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National and the Cult of Buck-Passing

22 December 2012 12 comments

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said no teacher ever 2

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Successive National governments have had a problem.

New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes.  National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige  and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a  year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeezeTax hikes disguised as reinvestment’,   Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.

What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.

Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.

Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,

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Schools face teacher cuts threat

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The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,

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Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

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Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do.  National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.

This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.

The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.

Others included,

  • the ongoing Novopay fiasco
  • the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
  • the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See:  Parata did not heed warning over closure),
  • Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)

It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.

The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.

Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,

Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.

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Lesley Longstone - John Campbell - TV3 - Ministry for Education - Campbell Live - Hekia Parata

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Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.

As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.

The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe.   Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See:  Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )

One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the  touristy-destination of  “Middle Earth New Zealand”.

During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announces Longstone's resignation

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So to re-cap,

  1. Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
  2. She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
  3. When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
  4. The  entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
  5. Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
  6. And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.

Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!

So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?

Apparently, he was busy,

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See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.

Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.

It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

See: John Key’s midterm blues?

I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

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Addendum

National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,

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Work and Income boss quits

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And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case   (See:  Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).

At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,

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Dr Evil John Key

“National does not tolerate failure, Ms Longstone. Would you like a Speights or water with your Professional Cyanide Pill?”

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References

Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious

NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits

Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns

Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

NZ Herald: Is Parata next?

Fairfax media: Education secretary quits

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NRA response; more guns. Common sense sez otherwise.

22 December 2012 46 comments

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Wayne LaPierre

“If we truly cherish our kids, more than money, more than our celebrities, we must must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained – armed – good guy.”

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The NRA’s, Wayne LaPierre, finally fronted up to a shocked global society by offering their nightmarish solution to gun-shootings in American schools; more guns. Specifically, armed guards in every school in the United States.  (See: NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools)

Aside from the bizarreness of this proposal, the sheer cost would be astronomical.

According to one source, in 2009-10 there are 138,925 educational institutions ranging from “Elementrary” (our primary schools) through to Universities. (Source: National Centre for Education Statistics: Educational Institutions)

If a minimum of one private, full time, guard was placed in every  institution, at a median cost of  US$28,834 per person, (see:  Salary.com: security guards) the full would be an astronomical US$4,005, 763,450 per annum. Many institutions because of their size would need two, or more guards.

Considering Republican’s (who are allied to the NRA)  lack of appetite for increasing taxes, it is hard to see where the money would come from.

No wonder that there was protest at Wayne LaPierre’s speech yesterday,

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It is highly doubtful that  arming teachers or hiring security guards would achieve anything. Being the United States, how long would it be before the first mentally disturbed security guard or teacher pulled out his/her legally-sanctioned gun and started blasting away at the people they were mandated to protect?

Or, the guard was simply in another part of the school grounds?

Or, more likely, was the first victim of any deranged shooter?

Only in the US would one countenance the totally lunatic proposal that more guns equates to more safety.  This is the United States; a culture where guns are revered in their entertainment value as the solution to complex problems. Mass murder can even be made to look cool, with cool clothing, cool sunnies, and cool background music. Killing becomes a fashion-statement – in the US, anyway,

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Is that how mass-murderers see themselves?

Meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion fall flat on it’s distorted face  when it is pointed out that Columbine High School did indeed have an armed guard on duty;  Sheriff’s deputy, Neil Gardner.

On 20 April 1999, despite Mr Gardner’s presence, twelve students and one teacher were gunned down  by two deranged students.

The NRA are not the solution – they are intrinsically part of the problem.

And unfortunately we have our own gun nuts here in New Zealand. See:  Firearms – Libertarianz

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Additional

The Guardian: This sacred text explains why the US can’t kick the gun habit

The Guardian: Wayne LaPierre and the NRA: so defensive it was downright offensive

The Guardian: NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools

Slate: Wayne LaPierre Wants Armed Guards at Schools. Columbine Had an Armed Guard

Wikipedia: Columbine High School massacre

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