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Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 24 March 2014

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 24 March 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Will The Mana party and The Internet party form an alliance?

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (25′ 54″ )

  • Mana Party
  • Internet Party
  • Hone Harawira
  • Kim Dotcom
  • The Alliance
  • Sue Bradford
  • Roy Morgan Poll
  • Shane Jones, Winston Peters, NZ First, The Green Parrot Restaurant
  • Hekia Parata, Kohanga Reo National Trust, performance pay for teachers
  • Ernst Young, Serious Fraud Office, PISA Education Ratings
  • Judith Collins, Oravida
  • John Key, China, Fran O’Sullivan, Rod Oram
  • Labour Party, Forestry policy, Red Stag Timber, government procurement

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The trivialisation of the News and consequences

8 February 2014 4 comments

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Foot In Mouth

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Patrick Gower recently wrote on the TV3 website,

“The Labour Party has been putting voters wrong about its baby bonus.

Labour has been deliberately misleading, and in my view dishonest by omission.

On Monday night I told 3 News viewers that under Labour’s $60 a week baby bonus policy, families would get $3120 a year for their baby’s first year.

A simple calculation you might think, of $60 mutiplied by 52 weeks, given David Cunliffe announced in his State of the Nation speech: “That’s why today, I am announcing that for 59,000 families with new-born babies, they will all receive a Best Start payment of $60 per week, for the first year of their child’s life.

Now most normal people would think that means “all” those parents will get the payment “for the first year of their child’s life”.

But it wasn’t true – not that you would know that from Cunliffe’s speech, media stand-up, the MPs who were there to “help” and all the glossy material handed out to us.

Because buried in the material was a website link that takes you to a more detailed explanation policy.

And on page six of that policy document, in paragraph 3, it revealed the payment would commence at the “end of the household’s time of using Paid Parental Leave, ie. after 26 weeks in most cases.”

So translated, in most cases, the $60 a week payment is not for the first year, but for the second six months.”

Gower then went on with this eye-brow raising bit,

“Most journalists, like our office, only had time to find this overnight on Monday.”

So. Gower was obviously miffed. He had reported Cunliffe’s speech – and got it embarrassingly wrong.

So, it was all Cunliffe’s fault, right?

Well, yes. Partially.

But Three News team and especially Patrick Gower also need to take a measure of responsibility for incorrectly reporting this story. In fact, Gower is the one who took time to ask the wrong questions, when interviewing Cunliffe on 27 January,

@ 7:05

Gower: [voice over] And no controls on how the money is spent!

To Cunliffe: Some parents will just end up spending this on themselves on alcohol and cigarettes, though [unintelligible]?

Now aside from the obvious;  what the hell kind of question was that?!?! Why did Gower automatically assume that, with an extra $60 a week, parents would spend it on “alcohol and cigarettes” ?

Does Gower have friends and family who regularly spend up large on “alcohol and cigarettes“?

Is there excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption in Gower’s own home, and he believes it to be the norm for other Kiwi households?!

No?

Then why assume the worst for other households, some of which could be his friends, family members, work colleagues, neighbours, etc.

It beggars belief that, when a government transfers funds, that journos automatically assume that it will be spent on vices.

I hope Gower asked the same question of Gerry Brownlee when it was revealed that former National Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley,was  one of several Government appointees being paid $1,000 (per day!) to “monitor” the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera). Was that money spent on alcohol and cigarettes by the CERA Review Panel? (Who knows – maybe it was.)

Perhaps if Gower had not been so lazy as to resort to  posing such a vapid and inane question, and instead spent an extra hour or so researching the  the matter more in-depth – by simply checking the website links he referred to in his opinion piece! -  he and TV3 would not have been embarrassed at mis-reporting Labour’s sloppy policy release. (And by the gods, it was sloppy!)

After all, Cunliffe’s speech was released at 1pm on the day,  giving Gower and his production team, five hours before the 6PM News Bulletin that evening. What was Gower doing during all that time? Having a fag down at the local pub?

So please, Patrick – don’t get all toey, mate. Writing pissy little “opinion pieces” does not excuse  your sloppiness.

Maybe next time, try a little less of the sensationalising, moralistic “booze’n’baccy” questions, and do your job properly with real analysis.

Blaming others because you chose to trivialise a major news story with a superficial, cliched question is your responsibility.

Just as David Cunliffe’s  right-royal screw-up with Labour’s “Best Start” policy launch was his.

Any questions? (Make them good.)

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References

Dominion Post: Govt spent $500,000 on boozy functions

The Press: Jenny Shipley on Cera review panel

TV3: Opinion: Labour dishonest on ‘baby bonus

TV3 News: January 27 6PM Bulletin

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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National out

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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

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Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

3 October 2013 3 comments

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red-green-up

 

 

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The election of David Cunliffe has had the desired effect; in yet another poll, Labour is up, whilst National is either down or trailing. If these polls are any indication, and barring any major f**k up from the left, we are on course for a change in government next year (if not earlier).

A recent Herald Digipoll had Labour  on 37.7%, giving  it 48 seats. With the Greens on 11.3%, giving it 14 seats, and with Mana’s one seat, the centre-left would have 63 seats in the House. (See:  Labour rockets in poll)  More than sufficient and not needing to rely on the unpredictable Winston Peters (who has still not ruled out coalescing with the Nats, post election).

The Herald Digipoll is backed up by the latest Roy Morgan poll (for which this blogger was recently polled as well, via cellphone – see: Mr Morgan phoned).

The results are a spectacular boost for a new LabourGreen government – and a death notice for the Tories;

 

 

Centre-Left Bloc

Labour:  37% (+ 4.5%)

Greens: 11.5% (- 3.5%)

Mana:  0.5% (n/c) 1 seat (?)

Centre-Right Bloc

National Party: 42% (+ 1%)

Maori Party: 1% (n/c) 3 seats?

ACT NZ: 0.5% (- 0.5%) 1 seat?

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged) 1 seat?

Conservative Party of NZ:  2% (+ 0.5%)

Unknown orientation

New Zealand First: 4.5% (- 2%)

 

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New Zealand Voting Intention - October 2, 2013

 

Source: Roy Morgan

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Gary Morgan, of Morgan polling, says,

“Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large boost to Labour’s support (37%, up 4.5%) after the election of David Cunliffe as the new Labour Leader – now at its highest since Helen Clark was Prime Minister in October 2008. The boost to Labour’s support has come at the expense of fellow Opposition Parties the Greens (11.5%, down 3.5%) and New Zealand First (4.5%, down 2%).

“A potential Labour/Greens alliance (48.5%, up 1%) remains well ahead of National (42%, up 1%) and would form Government if an election were held now. The immediate boost to Labour support provides Cunliffe with a great ‘platform’ to explain why New Zealand electors should vote for Labour again.

“If Cunliffe can enunciate a consistent and concise message of the Labour Party policies and how they will improve the lives of New Zealanders and the country in general over the next 12 months, Cunliffe stands a real chance of being elected as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister at next year’s election.”

Indeed.

Roy Morgan explains it’s polling techniques, “This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone  , with a NZ wide cross-section of 934 electors from September 16-29, 2013. Of all electors surveyed a high 5% (down 1%) didn’t name a party.”

It is interesting to note that the number of undecideds/wouldn’t say, are down by a percentage point. That means that just over a year out from the election, voters are making up their minds. And it isn’t looking too good for the Nats. The Nats promote a pseudo-”hands off” approach to economic/social problems (except for Skycity, Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Southern China Airlines, Mediaworks, etc) – such as Brownlee’s infamous quip that the housing crisis in Christchurch is best left to the free market to solve (see:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market‘). Yeah, right.

People want active solutions to pressing problems. Throwing corporate welfare at companies like Warner Bros and Rio Tinto will not help struggling young New Zealanders into their own homes; feeding hungry children from poverty-stricken families; or create jobs for the 164,000 unemployed in this country. The latest Reserve Bank restrictions on first home buyers with low deposits – sanctioned by Bill English – will be the final straw.

When New Zealanders eventually  tire of flirting with  a do-nothing National government, they look to interventionist parties (Labour, Greens, and Mana) to do the job.

After two terms, the smile and wave frontman for National will be thrown out and their diabolical legislation can be reversed and consigned to the garbage heap of history.

 

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References

Roy Morgan Poll

Herald Digipoll

Fairfax:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market

Previous related posts

Mr Morgan phoned

Latest Roy Morgan Poll – on course to dump this rotten government

 

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 30 September 2013

30 September 2013 Leave a comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 30 September 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (20′ 29″ )

This week:

  • More on Hooton’s outburst last week regarding David Cunliffe. Hooton apologises – sort of.
  • The Labour Party’s shadow cabinet.
  • and local body elections.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – Hooton loses the the plot?! 23 September 2013

23 September 2013 9 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 23 September 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (18′ 22″ )

  • America’s Cup,
  • Labour set to unveil new caucus line-up,
  • Labour candidate selected for Christchurch East,
  • and John Key’s visit to Balmoral.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

Listen out for Matthew Hooton launching into a full-scale hysterical rant over David Cunliffe. Hooton has either lost the plot – or this is the beginnings of a sinister right-wing scheme to destroy David Cunliffe’s reputation via a slander-campaign.

In my view, it is the latter.

Yes, folks, Cunliffe is such a threat to John Key’s government that National’s strategists have launched a smear campaign against the new Labour leadership.

Watch out for more of the same in coming weeks.

By the way – Kathryn Ryan was so annoyed at Hooton’s performance that she cut the segment short at just over 18 minutes. Normally, her Monday political panel is around 25  minutes or longer.

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How can you tell John Key is lying?

17 September 2013 1 comment

… His lips are moving.

Ok, it’s an old, old joke.

But it seems to be a truism more and more each day, as his shonkey government flounders, that he is resorting to untruths in panic and desperation.

A recent example, as reported on Radio NZ on 10 September,

Key predicts new Labour leader will take party to left

[abridged]

“It’s very important to understand whose voting. It’s not New Zealand mums or dads that are voting. It’s actually the union movement and they will want payback time when he becomes the leader and that means a big move to the left. And ultimately I think that will have quite a negative impact on jobs and growth for the economy.”

Source: Radio NZ

As the RNZ report went on to state, “under the Labour party’s new rules, unions get only a fifth of vote“.

40% of the vote -  nearly half – will be from  New Zealand mums or dads  that are voting (or those who are members of the Labour Party).

So once again, Dear Leader is caught out fibbing to the media and the public.

Which is interesting and ties in with a chat I was having at a Dunedin New World supermarket last night (11 Sept). Two young check-out operators noticed my “no asset sales” sticker on my satchel and we starting chatting about the Labour party leadership contest. For two young teenagers (17? 18?) they seemed remarkably well-versed in who the candidates were and their personal preferences. Then the subject got on to John Key.

The opinions of these two young women was simple; they did not trust him one bit. They also could not understand why he was so popular with the public. One remarked that his “body language” alone showed he was being dishonest when speaking to the media. The other was put off by his “we-know-best” arrogance.

In my travels, I’m meeting more and more people who are disenchanted and disillusioned with our current truth-bending Prime Minister. People are not fools and eventually pick up on a politician’s propensity for spinning BS.

But here’s a question for Mr Key; when will he allow the rank and file membership  to vote to choose the leader of the National Party?

Because under current National Party rules,  “mums and dads” have no say on the matter.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 September 2013.

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Congratulations, Mr Cunliffe!

16 September 2013 3 comments

This blogger extends his congratulations to David Cunliffe for his successful selection as Labour’s new party leader.

A special mention should be made of Grant Robertson and Shane Jones – both of whom are talented individuals and  would also have made fine leaders.

All three men campaigned with integrity, decency, and maturity.

As for John Key, who derided the Labour’s selection process – would he care to put his leadership to the test, and allow National Party rank and file members to vote on the leadership? Yeah, nah…

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flying pig

John Key announces National’s leadership will be put to Party members for a vote!

 

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It is now time for every fair minded New Zealander to roll up his or her sleeves. We have work to do, and a  corrupt, self-serving, ineffectual Tory government to throw out. Whether we are Labour, Green, Mana (NZ First?), we all have our bit to play to rebuild our decent society.

As David Cunliffe said on National Radio this morning – the election campaign started today!

 

 

 

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John Key on leadership aspirations…

30 August 2013 5 comments

As reported on Radio NZ today (26 August);

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PM’s take

Prime Minister and National Party leader John Key says the Labour leadership contest will show how heavily the party is divided.

Mr Key says it could be a television reality show called Parliamentary Idol, with the three MPs demonstrating to New Zealanders how much they loathe each other.

Source: Radio NZ – Cunliffe confirms bid for Labour leadership

More here: John Key says Labour is a divided party

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Which is kind of ironic really, as Key’s own rise to power as leader of the National Party happened under less auspicious circumstances, involving secret plotting  behind closed doors; lies; duplicity; and rolling then-National leader, Don Brash.

Key wasn’t very upfront to the public or media, or even his own then-leader at the beginning, as this October 2006 NZ Herald report by Audrey Young, showed,

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Beware the ides of November, Don

By Audrey Young

5:20 AM Thursday Oct 26, 2006

An attempt within the National Party to topple leader Don Brash could be mounted next month.

The backers of National finance spokesman John Key have already taken soundings among caucus colleagues. It is understood they were taken four weeks ago but nothing came of them.

However, internal speculation is mounting of a stronger bid for the leadership being attempted by Mr Key next month or at the start of next year.

Mr Key did nothing last night to hose down the speculation, being less than emphatic at dismissing talk of a possible attempt in November.

“I have never had that raised with me,” he said. “That is speculation I can’t comment on and I don’t know whether it is accurate or not but I don’t anticipate that being the case.

I’m supportive of the leader and I don’t anticipate that position changing.

Source: NZ Herald – Beware the ides of November, Don

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Key’s “support” for his leader was so sincere that a month later, Don Brash was rolled and replaced by… John Key!

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New Zealand’s National Party Appoints John Key as Leader

By Tracy Withers – November 26, 2006 20:44 EST

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) — New Zealand’s main opposition National Party elected John Key, a former head of global foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch & Co., as its fifth leader in nine years as it targets victory in the 2008 elections.

Key, 45, was voted leader by his National parliamentary colleagues in Wellington today, replacing Don Brash who quit last week. Bill English, who was ousted as leader by Brash in 2003, was named deputy leader and will take over from Key as finance spokesman.

Source: Bloomberg – New Zealand’s National Party Appoints John Key as Leader

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At least Labour’s leadership contest is out in the open; open to public and media scrutiny; and will be democratically decided. This is a milestone in New Zealand politics, with  the Greens the only other political party to decide their leadership by member’s ballot.

By contrast, seizing power via a coup hardly seems a fair; open; or democratic process. Indeed, one might question if Key really has a moral mandate to lead his own Party?

Perhaps this is a salient lesson that Key should take on-board, instead of indulging in school-yard petulance.

Then again, I suspect  Key’s pathetic attempt to deride and dismiss Labour’s new leadership process is stressing the Prime Minister as he  foresees his own political demise come the next election?

After all, Key did make this pledge to the electorate in 2011,

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Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

By Audrey Young 5:30 AM Monday Jan 3, 2011

Prime Minister John Key has all but confirmed that the general election will be in late November or early December and he has indicated he will leave politics if he cannot lead the country to a second term in Government.

[abridged]

He also said he had made it reasonably clear that he did not want to revert to being Opposition leader.

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative.”

Source: NZ Herald -  Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

The election of a new leader for Labour isn’t just a new beginning. It heralds the end for Key’s political career.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 August 2013.

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

10 August 2013 2 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

After a break for lunch, Wallace introduced the four members of Parliaments;

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington

L-R: Barbara Stewart (NZ First), Kevin Hague (Green Party), Annette King (Labour) and Paul Hutchison (National) – Wallace Chapman (standing)

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Associate Minister for Health, Paul Hutchson, took the podium first;

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Minister Hutchison began by acknowledging his Parliamentary colleagues, Wallace Chapman, and John Forman.

Of John, Hutchison said this,

“May I acknowledge John Forman and the Organisation for Rare Diseases for all the the work that you do, John. Absolutely committed,  enthusuiastic, and assiduous. So please may I express that appreciation…”

The Minister continued by saying that he was sorry he was not present earlier in the day to hear the previous speakers. He then launched into his speech,

“… The principle of Universality does not mean that the public should pay for every test, treatment, or medicine, that improves health no matter the price of how effective it is. You may be aware that a new concept has crept in called proportionate universality, universalism, which in other words, is targetting. And it’s something that appears to be, ah, almost superceding the principle of universalism.

In his press release relating to the ombudsman, John Forman says the Ombudsman noted the contestable legal argument about whether PHARMAC appropriately excludes social and ethical factors from their consideration, though he said it was not his role to make a definitive decision on that legal dispute’.”

Minister Hutchison “forgot” to mention also that the same Ombudsman,  David McGee, had been highly critical of   PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should  be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

If Minister Hutchison had attended the earlier speaker’s addresses, he might have remembered to add that salient point. He continued,

“And John Forman also said that it is time for PHARMAC to acknowledge that a strict economic focus without a moral compass is abandoning patients at the margins. We hope that this opinion will cause PHARMAC, government ministers,  the health select committee, and other officials to respond with serious scrutiny and review of PHARMAC’s policies regarding socialised medicine for rare diseases. I don’t consider for one moment that PHARMAC acts without a moral compass… but  nothing should be for granted.

And I do note that PHARMAC’s key objective is  to  secure for eligible people in need of pharmaceuticals the best health  outcome that are reasonably achieved from pharmaceutical treatment and from within the amount of  funding  provided. I also highly respect the members of the Pharmaceutical Advisory Therapeutic Committee who are all dedicated clinicians who have committed their expertise to  attempt fairness and equity guided by a scientific evidence basis.”

I doubt if this next bit went down well with the audience,

“I must say I well remember Sir William [Bill] Birch telling me some years ago that from every nook and cranny, town and hamlet in New Zealand, comes a perfectly legitimate reason to spend money. The whole skill is how to prioritise it.”

If Minister Hutchison was invoking the ghost of Bill Birch, known for his extremist monetarist views, then he had come to the wrong place. This was not a Chamber of Commerce or NZ Initiative (formerly the NZ Business Roundtable ) business lunch. He was addressing desperate people who were seeking answers and solutions to life-threatening diseases – not hearing that the purse-strings were being closed by an acolyte of a past Finance Minister.

The Minister continued,

“And I guess that’s the blance and the tension that we have. Where do you achieve equity and fairness in comparison to the resources that we have available. New Zealand does indeed now-a-days spend amongst the top of  OECD countries in terms of it’s overall health budget. Some of you may say  that the pharmaceutical budget in comparison to the whole $14.7 billion is less than it should be although of course that is arguable.

So what’s PHARMACs position? As you know, PHARMAC pointed out there have been several reviews of the question of New Zealand providing subsidised access to high cost medicines.  Firstly in 2006, and then of course the McCormick report in 2009. They explicitly recommended against a separate high cost medicines funding [board?] approach for New Zealand. The reason they gave for this were that the main rationale for such a fund is to improve health outcomes rather than because of the particular charachteristics of the medicines themselves are a fundamental importance. The Panel noted that the PHARMAC model is already based on the objective of improving health outcomes. The panel was not convinced that the approach used by other countries such as Australia was superior to the status quo.

Government responded to a number of that reports recommendations and that led of course to the establishment of the  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment scheme, which  we’re now  currently running with.

I also note  that most of PHARMAC’s funding is already committed to high cost medicines.  The PHARMAC annual review shows that the top 20% of patients account for … 86% of expenditure. That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure. Which means a smaller patient group is obtaining a greater share of pharmaceutical expenditure than the majority.”

“That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure.’ - is an interesting statistic. Is it code for implying that that a small group receive a disparate amount of tax-payer funded support?

How does that statistic compare  to the 10% of top income-earning families earning 30% of the income?  (see: Household Economic Survey 2010) Or the wealthiest 10% of New Zealand families controlling/owning  approximately  50-60% of  New Zealand’s wealth?  (see:  New Zealand Institute’s The Wealth of a Nation 2004)

Minister Hutchison concluded his speech,

“…I think it’s also important to point out that since the NPPA has come into being, that we’ve gone from where there was the previous regime which was $2.1 million and now  to $8 million. Clearly it’s not enough.There will always be pressure on it.

The last thing I just wanted to mention was that there is going to be  future reviews and right now PHARMAC is keen to look at new ways of serving  New Zealanders. That’s why  they are currently conducting their  significant review on operating policies and procedures. First thing under review includes the criteria by which PHARMAC makes it’s decisions. This  is an important opportunity to define what best… health outcomes means in terms of it’s  legislative objective,  and in doing so to change the mix of treatments that are ultimately funded  within the budget that is made available.

As you’re aware PHARMAC is  meeting communities around New Zealand in a series of  eleven forums and here is a superb opportunity for everyone here. I would put in a submission, attend the forums, and express your views.”

Wallace asked the Minister for his views on  creating a separate Rare Diseases Funding Agency, with a budget of around $25 million. Wallace explained that many people in the room were “falling through the gap” and a RDFA could plug that gap.

The Minister’s response was less than helpful, and defaulted to a predictable excuse not to consider the option. He said,

“…The issue is always once you get separate funding streams, you get extra bureacracy, you get an extra pressure on that funding stream as well as the main Schedule. So that it may be that you find you  have to take away from the main Schedule and vice versa. It’s a very difficult dilmemma. I think that this latest round of opportunities to relook at  how  PHARMAC  is setting it’s basic criteria of improving health outcomes is an opportunity to explore it.”

It is unclear as to why the Minister actually turned up to the seminar. His speech offered nothing new except, perhaps, to announce the  upcoming PHARMAC reviews.

If National is going to spring a herceptin-style change in policy toward sufferers of rare disease, the Minister was less than clear in his speech.  To use the Minister’s own words, he had expressed the status quo as policy and nothing more.

The real surprise was to come from the next speaker, Labour MP for Rongotai, Annette King;

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nzord-seminar-1-august-2013-wellington

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Ms King has served as Minister of Health in the previous Clark-led government and had over-seen the re-building of the health sector after the disastrous cuts to services and budgets in the late 1990s. Ms King put an end to user-pays within the public health system, implemented by the previous National government.

Ms King firstly acknowledged those with rare disorders who displayed “advocacy, tenacity, longevity, and your committment to fairness and equity in health.” Ms King added that, “I particularly want to thank John Forman, who has dedicated years to NZORD and if knighthoods actually went to the people who really deserved them, then John certainly would get one.

That suggestion  was received with  a loud round of applause.

Ms King continued,

“…I think the problem has really  reached a critical point because we have, as you heard from Dr Hutchison, there have been many reviews into this issue, going back to the 2007 New Zealand Medicines Strategy; the 2010 report on high cost, highly specialised medicines;  and as you know from that we still haven’t had this issue resolved for those who have very rare conditions. PHARMAC now, as we’ve already heard, have established what they call a new special pathway, their Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment, the NPPA, which follows the review of the exceptional circumstances. But by my reading of it, is that this policy runs counter to their current policy settings, because when you read it, they must take account of things like if a dollar is spent in one area, it is not available in another.

That they must work to obtain the greatest  benefit. That the best place  to invest  the next dollar, to achieve the best access to health. So these are the things that they have to take  account of, even in the NPPA policy. But at this point I do want to stress as John Forman has on a number of occassions, that I do support PHARMAC in their   role of getting the best possible deal for medicines of the bulk of  New Zealanders. I think they have done a fantastic  job over many years. In fact I think they’ve been a stand out organisation.

And the bottom line for Labour in  terms of  the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, the latest round of free trade aggreements,  is that PHARMAC continues to have the right to purchase our  pharmaceuticals  to get the best health outcomes from effective budget management.”

Then came the ‘crunch’ moment,

“…But I think there has to be, and we have to acknowledge, that what we have done in the past,  as you saw from the question that John just asked, there has to be a change in the way in the way we deal with orphan drugs.”

Ms King said that it was clear that the NPPA scheme was not working for people with rare disorders. PHARMAC was able to over-rule any recommendations to purchase drugs for patients with rare  disorders. Ms King then stated,

“It is time for us to separate the two issues…”

“In 2014 our election policy will have two main parts to it. First of all the establishment of an orphan drugs policy.That policy will include international information sharing and monitoring  of orphan drugs and sharing that information as others countries do, about the clinical viability and acceptability of those drugs.
The second, I believe, is very important, and that is the establishment  of a fund with it’s own Board. Now I don’t believe this has to be [as] highly bureacratric as Paul mentioned. I believe that you can set up a separate Agency within, for example the Ministry of Health,  to give it’s freedom, but it has it’s own Board. And it has it’s own fund to administer.”

“So one of the things that would need to happen soon after an election would be the establishment of on implementation working group, which could be made up of clinicians; of patients; of community representations, and others,  to put in place the details and work on the criteria for access. I do believe that in separating the funding and operation of the orphan drugs policy from PHARMAC. It will let them get on with doing what they do really well, and I think in some ways it will free them to get the best they can for the most of us who don’t need special medicines. But it will mean that for those who have rare disorders, that there will be a fund around that.’

Ms King said,

“We’d be looking at a fund between $20 to $25 million.”

Which is approximately what National spent on the Rugby World Cup in 2010 – $26 million of taxpayer’s money, on funding the tournament’s deficit. [Update: And on 8 August it was announced hat National would be giving a $30 million taxpayer's subsidy to Tiwai Aluminium Smelter.)

"...That would be the way that we'd go in New Zealand, in line with other countries, including our closest neighbour Australia, who have managed a separate orphan drugs policy, for many, many years. And the advantage I suppose  from here is that we can learn from the mistakes from others, look at ways we can get the best value from such an agency."

Ms King concluded that she believed this was a policy that other parties from the Opposition would support this new policy.

The audience responded enthusiastically to Annette's announcement.

Wallace welcomed the Labour Party policy, and referring to  a Labour-Green-NZ first coalition, asked Barbara Stewart, "actually, which way will Winston go, Barbara?"

She smiled coyley, responding "we'll just have to wait and see".

That elicited  a mix of laughter and "awwwww" from the audience.

Next up, Wallace introduced Kevin Hague, from the Green Party,

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Kevin began with,

"Congratulations to Jenny [Jenny Noble - one of the seminar organisers] and to  “Sir John”… [laughter]

… And acknowledging my Parliamentary colleagues. Could I give a special acknowledgement to Paul Hutchison who’s gone now of course. National wasn’t going to have someone here. But Paul decided that that wasn’t ok, so he came along at short notice. So I didn’t agree with anything he said, but it was really great to have Paul here.”

Kevin expressed his regret at not attending the morning part of the seminar,

“Can I give you an apology for having missed this morning’s programme, as I thought it was a really exciting-looking programme. I intended to be here  for the entire time but I had to sit on the Select  Committee for the Pike River  Implementation Bill…”

Kevin continued,

“…My starting point actually is the right to life. Because that basic human right, it’s pretty universally acknowledged, seems to have embedded in it, the right to health.”

Kevin referred to the UN human rights treaties discussed earlier in the day. He said that for the right to life to be meaningful, it had to include the right to health. He acknowledged the high cost of medical treatments and the need to ration  those dollars. He said he “unashamedly” used the word “ration”.

“Governments decide whose needs will be met and whose will not be met.”

Kevin referred to “utilitarianism; the need to stretch health dollars for the greatest gain for the greatest number. It is only PHARMAC that tries to do that – the rest of the [public] health sector does not use this system.

While Kevin did not disagree with the concept of utilitarianism, he said that those whose health needs are furthest away, from the right to health,  will tend to be  those whose health needs are not met.

“And I don’t believe that that can be an acceptable consequence,” he added.

“So for that reason , we believe that the New Zealand health system needs to be able to have a second approach… Our approach is very congruent indeed with that you just heard outlined by Labour. I think  it’s very exciting indeed that Labour and ourselves have that same approach…”

Kevin said that whilst he believed that some of PHARMAC’s criteria for cost-benefits could be amended to take other criteria into consideration – such as participating in the workforce -  that he did not believe that the Agency should be bound by the “right to life” argument. Kevin preferred keeping PHARMAC’s “structures” as simple as possible, and keeping it’s cost-utility as straight forward as possible.

He would not “load” PHARMAC with the responsibility of resolving the orphan drugs and rare disorders  issues.

Kevin spoke to the PHARMAC representative in the audience and said,

“I would say just keep doing what you’re doing now, Stefan.”

Kevin then added,

“But. We are going to create another fund, which is specifically to be used on this right-to-health basis. I have no problem with  the cost effectiveness being one of the  criteria that is  used on the fund, but it’s  only one of a range of criteria. And I have no problem with PHARMAC’s people doing the analysis, but it can’t be PHARMAC that makes the decisions and I favour an independent Board very much as Annette outlined under Labour’s policy.”

Kevin said that even under two  systems there would still be inequities as there would always be a mis-match between dollars available and the need it has to try to cover. He said no system could be perfect in this regard.

“But using the two approaches actually reduces the size of that inequity, and that has to be a good thing.”

Kevin said “a great injustice has been committed” and the Greens would work to end that injustice.

Again, the audience responded with enthusiasm, obviously welcoming the Green position on the issue.

Wallace then introduced the last political speaker, New Zealand First’s spokesperson on Health, Barbara Stewart;

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Barbara began with a greeting and an apology for not being present for the first part of the seminar. She explained that the House was sitting under Urgency and extended hours. She congratulated John Forman for the “wonderful job he has been doing over the many years”, and thanked him for continuing to keep NZ First appraised of the issues surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. Without further preamble, Barbara launched into her policy speech. She got straight to the point;

“In NZ First, we believe that as a First World country, we should be able to afford access for orphan drugs. There is an underlying right to health  care. We are very aware that sufferers of rare diseases deserve fair treatment when it comes to access to orphan drugs. So we’ve been very pleased to hear what  Annette has announced. And I know that  Kevin thankfully  supports it, and I know that  we would in New Zealand First as well.

The last thing that want  to see is  people keeping on falling throught the gaps. The status quo needs changing. There is nothing surer than that. Particularly for orphan drugs. New Zealand was once thought of as one of  the highest  for the quality of  healthcare in the OECD. And it’s interesting to note that this ranking is slowly dropping away.”

Barbara said that many other countries ahead us on the OECD scale did indeed supply medicines for rare diseases. She said that NZ First has looked at the Australian model and “it appears to be successful“.

Barbara said,

“Here we would support Annette King with her model that she is proposing.” She added, “we don’t want to see New Zealand behind the rest of the world”.

Barbara acknowledged that PHARMAC has done a good job over the years, but that it was time “for a review”.

“We’re disappointed to see that the government, through PHARMAC , seems to be taking a relatively hard-line approach on medical funding and we know that this is putting people’s lives at risk… This is an issue that does need to be resolved.”

“So, we believe that equity and fairness is essential and whatever we can do to ensure that sufferers of rare diseases… can have access to the best treatment, we will do.”

Barbara concluded her speech with those words and Wallace thanked her.

NZORD director, John Forman then read out a statrement from the Maori Party. In it, they apologised for not being able to attend. Reading from the paper, he said,

“The Maori Party promotes the idea of a separate policy process for managing New Zealand’s supply of orphan drugs for rare disorders. We have a particular interest in  orphan drugs access policy through our support of people living with Pompe Disease, a  serious muscle wasting disease, that without treatment will result in respiratory and cardiac  failure. We understand the exceptional circumstances approach towards supporting applications for access to specialised and expensive medicines, such as enzyme replacement therapy, has yielded adverse impacts on too many individuals. And we cannot support any policy effect which results in government picking winners and losers.”

The Maori Party statement went on to state that there was an impact on  those suffering rare diseases by the inequitable decisions of this government. “There is a profound injustice at play”  that some families were impacted simply because of the rarity  of certain diseases and the consideration of appropriate treatment. The statement concluded by acknowledging the work done by organisations such as Muscular Dystrophy, the Lysosomal Diseases New Zealand, and New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders.

Wallace then opened the floor for questions.

In answer to a question as to when the Parties present would implement a separate Funding Agency, Kevin Hague replied, “in the first hundred days“.

Annette agreed with Kevin that it would be done “as soon as possible“. She gave a “solid committment that this would happen“.

This blogger then asked Barbara Stewart a question relating to her Party’s committment to a separate Funding Agency for orphan drugs. I confirmed that her Party would support a separate Funding model for orphan drugs, and she replied,

“We would support that, yes.”

I asked my follow-up question,

“…Here’s the problem. Is that, it’s  fine for you to sit there, saying you support it… but if your leader decides to go with National, it’s not going to happen, is it?”

To which Barbara replied,

“Oh, we have to wait until after the election before we can actually say anything at this point in time.”

Wallace suggested that Barbara txt-message Winston now to find out. She declined, and added,

“No, we do always say that will wait until the voters say what they’re going to say and then we work it through from there.”

The seminar continued with more questions and answers from the audience, including representatives from pharmaceutical companies and PHARMAC.

A talk was presented by Daniel Webby on his very personal experiences with living with a rare disorder.

John Forman presented his speech on issues and problems surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. His slide presentation finished with this image;

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A sobering conclusion to John’s speech, I thought.

My own conclusion from listening to the representatives from Labour, The Greens, NZ First, and the Maori Party, is that all profess to support a separate funding agency for orphan drugs.

But only Labour and the Greens can be counted on  to carry out their pledge.

New Zealand First states that it supports a separate Funding Model – but without knowing which way Winston Peters will move post-2014, then his Party’s policies must be viewed with uncertainty.

The Maori Party is in an even more untenable position on this issue.  Traditionally, they have viewed Labour with disdain, and instead chosen to coalesce with National. Unless the Maori Party makes a separate funding model for orphan drugs a bottom-line negotiating point – then their policy-pledge will go nowhere.

New Zealanders living with rare disorders, desperately seeking life-giving treatment, are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and an unnecessary interuption to their lives – on top of the effects of their disorders.

Yet, they have come far from their early days when they first approached PHARMAC for assistance, and were constantly knocked back. Those were dark days for people like John, Freda, Allyson, Daniel, Jenny, and many others.

But after this seminar, they found recognition for their efforts; understanding for their plight; and something else to bolster their spirits…

They found hope.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 August 2013.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

8 August 2013 3 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

The seminar’s next guest was introduced; Dr Greg Coyle. Dr Coyle is a social policy analyst and manages the NZ Salvaton Army’s relationships with the Ministry of Social Development,  Housing NZ, Dept of Corrections, Ngai Tahu, Tainui, and Otago University. He is a member of the NZ Institute of Directors, Deputy Chair of Laura Fergusson Trust (Wgtn), and has a Ph.d. and Masters in Public Policy, in the area of fairness;

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[Taken from Greg's speech notes] “This paper is about fairness and I am grateful to the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders for the opportunity to present these ideas. I wish to talk about about three things. Firstly I will discuss one view of the anatomy of fairness. Secondly, using these ideas, I will examine how fairly PHARMAC has treated sufferers of rare and orphan diseases in relation to it’s wider statutory purpose. Finally I will propose a new funding mechanism for pharmaceuticals for sufferers of rare and orphan diseases which will, I believe, provide cost control and fairness to individuals and the wider community.”

“Fairness is something we each quite easily recognise when we see it, but have great difficulty describing it and agreeing on what it actually is.”

“Gauld described the Social Security Act 1938 as the political and legislative foundation for social welfare in New Zealand. This  social reform was based on a “fair go for all”. The legislation placed New Zealand’s concern for the least well off on a fairness platform.

In 2013, the fall-back position  is now commonly expressed as “well I accept something may be unfair, but who says the world is fair anyway?” as if fairness is now an unreachable and unnecessary attainment. Perfect fairness may well be unattainable, but acceptable levels of fairness in today’s political and social  landscape seems not to be universally accepted.” 

So the moral question here is how much fairness or how much equality is too much to aim for? How much is not enough? How much unfairness and inequality, in terms of state distributions, is our society prepared to tolerate?”

“Fair distributions to citizens are particularly difficult for OECD governments considering the increasing costs of public healthcare, especially pharmaceuticals. Again the question is not why we should ration  medicines, but rather how much rationing are we prepared to tolerate?”

“Hamilton describes this balancing act in terms of ensuring that there is minimal granting of special privileges to favoured individuals, and also ensuring the absence of social abandonment of those who require assistance. More particularly, what we are concerned about here is the process of micro-rationing  of pharmaceuticals to individuals.”

“[John] Rawls’ definition of fairness contends that, in liberal democratic societies, distributions should ensure each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible  with a similar liberty of others. Where social and economic distributions are to be unequal, they should be arranged so that distributions  are of the greatest benefit for the least advantaged… “

“This fairness principle leads decision-makers to ponder if their decisions would be considered fair by the most advantaged  people in society if, at an instant, they became  the most disadvantaged and required the distribution  for themselves [...] This approach is not dissimilar to the maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which Blackburn contends can be found at the base of almost  every ethical tradition.”

Greg described the functions of PHARMAC, both on the national (meso) level and the individual (micro) level. He said that “sufferers of rare and iorphan diseases commonly fall into this [latter] category presenting in circumstances described as exceptional“.

He said that with regard to the Agency’s  national purchasing strayegies, “PHARMAC does an excellent job of consistently providing subsidy for an adequate range of quality pharmaceuticals” and “estimated that PHARMAC has saved approximately $1.17 billion over 14 years“.

Greg pointed out,

“PHARMAC takes excellent advantage of its market dominance, provided through an exemption from Part 2 of the NZ Commerce Act. The Agency employs aggressive monopsonistic  purchasing practices in negotiating contracts with international pharmaceutical companies.”

“In short PHARMAC is appreciated in New Zealand  as a world leader in meso-level rationing of subsidies on pharmaceuticals.  It provides for a good range of effective medicines to the community. It has done this consistently over 15 years and saved considerable amounts of taxpayer’s money  in doing so.

However, in PHARMAC’s second purpose of providing access to medicines for people whose needs are described as exceptional, the picture could not be more different. My research into the operation of PHARMAC’s ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ policy demonstrated  that PHARMAC does not closely align with high levels  of fairness to individual claimants, particularly sufferers of rare and orphan diseases [...] it appears that PHARMAC does not provide subsidy equitably  for people with diseases requiring high cost medicines.”

Greg outlined how Ombudsman David McGee had assessed PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

The Ombudsman stated that “… to attempt a specific recognition for rare diseases in the NPPA policy would significantly undermine the Pharmaceutical Schedule“.

Greg summed it up by stating  that “it would seem the two objectives cannot reside amicably in the same house“. He further stated,

“PHARMAC protects the inviolability of the CUA [cost utility analysis] process by not considering the personal circumstances of claimants despite the intention of the legislation to manage the claims of individuals in exceptional circumstances. Similarly, PHARMAC’s assessment of individual  claims takes no interest in the relative condition of claimants…”

He added,

“PHARMAC takes no regard of the needs of the least advantaged before the needs of the most advantaged and does not consider information from claimants about that which they have good reason to value in their lives.”

“PHARMAC also relies heavily  on opinions from it’s committees of  expert health economists. My research shows there was criticism of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY’s)  as the only economic assessment tool used in the efficiency study [...] I am also aware that NZORD has complained that PHARMAC is choosey about which experts  it consults and has used experts that NZORD considers do not have international credentials to adjudicate on some claims by sufferers of rare and orphan diseases.

My research also demonstrated  the somewhat speculative nature of decision-making in that PHARMAC decision-making committees in the past have not recorded the reasons for decisions nor advised claimants under which criteria their applications have failed.”

Greg’s assessment of PHARMAC’s failings on this point  was explained that “underlying  this PHARMAC practice is a deep anxiety that, if claimants were provided with the reasons why their claims were denied, some would most certainly be challenged.

Greg then asked two questions,

“As a society do we believe that medical practitioners and economists are are qualified to make moral judgements about claimants and what they deserve?

Are medical practitioners and economists the right people to be putting  a price on what claimants have good reason to value in their lives?”

Greg pointed out the reasons why PHARMAC judged claims by individuals suffering rare and orphan diseases, calling threm all “excellent reasons“;

  • If PHARMAC accepted all claims, it would exceed it’s budget and fail it’s statutory duties,
  • PHARMAC had to resist unproven/untested therapies, especially so-called “alternative style health providers who cruelly offer desperate people ‘cures’ which are most often hopeless”,
  • PHARMAC faced pressure from pharmaceutical companies to list their own drugs on the Agency’s Pharmaceutical Schedule. These pressures had to be “contained”.
  • And PHARMAC had to demonstrate that it had a robust national-level “rationing”policy to maintain the confidence of Parliament, DHBs, and the public.

“In summary, PHARMAC celebrates the fact that it applies the same meso-level rationing  tools for micro-level decisions. In assessing the pharmaceutical  needs of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases, the tools are simply not fit for the purpose.”

We Need a Fairer System

Greg acknowledged the unfairness of expecting PHARMAC to manage the Pharmaceutical Schedule with a capped budget as well as having to consider expensive and essentially unaffordable claims for medicines. He said that “this situation had created the animosity and on-going frustration between sufferers of rare and orphan diseases and PHARMAC staff and Board“.

He also said it was “equally unfair of rare and orphan diseases to be denied medicines which will improve their life expectancy [simply] because they are being assessed against an economic metric which applies to a model based on 4 million people“.

Greg said that a fairer system had to be devised. One that ensured that PHARMAC was unencumbered in it’s primary role of nationwide rationing, involving the subsidisation of a wide range of pharmaceuticals for New Zealand. This was a role that PHARMAC did very well.

Greg then offered a solution;

“But we also need a micro-level rationaing system with a different set of rationing criteria more suited to the task of analysing claims of individuals and small groups of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases. The fund would be, let’s call it, the ‘Rare Diseases Funding Agency’ (RDFA). It would have  a Board appointed by the Minister of Health and administered by the Ministry of Health. The Fund should be regularly reviewed and reported to the Minister.

The RDFA will need to carefull consider both relative economic efficiency and locate the best relevant expert advice it can muster. It would make sense for PHARMAC to undertake the CUAs when required on behalf of the new Agency.  The decision making criteria will also need to develop a level of understanding the quotient of fairness and be aligned with community values  in support of micro-rationing…

[...]

… I am in no doubt that the RDFA will from time to time be required to make unpopular decisions. On such occasions the Agency will suffer the same level of criticism and unpopularity as has been visited on PHARMAC. However under such circumstances claimants seeking a review should be able to expect a fair hearing of their circumstances and be advised of the reasons for the decision made.

[...]

The Rare Diseases Fundaing Agency that I have described follows the international  precedents set by Australia, England and soon in Scotland.”

Greg concluded with this salient point,

“I doubt that there will be a day when the Rare Diseases Funding Agency would be able to fund individuals and small groups of people for every treatment available. Under our current funding system, this day will never come. However, the new agency will have fairness and community values among its founding principles. It may not [be] able to provide perfect fairness, but New Zealand would have a system which travels purposefully in that direction and sufferers of rare and orphan diseases would be better off than they are now.”

[Note: a full text of Greg's presention can be found here: "Funding Pharmaceutical treatment for Rare Diseases in New Zealand; we need a fairer way of doing things" - Greg's speech is highly relevant for our wider society as he touches upon issues relating to social equality; individual rights;  and a fairer distribution of resources. My report only briefly touches  on Greg's main points; his full speech is rich in ideas and information. - Frank Macskasy]

At the conclusion of Greg’s address, which was warmly received by the audience, Wallace invited all speakers to take seats up-front and engage in a question and answer session;

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This was followed by guests from the four main political parties represented in Parliament; National, Labour, The Greens, and New Zealand First. (The Maori Party sent an apology along with a policy statement.)

There was to be a surprise policy announcement from one of the parties.

To be concluded at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

Following on from Kris Gledhill, host Wallace Chapman – of Prime TV’s ‘Backbenchers‘ fame, introduced the next speaker; Matthew Smith;

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Matthew is a barrister at Wellington’s Thorndon Chambers, and practices in the area of civil and commercial litigation. His focus is on public laws and judicial reviews – something of particular relevance to NZORD’s members and supporters.

Matthew presented an overview of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) with explanations as to it’s guiding legislation; policies; and obligations.  His primary speech notes can be read here, and are worthwhile  accessing, if only to gain a deeper understanding how the Agency works (the speech notes are brief, only 5 pages, double-spaced typing).

He began with a “starting point” of  public law and the consideration for the judicial oath of office where anyone who becomes a judge of a Court “must do right for all manner of people“. He said this was relevant because that it was part of the decision-making process, and would be relevant in terms of international human rights obligations , domestic human rights obligations, and at an individual level for any funding decisions that PHARMAC makes.

General principles of law were also relevant to all  public-sector decision-making, “and that applies as much to PHARMAC as it does to any other  body“.

Matthew wanted to draw attention to  three main principles;

Firstly, that decisions have to be individual-specific and case-specific; that PHARMAC has to be consistent in decision-making, treating similar patients similarly, as well as recognising that there are points of difference that meant the dis-similar should be treated dis-similarly. Which was relevant, he said, to cost assessments in the context of PHARMAC’s funding decisions.

The third point was the human rights consideration and Matthew referred to Kris’s in-depth analysis of this point. He  confirmed Kris’s comments by stating,

“The relevance of human rights considerations is in least two dimensions in PHARMAC’s decision making. One is in the development of  any general policy  which applies and governs or informs the decision making process. And two, is in the individual level, the application of individual applications by individual applicants for funding, and their relevant human rights and how those rights impact upon the  decision that PHARMAC has to make.”

Matthew said that PHARMAC’s functions are set out in section 48 of the NZ Public Health and Disability Act, which firstly tasks the Agency with maintaining a Pharmaceutical Schedule, and the second to focus on the circumstances in which PHARMAC will make individual exceptions to the Schedule  with additional funding and grants.

PHARMAC’s policy to determine individual applications is governed by  their  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA) Policy. There are nine criteria by which they make their decisions. Whilst none of the nine criteria specifically referred to human rights considerations, Matthew pointed out that the ninth criteria referred to “other considerations“.

Matthew wasn’t certain if Pharmac considered human rights factors as part of  “other considerations“, but he said that they should under “human rights obligations“. He said that the general statute under which PHARMAC operated does mandate consideration for human rights factors.

Interestingly, Matthew pointed out that PHARMAC’s,

“…budget is notional, because PHARMAC itself does not pay the subsidies for pharmaceuticals. They are paid by the Ministry of Health, on behalf on the DHBs.”

Matthew repeated that general and broader law required PHARMAC’s decision-making for individual’s making applications,  to consider an  individual’s circumstances, and of the patients who would be beneficiaries of the drugs to be funded. He added that a practical consequence of that criteria was that PHARMAC could not use the price of a medicine as a reason to decline an application.

Matthew also pointed out that in analysing the cost of a particular drug, that cost had to be offset against any other costs otherwise spent by the health system for providing a service that otherwise would not be provided by PHARMAC. Costs, he said, had to be considered in a fairer, broader, more holistic way, taking into account offsetting costs, indirect as well as direct.

In terms of consistency, Matthew said that general consistency of treatment was identified as a principle of law and treating “like with like” flowed from principles of equity and equitable considerations. He added that often it was over-looked that consistency also meant identifying those who were in a different situation  and treating them differently. He used an example of  a population group with disimilarities to the rest of  the population, and that those disimilarities should be taken into account.

Taking differences into consideration maintained consistency. That had to be reflected in processes, as well as in end-decisions.

In answer to a question from the audience, which asked why applications from rare disease patients were still being turned down, Matthew replied, that the Act allowed for cost as one of three considerations.  He accepted that cost was relevant to PHARMAC.  Two other considerations were clinical needs and determinations, and health needs – the latter not defined in the Health Act.

He suggested that too much focus was currently being placed on cost, cost-basis,  and economic analysis, and that we had lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with people and individuals first and foremost. Mathew said,

“…As people born into the Human Family, so to speak, which is the starting point of all human rights obligations… those are being lost sight of, and those aren’t being given sufficient weight in the context of individual decisions,  and circumstances where, as I understand it, PHARMAC has decided that there is no specific earmarking in terms of the last year the $770 odd-million that was allocated for funding. There’s no specific earmarking for exceptional circumstances or rare diseases…”

Without specific “earmarking” of funds, it seems that those with rare disorders were destined to be sidelined by PHARMAC.

But, there was to be a glimmer of hope later.

Wallace then introduced Andrew Moore, associate professor of Philosophy at Otago University. His field and interest was in  ethics as they related to public policy. He has advised four Health ministers, from Labour’s Annette King to National’s Tony Ryall. He was a founding member and chairperson of the National Ethics Advisory Committee.

His advice has contributed to the national health policy, resource allocation, prioritisations, as well as contracting to PHARMAC;

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Andrew started with paying tribute to NZORD and it’s director, for an “ongoing resilient committment”  and respect for  the democratic process, to work toward their goals.

Andrew then defined his concept of ethics – which he tied to the seminar issues,

“I have a fairly basic idea about ethics. Ethics, according to me, is just to do with what matters, and how to live in the light of that.”

Andrew added, “that  the topic here is what matters in the allocation of public funds for medicines, devices, and the like“.

He said that what matters in this context is the people who need these treatments and who can benefit from them. Andrew acknowledged PHARMAC’s statutory role was  to deliver best health outcomes for available  funding. The process was driven by the idea of maximising the public health benefit, and because of  budgetary constraints, there was priority for the greatest  health benefit per dollar.

That meant others missing out and not gaining any public funds, or opting for private support such as friends; reliant on corporate largesse;  missing out altogether,

“Or whatever survival means are available.”

Andrew suggested “pushing at the margins” to achieve ends. He suggested pushing for the ideas of “severity of condition” or “severity of circumstances“; or lifetime disadvantage.

He said the the current “maximised benefits” idea was simply not enough to deliver outcomes for those who needed it. He preferred promotiong the idea of “need” and “severity of condition” as a means to focus on.  Andrew suggested keeping things as simple as possible. For some in PHARMAC, ethics was “too complicated”.

He referred to the UK’s citizen  jury process to arrive at good outcomes and ideas.

Any solution had to be “need weighted” benefit, especially for those in dire danger from disorders.

Despite some fearing the possibility of getting into an “ethical view” on this issue, Andrew reminded the audience that even the current system was built on an ethical view, even though it was a somewhat narrow view. It was impossible to avoid ethics in favour of the status quo, said Andrew,

“You can only choose some views over others. There was no hiding place in the status quo”.

Following on from Andrew Moore, Wallace introduced Dr Andrew Veale, a Respiratory and Sleep specialist and Clinical Director for a private Lung Function and Sleep laboratory at the NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute in Auckland. Dr Veale is also a sleep specialist at Middlemore Hospital, and has diagnosed and treated Acid Maltase deficient (Pompe Disease) patients. He is deeply interested in clinical trials and physiological measurement;

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Dr Veale began,

“I’m involved because I fortuitously diagnosed a few patients with Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease, and  they’ve allowed me to walk through their lives. In Freda’s case, for twenty years, as they cope with this disorder, which has had no cure. So it’s been an education for me and I hope of some benefit to them. But most of the time we just talk shop. Social things.”

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Freda (L) and Jenny (R)

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So began Dr Veale’s talk.

With the aid of coloured slides, Dr Veale launched into a full scale medical explanation of the causes of Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease. He showed cross-sections of the human cell, and explained the simple deficiency that has wreaked so much harm and tragedy in people’s lives.

He began by stating that Enzyme Replacement Therapy (to treat Acid Maltase deficiency) was different from normal administration of drugs, as the Therapy used a much larger molecule. (Thank god for Fifth and Sixth Form General Science and Biology classes.)  Whilst normal drugs permeated through the whole body, he said, enzyme replacement had to be targetted to enter cells.

Dr Veale’s explanation of the complex processes was simplified for ease of comprehension. In fact, it was probably easier to take in than some of the legal matters that had been presented earlier.

After the science lesson preamble, Dr Veale added another complication into the mix; how to test treatments for rare diseases when the numbers of  patients are so small. As he put it,

“Patients with rare diseases will never have a randomised, double blind,  cross-over, trial while facing East…” (laughter) “These  patients are treated with observational treatments… which are not as good.”

He said there was a problem with randomised double-blind trials in that they disguised a sub-group who might benefit from the wider group.  Dr Veale added that Acid Maltase deficiency  involved trials that  lasted over years and reports could not expected any time soon. So there were inherent difficulties with the model of clinical trials.

Another problem, he said was the variability of tests. Dr Veale said test results depended on the precision of  test instruments. Test results, he said, also depended on how  a test subject was feeling on a given day and what kind of activities they had engaged in. He used Freda as an example saying that she might well fine on a Monday – but knackered on a Friday because she had been doing gardening that  morning. These were all factors that affected outcomes.

Dr Veale presented a slide with four curves to illustrate his point. He said the graphic was a “fantastic” example of the point he was getting across;

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The  sharp, pointy [red coloured] curve, he said offered a test outcome with a very good precision.  It’s got “tight confidence“; “we can trust it“; “it’s the truth“.

The green curve gaves the same result, but was less precise; “the scatter was wider“. “And it might be the truth“.

Dr Veale then used another chart to show how individual data points, from the same patient, would give differing results. One set of data points showed the patient improving – another set of data points other showed the patient deteriorating. But  it was the same patient and from the same set of data. But overall, it showed a more accurate picture of the state of the patient, “this is some real data”, Dr Veale said.

I was reminded of political polling. Individual polls could give a misleading result for political parties – but an overall picture presented a much more accurate result. (See: Polling Chart on The Dim Post blog)

Dr Veale said that with slow-changing diseases, the temptation was to  test infrequently because not much had changed. As a result, there would be misleading test results from data gained from infrequent  testing. Fewer data points would present an incomplete or misleading picture of the disease’s progression. The infrequency of measurement coupled to an imprecise test would yield poor results. The slower a  disease progresses, he said, the more data points were needed to create a more truthful picture. The same applied to an imprecise test – more measuring was required.

For example, Dr Veale sugggested a year’s worth of testing at one-weekly intervals. And then he would want a further year’s worth of follow-up testing of one-weekly measurements to detect any changes in previous data. That, he said, was using the patient as their own ‘control’, as  the best method of showing a subset of beneficiaries.

Dr Veale presented the final slide in his summation,
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Dr Veale made the strong point of having a separate  trial fund for experimental treatments for individuals  patients, with over-sight  by an independent Advisory Board. The purpose was to ensure outcome measures were  important to the individual patient concerned.

He said,

“I think we’ve got to get it right. These are very expensive drugs and it’s all very well to say  ‘well we shouldn’t worry about that’, but there is a [muffled] cost if we don’t do it correctly. I think there is a way forward here. When you make a decision to treat somebody with these sorts of disorders,  you’re not making a decision to spend $100,000 a year, you’re making a decision to spend five million over a life.

And I think there is an obligation on us to show that it’s of use.”

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 -  At a seminar in Wellington, Labour’s Health spokesperson, Annette King, announced her Party’s new policy to create a new fund for purchasing so-called “orphan drugs” – medicines – for rare diseases.

Labour’s new policy marks a turning point in the critical problem of “orphan drugs” which are not funded by PHARMAC, but which are a matter of life and death for people suffering rare diseases.

The seminar – held by NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders – took place at Wellington’s down-town Amora Hotel, and was opened by it’s executive director,  John Forman;

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TV personality, Wallace Chapman, hosted the seminar, introducing each guest speaker and keeping a tight reign during question time (he’d make a great Speaker of the House);

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Representatives from the Green Party, Labour, NZ First, and National attended.

Main speakers included,

  • Dr Christine Forster, GP
  • Dr Alison Davies, Pharmaeconomics
  • Kris Gledhill, lawyer, Director of NZ Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice
  • Matthew Smith, lawyer
  • Andrew Moore, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Otago
  • Andrew Veale, Respiratory & Sleep Specialist
  • Dr Greg Coyle, social policy practitioner
  • Daniel Webby, patient & patient advocate
  • Dr Andrew Marshall, Paediatrician, Clinuical Leader Child Health in Wellington Hospital
  • John Forman, executive director of NZORD

First speaker, was GP, Dr Christine Forster. Dr Forster has been a GP for thirty years; held appointments as Chairperson of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, plus involved in committees overseeing assisted reproductive procedures. She briefly participated in the Auckland Health and Disability Regional Ethics Committee;

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Dr Forster began by saying that her role was also about general wellbeing; mental health; and advocating for access to services and resources.

She read out the patient’s Code of Practice,

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner consistent with his or her needs.

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to, and optimises the quality of life…

That is our guiding light“, said Dr Forster,”it is a patient-centered focus.”

Dr Forster spoke of PHARMAC’s successes – but added it could do better,

“In general practice we have contact with the decisions that PHARMAC make every day. We are managing the pharmaceutical changes for our patients who have chronic diseases… Managing the change for them is not always as straightforward as I think PHARMAC think. Many are suspicious and wary of change.”

“It’s a worthwhile process because it’s successful in providing routine medications for New Zealanders at a much lower cost than other Western countries. And for most part this process has no harm [or]  minimal harm…”

She pointed out,

“So the success is the savings for the pharmaceutical budget so more drugs can be funded and improved access to newer treatments.The unexpected bonus for us is that it has removed the drug reps from our rooms and offices.. So huge benefits and minimal harm.”

Dr Forster addressed the perceived high cost factor of orphan drugs,

“The approach to funding drugs, high cost pharmaceuticals, and drugs for rare disorders is different. There is harm, because essentially what we’re doing is witholding proven treatments. We’re making drugs unavailable. My question is, really, are we making decisions about pharmaceuticals in isolation to the rest of healthcare?”

Dr Forster pointed out that there are other examples of expensive healthcare where there cost-benefit analysis is not considered prior to treatment – so why are pharmaceuticals held in a different light?

“The argument’s often  about not funding these drugs… often the view is if they do that, the money will come from someone else; that someone else will have to suffer. But this happens all the time, all the time we are treating a small number of people at huge cost… that’s just the normal treatment.”

Dr Forster said she looks at the outcomes of treatment, not just in a clinical approach with drugs. She said that was a very narrow outcome and in general practice she looked for a much broader sense, of a good life,

“A sense of not being abandoned by society”

Dr Forster concluded by saying,

At the end of the end of the day, I think, it comes down to what kind of society do we want to live in.And it’s one about making decisions about people’s health and wellbeing is not on cost alone.”

After questions and answers,  Wallace Chapman also related his own personal circumstances of carrying a rare disorder – Gauche’s Disease -  and the extraordinary steps that his mother took to ensure he received adequate, life-enhancing treatment. He was told by the Dundedin specialist who diagnosed his condition that “there’s nobody else in Otago” who had  the condition.

His mother  “became a star“, said Wallace. His  mother began phoning MPs and ministers, and went to Jenny Shipley, who was then  MP for Ashburton/Rakaia, and demanded that he receive the necessary treatment to save his life.

He expressed his appreciation to then-Wigram MP, and Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, who “championed the cause” to  get Wallace and other Gaucher’s sufferers the necessary drugs to save their lives. Wallace said his dream was that other people like  Freda could also acquire the drugs they needed.

Wallace wondered what might happen if the government took the money away from funding the Waihopai Spybase and spent it on healthcare. He suggested it might be a better world to live in – a comment well received by the audience.

Wallace added that GPs like Dr Forster were the real heroes in our community – especially those that take an interest in such complex, social  issues.

Wallace then introduced Dr Alison Davies to the audience;

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Dr Davies has a diploma in Pharmacy, diploma in Hospital Pharmacy, and Masters in Medical Science (epidemiology). She has practiced as a pharmacist; clinical researcher for 17 years; and worked in pharmaeconomics for a pharmaceutical company. She has taught post-graduate students at Otago University and is a member of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition. She has represented this patient group voluntarily,  gain better access to medicines.

Dr Davies began  with the  criteria used to make decisions in healthcare – particular ‘tools’ such as  “cost effectiveness analysis and cost utility analysis.

Dr Davies compared different systems used in Australia (PBS); the UK (NICE), and PHARMAC in New Zealand; all three take “cost effectiveness” into consideration as a criteria;

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Criteria for decision making

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Dr Davies pointed to  “...a real tension between making decisions about a population’s health and making decisions about an individual’s health.”

We have a choice about which costs to include...”  Dr Davies referred to a Definition of Societal Perspective,

‘Includes everyone affected by the intervention and counts all significant health outcomes and costs that flow from it, regardless of who experiences the outcomes or costs’
 - which means that everyone in society, everybody’s costs and outcomes which are affected by this intervention  are included. Now that’s not how… PHARMAC does it’s analyses. It chooses a perspective of the healthcare system, so only includes the costs that accrue to the healthcare system plus patient contribution to the healthcare, co-payments, that sort of thing. So there’s no inclusion of loss of productivity, personal costs that are outside of health, etc. So there’s no consideration for you getting back to work; the time-costs associated of your caring for a sick or disabled person, your leisure time…”

Dr Davies referred to a person’s  “quality of life”, using the  World Health Organisation definition as  “physical, social and emotional aspects of a patient’s wellbeing that are relevant and important to the individual“.

Dr Davies discussed cost-effective thresholds in the UK and Australia  and asked,

“Does PHARMAC have a cost-effectness threshold?

Pharmac maintain they have no cost-effectiveness threshold for funding of medicines.”

However, she questioned that assertion  and noted a reference to a de facto  threshold in a 2012 NZ Medical Journal.

This impacted on what treatments could or would not be ultimately funded and did not take into account needs such as rare diseases and orphan drugs, she said.

Dr Davies said that breast cancer had 50 types, and the “commoness” of this disease could actually be made up of several rare variants. So we could all have a “rare disease”.

Dr Davies said that “orphan drugs” have a high cost but there are often no alternatives and are often  lifesaving,

“That’s where the rule of rescue” comes in.”

Dr Davies compared sea rescues that often cost over a million dollars and we “don’t blink a eye and we all think that’s a great thing to do“. She called it a human impulse or imperative to save one individual.

The rule of rescue, Dr Davies maintained, could equally be applied to saving lives by funding rare medicines.

We need to have a fair decision-making process“, she said,

“Health economists don’t yet  rule the world, thank god”.

The next speaker was Kris Gledhill, a barrister who worked in London for two decades, working on various human rights cases, mostly for people detained.  He lectures at the Auckland University Law School, which includes teaching human rights law. Since January 2012,  Kris was the inaugual director of the NZ Centre, for Human Rights Law, Policy, and Practice;

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Kris opened by saying that his approach was through a human rights framework, and launched with this empowering statement,

“The reason why  it’s important to talk about rights in this context, I think,  is that,  if it’s a right, the grey men at  the Treasury, in their grey suits, and grey socks and grey underpants,can’t say ‘no’. Because if it’s a right, then it’s something to which you’re entitled  and which is enforceable.”

Kris said that were were a number of Treaties and a UN Human Rights Council, whose role it was promulgate our rights, including the right to health.  He referred to the rights which all New Zealanders have under treaties such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1966).

Kris said that both Covenants were signed in 1978 – when conservative Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister of New Zealand. He said Muldoon was no “leftie”.

Kris specifically pointed to the Convention on the Rights of  Persons  with Disabilities (2006),  and said it had “an awful lot  power” because of it’s potential as it had no definition of disabilities. He gave the preamble to the Convention,

“Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others…”

Kris said that the definition of a disability was wide enough that it could cover those with rare disorder, if it interfered with their ability to participate fully and effectively in society.

He said it was a Convention to be made use of.

Kris also said that once a country like New Zealand signed up to an international Treaty (such as those mentioned above) then there was an expectation that domestic law, policy, and practice,  would be amended to reflect international human rights standards.

He said that where issues such as healthcare were involved, and resourcing was a question, that signatory States were obliged to use “maximum of available  resources” that were available to a particular nation, to give effect to the conventions. “It was not a free choice” – we had an obligation, Kris said.

Kris said that New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act  and the 1993 Human Rights Act,  gave effect to New Zealand’s international human rights obligations.

Therefore, Kris said, international law was not separate from New Zealand law, but a part of it. He said this was recognised both by Parliament that made laws and the judiciary that interpreted those laws.

He said that of particular relevance was the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated everyone had a right to a standard of living, adequate to the health and wellbeing for himself and his family,  including medical care and disability. That, he said, was what people believed we were entitled to as far back as 1948. The same Declaration reaffirmed our Right to Life, including extensions to life.

This included medical care in times of emergencies such as pandemics; infant mortality; and disorders that reduce life expectancy. He said this meant a right to live, not just a right to life.

The same Declaration, Kris said,  reaffirmed the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. He said that if the consequences of a  disorder are inhuman or degrading, then you have a right to have something done about it.

Most importantly, we have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of status. “Status” he said, included “anything of a disabling feature“. The right not be be discriminated against meant not to be treated differently in the light of your status.

Kris said that New Zealand had an obligation to ensure the highest possible standard of health. He pointed to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights which strated that citizens of  signatory states (ie; New Zealand),

” recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”

and,

“the steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant  to achieve the the full realisation of this right shall include those necessary  for: … (d) the creation of conditions  which would assure to all medical service  and medical attention in the event of sickness”

He repeated that this was a right, and not a choice by the government. He stressed the point that, that under Article 15, “everyone” had the right “to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and it’s  applications.”

Therefore the grey men in the Treasury can’t say ‘no’.” The resources-based argument, Kris explained, was designed for developing nations and not rich nations like New Zealand.

Kris said that it’s “grass roots” organisations – and their mothers (which elicited quiet laughter) – that have to make use of these rights. He said we need to raise these international obligations in any legal challenges undertaken.

One such means for a legal challenge was to lay a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur on Health. The Special Rapporteur, he explained, receives complaints from individuals, or groups in society, who have been affected by a denial of the right to health, or componants of health.

Only one complaint has ever been made from New Zealand to the Special Rapporteur, he said, and this facility could be better used by those who feel discriminated against.

Kris encouraged those present to use the international rights he had outlined because otherwise, “if you don’t use them, you actually don’t have them“.

Wallace then opened the floor and asked for questions.

This blogger asked Kris if the international treaties he had outlined have the same weight as free trade agreements, where member states can take disputes to legal tribunals for judgement?

Kris replied,

“Yes, they’re international obligations;  they’re the same as any international  obligations including the free trade international obligations. And the point is that those free trade obligations, the treaties that we’re signing up to there are all signed up to in the context that there is an existing, long standing human rights framework. So the free trade agreements do not overtake the international human rights framework. They exist in the context of the existing and enforceable human rights framework.”

At that moment, I thought of the other forms of discrimination that National was engaging in – such as punitive new policies against welfare beneficiaries. Could forcing beneficiaries to undertake drug tests or use contraception be a form  of discrimination that could be litigated at an international disputes tribunal such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Health?

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

5 August 2013 4 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 5 August 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (27′ 40″ )

  • Discuss the current Fonterra food safety scare;
  • the continuing scandal surrounding the GCSB emails;
  • Labour’s affordable housing policy,
  • and recent positive poll results.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

15 July 2013 2 comments

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 15  July 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (26′ 50″ )

  • Labour’s leadership ‘coup’
  • the Maori Party AGM
  • the GCSB and new spy legislation.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Facepalm #1: Labour…

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Labour proposes rule for women-only electorates

Acknowledgement:  Radio NZ – Labour proposes rule for women-only electorates

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FFS… there are better ways to deal with this gender-gap problem than with an announcement like this…

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The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

6 April 2013 5 comments

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spy vs politician

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The current mess surrounding the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) Director should serve as a clear warning to any future Labour-Green government: Don’t Do It.

To be precise; don’t do what Key (and his ministerial cronies) has done. Circumventing the State Services Commission to “facilitate” appointments – even if done for decent motives – is simply;

(A) Not a good look

(B) Not worth the hassle when the media, bloggers, and Opposition get hold of it

(C) A slippery-slope toward cronyism and inevitable corruption.

The appointment of John Key’s Electorate Chairperson,  Stephen McElrea (who is also the National Party’s Regional Deputy Chair, National Party Northern Region) to the Board of NZ On Air raised numerous charges of cronyism and an agenda of political interference in public funding for television programming. (See:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air; See: PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link )

Concerns over political appointees to highly sensitive positions, vulnerable to political interference, was quickly borne out when McElrea began to flex his “political muscles” even before being appointed to  NZ on Air’s Board,

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National man eyes NZ On Air chair

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – National man eyes NZ On Air chair

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Key’s background in deal-making; cutting corners to achieve set goals; and getting results fatally blinds him to the realities that politics and government is a whole different kettle of fish to ‘high finance’. (Which would be a good thing, considering the almighty crash of  ‘high finance’ four years ago.)

The State Services Commission was set up precisely to keep politician’s greasy hands of appointments.  At the beginning of out nascent civil service, ministerial cronyism was rampant,

The departments that grew up over the next few decades operated under the direct control of their Ministers, in arrangements that were practical in pioneering times.  Ministers approved appointments, determined pay and conditions, and oversaw administration and financial management, with varying degrees of diligence.

[...]

Understandably, Ministers were inclined to see that the people appointed were sympathetic to their own political outlook and priorities – and inevitably, in a small population, these were sometimes friends or acquaintances.  The Public Service was run on somewhat ad hoc ‘frontier’ lines, and seems not to have been much different from its parent institution, the British civil service.  In their report on the British civil service Sir Stafford North and Sir Charles Trevelyan described a bureaucracy that was, in the 1850s, rife with patronage, fragmented and inefficient.

Acknowledgement: State Services Commission -  Origins of the Public Service and Office of State Services Commissioner

Accordingly, after 1912, reforms were enacted to clean up this unholy mess,

The Hunt Commission in due course recommended, as ‘the most important matter of all’, establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet, to have ‘absolute and undisputed power’ in ‘all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – … appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – ‘  It suggested the Board’s first duties should include blocking all ‘back doors’ of entrance to the Public Service, and arranging for all promotions be made from within the Service.

The outcome was the Public Service Act 1912 – based on Herdman’s Bill already before the house – which set up a non-political and unified career Public Service; non-political through powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal being entrusted to an independent body – the Public Service Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is abundantly clear that John Key doesn’t ‘get’ any of this, when he said,

I didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Labour have done very similar things.”

Again, blaming Labour.

Is everything he says or does predicated on what the previous government did?

Does Key not have standards of his own? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)

Because Key’s memory lapses cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. Especially when, on 3 April he openly contradicted himself as to who-phoned-who, as Andrea Vance reported,

…he appears to be confused about who first suggested Fletcher for the job.

Asked why he didn’t tell the full story last week, Key said: “I’d forgotten that at that particular time.”

In Porirua this afternoon, Key was grilled about the sequence of events that saw Fletcher appointed as director of the GCSB in September 2011.

At first Key said: “Iain Rennie, state services commissioner recommended him to me… I rang [Fletcher] and said ‘look, you know, you might be interested.”

Asked again who first brought up Fletcher’s name, Key replied: “Iain Rennie put it to me.”

Later on, he was asked again who first mentioned Fletcher. “I would have mentioned it to him, I’m sure.”

When pressed to clarify if he first suggested the name to Rennie, he said: “I’m sure I probably would have.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss

Key lied. He was caught out lying.

On 4 April, Scoop Media wrote about the rationale behind Ian Fletcher’s appointment as GCSB director. Fletcher had no prior military of Intelligence experience. But he did have an extensive  background in intellectual property, commerce and “free” trade (see: The CV of a Spy Boss ) .

Fletcher’s appointment was announced  in September 2011, and was due to take up his new job in early 2012.

At the same time, police were planning their raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion, scheduled to take place  on January 20 2012.

Scoop wrote,

Suppose Dotcom’s arrest and extradition was the clincher in the deal that secured Warner Bros’ agreement to produce The Hobbit in New Zealand. But any link to John Key, who led the negotiations with Warner Bros, would tend to confirm Dotcom’s claim, supported by the strong connection between Hollywood and US vice-president Joe Biden, of political persecution. So the prime minister had to be protected by having total deniability, leading to the completely implausible claim of not knowing about the most prominent resident in his own electorate until the day before the raid.

Acknowledgement: Kim Dotcom Part Two

Conspiracy fantasy?

Remember that Key has had several top level meetings with Warner Bros executives,

October 2010

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No decision yet in Hobbit talks - Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – No decision yet in Hobbit talks – Key

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July 2011

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PM's 'special' movie studio meeting

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

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October 2012

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Key - Dotcom won't be discussed during Hollywood visit

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key: Dotcom won’t be discussed during Hollywood visit

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Four days later,
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Dotcom raised at PM's Hollywood dinner

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And those are only the meetings which we, The Masses, are aware of.

It’s interesting to note Chris Dodd, the CEO of  the Motion Picture Assiciation of America (MPAA) referred to the Trans Pacific Partnership Aggreement (TPPA) in the 5 October NZ Herald article above.

The TPPA has more to do with intellectual property rights than with “free” trade. (See: “Global Research -  The “Trans-Pacific Partnership”: Obama’s Secret Trade Deal; See: MFAT -Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations – Intellectual Property Stakeholder Update)

It’s also worthwhile noting that Ian Fletcher’s appointment coincided to the month with the raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion.

  • Raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion:  20 January 2012.

And both men were involved in intellectual property rights – though from different angles,

  • Kim Dotcom – the man who Hollywood executives wanted brought down because of alleged copyright violations on his ‘megaupload’ website. (see: The MPAA on Dotcom)
  • Ian Fletcher – the man who had worked in the UK to protect oroporate interests in intellectual property rights. (see below)

When Ian Fletcher’s appointment was announced on 8 September 2011, Key himself proudly boasted of the new Director’s  career,

Announcing the appointment Prime Minister John Key said he has ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters.”

Acknowledgement: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed

Fletcher’s ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters” seemed to matter for John Key for some reason?

Kim Dotcom was very high on the list of issues relating to “international economic and trade matters“; namely intellectual property rights.  Indeed, in March 2007, Fletcher was appointed as Chief Executive of the UK Office of Intellectual Property.

On 20 March 2007, Ian Fletcher said,

“I am delighted to be joining the Patent Office. It already plays a vital role in the UK’s economic prosperity, its scientific excellence and its innovation system. As the Office moves on to tackle to challenges set out in Andrew Gowers’ review, the Office’s role will become even more central to the UK’s response to the challenges of globalisation.”

Acknowledgement: Intellectual Property Office – New Chief Executive for the Patent Office

(Hat-tip; Karol, on The Standard)

It has been widely commented that Ian Fletcher has no background in the military, nor Intelligence – yet was considered the one candidate who was eminently suitable for the role of Director of the GCSB.  Perhaps now we are starting to understand why Ian Fletcher’s appointment seemingly related to,

  • the Crown’s case against Kim Dotcom
  • Illegal downloads/Intellectual Property rights
  • MPAA concerns
  • Hollywood big business
  • Trans Pacific Partnership

And as Key himself admitted, the issue of Kim Dotcom had been raised by Hollywood executive. Just what does our Prime Minister have to discuss with said executives? Who knows – it’s all done in secret, behind closed doors. We’re just expected to pay our taxes and shut up.

Conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories remain the subjects of idle parlour chit-chat and somewhat kooky websites… well, until charges are laid. Then a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy case in a Court of Law.

This affair should serve as a warning for the next in-coming Labour-Green government. National’s administration is a text-book case of how not to do things.

Every minister in the next Labour-Green government should be appointed a “minder” to ensure that they do things By The Book, and not to cut one single corner. Or at the very least, periodically re-read press reports and blogposts detailing every f**k-up by National over the last four years.

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. And even if the whole story behind the Fletcher-Dotcom-GCSB-TPPA thing has not been fully revealed – I think we’ve had a glimpse into the murky shadows of political perfidity to smell something rotten.

The issue has not only further dented Key’s credibility, but is starting to wear down his public persona of  good natured, ‘blokeyness’,

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John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

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Abusing the media? Not a good look for Dear Leader. It appears that the stress of the job is getting to him. And he can’t handle it very well.

Key’s “blokeyness” morphes into bratty petulance when he further dictates the terms under which he will talk to the media and in Parliament,

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PM John Key

‘What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I’ll be doing that to the journalists as well.
‘Cos if you want perfection of everything I have done, two, three, four, five years ago, I will get you all that information for you, but I’ll get you the whole lot and give it to you.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – John Key changes tack over questioning

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This is “seige mentality” stuff.

Key’s teflon coating wore away over a year ago. With no defensive cloak, the media recognise a government and it’s leader who are in dire trouble and  on the defensive.

As Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury wrote on “The Daily Blog”,

“John Key’s extraordinary appointment of his school-hood chum to be the new Director of our spy network could well be his ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

And as Bryce Edwards noted in the NZ Herald on 4 April,

“As a barometer of the political media, John Armstrong is always useful, and it appears that he too ‘smells blood’.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Political round-up: John Key’s precarious credibility

There are more headlines to come out of Key and National. It’s only a matter of time.

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*

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Related blogposts

Crony Watch!

References

Fairfax Media: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed (8 Sept 2011)

The Listener: Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timeline (20 March 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Illegal Surveillance And Response: Timeline (28 March 2013)

Fairfax Media:  Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss (3 April 2013)

Radio NZ: State Services boss ‘surprised’ at PM’s phone call (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM paints himself into another corner  (4 April 2013)

NBR: Honesty bigger issue than cronyism (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  PM has no regrets about calling Fletcher (5 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: John Key changes tack over questioning (5 April 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Part Two (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radiolive: Former GCSB boss intrigued by Ian Fletcher appointment – Audio  (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Ian Fletcher appointment a ‘totally ethical process’ (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’ (6 April 2013)

Other blogs

The Standard: The CV of a spy-boss

The Standard: Fletcher GCSB Change manager – and QLD

The Daily Blog: John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

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The unmitigated audacity of John Key and John Banks

19 March 2013 13 comments

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This is how a politician  owns up to a mistake,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Then there are politicians who continually blames others or claim to “forget”, when it’s obvious they are lying.

John Key’s talent for blaming others for his own stuff-ups is fast becoming becoming legendary,

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http://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/national-and-john-key-blames.png?w=595

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Key’s habitual finger-pointing currently extends to blaming Solid Energy’s debt crisis on it’s  Board; management; coal prices; global financial crisis, and uncle Tom Cobbly. He takes  no responsibility for his own Ministers demanding higher debt gearing levels  and dividend payouts which helped plunge Solid Energy into a financial hole,

He’s [John Key]  blaming the previous Labour Government, including former state owned enterprises minister Trevor Mallard who encouraged the company to expand in 2007, and citing a Cabinet paper supporting that stance.

“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” Mr Key said.

Acknowledgement: TV3

It was put to the PM that Solid Energy seemed to have been working with a “pretty high-risk” strategy. He responded by saying that all of these things were operational matters — he added that “if National’s to blame, then so’s Labour”. He said that the management and the board are responsible for the balance-sheet.

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

Board at fault for Solid Energy debt, not Govt – Key

Mr Key denied the Government was responsible for the company’s woes, despite encouraging the board to take on debt in 2009 and expecting it to pay a dividend.

Acknowledgement: TV3

They made some investments in core assets and those didn’t work out either, and the coal price collapsed.

Acknowledgement: MSN News

So everyone was to blame for Solid Energy’s collapse – except National which has been in power for four years and bled the company dry with demands for high dividends.

Then there are times in politics that politicians make utterances that are breath-taking in unmitigated audacity,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account Banks comments

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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This is one such instance – John Banks,  whose memory was so “bad” that he forgot his close relationship with a rather large German multi-millionaire; a helicopter flight to one of the biggest mansions in New Zealand; and who forgot $50,000  cheques for  donations for his electoral campaign.

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John Banks says he never lied about internet billionaire Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation to his 2010 mayoral campaign but says he erred in not answering questions about the affair more openly.

But Mr Banks denied misleading the public about the donations and events around them, including a helicopter ride to Dotcom’s mansion which he has said he cannot remember.

“I didn’t lie. There’s no reason to believe that I lied. I simply couldn’t recall.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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For someone with “nothing to hide” ACT leader and former Auckland mayor John Banks is doing an awfully good job of creating the impression there are some things he would rather keep to himself.

He has refused to confirm he solicited a donation from internet billionaire Kim Dotcom for his 2010 mayoral campaign and refused to confirm he asked that the $50,000 donation be split into two $25,000 payments.

He has also said he does not remember who donated money to his mayoral campaign, does not remember discussing money with Dotcom and his staff and, till yesterday, could not remember flying to Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in Dotcom’s helicopter.

Either Mr Banks is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s or he thinks honest answers to the questions raised by the revelation that Dotcom was an undisclosed donor to his campaign will reflect poorly on him.

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Editorial: Bad memory or poor judgment?

John Key and John Banks are now attempting to compare David Shearer’s omission for declaring his New York-based bank account.

Key said,

“People make mistakes. I make mistakes and when I do, I try and tell people I’ve made them. It’s just that you don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say you’ve made a mistake, but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key weighs in on Shearer’s $50,000 ‘oversight’

And John “I-can’t-recall” Banks added his own 2 cents worth,

“Shearer is on record as saying those who suffer from a memory lapse aren’t fit to hold office.  Shearer’s hypocrisy is staggering.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

Except for one thing – and here’s the rub:

David Shearer himself disclosed and admitted his own mistake,

“Frankly I was horrified that I’d overlooked it and I moved straight away to correct it. When I myself found that (bank account) error I made the move to correct it, I didn’t wait for anybody else to find it.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is one thing to stuff up; come clean; apologise; and not try to blame others.

It is entirely another matter when one continually blames others for his mistakes or has such problems recalling events that they become a laughing stock.

Perhaps Mr Key and Mr Banks should take a lesson from David Shearer’s book;  own your mistakes; don’t blame others; and don’t make facile excuses.

It’s not politicians who make mistakes, that the public loathes. It’s when they try to avoid responsibility for their errors.

Especially when Key and Banks demand responsibility from the rest of us,

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Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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

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= fs =

David Shearer – New Solutions or Time-Honoured Answers?

29 January 2013 7 comments

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Wainuiomata, Sunday, 27 January 2013 -  It was a scorcher of a day throughout most of the country – and the Wellington region was no exception.  The Met Office was predicting 23 degrees – this blogger scoffs at that and thought it nudged closer to 30.  Not for the first time, I thanked the Human Race for the invention of air-conditioning inside a car.

This was not the first time I had heard Party leaders speak. My very first occassion was Bill Rowling, in the 1975 election campaign.  According to my memory, he seemed a nice enough guy and had some good things to say.

Unfortunately forLabour – and for the nation – Muldoon made “mince meat” out of Rowling; won the ’75 election; trashed Labour’s compulsory super-savings scheme; and set the country on a course for future dependency on foreign bankers. Nice one, Rob.

My most recent encounter with a Party leader had been John Key, in Lower Hutt and then in Upper Hutt, in 2011 in the lead-up to the general election.

Impressions? I understood why many people likened politicians to used-car salesmen.  There was something about Key that instinctively made me feel uneasy and doubt every word he uttered. At any moment, I expected him to offer the audience shares in the Wellington harbour bridge. (Soon, he’ll be offering us shares in companies we already own. So I wasn’t far off.)

Back to the present…

At first, I thought the Wainuiomata Rugby Club – at a far-flung corner of this little village – was an odd place for a public meeting. But maybe not. In some ways, Wainui represents New Zealand  in the wider world; tiny, isolated, out-of-sight of the rest of the country and mostly forgotten. As a microcosm of New Zealand, surrounded by verdant green-covered hills, it was a perfect setting.

The Rugby Club car-park was jam-packed. Decided to park across the road. Smiled nicely at the Wainui Bowling Club folk who must’ve been wondering what was going on across the road, and legged it.  Bloody traffic had been slow all the way through the Hutt Valley and through Wainui and the ” star attraction” was due to start his speech within minutes.

The host’s introductory speech was just finishing, and David Shearer walked – strided confidently – from a rear annex where he had been waiting with one of his staff.

There was good applause from the audience, perhaps a third or half of whom were Labour party members or supporters.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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Shearer was in good form as he opened his speech,

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Tena koutou katoa.

Greetings everyone and thank you for being here together on a Sunday.

It’s great to see so many friendly faces.

It’s wonderful to see so many of you prepared to give up some of your summer break to talk about the future of our country.

There is nothing more important. And nothing more urgent.

I can tell you that today I’m refreshed, I’m fired up, and I’m raring to go.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This year will be a big year for Labour – a year where we not only hold the government to account, but also show there’s a better way.

A way of hope, where there is a place for everyone and where we fight for a world class NZ that we can all be proud of.

Today I want to lay out the challenges before us, the need for change and our focus for the year.

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Shearer started off well – and for the most part, maintained a vigorous energy as he gave his twenty to thirty minute long speech.

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David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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NEW ZEALANDERS WHO INSPIRE US ALL

A book I was given for Christmas tells the stories of 50 inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so.

Reading about their lives, they share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.

As scientist Ray Avery says: ‘we have no respect for the status quo’.

These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.

Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.

New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s idea of what was possible took him to the very top of the world.

Kate Sheppard’s idea of what was possible made New Zealand the first country to give women the vote.

Alan MacDiarmid’s idea of what was possible took him from Masterton to winning the Nobel Prize.

We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.

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Interestingly, this is the same book that Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, referred to on numerous occassions during the 1996 general election campaign.  He often mentioned it in his speeches, highlighting how New Zealanders had struggled to overcome adversity during their lives.

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I see that same attitude in families and schools, businesses and sports teams as I travel up and down the country.

People overcoming adversity, dreaming of something better.

When I see a single mum put herself through polytech to build a better future for her kids, I’m inspired.

When I meet New Zealanders well into their retirement, who after a lifetime of service are the first to volunteer come Daffodil Day, I’m inspired.

When a kid, who the stats say should fail, becomes the first member of their family to graduate from university, I’m inspired.

It’s inspiring because Kiwis don’t lie down.

From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.

They deserve a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed.

A Government that says: you do your bit, we’ll do ours.

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Shearer used the phrase “you do your bit, we’ll do ours” several times throughout his speech. It’s a phrase that can mean different things to different people.

In a centre-left context, it can suggest an interventionist hands-on government. Though it  harks back to the famous Marxist expression, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs“, I doubt if 21st Century Labour’s speech writer  had Karl Marx in mind.

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That’s what a Labour Government will do.

That’s what a government I lead will do.

 NATIONAL’S EXCUSES ARE HOLDING US BACK

 But this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.

For 4 years we’ve been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.

It’s the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem.

We are told we have to accept second best.

There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead. For why we can’t be a leader in this field or that.

For example, the National government aspires to being a fast follower when it comes to climate change.

Hold that thought. What is a fast follower exactly?

Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

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Good point; “Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become … what…an accidental leader?

Writing his speech, I would have referred to New Zealand’s leadership during the French anti-nuclear tests at Muroroa, and our opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Whilst our Aussie cuzzies were lukewarm in their support of Norman Kirk’s decision to send a frigate to the test site, we went ahead and did it anyway.

We were The Mouse that Roared. And this would have tied in beautifully with his references above to “ 50 inspiring New Zealanders”.

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But a leader with no clue about where they’re going.

That’s not good enough with an issue that is so important to our planet, and our country.

We deserve better than that.

I refuse to accept that for New Zealand.

And so do the Kiwis I meet.

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Strangely, this seems reminiscent of Key’s January2008 speech, “A Fresh Start for New Zealand“,

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

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

The reason I point this out is that Shearer’s speech writer(s) should be wary of using too much generalised rhetoric. In many cases New Zealanders have heard it all before.

If rhetoric is used, make it original and make it something unique to social democratic precepts. There has to be a different language; different words – a different brand – to that of the Nats.

Otherwise Labour’s message will be diluted and lost within the political-media maelstrom.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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 FORGOTTEN NEW ZEALANDERS

 But this Government has forgotten the hard-working and inspiring people I come across every day.

In a pub in Napier, a guy came up and said to me “I’m working harder than ever, I pay my taxes, we’re trying to bring up our kids the best we can, but we simply can’t seem to get ahead”.

He went on to say: “I just feel nobody is standing up for me”.

So many others I have met feel the same.

They’re busy helping organise school galas, donating their time to charities, running the sausage sizzle to fundraise for local sports clubs.

They are at the heart of our communities helping make our country the great one it is.

I’ve run into that spirit amongst many small business owners.

They’re the kind of people who pay themselves for 40 hours but work 80 just to keep the doors open.

They’re not asking for an easy ride or a hand-out.

But like thousands of others across this country, they’ve been taken for granted.

They feel the Government has forgotten them.

Kiwis across the country are working harder than ever.

They’re doing their fair share. Playing their part.

We all have that responsibility.

But they feel let down.

My promise to you as Prime Minister is that I will always stand up for the hardworking, forgotten New Zealanders.

You’re doing your bit, it’s time you had a Government that did its bit too.

 NEW ERA – HANDS ON GOVERNMENT

 We desperately need real leadership now more than ever.

The Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom.

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Now we’re getting to the knitty-gritty. Recent history backs up Shearer’s statement 100%  that  the “Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom“. This is reality and only the most hard-line rightwing National/ACT Party devotee  would attempt the futility of arguing to the contrary.

This is where National is vulnerable (amongst a truckload of other vulnerabilities).

In point of fact, whilst Key may not have been personally responsible for the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis – his profession certainly had a hand in it’s making.  Key has admitted as such, two weeks after the 2008 general election (notice not before the election),

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Source

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In turn, despite the lies from National MPs (more on that in an upcoming blogpost), Labour left the New Zealand economy in a fairly positrive state,

  • unemployment was low at 4.6% (source)
  • sovereign net debt mostly paid down from 20% to 5.6% of GDP (source)
  • and Labour was posting surpluses, as even Key had to admit, with open derision (source)

These are all positives that Labour shouldn’t be afraid to remind New Zealanders – many of whom suffer from long-term memory-fade at the best of times.

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The National Party believes the financial crisis is just a blip to get over. Their solution is to apply their failed ideas of the past over and over.

They are wrong.

The hands-off, simply leave it to the market approach has failed all over the world.

We are on the cusp of a new era – when new thinking and leadership is needed to build wealth we can all share in.

The world has changed…

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Why not offer a few examples?

- Examples of hands-on State intervention.

- Examples of governments re-taking control of their currencies.

- Examples of people throwing out right wing governments and replacing them with centre-left administrations.

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…National hasn’t. It’s stuck in the past.

We need a government that recognises times have changed.

We need a Government that finds the courage to act, not better excuses for why we can’t.

We need a government prepared to stand up for hardworking forgotten Kiwis.

We need a smart, hands-on Government.

A government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator.

That will be a Labour Government, and the Government I will lead.

It’s about getting our priorities right, being thrifty about our economy.

Bringing our debt under control.

But being smart about how we tackle the massive challenges ahead.

Above all, this country needs a government that chooses to act. Let me tell you what I mean.

When a young couple is putting off having kids until they buy a house, and yet despite saving hard, prices always slip beyond their reach, it’s time to act.

That’s why I’m committed to putting 100,000 families into new homes.

It’s ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government’s hands off approach that leaves it to the market.

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Ambitious? Of course – but also doable. This is not beyond our means and it’s laughable that those right wingers who poo-poo the idea as “too hard” or “too costly” are always – always – the same ones who defend against similar   criticisms levelled at  National’s “pet projects” for their business mates.

Evidently subsidising Warner Bros (a multi-billion dollar corporation) or a rugby tournament with our taxes is “not hard” and “not costly”. It’s called an ‘investment’.

So why is building homes for our own people “too hard” or “too costly”?!

Right wingers have a blinkered view of the world and a narrow idea of what is an ‘investment’.

Housing for our citizens is a human right and something we’ve always taken pride in. This is Labour’s core strength; ensuring a roof over peoples’ heads.

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They see through the tinkering with the RMA.

They see through the latest excuse – to blame the local Council.

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Well sussed.

Key has been blaming everyone and everything for the poor state of our economy; rising unemployment; growing poverty, etc.

  • In 2008 he blamed his money-trader mates
  • He’s blamed the Global Financial Crisis
  • He’s blamed people receiving welfare payments
  • He’s blamed “dodgy statistics”
  • He’s blamed the Labour Party
  • He’s blamed the Greens
  • He’s blamed Winston Peters

And now, recently, Key and his National cronies have taken to blaming local body councils,

We need more houses built in New Zealand, at a lower cost. That means we need more land available for building, more streamlined processes and less costly red tape…

… It’s ridiculous that we allow councils to demand almost anything as a condition for the consent.

And it’s ridiculous that we allow them to charge whatever fees they want.

See: John Key’s State of the Nation speech – post mortem

I’m waiting for him to next blame aliens, Illuminatii, et al.

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It’s just not credible.

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Damn right it’s not.

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It’s also why Labour will introduce a Capital Gains Tax to move investment into business and away from property speculation that is pushing house prices through the roof.

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Problem, solution.

Good.

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When a student graduating from university faces 7.3% unemployment and little chance of getting a job, it’s time to act.

They’ve done their bit, we need to do ours.

It’s heart-breaking watching parents waving goodbye to their kids at our airports.

People want to work – they just need the jobs.

Two days ago, John Key had an epiphany: We have a youth unemployment problem – we need apprentices.

Good on him. I thank the focus group that brought that to his attention.

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There was thunderous applause from the audience at this point.  The remark referring to “government by focus group” is a quip  that National constantly  tossed at the Clark government.

It applies equally well to National’s term. Let’s keep using it.

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There are now 20 per cent fewer apprentices today than when he took office. We are now importing foreign labour to meet skills shortages in the biggest rebuild in our history in Christchurch.

Is he just waking up to this now? Is this government asleep at the wheel, completely out of touch?

You don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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There was a touch of humour as Shearer said, “you don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.” The audience loved the wry touch and laughed. The laughter was at National’s expense.

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I have been serious about youth unemployment from the day I was elected leader.

Labour’s plans are out there. I’d be delighted if this government picked them up and ran with them.

For example:

We’ll pay employers the equivalent of the dole to take on apprentices.

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More loud applause. Everyone welcomes the idea of apprentices – what’s not to like? Taking young folk from our 85,000 Unemployed or Not in Education or Training(NEET); training them into a trade; adding to the skills base of our country – this is real investment.

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We’ll back Kiwi businesses to get their slice of the $30 billion dollars the Government contracts out every year – but we will require them to take on apprentices and trainees in return.

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This is the kind of  social contract that only a centre-left government can enact. National’s neo-liberal dogma could not allow such a hands-on, visibly interventionist, policy. It flies in the face of everything they hold dear; that only the “Market” can create jobs.

Labour (or any other centre-left and left Party) has no such constraints. They can be utterly pragmatic and do whatever it takes to generate jobs.

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We’ll give tax breaks to companies doing world-leading research and development, so the innovations – and the jobs – they create stay right here in New Zealand.

Another thing.

When I see talented people forced to leave their home town because there’s nothing on offer for them, it’s time to act.

That’s why we’ll work with councils on projects that support their provinces. Projects like the Gisborne to Napier rail link to boost economic development and create jobs.

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This was well received by the audience, with good applause and rowdy cheering. The audience seemed to understand perfectly well the long-term value of rail.

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When I hear of high value manufacturers shedding jobs because our high dollar cuts them off at the knees, it’s time to act.

We’ll make changes to monetary policy so that our job-creating businesses aren’t undermined by our exchange rate.

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Problem, solution.

Excellent.

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When a 5 year old girl falls asleep in class because she had no breakfast before she left home, it’s time to act.

Labour will put food in schools, to make sure all our kids get the same chance to learn.

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Problem, solution.

On a roll…

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When a mum and dad work long hours but still can’t afford healthy food for their kids, it’s time to act.

We’ll lift the minimum wage and champion a living wage to make sure hard work can provide a decent living.

This is what I mean when I say we need a smart Government prepared to act.

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Problem, solution.

Good stuff!

Plenty of applause at these statements.  And plenty of material for the electronic media,

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And print media,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com David Shearer - 27 January 2013 - new era new solutions - wainuiomata rugby club

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This is where National will continue to be on the back-foot. Come 2014, (if the Nat-led Coalition lasts that long – by no means a foregone conclusion) Key and his administration will have been in office for six years. Aside from balancing the books (oh f****n hooray), what will be their legacy? What practical achievements can they present to the voting public after two terms in office.

Bugger all, I would suggest.

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A Government that says we will back you if you’re prepared to do your best.

Yes, we face huge challenges, but by being hands on we can turn our biggest challenges into opportunities for the future.

Since we announced KiwiBuild last year, excitement is growing. Architects, construction companies and designers around NZ have been in touch.

They see an opportunity to build affordable, energy-efficient – even energy generating – houses.

Houses that use home grown sustainable materials.

Houses that families will be proud to call home.

This is an idea the country is embracing.

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And it’s also 100% feasible. There is no reason why any of Shearer’s suggestions cannot be implemented. It is, after all, part of our innovative, “number 8 fencing wire” mentality that we love to espouse as a Kiwi characteristic.

Ok, well let’s put that into operation. Not just to make money for overseas corporates like Warner Bros – but for our own young people.

This is the kind of talk that cuts through the free market, neo-liberal BS. This is what will encourage New Zealanders to call  this country home – and not just a launching pad for overseas destinations.

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More than 70 per cent of Kiwis support our KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 first homes.

New Zealanders are also behind our other new ideas and those numbers are growing.

Most people see the need for a Capital Gains Tax on investment properties.

Nearly six in every ten New Zealanders support our idea to make KiwiSaver universal.

And nearly two-thirds of you back our pledge to protect universal superannuation for future generations by gradually lifting the age of eligibility.

The forces of conservatism said that reforming Super wasn’t the right thing to do.

It wouldn’t be popular – so we shouldn’t do it. They were wrong.

New Zealanders are forward thinking and are prepared to do what it takes to create a better future.

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When New Zealanders understand the long-term implications of their decisions, and vote accordingly for sensible policies on Election Day, we can achieve great things.

But when we vote through sheer stupidity for selfish reasons – as many did on 29 November 1975 for Robert Muldoon – we inevitably achieve short term gain. But loose out Big Time on long term benefits (see related blogpost:   Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late).

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National has a big idea of course – it’s to sell our best assets.

And, with them, goes another chunk of our future.

That is their plan.

Most Kiwis hate it. And we are behind them fighting that idea all the way.

 HANDS ON – A GLOBAL TREND

 Labour isn’t alone in knowing the time has come for active government.

A movement of leaders and people across the world have realised the old hands-off solutions take us nowhere.

It’s a new way of thinking and it’s evolving.

New Zealanders are looking to a government that will roll up its sleeves and back them.

You do your part, and we the government will do ours.

In 2014 that’s the Government I will lead.

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And that it pretty much what persuaded voters to support Labour and it’s coalition partners in 1999. The do-nothing, slash-and-burn mentality of Bolger and Shipley  was driving New Zealand to a yawning chasm. Neo-liberalism was creating a nightmarish society of high unemployment, degraded social services, missed opportunities, and widening gap between the rich and poor.

Sound familiar?

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 AGENDA FOR 2013

Kiwis won’t have to wait until the election to find out what I stand for and what I’ll do about the issues that matter to them.

I’ve already put clear stakes in the ground on housing affordability, quality education, growing jobs and the economy.

There’s more to come.

For Labour, this year is about preparing for Government.

We want New Zealanders to know that we’re ready to govern.

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It’s simple: appear confident and act like a government-in-waiting – and they will flock to you.

Note, this applies also to NZ First, Mana, and the Greens. The public want to see Opposition Parties working together for the good of the country as a whole. By all means offer your own policies for public debate – but take note that there’s a very fine demarcation between debate and squabbling.

Any hint of squabbling and the voters will turn of.

There have to be positive reasons for voters to take a punt on voting for the Opposition.

Work together, in a cool, calm, methodical, professional manner – and they will flock to you.

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That’s why today I’m setting out my agenda for the year.

Number one is jobs.

It is our most urgent priority and cuts across everything we do.

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Damn straight.

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Labour’s plan to build new affordable homes will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.

A job is more than a weekly wage, it’s gives people a purpose and pride in themselves. That’s why I’m focussed on jobs.

Our housing proposals are at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency.

This year we will bring together the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others to a housing conference.

I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office.

First-home buyers shouldn’t have to wait.

Jacinda Ardern, my Social Development spokesperson, will produce an alternative white paper this year, setting out our direction to help lift kids out of poverty.

There are 270,000 children in hardship in this country, and the government is failing them.

Kids deserve the best chance in life regardless of their parents’ wealth, and with Labour they will get that.

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And those of us on the Left will be supporting, encouraging, and where necessary, nudging, a Labour-led government to maintain the focus of these problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) .

It is simply unacceptable to have poverty in this country and tackling this cancer in our society must rank at the top, along with job creation and caring for our children.

On this note, I would suggest that David Shearer demonstrate his total commitment to addressing child poverty in this country by taking on the role of Minister for Children.

There is nothing more important to the future of our nation than our children. (Some rightwingers don’t get this simple fact – but then, they do suffer from a brain-deficit in comprehension of social problems.)

John Key made himself Minister of Tourism – and spent his holidays in Hawaii. I guess he’s Minister of Tourism for Hawaii, and we just didn’t hear that part of the announcement.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister’s portfolio must be Minister for Children.

No ifs, buts, or maybes – that will set the tone of an incoming Labour-led government.

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Their best opportunity is from a world-class education system.

We’ve already set out our plan to put food in schools and extend reading recovery so our kids aren’t destined to be drop outs from their first day at school.

This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs.

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Suggestions;

1. Can Charter Schools. These are parasitic neo-liberal constructs which add nothing to our education system.

2. Look at Finland. They’re at the top of OECD PISA tables for achievement. I suggest they have a wealth of knowledge we can  gain from them. (Finland does not use the “Charter schools” model.)

3. Whether of not NZ First joins the Coalition on an official basis, I would strongly suggest that MP Tracey Martin be given an education or health or Associate Minister of Children’s portfolio. This woman has talent and should not be over-looked. (Disclaimer: I’m not a member, supporter, or even fan of NZ First. But I recognise talent when I see it.)

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85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training.

It’s a flaw in our system.

I want to see our schools seamlessly connect to further training opportunities.

I want every child to go through school with a purpose and plan of where they’ll end up.

Because every young Kiwi deserves a shot at a career that excites and motivates them.

Without this we’ll continue to see kids, without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks.

And our employers will continue to struggle to find the skills they need.

That’s not a future I want for my kids or yours.

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Pretty damned obvious, eh?

I mean, really, it’s so fricken insanely straight forward.

In fact, it’s so patently obvious that voters have a clear choice,

A. Vote National and more of the same – 85,000 not in work, education or training.

B. Vote for a centre-left Coalition and get these kids into apprenticeships.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t get this?

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I’ve spoken of a clean, green, clever economy many times.

We need our environment to drive our economic success and our economy to keep our environment clean.

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Despite warnings from the likes of Dr Mike Joy that our environment was hardly the fiction of  being “100% Pure” or “Clean & Green”, right wing spin doctors (see:  When spin doctors go bad) and our Dear Leader don’t seem to understand the simple fact that much of our economy is predicated on our marketing brand (see:  John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth).

Dr Joy was lambasted by Mark Unsworth – a rabid right-wing lobbyist for a professional “government relations consultancy” company, Saunders Unsworth – who condemned the scientist as an economic “saboteur” on 21 November, last year.

Now, as our environmental mishaps begin to compound, the chooks are coming home to roost – and crap all over everything,

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NZ works on agreement on residue in milk

Source

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The reality is we will not create more better paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder.

We’ve been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers.

Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high tech, or the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources.

It will be built by those that see the promise and opportunity of a clean, green future.

Great ideas are emerging from organisations like Pure Advantage, and from thousands of innovative can-do Kiwis.

A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of my vision. That’s why our manufacturing inquiry that starts tomorrow is an important first step.

But the commitment is lacking from government.

Well I am committed to this future.

There is simply no other option.

That is why I have asked my colleagues to develop a clear plan to diversify our economy.

A plan we can put in front of New Zealanders, not airy fairy concepts.

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There was more applause to this…

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All of these areas – jobs, education, housing and building a new economy – are critical to rebuilding our second largest city.

I am committed to rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down.

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A part of me thinks that “rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down” may be the toughest, most demanding of Labour’s promises.  300,000 Cantabrians may have 300,000 opinions as to what should be done.

At the very least, a Labour-led government must put an end to  school closures and the prospect of the Charter Schools experiment. Christchurch has enough stresses without central government adding to the woes of an already vulnerable community.

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That’s why I’ll be talking to Cantabrians about how they see their future.

To ensure their voices are heard.

That’s what we’ll work on in the coming months.

These ideas will make a difference.

These are ideas National simply can’t see.

CONCLUSION

The difference between the forces of conservatism and the need for change has never been wider.

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Indeed. On almost every level, there is a world of difference between the expectations of National Party supporters and those who support Labour, the Greens, Mana, and NZ First.

The differences are best epitomised by the issue of child poverty.

National/ACT supporters play the blame-game and deride parents for making “bad choices”. Key himself validated this belief in February 2011, when he said,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

This attitude of selfishness can become vicious and downright psychopathic in cruelty. Perhaps the nastiest I’ve seen was Damien Grant’s piece in the NZ Herald yesterday – see:  Damien Grant: I’d rather a better phone than feed a hungry child.

People like Grant – and those who posted vile messages in support of his comments – are the mean spirited, self-centered, dark side of humanity. Their vision of  society would not be too dis-similar to to Dickens’ Victorian-era world.

Though strangely enough, Rightwingers/National Party supporters are never quite able to explain  how a child can choose to be born into a family ridden by unemployment, poverty, dysfunction, addiction, abuse. Strange, eh?

Labour/Green/Mana and probably NZ first supporters see problems such as  child poverty as a societal problem that affects us all. They understand there are many reason why a family may be living in poverty.

With 175,000 New Zealanders now unemployed, it’s hardly surprising that poverty is increasing. Contrary to the bizarre fantasies of right wingers and low-information voters, the dole is not very generous. No one in their right mind would give up a job earning $600 a week, to go on the dole for $204.96 a week, net (see:   WINZ Unemployment Benefit – current).

A priority of an incoming Labour-led government should be  to un-do the benefit cuts of Ruth Richardson in 1991. It is an indictment on Labour that it never carried out this positive reform during it’s tenure in office.

Aside from being the right thing to do, Labour should ask itself; why should the poorest in our society vote for them if they don’t un-do the policies of previous right-wing  governments?

What’s in it for them?

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Come 2014, New Zealanders will face a choice more stark than any in a generation.

A choice in the direction of their country.

A choice between staying as we are and managing our decline, or being part of a hands-on

Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders.

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Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders“.

Code for the fickle middle classes?

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A government that chooses action over excuses.

A government that understands the world is entering a new era and we need to change with it.

One that shares the determination and passion of those Kiwis who inspire us most.

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There was more loud applause at this point. Despite not giving specifics, the audience seemed to like what they were hearing; the direction that Shearer was moving the Party.

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That’s the Labour Government I will lead.

But I can’t do it alone.

Today, I am asking for your help.

I want you to be part of my team and play a part in the next government.

I want to hear your hopes for this country and your ideas of how we get there.

I want each of you to take the Labour message out to your neighbours, your co-workers, your congregation, and your friends.

Tell them yes, we in the Labour Party are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.

We will not accept the status quo.

A tide for change is building.

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Indeed. And that tide for change is not just the poor; the unemployed; or the low-paid. Even businesspeople seem to be getting mightily pissed of at National’s arrogant  hands-off, do-nothing, Leave-It-To-The-Marketplace attitude,

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The managing director of a company that makes and exports a device that protects crops from hail stones said comments from the Government that his sector needs to get smarter are “insulting and unnecessary”.

Mike Eggers said he is sick of hearing politicians telling him he has to up his game if he wants to survive – when the high dollar makes it more and more difficult to operate.

“We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

A scrap-copper manufacturer told the inquiry the Government can’t continue to do nothing about the exchange rate.

A W Fraser managing director Gordon Sutherland said the over-inflated dollar is crippling exporters and it was disappointing when the Government told them to keep making efficiencies to remain viable.

“We know that – we’ve known that for a very, very long time. Of course we get efficient, of course we try and work as hard as we can to be efficient – it’s the only way we can exist. It drives me insane when people say, ‘Get efficient’. What do you think we are – idiots? We’re not.”

Joyce’s immediate response?

“Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.”

Mr Joyce said there was no simple answer to the problems the sector are facing, except to keep working hard to further improve their businesses.

See: Radio NZ – Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high NZ dollar

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If Joyce and his little  National buddies think that kind of response will win them the next election – they must be more deluded than I thought imaginable.

Joyce might as well have saved time and simply told exporters and manufacturers, “Go vote Labour”. The effect will be the same.

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Change that guarantees everyone gets ahead, not just those at the top.

Change so we once again stand tall as a country.

A country where we strive to be a leader – not a follower.

A country where the Government is hands-on and backs its people.

A country we can be proud of.

Friends, join with me to build that future.

Because, together, that’s what we will do in 2014.

Thank you.

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With that, Shearer concluded his speech.  As the audience rose to their feet, cheering enthusiastically, he left the stage,

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So, what to make of  Shearer’s performance?

Shearer spoke from a pre-prepared speech (hard-copy provided to this blogger) which he more or less followed. He spoke convincingly and  passionately and though perhaps not as charismatic as a Jim Anderton or younger Winston Peters or late Rod Donald, it was sufficient to present his message to people in the  Hall.

Reading a pre-prepared speech, this Blogger scores Shearer  a 6/7  (where 10 is in the league of Lange/Kirk/Savage and 1 is one-dimensional to the point of being robotic.)

The speech scores a 5/6. It was adequate – but perhaps something was missing. Something that would make a listener sit up, with the proverbial lighbulb switching on.

After Shearer left the stage, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard, invited the gathering outside to enjoy the beautiful hot day in an adjacent park, as well as a free sausage sizzle for all,

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A traditional Kiwi sausage sizzle provided free snacks – though there were suggestions that NZ Herald journo, Audrey Young (not pictured) pay for hers in the spirit of Market User Pays,

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It also gave Shearer an opportrunity to meet the press outside, to answer questions. Most questions  seemed focused on  Labour’s recently released Housing policy,

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Patrick Gower (at left, with pink tie) was the main questioner,

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At times the questions were so intent on detailed house pricing; number of bedrooms; location; location; location, that they  seemed more suitable for a real estate agent than a Party leader. But they were fair questions and this blogger has no quibble with them,

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I stood with the group throughout the Q + A session, listening and recording the exchange between Shearer and msm journos.

My impression? He has improved significantly since his earlier days as Labour’s mumbling, incoherent,  leader. Occassionally there is still hesitation, and that requires further training to make his speech patterns more fluid, natural, and assertive.

In any case, except for an occassional moment or two, he answered journo’s questions reasonably  well.

The question is – is he ready to go head-to-head with The Great Car Salesmen, aka, our Prime Minister John Key? Currently, I’m not sure. By 2014, with more practice and experience, and as his confidence grows, he has a fair chance.

What the Labour Party needs to do is ensure that not only does Shearer get the training and experience, but that he is 100% well-versed in every aspect of Labour policy and funding mechanism.

National is vulnerable right now, and this blogger  believes things are about to get a whole lot messier for the Tories. 2012 was only the beginning of their eventual demise as government.

There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, and every critic and opponant of National must do their bit; Party activists; MPs (which means side-lining hopeless non-performers and elevating those who are taking it to the Nats); bloggers; and disaffected ordinary New Zealanders who’ve had a gutsful.

2014 is ours to seize.

Other moments and faces of the day

Rimutaka MP, Chris Hipkins, (“Kennedy for President” t-shirt) and friends,

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Hutt Mp, Trevor Mallard, chatting with two members of the public,

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Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, and supporters,

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And Labour leader, David Shearer, listening intently to a fellow New Zealander,

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Other blogs

The Jackal: Anti Shearer faction loses traction

The Standard: For a February leadership vote

Disclaimer

This blogger has no links or preference to either “Team Shearer” or “Team Cunliffe”, and is mostly neutral in the leadership stakes.

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

Guest Author: David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party

- David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party

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Speech: New Zealand – A new direction  |  Sunday, November 18, 2012

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Today I want to talk about two paths that lie before us as a country.

Each offers very different directions and different choices.

One path leads to disappointment, decline and constant struggle.

That’s our country’s current path, the one National is taking.

The other path is about change.

It’s about a new direction for Labour and a new direction for New Zealand.

A new direction where we fight back, create opportunity and build a world class New Zealand that we’re proud of.

A new direction that’s about what is best for the long term, not just the short term.

A new direction that’s about all New Zealanders daring to dream and having the opportunity to get there.

Not just accepting second best and managing decline.

We’ve always been a creative, innovative people with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Respected and admired across the globe.

Down to earth. Willing to give it a go.

We need that new direction now more than ever.

It’s about building a smart, new and powerful economy that delivers a fairer society.

That’s what I stand for.

That’s what we can achieve together.

For most of the last 20 years, I lived in parts of the world where life was bleak.

Every time I came home, I counted my blessings.

I counted my good fortune that I had grown up in a country like this.

But we are losing what we once held dear.

Kiwis just want the chance to succeed, to be the best they can be and to build a great life.

It’s not too much to ask.

I got my fair chance growing up in Papatoetoe. My father was a teacher. My mum worked at the local school.

They gave us the kind of Presbyterian upbringing where you saved for what you needed, and made the most of what you had.

I remember Dad wanted a boat to take us kids out sailing but he didn’t have the money to buy it.

So he rolled up his sleeves, went to night classes and learned how to build one.

Over 4 months, he and I built that boat together in the garage.

That was the way things worked. The State backed you so you could realise your dream.

I grew up in a time when there were plenty of part-time jobs for kids and – thanks to penal rates – some of them were quite well-paid.

I had a paper round that earned me the money to pay for my own bike. I pumped gas at the Puhinui petrol station and learned the value of a dollar.

That’s what it was like back then, growing up in New Zealand.

I know it wasn’t perfect for everyone but for most Kiwi families, life gave you a fair go.

And, free, to everyone, was an education that could match any in the world.

A nation flourishes when it gives every person a fair chance.

When it looks after its own.

And when it prizes fairness and humanity.

It was when I went out into world that I discovered just how much that means.

I also learnt something about myself.

That if you’ve grown up with the values this country gave me, you can’t turn away. You just can’t.

So my life has been about making a difference.

Lifting people up when they need it the most. Making their lives better.

Giving them the opportunity to take the next step.

This world can be hugely indifferent to suffering.

For me, that came into stark relief when I went to Somalia. War and famine was overtaking the country.

A small group of us working there realised that unless something changed, thousands would die from hunger.

With daily gun battles being fought in the streets, we were faced with a choice.

Take a risk and make a change. Or shrug our shoulders and say the job’s too big, let’s get out of here.

We stayed. We made a change.

I worked with a dedicated team of Somali doctors and others. We fought to keep supply lines open to bring in food.

We fed around 30,000 children who would have died otherwise.

We evacuated our staff three times. I lost a colleague on that operation.

But I was never in any doubt. Standing up for what was right – what would make a difference – that was the right decision.

Looking back I feel immense satisfaction.

But I can tell you it also makes it very clear to me where my priorities lie.

I am in politics to make lives better.

I’m not here to cross something off my bucket list. Or to indulge in some sense of celebrity.

I went out into the world to help improve people’s lives and I’ve chosen to enter politics for the same reason.

It’s why I want to lead this country and it’s why I need your support to get there.

Together we can make a difference. A big difference.

The values I bring with me are the ones that I was raised with.

They are the ones that I took with me out into the world.

They are Labour values. They’re our values: that everyone should have a fair chance and the opportunity to get ahead.

And if you agree people are not being given that fair chance right now then I’m asking you to join me in making the changes we need.

Change can make people uneasy.

But change has always been what has saved us in times of trouble, and it can save us again.

The first Labour government made the big changes that mattered:

affordable housing,

free schooling,

free health care,

a fair start for every child.

Don’t let anyone tell you a government can’t do big things to change lives.

Those big changes led New Zealand out of the Depression and it was this party that made them.

We are the party that is brave about change.

I think about Norman Kirk’s government establishing the Waitangi Tribunal that has helped reconcile Māori and Pakeha. And his commitment to New Zealand’s independent place in the world.

I think of David Lange standing up for our independence at the Oxford Union debate:  “hold your breath for just a moment – I can smell the uranium on it.”

It’s not just a great line, it’s about a great idea. Today we’re still nuclear free and I’m proud of that.

And the thousands of children lifted out of poverty under Helen Clark. The icons of Kiwisaver and KiwiBank were put in place.

Don’t let anyone tell you a government can’t do big things to change lives.

We made big changes and New Zealand flourished.

But where is our country today?

Where is the sense of possibility?

Where, I ask our Prime Minister, are the jobs?

It should never have come to this.

Imagine this scenario, for just a moment.

If we had kept Norman Kirk’s Superannuation Scheme – that Muldoon scrapped – it would be worth more than $240 billion today.

We would probably still own some of our banks and many other major companies.

Our entrepreneurs would be thriving because we’d have so much capital to invest in their ideas.

The Kirk Labour government could see the future. The National government saw political opportunism.

When our opponents say they want to grow our economy, I don’t doubt their sincerity.

But I doubt their method. I doubt it fundamentally.

How have they done in the last 4 years? Measure the results any way you want:

the cost of your groceries,

the money you’re earning,

the affordability of houses

1,000 Kiwis a week give up hope and go to Australia despite John Key promising he’d turn those numbers around.

That’s the population of Hamilton leaving since National was elected. It’s never been higher.

This government simply hasn’t delivered.

Our unemployment rate is 7.3%. Can you remember who was in power the last time it was this bad? Let me remind you it was the last National Government.

Right now there’s 175,000 people looking for work.

Māori and Pasifika unemployment is at 15%. One in four of our young people are unemployed.

And week after week, the losses just keep on coming.

Behind those numbers are real people, real families and real communities.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with miners who’ve lost their jobs at Spring Creek.

Darryl Sweetman is a miner. His future should be bright.

He has a lovely family, a partner, a daughter and a new-born son. But Darryl’s been laid off.

He’s worried he’ll lose the home they’ve been renovating and have to leave the town he’s lived in his entire life.

Paris Brady came back from Australia to raise his young family in Greymouth. He’s the kind of guy we need here.

Keen, motivated and used to hard graft. But just 10 weeks into his mining apprenticeship, he’s had the rug pulled out from under him and he’s out of work.

All over the country that’s the human face of losing jobs.

When this Government rests its entire hopes for future economic growth on the rebuild of Christchurch – our biggest natural disaster – you know it has no ideas.

What will it take for National to admit its hands-off policies aren’t working?

They know in their hearts that selling Mighty River Power will not make our power bills cheaper.

That selling Meridian won’t create a single job.

That selling Genesis won’t grow the economy.

Yet they knock us for being a party that can’t deliver growth.

Let me tell you. The evidence tells a different story.

If we compare all National and Labour Governments, back through history, the average GDP growth under National is 2.9%.

Under Labour, it’s 3.7%.

Who are the best economic managers?

But this government takes the prize. It has the worst economic performance in 50 years.

And we should remind ourselves of this:

In 2008, this National government inherited one of the world’s best government books after 9 budget surpluses.

And in 2 years’ time, no doubt, they’ll hand them back to us in bad shape.

The problem is that in order to pull us out of this hole they’re turning to the very ideas that put us there in the first place.

You know and I know: it’s not going to work.

And that’s why we need big change.

VISION

We need a different path.

We need to fight for the future we want.

One where we make a real difference to people’s lives.

We have always been the Party of new ideas.

When it mattered throughout our history, we’ve been willing to use the power of government to give the country what it needs to move ahead.

New Zealand needs to use that power once more. And under my leadership, we will.

Five years ago, that might have been seen as economic heresy in many places.

But not today.

Governments all around the world are intervening in their economies to dig themselves out of a vast Global Financial hole.

And they’ve got it right.

Hugh Fletcher is not what you’d call a radical.

But just a couple of weeks ago he was on the radio saying the laissez-faire status quo position is not acceptable.

He said our exporters were finding it hard to compete and we would have to come up with a new approach.

The Manufacturers and Exporters Association is saying the same thing.

So too is the EPMU.

And so are we.

There is a meeting of minds around a new direction.

The hands-off approach has failed and it’s left the world badly off balance.

Government has at its disposal levers that only it can pull.

Levers to change the settings that stimulate growth and opportunity.

As Prime Minister, I’ll use the power of government to change this country.

Let me be clear, it’s not about big government.

It’s about common sense.

It’s about using government intelligently, so it can transform the economy for everyone.

In a small country like New Zealand competing against the world’s economic giants, we need the government to pitch in together, not step back.

If you are willing to do your bit, the government should do its bit too.

It needs to be a player, not a spectator.

We need to get the country firing on all cylinders again.

I know we need to grow the economic pie – not just be expert in dividing it.

That means prudent financial management. It means balancing our budgets.

It means making the tough decisions to reduce our current account deficit.

This government hopes we can get there by cutting costs, selling assets and driving down the cost of labour.

It won’t work. It never has.

If you want to run the economy like they do, this is what you’ll get:

A few very wealthy people at the top,

No decent jobs in the middle

And a whole lot of low-skill, low wage families barely managing to hold on.

That’s a strategy that is as short sighted as it is heartless.

I have no interest in building an economy where only a few get rich, and everyone else gets left behind.

I lived in too many ruined countries where that happened to want to ever see it happen here.

My vision for New Zealand is fundamentally different from the one National is following.

New Zealand should be a place where people know they can get ahead, a place where the world wants to live and a place we can all be proud of.

A place that rewards talent and hard work, that puts a premium on innovation. Where our environment is a driver of our economic success and our economy keeps our environment clean.

A place which grows skilled, well-paid jobs and keeps our kids in New Zealand.

I want to lead that transformation.

I want a fair society where everyone gets a chance.

Where we look after those who need it, but where everyone has a responsibility to do their bit too.

Rights and responsibilities – a society based on that simple social contract.

I want to lead a country that is independent and confident in the world.

Where our values dictate what we say and do, not the persuasions of other nations.

That’s the kind of country we all want.

A few months ago, I spoke of that vision.

I received an email from Paul Callaghan thanking me. Because of course, his thinking had inspired me.

I phoned him back to thank him. For devoting his life to making New Zealand a better place.

He died 3 days later.

His inspiration is still with me.

He argued New Zealand cannot grow wealthy on agriculture alone. Valuable as it will always be, we must add to it and diversify our economy.

We must get behind our new smart, innovative businesses – that are growing faster than any other sector.

They are doing their bit. The Government should do its bit. Under Labour it will.

To realise that vision I promise that from the day we take office, you will see big change.

Right across the economy we will make fundamental changes.

We will replace a simplistic hands-off approach with a smart hands-on one.

Monetary policy will change.

So when the high dollar is killing our exporters we will give the Reserve Bank tools to act on the exchange rate.

Our manufacturers are our job generators.

If they’re doing their bit, we should do ours with intelligent government.

The R&D policy will change.

Most of what New Zealand exports today was known to the world before the industrial revolution.

This government treats Research & Development as ‘nice to have’.

We will treat it as absolutely vital to grow our smart businesses so they can take their products to the world.

We’ll change our tax system for the better.

We will bring in what this economy desperately needs:  a capital gains tax.

We want people to invest in houses because they need a place to live, not because they get a tax free investment.

To shift investment instead into productive businesses to grow jobs.

The savings policy will change.

We’ll enrol everyone into KiwiSaver. That will support our retirement, but also build an investment pool to power our best businesses.

That means companies like F&P Appliances can be owned here, not sold off-shore.

We’ll change the approach to productivity.

Kiwis work longer hours than just about anywhere else in the world. But you wouldn’t know it looking at our pay packets.

That’s because the hands-off approach says: “pay low wages, cut back on conditions and ramp up casualization”.

That has to end. We’ll be hands-on. The Minimum Wage will go up. A Living Wage must be our goal.

And Labour laws will be reformed to restore decency.

We are proud of our unions and our origins. We thank them for what they do in standing up for workers’ rights, but we need to be in government to back you up.

The procurement policy will change.

The government spends $30 billion a year on contracting goods and services.

The simplistic hands-off approach says “forget about Hillside Railway workshops, forget about local jobs. Go for the cheapest offshore price.”

The intelligent hands-on approach says: “we get much more from each government dollar by investing in a Kiwi company”.

So wherever it’s the smart thing to do, we’ll prioritise the local supplier.

The approach to education will change.

I started my working life as a teacher. So I have an appreciation of the valuable job teachers do.

And I know a gimmick when I see one.

Bigger classes, unqualified teachers, charter schools and performance pay will achieve nothing.

The intelligent approach, the one I will follow is the one that asks:  what will it take to make this education system the best in the world?

Our teachers are demoralised. Yet we all know they are critical to equipping our kids for the modern world.

We know too that shutting schools in Christchurch destroys communities and causes heartache for already distressed families.

I went to a public meeting there after receiving a moving letter from Christchurch mum Sonya Boyd.  She’s devastated that her local school will close and is worried about the impact on her son Ben, his friends and in fact the whole community.

At that meeting a parent told me: Hekia Parata is doing what 10,000 earthquakes couldn’t do – destroying our school.

I say to the people of Christchurch: we are committed to helping you rebuild your city from the grassroots up – not the Beehive down.

You want, more than anything, to get your lives back, and on your own terms.

It’s time you had a government that stood alongside you.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

So those are the big changes we’ve already committed to.

To lift the economy. To grow jobs.

Today we add another important item: housing.

Owning your own home is a Kiwi ambition but for tens of thousands of New Zealanders it’s a dream that’s out of reach.

If there is one thing your newspaper tells you every day about life in New Zealand it’s this:

We have a housing problem. And it’s a deep seated problem.

If you’re a young person today, you look at the cost of houses and you despair.

For the first time, home ownership in Auckland has dropped below 60%.

It’s one of the reasons so many of our young people are giving up and going to Australia.

The National government’s answer fell woefully short of what is needed.

They don’t understand that the market has failed first-home buyers.

The simple fact is we need more affordable houses.

It’s time for Government to step up.

And we will.

Today I’m announcing that we will put 100,000 Kiwi families into their first home.

That’s the sort of big change we need to make a big difference to people’s lives.

We’ll oversee and invest in a large scale 10 year building programme of entry-level houses that Kiwis are crying out for.

Yes, it’s a big commitment and it’ll take a couple of years to ramp up, but we can do it.

I won’t stand by while the dream of home ownership slips away from future generations.

At the peak of last decade, about 30,000 new homes were built a year. Now it’s less than half that.

These are the missing rungs on the housing ladder. And it shows what an active and responsible government can do to help.

The start-up cost of the building programme will be financed through issuing government stock called Home Ownership Bonds.

The money we make from selling the houses will go back into the pot for building more.

The houses will be compact in size. Some will be stand-alone dwellings and others apartments. All of them will be good quality and energy efficient.

The homes will be sold to first home buyers who’ve saved their own deposit, like with KiwiSaver.

We estimate that the maximum needed to be raised for a kick-start will be $1.5 billion.

It will quickly become self-funding though. And because it’s a capital investment, it won’t affect our commitment to balance the books and return to surplus.

I can already hear our opponents complaining that this is too bold. That the problem’s too big and there’s nothing we can do.

I won’t accept that. I won’t give up on the Kiwi dream of an affordable home.

I have spoken to Auckland Mayor Len Brown to take up his offer of a partnership with Auckland council to make land available.

In addition, we will introduce a National Policy Statement under the RMA to ensure that planning rules and consenting decisions support affordable housing.

We want to make a difference.

Building 100,000 new houses will create training opportunities for apprenticeships, more jobs and give a $2 billion dollar a year boost to the economy.

This will make a big difference but alone, it’s not enough.

HEALTHY HOMES GUARANTEE

Too many Kiwi families are living in cold, damp and mouldy homes.

This affects their health and their quality of life.

Because of this, we’re seeing the sort of third world diseases that I was battling in Somalia in our own communities here. That’s not right.

Child poverty is a scourge that robs hundreds of thousands of kids of their future.

This cannot continue.

Let me be clear, we are not prepared to have families, particularly children, living in these conditions.

Eradicating poverty will be a top priority for the next Labour Government.

That’s why we’ll introduce a Healthy Homes Guarantee so landlords have to ensure every rental property is a healthy home that’s insulated and has efficient heating.

It’s time for poor quality houses to be brought up to scratch with minimum standards.

The crucial point is: this is about smart government pulling the levers to make New Zealand a better place.

We will take action where the market has failed for the benefit of thousands of Kiwis.

CONCLUSION

We have done the work we needed to do to change ourselves at this conference.

Now it’s time to lift our sights and to come together to change New Zealand.

Our Labour movement has always relied on the hard work of volunteers.

I thank you for everything that you do to support our cause and to support our country.

And now I ask you to join me.

Norman Kirk once famously said: New Zealanders don’t ask for much: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.

As much I’d like to, I can’t provide everyone with someone to love.

But everyone should have a job, a home – and a country we can all have hope in.

But we won’t on National’s track. It’s full of disappointment and is taking us nowhere.

We need to change.

We need a new direction.

One that’s about using our Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude to create new wealth.

One that encourages Kiwis to dream of what can be.

One that offers opportunities to realise that dream.

One where everyone who plays their part shares the rewards.

And, one where the government gets stuck in too.

I promise you this: from the day we take office, we will turn over a new page for this country and continue Labour’s proud tradition of progressive government.

We won’t be taking office to tinker, we’ll be taking office to remake New Zealand.

So I am asking you.

To rise up.

To take a message of hope to New Zealanders.

To fight for our future.

To say loud and clear that there is a better way. There is a Labour way.

We can do it, standing strong together.

We can make the change.

And we’ll do that in 2014.

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The betrayal of our young people

10 October 2012 11 comments

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In 2007…

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Today, in the suburb where I grew up, I want to talk about what I consider to be an important part of The Kiwi Way. I want to talk about opportunity, and hope, and how we can bring these to some of the most struggling families and communities in New Zealand.

Part of The Kiwi Way is a belief in opportunity and in giving people a fair go.

As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.

We want all kids to have a genuine opportunity to use their talents and to get rewarded for their efforts. That’s The Kiwi Way, and I believe in it. After all, I was one of the many kids who benefited from it

You might ask “where will the money come from?”

The fact is we are already spending millions of dollars for Wellington bureaucrats to write strategies and to dream up and run their own schemes. I want more of those dollars spent on programmes that work, regardless of who thinks them up and who runs them.”

- John Key, 30 January 2007

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Unemployment rate December 2007:

77,000 (3.4%)

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In 2008…

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

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

- John Key, 29 January 2008

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In 2010…

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“90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

The 90-day trial period is to be extended to enable all employers and new employees to have the chance to benefit from it, says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.

The extension is among planned changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 that Prime Minister John Key announced today in a speech to the National Party Conference.

“The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families.”

“There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff….”

… “Trial periods were introduced to encourage employers to take on new staff and I’m pleased to see this is occurring”.”

- Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Labour, 18 July, 2010

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In 2012…

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Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

Unemployment: 162,000 (6.8%)

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“New youth pay rates kicking in

The Government will re-introduce a a youth pay rate which will see 16-to-19-year-olds making a minimum $10.80 per hour.

The new pay rate, to be called the ‘starting-out wage’, will not be compulsory but 40,000 teens will be eligible.

It will kicks in on April 1 next year and the Government estimates it will create up to 2000 youth jobs in the first two years.

The starting-out wage will be set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage, which is currently $13.50 per hour.

It will apply for six months after starting with a new employer. The move was National Party policy ahead of the election last November.”

- Dominion Post, 9 Oct 2012

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The above facts and stats tell a grim story.

The prologue to this story are the high expectations which John Key presented to the people of New Zealand in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007, Key spoke of  “opportunity, and hope, and how we can bring these to some of the most struggling families and communities in New Zealand “.

In 2008, Key pledged that  “we will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.

Four years later;

National’s latest ‘offering’? To cut the minimum wage for 16 to 19 year olds.

The logic of this policy – planned to start on 1 April 2013 – defies comprehension. In fact, the only way it can be understood is that National is utterly desperate.

New employment figures are due out on 4 November from Statistics NZ, and this blogger predicts that unemployment will rise from 6.8% (currently) to 6.9% or even 7%.

Quite simply, none of National’s policies have worked.

Even Key’s promise to raise wages has been an abject failure, sending thousands of kiwis to Australia and further afield, in search of jobs.

National’s plan to cut the wages of young New Zealanders is similar to their cynical ploy to depict welfare beneficiaries as lazy, drug-users, criminals, etc.

Instead, they are targetting 16 and 17 year olds – who have no vote – and have no voice in Parliament.

And they are targetting 18 and 19 year olds – who are adult enough to drink, get married, and go to fight in wars overseas – but will not be paid an adult’s wage.

National claims that the new youth rates will create 2,000 new jobs. Aside from mocking this figure as a gigantic step down from the 170,000 “new jobs” promised last year – it is more likely that those 2,000 jobs will simply displace older workers.

In doing so, the employment of young people on lower pay will simply mean,

  1. Less money spent by young people on services and consumer goods,
  2. Young people unable to support themselves fully
  3. A new motivation to send more New Zealanders overseas
  4. New Zealand becoming a low wage economy of the South Pacific

How can a young New Zealander survive on $432 a week – less tax?!

It wasn’t too long ago that Bill English admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 6 November 2011,  that it was almost impossible to live on the full minimum wage ($13.50/hr),

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

If it’s “ pretty damn tough ” to live on $13 or $13.50 an hour – what on Earth must it be like to try to survive on $10.80 per hour?

And how does our smile & wave (and forgetful) Dear Leader reconcile slashing the minimum wage by his promises to raise wages?

Specifically, these promises,

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”  – John Key, 6 September 2008

“We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

By now, more and more New Zealanders are waking up to one simple reality; National cannot lead this country to prosperity or anything remotely resembling it. Their policies for growth seem predicated on,

  • cutting wages
  • asset sales
  • bullying and demonising beneficiaries
  • planning dangerous and unsound deep-sea drilling of the East Coast of the Nth Island
  • mining in conservation lands

It is the height of desperation and bloody-mindedness that National’s major policy of job-creation relies on cutting wages as some kind of “bribe” for employers.

It is the depth of stupidity that will see young people on $10.80 displacing older workers, as employers cut costs in order to maximise their profits – especially as consumer spending is dropping. (See: Electronic card spending drops in September)

It is this sense of sheer miserly selfishness that resulted in,

  • tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 which benefitted the richest in this country
  • abolishing tax credits for children, so they were now taxed on their megre earnings from jobs such as paper-delivery

Is this, then, an act of desperation from John Key and his inept “government”?

You better believe it is. And things are about to get a whole lot worse as National turns this country into a low-wage economy, making us the ‘Mexico’ of the South Pacific.

My message to New Zealand is two-fold;

1.

Voters: if you want more of this incompetant government that takes money from our young people, whilst cutting taxes for the richest  – vote National.

For those foolish people who vote National: enjoy your life here in New Zealand. Do not follow us to Australia.

2.

Labour Party: pull your finger out. It is high time you started firing on all cylinders and presented this country with an alternative vision and road.

Now’s good.

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Additional

Radio NZ: Listen to report on Checkpoint

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Phil O’Reilly (Business NZ)

Radio NZ: Listen to Peter Conway on Checkpoint (CTU)

Radio NZ: New teenage workers’ pay rate set

Fairfax media: New youth pay rates kicking in

Fairfax media: Division over ‘starter’ wage

Other Blogs

The Jackal: National determined to increase exodus

No Right Turn: The return of youth rates

 

 

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What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

20 August 2012 12 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats? (Part tahi)

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

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Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

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Full story

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This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3′s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

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Full story

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Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

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Paula Bennett

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Of all National ministers, Bennett’s  behaviour has become  most  irrational,  offensive,  and just downright bizarre.

Not content with “offering” sterilisation to  solo-mums (but never solo-dads)  and their daughters, her views on poverty are so breathtakingly, woefully ignorant that this blogger has come to the conclusion that her tax-payer funded tertiary education was a complete waste of time and money.

See:  Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s latest weird comments raised eyebrows and and a few hackles,

Get in the real world.

One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”

See:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Bennet then lashed out, saying she “wasn’t interested in measuring child poverty“, and instead her government was more focused on addressing the problems,

Of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it.”

See: scoop.co.nz – Combating poverty more important than measuring it

How can National “combat poverty” if they are not aware of the scale of it? How can a government budget appropriately, without knowing the numbers involved?

Are they just going to guess?

Which then brings us to the issue of Bennett’s instance that the unemployed be drug-tested,

There is certainly a line between recreational use and addiction and that is challenging in itself and it’s something we’ll have to work through.

“At the end of the day you’ve potentially got thousands of New Zealanders who are unable to work because of recreational use and this paper also identifies that as a real problem, so we need to keep working our way through a solution“.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Again, the question needs to be asked – how many unemployed are on drugs?

Is it 99%?

Is it 50%?

Is it 10%?

Is it 2%?

Is it 0.00001%?

We need to know this, because National may be about to throw $14 million of our tax dollars at this “problem”,

The plan to cut benefits for job seekers who fail drug tests has been met with criticism by the Ministry of Health, saying it could cost up to $14 million a year.

[abridged]

Ms Bennett told Radio New Zealand she would not reconsider sanctioning only drug users based on the Ministry of Health’s concerns and said she was going ahead with the policy.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Bennett’s response?

I just don’t feel that we need to trawl through evidence and give that much kind of evidence to something that is just so obvious.

And added, that she was acting on information from,

“…the visits, from face to face meetings, I don’t know, from some of the international research I’ve seen.”

See: Paula Bennett so sure she’s right

Never let facts get in the way of some damned good prejudice, eh, Ms Bennett?

National’s intention to throw millions of our tax dollars at a problem that may or may not exist, and has not been quantified, beggars belief. It also makes a hollow mockery of John Key’s 2008 pledge to spend our money wisely,

We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.”

See:  John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

National was in opposition when Dear Leader made that pledge. Things change, I guess, when a Party becomes government and has access to our taxes.

The ‘bullishness’ of a cornered National Minister is clearly coming through on this issue.

So if Paula Bennett is ignoring Health Ministry advice,

  1. Where is she getting her advice and data from?
  2. Does she know the number of unemployed who are using recreational drugs?
  3. How much has National budgetted for this programme?
  4. If National has budgetted for drug testing – they must have an idea how many unemployed will be affected?
  5. In which case, we’re back to #1; Where is she getting her advice and data from?

Would Bennett know, for example, how  many of these recently-made redundant workers are on drugs;

See previous blogpost: Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

The answer, my friends, is not blown in the wind – it’s blown out her —- !

Let’s dispense with  the bovine excrement and stop the tip-toeing on this issue.

National was elected in 2008 on a pledge to raise our wages to parity with Australia.

See: John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Not only have they failed, but our wage-gap with our Aussie cuzzies is actually widening.

See: Wage gap grows $1 a month – Labour

National was elected in 2011 on a pledge to create 170,000 new jobs.

See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

Instead, our unemployment has risen to 6.8%.

See:  Unemployment rises: 6.8pc

In almost every respect, National’s policies – which are heavily reliant on the free market to deliver desired outcomes like growth and jobs – have failed.

John Key is presiding over,

  • a stagnant economy
  • rising unemployment
  • a low wage economy
  • wide gap with Australia
  • rising government debt
  • more New Zealanders escaping to Australia
  • and no plans to fix this mess except cuts to the state sector, asset sales, charter schools, crushing cars, and “reforming” the welfare system

That’s it. The “Grand Plan”. That’s as good as it get’s folks.

With more and more redundancies (see above) and  unemployment continuing to creep upward, Bennett’s plans to drug test the jobless is a deflection – an attempt to blame the victims of National’s (lack of) policies.

Drug testing the unemployed  is a ploy.

The unemployed are victims of the global financial crisis. Just  as National likes to make out that that it’s economic policies are also impacted by the recent GFC and resultant recession. It’s obscene that National uses the GFC as an excuse for their failings – and yet deny the unemployed the very same rationale for having lost their jobs.

By demanding drug testing, Bennett is sending a clear message to National’s redneck constituency, and to low information voters, that all unemployed are drug-addled, lazy,  ne’er-do-wells.

Because as we all know, being on the dole on $204.96 (nett, weekly) is a “lifestyle choice”, rather than working and earning the average wage; $800.

National has no idea how many unemployed are on drugs.

But they are still prepared to waste millions of dollars on pursuing a policy of drug testing.

All because they have failed to create the jobs they promised.

All because they need a scapegoat to show their dim-witted constituents that it’s the welfare beneficiaries at fault.

The Nazis used the scapegoating technique well well in the 1930s, when they blamed Jews, communists, gypsies, trade unionists, etc, for Germany’s economic problems.

National’s strategy here should be crystal-clear to us all; they are dangling the unemployed as scapegoats to the ill-informed; the prejudiced; and  low-information voters, for whom unemployment is a vague concept; the Global Financial Crisis happened “somewhere else“; and the dole is some unimaginably generous payment.

Very few low-information voters understand that the dole for a single person is only $204.96 (nett, weekly).

Very few National supporters understand that unemployment was 3.7% in 2007 and is now 6.8% because of an event that was sparked thousands of kilometres away in Wall St, USA.

And very few low-information and National voters want to understand this. Because to understand the realities of unemployment means that the next step is; what are they going to do about it?!

Like, this gentleman, posting on Facebook, who had no interest in anything except spouting his own narrow, ill-informed,  prejudice. I thought I’d share his “considered opinion” with the reader,

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These are the people that Paula Bennett, and National, are pandering to.

Prejudice is easier.

It means they can blame someone else.

It means not having to think about the issues involved.

Because it’s always someone elses’ fault.

Like Steven Joyce, who blamed Labour, the Greens, and Hone Harawira on TV3′s ‘The Nation‘, on 19 August. It’s always “someone elses’ fault”.

Unfortunately for Bennett, though, her  repugnant behaviour has become so entrenched that she is unable to behave appropriately even to her own colleagues,

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Source

Listen: Listen to more on Checkpoint

The more that National fails to deliver results, the more they will blame others.

Why should National take responsibility for a lack of jobs and rising unemployment? After all…

… they’re only the government.

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part toru: John Banks)

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Ministers, Mad Moralists, and Minor Parties

29 July 2012 4 comments

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A previous moral hysteria surrounding welfare beneficiaries and especially solo mums (but never solo dads) took place back in August 2009, when Paula Bennett released the files of two solo-mothers who had dared to criticise the Minister for closing down the Training Incentive Allowance.

Despite having no  authorisation or right to do so, Bennett  released details of the  women’s  WINZ files to the media and three years later there is still an outstanding complaint against her. It was a nasty, vindictive abuse of Ministerial power not seen since the autocratic rule of  Robert Muldoon.

Attacks on solo mums reached a hysterical crescendo that could only be described as naked misogyny – especially from a sector of the male population that has never had much success in relating to women. There were vile comments on many internet fora that cannot be repeated in polite company.

Fast forward to April 2012, and National is facing so much bad news that the media and bloggers are finding it difficult to choose what to hone in on.  Just to remind us about some of the problems confronting National,

  • Youth unemployment up from 58,000 last year  to 87,000 this year
  • Total unemployment up to 160,000 – 6.7% of the workforce
  • The government tax-take is down by $1.57 billion  in the first nine months of the fiscal year
  • Government deficit increases to $6.13 billion, or $800 million more than forecast
  • Migration to Australia is increasing, with a net loss of 39,100 to the year ending February 2012
  • Wages continue to lag behind Australia
  • New Zealand’s sovereign debt is at a massive  $13.5 billion dollars
  • Student debt is at a record $13 billion – and rising
  • Widening wealth/income gap
  • Increasing child poverty and poverty-related disease on a massive scale
  • Increased repayments demanded from tertiary students – effectively a tax increase
  • Ongoing public resistance to state asset sales
  • Ongoing public resistance to selling productive farmland to overseas investors
  • Ongoing public resistance to mining in conservation lands
  • A growing public disquiet over a hydrocarbon-extraction process known as “fracking”
  • Selling legislation for a convention centre and 500 extra pokies
  • Ministers involved in scandal after scandal
  • Key’s ‘teflon coating’ now practically non-existent, and developing a reputation for not being upfront with the public
  • A coalition partner whose brand is now so toxic  that even right wingers are singing it’s funeral dirges
  • and numerous other negative indicators

Time for the government  Spin Doctors to swing into action, and deflect attention from National’s apalling track record thus far.

Time to dust of the Manual for Deflection, and flick through to the chapter on blaming solo mums (but never solo dads) for the ills of the country; the Black Plague in the Middle Ages; both World Wars; and most likely the sinking of the Titanic.

Time for John Key to point at some young woman pushing a pram,  and shout – “Hey! Look over there!”

It worked in 2009.

See: Benefits of 50 to be scrutinised

Why not try it again, wonder National’s faceless, taxpayer-funded spin-doctors and strategists,  to deflect  public attention from  scandals and poor management of the economy?

See: Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’

See: Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted

See: New welfare law a ‘war on poor’

See: Big families mean big welfare dollars

New Zealanders (in general) are suckers for this kind of Deflect & Demonise Strategy.

It’s what National  does, when their economic policies fail; they blame it on the poor; the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), etc. It’s what the right wing do, blaming their failed policies on others. Because as we all know, right wingers are Big on Personal Responsibility… (Except for themselves.)

It happened in the 1990s. It’s repeating again.

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It’s pretty much a given that the ACT is now living on borrowed time, and will end up in the political  rubbish bin of history. It was never popular with mainstream New Zealand in the first place – New Zealanders having had a bitter  taste of it’s ideology in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

Events over the last couple of years; last twelve months; and last few weeks, a cascade of scandals and dirty dealings have left the public wondering if lunatics had, indeed, taken over the asylum called ACT. For a Party that advocated the purity of market-driven efficiency, it was prone to one bizarre gaffe after another. They couldn’t even update their own website several months after last year’s elections.

So ACT will be gone after the next election.

The result has been media, pundit, and public  speculation of  a new potential Coalition partner for National. There has been recent speculation in the last week or so that Colin Craig’s Conservative Party might make a suitable candidate to shore up National’s numbers in the House.

I doubt that.

For one thing, does National really want a new coalition partner that appears to be every bit as flaky as ACT?

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Full Story

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We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all.”

Riiiiight.

Obviously Mr Craig has, um, “researched” this issue in some depth?! Did he go “undercover“, I wonder? And did he go “one-on-one”  with his “subjects“?

On this rare occassion, I find myself in sympathy with the Smiling One,

“… Colin Craig, had suggested New Zealand women were the most promiscuous in the world and therefore should not get taxpayer funded contraception.

Key resisted taking the Lord’s name in van and rolling his eyes.

But he did say “it’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

See:  John Key’s problem with partners

Indeed.  If   the government lasts full term. Which I doubt.

National has a problem in this area. It has no viable coalition partner, and is unlikely to find one in the foreseeable future.

Part of that reality is based on MMP and how it has affected Labour and National.

After MMP was introduced in 1996, Labour splintered into it’s constituent factions; the centrist ‘rump’ Labour Party; the environmentalist/social justice Green Party;  the overtly left-wing, worker’s,  Newlabour Party ; and the nationalist Maori party, Mana Motuhake. (The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP briefly coalesced into the Alliance Party, along with the Social Credit/Democrat Party and short-lived Liberal Party.)

The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP, had been part of the factional make-up of Labour. MMP simply separated out  it’s componants like a laboratory centrifuge. So when coalition talks took place, to form a Labour-led  Coalition Government, those same factions simply re-morphed.

Before anyone complains that MMP has created a “mess” – not true. These factions had always existed in Labour, and had constantly ‘jockeyed’ for influence within the greater ‘umbrella’ Labour banner.

Under MMP, these factions and negotiations were simply forced out into the open, for everyone to see. The same had been   happening under First Past the Post, but behind closed doors. This was internal party politics exposed to the glare of sunlight and public scrutiny.

National, on the other hand, did not fractionate  in such a similar, dramatic, manner. It lost two MPs to the New Zealand Liberal Party (in 1992), Conservative Party (formerly Right-Of-Centre Party), and one to the Christian Democrats. None of those fledgling parties  survived the grueling electoral process and quickly vanished into political history.

A third party, New Zealand First, had splintered from National earlier, and like Mana Motuhake became a nationalist party, but mainly from a pakeha perspective.

ACT was another party on the right, and appeared to draw support from both National and, to a lesser degree, Labour. It remained a small grouping, peaking in 1999 with nine MPs – largely at the expense of it’s larger right wing cousin, National.

It’s not that National doesn’t have potential coalition partners.  On the whole, National remains intact; a solid bloc of the centre-right. It’s potential coalition partners are already a part of National.

National’s only hope of picking up an extra seat or two is to rort the MMP one-seat threshold system, as it did by supporting John Banks in Epsom (with  success now mixed with regret, no doubt).  It could give a ‘nod and wink‘ to Colin Craig in the Rodney seat, and if he won that electorate, and if Craig’s Conservative Party polled the same as it did last year (2.65%), then it would gain four seats in total.

That might give National a chance at winning the next election.

But at what cost?

  • It would be seen to be once again manipulating the electoral system. The Epsom deal did not end well for National – do they really want to go down that road again?
  • The Conservatives are opposed to asset sales – so that policy would be off the agenda.
  • How would urban liberal voters view a coalition with a party such as the Conservatives? New Zealanders have always been averse to electing  overtly religious parties to Parliament (eg; Christian Heritage, Christian Coalition, Destiny New Zealand) and when some of United Future’s MPs were revealed as having a strong religious bent, they were pretty smartly voted out.
  • And would National want a flaky coalition partner with quasi-’Christian’ overtones, and who seemed to view New Zealand women  in a casual Talibanesque-sort of way? How would National’s women MPs feel sitting alongside Colin Craig, knowing that he viewed them as the ” most promiscuous…  women in the world  “?

Craig’s Conservative Party may have a better chance to win seats in Parliament if the Electoral Commission’s review on MMP decides to recommend to Parliament that the Party Vote threshold be reduced from %5 to 4%.  Of course, the Commission can only recommend to Parliament, and any decision to reduce the Party Vote threshold will ultimately be up to the National-ACT-Dunne Coalition.

I suspect the Nats will adopt the 4% recommendation. Not because it’s fair (get a grip!), but because anything that assists ACT or the Conservative Party gain seats in Parliament will be welcomed with open arms by the Nats. Self interest rules.

The Greens’ submission to the Electoral Commission supported abolishing the Electoral Seat threshold as inherently unfair, and promote  reducing the Party Vote threshold from 5% to 4% to compensate for smaller Parties  such as NZ First, ACT, etc.

See: Green Party submission on the MMP Review

Likewise, this blogger suspects that National will probably reject any recommendation to abandon the Electoral-Seat threshold.  (The Electoral Seat threshold is where Party X does not cross the current 5% Party Vote threshold, but if one of their candidates wins an electoral seat, they get an exemption from the 5% threshold, and gain as many MPs as their Party Vote allows.)

This may be National’s one and only  “electoral lifeline”, as ACT heads for the political guillotine – especially after John Banks’ incredible performance over his fraudulent 2010 Electoral Donations fiasco.

See: John Banks – escaping justice

However, since Craig’s comment nearly three months ago, he has moved on from denigrating women, to gays and lesbians. His latest comment is indicative of a man who has little tolerance for matters outside his narrow worldview, when on 27 July he ‘tweeted’,

It’s just not intelligent to pretend that homosexual relationships are normal.”

See: Conservative leader says gay marriage ‘not right’

It take a spectacular degree of arrogance to decide that another consenting adult’s relationship is “not normal”.

This blogger feels it only appropriate that Mr Craig’s marriage to his wife should be put under the microscope.

It has been said often enough that those who vociferously oppose homosexuality (especially in males) often have a measure of sexual insecurity themselves. For many men, condemning and reviling  homosexuality has been an attempt to reaffirm their own heterosexuality by “proving their straightness” to themselves.

Perhaps, in this instance, Mr Craig may have something he wishes to get of his manly chest,

He was so sure that homosexuality was a choice, he bet his own sexuality on it.

“Do you think you could choose to be gay if that is the case?,” he was asked.

“Sure. Sure I could,” he responded.

“You could choose to be gay?,” he was asked again.

“Yea, if I wanted to,’ he replied.

See:  Colin Craig: ‘Gay parents not good role models’

Anything you want to share with us, Mr Craig? Don’t worry, we’re all consenting adults here…

Why are all small right wing parties loony-tunes?

Is this the sort of political party that National wants to cosy up to?

And more important – would a possible coalition with a bunch of religious homophobes and misogynists really endear  National’s voting-base to keep supporting the Nats?

Happy times for Dear Leader, John Key.

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National does have another potential coalition partner – the New Zealand First Party. Though their first attempt at coalition (in 1996) ended very badly for Winston Peters, that could be explained as “growing pains” after our very first MMP election. I doubt if any small Party would ever repeat such horrendous mistakes again.

But in coalescing with NZ First, National would have to abandon much of it’s right wing, neo-liberal agenda.  State asset sales would be gone by lunchtime. The sale of farmland to overseas investors would be restricted (if Peters is to be taken at his word). And the edge might be taken of other policies favoured by National.

On the other hand, NZ First had been punished previously for coalescing with National. As well, NZ First  has an active youth-wing that might not appreciate ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

Working with Winston Peters would be one very big rat for John Key to swallow. Considering how adamant he was back in 2008,

Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation.

See: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

And just last year,

I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead.”

See:  PM rules out any NZ First deal

If Winston Peters holds the balance of power, it will be a Phil Goff-led government.”

See:  Key names election date, rules out Winston Peters

Sealing a coalition deal with someone he has categorically ruled out in the past would damage Key’s credibility even further. Our Dear Leader is already developing something of a reputation for being “untrustworthy, dishonest, arrogant, smarmy and out of touch”.

See: ‘Polarising’ PM losing gloss

Does he want to compound that perception by backtracking on his declaration that he cannot/will not work with the NZ First leader?

So Colin Craig it is.

And yes,

“It’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

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Guest Author: David Cunliffe, Get your invisible hand off our assets

- David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, Labour Economic Development Spokesperson

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David Cunliffe

Introduction

You know that at the last election, the one that we lost so badly, nearly 1 million people didn’t vote. Over 800,000 people: a fifth of the population didn’t vote.

Now you know, there are lots of reasons that people didn’t vote, and there were even more reasons why people didn’t vote for Labour. Let me give you just a few.

The major reason that voters didn’t vote for Labour, and sometimes didn’t vote at all, is simply that Labour failed to inspire voters that it was a credible alternative to National.

This is the first of a series of speeches on economic development. I am going to start with the basics – why the invisible hand of the market failed us and why we need a clear and distinct Labour view on economics; why you can’t cut and sell your way out of an economic hole; and what a Labour economic development plan should contain. We need to be clear about the context before we can go on the policy journey.

I want to be clear from the outset that this speech represents my own views and does not pretend to represent overall Labour policy. All policies are being reviewed in the post-election period.

The Invisible Hand

The Labour Party was traditionally a left-wing party. Before we debate the future of the Labour Party, we should define what the terms left and right-wing mean.

Left-wing generally means community ownership and or control and/or responsibility.

Right wing means individual ownership and/or control and/or responsibility. By modern standards, even the National party would have been a left-wing party until the 1990s. That’s because most New Zealanders accepted the idea that the government has not just a right, but also a duty to be there for them.

New Zealanders wisely accepted that finance companies needed regulation. New Zealanders wisely accepted that it was the government’s job to ensure that the electricity didn’t go off. They wisely accepted that it was the government’s job to ensure the children didn’t grow up in poverty, that medical care was available for people who needed it, that decent housing was available for the poor and the elderly.

However, by the 1980s, the New Zealand economic system had grown clumsy and slow. Most people agreed that it was in need of reform. That’s what most people wanted, economic reform. That is, they wanted the existing system, but they wanted it to function more smoothly, more efficiently and more fairly. They did not want it replaced with a system that simply handed over most of the wealth and power to rich people.

Yet, that’s what happened, and to our eternal shame, the Labour Party was the party that introduced many of the so-called economic reforms that have proved so disastrous.

The National Government that followed it took the experiment further; with the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ that savaged social services, more privatization and deregulation, and the odious Employment Contracts Act that set us on the path of becoming a low wage economy.

You hear the National government talking about the need to sell assets because we have so little money in this country. Do you know why we have so little money in this country? It’s because a large percentage of our economic assets are overseas-owned. For example, when the Australian-owned banks make billions in profits here (and it’s up a quarter to a third this year alone). That money isn’t returned to New Zealanders. The money goes straight back overseas.

And, as if that were not bad enough, the National government now wants to sell our other major state assets, which is simply going to mean higher prices for ordinary New Zealanders and it’s going to mean still more profits disappearing overseas. It’s madness, and you know it’s madness and most ordinary Kiwis know it’s madness.

But let’s go back a bit.

I know that most of the people in this room think of the 1970s as a period of long-haired hippies and revolution. However, beneath the events that were happening on the surface, there was a much more sinister revolution going on in the background.

While the hippies were out protesting in the streets, a professor at the University of Chicago called Milton Friedman, was selling his students the idea that taxation was evil and that businesses worked best when they were deregulated.

Does this sound familiar? It should be. The Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in England and the Labour Party in New Zealand enthusiastically took up Friedman’s philosophy, which is now called neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism has become such a dominant economic philosophy that it is now the only economic philosophy taught in many universities.

Friedman revived a belief in the “invisible hand” of the market. It was a fairy tale that Adam Smith had said a century earlier would automatically deliver the best of all possible economic worlds.

Of course many of the rogues who benefited from it have never believed that – they remember how they got rich. However, neo-liberalism was a convenient way of selling the idea of inequality to the masses.

Hands off our assets!

Let me repeat, none of this happened by accident. The people who were the most enthusiastic supporters of neo-liberalism were the people who stood to make the most money from it. Let me give you just one example:

In the 1980s and 1990s, merchant bankers Michael Fay and David Richwhite were advisors to government.

Michael Fay and David Richwhite recommended that the government sell the state-owned New Zealand Rail.

The government agreed and put the company up for sale. Fay and Richwhite and some partners, then purchased New Zealand Rail at a bargain price.

That’s right: Michael Fay and David Richwhite, the consultants that government hired to advise them on state asset sales, advised the government to sell New Zealand Rail, then Michael Fay and David Richwhite bought a large chunk of New Zealand Rail.

The story gets worse: Fay and Richwhite and their partners then sold many of New Zealand Rail’s most valuable assets, such as land, without improving the company as a true rail operator would.

Then, in 1995, Fay and Richwhite sold their shares in New Zealand Rail, having made hundreds of millions in profits.  Because Fay and Richwhite had sold many of New Zealand Rail’s most valuable assets without investing in trains or tracks, New Zealand Rail was virtually bankrupt.

The government was then forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep the rail service operating.  Does this sound crazy? It is.

This sort of madness has been repeated all over the world, and it’s always the ordinary taxpayers like you, who end up paying the bills.

Roll the clock forward to the current National Government and nothing has changed except the packaging.

They can try to soft-soap it by calling it the “mixed ownership model”. But you and I and the 10,000 other New Zealanders who marched up Queen Street yesterday to fight it – know it is still privatization.

We know why privatizing our power companies is nonsense.

Generations of Kiwis worked to build up those assets and we don’t need to be told we have to buy them all over again. That’s assuming we could afford them of course.

The fact is that when sold, they will not be state owned enterprises covered by the SOE Act at all – they will simply be companies like any other – in which the taxpayer has a much reduced shareholding.

We know they make a healthy return for the taxpayer now. In fact, over the last three years the total return was around 16% – far higher than the cost of Crown capital at around 6%.

They pay good dividends –over $300m a year for the last four years. But the Government deliberately failed to show that in the Budget documents when it banked the supposed sale proceeds well before the last election.

To complete the hypocrisy, the government is now saying the loss of dividends is so low that no sane buyer would pay the money they want without driving your power prices through the roof.

National tried to buy iwi support by saying treaty rights would be protected. I doubt this, but even if true it would mean the taxpayer bears 100% of that risk including on behalf of the new private investors.

Yet the biggest porky of them all – that the government would retain majority ownership and control. Yeah right. Not when SOEs like KiwiRail are already busy flogging off major components like Hillside Workshops. Not when SOE bosses told Parliament they are free to sell off 100% of subsidiaries.

In other words, the SOEs are like a horse. The government intends selling the horse off bit by bit, leaving the taxpayer owning nothing more than the saddle.

The fact is, this is old fashioned privatization with new spin and the same old result. The people lose. The ticket clippers win (it costs up to $300 million in banker fees to sell the shares!). And the voter is told to “eat that”.

So how do these rogues get away with it?

The answer is twofold: on one hand, the news media has been a solid supporter of neo-liberalism.

Did you know, for example, that British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, regularly lunched with Rupert Murdoch, the far-right media boss? Tony, apparently, used to test which policies would be acceptable to Murdoch.

Thus we have a far-right media boss influencing the policies of what was supposed to be the party of the people. It’s shameful.

The second reason these rogues get away with it is because, as the Tony Blair example shows so clearly, the opposition parties, which are supposed to be the solution, too often become part of the problem.

When the right-wing party says that it’s going to cut your leg off, voters want the left-wing party to say that it’s not going to cut your leg off. Voters don’t want to be told that the left-wing party is also going to cut your leg off, but cut it off a bit lower down and give you some anesthetic.

I think that’s a major reason that nearly one million voters deserted us at the last election. It wasn’t because we failed to communicate our policies. Quite the opposite. Those voters saw that our policies – with the exception of asset sales – were mostly the same as National’s. So we can’t really be surprised at the result.

Towards a New Economy

So where to from here? Let’s be absolutely clear – New Zealand cannot cut and sell its way to National’s so-called “brighter future”.

New Zealand cannot simply milk more cows and hope that commodity prices stay up.

Nor can we pretend that mining national parks won’t destroy our precious global brand.

National has no new ideas and no credible plan. It has laundry lists of actions, many of which take us in the wrong direction.

The reason is that they still fundamentally believe that some combination of the “invisible hand” of free markets, and the “sleight of hand’ of dirty deals with casinos, dotcoms, film and media magnates, and telcos, will do the job.

The good news, if you can call it good news, is that the economic myths that drove the world into this current mess are starting to unravel. Let me quote economics writer Bernard Hickey, who regularly contributes to the New Zealand Herald:

It’s time for me to say what I’ve been thinking for months: the economic god of completely free markets and capital flows is not worth believing in any more.

I think the Global Financial Crisis …has demonstrated the failure of the economic model most New Zealand policymakers have adhered to for nearly 3 decades.

I think we need to rethink the way we run monetary policy, the way we allow foreign ownership of assets, the way we encourage savings, the way our financial institutions are regulated and [to] change the things we are aiming for.”

All around the world, this realization is sinking in: the unregulated marketplace has been a disaster, and the costs have always been borne by ordinary people.

Europe’s current economic crisis was caused by bankers who loaned money on riskier and riskier ventures until the whole structure collapsed.

Were those bankers jailed and their assets seized? Of course not. Instead of the bankers paying the bills for their reckless speculation, the ordinary taxpayers are being screwed, left, right and centre.

And you know what? Despite all the promises that the European economic austerity measures would turn this tragic situation around, the opposite is occurring.

Austerity economics does not work. It did not work in the Great Depression of the 1930s and it will not work in the Great Recession of the current decade.

When you start closing down your government services and firing your workers, those people have no money to spend. Because they have no money to spend, the local businesses suffer. So they start firing staff. And so the economy goes into deep recession, with no easy way out.

Am I the only one who thinks this is complete lunacy?

You know, these problems that we face today stem from a lack of appropriate regulation or a lack of enforcement of existing regulations.

The global financial crisis was caused by unregulated banking. Leaky building syndrome was caused by deregulating the building industry. The Pike River mining disaster has raised numerous questions about deregulation of the mining industry. Does anyone still seriously believe that big business can be safely left to regulate itself?

Yet, regulation has become a dirty word.

Do I favour regulating the lives of ordinary New Zealanders? Certainly not: I have great faith in ordinary New Zealanders.

Do I favour supporting positive businesses? You’re damned right I do. Businesses help create jobs and economic growth. I want to see a future Labour government get stuck in and do more to help the economy grow.

Do I support all businesses? No way. Businesses that let workers die unnecessarily, or abuse and exploit their workers, or steal from old people: all these business need a strong, legal response from the state.

All this requires regulation, and it’s there to protect ordinary people from becoming victims of greed.

Labour is strong on encouraging positive business and positive economic growth. And Labour is also about legislating to control negative businesses and their effects on our people and our environment.

Caught between a naïve belief in free markets and direct pressure from vested interests, National is unwilling to confront the downsides of unregulated markets.

Fortunately we’re not. And an increasing number of journalists and politicians are saying what ordinary people already know: that the economic policies of the last 30 years have mostly been an unmitigated disaster.

But you’d never know this if you listened to John Key. Like a quack doctor whose cure has failed, his response is to double the dose until the patient is dead.

Sorry, John, but let me quote Sir Winston Churchill:

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

No matter how many politicians and economists still defend the economic policies that led us into this mess, the truth is steadily showing itself.

You know, there’s not much difference between a Wellington school teacher struggling to find an affordable home and a Northland freezing worker who’s just lost his job. Whether we earn our living by our hands or by our words, we’re all working people, whose lives have grown harder and whose world has grown steadily darker. We’re all in this together.

We all resent those who squander our tax dollars by helping out large corporations, while we struggle to pay our mortgages. We all resent those who seek to sell the very state assets that help keep us afloat. We all resent those who claim to represent us in Parliament, but who really represent the rich and the powerful, at our expense

Instead of National’s failed economic model, we need a simple, credible economic development plan that serves the interests of all New Zealanders.

One that keeps more of what we earn here in the country we love.

Conclusion

I believe the Labour Party is now uniquely positioned to take up the reins when this current government’s policies collapse under their own weight.

Labour has a new leader with strong values, who’s focused on reconnecting with the voters and has the courage to stand up to bullies. It’s up to us, as a Party, to share with our leader, our hopes, our fears and our dreams, to reconstruct the Party from within, to reclaim our natural constituency of decent, ordinary New Zealanders who believe in fairness and hard work.

Now it’s up to us to turn this around: a hard task, but not an impossible one.

When Labour proposed a nuclear-free policy, it was seen as an impossible dream. Yet nearly thirty years’ later, this dream is a solid reality, and it’s helped protect us from the sort of nuclear disaster that Japan has just endured.

The New Zealand Labour Party faced enormous pressure, from inside and outside New Zealand, to back down and change its anti-nuclear policy.

But we didn’t. And we don’t have to back away from creating policies that can turn us away from the economic insanity of the last three decades. New Zealanders are decent, fair-minded, hard-working people. We want a government that reflects our own uniquely Kiwi values.

It’s going to be hard, but we’re not afraid of hard work. With your help, and the help of the people of New Zealand, we can win the next election.

We can move forward to a future that rewards hard work and stops rewarding dishonesty. That gives the poorest of our citizens the chance to a decent life. That gives us all a chance to live in a nation that was once called ‘God’s own country.”

We can become God’s own country again. Thank you.

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Acknowledgement

Speech by  David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, given to the New Lynn Women’s’ Branch, New Zealand Labour Party, 29 April 2012. Reprinted with permission.

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= fs =

Oh dear, is it that time again?

29 April 2012 5 comments

A blogpost in four images…

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#1

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#2

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#3

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#4

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And a short story…

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Once upon a time, Farmer Joe Bloggs contracted a company to work on his farm. He needed his  fields ploughed; a barn painted; several dozen stray sheep to be rounded up; and  fences repaired.

The company, ‘Labour R Us Inc‘ turned up on Monday morning and Farmer Bloggs explained what needed to be done.

The foreman agreed to start  work immediatly and discussed the tasks with his team. Very soon, the team began to disagree on which task should be done first.

One worker wanted the hardest task to be done first, to get the big job out of the way.

Another worker wanted the team split up to start on all the jobs simultaneously.

A third worker suggested starting on the hardest and easiest job, splitting the team accordingly.

Two other workers wanted a new foreman.

And others agreed, disagreed, or had their own ideas on how to carry out the allocated tasks. Very soon, they were arguing so loudly that Farmer Bloggs looked out the window and saw that no work was being done, and much time was being wasted.

Very unhappy, Farmer Bloggs, picked up his phone and rang the next company in the phone book,

Hello, is that ‘Green Fingers Inc’? I’d like you to do some work for me.”

As ‘Labour R Us Inc‘ continued arguing between themselves, the second company arrived; pulled out their tools; and set to working.

Moral of the Story? Focus on what needs to be done and argue later, in your own time. Under MMP, you’re not the only show in town.

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= fs =

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

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Full Story

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Source

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Contrary to the Radio NZ report this morning, the numbers attending the striker’s picket in Upper Hutt would have numbered at least double what was reported.

Despite on-off heavy rain, between 75 – 100 people stood on the side of Fergusson Drive, putting their case for a liveable wage,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Only last year,  John Key promised New Zealanders that the “driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes” and we took him at his word.

Ordinary, hard-working New Zealanders who want nothing more than a decent wage so they can put food on their tables, and provide the best possible home for their children,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Some of the striking workers stood on the opposite side of the road,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Judging by the constant tooting of horns from passing vehicles, the picketing workers had considerable public support. On occassion, the car-tooting was non-stop, making talking almost impossible.

A wage of $13.61 an hour is simply not a credible income to live on. Should the government be worried? I’d say, “yes – definitely”.

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Green MPs  Catherine Delahunty (L) and Denise Roche (R), addressing workers. They voiced their Party’s support for workers to be paid a reasonable, liveable wage,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Labour MP, Kris Faafoi, voicing Labour’s support for striking workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Service & Food Workers Union sector-secretary, Alastair Duncan, telling workers that they were dedicated to their profession and deserved to be adequately remunerated,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Despite the sporadic heavy rain, the picket numbers swelled as more people joined in,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Rimutaka Labour MP, Chris Hipkins, joining the picket in solidarity with workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The signs said it all,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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A “Fair Deal” – what could be more reasonable than that?

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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An indication of the heavy rain that picketers put up with. It did not deter them, and more joined the protest-line to support workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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This sign, I believe, summed it up very well,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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TV1 news camera covered the workers’ protest,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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More media,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea.

Interviewing one of the striking workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Interviewing another striking worker,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Striking for a better wage, to to put on the table for  families, and to ensure that their children get the best possible start in life,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The Mana Party showed it’s  presence and support,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Green MP, Denise Roche (L) and Green activist, Conor (R),

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The overall feeling of the workers was upbeat and positive. Public support was noisy, with constant car-horn tooting.  The message to employers and to the National government was crystal clear: ” pay us a decent, liveable wage“!

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Media reporting

  • TV1 News: yes
  • TV3 News: tba
  • Radio NZ: yes
  • Dominion Post: yes

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Additional

Service & Food Workers Union

NZ Nurses Organisation

Labour Party

Green Party

Mana Party

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