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Health and safety jobcuts? Haven’t we been down this road before?!

28 February 2013 16 comments

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Ministry cutting 135 health and safety jobs

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Three things here…

(1) Sacking trained, experienced health and safety inspectors?! Haven’t we been down this road before?

Why yes – indeed we have.

In the early 1990s the Mining Inspectorate was amalgamated with the Labour Dept, and mines inspectors went from 7 to two  positions. And only one of those positions was filled to service the entire country.

The result was a shoddy and lax culture of safety in  mines – and on 19 November 2010, 29 men died as as result. (see:  Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy)

Mines Minister Kate Wilkinson took “responsibility” and resigned immediatly after the Commission report was released.

It was a faux resignation, of course. She ‘jumped’ before the Commission’s report forced Key’s hand. It was a cold, calculating strategy to minimise and close down media and public scrutiny of National’s past performance in de-regulation and reliance on “market” forces.

National does not seem to have learnt a single damn thing.

(2) The irony of sacking 135 people from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has also not escaped me.

Doublethink at it’s best?

I think so.

(3) The 135 sacked employees are expected ” to reapply for their positions through a rigorous process including psychometric testing “.

“Psychometric testing”?!

National is allowing government departments to use a technique that is controversial at best, and  voodoo ‘science‘ at worst,  to interview potential employees?! When  did this bit of hocus-pocus chicanery become State sector policy?

All in all, this is further indication of the mess that National is creating, and will leave an incoming government to clean up.

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Previous related blogposts

Heather Roy – head down the mine shaft?

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

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Is this really the solution to our housing problem?

28 February 2013 4 comments

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Illustration by Tim Denee – www.timdenee.com

Illustration by Tim Denee – http://www.timdenee.com

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Our housing problem is getting worse with each passing year and each successive government.

In 1991, 73.8% of  households in New Zealand lived in their own home. By 1996, this figure had dropped to 70.7%.

By 2001 home-ownership rate was 67.8%, and by 2006, this had dropped below the half-way mark to 44%

(see: Stats NZ – Owner-Occupied Households, Home-ownership falls dramatically)

As with so many other indicators, the “free market” reforms of the late 1980s and 1990s were creating a flow-on effect that very few had foreseen.

The drop in home ownership was perhaps worsened after the 1987 share-market crash when  investors – many of them ordinary folk – were burned and lost theire lidfe savings, and often their homes.

Part of the problem is that the housing stock is insufficient to meet demand of New Zealanders wanting to buy their own home. Far from being a Local body council or RMA problem, this blogger sheets home responsibility on successive governments who have failed to,

  1. Introduce a comprehensive capital gains tax to stifle speculation,
  2. Speculation drove up property prices as investors played an out-bidding war against each other,
  3. Uncontrolled capital flowing into the country allowed prices to rise as vendor’s expectations grew for higher and higher sale prices (much like in the 1970s and ’80s when wage spirals led to price-rise spirals)

During the  2011 Election, Labour campaigned to introduce a Capital Gains Tax (CGT).  A CGT, Labour (and others) maintained, would put a dampener on housing speculation by removing it’s near total  tax-free status. As well as driving up house prices, speculation of this sort took investment away from more productive industry.

Speculation also relies on using overseas borrowings, pushing up the amount we owe to offshore lenders,

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Treasury

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Predictably, the “genuises” at National – and especially John Key – trashed the idea immediatly,

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New property tax would send NZ 'screaming backwards' - Key

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Key’s criticism ranged from “complexity” (it is not more complex than other tax laws) to “when you put more taxes on the economy you slow things down” (the economy can’t be any slower than it is now).

A few days later, Key went one step further,

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Labour's capital gains tax aims misguided - Key

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According to Dear Dear, in one of his LSD-inspired moments of alternate-reality,

Labour are trying to put up, as a stalking horse if you like, a problem that existed when they were in government but doesn’t exist now.”

Source: IBID

That was Key being his usual mendacious self, of course. Despite his assertion that National had “solved the problem”, our housing crisis was worsening.

In fact, less than  two years later,  the headlines were screaming the problem from Bluff to Kaitaia,

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NZ housing 'seriously unaffordable'

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As per usual, National Ministers were pointing the finger at everyone except themselves (see:  Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis) and English was quick to point the finger at the RMA ands local body councils.

Of course, the last time National interfered with home-building processes, they de-regulated the building industry; loosened the Building Act 1991; and gave New Zealand a legacy of thousands of rotting houses.

National’s most recent pronouncements are vapid and will do nothing except put  superficial band-aids over a deep cancer in our society and economy,

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House buyers may need bigger deposit

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Restrict high-loan-to-value ration lending in the housing sector”  translates to requiring first home owners – usually young couples – to have to save tens of thousands of dollars, whilst at the same time paying high rents and other out-goings.

Let’s be crystal clear what National is advocating here;

1. Without a capital gains tax, National is allowing the older generation (sometimes referred to as “Baby Boomers”) to;

  • keep their rental investments,
  • use the equity in their currents investments to buy more properties,
  • eventually ‘flick off’ their investmental properties for a tax-free profit

2. New home owners will have to;

  • build up a large savings deposit (returning us to a 1970s-style era),
  • create a demand for more expensive, second mortgages,
  • push up rents as more and more young people are forced to rent for longer,
  • compete with property investors who will continue to drive up prices,  to buy a home

In effect, young New Zealanders will find it harder and harder to get into their own home whilst Baby Boomers will continue  to make the most from increasing rents and a tax-free regime for property  (house) investments.

It will be young New Zealanders being penalised for high house prices – a situation not of their making.

And worse still – and this is truly salt in the wound for young New Zealanders – the money they will be forced, by National’s decree, to save, will be used by Banks to on-lend to housing speculators to buy more investment properties.

The sheer obscene unfairness of this scenario cannot be under-stated.

By what logic, or concept of justice, is it fair to make it harder for young New Zealanders to buy a home whilst older generations continue to enjoy their tax-free investments – which contributed to driving up house prices and our overseas borrowings in the first place???

If this country wants to send another 500,000 New Zealanders to Australia, I can think of no better policy with which  to achieve this enforced emigration. National is practically screaming at our kids to “bugger off !”.

Good on you, John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, et al. Another dumb idea.

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Previous related blogposts

A Capital Gains Tax?  (3 Aug 2011)

Blood from a stone? (27 Jan 2012)

Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late (21 Jan 2013)

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Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

28 February 2013 13 comments

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Continued from: That was Then, This is Now #18 (Solid Energy)

A bit of  very recent history,

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

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Eighteen months later, on 19 February, the SOE Shareholders Bill English and Tony Ryall,  made this shock announcement to the public (see:  Statement on Solid Energy).

The media were quick to report the crisis,

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Solid Energy in debt crisis talks

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National’s response?

Default to Deflection #1 (see previous blogpost: National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2 )

As described in my previous blogpost (see:  Taking responsibility, National-style), National does not do Taking Responsibility very well. Their automatic instinct is to blame someone else – anyone – for problems of their making,

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National and John Key blames...

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And true-to-form, National and Dear Leader are once again playing the Blame Game over Solid Energy’s woes,

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Prime Minister criticises Solid Energy

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Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy

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“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” sez Key?!

Really? 2003 ???

Why stop at 2003?

Personally, if I was John Key, I’d be asking serious questions on Labour’s role in the sinking of the Titanic. The Cuban Missile Crisis. And don’t forget the 2007/08 Global Financial Meltdown – that has Labour’s fingerprints all over it, surely???

Getting serious again…

National is supposedly Very Big on responsibility issues. Their website is constantly referring to responsibility,

The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.” – John Key, 30 January 2007

It seems that their constant refusals to accept responsibility is also one of those things that “the State can’t and shouldn’t do”, according to Dear Leader.

A few questions spring to mind,

  1. How far back will Key go to blame others for his failures?
  2. How many terms in office will National have to win, before blaming Labour or Uncle Tom Cobbly is no longer tenable?
  3. If John Key and his cronies are unable to ‘man-up’ and take a hit for any one of their balls-ups, and constantly feel the need to sheet responsibility back to Labour – then why is National in government? Why not just resign and put Labour back in office? After all, what would be the difference?

We wouldn’t accept finger-pointing and blame-gaming from our children (or, at least I hope we wouldn’t). So why is the public and media letting Key get away with it?

I look forward to National’s next major cock-up.

Who will they blame next? Australia?

Meanwhile,  back to 9 September 2011…

Doesn’t Bill seem a happy chappy in this photo-op?

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Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura  - 9 sept 2011

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Bill English, poses with ex-Solid Energy CEO, Don Elder, as the ‘first sod is turned’ at a new  Briquette Plant in Mataura, Southland.

The same plant that was “Labour’s fault”.

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