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Archive for March, 2012

Law passed in secret to sell State Assets 100% , Meegan Manuka MR NEWS Counter Spin 2012

Something worth a look,

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Meegan Manuka’s assessments of certain aspects of National’s machinations over the SOE Act 1986 is is scarily accurate. For example, at 1:50 into the video-report, she informs us,

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“…that priority will be given  to New Zealand investors. Now I know that’s not true because if you research the Trans-Pacific  Partnership Agreement there’s a clause in there that says that we cannot give priority to New Zealanders because that’s discrimination against the offshore investors…”

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Ms Manuka’s assertion is backed up from a Government document, the OUTLINES OF THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT,

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Investment.

The investment text will provide substantive legal
protections for investors and investments of each TPP country in
the other TPP countries, including ongoing negotiations on
provisions to ensure non-discrimination, a minimum standard
of treatment, rules on expropriation, and prohibitions on
specified performance requirements that distort trade and
investment.

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And unsurpringly, Ms Manuka’s research was backed up my msm,

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Full Story

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But Prime Minister John Key said legislation was not needed to guarantee priority shareholdings.

“You need to practically have it – it’s essentially the application of the policy and New Zealanders will judge us on how well we execute that policy, but it’s not necessary to have it in legislation.”

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Key’s statement that “it’s not necessary to have it in legislation” is mind-boggling. How else will Government  “guarantee priority shareholdings” if legislation does not exist to enforce it?

The only answer to Key’s bizarre statement is that National has no intention of enforcing “guaranteed priority shareholdings” because it knows that,

(a) As Ms Manuka stated, any such law would conflict with the TPPA, and

(b) the government cannot guarantee that New Zealand investors are financially able to purchase billions of dollars worth of shares

The issue of SOE privatisation is similar to that of farm-sales to overseas inestors, where John Key has stated that Government cannot ‘discriminate” between local and overseas offers to buy assets,

Which then influenced National’s  decision on the Crafar farm-sale, to overseas investors. As John Key said,

“He [Mr Peters] is in a state of denial. New Zealand has strict legislation where it comes to the sale of farmland. If government had decided to overrule the decision of the Overseas Investment Office we would have to give reasons – and that reason can’t be ‘because they’re Chinese.’” – Source

And,

Ministers were satisfied that Milk New Zealand met all of the relevant criteria under the Overseas Investment Act 2005. Ministers can only have regard to the criteria and factors outlined in the Overseas Investment Act 2005. Every application is decided on its individual merits and the outcome would be the same even if New Zealand did not have a Free Trade Agreement with China,” they said.” – Source

As with previous pledges and promises from National, it seems fairly evident that John Key has no intention of following through on his committment to “guarantee priority shareholdings“.

Be prepared for another back-down, with the usual ‘spin’ of excuses, buck-passing, and vacant smiling. As Bruce Bissett wrote in Hawkes Bay Today,

Double standards? Yes, of course. This is National, after all.

The next election can’t come soon enough.

And thank the gods for Gen Y. They’re here to fix up their parents’ mess.

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Additional

Next step in Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Broad Outlines

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Leaders of TPP member states and prospective member states on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, 11 November 2010.

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Map of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement signatory nations

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History Lesson – Rua – Police

7 March 2012 3 comments

And now for another lesson in recent history; cut-backs in police funding, staffing, and other resourcing,

Government: National (in brief coalition with NZ First)

Elected: 12 October 1996

Prime Minister: Jim Bolger

Finance Minister/Treasurer: Bill English

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

Otago Daily Times - 12 February 1997

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Community policing centres around the country are facing staff cuts like those being considered if the Naenae police station in the Hutt Valley, the Police Association says…

… Mr O’Connor said police administrators committed themselves to cut staff by 540 in four years to pay for the new computer system.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

Otago Daily Times - 4 March 1997

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A slow police response to a 111 emergency call was indicative of problems  faced by police because of under-funding and staff shortages, Labour police spokesman George Hawkins said yestrerday…

… ‘This sort of situation happens because  the police are stretched to breaking point.’ The MP said the police budget dropped $6 million in real terms this financial year.

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

Otago Daily Times - 7 March 1997

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Police Commissioner Peter Doone last night admitted morale within the police force had tumbled over the past 18 months  but scotched suggestions  staff were ready to strike. Labour police spokesman George Hawkins said on Wednesday strike action was being considered by police officers  after the leaking of a Treasury report recommending the police budget be cut  by $47 million by the year 2000.

Mr Doone… conceded, however, that front-line police  had been under pressure for at least 18 months and, with the release of the Treasury report on top of budget restraints, they had taken ‘quite a severe battering’.

The report, which is yet to go to  cabinet, proposed cutting police pay  and budgets, reviewing police superannuation, selling police property and closing the police training college. Mr Doone said Police National Headquarters  was taking staff concerns about the Treasury report seriously  and was already ‘well advanced’ on an emphatic response to its recommendations.

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

Otago Daily Times - 16 October 1997

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Association president Greg O’Connor told about 100 delegates at the association’s 62nd annual conference in Wellington yesterday the increase in crime  and the decrease in police numbers in recent years had demoralised the force…

… Police numbers since 1994 had gone down 3.9%, while reported crime  had increased by 7%, he said.

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Otago Daily Times - 12 March 1998

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The Otago police budget has been cut by almost 20% in the past three years, but district manager Superintendent John Reilly is adamant front line policing has not been compromised…

Mr Hawklins said…

‘The excellent work of Otago’s police on reducing the crime rate is being jeopardised by funding cut-backs – their reward for success is a kick in the teeth’…

Supt Reilly yesterday conceded there were restraints  on police spending in Otago, ‘but none had been placed on operational policing’…

Supt Reilly was determined the cuts would not affect the level of policing which ‘the public are entitled to’…

Supt Reilly had also not ruled out leasing some of the $22.5 Dunedin police station to outside interests as a revenue gatherer.

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

NZPA - 12 June 1998

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The police review out yesterday recommends 445 ‘back line’ job losses and the contracting out  of police work such as search and rescue, scene guards, and speed camera operations – at a saving of $50.5 million. Police Minister Jack Elder said there could be a ‘significant’ boost in front-line staff beyond the extra 500 promised by the government, as a result of the savings…

Police Association president Greg O’Connor said the report confirmed fears that the sole aim of the review was to cut jobs. Front-line police would be burdoned by extra paperwork, he said…

ACT’s Patricia Schnauer said the review was badly handled, hastily wrotten, and a ‘public confidence loser’…

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Elder emphasised that only 1.7% of sworn staff would lose jobs and said they could move to the front-line or normal attrition would take place...”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

NZPA - 29 September 1998

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Police Minister Clem Simich said yesterday no wholesale cuts would be made to front-line police numbers under the police review. But some districts have found out they may front-line staff under a proposed new method of allocating staff. Mr Simich said it was ‘pure coincidence’ the police review  was taking place at the same time as a staff allocation process, which could see officer numbers slashed in some districts…

The proposed new allocation process, based on population numbers, could see sworn police numbers cut from the Wellington, Central, Southern and Bay of Plenty districts and Police National Headquarters...”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

Otago Daily Times - 24 April 1999

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More than a third of the Southern police district’s 100 civilian staff could lose their jobs  as part of police restructuring, district  manager Superintendent John Reilly said today…

A working party had been appointed to look at the recommendation and determine if such losses were sustainable...”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

The Press - 30 April 1999

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The controversial police review continues to cause concern. The number of non-sworn police staff has fallen by almost 200 in the last year. And three senior Christchurch officers are leaving the force because of job stress caused by the review’s effects.

The fall in non-sworn staff is especially alarming. The numbers were revealed by the Minister of Police, Clem Simich, in a written answer to his parliamentary nemesis, Labour’s police spokesman George Hawkins. Mr Simich says that since April last year, 312 non-sworn staff have left. Although 123  have been reappointed, most were temporary. Mr Hawkins says the decrease means front-line police are answering telephones and doing paperwork rather than catching criminals…

Clearly, the police review has not worked out well. It has diverted senior officers from their primary tasks as they have been forced to reapply for their jobs.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts -   reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low   morale

NZPA - 15 May 1999

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Predictions of cuts in police numbers are irresponsible and scaremongering, and do nothing to ease the uncertainty staff feel as the police review goes ahead, says Police Minister Clem Simich…

Mr Simich said it was widely expected that many non-sworn staff positions would go. ‘That’s what the review called for. But those numbers aren’t big. They are not as big as a lot of people make out’…

He agreed that criminal intelligence, crime analysis and many other jobs  done by non-sworn staff  in Palmerston North constituted essential support for officers on the street.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Otago Daily Times/NZPA - 16 June 1999

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Otago Daily Times/NZPA - 16 June 1999

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Non-sworn police staff have been thrown a lifeline with the government yesterday calling a halt to reductions in the number of police civilian staff. Police Minister Clem Simich also announced the government would be providing extra funding for an additional 90 non-sworn staff throughout the country. ‘The Government and the police have said right from the start we would not tolerate police officers answering phones and doing clerical work instead of being out on the street,’ he said…

A review of the force, announced last October aimed to cut non-sworn staff by 285, and because of changes that have taken place since then, 195 positions have gone. Mr Simich said the extra 90 non-sworn staff would cost about $6 million in the first year…

Association presidentr Greg O’Connor saiid the voice of the police had been heard ‘and we’ve managed to maintain the bottom line’… 

Mr Doone said police operational capacity was not just being maintained – it was being improved. ‘The initial estimates were too tight.  they were just that – initial estimates’ he said.

Labour’s police spokesman George Hawkins said the Government had buckled under pressure from the Opposition and public opinion. ‘But it has failed to go far enough – 195  staff have already gone and the Government’s pathetic claim that cancelling further cuts amounts to providing an “additional” 90 staff is a desperate attempt to put a positive gloss  on an exercise that has been an unmitigated public relations and public safety disaster,’ he said.”

Dunedin’s CIB is being stripped of experienced detectives, with seven having left the police or applied  to transfer to other sections since February. There are also suggestions thers are poised to leave…

While officers were not prepared to speak on the record, there is growing concern at the loss of experienced detectives. Dissatisfaction with the police review and the way the CIB would operate under the new structure are believed to be factors in some of the departures.”

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Government: Labour (in coalition with The Alliance)

Elected: 27 November 1999

Prime Minister: Helen Clark

Finance Minister: Michael Cullen

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

The Dominion - 26 March 2001

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A shortage of 200 frontline police officers means there will be no one to drive 404 new police vehicles, National’s police spokesman, Tony Ryall, says… [now in Opposition]

Mr Ryall said Mr Hawkins was in denial over police morale, as latest figures showed there were 200 frontline vacancies…

Assistant police commissioner Jon White said… ‘Police are planning to increase the number of recruit wings over the next year and plan to run a focused campaign to encourage people to join. The recruiting campaign will help increase that flow’.”

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Government: National (in coalition with ACT, Peter Dunne, and Maori Party)

Elected: 26 November 2012

Prime Minister: John Key

Finance Minister: Bill English

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Radio New Zealand - 6 March 2012

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The Government has told police they must keep within their $1.4 billion budget and says all government departments are having to manage without extra money.  Commissioner Peter Marshall is ruling out cuts to frontline policing, but warns other services may be affected and this could include some stations being closed….

…Peter Marshall says some non-sworn positions are already being done away with in a merging of human resources and finance from the 12 police districts down to just three hubs.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Newswire - 6 March 2012

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Police Minister Anne Tolley has avoided responding directly to reports police numbers will be slashed and stations shut to save $360 million over three years.

Police officers and non-sworn staff could lose their jobs, with union negotiations over pay increasing the financial pressures on the police, a source told the New Zealand Herald…

… The reports follow the deferral of an intake of police recruits late last year – a move Prime Minister John Key attributed to a low attrition rate.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

NZ Herald - 6 March 2012

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The Police Commissioner has confirmed some jobs will go as he makes moves to stay within budget. Peter Marshall said there are plenty of options about how that will be done and is urging his staff to not panic about losing their jobs…

…Police Minister Anne Tolley said there has been no directive to the Police Commissioner to make savings, just for police to live within their means.

“That’s the expectations we all have on our departments that they live within their budget, there isn’t extra money and so they have to manage and continue to deliver an increase in front line policing hours.”

But Labour’s police spokesman Kris Faafoi said he did not see how that can happen.

“I think if we’re looking at $360 million over three years, it is going to be a mixture of resourcing and front line staff capability and it’s going to hurt the police.”

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police - police association - national government - cutbacks - staff cuts - funding cuts - reduction in police staffing - reduction in non-sworn staff - greg o'connor - nz police - low morale

Dominion Post - 7 March 2012

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Mr Marshall declined to comment on the size of any cuts, but he revealed a series of potential targets:

Police station closures;

Non-replacement of staff who quit;

A share of any savings from Corrections and the Justice Ministry being ploughed back into police coffers;

Cancelling outside consultancy contracts;

Changes to how vehicles are bought and serviced.

Paying staff accounted for 73 per cent of the budget so had the greatest bearing on any savings, Mr Marshall said.

The force was 100 sworn officers over its allocated number and natural attrition accounted for about 350 leaving the force each year.

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Fifteen years have passed since the media reported “community policing centres around the country are facing staff cuts like those being considered if the Naenae police station in the Hutt Valley” – and now history is repeating. It is as if we are witnessing a looped video, with events, policies, and even word-for-word statements made by various National Ministers of Police; Simich, Ryall, and now Tolley…

As per history’s re-run, I suppose it will be up to the next Labour-led government in 2014 (if not earlier) to un-do these cuts and re-build the Police – indeed, rebuild the entire state sector service.

And then New Zealand voters will eventually get another rush of blood to their heads and re-elect another National government, which will again cut taxes;  borrow truckloads of money from overseas; sell more state owned enterprises; slash the state sector; cut Police staffing and resourcing…

Ad infinitum.

Will voters ever learn? I doubt it… though Gen Yers do seem to be a lot more savy than their somewhat dimmer baby-boomer parents/grandparents.

We can but hope.

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Additional

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Peter Marshall

Radio NZ: Listen to Greg O’Connor on Checkpoint

Govt under fire over NZDF restructuring

NZ Herald: Cuts likely if police get their hoped-for 3% rise

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Workers lose their jobs – Day of Shame!

7 March 2012 7 comments

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This is a day of shame for New Zealand.

When workers can be sacked and their jobs replaced with “contractors”, it means that workers have lost all rights to job security; fairness in negotiations; and basic concepts of justice.

New Zealand has become a quasi-fascist country. I hope to god that international trade unions slap a total shipping boycott on this country. Just as our trade unions supported workers’ rights in other countries such as South Africa and Chile, we now require the support of free trade unions from around the world.

New Zealand must be isolated until the Ports of Auckland Board and CEO Tony Gibson are sacked.

This is nothing less than an attack on workers – as happened in Poland in December 1981, under their communist regime.

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The time for negotiations has long passed. Employers – whether AFFCO or PoAL – have no intention to negotiate.

If employers can treat “Good faith bargaining” as a sham then workers need to fight fire-with-fire. The time for reasonable negotiations has finished; employers aren’t interested, so why should we play their ‘game’?

It’s time to play hard-ball;

1. Ignore Court orders to return to work.
2. A return to wild-cat strikes as a tactic.
3. Send an urgent request for international assistance.

If workers lose this one, it will be the 1980s/90s all over again.

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Addendum

Message posted on John Key’s Facebook page,

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I’m sure Dear Leader would welcome your comments, as well.

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And messages for Len Brown can be left here, on his Facebook page,

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* * * Update! * * *

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Blogger makes Appeal to Solidarnosc for Support!

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Additional

Firefighters to join port protest rally

Firefighters could be next for union action


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Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…

… and a Wicked Wacko Witch.

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.

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Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go of the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

We discussed the Training Incentive Allowance, which Paula Bennet used to put herself through University. I asked her,

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With being on the DPB, and with the availability of the TIA, do you think it assisted and motivated you to get yourself of the Benefit?”

Sally replied,

With the TIA, definitely. If I’d have to borrow money, yeah, I think that would’ve been quite daunting, I guess. I mean, I had to take out a student loan anyway, so if I’d have to borrow more, it would’ve taken longer to pay back. The extra assistance helped.”

I asked,

So the TIA, you believe, was a good incentive?

Sally responded,

Yep, yep, otherwise some people would probably stay on the benefit, especially when working part-time and being on a part benefit, is  hardly  worth it, especially at a certain level. So I think training to get a higher income to make it worth going off the benefit and not have to borrow thousands of dollars for it, yeah, that’s a good incentive.”

Sally has now been off  the DPB; in paid employment for the last four and a half years; and paying tax on a good salary. She is also spending more, and her oldest son, Wayne is now doing tertiary education himself.

Being a taxpayer means that she is now “paying it forward”, to support the next person who requires state assistance. This is what welfare should be about.

Unfortunately for us, the Minister for Social Welfare, Paula Bennett, who was on the DPB herself and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree – has canned the TIA.

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Paula Bennett was on the DPB and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree.

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Bizzarre.

Only a National Government can screw up a system that actually succeeded in training and upskilling people; getting them off welfare; and into paid work. One cannot help but wonder if National secretly wants thousands of people on welfare, to create a  pool of cheap labour, and drive down wages…

Sally has worked hard; bettered herself; improved her family’s financial position; and has raised two sons in a good home – one of whom is in tertiary education now.

This is a good outcome due to progressive government policy.

Please, Mr Key, may we have some more?

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* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

6 March 2012 3 comments

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During the Cold War, Eastern Europeans used to “vote with their feet” and escape to the West. Often that migration was done at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The Poles, Hungarians, Czecks, East Germans, et al, who crossed from the Eastern European Zone did so in search of freedom – political, economic, and social. For them, the repression in their home nations was sufficient motivation to up-root and leave behind family and friends, in search of something better.

Whilst the risk isn’t quite the same for us (no armed border guards; semi-rabid guard dogs; sentry towers with searchlights and machine-gun posts), New Zealanders are still voting with their feet,
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Full Story

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Unlike their Eastern European cuzzies, New Zealanders are not leaving simply to improve their financial lot (though that certainly plays a major part).

I believe there is much more involved in the psychology behind this migration.

Since the Rogernomics New Right “reforms” of the late 1980s, New Zealand  has been socially re-engineered. New, neo-liberalistic values of obeisance for wealth; state sector “efficiency”; low taxes; minimal government;  user pays in many, previously free social services; and a quasi-religious intolerance of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale who are left behind in the mad scramble for money and status.

A new creed of Personal Good trumps Social Needs, and Individual Rights/Needs trumps Community Well-being.

It is a New Right puritanism that demands solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers) “go out to work” –  blind to the concept of raising a family as being a vital form of work.

It is the demand for Individual Rights to have 24/7 access to alcohol – irrespective of harm caused to society (see BERL report) and the eventual cost to tax-payers.

It is the craven reverance shown to 150 Rich Listers who increased their wealth by a massive 20% in 2010 – whilst condemning working men and women who are struggling to keep their wages and conditions in the face of an onslaught by employers, emboldened by a right wing government. (Eg; AFFCO, Maritime Workers, ANZCO-CMP Rangitikei)

It is a nasty streak of crass, moralistic judgementalism that blames the poor for being poor; invalids for being born with a disability or suffering a crippling accident; solo-mums (but not solo-fathers) for daring to be responsible enough to raise a family; and the unemployed for being in the wrong Place/Time when the global banking crisis metastasized into a full-blown worldwide Recession, turning them from wage earning tax-payers – to one of crony capitalism’s “collateral damage”.

In all this, having a sense of community; of belonging to a wider society; and of being a New Zealander  – has been sublimated. Except for ANZAC Day; a national disaster; and when the All Blacks are thrashing the Wallabies, we show very little sense of nationalistic pride or social cohesion.

Indeed, I recall some years ago being in a 24/7 convenience store in downtown Wellington, on ANZAC Day. It was not yet 1pm, so by law alcohol could not be sold.

I noticed a customer in the store selecting a bottle of wine from the chiller and taking it to the checkout, to purchase. As per liquor laws, the checkout operator could not legally sell that bottle of wine, until after 1pm.

The operator explained that it was the law; it was ANZAC Day; and it was a mark of respect (most shops weren’t even open before 1pm).

The customer, a  fashionably-dressed young(-ish) man remonstrated with the checkout operator and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear; “I don’t give a shit about ANZAC Day. I just want to buy this wine.”

And that, I believe sums up our present society. That young man simply didn’t care. He  wanted something and he couldn’t believe it was being denied to him.

To him (and others like him, who usually vote ACT and/or National), all he knew was that he WANTED a THING and his right to have it, if he could pay for it, was paramount.

What does that say about a society?

Firstly, what it says is, to some folk,  a society is little more than a flimsy, abstract concept – and not much more – with ‘Society’ being subservient to the demands of the Individual.

Secondly, if Society is nothing more than an abstract concept – as one person recently wrote to me on Facebook – then there is no way whatsoever that an individual can feel a sense of “belonging”.

“Belong” to what? A geographic place on a map that happens to have a different name and colouring to another geographic place adjacent to it?

If people who happened to be born in a Geographic Area; designated “New Zealand”; coloured pale-green on the map; decide that they can earn more money in another Geographic Area; designated “Australia”; coloured ochre on the map – then moving from “A” to “B” is nothing more than a logistical exercise. Kinda like shifting house from one street to another.

When we have no concept of “society” – then people will “vote with their feet”. They simply have nothing else to consider when making a decision except solely on material factors.

An expat New Zealander, living in a Geographic Area across the Tasman Sea, told the “Dominion Post“,

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“A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”Source

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If we extrapolate this situation to it’s logical outcome, it becomes obvious that New Zealand’s future is to become a vast training ground for the global economy, with thousand of polytechs, Universities, and other training institutions churning out hundreds of thousands of trained workers for the global economy.

Our children will be born; raised; schooled; educated; and then despatched to  another Geographic Area. It gives a whole new meaning to Kiwis “leaving the nest”.

When Finance Minister Bill English  told Radio New Zealand,
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We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support business that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills.

“We are getting those in place, despite the fact that we’ve had a substantial recession. We believe we can make considerable progress over the next four to five years.” – Source

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… he was quite correct – though not quite in the way he was intending. New Zealand will “provide people with skills and reward those skills” – just not for this country.

National leader John Key, once again, was of in la-la land as usual when he said,
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Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – Source

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Dear Leader really should stop smoking that wacky baccy. It’s all utter rubbish of course. The economy is not “growing at a faster rate than Australia” (except in Key’s fantasies) and rather than “closing that after-tax wage gap” – it’s actually been widening.

Worse than that, employers – with support from National  – are actively engaged in a “class war” against their own employees to lower wages and to destroy workers’ rights to bargain collectively through a  Union.

The lockout of AFFCO workers  and threat by Ports of Auckland Ltd to casualise and contract out their workforce is nothing more or less than a campaign to reduce wages and increase profits for shareholders.

So much for Key’s bizarre claim “we have been closing that after-tax wage gap“. (No wonder we trust politicians at the same level as used-car salesmen.)

Not a very pretty picture… and yet that is the future we seem to be creating for ourselves.

How do we go about undoing the last 27 years of free-market, monetarist obsession?

Do New Zealanders even want to?

We should care – quite a bit, in fact.

The more skilled (and semi-skilled) people we lose to another Geographic Area, the fewer taxpayers we have remaining here.  Those taxpayers would be the ones who would be paying for our retirement; our  pension; and caring for us in Retirement Homes up and down the country.

Which means, amongst other things, that we’d better start paying Rest Home workers a more generous wage rather than a paltry $13.61 an hour  –  or else we’ll be wiping our own drool from our mouths and sitting for hours on end in damp, cold, incontinence pads. Even semi-skilled workers contribute more to our society than we realise.

If we want to instill a sense of society in our children – instead of simply living in an “economy” or Geographic Area – then we had better start re-assessing our priorities and values.

We can start with simple things.

Like; children. What is more important; a tax-cut, or providing free health-care and nutritious meals at schools for all children?

(If your answer is “Tax cut” because feeding children is an Individual and not a  Social need, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

Children who are all well-fed and healthy tend to do better at school. They learn better. They succeed. And they go on to succeed in life.

But more importantly, if society as a whole looks after all children – irrespective of whether they were lucky enough to be born into a good family,  or unlucky to be born into a stressed family of poverty and despair – then those children may, in turn look after us in decades to come.

If we want our children to feel a part of a society – our society – then we have to instill that sense of society in them at an early age.

Who knows – instilling a sense of society in all our children may achieve other desirable goals; lower crime; lower imprisonment rates; an urge to contribute more to the community;  less family stress and divorce; stronger families; less community fragmentation and alienation…

We’ve tried everything else these past three decades – and things aren’t getting better.

The focus on materialism and Individualism has not delivered a better society, higher wages, or other beneficial social and economic outcomes. Instead, many of our fellow New Zealanders are turning away and going elsewhere for a better life.

Quite simply, if people are Voting with their feet, then this is a Vote of No Confidence in our country.

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Man or Muppet?

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The latest gaff to come out of John Key’s mouth,

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The Prime Minister says there will be less pokies in New Zealand, despite the Government’s deal with Sky City Casino to build a national convention centre in return for more gambling machines.

John Key this morning defended casinos as a safer gambling environment. His comments come after five children were found locked in a van outside Sky City Casino last month.

The children, aged from five-months to eight-years-old, were left unsupervised outside the Auckland casino for about 45 minutes while their parents gambled.

“We have casino licenses in New Zealand, unless we rip all those licenses up and abandon gambling in any form in New Zealand, that is always a risk,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

“In a casino they are in a better environment say than attached to a pub deliberating targeting low income people in South Auckland.”

Casinos had more stringent conditions and so were more able to reduce the harm caused by gambling, he said.

“But if someone wants to go to Sky City and leave their children locked in a car, then not only is that totally irresponsible and no doubt in breach of the law, that can happen in an environment from a supermarket to a casino.”

The issue has put back in the spotlight the Government’s deal with Sky City to build a $350 million national convention centre.

The Government was not selling policy, Key said.

“That’s absolutely incorrect and I refute that.”

The convention centre would bring 144,000 additional nights of Auckland stays for business tourists, who generally spent twice as much as other tourists, he said.

Building the centre would create 1000 new jobs and running it would create another 900.

“Not a bad deal for New Zealand.”

There have been reports Sky City would be granted licenses for up to 500 new pokie machines under the deal but Key said the number had not been finalised.

“They are putting on a proposal to show all the component parts they need to stack that investment up.

“They will get some more, I wouldn’t necessarily say the number proposed.”

There was “overall” a sinking lid policy on casinos, Key said.

“Even if this deal goes through, the number of pokie machines is falling.

“The question is how rapidly they reduce.”

Sinking lid policies have been put in place by various councils throughout New Zealand because of public concern about the damaged caused to communities by gambling and are not a government directive.

Labour’s internal affairs spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said Key was undermining local councils.

“I think it’s great so many councils have agreed to a sinking lid policy for pokies and have recognised the problem that pokies do in our communities and to our families.

“But what he is doing is overriding that ability by doing what I think is a really dodgy deal with Sky City.”

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Full Story

Contrast Key’s vacant optimism with problem gambling in this country,

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Source

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It is nothing less than scandalous that our Dear Leader has become a PR man for the gambling industry. His bland assertions that “the number of pokie machines is falling” or that  “in a casino they are in a better environment say than attached to a pub deliberating targeting low income people in South Auckland” is outrageous sophistry.

Especially when National is considering an application from  Sky City to build a $350 million national convention centre, in Auckland – in return for an extra 500 ‘pokie’ machines.

Despite claiming that “the Government was not selling policy” – Key appears to be infatuated with Sky City’s promise to create 1,000 new jobs to build the complex and hire 900 to work in it.

No mention of the social cost of gambling.

It cannot escape people that as National has sacked 2,500 state sector workers (many in front-line jobs); Key’s pet cycleway project failed to deliver the promised 4,000 new jobs; and private sector companies are shedding staff in mass-redundancies; this government is desperate for any hint or hope of new jobs.

One has to ask the obvious question; is the gambling industry to be New Zealand’s only growth in jobs?

What next – prompt solo-mums to take up prostitution? (No, Ms Bennett – that is not a serious option.) Maybe we should encourage young people to drink more booze, so the liquor industry can generate more profits – and hopefully more jobs?

John Key says that the extra jobs, in return for motre gambling machines, is “not a bad deal for New Zealand.

Increasing gambling is “not a bad deal for New Zealand”?!

Any government that can seriously suggest, without a hint of shame,  that increasing gambling is “not a bad deal for New Zealand” is a government that has lost it’s perspective. A government that has to rely on an industry that results in grave social problems to generate jobs is a government that is bereft of ideas, common sense, and priorities.

This is a government whose Use-By date expired last year.

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Information

For free, professional and confidential help with your own or someone else’s gambling problems: Ph 0800 664 262, Email help@pgfnz.org.nz or visit www.pgfnz.org.nz

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Try doing this with…

…an 0800 call-number,

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Kiwi diplomat faces down armed men

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Last updated 05:00 05/03/2012

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A Kiwi diplomat is claimed to have sat on the floor surrounded by armed men as she tried to negotiate the release of a New Zealand mother and her three children in Algeria.

“I am not leaving this building without my citizens,” consul Barbara Welton is said to have told more than two dozen soldiers, police and a gang of about 50 locals surrounding the house where Mihi Puriri, 33, and her children were allegedly being held.

The Government has now ordered a review into how a child custody dispute involving the Northland mum and her boxer husband Mohamed Azzaoui turned into an international incident, with Mr Azzaoui accusing Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry staff of acting illegally.

Ms Puriri has since left the house, but has not seen daughters, Iman, 5, and Assiya, 2, and son Zakaria, 11 months, for more than a week…

[abridged]

… Last month, he said, a diplomatic party from New Zealand’s embassy in Cairo travelled to Mostaganem to carry out a welfare check on the family. The party included New Zealand’s ambassador to Egypt, David Strachan, and Ms Welton.

“Barbara went out with a full gendarme escort and police escort to conduct a welfare visit on Mihi,” the spokesman said. “When [Ms Welton] arrived she was confronted with over two dozen … gendarmes, 15 police who were all armed and in excess of 50 locals who were there to support the Azzaoui family.

“Barbara went up and knocked on the door and said I’d like to see my citizens. Mihi was prepared with the children … she attempted to escape the apartment into Barbara’s care and custody. She was physically prevented.”

Ms Welton then called a halt to proceedings. “They were placed in a room … Barbara Welton sat down on the floor – she is an amazing woman – and said, `I am not leaving this building without my citizens.”‘

After hours of intense debate, the consular officials managed to leave in another vehicle. Later, Ms Puriri was retrieved but the children could not be removed.

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Full Story

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I doubt that a Call Centre would be much help or come to your aid if/when things get sticky,

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MFAT confirms 305 job cuts

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Last updated 14:16 23/02/2012

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LATEST: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed 305 jobs will be cut as part of proposed restructuring.

MFAT chief executive John Allen said at a briefing today the proposals created more flexibility, deepened expertise, and ensured appropriate representation-including non resident ambassadors and smaller posts.

Mr Allen confirmed there would 305 job cuts and that 600 MFAT staff would have to reapply for their jobs in new specialist roles. The ministry has 1340 staff, half of which are offshore.

The restructuring was expected to save $20-25m annually.

Mr Allen confirmed the ministry was also considering outsourcing some functions. That included a 24/7 call centre based in Wellington. [My emphasis – FM]

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Of course,  it won’t be John Key or Murray McCully who will ever need  consular assistance in a far-off country – they have their own Diplomatic Protection Squad to hold their hand,

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We will end up regretting these cuts to overseas consular postings. It will end in tears.

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Key on ropes as Fairfax grope for a lifeline back to the people

Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

March 4, 2012

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National’s heartland backlash echoes Fairfax’s credibility collapse.

Since becoming leader of the National Party, and then elected as Prime Minister four years ago, Wall Street banker John Key has been able to rely on Fairfax Media to offer a handkerchief and say ‘bless you’ every time he sneezed.

But, today’s Sunday Star Times suggests that this anti-democratic relationship has – in the end – served only to damage both.  The frontpage headline ‘Key’s heartland backlash’ has Fairfax’s Sunday newspaper suddenly distancing itself from a dogmatic Rightwing Government in freefall, and desperately looking for a way back to centrist credibility.

Fairfax political editor and unofficial National Party press secretary, Tracy Watkins, has been sidelined, with the more moderate John Hartevelt handling a political front page lead that, for almost the first time in five years, doesn’t look like it was written by the National Party.  As this Government’s popularity suddenly collapses, have Fairfax finally decided to abandon their unhealthy partisanship, in a last ditch attempt to save themselves from commercial disaster and media irrelevancy?

Quite possibly.

Fairfax’s publications have been long regarded by many thinking New Zealanders as something of a sad joke.  Their commercial demise has been documented alongside their journalistic one on this blog, and few in the capital take The Dominion Post for anything other than National Party propaganda these days.  Their stuff.co,nz website increasingly attracts heavy journalistic criticism attached to the comments forum of stories, and the most damning of these are censored by Fairfax themselves.  A Facebook page and blog dedicated to holding this company to account has fueled the debate for three years, and while much of their demise is of their own making, we have clearly had a dramatic impact on how New Zealanders view their work.

Circulation is in freefall; they now quote ‘readership’ rather than ‘circulation’ to advertisers and subscribers, and recent financial figures published on this page show that, while their rivals are riding out tough economic times, Fairfax are struggling to attract advertisors as well as subscribers.  Fairfax are, it seems, in a desperation of their own editorial making.  In fact, just last week, I recieved a letter from Dominion Post editor, Bernadette Courtney, saying that: “Because we really want you back we have put together this exclusive offer, all for the low price of just $5.40 per week.”  This exclusive offer consists of six newspapers, delivered to the door, plus a subscription to a glossy monthly magazine.  At about half the price of a pint in most Wellington bars, this unsustainable initiative points to abject desperation at Fairfax Media, and genuinely makes me sad.

As I’ve always said, I love newspapers.  I’ve grown up with them.  I’ve studied, practiced and taught journalism, and literally had newspapers for breakfast for much of my life.   Like many who’ve lost faith in the industry, I don’t need some special offer that virtually gives the product away.  I want to see news media flourishing, making healthy profits, and employing fairly paid staff.  If the product is striving for fairness, accuracy and balance, and holding those in power to account, rather than misleading the people on their behalf, I will gladly renew my subscription and welcome the reporters’ analysis back into my home.  And, if Fairfax Media are genuinely signalling a return to real journalism and abandoning National Party spin, I’ll be the first to sing their praises from the capital’s rooftops.

As always, you can rely on Fearfactsexposed to keep you posted.  Thank you for helping to make a difference.

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Additional

Heartland backlash over Crafar farm fallout

Acknowledgement

Fearfactsexposed

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$20 million – John Key’s pricetag on human misery

3 March 2012 4 comments

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Let’s see how we’re going on the jobs front…

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Sounds good!

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The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.

"The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes." - John Key, 21 December 2011

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Great – focused on jobs-creation policies!

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National Party hoarding more jobs more exports

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Wow! Real dedication to addressing the unemployment problem!

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This just sounds too good to be true!!

Uh oh…

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Bugger.

Well, I guess that kinda explains why National is having a ‘go’ at solo-mums, invalids, widows, and the unemployed. (Someone has to take the blame for this. And politicians don’t do Taking Responsibility very well.)

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Inconvenient truths? No go, Fair Go!!

3 March 2012 6 comments

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Imagine a future society where citizens have global communications, entertainment, and news-information available at the press of a button, and can be viewed on large, wall-mounted, video-screens. Imagine that almost every part of the planet is accessible  to our gaze, courtesy of a network of media agencies; citizen journalists, and an orbital spider-web of communication-satellites.

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In this futuristic society, nothing is denied to us.  We can see, hear, experience, and understand almost every aspect of human civilisation, past, present, and possible futures.

The year of this futuristic world? 2012AD.

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The future is here and now. Everything I described above is reality – none of it science fiction.

Unfortunately for us, despite the vast amount of human knowledge now available to us at our finger-tips; despite the in-depth information that can explain everything from Middle Eastern background-politics to the latest updates in all the sciences – our television is now geared toward the mental age of a 14 year old child.

And things are not getting better…

Last year, as many will recall, TV3 was lambasted by NZ On Air’s board member, and National Party apparatchik, Stephen McElrea, who attempted to interfere with the scheduling of programmes funded by NZoA, and which might be embarressing to the National Government.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

“Impartiality” in this case being code for “embarressing”.

McElrea and NZoA’s board quickly backed down in the ensuing public storm. It was one thing to stack government ‘quangos’ with party hacks – but quite another to openly try to interfere in the independence of such groups. That was a step too far. (Especially for supporters of incumbent governments, who prefer such shady political dealings behind firmly closed doors.)

Sadly, the state of public broadcasting in this country has already gone to the dogs.

In August last year, the Public Charter governing New Zealand was finally dumped. Any pretence that TVNZ was a public broadcaster committed to quality, informative, intelligent programming had finally been despatched to Neverneverland. TVNZ could now get on with it’s top three aims,

  1. Make money
  2. Make money
  3. Make more money

TVNZ could now broadcast as much food “porn” (cooking shows); reality TV; American sitcoms; and guesome crime shows with their nauseating misogyny; as they could fill in the hours. All interspersed with as much advetising as they could physically cram in between their rubbish programmes. (And often during programmes.)

The last remaining bastions of intelligent broadcasting (for the moment) are,

Unfortunately, TVNZ7 is doomed to disappear in June/July, as National refuses to continue funding the station. More on TVNZ7’s impendind demise here, by David Beatson.

That leaves us with…? Bugger all.

Even documentary-making is now under constant  threat; “Fair Go” has had the Hard Word put on them by TVNZ’s “Head of TV1 and TV2”, Jeff Latch.

According to “Fair Go” staff, Latch “was invited” to attend a staff-meeting of the popular consumer-advocate/investigative show, as a “guest”, where he says he told staff,

I also made the observation that we operate in a commercial environment  and that ‘Fair Go’ like all our programmes need to exercise care in the terms of the way they handles stories.” – Source, Radio NZ

Why would a programme that deals in consumer-investigate reporting have to be mindful that TVNZ “operate[s] in a commercial environment” and “need[s] to exercise care in the terms of the way they handles stories” ?!?!

Latch went on to say,

They need to make sure that they’re always balanced, because in a commercial environment a story that is not a balance story could be something that is not really what we would want to run on this network. ” – Ibid

There’s that reference to being  “in a commercial environment ” again.

When asked if his comments were a clumsily-coded warning to “Fair Go” staff not to upset advertising clients, he replied,

It wasn’t an instruction, per se“. – Source, Fairfax News

There are two things that really annoy the heck out of me,

  1. Politicians or company bosses who try to interfere with the autonomy of an independent party,
  2. Politicians or company bosses who – when caught out –  then treat us, the public, as blithering idiots, with blatantly spurious denials which they know, and we know, are pure bovine excrement.

It is hardly surprising that Latch put the Hard Word on the “Fair Go” team, considering that,

Jeff [Latch] has full accountability for driving the performance of our core channels, TV ONE and TV2. Prior to joining TVNZ again in 2006, Jeff had been with TVNZ for thirteen years as both Head of Sales and Head of Moving Pictures. ” – Source, TVNZ

Like Stephen McElrea, who tried to bring pressure to bear on TV3 – this time for political purposes – it appears that Latch has taken his commercial “imperivative” a step further and is now attempting to influence “Fair Go” so as not to alienate TVNZ’s advertisers.

Or, as lawyer and media-legal blogger, Stephen Price, wrote,

It does make sense. So much sense, in fact, that you have to wonder why Jeff Latch had to organise a meeting with Fair Go to tell them that. Did he also mention that they should try to be accurate? Not defame people? Latch should know that Fair Go are probably the TVNZ reporters best versed in broadcasting standards and media law, since they deal with them every week. (Back in my days at Kensington Swan, I used to provide advice to them).

Asked if he was instructing Fair Go not to produce programmes that upset advertisers, he said “it wasn’t an instruction, per se.”

Not per se? This sounds weasily to me. Was it a hint, Mr Latch?

Because actually, Fair Go has a pretty good track record in its broadcasting standards complaints. It has not been listed in the BSA’s “Most complained about” shows for at least the past three years, despite the fact that it often makes serious accusations against people with the resources to sue. Likewise, there haven’t been any reported defamation cases against them in the last few years, as far as I can tell. Was there a big secret settlement recently?

If not, Mr Latch – how should I put this? – you should stay the fuck away from the Fair Go staff. It’s their job to tackle TVNZ’s advertisers when that is merited, and it’s your job to hire good journos then leave them to get on with their job.” – Media Law Journal

(That was worthwhile re-printing in it’s entirety, as Price went straight to the nub of this fiasco.)

It should be fairly evident to any reasonably perceptive person that free-to-air TV is a commercialised creature, and for the most part, quite a dumb one.

TVNZ – despite being a state owned enterprise – can no longer be called a “public broadcaster” in any meaningful sense of the term. It is nothing more than a cash cow (muchlike our state owned power companies) which the government uses to bolster it’s revenue.

As David Beatson wrote last July on Pundit,

Official papers show Television New Zealand won $79 million in government funding for its advertising-free channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7, by claiming they would be self-funding by 2012. Now they are closing the new channels down to enhance profits.

Television New Zealand told the last Labour government that two advertising-free channels it was launching to lure viewers onto the Freeview digital transmission platforms would be self-funding by 2012…

…On that basis, Labour agreed five years ago to commit $79 million over six years to get TVNZ 6 and 7 up and running, and a further $25 million over five years to get the Freeview digital transmission platforms established. This funding was in addition to the $15 million a year that Labour had already committed to TVNZ to meet its public service charter responsibilities.

Somewhere between TVNZ’s committment to the previous Labour government; the dissolution of the Charter; and the decision to abandon TVNZ7 and replace it with a shopping channel (!), committments to non-commercial, public broadcasting have been abrogated.

Appeals to this government to save TVNZ7 as one of the last two remaining free-to-air broadcasters  has fallen on deaf ears. (I expected nothing less. National MPs are individuals who know the price of everything – and the value of nothing.)

After July, the only remaining public, non-commercial broadcaster will be Radio NZ. And that station is badly under-funded.

As for NZ on Air, a body supposedly responsible for bringing quality programming to our TV screens, their latest funding project is for… reality tv. I kid you not,

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The cunningness of NZ on Air funding a commercial reality show, is amazing. It works like this,

  1. The government funds NZ on Air,
  2. NZ on Air funds a commercial reality-show, designed to attract maximum ratings and advertising revenue for TVNZ,
  3. TVNZ makes a good return on the show, through advertising revenue,
  4. Government then recieves a higher dividend from TVNZ,
  5. More money from TVNZ makes government accounts look better,
  6. Which helps National’s re-election chance in 2014.

Even Baldrick would be hard-pressed to come up with an even more cunning plan.

None of which contributes one iota to intelligent, informative broadcasting in New Zealand.

In my opinion, public broadcasting in this country is doomed under this current government. National has no committment to a non-commercial, public service. It’s only interest is (a) earning revenue from a profit-driven TVNZ and (b) coincidentally neutering critical, investigative journalism that might uncover stories potentially embarressing to Key’s government. (Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board facilitates the latter.)

This is an issue of critical importance to our nation; our society; and our democracy.

As Blogger and Radio NZ un-person, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury wrote, “The dumber the media, the number the electorate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the USA, where Fox News makes our talkback radio look like high culture at a Mensa meeting.

We’re well on the way to following our American cuzzies.

Without a strong, non-commercial,  public broadcaster, committed to informing the public – we become like the programmes we watch; dumbed down; ill-informed; and easily manipulated by politicians who desire our uncritical support, and most importantly, our vote.

The reaction from certain quarters to Bryan Bruce’s documentary on child poverty, last year,  was an unequivocal example of how much fear there is of informative, critical programmes that provoke debate and public scrutiny,

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A new, incoming, Labour-led government must take bold initiatives to redress the parlous state of our public broadcasting. The dumbing down of broadcasting, with the associated apathetic dumbing down of the public is as much of a threat – if not greater –  to our democracy than any “red menace” in the past; current, global US-led/Islamic conflict; or trans-national corporate takeover of our country.

This is as important as child-poverty in New Zealand because this is about intellectual-poverty.

Umpteen cooking shows, reality shows, banal comedies, crime-police “drama-porn”, et al, do not enrich our understanding of our society; our institutions; the issues confronting our nation and the world beyond.

Accordingly, any new progressive government must seriously consider the following:

  1. A non-commercial, public broadcaster – either TV1 or resurrected TVNZ7 – devoted to quality, informative programming; local drama; community productions;  and a comprehensive news/current affairs service.
  2. Funding levels for TV1/TVNZ7 and Radio NZ to be removed from the auspices of the Minister of Broadcasting (or any other  politician or Cabinet) and placed into the hands of an independent body such as the Remuneration Authority (the independent body that sets politicians’ pay).
  3. Enshrining a non-commercial, public TV broadcaster; Radio NZ; and Remuneration Authority-style funding system,
  • either in law; requiring a 75% vote in Parliament to amend or dis-establish,
  • or using a system of seven-year-minimum contracts.

TVNZ and Radio NZ were created ostensibly in such a manner as to prevent direct interference by politicians. However, politicians being the manipulative, arrogant creatures that they are,  simply cannot help but place their sticky fingers all over state broadcasting by any means possible. This usually involves remote-interference by  starving a state broadcaster of funding – which achieves pretty much the same goal as issuing dictats from on-high.

If New Zealand is to achieve the worthy goal of re-building a public, non-commercial TV broadcaster and adequately funding Radio NZ, then it must be taken out of the hands of politicians. Our elected representatives  have demonstrated that they are too self-serving to be trusted with something as critically vital to our society as the viability of public broadcasting.

If they cannot be trusted to set their own salaries, superannuation, and perks-of-office – they sure as hell can’t be trusted with our TV and radio.

It’s time to take the remote out of their hands.

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Previous Blog Posts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

Other Blog Posts

Pundit: TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: From ‘Fair Go’ to ‘Tame Blow’

Public Address: Freakanomics (TVNZ Edition)

Media Law Journal: Doesn’t sound like a fair go to me

Additional Reading

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

NZ Herald: Taxpayers’ $1.6m for talent show

NZ Herald: No eleventh hour reprieve for TVNZ7

Radio NZ: TVNZ accused of not wanting to upset advertisers

Radio NZ: Fair Go creator on claim show could be compromised :

NZ Herald: TV boss denies instruction to protect advertisers

Fairfax: Fair Go told not to upset advertisers, Labour claims

Fairfax: Losing public TV to infomercials

Green Party Broadcasting Policy

Labour Party Broadcasting Statements

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint…

2 March 2012 7 comments

… what could be the link, you wonder?

Those of us with reasonably long-term memories can recall the industrial dispute between Actor’s Equity and Peter Jackson, which became public on 27 September 2010.

The s**t quickly hit the fan, with allegations; counter-allegations; hysterical threats; and quite a bit of egoism.

There was even a panic that “The Hobbit” would be taken out of New Zealand and made in Eastern Europe, or Kazahkstan, or Outer Mongolia. None of it was true, as an email dated 18 October 2010, between Jackson and Economic Minister, Gerry Brownlee clearly stated.

But it certainly ramped up the public hysteria; the moral panic against the “hairy arm of unionism”; and seemingly threatened our very national identity.

In response, the government did something quite extraordinary; they passed legislation to change the status of all employees  “so that workers involved with film production work will be independent contractors rather than employees“.

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It was done unilaterally and it was done within twenty hours. Assent by the Governor General was given the following day,

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Legislative history

28 October 2010 Introduction (Bill 229–1), first reading, second reading, committee of the whole House, third reading
29 October 2010 Royal assent


Reference

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It usually takes a natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions, or a Declaration of War, (or the passing of MP’s superannuation regulations in the deads of night) to effect legislation at such breathtaking speed.

Legislation usually takes months to pass, from First Reading; to Select Committee;  to the last Reading; passing; and enactment.

The last time Parliament passed legislation at near light-speed was in the late 1980s, when they passed a law regarding their superannuation entitlements. That was done late at night; when the media were absent; most of us were asleep; and took a matter of hours.

(When the media  discovered this, and duly reported it, public odium was heaped upon politicians – even more than usual.)

So it was unusual and quite bizarre that National passed what was called the “Hobbit Law” in one day flat.

Something must’ve spooked the horses. Perhaps our politicians were dazzled by the bright lights of Hollywood glamour?

Korean and Indonesian fishing boats, by comparison, are not quite so dazzling and glamourous. In fact, they stink of fish; the crew look wretched; and the fishing boats themselves are dangerous rust-buckets that will sink with little provocation.

Yet, in the last couple of weeks, the fishing industry and our use of FCV (Foreign Charter Vessels), with the cheap, exploited labour of their Korean, Indonesian, and other nationals’ crews, has hit the international headlines. All of a sudden, the New Zealand fishing industry was in the global media spotlight – and for all the wrong reasons.

The world had discovered that we were using cheap, exploited labour to do our dirty work. The New Zealand fishing industry was practically engaging in slave labour,

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On March 25, 2011, Yusril became a slave. That afternoon he went to the East Jakarta offices of Indah Megah Sari (IMS), an agency that hires crews to work on foreign fishing vessels. He was offered a job on the Melilla 203, a South Korea-flagged ship that trawls in the waters off New Zealand. “Hurry up,” said the agent, holding a pen over a thick stack of contracts in a windowless conference room with water-stained walls. Waving at a pile of green Indonesian passports of other prospective fishermen, he added: “You really can’t waste time reading this. There are a lot of others waiting, and the plane leaves tomorrow.”

[abridged]

The experiences of the fishermen on the Melilla 203 were not unique. In a six-month investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek found cases of debt bondage on the Melilla 203 and at least nine other ships that have operated in New Zealand’s waters. As recently as November 2011, fish from the Melilla 203 and other suspect vessels were bought and processed by United Fisheries, New Zealand’s eighth-largest seafood company, which sold the same kinds of fish in that period to distributors operating in the U.S. (The U.S. imports 86 percent of its seafood.) The distributors in turn sold the fish to major U.S. companies. Those companies — which include some of the country’s biggest retailers and restaurants — sold the seafood to American consumers.”

Full Story

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On the 25th of this month,

The Government has received a report from the ministerial inquiry into the use and operation of Foreign Charter Vessels. Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said they would consider its recommendations before announcing any decisions. The inquiry was charged with looking at labour, immigration, maritime safety and fisheries laws around the use and operation of fishing boats. Former labour minister Paul Swain chaired the panel, launched after a series of damning revelations about slave labour conditions and abuse. ” (Source)

Five days later, the report from the Ministerial Inquiry was released  to the public,

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Source

Radio NZ: Listen to more from Checkpoint

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There we have it;

  • New Zealand had been using slave labour to fish it’s territorial waters, and exploiting the crews of FCVs for our profit,
  • Fishing companies like Sanford deny that any problem of abuse and exploitation is occurring,
  • and most astonishingly, our government is dragging it’s feet on this horrendous situation and implementing only  six of fifteen recommendations from the Ministerial Inquiry’s report.

In an interview on Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint“, on 1 March, the Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, had this to say in response to being questioned on this issue,

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RNZ: “So fifteen recommendations – you’re acting on the first six? Why not take them all onboard?”

Carter: “Because some of the others require two things; legislative change and we need to investigate how we can progress that through the House. And equally importantly, some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry.

That is why we have released the Report today. We want the industry to comment on the other recommendations so that we can do some more work on them and take something back for a Cabinet process [interuption] in a couple of months.”

RNZ: “In the future do you see that these recommendations  will be taken on?”

Carter: “I think a good number of those recommendations will be taken on.”

RNZ: “How many?”

Carter: “Well at this stage we’ve, ah, ah, we’ve certainly kicked of the first six because they’ve been able to be done without legislation. As I say, the others now need further investigation to find out what their impact will be  before we agree to do them. But one thing the government is absolutely determined to do is raise the standards so there is no chance for abusive labour practices occurring on foreign charter vessels whilst they’re in New Zealand waters.”

RNZ: ” Will you take on the recommendations that have – that may cause problems economically? Make it unviable?”

Carter: “What we want to do is… the first thing I’d like to make is that foreign charter vessels operate and improve the efficiency of the New Zealand fishing industry. We therefore want to know what would be the economic impacts of these further changes.

Radio NZ: Minister talks about crackdown on foreign fishing vessels

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What comes out of David Carter’s comments is that,

  1. The governments wants to consult with fishing companies before implementing any further recommendations. These would be (some of) the same fishing companies that contracted and used Foreign Charter Vessels to catch fish for them, to sell for big profits to overseas markets.
  2. The govermnment “want[s] to know what would be the economic impacts of thse further changes – before implementing any further recommendations. Obviously, “economic impact” is more important than the maltreatment, abuse, and exploitation of other human beings?
  3. According to Carter, the government will have to “investigate” the recommendations further as “ some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry“?

Two months?!

And yet this is the same government that passed legislation through the House in one day, to satisfy the demands of Warner Bros corporate executives!

Where were the concerns of government on that issue? Where was the investigation into what “economic impact” that would, or could be, in fast-tracking law through Parliament at a speed rarely seen in this country?

Where was the desire for thegovernment to seek comment from the  film industry, before considering  legislation”?

What we are seeing here is the amorality of a government that values the glitter and glamour of a Hollywood “epic” movie above  the fact that modern-day slavery is taking place in our territorial waters, and New Zealand companies are profiting from the misery and violence   inflicted on other human beings.

The NZ Seafood Industry Council laid it all out last October (but we were too pre-occupied with lost penguins and hillside signs, to take note of this news item,

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‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’

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New Zealand’s fishing industry needs more cheap Asian labour not less, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels.

FCVs, flagged in mainly Asian states, operate New Zealand’s deep sea fishery with around 2000 low wage crews from Third World countries.

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 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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Words fail me.

Actually, no. I do have words.

On this issue, the people and government of New Zealand  has let itself down badly. For the pursuit of money, we have turned a blind eye to naked, brutal, exploitation. We have lost sight of  simple, common decency and how to treat foreign workers.

As far as I’m concerned, if the U.S. government, or Europe, decided to boycott our seafood exports – then we richly deserve it.

This is what happens when a society is governed by the dictates of the “free market”.

Where do we go from here, as a society? Do we continue down the road of valuing profit before human dignity? Or do we reassess our priorities and decide that we need to regain some of the basic  values of fairness that we seem to have forgotten in the last 27 years?

It’s our call.

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Previous Blogpost

Roosting Chickens

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Additional Reading

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Slavery and Food Security: The Fishing Fleet

 

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1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

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Full Story

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Source

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Contrary to the Radio NZ report this morning, the numbers attending the striker’s picket in Upper Hutt would have numbered at least double what was reported.

Despite on-off heavy rain, between 75 – 100 people stood on the side of Fergusson Drive, putting their case for a liveable wage,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Only last year,  John Key promised New Zealanders that the “driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes” and we took him at his word.

Ordinary, hard-working New Zealanders who want nothing more than a decent wage so they can put food on their tables, and provide the best possible home for their children,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Some of the striking workers stood on the opposite side of the road,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Judging by the constant tooting of horns from passing vehicles, the picketing workers had considerable public support. On occassion, the car-tooting was non-stop, making talking almost impossible.

A wage of $13.61 an hour is simply not a credible income to live on. Should the government be worried? I’d say, “yes – definitely”.

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Green MPs  Catherine Delahunty (L) and Denise Roche (R), addressing workers. They voiced their Party’s support for workers to be paid a reasonable, liveable wage,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Labour MP, Kris Faafoi, voicing Labour’s support for striking workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Service & Food Workers Union sector-secretary, Alastair Duncan, telling workers that they were dedicated to their profession and deserved to be adequately remunerated,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Despite the sporadic heavy rain, the picket numbers swelled as more people joined in,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Rimutaka Labour MP, Chris Hipkins, joining the picket in solidarity with workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The signs said it all,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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A “Fair Deal” – what could be more reasonable than that?

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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An indication of the heavy rain that picketers put up with. It did not deter them, and more joined the protest-line to support workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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This sign, I believe, summed it up very well,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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TV1 news camera covered the workers’ protest,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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More media,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea.

Interviewing one of the striking workers,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Interviewing another striking worker,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Striking for a better wage, to to put on the table for  families, and to ensure that their children get the best possible start in life,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The Mana Party showed it’s  presence and support,

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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Green MP, Denise Roche (L) and Green activist, Conor (R),

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1 march 2012 - striking rest home workers - SFWU - Nurses Organisation - Upper Hutt - Elderslea

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The overall feeling of the workers was upbeat and positive. Public support was noisy, with constant car-horn tooting.  The message to employers and to the National government was crystal clear: ” pay us a decent, liveable wage“!

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Media reporting

  • TV1 News: yes
  • TV3 News: tba
  • Radio NZ: yes
  • Dominion Post: yes

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Copyright (c)  Notice

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

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Additional

Service & Food Workers Union

NZ Nurses Organisation

Labour Party

Green Party

Mana Party

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