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Trump – the cultivation of demagoguery

26 July 2016 3 comments

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2016-us-elections-broken-parallel-universe

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In a brilliant  essay, published on ‘Buzzfeed‘, McKay Coppins offers his insights into what motivates a man like Donald Trump to ascend the greasy pole of politics to take on the Republican candidacy in  the up-coming U.S. Presidential elections.

It is the sort of insightful analysis that allows one to have a glimmer of understanding what motivates a man to enter into what is most likely the most vicious politics on this planet. Also probably the most expensive.

But whilst Coppins paints a reasonable picture of Donald Trump the person, he glosses over what has made him so popular with up to 45% of American voters, according to a recent NBC poll.

Trump has stunned people by defying not just the odds, but the powerful, entrenched Republican establishment. He fought off sixteen other candidates – including seasoned politicians.

He has used the mainstream media and gained free publicity not accorded to any other candidate. According to either the New York Times or MarketWatch, that free publicity is valued at anywhere between US$2 billion to US$3 billion.

His most effective  strategy has been to make outrageous statements;

  • Trump says he will build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States
  • Trump called Mexican immigrants drug dealers, rapists, and criminals-in-general
  • Trump wants all illegal Mexicans deported from the United States
  • Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States
  • Trump has called on the registration of all muslims in the United States
  • Trump stated that the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre should have been armed; If the people so violently shot down in Paris had guns, at least they would have had a fighting chance.”
  • Trump is very gung-ho on gun-rights for Americans
  • And Trump expresses demeaning views of women, with Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly as examples

These vocalised opinions, and others fit perfectly with the typical American right-winger/conservative. They are views more often than not expressed by supporters of the US Republican Party.

Republican political figures – especially those on the far-right – have often endorsed right-wing sentiments that appeal to their right-wing/conservative constituents. Sentiments that are usually reactionary when it comes to misogyny; homophobia; hostility toward ethnic groups; xenophobia; religious bigotry; pro-gun; etc.

This is the very essence of the right-wing constituency of the Republican Party.

This is what Donald Trump has tapped into. It is red-neck territory that other Republican Presidential contenders have never dared venture into.

In September 2012,  Republican candidate Mitt Romney was caught off-guard with a secret video-tape of comments he made at a closed door fund-raising event;

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.

All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.

These are people who pay no income tax.”

The comments were the sort of conservative bigotry parroted by the uninformed; the resentful; the judgemental – in short right-wingers who believe the nonsense that Romney was spouting.

But by October, Romney had apologised for those comments on the Fox Channel’s Hannity programme,

“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case I said something that was just completely wrong.”

Trump does not apologise. He ratchets up his outlandish invective because a sizeable chunk of the American public thinks and often expresses similar reactionary views.

Which makes it deeply ironic that the Republican Party hierarchy so despises Trump, and has tried every ‘trick in the book’ to undermine his chances to become the Republican candidate. Ironic, because Trump not only verbalises what many in the Republican Party think – but is also willing (according to his rhetoric) to act on it.

After decades of right-wing, reactionary sentiments endorsed and exploited by the Republican Party, they now have a candidate who publicly expresses those views.

That is the “secret” of the rise and rise of Donald Trump. There was fertile ground, carefully prepared after decades of conservative, reactionary intolerance. Decade after decade of bigoted, moralistic views.

Donald Trump simply planted himself in that fertile ground. And grew and grew and grew.

The real surprise is that the Republican hierarchy are themselves surprised. Did they never foresee that one day a shrewd, manipulative operator would make full use of the fertile soil of conservatism that had been so carefully laid over the years?

Donald Trump is not some alien outsider to the Republican Party – he embodies the naked spirit of the Republican Party, with all the P.R. spin stripped away. Donald Trump is the Republican Party.

The Republican hierarchy are powerless to stop their own political scion –  a product of their own right-wing bigotry. He is their “Frankenstein’s monster”; a creature of their conservative values.

And the creature is loose.

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References

Buzzfeed: How the Haters made Trump

NBC:  Poll – Clinton and Trump Now Tied as GOP Convention Kicks Off

New York Times: Who Is Running for President?

New York Times: $2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump

Marketwatch: Trump has gotten nearly $3 billion in ‘free’ advertising

Online  Daily Mail: Donald Trump ridiculed for blaming Charlie Hebdo massacre on France’s strict gun laws

The Guardian: Mitt Romney under fire after comments caught on video

International Business Times: Romney Apologizes For ’47 Percent’ Comment – ‘I Care About The 100 Percent’

Previous related blogposts

When Fact Follows Fiction – The Weird World of U.S. Politics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – more silliness from former Nat President, Michelle Boag

20 July 2016 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 17, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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On 17 July, on TVNZ’s Q+A, former National Party president. Michelle Boag, parroted the now oft-repeated cliche that “government don’t build houses”. This was in response to our worsening housing crisis.

Former Labour Party President, Mike Williams, duly corrected Boag by reminding her that successive Labour governments have built over 68,000 state houses to provide homes for the poorest and most vulnerable families. These homes give a roof over family’s heads and stability for children so that they may attend school on a regular basis.

Even our current esteemed Prime Minister once lived in a state house.

It seems to be a misguided notion by many on the Right of politics that governments “cannot do things”.

The power stations, transmission grid, roads, railways, schools, hospitals, airports, telecommunications system, state housing, and many other aspects to our modern lives are based on what successive governments and previous generations have built.

The $1.5 billion fibre-optic cable up-grade throughout the country is the latest investment by the State, for the benefit of all.

I suggest a refresher course in New Zealand history for Boag and her right-wing colleagues might be in order.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

TVNZ Q+A: Housing Affordability -Panel

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housing - labour - national - michael savage

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Matthew Hooton on “secret” UMR poll?

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Red Green Up

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On Monday 11 July, right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton was making his regular appearance on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon Political Panel programme. The host was Kathryn Ryan, the commentator from the Left was Stephen Mills.

During the debate on Labour’s recently-released housing policy, Matthew Hooton made this startling revelation;

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Matthew Hooton, right-wing commentator and Director of 'Exceltium' PR company

Matthew Hooton, right-wing commentator, columnist, and Director of ‘Exceltium’ PR company

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@ 10.25

Matthew Hooton: “And Labour’s at twenty eight percent… And, and, look here’s the thing, Labour, in the latest UMR poll for June, done by Steven’s polling company, Labour was at twenty eight percent, Greens at sixteen. So we are, so they will need to increase because currently they’re polling worse than Jeremy Corbyn.”

Kathryn Ryan: “And where is National at, in that poll?”

Matthew Hooton: “Forty two.”

Using a search engine I could find no reference to any poll carried out in June having been released.

Through Twitter, I asked if Matthew could clarify his comment regarding such a UMR poll. He promptly replied, confirming his statements on Radio NZ;

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matthew hooton - umr poll - twitter - radio nz - nine to noon

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When I asked for a source, Matthew replied;

“No. It’s secret.”

I have no way of confirming the validity of Matthew’s assertion of the existence of a secret poll by UMR. He could be mischief-making, for which he occasionally has some inclination.

Yet…

The alleged UMR polling bears striking similarity to a recent Roy Morgan poll released on 20 June;

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roy morgan poll - new zealand - june 2016

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In the Roy Morgan poll above, 5.5% were Undecideds.

According to Hooton’s “secret poll”, a combined Labour-Green rating of 44%  has over-taken National on 42%.

If the so-called “secret poll” is legitimate, then that explains the recent flurry of panicked activity from National to counter Labour’s recently released housing policy.

The next few polls will be  Crunch Time for National and if they bear out Roy Morgan and the “secret UMR Poll” – then we are indeed witnessing the decaying administration of John Key’s third term government.

The rich irony of such a crisis for an incumbent government is that attempting to avert the down-ward spiral becomes a hopeless exercise. The more policies they “throw” at a problem, the greater the public’s perception that they are panicking.

“Policy-making on the hoof” reached new levels of comic-absurdity when the “Fixit Minister”, Steven Joyce, announced by Twitter that Housing NZ would forego dividend-payments to the National government for the next two years;

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steven joyce - dickhead - twitter - housing nz - dividends

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Shipley’s short-lived administration and Helen Clark’s final three years were marked by similar acts of desperate ad hocery. (But without “Tweeting” sudden  policy lurches.)

Our esteemed Dear Leader may be about to discover the same fate.

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Addendum

Roy Morgan polls are considered more accurate because they call respondents using both landlines and mobile telephones. (See: Census, Surveys, and Cellphones)

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References

Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills

Twitter: Mathew Hooton

Roy Morgan Poll: National and Labour down in June but New Zealand First still holds the balance of power if Election was held now

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Other bloggers

Chris Trotter: Tricky Customer – Why Is Matthew Hooton Accusing John Key’s Government Of Lurching To The Left?

Chris Trotter: The Terrifying Radicalism of Matthew Hooton

Previous related blogposts

Mr Morgan phoned (2013)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (2013)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua) (2013)

Latest Roy Morgan poll – wholly predictable results and no reason to panic (2015)

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 July 2016.

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Rebuilding the Country we grew up in – Little’s Big Task ahead

17 July 2016 1 comment

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1949-state-house-in-taita b

 

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2007: John Key says Housing is in crisis

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On 20 August 2007, National’s new leader, John Key, made a stirring speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he lambasted the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

(Hat-tip: Bert)

In 2007, Key described “home affordability and ownership” as a “crisis”.

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2016: John Key says Housing is a more like a “challenge”

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Almost exactly five years, one of my first blogposts involved the looming housing crisis. On 3 August, 2011, I wrote;

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way?

That was five years ago.

The housing crisis appears to have only recent dawned on National ministers. As Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett  said on 25 May this year;

“Certainly what we’ve seen is it has been more acute in the last two years.”

It is most certainly not a recent problem.  It is only “new” if you are a well-paid National minister, living in a tax-payer-funded residence.

In my blogpost five years ago, I offered a solution to the housing crisis confronting this country;

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. …]

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

[…]

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

National has been half-hearted in it’s will to address this crisis. It has implemented a few lukewarm, ad hoc measures, but they are five years too late and too little.

Some of National’s announcements have been panic-driven;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders - interest

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At other times, National has indulged in it’s favourite past-time of “blame-gaming”;

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housing crisis - national - blame game

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By 2016, under Key’s watch, homelessness has increased; housing affordability has worsened, and home ownership has plummeted. Our esteemed Dear Leader no longer calls it a “crisis“. It is now just a “challenge“;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly.”

“There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

Make no mistake, this is a direct consequence of National’s laissez-faire approach and an opportunistic reliance on mass immigration to keep the economy afloat at a time when dairying is no longer the main driver of economic growth.

By any definition, National’s “hands off” approach to housing – whether social housing for the poor or affordable housing for the Middle Classes – has been an abject failure.

The mood for change has never been as palpable since the dying days of the Shipley-led National government in 1999.

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The Labour Response

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On 10 July, Labour leader Andrew Little congratulated Labour on it’s 100th year birthday. He also put the boot firmly and fairly up National’s backside for it’s hopeless track record on housing.

If the supply of food were in short-supply and expensive as is housing for poor and middle-class New Zealanders, there would be rioting in the streets by now. By morning there would be a revolutionary government sitting in the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and Key and his ministerial cronies would be in hiding, exile, or under arrest.

Little began with a brief, but accurate refresher course in New Zealand history;

“We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.”

Little omitted Labour’s de-railing in the 1980s at the hands of a small cadre of Neo-liberal fifth columnists. They who delivered our country into the hands of  global finance. They who were the  authors of a failed economic experiment that caused generations of misery, and rewarded the top 10% with unearned wealth. They whose names will pass into history and be quietly forgotten.

This was a moment where Little – like his predecessor David Cunliffe –   turned his back on neo-liberalism and announced to the country that the experiment was over. Labour would take back the reigns of responsibility for ensuring housing for all;

“After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.”

A few salient statistics drove home the worsening crisis to anyone who needed convincing;

“Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%.

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

[…]

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.”

Little went on to explain how the housing crisis went in tandem with other worsening social indicators;

“And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don’t have space. And there’s not much light because it would waste the battery.”

These are matters raised that Labour’s opponants on the Right cannot easily dismiss or explain away. These are real events from real New Zealanders living under the currently all-too-real neo-liberal system.

Increasing child poverty; income/wealth disparity; and a worsening housing crisis – all of which are the spawn of thirty years of neo-liberalism.

Those who maintain that poverty has deepened because the “market” has not been sufficiently de-regulated, nor government reduced, nor taxes sufficiently cut, need to ask themselves; “At what point does an experiment that is showing no signs of positive improvement have to be concluded as an abject failure”?

As Little demanded from the party-faithful;

“When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?”

Little then laid out what he called Labour’s comprehensive plan to take to the  election next year. He said that a Labour government would;

 

  • …urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year. With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

 

  • …reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

 

  • …will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

 

  • …will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace. We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis. The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable. The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

 

  • …ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock..

 

  • …will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it. That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

 

  • …will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

 

Perhaps Labour’s most audacious plan is to set up a new “Affordable Housing Authority”.

If one reads his speech a certain way, he is planning on reviving a newer, 21st century version of the old Ministry of Works (which was privatised by National in late 1996.) If so, it could be the most direct  way to build houses for people in desperate need.

Considering that most of this country’s infra-structure was built by the old Ministry of Works (or similar state bodies), including the telecommunications systems being used to upload this blogpost onto this website, it would not be a far-stretch of the imagination that it could be done again.

If so, this wasn’t just a speech – it was a Manifesto for the Last Rites of Neo-liberalism.

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Property Investors throw their toys out of the cot

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The reactionary response from the NZ Property Investors Federation was utterly predictable. They were miffed. All of a sudden, their tax-free pot of gold was about to be denied to them

The Federation’s executive officer, Andrew King, bleated like a spoiled brat who had just been told to share his toys;

“In one part of his speech, he said there were homeless people and people living in overcrowded conditions and they wanted to do something about that.  How does making it harder to provide rental homes to these people achieve it? Unbelievable.”

It may have escaped King’s somewhat narrow-attention, but homelessness and over-crowding has worsened during the time that his members have enjoyed spectacular tax-free gains. What were they doing in the last eight years?

He also compared businesses, shares, and farms with housing;

“No other investment is like that. If you do the same with a farm, with shares, with a business, all of those wouldn’t be affected, just rental properties – it’s just wrong.”

Generally speaking, people do not live in “shares”,  “businesses”, or farm paddocks (yet). People live in houses. That is the critical difference.

On top of which, astronomical rents are directly contributing to homelessness and over-crowding;

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High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

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So to whine that, all of a sudden, Labour’s housing policies will “ make it harder to provide rental homes to these [homeless] people” is contemptible.

His members should be held to account for their part in our housing crisis. The sooner that a capital gains tax is introduced at the same rate as New Zealand’s company tax (28 cents in the dollar), the better.

Mr King’s absurd “pity me” comments have crossed the borderline into territory commonly known as;

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hypocrisy definition

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National discovers Problem & Solution!

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Last year, as stories of homelessness; over-crowding; fewer available  Housing NZ homes; and worsening housing affordability began to make headlines around the country,  National was grabbing money from a government department tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people in our society;

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Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

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In all, National has raked in over half a billion dollars from Housing NZ;

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

See more here: National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Labour took dividends as well, around a third of National’s figure. The difference between the two is that Labour builds State housing, whilst National continually flogs them off.

This amounts to looting a critical government organisation that is akin to thieving from a charity.

This year’s 2016 Budget indicated that Housing NZ would pay a  dividend  of $38 million  and $54 million next year, for 2017.

Twenty four hours after Andrew Little gave his speech to the country, Housing NZ suddenly announced no dividends would be paid for the next two years;

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RNZ - Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

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Labour’s Grant Robertson offered his rationale for National’s policy U-Turn;

“The first we hear from National that they suddenly believe Housing New Zealand needs to retain that money to invest in state houses is the morning after an announcement by the Labour Party that Housing New Zealand will never be required [by Labour] to provide a dividend to the government.

This is not a coincidence, this is a panicked, desperate response from the government.

What we know is that National has extracted dividends from Housing New Zealand over recent years and it’s quite clear that National has seen Housing New Zealand as a cash cow in the past.”

Bill English refuted allegations that National was panicking over Labour’s housing announcement only 24 hours previously;

“It’s nothing to do with Labour and the Greens. This is a $20 billion entity – you don’t come up with capital plans for the next five years because Labour puts out a press release.”

He also denied that National was  looting Housing NZ;

“We don’t accept that taking the dividend is stealing from state housing, because the dividend is not the constraint on what gets built…

…If there was less dividend, we’d just put in more capital – it’s not driven by the availability of the cash.”

National takes money in the form of dividends and taxes  from Housing NZ – whilst non-government charities are tax-free? And he earnestly claims it is not “stealing”?!

English then issued the most ridiculous explanation ever heard, that the figures in this year’s May 26 Budget “appear to be based on older HNZ numbers dating from almost a year ago“.

Yeah, right, Bill.

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flying-pig-clipart-1

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Is the Finance Minister really expecting New Zealanders to believe that the government’s May 2016 budget was full of inaccurate figures?

What is really galling is that Bill English, Steven Joyce, and other National Ministers expect us – the public – to believe this rubbish. It is revealing just how stupid they think we are.

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Who is in charge anyway?!

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Whenever National implements unpopular legislative changes, they often point to Labour having carried out similar policies.

In 2014, National “borrowed” Labour’s policy by implementing free health-care for children under 13.

Last year, National raised benefits by $25 (to take effect this year) for people on welfare.

This year, having their ‘hand forced’ by Labour’s housing policy, the Nats have cancelled dividends from Housing NZ for the next two years.

National seems to be highly influence by Labour.

Which  raises the question; who is actually setting policy and governing the country? Because it appears we almost have a de facto Labour Government pulling the strings.

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A Cautionary Note for Labour

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 July, Corin Dann quizzed Andrew Little on Labour’s policy toward Housing NZ tenants. Corin  Dann specifically asked Little about whether or not tenants should have state houses for life;

Corin Dann: You talk about state houses – an extra thousand state houses. Does Labour believe that someone should have a state house for life?

Andrew Little: I think we think when people are in circumstances where they can’t afford to buy their own home, can’t afford to rent, they’ve got to have a home. They’ve got to have a home, get their life on track, underway.

Corin Dann: Do they have it for life?

Andrew Little: If they’re at a point in their life where their circumstances have changed, and actually, they can afford to buy, my view is I would rather work with them to get them to buy that house so we could then release some funds to build the next state house.

Corin Dann: So you keen National’s policy? They don’t keep them for life?

Andrew Little: Well, I don’t agree with the policy that says we’ll target elderly people on fixed incomes in a state house and see if we can toss them out. That’s not a solution to anything. But what I would say is people who have gone into a state house early, got their lives sorted out,…

Corin Dann: They should move on if they can.

Andrew Little: …the circumstances are right, if we can sell that house to them, why wouldn’t we? And use the funds then to build the next state house for the next vulnerable person.

Selling State houses to tenants is text-book privatisation policy for National, and was a prime plank for the Bolger and  Shipley-led governments in the  1990s.

It is a dangerous road for a Labour government to go down.

Selling a state house to a tenant may seem a kindly gesture from a  benevolent left-wing government.

But eventually a National-led government will be elected back into power. Their track record on selling State houses is evident and they would have no hesitation in taking a Labour policy of selling State housing to tenants and expanding on it.

This is thin-edge-of-the-wedge, slippery-slope stuff.

This is mis-guided to the extreme, and will provide a future right-wing government a ready-made policy to act upon. And not in a nice way.

If Labour is serious in returning to it’s social democratic roots, it would do well to think carefully before embarking on such a naive policy.

Instead, it should consider the following;

[1] Transience

Transience is one of the greatest problems affecting low-income, poverty-stricken families. Moving from one house to another is debilitating to such families – especially for children.

A government report states that transience for children can have extreme, negative impact on  their learning;

Nearly 3,700 students were recognised as transient during the 2014 year. Māori students were more likely to be transient than students in other ethnic groups.

[…]

Students need stability in their schooling in order to experience continuity, belonging and support so that they stay interested and engaged in learning.

All schools face the constant challenge of ensuring that students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate at school. When students arrive at a school part-way through a term or school year, having been at another school with different routines, this challenge may become greater.

Students have better outcomes if they do not move school regularly. There is good evidence that student transience has a negative impact on student outcomes, both in New Zealand and overseas. Research suggests that students who move home or school frequently are more likely to underachieve in formal education when compared with students that have a more stable school life. A recent study found that school movement had an even stronger effect on educational success than residential movement.

There is also evidence that transience can have negative effects on student behaviour, and on short term social and health experience

Encouraging families to stay long-term in State housing not only creates a sense of community amongst tenants; stability for fragile, vulnerable families,  but assists in the long-term stability and education of children.

Not only is a state house “for-life” fair, it provides real, tangible, long-term benefits.

[2] Guaranteed Tenancy

Low-income, vulnerable families in State housing must be given guaranteed, protected security-of-tenure.

Currently, tenants are exposed to the winds-of-change whenever there is a change in government. Their tenure is at the pleasure of right-wing governments, and mass-evictions have been commonplace under John Key’s administration;

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state housing insecurity

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A progressive government must do all within it’s power to protect such vulnerable families. Otherwise what is the point of throwing out right-wing regimes when their ideologically-driven policies no longer palatable, and well past their Use-By date?

Tenancies must be secured. Either by the use of long-term contracts, enforceable in Courts of law, or by some other means such as entrenched legislation.

Labour-led governments come and go.

But tenancies for our most vulnerable must be protected from the whims of others.

[3] State Housing Protected

As well as protection for tenants of state housing, state houses themselves must be entrenched and protected from the rapaciousness of right-wing governments.

In modern, First World societies, the power of contract is supposedly sacrosanct.

It should not be beyond a progressive government to use some means of contract-law to safe-guard state housing. Once this is accomplished, it should make it near-impossible for a right-wing regime to wreak havoc with the lives of the poor.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we can make the concept of contract-law work in the favour of those who have least wealth to lose.

There is much more work to be done.

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References

Scoop media: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

theyworkforyou.co.nz: State Houses—Sale and Disposal

NZ History: Construction and sale of state houses, 1938-2002

Housing NZ Corporation: Rent, Buy or Own – overview (archived page)

Beehive: State houses available to buy from today

TV1 News: First home buyers set to be disappointed with Budget

Department of Building & Housing: Estimated building costs (archived page)

Dominion Post: Inequality report ignores tax cuts for rich – Goff

NZIER: Home

TVNZ News: NZ economic outlook grim until 2013 – NZIER (archived page)

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

NZ Herald: Auckland has the fifth least-affordable houses in the world

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

TV3 News: Key – No housing crisis, foreign buyers’ influence ‘minor’

Labour Party: Andrew Little’s Centenary policy speech

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Fairfax media: Labour’s plan to tax property investors slammed as ‘attack’ on rental property providers

Radio NZ: High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets – Sallies

IRD: Company Tax Rate

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

Fairfax media: Bill English denies U-turn after Steven Joyce reveals Housing NZ won’t pay dividend

National Business Review:  Govt blames outdated Budget figures for Housing NZ dividend U-turn

Metro mag: Opinion – Is John Key the finest actor of his generation?

NZDoctor.co.nz: Free care for the under-13s features in growth Budget

Radio NZ: Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (video)

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (transcript)

Te Ara NZ Encyclopedia: Housing and government – Total Housing Stock

Education Counts: Transient students

Dominion Post: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

Fairfax media: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

NZ Herald: Elderly, disabled included in state house review

NZ Herald: State tenants to make way for workers

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

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wheel estate

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2016.

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National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

15 July 2016 4 comments

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reserve bank vs government

 

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Open warfare has broken out between the National regime and  the Reserve Bank. Recent media statements indicate that we are seeing an increasingly bitter  war-of-words; a battle of wills, taking place over the growing housing crisis.

National is demanding that the Reserve Bank implement policies to “get on with it” to rein-in ballooning Auckland housing prices. The Reserve Bank is resisting, in an almost Churchillian-way.

In April this year, Key denied flatly that there was any “housing crisis” in this country;

“No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.”

But a year ago, on 15 April 2015, Reserve Bank deputy governor Grant Spencer warned that investors/speculators were becoming a major problem in the housing market;

“Investors are often setting the marginal market prices that are then applied to the full housing stock within a regional market.”

Spencer went on to issue what must be the most prescient statement ever uttered by a senior civil servant;

“Indicators point to an increasing presence of investors in the Auckland market and this trend is no doubt being reinforced by the expectation of high rates of return based on untaxed capital gains.”

Predictably, Key rejected taxing capital gains as an instrument to control rampant speculation;

“I remember when everyone said to [introduce] the equivalent of a [capital gains] bright line test, it will solve the issues. Well, it really didn’t.”

Key also rejected calls by the Reserve Bank to curb high levels of  immigration which was exacerbating demand for housing. Key was blunt;

“We’re going to stick with the plan we’ve got.”

Of course Key is not prepared to reduce immigration . It is one of the few drivers for current economic growth that is stimulating the economy. Curb migration and the economy stalls. Stall the economy and National would have nothing to take to the election next year.

As National’s own minister, Jonathan Coleman stated in 2011;

“It’s important to highlight the economic value of Immigration here…

[…]

…New migrants add an estimated $1.9 billion to the New Zealand economy every year.

Immigration recognises the strategic importance of the tourism and export education sectors and the direct links they provide to employers.

Given these compelling figures, my number one priority has been to ensure Immigration is contributing to the Government’s economic growth agenda.”

Coleman’s 6 May 2011 press release was entitled, “Immigration New Zealand’s contribution to growing the economy”.

Key deflected criticism and instead blamed the Auckland Council. In a blustering attack reminiscent of the late Robert Muldoon, Key threatened the Auckland Council with over-riding it’s Unitary Plan;

“The effect of the [government] National Policy Statement would vary around the country, but in essence it linked the price of land to demand in the economy. If the land price is going up too quickly (councils) have to amend their plans to release enough land, and if they don’t do that they’ll breach the law. If the Unitary Plan doesn’t meet the demands of Auckland, the National Policy Statement because of the way it works will drive it, mark my words.”

His solution? Build more;

“Look, in the end, we’ve been saying for some time it is not sustainable for house prices to rise at 10, 12, 13 percent a year. The only answer to that is do what we’re doing: allocate more land and build more houses.  It certainly will stop it, there’s no question about that, because if you build enough supply, you eventually satisfy demand.

The mantra to ‘build more, build more‘ overlooks recent statistics which showed that nearly fifty percent of housing in Auckland was being purchased by  investors/speculators;

The Reserve Bank has for the first time unveiled official figures that break out the Auckland market from the rest of the country’s mortgage lending figures. The figures confirm what some previous research and anecdotal evidence has pointed to. Investors are huge in the Auckland market.

The figures show that in April, investors committed to $1.623 billion of the $3.536 billion worth of mortgages advanced in Auckland. That’s just a tick under 46% of the total.

Labour’s Phil Twyford said that in some areas of Auckland, up to 75% of housing was being grabbed by investors/speculators. Twyford said;

“They should start immediately by banning non-resident foreign buys from speculating in New Zealand property, unless they build a new dwelling. That’s the Australian Government policy and we think it makes a lot of sense.”

So unless National is prepared to ban foreigner and local  investors/speculators from purchasing around half of all new housing in Auckland, building new homes will not address the growing crisis.

On the issue of foreign-ownership of residential property, Key was adamant that his open-door, free-market policy of foreign ownership of housing  would be unchanged. Even if it meant New Zealander’s would find  it harder and harder to buy their own home, in their own country. As he said to Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A last year;

“But the point here is simply this – I don’t want to ban foreigners from buying residential property.”

But Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, was having none of  Key’s bullying tactics. She responded with her own tough message;

“We’ve got six and half years of land planned for, infrastructure in the ground and ready to go. Government themselves have got more than 20 special housing areas that belong to Housing New Zealand that are ready to go.  There’s no shortage of places to build. Our question to government would be, perhaps you just need to get on with it.”

The reality is that National is unwilling to implement any policy that might lower property prices. As Key has said previously;

“If it is left unchecked, some buyers could find themselves substantially overexposed in an overvalued market, and we all know what happens if those values start to fall.” –  John Key, 23 July 2013

“Let’s just take the counter-factual for a moment. Would you want your house price going down?  And what most Aucklanders say to me is ‘I’d rather my house price went up, but I’d rather it went up a little more slowly than this’.” – John Key, 6 August 2015

So Key is in a bind. His government’s  continuing popularity is at the pleasure of property-owners with bloated housing values.

Build too many houses or implement too many restrictions (including new taxes), and property values in Auckland and elsewhere in New Zealand might begin to fall, as they did in the late 1990s. That would be a financial shock for many New Zealanders who, through rising property values, are feeling like “millionaires”, albeit on paper.

If that happens, National’s popularity – riding high on 47% – would finally crash and burn, paving way for a Labour-Green(-NZ First?) coalition government next year.

However, National’s desperation to resolve what has become a major public crisis has apparently found a new scape-goat – the Reserve Bank.

National’s cunning plan is for the Reserve Bank to do their “dirty work” for them. If the RBNZ were to implement policies that would result in property values levelling off – or even dropping – then Key and English would have “plausible deniability”. They could point to the Reserve Bank as an independent body and wash their hands of its actions.

Recent demands from John Key for the RBNZ to “get on with it” are not the first time that National has interfered with  the independence of the bank.

In April last year, in a classic example of nepotistic cronyism, Bill English’s brother was appointed to the RBNZ as an “advisor”;

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Finance Minister Bill English's brother to advise Reserve Bank on interest rates

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A year later, in April this year, Bill English took an unprecedented step in demanding greater over-sight of Graeme Wheeler, the RBNZ’s Governor;

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Bill English seeks talks on Reserve Bank governor's performance 'from time to time'

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According to the Fairfax report, English said;

“The duties of the board include keeping under review the performance of the governor. I would expect to discuss your assessment of the governor’s performance from time to time.”

On National’s* own website, English went further;

“Ministers typically send letters of expectation to the Boards of entities in their portfolio. This letter was prepared after The Treasury identified an opportunity to bring the accountability framework into line with other Crown agencies.”

This is naked interference in an institution that, since 1989, was to be protected from partisan-political interference. The RBNZ supposedly acts according to legislation – not the demands of the Finance Minister. Not since the Muldoon era has the RBNZ been controlled directly by a government minister.

It can only be assumed that National is meeting stiff resistance from the bank’s Governor, Graeme Wheeler, as English attempts to assert direct ministerial “over-sight” (ie, control) over the institution.

The fact that a recent war-of-words has erupted over the RBNZ’s involvement in Auckland’s housing crisis suggests that English’s Very Kiwi Coup may not have been successful.

In fact, the Cold War has become a Hot Conflict.

In the last week, the ‘battleground’ between National and the Bank became more public, as government minister and chief Head-Kicker, Steven Joyce and Grant Spence continued their war-of wills.

6 July, 1.10 AM

John Key;

But my sense is potentially one of the risks is you have got people buying rental properties at the moment, borrowing more money but fearful that the Reserve Bank is going to move. If they are going to make changes, probably they should just get on with it.”

7 July

Grant Spencer (RBNZ);

“Increased housing demand has been driven by record net immigration, low mortgage interest rates and increasing investor participation. Net migration flows continue to hit new records, with annual net PLT migration now approaching 70,000 persons…

[…]

A dominant feature of the housing market resurgence has been an increase in investor activity. In recent months, investors have accounted for around 43 percent of sales in Auckland and 38 percent in other regions […] The prospect of capital gains appears to remain a key driver for investors in the face of declining rental yields. 

The declining affordability of New Zealand housing and increasing investor presence have seen a downward trend in the share of households owning their own home. This ratio has fallen steadily since the early 1990s, reaching 64.8 percent at the 2013 Census. The recent increase in investor housing activity suggests that the home-ownership rate may have declined further since 2013.

The Reserve Bank considers that rising investor participation tends to increase the financial stability risks relating to the household sector in severe downturn conditions.

[…]

…However, we cannot ignore that the 160,000 net inflow of permanent and long-term migrants over the last 3 years has generated an unprecedented increase in the population and a significant boost to housing demand. Given the strong influence of departing and returning New Zealanders in the total numbers, it will never be possible to fine-tune the overall level of migration or smooth out the migration cycle. However, there may be merit in reviewing whether migration policy is securing the number and composition of skills intended. While any adjustments would operate at the margin, they could over time help to moderate the housing market imbalance.”

8 July, 7.46am

Don Brash (Former Reserve Bank governor);

The Reserve bank has no statutory responsibility for Auckland house prices or indeed house prices anywhere else…

[…]

The Prime Minister wants to pretend this is somebody else’s responsibility.  I think the Reserve bank is absolutely right, that this responsibility for Auckland house prices lies first and foremost with local government Auckland and central government in Wellington.

Central government, because it controls the rate of migration, which is by any international standards a very high level, that pushes  demand for housing.  And of course the Auckland Council,  not just now, but for the last couple of decades has restrained the availability of land on which to build Auckland houses...”

8 July, 7.51am

Steven Joyce (Minister for Economic Development);

“Migration is a contributing factor to housing demand…

[…]

The prime minister’s comment was entirely fair, which is to to suggest to the Reserve Bank [that] if you’re going to these things then, then  do move on them quickly…

[…]

The Prime Minister’s comments on Tuesday were just to highlight the fact that actually if you’re going to make these sorts of changes, do make them reasonably  quickly…

8 July, 7.57am

Grant Spencer (RBNZ);

“What we’re saying is that the, what we’re seeing in the last three years is 160,000 net  in-flow is unprecedented and it’s an important driver of the current housing situation and therefore it  can’t be ignored….

[…]

“You can’t manage or fine tune the migration cycle, we know that, but all we’re saying is that given it’s an important driver that we should be taking a look at that policy – making sure that we’re getting the numbers and the skills that government’s really targeting.”

It’s an important driver in the housing market, yes. There’s no doubt about that. But we’re also saying there’s no easy solution. You can’t manage or fine tune the migration cycle, we know that, but all we’re saying is that given it’s an important driver that we should be taking a look at that policy – making sure that we’re getting the numbers and the skills that government’s really targeting.”

[…]

We’re running at a rate of 60,000 at present, but how many years can we continue running at a rate of 60,000 and continue to absorb that rate. It get’s more and more difficulty when the country doesn’t have that absorbtive capacity.”

Current battle-status: stalemate.

Controlling house prices, as former Reserve Bank governor, Don Brash said, is beyond the bank’s statutory responsibility. On top of which, the RBNZ is unwilling to be the “patsy” for implementing policies (even if it could) that might crash house prices, and make them the Bad Guys in this worsening crisis.

Only a government can act decisively in such matters – but to do so would be political suicide for Key and his fellow ministers.

Fran O’Sullivan is usually sympathetic to the National government, but her column on 6 July was damning of Key’s inaction;

Most National Cabinet ministers and MPs are well invested in “real property”. So are many of their counterparts from other political parties.

Like most of us who are “established” – that is those of us who bought into the housing market a decade or more ago – the MPs have seen their own on-paper wealth double.

Having rejoiced at the wealth effect, neither the MPs nor the rest of us want to take a financial haircut. Key is right on that score.

But it is a pretty crap society that pulls the ladder up on younger people or those less well off just because they want to preserve their new unearned wealth.

[…]

Key again duck-shoved the issue, suggesting it was the Reserve Bank’s responsibility to “have a look at the question around investors”.

What’s notable is his Government will not slap investors with an effective capital gains tax, preferring a “bright line” test which is easily avoided by holding a housing investment for more than two years; refuses to introduce specific taxes to punish land bankers; and will not introduce rules to preserve the acquisition of existing residential housing for citizens or curb migration.

Key could pass special legislation to do this.

The question is why won’t he.

“Why”? Because Key doesn’t want to lose the 2017 election.

This is National’s Achille’s Heel, and it is fully exposed.

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Addendum1

In May this year, a TV3/Reid Research Poll was scathing of National’s inaction on the housing crisis. Even National voters were getting ‘grumpy’;

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tv3-news-housing-poll

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Addendum2

Current ballooning property prices are the highest in the developed world;

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Real house price growth - annual % change

Ad

Addendem3

Latest house price figures:

• $975,087- Auckland: Average house price, up 4.7% in past three months and 16.1% since June last year

• $492,403- Hamilton: Average house price, up 6.9% in past three months and 29% since June last year

• $599,915- Tauranga: Average house price, up 4.9% in past three months and 23.6% since June last year

Latest Inflation Rate:

Inflation is currently at 0.4%, according to Statistics NZ.

Notes

* I have downloaded and retained a copy of the National Party webpage. In the past, National Party webpages tend to “disappear”, and are no longer searchable, making referencing and verification of quotes problematic. If this webpage disappears, English’s comments can still be verified to anyone requesting it. – Frank Macskasy

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References

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

Fairfax media: Reserve Bank call to look at untaxed property gains

NZ  Herald: John Key to Reserve Bank – Housing measures ‘not terribly effective’

Radio NZ: No change on immigration, says John Key

NZ Herald: Housing crisis – Reserve Bank calls on Government to curb immigration

Beehive.govt.nz: Immigration New Zealand’s contribution to growing the economy

Fairfax media: Key gets tough on Auckland with new policy forcing councils to release land

Interest.co.nz: Investors accounted for nearly 46% of all mortgage monies in Auckland

Radio NZ: Auckland’s home ownership rates ‘collapsing’ – Labour

Scoop media: PM – I don’t want to ban foreign buyers from buying

Radio NZ: Get on with it – Auckland Council tells govt

Fairfax media: Key expects LVRs to go ahead

Interest.co.nz: Key says non-Aucklanders tell him they would love it when house prices are rising

QV.co.nz: How fast is the current property market rising compared to the past? (2013)

TV3: Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

Fairfax media: Finance Minister Bill English’s brother to advise Reserve Bank on interest rates

Fairfax media: Bill English seeks talks on Reserve Bank governor’s performance ‘from time to time’

National.co.nz: English releases RB Board letter of expectations

NZ Herald: Auckland property: $400k deposit please

Reserve Bank: Housing risks require a broad policy response

Radio NZ: RBNZ wants immigration review to rein in house prices

Radio NZ: Government responds to RBNZ housing speech

Radio NZ: Reserve Bank – Housing risks require a broad policy response

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Why won’t Key act on housing?

Fairfax media: Why MPs may want house prices in New Zealand to keep rising

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

NZ Herald: Auckland property – $400k deposit please

Statistics NZ: Consumers Price Index: March 2016 quarter

Additional

Radio NZ: Reserve Bank refuses to play housing ball with government

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

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reserve bank - rbnz - national government - housing affordability

Cartoon acknowledgement: Tom Scott, Dominion Post

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 July 2016.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 18: “No question – NZ is better off!”

12 July 2016 3 comments

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we-will-give-you-honest-government-yeah-right

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1. Credit where it’s due!

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TV3’s  The Nation on 2 July was probably the most incisive investigative journalism this blogger has seen for a long time. The only “fault” is that The Nation is ‘buried’ at the ghetto time-slot of early Saturday (and repeated early Sunday morning). Mediaworks is wasting a tremendous opportunity to use their current affairs journalistic team as a critical lynch-pin of their broadcasting line-up.

(Especially after the fiasco surrounding the cancellation of Campbell Live. But let’s not go there and rain on The Nation’s well-deserved parade.

In this episode;

  • Patrick Gower interviewed John Key and elicited some eyebrow-raising responses from him
  • An investigation by Phil Vine and Heather du Plessis-Allan into the Saudi sheep deal yielded  disturbing revelations

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2. Evidently, we’re “better off”?

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Following on from Bill English’s tragi-comical  assertion in Parliament on 29 June that  “there is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is increasing“, our esteemed Dear Leader repeated the mantra three days later in response to a question from Gower;

Patrick Gower: “Good morning, Prime Minister, and thank you very much for joining us. Now, I want to take you back to your first big speech as leader of the National Party – that speech about McGehan Close. You talked in that speech about streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained and said we have to do better. Now, on McGehan Close, when you went there, people were living in homes. Now we are looking at people living in cars. Is that really better? Is that better?”

John Key: “I think there’s no question New Zealand’s better…”

As reported in a previous story (see: Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament) practically every metric used  presents an unflattering picture of New Zealand in the early 21st century.

From the Children’s Commissioner;

Child poverty is now significantly worse than the 1980s. In 1985 the percentage of children in families experiencing income poverty was 15%, compared to 29% now

Put another way;

305,000 New Zealand children now live in poverty – 45,000 more than a year ago”.

Statistics NZ’s reported;

Between 1988 and 2014, income inequality between households with high incomes and those with low incomes widened

And the OECD was also damning, stating;

  “rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off  [economic] growth in Mexico and New Zealand.” 

Perhaps the most credible indictment of Key’s misguided view that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is from Key himself, from 2011;

He said he had visited a number of budgeting services and food banks “and I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services. So that situation is there.”

The difficulty with Key’s statement that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is that no one believes it.

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3. Unemployment is down?

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When Gower pressed Key that things had not improved much since Key’s visit  to  Aroha Ireland in McGehan Close in 2007, Dear Leader responded;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

Well of course “unemployment in New Zealand is now falling“.  Unemployment has “dropped” from 5.7% to 5.2%.

But not because National’s policies have created twelve thousand new jobs.

But because Statistics NZ had conveniently revised its method of calculating the number of unemployed men and women by arbitrarily excluding those who were jobseeking using the internet;

Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible… Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The utter cheek of Statistics NZ to claim that   “therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate” by excluding on-line job-hunting is matched only by Dear Leader Key who wasted no time in taking credit for “unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically“.

We are being lied to – and it is officially sanctioned.

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4. Cosying up to Winston?

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Gower then touched upon Key’s attitude toward NZ First leader Winston Peters, and asked;

Patrick Gower: “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Winston Peters being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”

At this point, my mind immediately Quantum-Leaped back to 2008 and 2011 when Key categorically, absolutely, 100%, resolutely, ruled out any possibility of having Winston Peters in his government;

Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation [on the Owen Glenn donations scandal].” – John Key, 27 August 2008

“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead. Historically, he has always been sacked by prime ministers. It’s a very different style to mine and it’s rearward-looking. I’m about tomorrow. I’m not about yesterday. If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government. ” – John Key, 2 February 2011

Seems fairly straight forward; Key was holding up his own “No” card, a-la Winston;

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Key no

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Except, in the next breath, Key over-ruled himself and his previous pronouncements;

John Key: “Well, I’m not going to rule those sorts of things out.”

Perhaps Key mis-heard Patrick Gower’s question. Perhaps Key had mistakenly thought that Gower had asked him; “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Moonbeam being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”

So, being the fair-minded journo that Gower is, he repeated the question;

Patrick Gower:  “Yeah, but do you rule out Winston Peters as John Key’s deputy prime minister?”

John Key: “No, because in the end, in 2017, we’re going to have an election, and when we have that election, what we’ll have to do is I’ll ultimately put together a government. I can’t determine that. The people of New Zealand determine that. What I have a responsibility to do is to put together a government — if I’m in the position to lead the largest party and to lead those negotiations — then to try and make that work.  But I’m not going to say who’s a minister and who’s not or what role they have and what they don’t.”

So there you have it. John Key – a Man of his Word. And principled. And flexible. Flexible with his Principles.

Or else, the John Key of 2008 and 2011 is not the same man who calls himself “John Key” in 2016? An imposter?

The only reason that people like John Key can get away with back-peddling; mis-information; and bendy-truths is that the voting-public are more cynical than ever. (Hence the rise of anti-establishment figure, Donald Trump; the in-your-face “Brexit” vote, and the success of Independent candidates in the Australian elections.) Voters expect politicians to be dishonest, manipulative, and abandon all principles in pursuit of power.

In this respect, Key has not disappointed.

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5. Matthew Hooton

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Well known right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, has been scathing in his condemnation of Murray McCully’s “Saudi Sheep Deal”, and has  conducted his own investigations into the scandal. His findings have been published on the National Business Review’s website.

Whilst Matthew and I hold wildly differing political views, and whilst his involvement in ‘Dirty Politics’ is questionable, his insightful analysis and  commentary on McCully’s dealings with Hmood Al-Khalaf has to be respected.

Matthew was a valuable contributor in analysing the “Saudi Sheep Deal” on The Nation, proving a credible counter-foil to Michelle Boag’s slavish and occasionally near-hysterical defense of Murray McCully’s dubious actions.

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6. Auditor-General

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The panelists lamented the fact that the Auditor-General’s report into the Saudi Sheep Deal was “not imminent”. I do not share those feelings.

Next year will be Election Year, and the closer the report’s release is to Election Day, the better it will be for the Opposition. If the Auditor-General’s findings are as scathing as many believe it will be, McCully will be sacked from his Ministerial position. The inglorious demise of his career will add to public perception that National plays “loose” with laws if there is a “buck” to be made.

The release of the Auditor-General’s report next year would be a strategic coup for Labour, Greens, and NZ First.

 

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7. Final Word

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Final word from that outstanding episode of The Nation has to go to Victoria University political scientist, Dr Jon Johansson;

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jon johannson

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“ People are utterly fed up with their Establishment, their elites, never accepting accountability for anything.”

Nailed it, Doc.

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References

TV3: The Nation

TV3: The Nation – Interview with John Key

Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – June 29

NZ Children: Child Poverty Monitor – Technical Report

Radio NZ: A third of NZ children live in poverty

Statistics NZ: Income inequality

OECD: Trends in Income Inequality and its impact on economic growth

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald:  A day out with friends in high places

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Scoop media:  Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

NZ Herald: PM rules out any NZ First deal

Fairfax media: John Key’s Cat Moonbeam

NBR: Flying sheep endanger McCully

TV3:  Panel – Jon Johansson, Conor English & Mike Williams

Previous related blogposts

John Key: Man of Many Principles

An open letter to Winston Peters

John Key: When propaganda photo-ops go wrong

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

What will be her future?

I have seen one future, and it is bleak

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

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shock collar for key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 July 2016.

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= fs =

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

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ministry-of-truth-update

 

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Intro

A few days ago, this blogger reported how Statistic NZ had implemented a revision which would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted;

On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%.

Simply because if a person was job-searching using the internet they were “not actively seeking work“.

Which beggars belief as the majority of jobseekers will be using the internet. It is the 21st century – what else would they be using?

Update

Four days later, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, was interviewed on TV1’s Q+A by Corin Dann;

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key - corin dann - q+a

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Key told Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

Well, it would, wouldn’t it?

Of course unemployment would fall “pretty dramatically” if  government statisticians are cooking the numbers.

It did not take Key very long to use the “revised stats” to his advantage.

Expect more BS from National ministers congratulating themselves about how well their “job creation” policies are working.

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1984-movie-ration

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Scoop media: On The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews John Key

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

 

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You know I can't do your ghost jobs John

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 July 2016.

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= fs =

 

 

 

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

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idiot bill english

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I won’t be wanting to see any hint of arrogance creeping in… One of the big messages I’ll be wanting to give incoming ministers and the caucus is that it is incredibly important that National stays connected with our supporters and connected with the New Zealand public.John Key, 22 September 2014

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It appears that Finance Minister, Bill English did not get the memo from Dear Leader Key’s office:  “Dont get arrogant!”

On 29 June, near two years after Key’s warning, Bill English’s cockiness has landed him in deep, fetid water when he responded to a question from Labour’s Grant Robertson in Parliament;

Grant Robertson: “Does he agree with the statement of Pope Francis I that “Inequality is the root of social evil”,  given that inequality has risen in New Zealand on his watch, and is it not time he got back to confession?”

Hon Bill English: “ There is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is increasing.

A day later, interviewed by an exasperated Guyon Espiner, English again denied that inequality was increasing in this country. English’s tortuous mental and verbal gymnastics to deny rising inequality was utterly unconvincing and judging by the tone of his own voice, he wasn’t convincing himself either;

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Porirua family can only afford biscuits - bill english - radio nz - inequality - poverty

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English’s assertion that inequality in New Zealand is not rising beggars belief, when nearly every metric used has come precisely to that conclusion.

From the Salvation Army, last year;

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income inequality - salvation army - child poverty

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The Children’s Commissioner reported on increasing child-poverty, rising by  45,000 over a year ago to now 305,000  children now live in poverty;

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A third of NZ children live in poverty - childrens commissioner

 

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Statistics NZ’s report on the problem was unequivocal – “Between 1988 and 2014, income inequality between households with high incomes and those with low incomes widened“;

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income inequality - statistics nz - poverty

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1988 – When Rogernomics began in earnest. What a surprise.

Interestingly,  income inequality fell slightly in 2004, when Working for Families was introduced by the Clark-led Labour Government. Working For Families was the same policy derided by then-Opposition Finance spokesperson, John Key, as “communism by stealth“.

From the last bastion of “radical marxism”, the OECD, came this damning report on rising inequality in New Zealand impacting on our economic growth;

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income inequality - oecd nz - poverty

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The Report stated that “rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off [economic] growth in Mexico and New Zealand“.

And even our Dear Leader once admitted that New Zealand’s “underclasses” was growing;

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key admits underclass still growing - poverty - foodbanks - homelessness

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So, is everybody – including Bill English’s boss – wrong?!

Is Bill English the sole voice-in-the-wilderness trying to spread The Truth, whilst everybody else – including faraway OECD – is wrong?!

Or has he run foul of Dear Leader’s prescient warnings not to become arrogant?

Enjoining the poor to ignore hunger and simply “Let them eat cake” did not work out well for a certain person 223 years ago. Bill English may not lose his head over his obstinate refusal to see the world around him – but he may lose the election next year.

So for Bill English, on behalf of those who are low-paid; homeless; unable to afford to buy a home; unemployed; poor; and will be spending tonight in a car or an alleyway, I nominate Bill English for a Foot In The Mouth Award;

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Foot In Mouth Award

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References

NZ Herald: Election 2014 – Triumphant PM’s strict line with MPs – Don’t get arrogant

Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – June 29

Radio NZ: Porirua family can only afford biscuits (audio)

Fairfax Media: Child poverty progress ‘fails’, Salvation Army says

Radio NZ: A third of NZ children live in poverty

Statistics NZ: Income inequality

MSD: Future Directions – Working for Families

NZ Herald: National accuses Government of communism by stealth

OECD: Trends in Income Inequality and its impact on economic growth

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Newstalk ZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

Additional

Office of the Children’s Commissioner:

Previous related blogposts

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

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national's free market solution to housing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Key discovers how to reduce unemployment in NZ

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 3, 2016
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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On 29 June 2016, Statistics NZ announced that it would be changing the definition of what constituted an unemployment person being called a jobseeker;

“Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. “

So an unemployed person, using the internet to look for work, is no longer considered a jobseeker?

Stats NZ then promptly “reviewed” the current employment rate of 5.7%, revising it down to 5.2%.

Four days later, on TV3’s “The Nation”, our esteemed Prime Minister patted himself on the back for “falling unemployment” saying;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically. “

Well, of course it’s “fallen”! Statistics NZ has ‘cooked’ the numbers! By arbitrarily deciding that any unemployed person using the internet to look for work is no longer considered officially a “jobseeker” – unemployment has “miraculously” dropped!

Now we now how Key’s government plans to reduce unemployment, and it’s not by job-creation.

Lies, damned lies, and statics indeed!

George Orwell would be mightily impressed!

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Scoop media: On The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews John Key

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

 

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= fs =

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

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ministry-of-truth-update

 

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In the last few years,  my writing has involved a wide range of topics affecting the social/economic/political aspects of our nation. The one common factor in my writing has been the ability to  research facts and figures and put them into some usable context, either for evidential, or high-lighting purposes.

Offering an opinion that the government is hollowing-out Child,Youth, and Family is one thing. Carrying out research; finding information through the ‘net; asking specific questions using the Official Information Act are the means by which hard facts can be mined; refined; and presented to the reader in a form that presents a credible case to the audience. Stories such as  “State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?” and “Ongoing jobless tally” are put together using information, quotes, financial and statistical data.

Two stories late last year illustrated how National – with silence or active co-operation by compliant state-sector bosses – has been able to manipulate statistics to present a favourable public perception of it’s management of the country.

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Media stories of the Week - Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

 

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Though occassionally, the truth slips out, as Greg O’Connor revealed on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 October, last year;

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Weekend Revelations 3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

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Fudging statistics, numbers, facts, and dollar-figures is not isolated when it comes to this government. Only a few days ago, English was sprung giving false financial information relating to Sue Moroney’s paid-parental leave bill;

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English admits maths error in bill veto defence

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The Radio NZ report went on to state;

Ms Moroney challenged him about the figures in Parliament.

“Does he stand by his statement to Radio New Zealand on 17 June 2016 that extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks would add when it’s fully in place about $280 million a year.”

Mr English admitted he was incorrect and should have used the figures written in the veto certificate he himself had tabled.

“The government currently spends about $280m a year on paid parental leave, Labour’s proposal once fully implemented would cost around $120m per year on top of that – or $100m per year net of tax. Net of tax the proposal would cost $280m over the next four years.”

Ms Moroney then asked how Mr English got it so wrong.

He replied that he did so because he confused the $280m over four years, with $280m a year.

This is our Finance Minister confusing $280 million per year with over a four-year period. No wonder we’re over $60 billion in debt.

National has been crowing for the last few years that “crime has been falling“;

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Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

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Even the Police Commissioner got in on the ‘act’;

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Crime rate falls to 29-year low

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A huge amount of hard work from our Police has gone into achieving these fantastic results,” said Tolley in 2013. “Fantastic” is right – as in fantasy-fantastic.

Because it did not take long before people started realising that the Police stats were dodgy, and most likely bogus.

This was confirmed by  outgoing Police Association President, Greg O’Conner, on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October, in a very candid  interview with Michael Parkin.

On statistics,  Parkin referred  to  National and Police  trumpeting a 30% drop in crime. O’Conner responded wryly;

@3.10

“Well, it’s uh, lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you look at the crime stats, um, which is those recorded stats, you’ll say the government and police administration are right. If you look at the stats around calls for service, they’re the phone calls that police receive in communications centes, etc, and just an example, family violence, domestic disputes; up by 10% a year pretty much, and across the board, 20% increase. So it’s the calls for service, to the extent that the communications centres couldn’t manage last summer. There’s a fear, and we’re obviously we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. So the two are going in completely different directions.”

Parkin pointedly asked if the statistics are being manipulated. O’Conner’s response  was startling in it’s honesty;

@3.55

“Of course they are. Every government department – I mean, what happens is that, the stats themselves are fair, but I mean I see it as a debate [like] about health, y’know, medical – the waitings lists have going down, but people get kicked of waiting lists and so it’s, you achieve – Put it this way, with crime stats, what we’ve set out to do is the way to cut crime stats is to hit your bulk crime. So if you have any success there, of course, that’s going to be big numbers down. And what you ignore is your small  numbers. You ignore, in fact, interestingly enough you ignore drugs. You ignore a lot of your serious stuff that you only find if you go looking. And in the past that’s got us into real trouble. Got us into trouble with the child abuse files, in particular, and you remember, that they were put aside. Because they weren’t politically known. They were business as usual. All of a sudden we were concentrating on the crime and crash reduction, um, and we ignored that stuff. And so you’ve got to be careful. And this is where the politicisation of policing is really dangerous. It’s not done by the Minister saying ‘you gotta do this and you gotta do that’, it’s done by funding.”

O’Conner’s scorn is confirmed by an event last year where one police district was caught out, red-handed, falsifying crime statistics. Seven hundred burglary offences “disappeared”;

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Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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Herald journalist, Eugene Bingham, reported;

“ It transpired others knew about the allegations around the same time, including the local MP and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.”

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Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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A police report “raised questions over pressures to meet crime reduction targets”, but Police were quick to assure that the fudged stats were “isolated“;

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Police deny being caught out by false review claims - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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“Isolated”? As far back as 2012, Police were issuing warnings for petty-crime, instead of prosecuting;

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Warnings to petty crims 'freeing up police time'

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Then-Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said;

“ These are 19,000 people who would otherwise go to court, who would clutter up the system in terms of court time, let alone police officers preparing prosecution files and spending time in court.”

So the policy of issuing warnings “freed up police time” and “un-clogged the Court system”?

It also created a drop in crime statistics.

How convenient.

The above Herald story, “Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’ ” appeared in the Herald in January 2012. So by April 2013, Police Minister Anne Tolley was able to say with (almost) a straight face;

“ These statistics show that our Police are getting it right, and I want to congratulate the Commissioner and all Police staff for their efforts in preventing crime and making communities safer.”

It’s easy to reduce crime. Just “massage” the stats  away.

“Massaging” statistics does not work for long, as current Police Commissioner Bush recently discovered;

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Police concerned at national crime spike

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(Listen also to Radio NZ Checkpoint interview (2′ 39″))

Both Police Minister Judith Collins and Commissioner Bush resorted to old-fashioned “spin” (aka “bullshitry”) to explain away this embarrassing development;

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told MPs at today’s Law and Order Select Committee the jump in crime had to be kept in perspective.

“Burglary rates are some of the lowest rates in over a decade, in recent times there has been an increase – now that concerns me,” the commissioner said.

Police Minister Judith Collins tried to put a positive spin on the jump in crime when speaking to reporters later.

“Well there may have been a slight bump in crime and I think the commissioner said that was most likely so, but I think what we’re seeing is if police go after drug offenders, that’s always going to be counting as offences,” she said.

On this basis, if  Police  did not arrest anyone; nor prosecuted anyone, there would be zero crime in New Zealand. According to statistics, anyway.

So much for one one National’s vaunted, lynch-pin policies;

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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National’s ministers have never liked statistics. They have a tendency to show up the failings of this inept government. Who can forget then-Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett in August 2012 giving an explanation (of sorts) why her government was not willing to undertake measuring the poverty line;

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measuring-poverty-line-not-a-priority-bennett

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“ There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important. Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.”

Though how Bennett proposed to “address poverty” when she was fearful of even measuring it has never been fully explained.

But as we know, since Bennett’s decision, poverty has increased and stories of people living in garages, cars, and families crammed into over-crowded houses have come to light. Despite not being measured, poverty refuses to go away.

What an inconvenient, annoying nuisance.

On 29 June 2016, Statistics NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%.

Simply because if a person was job-searching using the internet they were “not actively seeking work“.

Which beggars belief as the majority of jobseekers will be using the internet. It is the 21st century – what else would they be using?

In fact, a government website – careersnz – states categorically;

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careersnz - use the internet

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Work and Income’s (WINZ) website states similarly;

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work and income - where to look

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On-line job advertising company, Seek,  reported a sharp rise in job adverts on their websites.

For the government statistician to unilaterally declare that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work” beggars belief. One might as well say that if a person admitted to hospital shows no outward signs of serious illness, then that person is obviously not sick.

When most jobs are advertised online – as stated by government agencies!!! – where else would one look for a job? By studying tea-leaves perhaps?

The result of Statistics NZ’s “improvements” by removing online job-hunting as job-seeking is obvious; the rate of unemployment dropped.

How surprising.

Stats NZ actually seemed pleased with the consequence;

Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

How can “the counts of people unemployed” be “more accurate” if large numbers of unemployed are culled from the count?!?! In what Universe is this an accurate count to include some unemployed, but not others, for the most specious reason?

This makes no sense in terms of accurate statistics. To any sober person, an unemployed jobseeker is one who is;

  1. Unemployment
  2. Job-seeking

There is no rationale for arbitrarily removing job seekers who use the internet to seek work. Especially as two government departments encourage on-line searching because “most jobs in NZ are advertised online“.

There can only be one rational explanation: the unemployment statistics are inconvenient. Therefore change the parameters of the statistics.

This change to Statistics NZ is of considerable benefit to the National government. Their policies have consistently failed to reduced unemployment in a meaningful way.

The perception is that “strings have been pulled”; “whispers made into certain ears”; and Ministers’ expectations made clear to certain senior civil servants.

If all this is true, this would have to be one of the most under-hand things that National has done these last eight years. This would have to be one of the worst.

Aside from the fact that it is another in a long list of lies, bendy-truths, omissions, etc, this one is a wilful attempt to hide the consequences of their failing policies.

It was bad enough when Stats NZ defined being “employed” as;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

* worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment

* worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

If working one hour, without pay, is the minimum measure of being “employed”, then what must our true rate of unemployment actually be?

As much as possible, I deal with facts in my writing. But when supposedly independent, non-partisan, ostensibly-accurate data-collection and presentation is no longer a true reflection of reality, then we have reached a point where I am dealing in assumptions, half-facts, and outright distortions.

This government has done what few other Western democracies have achieved; a state of Orwellianism that Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and other dictatorships required unrelenting brute force to achieve.

When it comes to National, believe nothing; question everything. Misinformation is policy.

Welcome – to National’s “Brighter Future”.

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National-Party-Holds-Conference-Wellington-sJ7OyG8uc6Yl

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Note: Some parts of this story are an excerpt from a previous blogpost,  Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics.

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Police Association president steps down

Radio NZ: English admits maths error in bill veto defence

Beehive.govt.nz: Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

NZ Herald: Crime rate falls to 29-year low

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

NZ Herald:  Police deny being caught out by false review claims

NZ Herald: Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’

Radio NZ: Police concerned at national crime spike

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Police concerned at national crime spike (audio)

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Fairfax media: Wellington jobs advertised on Seek up 11 per cent over past year

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Definitions

Other Blogposts

Polity: English canards

The Daily Blog: To make the unemployment stats drop, Government now claims anyone looking for jobs on the internet isn’t unemployed

The Standard: The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED)

The Standard: “Post-truth” politics (and false equivalences)

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth

National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Media stories of the Week: Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

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dilbert_made_up_numbers

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – National’s “pennies from heaven”

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

 

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 3, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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At the recent National Party Conference, Key took a rather childish swipe at other political parties by suggesting that their economic policies were predicated on “pennies from heaven”, referencing Bing Crosbie’s song by the same name.

In the next breath, he advised faithful National party followers that his government would be borrowing $1 billion from overseas lenders, to build houses in a belated attempt to address growing homelessness in this country.

Maybe not “pennies from heaven”, but dollars from overseas banks?

Meanwhile, National is still hinting at more tax cuts to come. This will further increase indebtedness of the government (ie, all New Zealanders) from the current $60 billion (approx) to an estimated $93.9 billion (gross) by next year, according to Treasury.

All of which has to be borrowed and paid back.

There are no “pennies from heaven” – a lesson National has failed to learn.

Who, amongst us, still believe National are “sound, prudent” fiscal managers? Anyone?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: $1 billion fund to boost housing build

NZ Treasury: Residual Cash and Net Core Crown Debt (2016)

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Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

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Wellington, NZ, 26 June – It was a cold and stormy rainy night… No, really, it was – cold, wet, and miserable. The kind of night that a growing number of homeless people – including families –  are having to put up with regularly in once-egalitarian Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Several dozen cars and between 200 to 300 people – including families with children – braved the chill and intermittent drizzle to make a point about the growing scourge of homelessness in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The event was organised through Facebook by Sam and Becs. The Wellington event followed a recent, similar “park up” in Auckland on 17 June. Whilst Green and Labour MPs participated in both events, no National MPs attended despite being invited.

The Wellington Cathedral car-park (and surrounding streets) quickly filled with vehicles;

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Each and every car  would contain people sleeping in them overnight. The signage around the area held a simple message;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com homelessness - park-up - wellington - wellington cathedral

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The family-symbols on the back of this vehicle indicated how many would be sleeping in it this night;

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Alexia, Claire, Ezra, and Ashton prepared to bunk down for the night. For the youngsters, it was a camping-out adventure. For their older family-members, this was about showing their disapproval of our housing crisis and homelessness.

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Alexia told this blogger that the Park-Up was the first time they had ever done anything of this nature. When asked why, she replied simply;

“There’s just too much homelessness in this country. It’s not good enough.”

She was clearly angered at the problem of homelessness facing many Kiwi families, saying;

“The government’s  not doing enough. Key isn’t doing shit about this problem.”

Alexia’s comments were echoed by one of the organisers, Shannon. She told this blogger that this event was the first political protest she had ever participated in and she had been motivated because her own brother was homeless.

Shannon said that the “Government… what they do is not enough.

A food-tent provided simple, hot food to keep stomachs full and warm for the night, and was cheerfully staffed by volunteers;

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This was one of two barbecues keeping a steady-stream of hot sausages available for the crowd;

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For young people (and some a bit older), face-painting  made the evening a fun-event;

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Veteran city-councillor, Helene Ritchie, with her friend, Peter, attended to add their support for the cause;

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Ms Ritchie derided National’s unwillingness to address the housing crisis, describing their stance as “ideological“.

The Brass Razoo Band – veterans of many previous community activities – kicked off the night’s musical entertainment;

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This family expressed their disgust at the realities of fellow New Zealanders homeless and having to sleep in their cars;

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Young people were in high attendance,  suggesting a consciousness-raising  of their generation  as deep social issues and problems were becoming more and more prominent and harder to ignore;

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Park-up in Wellington - homelessness - 25 June 2016 (79)

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While for the “Littlies”, it was more of who could catch-the-balloon;

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Sleeping rough the hard way, without a car for at least a modicum of shelter from the elements;

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Wellington Central MP and Spokesperson on Employment, Grant Robertson and Bishop Justin Duckworth, shared their thoughts on the issue problem of homelessness;

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Veteran activists for social justice, Warwick, Greg, and Geoff. The fellow behind them is another Wellington citizen who had turned up with a donation of food to help feed those Parking Up for the night;

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Sam and Becs – organisors of Park-Up Parliament – welcomed people to the event;

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Becs spoke first, saying,

“We had Paul Henry last week deride what we were doing, saying that what we were doing isn’t going to make a difference. But this does make a difference. The only thing that  has ever made a difference in history is people protesting in physical form like you are today. So here we are on the back-steps of the Beehive saying to our policy makers, that this is not good enough, that no child deserves to be sleeping in a car, without a home. To be sleeping in a garage or in a tent.”

Sam followed, relating the recent story of “TA”, who along with her family of seven, slept in their van after losing their rental accomodation and their father losing his job. The family had lived in their van for six months.

The story was poignant, and “TA” spoke from her p.o.v. as a child, finding it hard to do her homework in her van. “TA” said that whilst it was warm, with plenty of blankets, she had no private space to do her homework. She said it was stressful for her parents.

“TA” said it was her dream to have her own room, to share with her little sister, and to have books on a shelf beside her bed.

Sam concluded by saying;

“This is an 11 year year old girl who has been sleeping in her van for six months. This is not ok!”

Before Becs introduced the next speaker, she told the crowd;

“Let’s not forget the reason that we are here, and that is to demand that the government starts playing a larger role in the provision of housing for all New Zealanders. So that means that they actually have to put money into good, quality, affordable housing!”

Right Reverend Justin Duckworth was next who spoke that night;

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Right Reverend Duckworth spoke of “homelessness being at the heart of the Christian story” and said it was unacceptable that our fellow New Zealanders found themselves in the position of being homeless.

He led the crowd in prayer, saying,

“We pray for our leaders to do the right thing. We pray there will be a loud voice raised for those who are homeless.”

Next, Jason Clarke, from ‘MAD’, Making a Difference, said that he was part of  a group of concerned citizens in Wainuiomata who had decided to get together to work to alleviate deprivation in their community;

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Jason spoke of the needs of people in their community;

“The problem is really bad, and it’s quite upsetting to see, especially when we have to see our own tamariki having to sleep in their own cars. It’s a shocking thing to see…

… it’s a nationwide problem and everyone just has to get involved. We need to make ourselves heard. Not just because it’s winter and it’s cold now, but to get everybody off the streets and get them into their own homes.”

He thanked the organisers of Park Up,

“It’s quite inspiring to see these younger ones to get involved, and make a difference. It’s… just a blessing.”

Dr Philippa Howden-Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Otago, spoke next;

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Dr Philippa Howden-Chapman said;

“When I was a teenager, parking-up was something you did on top of Mt Victoria, or at the Hutt River… So what is happening in New Zealand now? What has happened that they can’t find a secure, affordable house? Even when the parents are in the paid workforce. And most of those 42,000 [homeless] people that were mentioned, many of the parents of those children were actually in the paid workforce. So it’s partly a problem of wages being far too low.

What is happening when we hear and see daily that children actually can’t go to school and do as well as they want to? What is happening when a really ill child who should be kept particularly warm and dry in a house is sleeping in a van when she’s recieving chemotherapy? What is happening to our country?”

She questioned the priorities of this government;

“Why do we no longer expect that the government should step in? The state has power over it’s citizens so it has clear responsibilities. I think those are financial, moral, ethical. Good, affordable, housing is a public good. It is a key infrastructure which we need to enhance and maintain.

In my mind it is a thousand times more important than spending three billion dollars each year on roads.”

Dr Howden-Chapman suggested possible solutions;

“We do have choices. Given different instructions by the current government, Housing New Zealand could use it’s assets and land to work with Local Councils and Iwi to again increase the scale and pace of building houses, and set the standards for good, quality, affordable housing. The government should not be taxing and taking dividends from Housing New Zealand.

Housing people, currently living in cars and over-crowded housing, are much more important than the government trying to reduce it’s debt.

Life-choices are being made here, and it’s not the choices of the people in the cars.”

Dr  Howden-Chapman said the property developers were not interested in the lower-end of the housing market as there was more profit to be made building high-end housing, for greater profit. She put the case for Housing New Zealand to take up the challenge;

“Housing New Zealand has the land, it has the skills, it has the capacity to build in scale. We can build affordable housing, in scale. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”

The following two speakers received a rapturous applause and cheers. Not because of who they were, but because they were appearing together. Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei and Labour’s Grant Robertson walked up to the microphone together;

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They appeared at ease; totally comfortable to be sharing the stage together. As Grant Robertson quipped with a grin, at the cheering and applause,

“Sonny and Cher!”

Metiria quipped back.

“Oh yeah, this is the MoU, changing the government in action!”

The crowd responded with laughter. One of the few lighter moments of the  night.

Metiria became serious again and accused the government of neglecting and degrading essential social services, forcing people to live in cars, garages, motels, and over-crowded housing.

“We as citizens are entitled to decent health, decent education, and decent, safe, affordable housing. How hard is it to make sure that a country as rich, and beautiful, and diverse as ours, can take care of all of our kids and make sure they are living in safe, healthy, affordable homes. It’s not hard at all. It’s [government] choices.”

She added,

“The choices aren’t with the families. Health issues happen to a family. Evictions happen to a family. Redundancy happen to a family. And it could happen to any of us, at any time. Maybe that’s why there’s this huge surge of compassion by New Zealanders, now.

This [homelessness] is not new, but it is so, so, much worse now. And so now is the time to work together; the politicians; with our community organisations that are doing such amazing work; with each other to build compassion, to build connection, that will make our country deliver for our kids. Because if we’re not here doing for our kids, why are we here at all?”

Grant Robertson followed, acknowledging Metiria, before addressing the crowd;

“Every single week, I meet and work with people who are homeless in the city. It happened yesterday. Someone came into my office in Willis Street, who’s been evicted. They’ve got nowhere to live. They’ve got health conditions that they need to manage. And what we find every single time we try and help we try and deal with this, we might have a success. And we’ve been seeing that at Te Puea Marae, the awesome job they’ve been doing there, and they have successes; they get people into homes.

That’s fantastic, and that is rewarding when you can do it, and it’s great to see when people get in [to homes].

But we’re only scratching the surface. We’re not dealing with the systemic problem. That we’re not as a country, and the current governmment is not… housing every New Zealander in a warm, dry, safe home…

…It should be the core of any decent society that we house every citizen.”

Grant said,

“To me that is non-negotiable.  We have  to make a fundamental change. We have to say we will end homelessness and we will only do that if we build houses!”

He added,

“We have a government today that is selling state houses! When forty-odd thousand people are homeless, the government is selling state houses. Their priorities are not just wrong, they are morally bankrupt! And we have to turn that around!”

Grant said that whilst Housing New Zealand had good people working for it, that every mandate to be a social housing provider had been stripped away, and Housing NZ acts as a [commercial] landlord.

“We need a proper social housing agency.”

He said the only way to effect change is to change the government, “It is the only way this will happen. Hashtag change the government.”

Grant finished by making a promise committing both Labour and the Greens to work together to abolish homelessness;

“So you’ve the commitment I know from Metiria and myself, and our Parties that this is our priority. Housing first. House everyone. We will start to solve the education and health issues that are around us.”

Major Campbell Roberts from the Salvation Army followed next;

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In March this year, the Salvation Army had rejected an offer by National to buy state houses. At the time, Major Roberts was damning of the proposal to shift Housing NZ stock onto community organisations such as the ‘Sallies’.

As he stood on the steps to Wellington Cathedral, Major Roberts was in no mood to be placatory to the current government.

“A few weeks ago, I arrived in my office in south Auckland and in the carpark was a car, and I got in a conversation with the young woman who was in the car with her baby. And found that they’d been sleeping there in the carpark overnight. Trying to seek some safe place in which they could sleep for the night.

That’s the situation which is appalling. In which all of us just think shouldn’t be happening in our country and that’s why we’re here tonight.

In the 1940s, in the building over here [points to Parliament, across the road], housing was seen as a priority. Something that actually we needed to something about. And politicians decided to do something about that. And the State house system was born. During the ’40s and ’50s, that was expanded upon by cheap loans; the ability to get in to home ownership, and a number of other things and that carried on.

In the 1980s, suddenly that sort of emphasis on housing started to disappear. And that which over the road [points to Parliament], which was happening since the 1940s, started to disappear… And politicians no longer said, ‘housing is the most important thing’.”

Major Roberts accused successive governments of taking their eyes off the ball.

“And so we have the situation that we now have in New Zealand where appalling circumstances are endured by families. It’s time for government, for politicians, to get back on the horse, and to say we need to do something and we need policies and we need action that will actually change the situation.”

He said,

[The] present government when it came into power said it was going to be involved in housing reform. And housing reform was needed. Certainly our system had run down. Certainly our system wasn’t delivering.

But what we’ve had the five or six years, in housing reform, is not delivering to those people who need it. It’s not delivering to low income people in New Zealand. It’s not delivering to families in New Zealand.”

Major Roberts accused current government policies of delivering “some fairly expensive housing” that some people were enjoying.  Then added,

“But affordable rentals, state rentals, and home ownership which can be afforded, is not being delivered.”

Major Roberts concluded,

“There are policies that can be put in place. Things can be done differently. It needs the will that, over the road [points to Parliament], they had in 1945 but that will is not here today. We need to keep the pressure so that will is recovered and that people are housed in New Zealand.”

The hosts next invited  Harriet Willis (L) and Bella (R)  to read out a poem written by their father;

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A Verse for Neoliberalism

I’m sleeping in the car with my dear old Ma and Pa
‘Coz we can’t afford a house or pot to piss in.
For the rents are all too high, sometimes I think we’re gonna die
For the food from last month’s cheque has all gone missin.

You see they say we’re all to blame, we’re just bludgers who just came
To lean upon the State for far too long.
We could have taken chances in the ladder – climbing dances
Then like the rich we would have become strong.

Yet my family is asleep, at the bottom of the heap,
In the back of Uncle Wally’s Holden Ute.
Some are drugged out in despair, some are just too sick to care,
For government interventions far too cute.

So wake up you investors, and supporting political jesters,
Who exacerbate the gulf ‘tween rich and poor.
All you property owning classes, please get up off your *sses,
And help us find real homes with roof and door.

—  RPW,  May 2016

The following speaker was a woman, Lou, who stood and with her voice shaking, explained to the crowd that she was  imminently about to become homeless herself. She shared details of her situation, which included surviving and escaping domestic violence  and asked if anyone could assist her and her two children;

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Lou’s situation was dire, having only one more night remaining in her current accomodation. Her rent had been increased by $200 to $700 per week, which was totally unaffordable to her on her meagre income.

As she made her way down the Cathedral steps, Grant Robertson approached her;

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Grant later advised this blogger that he had asked her to contact her local MP for Mana, Kris Faafoi, and to also get back in touch with him on Monday.

The band ‘The Hope Genetics‘ entertained the crowd until the “witching hour” drew close;

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Yes, even Every Man’s Dog turned up – reminding us that whether Human or Companion Animal, decent housing was basic to our needs;

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This blogger spent the night in a sedan vehicle. With plenty of old-style woollen blankets, it was not cold – but it was cramped. Four-door sedans are not meant for sleeping in and by the morning my back paid the price of sleeping in a semi-foetal position on the back-seat.

Furthermore,  the psychological aspect to sleeping in a car, out in the open became apparent. One cannot escape a feeling of being exposed and vulnerable. I slept fitfully; awoken by any slight noise outside. People in such circumstances would certainly endure varying degrees of sleep deprivation.

It is barely imaginable how several people could fit in one car, and live and sleep like this for weeks or months on end. It was not pleasant.

I would challenge any National MP to have the guts to spend a night in their car, out on the street. I suspect it would be a challenge not taken up by a single man or woman from the government benches.

Postscript

We like to describe ourselves as an egalitarian society, where fairness and equal access to opportunities are unshakeable social norms. They are the pretty little lies we tell ourselves. We are not those things. Whether it is income inequality, home ownership, or building state houses, we stopped making progress in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Even our treatment of criminals shows that we are not egalitarian, nor equal opportunity.

There is hope. We just need to add a little bit of empathy, love and civic duty to our blind faith in neoliberalism. We will be a better and fairer society for it.” – Shamubeel Eaqub, economist, 23 June 2016

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References

Radio NZ: Hundreds parkup overnight in homelessness protest

Facebook: Park-Up Parliament

Facebook: Parkupforhomes

NZ Herald: This is how the other half lives

NZ Herald: Salvation Army rejects buying state homes – ‘Housing NZ is making a mess’

Additional

Shamubeel Eaqub: Is NZ facing a crisis of conscience?

Shamubeel Eaqub: NZ egalitarian? That’s a pretty little lie

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Wellingtonians say; “Everyone deserves a home – no more homelessness!”

Letter to Radio NZ – Homelessness, Poverty, and the Final Solution

Letter to the editor – “Throwing money at the problem” of homelessness

Letter to the editor – homelessness, class eugenics, and middle class sensibilities

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

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John Key can't hear a thing about homelessness

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 June 2016.

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John Key – we will not be held to ransom!

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When news of the kidnapping of Australians and a New Zealand citizen in Nigeria hit our headlines, our esteemed Dear Leader’s response was unequivocal;

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John Key - NZ won't pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

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Key was adamant;

“Our very strong policy is not to pay a ransom and our reason for that is we think if we paid a ransom, we’d potentially put a bounty on any New Zealander’s head who travels to a dangerous part of the world, and it potentially makes the situation worse.”

Our Leader was not for turning. Key does not cave in to pressures.

Or, so it seems…

In October 2010, the country was “rocked” with news that that  the Hobbit movies would be “taken away” from New Zealand;

Jackson’s company, Wingnut Films, said in a statement that Warners representatives were coming to New Zealand next week “to make arrangements to move the production offshore” because “they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their investment.”

A week after Peter Jackson’s dire warnings of impending Mordor-like doom, Dear Leader Key intervened and rode like a Ranger to the rescue (in a BMW limousine, not a stallion);

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Key comes through $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ - NBR - Peter Jackson - Warner Bros

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Even the Warner Bros movie execs had  stallions limos provided (at taxpayers’ expense, yet again) when they came-a-visitin’ to New Zealand to collect their $34 million bucks;

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Along with $34 million of taxpayer’s money paid over to Warner Bros, the National government passed legislation changing the status of Jackson’s workers from employees, to “contractors”. This lessened the working-conditions of people working throughout New Zealand’s movie industry.

The employment law changes passed through Parliament within forty eight hours – a feat unheard of in New Zealand’s political process. Unions, workers, and the public had no say in the matter.

As Key said at the time,

“It was a commercial reality that without this [law] change, these movies would not be made in New Zealand.”

So the sovereignty of New Zealand’s Parliament was not ransomed by Warner Bros to gain $34 million plus a change in our labour laws?

Note: On 21 December 2010, two months after Jackson declared that there was an imminent threat to losing The Hobbit to another country, he conceded that no such “threat” existed;

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Peter Jackson Actors no threat to Hobbit - Warner Bros

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Three years later, Rio Tinto threatened to close it’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter if it’s demands were not met;

Mining giant Rio Tinto has rejected the Government’s offer of a short-term subsidy to continue running the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Instead, it has gone back into negotiations with electricity supplier Meridian to try and get a better deal.

If no deal is made, Prime Minister John Key says the smelter, 79 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 21 percent owned by Japanese company Sumitomo, could be shut down in about five years.

In February 2014, National conceded to Rio Tinto’s demands that it’s electricity subsidies be increased. A further ‘sweetener’ of $30 million of taxpayer’s money was paid over to the smelting multi-national;

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As Key said at the time;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

This was echoed by Finance Minister, Bill English;

“The $30m was a ‘one-off incentive payment’ to help secure agreement on the revised contract because of the importance of the smelter to the stability of the New Zealand electricity market.”

So the jobs of eight hundred jobs in Southland were not ransomed by Rio Tinto to gain $30 million plus cheaper electricity rates?

John Key says his government will not pay ransom to extortionists?

His track record proves otherwise.

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References

Fairfax media:  John Key – NZ won’t pay ransom for Kiwi kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria

Hitfix:   ‘Hobbit’ Crisis – Peter Jackson warns film could leave New Zealand

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

Fairfax media:  Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Previous related blogposts

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

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KickingThe HobbitRGB

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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CYF – The Hollowing Out of a State Agency

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“CYF’s is gone, you know, it’s finished, it’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing.” – Anne Tolley

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Information passed on to this blogger raises questions as to why CYF has apparently been “under-performing” and why it seems stretched to deal with a mounting crisis of increasing numbers of  at-risk families.

A fall in staffing levels may have played a part in CYF’s “under-performance” – an allegation which seems to be supported by recently obtained figures under the Official Information Act.

1. Setting the Stage

As announced on 1 June, last year, National was casting it’s eye over social-services as part of it’s next step in it’s privatisation agenda;

Social bonds, in which the return for investors will be partially determined by whether or not agreed social targets have been achieved, will become another tool in the Government’s social investment approach that is aiming to improve the lives and prospects of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

The announcement was couched in usual flowery terms of spin-doctored waffle;

“The Government is focused on achieving better results for individuals and families in highest need,” Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Where we succeed, there are opportunities to help people fulfil their potential, a chance to break inter-generational cycles of dependency and, in the long term, potential savings for taxpayers.

“So social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach which aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact in improving people’s lives.”

Vague promises of improved provision of services were made;

Dr Coleman says social bonds are an innovative way for the Government to contract social outcomes. They will see private and public sector organisations operating together to fund and deliver services.

But the ‘crunch’ was this statement;

If they achieve agreed results, the Government will pay back the investors plus a return. The return depends on the level of results, up to an agreed amount.

Jan Logie, from the Green Party, voiced concerns which many people throughout the country must have felt after hearing or reading National’s announcement;

“Mentally ill New Zealanders need the Government to provide more of a commitment to them, not to abdicate all responsibility for them to foreign banks and big money investors.

National doesn’t care that the biggest stumbling block facing New Zealanders with a mental illness who want to work is discrimination. Having a big bank breathe down the neck of a social service provider, demanding outcomes so it can make a profit, isn’t going to make that discrimination go away.

The National Government has ignored the advice of the Department of Internal Affairs which warned investors will only want to put money into programmes that are certain to work – which completely defeats the purpose.

Social bonds are a continuation of National’s attempt to privatise public services, which will always see the most vulnerable left out and National’s mates better off. In two years of charter schools, not one has enrolled a student with the highest special needs.”

2. Reasurances made…

On 26 September last year, Tolley issued stern reassurances that there would be no outsourcing of front-line services;

Lisa Owen: “Can you rule out today that you won’t be outsourcing front-line care and protection services?”

Anne Tolley: “Look, let’s put it to rest. This is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

3. And reassurances broken
Seven months later, on 9 April, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘,  Tolley flip-flopped, and admitted that privatisation of some aspects of CYF was now likely;
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the nation - anne tolley interview - cyf

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Lisa Owen: “But here we have outsourcing, so how do you square that away? Because you were specifically talking about front-line staff.”

Anne Tolley: “So we’re not outsourcing care and protection. What the report talks about is two things – first of all, a partnership arrangement with NGOs and iwi and community organisations as we have currently, and secondly, being able to direct purchase the services that children need when they need. But that will still be the operating system; the responsibility for those children will still be held by government.”

Lisa Owen: “Yes, but you’re talking about people or services that have direct contact with these children. “

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

Lisa Owen: “Psychologists is one of the examples you talk about.”

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

Lisa Owen: “That is front-line services, so that is outsourcing.”

Anne Tolley: “Well, that’s no different from what we are now. What was being presumed last time was that we were going to contract some company to take responsibility for children in care. We’re not doing that. It is the government’s responsibility, and the whole focus of the expert panel’s report was a single point of accountability in government for the long-term outcomes of those vulnerable children.”

Lisa Owen: “So you say that using these people from outside agencies, NGOs, et cetera, that’s all about getting the best people?”

Anne Tolley: “Absolutely. Getting the best people for the children when they need it, that’s the whole— one of the major changes about what’s being proposed. At the moment, various people working with those children have to negotiate with all the different agencies, fit in with their criteria, and children wait in line. What we’re saying now, what Cabinet has accepted, is that we need to be able to purchase those services for those children when they need it, and it could well be from DHBs, it could well be from the education service itself, but it could be from NGOs, and it could be from private psychologists, et cetera.”

Tolley’s admission that CYF services would be outsourced/privatised was confirmed only days before her interview on The Nation, with this press release from her office;

“A new system will be in place by the end of March 2017 which will have high aspirations for all children and address their short and long-term wellbeing and support their transition into adulthood.

It will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending.

The overhaul, which is expected to take up to five years to be fully implemented, will include:

[…]

  • Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that these young people can gain immediate access to assistance.”
Veteran interviewer, Lisa Owen asked the Minister about the problem of private-providers “cherry-picking easy cases” of  problem-children;

Lisa Owen: “But one of the concerns is that there is a risk of cherry-picking. You know, if you have a private provider, are they only going to take the easier kids? Because we know… The Nation’s been told of a situation this week where a private provider wouldn’t take a particular child because they said the case was just too tough… Will you stop that happening? … So will they lose their contract if they keep refusing to take tougher cases? one of the major concerns is that the too-hard basket will still be full and it will be CYF who deals with those people.”

Tolley’s reply was like a bombshell – and one that Lisa Owen apparently did not pick up on. In terms that were unusually unequivocal for a politician, the Minister  announced the impending demise of Child Youth and Family (CYF);

Anne Tolley: “Well, CYF is gone. You know, it’s finished. It’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing, so we’re now going to a system that works with children from prevention right through to transition.”

Further into the interview – and this is also a salient point – Lisa Owen asked the Minister;

Lisa Owen: Okay, there’s a couple of quick things I want to cover off. When you were last here, you said that you may well hire more social workers, but the report says you’re not going to significantly expand in-house delivery, so are you going to have more social workers or not?

In stark contrast to her definitive statement that “CYF is gone… you know, it’s finished… it’s gone“, Tolley’s response to whether or not there would be more front-line social workers seemed more noncommittal;

Anne Tolley: “Well, we’ll see. I can’t see we would be dealing with any less, but, remember, the panel have identified that a large part of the workload is the churn of children coming back through the system several times.”

Tolley’s plans to finish off CYF appears set in concrete. Despite being the  fourteenth restructuring in twenty eight years, CYF’s problems and failures are apparently “unsalvageable”. Or so Minister Tolley would have us believe.

3. The subversion of CYF

We can no longer have a system which sees social workers spending half their time on administration, and less than a quarter of their time actually working with kids and families.” – Anne Tolley,  7 April 2016

On 7 April this year, Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, released a public statement accepting the report of the “Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family”.

Amongst the “Expert Panel’s” Terms of Reference, two main points were given priority, as made clear on pages 34 and 35;

Specifically, the Expert Panel was tasked with:

  • providing the Minister for Social Development with a programme level business case by 30
    July 2015, which was delivered to the Minister in the form of the Interim Report,

and

  • providing oversight and challenge on the development of a detailed business case and a high
    level assessment of options for a proposed future operating model, with any Budget
    decisions considered as part of Budget 2016 (this report, termed the Final Report).

Note the heavy reference to  “a programme level business case” and “development of a detailed business case“.

A more detailed version of the Terms of Reference can be found on pages 241 to 243 of the Final Report.

Nowhere in the Terms of Reference, nor in the latter Objectives is there any mention of poverty, low wages, high living costs, etc.

Indeed, in a critical review of the “Expert Panel’s” Final Report, the group Re-imagining Social Work In Aotearoa wrote;

On receiving the report  Investing in New Zealand’s Children and Their Families I used the very simple textual analysis technique of searching for the frequency of what I considered important words. Such a simple analysis does not necessarily create a window into the minds and thinking of the authors; however it does give some indications about what they consider important at least as measured by how frequently they talk about it.

In descending incidence of occurrence and not including the references and appendixes this is what my word count revealed:

Investment mentioned 240 times
Trauma mentioned 50 times
Love mentioned 36 times
Deprivation mentioned 4 times
Inequality mentioned 1 time
Poverty mentioned 1 time

Despite the often unspoken reality that the vast majority of return visit CYFS clients are poor, and that people on reasonable incomes seldom have long-term contact with CYFS, it seems that the authors of the report do not see poverty as having any great relevance to the business of CYFS. Given the truly astounding amount of data demonstrating clear links between poverty, deprivation and increased levels of neglect and abuse of children it seems an extraordinary oversight (Duva, Metzger, 2010; Wynd, 2013; Sedlak, Mettenburg, Basena, Petta, McPherson, Greene, & Li, 2010).

This seems even more the case when you consider the equally astounding amounts of data (Szalavitz, 2010; Murali & Oyebode, 2004) showing that poverty plays a causative role in many of the other factors associated with increased levels of child abuse and neglect: these are factors such as parental depression, poor mental health, high levels of family stress, insecure overcrowded and unhealthy housing, and increased levels of drug and alcohol abuse as self medication to manage misery (Brown, Cohen, Johnson & Salzinger, 2010).

None of this is news to social scientists, or to anybody who has spent any time at all working with abused and neglected children and their families. People have known this since the days of Dickens. It does not take a great leap of empathic imagination to understand that the fear, despair, and hopelessness created by trying to survive day to day without adequate resources are not useful additions to the tool box of good parenting.

The Final Report led to a raft of recommendations (see pages 20 – 33) but two (on page 21) stand out;

14.

Agree the future department will directly purchase specialist services for vulnerable children and
their families. If other Crown agencies or entities cannot provide them in a timely manner, the
future department will purchase from them, or pursue other sources. (Refer page 65).

15.

Agree the future department take a market building role to create capability, capacity and
supply of services required to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families. (Refer page
67).

“Directly purchase specialist services”, “market building role”, and “supply of services” are specifically what Tolley referred to on TV3’s The Nation on 9 April;

Lisa Owen: “But here we have outsourcing, so how do you square that away? Because you were specifically talking about front-line staff.”

Anne Tolley: “So we’re not outsourcing care and protection. What the report talks about is two things – first of all, a partnership arrangement with NGOs and iwi and community organisations as we have currently, and secondly, being able to direct purchase the services that children need when they need. But that will still be the operating system; the responsibility for those children will still be held by government.”

Lisa Owen: “Yes, but you’re talking about people or services that have direct contact with these children. “

Anne Tolley: “Yes.”

In justifying the outsourcing/privatisation of CYF services, the “Expert Panel” delivered to Minister Tolley a Final Report that presented CYF as a “basket-case”; a totally broken organisation. The term “fragmented” was used no less than thirteen times in the Final Report, to drive home the perception of an irreparably dysfunctional state agency.

This is the same Final Report that mentioned “deprivation  4 times”,  “inequality  1 time”, and  “poverty 1 time”.

It is hard to escape the suspicion that CYF – a government department dealing with “child abuse and neglect, parental depression, poor mental health, high levels of family stress, insecure overcrowded and unhealthy housing, and increased levels of drug and alcohol abuse as self medication to manage misery” – is being undermined and portrayed as itself dysfunctional and in need of radical “reform”.

The “reform”, it seems, consists of “toughlove” privatisation of services.

4. The gutting of CYF

During Lisa Owen’s interview with Tolley on  The Nation on 9 April, she asked the Minister if more social workers would be hired;

Lisa Owen: Okay, there’s a couple of quick things I want to cover off. When you were last here, you said that you may well hire more social workers, but the report says you’re not going to significantly expand in-house delivery, so are you going to have more social workers or not?

As if finding the simple question discomforting, Tolley responded vaguely;

Anne Tolley: “Well, we’ll see. I can’t see we would be dealing with any less, but, remember, the panel have identified that a large part of the workload is the churn of children coming back through the system several times.”

Sources have revealed to this blogger that MSD has been conducting a covert  “sinking lid” policy not to replace departing front-line social workers. This blogger understands that at least  one CYF branch lost at least a dozen front-line staff in the last twelve months. They were not replaced. Existing and new cases are passed on to remaining staff.

In an OIA request made to the Minister’s office on 13 April (and passed on to MSD) released information  appears to confirm the Ministry  has been shedding front-line social-workers from it’s ranks.

To establish a base-line for staffing levels, I first asked;

“How many social workers were employed by Child, Youth Family services in 2008?”

In a response dated 16 June (two months after my initial request), MSD replied that 1,175.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff were employed as “Field Social Work Line (FSWL) which is composed of social workers, senior practitioners, and supervisors“. By 2015, that number had increased to 1,349.9 full-time equivalent staff.

But by March this year, that number had fallen to 1,335.0 full-time equivalent staff.

The total number of full-time equivalent staff employed by Child Youth and Family at 2008 was 2,848.3, rising to 3,025.2 full-time equivalent staff in 2015 – and falling to 2,956.9 by March this year.

The MSD response also confirmed “that 147 FSWL have departed between April 2015 and March 2016“.

It is a stark contrast that as notifications to CYF have been steady increasing since 2008 (ref1, ref2), the numbers of front-line and other support staff at the department have fallen.

Which brought into question the case-load of front-line social workers. I asked;

What was the case-load, per CYF social worker in 2008? What was the case-load, per CYF social worker last year and   what is the current case-load, per CYF social worker?

The response was astonishing;

Due to the varying nature and complexities of cases it is not practical to set practice
benchmarks for closure. As you will appreciate, many cases are active over a period
of years and some cases, while not active, may not have yet been formally closed.
The Ministry is unable to provide the current case load per social worker and case
load per social worker in 2008 and 2015 as as this is not a standard reporting
procedure. Therefore, this part of your request is refused under section 18(e) of the
Official Information Act as the information does not exist.

It beggars belief that MSD  is unaware of the case-load of it’s social workers.  It also raises suspicions of ducking the question.

A May 2014 report from the Office of the Chief Social worker, (Workload and Casework Review – Qualitative Review of Social Worker Caseload, Casework and Workload Management, p84) stated;

According to Child, Youth and Family’s organisational caseload report of 31 August
2013, the average care and protection caseload was 14 families or 30 children and
young people per social worker. For youth justice social workers, the average
caseload was nine children and young people.”

The Workload and Casework Review can be found on the MSD website, and was launched by the Ministery’s Chief Executive, Brendan Boyle.

It seems inconceivable that a report commissioned by MSD; released by the Chief Executive; and containing information relating to case load for front line social workers was not available to Viv Rickard, the Ministry’s Deputy Chief Executive, who signed the OIA release.

However, the pertinent point from the Workload and Casework Review is that front-line social workers were over-worked with case-loads (p79);

4. The review found a number of care and protection social workers were holding
unreasonably high caseloads. Priority action needs to be taken to reduce caseloads
for these staff.

The recommendation;

d. As a priority, assess social workers’ caseloads and safely reduce those that are
unreasonably high.

That was two years ago.

Since then, the number of social workers has fallen, whilst notifications continue to rise. The Review by the Chief Social Worker appears to have been Filed and Forgotten.

This is exacerbated by MSD’s response to these follow-up questions;

How many CYF offices/branches lost social workers over the last twelve months? How many CYF offices/branches have not replaced departing social workers over the last twelve months?

MSD replied;

The Ministry is unable to provide you with the number of departing social workers
who have not been replaced or the number of offices which have not replaced
departing social workers over the last months as this is not a standard reporting
procedure. Therefore,  this part of your request is refused under section 18(e) of the
Official Information Act as the information does not exist.

Again, it seems inconceivable that the MSD is oblivious as to how many social workers have not been replaced over the last twelve months.

Social work is the core-business; the raison d’être of the Ministry of Social Development. How can it adequately measure and report it’s KPIs  (Key Performance Indicators) if it is unaware of it’s own staffing levels?

This response from MSD is utterly inadequate and reveals either a high level of incompetence on the part of  senior management – or a crude attempt to evade answering questions. If the latter, then MSD has broken the law by not following the Official Information Act.

My final question to MSD asked if there “was  a CYF policy not to replace social workers departing from CYF?

The answer was perhaps more revealing than the author of the letter intended;

There is no specific policy in place around replacing or not replacing departing social workers.”

At a time of increasing notifications; falling numbers of social workers; and increasing case-loads – which has led to the Minister Anne Tolley being highly critical of MSD – there is no “no specific policy in place around replacing… departing social workers”.

5. Consequences and Cunning Plans

When Tolley gave a blistering condemnation of CYF on The Nation on 9 April, she did not hold back;

“Well, CYF is gone. You know, it’s finished. It’s gone. It hasn’t worked and we’re changing, so we’re now going to a system that works with children from prevention right through to transition.”

Furthermore, in response to a point raised by Lisa Owen on privatisation;

Lisa Owen: “Because the thing is, when the Government went to private providers to manage some of other services, for example, when you got Serco in to look after some of our prisons, in this government press release that I’ve got here, actually, at the time, Judith Collins says— she gave the same justification that you’re giving now, that it was to access world-class innovation and expertise to get the highest standards of professionalism. Well, that didn’t work out, did it, so what’s to stop that happening in this case?”

Anne Tolley: “Well, first of all, we’re not in the least bit talking about big companies like Serco for this. Again, the thrust of this is keeping these kids in their communities, so you’re talking about local services. But are you seriously suggesting that we should continue? One of the outcomes from the current system is that these children wait in line until they can get into the health system, so are you seriously suggesting that that’s better for those kids than if there’s a private psychologist whose services can be purchased to give immediate help to that child who has been damaged and needs that care? I’m going to go every time with meeting the needs of that child when we need it, so that’s what the focus is – on meeting the needs of these children, having them at the centre of everything we do, rather than ideological agendas which say you’ve only got to deal with the health system, the public health system. Actually, let’s deal with whomever can provide. And if the health system can provide that, I have no doubt they’ll step up, as they have with ACC.”

Yet, it appears that one of the prime causes of CYF’s alleged under-performance has little to do with it’s structure.  The loss of skilled social workers and failure to replace their numbers at a time of increased notifications and demands placed on remaining front line staff have one predictable outcome: a down-grading of service.

Which then allows for the Minister to call for yet another “Review” which happens to offer recommendations that Paula Rebstock is noted for: privatisation (or “outsourcing”, to put a polite label on the same process).

Which brings us back to announcements made on 1 June, last year, when  National put social-services on the block as next  in it’s privatisation agenda;

Social bonds, in which the return for investors will be partially determined by whether or not agreed social targets have been achieved, will become another tool in the Government’s social investment approach that is aiming to improve the lives and prospects of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

The degradation of CYF is not due to the social workers who are at the front-line of this country’s growing social problems – something even John Key was forced to concede was worsening  in 2011, and which is continuing to grow;

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key admits underclass still growing - poverty - foodbanks - homelessness

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If there is fault with CYF, it lies with a covert National government plan to hollow out the service; publicise it’s alleged “short-comings” through “reviews” with pre-determined outcomes; and then announce ‘solutions’ which involve privatisation/outsourcing and an “investment approach”. As Gordon Campbell  pointed out;

“Whenever the government announces an inquiry into a contentious matter, those reviews now routinely function as a tool of political management that’s been tailored to achieve a pre-determined outcome. Such inquiries have neither been set up nor are expected to result in a balanced re-appraisal of all the relevant issues. To that end, the terms of reference are usually conveniently narrow, and selective – and thus allow for the evidence to be then cherry-picked in line with the government’s desires and expectations. “

As usual, Paula Rebstock’s Expert Panel has executed it’s part in National’s secret agenda.

This was never about improving CYF. This was always about National’s maniacal ideological obsession with privatisation.  This time, there are none more vulnerable than the children and young people who will pay dearly for this cunning plan.

National has scrapped the bottom of the barrel with this one.

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“Young people have told me they don’t want the system to experiment with their lives.” – Anne Tolley

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Addendum1

Correspondence: OIA response from MSD – Staffing levels

Addendum2

Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family“:

Paula Rebstock (Chair)
Ms Rebstock has extensive governance experience and is Chair of the ACC Board, Chair of the Work and Income Board, Deputy Chair of KiwiRail, Chair of the Insurance and Savings Commission, a member of the University of Auckland Business School Advisory Board and a Director of Auckland Transport. She is also a Senior Lead Reviewer for the Performance Improvement Framework for the State Services Commission.

Commissioner Mike Bush
Commissioner Bush joined New Zealand Police in 1978 and has held a number of senior operational and administrative positions including Counties-Manukau District Commander, where he pioneered the Prevention First operating strategy. Commissioner Bush led significant operational changes to Police through the Policing Excellence programme. He was awarded the MNZM for his service as New Zealand Police’s South East Asian liaison officer following the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Peter Douglas
Mr Douglas has extensive senior management experience in both the public and private sectors. He was the principal Māori adviser at the Ministry of Social Development, a Senior Manager in business banking at Westpac and an adviser in the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet during the time of the 1992 Māori fisheries settlement. Mr Douglas is the Chief Executive of Te Ohu Kaimoana Māori Fisheries Trust.

Duncan Dunlop
Mr Dunlop has been Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland, an independent advocacy charity for young people in care, since January 2012. He has led the development of youth-work infrastructure and programmes in a range of environments from Lithuania and Ghana to the Balkans and across the UK.

Helen Leahy
Ms Leahy is Chief Executive for Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, and a Specialist Advisor, Strategy and Influence, for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.She has held several senior roles in Parliament including Chief of Staff of the Māori Party and SeniorMinisterial Advisor for the former Minister of Whānau Ora. A former high school teacher, Ms Leahyhas worked in a range of community sectors such as domestic violence, adolescent health anddevelopment, youth and women’s affairs.

Professor Richie Poulton
Professor Poulton is the Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Social Development and has led the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study at the University of Otago for the past 15 years. He is a Professor of Psychology, Co-Director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research and Director of the Graduate Longitudinal Study. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and recipient of the RSNZ Dame Joan Metge Medal.

 

Addendum3

The chairperson of the so-called “Expert Panel”, Paula Rebstock, has been heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for a previous investigation/report she carried out in 2012 regarding leaks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Rebstock’s report, attacking the reputations of two senior State servants, Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe, was released the following year.

Complaints were laid with the Ombudsman who found that that Rebstock’s report into the leaks were “unfair, flawed and caused significant damage to a former diplomat and senior public servant“.

One of the former senior diplomats, Derek Leask, was justifiably angry at the way he had been pilloried by Rebstock;

“It is good to have the slur on my reputation removed. Today’s findings by the Ombudsman go beyond the vindication of my actions. The Ombudsman’s report suggests that the 2012/2013 SSC investigation was out of control from start to finish.”

Despite the 2012/13 flawed report being damned by the Ombudsman, Minister Tolley has announced no plans to review the more recent Rebstock’s report on CYF;

Dame Paula also spearheaded a major report into Child Youth and Family (CYF), for which she was paid $2000 a day, double the normal maximum fee.

That review is now being used as a basis for an overhaul of CYF and the government has no plans to review her work in this area before restructuring begins.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, who had wanted to pay her $3000 a day, said Dame Paula did a fantastic job which would deliver better long-term results for vulnerable children.

There is therefore no guarantee that Rebstock’s CYF review is, in itself, also not flawed.

Acknowledgement

I acknowledge and thank the person who brought the critical matter of CYF’s under-staffing to my attention. Whilst keeping the identity of the “whistle-blower” confidential, I will continue to look into this  problem at every opportunity.

Postscript

This blogger will be laying a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office at the length of time for this OIA request to be answered. Fortyfour days is well outside the 20 working-days stipulated in the Official Information Act. Also, a question will be raised whether or not some of the answers were factually correct.

 

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References

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget 2015 – Social bond to focus on mental health

Green Party: Mentally ill NZers are not a cash cow for National’s mates

TV3 News: The Nation – Transcript – Anne Tolley

TV3 News:  ‘CYF’s is gone, it hasn’t worked’ – Tolley

TVNZ: ‘It’s time for a clean break – CYF is gone’ says Anne Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Radical changes to child protection and care

MSD: Expert Panel Final Report – Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families

Re-imagining Social Work In Aotearoa: The absent elephant in the 2016 ‘Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel Report’

MSD: Social work services to children, young people and their families – Notifications

MSD: Notifications

MSD: Workload and Casework review – Qualitative Review of Social Worker Caseload, Casework and Workload Management

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NewstalkZB: Demand for food banks, emergency housing much higher than before recession

State Services Commission: Paula Rebstock appointed to investigate Cabinet paper leak

State Services Commission: Report to the State Services Commissioner on Unauthorised disclosure of Information

Fairfax media: Damning inquiry points finger at the Government, State Services Commissioner

Radio NZ: Rebstock MFAT inquiry errors not terminal, says PM

Additional

MSD: Investing in New Zealand’s Children and Their Families

Office of the Children’s Commissioner: State of Care 2016 Report

Ministry of Social Development: Workload and Casework review – May 2014

Treasury: Budget 2008 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2009 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2010 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2011 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2012 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2013 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2014 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2015 Vote Social Development

Treasury: Budget 2016 Vote Social Development

Related blogposts

No Right Turn: Paula Rebstock should pay for this

Polity: Decrypting “social investment”

Pundit: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the Leask of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me

The Daily Blog: What’s that? – choke, splutter! – Dame Paula Rebstock???

The Standard: No accountability under Key

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the Ombudsman’s verdict on Paula Rebstock and Ian Rennie

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

Child Poverty: Labour on track

Letter to the editor – Key suggests private providers for children in CYF services?!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2016.

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