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Archive for 12 August 2011

This year…

… the General Election will be held on  Saturday, 26 November.

There will also be a Referendum held, on our Electoral System, with voters being able to decide whether or not to retain MMP.

Issues surrounding the Election and Referendum will be discussed here.

And so it came to pass…

12 August 2011 4 comments

It is a basic tenet of belief, amongst the Left, Liberals, and Social Democrats, that everything in a society is inter-connected, whether we like it or not.  That inter-connection applies as much to macro-economics and  governmental policies as it does to how much money you and I have in our pockets to spend.

Accordingly, where there are severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness – which co-exists with a consumerist society; upwardly mobile professionals; and wealth accumulated by a small minority – there is a powder keg of frustration waiting to explode.

Four days ago, the explosion happened in London.

It was predictable.

And the UK’s  “Guardian” newspaper did predict it, here,

Note the date: Friday, 29 July:  one week before the riotting exploded onto London’s streets.

The article describes severe cut-backs to various local community groups. These are the groups trying to pick up, and hold together, the fragmented pieces of a society stressed by the inhuman forces of neo-liberalism.  As unemployment escalates and even the safety net of the welfare system is cut back – wealth continues to accumulate in the hands of a privileged few.

Unfortunately, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, just doesn’t seem to get it,

This is not about poverty, this is about culture,’ David Cameron told parliament. ‘In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.

The man is either deluded, or is playing to a very angry public audience.

In case my fellow New Zealanders believe that the powder-keg of social unrest cannot happen in Godzone, it may do us well to reflect in the following;

»  We have a National-led government that is pursuing policies similar to the Conservative-led government in the UK; cutbacks; attacks on welfare beneficiaries; resisting wage-growth; opening up the economy to foreign control; and not addressing unemployment in this country in any meaningful way.

»  Tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010 benefitted the highest income earners in the country. Those on the bottom recieved not just less in tax cuts – but found themselves paying more for food, goods, and services as GST increased from 12.5% to 15%.

»  The top 150 wealthiest individuals in New Zealand increased their wealth  from $38.2 billion to $45.2b – about a 20 percent increase.

»  Unemployment is still high, at 6.5%. Youth unemployment in NZ is at nearly 18%. The figure for Maori (25%) and Pacific Islanders (28%) remains high.

»  Government is cutting back on social services; reducing government workers via forced redundancies; and has launched an election-year campaign targetting welfare recipients.

»  Despite the devastation in Christchurch, employment in the construction sector actually  fell by 12,700 people compared to a year ago.

As Irish comedian, Andrew Maxwell put it, so very succinctly,

“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper. “

In essence, the same conditions that exist in Britain, as ouitlined in the “Guardian” article – exist here in New Zealand (though probably not yet on the same scale).

The riots on the other side of the world should serve as a salient warning to us all; society cannot endure severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness  – without consequence.

With the economic mess in Europe and a near-bankrupt United States, it is obvious that the unfettered unregulated “free market” has left us all much worse off. The neo-liberal experiment is as much a failure in economic ideology as the old Soviet marxist-leninism. Both are extremes. Both are inflexible and thus vulnerable to crises. Neither offer a practical solution to the demands of society and commerce.

The question is – do our leaders have the wit to realise this?

Or more important still – do we?

And what are we going to do about it?


Just what we need…

12 August 2011 2 comments

… more promotion of liquor.

Because here in New Zealand,

Ø  We don’t have 700,000 problem drinkers…

Ø  We don’t have kids drinking themselves into a stupor or  to death…

Ø  We don’t spend $4.4 billion dollars on alcohol-related abuse…

Ø  We don’t have 3,000 children in New Zealand  born every year  with fetal alcohol syndrome

Ø  We don’t have growing problems with public drunkeness, which now requires ambulances to be stationed at “trouble spots”…

Ø  We don’t have increasing violence and vandalism, related to easy availability of cheap booze…

Oh no, we need to promote alcohol as “sexy”, because we’re not consuming enough of the stuff. Thank you, North Otago Rugby Union, for showing us that problems with alcohol is someone elses’ problem and you don’t have to do your bit.

One question, though, if I may, Mr Jackson – how do you define “social responsibility”?

Lost – Much loved HTV

12 August 2011 1 comment

Doing my bit to help our American cuzzies find their plane…

Cutting skills training? How clever!

Mr Goff asked Prime Minister John Key about cuts to Salvation Army and YMCA training programmes. Mr Key said he did not have details, but “some of those programmes just simply were not delivering results”.

The Government was spending nearly $300m more on tertiary education in 2012 than in 2008.

Mr Goff said the Salvation Army job training programmes had outcomes “at a very high level – over 65 per cent”. Youth unemployment was at “record proportions” and there was a looming skills shortage crisis.

Mr Key said Mr Goff was “just plain wrong”. “I myself was in Christchurch some months ago, announcing the increase in skills training there specific to the rebuild of Christchurch. What the Government has done is to say … New Zealand taxpayers deserve to see value for money, and we will deliver them value for money by focusing on courses that actually have good outcomes.”

YMCA national chief executive Ric Odom said it would receive $370,000 less in funding because of TEC cuts of 14 per cent this year.

Salvation Army social services director Major Campbell Roberts said employment training was being pushed further into crisis after a five-year funding freeze.

If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the meaning behind the recent riots in Britain, as disaffected young people took to the streets in anger and violence – then he is not as bright as I first took him for.

We desperately need more training at a time when youth unemployment is high – at 20% – and when we have a skills shortage that is hampering our economic recovery. This is not rocket science. Heck, it’s not carrot-growing science for that matter.

It strikes me as an act of spectacular stupidity that government is not focusing in on youth training with laser-beam-like intensity.

If we ignore this problem; if we allow it to fester unchecked; if we wait for the magical hand of the Free Market to do this for us – then the lessons of the London riots will be wasted.

This is not good governance.

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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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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