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Judith Collins, Peter Dunne, & Backbenches

12 June 2013 3 comments

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Just got home from being down at Backbenches Pub, for the filming of Backbenches. It was a good evening. A good natured crowd.  We even gave up a couple of our spare chairs for a National MP and one of his staffers’ children.

Low points of the night…

  • The anti-flouridation fanatics behind us. One of whom was asked his point of view, and he gave it whilst the rest of the crowd listened with relative attentiveness.

When pro-flouridation views were offered by others, the anti-flouro crowd erupted into hyena-like yelling, cat-calls,  and interjection, until Damien told them to knock it off. As he pointed out to them, their man was given the courtesy of being heard without abuse thrown at him.

Advice to anti-flouro activists: a bit of civilised respect cuts both ways. You will not change public opinion by yelling your opponents down.

Bad form.

  • Judith Collins.  Collins turned up with her retinue of staff, and others. She was standing less than a metre from our table.

As the subject for the three MPs in front of the cameras got around to Peter Dunne, I looked at Collins. Was that smirking that I saw on her face as the question was asked who felt sorry for Dunne?

Yep, I’m fairly sure it was smirking.

One may disagree with Peter Dunne’s vioting history during this government – and god knows I sure as hell do – but it takes a sadistic charachter to take pleasure in someone’s very public fall from grace.

Not that I’m saying that Collins is sadistic…

But I’m fairly sure of one thing.

She was smirking.

Bad form again.

Backbenches: tonight, Prime TV, 10.30pm

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12 June – Issues of Interest

12 June 2013 4 comments

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Looking at the pieces

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Nigel Latta on National Standards

On Facebook, child psychologist and TV host, Nigel Latta, had this to say about the recent National Standards “results”;

‘National Standards’ aren’t.

The latest national standards ‘results’ being reported in the media are utter nonsense. Pure and simple. Even if we ignore the large inconsistencies between the way that the ‘standards’ are measured (and we can’t because the inconsistencies make comparisons all but impossible), and the fact that it assumes all children of a given age are maturing at the same rate (which they don’t), and we ignore the impact of little things like child poverty (which some politicians like to do much to their shame), it’s still impossible to say anything at all about a change in the numbers when you only have two data points.

They can’t say that a difference of 1.2-2% on the various measures between last year and this year is an ‘improvement’, because we simply don’t know.

If you had assessed all of those very same children again the day after they were assessed for these numbers, in the exact same conditions with the exact same measures, then you would also get a different number. That’s because in the real world we have this little thing called statistical variation–things never work out exactly the same. To make any meaningful statements about ‘improvements’ you need meaningful measures (which national standards aren’t anyway) over several different data points (i.e. over several years).

I wish the media would get that very simple, but very important point. Politicians will spin it as a gain, but it isn’t. It’s simply meaningless statistical ‘noise’.

The government went with national standards because they thought voters would like it, not because it’s the best thing for making progress on education. If we really wanted to lift our ‘national standards’ then, perhaps as a beginning, we’d take more care of the large numbers of our kids living in poverty.

When they produce their ‘rankings’ of schools I’m pretty sure it’s going to show a trend whereby higher decile schools meet/exceed the ‘standards’ much more than lower decile schools. I wonder why that might be? And who do we blame for that? Teachers?

Don’t be sucked in by all this political positioning. My advice is to ignore the national standards tables because they don’t mean anything. There’s a reason teachers were so opposed to the way these ‘national standards’ are being used… fundamentally because it’s nonsense!

Nigel Latta, Facebook, 12 June 2013

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100% Pure brand busted!

New Zealand’s distance from it’s major trading partners (except Australia) has always been a major impediment to our trading. Our point-of-difference has  been the quality of our food products, and has made them desirable commodities on that basis.  Branding ourselves as “100% Pure” and  “Clean and Green” were marketing tools that created a multi-billion dollar export industry.

But that is coming to an end.

We are not “100% Pure” and nor are we “Clean and Green”. Anything but.

National has paid lip service to being green.

Pollution has been allowed to increase.

It’s focus on “reforming” the RMA to allow for exploitation mof sensitive environmental areas; more and more chemicals ion our farms; allowing dangerous deep sea drilling of our coastline; mining in Conservation lands; and ditching our committment to the Kyoto Protocol – have not gone unnoticed by our trading partners.

And those trading partners  are starting to react accordingly,

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Sri Lanka demands DCD testing on NZ milk powder

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Sri Lanka demands DCD testing on NZ milk powder

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An over-reaction?

Not when National has appointed a  board to over-see a resource consent application to allow an increase of nitrogen pollution  in the Tukituki River  by a staggering 250% !

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Nitrate proposal seen as death knell for river

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Nitrate proposal seen as death knell for river

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This will not doubt be ratchetted back to “only” 50% or 100%, and National will claim that they are “listening” to public concerns. It’s an old political trick when a deeply unpopular policy is put forward. Make a number unfeasibly large; then offer a lower number, and claim that government has listened to the public. In reality it was the lower number all along that was the preferred option.

National has consistently undermined environmental protections in this country, as well as knee-capped DoC by sacking staff and under-funding it’s operations.

We are now starting to pay the price of right-wing policies that pursue business and profit ahead of  preserving our environment.

What National and it’s one-eyed supporters don’t seem to comprehend is that business and profits are dependendent on our clean and green environment. Mess up the environment and expect to lose customers and profits.

Just ask the Sri Lankans.

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User-pays healthcare?

For those neo-liberals and naive National supporters who advocate replacing our socialised healthcare system with privatised healthcare insurance, I present the reality,

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NZ private health insurance uptake hits 6-yr low

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – NZ private health insurance uptake hits 6-yr low

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Private health-privider,  Wakefield chairman Alan Isaac said,

“The total number of New Zealanders with private health insurance (is) decreasing.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

Well, no wonder!

Even as private healthcare companies like Wakefield are complaining about losing customers, they are hiking premiums and still making a 27% increase in full-year earnings. Twentyseven percent! Compare that to other investments, and you begin to realise that these companies aren’t doing too bad.

That’s 27% that could have been re-invested in healthcare – but is instead going into the pockets of shareholders.

What would happen, I wonder, if New Zealand’s healthcare system was fully privatised and  went totally “free market”, as ACT policy demands?

This OECD chart suggests the result, if we were ever foolish enough to go down that road,

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OECD - private - public - healthcare expenditure -2007

Source: OECD – Total health expenditure per capita, public and private, 2007

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At 7,290, the United States spends nearly three times as much on healthcare as we do. Their private/public health costs are vastly greater than the entire public/private expenditure we have here in New Zealand with our “socialised” system.

And ACT wants to emulate our American cuzzies?!

The only thing the USA has demonstrated is that a privatised healthcare system will result in a massive blow-out in costs and rapacious profits for shareholders.

The argument from the neo-liberal Right is that private enterprise is “more efficient” and better for consumers. This is absolute bollocks.

If anything, private health insurance is highly ineffective at delivering  universal healthcare for it’s clients,

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Ongoing jumps in health insurance costs

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Ongoing jumps in health insurance costs

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As has been observed by others in the past, private health insurance is relatively cheap when you are young, healthy, and make few demands for medical intervention.

But with old age; increased infirmity; and heightened vulnerabilty comes increased premium payments for policy-holders. Just when they most require increased medical services.

This is the fatal flaw in private medical insurance; those who most require it, will pay the highest premiums. And pay, and pay, and pay…

Just ask the Americans.

See also: NZ Herald – Jack Tame: Sickness is too expensive in the land of the free

Other blogs:  Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate

Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate
Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate
Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate

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Some good news at last…

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It has been a stain on our reputation that despite our anti-nuclear legislation, our Superannuation Fund was still investing in overseas companies engaged in producing atomic bombs and cluster munitions. This was a problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”)  that I highlighted  in December, last year.

Previous related blogposts:  New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

Previous related blogposts:  New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

The Superannuation Fund has done the right thing by no longer continuing to invest in Babcock & Wilcox, Fluor Corporation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Jacobs Engineering Group, Serco Group and URS Corporation;

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Super Fund sells nuclear investments

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Super Fund sells nuclear investments

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The other weapons we are no longer investing in is the manufacture of cluster-munitions. These vile things are the weapons-of-choice for vicious dictators and other repressive regimes which they use against their civilian population.

They have been used in Syria, against unarmed civilians. Children have been killed by these monstrous devices.  (see: Syrian children ‘killed by cluster bombs’)

Cluster munitions have been outlawed by  nearly 100 nations which signed a  treaty to ban cluster bombs.  In 2009, to their credit, the current National-led government  passed legislation banning these obscene weapons from our country. This included the possession, retaining, stockpiling, assistance, encouragement, or even inducement to deal with them.

NZ Parliament: Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009 (17 Dec 2009)

It would take a ruthless person to discount this human suffering and advocate for our continued investment in their manufacture.

The Superannuation Fund was effectively breaking the law with it’s investments in General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Raytheon, and the Goodrich Corp.

It’s good to see that our fingers are no longer bloodied by such  investments.

As for right-wingers who dismiss investment in atomic bombs or cluster munition – go play with a cluster bomb.  Come back to me after it’s detonated in your hands. Then we’ll talk.

Just ask the Syrians.

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The bucks stops with me over there, somewhere…

I guess it was inevitable, really…

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Deputy Secretary resigns over Novopay

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Deputy Secretary resigns over Novopay

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Did we really, really expect any one of the three Ministers who signed off on Novopay to put their hand up and admit responsibility?!

No less than three ministers signed off on Novopay, to allow it to “go live”;

  • Education Minisrer Hekia Parata
  • Associate Education Minister Craig Foss
  • Finance Minister Bill English

Because doesn’t it strike people as  indicative that Minister for Everything, aka, Mr Fixit, Steven Joyce was appointed Minister in charge of Novopay – thereby taking responsibility for this ongoing balls-up away from Parata?! (see: ODT – Joyce to take on handling of Novopay)

Despite the so-call “ministerial inquiry”, Joyce had a very interesting point to make on 31 January;

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Government sticking with Novopay - for now

Acknowledgement – Radio NZ – Government sticking with Novopay for now

Steven Joyce revealed that Education Minister Hekia Parata, Finance Minister Bill English and former education minister Craig Foss approved the use of Novopay despite being told that it had bugs.”

So… how can  Joyce’s statement be reconciled with his statement, five months later,

Reporting to Ministers was inconsistent, unduly optimistic and sometimes misrepresented the situation.”

Source: Beehive.govt.nz: Ministerial Inquiry report into Novopay released

Either Ministers were “told that it had bugs” or  reporting wasunduly optimistic and sometimes misrepresented the situation“. Which is it?!

By the way, the Ministerial Inquiry was undertaken by Maarten Wevers and Chairman of Deloitte New Zealand Murray Jack.

Mr Weavers was former head of the Department of the Prime Minister (John Key) and Cabinet.

Connect the dots.

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WhiteWash

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Other blogposts: Gordon Campbell on the latest Novopay revelations

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National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

12 June 2013 1 comment

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Want a good reason for voting for MMP

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Something I’ve noticed in the last few days, as the Aaron Gilmore saga drags on, is the number of snide references being made to our electoral system, MMP (Mixed Member Proportional).

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"...what he's reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not every party leader is powerless."

what he’s reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not, every party leader is powerless.”John Key, 9 May 2013

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 As with the sacking from NZ First's caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP. List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.

As with the sacking from NZ First’s caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP.
List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.”Un-named author, 11 May 2013

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“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”

“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”Michelle Boag, May 2013

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The new meme is that the MMP system is somehow permitting Aaron Gilmore to remain in Parliament, and is vexing his Leader’s desire to remove him. The subtext is that MMP is severely ‘flawed’,  allowing errant members of Parliament to flout the ‘system’ and disregard the wishes of the public – and their Party leaders.

The corollary is that the previous system, First Past the Post (FPP) was somehow ‘superior’; tougher on wayward politicians, and allowed Party leaders to ditch them.

Both views are patently false.

As usual, watch out for politicians and their hangers-on – they speak with a forked tongue.

The reality is that pre-MMP, during our First Past the Post era, there were several members of Parliament who split away from their Parties (either National or Labour).

The Roll Call of Honour/Dis-Honour – depending on your point of view:

Matiu  Rata – resigned from Labour, 1979

Jim Anderton – resigned from Labour, April 1989

Gilbert Myles – resigned from National, late 1991

Hamish MacIntyre – resigned from National, late 1991

Cam Campion – resigned from National, March 1993

Winston Peters – resigned from National, early 1993*

Of the six MPs listed above, only Peters resigned from Parliament (as well as his Party), prompting a by-election on 17 April 1993. Rata prompted a by-election the following year, in June 1980.

Peters’ resignation was made of his own volition, as he sought a mandate from his Electorate after a public and very acrimonious split from the Bolger-led National Government of the day. (Indeed, Peters’ by-election was  dismissed  as a “stunt” by his opponants. I guess you can’t win either way.)

The remaining for MPs, Anderton; Myles; MacIntyre; and  Campion all remained as sitting Independent MPs until the following general election. Only Anderton and Peters were re-elected in subsequent elections.

All five MPs were electorate-based, and elected under FPP. In this respect, both MMP and FPP share a common feature; at no time could either Labour or National force their five ‘rogue’ MPs from Parliament.

This is a fact that Key, Boag, and the un-named author of the Dominion Post editorial should be fully aquainted with.

It appears to me is that by ‘dissing’ MMP, the conservative elements in politics (Key, Boag, and an obviously right-leaning anonymous  editorialist) are attempting to shift blame from their own short-comings  onto our electoral system. “Scape goating” is the appropriate term, I believe.

But worse than that – by smearing our electoral system, the Conservative Establishment is further undermining the public perception of democracy in New Zealand.  The apalling low voter turn-out in 2011 –  74.2% , the lowest turnout since 1887 – can only be exacerbated when those with a loud public voice ridicule and deride our electoral system.

The subtext here is; “our electoral system is crap; don’t bother using it; don’t vote; disengage”.

This, of course, suits the purposes of the Conservative Establishment. The less people who vote, the better for them. Their hope is that their own voter base will ignore the subliminal messaging and continue to cast their ballots on Election Day.

It is a sad day in our country when those with a strong public voice (political leaders, public figures, anonymous editorial writers, etc) use their positions to undermine democracy and further erode public participation, when instead they have a duty to promote a sense of  civic duty in our nation.

What’s the bet that come the next election, John Key, Michelle Boag, and the anonymous Dominion Post editorialist will all be voting?

Of course they will. They understand the power of the ballot.

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When you stop voting

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2013.

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References

TVNZ:   Gilmore refuses to resign amid fresh allegations (9 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Gilmore should accept it’s time to go  (11 May 2013)

National Business Review: Boag: how best to deal with Gilmore

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