Home > The Body Politic > Dear Leader: No plans, no credibility, no shame!

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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= fs =

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