South Island and various other highly prospective areas in the South Island – excluding any Schedule 4 areas. This will identify mineral deposits and assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.
  • iv. Areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas (for example, national parks and marine reserves) will in the future be automatically added to Schedule 4. Such classifications will be agreed by Cabinet.
  • v. Significant applications to mine on public conservation land will be publicly notified.

- Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson – 20 July, 2010

Source

.

Australian mining company, Bathurst Resources, wants to mine an additional 50-80 million tonnes from the area over a 35 year period. Forest & Bird state,

The adjacent Stockton Plateau has been half destroyed by opencast mining in the past few decades. The Denniston Plateau has a history of underground mining, but has been spared – until now – this fate.

A new opencast coal mine proposed for the Denniston Plateau would destroy 200 hectares and increase New Zealand’s coal exports by up to 63% per year. But that would only be the beginning. The Australian company holds mining permits across the Plateau, which would generate an estimated 50 million tonnes of coal.” – Source

In effect, this,

.

Denniston Plateau

.

Would become this,

.

Stockton Mine

.

National’s open contempt for the democratic process; honouring election committments; and public consultation – should now be apparent to everyone. Worse still is their contempt for the people of this country.

How else does one explain a government that has so blatantly gone back on so many of it’s promises?

Wilkinson’s readiness to go back on her word is something that she – and her colleagues – should be deeply ashamed of.

.

Urgency laws?

.

National’s previous term saw the highest use of  “Urgency” to ram through legislation, in decades.

Expect more of the same, as they implement their right wing agenda at breakneck speed, before 2014. This is the method used by Douglas and Prebble in the 1980s.

Indeed, Douglas boasted at the speed at which he and his cronies introduced their “reforms”. The result was that public opposition to their agenda was difficult to mount.

The right wing have little time for the democratic process and public consultation. That should be readily apparent to us all by now.

.

ACC

.

I’ve no doubt that whilst ACC will not be privatised – that workplace accident compensation will be opened up to “marketplace competition”. This will be a rehash of National’s earlier experiment in accident insurance competition in the late ’90s.

Neo-libs. They love to recycle old policies, whether or not they were ever successful.

.

Maori Party

.

The Maori Party has not yet gone into formal coalition with National. They are currently conducting consultation with their constituents, by holding Hui around the country.

I have no doubt in my mind that Maori Party members will bitterly denounce any suggestion that they coalesce with National. To many, the last week has already been a fore taste of the right wing whirlwind that is about to hit this country.

For the Maori Party to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the impending storm will be a colossal misjudgement on the part of Maori Party leadership – and will guarantee their political demise in 2014.

Wise heads will try to warn Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia, and Te Ururoa Flavell, that entering into coalition with National and it’s coat-tailing little mini-Nats (Dunne and Banks) will be the death knell for the Maori Party.

The question remains; will they heed that warning? Or will they suffer the same fate as Tau Henare’s Mauri Pacific Party in 1999?

.

Things To Come

.

Let no one be under any illusion that this National Coalition v.2 is nothing like it’s predecessor from 2008-11. This is a fully-fledged, ideologically-driven, determined Right Wing Government.

And it has nothing to do with ACT.  ACT is a political corpse, and John Banks is carrying on in name only.

Despite MMP being designed to reign in the executive power of large parties, and prevent FPP-style single-party rule – National has managed to rort the system by creating proxies – Peter Dunne and John Banks – who are essentially National Party ministers-by-default.

National did not fail in their fight to win an outright majority in the House. They succeeded.

I hope that the voters of Epsom and Ohariu knew what they were doing when they voted for Banks and Dunne (and Green and Labour voters when they failed to vote tactically). Because they have helped achieved the near impossible under MMP:  a single-party government.

And we know what happens when a single-party government rules Parliament. What does a single-party government do?

Whatever it wants.

.

References

National: Education in Schools Policy

ACT: Education policy

.

Additional Reading

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

Save the Denniston Plateau:Ours Not Mine

On income inequality – Gordon Campbell

The gap between NZs rich and poor

New Zealand wealth gap alarms charities

Wealth gap divides nation

Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

.

Video

2011-12-06 – 3News – OECD: Inequality Growing Fastest in NZ

OECD: Record inequality between rich and poor

.

.

How can this possibly be?

29 November 2011 2 comments

Full Story

.

More jobs lost?

How can this be?

At a time when an entire city (Christchhurch) needs to be rebuilt, how can we be laying off sawmill workers? How can there possibly  be a downturn in construction???

This is simply too bizarre to comprehend and one wonders what the heck our government is doing??? Are they so pre-occupied with RWC photo ops that they have no clue what is happwening in their own back yard?

Eurocell sawmill site manager Todd McIlvride has stated,

It was hoped the Christchurch rebuild would help boost the timber industry.

However it was not known when that would start in earnest.

“They have got their insurance issues to get through, and the ground there needs to stop shaking before they will give insurance to new houses. That’s obviously the hold-up down there.

“Certainly there will be a lot of wood needed down there, but how far away is that is the million dollar question.

It seems remarkably short sighted that Gerry Brownlee, the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, has not implemented plans to stock-pile building materials. Waiting for reconstruction to eventually kick-off (whenever that might be) to then place orders for sawn timber will simply create a bottle-neck and shortages.

It is mind-boggling that – at a time when we will be needing skilled operators and sawmills to be operating at full capacity – that we are actually down-sizing our timber-processing capabilities? Is there no one with an ounce of common sense in the Beehive who can foresee the inevitable result?!

No, I suspect there is not.

They seem to be too busy, watching rugby. Or in John Key’s case, brandishing unsigned emails sent by unknown persons, making unsubstantiated allegations.

If anyone wonders what a hands-off government is like, where the “free market” is left to address critical problems: we are looking at one now. If National was any more “hands off”, it would be hovering in mid-air.

.

+++ Updates +++

And it seems I am not alone in my opinions on this matter,

.

Full Story

.

Full Story

.

Full Story

.

Full Story

.

There is a proactive role to be played here by government. A “hands-off”, “minimalist government” approach simply will not do.  Rebuildimng a shattered city demands the full resources and powers of the State – not the fragmented, ad hoc “invisible hand” of the free market.

If the National-led government does not comprehend this simple truism, then they need to stand aside. This demands more than a “smile and wave” Prime Minister.

.

Further Updates

.

Full Story

.

Source

Listen to more on Radio NZ’s  Checkpoint

.

More than ever, this is another instance of the “free market” destroying people’s lives; damaging the fabric of our social cohesion; and impacting on our economy.

Unfortunately, New Zealanders have either not voted for any meaningful change – or have voted for more-of-the-same in the National Party.

Unless National adopts a more hands-on management of the economy, we are headed for a 1991-style major recession. Unemployment at that time rose to over 10%.

Can we do it?  Bloody oath we can! And here’s how.

.

***

.

Some other recent job losses

English positive despite job losses

Key fails to quell Lower Hutt job losses

Christchurch earthquake job losses dole ‘disaster’

$15m cuts may mean NZ jobs go

School support staff face job losses in Christchurch

Job losses at The Warehouse

Thirty KiwiRail jobs on the line in capital

Jobs cut at Cavalier

Jobs threatened by Alliance meatworks shut down

.

.

Guest Author: Why I Won’t Be Voting National

- Tim Jones

.

.

.

I won’t be voting National at this year’s General Election.

Now, this won’t come as a great surprise to those who know me. My opposition to the National Party started in the Muldoon years and hasn’t wavered since – so a government which is Muldoon 2.0, but with a friendlier smile, isn’t likely to appeal to me. I live in Wellington Central, and for the record, I will be giving the Green Party my party vote and Labour MP Grant Robertson my electorate vote.

But I think I have got some particularly good reasons for not voting National this time – and ironically, perhaps, they date from before the 2008 General Election. At that time, I was the Convenor (and I’m still a member) of the Sustainable Energy Forum, and, much to my surprise, I was invited to a lunch with National Energy spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and a whole lot of energy company heads.

I felt like a fish out of water, but more to the point, Gerry felt he was among friends, and he told those energy company heads, in no uncertain terms, that when National came to power the shackles would be off. They could forget any concerns the Labour Government might have had about climate change or the environment. You dig it or drill it or mine it, Gerry said, and we’ll back you up.

You could say many things about Gerry Brownlee, and I’d be happy to join you, but you couldn’t say that he hasn’t been true to his word. From the moment National came to power, they have shown a complete disregard for New Zealand’s and the world’s environment. While cynically promenading a “clean and green New Zealand” brand in international tourism markets, they have thrown the doors open at home to:

.

  • Mining in National Parks – yes, they lost the first round on that issue, but they haven’t given up
  • Offshore oil drilling in waters even deeper and riskier than the Gulf of Mexico
  • The mining of massive quantities of lignite in Southland which would release billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere
  • Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to extract more oil and gas – a dangerous technique which has already been shown to lead to both groundwater contamination and localised earthquakes when used overseas, and which has been banned by France, a country not known for its environmental credentials
  • A massive and vastly expensive programme of motorway building to serve the interests of the trucking industry, which is also being served by National’s downgrading of our rail system.

.

In other words, National are taking our economy back to the 1950s and massively increasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

And how do National propose to reconcile all this with New Zealand’s international commitments to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? They don’t, perhaps because the Cabinet is full of climate change sceptics – as recently as 2005, John Key professed himself among them. They simply hope that the international audiences to whom they promise action on climate change won’t notice what the Government is doing at home.

Now, there are lots of other excellent reasons not to vote for National. But New Zealand’s environment is the foundation of New Zealand’s wealth, and in turn, the liveability of New Zealand depends on the world having a liveable climate. John Key’s Government has shown utter disregard for any meaningful action on climate change, either with New Zealand or internationally, and complete contempt for the New Zealand environment. That’s why I won’t be voting National.

.

(Tim Jones writes novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. You can contact Tim at senjmito@gmail.com. On Twitter: http://twitter.com/timjonesbooks.)

.

.

Roosting chickens

25 September 2011 4 comments

.

I think we all remember the ‘Hobbit‘ fiasco, last year. The cast of this little tragi-farce included Actor’s Equity; Peter Jackson; Warner Bros; and John Key and his guvmint.

It also included a gentleman by the name of Greg Ellis, who played a ‘bit part’, as leading a “break-a-way” group of actors (numbers unknown) and formed the so-called “New Zealand Actors’ Guild – Te Taurahere i Te Hunga Toi Whakaari“, in October 2010.

Mr Ellis formed the NZAG to oppose Actor’s Equity, who at the time were attempting to negotiate with SPADA (Screen Production and Development Association – Waka Papaho). The NZAG came out firmly in support of Peter Jackson’s views that actors and production workers were “independent contractors”, and not employees. Though, in an expression of  “generosity”, Mr Ellis’  “temporary” (operating since October,  2010) website did ask,

.

“One of the big issues that has been at the heart of recent disputes has been the status of actors as employees on productions…

… Tell us about the up and down sides of being an independent contractor and let us know – do you want to remain self employed?”

- Self-employed or employee?, October 26th, 2010

.

As we have no way of knowing who is a member of NZAG – or for that matter how many members they have – it is difficult to determine what sort of response there was to that question, if any.  Considering that NZAG’s existence is predicated on keeping actors as independent contractors, and not as employees (as Actor’s Equity was wanting) – what would NZAG/Greg Ellis do if their membership opted for status as employees?

Though there must have been some form of response, as Mr Ellis later comments,

.

“One of the things that irks us most is the CTU’s failure to acknowledge that almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors. “

- The CTU trolls through the past again”, April 14th, 2011

.

One wonders how Mr Ellis arrived at the conclusion that “almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors”?

How many members does this so-called “Guild” actually have? It can’t be that many, as they have registered themselves – not as a Union, but as a charity,

.

“Just sent off an online application to become a registered charity.  That means that people can make donations to us and have them classed as charitable donations by the IRD.”

- “Applying to become a charity”, January 30th, 2011

.

I’m not even sure if this is legal?! It certainly begs the question as to how an organisation dedicated to the advancement of it’s own members can be classed as a charity?

It certainly puts paid to one of the posters on the NZAG’s blogsite, who believes that the NZAG is some kind of “union”,

.

James says:
October 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

“Truth to the membership and real principles based on the strength of coming together are the base of every union.”

.

But moving along.

The NZAG criticised Actor’s Equity for daring to want negotions with SPADA.  NZAG said,

.

“The NZ Actors’ Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles. The actors in the roles of stand-ins and doubles are also on generous contracts for extended periods of time and there will be the opportunity for a large number of performers to benefit from extra roles, giving many actors valuable experience and an ongoing income in uncertain times…

… So New Zealand actors will be rubbing shoulders with overseas counterparts but Kiwis are present in this Hollywood film in large numbers and this is to be celebrated.”

- NZ Actors’ Guild seeks to celebrate the positive impacts on the lives of Kiwi actors, March 14th, 2011

.

According to NZAG/Greg Ellis, Actor’s Equity were firmly cast as the “bad guys” in this affair. Actor’s Equity had no right to demand negotiations to improve the conditions of actors and other staff. After all, as NZAG claimed, “almost all actors prefer to be self-employed contractors”.

The government, led by our unfeasibly popular Prime Minister, John “The Baptist” Key, acted accordingly. They fulfilled their cameo-role as The Guvmint , and amended legislation that ensured that actors and other movie staff were independent contractors – not employees. At the stroke of a legislative pen, the rights of an entire class of New Zealand workers was taken away.

The Employment Relations Act 2000 was amended via the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill,  introduced to Parliament on 28 October, last year,  under Urgency*,  as part of a deal between Warner Bros and Government ministers to keep ‘The Hobbit‘ film production in New Zealand. (Though, as was later discovered in an email from Peter Jackson, there was little likelihood of  the production actually moving overseas.)

.

.

The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act made film industry workers independent contractors by default, avoiding the definition in current employment legislation of what constitutes an “employee”.

Just imagine, you are an employee on Friday, with four weeks annual leave; sick pay; the right to join a Union if you so wish; and job security.

Then you arrive at work on Monday and, by Government decree, you are now classed as an independent contractor. No more annual leave; no more sick pay; no more job security. And because you’re an independent contractor, the law forbids you the choice of belonging to a Union.

Yes, my fellow New Zealanders, that is precisely what happened.

.

.

When the media enquired further, Gerry Brownlee’s office stated that,  “the Government was comfortable with its action and would not be commenting further“. Source.  Yeah, I’ll bet they didn’t want to comment further!

However, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for,

.

Source

.

“New Zealand Actors’ Guild secretary Greg Ellis said the changes could see local talent overlooked. “New Zealand may become merely a filming location and the creativity and innovation currently present in our creative sector could be lost.”

.
Oh, good lord, the IRONY! Greg Ellis complaining about a law change that will impact on local actors’ working rights – when he himself led the charge for a breakaway “Actors  Guild” from Actor’s Equity – in support of Peter Jackson and Warner Bros!?!? And then the government amended employment laws to suit Warner Bros?!?!

The casualisation and erosion of actor’s rights in New Zealand started with National caving in to threats from certain quarters, in October last year, and Mr Ellis certainly played his part (albeit minor, perhaps) in undermining Actor’s Equity.

In fact, let me remind Mr Ellis about his comments last year;

“Actors’ Equity claims 600 members were reported to be unhappy about the casting of New Zealand roles in The Hobbit, but Actors’ Guild chairman Greg Ellis was pleased as punch.

“The NZ Actors’ Guild believes that it is churlish and argumentative to call into question the whole casting process that has already benefited New Zealand performers and will continue to give countless opportunities to actors outside the speaking roles. ” Source

Mr Ellis’s colleague in the breakaway “Guild/Union/Charity”, also seemed to be quite pleased back in March of this year, when we crowed,

“”I have a great contract and awesome working conditions and a performance fee that is almost double my ‘day job’ wage,” says guild member Gareth Ruck.

“I look at the hundreds of fellow actors and crew members I’m working with and think how bad it could have been if Equity had its way.”” Source

I wonder if Mr Ruck will still be as happy if this government pushes through with it’s Bill? And just how much better would it have been had Actor’s Equity “had its way”?

And I think Mr Ellis was being somewhat optimistic when he naively expressed this sentiment,

“I think that an actor’s destiny needs to be controlled by New Zealand actors who are aware of our industry. There’s no point having people outside the country deciding our destiny, especially not people like Helen Kelly who don’t understand how our industry works or the relations inside it.”Source

There is nothing quite so dangerous as a person with good intentions, but wholly misguided in his actions, and in attempting to help others  has played into the hands of interests that he does not fully understand. In fighting Actor’s Equity, Mr Ellis and his NZAG have been well and truly  ‘played‘  by government, Warner Bros, and Peter Jackson (who would tolerate no intrusion into his private movie-making empire).

Look out the window, Mr Ellis, Mr Ruck, et al – your chickens have come home to roost.

.

***

.

* “Urgency” in Parliamentary terms  means that thre Government’s Bill does not go to a Select Committee for public discussion; the public has no say on the contents of the Bill; and Parliament has no oversight. It is “rammed” through, simply bcause the Government can do it – it has the numbers. It also means that the Bill can  contain horrendous mistakes (as has happened in the past), and the public is powerless if they disagree with the Bill, or any aspect of it.

This current government has passsed more laws through “Urgency” than any other in recent history.

.

Further reading

NZ Actors’ Guild Seeks To Celebrate The Positive Impacts On The Lives Of Kiwi Actors

The Hobbit law – what does it mean for workers?

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

.

***

.

.

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,

.

Full Story

.

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.

.

.

It’s a simple matter of choice.

1 September 2011 2 comments

With Labour’s release today, of their youth skills/employment policy, voters are now presented with the clearest choice yet between the two main parties. Aside from the issue of asset sales, where National has announced a programme of part-privatisation, and Labour opposes any/all privatisation, employment policy is the real litmus of both party’s essential core philosopies.

National prefers to step back and allow the “free market” to work it’s magic.

Labour has no hesitation in using the power of the State to address social-economic problems.

The National Business Review – hardly an organ for marxist-leninist groups – was  moved to report on an opinion piece penned by Duncan Garner;

“In a lengthy blog post, Unemployed youth would fill Eden Park, Duncan Garner declares that ‘this government’s biggest failure to date is our young people’.  With 58,000 youth not in work or education, ‘We are at crisis point. 27.6% of those aged 15-24 are out of work and out of luck. It’s even higher for Maori and Pacific youth’. And how has the Government performed on this issue? Garner says ‘there is a yawning gap between Key’s rhetoric and the reality’, and asks, ‘So what did Key do in the weekend to target the problem? Very little’. He suggests that ‘Key needs to be bold, he needs to take risks’.”

Source

In stating that Key had done “very little” to target the problem,  Garner was referring to the Prime Minister’s policy speech at National’s Conference on 13 August.  Indeed, thus far National’s track record at addressing unemployment has consisted of the following;

  • Building a cycleway. Anticipated new jobs: 4,000. Actual new jobs created: 215.  (Source)
  • Hiring an advisor for Finance Minister, Bill English, at $2,000 a day. (Source)
  • A new payment card for 16,17, and some 18 year old beneficiaries that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettes; (though it’s already illegal for 16 and 17 year olds to purchase these products)
  • … and… that’s it.

Source

It is worth noting the seriousness of youth unemployment in this country. According to the Department of Labour;

“Youth aged 15–19 years have an unemployment rate over three times that of the entire working-age population. Young workers are more vulnerable to downturns in labour market conditions due to their lower skill levels and lesser work experience. The latest official figures show that 17.2% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 8.4% of those aged 20 to 24 years were unemployed, which represents a deterioration of the trends found in the report. Maori and Pacific youth had significantly higher unemployment rates.”

Source

Ducan Garner seems in no mood to respond to John Key’s “smiles and waves” politics when he opens his piece with this caustic observation;

“58,000. This is the crucial number that should be ringing in John Key’s ears every night he bunks down in the refurbished Premier House.

58,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 are not in education, training or work. The majority of them are on a benefit.”

Garner adds,

“Sure the recession has been tough on young people worldwide. 81 million youths are now unemployed around the globe, it was 71 million before the recession. It is a ticking time bomb. In London, it’s already exploded.”

Source

And there we have it:
  1. Problem: growing, lingering unemployment.
  2. Potential disaster: social unrest, exploding into mass-violence.
  3. Solution – ?
To demonstrate how utterly vacuous National’s policy has been to date, let me juxtapose two media reports  outlining policy releases from both Labour and National.  Have a good look at these;

[click to expand]

Labour would cut dole, increase training

National to clamp down on youth beneficiaries

Which offers new jobs, and which offers tinkering with welfare?

At a time when New Zealand has 170,000 unemployed – of which 58,000 are aged 15-24; when we will be needing thousands of skilled tradespeople to re-build a broken city that has endured massive earthquake devastastion; the current government has done next-to-nothing during its three year tenure.

Except create 215 new jobs in building a cycleway; hire some very expensive advisors; and give tax cuts to some very rich people.

In doing so, we do not have the skilled tradespeople required to re-build Christchurch.  Because we are currently losing around 20 skilled tradespeople a day to overseas destinations such as Australia.  At the same time, people are losing their jobs in Christchurch and unemployment is rising.

To show how badly this government has failed, nothing better illustrates that failure than this;

 

 

Only the most die-hard National/ACT supporter will believe this this situation is acceptable. (And they usually come up with all manner of excuses why it is acceptable.) But I suspect – or at least hope – that ordinary New Zealanders who look at this situation and will ask the inevitable hard questions;

  1. Why are we not offering training for unemployed?
  2. Why are we not planning  to put our people to work?
  3. Why are we hiring workers from overseas?
  4. How will this help unemployed New Zealanders to get back into the workforce?

On the 13 of August, at the National Party Conference,  Prime Minister John Key stated,that “the current system “is not working and needs to change“.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about job creation or training for unemployed. He was talking about not letting 16 and 17 year olds buy booze and ciggies.

Goff says it is ”crazy”to have high youth unemployment alongside a growing skills shortage crisis“.

Which one resonates with you?

Postscript;

 

A bouquet  to Hutt Gas and Plumbing Systems Ltd ,  a Lower Hutt company that is one of the many thousands of small businesses in our communities, quietly ‘beavering’ away in the background,  that make  our economy work.

 

 

Hutt Gas & Plumbing featured on TV1′s evening news where Phil Goff released Labour’s youth skills and employment package.

Hutt Gas & Plumbing train several apprentices, giving young people an opportunity to learn a trade; earn a wage; and contribute to their local community.  These folk are the real pillars of our society. Not the big, flash corporations and financial institutions that shuffle bits of paper around, and make their profits on speculation.

These are the small companies that deserve our support and encouragement. They are the ones that some of our children will rely on for jobs’ training to get into a trade.

Kudos to Labour for planning to increase apprenticeships. This is the hard policy planning that will create jobs and give our kids opportunities.

And a bloody big brickbat for Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce, for  saying that Labour’s proposal was just National policy dressed up,

They’re basically doing what the government is already doing, they just want to throw more money at it.”

It’s rather revealing that National thinks that creating jobs for our young people is  “throwing money”.

Because buying 34 new BMW limousines, for National ministers, is not “throwing money”?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 591 other followers