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Archive for 15 May 2013

*** UP-DATED! *** NEWSFLASH!!! *** On TV3’s Campbell Live Wednesday night!

On TV3’s Cambell Live, Wednesday (not Tuesday) night;

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Allyson Lock, and six other New Zealanders are suffering from a rare condition called Pompe Disease. It is a condition that is treatable – but which PHARMAC refuses point blank to fund because of “price”.

Allyson is “lucky”. She is receiving treatment from a pharmaceutical company as part of a trial. For this, she has to travel to Australia every two weeks. As I wrote in a previous blogpost,

The travel involved leaving on Wednesday by driving from Masterton to Palmerston North; flying from Palmerston North to Auckland; flying from Auckland to Brisbane; driving next day to a hospital; having treatment; next day flying from Brisbane to Auckland; staying in Auckland overnight; then flying from Auckland to Palmerston North, and then driving from Palmerston North, home to Masterton. In the meantime her husband took time off work to care for their children. (Travel, food, and accomodation costs are met by the drug company.)

This routine takes place every two weeks.

Source: “One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi

There are others with Pompe Disease not so “fortunate”, and PHARMAC’s decision is efftively a death sentence.

This blogger has supported Allyson and her fellow sufferers ( aas well as others with rare diseases). Correspondence with Health Minister, Tony Ryall, yielded this deeply callous response,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012-b

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Not enough money to fund treatment for ill New Zealanders – but plenty to throw at new BMWs?  Rugby World Cup tournaments?  Or subsidise movies? Or other corporate welfare? Or bail-outs for finance companies? Or pay rises for MPs?

Campbell Live has taken an interest in Allyson, and will be featuring a story on her tomorrow night(Wednesday 15 May).

This blogger encourages the reader to tune in to Campbell (tv3, at 7pm, ot TV3-Plus, at 8pm) and share in Allyson’s story.

[This blogpost has been up-dated. The original screening time was tonight, Tuesday, 14 May. The date is now Wednesday 15 May.]

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Previous related blogposts

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

National Party Supporters and their ‘Empathy’ for a woman with a terminal disease

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable”

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Priorities?

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John Key advocates theft by banks?

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too big to fail to big to jail

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Recent events in Cyprus have once again brought the global financial sector into sharp public consciousness. This time, as well as a bailout, there was a serious – and ominous –  demand from the EU that Cyprus make a “one off” levy (or tax) on the savings of Cypriots and others living in that country.

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Hard EU bailout terms anger Cypriot savers

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Hard EU bailout terms anger Cypriot savers

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Deposits up to and over   €100,000 ($158,000) would be levied with a  9.9% tax whilst below that threshold would be  pay a ‘lower’ portion of  6.75%.

Unsurprisingly, the proposed tax resulted in a run on cash withdrawals at ATMS (see:  Cypriots asked to surrender up to 10 percent of bank balances in return for EU bailout); banks closed their doors (see:  Fury as banks closed to avert run); global sharemarkets were affected (see:  Stock Markets Fall Amid Fears Of New Eurozone Crisis);  and the British government was forced to fly in one million euros to pay military personnel (see: One Million Euros Heading To Island For British Military Personnel ).

Pressure on the Cypriot government was such that in the last 48 hours, the Savings Tax was dumped (see:  Rejection of Deposit Tax Scuttles Deal on Bailout for Cyprus). The Cypriot Parliament voted  thirtysix against, with nineteen abstaining. It is noteworthy that not one politician risked his/her life by voting for the proposal.

Europeans. They know how to put pressure on their elected representatives.

Meanwhile, back home, in the Land of the Long White Cloud and several million sheep…

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bank bailouts - bailout - new zealand banks - john ley

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – NZ bank bailout scheme is last resort, says PM

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Key’s statement here is chilling,

“At the end of the day we’re talking about emergency provisions. These banks are heavily regulated, they have significant oversight and lender of last resort facilities at the Reserve Bank.

This is really in the event that a bank got itself in such a terrible mess that it fell over and had to restart again.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

If that is supposed to be reassuring – it is not. In fact, if anything, this is a clear warning to every single New Zealander that if a bank gets into trouble – or if there is even a hint of trouble – to get in quickly and withdraw every cent that a depositor might have.

If a bank gets in trouble, and has a crippling run on deposits, it will be as a direct consequence  to Key’s plan to dip into people’s savings to bail out that institution,

The Reserve Bank’s Open Bank Resolution (OBR) plan, due to come into effect at the end of June, would mean a partial loss on all deposits if a bank failed in New Zealand, in order to fund the bank’s bailout.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media – Reserve Bank scheme news knocks kiwi

Ironically, this is where Libertarians – who consider all taxation as theft – may have a point.

Taxation is one thing. We pay it so we can enjoy the benefits of a modern society and economy. Roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, police, etc, do not materialise out of thin air.

Dipping into people’s savings accounts – which has already been taxed one way or another – is not a tax. It is expropriation.

Expropriatiion – that dreaded word which National and it’s supporters levy against the Left when we talk about re-nationalising State assets. But which evidently is ok if a bank goes bust and has to be bailed out?

If this principal is to be applied across all sectors of society and the economy, then one could imagine that employees and sub-contractors of Mainzeal should have been taxed to bail out that company. Why should a bank be different to a construction company? Is there a difference?

If this expropriation of deposits was ever to happen, do the depositors gain any benefit? Do they gain shares in the Bank as compensation? Or, if not, does that mean that shareholders gain the benefit of other people’s money being used to prop up their investments?

One could imagine  an invalid on a WINZ benefit having his/her meagre savings “taxed” to bail out a bank – to preserve an investor’s shareholding that may be worth millions of dollars. This isn’t justice or common sense, this is nasty, medieval,   “robber Baron” stuff.

The biggest irony here is that, according to the principals of the free market, this is a kind of subsidy to a business – a subsidy enforced by the State, against the will of people who are not even shareholders in a particular bank.

Even marxists would balk at such extreme State power to seize people’s money. They’d simply nationalise the bank and be done with it. Depositors would still have their modest savings left intact and untouched.

Key’s proposal is not just crazy from almost every perspective – it is an insult to our intelligence. Especially when banks are doing very well with their profits,

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bank profits headlines collage

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When profits for New Zealand’s four largest banks are at a staggering   $3.5 billion (for 2011/12) – an increase of 22% – then that must raise serious questions why Dear Leader is even considering making depositors pay for any potential future bailout.

Shouldn’t the banks be looking at a deposit insurance scheme of some sort? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Perhaps, though, an event like this is what might be required to jolt New Zealanders out of their collective complacency. It’s only when the middle classes are hit hard in their wallets, that they stop being passive consumers and start to reassert themselves as active citizens.

Because, my fellow Kiwis, you can bet your last dollar (before the banks seize it) that John Key’s $50 million will be somewhere else – probably safe in some Swiss Bank account.

The people of Cyprus (and Iceland) have shown us the way.

Addendum

Remember the so-called “Light Bulb” and “Shower Heads” affairs, in 2008, where National slammed the then-Labour Government as engaging in  “Nanny State” politics? (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state ) National’s Nick Smith said,

People should be free to use as much water as they like when showering, provided they don’t expect others to pay for their profligacy. User-pays is a far better approach than nanny state.”

So using eco lightbulbs and smaller shower flows, to conserve electricity and water is nasty  “Nanny Statism”.

But going into people’s savings accounts; stealing their money; and handing it over to banks – is all hunky dory? Well, I’m glad that’s settled.

(Cue theme music to ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.)

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 March 2013.

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References

Banking profits up 13.6 percent

ASB Bank cash profit rises 7pc

ANZ profits up 17pc to $1.26b

BNZ first-half profit jumps 36pc

$3.5b profits for big four banks

Westpac profit increases 22pc

Outcry at big banks’ mega-profits

Additional

Reserve Bank scheme news knocks kiwi

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On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…

A letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times, based on a response on a previous blogpost, National on Child Poverty?!

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:28 AM
subject:     letters to the editor

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The Editor

Sunday Star Times

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I would fully support meals in ALL schools, regardless of decile ratings. It would eliminate labelling a school as “poor”. Feeding kids in all decile schools would be a benefit for parents for  less pressure on them to daily prepare meals for their children – especially where both spouses might be working and busy in the mornings. School breakfasts and lunches would remove some of the early morning pressures and stresses.

The good thing, though is we would once again be on a road to egalitarianism. Imagine if all kids, regardless of class, had the same meals (taking into consideration personal needs; allergies, religion, etc).

If our cuzzies in Britain, Canada, and Scandinavian nations can achieve this, I’m dumbfounded why so many think this is beyond our capabilities. Are we, as a nation incapable of doing what needs to be done??

I don’t believe that. Not for a moment.

And if National and Peter Dunne can plow $200 million into the Rugby World Cup, their excuse that this is somehow “unaffordable” simply doesn’t wash with me.

So, ok, we start with Decile 1 and 2. I’m a realist. I understand we need to take this one step at a time. The Right Wing in this country are in a frothing-mouthed hysterics over this plan. It would be a major reversal of our current neo-liberal, Me First culture.

This isn’t just about feeding hungry children – this is about the soul of our nation.

This is where we decide what kind of society we want to live in.

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-Frank Macskasy
(phone number and address supplied)

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It’s time to raise our voices on this (and other) problem.  As election time nears, they will have one eye on polls and the other on public opinion.

Now is the time to grab their attention.

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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.

Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).

Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.

More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.

This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;

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OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Signifcance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)

It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.

The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.

With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey,  poll-driven,  ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.

Part of this is Key’s stated intention;

Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.

“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

At his regular press conference,  Key was coy at whether National would  rule in or out a  food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for  Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.

So. What we have is;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. A vague committment;  “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.

To give an example; our high unemployment.

Unemployment is high.

Jobs are scarce.

National’s ‘solution’; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution’; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.

That was National’s ‘solution’; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;

  1. A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
  2. A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.

Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.

It will be nothing of the sort.

Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.

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References

NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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