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Posts Tagged ‘National government’

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3…

21 October 2013 3 comments

Why is it…

That drug testing the unemployed is seen by National Ministers as a good thing…

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Fail a drugs test and lose your benefit, job seekers warned

By Isaac Davison @Isaac_Davison

5:30 AM Monday Jul 2, 2012
Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett. Photo / Natalie Slade

Beneficiaries who refuse or fail drug tests while applying for jobs will have their welfare cut from mid-2013 under the Government’s next round of welfare reforms.

The National-led Government says there are now no consequences for drug-takers who opted out of job applications when faced with a drug test.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told the Herald the new Welfare Reform Bill would have new requirements for drug testing, but the finer details were still being finalised.

National’s pre-election policy document said beneficiaries who did not apply for a job because a prospective employer asked them to take a drug test would have their benefit cancelled.

If they took the drug test and failed it, they would also be sanctioned.

Source: NZ Herald

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… But drug testing the Police (who regularly have access to lethal weapons), is a big No-No?

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Police minister says no to drug tests at work

Updated at 7:38 pm on 17 October 2013

Police Minister Anne Tolley says police staff should not be drug-tested in the workplace.

Her comment came after a police prosecutor on Thursday admitted charges of using and possessing methamphetamine, and using cannabis.

Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley.  NATIONAL PARTY

Brent Thomson posted videos of himself using methamphetamine, and blogs describing his use of drugs at sex parties in April and May, online.

Police found a small amount of the drug “P” and syringes when they searched the 49-year-old’s home. He is seeking a discharge without conviction in the Waitakere District Court.

Thomson, who worked mainly in the Family Violence Court and the Auckland District Court, is also subject to an employment investigation.

Anne Tolley says the overwhelming majority of police staff are doing a fantastic job and they should not face workplace drug testing. She says police are quick to prosecute their own if there is any wrongdoing.

The Police Association agrees that staff shouldn’t be given workplace drug tests. President Greg O’Connor says the public should be re-assured by the systems that police already have.

Source: Radio NZ

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All together now; H… Y… P… O… C… R… I… S… Y.

Yep, hypocrisy.  National has it mastered to a fine art.

With a good helping of beneficiary bashing.

Because if you, as a government can’t fire up the economy to create jobs and reduce unemployment (as we had under the previous Labour-led government), then the next “best” thing is to paint the unemployed as “lazy druggies”. If enough of the middle class (those who  still have jobs or don’t regularly associate with unemployed friends and family) swallow this mindless pap, then that translates nicely into votes at election time.

Never underestimate the power of demonising a minority – especially if there are votes in it.

Just ask any old historian familiar with Germany in the 1920s and 30s…

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Jewish_shops_in_Nazi_Germany

 

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Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

 

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Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis (Part Rua)

9 March 2013 4 comments

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national blighted hoarding 12 it's all labour's fault

Acknowledgement

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Continued from: Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

Opposition Party members of the Commerce Select Committee are demanding that  ex-CEO, Don Elder appear before the Select Committee to answer questions what went wrong at Solid Energy.

With unanswered questions about Solid Energy’s financial crisis; a murky history leading up to current events; big bonuses paid out as the company’s accounts were sinking into the red; and revelations that Don Elder is still recieving his  $1.3 million annual salary  – whilst working from home “serving out his notice” – pressure is mounting on National.

Solid Energy went from a multi-billion dollar company to being heavily indebited to $389 million.

How did this happen?

Did ministerial shareholders Bill English and Tony Ryall not notice?

Were they not receiving reports from Solid Energy’s Board of Directors?

Were no rumours or conversations floating around?

How does one keep a secret like that in a small country like New Zealand? (In which case  should Solid Energy take over our country’s security, from the GCSB and SIS?)

Why were we paying Don Elder for ($1.3 million p.a., plus bonuses no doubt) if not to be held to account?

On 8 March, Key was reported as saying,

“If he wants to go [to the Select Committee hearings] and they want him to go he is not going to get any opposition from my office.”

Source

And SOE Minister chipped in with this,

“It’s a matter for the Commerce Select Committee, Solid Energy and Dr Elder whether or not Dr Elder attends, but I don’t have a problem either way.”

IBID

Good. Because the public – who own Solid Energy – deserve answers. Thus far all we’ve had is the usual finger-pointing by National, with childishly pathetic  attempts to blame Labour for Solid Energy’s woes. As if Labour was still in government and the 2008 and 2011 general elections never happened.

This statement from Key, on 26 February 2013, simply doesn’t wash,

“They  [Labour] can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had.

The argument that somehow we would have gone in, in 2009 when the company was performing well, its results were good, the valuation of the company was going up, and just gone and sacked the board on day one is a bit fanciful.

Maybe we should have re-tested those [Labour-approved] initiatives but actually we gave [Labour] the benefit of the doubt that they might get one thing right.”

Source

“2003”?

That was ten years ago!  What has National been doing in the meantime?

As far back as September 2011, the Nats were abundantly aware that Solid Energy was embarking on expansion plans,

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

Source

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Here’s the photographic evidence, from National’s own ‘Flickr’ account, same date, 9 September 2011 – that’s Finance Minister Bill English, “turning the first sod of earth” for Solid Energy’s  Mataura Briquette Plant  in Southland. That plant was part of their expansion plans,

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solid-energy-chief-executive-don-elder-and-hon-bill-english-at-mataura-9-sept-2011

Source

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Only three months earlier, in June 2011, Key himself was supporting Solid Energy’s explansion plans,

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national business review - nbr - Key supports Solid Energy's lignite plans

Source

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Note Key’s comment in the above article in the National Business Review (hardly a leftist rag),

At the moment companies like Solid Energy are growth companies and we want them to expand in areas like lignite conversion.”

So for Dear Leader to blame Labour is not only disingenuous – it is cowardly.

It shows the entire country that the man who is supposedly or Prime Minister hasn’t got the balls to take it on the chin and admit that he and his Party f****d up. Big time.

Even the editorial from the Dominion Post said, with unconcealed exasperation on 2 March 2013,

There are always excuses when a company starts to fail. John Key’s explanation for the trouble at Solid Energy, however – he blamed the Labour government – was pitiful.

It was Trevor Mallard’s fault, apparently, for encouraging SOEs to spread their wings and fly. That was in 2007 or 2008.

This won’t do, and not just because Mr Key’s Government has been in power for more than four years. His argument also contradicts itself. A Labour government was seemingly omnipotent and could have its way with the state-owned coal company. But National had no such power.

The Government certainly said no when Solid Energy asked for a billion dollars to turn itself into a super-company along the lines of Petrobras, the Brazilian giant. Mr Key says it had grave doubts about the company’s expansion plans. His political opponents point out that he and Bill English had publicly backed Solid Energy’s big plans for lignite conversion and briquetting.

Source

This blogger welcomes Don Elder fronting up to the Commerce Select Committee.  However, that is simply not sufficient. In the interests of full justice, the following should occur,

  • John Key should front up and answer questions as well,
  • Bill English should front up and answer questions,
  • Tony Ryall should front up and answer questions,
  • All documentation should be made available to the Committee,
  • The Chairperson of the Select Committee – National MP Jonathan Young, should stand aside and  be replaced by a non-partisan senior judge or Queen’s Counsel,
  • If necessary, if the Committee is unable to answer questions, a full Royal Commission in Inquiry should be held.

National prides itself on being the party of ‘personal responsibility‘. It is no such thing. It is the party of personal advantage and not much more.

Thus far all we’ve had are evasiveness  and pathetic attempts to blame others. We’re also seeing more of the same from our Prime Minister;  bullshit.

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Previous related blogposts

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

Taking responsibility, National-style

References

NZ National Party: Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura (9 Sept 2011)

Scoop.co.nz: Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant (9 Sept 2011)

NBR: Key supports Solid Energy’s lignite plans (3 June 2011)

TV3: Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy (26 Feb 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Solid Energy excuses fuel anger (2 March 2013)

TVNZ: Pressure grows on Don Elder to front over Solid Energy (8 March 2013)

Fairfax media: Minister, PM fine for Elder to appear for grilling (8 March 2013)

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Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

28 February 2013 11 comments

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Continued from: That was Then, This is Now #18 (Solid Energy)

A bit of  very recent history,

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

Source

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Eighteen months later, on 19 February, the SOE Shareholders Bill English and Tony Ryall,  made this shock announcement to the public (see:  Statement on Solid Energy).

The media were quick to report the crisis,

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Solid Energy in debt crisis talks

Source

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National’s response?

Default to Deflection #1 (see previous blogpost: National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2 )

As described in my previous blogpost (see:  Taking responsibility, National-style), National does not do Taking Responsibility very well. Their automatic instinct is to blame someone else – anyone – for problems of their making,

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National and John Key blames...

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And true-to-form, National and Dear Leader are once again playing the Blame Game over Solid Energy’s woes,

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Prime Minister criticises Solid Energy

Source

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Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy

Source

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

Really? 2003 ???

Why stop at 2003?

Personally, if I was John Key, I’d be asking serious questions on Labour’s role in the sinking of the Titanic. The Cuban Missile Crisis. And don’t forget the 2007/08 Global Financial Meltdown – that has Labour’s fingerprints all over it, surely???

Getting serious again…

National is supposedly Very Big on responsibility issues. Their website is constantly referring to responsibility,

The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.” – John Key, 30 January 2007

It seems that their constant refusals to accept responsibility is also one of those things that “the State can’t and shouldn’t do”, according to Dear Leader.

A few questions spring to mind,

  1. How far back will Key go to blame others for his failures?
  2. How many terms in office will National have to win, before blaming Labour or Uncle Tom Cobbly is no longer tenable?
  3. If John Key and his cronies are unable to ‘man-up’ and take a hit for any one of their balls-ups, and constantly feel the need to sheet responsibility back to Labour – then why is National in government? Why not just resign and put Labour back in office? After all, what would be the difference?

We wouldn’t accept finger-pointing and blame-gaming from our children (or, at least I hope we wouldn’t). So why is the public and media letting Key get away with it?

I look forward to National’s next major cock-up.

Who will they blame next? Australia?

Meanwhile,  back to 9 September 2011…

Doesn’t Bill seem a happy chappy in this photo-op?

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Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura  - 9 sept 2011

Source

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Bill English, poses with ex-Solid Energy CEO, Don Elder, as the ‘first sod is turned’ at a new  Briquette Plant in Mataura, Southland.

The same plant that was “Labour’s fault”.

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National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender

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Last year’s election was fought on two main issues;

  • the economy and jobs
  • a tea-party in Epsom

Ignoring the last item, National was adamant that it had policies that would deliver 170,000 new jobs for this country,

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Key said,

New Zealand can’t keep borrowing money at $380 million a week. We can’t have New Zealanders exposed to high interested rates, New Zealanders need a plan for jobs.

This is a budget that actually delivers that.

Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – Ibid

Unfortunately, even the pro-National Party group, Business NZ could see no discernible plan from National,

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Nearly five months after Business NZ’s extraordinary criticism, National still appears to have no plan for job creation, aside from relying on Christchurch’s re-build – and a fair whack of sheer hope. Instead of implementing an economic plan from jobs, what we have is,

When the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, said,

A more efficient and effective ministry focused on lifting overall productivity and supporting the growth of competitive businesses is a crucial element in creating more jobs and higher wages, and boosting our standard of living.” – Source

… it appears that National has some fairly bizarre ideas as to what will create jobs.

No less disappointing is this statement from Finance Minister Bill English,  and Development Minister Steven Joyce, speaking in unison like Tweedledee and Tweedledum,

“Sustainable economic growth which creates permanent worthwhile jobs is best achieved by building a competitive economy that allows business to trade successfully with the rest of the world,” the Ministers say. ” – Source

In effect, National has adopted a hands-off policy to job creation, leaving it to the “market” to deliver new jobs,

The reality is that if we want more and better jobs for New Zealanders we need to encourage more businesses to be based here. To do that, the Government is focused on making it easier for businesses to access the six key areas they need to grow.  ” – Ibid

So having abrogated all responsibility for direct job creation in this country, National is defaulting to Plan B;

  • Deflect reponsibility by shifting blame on to victims on economic stagnation
  • Paint welfare beneficiaries as “lazy lifestylers”
  • Make life harder for welfare recipients
  • Look tough in front of National voters

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National’s Bene-Bashing Bill  will include,

  • Managed payments for young people and teen parents that will pay essential costs directly and provide a payment card for living costs.
  • Youth service providers will be incentivised to help young people into work, education or training.
  • Young people will be encouraged to take budget or parenting courses with weekly bonus payments.
  • Introduction of a guaranteed childcare assistance payment.
  • Information sharing between government departments to target school leavers likely to go on a benefit at 18.
  • Sole parents on the DPB, women alone and widow’s benefits will have to look for part-time work when their children are five or older.
  • They will have to look for full-time work when their children are 14.
  • If they have additional children while on a benefit they will have to look for work after one year.

Source

No mention of jobs.

No suggestion of  “more exports, more real jobs”,

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In fact, like Dear Leader’s   “State of the Nation” speech on 15 March, there is very little emphasis at any job creation whatsover. Throughout his  2,990 word-speech, job-creation is not mentioned once. But Key does refer to an expectation in  “reduction in long-term welfare dependency“.

How a “reduction in long-term welfare dependency” can be achieved whilst not investing in job creation is one of those unanswerable puzzles  of right wing parties like National.

It probably also did not help the plight of unemployed, solo-parents, etc, that Paula Bennett did away with most of the Training Incentive Allowance – an allowance she herself benefitted from when she was a  solo-mother,  going through University.

National is trapped. Trapped in a free-market paradigm of  hands-off government where only the ‘Market’ can create jobs, and a right wing government’s role is simply to keep taxes low; ministeries small; and regulations minimal.

The trap is that when the ‘Market” fails to deliver expectations, National is left with the ultimate responsibility of why the economy is still stagnating and so many people are out of work.

Default Plan B: shift responsibility onto welfare beneficiaries and infer that they are choosing a deliberate “lifestyle” and “welfare dependency”.

Outcome: National absolved of reponsibility.

The irony is that while right wingers are hot on personal responsibility – right wing parties like National are quick to dodge any form of it.

I leave the final word to the National Party and it’s “values”,

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Actually, no, I’ll have the last word: when National fails to deliver – expect blame to be dumped on scapegoats. Preferably the most vulnerable ones who can’t fight back.

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Additional

TVNZ: Budget 2011 – Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan

NZ Herald: Cycleway jobs fall short

NZ Herald: ‘Super ministry’ plans unveiled

Bill English: Business success at heart of Govt growth plan

Previous Blog posts

Performance Pay? Why not!

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#2)

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Good onya, Sue!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!


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“We must depoliticize children’s issues…”

9 March 2012 3 comments

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An OECD comparitive table on international tax rates (OECD average income tax, %,  single person at 100% of average earnings, no child). Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red,

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OECD average income tax (%) single person at 100% of average earnings , no child sweden australia new zealand

Source

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As the table clearly shows,

  • New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is lower than Australia,
  • New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is marginally lower than Sweden,
  • The OECD average is dragged down by countries such as Mexico, Korea, and Greece,
  • During the Clark-led Labour Government (2000-08), New Zealand’s tax rate was consistantly lower than Australia.

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Comparing taxation with social outcomes for our children and families, we find the following. The table shows, with grim clarity, that we are lagging behind. Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red.,

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OECD child wellbeing sweden australia new zealand

Source

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Meanwhile, from “Inside Child Poverty New Zealand’s” Facebook page…

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” 63 people voted in this week’s Friday Poll on National’s Welfare reforms. 55 don’t like them, 5 do like them and 3 don’t know.

Me? I think yet again here are policies which do not think through what impact the economic policy will have on the current and future well being of the child.

All the long term research tells us that if we do not get the first 6 years of a child’s life right in terms of meaning health, social and emotional needs – we risk spending huge amounts of money in crisis management is the child grows into an adult with health problems and anti-social attitudes and quite possibly emotional scarring from having to live with strangers for the better part of each day from year 1.

Opting for short term populist solutions instead of long terms planning and ring fencing our children from the storms of politics is not statesmanship, it’s salesmanship .

The legacy of the 1991 mother of all budgets was a dramatic increase in the all the diseases of poverty that affect poor children most. What part of that do the current architects of welfare reform not understand?

We must depoliticize children’s issues, come to a common cross party agreement about the appropriate level of community responsibility for ALL our children, work out the most cost effect method of meeting those needs and then ring fence it so no future governments can mess with it. This is the Swedish system. It is why they are No2 in the OECD for child well being and we are No 28 with only Turkey and Mexico below us.”

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Bryan Bruce is 100% correct. The OECD stats paint a grim picture of Sweden achieving much superior outcomes for their children than we do. (The link to the relevant report is given below, under “Resources” – it’s worth having a look.)

This is one table, showing data on “Comparative policy-focused child well-being in 30 OECD countries”. New Zealand and Swedish comparitive rankings are underlined in red,

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Comparative policy-focused child well-being in 30 OECD countries Australia New Zealand Sweden

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And a similar table, this time compiled from UNICEF data. Whilst New Zealand and Australia are not represented on this graph, it is interesting to note that the Scandinavian social-democracies rate consistantly better for children than the market-led, more capitalist-oriented nations of America and Britrain (both of which have considerable problems with poverty and other social problems),

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Only the de-politicisation of child poverty can achieve practical, serious, and long-lasting solutions to this growing problem. National and Labour must work together if this is to be achieved.

Both parties have achieved cross-Party concensus on issues such as superannuation and our Nuclear Free policy. We need to be asking the question; why can’t the same be done for child poverty?

If Sweden and the other Scandinavian social-democracies can achieve a measure of success in this area – we need to be asking ourselves; why can’t we?

This issue is not beyond our means, abilities, and wealth to address. We have all that.

What’s missing is one thing to resolve this problem; the will to do it.

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Additional

Food parcel families made ‘poor choices’, says John Key

No track kept of ‘lost’ kids

New Cabinet must get busy working for children

Fear of dangerous rift from wealth gap

Children absent from new welfare policy

Resources

OECD Report: Comparative Child Well-being across the OECD

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Blood from a stone?

27 January 2012 4 comments

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Full Story

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Why do I get the impression that this story just screams desperation, from this government?

Aside from the fact that many sceptics voiced doubts last year about National’s optimism to “balance the books”, and considered it nothing more than election propaganda for gullible voters, Dunne’s comments on this issue beggar belief,

“‘We just had public consultation on the use of mixed assets such as holiday homes and launches, and we’ve been doing other work looking at the tax treatment of various forms of activity.”

”That programme needs to be ongoing… what we should be doing is making sure we are collecting all the existing taxes which are due and if there anomalies and loopholes we need to be closing those to make sure the system is fair to everyone.’

It was estimated the Government was missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue a year.” – Ibid

Whut?!?!

We just had public consultation on the use of mixed assets such as holiday homes and launches

“…what we should be doing is making sure we are collecting all the existing taxes which are due and if there anomalies and loopholes…”

Isn’t this precisely what Labour was suggesting last year with it’s Capital Gains Tax?

The Green Party certainly made that connection,

“Bill English has failed to close the single largest remaining loophole in our income tax system. A comprehensive tax on capital gains (excluding the family home) is hugely progressive and would help close the growing gap between rich and poor,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“Treasury advice to Bill English in 2009 made it clear to him that capital assets are owned disproportionately by higher income families. The advice said not taxing this income is regressive. That’s Treasury’s way of saying that a capital gains tax is incredibly fair.

“Both John Key and Bill English have consistently defended the tax loophole, however, preferring to ignore growing inequality in our society…”

…“The largest proportion of capital gains is earned by those at the upper end of the income spectrum. This income currently remains untaxed,” said Dr Norman.

“This tax loop-hole for those that can afford to own multiple properties needs to be closed.” ” – Source

So much for John Key stating last year,

Scrapping the top income tax bracket reduced the value of highly leveraged investment properties as a tax shelter, while tougher rules on depreciation and LAQCs also reduced their relative attractiveness as investments.

Labour, Prime Minister John Key declared on Monday, is “fighting a problem they had when they were in office, not a problem we have today”. ” – Source

Yeah right, Prime Minister. Unfortunately, simply saying that didn’t make the problem go away, did it?

Gareth Morgan pointed all this out to us, last November,

It’s difficult to detect any sort of principle – liberal or otherwise – in the economic policies we could reasonably expect to address the widening income gap. Gaping loopholes in our tax system permit those with wealth to earn tax-free gains – putting them further ahead than ever.

While the Government sees fit to give a handout to working families earning $100,000 per year (nearly twice the average wage), those who can’t meet bureaucratic hoops miss out on support altogether and we have abandoned targeting in toto for the politically powerful (the elderly).

Equally worrying, current tax policy incentivises investment for capital gains, causing excessive investment in property at the expense of business – something which has hindered the long-term outlook for incomes and jobs.” – Source

So for United Future leader Peter Dunne to try to excuse their inertia by saying  “that the Prime Minister could not have foreseen a dramatic slide in global economic conditions“, is disingenuous.

No. Not disingenuous. Let’s call it for what it really is: bullshit.

National’s tinkering with the tax system is not going to address the shortfall in government revenue. We will simply see more of the above headlines in future media, as the core-problems in our taxation system go unaddressed.

National simply does not have the intestinal fortitude to address taxation problems in any meaningful way. If they did, they would,

  • Implement Labour’s capital gains tax
  • Stop Trusts from being tax havens
  • Reverse the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts for those earning above $70,000
  • Implement a Financial Transactions Tax
  • Review Working for Families payments for families earning over $100,000

Unfortunately, none of the above will happen. Generally, only reformist Labour governments have the inclination to make radical changes when they become blindingly obvious as necessary.

It also takes a collective frustration from Voterland to “connect the dots” and realise that voting for National will not achieve longterm reforms.

In the meantime, Dunne will tinker; National will continue cutting services; government workers will continue to be sacked; and we’ll see more of the following, as our economy stumbles along like a diabetic with low blood sugar,

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Full Story

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Additional

NZ Herald: The case for a tax revolution

Gareth Morgan: Capital gains tax best way to tackle rot

Gareth Morgan: Reviving the values of an egalitarian society

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Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

16 November 2011 38 comments

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There has been considerable commentary made by Labour’s critics and political opponents that Labour was an incompetant economic manager, during their nine year term in office. The reality, though, is somewhat different. There are many things that Labour did well and some not-so-well.

But the records speaks for itself.

The following is data, in the form of easily understandable graphs, from Trading Economics, an American website. They collect data from the IMF, World Bank, Statistics NZ,  the Reserve Bank of NZ, etc,  (the usual motley crew of subversive, left wing organisations) to compile their finished presentations.

Each category will be presented via two graphs. Eg,

“New Zealand GDP Growth Rate”

Graph 1: 2000 – 2011

Graph 2: 1990 – 2011

National was in power from 1990 to the end of 1999.

Labour governed from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2008.

National took office After November 2008.

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New Zealand Population 1960 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 1990 - 2011

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Long-term unemployment (% of total unemployment) in New Zealand

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Some politicians use long-term unemployed as an election weapon, to win electoral support. However, despite their mis-use of the facts and figures, long-term unemployment was dropping in the last ten years. Not that certain politicians would admit it, though.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 2000 - 2008

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Note how long-term unemployment rose in the late 1980s and spiked in the early to mid 1990s. Can we remember what happened to New Zealand in that time? The terms “Rogernomics” and “Ruthanasia” might jog our memories.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 1990 - 2008

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New Zealand Employment

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New Zealand Employment 2000 - 2010

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New Zealand Employment 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

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Despite claims that Labour “spent up large” during their nine year term, the truth is completely different.  As the IMF data shows with crystal clarity, Labour paid down debt. It was not until National came to office that debt levels took of again.

It could be said, with considerable truth, that Finance Minister Michael Cullen ran the government accounts with a fiscal discipline that would make Scrooge sit up and take notice.

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 2000 - 2011

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The IMF data shows fairly well why Labour had such massive debt kevels to pay down. It was an inheritance from the previous Bolger-led National Government of the 1990s. (Though National were addressing that debt, the reduction slowed from 1997 onward.)

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand GDP

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One of the many “charges” made by neo-liberals against the Labour Party is that centre-left governments are poor stewards of the economy and are anti-business. Yet, the World Bank data below shows quite dramatically how well New Zealand’s economy fared in the 2000s. Our growth was such that a common complaint from business was a lack of skilled, experienced staff.

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New Zealand GDP 2000 - 2010

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The early 1990s were marked by “Ruthanasia” – a continuance of Roger Douglas’s extremist neo-liberal, free market policies. All socio-economic indicators worsened during Ruth Richardson’s tenure as Minister of Finance. The World Bank data below shows how New Zealand’s economy was practically crippled under the tender mercies of the New Right.

It was not till 2003, under Labour’s governance, that the economy began to grow.

As an aside, there were took tax cuts during the 1990s. Result: minimal benefit for the economy.

Labour increased taxes for top income earners in the early 2000s. Except for a short-term ‘dip’, the tax rise doesn’t seem to have impacted on the economy.

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New Zealand GDP 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand GDP per capita

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New Zealand GDP per capita 2000 - 2009

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New Zealand GDP per capita 1990 - 2009

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New Zealand Interest Rates

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New Zealand Interest Rates 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Interest Rates 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rates

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Current Account

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This is the bit which shows how much we sell overseas (export), compared to what we buy (import). Exports can be wool, timber,  fish, dairy products, company profits, etc. Imports can be fuel, consumer products, vehicles, raw materials, heavy machinary, etc. The shaded gray should be above the ‘O’ line, instead of below it.

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NZ Current Account 2000 - 2011

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NZ Current Account 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Government Budget

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This graph is an interesting bit. When John Key and Bill English refer to the previous Labour government expanding State expenditure, this is what they are referring to. And they are correct – but only half correct. As per usual, they are telling you only half the truth – and leaving out the  next, important bit.

Look at the next graph below, 1990 – 2000.

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New Zealand Government Budget 2000 - 2011

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In the graph below, it is clear that the National government from the early to mid 1990s (commonly referred to as “Ruthanasia”) and in the late 1990s, consistantly cut back on expenditure. Some of you may recall horror stories of those times; ex psych patients living rough, in toilets, with no State-community support; market housing rentals; and hospital waiting lists far longer than anything we have today.

On 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. In death, Mr Morrison symbolised everything that was terribly wrong with the health system in the late 1990s.  Public anger mounted as an unpopular government seemed unable to respond to concerns that our public services were being run down in the name of “efficiency”.

Little wonder that there was a 11.55% swing toward Labour in the 1999 General election – the electorate had had a gutsful of neoliberal policies resulting in growing inequality and social problems that seemingly went unheeded.  Contrasts

That is the reason why Labour spent so much during it’s term: to make up for the lack of social spending in the 1990s, and to meet growing public clamour for social services to be better resourced.

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New Zealand Government Budget 1990 - 2011

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Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) in New Zealand

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Contrary to the fantasies of some history-revisionists, trying to paint the previous Labour Government as “bankrupting the country”, Cullen actually posted some fairly respectable surpluses.

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Cash surplus-deficit (percent of GDP) in New Zealand

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New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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The following data-sheet shows New Zealand’s credit downgrades from 1977, when Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister, to the present.

Note that three credit downgrades happened duting three National governments; 1991, 1998, and this year. And if you include the Rogernomics period – that makes FOUR neo-liberal governments that were downgraded.

Do credit ratings agencies  seem “risk averse” to new right governments? Do they prefer centre-left governments?

First, look at 10 September 1998 (National government) – AA+ (negative outlook)

But when Labour came to power – 7 March 2001 – AA+ (stable outlook)

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Source

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New Zealand Prison Population trend since 1980

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The prison sentenced population demonstrates continuous and steady growth since 1986. The seasonal pattern of reduced numbers toward the end of each year is well established, and reflects the influence of the prisoner Christmas release policy 1 , as well as cycles of activity involving Police and the Courts. Notable is the sharp upturn in numbers which commenced in mid-2003, continuing through to June 2007.

Source

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A closer look at the period 1962 to 1996. Note the huge ‘spike’ in the prison population from 1986 onwards. Except for occassional dips, the prison population has continued to rise steadily since the mid-1980s.

It cannot be a coincidence that New Zealand’s entire socio-economic fabric was unravelled and “reformed” in a process commonly referred to as “Rogernomics”. The process of “economic reform” continued  into the 1990s, referred to as “Ruthanasia”, up until 1996.

The prison population, though, continued to rise.

The ongoing effects of “Rogernomics/Ruthansia” are ongoing to the present day.

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Total prison population 1962 to 1996

Source

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[This page still under construction - more data to follow. Keep checking back for more info.]

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Is this where New Zealand is heading?

18 October 2011 3 comments

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

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

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

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

SeaFIC says FCVs [Foreign Controlled Vessels] hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

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

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

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

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

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

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

Source

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Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says reports alleging the failure of some FCVs to comply with proper employment requirements, including crew working conditions, and vessel safety standards imposed by New Zealand had raised the Government’s concern.

We also acknowledge the recent concerns expressed by the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and others representing the interests of crew members regarding these issues,” says Ms Wilkinson. Source

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It seems that the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC ) has a novel solution to  Ms Wilkinson’s concerns:  instead of strengthening monitoring and enforcement of New Zealand’s employment laws and regulations –  SeaFIC wants to eliminate those ‘pesky’ laws for overseas workers, and import more cheap labour.

It’s akin to resolving the drink-driving problem in this country by simply eliminating blood-alcohol laws. Result; no more convictions of drunk drivers.

Sorted.

Yeah, right.

SeaFIC’s plea for importing more cheap labour is perhaps one of the most rotten and bizarre of neo-liberal ideology. It is not just immoral, it is a threat to workers throughout New Zealand.  It is also based on some rather strange ‘facts’ that bear no relation to reality.

The SeaFIC submission states,

“SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.  Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.”

But SEEK.co.nz and Careers NZ indicate that this is not the case. SEEK had only two vacancies listed,

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Source

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Careers NZ states,

What are the chances of getting a job?

Job opportunities for fishing deckhands are average.

According to Department of Labour estimates, the number of fishing deckhands declined by about 9% between June 2006 and June 2011 – from 1,856 to 1,694. Despite this, opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

Regular opportunities on deep-sea fishing boats

Although few new positions are being created, the demanding nature of the work and the long periods spent away from home mean turnover among fishing deckhands on deep-sea fishing boats can be high, and positions regularly become available.

Positions usually become available on a boat at the end of each fishing trip, though these are normally filled by at-sea seafood processors already working on the boat. Starting out as an at-sea seafood processor is a good step towards getting work as a deckhand on a deep-sea vessel.

How to increase your chances of finding work

Most jobs for fishing deckhands become available before the start of each fishing season. The season varies by fish species – for example, the hoki season usually starts in late July, so fishing companies look for deckhands in June and early July. 

Gaining a pre-employment qualification in vessel operations or seafood processing, or having experience processing fish onshore will also help your chances.

Fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands. So, a good way to improve your chances of finding work is to approach a fishing company or skipper directly, and give them your CV. Source

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Not only is there no mention of a labour shortage, but it is stated quite clearly that fishing deckhand positions are not always advertised, with employers relying on word of mouth or expressions of interest to find new deckhands.

Businesses that do not advertise for staff usually do so because it is unnecessary.

The website also states, that  “…opportunities arise regularly, as people often leave the job after a short time, especially on deep-water vessels.

A high turn-over does not equate to lack of staff. Other industries such as the fast food/restaurant industry can have up to  90%  turn-over in staffing. New employees are generally easy to find. This “churn” is often the result of staff moving on to better-paid employment elsewhere as well as other influences.

SeaFIC claims,

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

This is contradicted by both Careers NZ and Talleys,

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Source

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Acording to Career NZ, fishing deckhands can earn from $35,000 to $85,000, depending on various factors, including whether the vessel is in-shore or deep-sea fishing. With a potential salary of $90,000,  SeaFIC’s concerns appear to be exagerated.

However, if SeaFIC is concerned that the low-entry salary of $35,000 is insufficient remuneration to attract new staff, the answer seems blindingly obvious: pay more.

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Source

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The wages mentioned above seem to refute SeaFIC’s claims.

If it is correct that “FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies ” –  that is a problem that should be addressed without extremist policies that negatively impact on local  jobs and incomes.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of SeaFIC’s comments is this,

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

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

This, then, seems to be the underlying subtext of SeaFIC’s submission to the Ministerial Inquiry: to import low-waged workers to New Zealand.

The implications of such a proposal are stunning in their audacity – and probably the most subversive since Roger Douglas first began neo-liberal “reforms” in this country in the mid-1980s.

Effectively,  the SeaFIC proposal would mean that cheap labour would be imported into NZ and would quickly  replace higher-waged New Zealanders. New Zealand workers would be competing with workers from Fiji, Philippines, China, India,  etc.

The nett effect would be to drive down wages in this country.

Eventually, the SeaFIC proposal could be extended throughout the country. Workers from Third World countries could be employed for all manner of jobs. Once precedent was set by SeaFIC, it would be difficult for other industries not to follow suit.

This would be an attack on workers like no other in the history of this country. It would make the 1951 Waterfront Dispute  and the de-unionisation of New Zealand workers pale into insignificance.

It would be interesting to learn how the SeaFIC proposal could possibly  be contemplated or enacted by a National-led government, given that John Key has made raising wages one of his administration’s prime policies.

If you’re starting to wonder at how an organisation such as SeaFIC could be bold enough to make such a repugnant proposal  – re-read the article above.

There is no name penned to the submission.  Aside from the organisation name given as the source – no individual(s) have put their name to the submission.

I am guessing that none would dare.

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Top 5 companies

  1. Sanford Ltd
  2. Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd
  3. Sealord Ltd
  4. Talley’s Fisheries Ltd
  5. Ngai Tahu Fisheries Settlement Ltd

Source

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Seafood Industry Council – Current Board members

Dave Sharp, Chairman

Eric Barratt, Managing Director, Sanford Ltd

Peter Vitasovich, Chair, Aquaculture New Zealand

Jeremy Fleming, CEO, Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd

Ross Tocker, General Manager Operations, Sealord Group Ltd

Andrew Talley, Director, Talley’s Fisheries Ltd

Daryl Sykes, Executive Director, New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council

Tony Threadwell, Director, Pegagus Fishing Ltd

Source

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Related stories

‘Model’ fishers face grim charges

 

 

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

Seafood Industry Council

Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) Foreign Charter Vessels Submission

Seafood industry fact file

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Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

30 September 2011 3 comments

First, let me bore you all with some stats, facts, and figures,

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This page provides introductory facts and statistics about obesity in New Zealand. For more information, refer to A Portrait of Health: Key Results from the 2006/2007 New Zealand Health Survey.

Obesity statistics for New Zealand adults

The 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • One in four adults were obese (26.5%)
  • 41.7% of Māori adults were obese
  • 63.7% of Pacific adults were obese
  • 11% of Asian adults were obese
  • Pacific men and women were two and a half times more likely to be obese than men and women in the total population.
  • Māori men and women were one and a half times more likely to be obese than men and women in the total population.
  • There has been an increase in the prevalence of obesity for men and women from 1997 to 2006/07, adjusted for age, but the rate of increase appears to be slowing.

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Obesity statistics for New Zealand children

The 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • One in twelve children (aged 2 to 14 years) were obese (8.3%).
  • One in five children were overweight (20.9%).
  • There has been no change in the average (mean) BMI for children aged 5-14 years since 2002.
  • There has been a decrease in average BMI for Māori children.
  • Adjusted for age, Pacific boys and girls were at least 2.5 times more likely to be obese than boys and girls in the total population.
  • Māori boys and girls were 1.5 times more likely to be obese than boys and girls in the total population.

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Other statistics

  • Nine out of ten (87.8%) children aged from birth to 14 years have ever been breastfed.
  • Nine out of ten (87.8%) children aged 2-14 years ate breakfast at home every day in the past 7 days.
  • Two out of three (63.6%) children had fizzy drink in the past 7 days. One in five (19.6%) children had three or more fizzy drinks in the past seven days.
  • Seven out of ten (70.9%) children ate fast food in past seven days. One in seven (13.6%) ate fast food twice in past seven days and one in 14 (7.2%) had eaten fast food three or more times in past seven days.
  • Two out of three (64.1%) children aged 5-14 years usually watched two or more hours of television a day. This equates to 368,700 children.
  • Two out of every three adults (64.1%) ate the recommended three or more servings of vegetables each day, and two out of three adults (60.0%) ate the recommended two or more servings of fruit a day.
  • One in seven adults (13.6%) reported that they were currently taking medication for high blood pressure. This equates to 425,500 adults.
  • One in 12 adults (8.4%) were currently taking medication for high blood cholesterol.
  • One in 20 adults (5.2%) had been diagnosed with ischaemic heart disease.
  • The prevalence of diabetes in children was 0.2% which means that approximately 1700 children had been diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor (most probably type 1).
  • One in 20 adults (5.0%) had doctor-diagnosed diabetes (excluding diabetes during pregnancy). This equates to 157,100 adults. Nine out of every ten adults with diabetes were diagnosed when they were 25 years or older, and almost all will have type 2 diabetes.
  • After adjusting for age, Pacific men and women had three times the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes than men and women in the total population.
  • Just under half of children (47.0%) aged 5-14 years usually use active transport to get to and from school (walking, biking, skating or using other forms of physical activity). Common reasons given by parents for what stops their children walking, biking or skating to school – live too far from school, busy traffic/main road, too dangerous for reasons other than traffic, takes too long.
  • Half of all adults (50.5%) met the definition of being regularly physically active. Overall one in seven (15.0%) adults were sedentary, reporting less than 30 minutes of physical activity in the previous week.

Source

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Like nearly every other Western (and non-Western) society, New Zealanders are putting on the kilos. The problem of obesity starts young in our lives, as we consume sugary, fatty, highly-processed foods – and usually ends in heart disease, diabetes, and early death. The last bit – early death – is usually the worst.

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Source

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In fact, obesity has become an epidemic in the West. This is not helped by the fact that over-eating can be as addictive as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, drugs, etc. A ‘Time‘ article, last year stated,

But what shocked the researchers was that extended-access rats also showed deficits in their “reward threshold.” That is, unrestricted exposure to large quantities of high-sugar, high-fat foods changed the functioning of the rats’ brain circuitry, making it harder and harder for them to register pleasure — in other words, they developed a type of tolerance often seen in addiction — an effect that got progressively worse as the rats gained more weight. “It was quite profound,” says study author Paul Kenny, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute. The reward-response effects seen in the fatty-food-eating mice were “very similar to what we see with animals that use cocaine and heroin,” he says.” Source

Science is confirming what many of us had already intuited; that obesity was not simply a matter of “will power” or exercise – any more than “self-discipline” is for alcoholics or gamblers. There is much more going on, in the depths of our brains, that is affected by what we are eating – and vice versa.

By June, 2008, the previous Clark-led government courageously attempted to halt the obesity epidemic. Despite being sensitive to criticisms of “nanny statism”, their policy was not to ban junk food throughout the country. Nor to force feed us with vegetables and fruit. And not to frog-march us up and down our streets with battalions of Exercise Police.

Their plan was simply to cut crappy food out of our school ‘tuck’ shops.

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Full story

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You would think that this modest proposal would have been welcomed by sensible people who understood the problem, and realised that what we fed our children early in their lives would have an impact on their later years? Sensible, right?

Oh hell no. That would require common sense; foresight; and a strong sense of community responsibility.

In the above article, Secondary Principals’ Association president, Peter Gall said “ secondary school principals would generally have preferred an educational approach to improving nutrition, rather than Government rules which “can seem a bit heavy-handed“. “

I wonder if Mr Gall considers it “heavy handed” when we deny our children access to cigarettes and alcohol? After all, if it’s “heavy handed” to try to provide healthier food options for our children, then let’s go hell-for-leather and give 10 year olds a six-pack of  DB Bitter for breakfast. We can always try an “educational approach” later?

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Unfortunately for us – but more unfortunate for our children – this bizarre attitude of Individual Responsibility won out over Community Proactivity. The National Party was perhaps chief amongst culprits, as it began a smear campaign of “nanny statism” against the then-Labour Government.

Headlines such as “National slams ‘nanny-state’ health bill“; “National Party: Public health bill in ‘nanny state’ realm“; and ” ‘Nanny state’ fears on health bill” filled our media. Irrational comments like this, became the mainstream ‘narrative’ of the debate, “”National said the codes were regulations by stealth as they could be converted into law if the Health Ministry did not think the voluntary codes were working.  Codes could cover a range of things from what could be in a school lunchbox, to physical activity and food advertising.”Source

Gosh,  and just think; if Labour has it’s wicked way,  our kids might not become obese!! Shock! Horror!

In November 2008, National was elected into power, and John Key became our Prime Minister.

Even as the world was facing a global banking crisis, and recession was impacting on nearly every nation on Earth, the new National government still found time to reverse Labour’s evil plan to reduce obesity amongst our children.  In March 2009, National scrapped the healthy foods in schools policy,

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Full Story

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You have to read that article in it’s entirety to grasp the full flavour of lunacy involved in the ‘rational’ behind National’s decision.

There was simply no coherent, logical reason offered except, as Education Minister Anne Tolley said, “It’s not teachers’ responsibility to act as food police. If we want to start changing behaviour, that’s got to start happening at home.

Riiiight. The same goes to allowing our children to have access to a couple of shots of bacardi as well?

Never mind that Wellington nutritionist, Sarah Burkhart, said that,  “[A pie] isn’t a high carbohydrate food source. That’s actually one of the worst things you could [eat].” Source

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Oh no, because neo-liberal politicians know better than nutritionists. We are going to have Freedom of Choice Even If It Damn Well Kills Us (and our children). Essentially, that is precisely the message that National gave New Zealanders two years ago.

Thankfully, some school’s exhibited far more maturity on this issue than our brain-dead politicians and Wellington College deputy principal Dave Ashby said the college would probably keep its new healthy menu,

“Schools have got a responsibility to young people. I don’t think we’re going to chuck it all in now.” Source

Thank you, Dave “Common Sense” Ashby.

However, leaving these matters to the whims of individual schools is not a solution. It means that some schools  simply won’t bother; they will defer decision making further “down the food chain”,  to our children.

It certainly  sends conflicting messages to the community.

And National’s over-turning of Labour’s policy also shows a total lack of any measure of leadership on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue” – it is a problem).

On 27 February, the New Zealand Medical Association released a statement, condemning the National Government’s Do Nothing approach. They described Anne Tolley’s actions as “incomprehensible”. Despite it’s length, I will re-print their statement in full. It is worthwhile spending ten minutes to read it,

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Our reasons for opposing removal of the clause follow.
  • The Minister, Hon Anne Tolley, states that the core business of schools is to provide students with a “quality…learning environment”.1 Students cannot be expected to benefit fully from such an environment if they are inadequately nourished or experiencing poor health because of poor nutrition. Research suggests that good nutrition is associated with better overall school and academic performance, intelligence, and psychosocial functioning.2–4 Thus, a healthy school food environment seems imperative for a quality learning environment.
  • The Minister states that boards of trustees can “make their own decisions about appropriate food and drink options”.1 However, the reason the clause was introduced was that school food under boards of trustees was not sufficiently nutritious. A study in 2007 by Utter et al showed an association between use of school canteens in New Zealand and more frequent consumption of high fat and high sugar foods. 5 An earlier study by Carter et al found that the most commonly available foods in primary schools were pies (79%), juice (57%), and sausage rolls (55%).6 There were over five times more unhealthy meals on offer than healthy meals, and filled rolls (a healthy option) were the most expensive item.
  • It is unrealistic to expect boards to have the detailed nutrition knowledge necessary to ensure an appropriate and healthy food service, especially with their already heavy workload. The Minister’s decision means that whilst schools are still required to promote healthy foods, they must determine what foods are healthy and, of greatest concern, can continue to sell unhealthy food. This is contradictory and suggests ‘do as I say, not as I do’ to children.
  • Relying on education alone has not worked for other public health issues such as smoking, seat belts, cycle helmets, and drink driving, which ultimately required regulation to bring about positive changes in behaviour.7 There is no reason to think education will work any better for tackling our obesity problem. If we expect people to eat healthily, the environment must be changed to “make healthy choices the easy choices”.8
  • Relying on nutrition education alone also assumes there is free choice in school canteens. However, food choices are constrained by the environment. If all that is available is food that is unhealthy and heavily promoted in the media, or if healthy foods are more expensive, then students don’t have a true choice. Furthermore, younger children can not be expected to make rational choices about food based on health.
  • Development and implementation of the Ministry of Education’s guidelines on ‘Food and Nutrition for Healthy, Confident Kids’9 was the result of a prolonged and extensive amount of work on the part of government, schools, health sector, and the food industry. That expense and resource was well justified given the potential long-term gains, but has now been completely wasted, without even evaluating its potential success.
  • The Minister has also stated that there is confusion about the guidelines amongst schools.1 However, this could be resolved given sufficient time to work with schools. ERO report that since the clause came into effect in June 2008, 95% of schools had already implemented the guidelines.10
  • The fact that children bring unhealthy food into school or buy it out of school is not, as has been proposed, a reason to allow unhealthy food to be sold at school.1 The same rationale is not accepted in other circumstances. For example, it could never be acceptable to allow cigarettes to be sold at school because students could buy them at a local dairy.
  • Whereas at one time New Zealand was seen as a global leader in our efforts to tackle obesity,11 this latest move by the National government puts New Zealand seriously out of step with other countries. The UK Government, for example, is making laudable efforts to tackle childhood obesity, including implementing regulations around school food, and embarking on plans to broaden the reach of such regulations to include other key environments such as restaurants and workplaces.
The future cost to the country of obesity and nutrition-related disease is immense.12–14 It is of the utmost importance that we support young people to develop healthy eating habits as they grow. This requires environments that support healthy food choices.
The current rates of childhood overweight (21%) and obesity (8%) show that existing environments are not conducive to healthier choices.15 Government intervention is justified to protect children and to prevent the high societal costs of nutrition-related disease. This does not make New Zealand a ‘nanny state’, but simply a caring state.
Delvina Gorton
Dietitian / Research Fellow
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Helen Eyles
Nutritionist / Research Fellow
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Cliona Ni Mhurchu
Public Health Nutritionist / Programme Leader (Nutrition & Physical Activity)
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Chris Bullen
Public Health Medicine Specialist / Acting Director
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland

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Now, you’re probably wondering; why should I accept the statement of the people above, rather than my democratically elected representatives?

It’s very simple. The people above are trained in matters relating to health. Their #1 concern is mine and your well-being. That is why they went to University; spent years and thousands of dollars being educated; and why they took time to make their views known to you. In short, they care.

The people who over-turned Labour’s National Administration Guidelines for healthy foods are politicians. They care only to be re-elected.

Or put another way, who would you trust to look after your health; your GP? Or the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall? Your call.

In March 2010, more Health professionals joined the nutritionists above, calling on the Government to reinstate legislation for all schools to provide healthy canteen food,

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Full Story

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Christchurch public health nutritionist Bronwen King, said,  “What we need is strong leadership and tough measures, not the soft options they are dishing out now. Unless we get this, we will all pay the price.”  Source

The response of the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, was thus,

The new Government has a more balanced approach than the finger-pointing, nanny state attitude of the previous administration,” he said.

“We trust school boards of trustees and parents to decide what they sell in their own tuck shops.”  Ibid

“Nanny state attitude”, remarked Mr Ryall. More politicking.  What was it I said about who to trust; health professionals or politicians?

However, the government has taken “action”. If you can call it that,

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Full Story

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By now you are probably wondering why on Earth our political representatives in Parliament would ‘can’ Labour’s healthy foods policy for schools – which costs very little for the taxpayer to impliment – whilst committing $8 million dollars for 300 bariatric procedures (weight loss surgery) in the next four years? What possible sense is there to such a bizarre situation?

In terms of health outcomes and sensible use of tax-dollars – very little sense.

In terms of political appearances to be Doing Something – it makes perfect sense.

By scrapping Labour’s healthy foods policy, National gives the appearance of rejecting “nanny statism” (though National has passed, or assisted, similar legislation in the past – such as the so-called “anti-smacking Bill), and reinforcing the Rights of Individuals to “make their own decisions”.

By funding 300 bariatric procedures, National is seen to be Doing Something to address this nation’s obesity problem. Above all, politicians understand that the public’s perception must be influenced: politicians need to be seen to be Doing Something to address a problem.

It is precisely the reason why “boy racer” legislation was passed by National – despite police already having considerable powers to seize cars and arrest drivers. The point was not that new laws were needed – but politicians had to be seen to be Doing Something.

The reason why National could not rely on Labour’s healthy foods in schools programme? It would not have offered the immediate results that politicians require. Such a programme takes years – decades! – to show results. Politicians face re-election every three years.

Unfortunately, as usual, it is the public and our children, who will suffer the results of this political expediency. We will also pay for it, in monetary terms,

“About 150,000 New Zealanders could potentially benefit from bariatric surgery. One in five New Zealanders are obese, leading to direct health costs of almost half a billion dollars each year. “ Source

And it’s getting worse,

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Full Story

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Note the statement in that article, under-lined in red,

“Christchurch obesity surgeon Richard Flint said patients selected for the pilot programme would be younger and with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 45. “

That’s right, folks. Not only are we  spending more money for weight-reducing operations – but the patients are becoming younger, as obesity increases in our society.

National is also supporting a policy of “outsourcing” these procedures to private clinics,

Christchurch obesity surgeon Richard Flint said… ” Christchurch Hospital did not have the resources to do the operations so they would be outsourced to private clinics.” Ibid

So now companies are making a profit out of the growing obesity epidemic. This, no doubt, fits in very well with National’s core ideology of  encouraging private “providers” for our health needs.  Someone will be making a lot of money out of  peoples’ misery.

But it’s going to cost us taxpayers even more,

“There were plans for the multimillion-dollar Christchurch Hospital redevelopment to include a bariatric surgery unit. “ Ibid

This is how obesity impacts on us, as a society, and as individuals. As obesity gets worse, we will end up paying more for hospitals, surgical procedures, medicines, post-surgical care, etc.

And to make it worse, the Government is actually proud of it’s “accomplishments” in this area,

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Remarkable. We have a government that is willing to spend half a billion tax-dollars on new hospital facilities and operations…

… but balks at removing unhealthy food from school cafetarias. Obviously, National has forgotten what their grandmothers and grandfathers knew instinctively; a gram of prevention, is worth a kilo of cure. I guess their imperative for re-election outweighs simple common sense? Little wonder that we distrust politicians.

There are those in society who are vocal in their  insistance that obesity is an “issue of personal responsibility”, and not something for the State to be concerned with. I reject that philosophy utterly.

We are a community, who rely on each other for everything that we have. None of us achieved or gained anything on our own – someone, at some point in time, helped us to get to where we are today.

When it comes to the obesity epidemic, this is a problem that affects us all; whether in the taxes we pay, or a family member directly affected. Or ourselves.

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We need to remember this, the next time a Minister tells us that it is a matter of “choice”. If it is “choice”, then we should be choosing to have sensible, proactive policies when it comes to food for our children – and not just leave it up to individuals. For children, that does not always work. And eventually, that “choice” will lead to a “choice” whether to have an expensive operation or not.

(Please note, I am not opposed to people requiring such operations. Such medical interventions are life-saving.  My call is for programmes that offer children better outcomes than what is currently “on the menu” for them.)

And yet, with a bit of common sense and prevention, we ultimately wouldn’t be needing those expensive new hospital wings, and surgical weight-loss procedures.

Q: Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

A: To get to his appointment at the new bariatric-wing of his local hospital. (Yeah, I know, not funny. It wasn’t meant to be.)

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Previous blogpost

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

Additional

Tumeke blog:  Ronald McDonald becomes guest editor at the NZ Herald

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Politics through a crystal ball, palmistry, or chicken entrails?

2 September 2011 2 comments

In a somewhat weak attempt to allay fears over National’s stated intention to partially-privatise several state assets, Bill English has stated that he “believes only 10 to 15 per cent will initially go to overseas buyers”.

However, tellingly, National refuses to actually pass any legislation to prevent this from happening;

 

National says it will “cap” single investor’s holding to 10%.

But National refuses to explain how it will engineer  this “cap”.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a corporation could easily employ five “shelf companies“, each buying a block of 10% of the shares. These “dummy” companies would  each own a block of shares – in name only. The parent company – owning each dummy company – would be the real owner.

Result: a foreign corporation owning a sizeable chunk of each SOE.

Case in point:  Contact Energy.

 

 

In 1996, Contact Energy was split of from it’s parent SOE,  Electricity Corporation of New Zealand and fully privatised in 1999 as part of the then-National Government’s plan to “reform” the energy sector and make it more “competitive”. Energy Minister, Max Bradford,. assured New Zealand that the splitting up of ECNZ, and privatisation of Contact Energy, would introduce competition and drive prices down.

The opposite actually occurred and power prices doubled during the following decade.

When Contact Energy was privatised in 1999, 40% of the publicly offered shares were purchased by Edison Mission Energy. That 40% was subsequently increased to 51%.   Edison Mission started with a minority shareholding – which was soon increased to a majority sharehold.  (Starting to sound familiar?)

In 2004, Edison Mission sold it’s 51% stake to Australian company, Origin Energy.

Furthermore,

“The terms of this float were such that sharebrokers earned a greater commission from issuing shares to overseas shareholders than they did from issuing them to local shareholders. Many of the shares went to shareholders overseas (Gaynor, 1999). After the float, Gaynor assessed Contact as about 62% overseas owned.” Source

In reality, despite “assuring noises” made by Bill English and John Key, there is no way to prevent much of the proposed 49% sell-off of the SOEs, from falling into foreign ownership. This will not help New Zealand’s balance of payments, as profits are repatriated overseas, to offshore investors. It will mean that our most critically strategic assets will have owners who have no interest in New Zealand, except as a source of profits.

And importantly, we will lose approximately half of the profits made by these SOEs.

In 1999, Max Bradford promised New Zealanders that power prices would be “driven down” by competition.

That promise failed to materialise.

 

Garrick Tremain cartoon, Otago Daily Times, circa 1998/99

 

This year, English and Key promise that “only 10% to 15%” of shares will go to overseas investors.

Do we believe them sufficiently to “tick National” at this year’s general election?

I certainly will not.

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Further Reading:

Molly Melhuish

New Zealand Electricity Authority

Energy and Resources (New Zealand Government, portfolio website)

Max Bradford

Contact Energy

Electricity sector in New Zealand

That was Then, this is Now #5

25 August 2011 1 comment

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #4

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A lethal lesson in de-regulation…

18 August 2011 1 comment

More here.

De-regulation and an open, unfettered economy was the big fashion in the late 1980s (“Rogernomics”) and 1990s (“Ruthenasia”). It was argued by neo-liberals; the wealthy; and by segments of wannabee-rich middle class, that de-regulation was the new paradigm that would create an efficient; highly productive; wealthy society.

We would become the “Ireland” of the South Pacific – and Ireland at the time was doing extremely well, economically.

So the National government of the day, led by Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and with Ruth Richardson as his Minister ofFinance, continued what a Labour cabal consisting of Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, Peter Dunne, Michael Bassett, et al, had started: de-regulating the economy.

The new mantra was “De-regulation, good. Government regulation, bad”.

It was a childishly simplistic notion, and one that would cost us dearly in terms of vast sums of money; destroyed dreams; and lives lost.

The years passed. The 20th Century turned into the new 21st Century. The public became tired of National, and elected a new, Labour government, led by Helen Clark. Labour had a hard task of paying off a decade of accumulated debt and resolving deep social problems that were afflicting the country; growing poverty; high unemployment; increasing cases of poverty-related disease; lack of support for the country’s mentally ill;  a loss of state housing (National had sold off 13,000 state houses during it’s tenure); and other pressing matters.

There were also two silent time-bombs waiting in the shadows.

In the early 1990s, changes were made to the Building Act 1991/Building Regulations 1992  with several  subsequent amendments.

Effectively, these amendments de-regulated much of the industry, permitting untreated timber to be used where, previously, only treated varieties could be using for house construction. New materials could also be used that had not previously been common in residential building, including a newly fashionable “Meditteranean style”.

Similar de-regulatory events were to take place in Health & Safety, in 1992,  with regards to mining. In 1998 seven dedicated OSH mines inspectors were absorbed into OSH.  The disbanding of the mines inspectorate group, and moving its functions to the Department of Labour, had saved about $1 million. Health and safety (mines)  inspector, Michael Firmin,  was the sole inspector of mines left.

The bombs were set, and the fuses lit.

On 26 May 26 2001, the first “bomb” went off, with a NZ Herald article  revealing that a growing number of new or near-new houses were rotting because of lack of water-tightness.

On 19 November 2010, the second “bomb” went of at Pike River mine, as a methane explosion killed 29 mine-workers.

Investigation into both the “Leaky Homes Syndrome” and the Pike River disaster have one, inescapable common factor: regulations that were once in place, had been removed; altered; or watered-down. In both cases, de-regulation had meant a lack of direct responsibility for ensuring that whatever regulations did remain, were not observed.

Hopefully, New Zealand has learnt a harsh, expensive, and deadly lesson about de-regulation. Regulations are there for a reason. Like the road speed limit. We may not always like the nuisance that rules and regulations provide – but they exist for our safety and our financial security. (When the Huntly West mine blew up in 1992 there were no fatalites. (Former) Chief coal mine inspector Harry Bell had closed it down 36 hours before.)

If we give away regulation for expediency, or because it fits some trendy political free-market ideology – then be prepared  for the consequences. Because as sure as day follows night; there will be consequences.

One thing I have noticed about my generation, the “Baby Boomers”; we seem to be child-like in so many respects. We are  impatient – we want it now. Until the Cullen Fund – we didn’t want to save for our retirement (the Fund had to bribe us with a $1,000 kick-start from the government – ie, us, the taxpayer). We accepted tax-payer funded free education from our parents – only to abandon it and force User-Pays on our own children, through Student Fees. Charming.

We ignore complicated social issues – in favour of displaced penguins and “Wellywood” signs. We lose interest in matters that demand our long-term attention – a fact that politicians are aware of, and exploit to their benefit.

By god, we need to grow up. Because, collectively, we are still making incredibly bad or stupid decisions based on self-interest and short-term gain.

Our lack of collective wisdom; our inability to see things long-term; our willingness to accept short-term gain – and never mind the consequences – should give us cause for concern.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic that we will “grow up” any time soon. In fact, I await the next silent “bomb” that is ticking away, somewhere, in the shadows. How much will it cost us? And will we pay dearly, in lives?

Postscript: following the global banking crisis, Ireland is now bankrupt and a fiscal basket-case needing bail-outs from the EU to survive.

A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

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

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

16 August 2011 7 comments

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

Of course, this is absurd and an outright falsehood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jobs to go at textile factories”

“Headlines do not reveal true picture of job losses”

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

“Job losses to hit military next week”

“Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut”

“Hellaby’s closes: 18 jobs go”

“Australasian Colorado shops closing”

“Grim day of redundancies”

“Jobs to go at troubled baker Yarrows”

“KiwiRail plans to lay off Dunedin staff”

“Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa”

“Ovation confirms 304 job losses “

“Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement”

“NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs”

“Ballantynes faces post-quake job cuts”

“Lane Walker Rudkin 470 Redundancies A Tragedy”

And many more here .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do people do it?

* The Opportunists.

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

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

* The Greedy.

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

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

Greed – it does funny things to peoples’ humanity.

* The Perpetually Angry.

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

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

Anger – it stops people thinking clearly.

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

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

Nor does it help when we export jobs overseas,

“Army shifts $2m contract to China”

“Chinese firm beats Hillside to KiwiRail contract”

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

Is this making sense to anyone?

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

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

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

Capitalism, top heavy and toppling – Bernard Hickey

This is must-read stuff…

Full article here.

It is worth noting that, here in New Zealand, recent tax cuts gave $2.5 billion a year to the top 10 per cent of earners and “practically nothing to the bottom 20 per cent of earners, who got 3 per cent of those cuts”.

It is also worth noting that, as a country, we are having to borrow $380 million  per week to – in part – fund those tax cuts.  That’s $17.6 billion this year alone.

Far from being a “prudent fiscal manager”, National is being highly irresponsible as it continues to woo the  Middle Class for their votes.

Only thing is: eventually it all has to be paid back. Even selling all out SOEs won’t cover that debt mountain, as we simply don’t have enough state assets left after the 1980s and 1990s.

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.

From “Nanny State” to “Daddy State”…

I don’t think there’s much question that  serious social problems in this country  are not being addressed in any meaningful way by this current government…

So is the Prime Minister, John Key, really  aware of what is actually going on in New Zealand right now?  Well, judge for yourself…

So what is National doing about soaring youth unemployment?

At their recent Conference, held in Wellington, they came up with this…

(Article abbreviated)

They’re going to clamp down on booze and cigarettes?!?!

That’s it?

Oh good lord! And people thought that Labour was “Nanny Statist”?!?!

I wonder who will be next to feel the iron fist of National’s Polit-buro state control? The retired? Civil Servants? Anyone using state hospitals???

Congratulations, my fellow New Zealanders: we have gone past Nanny State to Big Brother.

It might be worthwhile considering that,

  • Not all unemployed youth smoke
  • Not all unemployed youth drink
  • Even if they do,  Key says that they will still receive “a limited amount of money for young people to spend at their discretion“.  Like… on booze and ciggies?!
  • Even if they won’t have enough “discretionary pocket money” – what is to stop them stealing it? Or selling their Food Card for cash, and then buying ciggies and booze?

In the meantime, how many jobs will this piece of neo-Nanny Statism create?

The answer, I submit, is:

Even the NZ Herald was quick to acknowledge this simple fact in their August 16 editorial,

Yet there is also nothing in the Prime Minister’s announcement that creates jobs for young people. There, the Government still has work to do.”

Meanwhile, as National blames the young unemployed of this country for the world recession, and proposes to penalise them by tinkering with their only means of survival – the problem continues unabated,

The last time youth unemployment was this high was in 1992…

1992?

Wasn’t that the previous National government led by Jim Bolger, with Ruth Richardson as Minister of Finance? And didn’t she implement a slash and burn economic policy in her “Mother of All Budgets” that resulted in unemployment reaching over 10%?!?!

Why, yes. It was.

Are we starting to see a pattern develop here, folks?

It is abundantly clear that National has no clue how to address this problem. Attacking welfare benefits which keep people from starving to death, or more likely, breaking into our homes to find food, is not an answer. It is a cheap shot geared toward winning votes from uneducated voters who hold the illusion that living on a benefit is a cosy arrangement (it is not).

There are no policies being announced to create jobs, or to train young people into a trade or profession.

National should be throwing open the doors of our polytechs to train young people into tradespeople that the community desperately needs. With the re-building of Christchurch shortly to commence – where are the necessary tradespeople going to come from? (Most have buggered of to Australia.)

If this is the best that National can come up with, then, my fellow New Zealanders, we are in deep ka-ka.

Meanwhile…

Dr Mapp said the research science and technology was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country.

“To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in global markets.”

The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9m and run for three years.

They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4m a year for three years.

Dr Mapp said they provide the businesses involved with more financial security over that period.

Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in  software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics.

Wellington companies which received grants:

Core Technology: $629,400

Open Cloud: $2,394,920

Xero: $4,040,000

Xero was founded by Rod Drury in 2006,  who made $65 million in the same year after selling his email archiving system AfterMail. Xero purchased Australian online payroll company,  Paycycle, in July of this year for A$1.5 million.

Which begs the question as to why the government has given away $4 million of tax-payers money when the owner is ‘flush’ with $65 million and has enough capital to buy off-shore  companies elsewhere.

Is this a prudent use of tax-payers’ money,  especially when,

* government is cutting back on social services?

* government has cut back on youth training programmes?

* government is borrowing $380 million a week, and telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts”?

At a time when government is berrating unemployed 16 and 17 year olds for being on the dole and  “smoking ciggies”, instead of  providing meaningful training and/or employment, it seems that National is still “picking winners” in the field of commerce.

$4 million could go a long way in providing training, and a future, for many 16 year olds.

By contrast, how much do young people, living away from home, recieve from WINZ? It must be a grand sum, to earn the Prime Minister’s stern attention. The answer is:

It’s a shame they’re not “picking winners”  with our unemployed youth.

Unemployment; A right way and the Government way…

13 August 2011 2 comments

As per usual, the National Party conference this year has focused on beneficiaries and social welfare.  Listening to these people, who seem utterly oblivious to the harsh realities of New Zealand in a recession, we have the Prime Minister, John  Key, saying that the current social welfare  system,

“…is not working and needs to change.

When young people go on welfare, by definition, they stay there longer and cost the state more…and rob themselves of a tremendous opportunity.

Every New Zealander can be entitled to that brighter future, no moreso than young people”.

?!?!

Nowhere does Key or any of his colleagues acknowledge that 160,000 people are currently jobless. The current rate of 6.6% is double  that prior to the beginning of the recession in 2008, when it stood at 3.8%.

I wonder – does John Key or any other National MP believe that 80,000 New Zealanders woke up one morning in late 2008 and decided to chuck in their jobs, where they earned $600, $700, $800 or more – to go onto the dole to receive $201.40 (nett, p/w, single person 25+)? Or $335.66 (nett, p/w, married couple)?

I doubt it.

I harbour a suspicion – not backed up by any firm evidence, I admit – that National MPs are not actually thick enough to believe that the vast  majority of unemployed New Zealanders prefer to be jobless.

So why target unemployed Kiwis who happen to have had the mis-fortune to have lost their jobs – and are still being made redundant every day?

Simple. Beneficiary bashing – or “welfare reforms” to give it a more palatable, acceptable term – wins votes. There is a part of middle class New Zealand that envisions every single welfare recipient to be a character out of  “Once Were Warriors” or a dope-smoking hippy.

This chunk of middle-class New Zealand is harshly punitive in it’s attitude toward poverty, welfare, and solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers).  They see the poor; the unemployed; and solo-mothers as being there because of deliberate “bad lifestyle choices”.  Holding such prejudiced views is easier than having to think hard and deep about the complex economic and social causes that have created our own under-class in New Zealand. If someone is to blame, for their own mis-fortune,  we don’t have to act.

And if there’s one thing that human beings love; it’s simplistic answers to hard questions.

National (and it’s right-wing cousin, ACT) understand this dark streak in our collective psyche and exploit it to the last possible vote.

However, it does nothing to address the very real social and economic problem of unemployment. Bashing beneficiaries is like criticising someone for getting sick – ultimately futile and counter-productive.

To date, this National government has done very little to create jobs; to reduce barriers to education; to train young New Zealanders for life in the 21st Century.

National’s contribution to job creation has been… the cycleway. They have also cut the TIA (Training Incentive Allowance) which, for many,  was a ticket off welfare and into paid employment. That happens to be the same TIA that Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett used to get off the DPB.

Nice one, Ms Bennett.

John Key says that the “current system is not working”.

Wrong, Mr Key. The current system is functioning as it should; feeding people who are without incomes.

It is the unemployed who are “not working”.

Where are the jobs, Mr Key; where are the jobs?

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Sources:

Grim Day of Redundancies

BoP Times : 1,000 people applied for just 90 jobs

Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Jobs to go at textile factories

10 applicants for every one shelf-stocking job

National Party Conference – Day One

Employment Blow as Vbase cuts 151 jobs

2700 applicants for 150 jobs

National promises to unleash welfare reforms

Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut

Applicants queue for 20 jobs at new KFC store

Getting young people off welfare a priority

300 job losses in Hawke’s Bay

Demand Strong for New Jobs Up for Grabs in Glenfield

National Party Conference – Day One

History, seems to repeat…

“Reducing the number of government agencies, where it makes sense, will improve the delivery of services to the public, reduce duplication of roles, and allow reprioritisation of spending to where it will have the greatest impact,” State Services Minister Tony Ryall said.”

I hope no one actually believes that nonsense. National has an apalling track trecord  in undermining agencies and damaging their ability to provide services. It’s a shame that many folk seem to have forgotten the bad state of public services when National was finally voted out at the end of 1999.

For example, ex-psych patients were reduced to living in streets and public toilets – having no where else to go, and not having any support.

In another example, on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

We are fast returning to those Bad Old Days.

And there will be a heavy price to pay.

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* * *

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On Colin Morrison (1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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= fs =

What killed Rugby?

11 August 2011 24 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So what Heineken wants, Heineken gets: cans.

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

Money speaks with a very loud voice.

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

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

So expect your method of payment to be controlled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTF???

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

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

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

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

There.

Sorted.

Are we having fun yet, peeps?

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

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

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

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

St Johns is not a business itself.

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

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

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

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

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

Contemptible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the present, and current debacle,

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

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

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

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

How did it get to this?

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

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

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

Are we having fun yet?

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+++ UPDATE: More RWC Silliness +++

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Full story

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Full Story

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Full Story

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Full Story

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

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Further Reading

Tew threatens to pull out of next World Cup

NZRU boss Steve Tew lobs a grenade at the IRB

Aussies back NZRU over World Cup complaint

NZ must reap what it has sown over World Cup

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