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Archive for 5 April 2012

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

5 April 2012 3 comments

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ACC. NZ Super. Skycity.

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News tonight that Skycity donated $15,000 to Len Brown’s mayoral electoral fund in 2010, has rightly shocked many people.  John Banks, MP for Epsom, has reportedly received a similar amount  as a donation for his campaign.

See: Banks accused of undeclared donation

Whilst there is no suggestion, implication, or slightest hint at impropriety on either men’s part, it raises questions as to how far Sky City’s ‘tendrils’ reach.

A $15,000 donation to the Mayor of Auckland and to an Auckland MP raises eyebrows and is cause for concern.

This is important as Skycity is negotiating with National to build a new $350 million convention centre – in return for up to 350 to 500 addition gaming tables and pokie machines in Auckland’s casino. We’re talking serious coin here.

See: SkyCity would need at least 350 extra gambling machines for NZ$350 mln convention centre investment to be worth it, Goldman Sachs analyst says

This would require an amendment to existing legislation. It appears that National is seriously considering selling legislative change in return for a convention centre. Comments by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Prime Minister John “Dear Leader” Key confirm suspicions that a deal in in the making,

When we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland…Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing.” – John Key, 4 April 2012

Of course, no one is really sure what the terms of any “deal”  will involve. The negotiations are all being done in secret. The public is excluded from any possible debate – because we don’t know what is being negotiated by Key & Co.

See: As clear as mud

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Sky City’s involvement in the 2010 mayoral race is not the sole extent of their involvement in New Zealand society and economy.

According to the Companies Office, two government bodies have extensive share-holdings in Sky City,

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Which raises questions regarding why ACC and NZ Super Fund are investing in a company that, essentially, makes it’s profits from vice and causes considerable social problems and human misery with gambling addiction,

  • ACC works with people who have suffered physical and mental injuries, sexual assaults, and other highly stressful events in their lives. ACC legislation contains an ethical investment clause; Section 272/2/i, that “the Corporation’s investment statement, being a statement of policies, standards, and procedures that must include a statement relating to ethical investment for avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community“.
  • NZ Super Fund is also bound by legislation (New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, Section 61/D) to undertake “ethical investment, including policies, standards, or procedures for avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community“.

As well,  ACC is bound by legislation not to engage in activities that might cause injury to people in the community,

Part 7 Accident Compensation Corporation
263 Prevention of personal injury
  • (1) A primary function of the Corporation is to promote measures to reduce the incidence and severity of personal injury, including measures that—

    • (a) create supportive environments that reduce the incidence and severity of personal injury; and
    • (b) strengthen community action to prevent personal injury; and
    • (c) encourage the development of personal skills that prevent personal injury. “

Arguably, gambling addiction  is a considerable social problem in this country. For ACC to be investing in a casino would appear to conflict with both sections 272/2/i and 263/1 of the Act.

There is nothing remotely ethical about investment in gambling. Just as it would be unethical to invest in arms manufacturing, tobacco and alcohol production, or prostitution. Whilst nominally legal, such commercial activities regularly result in death, injury, sickness, abuse, violence, and exploitation.

It seems that New Zealand’s ethical and moral compass is severely skewed when the State – representing ordinary New Zealanders – invests in vice.

The law is being broken, and government is doing nothing about it.

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Acknowledgement for “tip off” on ACC and NZ Super Fund investments in Sky City

‘Spacemonkey’

Previous Blogposts

John Key has another un-named source???

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

References

Accident Compensation Act 2001

New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001

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National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender (Part #Rua)

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When National took office in November, 2008, unemployment was on the way up. From a record low of 3.4% in December 2007, it stood at 4.8% a year later.

By December 2009, the Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate had risen  to 7.3%,

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The unemployment rate has since dropped back to 6.3%, for the December 2011 quarter. The slow drop from 7.3% to 6.3% has taken two years to achieve – and even the cause of that outcome is debateable, as New Zealand  “baby boomers”  start retiring and others  escape our stagnating economy to Australia.

I will make one thing clear; I do not lay blame nor responsibility for the doubling of our unemployment at the feet at National. The 2008  global banking crisis, ongoing recession, and massive debt-problems were issues beyond any political Party in any country. National inherited an international situation not of it’s direct making. (Though National does espouse a neo-liberal ideology which most certainly contributed to the crisis in capitalism.)

As an interesting aside; National and it’s groupies  (quite rightly) blame the 2008 recession for our high unemployment rate. However, they conveniently ignore the 2008 recession when engaging in beneficiary-bashing – then the issue of  increased unemployment is a “lifestyle choice”.

However, this blogger maintains that whilst the rise in unemployment was not National’s fault – that National has been derelict in it’s duty to address the crisis in joblessness. Bashing beneficiaries and painting them as lazy layabouts indulging in a “lifestyle choice” will not create one single job.

Blaming beneficiaries for a global situation they had no hand in making is an abrogation of responsibility by National.

I think we all know by now that National hasn’t a clue when it comes to job creation. They have no policies to generate jobs, and what what they have been doing has been tragically counter-productive,

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This blogger is aware of one solo-mum who used the TIA to go through University; upskill; find a well-paid job;   move of welfare; and is now a tax-paying member of society. But I guess that is not the meme that National wants  entering the public consciousness. Their agenda is better served by scapegoating solo-mothers. (But never solo-dads.)

See:   Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Paula Bennett  used the TIA to put herself through University; upskill; and then move on to a more well-paid benefit; she became Minister of Welfare.

See: Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s axing of the TIA and other cutbacks in training and upskilling is what is colloquially known as a false economy.  It may save a few million bucks now – but will only delay the Day of Reckoning when we end up with an untrained, low-skilled society.

Even John Key made this a theme of his speech four years ago,

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The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  

Because the hard truth is that Labour’s economic underperformance hasn’t delivered the social dividend they promised us.  

So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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John Key finished of that speech  by saying,

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We will not sweep problems under the carpet.  We will not meet the country’s challenges by quietly lowering our expectations.”

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So how has National performed?

Not so good, I’m afraid. (But that’s hardly surprising.)

Aside from cutting back on training, National seems to be engaged in a clandestine programme to actually keep wages depressed. Bill English admitted as much last year, on TVNZ’s Q+A when he let slip that New Zealands lower wages were a competitive advantage to Australia,

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“”Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

“… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

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Despite a low-wage economy being counter-intuitive for a multitude of common-sense reasons, it appears that – with National’s coded  assent – some local industries are attempting to drive down wages and develop a low-wage economy.

The current industrial disputes with AFFCO and Ports of Auckland Ltd are based purely around driving down wages  by cutting conditions; casualisation; and crushing unions in the workplace.

In October last year, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels that their industry needed more cheap foreign labour,

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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.” ” – Source

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See: Is this where New Zealand is heading?

See: Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

The prospect of slave crews on foreign fishing vessels in our territorial waters was a step too far, even for right-wing blogger and National Party cadre, David Farrar. He seemed horrified at what a ministerial inquiry and US journalist had uncovered. (Or perhaps it was faux-disgust, to try to distance National from slavery on New Zealand’s high seas. Who can tell.)

See: A Slave By Any Other Name

However, it was not a good look for one of our industries to be lobbying National to permit more cheap labour into New Zealand. Even if it was to be far out at sea, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, our US-based clients were not too happy when they found out what was going on under our noses, and from which we were seen to be profitting,

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Now, National’s inaction on job creation, training, and upskilling is beginning to bite. Reliance on the free market has not achieved any desirable, measurable goals. In fact, business is still luke-warm at hiring and training new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s director director, Andrew Brushfield, expressed surprise at  the “cautious hiring predictions among New Zealand CFOs”. Really? No sh*t, Sherlock.

So where does that leave us;

  • A National government that is cutting training allowances
  • No government employment-creation programme to speak of
  • No state apprenticeship programme
  • Leaving job creation and training to the ‘market’
  • The ‘market’ being reluctant to generate employment

No wonder unemployment is still at 150,000.

And little wonder that, with 150,000 jobless, and no jobs training, the Christchurch re-build is now hampered by a shortage of skilled tradespeople,

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To illustrate how short-sighted National (and it’s right wing hangers-on and sycophantic businesspeople),  Weltec offers seventeen week (full time) courses in the painting trade,

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If has been fourteen months since the tragic, devasting quake of 22 February 2011. We could have had a small army of in-training workforce ready to go by now.

FBG Developments managing director, Fletcher Glass,  could have his 50 painters – and more – instead of complaining bittlerly,

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You can’t train skilled tradespeople in two years, and even if you could train 24,000 tradespeople, you would over-saturate the market after the rebuild.  If you get tradespeople from other parts of the country, you will deplete those places of tradespeople, and that will drive rates up. That will make house prices go up, so buying a house would be even less achievable.’

Hiring overseas workers would prevent Christchurch from turning its problem into a nationwide problem. If you need 6000 painters at the peak of the rebuild, that’s every painter in Dunedin and Wellington.” – Ibid

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What absolute rubbish.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Glass , like SeaFIC, is seeking  painters from Southeast Asia because they will accept minimum wage.

So we can add the following to the above list, as to why we have a shortage of trained tradespeople to take part in Christchurch’s re-build,

  • Employer self-interest

As a point of interest, the above media article also conducted a poll. It asked a simple question,

Should New Zealand fast track visas for overseas tradesmen?

Yes, we need more workers urgently
85 votes, 20.4%

No, we should train more NZers
332 votes, 79.6%

Nearly 80% of New Zealanders have enough common sense to realise what we should be doing. Obviously, none of those 80% are represented by any of National’s current  59 members of Parliament.

In case anyone is foolish enough to accuse this blogger of being fiscally naive, I refer to a BERL report, last year,

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Industry training has billions in benefits – study

A new study suggests the country could lose between $7.2 and $15.1 billion dollars annually if the Government withdrew its investment in industry training.

The study by the Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) sets out to quantify the costs and benefits of industry training both to businesses and to the country.

According to one model, it found a cut in all public funding towards industry training would result in a loss in gross domestic product of 0.6 to 1.8 percent by 2014, and between 2.9 and 6 percent by 2021.

That equated to a loss of between $1.2 and $3.7 billion annually in the short-term and between $7.2 and $15.1 billion in the long term.

BERL said under such a scenario, the loss of skilled labour would have a detrimental effect on the export sector, crimping its capacity and reducing its competitiveness as industries competed for a smaller pool of talent.

The report, commissioned by the Industry Training Federation, said the results underlined how the country’s skill levels could ”positively impact on the quality and value of the goods and services produced, and the standard of living in New Zealand”.

However, it also noted the economy was complex and warned that ”any attempts to prioritise or isolate particular industries, sectors, occupations or skills as being more or less important are economically unsound  “.  – Source

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Training up unemployed New Zealanders who’ve lost their jobs over the last four years of recession; it’s not just a good idea or a “nice to have” – it’s bloody well obvious!

National’s faith in free market forces is admirable. But the rest of us gave up believing in Father Christmas, Easter Bunny, and Superman as we grew up. (Though having Superman around might be useful.)  It is high time that John Key and his Merry Band gave up their quasi-religious belief in the Invisible Hand of The Free Market.

Ideology will not re-build Christchurch. We need many hands – trained up and paid well – to do the work. 150,000 pair of hands!

I leave (almost) the last word to  Dear Leader,

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

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. ” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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Wouldn’t that be a fine thing?

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Ooops!

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Former Police Minister Collins must’ve been a bit miffed at hearing this. In fact, she must’ve felt ‘crushed‘…

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A refrigerator!?!? “F**k the Poor!”

5 April 2012 3 comments

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Jon Stewart sums up why the poor should for pay for everything. And why taxing the “productive class” is simply unthinkable…

Yeah, right.

Enjoy!

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Genius!

Two questions spring to mind;

  1. Why don’t we have clever satirists like that here in New Zealand? (Bomber Bradbury comes pretty damn close)
  2. Why can’t we have Jon Stewart  for a Prime Minister?
  3. How many right wingers can stay right wing after watching that?

(Ok, that was three. I snuck one in.)

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Easter, Chocolate, and Slavery.

Darryl Nightingale

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You might be supporting slavery when you give chocolate this Easter.

Slavery and chocolate: children sold to cocoa plantations,

http://vision.ucsd.edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/atasteofslavery.html

The Chocolate Industry: Abusive Child Labor and Poverty Behind the Sweetness,

http://www.veganwolf.com/news/chocolate_abuse.htm

Chocolate and Easter – the irony

He took a little child, and set him in the midst of them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, Whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me . . . Mark 9:36-7

Ethical chocolate – Fair Trade Easter Eggs are in your supermarket – you may be surprised how easy it is to be ethical,

http://www.fairtrade.com.au/get-involved/campaigns/make-fairtrade-choice-easter

Give Fairtrade Certified™ chocolate this Easter and help farmers and workers in developing countries create better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Cadbury Fairtrade Certified Chocolate – an ethical choice,
http://cadbury.co.nz/About-Cadbury/News.aspx?newsID=219

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