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” <email@example.com>
To: “Juha Parikka” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
- Frank Macskasy
Of course, my words are “essentially humorous and satirical“.
* * *
= fs =
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,
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.
“”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.
“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“!
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 ,”
Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,
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,
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,
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 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.”
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.
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”.
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,
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,
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.
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
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,
Would become this,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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%.
Some other recent job losses
- Tim Jones
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 email@example.com. On Twitter: http://twitter.com/timjonesbooks.)
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,
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.
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’.”
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
- Problem: growing, lingering unemployment.
- Potential disaster: social unrest, exploding into mass-violence.
- Solution – ?
[click to expand]
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;
- Why are we not offering training for unemployed?
- Why are we not planning to put our people to work?
- Why are we hiring workers from overseas?
- 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?
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”?