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Archive for 20 April 2012

Time to bend over again, fellow Kiwis (part # Rua)

20 April 2012 2 comments

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2010

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"If we ended up in a position where New Zealanders are tenants in their own country, I can't see how that would be in New Zealand's best interests." - John Key, 27 July 2010

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2012

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"No where is that better illustrated than in the Crafar farm deal where the tenant will be a Government state-owned enterprise, Landcorp." - John Key, 2 February 2012

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As this blogger predicted and wrote five days ago, National has caved to the  Wide Boys from Beijing who rode in to town on 15 April,

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China's no4 flies in as clock ticks on Crafar farm selloff
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The loss of the Crafar farms – and other farms sold to foreign investors – is not just about loss of direct ownership. It is about losing the profits that all those farms will generate, to overseas investors.

The flight of profits to offshore investors began in the late 1980s when Doulas, Prebble, Bassett, et al hocked of our former state owned enterprises. As with farms, we didn’t just lose ownership – we lost the income streams they generated. (Which worsened our balance of payments deficit and in turn made borrowing from overseas much more expensive.)

National did precisely the same thing on 27 October 2010, when Warner Bros sent their ‘boys’ in to ‘persuade’ John Key to ‘see things their way’.  Two months later,  it was revealed that Warner Brothers had threatened our government that  ‘The Hobbit’ movies  would be taken offshore if  changes to New Zealand’s employment laws were not made according to their demands.

This time, it was our Chinese cuzzies visiting  New Zealand – this time threatening our trade with their country, “if we don’t see things their way”.

National capitulated on both occassions, yielding to threats made first by a corporation, and then by a foreign power.

In the case of Sky City and the proposed Auckland Convention Centre, the tactics are more akin to bribery; building a convention centre in return for changing the gambling laws so the casino can install up to 500 more gaming machines (pokies). Problem gambling is expected to rise commensurately.

If the reader is starting to pick up a common theme here, you’re not alone.

New Zealand has a government willing to prostitute the country; our assets; our laws – in return for financial gain. This is perhaps the shabbiest, most degrading government we have ever elected. If New Zealanders are not angry and repulsed  by what we’ve all be witnessing – then we’ve all lost our collective senses.

The question I ask every New Zealander is; who will be next to come to Wellington; knock on John Key’s door; and announce, “I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse!”

What will be sold next?

What laws will we have to change to satisfy some corporatation or foreign power?

Is this what it feels like to be a Latin American “banana republic”?

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2014

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An incoming centre-left government  must address these issues of sovereignty. We cannot allow every foreign Tom, Dick, and Harriet to take ownership of our most precious resources and to dictate what laws we must amend to satisfy their profit-line.

This must stop.

An incoming government must, immediatly,

  • ban the sale of all land to non-New Zealanders
  • non-farming land may be leased to overseas businesses,  but not sold
  • farmland must not be sold nor leased to non-New Zealanders
  • conduct a stocktake of land ownership at the next Census
  • land already in foreign ownership may not be on-sold to anyone except New Zealanders
  • introduce a capital gains tax
  • introduce a Financial Transactions tax  in conjunction with Australia and our APEC partners
  • introduce a sinking-lid policy on gaming machines with a view to banning them altogether by 2017
  • implement job-creation programmes (eg; free vocational training for able-bodied unemployed; building 10,000 new state-houses, etc)
  • introducing a land/wealth-tax to capture those 1% who pay little tax, because they can hide their wealth by structuring their affairs to escape paying their fair share
  • reinstate Kiwisaver’s previous provisions (scrapped by National) and make it compulsory

Part of the problem we face as a nation and economy is that New Zealanders have always been poor savers. Instead we prefer to borrow billions from offshore lenders and invest it in non-productive assets such as rental housing and investment farms. This speculative investment does not create wealth – we simply  shuffle money around like some mad reality-game of “Monopoly”,

” There has been a big reduction in household debt,  from 154 per cent of gross domestic product, and one of the highest levels in the world three years ago, to 144 per cent now. ” – Source

In the process of this reckless self-indulgence (promoted by certain irresponsible right wingers who delude themselves that is “wealth creation”), we are heavily in debt,

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Treasury

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Further to that, it makes us reliant on overseas capital.

In fact, it makes us totally  vulnerable to those  who hold the capital. We are at the mercies of those who hold the money-bags.

And they know it.

What makes matters even worse (yes, it gets worse) is that a National, once elected, exacerbates the problem with it’s blind adherence to free-market policies. National believes that only the free market can create jobs – with a little ‘nudge’, occassionally, by amending laws; reducing taxes; and implementing de facto subsidies. And anything else business wants.

In expecting only business to create jobs, National ties its own hands and becomes reliant on the markets for employment solutions. Unfortunately, those solutions are not always forthcoming.

Which means that National has to look at other, dubious, unconventional means to promote job creation. Such as the Sky City-Convention centre deal which might deliver more jobs – but will almost certainly create more problem gambling.

Who pays for more problem gambling? Answer; look in the mirror, Mr/Ms Taxpayer.

The sale of the Crafar farms; the dirty deals with Sky City and Warner Bros; our vulnerability to pressure from overseas investors are all symptoms of an economic malaise which the likes of Bernard Hickey, Gareth Morgan, Rod Oram,  and others have constantly warned us about.

Like the person who ignores the several “Warning” letters from debt-collctors – that is only postponing the Day of Reckoning.  New Zealanders are ignoring our own Day of Reckoning – and yet the warning signs of our gradual loss of economic sovereignty is fairly plain to see.

Whether we do something about it; abandon the lunacy of neo-liberalism;  implement planned policies that encourage saving; promote job creation; etc – then everything we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks, months, and years will be only a prelude to more unpleasant things to come.

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2050

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A young student at Levin University is scrolling through the results of his on-line search for ‘farms-history-new zealand-colonisation’ and finds the information he is looking for. He turns to his study-mate, and says,

Hey, it’s true what my grand dad told me. Farms used to be owned by New Zealand families back in his day!”

His study mate looks up from his ‘ii-Pad’ and peers at his friend’s pad,

Yeah? I wonder how they could afford it? No one can afford to buy land  unless you’re really rich or a big Corpora-State.”

Dunno“, replies the first student, “It looks like land prices weren’t that expensive , and then they started to rise when Earth’s population reached 6 billion.”

Wow! They really owned farmland? They’re so lucky. I wish we could buy our own farm!”

Well, at least we get to work on them. Once I finish my Degree in McDonalds Beefculture, I’m applying for a job at the ’14th Manawatu Herd-Complex’. Are you still going for the Shanghai Agricorp in King Country?”

Nah. I’m thinking I might change and apply for the Nestle Agriplex in Otago or Southland. They don’t pay as well, but they teach you German as part of the contract. The Shanghai Agricorp want me to learn Cantonese at my own cost.”

His study mate dims the screen on his ii-Pad and asks his friend,

Are you studying this weekend or doing some workpractice at McD’s?”

Nah. I’m going to see my family. It’s my ninth birthday, and we’ve hired a blanketspace at my favourite park...”

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That was a bit of fiction. So far.

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References

Rich list shows rich getting richer

NZ dollar soars on speculation of Chinese investment

Numbers reveal National disgrace

Bryan Gould: Free-market ideology wrong

Debt being paid off, but savings not growing

Bernard Hickey:  the High Court ruling against the Crafar Farms sale may be just the intervention NZ Inc needs to confont its addiction to foreign debt and asset sales

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Dear Leader: No plans, no credibility, no shame!

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2008…

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Prime Minister John Key - Twat

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

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2011…

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Prime Minister John Key - Prat

“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, Prime Minister, 21 December 2011

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2012…

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Prime Minister John Key - Dick

“We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” – John Key, Prime Minister, 19 April 2012

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2013…?

2014…?

Is it me… or… am I hearing an echo?!

We seem to be getting more repeats from John Key – than summertime viewing on television.

Perhaps his comments would not be so bad, except for the industrial disputes around the country from workers from industries as diverse as resthome workers; meatworkers, and port workers.

In the case of rest-home workers, their pitiful wages are as low as $13.61 an hour – whilst being charged with the responsibility of caring for our aged and infirm. Poor recompense for such responsibility, one would think?

In the case of meatworkers and Auckland portworkers, hundreds have been locked out by two ruthless employers that are focused solely on de-unionising their respective workplaces and casualising the workforce.  Talleys AFFCO and Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) have one agenda; to  drive down wages and increase their own profitability.

It was not long ago that Finance Minister Bill English let slip on TVNZ’s Q+A that our 30%  lower wages gave New Zealand a competitive advantage over Australia,

“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

And 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,

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

Australian businesses duly obliged, and several corporations moved some of their operations here to New Zealand,

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Full Story

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Some folk reading this may be scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering what’s wrong if our Aussie cuzzies decide to relocate some aspects of their operations here to New Zealand. After all, that’s good isn’t it? It’s more jobs, isn’t it?

After all, isn’t that what Hollywood did – sent their biggest film productions down under for Peter Jackson to produce?

No, not quite.

Peter Jackson offered a production services of  a highly-skilled, talented workforce.

The Australians are exploiting our cheaper wages – just as Bill English anticipated back in April last year.

If foreign companies come to New Zealand in pursuit of a low-waged , “flexible’, workforce – then expect pressure to be brought to bear on National to maintain these low wages, and to suppress any union activity that would try to raise wages.  National has already demonstrated it’s unreserved willingness to bow to pressure from local and foreign businesses.

Just as it’s happening now.

  • National changed the law to satisfy Warner Bros, so that Peter Jackson’s workforce would become “contractors”, rather than employees. This had the immediate effect of de-unionising every film crew member, with the result that  wages would be negotiated as IEAs (Individual Employment Agreements) rather than collective contracts.
  • National is willing to change the law to allow Sky City to install 350 to 500 more pokies and gaming tables, in return for a $350 million convention centre.
  • National has resisted raising the minimum wage from $13 to $15 an hour, citing employer “unnaffordability”. This ignores the reality that even Bill English agreed that living on $13 an hour was not possible “in the long term”,

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

There is nothing desirable about attracting businesses from overseas that are keen and eager to employ people at low wages. Aside from the fact that none of us (except for some rightwing extremists) would like out children to face such a prospect – it will not grow the economy, nor help raise wages.

It will, though, maximise profitability for those companies.

This, folks, is what happens in Third World countries where,

  1. Wages are low
  2. Legislation is weak, or is easily changed
  3. Unions are powerless or non-existent

Welcome to New Zealand, 2012AD.

Is this what we have to look forward to? Becoming the “Mexico” of the South Pacific?

No wonder that 53,000 New Zealanders leaving for Australia in the last year.  These are our fellow kiwis, voting with their feet for better wages, working conditions, Union protection, longer paid parental leave, and probably more valued as citizens than in their own country of birth,

Aucklander Shane Ball is moving to Western Australia for a better life and will be joined by his wife, Kelly, and their children by Christmas. “I’m leaving because the economy here sucks … I can’t afford to buy a house here, or even have any savings, and I need to have a different lifestyle,” he said.
“I’ve been working like a dog here and getting hold of that first home is still an impossible dream.”
Auckland-born Mr Ball said he was following in the footsteps of his sister, who had gone to Australia before him and was now “far better off”.
“I have seen how much my sister’s kids have progressed in school too, and decided my kids deserved a better future too,” he said.
Mr Ball does not have a job lined up but is confident of getting one, having worked as a mental health support worker in Sydney in 2005.
“Then I was working half the hours and earning twice as much.”
Mr Ball, who was living in Manukau, said he chose Kalgoorlie because it had a “more relaxed pace” and “affordable housing”.

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People like Shane and Kelly cannot wait for John Key’s pie-in-the-sky promise of higher wages. For all we know, Dear Leader will make the same empty promises next year, and the year after, and…

Because John Key and his fellow National ministers have no plans for job creation and higher wages. They are reliant solely on an economic ideology called neo-liberalism that says quite plainly that only the private sector can create jobs and only the free market can  raise wages.

One problem though. That ideology doesn’t work.

Or rather, it works only for a small sector of society – those who control wealth and the means of production. Neo-liberalism is not geared to do anything except facilitate “market responses”. Neo-liberalism is certainly not an ideology that concerns itself with  society, communities,  nor the needs of families.

One would think that after 27 years of neo-liberalism here in New Zealand and it’s many failures, that our elected leaders would conclude that it is a failed ideology. (But then again, it took our Russian cuzzies 70 years to learn that their opposite ideology, marxist-leninism, was also a failure. Do we really need another 43 years of neo-liberal dogma controlling our lives?!)

While my fellow New Zealanders make up their minds, I’m going to start on writing John Key’s speech for next year. It goes something like this,

We, my government and I, will be striving  to dedicate ourselves to raising wages and standards of living for all New Zealanders. We will endeavour to stem the flow of  our children to Australia by creating a wealthy society that will draw them back to our shores, to share in our prosperity and bright new future… “

It amazing how easy it is that write that kind of crap. And more amazing how many people  believe it.

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