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An interesting poll from TVNZ. Note some of the VERY left-wing questions!?

24 July 2014 1 comment

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20 September

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July 19 – Yesterday, I received this poll, sent by TVNZ to my email.

What I found very interesting were some of the question relating to issues that have not been discussed – literally – for decades. The question regarding free tertiary education is again an election issue. This is something we can attribute directly to the rise and rise of the Mana-Internet Alliance.

The questions (and answers I gave) are presented here as screen-shots. (Only the final two pages are not included, as they contained some personal responses and details. My preference for which Party I will be endorsing with my Party Vote for will be the subject of an up-coming blogpost.)

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TVNZ on-line survey p1

 

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TVNZ on-line survey p2

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It is a shame that the “anti-smacking” question (above) was put without real reference to what the law actually states. If people actually knew the actual nature of the  repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, they might be more inclined to vote as I did. It is a fallacy that the repeal of Section 59 banned all smacking and is a deliberate distortion promulgated by neo-conservatives and religious right elements in our society.

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TVNZ on-line survey p3

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I responded somewhat “lukewarm” to the question about compulsory Kiwisaver (above). The problem of compensating low-income earners and beneficiaries should be taken into account along with implementing compulsion. Forcing the poor, who might be currently living in garages and unable to afford even the basics, to save for Kiwisaver would be an untenable proposition and a farce.

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TVNZ on-line survey p4

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I voted “strongly disagree” to the proposition that high income earners should not receive superannuation. We have been through this issue before and it was blindingly obvious that high income earners simply hid their money by clever accounting tricks – thereby avoiding cuts to their super.

Targetted superannuation invites the growth of a labyrinth of rules, exemptions, asset-income testing, and an associated invasive  bureaucracy. Better to have Universal Superannuation,  alongside a comprehensive progressive tax rate  that claws back super-payments by slightly higher marginal tax rates.

And the final tranche of questions;

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TVNZ on-line survey p5

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It is interesting to note that questions regarding tax cuts were omitted. I would have liked to have seen what New Zealander’s attitudes toward cutting taxes would have been. Especially if the question was framed as a choice between more tax cuts and less social services.

Now that would really have been a barometer of our nationwide psyche!

Now we just have to await the outcome of this poll…

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References

Wikipedia: Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 July 2014.

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The secret of National’s success – revealed.

11 June 2014 4 comments

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labour mana greens internet

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1. Preface

Firstly, a disclosure on my part: I am a Green Party supporter (though by no means ‘wedded’ to that  particular party – or any party for that matter).

Secondly, it is not often I write a piece criticising others on the Left. I have long held the opinion that the Left needs to work together to achieve common goals, and that public displays of discord only serves to play into the hands of the Right.  And really, do we need to give the Right any further ammunition? Especially free of charge?!

2. What the hell is going on?!

Going by recent public comments made by Labour MPs and candidates, it seems that the Labour Party is either planning to sit this election out – or some of it’s higher-ranking public individuals are out of control.

How else to explain recent statements made in the mainstream and social media by Labour people, attacking others on the Left?

A few examples.

Kelvin Davis on 28 May  (see video at 1.29);

“People can see that this is just a stitch-up and I don’t think they like seeing Tai Tokerau being traded off like that. I think they’re taking the voters of Tai Tokerau for granted.”

Chris Hipkins on 30 May;

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chris hipkins - unprincipled sell outs - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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The above ‘tweet’ was supported by none other than ACT Party-member, Peter McKeefry;

and we look forward to you Chippie slamming the corruption of democracy by the left in general debate.

Meanwhile, also on 30 May,  Labour MP and one-time Party leader, Phil Goff, added his three cents worth on Facebook;

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Phil Goff - facebook - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Goff makes the point,

I am also opposed to anyone buying a political party and buying influence by splashing out $3 million as Dotcom proposes.”

Funny. That is precisely the same smear that the Right continually throw at Labour: that unions are “buying influence” with their donations to the Labour Party campaign ‘war chest’.

It can only be a facepalm moment when a senior, experienced, supposedly politically-savvy Labour politician utters a statement that parrots and validates Right-wing bullshit. Nice one, Phil. Got anything on ‘lazy benes’ spending up large on SkyTV, booze, and drugs?

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Chris Hipkins on 31 May;

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chris hipkins - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Right-wing blogger and National apparatchik, David Farrar, caught on very quickly when Kelvin Davis re-tweeted one of National Party supporter, Hamish Price’s tweets, and posed this question;

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David Farrar - kelvin davis - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Hipkins again, on 1 June;

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chris hipkins -dodgy deals - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

 

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And just to make sure we all got the gist of his attacks on small parties (aka, Internet-Mana), Hipkins threw this ‘grenade’ into the mix on the same day;

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chris hipkins - small parties - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Of all the statements put out by Labour’s MPs, that one has to be the most asinine yet – as blogger Jackal (et al) tried to point out to Labour’s Napier candidate, Stuart Nash;

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jackal - jackal blog - stuart nash - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

 

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Kelvin Davis seems unable to comprehend that a “Labour victory” is unobtainable if Labour shafts potential coalition partners.  He could not answer the simple question; “How will you achieve a Labour  victory without coalition partners“?!

This simple fact not lost on National – and the Nats have consistently out-ranked Labour in every  poll to date! (More on this point in a moment.)

Twitter-user, Andrew Riddell  tried (in vain) to point out the futility of Labour’s attacks on Mana-Internet – and was “rewarded” with a very bizarre, Winston Peters-like evasive response by Labour’s Education spokesperson and MP for Rimutake, Chris Hipkins;

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chris hipkins -andrew riddell - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Kelvin Davis on 2 June;

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kelvin davis - twitter - ngatibird - laila harre - Mana party - internet party - labour party.

Kelvin Davis’ hardline statements were supported by rightwing Twitter members such as Hamish Price, Manoja St John – and by right-wing, National-supporting blogger, Keeping Stock;

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keeping stock -  mark mitchell - kelvin davis - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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Note who “Favourited” Keeping Stock’s tweet – Kelvin Davis and  National Party MP, Mark Mitchell (red arrowed).

Amazingly, it was ‘ordinary’ Twitter users who tried to talk sense into Labour’s MPs and candidates;

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They want to be be in opposition. They can’t even function together as one team.

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Ppl don’t have the confidence to vote left bcause they can’t see how we will work together. Fix this!

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For someone who is pro-MMP you show a real inability to think in terms of left and right blocs.

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why use strategic friends and allies when you can just lose all by yourself?

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if u want to win need to get around your heads around the fact that MMP rules allow what happened and be more magnanimous

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that is not constructive. Think outside the “two big parties” box please.

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another crack at your future coalition partners.. It’s like you know you’re going to lose….

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Gee, , I’ve never heard you be so purposefully insulting … oh, wait. Yes I have.

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Speaking of sell outs.. I remember the time in 1984 when I voted Labour and got neoliberalism instead.

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Kelvin,you are in the wrong party .. join the Nats and make a REAL difference

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It is counter productive for the left to dis the left Instead its smarter 2 wish them well & focus on a left win

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Even more kinda sorta ironic that the Kelvin Scale is used to determine absolute zero.

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how many tory votes do you think that tweet scored you?

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Pull your head in .clowns like urself are gonna cost THE LEFT thats right THE LEFT. this election.

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Is Labour on a kamikaze mission? Goff, Davis & now Nash slagging off coalition partners. This is damaging.

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more the left stands undivided the easier it is for the country to think the right is the only consistent choice

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The last (but not really – there were many, many more)   made the point that really counts.

3. The Primal Urge to Self-Destruct?

I’m not sure what ‘game’ Labour is playing at here. Obviously they are trying to grab potential votes that might accrue to Mana-Internet – but the process they are using is so utterly destructive that it beggars belief.

In an MMP environment, both National and Labour need smaller parties as coalition partners. This was amply illustrated in 2011, when National all but endorsed John Banks for the Epsom electorate, and made Katrina Shanks an electorate candidate-in-name-only in Ohariu, to allow Peter Dunne the opportunity to win.

National fully understands the realpolitik of MMP.

Labour – it appears – is still playing by First Past the Post rules.

National set the rules for MMP  on 14 May 2013, when Justice Minister Judith Collins told the House that National would be rejecting the Electoral Commission’s recommendations to abandon the ‘coat tailing’ provision and to reduce the party threshold from 5% to 4% [which this blogger supports]. Collins gave the weak excuse,

“Mr Speaker, of course I did not hold the MMP Review. That was a matter that was undertaken by the Electoral Commission. But I can also say that I made it very clear that we need concensus on these matters for any change and there is no concensus for any change.”

The “concensus” that Collins referred to was ACT and Peter Dunne opposing the scrapping of coat-tailing because it would significantly damage their electoral chance to win extra seats with that provision.

As Gordon Campbell wrote;

National can hardly bitch and moan about this outcome either. For nearly 15 years, it campaigned loud and long against the evils of MMP and railed for a review of its shortcomings. Yet then Justice Minister Judith Collins promptly and cynically shelved the MMP review findings, once National realised that the review’s main recommendation – that the electorate seat coat-tails now being used by Harawira and Dotcom should be abolished – would hurt its own chances of getting Colin Craig and his Conservatives and the Act Party’s latest minion in Epsom onside, and into Parliament. If the Mana/Dotcom arrangement looks like cynical pragmatism, it is merely par for the course.”

Labour needs to get their head around one simple reality; that it must – must! – play by the rules which National have set. Playing by another set of rules will result in losing the election in September and staying on the Opposition benches.

If Labour is trying to paint itself as “principled” – they have failed. Right wing blogs and even msm journalists have tarred both main parties with the same brush, as TV3 journalist, Patrick Gower did in 2011, with an outrageous claim about Labour doing “dirty deals” with the Greens. (For the record, since 2002, the Greens’ policy has been to campaign for the Party Vote, not the Electorate Vote. Gower was making sh*t up when he claimed – without any actual evidence – that Labour and the Greens colluded in Ohariu in 2011.)

Being “principled” will not prevent public attacks by  right-wing commentators; headline-hunting conservative msm journos; business interests; National/ACT; etc.

Being “principled” will simply give National a free run in this years’ election.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies will result in under-mining potential coalition partners.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies will result in looking weak and fractured, in the eyes of the public.

Being “principled” and attacking potential allies smacks of dis-unity. Dis-unity, in the eyes of the public, is not a Government-in-waiting. It is Labour unable to set aside self-interest and  party-politics for the good of the nation.

If the public perceive that Labour is more interested in attacking it’s own potential allies – and here is the nub of the problem – then why should people vote for such a fractious party that appears unable to work alongside said potential allies?

National – polling in high 40s and low 50s – cultivates potential allies.

Labour – polling in high 20s and low 30s – undermines, attacks, and marginalises it’s own potential allies.

Contrast Labour’s current destructive pattern of behaviour with National’s attitude, as repeated ad nauseum by John Key;

 We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government and can work with other parties for the good of the country, even when those parties have different policies.

Labour says that it will campaign on it’s own policies.

So does National.

But the difference  – the B-I-G difference – is that in doing so, National does not attempt to subvert the chances of it’s potential allies. Quite the contrary, it nurtures it’s potential coalition partners like a farmer tending to his flock.

Is this “dirty deal-making” as sensationalist media headline-mongers keep hysterically screaming?

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Patrick Gower - laila harre - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

Patrick Gower - twitter  - Mana party - internet party - labour party

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- or has National understood what the public really, really, really want; constructive co-operation between political parties?

How many times have we heard the public say, “why can’t they work together for the good of the country?”.

Well, National’s strategists have understood and implemented this very simple truism; the public do not like seeing squabbling politicians. The public want political parties to work together, collegially  to solve pressing problems.

That is why Key keeps repeating his mantra,

 We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government and can work with other parties for the good of the country blah blah blah.. 

That is why National is high up in the polls.

That is why Labour is floundering and losing support. And respect.

That is why the latest Roy Morgan poll – the most reasonably accurate of all polls (except the one that really counts on Election Day) – had this recent shocking result;

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National (52.5%) surges to election winning lead while Labour/ Greens (38%) slump to lowest since last New Zealand Election as Greens propose a Carbon Tax to replace the Emissions Trading Scheme

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a strong gain in support for National (52.5%, up 7%) now at their highest since before the last New Zealand Election and well ahead of a potential Labour/Greens alliance (38%, down 6%) – almost matching their performance at the 2011 New Zealand Election at which the two parties polled a combined 38.5%.

Support for Key’s Coalition partners has also improved with the Maori Party 1.5% (up 0.5%), ACT NZ (1%, up 0.5%) and United Future 0% (unchanged).

Support has fallen significantly for all Opposition parties with the Labour Party down 1.5% to 29%, the Greens down 4.5% to 9% (the lowest support for the Greens since September 2011), New Zealand First 4.5% (down 1.5%) and Mana Party 0.5% (down 0.5%). Support for the Conservative Party of NZ is 1% (unchanged) and the Internet Party is 0.5% (unchanged).

If a National Election were held now the latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows that the result would be a landslide victory for the National Party and a third term for Prime Minister John Key.

 

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That is why the Left will lose on 20 September.

Unless Labour radically changes tack and demonstrates to the public that they are more interested in working together with potential partners – than wrecking their chances at winning votes – voters will be put off. Telling the public that Labour “can work with other parties after the election” is not good enough. Labour must show it can do it.

Otherwise, as one quasi-fascist right-wing blogger put it, the public will perceive that “things are falling apart for the Labour Party“.  He may have a valid point.

Again, as Gordon Campbell stated,

 Labour may just be mule-headed enough – and tribally fixated on the FPP-era of politicking – to try and get rid of Harawira at all costs, and thereby torpedo one of its main chances of forming the next government.

At which Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish added;

 How not to win an election…

…Pretend that we still have a First Past the Post electoral system.”

It is supremely ironic that National – the champion of the Cult of Individualism – can work collectively and collegially with other political parties. But Labour – a party of the left, which espouses collective action for the greater good – is desperately and greedily scrabbling for votes for itself and attacking  potential allies.

Also ironic is that the current MMP rules were set by a National government for the benefit of National. When other parties such as Mana-Internet try to use those very same rules, the reaction from National,  the media, and other right wing commentators, is both vicious and sustained.

Unfortunately, Labour have bought into National’s strategy.  The concept of “principles” – which utterly eludes the Right – has been used to frame the issue of small, left-wing parties “coat tailing” into Parliament. It is “un-principled” when the Left does it.

When National does it, they are being “pragmatic” and duly ignore the shrill screams of the likes of Gower, Garner, et al.

Because in the final analysis, National has sussed perfectly well what the public wants.

We have three months to do likewise.

Or we will lose.

 

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References

TVNZ News: Former MP Laila Harre tipped as Internet Party’s new leader

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Facebook: Phil Goff

Twitter: David Farrar

Twitter: Hamish Price

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Jackal (Jackalblog)

Twitter: Andrew Riddell

Twitter: Chris Hipkins

Twitter: Kelvin Davis

Twitter: Keeping Stock

Fairfax media: Government’s MMP review response slammed

TV3: John Key’s State of the Nation speech – the main points

Kiwiblog: Mana-Dotcom Alliance

TV3: Dirty electorate political deals, done dirt cheap

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Roy Morgan Poll

Previous related blogposts

The Mana-Internet Alliance – My Thoughts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Judith Collins issues decision on MMP Review!

Additional

Fairfax media: Labour MPs not happy with Mana-Internet

Other blogs

The Standard: Labour’s Mana Internet Party dilemma

Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the rise of Laila Harré

The Daily Blog:  Authoritarian Labour: Why Kelvin Davis needs to STFU – and soon!

The Daily Blog:  Keep Calm And Carry On: Why the Left should ignore the next round of poll results

Imperator Fish: How to win an election

 


 

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Why I am a Leftie

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 June 2014.

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Letter to the Editor – Dom Post editorial off into LaLaLand…

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

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Today’s (9 June 2014)  editorial in the ‘Dominion Post was an interesting take on the John Banks Affair and National’s cynical exploitation of MMP’s “coat tailing” provision;

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Stuff.co.nz

Editorial: Discredited flaw still being exploited

Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014

Every electoral system has flaws which politicians exploit. The coat-tailing provision of MMP is now utterly discredited, but it survives because it serves powerful political interests – especially the National Party’s. The clause should be abolished, but no National-led government will do so.

Labour promises to quickly abolish the clause, which allows a party with just one electorate seat to avoid the 5 per cent parliamentary threshold, if it gains power. There is already a paradox here. Labour might have to rely on the votes of the Mana-Internet Party to do so. But Mana-Internet will get into Parliament only via the coat-tailing clause. Nobody believes it will get 5 per cent of the vote.

The case for abolishing coat-tailing is overwhelming, and was made by the Electoral Commission in 2012. That inquiry grew out of John Key’s promise to “kick the tyres” of MMP, but his government ignored the recommendations. The reason is quite simple: coat-tailing helps the National Party. The Government’s refusal to take any notice of the inquiry was naked realpolitik and a supremely cynical act.

National’s coat-tailing deals with ACT in Epsom have left an especially sour taste in voters’ mouths. Key’s “tea-party” with the-then ACT leader John Banks before the 2011 election was widely recognised as a stunt.

The politicians invited the media to their meeting and then shut them out of the coffee-house while they had their “secret” and entirely meaningless chat. It added insult to injury that Key complained to the police after a journalist taped their conversation.

National and ACT had done similar self-serving deals in Epsom before, and showed just how unfair coat-tailing can be. In the 2008 election ACT got 3.65 per cent of the vote but won five seats in the House thanks to coat-tailing. New Zealand First, by contrast, got slightly more than 4 per cent of the vote but no seats in the House, because it won no electorate. This was mad, but highly convenient to the two right-wing parties.

Coat-tailing, in fact, has kept the dying and discredited ACT party alive. It delivered John Banks a seat in the House, and this week Banks stood disgraced when found guilty in the High Court of knowingly filing a false electoral return. Key, whose self-serving deal with Banks has hurt his own credibility, has even persisted in defending Banks’ “honesty” since the verdict. Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere.

Hard-nosed strategists such as Internet Party leader Laila Harre argue that this is “taking back MMP”, as though this kind of thing was a blow for people power instead of the cynical politicking that it really is.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, no matter what power-hungry politicians might think. The Government should abolish the coat-tailing clause, along with its associated overhang provision, and drop the 5 per cent threshold to 4 per cent. However, it won’t happen while National is in power.

– The Dominion Post

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Note the highlighted sentence; ” Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere“.

That statement demanded a response…

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:11:45 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

 

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Your editorial on National's exploitation of MMP's
'coat-tailing' provision was insightful until this jarring
statement ruined it;

"Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry
coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira's
electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere." (9 June)

What "tawdry coat-tailing deal" might that be?

Because every indication is that not only will Labour refuse
to engage in any deal-making, but  MPs Chris Hipkins, Kelvin
Davis, Stuart Nash, et al, have been vociferously attacking
the Internet-Mana Party on social media. If any such "deal"
exists, someone forgot to tell those Labour MPs.

However, if even Labour and Mana-Internet came to an
Epsom-like arrangement - so what?

Those are the rules that this government has decreed and
must be played. Anyone playing by some other mythical
"principled" rules will sit saint-like on the Opposition
benches whilst National gerrymanders the system.

Suggesting otherwise creates an unlevel playing field that
benefits one, at the expense of others, and is untenable.

If it's good enough for National to arrange deals in Epsom,
Ohariu, and soon with the Conservative Party, then it should
be good enough for everyone.

No one takes a knife to a gunfight unless they are dead-set
on losing.


-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Discredited flaw still being exploited

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

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Foot In Mouth

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When I first read  Patrick Gower’s comments on Twitter;

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance

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– I was gobsmacked.

For a moment I considered that his account had been hacked and hijacked by ACT-On-Campus agitators.

Then I read several further “tweets” from the TV3  journalist;

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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance (2)

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This was not the work of a “hacker”.

More like a hack.

Note Gower’s comments,

1.

“Lalia Harré – you make me feel sick by how you are rorting MMP Same goes for your pals Hone, Dotcom, Minto and Sykes.”

I trust that Gower will not be surprised if Ms Harré declines any further interviews  with him? After all, Laila’s compassion would not allow her to make poor Patrick “feel sick“.

2.

“No I’m not OK with it. It’s not OK. Rorting MMP is not OK.”

 

No, Patrick. A strategic alliance between two political parties is not a “rort”.  It is making full use of the rules of MMP – as this current government has itself endorsed and used on at least two occasions.

Secondly, it is not a “rort” because the strategic co-operation is out in the public domain, for all to see. Including the voters of Te Tai Tokerau.

It is up to voters to determine if it is a rort or not.

I would add that this strategic co-operation was done more openly; more transparently than the *nudge,nudge, wink, wink* “cuppa tea” meeting between John Key and John Banks, in an Epsom coffee shop, on 11 November 2011. And far more open  and upfront that the sham candidacy of National Party candidate, Katrina Shanks, in Ohariu in the 2011 Election.

Was the Alliance – set up in 1991  between the NewLabour Party, Mana Motuhake, Greens, and Democratic Party (a fifth party, the Liberals, joined later)  – also a “rort”?

Or was it a what it was – a strategic alliance of small parties to adapt to the rules of the then-electoral system of First Past the Post?

The rules of MMP were not decided by Lalia Harré, Hone Harawira, Kim Dotcom, John Minto, or Annette Sykes. They can only use what they have been given.

3.

“I want coat-tailing to go. I want politicians to stop rorting MMP.”

Fine. But I really think you should take that up with John Key and Judith Collins.

They are the ones who decided to keep the “coat talking” provisions.

They are the ones who rejected the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to eliminate the “coat tailing” rule and reduce the threshold for Parties from 5% to 4%. But they refused. Why?  Because the “coat-tailing” rule suited them very nicely.

When a governing party decides to preserve a provision in an electoral system because it increases their chances of winning more seats, or gaining seats for prospective allies – that is a “rort”.

It is also known as gerrymandering.

Blaming two tiny political parties who, between them have one seat in Parliament, and are using the MMP system as it has been presented to them – is just too asinine to take seriously.

Gower shows himself to be the  village idiot, with an over-inflated sense of self-worth, is he does not understand this simple truism.

4.

“I fight those deals too.”

“Lets fight these deals together.”

Really?

And here I was, thinking that you were a political journalist reporting the news – not making it or judging it.

Aren’t you supposed to present the facts to us, and leave the evaluation to us, Joe and Jane Public?

Or are we too thick to be able to form our own opinions without journalists now telling us what and how to think?!

If you want to do a Campbell Live or Paul Henry style of story-telling – get your own show, Mr Gower. Then we can keep the differentiation between real reporting and advocacy journalism.

5.

“Nobody in politics will – all are too greedy for power.”

Really?!

Funny thing about that, Mr Gower -  all those “greedy for power” were elected to office by us, the People. If you have a problem with that – take it up with the voters who put those politicians into office. I’d like to see Patrick Gower make a tweet, for example;

“Voters of Epsom – you make me feel sick by how you are rorting MMP Same goes for your pals, the voters in Ohariu.”

I could see your employers having ‘kittens‘ if you tried to slag off tens of thousands of potential viewers with such a shotgun-style delivery of abusive criticism, eh?

What really annoys me about such a cynical state that “Nobody in politics will – all are too greedy for power” is that it is patently untrue. It is a generalisation based on nothing except your own personal experiences and cynical outlook on life.

Because, really, what is the alternative?

Democracy is be the worst form of political system – except all the others, as some famous bloke said a while ago.

By your cynicism you are simply perpetuating the feeling of alienation that pervades our society and helping to further voter disengagement rather than doing anything positive to improve the system.

Maybe I’m missing something here?

Perhaps trying to increase disengagement – especially with parties on the Left – is your real agenda?

6.

“It is about standards. Somebody has to hold the line”

I guess it’s easier to maintain “standards” and “hold the line” when it’s two small parties, with one MP between them – rather than the governing party in power, with fiftynine MPs, and the full force of the State behind them?

That’s the ‘trick’, Paddy, start small, on the little guy. And if you can beat him up, move on to the next little guy. But whatever you do – don’t take on the Big Boys, Paddy. Because you know they’ll kick your flabby arse from one end of this country to the other.

7.

“@RusselNorman Yes. But now it is time for the Greens to show some backbone and rule out working with the Mana-Dotcom rort. Why won’t you?”

Ah, and here we have it – the nub of it all.

This is not about “rorting” MMP. Or keeping “standards“. Or “holding the line“. Or any other lofty ideals.

Nah.

This is about keeping a Labour-Green-Mana-Internet Party(-NZ First?) coalition government from taking power post September 20th.

Because if the Greens (and Labour) were foolish enough to follow  Gower’s suggestion – that would effectively lock out any chance of a new government forming, thereby throwing out Key and his cronies.

Bear in mind that when National did their dirty deal in Epsom with John Banks – Gower did not call on Key “ to show some backbone and rule out working with the Mana-Dotcom rort”.  (If he did, I must have missed it.)

That is what this is all about. All this self-righteous, indignant chest-thumping – to keep National in power and prevent a left-wing government taking office.

How else does one explain the volume of hysteria associated with two tiny political parties that barely register 2% (collectively!) in the polls?

Answer? Because it threatens the established system and those who maintain it and profit by it.

Gower has seriously damaged any credibility he might have had.

By his own words, he has disclosed his agenda.

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References

Twitter: Patrick Gower


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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The Mana-Internet Alliance – My Thoughts

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internet party mana party

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1. Mana’s cunning plan

Firstly, let me say that I have a huge amount of respect for Sue Bradford. Much like Kate Sheppard, her contribution to New Zealand society with her political activism and expression of ideals is something that our children and grandchildren will recognise and appreciate. She is the better part of our nation’s collective conscience in what is right, fair, and decent.

When Sue  Bradford speaks, we listen.

On the issue of the Mana-Internet Party Alliance (it is not a merger, as cynics and right-wing commentators are suggesting),  whilst I understand her reservations, I don’t accept we have the luxury of being “purer than pure” about this.

I don’t need to remind people that this government has been vicious toward low income earners; workers; and welfare recipients. Whilst National has bent over backwards for the likes of Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, and Skycity, it has nothing but contempt for those at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum.

Bennett’s on-going war-of-words on the unemployed and solo-mothers (but never solo-fathers) and repressive new  measures at WINZ are making life harder and harder for those who must survive on welfare.

Simon Bridges’ anti-union legislation will destroy the last vestiges of protection and collective bargaining for workers, delivering them into the grasping fists of local and foreign capitalist corporations.

We can argue all we like about the ethics of co-operation between Mana and the Internet Party.  We can indulge our political passions till the dairy cows come home (after their morning poo in our rivers).

We can keep waiting for a mass workers’ movement to rise up and overthrow the oligarchy that rules this country (and others throughout the world) – but really,  it ain’t gonna  happen, folks.

Quite simply, the poor/unemployed/low-paid are too busy struggling day-to-day to survive on their meagre incomes; avoiding debt collectors; and keeping up with WINZ’s ever-changing rules and new hurdles. Who can forget the chilling, heart-wrending  story  of Sarah Wilson, who recounted her experiences with WINZ. There are thousands of men and women and children like Sarah going through what she has.

The middle-classes are either National Party aspirationists who have bought the neo-liberal, consumer-is-king, construct, hook-line-and-sinker – or are trying to keep their heads above water, balancing their outgoings with their income. The latter have one eye on their bank accounts and the other on the lot of the poor/unemployed/low-paid – and will do anything to keep from slipping down to their bottom level.

Like homelessness in the United States, once down the socio-economic ladder, it is damned hard to climb up again.

If we needed  a clear example why the Left must take every opportunity to rid ourselves of this government, it is this piece, which I have republished from Tony Milne’s blogpost on The Daily Blog;

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Hooray for our National Government!

Let me tell you just how well they have supported my family over the last twelve months.

We started off 2013 full of hope that finally things were going to get better. Our children were at new schools and beginning to recover from the trauma of being trapped in the CBD during the earthquake. Having lost our source of income as a result of the earthquake I retrained as a teacher. My husband and I both had teaching jobs. As a beginning teacher and teacher Aide our salaries were very low but at least we were earning.

Strike 1: We were earning but not receiving. Novopay! That wonderful new acquisition of our caring and intelligent government hit us hard. For months we were not paid properly or at all in my husband’s case. This meant that we quickly fell into debt as we had no income. Paying interest on the debt cost us thousands by the end of the year.

Strike 2: My job was a fixed term position for 1 year. That’s ok. I’m sure to find another one… except the government has closed so many Christchurch schools that even many experienced teachers are out of work. So no more jobs available. Way to go government! As if we haven’t suffered enough in Christchurch!

Strike 3: Thank goodness we have a welfare system to help us out in times of trouble. Our incredibly generous government has worked its magic on the welfare system too. Revamping it to make sure those nasty beneficiaries don’t eat into their coffers and mess up the budget surplus targets. So despite being unemployed I am ineligible for a benefit. The reason being that the $379.28 that my husband brings home each week during the school term (as a teacher aide he does not get paid for school holidays) is too much for me to qualify. We can claim an accommodation supplement of $120 per week.

Strike 4: $120 per week accommodation supplement doesn’t go very far in Christchurch thesedays. But if we lived in Auckland we could get more because housing is so much more expensive there. Really? A small 1960’s house with 2 1/2 bedrooms and no insulation is at least $450 a week in Christchurch. A search on Trademe revealed 68 3 bedroom houses available for rent in Auckland for $350 per week or less. There were no 3 bedroom houses for that price in Christchurch. Aah yes there is a housing shortage but the government will not increase the accommodation supplement or do anything to stop the profiteering of landlords. Or make resolving the housing shortage a priority.

Why? Who knows… it seems that people are not as important as those good old market forces – our friends supply and demand.

It is interesting to consider that during a similarly traumatic and destructive national emergency (World War 2), it was illegal to profiteer in this way. In fact in the UK, profiteering like this was akin to treason and carried the death penalty.

Strike 5: So, here we are. A family of two adults and two hungry teenagers and two cats living on $568.28 per week for 40 weeks of the year and $189 per week for the rest when you include our
family tax rebate. Our rent was $470 per week and it was costing $110 per week for my husband to commute to his job. In order to save money we have put the kids into the school where my husband works and moved close by. Our rent is now $450 per week and we are locked into it for the next twelve months. We signed the contract believing that we would be entitled to a benefit that would give me an income and believing that for $450 a week it would be insulated and safe if not beautiful.

We were wrong. We were unable to find anything cheaper despite searching for months. I had applied for a benefit in the first week of February after my previous employment contract ended.

Unfortunately, WINZ were having a tough few months and it took them until the 6th process my application. They declined it. If I had known that it would be declined I would not have signed the tenancy three weeks earlier.

Strike 6: Novopay strikes again! Novopay failed to pay me correctly at the end of my contract so I am still owed a week’s pay. Novopay refuse to talk to teachers and will only talk to the pay officer in the school. I notified the school over a month ago and they say that they have referred the matter to Novopay. Nothing more they can do. Novopay won’t talk to me so I can’t find out where my money is. Stalemate!

So as you can see our wonderful government has taken an ordinary family and crushed it through the accumulated impact of the decisions of their various departments. We survived the earthquake and after three years the physical and psychological injuries are starting to heal. Unfortunately, we won’t survive this government. I don’t know what I can possibly do to change my situation. I have tried every avenue I can think of. Years of hard work all for nothing.

It baffles me that such a government could ever be elected by reasonable people. But then I guess Hitler was elected too… I am sure there are well meaning people in the government somewhere but I wonder if they really appreciate the impact of the decisions that they make on ordinary people.

One other point: getting rid of this government is not just a matter of helping those who are threatened by right-wing policies – though god knows that should be plenty to motivate us.

The longer that a right-wing government is in power, the further their neo-liberal policies are cemented in place, and the harder to undo them. The dismantling of free tertiary education and introduction of tertiary fees/debt, from 1992, is a prime example.

A third term of National will see a further erosion of workers’ rights; beneficiary bashing; growing inequality; worsening housing shortage; and other social and economic ills. A third term will make it much harder for an incoming Labour-Green-Mana-Internet Party(-NZ First ?) to carry out social reforms, as the country is moved further and further to the right.

Time is not on our side.

2. Flavell’s unmitigated hypocrisy

On the Mana-Internet Party Alliance, Maori Party co-co-c0-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell said;

“Utilising Maori seats to drag in somebody who is questionable about their knowledge about things Maori, and indeed the dreams and aspirations of the Tai Tokerau, it’s not on.”

If I were Flavell, I would not be  bandying about words like “dreams” and “aspirations“.

Since  John Key became Prime Minister – with Maori Party support – unemployment has risen; the housing crisis has worsened; child poverty has increased; and income inequality has worsened;

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Income inequality in New Zealand -  the Gini coefficient - 1982 - 2012

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Note the yellow-highlighted After Housing Costs rise in inequality from 36.8 (2007) to 37.7 (2012). The higher the figure in the GINI co-efficient, the greater the inequality.

Many of those unemployed and looking for work or living in garages are Maori or Pacifica. Poverty related diseases are impacting on Maori and Pacifica children worse than other ethnic groups. New Zealand’s under class is growing.

As such, Flavell and his mates in the Maori Party are every bit a part of the problem rather than the solution. So if I were Mr Flavell or his fellow-travellers, I’d be keeping my head down, and mouth firmly shut.

3. Labour’s mind-numbing stupidity

(Some ?) (All ?) Labour MPs need to make up their minds – do they want to be in government or not?

Labour’s Kelvin Davis’s comment on 28 May;

“People can see that this is just a stitch-up and I don’t think they like seeing Tai Tokerau being traded off like that. I think they’re taking the voters of Tai Tokerau for granted.”

- beggars belief.

With that incredibly asinine comment, it appears that certain Labour MPs do not quite comprehend;

  1. This is an MMP political environment – has been since 1996, for god’s sakes!
  2. This will be a closely fought election according to political pundits, commentators, bloggers, pollsters, etc. Even Dear Leader acknowledges that this year’s election will be  close.

As such – and let me bold this so that any Labour politician reading this doesn’t miss it – every single seat will count. The next government may have no more than a one or two seat majority.

In which case, let me explain it in simple terms for Mr Davis and his colleagues;

  • If Kelvin Davis wins Tai Tokerau – that will give one seat to a Labour-led-government.
  • If Hone Harawira wins Tai Tokerau, and the Mana-Internet Alliance polls 1.5% (for example), that will give a Labour-led government two MPs.
  • Let me repeat that, as some of my colleagues may be a bit slow on the up-take on this point;
  • If Kelvin Davis wins Tai Tokerau – that will give one seat to a Labour-led-government.
  • If Hone Harawira wins Tai Tokerau, and the Mana-Internet Alliance polls 1.5% (for example), that will give a Labour-led government two MPs.

Now in my books, two is better than one, by about 200%.

So – unless Labour is getting nervous at impending interest rate rises, and is planning to sit this election out and gift the government back to National – there is no benefit whatsoever to the Left if Kelvin Davis wins Tai Tokerau.

None.

Nada.

Nil.

Zero.

In fact, if Mana-Internet fails to win seats, we could see a third term of this guy, as our Prime Minister;

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johnkey5

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I trust that’s helped focus people’s attention?

4. Postscript

If rumours are correct that Laila Harré has been appointed as the new leader of the Internet Party, then we have nothing to fear. Laila is as solid as they come when it comes to a strong leftwing philosophy. Her integrity, vision, and inner strength  will keep the Internet Party firmly to the Left.

I’d say our chances of a new progressive government post 20 September just got better.

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References

NBR: Internet Party, Mana merge

NZ Herald: Beneficiaries ‘attacked on all sides’

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

Writehandedgirl Blog: Terror and humiliation – just another day with WINZ

The Daily Blog: “We won’t survive this government”

TVNZ News: Dotcom’s party poised for Parliament on Harawira’s coat tails

MSD: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures 27 February 2014

Interest.co.nz: Otago Uni study estimates over-crowding causes over 1,300 hospital admissions a year and some deaths; Professor calls for programme to build thousands of affordable homes

Scoop media: Shocking poverty causing shocking diseases in our children

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

TVNZ News:  Former MP Laila Harre tipped as Internet Party’s new leader

Radio NZ: PM still expects tight election race

Previous related blogposts

Good onya, Sue!

Heroes…

 


 

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Vote the government out

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2014.

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9= fs =

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 30 May 2014 – the Mana Internet Party Alliance

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 30 May 2014  -

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- Demelza Leslie -

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

The contest for votes on the left is heating up with the announcement this week of an alliance between the Mana and Internet parties and the reappearance of former Alliance Party MP Laila Harre.

 

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 30 May 2014 ( 16′  57″ )

  • Mana Party, Internet Party, Laila Harre
  • MMP, “coat-tailing” rule
  • Sue Bradford
  • Kelvin Davis
  • Hone Harawira
  • David Cunliffe
  • John Key, Epsom, Ohariu
  • Winston Peters
  • Gerry Brownlee

John Key;

@ 10.49

“If you look at those places like Epsom and Ohariu, those people actually won their seats outright, in their own right…”

@ 12.28

“He can go on and on and on all he likes that there isn’t some deal and there isn’t something going on. But you just take a step back and you say well what sort of person puts up three or four million dollars, has absolutely nothing in common with the party that’s there, has actually no interest in politics, lives in a twentyfive million dollar house and is arguing he’s there for the poorest New Zealanders which is what, you know, Hone Harawira talks about and Laila Harre talk about. It’s not really a plausible or believable story…”

 
Additional

Power Play, by Chris Bramwell

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

 

 

 

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Letter to the Editor: The ‘Darth Vader’ of Deal Making! (v.3)

 

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

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Fri, 30 May 2014 12:37:12 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

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The Editor
Dominion Post


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How does one define panic?

Answer: when a Prime Minister launches into stinging attacks
on two tiny political parties that, between the two of them,
barely register at 2% in every poll conducted.

I refer to John Key bagging the recent alliance of Mana and
the Internet Party, asserting;

"You've got a guy who can't buy a house in New Zealand, but
he can buy a political party."

Realising that people will draw comparisons between between
his criticism of the  Mana-Internet Party Alliance and
National's stitch-ups in Epsom and Ohariu, Key lamely added;

 "Those people win their seats outright, in their own right.
Their motivations are the beliefs of those parties. That's
not the case here."

What garbage.

With talk of a National-Conservative Party stitch-up before
the election, the 'Darth Vader' of deal-making - John Key -
is drawing attention to his own party's shonkey
"arrangements".

How else to explain the Nats freaking out at Mana and the
Internet Party working strategically together? They must
feel very threatened by a party with a combined poll rating
of only 2%.

The 1% fearing the 2%? Appropriate.

-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: PM accuses Dotcom of trying to ‘buy influence’

 

 


 

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john key is scared of your vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: The ‘Darth Vader’ of Deal Making! (v.2)

 

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

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Fri, 30 May 2014 11:02:22 +1200
TO: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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John Key must be panicking.

How else does one explain his bizarre statements about the
recent Mana Internet Party Alliance;

"You've got a guy who can't buy a house in New Zealand, but
he can buy a political party. I think most New Zealanders
would look at that and be pretty cynical about it. No one
should be under any illusion."

No, Mr Key, we are not "under any illusion".

Especially when the Prime Minister lamely insists that the
National-Peter Dunne stitch-up and the National-John Banks
stitch-up in 2011 were obvious examples of deal-making from
the Right.

And coming soon, for this election, as well as stitch-ups in
Ohariu and Epsom, voters can now look forward to a deal
between John Key and the Conservative Party. But according
to the Prime Minister, deal-making between Right Wing
parties is ok;

"Those people win their seats outright, in their own right.
Their motivations are the beliefs of those parties. "

Yeah, right.

Well, I have a deal for John Key, the 'Darth Vader of
deal-making'; how about he stops trying to influence voters
and leave those decisions to us? In return, we won't call
him a hypocrite.


-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: PM accuses Dotcom of trying to ‘buy influence’

 

 


 

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john key is scared of your vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: The ‘Darth Vader’ of Deal Making!

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

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:  Letters to the editor
DATE:     Fri, 30 May 2014 10:28:19 +1200
TO:      "Sunday Star Times" <letters@star-times.co.nz>

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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One can tell when the Right are in a panic - they start
making silly noises about parties on the Left.

Take for example John Key's recent silly utterances about
the strategic alliance between the Internet Party and Mana
that "You've got a guy who can't buy a house in New Zealand,
but he can buy a political party. I think most New
Zealanders would look at that and be pretty cynical about
it. No one should be under any illusion" - is laughable.

I take it that Key excludes the Epsom deal between himself
and John  Banks in 2011?

On the Epsom cup-of-tea deal, Key says, "Those people win
their seats outright, in their own right. Their motivations
are the beliefs of those parties".

Really? So why the need for the "cup of tea" arrangement
with John Banks if ACT could  "win their seats outright, in
their own right"?

One would think the Right would be fine with this kind of
“arrangement” because it validates the Epsom stich-up;
the Ohariu stitch-up; and the coming Conservative Party
stitch-up…

When it comes to stitch-up deal-making, the Left have
learned their lessons from National - especially from John
Key, the 'Darth Vader' of deal-making.


-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: PM accuses Dotcom of trying to ‘buy influence’

 


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Letter to the Editor: Mana, Internet Party, Judith Collins, and “coat-tailing”

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

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Oh, the height of irony as various National MPs bleat on about Mana-Internet Party “coat-tailing” on Hone Harawira’s electorate…

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Thu, 29 May 2014 12:51:49 +1200
TO: "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Gerry Brownlee, other National MPs, supporters, and assorted
hangers-on have accused the Mana and Internet Party Alliance
of "stitching" up a deal and "coat-tailing" on Hone
Harawira's electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.

I might remind Mr Brownlee and National's fellow-travellers
that, after taking hundreds of public submissions, the
Electoral Commission recommended in May last year to do away
with the "coat tailing" provision in MMP, as well as
reducing the Party threshold from 5% to 4%.

Justice Minister, Judith Collins - perhaps too busy with
trips to China and milk issues - refused to implement the
Electoral Commission's recommendations. She cited "lack of
consensus" from MPs.

Translated into plain english, Collins' reference to a "lack
of consensus" meant ACT and Peter Dunne opposed removing the
"coat tailing" provision because it would impact on a slim 
chance to bring additional MPs into Parliament on their
"coat tails".

John Key had the chance to remove this unpopular provision
from MMP and failed to do so for their own self interest.
Now the chooks have come home to roost for National.

-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: Govt rejects recommendations to change MMP system

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 27 May 2014

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 27 May 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Our political commentators speak about the recent boost in National’s polling, the strengthening New Zealand economy, and the upcoming elections.

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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 (21′ 30″ )

  • Budget 2014, Family Package
  • Polls
  • Election 2014, voting, Labour-Green Bloc, “Missing Million” voters
  • David Shearer
  • Environment, rivers, genetic engineering, nitrate pollution, Ruataniwha Dam
  • Resource Management Act reforms, Amy Adams, Peter Dunne
  • Mana Party, Internet Party
  • Green Party list
  • Winston Peters, Parliament

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

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

.

- 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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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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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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Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

1 February 2014 1 comment

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Continued from: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – As Wellington basked in a fine, warm summer day, over two hundred people gathered at Midland Park, in Lambton Quay, in the city’s CBD.

The message from Wellingtonians was simple; don’t mess with our environment;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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The media filmed and recorded, as speakers addressed the crowd, and Wellingtonians lined up to sign the Trespass Notice;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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Oil Free Wellington organiser, James Barber, on the bullhorn;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014-21.jpg

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TV1 and TV3 camera crews, with Radio NZ’s reporter off-picture;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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The protest march took off along Lambton Quay, toward the offices of Anadarko, several city-blocks away;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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Strangely, the police insisted that protesters keep to the footpath instead of the road.  Which proved more of an inconvenience to other pedestrians than potential  inconvenience to vehicle traffic, of which there was little on the road;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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When some of the protesters spilled onto the edge of the road, this police officer took a strong response to force them back on the footpath – despite the road being closed to  vehicular traffic. There was a momentary face-to-face confrontation between James and this policeman;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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It seemed rather unnecessary, as most  protesters were good natured, middle class Kiwis, rather than “hard-core-fanatical-extremists-hellbent-on-the-destruction-of-Western-Capitalism”.

The marchers moved along Hunter Street, crossing a road. Next stop, Anadarko!

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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There was support from by-standers and passers-by, such as this worker who stood across the road from the marchers, expressing her obvious approval by clapping;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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The protestors arrived at the Todd Building, where Anadarko  is headquartered. At this point, the crowd numbers had swelled to nearly 300 (approx);

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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The open courtyard quickly filled;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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The Mana Party was well represented at the protest;

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anti-anadarko protest - midland park - wellington - NZ - 24 January 2014

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Meanwhile, as pointed out in the previous part of this blog report – the Labour Party was conspicuous by it’s absence.

Oil Free Wellington organiser and spokesperson, Fi Gibson (in background, with loudspeaker), addressed the crowd and explained that the Trespass Notice would be delivered to Anadarko, who would be urged to pack up and leave New Zealand;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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Ursula and Ruby had their own message for Anadarko;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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An unusually heavy police presence (at least three other policemen off-camera) at a peaceful, low-key protest;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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Had someone from the Beehive given instructions that Anadarko’s offices and representatives were to be protected at all costs? With oil licences worth billions at stake, it’s not unlikely that such instructions were issued from “on high”.

These three young women are members of a coalition of environmentalist student activists from Wellington High School and Wellington East Girls College. From left-to-right, Rheilli, Courtney, and Anna;

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anti-anadarko-protest-midland-park-wellington-nz-24-january-2014

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Spokesperson Anna had this to say on the problem posed by deep-sea drilling;

“We’re a coalition between Wellington East Girls College and Wellington High School. We are Oil Free Wellington for Schools…

… We support support Greenpeace,  Green Party,  Oil Free Wellington and any other grass roots or NGO groups in the area, to stop deep sea drilling of our coast. Particularly in the Pegasus Bay area because it’s right where we live and we love the ocean. We want to protect the ocean not only for  us, as children, but for our children and their children, the future generations of New Zealand.”

I asked what they saw as the top concerns around deep sea drilling. Anna replied,

“Well, I’m definitely concerned about the spill risk which is huge. There is no way that this is an environmentally viable solution.

But my main  concern is that we’ll all  be contributing to global warming.

Already out of the 3,000 available giga-tonnes of carbon fuel-reserves we can only afford to burn another 500 of those [giga-tonnes]. Those are the ones we already have. We have no business digging up more.

We can’t raise the temperature above 2 degrees, otherwise it could mean mean catastrophic climate change [and] out  of control situations.”

I was mightily impressed by Anna, and her friend’s knowledge and dedication to environmental issues. If the young people of New Zealand are of the intelligence and passion of these three young people, then the future of this country is a bright one indeed! (No, not John Key’s “vision” of “bright”.) They’ll have to be – our generation will be leaving our children and grand-children a hell of a mess to clean up.

Before dispersing, people were invited to leave messages for Anadarko on the courtyard floor and footpath (in removable chalk);

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The messages varied,

“Solar energy is the way”

“Go home Anadarko”

“Frack off”

“[peace sign] world peace”

“Stop killing our oceans”

“Keep out greed”

“No deep sea oil”

“We’re better than oil”

“Leave our sacred land”

“Enough is enough”

“You’re on the wrong side”

“Leave the sea alone”

“No future in oil mate”

“Don’t drill just chill”

“How do you sleep at night?”

“Blood is on your hands”

“Fuck John Key”

“Deep sea drilling is a criminal act”

“We [heart] this planet”

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On the issue of Labour’s visible absence; if the Labour Party wants to set itself apart from the Left – as well as general mainstream, middle-class Kiwi society – by supporting the phenomenally risky practice of deep sea drilling, as well as adding to greenhouse gases – then the Labour leadership should not be surprised if they find their fortunes falling in the polls. Whilst at the same time, unsurprisingly, the Greens will be the rising star.

I was intrigued by the make-up of the crowd who protested. Most seemed to be ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders – the sort who would be working in offices; shopping in malls; taking their kids to school; etc. And a large majority were women.

I believe that the leadership of the two main Parties have mis-read the concerns of the public on this matter.

I believe it will become an election issue.

And I believe the Green Party (with perhaps Mana) will stand to gain from their more cautious, common sense approach to this unpopular practice.

I would also offer a word of caution to the Labour leadership; if between now and the election we suffer another major oil spill of our shores, do they really want to be ‘tarred’ by the same oil-brush that National will inevitably be?

Another oil spill will spell the doom of this National government for the next decade at least. Labour would find itself dragged down with the Nats – because they have placed themselves on the wrong side of history.

The protest on 24 January through the streets of Wellington may have been small. But the constituency of the marchers reflected the greater constituency of the country as a whole.

Just in case any Labour and National MPs reading this are in doubt, they should look a little closer at the faces of the people in the pictures in this blog-report.

They are the faces of New Zealanders.

New Zealanders who vote.

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

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 Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – Summer arrived just in time for a gathering of Wellingtonians protesting at deep-sea oil drilling and Anadarko’s presence in New Zealand.

It was a mild, warm day with a light breeze, as protesters gathered at Midland Park in Lambton Quay, down-town Wellington, and mingled with office workers having their lunch on the grass; concrete steps; and nearby Astoria Cafe;

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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People came with printed banners;

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Others made their own;

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Regardless of style and provenance, the message was crystal clear;

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“Expect resistance” – Kiwi style – which will be demonstrated at the ballot box, later this year;

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Political parties, that ignore public concerns at the dangerous practice of deep sea drilling, do so at their peril.

Some came dressed for the part, like this “sea gull”;

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Aya (center) and two fellow Young socialists – the next generation of leaders on the Left. They will be leading the charge against irresponsible corporate, government, and capitalist activity which threatens our planet’s environment;

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The message for all politicians, whether from the Left or Right;

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Wellingtonians were invited to sign a Trespass Notice, to be delivered  in person to Anadarko;

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Many in the crowd who did not take part in the protest were still eager to add their name to the Trespass Notice;

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A simple message, delivered in a clever way;

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So when did the notion of clean water; un-polluted seas; and respect for the environment become a “radical” thing? Isn’t New Zealand supposed to be proud of it’s “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” reputation? Or, as National suggested,  are those “aspirational goals” only?

Young Arlo, standing behind his dad, Green MP Gareth Hughes, as he addressed the protest rally,

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Gareth spoke without a prepared speech, and said that this was about protecting the environment for children “like my son, Arlo”. His sentiments were well recieved by the crowd.

Arlo,  holding his simple message for what it’s all about;

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Gareth was followed by Wellington Regional Councillor and environmentalist, Paul Bruce;

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Paul gave the science behind global warming and said that with  humans continuing to load up the atmosphere with CO2 and seas continuing to warm, it was time to call a halt.

After Paul, Mana Party member and campaigner, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati took the loudspeaker;

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Ariana began by repeating the simple truth; “Aotearoa is not for sale!” She said that deep sea drilling was part of the neo-liberal agenda to “mine it, drill, frack it”.

Ariana said that neo-liberalism was a failed economic system that exploited our resourtces for the benefit of the One Percent. She said bluntly,

No one has the right to prostitute our land!”

Arians expressed her disappointment that Labour had not ruled out deep sea drilling and urged Labour supporters “to work on their Labour MPs“.

Many New Zealanders  will not accept dangerous decisions from politicians who, after all, are only seeking short-term gain and solutions to complex problems. When ‘ordinary’, middle class New Zealanders are expressing opposition to deep sea drilling and all the risks entailed, politicians who ignore their concerns run the risk of being tossed out of office.

Voting is resistance;

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Green MP, Gareth Hughes, interviewed by a TV1 news team;

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Kevin Hackwell, representing one of New Zealand’s most formidible and credible environmental protection organisations, Forest & Bird,  speaking to  members of the public;

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In fact, only one group was conspicuous with it’s total absence: the Labour Party.

And I think we know why.

Continued at: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 January 2014.

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

TV3 News: Oil companies welcome Labour backing

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 Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Letter to the Editor: Is Key losing the plot over Hone Harawira?!

17 December 2013 2 comments

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Another letter to the ed, on this issue…

 

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Tue, 17 Dec 2013 15:39:08 +1300
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

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The Editor
NZ HERALD
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John Key must be losing the plot to be making outrageous,
vile comments like this,  condemning Hone Harawira's
decision to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral,

"This is a guy that went to South Africa on a jolly and
shouldn't be billing the taxpayer for it. The bottom line is
we took a delegation - whether he likes it or not - that
represented, in our view, the right mix. I personally don't
believe there was a role for him to go to South Africa."

If anyone had a right to attend Mandela's funeral, it was
Hone Harawira - one of the leading figures in the 1981
anti-Tour movement. Not two ex-National ministers who
supported the Tour (Bolger and McKinnon).

Certainly Harawira had more right to attend than John Key.
At least Harawira could remember which side of the Tour he
was on.

Shame on you, Mr Key, for indulging in childish, petty,
political point-scoring, before Mandela was even laid to
rest.

Shame!

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ: Key criticises Harawaira for tax-funded trip for Mandela funeral

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Letter to the Editor: More arrogance from an increasingly authoritarian PM!

17 December 2013 Leave a comment

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FROM:     "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:      Tue, 17 Dec 2013 09:02:11 +1300
TO:     "the listener <letters@listener.co.nz>

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The Editor
The Listener

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What is it with the Prime Minister?

Firstly he casually and arrogantly dismissed the recent
asset sales referendum;

"Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that
significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around
about 40 per cent.     That’s not absolutely amazing,
it’s not overwhelmingly opposed."

Then he launches into an unprovoked, nasty,  diatribe against Hone
Harawira for attending Mandela's funeral;

"This is a guy that went to South Africa on a jolly and
shouldn't be billing the taxpayer for it. The bottom line is
we took a delegation - whether he likes it or not - that
represented, in our view, the right mix. I personally don't
believe there was a role for him to go to South Africa."

Despite the fact that Harawira was one of the leaders in the
1981  anti-tour movement?

Unlike Jim Bolger and Don McKinnon who both supported it.

At least Harawira remembered which side he was on, unlike
our amnesia-afflicted prime minister.

It seems that as we get closer to next year's election, Key
is showing signs of stress and outbursts of anger.

Just as well Key  said he will resign as National's leader
if they lost the election. He is  clearly losing the plot.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ: Key criticises Harawaira for tax-funded trip for Mandela funeral

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Key’s arrogance shines through

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Mana enters the Wellington Regional Council race!

Disclosure.

Ariana's MANA PARTY leaflet

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NZ, Wellington, 10 AugustAriana Paretutanganui-Tamati, political and community activist, today launched her candidacy for the up-coming Wellington Regional Council local body elections. Ariana will be standing under the Mana Party banner – a Party she has supported since it’s inception.

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Ariana’s campaign platform was based on the issue of free water for domestic users, and opposed metering and charging. Her policy postion stated,

  • domestic water use should remain a public service,
  • she supported increasing water conservation and collection,
  • making increasing leak repair of the public water system  priority,
  • and opposed water and water-related assets being used for private profit-making.

Ariana’s other concerns were also emblazoned on her placards, dotted around the marquis which her campaign team had set up adjacent to the water fountain;

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Ariana spoke to the crowd on the problematic issue of allowing Anadarko – which had been involved in the disastrous 2010  Gulf of Mexico oil spill – to prospect-drill of the Wellington coast.

Ariana said New Zealand had no means by which to contain an oil spill-disaster along the magnitude of  the Deepwater Horizon event in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The thing is,   that they didn’t actually clean it up. The oil is still at the bottom of the ocean. They used a toxic chemical to sink the oil down so it was out of sight, out of mind.”

The coastal areas were still polluted, Ariana said, and this was affecting sealife in the region as well as  people’s health.

“We must not allow Anadarko to drill of the south coast of Wellington!”

There were cries of “Hear, hear!” from some in the crowd at that point.

In between speaking, Marama Te Kira  entertained  the crowd and passers-by with her music and singing,

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Ariana, and her Campaign Manager, Warwick, talking to a member of the public. The woman listened attentatively and said she agreed with a great deal of Ariana’s policies. Another vote, hopefully?

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Ariana talking to two well-wishers who had heard about her campaign launch on social media, and decided to attend,

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Ariana made a clear  distinction between herself and Fran Wilde, who supported user-pays with water;

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With a crowd forming around Ariana, who carefully explained Mana’s policy to keep water in public ownership for the benefit of all, she offered people water from two containers. One was free, the other cost money.

Everyone took the free water;

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Ariana talking to another member of the public;

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A message to the public that, despite a lingering recession, a tiny minority are doing very well – while everyone else either struggles or is just getting by;

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More of Mana’s messages to the public;

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Ariana, surrounded by supporters and members of the public, fielding questions about her candidacy;

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Totally relaxed with the public. Perhaps people sensed her honesty and lack of underlying secret political agendas;

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Even left-wing, anti-establishment, pro-people activists have to “press the flesh” with potential voters. These two had a good natter on Ariana’s policies;

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Ariana’s campaign manager, Warwick, explaining Mana Party policy to a member of the public,

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Another vote for Ariana from this young chap,

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Brochures given out to passers-by (see image at top of page for detail),

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Addressing the crowd and passers-by;

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Ariana tlold the public that a government advisory group, Chaired by Wellington Regional Council chair Fran Wilde, advocated local bodies adopt a user-pays policy for drinking and waste water. She said this would involve compulsory water metering for every household in the Wellington region.

“Water is a right. Water is a right of citizenship, and should come out of public funds. Everybody should have the right to clean water.”

Ariana said there were other ways to reduce water usage such as education and fixing up the various leaks around the city; “We fundamentally and strongly oppose any privatisation of water.” She added, “this is part of a bigger agenda to commercialise our essential services.”

Ariana reminded people that this had already happened with our electricity supply and our power bills had skyrocketed since the 1990s.

Ariana compared the rise in water costs over the same period, saying it had risen by only 17% saying,  “So this is what happens when you start to commercialise essential services. We need to ensure to ensure that these services are publicly managed for the public good, not for profit.”

Ariana said that selling off essential services had only contributed to people’s hardship and many were struggling to pay for their power bills. She said the same would eventually happen for water,

“If we start selling  of our water, making  people pay, then people on low incomes and who are poor, are going to be forced to make decisions about whether or not they give  their children  a bath… or   whether or not  they can put on the power to warm their house.

This is disgusting!

We have to make sure Councils are run for the public good – not for profits!”

Ariana said she would “work her butt off” to keep water free for every household.”

Ariana directed a simple question at these young men who had been listening intently; do you think water should be kept in public ownership or privatised?

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All three laughed and answered, “keep it public!”

Who said that young folk don’t understand or care about the issues?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 August 2013.

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Disclosure

This blogger supports and endorses Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati for her candidacy in the forthcoming local body elections. (see: Ariana for Wellington Regional Council – Campaign Launch)

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 (or a donation to Ariana’s campaign fund).
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

See also

Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Radio NZ: Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from

The Daily Green: The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill by the Numbers

Scoop Media:  Fran Wilde’s advisory group tells councils to start charging ratepayers for water

NZ Herald:  The 30-year power price hike

Mana Party

Ariana’s Facebook Page

Electoral Commission: Enrol or check your enrolment details

Electoral Commission: Local Elections 2013

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= fs =

Beware of unstable government!

27 June 2013 3 comments

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John Key - Peter Dunne - John Banks

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In case anyone has missed it, Dear Leader and his Ministers have been consistantly spreading the message,  warning us about the potential perils of a Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) coalition government.

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Only National can provide a strong stable Government that keeps debt down and delivers on jobs. The alternative is big spending, big borrowing, and huge uncertainty.  Any way you look at it – a Labour-led Government would owe our future.” – Steven Joyce, 22 November 2011

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If anyone thinks Labour and the Greens are going to deliver stable government, they’d better think again.” – John Key, 19 July 2012

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The sharemarket value of Contact Energy, Trust Power and Infratil shares alone fell by more than NZ$300 million yesterday afternoon. That value was taken out of the pockets of hard-working KiwiSavers, the New Zealand Super Fund and small shareholders across New Zealand. If Labour and the Greens could do that in just a few hours, imagine what they would do if they ever got near being in government.” – Steven Joyce, 19 April 2013

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There is not going to be a difference between centre left and centre right; it’s going to be a Labour government dominated by the Greens.

This would be the issue of 2014 and voters needed to be aware of the differences.

All of those differences between Labour and the Greens will need to be reconciled by Election Day.

If there is to be no Transmission Gully if a Labour/Green’s Government gets in then we need to understand that; they won’t be able to fudge that.” – John Key, May, 2013

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Normally, elections are fought between the centre left and the centre right. That is not what’s going to take place next year. David Shearer has cut his cloth and it is wrapped around Russel Norman … that now becomes an election between the centre right and the far left.” – John Key, 28 May 2013

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Well, we’ve seen “unstability” since November 2011.

One of National’s coalition Ministers was investigated by the Police for electoral fraud, and is now before the courts facing a private prosecution, charged with filing a false electoral return.

Another coalition Minister has just resigned his portfolios after allegations that he leaked document(s) to a journalist.

And National’s other coalition partner, the  Maori Party, seems unsure how many co-leaders it has;

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Three co-leaders of the Maori Party

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I think from now on, Key and his ministerial cronies may lie low a bit and keep comments of “unstable government” to themselves.

Instability? We’re seeing it now, in spades.

This blogger is picking an early general election – this year.

After that, this country can settle down to a coalition government of stability. One that doesn’t include Key, Banks, Dunne, et al.

About bloody time.

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The Nationalmobile

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References

National.co.nz:  Labour plus Greens equals billions more debt (22 November 2011 )

Dominion Post:  Key’s game is ripping into Greens (19 July 2012)

Interest.co.nz:  National’s Steven Joyce dismisses Labour-Greens power policy as ‘bumper sticker politics at its most destructive’ (19 April 2013)

FW:  Key fires warning shot over ‘green-dominated’ labour (May, 2013)

ODT: And so it begins (28 May 2013)

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National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

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We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.  I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together.  I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already.  We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”  John Key, 4 February 2007

Mounting pressure on National has finally yielded results; Prime Minister Key today announced that funding would be provided for some food in schools.

It’s a limited programme;

  1. Increasing the ‘KickStart’ School breakfast programmes from two to five days a week
  2. $9.5 million over five years from the State
  3. A further $9.5 million to be sought from Fonterra and Sanitarium
  4. $1.5 million to Kidscan over three years to provide clothes, health and hygiene products to children from poor families
  5. Targetting  schools with decile rating 1-4. (“Higher decile schools that want and need it, can opt in during 2014“, says Paula Bennett. see:  Breakfast programme part of the solution)

It’s a basic breakfast, weetbix and milk. But it’s a damn sight better than nothing. Anything that gives hungry children a better chance at some basic nutrition and a better chance at learning, has to be welcomed.

Never mind National’s core-support naysayers. They most likely never had to endure any degree of hunger (except maybe getting home late to a dinner of salmon, courgettes, greek-style salad, with a decent pinot gris).

The only thing that worries me is that this $19 million programme relies heavily on support from private companies; Fonterra and Sanitarium. Either one of those companies could pull the plug, citing commercial reasons; shareholder dissatisfaction;  or no particular reasons at all.

This happened in mid 2011, when the Countdown Supermarket chain withdrew it’s support from a Red Cross-operated programme. As the Herald report on 27 May 2011;

Child poverty campaigners want the Government to take over feeding hungry children in low-income schools after the supermarket chain Countdown torpedoed a Red Cross breakfast programme.

[...]

Countdown spokesman Luke Schepen said the supermarket chain gave more than $1 million in food and other help to the Red Cross breakfast programme from its start in 2007 until the end of last year.

It advised the schools to apply to the Kickstart programme run by Fonterra and Sanitarium, which provides milk and cereal to more than 400 schools twice a week.

Acknowledgment – NZ Herald – Govt urged to take over school food programme

It’s interesting that Countdown began it’s assistance in 2007. That was the year that then-leader of the Opposition, John Key, launched National’s own Food in Schools  initiative;

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Acknowledgment – Scoop – National launches its Food in Schools programme

Two years after Key released the policy statement above, Countdown withdrew from the programme. A cynic might suggest that Countdown had fulfilled it’s bargain with National and could safely walk away.

Is that what we’ll see with Fonterra and/or Sanitarium? That, after a couple of years, when the issue of hungry kids has faded from public consciousness, Fonterra and/or Sanitarium will announce their withdrawal from the ‘KickStart’ programme?

Considering that Fonterra is a farmers co-op and the rural community have traditionally voted National; and considering that the Seventh Day Adventist church is a conservative religious group, whose members most likely also vote National – these are natural allies to the Tories.

Let’s hope that this is not a cunning trick by National to down-play this problem and  create a false assurance to the public that the government is “doing something”. That really would be cynical.

Some final points…

The Polls

Of all the reassuring events recently, two polls on TV1 and TV3 reconfirmed my faith in the generosity of most New zealanders. Both  showed over-whelming support for introducing food in schools;

TV1

In favour: 70%

Opposed: 26%

Undecided: 4%

TV3

In favour: 74%

Opposed: 23%

Undecided: 3%

Most surprisingly, Patrick Gower revealed that 66% of National voters were in favour of a Food In Schools programmes, with only a “hard core” of one third opposing it.

Well done those 66%. You folk still have a soul and a heart.

The Naysayers

Your naked selfishness and utter  lack of empathy verges on the  sociopathic. You would condemn innocent children to hunger simply because of some twisted, perverted desire to punish  parents who don’t measure up to your own precious ‘standards’.

Really, go fuck yourselves.

The Public

As Hone Harawire pointed out yesterday (27 May) on TV3, it was public pressure that forced National to pay attention to this growing problem in our society, and to come up with something – anything! – as a solution.

It is inconceivable that we  cannot do something for the children of the poorest families in our own country. Especially when Sweden, the UK, Canada, etc, already offer this most basic service.

Why do we call New Zealand “Godzone” if not to practice what we preach in terms of egalitarianism and helping one another.

This achievement was the result of  a broad people’s movement. Whether it was Bryan Bruce and his incredible  documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“- or individual citizens such as this Facebook user wrote,

The simplest way to address this would be to increase the minimum wage, my wife teaches in a decile 1 school many parents who are working are struggling. Living in the eastern bay of plenty average incomes here are the lowest in NZ. Parents working as pickets or packers in the kiwifruit industry earn bugger all. The myth that those struggling to feed their kids are on the dole is exacting that, many are working long hours , but if you are on the minimum hourly rate in NZ, you only need a doctors bill, or. Car repairs and your family budget is negatively impacted. The concentration of wealth in New Zealand was never better illustrated, than when recently it was revealed that, the CEO of solid energy NZ was suspended on indefinite leave on full pay at home gardening on $5,000 a week. Contrast that with people working 40 hours plus a week and end up with less that $350.00. Lift the minimum hourly rate so working parents don’t have to struggle to put food in the table…” – Alex Dobie

- Thousands of New Zealanders put unrelenting pressure on National and sent one, simple, message to John Key; do the right thing.

The Message

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Tue, May 28, 2013 at 12:36 PM
subject:     Letters to the editor

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The Editor
SUNDAY STAR TIMES
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Sir/madam,

National’s “food in schools” programme relies heavily on the private sector (Sanitarium, Fonterra, etc) to provide breakfasts in schools.

The problem with this policy is that a private business offering charity can walk away any time it decides, leaving the programme unsupported.

Prime Minister Key says,

“This is something that corporates do because they have a corporate social responsibility. So I’d imagine there are situations where they could walk away but they’re pretty unlikely to because it’s pretty good for their brand – because it’s genuinely a nice thing that they’re doing.” (28 May)

“Pretty unlikely”? Really?

That is precisely what happened in mid-2011 when the Countdown supermarket chain withdrew contributing to the Red Cross’s food in school programme.

Let’s hope we don’t see a replay of that event.

On a related note, it is appropriate for Sanitarium to be contributing to a Food in Schools programme. Being owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church, Sanitarium pays little or  no taxes because it’s owner (the church) has charity status.

At least now Sanitarium can put something back into the community.

-Frank Macskasy

(address and phone number supplied)

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The Children

Whatever reservations I might have on National’s motivation and long-term agenda, the main thing here is that more children will  be fed at schools. That is a positive step, and one to be encouraged.

Until a Labour-Greens-Mana coalition can implement Hone Harawira’s Food In Schools Bill, National’s programme is better than nothing.

At least it will put nutrition into young, empty bellies. And really, that is what counts.

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15915c9e-198a-4b23-b54c-109b896f43bf_popup

“Please, Mr Key, sir, may I have some more?”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 May 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

National on Child Poverty?!

On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…

Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

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

References

Scoop:  National launches its Food in Schools programme  (

NZ Herald: Govt urged to take over school food programme (27 May 2011)

Beehive: Breakfast programme part of the solution (28 May 2013)

Dominion Post:  Key: Food in schools here to stay  (28 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Schools gets $9.5m breakfast funding boost (28 May 2013)

Radio NZ:  Govt gives $9.5m to expand food in schools programme (28 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Govt rolls out expanded food in schools (28 May 2013)

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Westpac, Peter Dunne, & Edward Snowden…

23 June 2013 5 comments

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Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage Over NSA Leaks

Acknowledgement: Huffington Post -  Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage Over NSA Leaks

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Are we  witnessing the first green buds of the Earth Spring?  All over the world, the winds of change are blowing harder and harder.

The Arab Spring was first, and people rose up against dictators in Algeria, Egypt, and Libya. In Syria, a similar popular uprising  turned into a bloody sectarian war, claiming nearly a hundred thousand lives. Dictator Assad will not give up power easily.

In the West, the Occupation movement flowered for a brief moment, but has become dormant again… for a while.

In Turkey and Brazil, people have come out onto the streets to oppose their  governments. Even democratically elected governments are feeling the brunt of popular discontent.

In the US, even as a once great symbol of freedom devolves into a police surveillance state, individuals are risking personal safety and rebelling.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are two such men.

Manning was arrested in May 2010, and is currently facing a military trial (and we know how that will turn out).

Now, Edward Snowden is the latest whistleblower to be charged by an American system that is becoming more and more despotic.

When a government fears it’s own people, it is well past it’s Use By date.

Bradley and Snowden: history books will be kinder to them than the politicians who persecuted them.

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Dunne hasn't made up mind about GCSB bill

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ -  Dunne hasn’t made up mind about GCSB bill

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Edward Snowden made public information that revealed that US intelligence agencies were spying on citizens in countries around the world. He revealed that no one’s privacy  was safe.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, the National led government is rushing a Bill through Parliament that would permit the GCSB to do precisely that; spy on New Zealanders.

We have moved from a nation that barely tolerated the State from prying into our lives – to one that is surveilling us; storing vast quantities of data on us; and now wants more power to spy on us.

There is barely a murmur in response.

Even the Right Wing – the political spectrum that is  (supposedly) the most intolerant and suspicious of  the growth of  State power – seems to be practically comatose. Though in reality that may be because National is proposing the law-change, and not Labour. If it were a Labour government…

Peter Dunne, fresh from  resigning his ministerial portfolios for allegely leaking the Kitteridge Report (or, more accurately, breaking an embargo, since it was one week away from being released anyway), has yesterday  announced that he might not support National’s  Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

Whilst I’m not about to look a gift-moa in the mouth and happily support Dunne on this – it does raise a few questions.

Questions like… why?!?! Up till now he has been  the obedient lap-cat of the National Party, so why all of a sudden has the Coiffured One grown a pair, and practically thrown his lot in with the Snowdens and Mannings of this world?

Martyn Bradbury on The Daily Blog has been speculating on Dunne’s motivations in his part of the GCSB Affair in a series called The Dunne & Vance Theory.

Whatever is going on – I hope Dunne votes against the Bill. We don’t need to empower our spy agencies any more than they are already. We need to remember that the State is our servant – not the other way around.

We don’t need to be constantly surveilled, in case one of us happens to nick a pen or spray-paints ‘Key Sucks’ on the footpaths outside Parliament.

Up until the 21st century, the State pursued crooks after they committed wrong-doing. Now, the State seems intent on watching us all – in case someone, somewhere, is naughty.

Isn’t that… Big Brother?

I support Dunne on this dire issue. It is time to call a halt to the rise of the Surveillance State.

Dunne may well be the man to do it.

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Govt move to tender banking gets Green approval

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt move to tender banking gets Green approval

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I’ve always wondered…

Why have successive governments (Labour as well as National)  used Australian-owned Westpac Bank to hold government accounts – known as the ‘Master Banking Contract’?   The Master Banking Contract has been held by  Westpac for 23 years despite never  being tendered out.  It covers all government departments (except  Crown entities and  SOEs).

According to Alex Tarrant,

  • In the late 1980s, Treasury undertook an open tender to select one bank to provide the Crown’s domestic banking services. Westpac was selected to provide these services and a deed entered into in January 1989.
  • A new master agreement was signed in November 2004 and, since 2005, the Crown has negotiated ongoing contractual price reductions for contract services.
  • The contract covers only the core banking services associated with operating Government departments’ bank accounts for processing domestic receipt and payment transaction banking business in New Zealand.
  • An increasing array of banking services have developed over time that are not covered by the master banking agreement with Westpac. Banking services that are not covered by the contract are regularly tendered by the departments concerned.
  • The contract applies only to Government departments, not Crown Entities or SOEs.
  • The Treasury regularly consults with key departments over pricing and service levels relating to the contract, including the possibility of conducting a future tender of the Crown’s banking arrangements.
  • The contract has not been re-tendered to date because the costs of doing so outweigh the expected benefits given the complexity of arrangements with departments and the price reductions negotiated under the existing contract.  Departments do, however, tender for a range of supplementary banking services not covered by the master banking agreement with Westpac.
  • The fee arrangements between the Crown and Westpac are commercially sensitive and are not made public.

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz – Government considers future of Westpac’s key 21 year-old banking deal

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Here are two further points to consider,

  1. Last year Westpac NZ  reported   $707 million in after-tax profit  -  a 22 %  increase from 2011. (See: Westpac profit rises 22pc to $707m )
  2. In October 2009, the IRD won a lawsuit against Westpac which had been  taken to Court for tax avoidance. Not only did Westpace lose, but it ended up owing $961 million in back taxes and accrued interest. (See: Westpac loses massive tax case on all counts)

So, Mr Key or Mr English – just remind us again why the NZ Government still has a Master Contract for State banking, with a convicted tax avoider, that actively conspired to scam the tax-payer for nearly one billion dollars?!

How is that being a Good Corporate Citizen?

Perhaps we should just let the Russian Mafia tender for our banking services – the result would be the same.

So not only is Westpace making huge profits – $707 in 2012 alone – but they’re screwing us by not paying their share of tax, as the law demands.

Have I left anything out?

Screw the tender process.

Just give the Master Contract to Kiwi Bank. The benefits would be obvious to all but the most strident, dogmatic  right winger;

  1. No more tax avoidance – the Crown-appointed Board  (with Ministerial over-sight) would see to that,
  2. Kiwibank would make bigger profits and therefore pay a bigger dividend to the government,
  3. All profits remain in New Zealand and not shipped of overseas (to Australia in Westpac’s case)
  4. Less profits remitted overseas will help of balance of payments

Win/win/win/win.

I’m just gobsmacked that no politician – whether Labour or National – has ever seen the blindingly obvious nature of this commercial cock-up.

And strangely enough, it’s left-wing parties – Mana and the Greens – thay have to point this out to the more capitalist-minded Nats?!

Though the reasons why the Nats have stayed ‘sweet’ with Westpac seem to be less than commercially sensible and more to do with a good night out…

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Greens say govt must tender master banking contract with Westpac after Ministers reveal corporate hospitality accepted from the bank

Acknowledgement: Interest.co.nz – Greens say govt must tender master banking contract with Westpac after Ministers reveal corporate hospitality accepted from the bank

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Just to remind folks: New Zealand is the “least corrupt nation” on Earth. And government ministers are not corrupt, nor easily bought off by corporate parasites.

I can’t say otherwise.

Otherwise I’d be sued for telling the truth.

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Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/06/21/surveillance-laws-strikebreaking-subversive-groups/#sthash.ky4ZiKiZ.dpuf

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

11 June 2013 3 comments

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

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1. We’ve had the ‘chat’

We should all know the facts and stats by now;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. More ‘chat’?

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

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Time for a chat on food in schools

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

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As Dr Wills said,

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

Blaming parents is unhelpful and simplistic.

So far, so good.

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
Principal, Cannons Creek School

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

Mike Fackney
Principal, Taita Central School

 

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

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
 

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

Mike Fackney
 

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

Bryan Bruce
Documentary Producer

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
 

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

Mike Fackney
 

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

Bryan Bruce
 

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
 

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

Mike Fackney
 

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

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

Bryan Bruce
 

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

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

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
 

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

Mike Fackney
 

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

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

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

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

Bryan Bruce
 

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

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

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

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

He also states,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upper Hutt School

Photograph:  Upper Hutt School, Upper Hutt

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Ruth O’Neill
 

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

 

Mike Fackney
 

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

Mike  replies,

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

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

All of this sounds like an organisation nightmare.

Bryan Bruce
 

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

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

Ruth O’Neill
 

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

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

Bryan Bruce

 

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

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

Ruth O’Neill

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

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

 Exactly??? Or who have high vandalism.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ruth O’Neill

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

Mike Fackney

All of the above are very valid concerns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The time for “chat” is over.

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

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

For more info, see: Feed the Kids Bill

As their website points out,

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

One more vote.

That’s all it will take.

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

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

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

OR

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

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

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

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

Bryan even suggests a pre-formatted letter to send,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

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

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

Yours faithfully………

Even something as simple as,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

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

Yours faithfully………

Or,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

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

Yours faithfully………

The MPs email addresses,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
Bryan

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

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Acknowledgement

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

Other Blog Posts

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

References

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

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

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

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

Additional

Mana Party: Feed the Kids #fact sheet

Feed The Kids

Facebook: Community Campaign for Food in Schools – NZ

Ten Myths About Welfare

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

Other blogposts

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

And from the nasty side of Conservative Rightwing politics

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

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Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

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feed the kids

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The Mana Party currently has a bill before Parliament, which, if passed, will fund school meals for children in Decile One and Two schools. These are schools in the poorest parts of our country.

Because as many of you readers know (or SHOULD know), child poverty has been steadily increasing over the last decades. Whether caused by low wages; inadequate welfare payments for unemployed; high house rentals and electricity tariffs; dysfunctional parents; or whatever – about 270,000 children now live in abject poverty.

Many are going to school without breakfast or lunch.

We can blame the parents or the system or whatever. But we can’t blame the kids – they don’t vote. Nor can they speak up or act for themselves (unless, through hunger, they steal food from somewhere). Nor do children choose which family to be born into.

The Mana Party’s “Feed the Kids” Bill is designed to alleviate this growing cancer in our society and to give children a chance for a decent start in life. Food in their bellies will help improve their attention in school and help them focus and learn. Because as we all know (or SHOULD know) – without an education, these children will remain trapped in poverty.

From the Website, Feedthekids.org.nz,

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

“We need one more vote to get it passed and to a select committee for further consideration“,  trumpets the appeal.

Unfortunately, that one vote will not be coming from Peter Dunne.

From the blogsite, YourNZ, run by Peter Dunne supporter, Pete George,

Peter Dunne’s vote would be the one that makes the difference to get this bill passed on the first vote. I asked him if he would support it. Dunne responded:

I fully understand what is intended by this essentially laudable proposals, but I think it is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child. That is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem.

At one level, the idea of meals in schools is superficially attractive, but it is essentially palliative, and does little to deal with the circumstances of these children on a long term basis.

Then there is the question of which group of children should we be focusing on. After all, not all children in schools will come from the same socio-economic backgrounds. So, should such a programme be applied universally, which would be as expensive as it would be impractical, or should it be more tightly targeted?

And if so, how? Should, for example, it just apply in low decile schools, even though there will children in those schools from a higher socio-economic status who would not need such a programme?

In that event, what about low-income household children in higher decile schools? Or, to get around income definition problems, should the children of beneficiaries be the only ones eligible?

Whatever way one looks at the issue, the definitional problems are massive, and strongly suggest that such a programme would not only be unsustainable, but also impractical, and in a number of cases potentially inequitable.

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them  get the support they need to properly feed their children.

That support could take any number of forms, depending on individual circumstances, including direct assistance with the provision of food, at one end of the scale, through to such things as life skills advice on cooking, for example, and proper budget advice at the other end of the scale.

Such a targeted approach is far more likely to succeed in the long term, and benefit directly at-risk children, and would have my full support.

Acknowledgment: YourNZ – Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Blah, blah, blah – it is vile sophistry to justify doing precisely nothing.

Dunne sez,

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them  get the support they need to properly feed their children.

That support could take any number of forms, depending on individual circumstances, including direct assistance with the provision of food, at one end of the scale, through to such things as life skills advice on cooking, for example, and proper budget advice at the other end of the scale.

Not only is that not happening – but social welfare services are being wound back by National, and assistance is getting harder and harder to access;

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National to push 46,000 off welfare

Acknowledgment:  Fairfax Media – National to push 46,000 off welfare

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The consequences for increasing poverty, and the effects on children,  are inevitable;

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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So why is a reasonably intelligent, well-educated man who is socially progressive, so thoroughly opposed to feeding  our hungry children?

After all, Dunne’s track record on social issues seems to be encouragingly positive;

So what’s up with Peter Dunne and his awful, cold-hearted response to the crisis of child poverty afflicting this country? One could imagine ACT and National MPs voting against the “Feed The Kids” Bill – those people either have freezer coolant in their veins, or are ideologically wedded to rugged Individualism and Personal Responsibility (except when National is held to account for it’s stuff-ups and policy failures) that includes perpetuating poverty on a nationwide scale.

Why has Dunne fobbed off meals in schools when he knows full well that it is a successful programme that is cost-effective; helps families in need; and alleviates hunger in our children? Dunne knows full well that food in schools has been a normal feature of Scandinavia and British schools for decades.

The pay-off is kids who can focus on classes and succeed in education. As Bryan Bruce said recently,

let’s get on and feed our kids properly so the teachers are freed to do their job and our kids can learn the 21 st Century skills they will need to earn money, pay their taxes and grow our economy.

See: The Daily Blog – Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

So why has Dunne adopted a miserly attitude that would gladden the dead heart of Scrooge? Why, when he admits that hungry, under-fed children is a very real problem,

Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child.

I submit to the reader that Dunne’s mealy-mouthed words about why we can’t feed hungry children is indicated in his following words,

So, should such a programme be applied universally, which would be as expensive ...

So this isn’t about whether or not child poverty and hunger exists – Dunne concedes that it does.

This is about money.

And Peter Dunne, as we know, is Minister of Revenue.

Just recently, Dunne attempted to tax carparks as part of an extended Fringe Benefit tax. Last year, Finance Minister Bill English announced that a rebate for children earning pocket money (paper delivery boys and girls, etc), would be eliminated. And Gerry Brownlee announced 9 cents per litre increase in petrol taxes over a three year period.

Quite simply, after two unaffordable tax cuts – funded by offshore borrowings – National has found itself in a fiscal hole, of a shortfall of at  least two billion dollars per year.

After Dunne’s fiasco over his failed car-park proposal – which was so unpopular with trade unions and businesses alike – his National colleagues distanced themselves  from the policy, and it was finally dropped by Dear Leader on 18 March.

A day later, Key dumped another proposal by Peter Dunne to  extend tax on cellphones and computer laptops.

As Minister of Revenue, Dunne is in a bind. He is cash-strapped to fund National’s budgetted policies.

It also means he is loathe to support new initiatives which will incur additional spending.

Especially if it puts more pressure on him to find the money to pay for said initiatives.

As Dunne pointed out,  about feeding decile 1 and 2 school-children;

“…should such a programme be applied universally, [it] would be …  expensive

How else to explain his bizarre statement,

“...the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem.  At one level, the idea of meals in schools is superficially attractive, but it is essentially palliative…”

Feeding hungry children is… ‘superficially attractive’?

Feeding hungry children is ‘palliative’??

If Dunne is opposed to feeding hungry children from this nation’s poorest families,  because he would find it difficult to reconcile extra expenditure with revenue, he should at least have the intestinal fortitude to publicly admit it. Tell us, straight up.

Hiding behind faux excuses is obscene. Especially when, with every word he writes, there are children with empty bellies turning up at our schools.

Peter Dunne writes,

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them  get the support they need to properly feed their children.”

So. What has he done to achieve this?

Because all I can see is a cleverly-worded fob-off.

To the people of Ohariu – this is your MP. Is this what you voted for?

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child poverty

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2013, before Peter Dunne resigned as Minister of Revenue.
For a full follow-up debate that followed this blogpost on The Daily Blog, click here.

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References

Feed The Kids

The Daily Blog:  Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

The Daily Blog:  Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

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

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

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

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

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

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

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

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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

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

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

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

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

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

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

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

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

Acknowledgment: IBID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

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

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

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

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

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

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

Acknowledgment: IBID

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

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

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

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

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

Remember the stats above?

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

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

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

Williams further stated,

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

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

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

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

Acknowledgment: IBID

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

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

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

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

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

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

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References

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.

Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).

Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.

More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.

This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)

It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.

The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.

With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey,  poll-driven,  ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.

Part of this is Key’s stated intention;

Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.

“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

At his regular press conference,  Key was coy at whether National would  rule in or out a  food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for  Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.

So. What we have is;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. A vague committment;  “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.

To give an example; our high unemployment.

Unemployment is high.

Jobs are scarce.

National’s ‘solution’; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution’; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.

That was National’s ‘solution’; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;

  1. A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
  2. A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.

Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.

It will be nothing of the sort.

Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.

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References

NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

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

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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Still someone else’s country

10 February 2013 6 comments

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someone-elses-country

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Wellington, Newtown, 9 February 2013 – As the issue of state asset sales and other New Right policies are on National’s impending  agenda, the Newtown-branch of the Mana Party considered it worthwhile taking the time to look back at recent history. The events of today are firmly rooted in the past.

The New Right had taken power in Britain with the election of Margaret Thatcher in May 1979, and in the United States, with the election of Ronald Reagan in November 1980. Our turn came in July 1984, with the snap election called by an inebriated Rob Muldoon. (Intoxication on power and alcohol – not a very healthy mix.)

The Labour government that was swept to power (see: New Zealand general election, 1984) was not the Labour Party that people thought they were voting for. In total secrecy, Labour had been captured by a cabal of fanatical neo-liberal reformers. It was a government firmly under the control of  what we know today, as the ACT Party.

Twenty nine years later…

Mana’s Newtown Branch decided to hold a public screening of Alister Barry’s hard-hitting, insightful, 1996 documentary, “Someone elses’s country“. The story told within that hour-and-a-half documentary is as valid today as it was three decades ago. (In fact, watch “Someone elses’s country” and then watch Bryan Bruce’s 2011 documentary, “Inside Child Poverty in New Zealand” – and the linkages of the radical transformation of our country is all but complete.)

Prior to the screening, the audience was welcomed by Mana Newtown organisor, Ariana, who gave a brief rundown of the content and it’s impact on our society,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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Many in the audience were young people who either had not been born in the 1980s, or were too young to remember the calamitous events that were unfolding. To these people, the events we now understand as Rogernomics and Ruthenasia would have been like the 1951 Waterfront Lockout dispute that rocked the nation.

Following Ariana, a brief introduction to the film was made by sitting Wellington Councillor, Bryan Pepperell,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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Pepperell said,

It’s getting into it’s final stages where the agenda to actually get democracy out of the way of business is actually  now reaching a high-point.There’s an awful lot of window-dressing and democracy in New Zealand context has become that,  substantially window dressing…”

He then  shared with the audience when his first disquiet over the election of the Lange Government came to him,

When David Lange actually said on national television – and I remember the day when I sat and I watched it and I thought I can’t believe what I’m hearing – ‘from now on business is going to make the major decisions’. And that was actually a fairly startling thing as far as I was concerned… unfortunately poor old David probably got quite into something that was bigger than him, and here we are today with the consequences of those early decisions.  And of course the National Party is utterly committed to helping it’s friends further the direction that we started in.”

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The introduction completed, the screening began,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Someone elses's country - public screening - 9 february 2013 - Mana Party

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For many of us who lived through the period, memories of the time came flooding back. In some instances, several people in the audience even recognisedthemselves – with much younger faces – in stills and video footage of protest actions.

It is also worth recalling that despite calls from throughout the country,  TVNZ’s Board rejected calls for widespread broadcasting claiming it it “too political”.

“Too political”?!?!

Of course it was bloody political!

It was so damn political that TVNZ’s boardmembers would have  soiled their panties at the thought of upsetting their Ministerial masters in the Beehive.

As the doco’s producer, Alister Barry , said in November 2009,

It was no accident that Someone Else’s Country wasn’t screened on TVNZ when it was completed in 1996.

It wasn’t that the Business Roundtable needed to actually tell the TV programmers not to screen it. Television executives knew perfectly well where their salaries came from and that TVNZ was being readied for sale.

Fourteen or fifteen minutes of every television hour – the very limit of viewers’ tolerance – was filled with messages carefully and expensively constructed to reach into their fears and appetites. Clutches of advertisements urged New Zealanders to “buy”, to think and feel like frustrated consumers. Airing a documentary which led viewers to think of themselves less as consumers and more as citizens capable of taking political action was not in the interests of the big corporations controlling the advertising dollar.”

See: Someone Else’s Screen

It was not until 2003 that TVNZ finally mustered the courage to air  “Someone elses’s country” – on a Sunday afternoon. Hardly peak viewing time.

Barry also had this pointed insight to make,

It had been anticipated by New Zealand’s New Right revolutionaries, that by the early 2000s our values would have changed and we would have come to think like them, accepting poverty and extreme wealth as both normal and necessary. To pursue personal advantage and to care less about our neighbours. But studies show that in fact our values haven’t changed much from those of our parents and grandparents.
 
What is happening though, is that we are forgetting how things used to be and who changed them. Even as the human and environmental costs of the neoliberal experiment increase, we are finding it harder and harder to imagine how things could be better.

I hope you will find this film a useful antidote to forgetfulness.”

See: IBID

Which is what this country so desperately needs – an antidote to the collective amnesia which so many of our countrymen and woman so often succumb to.

As this blogger noted above; imagine the disquiet and anger that would result if  “Someone elses’s country” was broadcast at prime-time, on a major tv channel – and then followed by Bryan Bruce’s, “Inside Child Poverty in New Zealand“…

Addendum 1

The neo-liberal agenda continues. National plans to partially-privatise three power companies; a mining company; and Air New Zealand (which was privatised once before on 17 April 1989).

National is implementing a privatised form of education via “Charter Schools”.

And the economy is to be further “de-regulated”  and made the rights of foreign corporations extended.

Addendum 2

In a society run along neo-liberal lines, it becomes dangerous to upsets one’s masters investors,

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Hollywood gets heavy over Hobbit

Full story

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And shame upon shame to Jackson and his mates for aiding and abetting Hollywood’s Heavies.

What are they hiding?

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Additional Info

Mana Party

Mana Party – Feed the Kids

Copyright (c)  Notice

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

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

Anti asset sale rally – this Wednesday 13 February

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frank kitts park no to asset sales 13 feb

Source

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