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Hire a teenager, while they know everything

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'Don't just give me worksheets' - pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Anela Pritchard’s education couldn’t be as bad as she thinks. After all, she managed to put together an essay that attracted a reaction from her school and nation-wide media coverage.

All in all, she must’ve picked up something from her decade long experience in the education system.

Or does she think her knowledge was absorbed, in utero, when her mother was reading school text-books?

The real problem here is that the school should not have reacted in the way it did. Instead, it could have been a valuable tool to further the girl’s education.

Firstly, her comments should have been used to spark debate and discussion of the role of teachers in our society. This could have really engaged kids in a major way.

Secondly, the difference between an engaged Citizen and a dumbed-down Consumer could have been touched upon. Filling out tax forms is not nearly as important as knowing why taxation is paid and how taxation pays for services New Zealanders take so much for granted.

And lastly, Anela’s education should have been broadened by having her run a few classes and experiencing first hand what it’s like to stand in front of thirty-plus teenagers who all share in common the belief that they know everything.

The old maxim, “Hire a teenager, while they know everything”, was born for good reason;

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google - hire a teenager while they know everything

 

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I recall some of my views when I was 15, and I shudder at some of the comments I put into the public arena through my first letters-to-the-editor. Those horrendously naive polemics shall remain forever buried in the dusty vaults of Fairfax, I hope.

As for the media – I’m not surprised they seized on this as a “story”. It fits their dumbed-down, superficial news perfectly.

As for Anela – she’s a bright kid (from what I saw on TV1 last night) and she will go far.

But she has a massive amount of life-experience to get under her belt first before she gains wisdom to match her intellect. Hopefully she doesn’t become a rabid anti-teacher ACT supporter.

Isn’t that what being a teen is about; the journey from naive childhood to wiser (hopefully) adult?

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References

TVNZ:  ‘Don’t just give me worksheets’ – pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Categories: Social Issues Tags: ,

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches…

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child poverty graph 1982-2012

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One of the most constant cliches spouted by the naive; the well-meaning; and down-right simple-minded Right, is that the poor should be able to supplement their income by growing their own food.

This tenants in this house, located  in one of Wellington’s inner suburbs, grew their own vegetables and raised chickens. The planter-boxes were well-tended, and were well-filled with a variety of vegetables.

One day, a couple of months ago, I noticed that the furniture in the house was gone and the sound of the chooks was no longer evident.

This is what the once well-tended vege-garden looks like now;

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poverty - untended vegetable garden

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Weeds have become the dominant plants in the garden;

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empty house and gardens (2)

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

So said Herman Melville, author of ‘Moby Dick‘.

Lecturing the poor to grow their own food becomes a fatuous  exercise when the poor generally do not own their own homes, and are subject to eviction at whatever whim  takes the landlord. The tenants move on; the food is left behind; and goes to seed and rots.

When confronted with the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) of poverty, the response from the well-meaning or politically deluded for the poor to produce their own food is little more than buck-passing. It is a barely-concealed attempt to salve their consciences by pointing the finger back at the poorest in our society, and blame them for their lot.

After all, if the poor are poor by their own lack of determination, then the rest of us don’t have to consider the problem at all. It’s their fault, not ours.

After all, why shouldn’t they be able to grow their own food?

They just need to buck their ideas up. And buy a house.

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Additional

J R McKenzie Trust:  Child Poverty Monitor

NZ Council of Christian Social Services: Facts about poverty in New Zealand

 

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give the rich tax cuts.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2015.

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Letter to the Editor – Just how witless is our PM?!?!

30 June 2015 4 comments

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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: Mon, Jun 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the Editor

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The Editor

Dominion Post

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When National recently announced that it will consider selling State houses to overseas buyers – I had to check the calendar, just to ensure it wasn’t April 1.

This has to be the most bizarre and ill-considered policy announcement, in the annals of New Zealand’s political history.

When interviewed by Guyon Espiner on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report”,  on 29 June, Key admitted;

“I don’t know a huge amount about them…but they’re a charity, I think,  in Queensland.”

And,

“I don’t know a tremendous amount about them…”

Just what our most poor and vulnerable families need – a Prime Minister who seems to be utterly clueless about who will be buying taxpayer-built State houses.

The most curious thing is that Key’s government plans to sell houses that are – allegedly – “in the wrong place and wrong size” for Housing NZ’s requirements.

In which case, why would a  charitable organisation, from another country, with little knowledge of our local community needs – be buying up such properties? How would they know what we needed?

Very little of this makes any sense. One can only assume that this is yet another money-raising venture from Bill English, who desperately needs a budget surplus next year.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Foreign buyers eyeing up state house sell-off


 

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“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

29 June 2015 3 comments

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anne tolley - corin dann - tvnz - q+a - poverty - ministry of development

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On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 21 June,  political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. To describe the interview as pathetic would be generous.

To describe it as illustrative of how National views the poorest people of this country with barely-concealed disdain would be an understatement.

Tolley was former Minister of Corrections and Police, from 2011 to 2014.  Her crowning “achievement” was showing off  the destruction and compacting of a seized motor vehicle;

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anne-tolley

Then Police Minister, Anne Tolley, triumphantly standing atop a crushed ‘boy racer’ car (with camera-carting media in attendance) – June 2012. (More)

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Her other “achievement” was over-seeing the awarding of a twentyfive year long contract to multi-national company, Serco, to manage the newly opened 960-bed Wiri Prison. That contract will sting tax-payers to the tune of $900 million – almost a billion  tax-dollars over quarter of a century.

Tolley’s latest ministerial ‘gig’  is to hold the portfolio of Minister for Social Development.

Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.

In a coronial  inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”

Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s  death;

@ 6.35 –

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

Tolley responded;

@ 6.54 –

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of that particular family!

Let’s re-cap;

  •  This was a family living in circumstances within her ministerial ambit.
  •  A child died from illness which the coroner has stated was, at the least, exacerbated, by her living conditions.

Any normal, rational  individual in a position of responsibility in such a situation would have called for a full report on the incident, as well as a copy of the coroner’s findings.

Yet, according to her own statement, Tolley has evidently not done so.

She does not  “know the details of that particular family”.

Dann suggested to the Minister “in charge” of Social Development that a solution would be to  provide heating for cold, damp State houses;

“One solution though, one solution at least is that the child, if there are children in that family, they get a guarantee of a warm house.”

Tolley’s response was dismissive, followed by bureacratic gobbledegook double-speak;

“Well, not necessarily. Not necessarily. Um, and, and, you can have a warm house that is completely enclosed, that is high moisture content, and you can have related illnesses to that as well.

So what I’m saying is, one part of that, you can solve one part of that. But actually all the other problems are going to continue. And what we’re trying to do is get, um, much more joined up work from the State agencies, but our focus [is] on actually changing the outcomes for those families.”

So, there you have it.

Heating cold, damp houses is “not necessarily” a solution.

But “joining up State agencies” will somehow provide the warmth to keep children out of hospitals.

This is ‘Pythonesque’ humour at it’s darkest and comes at the expense of sick and dying children.

No wonder Tolley made this eye-brow-raising comment a few minutes into the interview;

@3.40 –

“I liken it to National Standards.”

National Standards – another of National’s misguided, moronic, and messy experiments.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping comment from  Tolley also came at the very beginning of the interview, when she complained;

@ 0.40

“One of the main difficulties that we have is that we don’t know what works. We haven’t got good evidence. We haven’t got good data.”

There is good reason why we do not have “good evidence” and “good data” –  because former Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett did not want it;

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Measuring poverty line not a priority - Bennett

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Because having hard data on poverty means government having a measurable, defined problem dumped into its lap. And three years ago, Bennett was having none of that.

As Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, said at the time;

“The message is clear. Either Paula Bennett doesn’t want to admit to the scale of the problem, or she is afraid of exposing her government’s lack of progress in fixing it.”

Bennett’s excuses ranged from this;

“One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”

… to parroting neo-liberal clap-trap like this on TVNZ’s Q+A, in November 2013;

“At the end of the day, what is going to make the biggest difference for child poverty, in my opinion and this government’s opinion, and it is tackling the tough stuff. That is long-term welfare dependence. It’s actually more jobs, yeah, so that’s business growth. It feels like to me that Labour’s more interested in welfare growth and not business growth, and as a consequence, are we ever going to agree on that? Probably not.”

… and finally, this garbled ‘gem’ for why she refused to measure child poverty, in the same interview;

“So why do an official measure that then by very definition still has, quite frankly, you know, it’s, sort of, wherever you put the measure, you’re always going to have people in poverty, because you’re taking a median income, taking housing prices off it, so there’s always going to be people- “

Hopefully Minister Tolley will read this and understand why the department she inherited from her predecessor (Paula Bennett) has no “good evidence” or “good data”.

As for solving the life-threatening problem of cold, damp houses that are killing our children – Tolley’s plans to ‘re-jig’ government departments  and NGOs will not heat one single house.

Not. One. House.

But it will result in more children becoming ill, and dying.

This is happening on your watch, Minister Tolley.

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Emma-Lita-Bourne-1200

Emma-Lita Bourne – 2012-2014

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2015.

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References

TVNZ Q+A:  Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)

Green Party: $900 million for empty beds

NZ Herald:  Ana Apatu – Disempowered living in poverty

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

TVNZ: Q+A – Paula Bennett interview

Additional

Bryan Bruce – Inside Child Poverty (2011)

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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2015 – Ongoing jobless tally

26 June 2015 1 comment

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2014 – Ongoing jobless tally

So by the numbers, for this year;

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Events

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January

February

March

April

May

June

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Statistics

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new-zealand-unemployment-rate-january-2014-march-2015

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December 2014 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

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Employment at a glance
Dec 2014 quarter Quarterly change Annual change
(000) Percent
Employed 2,375 +1.2 +3.5
Unemployed    143 +5.8 -2.6
Filled jobs 1,800 +0.1 +2.5
Percent Percentage points
Employment rate  65.7 +0.4 +1.0
Unemployment rate 5.7 +0.3 -0.3
Labour force participation rate 69.7 +0.7 +0.9

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Notes:

1. All figures are seasonally adjusted. Data source: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2014 quarter

2. Employed: Includes people who worked one hour (or more) per week, whether paid or unpaid.

3. Statistics NZ  has combined the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), and Labour Cost Index (LCI) information  into one combined Labour Market Statistics release.

Source

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March 2015 quarter – Employment & Unemployment

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March 2015
quarter
Quarterly change Annual change 
(000) Percent
Employed
2,355 +0.7 +3.2
Unemployed   146 +2.1  -0.6
Filled jobs 1,832  +1.8 +3.3
Percent Percentage points
Employment rate 65.5 0.0 +0.7
Unemployment rate   5.8 0.0  -0.2
Labour force participation rate 69.6 +0.2 +0.6
Level Percent
Average ordinary time hourly earnings $28.77 0.0  +2.1
Wage inflation (salary and
wage rates, including overtime)
1105 +0.3 +1.7
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From Statistics New Zealand;

The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent in the March 2015 quarter (from a revised 5.8 percent in the December 2014 quarter), while the labour force participation rate reached an all-time high of 69.6 percent, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“This is the greatest share of New Zealanders we have ever seen in the labour force. The largest increase came from 20 to 34-year-olds, who accounted for nearly half this year’s increase,” labour market and households statistics manager Diane Ramsay said.

Over the year to the latest quarter, the number of people employed increased 74,000 (3.2 percent) while the number of people unemployed fell 1,000 (0.6 percent), as measured by the Household Labour Force Survey.

“We saw strong employment growth over the year, with Auckland and Canterbury making the most significant contributions,” Ms Ramsay said.

The employment rate was unchanged, at 65.5 percent. However, the rate for men reached its highest level since the December 2008 quarter. The female employment rate was down slightly from last quarter’s record high.

Annual wage inflation, as measured by the labour cost index, was steady, at 1.7 percent, while consumer price inflation remained low. Average hourly earnings, as measured by the Quarterly Employment Survey, increased 2.1 percent for the year, the lowest increase since the year to the June 2013 quarter.

Source

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Additional Information

The  under-employment stats;

People who are underemployed are those who work part-time, would prefer to work more hours, and are available to do so. In unadjusted terms, the number of underemployed grew by 12 percent over the year. While the number of part-time workers increased over the year, the ratio of people underemployed to employed part-time also rose – from 17.1 percent in June 2013 to 18.7 percent this quarter.

Official under-employment: up

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

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 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Other Sources

Statistics NZ:  Household Labour Force Survey

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[To  be periodically up-dated]

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

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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: Tue, Jun 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Prime Minister John Key has called on tenants of State houses to report cold, damp, neglected conditions of their homes. Key says;

“We want to make sure people get assistance. I mean I accept that there’s a lot of people and the Government’s record actually of improving those houses (has) been a strong one over the course of the last four or five years.

We’ve worked hard on trying to improve them. But I accept that some people are cold and some people have, you know, less resources and on the back of that they should definitely reach out for more help.” (Radio NZ, “More state housing action needed – English”, 23 June)

Mr Key seems unaware that government claims that Housing NZ has sufficient money to fix up delapidated properties is at variance with HNZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report which stated, in part;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Part of the problem is that the National Government has demanded tens of millions of dollars in dividends from Housing NZ. This year alone, Housing NZ will pay $90 million to the government in dividends – money that could be better spent on maintaining run-down, leaking, mouldy, cold houses. Heating vouchers for the poorest families would also help alleviate illnesses like rheumatic fever.

That should be our esteemed Prime Minister’s first priority.

How many more children must die before this government acts?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address & phone number supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  More state housing action needed – English

Parliament: Hansards – Housing, Affordable – Progress and Management of Housing New Zealand


 

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Letter to the Editor – User Pays is not a very clever solution

19 June 2015 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Some of these “free market types” don’t really follow through on their “bright ideas”…

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dominion post - 18 june 2015 - alan waller - public transport

 

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Mr response;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 19, 2015
subject: Letter to the ed

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Alan Waller demands  “what is wrong with user pays” and complains about “regional ratepayers subsidising a train service that is bleeding money and has never made money and is continually bleeding passenger numbers”. (Letters, 18 June)

Perhaps Mr Waller would realise what is “wrong with user pays” if train fares rose to full market rates, pushing thousands of commuters back into private vehicles, further clogging our already congested roads.

The cost to our local economy would be horrendous.

The purpose of public transport is not to make money. It is to take cars of our roads, thereby lessening congestion; pollution; increased fuel imports; and adding to greenhouses gas-emissions.

The problem with “user pays”, as Mr Waller advocates, is that full costs are often hidden – a fact he might consider next time he is stuck in traffic.

As for claiming “bleeding passenger numbers”, a Fairfax story dated 11 February this year, stated,

“A record 11.9 million passenger trips were taken on Tranz Metro trains last year, a 5.2 per cent increase on the 11.3m in 2013.”  (Ref: ‘Record Wellington train use set to stave off fare increases’)

Mr Waller should check his fun-facts first.  Something he can also do next time he is stuck in traffic.

-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied.]

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References

Fairfax media:  Record Wellington train use set to stave off fare increases

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