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An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

24 November 2016 2 comments

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In October 1987, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – apostle of Britain’s neo-liberal, free-market “reforms” – was famously quoted in an interview saying;

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And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour…

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Twenty-nine years later, as much of New Zealand is ravaged by a 7.5 earthquake, John Key makes an appeal to the people of Aotearoa on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘;

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The one thing I’d we’d just say to New Zealanders at the moment is stay close to your family and friends. Make sure you listen to the radio and listen to the best information that you’re getting. And if you do have certainly older neighbours or family, if you could go in and check up on them that would be most appreciated. Because there will be people feeling genuinely alone.

 

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Far from decrying Key’s sound advice, I would applaud him for giving it at a time when the country is rattled by ongoing,  severe,  seismic activity.

But it illustrates one fact with crystal-clarity;  Thatcher was wrong. There is such a thing as ‘society’.  We are our Brothers and Sisters Keepers; and functioning solely and purely  for our own Individualistic and immediate Familial benefit is not to our  advantage.

For without it, we are very much alone and left vulnerable to the immense, implacable, forces of nature.

Which is why the dictates of neo-liberalism – the so-called “invisible hand of the free-market” and selfish Cult of Individualism –  is doomed to failure. That is why the international  arm of neo-liberalism – globalisation – is  being rejected from country to country.

Because at the end of the day, when this country is hit by earthquakes that tear apart our roads, bridges, offices, community facilities, factories, ports, schools, and our own homes – I don’t see the “Invisible Hand of the Free Market” coming to our assistance, “invisible” or not.

Only people, working collectively for the greater good, can achieve mutual support – quite often for no personal benefit or gain.

Defenders of the neo-liberal/free market/globalisation ideology should stop and consider; we cannot have the Primacy of the Individual in good times, and then seek sanctuary within the strength of society in bad. People acting together as a community is either within us all the time, or not at all.

It is time for the leader of New Zealand’s free-market, pro-neo-liberal, political party to understand this simple truth.

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References

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

Radio NZ: Morning Report – John Key urges New Zealanders to look out for their neighbours

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 November 2016.

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When Life is a Lottery

20 November 2016 2 comments

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Fun Fact #1: Between 2006 and 2013,  the number of homeless grew by 25%. Based on Census data;  one in 100 were homeless in 2013; one in 120 in 2006, and one in 130 in 2001.

Fun Fact #2: In 1986, home ownership in New Zealand stood at 73.5%. By 2013, Census data showed home-ownership had fallen to 64.8%.

Fun Fact #3: In August this year, Auckland’s average house price reached – and passed – the $1,000,000 mark.

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Make no mistake, housing has become a crisis in New Zealand as this May poll for  a TV3/Reid Research Poll highlighted;

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Even 61% of National voters accepted the new reality in our once-egalitarian nation. Housing unaffordability (for the middle classes) and homelessness (for beneficiaries and the working poor)  could no longer be ignored.

Stepping back to 20 August 2007, National’s newly-elected leader, John Key, made an impassioned speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he excoriated 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.”

Nine years later, Key’s description of New Zealand’s housing crisis has changed markedly. It is now a “challenge“, as he painfully tried to explain on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme;

“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.”

On 9  November, a Hibiscus Coast couple were the incredibly lucky couple to win the latest multi-million dollar Lotto prize;

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The Radio NZ story further reported;

The man’s wife said at first she thought her husband was joking about the win.

“My head started spinning, my heart was racing and I got the shakes.”

The couple claimed their prize at Lotto’s head office on Thursday afternoon.

“As we sat in the winner’s room, he kept turning to me and saying ‘Am I in a dream?’ and I kept turning to him and saying ‘is this real?'” the woman said.

“We’ve been busting our guts trying to buy our first home,” the winner said.

“We just went to the mortgage broker earlier this week to see what they could do to help. But they just couldn’t make anything work for us.

“We were absolutely gutted and I just said ‘maybe that ship has sailed’.

“But my wife tried to stay positive and said ‘don’t worry, something good will happen for us’.

“I don’t think either of us thought that the something good would be $44 million.”

Note what the woman said here;

“We’ve been busting our guts trying to buy our first home. We just went to the mortgage broker earlier this week to see what they could do to help. But they just couldn’t make anything work for us. We were absolutely gutted and I just said ‘maybe that ship has sailed’.”

When couples have to rely on winning Lotto to be able to afford to buy their first home,  there is something seriously askew in society.

Remember Dear Leader Key’s own words;

“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.”

In the United States, commentators from the msm, politics, dissident community; and further afield, have rapidly come to the realisation that Donald Trump’s unlikely, unforeseen, and up-till-now improbable victory in the 2016 Presidential  race was predicated on the belated understanding that globalisation and neo-liberalism  have left behind millions of people.

In the Voting Booths across the United States, Consumers became Citizens again, and cast their ultimate sanction against the political establishment and those who supported the neo-liberal orthodoxy. The status quo of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (the latter, ironically a Republican like Trump) was utterly repudiated.

The disenchantment and alienation of the Working and Middle classes germinated during the 2008 Global Financial crisis and resulting Great Recession – the effects of which are still with us, eight years late. In the United States, millions of Americans lost their homes.

More than four million Americans have lost their homes since the housing bubble began bursting six years ago. An additional 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so delinquent on payments that they will be soon. With 13.5 million homeowners underwater — they owe more than their home is now worth — the odds are high that many millions more will lose their homes.

Most telling was this criticism by

Housing remains the biggest impediment to economic recovery, yet Washington seems paralyzed. While the Obama administration’s housing policies have fallen short, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered any meaningful new proposals to aid distressed or underwater homeowners.

Writing for the Huffington Post a year later, David Coates pointed out

“… the vast majority of those four million lost their homes because they lost their jobs, not because they had in better times taken out mortgages that they could not afford.

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It is not the rich who are being foreclosed. It is those on the margin of the core middle class. It is particularly middle class minorities who have taken the greatest hit on both their personal wealth and their associated credit scores. Falling house prices since 2008 have pulled median white net-worth down by 27 percent but median black net-worth down by anywhere between 40 percent and 53 percent.”

All the promises of neo-liberalism had come to nought. Instead millions had lost their jobs and those lucky enough found new work in low-paid service industries. Take-home pay was cut – and Humiliation applied in abundance as ‘compensation’.

The Working and Middle Classes not only lost their job and homes – their new status in low-paid work was precarious.

Events post-2008 hastened the  demise  of the American Dream and the rise of the Precariat, as Richard  McCormack wrote, in February of this year for the Manufacturing and Technology News;

The effects on the U.S. economy caused by 30 years of offshore outsourcing of production and jobs is starting to drive major changes in the American political system. The rise of a “precariat” class of Americans — those who are living “precarious” lives — has created a populist movement that shows no sign of acquiescing to the “establishment” in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The new precariat comprises a growing class of people who are going nowhere in their jobs, who are insecure and unstable. The group is “experiencing the breaking apart of the American Dream, which is what historically held the country together — the rise of the middle class, with everyone doing better,” notes visiting scholar John Russo of Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. “It’s not working that way any more.”

Driving the rise of the precariat is a society that is not generating enough wealth. De-industrialization, the shift of major goods-producing industries to foreign nations, and both the Republican and Democratic establishment’s embrace of free trade, are leading to a populist uprising.

The precariat is becoming one of the largest classes of Americans, encompassing far more than blue-collar workers who have been slammed by economic forces outside of their control. It now includes millions of Americans with college degrees who are under compensated or can’t find full-time employment with benefits.

As white-collar jobs have been outsourced, Americans with more than high-school degrees are starting to see their prospects “mirror those of the working class,” says Russo. “That insecurity and instability is now part of their life. That is why this new group is not yet a class in itself. It hasn’t defined what it is going to be.”

It is fragmented, but it is big, and much of it is angry.

In his article, McCormack quotes John Russo from the Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor;

“As steady formal work has been disappearing over time, informal work began to move beyond traditional concepts such as consulting, internships, subcontracting, privatization and intermittent employment,” Russo explains. “Rather than the continued rise of the formal economy, it is the informal economy that is growing.”

The precariat is “potentially all of us united by the fear of insecurity,” he notes. It is made up of “individuals living precarious and insecure existences lacking employment security, job security, income security, skill security, occupational security and labor market security.”

This is no longer the underground economy, but includes displaced individuals from the public and private sectors, millennials dealing with mountains of student debt, and baby boomers forced into early retirement without enough savings to support themselves.

There is little public assistance for the precariat class and “they’re not making demands to get better wages or improved benefits [because they] are replaced easily,” Russo notes.

Three years after Coates’ story,  and nine months after McCormack’s insightful analysis of the public mood, Trump’ ascendance as America’s 45th President was complete. Trump won the States where blue-collar workers had suffered the most.

The story of globalisation and neo-liberal “reforms” of our own economy has followed a familiar story; loss of long-term employment; ever-increasing need for re-training; the rise casualisation and contract piece-work; and the increase of lower-paid service-work.

Depressingly, economist Shamubeel Eaqub has predicted;

“The workplace is likely to be further casualised. “

Which adds further hopelessness to New Zealanders increasingly locked out of what was once known as the Great Kiwi Dream of home-ownership.

The National government ostensibly understands the notion of aspiration, as Dear Leader Key said six years ago;

“I want New Zealanders to be aspirational – to want more for themselves and their families, and to know that they have opportunities to do that.”

Those words ring hollow as National scrambles frantically to make itself  “look busy”, trying to alleviate the dual crisis of  worsening home ownership and homelessness.

Bennett’s suddenly-announced  policy of bribing state house tenants with (up to) $5,000 was widely seen as a panic-driven, ad hoc policy. It certainly caught Finance Minister Bill English by surprise, having no forewarning of Bennett’s media announcement on the issue.

The twin tsunami-waves of homelessness and housing unaffordability appears to have utterly over-whelmed National Ministers.

As Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election has demonstrated with crystal clarity, Consumers can easily become  Citizens again, re-discovering the power of their Vote. When Citizens’ anger becomes focused, and a perceived solution (or even just an opportunity to say “FUCK YOU!” to the Establishment) is put before them – they will vote for it.

Especially when they have lost so much, and have little left to lose.

Such was the case of  the US presidential elections, and before that, the ‘Brexit’ Vote.

As New Zealanders become more and more conscious of how much they have lost in the last thirty years, they too, will find themselves pissed off.

The opening lines of the song  from ‘Les Miserables’ – Do You Hear The People Sing? – should serve as a reminder to the political establishment in this country;

“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?”

The Great Kiwi Dream of home ownership was never predicated on the long-odds offered by  a little yellow piece of paper;

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Home ownership should not be a Lottery.

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References

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

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

Radio NZ: Auckland’s average house value tops $1 million

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

Scoop: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

TVNZ: Is there a housing crisis? John Key fails to say yes or no after being put on the spot

Radio NZ: Claimed – $44 million lotto prize

NY Times: The One Housing Solution Left – Mass Mortgage Refinancing

Huffington Post: America’s Half-Forgotten Housing Crisis

Manufacturing and Technology News: The Rise Of The American ‘Precariat’ – Globalization And Outsourcing Have Created A Combustible Political Culture

Chicago Tribune: How Trump won the presidential election – Revenge of working-class whites

Fairfax media: Shamubeel Eaqub – Job casualisation a global phenomenon

NZ Herald: John Key’s speech to the National Party convention

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

TV3 News: Govt to help fund Auckland homeless to move

Metrolyrics: Les Miserables – Do You Hear The People Sing?

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

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 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?

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

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

The seductiveness of Trumpism

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 November 2016.

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2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

14 November 2016 3 comments

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2015 – 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

July

August

October

November

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Statistics

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This blogger previously reported how Statistics NZ recently implemented a so-called “revision” which would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted and reported;

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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%;

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And on-cue, National was quick to capitalise on Statistics NZ’s figure-fudging;

On 2/3 July, TV3’s The Nation, Dear Leader Key told Corin Dann;

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

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

On 12 August, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

The latest Statistics NZ (soon to be re-branded Ministry of Truth) unemployment figures showed another “fall”. The unemployment rate for the September 2016 Quarter is now purportedly 4.9%;

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Can that figure – 4.9% – be trusted?

When Statistics NZ “re-jigged” its criteria for measuring unemployment in June, unemployment dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% (subsequently revised again to 5.1%);

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Predictably, National were quick to once again exploit the September statistics, as their Twitter-feed showed on 2 November;

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And three days later;

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It’s all nonsense, of course – made worse by Statistics NZ’s other dodgy criteria used when considering their definition what constitutes being “employed”;

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

Statistics NZ’s mis-representation of our “low unemployment” environment has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged. No one in the mainstream media has picked up on the questionable data;

This meant the size of the labour force rose 33,000 and unemployment fell by just 3,000 to 128,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9% from a revised 5.0% in the June quarter. This was the lowest unemployment rate since the December quarter of 2008. Unemployment has fallen by 7,000 over the last year and is up 1,000 from two years ago.Interest.co.nz

Unemployment has fallen below 5 percent for the first time in nearly eight years thanks to the growing economy, but it is still not translating into booming wages. Official figures show the unemployment rate declined to 4.9 percent in the three months to September, or 128,000 people, the lowest rate since December 2008.Radio NZ

According to Statistics New Zealand, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the September 2016 quarter. This is the lowest unemployment rate since the December 2008 quarter. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the June 2016 quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year.Maori TV

The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent for the September 2016 quarter, according to new figures from Statistics NZ. That’s the lowest it’s been since December 2008. – TV3 News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 from a revised 5 percent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.Sharechat

New Zealand has recorded its best unemployment rate in almost eight years with third quarter figures falling to a better than expected 4.9 per cent. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ, taking it to its lowest point since December 2008. – NZCity/NZ News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 per cent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 per cent in the three months ended September 30 from a revised 5 per cent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.NZ Herald

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell more than expected in the third quarter to drop to 4.9 per cent – the lowest rate since last 2008. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ taking it to its lowest point since the December quarter nearly eight years ago. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year. – TVNZ News

Of course there were “3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year“! Ten thousand unemployed people vanished from the data, at the click of a mouse, as Statistics NZ worked their “magic”.

Statistics NZ could potentially make unemployment vanish entirely, overnight, by changing the unemployment criteria to people with only two hearts and scaly blue skin.

Only Hamish Rutherford, at Fairfax media, pointed out the questionable value of Statistics NZ’s data;

Unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in almost eight years, as the economy creates more than 10,000 new jobs a month. Official figures show the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 per cent in the the September quarter, the first time it has fallen below 5 per cent since December 2008.

Earlier this year Statistics New Zealand revised the way it conducts the quarterly household labour force survey (HLFS), in a bid to bring the survey more in line with international standards. However the changes mean Statistics New Zealand cannot make confident comparisons with all of the figures from previous surveys.

But even in Rutherford’s article, the all-important point of dodgy stats was lost amongst the ‘rah-rah‘ of the mythical drop in unemployment.

The Otago Daily Times made an even less impressive, passing, reference to Statistics NZ’s fudged figures;

Unemployment in New Zealand is at its lowest level since 2008 but there will be lingering concerns about the lack of wage growth and the impact this will have on the inflation outlook.

Statistics New Zealand has changed some of its survey data to measure unemployment and employment and those changes are still bedding in.Otago Daily Times

Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson, has rejected any suggestion of political partisanship in the way unemployment data is now being presented.

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She was defensive in the face of criticism from Labour’s Grant Robertson and on  16 August, Ms MacPherson stated;

Like my predecessors I am fiercely protective of the statutory independence of the role of the Government Statistician and strongly refute any assertions made by Grant Robertson that there has been political interference in the production of official statistics.

This independence means that I maintain the right to make changes necessary to ensure the relevance and quality of our official statistics. Changes to the Household Labour Force Survey have been made to ensure that we produce the best possible measure of the current state of the labour market and to maintain consistency with international best practice.

Far from ignoring technological change during the past 30 years, such as the advent of the internet, we are incorporating these changes so as to be technology neutral.

Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

It is not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics as a result of more accurate information becoming available or changes to international standards and frameworks.

In addition we are introducing new measures – for example underutilisation – enabling a deeper, richer understanding of New Zealand’s labour market.

When this does occur it is standard practice for Statistics NZ to communicate reasons for revisions and anticipated changes well in advance of their official release, as we did on 29 June 2016. […]

Statistics NZ has a legislative obligation to release objective official statistics. We will continue to do this at all times.

One of many ironies not lost on this blogger is that other government departments extoll the virtues of jobseeking on-line. As CareersNZ and WINZ state the blindingly-obvious, “most job vacancies are listed online”;

Careersnz;

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WINZ;

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Ms MacPherson’s assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking  “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is  severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.

Unemployment statistics will no longer be presented in on-going up-dates of the Jobless Tally.

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This Statement has not been endorsed by MiniTruth (formerly StatsNZ)

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Addendum1: Definition of Employment

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

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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

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – September 2016 quarter

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – June 2016 quarter

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Twitter: National (5 Nov)

Interest.co.nz: Jobs grew 35,000 or 1.4% in Sept quarter, but unemployment fell just 3,000 and jobless rate falls to 4.9%

Radio NZ: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008

Maori TV: Work force grows despite youth unemployment

TV3 News: Unemployment drops to lowest rate since 2008

Sharechat: NZ jobless rate falls below 5% for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

NZCity/NZ News: Jobless rate falls to near eight-year low

NZ Herald: NZ jobless rate falls below 5 per cent for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

TVNZ News: Unemployment rate falls to near eight-year low

Fairfax media: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008 on booming job creation

Otago Daily Times: Unemployment lowest in eight years

Radio NZ: Statistician denies political interference over job seeker figures

Statistics NZ: Government Statistician responds to Grant Robertson

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Additional

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2016.

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Letter to the editor – Do National voters want us to be tenants in our own country?

12 September 2016 Leave a comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The latest on housing unaffordability made worse by speculation. It seems our Canadian cuzzies are on the right track;

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Vancouver's property market - foreign speculators - radio nz - housing prices

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Which merited this response from me, addressed to National voters;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Sep 5, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Canada’s Vancouver has been suffering a mirror-image of Auckland’s runaway housing price boom. Like Auckland, average house prices were past the $900,000 mark. Canadians were being locked out of buying their own home by cashed-up foreign speculators.

Last month, the State government of British Columbia imposed a 15% sales tax on foreign house buyers (Chinese, Americans, etc) and the result has deterred foreign speculators.

Here in New Zealand, National is obsessed with it’s free-market doctrine and is willing to sacrifice our tradition of home-ownership. Foreign (and homegrown) speculators are inflating a housing bubble that is not only unfair to New Zealanders wanting to buy their own home, but is ultimately unsustainable.

Unless we literally want to become tenants in our own country, the sale of houses to non-New Zealanders must be banned immediatly. The free-market doctrine serves wealthy overseas investors, as well as local speculators, but not New Zealanders wanting their own homes.

I urge those who vote National to consider what sort of country they want to live in, and what sort of country they want to leave their children.

If National voters think that money is all that matters, then we truly will get the kind of society we deserve.
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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Let’s hope the ‘light goes on‘ with National voters…

 

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References

Radio NZ: Lending restrictions start to take effect on Auckland’s housing market

Radio NZ: Vancouver’s property market slumps after new foreign buyers tax

Previous related blogpost

That was Then, this is Now #10

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plutonians protect their own housing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  6 September 2016

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Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet

1 September 2016 2 comments

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mother-and-children

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Beware of so-called “Reforms”

In December last year, National announced plans to  “overhaul its educational support for children with special needs“. Radio NZ reported;

From the middle of next year it said the system would be significantly redesigned to be simpler and provide more support for teachers and parents.

Today it published the results of 150 public meetings held this year to identify ways of improving education for children with special education needs, such as a physical or mental disability.

As a result of those meetings it is planning changes that would include giving families, teachers and specialists a single point of contact for arranging support for children.

Before that happened, the Education Ministry would begin 22 projects aimed at improving special education in groups of schools and early childhood centres around the country.

As with all reforms from National, there would be ‘fish hooks’.  Promises to  “provide more support for teachers and parents” would prove to be a sugar-coated pill at best – or most likely illusory in actuality.

Rumblings in the Education Sector

On 15 April this year, Radio NZ reported further criticisms of under-funding for children with special needs;

Special education desperately needs more funding, which should be included in the government’s overhaul of the sector, parents and educators say.

The Ministry of Education says it is simplifying the $590 million system for helping children with disabilities, but there won’t be any more money to accompany the changes which will be introduced in 2017.

Critics say that is not good enough, because too many children are not getting the help they need.

The Early Childhood sector criticised National for under-funding special needs children;

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said more support was also desperately needed in the early childhood sector.

“The model isn’t working that’s there at the moment. It needs to be changed and it’s got to be done quickly.

“It’s okay to take your time over doing a review or whatever you want to call it, but at the end of the day we’ve got people falling through the gaps right now, and they shouldn’t have to.”

Parata responded;

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was confident there would be tangible benefits from the special education changes, without more money.

“We want to get this right. We have a vision for a system that is inclusive, we’re recognised internationally as being so and we just want to continuously improve.”

Note the caveat from Parata; “without more money“.

Where would increased funding for under-fives with special needs come from if it was achieved “without more money“?

Answer: National resorted to one of it’s old tricks.

Parata’s Proposal

The answer came as a bombshell on 22 August.

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing. A day later, the Secondary Principals’ Association responded;

A proposed cut to special education spending in schools would be a disaster, the head of the Secondary Principals’ Association says.

Documents show the government wants to greatly increase its spending on under-5s with special needs, at the expense of spending on school-aged children.

One of the areas it has singled out for urgent review is the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme for children with the most significant special needs, and in particular, the those aged 18 to 21 who use it.

Secondary Principals’ Association president Sandy Pasley said secondary schools would not cope well with a cut.

“We haven’t got enough as it is and to lose some funding from secondary sector would be quite dramatic for schools.

“We understand that it’s good to put it into the early years but not at the expense of students in secondary schools because often the special education needs don’t go away and sometimes they’re exacerbated by adolescence.”

Ms Pasley said the association would try and persuade the government not to go ahead with the proposal, which she said would be a disaster.

Kim Hall from Autism Action told Nine to Noon children under 5-years-old with autism needed more support – but funding for that should not be taken from school-aged children.

Hall made this critical point;

“Some children aren’t diagnosed until they start school or even later, so that means those children already miss out on that vital funding at the start.”

More on that issue in a moment.

Shamefully, the Early Childhood Council seemed willing to be an accomplice to National’s shuffling of scarce funding for vulnerable children. Early Childhood Council CEO, Peter Reynolds, did not hide his enthusiasm;

“On paper it looks good. It’s a shame we’ve got to wait another few months before we start seeing this thing roll out, but we’ll be wanting to work very closely with the ministry to ensure kids who are struggling right now get some sort of relief in the future and their parents get that relief as well.”

Parata justified the money-shuffle, with the usual spin;

“Evidence shows that providing learning support early in a child’s life will have much greater impact. We’re at a proposal stage of the process. Any changes wouldn’t come into effect until March 2017 at the earliest and will be managed incrementally and carefully to ensure ongoing support. What we are looking at, based on a year’s worth of consultation with the sector is, how do we redsign the service going forward, without compromising the service for those currently in it. So there will be a long transition.”

However, it is simply not correct that early detection and support for children – who will only gradually exhibit complex behavioural, intellectual, and other disabilities over time – is possible.

For children on the Autism Spectrum, recognising that a child is presenting may take up to five years, according to the  on-line  Ministry of Health document,  “Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline“;

There are three more common times when individuals are likely to present:

1. between the ages of 1 and 3 years, lack of development in the areas affected by ASD, such as language and play, becomes more obvious
2. between the ages of 5 and 8 years, when increased social and educational demands highlight difficulties
3. in adolescence or adulthood, when social isolation or relationship difficulties result in depression and other comorbid conditions.

The US group, Autism Speaks, points out;

In the United States, the average age of diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is around 4 years of age.

All of which is confirmed by the very personal story of “Sally” and her son, “Zack”.

“Zack” – A Personal Story

From a blogpost published on 6 March 2012 (see: Once upon a time there was a solo-mum), on the problem of Minister Paula Bennett cutting the Training Incentive Allowance;

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.

Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go off the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

Zack’s story was continued in another blogpost on 8 June 2013 (see: When the State fails our children), on the issue of Special Needs Education. I provided more detail on Zack’s circumstances;

Zack is an intelligent, charming, highly curious, young man (12) who requires one-on-one support during his entire school day. Not having that one-on-one support is untenable for both Zack or the school, as he can “flip out” at provocations which other children might not notice.

Zack was expelled from two previous schools for lack of one-on-one support from a teacher-aid.

He was enrolled at his current school with the specific agreement that Zack would be provided full-time, one-on-one support from a dedicated teacher-aid.

It soon become apparent that the Ministery had assigned this teacher-aid (who was doing the best she could under the circumstances) to two children; Zack, and another child at another school.

Not being able to violate given laws of physics by being in two places simultaneously, the school took action to cut down Zack’s hours in class. He was permitted to attend class only when the teacher aid was present (approx 4 hours per day). When she left to attend her second client, Zack’s grandmother collected him. (Zack’s mother, Sally, is a solo-mum who works at an early childhood facility.)

Implementation of promises of full support – the current fashionable term is “intensive wraparound support” – by the Ministry of Education have been erratic and never fully implemented. (At the beginning the Ministry was reluctant to offer any support for Zack. They relented only when schools refused to accept him unless there was  funding for a teacher-aid.)

Zack’s teacher-aid was funded through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). According to the Education Ministry website, ORS is described as;

“Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding is used to provide specialist services and support for students with the very highest needs for special education.

ORS helps students join in and learn alongside other students at school. Any student who meets the ORS criteria is included in the scheme.”

For Zack, ORS provided;

“teacher aides to support teachers to include students in class programmes and activities”

Without a teacher’s aide present, Zack was easily distracted or could become stressed and angry at the usual background classroom noise, chatter, and other stimuli which other children mostly never notice. The consequence  almost always resulted in an outburst from Zack and disruption of the class.

Without support from a  teacher aide, funded by ORS, Zack’s education would have been limited and no school would have enrolled him. He would have had to be home-schooled by his mother who would have had to quit her job and return to the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Even that form of home-schooling would have had limited success, as Sally found it increasingly difficult to manage her son.

With minimal education and an Aspergers-personality, Zack’s future prospects would have been grim.

Zack’s fascination with fire resulted in coming to the attention of Police (though this aspect of his behaviour has improved considerably in the last few years). The local community police constable played an outstanding and sympathetic role in helping Zack move past this dangerous obsession.

Zack’s Aspergers condition was not identified until later in his childhood, as this interview with Sally revealed;

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Frank: “Kia ora Sally.

You’ve heard of government proposals to shift funding for Special Needs programmes from schools to pre-schools. As someone who works in Early Childhood Education, and with a teenage son with Aspergers, you have a foot in both camps. What are your views on this?”

Sally: “Rather than a ‘shift’ I think there needs to be an increase across the board. There are big gaps in funding meaning many children miss out on funding and thus the extra help that could benefit their education greatly.”

Frank: “At what age was Zack diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum?”

Sally: “He was 4 when we first wondered. By 5 or 6 he was considered to have aspects. I think he was about 8 or 9 when he was officially classified as having Asperger Syndrome.”

Frank: “So funding for pre-school Special Needs children would not have met Zack’s needs?”

Sally: “It wouldn’t have been available because [his] ‘needs’ at that age wouldn’t have met the requirements for funding.”

Frank: “So in effect, that would have left him ‘stranded’, without any government-funded support?”

Sally: “Yes.”

Frank: “Without funding for Zack’s teacher aide, would Zack have been able to cope at school? He was asked to leave one school at least, wasn’t he?”

Sally: “He didn’t and doesn’t cope without extra teacher aide support. The funding for anyone not considered ‘high needs’ is non-existant. He only ever received funding when, because he wasn’t coping, his behaviour was out of control. Then when the extra support helped and his behaviour went down, funding and thus support was taken away and then his behaviour became an issue. ‘Asked to leave’. That’s a nice way to put it. Yes he left two schools because without funding and support they couldn’t deal with him. Although in all fairness I need to point out that the first of those schools didn’t try to work with him in appropriate ways and didn’t have a positive attitude towards children with special needs.”

Frank: “So if Zack was unable to cope at schools, without funding for support through a teacher’s aide, what would have happened to his education opportunities?”

Sally: “Not ‘would have’ but ‘has’. He is years behind academically and is struggling to gain credits for NCEA Level One. This is partly due to the several years at primary school where he didn’t learn a lot due to no funding or support and being in a highly emotional and behavioural state. It is also because of what workload he can cope with though. He will do Level One NCEA over three years so he can cope.”

Frank: “Would you have been able to carry on working in your own career if Zack had been forced through circumstances beyond his control, to stay home and be home-schooled?”

Sally: “No. I would have ended up back on the DPB. Luckily he ended up in a wonderful Intermediate for his last year there and then a great college that, even without extra funding, has an amazing learning support system. He doesn’t have teacher aides though because he gets no funding and that would help immensely, especially with English.”

Frank: “Without funding for a teacher’s aide, what do you believe would have been the outcome for his development?”

Sally: “The only teacher aide funding he ever got was in primary when his behaviour was out of control. If that had not been available he wouldn’t have been able to be supported to cope in class. The outcome of him not getting funding for a teacher aide in terms of his learning for all these years is he has learnt things a lot slower than he could of and he is still struggling to understand a lot of the curriculum.”

Frank: “Without funding for support for other children with Special needs at schools and secondary schools, what do you foresee as the outcome?”

Sally: “Schools being under even more pressure to help children without the funding or resources they need. The already limited resources being stretched to breaking point. An increasing number of children who leave school without the education they deserve or need to be active members of society. An increasing burden on the welfare system to support these adults that weren’t supported as children.

Plus an increased burden on the criminal system because without a good job people are more likely to steal to survive.”

Frank: “What do you say to Education Minister Hekia Parata’s proposals to cut Special Needs funding for schools and shifting the money to pre-schools?”

Sally: “Hekia, heck no! Funding needs to be increased across the board. While it is true that in ECE there needs to be increased funding for children with special needs and that the early years are the most important in terms of development, children still need support throughout their school lives.”

Frank: “Finally, how is Zack these days?”

Sally: “Struggling academically but he is at a very supportive school who are tailoring their approach to his learning to suit him. He no longer has extreme behaviour at school, partly because he is older but also because of the positive school environment he is in.”

Frank: “Thank you, Sally. All the best to you and your sons.”

Sally: “All good.”

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Conclusion

National has come up with many “reforms”, proposals, policies, and ideas that eventually fail, or create unforeseen (or often foreseen; pre-warned; and ignored) problems.

On this occasion, the proposal to increase spending for under-fives children with special needs, at the expense of older children, is short-sighted madness that beggars belief.

There is simply no sensible rationale for this ill-considered, incoherent policy.  If there is scientific backing, Parata is yet to release it to the media and public.

Parata is playing god with the lives of vulnerable children – children who are often unable to cope in a classroom-environment without constant  “wraparound” support.

Taking money from children who can barely cope is simply beyond any measure of comprehension.

Is Parata so badly advised by her officials that she cannot understand the consequences of cutting support for children with special needs?

Is Parata’s Ministry so cash-strapped that she even considers taking funding from those who need it the most?

Children with special needs are highly vulnerable,  facing considerable difficulties, with many lacking simple coping mechanisms. They live stressed, difficult lives that most New Zealanders are unaware of. They have started life several steps behind their peers. They are running, just to barely keep up.

If Parata is willing to undermine what little support these children receive, then she is a damaged person lacking in any measure of human empathy. I hold her in utter contempt.

Parata must resign.

 

 

* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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References

Radio NZ: Govt promises to overhaul special education

Radio NZ: Children with disabilities missing out as education funding falls short

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Radio NZ: Secondary principals fear special education ‘disaster’

Autism Speaks: Hunting for Autism’s Earliest Clues

Ministry of Education: Overview of Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS)

Ministry of Health: Does this person have ASD? New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline

Other Blogs

How Melulater Sees It: Special Education – Let’s Change the Name and Solve Everything!!

How Melulater Sees It: Where are those wrap around services, Hekia?

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part one (Nov, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part two (Dec, 2014)

Public Address: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history ‒ part three (Feb, 2015)

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Removing the word ‘special needs’ so you don’t have to fund ‘special needs’

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

When the State fails our children

National’s prioritises Education needs

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

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1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library

1995 Tom Scott Cartoon featuring Minister of Education Lockwood Smith and three children with special needs. Ref: H-242-020 Turnbull Library (Acknowledgement: Public Address Blog)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 August 2016.

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We don’t want to send the wrong message – John Key

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Junk-Food_KHushKhazana

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One morning, on Monday, 15 August, Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner briefly interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader for the Checkpoint programme;

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john key on cannabis - radio nz - checkpoint - 15.8.16

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Subject; a recent poll  showing that 64% supported possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be  legal (33%) or decriminalised (31%). Only 34% of the 1,029 respondents  supported the current status quo of prohibition.

Espiner pointedly asked Key whether he thought cannabis should be decriminalised or legalised.

Key responded that he “was not a fan” of making cannabis legal.

Key referred to Parliament “sending a message” to society;

@ 0.38

“…Y’now, one of the things that Parliament does is send a message to people about, um, activity we want to see or not want to see. And, um, in the case of drugs, um, I think if we were, as Parliament, were to decriminalise then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased drug use is ok.”

@ 1.20

“…We see longer sentences for instance for domestic violence because we’re, um, trying to send a message as a Parliament that we’re deeply opposed to the domestic violence statistics in New Zealand [and] we’re going to do something about it.”

Dear Leader stuck to his spin-doctored script, using the phrase, “sending a message”, three times.

So the National-dominated Parliament was “sending a message”?

Key’s rationale, as he stated at around 0.38 into the interview was “ were to decriminalise then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased drug use is ok“.

Really?

Are “messages” from Parliament to the rest of New Zealand critically important?

The previous Labour Government also intended that a  “message” was sent from Parliament  to our children, back in 2008;

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greasy-school-tuckshop-food-on-way-out

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As I wrote back in November 2015;

As with taxing tobacco products in New Zealand – a method proven to work – increasing the price of an unhealthy product reduces consumption. Especially amongst the poor, who are particularly susceptible to pernicious marketing and supply of cheap, unhealthy ‘foods’. A Parliamentary report here in New Zealand showed that obesity was especially prevalent in lower socio-economic areas;

In 2012/13, a Ministry of Health-led survey estimated that three out of ten New Zealand adults were obese (31.3%), an increase of 2.7% from 2011/12  and an increase of 18.6% in the 25 years since 1989   Obesity rates were highest amongst Pacific adults (68%) and Māori adults (48.3%).

The same survey found that after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity, adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 1.5 more times as likely to be obese as those living in the least deprived areas.

However, our esteemed ‘Health’ Minister, Dr (!) Jonathan Coleman was/is not convinced.

On 28 June, last year, speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A, Dr Coleman said;

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Not necessarily. No, the evidence doesn’t show that. If you look at the evidence for sugar tax, right, it shows actually it’s very low in terms of disability-adjusted life years lost, so that’s basically saying that, look, there’s no evidence that it’s going to end up with people living longer, healthier lives. What there is evidence for is actually eating less and exercising more, and so I’m focusing my efforts on education, getting people to actually live more healthy, active lifestyles. Sugar taxes get a lot of attention. No evidence that it works.

Four months later, in an interview with Dr Jonathan Coleman, on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 October;

Patrick Gower: Looking at a soft-drink tax –why not?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks.

Patrick Gower: And consumption dropped. That’s evidence, isn’t it?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect, so there were other things going on – a tanking Mexican economy, $30 billion drinking-water programme. It’s also not clear if there’s substitution to other beverages. So we’re saying, look, you know, there’s some evidence that’s being assessed – it’s going to be reported on in 2017 at Waikato University as well as the University of North Carolina – but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to.

Patrick Gower: Well, the World Health Organization, which put out that major report recently, led by our own Sir Peter Gluckman, you know, that has said, and I will quote it for you, ‘The rationale and effectiveness of taxation measures to influence consumption are well supported by available evidence.’

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, they might be talking about a decrease in sales. But what we want to know about is – is there a link to obesity directly? So, for instance, there might be a decrease in consumption of soft drinks, but are people drinking more flavoured milk? Are they drinking beer as a substitution? What is says in that report is that, actually, there isn’t clear evidence. On balance, they recommend it, but, look, that’s the WHO, you know? You would expect that they would take a very purist view. And I met with the commissioners personally. I talked to Sir Peter Gluckman.

Patrick Gower: What about this for evidence? If a tax doesn’t work or there’s no evidence for it, what about with cigarettes? Because your own government’s putting up the price of cigarettes and saying that that is working to stop smoking.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, that’s a different issue. So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption, but what I’m interested in is – will that decrease obesity? So say, for instance, we tax something. You might drink less Coke, but are you drinking beer or flavoured milk instead?

This was an interesting exchange between Gower and Coleman. Note that his first contention is that sugar taxes do not work;

“Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks […]  Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect […] but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to…

But only a few seconds later, Coleman makes this startling admission;

“So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption…”

That was a slip on his part. The National Party politician in Dr Jonathan Coleman was instructed to parrot the official line: ‘there is no evidence that sugar taxes work‘ (even though that is precisely the same mechanism used to reduce tobacco consumption).

As I then asked;

What could be wrong with providing healthy food options for our children? Who could possibly object to fighting obesity in our youngest citizens, who are vulnerable to the highly-processed, addictive, sugary and fatty foods that are a plague on Western (and increasingly developing) contries?

Who indeed…

Need we ask? And are we surprised?

It was 2009, and National was in power;

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schools-healthy-food-rule-scrapped

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Two and a half years later, the consequences were predictable, dire, and costly;

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more-weight-loss-surgery-funded

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By April 2016 – seven years after National scrapped Labour’s healthy-foods-in-schools legislation, the cost of weight-loss surgery has continued to escalate;

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Dollars up as pounds go down for funded weight loss surgery

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Which raises the fairly obvious question; what message was Parliament (ie; National) sending to our children in March 2009, when it abandoned the campaign to implement healthy food options in our schools?

What “message” was Parliament (ie; National) sending to all New Zealanders?

To paraphrase John Key’s statement to Guyon Espiner on 15 August;

“…Y’now, one of the things that Parliament does is send a message to people about, um, activity we want to see or not want to see. And, um, in the case of unhealthy, disease-causing foods, um, I think if we were, as Parliament, were to permit unhealthy foods in schools then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased obesity use is ok.”

That would be a good message to send.

I look forward to it.

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Is there appetite for change on legalising cannabis?

Radio NZ: Majority back decriminalisation of cannabis use, poll suggests

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

NZ Treasury: Increase in Tobacco Excise and Equivalent Duties

Parliament: Research papers – Obesity and diabetes in New Zealand

Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE): NZ: National reversal on healthy food in schools “incredible”

TVNZ Q+A: Coleman – We’ll tackle obesity but no tax or legislation

TV3 The Nation: Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

World Health Organisation: Healthy diet

Fairfax media: Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

Radio NZ: More weight loss surgery funded

Sunday Star Times: Dollars up as pounds go down for funded weight loss surgery

Other Blogs

Politically Corrected NZ: Keywi integrity at it’s finest

Previous related blogposts

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

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

When is ‘Nanny State’ not a ‘Nanny State’?

From “Nanny” State to “Natzi” State?

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

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bad food government nz

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 August 2016.

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Letter to the editor – Plunket and the slow strangulation of community organisations

8 August 2016 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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On 1 August, Titahi Bay resident, Anne Perry had this letter published in the Dominion Post;

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letter to the editor - plunket

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Ms Perry made pertinent points and raised the very real problem of funding cuts and terminated contracts for community organisations dealing with some of society’s most vulnerable and damaged people. Or helping people who were stressed from having to deal with life’s increasing pressures, complexities, and financial demands.

I added my thoughts to her call for greater funding for our community organisations;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Tue, Aug 2, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Anne Perry’s letter criticising under-funding for Plunket highlights an ongoing crisis faced by many community organisations. (letters, 1 August)

National has slashed funding or terminated contracts, forcing NGOs to cut front-line staff and services. Some have closed altogether.

Women’s Refuge, 198 Youth Health Centre, Auckland Sex Abuse Help, Rape Prevention Education, Parents As First Teachers programme, Community Law Centre, Smokefree Coalition, Lifeline, Relationship Services, early childhood education, is a litany of cut-backs and closures.

In other instances, contracts are terminated and re-awarded to other organisations, resulting in a loss of institutional knowledge and experience.

An example of near closure last year was the Problem Gambling Foundation.

This year, National has announced a “review” of Richmond’s Salisbury School, a facility that offers specialised education to girls with disabilities and high-needs.

Just as the sale of state housing has increased homelessness and over-crowding, the constant re-shuffling of services and funding cuts has predictable consequences.

National’s social policies are random and ad hoc.

There was money for a flag referendum; bailing out the Southland aluminium smelter; and a sheep farm in the middle of a Saudi desert to placate an irate Saudi businessman.

Meanwhile, Plunket goes begging with cap in hand.

What is wrong with this picture?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Dominion Post: Women’s Refuge cuts may lead to waiting lists

NZ Doctor: Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre to close its doors as management fails to implement directives from CDHB

Radio NZ: Support agencies forced to cut frontline services

NZ Herald: Govt funding cuts reduce rape crisis support hours

Fairfax media: Lifeline faces closure as Government rejects pleas for funding

TVNZ News: Relationships Aotearoa hanging on at ‘awful’ 11th hour

Radio NZ: ‘Destabilising’ funding changes proposed

TVNZ News: Kiwi charities and NGOs face closure with impending funding cuts

Radio NZ: Community groups ‘fear speaking out’

NZ Herald: Funding win for Problem Gambling Foundation

Scoop media: Budget delivers funding cut to early childhood education

Radio NZ: Funds cut from parents-as-teachers scheme

Fairfax media: Marlborough Violence Intervention Project upset at funding cut to Parents As First Teachers programme

Fairfax media: Richmond’s Salisbury School may close in January

Related blogposts

Mean-spirited and short-sighted

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

CYF – The Hollowing Out of a State Agency

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

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

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