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Archive for 23 May 2012

Guaranteed Jobs? Big bloody ‘Tui’ to that!

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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National appears to be up to it’s old tricks, promising gold at the end of the rainbow,

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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So let’s get this straight; Energy and Resources minister Phil Heatley is promising  that if locals submit to National’s proposals to dig bloody great holes throughout the Northland countryside, that jobs will be “guaranteed” to New Zealanders?!

Oh… really?

Is this a Real Promise?

Or is it one of National’s “promises” – along the lines of,

  • 170,000 new jobs? (Source)
  • stemming rising migration to Australia? (Source)
  • raising wages to parity with Australia? (Wage rises lowest since 2001)
  • not raising GST? (Source)
  • that cutting taxes and raising gst are “fiscally neutral”? (Source)
  • that tax cuts are “affordable”? (Source)
  • to “cap” the state sector and not cut jobs? (Source)
  • to recover the bodies of the 29 Pike River miners?
  • “National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.” (Source) (Source)
  • “If we ended up as tenants in our own country, then I can’t see how that would be in our best interests.” (Source)
  • “We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” (Source)
  • National promised not to cut or change any aspect of Kiwisaver. (Source)
  • There is no housing crisis in Christchurch? (Source)

The reader will excuse my cynicism, but this blogger has heard it all before from the Nats and their right wing allies. To be blunt, I wouldn’t believe a single word that came out of their mouths.

If Heatley is promising “guaranteed jobs for locals”, I’ll put my money on precisely the opposite.  As is happening in Christchurch, and elsewhere,

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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I rest my case.

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Three Jokers and an Ace

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This has been one of those strange weeks that only a National-led government can give us. Part of that strangeness has been described in a previous blog, with the antics of  Paula Bennett, Pita Sharples, and a slow train-wreck called ACT.

See: 20 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

But before the weekend was over, there was more neo-liberal nonsense to follow. One thing you can always count on with the Nats – they’re good for a facepalm on a regular basis…

First Joker: David Carter

Local Government Minister, David Carter’s performance on TVNZ’s  Q+A, on  20 May,  was an exercise in National’s  ‘Daddy State‘ policies revving up several notches.

Not content with forcing assets sales, fracking, and deep sea drilling on us – the NPPB (National Party Politburo of Bunnies)  is now issuing diktats from on-high to local body councils.

Firstly, Kommissar Karter instructed local bodies what was  acceptable “core services” by local body councils,

GREG

Okay, core services – what on earth are core services? Because there seems to be a lot of scope in what a core service is and what a council should be taking care of.

DAVID

Well, it’s certainly clear what core services are, and they are rates and rubbish and water, et cetera. But this legislation’s not about saying to councils, ‘You can only embark on core services.’ It is still the responsibility of the council to engage with its community and find out what services that community wants. But we want that debate to be far more transparent than it has been in the past.

GREG

Well, hold on. It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this. They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not. Which way is it to go?

DAVID

We are not saying that councils can only do core services. If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park. You could argue that’s not a core service. The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that. The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make. It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.  “

Then the Minister advised the Great Unwashed what was not acceptable “core services”,

”  DAVID

We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes. In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing. I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone. It cost local government in that area a lot of money. We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity. And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.  “

So according to Kommissar Karter,

  • V8 car races – out
  • Flower shows – in
  • Asset sales – in
  • local democracy to choose our own expenditure: out
  • centralised, National Party control over expenditure: in
  • core service by councils – tba

The Minister then added, for good measure in case the proles had not understood his Diktat from On High,

”  DAVID

You’re hitting on the essence of the relationship that should be between local government and central government. It has to be truly a partnership, but it’s not on for local government then to step into the space which is clearly central government’s role. And it is central government’s role to establish the education system in this country. It is central government’s role to establish parameters of measuring the success of that. We can then work with Len Brown and his council, particularly as he tries to develop solutions to some of the social problems in South Auckland, and we’re happy to work with him in a partnership. But the core responsibility still remains with central government.

Which, if implemented, would mean that Otorohanga’s Council-led  and community-based initiatives – which has seen unemployment and youth problems plummet – would not be a core Council responsibility?

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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Had National’s policy of curtailing Council activities been in full-force, youth unemployment and associated problems would remain unchanged, or probably much worse in that small town.

See also:  Youth unemployment a growing problem

Or was the Minister expecting Otorohanga to wait for Central Government to address the worsening crisis of youth unemployment? Youth unemployment which has rocketed from 58,000 to 87,000 this year?

How would National’s policy, to “reign in” local Councils,  impact on other towns and cities that attempted to take steps to address our growing social problems? Would Auckland prohibited from pursuing a programme similar to Otorohanga?

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy Blog

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David Carter’s performance on Q+A was simply breath-taking. If anyone thought that Labour was guilty of  creating a “Nanny State” – they had to watch Carter to see National go several steps further. In effect, central government will be dictating to local bodies what they can or can’t do.

Democracy? Not in our towns or cities, according to Minister Carter.

National is taking over. Curfew at 7PM.

See transcript: Q+ALocal Government Minister David Carter interview

See video:   Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (15:28)

The irony here is that whilst National stands by and watches unemployment soar, local communities, through their elected representatives,  are taking steps to address this growing problem.

Meanwhile, National’s response to unemployment is not to implement job creation programmes – their  response is to fiddle with welfare.

Which leads us to the next issue…

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Second Joker: Paula Rebstock

Q+A’s interview with Paula Rebstock – appointed by Welfare Minister Paula Bennett to head a board to oversee the implementation of National’s welfare “reforms” – is continuing National’s mission to demonise the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), and others who rely on social welfare to survive.

Since National has no job-creation plan,  Dear Leader and Paula Bennett are shifting responsibility for lack of jobs onto welfare beneficiaries. (Because we know that welfare pays for the mansion, limousine in the drive-way, and the beach house in Hawaii. Oh, wait, no, that’s John Key.)

It is a most pernicious form of scape-goating.

It is shameful, and panders to the nasty prejudices that reside in the dark depths of our vestigial reptilian hind-brain. For the Working and Middle Classes, who have always had the sneaking suspicion that welfare offers an opulent lifestyle – until they themselves are made redundant – only to then discover the true nature of just how paltry welfare actually is.

To put this issue into some context, New Zealand’s unemployment doubled after the global financial crisis and resulting recession,

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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Rebstock headed the infamous “Welfare Working Group” in 2010. Some of the  recommendations of the WWG were so punitive and inhumane as to return to the Victorian Era. Even John Key was moved to reject many of Rebstock’s extreme proposals.

In November 2010, Rebstock was interviewed by Paul Holmes on Q+A,

”  PAUL

So that means a bit of government intervention, that means government providing these [jobs], presumably.

PAULA

Well, I don’t know if it does, and I think this is a really important point. If we look at how the labour market in New Zealand has performed, it is true we’ve been in a recession and we’re now moving into a slow recovery and jobs have been an issue, but since 1986 this economy has created more than 500,000 jobs. Now, it responded as well as almost any economy in the world to the economic environment. We had one of the highest employment rates in the OECD. I think that it is a little bit of a cop-out to say that we can’t deal to some of the issues around long-term benefit dependency because of the job market.

PAUL

Oh, come on, Paula, the jobs simply aren’t there. I mean, if you look at 2006, there was a 30,000 net gain of jobs. In 2008 it had gone down a bit – 9,000 net gain. God knows what it is this year.

PAULA

We actually are experiencing a gain in jobs. The labour statistics that came out last week show that. I’m not saying that we haven’t been in a recession, Paul, but this is the time right now to prepare people for the recovery. They need to be ready to take the jobs that are there.  “

See:  Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Unfortunately for everyone, the jobs were not “out there”.  With the recession is full swing, exports were down, and companies were laying off staff in their hundreds.

Unemployment in November 2010 was 6.4%. By January 2011, it had reach 6.8%. The rate moved up and down, and currently sits on 6.7%.

See:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

Fast forward 18 months, and despite the economy continuing to stagnate, National is pursuing it’s scape-goating of unemployed and solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), and Rebstock and Bennett are both  still ‘singing the same song’.

On 16 May, Bennett said,

The cost of today’s total number of beneficiaries is estimated at $45 billion. It makes good economic and social sense to provide targeted support up front to get more people into work sooner.

This new approach will be embedded at all levels of the welfare system and the board will be responsible for ensuring accountability and overseeing the delivery of reforms that will see fewer people on welfare for long periods.

See:  Minister defends new welfare board

Not. One. Word. About. Job. Creation.

National is displaying an almost Obsessive-Compulsive antipathy on welfare issues.  Their sole focus is on welfare and welfare beneficiaries.

As if 80,000+ New Zealanders decided to chuck in their jobs in the last few years, and instead live the life of luxury on $204.96 a week (net).

See:   WINZ  Unemployment Benefit (current)

Yet, not too long ago (29 April), Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett actually admitted,

PAULA         
No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

See:  TVNZ Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview (29 April)

So why is National spending $1.1 million on Rebstock’s ‘Work and Income Board’ to oversee WINZ – when it ain’t welfare that’s broke. It’s the job market that is 160,000 jobs short?!

See:  Rebstock to head welfare watchdog panel

Bennett goes on to say,

”  I’ve got fantastic frontline staff, I’ve got fantastic upper and middle management that are working hands on with policy changes and implementing that frontline.  “

“Fantastic front line staff”.

“Fantastic upper and middle management”.

“Working hands on with policy changes”.

But no jobs.

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Third Joker: John Key

National’s “Gateway” scheme had its origins during the Mana by-election, in 2010. As some will recall, it was National’s grand plan to beat the Labour candidate, Kris Faafoi.

National’s candidate was… Hekia Parata – the current Minister for Education.

Ms Parata lost by 1,406 votes to Labour’s candidate. (The margin widens when adding centre-left votes for the Greens and Matt McCarten.)

See: Mana By-election 2010

It appears that the “Gateway” scheme was little more than an election bribe for Mana voters; a “lolly” to entice people to vote for Parata.  National lost, and were stuck with fulfilling their policy pledge.

(Damned inconvenient when that happens, I guess.)

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Heatley touted the scheme, grandly proclaiming,

It is important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership. Affordable homes schemes such as Gateway is another way we can assist more people into a home of their own.”

But by May of this year, it seems that it was ‘no longer important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership’.

John Key announced it’s cancellation last week.

For a man who was raised in a taxpayer funded, and subsidised, state home with his siblings and widowed mum, and who benefitted from a societal  value that decent housing was a basic human right – John Key has some very strange attitudes toward providing shelter for the poor and vulnerable,

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The Gateway scheme details,

GATEWAY SCHEME
* For first home buyers earning under $100,000 a year
* They can get a mortgage to build or buy a house on state land
* Must have at least a 10% deposit
* Have 10 years to buy the land

It’s interesting to note that Key is unable to deliver “low cost” housing for couples earning under$100,000 and says,

The Government has looked at that programme and decided that’s now not the most effective way of going forward.

So we think the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower.

“If you have a look at the average home owner in New Zealand, they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government.” – Ibid

His comments raises several issues,

  1. It says a lot about Key’s impression of what constitutes “lower income New Zealanders” when the threshold is up to $100,000 per couple. Perhaps by his multi-million dollar standards, a couple on $100,000 is “poor”?
  2. Derides the previous Labour government and claims credit for lower interest rates, by stating “they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government“. As if current low interest rates are a result of National’s intervention? (Interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank, and are currently low because our economy is stagnant. National can take credit for the latter, but not the former.)
  3. How can  providing decent, affordable housing for low income earners  be “not the most effective way of going forward” ?
  4. Key is living in a millionaire’s fantasyland if he seriously believes that “ the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower“.  Dear Leader doesn’t understand that the interest rate can be irrelevant if people can’t afford to buy a home in the first place.

If ever there was ever an instance of the Silver Spoon mentality – look no further than our current Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable John Key.

New Zealanders are deluded if they think this man can relate to their ordinary, everyday, lives.

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The Ace: John Tamihere

As mentioned in a previous blogpost, John Tamihere is hosting an excellent, low-key, intelligent, current affairs chat show on TV3 (Sunday mornings) called “Think Tank“.  Last Sunday’s (20 May) episode focused on child poverty in New Zealand and what practical steps were required to address this growing social crisis.

Last week, it was pokie machines and their effects on communities.

As the show’s name suggests, the goal is not just to look into critical social issues – but to come up with solutions.  The show’s panel of four people offers solutions; and the guests scrutinises each suggestion.

It’s a chat show for sure – but instead of superficial inanities, the conversation is serious and fit for adult consumption.

This is good television. This treats the viewer as   intelligent and capable of considering complex issues.

This blogger can only live in hope that this is the turning point of 21st century television, and we are seeing an end (or at least slow reduction) of the execrable rubbish we have been served up, since  commercialisation and dumbing down became the norm for broadcasting in this country.

John Tamihere is perfect for the role of host for the show. Not a polished or trained media front-person, John Tamihere has walked the hard yards in life and has moved from the tough neighbourhoods of South Auckland to the halls of power in Parliament. He’s lived life. He’s seen things that Middle Class New Zealand has no wish to see or experience, outside of comfortable television shows.

This blogger’s only criticisms revolve around scheduling and lack of promotion.

Scheduling “Think Tank” on Sunday mornings ghettoises the show. It relegates it almost as an ‘after thought’.  It would be an act of naked political subversion to broadcast it during prime time viewing. (That should give National’s/NZ on Air’s,   Stephen McElrea something to howl about!)

The show also needs more promo on TV3. This blogger discovered it only by sheer fluke. Not promoting it leaves us wondering if TV3 doesn’t really want to draw attention to it? Perhaps doesn’t want to draw the ire of certain National Party ministers?

One hopes not.

TV3, as your print-media colleagues used to say, Publish and be damned !

It’s a good show.

Be proud of it.

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Media sources

Loans for housing on crown land

Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Otorohanga’s success story

Council goes solo to help young jobless

Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan

Minister defends new welfare board

TVNZ  Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (video)

Reserve Bank to keep OCR unchanged though hikes flicker on horizon

References

Official Cash Rate (OCR) decisions and current rate

Previous blogposts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

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A Slave by any other name (Part Toru)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Foreign Chartered Vessels (FCVs) have been  in the media recently for a whole host of reasons – all bad. Shocking working conditions; wages held back by employers; sexual abuse; violence; threats to crews’ families; illegal fish dumping… the list goes on and on.

These abuses were happening in our territorial waters by fishing vessels under contract to New Zealand companies. Whichever way one look at it, responsibility for these shocking abuses and practices has been sheeted home firmly to our country.

After a ministerial inquiry came out with a damning report, and TV3 showed video images of fish being illegally dumped – the problem could no longer be hidden or ignored any longer.

Even right wing blogger, David Farrar, recognised the implications to our internation reputation and our fishing industry, if these abuses were allowed to continue. (Though Mr Farrar did not extend his concerns for foreign fishing crews to Ports of Auckland workers, unfortunately.)

See:  Slavery on our seas

I suspect the Nats were between a rock and a hard place on this one. Our American cuzzies were starting to sit up and take notice that we were using slave labour to produce our fishing exports, and some of our clients in the US of A were none too happy.

See: Slaves Put Squid on Dining Tables From South Pacific

When even a business news-site like Bloomberg gets a tad anxious about our behaviour, you know things are getting bad.

If this blogger was the conspiracy-theorist type, I’d be guessing that somewhere along the way, someone from the US Embassy had a ‘quiet word’ in David Carter’s ear – and told him to knock off the slave-galley thing or risk U.S. State Department naming & shaming.

Not exactly a good look for li’l ole New Zealand…

Cynical? Maybe. But National ain’t exactly well known for being on the vanguard of workers’ rights. Not unless I’ve tumbled into a Parallel Universe without noticing.

Reflagging FCVs as New Zealand vessels and according foreign crews the same rights and working conditions as our own workers is long overdue.  Substandard pay and working conditions were an outrageous obscenity that should never have been permitted in the first place. Any fool could have foreseen the inevitable consequences.

This blogger welcomes National finally adopting a common sense approach to this mess.

This blogger, however, questions why foreign companies will be allowed four years to re-flag!? Twelve months should be ample time.

National has come up with the solution (and it’s a good solution) – so why delay implementing it?

Four years simply allows these abuses to continue, and pushes the solution to this problem into the distant future. It also takes the heat off the government.

Cynical? Not at all. National has ‘form‘  on issues like these.

An incoming Labour-led government must, as a priority for a new Minister of Fisheries, bring the date forward to twelves months. The world is watching us, and we cannot afford to muck around and attract further criticisms from the international community, our customers, and those who take an interest in human rights issues.

Slavery – it’s not a good look. And it’s not the Kiwi way.

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Prevous blogposts

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

A Slave by any other name

A Slave by any other name (Part Rua)

References

NZ Govt: Ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels

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Immovable and Irresistable forces – combined!!

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Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant result. And for the first time, we have publicly witnessed Iwi power being flexed on behalf of the working class.

This blogger believes  we are seeing the birth of a new political force to be reckoned with – Iwi and Workers joining forces to fight excessive corporate and employer power.

It probably also didn’t help Talleys that;

  • social networking websites such as Facebook were being utilised to mount a boycott of Talley’s products, and if this took hold in the public consciousness, it could cause irreparable harm to their brand-name
  • centre-left bloggers were mobilising to assist locked out workers, outnumbering the few rightwing blogs  that were becoming increasingly drowned out by a clamour of pro-union voices
  • and David Shearer making an impromptu visit to support Talley’s workers,

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In a move that many people seemed to overlook – but in this bloggers opinion constitutes a major shift in Labour’s strategy – Shearer actually came out in full, unequivocal support for the locked out workers,

I’m very supportive of collective agreements. I think the issue here is they [union workers] are willing to negotiate but now what’s happening is they are being locked out. What we don’t want to see is those workers being locked out and not being given a real fair go.

Talleys have always had a strong opposition to union labour. Other meatworks we’ve gone to which have had unions and they’ve worked very effectively.”

Them’s pretty powerful fightin’ words, Jethro!

In effect, Shearer has put certain elements in the employers’ camp on notice: Labour is back in the game, and firmly on the side of workers. The message is clear; do not mess with us, or we will remember you when we get back into power.

Any employer that doesn’t heed the simple message that Labour Leader, David Shearer, made at Horotiu – may have it spelled out in terms they will not miss.

The power balance is shifting. It may be part of the quantum shift away from the mad neoliberal  experiment that  overtook the world in the 1980s  onwards. Whether the signs are in the Occupy Movement; the election of centre-left governments; and mounting public protest at  austerity economics – we are witnessing  the beginnings of the decline of neo-liberalism.

Historical times, people; historical times.

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