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Letter to the editor – Bill English admits immigration driving economy

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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:      12 June 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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On 16 June last year, then-Finance Minister, Bill English attributed our growth to “other sectors” of the economy;

“Despite the dairy sector continuing to be under pressure, other sectors are performing well and contributing to an overall solid rate of economic growth.”

He never acknowledged the role played by massive immigration in our so-called “economic growth”. To do so would admit that our “growth” was artificial and unsustainable, and putting pressure on housing and social services.

As Labour unveiled it’s new immigration policy this week, English was forced to concede;

“A 30,000 reduction in migration right now will stall the economy, it’ll deprive businesses of the skills they need to enable them to make the investments they want to make, to grow New Zealand. “

It’s official: our “growth” is an illusion.

Like a “sugar hit” from junk-food, immigration is not really energising our economy. On 18 March last year, English admitted that real national disposable income-per-capita fell by 0.4%. Again, he put the blame anywhere but at immigration;

“You’ve got a big drop in national income, because dairy prices are down.”

Again he let slip;

“At the same time you’ve had surprisingly high migration numbers. So it’s not surprising that when you work the figures you get a drop in national disposable income.”

Like Auckland’s ballooning house-bubble prices, economic “growth” based on migration is a mirage. Eventually those balloons will burst and we’ll be left to tidy up National’s nasty mess.

It beggars belief how National ever gain it’s reputation for “sound economic stewardship”.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media:  Labour unveils plans to stop foreign students’ ‘backdoor immigration’ rort

Radio NZ:  Incomes dropping despite GDP growth, English admits

Fairfax media:  New Zealand’s economic growth driven almost exclusively by rising population

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 June 2017.

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National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

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The Grand Announcement!

On 3 June, National announced with great fanfare that additional state housing would be made available in Tauranga  and  Papamoa;

Almost 220 new social and transitional places are on the way for Tauranga and Papamoa, the Government has today confirmed.

“We’re on track to have 68 short term transitional housing places available in Tauranga and Papamoa by the end of the year. This will mean we can support up to 272 families in Tauranga and Papamoa every year while long term solutions are found,” says Ms Adams.

“Of those 68 places, 21 places are already open.

“Across the wider Bay of Plenty region, we will be providing a total of 146 transitional housing places meaning we’ll be able to help 584 families every year,” says Ms Adams.

“These houses are in addition to the 290 social houses we’re planning to secure in the Bay of Plenty. These new properties will be a welcome addition to the region, which is an area of growing need.”

Minister Amy Adams emphasised,

“We are working hard alongside providers to address the demand on social housing and help those most in need of warm, safe housing.”

Except…

Which would be fine – except that in December last year, National signed an agreement to sell off 1,138 state houses to IHC subsidiary, Accessible Properties;

Accessible Properties has signed a contract with the Government confirming it will acquire and manage 1,140  [actually 1,138] state homes in Tauranga, and plans to add 150 more houses to its portfolio.

The 1140 homes are currently with Housing New Zealand and will transfer on April 1, 2017. The contract was signed today and Housing New Zealand tenants are receiving letters this week explaining the change of ownership.

It was a similar deal to the one  the Salvation Army walked away from in March 2015;

The Government’s plan to sell off unwanted state houses to community housing providers has been dealt a massive blow with the Salvation Army walking away from the negotiation table.

The Salvation Army announced today it lacked the expertise, infrastructure and resources to deal with the number of houses and tenants that the Government wanted to offload.

[…]

Salvation Army social housing spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said the Government had underestimated the complexity of the task.

“I don’t think there has been enough thinking gone into it.”

Roberts said the current “Housing New Zealand monopoly” wasn’t working, but handing social housing over to single community organisations, like the Salvation Army, would fail.

Community Housing Aotearoa director Scott Figenshow rightly pointed out;

“ Last month the Government confirmed $1.2 billion of deferred maintenance on the state housing stock. Why would a provider want to purchase a liability? ”

IHC/Accessible Properties showed no such hesitation and on 1 April this year the sale was completed. Accessible Properties’ CEO,  Greg Orchard, appeared very pleased with the deal;

“The properties have been assessed as being at a very good standard – we will maintain this and seek to make improvements.”

The sale of the properties took place at the same time that Tauranga was experiencing a housing crisis similar to Auckland’s;

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Which means…

National’s “grand plans” for 220 new social and transitional places remains woefully short of the 1,138 houses that National sold off to IHC’s Accessible Properties at the end of March.

It is also unclear what is meant by “ transitional places“. Are these actual houses? Or motel units, à la Auckland-style;

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Only National would have the brazenness to sell off 1,138 state houses and then announce one-fifth of that number of “new houses” as some sort of “stunning achievement”.

Worse still is National’s over-all record when it comes to State housing;

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) – a dramatic shortfall of 7,400 properties.

No  wonder we have families living in cars in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Where did those state houses end up?

Promises made…

In September 2009, then-Housing Minister, Phil Heatley, announced that state house tenants would be allowed to purchase the state houses they were living in;

From today those state house tenants in a position to buy the house they live in can do so, says Housing Minister Phil Heatley.

[…]

Over the next week, Housing New Zealand will be approaching about 3,800 state tenants who pay market rent and live in a home that is available for purchase, to make them aware of the opportunity.

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To ensure a property is not on-sold to developers, a tenant who purchases their state house will be unable to reapply for a state house for three years from the date of purchase.

Heatley specifically made clear his opposition to state houses ending up in the hands of anyone but occupying tenants.

In January 2015, our then-Dear Leader, Key, repeated National’s plans to sell state houses – but only to social service providers;

We’ll then look to sell between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties over the following year for use as social housing run by approved community housing providers.

In doing so, we’ll use open and competitive processes.

Community housing providers may want to buy properties on their own, or they may go into partnership with other organisations who lend them money, contribute equity, or provide other services.

Properties will have to stay in social housing unless the government agrees otherwise, and existing tenants will continue to be housed for the duration of their need.

Selling properties in this way doesn’t reduce the number of social housing places. It just means more of the tenancies will be managed by a non-government housing provider rather than Housing New Zealand.

We’re very conscious that the sale of properties has to work for taxpayers.

We’re looking to get a fair and reasonable price for these properties, bearing in mind they’re being sold as ongoing social houses with high-need tenants.

We’re not selling them as private homes or rentals.

Note his unequivocal guarantee; “We’re not selling them as private homes or rentals”.

As with many of Key’s statements, he was somewhat ‘loose’ with truthfulness.

Promises broken.

By May this year, it became very apparent where many of the 7,400 state houses sold off by National had ended up;

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The article by Virginia Fallon makes this extraordinary revelation;

While the Devon St sale gives buyers the chance to choose their neighbours, it marks a bittersweet ending for Kay Hood, who once owned 80 per cent of the street.

“I would have liked to have bought the sixth one, that’s the only eyesore,” she said.

Over 20 years, Hood and husband Peter bought five houses on the street, and she wishes the last one never got away.

“We bought them off Housing Corp and I did approach them for the last one, but we never got it.”

We bought them off Housing Corp…”?!

So while entire families are camping out in cars, garages, or  –  if they are lucky – motel rooms, private investors have ‘snapped up’ State House properties.

In this case, the Hoods on-sold their investments (ie, former state houses), and were candid in their plans;

“ We’re going to go skiing and spend the children’s inheritance. ”

Personally, I hold no antipathy toward the Hoods. In our current social climate of  hyper-individualism  combined with a degree of moral ambiguity, many of our fellow New Zealanders have exploited opportunities for speculation such as this.

But I do hold 100% responsible John Key and his fellow Ministers-of-the-Crown who allowed this travesty to occur.

More so John Key, who benefitted from a state house in his youth;

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The over-powering stench I can smell is either a dead, rotting whale on my front lawn – or Key’s appalling hypocrisy.

The sound of a train-wreck hurtling toward you

It is abundantly clear that National is panicking over the issue of housing.

Whether it is homelessness or over-crowding by poor families, or home unaffordability for middle-class Millenials, National has managed to spectacularly cock this up.

New Zealanders may be able to tolerate poverty. This country has had varying degrees of poverty since the Year Dot.

But the notion of homelessness is more than they can stomach. Homelessness strikes at the very core of the “Kiwi Dream”, where a roof over your head and a place to raise a family is one of our strongest values. (The other being the now-mythical notion of egalitarianism. That social ideal had the life throttled out of  it after 1984.)

Housing-related problems (I refuse to call them “issues”) for National keep mounting in a Trump-like way.

On 8 June, on Radio NZ, Major Campbell Roberts (the same Maj. Roberts who, in 2015, had thoroughly rejected National’s invitation to buy properties from Housing NZ)  from the Salvation Army’s social policy unit, had been invited by then Finance Minister English to become part of National’s Housing Shareholders Advisory Group.

Maj. Roberts revealed that now-Dear Leader, Bill English, had described a looming housing crisis as far back as 2010;

“ He [Mr English] said a couple of things; one, the use of of the $15 billion asset of Housing New Zealand, and the second was that he was seeing a major crisis in Auckland in housing in five or six years.  It was a passing comment – but it was one of the reasons for setting up the shareholders group.

English’s prediction has eerily come to fruition;

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Unsurprisingly, English rejected Maj. Robert’s revelations using a highly effective technique from his predecessor. One of English’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors said,

The Prime Minister was having a number of such conversations on housing reform at the time, including with a housing advisory group which included the Salvation Army, and he doesn’t recall exactly what he said.

Who else had memory problems when it came to potentially embarrassing gaffs and scandals?

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Meanwhile, in a latest move to dampen the ballooning housing market, the Reserve Bank is contemplating adding a new “tool” to it’s regulatory powers. The RBNZ wants to cap  debt-to-value ratios at five times a borrower’s income;

The Reserve Bank wants to be able to stop people taking out mortgages that are too big compared to their incomes.

It wants debt-to-income restrictions (DTIs), which limit the amount that people can borrow to a multiple of their income, added to its macroprudential toolkit, alongside loan-to-value (LVR) restrictions.

The restrictions are used in other markets around the world, such as Britain, where borrowers must have a loan no bigger than 4.5 times their income. The Reserve Bank is suggesting a limit of five times.

The size of New Zealand mortgages compared to incomes has increased sharply over the past 30 years. The Reserve Bank said increases since 2014 partly reflected the drop in interest rates over that time, but it was possible that rates could rise again in future.

The RBNZ estimates debt-to-income restrictions could prevent 8,800 investors from buying a property. But 1,600 First Home buyers  would also be caught up in stringent DTI restrictions and locked out of  owning their home.

The Bank’s chief agenda is to prevent a massive housing crash that would impact on the economy; cause mass unemployment; and result in thousands losing their homes through mortgage defaulting;

The housing market could collapse if mortgage rates rise to 7 percent, given the increasing numbers of households heavily in debt, the Reserve Bank says.

The Reserve Bank stress-tested the ability of borrowers to cope with mortgage rates at 7 percent, which is close to the average two-year mortgage rate over the past decade.

It found 4 percent of all borrowers, and 5 percent of recent ones, would be put under severe stress where they could not meet day-to-day bills for food and power.

Auckland borrowers appear particularly vulnerable to higher rates, with 5 percent estimated to face severe stress.

[…]

“So that if a downturn comes, you don’t get a whole lot of forced sales coming onto the market that depresses house prices even further, and create a risk for the banking system and also the broader economy.”

All because National ignored a crisis that Bill English predicted seven years ago, and could have dampened with a capital gains tax equivalent to company tax, and stopping investors from claiming tax deductions on mortgage interest payments.

It is bizarre and inequitable that tax-payers are in effect subsidising investor/speculators on their investments. Especially when, after two years, those properties can be on-sold with little or no capital gains tax paid.

If the RBNZ introduces a debt-to-income ratio of five times a person’s income, it may well succeed in dampening down the property bubble.

But as usual, it will be those at the bottom (or near the bottom) who pay the price. They will be the ones who continue to be locked out of the property market and denied a chance to enjoy the Kiwi Dream of home ownership.

The resentment and anger this will cause cannot be over-stated.

The sound in Bill English’s ear is the roar of a train wreck bearing down on him and his hopeless, self-serving ‘government’. ETA for the crash: 23 September.

All because National stubbornly refused to act to curb property speculation.

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References

Scoop media:  More social housing coming on board in Tauranga & Papamoa

NZ Herald:   Government sells off Tauranga’s state housing portfolio to Accessible Properties

Accessible Properties:  What is happening?

Fairfax media:  Salvation Army says no to state houses

Bay of Plenty Times:  Accessible Properties takes over state homes

TVNZ News:  Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars

Bay of Plenty Times:  Tauranga’s homeless problem at ‘crisis point’

Sunlive: Housing crisis under the spotlight

Radio NZ:  Housing situation critical – Tauranga principal

Tauranga Budget Advisory:  City’s Rental Housing In Crisis

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Beehive:  State houses available to buy from today

Fairfax media:  John Key Speech – Next steps in social housing

Fairfax media:  Can’t afford your own island? How about buying your very own street?

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister John Key’s childhood state house up for sale as Government offers 2500 properties to NGOs

Radio NZ:  PM spoke of housing crisis in 2010 – Sallies

Otago Daily Times:  Auckland housing crisis expected to drag on

Fairfax media:  PM talked of major housing crisis – Salvation Army

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Prime Minister’s bad memory embarrassing

Fairfax media:  Debt-to-income ratio would stop thousands from buying houses – RBNZ

RBNZ: Consultation Paper – Serviceability Restrictions as a Potential Macroprudential Tool in New Zealand  (p26)

Radio NZ:  Housing market could collapse on 7 percent mortgage rates

IRD: Residential property

IRD: Taxation (Bright-Line Test for Residential Land) Act 2015

Additional

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

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

Previous related blogposts

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 June 2017.

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Kiwis say ‘no’ to Trump’s climate denial – Wellington protest at Tillerson visit

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Wellington, NZ, 6 June 2017: Global warming has not entirely eliminated cold, wet Wellington wintry-days. With the capital city shrouded in grey cloud-cover, and washed with a constant chilly drizzle, New Zealanders ignored their discomfort to stand on Parliament’s grounds. They were protesting the visit of US secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobil CEO, Rex Tillerson.

The lunch-time protest started with a small handful of hardy souls;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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The very first placard came from Jo;

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The  Bernis indeed not a happy fellow after Trump’s announcement to pull out from the Paris Accords;

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“ President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace. At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.

The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.”

Jo was joined by Max and Barbara with their home-crafted placards;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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Others were arriving and the protest group numbers swelled, despite the rain. Chad and Jack voiced their views clearly on their placards;

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Note the hashtag, #exxonknew – more on that point shortly.

Journalists from the msm started to arrive;

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(Another) Jack, and Kate, with one sign adapting Trump’s election-campaign slogan to better effect. Would it be asking too much from Bill English and Gerry Brownlee to take Kate’s hint?

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There was a wide range of ages, reflecting the reality that climate change affected us all, and none are exempt;

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Nearly every placard was individually hand-made. Very few were mass-produced printed. Clustered around a sign written obviously by grandparents, Robbie and Keith (holding “Grandkid’s earth sign) and Eva and Lynn, charging Tillerson to be a climate criminal;

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An appearance by The Donald himself. Or a doppelgänger. Hard to tell the difference;

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This woman reminded us of the struggle by Native American tribe Standing Rock Sioux  to oppose the Dakota Keystone XL oil pipelines;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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As reported by  The Guardian;

After more than a year of protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, thousands of Native Americans and activists brought the fight to the nation’s capital to demand indigenous rights and raise awareness about issues affecting the communities.

The event, the culmination of a four-day protest in the capital, was led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been involved in a longstanding dispute with authorities over the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota, culminating in a two-mile march through Washington and rally in front of the White House.

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Opponents of the $3.8bn pipeline say the project threatens their water supply from the Missouri river, crosses sacred land and was approved without proper consultation with tribal leaders and without a thorough study of impacts.

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LeeAnn Eastman, of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe on the Lake Traverse Indian reservation in South Dakota, doubted Trump was standing at the window watching their protest – but she said their message was breaking through.

“They woke up a giant when they told us they were just going to put this pipeline through our land, our sacred land,” she said. “We do everything peacefully, prayerfully, but we’re not going to let him just walk all over us like that and contaminate our water.”

Within half an hour, numbers had swelled to a couple of hundred people. Not bad for a miserable day;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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The Green Party was very much a visible presence. For the Green movement, confronting atmospheric pollution and subsequent climate change is their raison d’être;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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Labour’s Grant Robertson and Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, sheltering under a green umbrella. This was perhaps more symbolic than intended, suggesting the evolving ‘greening’ of political parties worldwide;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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Hugh held up a sign which held more relevance than most people might have been aware of;

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According to a report from Scientific American, Exxon has known for the last forty years that fossil fuels were leading to climate change. They kept it a secret;

Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.  

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. “It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,” says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research. 

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One thing is certain: in June 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming, Exxon remained publicly convinced that the science was still controversial. Furthermore, experts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create the Global Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. At that point, “a lot of things unraveled,” Oreskes says.

But experts are still piecing together Exxon’s misconception puzzle. Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers. “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”

Rex Tillerson joined Exxon in 1975 and rose through the ranks, becoming CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016.

On 2 June this year, CNN announced;

The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says it has evidence that ExxonMobil misled shareholders about how carbon regulations may impact the company’s business.

And possibly even more damaging, the prosecutor says company document indicate that ex-CEO Rex Tillerson, who is now Secretary of State, knew all about it.

In documents filed in court Friday, investigators say they found “secret, internal figures” that indicate the company purposefully understated the financial damage that climate change regulations could have on its business, and potentially did so as far back as 2007.

The filings also allege there is evidence that appears to confirm Tillerson knew about the deception, and condoned it.

The CNN report contained an unusual revelation about Tillerson’s alleged shady activities;

Tillerson has been a big part of Schneiderman’s probe into the oil and gas company since it began in 2015. One of its bombshell revelations was that Tillerson used a fake email under the name “Wayne Tracker,” to discuss climate change internally.

A new filing posted Friday suggests that the new Exxon chief, Darren Woods, also has an alias corporate email account. He allegedly goes by the name of J.E. Gray. Exxon confirmed the account was set up for Woods, but it was intended to “manage a high volume of messages” and has never been used.

So much for Trump “draining the swamp”.  New species of swamp-critters have well and truly returned to the White House.

Protestor, Frances, held no illusions as to the nature of Trump and his appointee, Rex Tillerson;

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Frances remarked that far from being “anti-establishment”, the Trump Administration was a continuation of the Establishment owning politicians in the US.

Roger’s sign became even more appropriate under the circumstances. Note the small print;

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‘350’ organisers Allan and Jesse welcomed the people and thanked them for turning up on such a cold, miserable day;

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First speaker was Mahinarangi Baker – Te Atiawa, Ngatoa, Raukawa;

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Mahinarangi warned of the effects of climate change here in Aotearoa, with  more extreme weather events; increasing coastal erosion; and environmental disasters such as  Edgecumbe. She said that climate change  put all our communities at great risk and demanded that government put the safety of our people before the interests of the  fossil fuel industry.

Mahinarangi was contemptuous of the response from government representatives, which she described as  “atrociously weak”. Mahinarangi was not impressed with Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett saying  “she respected the decision that Trump has made”; Foreign Affairs ministers, Gerry Brownlee saying  he would  help Trump renegotiate the Paris agreement, and nothing but total silence from Prime Minister,  Bill English.

Mahinarangi criticised government subsidies for the  oil exploration industry.

Mahinarangi was followed by Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, who received strong applause from the crowd;

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Shaw told the protesters;

“ New Zealand is at risk of more fires, more floods, and longer and deeper droughts. That is a risk to us and to our way of life here in New Zealand and in the Pacific and around the world. It’s not good enough merely for our government to stand around and say, ‘well, they’re a democratically government, they can pull out if they want to’.

He added,

“ As a country with an independent foreign policy we have an ability to stand with our close friends, the Americans, and take them aside and to say, ‘this isn’t good enough, you know’. And we should have the strength of character to do that.

Shaw told the protesters that he was inspired by them, especially for coming out on such a cold, wet day to make a point. He said he  condemned the actions of the American administration and  referred to Tillerson as ‘T-Rex, the climate dinosaur’.

Shaw was followed by Grant Robertson;

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Robertson described the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords as immoral and a crime against future generations. He said,

“ In this country today we have a government that is not taking climate change seriously, that put up a pathetic offer at the Paris agreement. So the one good thing we can take out of today and what the US has done, that it is a chance for NZ to say once and for all, we will have a low carbon future; we will do what it takes to reduce our emissions; we will play our part, as we have before on the world stage as a leader. So the clear message I am sending on behalf of the Labour Party today, to the United States, ‘you are on the wrong side of of history, you need to get on the right side of the Future for every generation to come.

His speech was met with loud cheers and clapping and was in stark contrast to the muted  response  that National had thus far given. Grant Robertson’s speech harked back to the  1970s when New Zealand took to the world stage to oppose French atomic-bomb testing and the apartheid regime in South Africa.

As the speakers and protesters  inter-acted, another event was taking place on the Parliamentary forecourt, where three policemen stood. Note what one of them held in his hands, covered by a blue cloth;

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It was a camera with what appeared to be a long telephoto  lens;

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The policeman was obviously taking surreptitious photos of the protesters;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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As the policeman noticed that he was being observed, and  his actions photographed, he turned and walked away, escorted by one of his colleagues;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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Governments that fear or distrust their own people often use their security forces to monitor and record details of dissident citizens. New Zealand has obviously  become one of those nations.

Tasers and  and surreptitious  photographing? The  former Stasi  would nod approvingly at these unnecessary methods.

The question arises; what will the police do with those images?

Tim held up the the one word Trump loves to use in his Twitterings. It also happens to sum up Trump’s presidency and his apparent total abdication to address critical problems confronting the environment;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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Meanwhile, back at Wellington Airport…

Tillerson’s jet was parked on the tarmac, adjacent to the RNZAF terminal;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com trump - rex tillerson - climate change - paris accord - global warming

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The high-pitched whine of the parked aircraft’s engines could be clearly heard from a distance. Perhaps the engineers were keeping the turbines warm in the cold, damp air for optimum performance.

Or a fast getaway.

 

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References

The Independent:  Bernie Sanders tears into Trump for pulling out of Paris Agreement – ‘It is a disgrace’

The Guardian:  Native Americans take Dakota Access pipeline protest to Washington

Scientific American:  Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago

Wikipedia: Rex Tillerson

CNN:  Under Tillerson, Exxon may have misled investors on climate change, NY claims

Additional

BBC:  US diplomat in China quits ‘over Trump climate change policy’

Contact

350 Aotearoa

350 Aotearoa Facebook

Previous related blogposts

Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

Key’s challenge to Deep Sea Oil Drilling Protesters

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

Trumpwatch – What’s a few more nails in the planet’s coffin?

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

Acknowledgement

Thank you to Deborah L  for allowing me to use her Nikon D3200 camera for the event.

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 June 2017.

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Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

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Recent comments by Paula Bennett regarding introducing tipping to New Zealand are more revealing of National’s contempt for workers than most realise.

On 22 May, Bennett was reported as promoting tipping for reasons that – on the face of it – sound reasonable, but are questionable;

“ If you receive excellent service, you should tip.  I don’t think that tipping should be mandatory in New Zealand, but I do think that we shouldn’t tell people not to tip when they come here, which we did for a while.

 People will enjoy their work more and get paid more – it’s plus plus plus.
I don’t want us to turn into that mandatory tipping for people just to survive, but I do think if we reward good service it’s going to make everyone smile a bit more.”

“Smile a bit more”? “People will enjoy their work more”?

Perhaps in Bennett’s narrow world, hermetically-sealed in Parliament with her ministerial salary; perks; golden superannuation; and tax-payer-funded housing.

To put Bennett’s comments into some context, in March 2012 NZ Herald journalist, Fran O’Sullivan gave us a glimpse of her privileged life;

My sense is that Bennett always knew how to work the system to her advantage – and good for her. Let’s face it, at the time she went on to the domestic purposes benefit in 1986, knowing how to rort the system was a national sport.

[…]

At just 17, she gave birth to her only child, a daughter she named Ana. Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo. All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.

[…]

Bennett was also fortunate in getting a training allowance to go to university when her daughter was 8. Her backstory suggests that she was still on a benefit while studying.

The Training Incentive Allowance that paid for Bennett’s university education meant she was not lumbered with any of the $15 billion debt that 728,000 other Kiwi students are now facing. Her tertiary education was free.

This would not be a problem – except that one of Bennett’s first acts on becoming social welfare minister was to remove the same Training Incentive Allowance that she used to put herself through University;

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Evidently, Bennett’s working life was “too exhausting” and she made a “career move” back onto the DPB;

“ Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB.”

In opting to chuck in her paid job and return to the DPB, she became an oft-parroted cliche that  many on the Right – especially National/ACT supporters – often accuse welfare beneficiaries for.

From being an on-again-off-again beneficiary on the DPB, in 2005 Bennett became a beneficiary of the Parliamentary Service and she entered Parliament on the National Party List.

Today, as Deputy PM, the tax-payer is responsible for meeting her $326,697 p.a. salary, plus free housing, and other perks.

It would be a fair guess that Bennett does not require tipping to make up her weekly pay packet, to meet the necessities of life that many other New Zealanders find challenging in the 21st Century;

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In 2007 – and for the following five years – the former Dear Leader, John Key, constantly made eloquent speeches on raising the incomes of New Zealanders;

We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”   – John Key, 6 September 2008

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Who would have thought that Key’s goal of raising wages would be achieved… with tips.

It speaks volumes about National’s disconnect with the working men and women of this country, that the best that our generously paid Deputy Prime Minister can come up with is that raising wages should be dependent on the largesse of others.

Is this the essence of National’s ambition for New Zealanders?  That not only should we be tenants in our own country

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– but that we should be paid as such?

On 18 April, our new Dear Leader, Bill English announced a $2 billion pay increase for under paid care and support workers in the aged and residential care sector.

However, there appears to be a ‘fish hook’ in the much trumpeted announcement;

Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.

The pay increase will be “delivered over the next five years“.

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman asking, amongst  other things;

” You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “delivered over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

… will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?”

To date, Minister Coleman’s office has put off replying, stating that his office was busy and “response times vary between 4 – 6 weeks but also depend on the Minister’s schedule and availability“. (More on this later.)

Perhaps aged and residential care sector workers  should ask for tips in the meantime, from their clients?

According to the website Numbeo.com, New Zealand wages have not kept pace with our nearest neighbour;

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Former Dear Leader Key’s grand ambition of matching Australia’s income levels have remained illusory.

In fact, despite heightened economic activity through immigration and the Christchurch re-build, wages have remained suppressed. As Head of Trade Me Jobs, Jeremy Wade, said in April this year;

We’re seeing small increases in average pay across growth industries such as Construction and Customer Service, but overall wages aren’t matching demand.

The number of roles advertised has exploded in recent months which in turn means that the average number of applications per role has dropped 13 per cent on this time last year. Job hunters can be more selective, which makes it harder to fill these roles.

Some employers have looked to immigration channels to address this shortage. Immigration alone won’t correct the shortfall, though it may be suppressing wage growth…

Immigrationmay be suppressing wage growth“.

There is no “may” about it.  Immigration is suppressing wage growth.  The simple laws of market supply & demand dictate that in times of “low” unemployment, wages will rise as the supply of workers does not meet demand.

This is not some marxist-leninist tenet. This is core doctrine of the Free Market;

The law of supply and demand is the theory explaining the interaction between the supply of a resource and the demand for that resource. The law of supply and demand defines the effect the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price. Generally, a low supply and a high demand increases price, and in contrast, the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price tends to fall.

The only way that the price of labour can be suppressed is to increase the supply of labour. National has opened the floodgates of immigration, increasing the number of workers, and hence the price of labour has remained suppressed (also incidentally fuelling increasing housing demand, ballooning prices, and construction in Auckland).

There is a grim irony at play here.

National has exploited high immigration to generate economic activity and National ministers continually boast to the electorate that they have boosted economic activity;

Despite the dairy sector continuing to be under pressure, other sectors are performing well and contributing to an overall solid rate of economic growth.” – Bill English

We are the fifth fastest growing economy last year in the developed world. That’s unexpected.” – Steven Joyce

That’s why the good economic growth we’re seeing with rising incomes and a record number of jobs available is the best way this Government can help New Zealanders. ” – Paula Bennett

The New Zealand economy is diverse and dynamic. Strong GDP and job growth, together with the impact of technology, is driving change in every sector.” – Simon Bridges

But the same immigration that has generated that economic “growth” has also suppressed wages. National’s exploitation of high immigration to pretend we have “high economic growth” may have worked. But the unintended consequence of suppressed wages is now starting to haunt them.

What to do, what to do?!

Enter Paula Bennett and her desperate plea for New Zealanders to tip each other.

Unfortunately, tipping each other is simply a band-aid over low wages. In the end, like a pyramid scheme, the money-go-round of tipping fails to generate long term wage increases and we are back at Square One: low paid jobs and no prospects for improvement.

To compensate for chronic low wages, Labour introduced Working for Families in 2004. This became a means by which the State subsidised businesses to ensure that working families had some measure of a livable income.

Bennett’s lame suggestion – tipping – does not even pretend to come close to Labour’s solution.

Perhaps that is because National are in a quandry; cut back immigration to raise wages? That would wind back economic growth. Increase immigration to boost economic growth – and have wages stagnate.

This is what results when a political party with the unearned reputation of being “good economic managers” is revealed to being a fraud. Their short-term, unsustainable, “sugar-hit” policies eventually catch up with them.

Here’s a tip for you, Paula; saying silly things in election year is not helpful.

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References

Fairfax media:  Deputy PM Paula Bennett calls for more tipping

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

Beehive: Key Notes – Boosting Science and Innovation

Beehive: John Key – Speech from the Throne

Fairfax media: Key wants a high-wage NZ

NZ Herald: PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Numbeo: Cost of Living Comparison Between Australia and New Zealand

Trade Me: New Zealand job market booming but wages languish

Investopedia: Law Of Supply And Demand

Fairfax media: Record migration sees New Zealand population record largest ever increase

Fairfax media: New Zealand’s economic growth driven almost exclusively by rising population

Radio NZ: Billions for infrastructure reflects booming economy – Joyce

Fairfax media: Minister Paula Bennett – Challenge to house more people on taxpayer dollar

Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce: Minister of Economic Development Announces New Economic Data Tool

Wikipedia: Working for Families

Additional

The New York Times: Why Tipping Is Wrong

The Huffington Post: 9 Reasons We Should Abolish Tipping, Once And For All

Wikipedia: Paula Bennett

Other Bloggers

Martyn Bradbury – Paula Bennett’s call to tip is National’s new plan to subcontract out lifting wages without raising minimum wage

The Standard: Tipping vs fair wages

Previous related blogposts

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Letter to the Editor: Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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

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

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

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Hat-tip for above cartoon: Anthony Robbins

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2017.

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= fs =

Steven Joyce rails against low mortgage interest rates; claims higher interest rates “beneficial”

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National is increasingly on the back-foot with New Zealand’s ever-worsening housing crisis. Ministers from the Prime minister down are desperately trying to spin a narrative that the National-led administration “is getting on top of the problem“.

Despite ministerial ‘reassurances’, both Middle and Lower Working  classes are feeling the dead-weight of a housing shortage; ballooning house prices,  and rising rents.

Recently-appointed Finance Minister, Steven Joyce,  has found a new unlikely scapegoat, blaming the housing bubble and worsening housing affordability  on current low interest rates.  On 11 May, on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, he said;

“We have very, very low interest rates historically, and as a result that’s directly linked to how much house prices are being bid up around the world. It’s not the sole reason for why we have high asset prices around the world, it’s not just houses, it’s shares and everything else. But it is certainly one of the dominant reasons for that. And unfortunately it’s going to be a little bit of time yet before that changes, although there’s indications that this period of ultra-low interest rates that the world has seen is coming to an end. And so I think that, that, will improve affordability over time.”

Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner reacted with predictable incredulity that Joyce was relying on interest rates rising to “improve affordability over time“.

Joyce’s finger-pointing and blaming “very, very low interest rates historically” is at variance with a speech that former Dear Leader, John Key, gave in January 2008 where he specifically indentified higher interest rates as a barrier to home ownership;

* Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?

[…]

* Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?

Good questions, Mr Key

Got any answers, Mr Joyce?

Because according to Statistics NZ, home ownership rates have worsened since John Key gave his highly-critical speech, nine years ago;

Home ownership continues to fall

  • In 2013, 64.8 percent of households owned their home or held it in a family trust, down from 66.9 percent in 2006.

  • The percentage of households who owned their home dropped to 49.9 percent in 2013 from 54.5 percent in 2006.

Home ownership reached a peak of 73.8% by 1991. Since then, with  the advent of neo-liberal “reforms” in the late ’80s and early ’90s, home ownership has steadily declined.

Those who have benefitted have tended to be investors/speculators. In 2016, 46% of mortgages were issued to property investors/speculators in the Auckland region. Despite a watered-down, pseudo-capital gains tax,  referred to as the “bright line” test implemented in October 2015, investors/speculators still accounted for 43% of house purchasers by March of this year.

The same report revealed the dismal fact that first home buyers constituted only 19% of sales.

John Key’s gloomy plea, “Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?” rings truer than ever.

Poorer families are fairing no better.

National’s abysmal policy to sell off state housing has left a legacy of families living in over-crowded homes; garages, and cars. This scandal has reached the attention of the international media.

From the Guardian;

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From Al Jazeera;

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As with our fouled waterways, we have developed another unwelcomed reputation – this time for the increasing scourge of  homelessness.

But it is not just the sons and daughters of the Middle Classes that are finding housing increasingly out of their financial reach. The poorest families in our society have resorted to living in over-crowded homes or in garages and in cars.

National has spent millions of taxpayer’s dollars housing families in make-shift shelters in motels. At the behest on National ministers, WINZ have made it official policy to recoup money  “loaned” to beneficiaries to pay for emergency accommodation;

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National’s track record on this growing community cancer has been one of ineptitude.

In 2015, Dear Leader Key made  protestations that  no problem exists in our country;

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

He kept denying it – until he didn’t;

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Unfortunately, former-and current State beneficiary, and now Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett, apparently ‘did not get the memo’. She still denies any housing crisis in this country;

“I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need. So the other night on TV I heard the homeless story was second in and then the seventh story was a man who’d been 30 years living on the streets.”

Despite  being in full denial, in May last year Bennett announced that National would be committing $41.1 million over the next four years  for emergency housing and grants.

By April this year  it was revealed that National had already spent $16.5 million on emergency accomodation. It had barely been a year since Bennett issued her Beehive statement lauding the $41.1 million expenditure, and already nearly a third of that amount has been spent.

This is clear evidence as to how far out-of-touch National is on social issues.

The stress and pressure on Ministers and state sector bureaucrats has become apparent, with threats of  retribution flying.  This month alone, a MSD manager and associate minister of social housing, Alfred Ngaro, were revealed to have warned critics of the government not to talk to the media;

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Bennett went on to make this extraordinary statement;

“I spend the bulk of my time on social housing issues and driving my department into seriously thinking about different ways of tackling this.”

Her comment was followed on 20 May, on TV3’s The Nation, when current Dear Leader, Bill English tried to spin a positive message in  National’s ‘fight against homelessness’;

“Our task has been to, as we set out three or four years ago, to rebuild the state housing stock. And that’s what we are setting out to do.”

English and Bennett’s claims would be admirable – if they were not self-serving hypocrisy.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased).

In eight years, National has managed to sell-off 7,400 properties.

No wonder English admitted “we set out three or four years ago, to rebuild the state housing stock“. His administration was responsible for selling  off over ten percent of much-needed state housing.

No wonder families are forced into over-crowding; into garages and sheds; and into cars and vans.

Confronted by social problems, National ministers duck for cover. Especially when those same social problems are a direct consequence of their own ideologically-driven and ill-considered policies.

National ministers English, Bennett, Joyce, Nick Smith, et al are responsible for our current homelessness.

Parting thought

Left-wing parties and movement are generally proactive in identifying and resolving critical social problems and inequalities. It is the raison d’etre of the Left.

The Right seem only able to belatedly react to social problem and inequalities.

Especially when they caused it.

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References

Interest.co.nz: PM says no housing crisis in Auckland

NZ Herald: Housing shortage growing by 40 homes a day

Fairfax media: House prices rise at an ‘eye-popping’ rate for 6 NZ regions – Trade Me

Interest.co.nz: Median rents up $50 a week over last 12 months in parts of Auckland

Radio NZ: Lessons for NZ in Australia’s Budget

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Radio NZ: Homeless family faces $100k WINZ debt

Interest.co.nz: New official Reserve Bank figures definitively show that investors accounted for nearly 46% of all Auckland mortgages

Simpson Grierson: New “bright-line” test for sales of residential land

Property Club: First buyers still missing out in Auckland’s most affordable properties

The Guardian: New Zealand housing crisis forces hundreds to live in tents and garages

Al Jazeera: New Zealand’s homeless – Living in cars and garages

NZ Herald: No house, not even a motel, for homeless family

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Beehive: Budget 2016 – 3000 emergency housing places funded

Mediaworks: Homeless crisis costing Govt $100,000 a day for motels

Radio NZ: Emergency housing providers instructed not to talk to media

Radio NZ: Ngaro apologises for govt criticism

TV3: The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Bill English

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

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!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

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

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

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

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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

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

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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

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Problem…

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Solution.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 May 2017.

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Why I won’t be congratulating Nikki Kaye

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Bill  English today (24 April) announced his Cabinet re-shuffle.  As expected, departing non-performers and walking public-relations-disasters,  Nick Smith and Hekia Parata, were replaced by “rising stars” Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye, respectively.

Both Ms Adams and Ms Kaye have conveyed a public perception of calm efficiency, without the PR cluster-f***s that have come to characterise Nick Smith and Hekia Parata’s erratic performances in their respective ministerial  portfolios.

Smith’s accident-prone political career reached it’s nadir in March 2012 when he was forced to resign for mis-using his ministerial influence on behalf of a close friend and National Party apparatchik, Bronwyn Pullar.

Hekia Parata’s controversy-riddled career crashed in June 2012 when her proposal to increase class-room sizes was met with a deafening chorus of outrage from middle-class mums and dads. The backlash from voters was such that Parata was forced to back down in a humiliating policy u-turn.

English’s re-shuffle puts new(-ish) faces into his Cabinet giving the illusion of “rejuvenation”. But more importantly, it removes Parata and Smith from public view and from  media questioning.

As  housing and education are both going to be hot election issues this year, having Parata and Smith front to answer difficult questions regarding National’s problematic portfolios (health, education, housing, and dirty waterways) would be embarrassing. National’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors would be banging their heads against brick walls in sheer frustration.

Adams and Kaye had very little of the baggage that their predecessors had, in abundance.

Until, that is, on  15 March this year when then-Youth Minister, Nikki Kaye, launched into an ad hominem diatribe against Jacinda Ardern during a debate in Parliament. It was an orchestrated, pre-planned, personalised attack;

I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House—and we got Jacinda Ardern. Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done. What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot. Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.

On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she? She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.

Ardern, to her eternal credit, refused to take the bait to dive head-first into a political sewerage and replied in a manner that epitomises statesmanlike behaviour;

It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before. Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that. I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.

It was also in stark contrast to the 2014 General Election where Kaye and Ardern agreed to conducting an issues-driven campaign and not resort to increasingly dirty, personalised attack-politics.

That agreement served both women well. They became (generally) more respected than their more “excitable” colleagues in Parliament who were not averse to “getting down and dirty in the bear pit of politics”.

Two days after Kaye’s attack, Jacinda Ardern went further and actually tried to defend her rival on Mediawork’s ‘AM Show’;

I just know that Nikki doesn’t believe that…

… I don’t actually think she believes that, because we’ve worked side-by-side, she knows the case work I’ve done, she knows what I’ve done locally, so I’m going to shrug it off.

National’s Deputy PM, Paula Bennet – herself no stranger to a bit of ‘bene-bashing’ to stir up support from the red-neck element in our society – was having none of it, and refused to accept Ardern’s placatory comments;

That is so condescending Jacinda, that is absolutely condescending.

Bennett was making sure that Kaye’s vitriol would stick and no amount of charitable turning-the-cheek from Ardern would be allowed to dilute the venom.

The result of this petty bickering, name-calling, point-scoring chest thumping is ongoing public scorn and derision at behaviour they would not tolerate from their own children.

In her attack on Ardern, Nikki Kaye has shown that she is not above cheap politicking. It is not Ardern’s reputation that suffered when Kaye launched into her contrived bitchfest.

On the same ‘AM Show’ Bennett attempted to re-frame the viciousness of political scrapping by referring to it as “robust” debate;

“ Of course she meant what she stood up and said and she’s got every right to say it. It’s robustness, and when you step into leadership roles, you are going to be called out and times that’s going to be uncomfortable, and at times you are going to disagree. ”

“Robust” is one of those new ‘buzz-words’, like the increasingly loathed ‘resilient’ or weird-sounding ‘stake holders’. It  can be used to disguise bullying behaviour that would not be acceptable in any other workplace.

Imagine for a moment if the behaviour of personal attacks was replicated throughout society, in every workplace and home in the country. Such behaviour in domestic situations would be labelled domestic abuse. Very few would accept it as “robust discussion”.

Unfortunately, the host of the ‘AM Show’ – Duncan Garner – failed to pick up on this abusive aspect of politics. (Modern  media commercial imperatives demand conflict raging – not conflict resolution. Garner might as well handed both women a knife each and told them to get on with it.)

If Nikki Kaye (and all other Members  of Parliament) wants to work in a constructive, professional manner instead of a toxic culture of threats, point-scoring,  and abuse, each Parliamentarian is personally responsible for their own behaviour.

Ardern’s mild response to Nicki Kaye’s verbal abuse, and refusing to pander to Bennett ‘egging’-on, has raised the standard of behaviour for her parliamentary colleagues.

Ms Ardern was correct to refuse to lower herself to their level.

Kaye, Bennett, et al need to raise themselves up.

Nikki Kaye,  don’t let yourself be persuaded by your colleagues to engage in behaviour you would find unacceptable elsewhere.

Be the person you really are. You are better than this.

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Postscript1

One of Nikki Kaye’s “criticisms” of Jacinda Ardern was that she “struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done”.

The simple reality that being in Opposition renders an MP with very little legislative power. Even when a Private Member’s Bill is drawn from the Ballot; debated; put through Select Committee process; and passed into law by a majority of MPsit can still be vetoed by a dogma-driven Finance Minister.

However, even in Opposition,  Ms Ardern is not without her personal achievements.

In the 2014 General Election, Ms Ardern was Number 5 on the Labour Party list. Nicki Kaye was Number 19;

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One of those parties has more faith in their candidate and her abilities than the other.

Postscript2

In her 15 March diatribe, Nikki Kaye accused Labour of indulging in a certain style of superficial campaigning;

“This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops…”

When it comes to photo-ops, there is only one person in the last decade who mastered the art to a preternatural degree;

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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Whether it be babies, kittens, or puppies…

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john key photo op (1-4)

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Though some weren’t quite so keen…

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john key photo op (5)

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Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

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john key photo op (6)

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And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

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Act member for Remuera, John Banks and Prime Minister John Key stop in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Urban Cafe. 12 November 2011 New Zealand Listener Picture by David White.

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But let’s get back to kitten and puppies – always an easy, safe bet for a photo-op… (especially with a visiting compliant Royal chucked in for good measure)…

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john key photo op (7-9)

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Talking about visiting Royals – they are proven rich-pickings for Key to exploit for photo-ops…

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john key photo op (10)

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And there were photo-ops-galore with various sundry Royals…

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john key photo op 11-14)

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Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

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And another Aussie Prime Minister…

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John+Key+Julia+Gillard+Visits+New+Zealand+HLo_hFr7PRPl

 

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Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

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And – wait for it! – an Aussie Prime Minister!!

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6862798-3x2-940x627

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Ok, that line of Aussies was getting tedious. Let’s try something different.

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

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Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

Slow down, Dear Leader, you’ve got Cameron dead in your sights for that manly grip…

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Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (L), greets the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, outside 10 Downing Street in central London September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

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See? Nailed that handshake…

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john_key_and_david_cameron__number_10_Master

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Enough of Prime Ministers. Let’s try a current German Chancellor…

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Angela+Merkel+John+Key+New+Zealand+Prime+Minister+IxtkHCovagLl

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Or a (former) US State Secretary…

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John-Key-Hillary-Clinton-1200

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Maybe another Royal…

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john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

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And a Queen or two…

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[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

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Key and Queens

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Some bloke from China…

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New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, inside the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

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And some bloke from America…

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key1200

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Here is our esteemed Dear Leader with perhaps The Most Important Bloke in America…

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5399238

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And we know what followed next…

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key - letterman

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Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

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RWC_JohnKey

*facepalm*

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But just to keep the “common touch” with the Great Unwashed…

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Key in toy boat

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And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

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key-smile-wave

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But for the Top Prize for photo-ops, you just can’t get more Ordinary Blokey than hanging out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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GettyImages-89998537-e1445817662233

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Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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1445739667347

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Ah, John, I think this is The Boys telling you ‘enough is enough, go the f**k home!

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Good night John!

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Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

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John-Key-All-black

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And then it just hits rock-bottom, in Key’s eagerness to be In-On-The-Act…

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eight_col_hand_shake

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It’s obvious that our esteemed Dear Leader is not shy in front of a camera.

So… what was that you were saying about photo-ops, Ms Kaye?!

[Images and text above re-printed from previous blog-story: John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay) ]

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References

Radio NZ: Brownlee to take on Foreign Affairs in ministerial reshuffle

Otago Daily Times: Cabinet minister Nick Smith resigns

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

NZ Herald: Gloves off – National MPs target Labour’s Jacinda Ardern in series of attacks

Parliament: Hansards – Nikki Kaye

TV3 News: Nikki Kaye launches war of words on Jacinda Ardern

TV3 News – The AM Show: ‘Gloves off’ for Bennett, Ardern on The AM Show

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Radio NZ: Govt vetoes paid parental leave bill

Electoral Commission: 2014 General Election Party Lists

Other Blogs

The Standard: “All show and no substance”

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern backfires

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern – Day 3

The Daily Blog: With all due respect to Nikki Kaye and Paula Bennett, if you want to slag off Jacinda Ardern

Previous related blogposts

National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Citizen A – Susan Devoy; Nick Smith; Len Brown; and DoC job losses – 28 March 2013

Nick Smith

Nick Smith – #Rua

Congratulations Dr Smith!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 April 2014.

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Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

28 April 2017 2 comments

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Some Context

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The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion.

[…]

When National claims it must cut spending for vital public services like health and education to control its borrowing, it carries much of the blame.” – former Green Party Co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, 14 May 2012

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The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery.” –  Judy McGregor, Equal opportunities commissioner, 28 May 2012

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It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

[…]

We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.” – John Key, former Prime Minister, 28 May 2012

 

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Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.”- Bill English, current Prime Minister, 18 April 2017

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The Announcement

On 18 April, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Finance Minister, Bill English, announced that healthcare workers in the disability, residential care, and home/community support sector had successfully won their pay-equity claim;

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The response from the trade union movement was positive;

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.

[…]

E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.

However, there remain unanswered questions to this “deal”.

Questions raised

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman;

On 18 April you announced that disability, residential care, and home and community support services will  have their pay increased in a pay-equity settlement costing $2 billion over five years.

In your 18 April press release you stated;

“A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.”

I have some questions regarding this issue, namely;

1. Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

2. Will workers who are deemed to qualify for pay-equity wage increases  be determined solely by their employer?

3. What measures will be put in place to ensure that workers are paid appropriately and pay increases not arbitrarily with-held by employer(s)?

4. You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “spread over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

5. If the answer to Q4 is “yes”, will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?

6.Will the settlement amount be increased over time to compensate for annual rises to the Minimum Wage?

7. Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?

8. Will NGOs who qualify for the pay equity settlement for their workers have their Budget-allocations cut in other areas?

9. How will pay rises for workers who quality for pay equity settlement impact on contract negotiations with relevant NGOs?

10. You state that “The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this”. If ACC levies rise, will workers who qualify for the settlement be compensated for having to pay an increased ACC levy?

Call me a cynic, but I sense fish-hooks in the detail. When National cut taxes in 2010, they gave with one hand;

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– and took with the other;

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When it comes to fish-hooks, National has prior ‘form’. Even when National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas. Even special-needs children are not exempt from National’s shell-scam, as reported in The Daily Blog  in August last year;

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.

I won’t be celebrating until I read the fine print and get some answers.

Watch out for…

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References

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dominion Post: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

NZCTU: Historic day as caregivers offered equal pay settlement

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald: Budget 2010 – Experts praise tax cuts for all

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Young workers out of pocket

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Additional

Radio NZ: Settlement could help rest homes attract workers

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Herald: MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2017.

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