Archive

Posts Tagged ‘beneficiary bashing’

The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

12 August 2017 7 comments

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Right-wing rednecks – I can deal with.

Beneficiary-bashing bigots – no problem.

Well-meaning ignorance – a bit of a challenge.

But what I find difficult to comprehend is when we face betrayal from our supposed comrades; people who supposedly share our values, and are travelling the same struggle-road.

I refer to (now-ex-)Green MPs, Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon who dropped the political equivalent of a barrel-bomb into the middle of the election campaign with this jaw-dropping act of betrayal;

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They issued a joint statement stating;

“We do not believe that lying to a public agency … can ever be condoned.”

That one simple line speaks volumes about the self-sense of privilege exhibited by these two men. Obviously they have never had to face the prospect of choosing to lie to WINZ – or telling the truth and risk cutting their benefit and reduced income.

Their self-righteousness in siding with “public agencies” over the poor; the powerless; the abused; the dispossessed makes them unfit to be in any political movement professing to be progressive.

They should join National, or even better, ACT.

I am livid with anger at the selfish actions of these two. I have given my weekends to help erect Green Party billboards. I have helped draft letters to newspapers defending Metiria Turei from the reactionary media pack who are hounding her. I plan to give up my time to help the Green Party as much as I possibly can with leafletting and doorknocking.

And then these two fucking clowns; on parliamentary salaries; living comfortable, privileged lives – undermine everything that I – and thousands of other volunteers – have done?

To hell with that. To hell with them. To hell with their self-serving, pious self-righteousness.

And to hell with these selfish desire for revenge.

Yes, that’s right – revenge. Both of these two dickheads have been dropped down the Green Party list rankings from 2014;

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Clendon and Graham are both non-entities; non-performers who were dropped down the Green Party list to make way for more talented candidates. That much is obvious.  Also obvious is the retribution they have exacted for their demotion. They must have waited very patiently for the right moment to plunge the knife into the backs of their colleagues; the Party, and it’s supporters and volunteers.

Metiria Turei’s confession was the moment they had been waiting for. A gift for traitors to exploit.

Whilst Ms Turei faced her reactionary critics in the Establishment Media – she left her back exposed to these contemptible  cowards.

The damage that Clendon and Graham may have done to our chances to change the National-led government is much, much worse than Metiria Turei’s recent admission to lying to social welfare. They may just have thrown National a life-line. With polls on a knife-edge, one or two percent is all it takes to decide if our Prime Minister is Bill “Double-Dipper” English, or Jacinda “Let’s Do It” Ardern.

This is an act of betrayal that is much worse than anything National may have dished out to us in the last nine years. We know what to expect from the Tories and their fellow-travellers.

But to be stabbed in the back by people we trust to represent the poorest people in our society – is treachery beyond polite words.

This is my second draft at writing this. My first attempt is not printable except maybe on Whaleoil. (And even Cam Slater might have asked me to “tone it down”.)

Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon can fuck off.

Just. Fuck. Off.

 

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Two Green MPs call for Turei to step down

Green Party: 2014 Party List

Green Party: 2017 Party List

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2017.

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The Mendacities of Mr English – The covert agenda of high immigration

10 March 2017 1 comment

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Context

Bill English was recently caught on-the-spot when challenged why National was permitting high immigration at a time when unemployment was still high, and rising.

Make no mistake, National has opened the floodgates of immigration because it is an easy way to artificially  stimulate the economy. This was pointed out in May 2011,  by then-Immigration Minister, Jonathan Coleman, who trumpeted the contribution made by immigration to economic growth;

“All of us have a vested interest in immigration and I’m pleased to share with you some specific actions the Government is taking to enhance Immigration’s contribution to the economy, service improvement and changes to business migration.

[…]

…I’m confident that you will acknowledge the partnership approach that Immigration is now taking to provide tangible improvements to help support New Zealand’s economic growth.

[…]

Considering the economic challenges the country faces, lifting immigration’s economic contribution takes on more importance.”

Justifying the need for high immigration to generate  economic growth, Coleman cited “New Zealand [going] into deficit in 2009 after several years of surpluses and the economic situation has been compounded by the September and February earthquakes” and unsustainably “borrowing $300 million dollars a week to keep public services ticking over“.

Coleman  admitted that “If we were to close off immigration entirely by 2021… GDP would drop by 11.3 per cent“. He revealed that, “new migrants add an estimated $1.9 billion to the New Zealand economy every year“.

Easy money.

The downside to high immigration has been to put strain on critical services such as roading and housing, and reduce demand for locally trained workers to fill vacancies. There is a downward pressure on wages, as cheaper immigrant-labour is brought into the workforce.

As Treasury pointed out in June last year;

“There is a concern that recently there has been a relative decline in the skill level of our labour migration. The increasing flows of younger and lower-skilled migrants may be contributing to a lack of employment opportunities for local workers with whom they compete.”

Faced with increasingly negative indicators from high immigration, English was forced to explain why we were seeing high immigration at a time of rising unemployment;

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English’s response was predictable if not offensive.

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Playing National’s Blame Game

As per  usual strategy, English defaulted to National’s strategy of Default Blame-gaming. When in trouble;

  1. Blame the previous Labour government
  2. Blame ‘welfare abuse’/Release a ‘welfare abuse’ story in the media
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

(If the trouble is Auckland-centered, Default #4: Blame Auckland Council/RMA/both.)

This has been the pattern of National’s policy to shift blame elsewhere for it’s consistently ineffectual policies;

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The Blame Gaming was applied recently to National’s appalling do-nothing record on housing;

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Resorting to Deflection #2, English had the cheek to blame young unemployed for our high immigration level;

One of the hurdles these days is just passing the drug test … Under workplace safety, you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.

People telling me they open for applications, they get people turning up and it’s hard to get someone to be able to pass the test – it’s just one example.

So look if you get around the stories, you’ll hear lots of stories – some good, some not so good – about Kiwis’ willingness and ability to do the jobs that are available.”

His comments on 27 February were echoing previous, similar sentiments in April last year, when he again abused unemployed workers as “hopeless”;

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Quite rightly, English’s comments were condemned by many. English admitted that his comments were based solely on “anecdotal evidence” . This is the worst form of evidence possible as absolutely no confirmation by way of actual, real data is involved. “Anecdotal evidence” panders to prejudice – a  difficult thing to shift even when real evidence proves to the contrary.

Real evidence surfaced only a day after English made his slurs against the unemployed, when it was revealed that out of over 90,000 (approx) welfare beneficiaries, only 466 failed pre-employment drug tests over a  three year period. That equates to roughly to 155 failed tests out of 30,000 per year.

As Radio NZ’s Benedict Collins reported;

Government figures show beneficiaries have failed only 466 pre-employment drug tests in the past three years.

[…]

The Ministry of Social Development said the 466 included those who failed and those who refused to take the test.

Some failed more than once.

The ministry did not have the total figure for how many tests were done over the three years, but said there were 32,000 pre-employment drug tests in 2015.

Those 466 over a three year period consisted of (a) those who failed the test, (b) those who refused to take the test, and (c) some failing more than once.

Put another way, 155 failed tests out of 30,000 per year  equates to half a percent fail rate.

Which means that 99.5% of beneficiaries are clean, according to MSD’s own collected data.

There was further confirmation of low fail rates from another media story. On the same day as the Ministry of Social Development released it’s data on failed drug tests, The Drug Detection Agency revealed that fail-rates were as low as 5%;

While the rate of positive tests has remained at about 5 percent, the company is doing more tests and therefore failing more people, said its chief executive, Kirk Hardy.

“We’ve seen an increase overall in our drug testing and we now, annually, conduct about 144,000 drug tests,” he said.

Looked at another way, 95% of the workforce was clean.

Which simply confirms Bill English to be the typical manipulating, lying, politician that the public so consistently distrust and despise.

However, English has his own  sound reasoning for blaming welfare beneficiaries for this country’s immigration-caused problems. He has to do it to obscure the two reasons why National has opened the tap on immigration as far as they can possibly get away with…

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Cargo-cult Economics

Remember that in May 2011,   then-Immigration Minister, Jonathan Coleman revealed;

If we were to close off immigration entirely by 2021… GDP would drop by 11.3 per cent“.

A 11.3% fall in GDP would have pushed New Zealand into a deep recession, matching that of the early 1990s.

This was especially the case as only a few years ago the economy was suffering with an over-valued New Zealand dollar. Manufacturing and exports had slumped;

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Combined with the multi-billion dollar Christchurch re-build, mass-immigration was National’s “quick-fix” solution to boosting the economy. It might cause problems further down the track, but those were matters that National could address later. Or better still, leave for an incoming Labour-Green government to clean up the resulting socio-economic mess.

This is  quasi-cargo-cult economics, 21st century style.

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The Not-so-Free-Market

In Coleman’s May 2011 speech, he also referred – indirectly – to the second rationale for opening the floodgates of mass-immigration;

If we were to close off immigration entirely by 2021… The available labour force would drop 10.9 per cent

This was critical for National.

A crucial tenet of free market capitalism  (aka neo-liberalism) is that the price of labour (wages and other remuneration) should be predicated on supply and demand;

The higher the wage rate, the lower the demand for labour. Hence, the demand for labour curve slopes downwards. As in all markets, a downward sloping demand curve can be explained by reference to the income and substitution effects.

At higher wages, firms look to substitute capital for labour, or cheaper labour for the relatively expensive labour. In addition, if firms carry on using the same quantity of labour, their labour costs will rise and their income (profits) will fall. For both reasons, demand for labour will fall as wages rise.

Note the part; “At higher wages, firms look to substitute capital for labour, or cheaper labour for the relatively expensive labour“.

Mass immigration may or may not supply cheaper labour per se, but more people chasing a finite number of jobs inevitably “stabilises” or even drives down wages, as migrants compete with local workers. As pointed out previously, this is precisely what Treasury warned off in June last year;

“There is a concern that recently there has been a relative decline in the skill level of our labour migration. The increasing flows of younger and lower-skilled migrants may be contributing to a lack of employment opportunities for local workers with whom they compete.”

National is wary of wages rising, thereby creating  a new wage-price inflationary spiral, reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s. English said as much on TVNZ’s Q+A in April 2011;

Guyon Espiner:  “Can I talk about the real economy for people? They see the cost of living keep going up. They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much. I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper. I mean, is that an advantage now?

Bill English:  “Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

[…]

Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

[…]

Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia. So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand. If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.”

National is circumventing their own neo-liberal ideology by importing large numbers of workers, to drive down wages (or at least permit only modest growth).

In times of scarce labour, wages should grow. Demand. Supply.

This is the counter to recessionary-times, such as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, when wages remain static, or fall, due to heightened job losses and rising unemployment. Supply. Demand.

But National is subverting the free market process by ‘flooding the labour market’ with immigrant labour. The price of labour cannot rise because National has interfered with the process of supply  by widening the field of the labour market. The labour market is no longer contained with the sovereign borders of our state.

This reveals “free market economics” to be a fraud. It is permitted to work unfettered only when it benefits the One Percent, their business interests, and their ruling right-wing puppets.

The moment there is a whiff that the “free market” might benefit workers – the goal-posts are shifted. (Just ask Nick Smith about shifting goal-posts.)

The game is fixed. The dice are loaded. We cannot hope to beat the House at their game.

Time to change the game.

Inevitable Conclusion

Welfare beneficiaries. Drugs. Drug testing.  It was never about any of those.

The real agenda is for National to create a false impression of economic growth and reign-in wage growth, through immigration. Anything which threatens to expose their covert agenda is to be countered. Especially before it becomes fixed in the public consciousness.

Welfare beneficiaries are very useful as National’s go-to scapegoats. Or herring of a certain hue…

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Postscript: A case of REAL workplace drug abuse

Meanwhile, in what must constitute the worst case of workplace drug abuse, took place on 14 June 1984;

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…Muldoon had made up his mind.  In one of the biggest miscalculations in our political history he decided that he would go to the country. At 11.15pm a visibly intoxicated Muldoon made his announcement to waiting journalists.

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References

NZ Herald: Beyond the fear factor – New Kiwis can be good for us all

Fairfax media: NZ unemployment jumps to 5.2 per cent, as job market brings more into workforce

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

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

NZ Herald: Budget 2016 – Feeling the Pressure

NZ Herald: Treasury warns of risk to jobs from immigration

TV3 News:  Bill English blames unemployment on drug tests

Radio NZ: Employers still struggling to hire NZers due to drug use – PM

Radio NZ: Farmers agree Kiwi farm labourers ‘hopeless’

Radio NZ: Tens of thousands drug-tested, hundreds fail

Radio NZ: Drug use not the whole worker shortage story – employer

NZ Herald: Willie Apiata our most trusted again

Radio NZ: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Wikipedia: Cargo cult economics

Economics Online: The demand for labour

TVNZ: Q+A – Guyon Espiner interviews Bill English – transcript

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises, wage growth subdued

Statistics NZ: When times are tough, wage growth slows 

Fairfax media: Shock rise in unemployment to 7.3pc

TVNZ: Frontier Of Dreams – 1984 Snap Election

Additional

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

Other Blogs

The Standard: English hammered on druggies smear

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

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

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 March 2017.

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ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

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One of the most enduring, irrational, and hateful myths constantly spat our by various right-wingers is that solo-mothers (but never solo-dads) are “breeding for business“. It is a cliche that rolls of the tongue easily; requires no evidence; and ignores simple realities of life such as women who escape violent relationships or are deserted by their partners for the blonde office-colleague.

Whether it is John Key referring to women as “breeding for business“, or anonymous redneck bigots parroting their cliches via on-line fora – solo-mums (but never solo-fathers) make for  easy targets. As one ignorant, right-wing bigot said on his blog,

“It seems like a good start but incentives really need to be focused on making it harder for Mums to pop out kids on the DPB and easier if one chooses to be honest with others and themselves and work for a living to support themselves and their family.”

Prejudice requires no justification. It just  panders to negative emotion rather than critical thought.

The myth of the “breeding solo mum” (but never “breeding solo dads”) is based on misogyny and enduring patriarchal punitive attitudes.

After all, when is the last time solo-fathers were targeted by right wing bloggers; beneficiariary bashers; or this government. Answer – practically never. If ever.

Equally pernicious is the right wing blogger, commentator, or self-proclaimed “expert”, who mis-uses statistics to prove their point, but which, upon closer analysis, debunks their case entirely.

The rationale for prejudice is fairly simple.

It absolves right-wing governments from adopting constructive, but costly policies such as the Training Incentive Allowance, which allow solo-parents (mums and dads) to gain an education and re-enter the workforce when family committments allow. This is how the current Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, obtained her university degree – the Training Incentive Allowance.

In July 2009, Bennett scrapped the allowance altogether. And when two solo-mothers criticised Bennett’s actions, the Social Welfare Minister reacted with the full power of the State at her finger-tips, and released their personal details to the media. It was a frightening, sickening, display of abuse of State power unseen since Rob Muldoon’s reign of fear.

Three years later, despite the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Hesketh, upholding a complaint again Bennett, the Minister was unrepentant and said she would do the same thing again after “taking advice”.

Two years ago, as the  economy stagnated and unemployment soared to 7.3%,  National ramped up it’s brutal and destructive campaign against those on welfare. Key and his cronies needed a scapegoat to deflect public attention from daily bad headlines, and welfare beneficiaries were targetted.

Bennett launched a public campaign advocating that solo-mothers and their daughters should be “encouraged” to take contraception.  National and ACT both supported this draconian, Daddy State policy.

For two erstwhile liberal parties committed to getting government out of peoples’ lives, they were very, very keen to get into the bedrooms of women.

But not middle-class women who were either  independent via employment or a part of their (male) partner’s hegemony. This was directed at women who were single, poor, abandoned, and reliant on State support. In other words, vulnerable women.

And as we all know, bullies, rapists, misogynists, etc, prefer their intended targets to be as vulnerable as possible.

That allows their bodies to be owned and controlled.

So National and it’s  lap-dogs, in the form of  serial-liar, John Banks, and “Mr Sensible”, Peter Dunne,  supported moves to control women’s bodies.

All of which was carried out with the sub-text that solo-mothers (but never solo-fathers, remember) were reckless breeders.  “Breeding for business” as John Key put it.

As unemployment skyrocketed to 7.3%, and awkward questions were being asked of National’s economic plans for growth, Bennett was lighting the torches for the mob to ferret out; hunt down; and deal to, women who were “breeding for business“.

Of course Bennett denied  that  women would be coerced to take contraception;

“It’s not compulsory, it’s just something to add to them trying to plan their family so they’ve got choices. It’s completely reasonable.”

Of course it was not compulsory. It was not meant to be. That was never the point of National’s on-going demonisation of beneficiaries – especially solo-mums (but never…) as a multitude of anti-welfare headlines hit the media in 2012, courtesy of National.

It was all part of National’s covert strategy to divert public, media, and political attention from economic problems confronting this country. National’s hands-off ideology was not working, and a very dramatic distraction was needed. A distraction that jerked all the right  visceral responses. A distraction that National’s rightwing sycophants, cronies, and malcontents could pick up and promote.

A distraction that was too much for the powerless to fight back.

Solo-mothers… Reckless “breeders for business“… Young sluts… Dropping babies for cash…

The National Government would sort out these wanton women of loose morals.

Cue; two years later, this recent editorial in the Dominion Post.  As far as editorials in a conservative newspaper went, it was quite extraordinary, as it exposed and laid bare National’s  manipulative, self-serving policy of vilification against those on welfare. I repost the entire editorial, rather than just the headline and first couple of paragraphs, as I usually do;

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Dominion Post Editorial Dole scheme redundant from start

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The Dominion Post – not normally renowned as the champion of the underdog when it comes to social welfare issues. So for the un-named writer to denounce National with such vehemence speaks volumes that the media was no longer buying into the “bene-bashing” narrative.

What is more, ACT’s latest leader, Philosopher/Libertarian, Jamie Whyte – in response to a point made by Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman – let slip on TV3’s The Nation on 10 May;

“Do you really think people only  have children because you flick them a few bucks?”

.Oh, really, Mr Whyte?

Do tell?

So people do not have children just “because you flick them a few bucks”?

Money is not a motivator?

Well, bugger me. Who’d’ve thought?!

Of course not. “Breeding for business” is a fiction.

But for certain right-wing politicians, it suits their agendas to demonise the poor; the powerless; and the marginalised.

Fortunately, though,  every so often the truth will out.

Thank you, Mr Whyte, for going on the record.

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References

NZ Herald: National takes aim at solo parents on DPB

Political Animal: National’s Welfare “Reform” : Is that it?

Waikato Times: Furious mum rejects ‘bludger’ tag

NZ Herald: No apology from Bennett over leaked income data

NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high

Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan

Dominion Post: Editorial – Dole scheme redundant from start

TV3: The Nation (11.5.14, part 3, @ 8.10)

Previous related blogposts

Of witch hunts and solo mums

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

 

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stone the witch!

Above image (slightly altered) acknowledgment: Kirk

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2014.

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Letter to the Editor: It must be beneficiary-bashing day in Christchurch today

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It must be Bene-bashing Day in the Garden City today…

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To clean up our streets, sex workers must go

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Specifically, Yardley wrote,

“In fact, most street walkers are really sticking it to the taxpayer, by concurrently drawing a benefit.”

To which I replied with this observation,

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:  Letters to the editor
DATE:     Thu, 15 May 2014 08:44:35 +1200
TO:      "The Press" <letters@press.co.nz>

 

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The editor
"The Press"


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Mike Yardley's diatribe against sex-workers,along with a
swipe at social welfare, reads more like a Destiny Church
sermon than any credible piece of journalism. (13 May)

His claim that "most street walkers are really sticking it
to the taxpayer, by concurrently drawing a benefit" is not
sustained by any facts or figures. He simply throws it into
the argument without any factual context.

How many are "most street walkers" - 51%? 52%? 53? etc?

And how does he know? Are there any MSD/WINZ figures he has
accessed? Or has he surveyed every single sex-workers in
Christchurch?

Or, more likely, is he simply relying on cliches and
stereotypes without any reference to facts?

I don't know what Mike Yardley had in mind when he wrote his
piece, but it certainly wasn't journalism.


-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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It seems that employing the tactic of suggesting benefit-fraud is now a useful tool to validate any  argument? Is this the welfare version of Godwin’s Law?

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References

The Press:  To clean up our streets, sex workers must go

Wikipedia: Godwin’s Law


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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When in trouble – blame the “filthy benes”!

21 April 2014 7 comments

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I love a good switch hunt - beneficiary bashing

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A recent Roy Morgan poll had some very disturbing news for National and it’s shrinking support-base;

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National down as NZ First gains

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The poll results;

Right Bloc

National: 43% (down 2.5%)

Maori Party: 1.5% (down 0.5%)

ACT NZ: (0.5%, unchanged)

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged)

Conservative Party of NZ:  2.5% (up 1%)

Left Bloc

Labour Party: 32% (up 0.5%)

Greens: 13% (down 1%)

Mana Party: 0.5% (up 0.5%)

Internet Party: (0.5%, up 0.5%)

Wild Card

New Zealand First: 5.5% (up 2%)

The polling – which includes phoning respondents on cellphones – shows party/bloc support much more evenly divided than other polls. Any election night result is simply too close to call, and will depend on “wild cards” such as NZ First; how many Maori electorate seats will be won by Mana, at the expense of the Maori Party; and will the Nats cede an electorate seat to the CCCP (Colin Craig’s Conservative Party).

(Despite the closeness of the Left/Right bloc, this blogger still maintains that we will see a change in government post 20 September.)

No doubt all this information was already available to National’s own party strategists, and, rather predictably, they were prepared to distract public attention with Default Strategy #2;

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Travelling beneficiaries' payments cut

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Note the dates on the two stories above; 3 April. Coincidence? Not very likely. All political parties are aware of when Roy Morgan polling results are made public and this particular result would have come as no surprise to  National’s back room strategists and spin doctors.

National and Labour both conduct their own internal polling and are acutely aware that public opinion of decided voters is evenly balanced between the Left and Right blocs.

To rebuild flagging public support, the Nats are focused on reclaiming “soft”, low-information,  swing voters – especially those susceptible to dog-whistle politics. And you can’t get more “dog whistle” than beating up on welfare beneficiaries, as Bennett did;

“The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and available for work – not prioritising travel.  Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.”

This is precisely the despicable tactic used by ex-National leader, Don Brash, during his infamous Orewa Rotary Club Speech in 2004, when he railed against a  “government-funded culture of welfare dependency“, “racial separatism in New Zealand“, and the  “development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry“.

Considering that the Maori Party is one of National’s few remaining coalition partners, and rely on their support for Supply and Confidence, slagging of at Maori and the “entrenched Treaty grievance industry” is a no-go area.

Which leave… beneficiaries. They are the “New Jews” of 21st Century New Zealand – blamed for an alleged “poor work-ethic”;  “wasting tax-dollars”; and living the “high life” whilst the rest of us have to work for a crust.

It is noteworthy that, in the main, the mainstream media published Bennett’s media release without question. There was no in-depth analysis by journos wanting to know who these “21,000 beneficiaries” were, or their circumstances. No questions were asked. No delving behind the reported statistics was carried out.

In fact, not one single journalist, newspaper, TV current affairs programme, etc, actually even bothered to report what the unemployment benefit was ($210 per week, net).

Instead, the Herald – which seemed to be the main media outlet for this “story” –  published an editorial five days later, supporting and endorsing the official Party Line.

Never since the days of the Soviet state-organs, Pravda, Izveztia, etc, have news media been so utterly and completely compliant as mouth-pieces for government policies, statements, and naked propaganda.

If this is what the msm such as the NZ Herald call “freedom of the press“, then I suggest to them that their much-vaunted independence is a fiction. When government ministers’ media releases are reported almost verbatim, then  any pretence of media independence , press freedom, and investigative journalism flies out the window.

Interestingly, when James Coleman on RadioLive interviewed Labour’s Sue Moroney on this issue, he started of by asking;

“Well I wonder how you can afford to travel overseas while on a benefit?”

Unfortunately, except for Julie Moffett on NewstalkZB, who made some effort to present an alternative to the official “Party line”,  that line of questioning was not followed through.

Ms Moroney did, however, make this interesting point;

“I think that people will have questions about why there so many people travelling overseas. And I think it tells us a story about how bad the job market is in New Zealand. I think that quite a number of these people, and many of them are travelling to Australia in desperation, because they’ve run out of the opportunity in New Zealand to get a job. They’re sick of sitting on the scrap heap here, and getting rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter and are going to Australia and are trying their luck over there instead.”

Ms Moroney’s assertion would seem to be confirmed by Paula Bennett, when she stated,

“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.”

If someone on an unemployment benefit (now referred to as “Jobseeker”) has left New Zealand for longer than  eight weeks, that implies they have left this country for reasons other than a so-called “holiday” or family bereavement. As Sue Moroney suggested, they have left this country for good.

So why not phone WINZ’s 0800 number to inform them that they are travelling overseas?

Anyone who has recently had cause to phone WINZ (0800 559 009) will have their question provided. Waiting to speak to an operator on that line can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. Sometimes longer. And there is no guarantee that the information provided by a welfare recipient will be accurately recorded or passed on to the relevant WINZ Branch, or acted on.

This blogger is aware of at least one beneficiary who followed proper procedures to  advise WINZ of a change in his/her circumstances – only to have that information disregarded and their benefit cut. Only when WINZ was contacted on subsequent occassions and questions asked why that information (earning an income through a casual job) was not accepted, was the recipient’s benefit eventually reinstated. S/he had done everything right; carried out their obligations; made full disclosures – and was still penalised.

How often is this happening to others?

And if a beneficiary is leaving New Zealand (often paid by loans, friends, or family) to seek work in Australia – why should someone utterly frustrated with the system bother to contact WINZ, which is time-consuming, stressful, and when that information is not always passed on?

Who would bother?

I submit to the reader that most would simply give the one or two  fingered salute to this country as they departed.

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evansknowlegewave

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However, such questionable “statistics” serve this government’s interests very well. They have a ready-made scape-goat to point the finger at – meanwhile distracting the public from the very obvious fact that there are simply not enough jobs to go around for everyone. Certainly not the 170,000 new jobs promised by National in 2011;

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Budget 2011 - Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

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In turn, the media has ready-made, simplistic, tabloid-style headlines provided to it on a plate, to sell their advertising.

Whilst the majority (hopefully) of New Zealanders understand that this is red-neck, dog-whistle politicking in action, National need only  appeal to one or two percentage points of voters who unquestioningly digest this kind of prejudice –  and John Key is assured of a third term in office.

Unemployment is working – for National’s re-election.

Postscript #1

A bit of background into Paula Bennett’s life before she came to Parliament…

  • Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
  • 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.
  • Paula Bennet was a recipient of the WINZ Training Incentive Allowance, which she scrapped in 2009
  • Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit

More

Postscript #2

Perhaps I spoke too soon. There appears one journalist willing to buck the National Party Line, it seems. Colin Espiner stands out from the maddened crowd of media sycophants…


 

References

NZ Herald: Travelling beneficiaries’ payments cut

Roy Morgan: 3 April 2014 Poll

NZ Herald: National down as NZ First gains

Scoop media: “Nationhood – Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club”

NZ Herald: Editorial – Travel is not a right for those taking welfare

National Party: Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers

RadioLive: Sue Moroney: Beneficiaries and overseas travel

NewstalkZB: Whip-rounds and debt paying for beneficiaries’ trips

TVNZ: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

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

Fairfax media: Beneficiary bashing just too easy

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Is National in trouble in the polls?

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

Other blogs/blogposts

Against The Current: Mike Hosking says Bash A Beneficiary Day!

The Daily Blog: Paula Bennett’s racist beneficiary flying hatefest

The Little Pakeha: Wrestling with the narrative

The Standard: Poverty denial – NZ Herald editorial

 

 


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Paula Bennet.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2014.

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A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

24 January 2014 9 comments

Continued from:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part tahi

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new-zealand-national-party_3382 adapted 2014

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An incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?*) coalition government will have much work to do – especially in it’s first three years.

In the six years that National has been in power, they have passed many odious and often repressive pieces of legislation. Labour and the Greens have already committed to repealing some of these laws and policies.

As a Labour-led coalition government addresses growing problems of child poverty; income inequality; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; and chronic unemployment (currently at 7.1% according to the 2013 Census), a legislative programme will demand a long list of progressive reforms.

In no particular order;

Welfare “reforms”

Drug testing welfare recipients – the sign of a National government desperate to deflect attention away from it’s lack of credible job creation policies, and stigmatise the victims of the Global Financial Crisis by insinuating that they are lazy, shiftless, drug-numbed layabouts.

Or, as the Salon website wrote  last year about this very same issue in the United States,

The logic behind extant drug testing laws goes something like this: Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to buy illegal drugs. People collecting welfare receive taxpayer money. Some of these people use illegal drugs. Therefore, we should test them in order to stop giving taxpayer money to those who use illegal drugs.

It’s true, people on welfare use drugs. But so do people from every socioeconomic level. People on welfare also receive taxpayer money. But so do people from every socioeconomic level. If the goal is to stop people from potentially using taxpayer money to purchase illegal substances then we should apply these programs to every person receiving government funds. That means testing students who receive government scholarships, laboratories receiving government research grants, and farmers receiving farm subsidies. It means testing veterans, police officers and firefighters. It means testing the employees of the companies that administer the tests. And it most certainly means testing politicians, from the governor all the way down to city council members.

But you won’t see any governors calling for extensive testing. This is because none of these other groups have the stigma of poverty attached to them — a stigma that leads many to turn a blind eye to harmful policies that affect only the poor, but would never be tolerated if done to other groups.

Welfare-based drug testing is only a symptom of a larger societal ill that sees the poor as inherently parasitic and viceful (e.g., “They take advantage of government programs, not us.” “They do drugs, not us.”). As a result, legislators heap unfair, ineffective policies on those in poverty simply to court public favor by playing to their prejudices. The welfare queen, cashing government checks, smoking drugs and living the life of luxury, continues to be a useful myth when it comes to winning votes. And as more of these policies, whose support is borne by an unfounded disdain for the poor, are enacted, the humanity of those living in poverty is further eroded as the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows even wider.

The same Salon article reported,

In 2009, Arizona was the first state to adopt a program that drug-tested recipients of welfare whom officials had “reasonable cause” to believe were using drugs. Besides stigmatizing recipients of government assistance, implying that they’re a group of no-good drug fiends, the bill was implemented to try rand resuscitate a failing budget, and Arizona officials believed that testing could save the state $1.7 million a year.

But in 2012, three years and 87,000 screenings later, only one person had failed a drug test. Total savings from denying that one person benefits? $560. Total benefits paid out in that time? $200 million. Even if we include the savings from cutting benefits to the 1,633 people who didn’t return the pre-test survey, it brings the total to only 0.1 percent of the amount distributed over that period.

Similar results were found for Oklahoma and Florida,

Similarly lackluster results have dogged Oklahoma’s drug testing program in which only 29 people failed. When contacted, Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services said it didn’t keep track of the amount the state saved by denying benefits to those who tested positive, but testing fees are estimated to have totaled $74,000.

Florida had a testing program in 2011 that was halted by the courts not long after it was started. During its brief lifespan it had similarly poor results. Only 2.6 percent of those tested turned up positive for illicit substances. And since Florida reimbursed those who were clean for the cost of their tests, the state actually lost $45,780 because of the program.

So what were the results here in New Zealand? As the NZ Herald reported on 11 January, this year;

Of the 8,001 beneficiaries sent for jobs requiring drug testing, only 22 tested positive to drug use or refused to take tests.

Twentytwo people. Out of 8,001. That’s a “fail” rate of – wait fer it – 0.27% !!

When asked how much this exercise in futility has cost the taxpayer, deputy chief executive of Work and Income, Debbie Power, replied that “there was no information available showing how much the drug testing scheme cost.  There was also no information showing actual or estimated savings”.

Which, intriguingly, mirrors the United States situation, where they also could not provide financial details when requested.

Similar policies in both the USA and New Zealand, and a similar lack of available information surrounding costs.

Coincidence? Or is this right-wing strategy emanating from the same (or inter-connected) right-wing think tank/s?

The lack of information is made even more farcical when Welfare Minister Paula Bennett claimed that the policy was “driving beneficiaries away from using drugs“. Yet, her office admitted to having no data to support the claim. Nothing. Zilch. In other words, she made it up.

She probably also made up the original “costings” figures in August 2012, when she announced the policy,

She said estimates at the high end put the cost of enforcing the policy at $10 million. “We really think the real cost is around $3 million for those that will be known as dependent, once this testing comes in. The savings are estimated to be around $10.5 million.”

The crackdown would involve up to 13,000 beneficiaries a year getting treatment for drug dependency.

Ms Bennett said a Ministry of Health report from 2007/2008 said beneficiaries were three times more likely to be cannabis users. “That would put them at around 20 per cent of beneficiaries, if you went by that number. The UN says that New Zealand and Australia have the highest use of cannabis anywhere in the world,” she said.

Funny how Bennett had the figures available  in 2012 – but not readily available now, after the drug testing policy has been in force for a little over six months?

Nor did Bennett have “time to trawl through evidence” supposedly provided  “from face-to-face meetings with employers and others” who had supposedly complained “about beneficiaries failing drug tests“, when requested by Helen Kelly from the CTU.

Perhaps  everyone in this country should be drug-tested? No exceptions. John Key can lead the way. His wife and children next.

After all, as a civil servant, he himself is a beneficiary of the State. (A very highly paid one, at that.)

It is also worthwhile noting that Police Minister Anne Tolley categorically refused to consider drug-testing for New Zealand’s police,

Anne Tolley says the overwhelming majority of police staff are doing a fantastic job and they should not face workplace drug testing. She says police are quick to prosecute their own if there is any wrongdoing.

Considering that police officers have access to deadly weapons, one would have thought that mandatory drug testing would be done as a matter of course.  Only recently, a Police Prosecutor was convicted for possession and use of cannabis and methamphetamine.

Why are all New Zealanders not drug tested? Why the insistance by this government of focusing only on welfare recipients?

Because, as The Salon article above pointed out with crystal clarity, it serves the purpose of the National Party to deflect attention onto the unemployed; depict them as lazy drug-users; and thereby Key and his Ministers avoid  taking political responsibility for chronic levels of high  unemployment. As Bennett alluded to on 28 August 2012,

Welfare reforms are resetting expectations and obligations and recreational drug use is simply not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work.

Illegal drug use should not get in the way of getting a job if you are on a benefit.

Too many beneficiaries are missing out on job opportunities because of recreational drug use and that’s just not acceptable.”

She used all the dog-whistle references in that speech. This is what is known as scape-goating, and if sufficient numbers of gullible, uninformed voters ‘buy’ into this strategy, then it serves National’s purpose as it seeks re-election this year.

As “Bomber” Bradbury pointed out on Tumeke in August 2012,

“…National don’t believe in creating jobs, they create ‘environments’ where jobs are created, likewise they won’t find the unemployed jobs, they’ll find ways to create an environment that disqualifies them from gaining a benefit in the first place.

Drug testing beneficiaries isn’t aimed at making them work ready in a 9.1% real unemployment labour market, it’s aimed at disqualifying them from recieving a benefit, thus removing them from the official 6.9% unemployment rate into the invisible world of poverty.”

Which Paula Bennett confirmed on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012, in a roundabout way,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.”

Regardless of the obvious bullshit nature of this machiavellian policy, an incoming Labour-led coalition must repeal this odious policy forthwith. In doing so, Cunliffe and the new Minister of Social Welfare must explain clearly and concisely to the electorate the duplicitous nature of this policy and why it serves no purpose in creating jobs.

Labour and it’s allies must not only dump this policy – they should take the opportunity to educate the public so that National will find it impossible to ever reinstate it again.

National Standards

Another favourite of right-wing politicians, National Standards was introduced in 2010, and  has been steadily opposed by every education sector group, whether it was the NZ Principals’ Federation, NZEI, Boards of Trustees; PPTA; and many parents.

A year earlier, an open letter had been sent to then Minister of Education, Anne Tolley. The letter was signed by high-regarded professionals and experts in the education sector;  Prof. Martin Thrupp (University of Waikato); Prof. John Hattie (University of Auckland); Prof. Terry Crooks (University of Otago); and Lester Flockton (University of Otago), and stated in part,

Minister, in our view the flaws in the new system are so serious that full implementation of the intended National Standards system over the next three years is unlikely to be successful. It will not achieve intended goals and is likely to lead to dangerous side effects.

We are very concerned that the intended National Standards system wrongly assumes that children are failing if they do not meet the standard for their age. This will lead to the repeated labelling of many young children as failures and will be self-fulfilling because it will damage children’s self-esteem and turn them off learning and achieving in literacy and numeracy and other curricula areas. There are many successful New Zealanders with unexceptional school records who would not have succeeded had they been constantly labelled as failures during their childhood. A better form of assessment and reporting would focus on the progress that children are making and we believe this is the approach that should be being used.

Minister, you are aware the international record on the effects of national testing is damning. We recognise the intended National Standards are not national tests, but our understanding of why national testing has such adverse effects convinces us that the intended National Standards system will suffer most of the same problems. We are concerned about the damage that will occur if the performance of children against the Standards is reported publicly, as has happened internationally. We stress that such reporting of results at each year level will distort and impoverish the  culture of teaching and learning and assessment within schools. It will undermine the new curriculum and lead to a narrower, less interesting form of primary education for New Zealand children. It will also result in inappropriate judgements about the quality of schools and teachers.

[…]

In our view the intended  National Standards system has little chance of engaging the hearts and minds of New Zealand primary teachers. Our primary teachers have a strong ethic of care for children. We believe they are opposing National Standards not because they are reluctant to be accountable but because of genuine concerns about the effects of the national standards system on children and their learning. “

Part of the problem of National Standards – aside from the bizarre notion of attempting to “standardise” all children’s learning – was the likelihood of National Standards results being turned in to League Tables. Such a move would pit school against school and introduce competition into a system that was better served by collegial, co-operative action.

In other words, this was a thinly-veiled neo-liberal policy being implemented. The ultimate goal? Further commercialisation of schools? Privatisation?

As a sop to mounting criticism, in October 2009, then Education Minister, Anne Tolley, pledged not to facilitate National Standards,

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

By 2011, that pledge had changed,

National leader John Key this afternoon announced the party’s full education policy, including early childhood, schools and the tertiary sector.

He said National’s “next steps” on the controversial National Standards scheme would include using performance information to “strengthen the accountability of schools”.

[…]

Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said a National-led Government would not roll out any league tables of its own but primary schools would, from next year, be required to publish their results against the National Standards. There were be no steps to stop media or anyone else from constructing league tables out of the information.

“We want the system to be far more accountable to parents and communities,” Tolley said.

(Hat-tip: Dim Post blog)

Unsurprising really. Experience has shown that trusting National politicians to keep their word is a wholly futile exercise.

On 11 June 2013, Labour’s education spokesperson, Chris Hipkins pledged that an incoming Labour-led government would scrap National Standards. He made no bones about Labour’s view on the policy,

It’s now abundantly clear that National Standard results are neither national nor standard. There is no proper process in place to ensure that a student judged as meeting a standard wouldn’t get a different outcome if assessed by a different teacher at a different school. The data released today is therefore is completely useless.”

Useless indeed. This is another of National’s ideologically-motivated policies that deserves to be “filed” here,

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(* At this point in time, NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters,  has not indicated which bloc – Labour or National – he intends to coalesce with. As such, any involvement by NZ First in a progressive government cannot be counted upon.)

To be continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part toru

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 January 2014.

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References

Salon: An inane, money-eating sham: Drug tests for welfare a huge failure

NZ Herald: Drug testing of beneficiaries set to come into force from July

NZ Herald: Minister claims low drug result as victory

Radio NZ: Bennett defends drug-testing of beneficiaries

Dominion Post: PM gets $9200 pay rise

Radio NZ:  Police minister says no to drug tests at work

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

Radio NZ: Prosecutor sentenced over drug charges

Beehive: Pre-employment drug testing for jobseekers

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Tumeke: What the real aim of drug testing beneficiaries is

Roy Morgan: unemployment statistics

Open Letter to the Minister of Education, Hon Anne Tolley

Fairfax media: Tolley and unions strike league tables deal

Fairfax media: Nats open door to primary school league tables

NZ Herald: Labour would dump National Standards

Labour Party: Only constant is Hekia’s waffle

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

12 January 2014 17 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the ed
DATE:    Sun, 12 Jan 2014 15:56:11 +1300
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Only 22 people have drug tested positive out of the
thousands sent to 8,001 job vacancies which required drug
testing, reported David Fisher in his story, "Minister
claims low drug result as victory" (11 January).

Social Welfare minister, Paula Bennett, says that  "It's
great so few people failed tests in the first six months of
this new policy, that's partly due to the strong signalling
effect of this policy where many people reported quitting
marijuana use before it was even implemented, but we're also
giving people the opportunity get clean before they're
tested."

Or, as is most likely the case, those who are unemployed are
ordinary fellow New Zealanders who've been made redundant
since 2008 and the on-going recession, and are no more
likely to be using drugs than their fellow workers who've
not been made redundant.

Redundancy does not automatically lead to drug taking.

It seems that National's demand for drug testing welfare
beneficiaries stands revealed for what it is - a waste of
taxpayer's money that does not create jobs (except in the
drug-testing industry, maybe).

The policy achieves nothing except cater to the ill-informed
- those who are prejudiced against the unemployed and other
welfare recipients as a matter of course. It is a form of
scape-goating those who cannot fight back against such
character slurs.

Tellingly, Bennett's office cannot answer simple questions
such as how much the drug testing costs; how much it has
saved the taxpayer; how many of all the unemployed sent to
those 8,001 vacancies were drug tested; nor whether in fact
the policy is indeed  affecting drug usage at all. Her
office simply has no information on these questions.

But I have a question for the Minister; when she was on the
DPB herself as a solo-mother, how can we - the taxpayer - be
reassured that she was not a drug-user and smoked the odd
joint or three? 

Can she reassure us that she did not take drugs? Was she
drug tested at the time? If not, why not?

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-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

NZ Herald: Minister claims low drug result as victory

 

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The REAL reason for the drop in welfare numbers

22 December 2013 23 comments

There is an underlying reason for this headline,

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Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed - 16.7.2013

Source

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In the above July 2013 article, Social welfare Minister, Paula Bennett proudly asserted,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said today there are now 309,782 people on a benefit compared with 320,041 last year.

[…]

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

IBID

Nowhere in the article does it state where those 10,000 welfare beneficiaries ended up.

Was it in paid work?

Did they go back into full-time education or other courses?

Or were they simply dumped from WINZ’s books?  Like the recipient of these letters that were recently provided to me? (We will call him/her “Citizen X” – all identifying details have been redacted to respect his/her privacy and protect him/her from possible reprisals by Bennett, her office, or MSD official. Same for the WINZ officials whose names appear on the letters.)

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (1)WINZ letter dec 2013 (2)

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A few days later, “Citizen X” received this letter. Adding insult to injury, they were demanding that an outstanding amount (an amount between $200 to $300) be repaid;

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (3)

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This was despite that “Citizen X” had had her/his unemployment benefit cancelled – not because s/he had found paid employment (s/he hadn’t) – but because s/he had fallen foul of National’s harsh new welfare laws.

In part, the MSD website states,

On Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months

If you still require Jobseeker Support after 52 weeks you’ll have to re-apply for your benefit. We’ll let you know when you have to re-apply and tell you what you need to do.

When you re-apply, you’ll also need to complete a Comprehensive Work Assessment. This will identify what steps you’ve taken to find work and what help you might need from us to be more successful in getting a job.

Source

In effect, National has placed a one year time limit on all unemployment benefits. They haven’t advertised it as such – they refer to it as “re-applying”.

As Simon Collins reported in the NZ Herald back in January (2013),

The Council of Christian Social Services pointed yesterday to “a growing gap between those who receive a benefit and those in genuine need who are either losing or unable to obtain social welfare assistance”.

Unemployment increased in the two years to last September from 144,500 to 170,000, but those on unemployment benefit dropped by almost a quarter from 65,281 to 50,390.

Sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit have also dropped in the past year. Rules for both benefits were tightened in September 2010, when unemployment beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled if they failed to reapply after a year.

Sole parents were required to look for part-time work when their youngest child turned 6, an age reduced to 5 last October.

Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said his members were reporting increases in demand for their services as people found benefits harder to get.

[…]

Ironically, the tighter welfare rules may also partly explain the rise in unemployment, as beneficiaries are counted as unemployed only if they are actively looking for work. Employment slipped only slightly from 63.6 per cent to 63.2 per cent of adults in the two years to last September, but the “jobless” rose from 7.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent because those not looking for work fell from 29.3 per cent to a record low of 28.4 per cent.

Source

What this  means is that eventually a significant number of people simply give up re-applying for the minimal amount that the dole pays ($206.21 per week).

Constant, repetitive, incessant demands for information and a less than helpful attitude created by MSD policy create an atmosphere of naked hostility.

The complexity of applying, with the multitude of 73 pages of WINZ  forms and other bits of paper, may also prove to be a dis-incentive for many – especially those for whom English, reading ability, and general low education is a real problem.

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73 pages of WINZ forms

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The massive number of WINZ forms and other documents handed out to applicants has been covered in this previous blogpost; WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

These are some of the bureacratic barriers which National and MSD have created for the most vulnerable and dispossessed people in our country.

All done to “massage” beneficiary statistics.

As Bennett said, back in July,

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

No doubt, National will use this “success” at the next election and a sizeable portion of the voting population will be sufficiently uninformed and  gullible enough to accept this without question.

It will be up to those who oppose National and it’s virulent brand of right-wing politics to spread the truth; under this party, poverty and inequality will continue to worsen.

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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Because even the Prime Minister has had to reluctantly concede the enormity of what we are facing,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Source

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Pushing people off welfare, regardless of whether or not they have jobs to go to, just to massage welfare statistics, is a vile obscenity.

This will not “lift people out of poverty”, as Key has promised.

It is increasing poverty.

How long will it be before this growing poverty, sense of hopelessness, and constant attacks by National and MSD results in the inevitable outbreak of violent civil disturbance? Desperate people tend not to care – especially for the empty promises of well-fed, well-housed, comfortable politicians.

Is this really what New Zealanders want for their country?

The clock is ticking…

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clock.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 December 2013.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits

Fairfax media:  Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

References

Work and Income:  Jobseeker Support

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare -The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

Previous related blogposts

Class act, National – taking money of widows?!

How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums

Random Thoughts on Random Things #4…

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

The REAL level of unemployment

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OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

13 December 2013 6 comments

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6a00d83451d75d69e2016305affbbe970d-800wi

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In National’s on-going war against the poor; the unemployed; solo-mums; widows; etc, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, recently trumpeted “new” developments in the campaign against “welfare abuse”.

He proclaimed  “new” measures by this government to detect and deal to (alleged) fraudsters,

“The information sharing, which compares MSD records with Inland Revenue data to identify working age beneficiaries who have not accurately reported their income to Work and Income, started in March this year.”

Source: Information sharing continues to stop fraudsters

However, as I pointed out in July of this year, Borrows appears to be somewhat “loose with the truth”. The MSD has had the ability to share information with other government departments going back to 2001 – if not  earlier (see:  Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us) .

The initial evidence for this fact lay with two letters  from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The other evidence was a startling admission from Borrows – detailed later in this blogpost – in an OIA request lodged with the Minister’s office in July.

The first of two letters was from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

and,

The Inland Revenue records indicate that you commenced employment: 16 March 2009…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

Obviously, the MSD had data-matching with the IRD going back to at least mid-2009.

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the NZ Customs Service (not Immigration Dept as I mistakenly wrote) were comparing information.

So for Borrows to claim that “information sharing, which compares MSD records with Inland Revenue data to identify working age beneficiaries who have not accurately reported their income to Work and Income, started in March this year ” – shows either that he has poor knowledge of departmental policy, or is wilfully misrepresenting the truth.

If Borrows is lying, it would be part and parcel of National’s disturbing agenda to demonise welfare recipients and make them the scapegoats of this Tory government’s failure to create jobs.

On 19 July, I lodged an OIA request with Borrows’ office.  I asked ten questions from the Minister through the course of two emails. Here are the questions and responses I received on 12 September;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

Borrows replied; “From 18 March to 14 July 2013 the information sharing agreement detected 3,139 cases of benefit fraud which resulted in the cancellation of a benefit.”

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

Borrows; “In May 2012 an Order in Council was passed that allows for Inland Revenue to share information with the Ministry of Social Development. To support this a memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

This has led to a new programme of work in which Inland Revenue provides the Ministry of Social Development with income and employer information for all working age people in receipt of a benefit. In September 2012 a test of the information sharing agreement was undertaken to ensure data integrity and system compatibility. Full information sharing for the detection of undeclared earnings commenced in March 2013.”

However, further on in Borrow’s letter, he presents this chart of two government departments and the dates they commenced data-sharing with the MSD,

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information sharing with MSD - borrows

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Note the years given for the IRD (1992) and NZ Customs Service (1996). This ties in perfectly with the letters from WINZ and MSD above.

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigration also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

According to Borrows; Yes. Though with NZ Customs, not the Immigration Service. My bad.

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

According to Borrows; from 1996 onward.

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?   6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

Borrows listed the following as data sharing with the MSD; ACC (2005), Corrections Dept (1995), Department of Internal Affairs (2004 onward), Housing NZ (2006), Inland Revenue (1992 onward), NZ Customs Service (1996 onward), and Ministry of Justice (2013)

7. Of the 3,139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

– 1 week

– 2 weeks

– 3 weeks

– 4 weeks

– 2 months

– 3 months

– 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

– Over one year

This was probably the most pertinent question, and Borrows point blank refused to answer it, stating;

Your request for information about the amount of time a client was in receipt of a benefit whilst earning income from another source is refused under section 18(f)  of the Official Information Act.This would require the Ministry to undertake a manual search of each of the individual  client’s files to collate the information. As such I am refusing this part of your request as responding to it would require substantial collation or research.”

This is an unbelievable response!

For one thing, it indicates that the Minister has no information as to how long a welfare recipient was earning both a benefit and other income.

Was it one week? Or one year? Two weeks?  Or two decades?

There are many cases of a brief overlap, as the 7 July 2009 letter above shows (where the over-lap was a fortnight before the recipient advised WINZ). There was a gap of  just over a week between the job interview and job offer, and the person’s first induction course.

Borrows simply has no knowledge of how long these over-laps were. If the majority were one or two weeks, this can be put down to human error or a mis-understanding of employment start-dates – not planned fraud.

Worse was to come.

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?

Borrows replied,

Information about the number of prosecutions undertaken is refused under section 9(2)(f)(iv) of the Official Information Act. This part of the Act allows me to refuse your request as the Ministry is still in the process of deciding whether to prosecute these individuals, therefore this matter is still under active consideration. While I understand that there is a significant public interestin the functions of the Ministry, I believe that in this case the public  interest does not outweigh the necessity to protect the Ministry’s investigation and prosecution process.”

I take it from his response that “as the Ministry is still in the process of deciding whether to prosecute these individuals, therefore this matter is still under active consideration” – that no prosecutions have taken place up until the time of the letter being written.

Not one single person out of the  3,139 cases was prosecuted.

Not. A. One.

So the alleged fraud was either of an insignificant nature (one or two weeks) – or the cases were so flimsy and ill-defined that a Court would have thrown out the charges.

Or they weren’t “fraud” at all.

9. How many have been convicted?

Borrows’ response,

Prosecutions stemming from these cases are still in progress, and I am advised that none have yet been resolved. As such there have been no convictions to date.”

No convictions?

So much media hype surrounding 3,139 cases – and not a single prosecution or conviction.

It seems apparent that this was little more than a propaganda exercise and useful only to beef up National’s ‘tough-on-welfare-abuse” image. Any serious fraud is never countenanced by any government and prosecutions are relentlessly pursued,

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Alleged identity theft for pension

Source

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And lastly, I asked,

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

Borrows replied,

In every instance of the 3,139 alleged benefit frauds, those in receipt of these were also employed.

Note the Minister’s use of  “alleged”. Without a single court case leading to a single conviction, nothing has been proven. There was no fraud, as such, because no one has been convicted of any such offence.

We have only a  politician’s word that this has happened.

And thus far, Mr Borrows seems to be lacking in any credibility whatsoever.

It is also interesting to note that whilst Borrows knew the answer to Q10 – he had no data on Q7.

If the mainstream media had the time or inclination to delve further behind the press releases, they might uncover the same situation I have; that this has been part of a propaganda exercise by government ministers to boost National’s reputation as being “tough on welfare cheats”.

New Zealand has a dark side to it’s much vaunted “fair go”. We can  be quick to judge; easy led to indulge in prejudice; and punitive to a nasty level.

National’s strategists and spin-doctors are well aware of this nasty side to our collective psyche and play it like a maestro.

We may not force jews to wear the yellow star of David and ship them off to death camps – but when a Tory government re-victimises the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, simply to gain a few polling points, and seemingly gets away with it – then you know that this is a country that is willing to be led into darkness.

And all the while with a complicit media, only too eager to be the government’s unquestioning, obedient, mouthpiece,

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Susan's Editorial Benefit fraudsters stealing from you and me

Source

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Whatever happened to journalists looking behind government utterances?

Or is the new policy Don’t Question Authority?

At the very least, journalists like Susan Wood should have expected payment for her blatant  towing of the National Party-line.  She has shown herself to be a Good Citizen. Obedient. Unquestioning. Loyal.

So when do we start shipping welfare beneficiaries off to work camps?

Would that satisfy that subconscious, punitive urge for New Zealanders?

Or would that finally – finally – be a step too far?

And in the meantime, how many more times will gullible New Zealanders fall for National’s get-tough-on-welfare-fraud propagandising?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 December 2013.

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References

OIA letter from Chester Borrows

Scoop media: Information sharing continues to stop fraudsters

Radio NZ: Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Dominion Post: House call plan to nab benefit fraudsters

NewstalkZB: Susan’s Editorial: Benefit fraudsters stealing from you and me

NZ Herald: Alleged identity theft for pension

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare – The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

TV3: Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging – study

Previous related blogposts

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

A letter to the editor

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Another “satisfied” WINZ client…

– Peter

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UNEMPLOYMENT-LINE-JOBS-SCHOOL-CEOS-CAI-021209-COLOR
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I ran a blog called Aotearoawolfing, but stopped posting after I ran out of things to say. Obviously I did it anonymously, as like everyone I have things to hide i.e. my life off the internet.

Basically have left New Zealand for good to the United States (where I also have citizenship – though my family live here). I got out while I still could.

In my case I was depressed and I could no longer could work at my job like I used to, and I couldn’t get a job again at a decent wage. By the time I got through the W&I process I had full-scale clinical depression. No support exists, and the whole experience made me think the sole focus of W&I right now is make young people homeless (which aren’t counted on unemployment statistics) or force the burden of care onto the family.

Hopefully National gets turfed out next election, but if it doesn’t then I am no longer in New Zealand – even if I have to pay off a big student loan with interest (no thanks to the cut to the student loan holiday while overseas). But on that story, most don’t pay it off as John Key has no jurisdiction in places like Canada or the US – only in Australia. In fact most never want to go back to New Zealand, John Key threatening them with prison if they return will only ensure that the best and brightest never return.

Really I don’t understand the government’s paranoid obsession about the unemployed, and student loan borrowers. As the reason there is a shortfall in the budget is due to stagnant wage growth, the richest 10% avoiding tax, and everyone with qualifications leaving the country as they can’t get work in New Zealand. It is the worst crisis since the 1980s-1990s and the government isn’t doing anything to fix it.

Hope I didn’t go on too long, hopefully I can find the time to start blogging again – even if it is from the other side of the world.

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Previous related blogpost

Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders

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Random Thoughts on Random Things #3…

21 October 2013 5 comments

Why is it…

That drug testing the unemployed is seen by National Ministers as a good thing…

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Fail a drugs test and lose your benefit, job seekers warned

By Isaac Davison @Isaac_Davison

5:30 AM Monday Jul 2, 2012
Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett. Photo / Natalie Slade

Beneficiaries who refuse or fail drug tests while applying for jobs will have their welfare cut from mid-2013 under the Government’s next round of welfare reforms.

The National-led Government says there are now no consequences for drug-takers who opted out of job applications when faced with a drug test.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told the Herald the new Welfare Reform Bill would have new requirements for drug testing, but the finer details were still being finalised.

National’s pre-election policy document said beneficiaries who did not apply for a job because a prospective employer asked them to take a drug test would have their benefit cancelled.

If they took the drug test and failed it, they would also be sanctioned.

Source: NZ Herald

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… But drug testing the Police (who regularly have access to lethal weapons), is a big No-No?

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Police minister says no to drug tests at work

Updated at 7:38 pm on 17 October 2013

Police Minister Anne Tolley says police staff should not be drug-tested in the workplace.

Her comment came after a police prosecutor on Thursday admitted charges of using and possessing methamphetamine, and using cannabis.

Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley.  NATIONAL PARTY

Brent Thomson posted videos of himself using methamphetamine, and blogs describing his use of drugs at sex parties in April and May, online.

Police found a small amount of the drug “P” and syringes when they searched the 49-year-old’s home. He is seeking a discharge without conviction in the Waitakere District Court.

Thomson, who worked mainly in the Family Violence Court and the Auckland District Court, is also subject to an employment investigation.

Anne Tolley says the overwhelming majority of police staff are doing a fantastic job and they should not face workplace drug testing. She says police are quick to prosecute their own if there is any wrongdoing.

The Police Association agrees that staff shouldn’t be given workplace drug tests. President Greg O’Connor says the public should be re-assured by the systems that police already have.

Source: Radio NZ

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All together now; H… Y… P… O… C… R… I… S… Y.

Yep, hypocrisy.  National has it mastered to a fine art.

With a good helping of beneficiary bashing.

Because if you, as a government can’t fire up the economy to create jobs and reduce unemployment (as we had under the previous Labour-led government), then the next “best” thing is to paint the unemployed as “lazy druggies”. If enough of the middle class (those who  still have jobs or don’t regularly associate with unemployed friends and family) swallow this mindless pap, then that translates nicely into votes at election time.

Never underestimate the power of demonising a minority – especially if there are votes in it.

Just ask any old historian familiar with Germany in the 1920s and 30s…

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Jewish_shops_in_Nazi_Germany

 

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Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

 

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Some more repetitive bene-bashing & a reply

8 August 2013 5 comments

From the letters to the editor page in the Dominion Post, on 8 August – a letter to the editor I took exception to;

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Amanda Purdy - Dominion Post - 8 August 2013

Amanda Purdy – Dominion Post – 8 August 2013

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My reply to Ms Purdy,

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from:     Frank Macskasy
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM
subject:     letter to the editor

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The Editor
DOMINION POST
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It’s a shame that Ms Purdy mistakenly conflates the worthy issue of workplace safety with that of denigrating the unemployed. (8 Aug)

Since when have those who’ve been made redundant since 2008 become ‘druggies’? This is what she is suggesting with the blanket statement, “smoke dope or work but we can’t expect the taxpayer to fund people who smoke dope”.

Is she suggesting that those laid off from Summit Wool Spinners, Southern Institute of Technology, Geon Group, Ellerslie TAB,  Department of Conservation, Telecom, Park Road Post,  Fonterra, Fisher Funds, Ministry of Justice, NZ Post,  Solid Energy, Delta Utility Services, Canterbury Spinners, WINZ, Holcim Cement, Oringi Freezingworks, Tiwai Smelter, etc, etc – have all suddenly acquired a taste for cannabis?

These people are not dope-heads. They are all Ms Purdy’s fellow New Zealanders – victims of a global financial crisis they had no hand in making, and which is still making it’s effects felt throughout our society and economy.

If Ms Purdy is concerned about workplace safety – as is the CTU – then drug test everyone. No exceptions.

That includes politicians and letter writers like Ms Purdy and myself.

Otherwise she is simply repeating, ad nauseum, National’s desperate  bene-bashing  distractions, to avoid responsibility for rising unemployment.

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-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Meanwhile, unemployment has risen from 6.2% to 6.4%, according to the most recent Household Labour Force Survey,

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Economists play down jobless rise

Source: NZ Herald – Economists play down jobless rise

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Another 5,000 drug-users according to people like Ms Purdy?

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Bennett & Borrows – where are the jobs?!?!

1 August 2013 8 comments

From a recent Fairfax report,

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Hundreds apply for 90 Fonterra jobs

Source: Fairfax Media – Hundreds apply for 90 Fonterra jobs

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And there have been plenty of other similar situations, where job applicants have outnumbered available vacancies. See:

Employment-Unemployment Fact Sheet #1: Queues for Vacancies

So instead of welfare “reforms” which consist of re-naming various benefit categories and constant belittling of unemployed as drug-takers; alcohol abusers; prolific “breeders”; and mis-treating children – what is really needed are,

Jobs

But aside from a Convention centre deal with Skycity, which will most likely result in more problem gamblers, this National government has done precious little to generate more jobs for the unemployed.

Even the Christchurch rebuild, we are now told, will be done by foreign workers,

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Deal opens door for Chinese workers in Christchurch rebuild

Source: TV3 -Deal opens door for Chinese workers in Christchurch rebuild

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Why is there a “shortage of 17,000” workers?!

The last big quake hit Christchurch in February 2011 – two and a half years ago! In that time, what have National ministers been doing?  Surely they must have received advice from governmental departments; industry organisations; and other expert advisers, that an army of trained workers would be required in the coming years?

Why was no plan set up to,

  1. Assess New Zealand’s current “stock” of skilled tradespeople,
  2. Begin a crash-programme to train people where perceived gaps were indicated,
  3. Organise infra-structure (accomodation, transport, meals, etc) to cater for the Rebuild Army

This is how previous governments built past massive projects such as the Manapouri power station, Clyde, etc: planning.

Indeed, I spoke to one person who worked at the Deep Cove end of the Manapouri Power Project in the 1960s. He  informed me that as part of his employment, his accomodation (aboard the Wanganella) and meals were all paid for.  (He also mentioned how his lunch box and tools kept regularly vanishing, and he thought his work-mates were playing pranks on him. Then, one day he saw a Kea make of with his shiny new lunchbox…)

This was the style of planning, support, and incentives offered to workers to travel to an isolated part of the country where the work was difficult, dirty, and often dangerous.

The building of our nation was certainly not left to the vaguaries of the “marketplace” to achieve.

Because really, when you hear comments like this,

“We frankly can’t run our industry without significant numbers of immigrant workers,” says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills. “The industry is just too important to be hijacked by a lack of labour. If we can’t get Kiwis in these roles, then we’ve got to make it easy to attract and retain good immigrant labour.”

The problem is there aren’t enough New Zealand workers with the right skills.

“They need to be experienced,” says John Hughes of Rural Contractors New Zealand. “They need to have a work ethic. They need to have an ability to hit the ground running.”

Source: IBID

– this is nothing but a pathetic excuse that the “marketplace” has failed spectacularly to plan ahead and invest in up-skilling New Zealand workers.

“They need to be experienced,” says  John Hughes of Rural Contractors New Zealand, without explaining where that experience will come from if  workers are not hired and trained by people like Mr Hughes.

“They need to have a work ethic,” says John Hughes. Really? Is Hughes saying that since 2008, New Zealanders have misplaced their work ethic?? Yet, the situation of 900 people applying for jobs at Fonterra (see above) seems to indicate that workers not only have a work ethic – they want the work to go with it.

“They need to have an ability to hit the ground running,” says John Hughes. What does that mean? Because what I’m getting from Mr Hughes’ statements is nothing but self-serving excuses that his industry – Rural Contractors New Zealand – has done stuff all to train workers to meet their needs.

Who else is he expecting to meet the needs of the “marketplace”? The State?

But… isn’t the State supposed to stay out of the marketplace, according to neo-liberal business doctrine?

Anyway, this lazy, incompetant government is the last place we should be looking for active leadership on this growing problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).  As Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said on TV3’s The Nation, on 21 July,

“Any employer will tell you when Work and Income sends some workers to them they will have some of those barriers. That is they’re not skilled or educated enough to do the jobs. They may have some issues with drug and alcohol or mobility, and I think those are barriers that we need to continue to move so Kiwis are first in line for the jobs.”

Source: IBID

So what Woodhouse is trying to tell us is that 95,000 New Zealanders suddenly developed a drug habit, alcohol dependency, lost their skills, forgot their education since 2007/08?

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New Zealand Unemployed Persons 2008 - 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployed Persons in New Zealand

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So the Global Financial Crisis, which National regularly uses as an excuse for the poorly performing economy, had no part to play in the massive growth in unemployment from 3.50% in December of 2007 to the high of 7.3%  last year?

Which is strange, because even social welfare minister, Paula Bennett, was forced to concede on TV1’s Q+A, in on 29 April 2012,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Let’s be quite clear here. When Borrows, Bennett, and other National Ministers refer to “drug dependency”, “alcohol abuse”, “lack of skills”, “lack of work ethic”, and other derogatory terms for unemployed and other welfare recipients – in reality they are shifting blame for on-going chronic unemployment from government inaction, to the victims of National’s “hands-off”, market-based policies.

This is a failure on the part of a government that is so wedded to hands-off, free market policies, that it’s hands are “tied” and cannot bring itself to be proactive on this growing problem.

National’s failure is so entrenched; so widespread; that it is, in effect, utterly paralysed to do anything.

The only recourse is to import cheap foreign labour to make up for this gross deficiency in government and industry  planning.

Once upon a time, our great little nation had the determination, resources,  vision, and sheer guts to build dams and roads  in isolated, rugged, wilderness areas.

By contrast, after two and a half years, we are scrambling to find workers trained to whack a nail into a piece of four-by-two.

With 146,000 jobless (HLFS) there is no reason in this wide world why government and industry groups, with union participation, could not have begun planning from Day One after the February 2011 earthquake.

What, exactly, do we pay the Minister for Earthquake Recovery (Gerry Brownlee) to do?

This mess is further proof (not that we needed it) that a hands-off, free-market approach, will not deliver on large scale development where only  the State has the necessary resources to plan and execute such projects.

Blaming the unemployed for lack of planning may fool some gullible members of the public. But the rest will eventually begin to question why we are importing foreign labour when 146,000 pair of hands are ready, willing, and able to do the work.

Once upon a time, we could do this. We rebuilt Napier after the 1931 earthquake, a more devastating seismic event than the 2011 Christchurch quake,

Few insurance policies covered earthquakes, and many insurers refused to pay for fire damage that resulted from the quake. In 1931 Parliament had passed the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Act, which provided loans for local companies and individuals to rebuild their premises. Because of the economic depression, however, the funds granted were far from adequate, and repayment terms were harsh. Much of the money for recovery came from charity, which poured in during the weeks after the quake…

[…]

In November 1932, Hastings celebrated its reconstruction, and in January 1933, almost two years after the earthquake, during the New Napier Carnival, Napier was declared officially ‘reborn’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Story: Historic earthquakes- Page 8 – Rebuilding Napier

Almost two years after the quake...”

With far more destruction; greater loss of life (256); less money available (no EQC funding or insurance cover back then!); and limited technology, our grandparents didn’t faff around waiting for the “market place” to deliver results. Nope, they pulled up their sleeves and got down to it.

Whilst it’s true that circumstances between Napier 1931 and Christchurch 2011 differ in many respects – we also have more resources than our grandparents did, eighty years ago.

More resources, perhaps.

Lacking in a bit of #8 fencing wire spirit…

But with a surplus of ideology.

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Show us the jobs!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 July 2013.

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Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Oh look, Diane Vivian: Paula Bennett DID come for you

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Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

As I blogged five months ago, when National is attacked with bad publicity, it’s Party strategists retaliate;

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National under attack – defaults to Deflection 2 - chester borrows - welfare reforms - beneficiary bashing

See previous blogpost:  National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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As I wrote in the above blogpost, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

In February of this year,  the Auditor-General released a report into Key’s dealings with Skycity. The resulting  publicity became positively toxic for the Nats.

Toby Manhire, in a Listener  article dated 19 February, listed  ten quotes from the AG”s report, which were highly  damning of National. It was by no means the “vindication” that Key claimed (knowing full well that 99% of the public would never read the AG’s report).

On cue, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, issued media releases on National’s latest “crack down” on “welfare abuse”;

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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National is once again being hit by a slew of bad headlines;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

And again,  on cue, Chester Borrows has done his bit, by defaulting to Option #2,

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beneficiary bashing - chester borrows - paula bennett - social welfare - welfare abuse - bene bashing

Source: Radio NZ – Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Checkpoint: Listen to Chester Borrows on Checkpoint

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However, Borrows is mis-leading the public in one respect. On 18 July, the Minister released a media statement where he said,

“Enhanced information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, says Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows…

[…]

… The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.”

Source: Beehive – Information sharing stops more welfare fraud

This is simply untrue.

WINZ announced this in May last year – over a year ago,

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IRD and MSD improve information sharing

Source: WINZ – IRD and MSD improve information sharing

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But even earlier than last year, MSD/WINZ were leeping track of their “clients”. The following two letters are from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The first is from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

“We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the Immigration Dept were comparing information.

Accordingly, I have emailed Chester Borrows, seeking clarification of  his claim that information sharing is a “recent development”. I have also sought details of the alleged 3,139 cases of benefit “fraud” that Borrows has asserted;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Chester.Borrows@parliament.govt.nz
date:     Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM
subject:     OIA Request Please

Kia Ora Mr Borrows,

I am lodging  an OIA request with your office.

According to recent media releases from your office, 3,139 cases of alleged benefit fraud has been identified, including 1,948 people who were wrongly getting the unemployment benefit and 559 illegitimately on the sickness benefit. These cases all supposedly invloved working whilst receiving a WINZ Benefit.

My questions are;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigrqation also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?

6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

[and in a follow-up email shortly thereafter.]

7. Of the 3139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

– 1 week

– 2 weeks

– 3 weeks

– 4 weeks

– 2 months

– 3 months

– 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

– Over one year

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?
9. How many have been convicted?

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

I look forward to your response within the legislated time period.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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If the rest of Minister Borrows’ claims are as dubious as his assertion that information sharing between government department “started earlier this year” – then all claims and comments from National ministers demand checking and confirmation.

Otherwise, claims of mass benefit fraud appear to be little more than a propaganda exercise designed to deceive the public and deflect criticism  from economic and social problems that National appears stymied to address.

At the very least, Borrows is taking credit for a policy – inter-departmental information sharing – that has been in place since 2001, at least. How many times can politicians take credit for policies they had little or no part in implementing?!

Wouldn’t that  be fraudulent on the part of the Minister?

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Image

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2013.

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Citizen A with Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter, & Selwyn Manning

– Citizen A –

– 19 July 2013 –

– Chris Trotter, & Selwyn Manning –

This week on Citizen A host Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter, and  Selwyn Manning debate the following issues:

  • Issue 1 Has the Consensus Building Group been a giant waste of time? What now for meaningful traffic management in Auckland?
  • Issue 2 The latest welfare reforms are being rolled out, when does beneficiary bashing stop being politically attractive?
  • Issue 3 Why is the defamation case against the NZDF by a journalist so important? (please note, since this episode broadcast, the jury overseeing this case returned without be able to reach a majority decision. Read here for more…)

Citizen A broadcasts weekly on FaceTV and webcasts on The Daily Blog,   and  LiveNews.co.nz

Citizen A broadcasts weekly on FaceTV and webcasts on The Daily Blog, Live.TheDailyBlog.co.nz & LiveNews.co.nz. – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/07/19/citizen-a-with-chris-trotter-selwyn-manning/#sthash.wbOjqgy3.dpuf

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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More dispatches from Planet Key

17 March 2013 4 comments

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planet key

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Planet Key’s #3 Moon “Brownlee”; Largest of the Moons, it tends to disturb other bodies through it’s presence. “Brownlee” has a rough surface and highly abrasive atmosphere that many find obnoxious. “Brownlee’s” gravitational influence has a negative, perturbing,  influence on nearby bodies such as Planet Christchurch.

Brownlee recently let rip at Christchurch City Council for not carrying out repairs to council-owned community housing fast enough,

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Brownlee says housing councillor should go

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Consider for a moment that Brownlee, as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery  Minister, is in constant contact with CERA, Christchurch’s mayor, and anyone else remotely connected with that city and it’s re-build.

Brownlee has channels of communications that are open to him that allows him to discuss issues and problems as they arise.

So what was the purpose of this display of public excoriation of the Christchurch Council and especially the vilification of one Councillor, Yani Johanson?!

Does Mr Johanson not have a telephone?

Email? Skype? A paper letter? Smoke signals? (The latter seems to work well for the Vatican.)

Could Brownlee not have sat down around a table and asked the most basic of questions,

How can we help?”

Or is the public display of testosterone-fuelled machismo Minister Brownlee’s new modus operandi when dealing with those who fall within his ministerial orbit?

This kind of authoritarianism may be the norm in Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea – but here in New Zealand it comes across as the cries and foot-stamping of a petulant child.

Meanwhile, National ministers should look in their own backyard when it comes to housing,

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Pomare housing demolition begins

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post

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Christchurch has been wracked by two massive earthquakes and thousands more quakes since. Every aspect of their basic infra-structure was damaged or ruined to varying degrees.

I think we can cut them some slack when it comes to re-building an entire city, from beneath ground-up.

Meanwhile, nearly eighteen months later, with no earthquakes or any other major disasters (unless one  calls a National Government a major disaster), one wonders why National ministers have not progressed any further to re-build Pomare’s state housing?

After nearly a year and a half, all we’re seeing is a vast vacant lot, where once peoples’  homes existed,

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Any ideas, Mr Brownlee?

(More on this issue in an up-coming blog-story)

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Planet Key’s #4 Moon “Dunne”; covered in a dense, white atmosphere; “Dunne” is known to move from Planet Key to Planet Labour depending on which mass is greatest. The largest surface object on “Dunne” is the ‘Make Me a Minister’ volcano, which erupts whenever there is a nearby power-source.

As Minister of Revenue and Flashy Hairstyles, Peter Dunne is charged with taxation issues in this country.

No doubt his job was made considerably harder with two tax cuts (2009 and 2010) which considerably reduced taxation revenue for the State. (see:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b) Indeed, English was forced to tax children and their paper-rounds. (see:  Key rejects criticism of ‘paperboy tax’)

Taxing kid’s meagre earnings. That’s how low and desperate National ministers have gone, to make up for the 2009/10 ‘lolly scrambles’ when the Nats  gave away billions in unaffordable tax cuts.

To try to fill the fiscal hole that Bill English, Peter Dunne, et al, have put themselves into, they’ve been scrambling to raise government charges  and tax everything and anything else that moves. (see: Prescription fees increase, see: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase, see: Student fees rise faster than inflation, see: Petrol price rises to balance books)

The latest attempt to raise new taxes is Peter Dunne’s ‘carpark tax’,

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Business will evade car park tax

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media

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Well, well, well… a new tax?

A new fringe benefit tax?!

This is interesting.

Because John Key has always insisted that his Party cuts taxes and doesn’t increase them. Specifically, way back on 4 April 2005, when National was in Opposition,

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National Party Finance spokesman John Key has signalled an overhaul of the Fringe Benefit Tax, during a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club today.

“The next National Government will cut the red tape and compliance costs that are choking our businesses and preventing them from getting off first base,” he says.

“A practical example of what I am talking about is in the area of Fringe Benefit Tax.

“Today I want to announce that National will revamp Fringe Benefit Tax to remove a substantial amount of the paperwork that currently occupies too much administrative time for many of our businesses, especially the small ones.

[…]

We won’t entertain suggestions of applying FBT to on-premises car parks.” 

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

And again in 2010, when a video was uncovered where Dear Leader was quoted as saying,

National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.

See: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

When challenged on this in the House, just recently,  Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, responded with this bit of bovine faecal material,

I would say that I think a fair amount has changed since that statement was made back in April 2005, which was when Don Brash was leader of the National Party. Since that time we have had three leaders of the Labour Party, and maybe a fourth leader of the Labour Party—”

Source: Parliament Hansards – 9. Tax System Changes—Employee Car-parks

Yeah. Lot’s of things have changed. Like, for example, the difference between being in Opposition and Promising the Moon – and being in Government and having to explain why the Moon is still out of reach.

And when the Nats have to make smart-arse comments about Labour’s leaders, then you know they’re really on the ropes. Defensive much, Mr Joyce?

Like Key’s broken promise on GST, the “carpark” tax is another instance of National breaking it’s election promises. Which indicates, mainly, that National’s tax-cuts were never as affordable as they made out in 2008.

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Special Edition Tax cuts today - John Key

Acknowledgement: National Party

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Planet Key’s #5 Moon “Bennett”; “Bennett” originated from the asteroid belt, where many poorer dwarf-planets with low mass; minimal mineral wealth; and mostly invisible, are locked in orbits that will take them nowhere. “Bennett” gravitated to the National Zone where her mass and mineral wealth increased by close association with  Planet Key and it’s many  moons.

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To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012,,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

To quote Minister Bennett’s latest utterances on this issue, on 12 March 2013, when hundreds of  people recently queued for just seven jobs at Carter Holt Harvey in Auckland,

“Well I am absolutely thrilled that 200 turned up quite frankly we’ve got more than 50,000 on the unemployment benefit but work expectations of them I think the fact that they are lining up that they want those jobs um speaks for itself and about peoples’ motivation to get work.”
 

“There’s always a lot of people going for certain types of jobs and if in particular if they are lower skilled they feel they can do them, they don’t have a lot of work experience, they have been out of work for some time.”

 
“No I don’t feel there is a job for everyone and I think it’s damn tough but I am incredibly proud of New Zealanders and their  motivation and the fact that they want them and I know that the economy is improving and we are going to see more happening.”

See: TV3  – Campbell Live:  Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs

Acknowledgement for transcript:  Waitakere News – Don Elder, Paula Bennett and the rest of us

Ok, so the lightbulb has finally clicked in Bennett’s head. New Zealand has a problem. We do not have enough jobs for the number of unemployed and solo-parents who want to work.

It’s not often that a politician acknowledges the bleedin’ obvious – so kudos to her for having the  courage to do so. (John Key might learn a thing from Bennett in terms of not ducking  issues.)

However, if there are not sufficient jobs to go around – what is the point in wasting taxpayers’ money and Parliament’s time on this exercise in futility,

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Welfare reform bill passed into law

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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And why is language like this used by Bennett,

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Reforms to help beneficiaries out of 'trap'

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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If there are insufficient jobs – as Bennett herself has now acknowledged on at least two occassions, then ipso facto, the following must be true;

  1. The only ‘trap’ is a lack of work – not welfare
  2. Why “reform” the welfare system  when welfare itself is not broke – it’s the economy that is not working (as are 170,000 people)
  3. Why muddy the waters with  rhetoric like  “trap of benefit dependency“; “introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work“; or that welfare had “become a bit of a trap for quite a few people“?

What does “a bit of a trap for quite a few people” mean? That it’s a “little” trap as opposed to a “big” trap? Or is she attempting to minimise the impact of her beneficiary-bashing by trying to soften her rhetoric?

So the “dog whistle” rhetoric filters down to the right wing; the ill-informed; and other welfare-hating cliques in our society – but the message is watered-down for the Middle Classes who are uncomfortable with victimising the unemployed, or who may even know someone who recently lost their jobs.

That’s the trouble with beneficiary bashing during times of high unemployment. Most of us know someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Bennett is walking a tight-rope here.

Eventually, people will be asking; why are National ministers  wasting time on pointless welfare “reform” when it’s jobs we need?

Once that message percolates into the collective consciousness of the masses, National will be left standing naked – their corrupt, bene-bashing, dog-whistle politics exposed for all to see.

A few questions for Ms Bennett,

Why are you messing around with welform “reform”, when it’s jobs that we need?

Why aren’t you and your well-paid ministerial colleagues reforming the economy to create more jobs?

How much are these “reforms”  costing us, the tax-payer?

How many extra jobs will welfare “reforms” create?

I don’t expect answers to these questions because, really, they are unanswerable.

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Links

Facebook: Pomare save our community

Copyright (c)  Notice

All self-made images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

18 January 2013 18 comments

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Muppet #1 – Hekia Parata

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I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013

See: Parata safe in her job – Key

Prime Minister John Key says Education Minister Hekia Parata will be safe in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, … because she is hugely talented and one of National’s best communicators.

See: Parata’s job safe in shuffle

*snort!*

I’d be a happy chappy if the Nats DID have more like her in Cabinet!!

If she’s one of the Nat’s “best communicators”, I’d luv to know why she’s kept ducking calls for media interviews and instead sent Lesley Longstone to cover for Parata’s f**k-ups,

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2 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (2)

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3 October 2012

Ministry of Education admits some errors in data

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4 October 2012

Education Minister avoids her critics

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26 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (3)

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29 October 2013

Longstone challenged to find solutions

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14 November 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (1)

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28 November 2012

lesley longstone Schools still beset by Novopay problems

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When Lesley Longstone’s resignation was announced last year on 19 December, Hekia Parata was still nowhere to be seen. The announcement was handled by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie (see:  Education secretary quits),

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19 December 2012

lesley longstone Education secretary quits

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20 December 2012

lesley longstone Parata, Key refuse to front over education debacle

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Parata’s office explained why she couldn’t front,

Parata is currently on holiday and has refused to front on Longstone’s resignation, but in a statement released this afternoon she thanked Longstone for her efforts in leading the Ministry.

See: Education Ministry boss quits after ‘strained relationship’

Hmmmm, judging by Parata not fronting for most of last year, was she on holiday for most of 2012?!

“Smooth communicator…”!?

Ye gods, this deserves a Tui billboard.

Roll on 2013 – it’s going to be a great year.

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Muppet #2 – Paula Bennett

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Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB

Full story

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Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, has a relationship with hypocrisy, bene-bashing, and mendacity that can only be described as “intimate”.

Since 2011, she has derided and denigrated the unemployed; solo-parents; widows, invalids, the sick, and young people, and blamed them for being in a position requiring welfare assistance.

Never mind the fact that the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/08 has seen unemployment skyrocket from 3.4% in 2007 to the current 7.3%.

Or that welfare recipients as a whole were at their lowest in 2008.

National’s entire strategy for getting people off welfare has not been about job creation – that has beemn left to the “Market” to sort out – but about punitive sanctions targetting those receiving welfare.

See previous blogpost for full list of sanctions targetting welfare recipients: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

Even Dear Leader had a go at welfare recipients in February 2011,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.” – John Key, 17 February, 2011

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Key had even more daft things to say about welfare recipients here; National to push 46,000 off welfare . But not a single word about generating jobs for the unemployed. Not. One. Word.

Now that 5,000 sole-parents have mysteriously “dropped off” from  DPB welfare, I have a question for Ms Bennet and Dear Leader;

Will those sole parents be acknowledged for finding work (a questionable assumption in itself) in a tough marketplace where unemployment stands at 7.3% (175,000 people) and where, it was announced today, growth in the jobs market has slowed? (See:  Unemployment rate set to hold as job ads flatten out – ANZ, Job growth slows, says Trade Me)

Will Bennett acknowledge that people  are on welfare – not because it is an opulent lifestyle – but because of sheer necessity?

Will the Minister – who successfully exploited the welfare system for her own benefit; bought a house using WINZ funding; and gave up paid employment because it was “too tough” to  study, work, and care for her daughter simultaneously – acknowledge that it was not National’s punitive bene-bashing policies that found work for 5,000 sole-parents, but the parents themselves?

Or will she grab the kudos for herself?

More than half of that drop happened in the last three months of the year, after the introduction of Ms Bennett’s policy required sole parents to get part-time work when their youngest child turned five and fulltime work for those whose children were older than 14.

Ms Bennett said 3221 sole parents had returned to work since that came into force in October.

See: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB

Yup. She’s taken the credit for herself.

Addendum

The numbers quoted in the Heral story are at variance with those from the Ministry of Social Developement.

From the NZ Herald,

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Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB - beneficiary numbers

Source

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From the MSD,

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Numbers of working-age clients receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 - 2012

Source

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Even the Herald’s own trance of figures is not consistent.  The DPB figures are compared between 2011 and 2012. The remaining two trances – All Types of Benefits and Unemployment – are compared between 2010 and 2012.

Dodgy.

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Muppet #3 – Judith Collins

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Remember “Crusher” Collins? Remember New Zealand’s own Iron Lady who brooks no sh*t from criminals, boy racers, or stroppy Labour MPs?

Remember how Collins was going to deal to crims who had been awarded compensation for breaches of their rights,

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New Bill ensures victims can lay claims against prisoner compensation

Source & More

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The Nats love to thrash the Law & Order  issues. It appeals to low information voters, rednecks, and right wing simpletons and is great for the Tories to  score a few thousand extra votes at election time.

In reality it achieves zip to actually reform and rehabilitate prisoners, and address core problems in their offending; alcolhol/drug abuse; illiteracy; unresolved psychiatric problems; and off course the number one factor; no prospects for employment.

Which is why it’s a bit of a surprise when a National minister appears to See The Light, and backtracks on one of their core,  Get-Tough-On-Crims policies,

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Collins backtracks on jail compo

Full story

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It’s nice to see a National minister shy away from mindless knee-jerk law-making that appeals to the Talback Radio mindset – but achieves very little except nudge New Zealand closer to being an autocratic state.

Until the next election, of course,

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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Other blogs

Tumeke: Paula Bennett and her amazing vanishing beneficiaries

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

9 January 2013 20 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Compassion

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The measure of compassion expressed by a government is the one thing that separates a government Of the People – to regimes  that encompass the worst forms of self-interest; autocracy; barbarism; and corruption.

Of all aspects of National’s performance, compassion is one that has no measurement; no means by which to compare performance from one year to the next; or from one government to the other.

However, there are three issues relating to National’s performance and John Key’s leadership, that give an overall impression of this government’s capacity for compassion.

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Pompe Disease sufferers

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I first wrote about seven people – all of whom were afflicted with Pompe Disease – in October 2011. (See:  Priorities?)

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dying-man-turned-away-at-parliament

Full story

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As I wrote then,

“It seems that this government can spend millions on rugby, party zones, luxury limousines, ministerial travel and other perks – but spending money to save the lives of our fellow New Zealanders is “unaffordable” ?

Well, at least this illustrates the priorities of this government like nothing else does. It is obvious what is more important to John Key and his colleagues in the National Party.

What makes this tragedy even more ghastly is that in 2008, John Key campaigned on behalf of  women suffering from breast cancer for Pharmac to fully  fund herceptin. Pharmac at that time had decided to fund only a nine week course – whilst campaigners were demanding a full 12 month period of funding. (see: Herceptin: What’s it going to take? )

Perhaps the difference between Mr Hill’s case, suffering from Pompe’s disease, is that 2008 was an election year and National was campaigning hard against an incumbent Labour government, led by an experienced, politically savy,  and fairly popular  prime minister.

National of course, won the 2008 election and Key “made good” on his election promise to force Pharmac to extend funding for herceptin (see:  Key: Herceptin funding proudest achievement).”

An email to Health Minister Tony Ryall, on 22 October 2011, yielded no results.

On 12 June 2012, Allyson Locke – another Pompe Disease sufferer – went public with her story,

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Full story

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In November 2012, Allyson wrote directly to John Key, via his Facebook account,

Dear Mr Key
     
I have written to you several times over the past 2 years regarding people with Pompe Disease not being able to get treatment. Pompe Disease is a rare (7 people in NZ have it) and fatal disease. There is a medication available in NZ which will halt the disease and in most cases give some improvement. This is an enormous positive for a fatal disease. The medication has been proven to work and there are published medical papers regarding this. The medication is expensive, but there are medications funded in NZ which are more expensive, and less proven.

My question to you Mr Key is, why do you continue to ignore the plight of Kiwis who suffer from Pompe disease, letting us die from slow and painful deaths at young ages. The youngest person in NZ who has this disease is only 20 years old. She has been declined for treatment. Another one of our members has been declined 4 times, FOUR TIMES! Nearly 60 other countries world wide fund this medication.

To be honest, your treatment of those of us with Pompe Disease is nothing short of ignorant and criminal. It’s about time you stood up and answered to us. You’re OUR Prime Minister, let’s hear what YOU have to say about it. We are sick of being ignored by you and your PHARMAC crew. If it was a member of your family i bet the medication would be funded asap. But because we are nameless faces, you don’t care. WE are KIWIS and we NEED treatment! If we had cancer we would get treatment! We wouldn’t have to beg and plead for our lives.

But I’m not too proud to beg. I’m dying, and i need treatment. What will you do for us? Please answer me.

Sincerely
Allyson Lock

She received no reply. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

Thereafter, I wrote directly to John Key as well (see:  Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key).

My email was forwarded to Health Minister, Tony Ryall, who at least has the intestinal fortitude to respond to my queries, unlike our spineless “Prime Minister”,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-22-nov-2012

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(See:  Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions)

I found Ryall’s response curious and requested clarification on his stament that he was “as a Minister […]  prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”,

Date:Thursday, 22 November 2012 9:41 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,

I am in receipt of your email dated 22 November, regarding Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) for sufferers of Pompe Disease. I understand you have already been in contact with Ms Allyson Lock on this matter.

You state that your reason for not supporting funding for ERT is – and I quote you – that “as a Minister I am prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”.

I refer your attention to the 2008 election campaign where your Party pledged to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer, from nine weeks to twelve months, even though Pharmac had up to that point been resisting all such requests on the grounds of cost and efficacy.

Post election, after becoming government, you implemented your election promise, and you stated in a press release dated 10 December 2008,

“We are extending funding for Herceptin to allow patients and their doctors to have a choice of a 12 months course. The nine-week treatment option also remains funded and available.”

I refer your attention to the following press releases from yourself and the Prime Minister, announcing additional funding for herception, despite PHARMAC’s initial decision opposing the move;

12-month Herceptin treatment now available

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00083.htm

Government honours Herceptin promise

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00082.htm

I have three subsequent questions, which you may be able to clarify;

1. If you are unable to intervene in PHARMAC’s  decision making process – what process did you use to fund herception from nine weeks to twelve months?

2. Where was funding obtained from?

3. Why are you unable to use the same process to fund ERT as you did for Herceptin?

I hope this problem can be resolved with some urgency, as Pompe Disease is terminal, and seven New Zealanders are facing a death sentence unless help is forthcoming.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

Minister Ryall’s response only seemed to add to the impression that National’s intervention for breast cancer sufferers in 2008 was a political stunt, motivated for electoral advantage,  and nothing more. He wrote back on 5 December,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012

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(See: Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? )

In his email, Ryall outlined how National circumvented the law and used Ministry of Health money as a slush fund to pay for their 2008 electoral promise (to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer sufferers).

I replied six days later,

Date: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 9:17 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: In response to your letter dated 5 December
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,

Re; Pompe Disease sufferers

Thank you for your letter dated 5 December explaining the circumstances and means by which Herception was funded outside of normal PHARMAC channels. Using the Ministry of Health to directly fund an extension of Herceptin for breast cancer sufferers was certainly a novel approach.

It occurs to me that the same process can be employed to fund Enzyme Replacement Therapies (ERT) for the seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal condition known as Pompe Disease.

I do not accept that, as you suggest in your 5 December letter, that   in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments” since your government seems to find funding for events such as the Rugby World Cap ($220m); advertising by the NZ Defence Force ($20m); bonuses for  state owned enterprises employees ($54m); millions spent on tax breaks and advertising campaigns in the movie industry, etc.

There appears to be no valid reason that Pompe Disease sufferers are not offered the same “lifeline” that you extended breast cancer sufferers in 2008.

It is my contention that through clever negotiations,  government should be able to secure necessary ERT medication at a reasonable price, perhaps by offering contracts in others areas.

At least we have established that government is not constrained by legislation surrounding PHARMAC and that  flexibility exists with funding mechanisms.

I urge you to reconsider this issue and to find ways and means to facilitate a positive outcome for Pompe Disease sufferers.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

I have yet to receive a response.

Addendum 1

On 8 May 2012 Finance Minister, Bill English, conceded that partial-privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River, Solid Energy, and further sell-down of Air New Zealand might result in the government having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in those SOEs (see:  Govt might have to borrow more once assets sold).  But that’s ok, because English said,

You’re looking at over the next three or four years growth in the Crown balance sheet net value of 20 or 25 billion dollars, so a few hundred million here and there is not acutally that big a commitment.

It’s a shame the same sentiment cannot extended to New Zealanders desperatel requiring life-giving medicines.

Addendum 2

On 20 December 2012, the Remuneration Authority granted a 1.9% salary increase – back-dated to 1 July 2012 – for all politicians. (See:  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise)

Which is difficult to reconcile with Minister Ryall’s comment on 5 December 2012,

as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.

There is no compassion here.

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Salisbury School

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Salibury School.

This one beggars belief.

On 27 August 2012, Education Minister and National’s #1 Screw-Up announced the closure of an all-girl’s special needs residential school, at Richmond –  Salisbury School,

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Salisbury School faces closure

Full story

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The all-female students were to be “re-integrated” (ie;  forcibly amalgamated) with Halswell School, in Christchurch. Halswell is described as a “Boys School, Sch. for Intellectual Impairments” on one website, www.school.nz.

There were immediate concerns about the wisdom and safety of placing vulnerable young women in an all-male environment, where both genders were highly vulnerable and at-risk from inappropriate  behaviour.

Despite the well-meaning – but ultimately misguided views of some – it is impossible to monitor every single young person. The numerous incidences of sexual abuse in religious institutions such as Catholic Schools should be sufficient evidence that children can be at severe risk of inappropriate behaviour and exploitation by others.

As an aside, this blogger condemns in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible comments and attitudes of certain individuals who, by their words, supported Parata’s unsound and dangerous proposals. (See:  Government ‘right’ to close school – academic)

Luckily for the young women of  Salisbury School and their families, sanity –  in the form of Justice Dobson of the High Court – prevailed.  On 12 December  2012, Justice Dobson ruled that  the Minister of Education’s decision to close Salisbury School was illegal.

Illegal – and completely, utterly, insane.

Justice Dobson said the proposed amalgamation created “the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse” to the girls if they shifted to a co-ed institution. It doesn’t take a Quantum Physicist to figure that one out (see:  School denies sex risk to pupils).

Only a person totally lacking in insight could have contemplated needlessly placing vulnerable young women into a position of potential harm.

Little wonder that Salisbury’s  Board chairwoman, Helen McDonnell stated with obvious frustration and anger,

We do not believe the minister intends to retain Salisbury after 2014; her views, and those of her ministry, are clearly pre-determined. Therefore, we call on the Government to appoint another minister to take any decisions considered to be necessary.”

Parata is spectacularly inept beyond polite description.

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cartoon - parata - I will do my homework

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And only a political Party – National  in this instance – that shared such a lack of insight and awareness of personal  vulnerabilities,  could even contemplate  allowing such madness to proceed.

Question: had Parata’s decision stood and the amalgamation proceeded – who would have accepted responsibility for any harm to any of the young women students transferred to  Halswell with this mythical “wraparound care”?

Answer: no one.

Such is the way here in New Zealand.

Compassion? None demonstrated here. Only cold, hard-hearted indifference. And stupidity beyond belief.

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Welfare beneficiaries

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There is  nothing as low as kicking people when they are down.

The 2007/08 the Global Financial Crisis started a world away in Wall Street, USA. It would be fair to say that the Boards of Lehmann Bros, Goldman Sachs, AIG, General Motors, et al, did not comprise of  social welfare beneficiaries. It was not the Unemployed, solo-mothers, widows, Sick and Invalid, who made the decisions that would plunge the planet’s economy into an on-going Recession.

But listening to the likes of Paula Bennett and John Key, you would be be hard-pressed not to come to the conclusion that the victims of the Recession – and now social welfare recipients – did not cause the global economic meltdown.

Never have so few powerless been blamed for so many awful decisions by the  powerful.

Amongst Bennett’s agenda to demonise welfare recipients,

  • solo parents on the Domestic Purposes Benefit would be required to look for part-time work when their youngest child is five and fulltime work when that child turns fourteen, (see:  Key: Mums of one-year-olds better off working). The inference being that looking after the nation’s children is not “real work”.
  • Parents receiving welfare payments  would be made to enrol their children in early childhood education centres and  with a doctor.  (see:  Welfare reforms target kids’ education, health) The inference being that if you’ve just been made redundant, or left a violent partner, and in receipt of a social welfare benefit, that you are suddenly unfit to be a parent.
  • mothers who have an additional baby already on the Domestic Purposes Benefit will be required to look for work after 12 months, (see:  IBID). The inference being that women on the DPB are deliberately becoming pregnant to receive more “handouts”. Fortunately, MSD data shows different.
  • a proposal to  force women and their daughters, receiving a state benefit, on to contraception  (but no mandatory sterilisation for men on welfare) .  (see:  Birth control plan ‘belittling to women’). The inference being that women on welfare are of “loose morals”.
  • a proposal to force social welfare recipients to immunise their children (see:  Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs). The inference being that welfare recipirents are lazy, dirty, and diseased.
  • mandatory drug-testing for welfare recipients (see:  Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted). The inference being that welfare recipients – many of whom were in paid employment prior to the Global Financial Crisis – are now suddenly lazy drug addicts.
  • actual drug and alcohol addicts recieving welfare assistance would not be drug tested.   (see:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing) Which kind of shows the pointlessness of this exercise; testing non-addicts – but leaving real addicts alone. Rationale: pandering to National’s ill-informed  Radio Talk back constituency; rabid right wing; and other assorted low-information voters.
  • a plan to  stop welfare payments to beneficiaries subject to arrest warrants (see:  Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut) Inference; that those on welfare are all criminals.
  • specifically nominating “kidnappers” as having their welfare cut (see: Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan) Inference; Really, really – welfare beneficiaries are criminals!! In reality, people convicted and imprisoned for serious crimes already lose any welfare payments. Is Bennett suggesting that people have their benefits stopped before due process of the law determining guilt or innocence?
  • and umpteen media stories, “explaining” the high cost of social welfare,   generated from Bennett’s office (see: Single mum on DPB for decades, Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum, Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homesBeneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime, Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion . Notice how the sums involved get bigger and bigger?). Inference; bloody welfare beneficiaries are sucking this country dry. Never mind that prior to 2007/08, and the Global Financial Crisis, most welfare recipients actually had jobs.  In September 2008 there were 23,273 unemployed receiving a benefit. By September 2012, that number had more than doubled to 50,390   (see: MSD – September 2012 ). Did 27,117 suddenly decide that unemployment benefits of $200 a week was better than $600 or $700?! Only a  right wing bene-basher of low intelligence might think so – and most of those bigots are not quite right in the head,
  • and just in case the Talkback Radio mob are too thick to comprehend National’s smear-campaign, Key spelt it out in simple syllables; Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

See previous related blogposts:

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Paula Bennett: one strike and she’s out

How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

The real obscenity here is two-fold,

1. That a financial crisis emanating from the other side of the planet, involving greed, and a considerable degree of law-breaking, was able to ruin the lives of so many workers and their families – whilst the CEOs of many of the cotrporations involved pocketed big, seven-figure, “bonuses”.

2. That John Key and Paula Bennett both benefitted from a social welfare system that gave them access to tax-payer’s money; subsidised accomodation; free education; etc. Bennett was even able to buy herself a house using her WINZ benefit. (See previous related blogpost: Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy)

For both Key and Bennett to now manipulate public opinion against welfare beneficiaries to take the “heat” of National for rising unemployment is despicable.

Key has stated that he believes welfare reform  would help lift people out of poverty. (See:  Key admits underclass still growing)

This makes no sense.

It is not welfare “reform” that is needed – there is nothing wrong with our welfare system. It is working precisely as it was intended to during times of hardship for ordinary New Zealanders. (See previous related blogpost: Welfare ain’t broke – It’s the Jobs that ain’t there, John-boy!)

What is needed are jobs and a programme for growth. Welfare “reforms” is a useless red-herring being dangled in front of National’s constituents (who still hold to the fantasy that beneficiaries caused the GFC as an excuse to stay on welfare).

Until John Key, Paula Bennett, Bill English, et al, stop fixating on welfare “reforms, one thing is crystal clear – National has no plans to reduce unemployment by creating jobs. Their only agenda is to frighten or coerce people of welfare, and deeper into poverty.

This isn’t compassion – it’s criminal.

Compassion? A psychopath would show more feelings toward his/her cat.

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compassion

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= fs =

National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums (part rua)

24 September 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums

Yesterday (12 September) Welfare Minister Paula Bennett released this piece of spectacular “data” to the media,

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Full story

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It was one of those “Shock! Horror!” stories that the media loves – great headlines, not much critical analysis. When you read the whole “story”, the questions that are not answered scream out at you,

  1. What is full meaning of the statement “An actuarial valuation conducted as part of the Government’s welfare reforms shows the average total cost of those who had received a working-age benefit in the year to June 30, 2011 was $78.1b”?
  2. Why did the Fairfax reporter not cross-reference invalid and sickness beneficiaries to ACC policy of “exiting” clients onto welfare, where ongoing rehabilitation was not available? (ACC staff rewarded for cutting off clients – MP)
  3. How accurate is the report?
  4. How does this report help create 170,000 new jobs, promised by John Key last year?  (See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs)
  5. What was the point of the report, when Bennett herself has admitted on TVNZ’zs Q+A,“There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.” – Paula Bennett, 29 April 2012 (See:  http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/transcript-paula-bennett-interview-4856860)
  6. Why has National spent $800,000 on this “report”, when previously  Bennett refused to undertake further research to gain information on child poverty,  “of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” ? (See: Combating poverty more important than measuring it.)

It’s interesting that Paula Bennett rejected calls for further research to quantify the levels of child poverty in this country stating that, ” it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” – but feels it necessary to spend nearly a million dollars of our taxes on a study of  “an actuarial valuation” on long-term costings of  welfare.

If this doesn’t raise the hackles and outrage of New Zealanders then they are truly braindead.

Worse still is the timing of the realease of the Taylor Fry report.

The report – designed to paint unemployed and solo-mums in a maximum damning light – was released on 12 September.

A day later, this story became public,

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Full story

Listen: Listen to more from Bill English on Morning Report

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Thus far, that story does not seem to have appeared in any other media.

It has been quietly “buried” under a mountain of negative press releases from National.

This blogger has zero doubt that National was fully aware that Statistics New Zealand was in the process of releasing the data on job losses to the public. That story, plus ongoing redundancies and rising unemployment led National’s taxpayer-funded spin-meisters to pre-empt Statistics New Zealand’s bad news shocker, and instead release their own “Shock, Horror!” story.

Thus far, it seems to have worked.

But for how long?

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank has released an astonishing report blaming National’s policies for low economic growth,,

Fiscal consolidation is expected to have a substantial dampening influence on demand growth over the projected horizon. This consolidation will, all else equal, lead to a lower OCR (official cash rate) than would otherwise be the case.

See: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

National fails to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us last year, and blames beneficiaries for their incompetance? Noice.

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Addendum

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Yesterday, this blogger emailed Paula Minister on National’s recent bout of beneficiary bashing,

Date:   Wednesday, 12 September 2012 2:23 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
To: “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz” <Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    “Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>, Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    “news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
    “news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    “primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
    The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
    “tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz” <tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>
Kia ora Ms Bennett,
 
Regarding your proposals to compel the unemployed, solo-mothers, etc, to undertake various obligations, or face having their welfare payments cut, I have some questions to put to you;
  1. Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  2. Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  3. Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
If  compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?
 
Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?
 
If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, doctors, etc, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?
 
Do you still stand by your comment that you made on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012, that, “there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do”.
 
And lastly; is this propopsal – plus your other so-called “welfare reforms” – simply not an attack on the unemployed and solo-mothers to deflect attention away from your government’s inability to generate the 170,000 new jobs that Prime Minister John Key promised us at the last election?
 
I await any possible answer you might be able to provide to these questions.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger
 

PS: This correspondence is not to be regarded as permission, whether actual or implied, to release any personal details about me that the State might hold about me.

Her office has responded today (13 September),

Date: Thursday, 13 September 2012 9:06 AM
From: Natalie Hansen <Natalie.Hansen@parliament.govt.nz>
To: “‘fmacskasy@yahoo.com'” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: FW: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Hello Frank

The Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development has asked me to thank you for your email. 

Consideration is currently being given to the matters you raise and you may expect a reply at the Minister’s earliest opportunity.

Kind regards

Natalie Hansen

Private Secretary, Office of Hon Paula Bennett Minister for Social Development | Minister of Youth Affairs Executive Wing 5.5, Parliament Buildings| Private Bag 18041 | Wellington 6160

Telephone: +64 4 817 6815 | Fax: +64 4 817 6515 | Email: Natalie.hansen@parliament.govt.nz

Consideration is currently being given to the matters”  I raised?

It will be interesting to see what – if any – rational response Bennett comes up with. This should be good.

* Up-date*

Date:  Monday, 24 September 2012 3.57PM
From: “J Key (MIN)” <J.Key@ministers.govt.nz>
To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Dear Mr Macskasy,

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge the copy of your email sent for Mr Key’s information.

Regards,

E Tanga          

Ministerial Assistant/Records Officer           

Office of the Prime Minister

No further response  received from Paula Bennett’s office as at 24 September.

 

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*

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Sources

Scoop.co.nz: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

NZ Herald: Fate of youth gloomiest stat of all

NZ Herald: Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’

NZ Herald: Andrew Cardow: Bennett out-nannies Labour’s nanny state

NZ Herald: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

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= fs =

National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums

12 September 2012 20 comments

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There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.” – Paula Bennett, 29 April 2012

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

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As National’s policies fail to generate jobs or economic growth, they are ramping up their attacks on the unemployed and solo-mums (but never solo-dads), demanding that,

“… education be compulsory from the age of 3 for children of welfare beneficiaries.

The decision, announced by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday, will apply from July to 31,500 children, aged 3 and 4, whose parents are either on sole parent or couple benefits.

Parents will have their benefits halved if they fail to take “all reasonable steps” to keep their children in licensed or certificated early education for at least 15 hours a week from the time they turn 3 until they go to school. “

See: Fear over beneficiary child changes

This is part of National’s ongoing diversion from their own failed policies to generate jobs and grow the economy.

This far, National has attempted to smear the unemployed – victims of the Global Finacial Crisis – as,

  • lazy
  • incompetant at budgetting (because benefits are so low)
  • drug addicts
  • irresponsible “breeders”
  • criminals
  • kidnappers

The next on their list is painting welfare recipients as “irresponsible parents”.

Make no mistake, this is a carefully planned, strategised attack on the victims of the Global Financial Crisis. It is an attempt to divert National’s inability to create jobs, and escape taking responsibility for meeting their own promises to create jobs,

New Zealand can’t keep borrowing money at $380 million a week. We can’t have New Zealanders exposed to high interested rates, New Zealanders need a plan for jobs.

“This is a budget that actually delivers that.”

“Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – John Key

See:  Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

With this failure in mind National Party strategists – fronted by ex-beneficiary Paula Bennett, and ex-state house boy, John Key – have created a climate of vilification against the unemployed, solo-mums (but never solo-dads), widowers, invalids, etc.

This is like the bad old days where rape victims were blamed for being sexually attacked because of the clothing they wore.

Some facts;

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Source

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Source

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The data above clearly shows one thing; welfare recipients were dropping until 2008. When the Global Financial Crisis hit the world, unemployment rose as companies collapsed or cut staffing numbers.

So why is Paula Bennett, John Key, et al, targetting the unemployed simply because they have lost their jobs? Why is National targetting the poor and unemployed through media releases that generate vile headlines like this,

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Beneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime

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Cost of beneficiaries $78b – report

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Will Bennett and Key be extending their welfare “reforms” to the redundant workers of these companies,

Some other facts,

  • There are an estrimated 600,000 superannuitants in New Zealand (Source)
  • There are an estimated 400,000 families receiving ‘Working for Families’  tax-credits (Source)

Other questions this blogger has for Paula Bennett,

  1. Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit” – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors?? If not, why not?
  2. Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors?? If not, why not?
  3. Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors?? If not, why not?

If  compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?

Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?

If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?

Welfare Minister Paula Bennett is a coward.

Not only is she maintaining an ongoing hate-campaign against the unemployed – but she refused to front on Radio New Zealand’s “Morning Report” on 12 September. She was bold enough to issue more of her hate-campaign – but too gutless to front and defend her programme,

The Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, did not want to be interviewed by Morning Report anytime today or last night, saying she was too busy.”

Listen: Govt welfare plan won’t help children says Labour

Instead, one of her right-wing lackeys – self-appointed “expert” on welfare, Lindsay Mitchell – stood in for Bennett and made all manner of  pious statements about the children of the poor.

Listen: Nanny-state accusations levelled at the government

Mitchell is a member of the neo-conservative think tank, the “Institute for Liberal Values”; a right wing blogger; and has probably never known a hungry or desperate day in her life. People like her are usually the first to lecture the poor how to live.

(Note: The so-called “Institute for Liberal Values does not seem to exist except as an empty blogsite that contains no information.  Quite simply, this organisation that Mitchell claims to represent, does not exist. See: http://liberalvalues.org.nz/ )

If the Minister (Bennett – not Mitchell) hasn’t the courage to explain and defend her policies, then that suggests her policies are indefensible. If  a journalist asked any of the questions posited here, Bennett would be unable to answer, clear and simple.

There is no defensible argument that Bennett or Key could possibly provide. Everything that National has done thus far has been an attack on the unemployed – the victims of a global financial crisis none of us had a hand in making.

National doesn’t create jobs. National blames those who have lost their jobs.

National doesn’t address poverty. National blames people for being in poverty.

If, by now, you feel that National is waging war on the poor; the unemployed; solo-mums (but never solo-dads); then you’re not mistaken.

We are at war with our own government.

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*

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Email sent to Paul Bennett

Date:   Wednesday, 12 September 2012 2:23 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
To: “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz” <Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    “Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>, Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    “news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
    “news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    “primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
    The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
    “tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz” <tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>
Kia ora Ms Bennett,
 
Regarding your proposals to compel the unemployed, solo-mothers, etc, to undertake various obligations, or face having their welfare payments cut, I have some questions to put to you;
  1. Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  2. Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  3. Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
If  compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?
 
Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?
 
If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, doctors, etc, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?
 
Do you still stand by your comment that you made on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012, that, “there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do”.
 
And lastly; is this propopsal – plus your other so-called “welfare reforms” – simply not an attack on the unemployed and solo-mothers to deflect attention away from your government’s inability to generate the 170,000 new jobs that Prime Minister John Key promised us at the last election?
 
I await any possible answer you might be able to provide to these questions.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger
 

PS: This correspondence is not to be regarded as permission, whether actual or implied, to release any personal details about me that the State might hold about me.

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*

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Other blogs

Beneficiaries cost us $78 Billion and other ghost stories

Additional

Radio NZ Morning Report (audio): Latest welfare reforms dismissed by critics

Radio NZ Morning Report (audio): Bennett warned welfare crackdown could hurt not help kids

Poverty our biggest growth industry – academic

NZ inequality at highest level

Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

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= fs =

Investing in someone elses’ future

5 August 2012 54 comments

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Mandates

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Firstly, let’s cut to the chase and address John Key’s assumption that he has a ‘mandate’ from the country to pursue many of his Party’s unpopular policies, including state asset sales.

No, he does not.

As Bryce Edwards said on Radio NZ last year,

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Full Story

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As reported in the NZ Herald,

Moreover, only an estimated 93.2 per cent of the 3,276,000 people who were eligible to vote were enrolled, so the 2,254,581 people who did cast their votes (including special votes) leaves just over 1 million who stayed at home. “

See: 1 million didn’t bother to vote

So doing a bit of simple arithmetic,

  1. 2,254,581 people voted
  2. 1,058,636 voted National
  3. The population of New Zealand is approximated 4,430,000
  4. 1,058,636 is about 24.5% of the entire population.
  5. John Key’s “mandate” is roughly one quarter of  the country’s population.

The Nats can dress that  up any which way they like, but that’s not a mandate. That is  a minority in drag, masquerading as a “majority”.

But still a minority.

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National Conference

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Let’s cut to the next ‘chase’.

The recent National Party Conference in Skycity had nothing to do with conferencing or  the Party’s internal workings. It was purely and simply a public relations exercise  to raise “troop” morale and present National in a positive light to the public.

It was about appearing decisive and on-message. It was about strong leadership and confidence, reminiscent of Rob Muldoon, and Dear Leader played his part perfectly as he gave the rallying cry to his fellow MPs and Ministers.

Key thundered,

Our policy of partial share sales is a win-win and I stand totally behind it.”

See: Labour, Greens hit out at asset share plans

After months of various scandals, resignations, disastrous flip-flops, and gaffes, the Party pulled out it’s “ace-in-the-hole” – John Key. “The Boss” laid down the law, and as Tracey Watkins from Fairfax said,

No more tip-toeing around. That is the clear message from National’s annual conference, where the Government’s economic programme has been invested with a new sense of urgency.”

See: Damp protest shows heat gone from asset sales fire

Ms Watkins tends to present political issues  from a position favourable to National  and her piece on 23 July was no exception. But she also had a valid point – National was fighting back. They were on a counter-offensive on several fronts.

But as the dust settled, and the “whizz-bang-gosh!” factor faded, the public’s  momentary distraction returned to the issues and problems currently confronting us as a nation.

As much as Dear Leader might wish it, those issues and problems will not go away.

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State Asset Sales

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National is desperate to sell this lemon to the public as a going concern. Indeed, the issue was presented as one of several issues on a leaflet/questionnaire that the Parliamentary wing of the Party mailed out,

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The Nats are sensitive to recent public protests and an ‘insider’ advises this blogger that Ministers are tracking correspondence; internal polling; and letters-to-editors on the subject.

In an effort to “sweeten” the deal and to assuage public opposition, National is offering,

  • preference to “mum and dad” investors
  • a three year loyalty share-bonus scheme
  • a minimum of $1,000 dollar share parcels
  • a guarantee of shares to New Zealand investors wanting parcels of up to $2,000
  • Treasury setting up a retail syndicate of share brokers and banks to help first time share investors potential investors.

See: Kiwis encouraged to take up SOE shares

National’s “carrot” is matched by it’s “stick”.  As Bill English threatened in June last year,

We are saying that New Zealanders are at the front of the queue, but if not enough of them show up, it won’t be 49 per cent. I wouldn’t want to exactly guarantee every share but we have got to look at how to make that happen.”

See: ‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’

So the message is crystal-clear; ‘If  we don’t buy these assets (which we already  own),  John Key and Bill English will sell our companies to overseas interests’. It’s like watching a rather bad, cheaply-made, B-grade gangster movie from the 1940s.

But the ‘rort’ doesn’t end there.  Treasury estimates that any loyalty scheme will end up costing taxpayers up to half a billion dollars. That’s because giving away free shares as a “loyalty bonus” still incurs a cost – nothing is for free,

A “loyalty” scheme to sweeten state assets sales for investors could cost the taxpayer $500 million – more than $100 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand – according to Treasury numbers.

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In a report to the Cabinet last year, the Treasury said incentives to encourage local investors to buy shares “typically range from 5 to 10 per cent of total value ($250 million to $500 million based on a $5 billion programme)”.

The Government says it expects to raise $5 billion to $7 billion via the sales programme.

Based on the Treasury’s $500 million upper estimate of the cost of a loyalty scheme, the forgone revenue works out to just under $113 for every man, woman and child here.

See: $112 a head for asset loyalty

Labour Leader, David Shearer summed it up thusly,

Effectively, the taxpayer will be paying for a loyalty scheme that a small number of New Zealanders who can afford to buy shares will be able to enjoy. It’s clear there’s some real winners here, and the losers are most New Zealanders. “

Based on the Queensland experience where Queensland Rail was privatised in 2010;  where  a share-bonus loyalty scheme of 1:15 shares was used; the cost to Queensland taxpayers would be $360 million, according to our  Parliamentary Finance & Expenditure committee. To which Key was reported as saying, that the figure was,

“… a possible number. I haven’t seen their workings so I wouldn’t want to agree with that at this point.”

Key’s comments were reported on the NZ Herald website at 5:30am, Tuesday 24 July, 2012.

By mid-day, on the 24th, he had changed his views from ” a possible number  “, to,

These numbers that the Labour Party are coming up with and the Greens are farcical.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

First point: that report on the Herald’s website was posted at 12:18pm on the same day;  Tuesday 24 July, 2012.  Not quite seven hours had passed before National’s spin-doctors had noticed Key’s blunder, and Dear Leader changed his stance.

Second point: the figures were not from the Labour Party, nor The Greens. They were Treasury’s figures.

Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility of those figures by shifting it’s provenance from Treasury to opposition parties?

Key then made this extraordinary comment,

If you think about the entire float that could be in the order of $5 billion to $7 billion. Let’s argue that it’s $5 billion for a moment if you then turned around and said about 20 per cent of that could be for mum and dad, it could be more it could be less – but just for the purposes of maths that’s a billion. If you apply the Australian Queensland model that’s one in fifteen shares – that’s 6 per cent. Six per cent of a billion is $60 million for the entire programme.”

20 per cent “?!?!

What happened to the 49% that Key and English have allocated to “mum and dad” investors,

Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

Was this an unintended slip from Key that National is counting on only 20% of shares going to New Zealanders?

And did he think that no one would notice?

Acknowledgement:  Cheer up Mr Key – Fairfax still love you

This is disengenuous of Dear Leader. On the one hand, National is claiming that 49% of shares will be allocated to local “mum and dad” investors – and on the other, they are calculating a bonus-share loyalty scheme on a figure of 20%. Key is shuffling figures around and quoting them to suit daily events.

This is not the first time Key and English have done this.

In January last year, when John Key announced National’s policy to part-privatise five state assets, he stated,

If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.”

See: John Key reveals plan for asset sales

The figure of $7 billion to $10 billion proceeds from a partial asset-sale then shrank,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

And finally, English confessed all,

If we did get $6 billion, that would be a gain of sale [of $800 million] which is just a product of the accounting. I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes...”

See: English admits his SOE figures just a guess

Key did precisely the same thing over the Skycity-convention centre-pokie machine contra-deal.

He advised the country that building a new convention centre (in return for changing the law to allow up to 500 additional pokie machines for Skycity), would result in up to 1,900 new jobs in Auckland,

It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it, and overall the number of pokie machines will be falling although at a slightly lower rate.

See: Key defends casino pokie machine deal

Key’s figures turned out to be rubbish.  The true numbers were disclosed last month by Horwath Ltd director,  Stephen Hamilton,

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479. “

See: Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Key  had either made them them up out of thin air, or else he has some very poor advisors.

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Frustrated – Where to from here?

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And lastly, the sheer economics of the partial asset-sales cannot be  commercially sustained, as  BERL reported in May of this year,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped.

”Subsequently, the option of asset sales can only significantly improve the Government’s accounts if a set of assumptions are adopted that are at the extreme ends of plausibility.”

‘While the initial offering may be directed towards domestic purchasers, future private share transactions could increase the portion of shares [and earnings] in overseas investors hands.

”Such an outcome would lead to a further deterioration in the external deficit and external debt position.”

See: Asset sales will leave Govt worse off

Unbelievable.

Unbelievable that a number of New Zealanders still believe that National is a sound manager of the economy. These muppets couldn’t run a corner Dairy – they simply wouldn’t have a clue how much to charge for a packet of chippies.

No wonder Labour Leader David Shearer expressed his frustration at Dodgy John’s slippery numbers, when he said,

We absolutely have no idea how much this loyalty scheme is going to cost New Zealanders. He was happy to go out and announce the loyalty scheme at the National Party conference but he’s not prepared to come out with the numbers now.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

Either way, National is keeping information on asset sales secret – or they have no idea what’s going on. Conspiracy or cock-up – neither option is particularly reassuring.

The ground keeps shifting, and this blogger believes it is a deliberate ploy to deny information to sales-critics and the public. Without solid information, it becomes harder to mount a sound critique of National’s plans – though BERL has done a fairly reasonable job of it.

Accordingly,  this blogger invites “mum and dad” investors to exercise caution as shares are made available to the public,

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Full story

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A Possible Solution?

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As BERL stated in their report, selling state assets will eventually impact on the government’s balance sheet. Quite simply, any short-term gain through sales proceeds will  eventually be whittled away by reduced dividends from half of these state assets sold into private ownership,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped. “

Plain english: we will  lose money on the deal.

Selling any of these State assets defies understanding.

As Treasury stated last year, the revenue stream is quite significant according to their own SOE Economic Analysis  that, “…on average, the SOEs have performed favourably when compared to the averages for the quartiles computed for the benchmark companies“.

See: Treasury SOE Economic Profit Analysis 25 November 2011

On average, Treasury show a 14.5% average shareholder (Government) return. Compare that to other investments, and it’s a fairly remarkable achievement for state enterprises which – according to free marketeers – are not supposed to operate more effectively than private enterprise.

See: Assets returning record dividends – Greens

In a further,  surprising turn of events, in February 2001, Finance Minister Bill English agreed, stating,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect.”

And even  went so far as to complain that they were making excessive profits! (There’s no satisfying the National Party!? They sell under-performing state assets, explaining that the “market will improve their performance” – and then complain when state assets are making too much money! Then the Nats will flog them off to reduce returns and make them more “competitive”.)

See: State-owned power returns excessive, says English

By contrast, Contact Energy – an electricity corporation privatised in 1999, and now mostly Australian-owned – retails it’s electricity at a higher price than it’s competing, state-owned rivals.

See: 226,000 shop for power savings

National has stated several reason for wanting to sell 49% of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-sell Air New Zealand – but their   main, carefully-worded, rationale has been to “reduce debt/invest in new assets/infrastructure”,  according to Bill English,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.”

See: Govt says asset sales will cut debt

If  National is planning on extracting $6 to $7 billion from most New Zealanders’ pockets, then they are dreaming. A small minority (the 1%, as usual) might have the resources – but even they, I suspect would have to off-load their own assets to buy into the five offered SOEs.

It is more than likely that, like Contact Energy, the majority of new shareholders will be corporate and/or offshore  investors.  New Zealanders simply don’t have the savings to buy their own energy comnpanies and airline.

If National wants to realise $6 to $7 billion  from partial-privatisation and is serious in not wanting major foreign ownership, then it has only one other option: the NZ Superannuation Fund.

Selling half of five state assets to the NZ Super Fund would achieve several desired goals,

  1. Keep state assets in New Zealand ownership
  2. Prevent an outflow of profits to offshore investors, which would worsen our current account deficit
  3. Satisfy Maori that water resources were not about to be privatised, and therefore any claims before the Waitangi Tribunal could be set aside
  4. Fulfill a government-ordered directive that the NZ Super Fund invest more heavily in New Zealand

In May 2009, Finance Minister Bill English wrote to the NZ Super Fund, instructing that,

The Government believes that is is in the national interest for the Fund to have significant interests in New Zealand. Consequently, persuant to section 64 of the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2004 (the Act), I direct the Guardians to note that it is  the Government’s expectation, in relation to the Fund’s performance, that opportunities  that would enable the Guardians to increase  the allocation of New Zealand assets in the Fund should be appropriately identified and considered by the Guardians. “

See: Letter from Minister of Finance Regarding NZ Directive and Funding May 14 2009

How much does the NZ Super Fund have invested in overseas businesses?

Answer: NZ$6,459,938,145 – Nearly $6.5 billion. Possibly more  by now.

See: NZ Superannuation Fund: Full Final Equity List – 30 June 2011

How much was National expecting to gain from it’s privatisation programme? Between $6 and $7 billion dollars.

$6.5 billion happens to lie smack in-between $6 and $7 billion!

Considering that the NZ Super Fund is actually a state owned entity, selling five SOEs, whether partially or the whole damned lot, would not matter one iota. They would still be state-owned.

National has an opportunity here; they literally can have their SOE Cake, and eat it.

  • The state assets would remain state assets.
  • National would gain a guaranteed NZ$6.5 billion – no mucking around with messy share floats.
  • The revenue from the state assets would remain in New Zealand.
  • The Super Fund would have even more profitable investments in their portfolio.
  • The Super Fund will be investing in our future – not someone elses’, in another country.
  • Maori may well be satisfied that their taonga, water, was not being privatised.
  • Our current account would not be blown further into the red.
  • New Zealanders would be happy chappies, as the great majority oppose losing ownership of state assets.
  • Opposition from the Left would most likely evaporate – heck, we might even vote for you in 2014, Mr Key!!

Where is the down-side in this compromise?! Damned if I can see any.

And the strangest part in all this proposal? I may just  have saved John Key’s arse from being thrown out at the next election.

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Ho-hum, another National pledge ends up a failure *sighs*

27 June 2012 6 comments

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This is getting tedious…

Oh well, let’s get on with it.

*sighs*

The promise,

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The reality,

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Source

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

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National’s  grand plan to boost the economy appears to be somewhat… stuffed.

Question: who will John Key blame for this current crop of failures?

Answer: the usual scapegoats, whenever one of National’s policies ends up a flop,

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Full story

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National appears to be floundering with it’s plans, promises, and pledges to create 170,000 new jobs;  grow the economy by 4%; and to stem the flow of migration to Australia.

In fact, if I was the sort to believe in Conspiracy Theories, Gremlins, and Nostradamus – this blogger would be tempted to believe that the entire National caucus (along with their lap-dogs, John Banks and Peter Dunne) have been abducted and replaced by Grey alien replicants.

Though why aliens would travel 39 light years to Earth, just to screw our economy defies explanation.

Then again, it defies explanation why National is doing the same.

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National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender

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Last year’s election was fought on two main issues;

  • the economy and jobs
  • a tea-party in Epsom

Ignoring the last item, National was adamant that it had policies that would deliver 170,000 new jobs for this country,

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Full Story

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Key said,

New Zealand can’t keep borrowing money at $380 million a week. We can’t have New Zealanders exposed to high interested rates, New Zealanders need a plan for jobs.

This is a budget that actually delivers that.

Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – Ibid

Unfortunately, even the pro-National Party group, Business NZ could see no discernible plan from National,

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Full Story

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Nearly five months after Business NZ’s extraordinary criticism, National still appears to have no plan for job creation, aside from relying on Christchurch’s re-build – and a fair whack of sheer hope. Instead of implementing an economic plan from jobs, what we have is,

When the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, said,

A more efficient and effective ministry focused on lifting overall productivity and supporting the growth of competitive businesses is a crucial element in creating more jobs and higher wages, and boosting our standard of living.” – Source

… it appears that National has some fairly bizarre ideas as to what will create jobs.

No less disappointing is this statement from Finance Minister Bill English,  and Development Minister Steven Joyce, speaking in unison like Tweedledee and Tweedledum,

“Sustainable economic growth which creates permanent worthwhile jobs is best achieved by building a competitive economy that allows business to trade successfully with the rest of the world,” the Ministers say. ” – Source

In effect, National has adopted a hands-off policy to job creation, leaving it to the “market” to deliver new jobs,

The reality is that if we want more and better jobs for New Zealanders we need to encourage more businesses to be based here. To do that, the Government is focused on making it easier for businesses to access the six key areas they need to grow.  ” – Ibid

So having abrogated all responsibility for direct job creation in this country, National is defaulting to Plan B;

  • Deflect reponsibility by shifting blame on to victims on economic stagnation
  • Paint welfare beneficiaries as “lazy lifestylers”
  • Make life harder for welfare recipients
  • Look tough in front of National voters

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Full Story

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National’s Bene-Bashing Bill  will include,

  • Managed payments for young people and teen parents that will pay essential costs directly and provide a payment card for living costs.
  • Youth service providers will be incentivised to help young people into work, education or training.
  • Young people will be encouraged to take budget or parenting courses with weekly bonus payments.
  • Introduction of a guaranteed childcare assistance payment.
  • Information sharing between government departments to target school leavers likely to go on a benefit at 18.
  • Sole parents on the DPB, women alone and widow’s benefits will have to look for part-time work when their children are five or older.
  • They will have to look for full-time work when their children are 14.
  • If they have additional children while on a benefit they will have to look for work after one year.

Source

No mention of jobs.

No suggestion of  “more exports, more real jobs”,

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In fact, like Dear Leader’s   “State of the Nation” speech on 15 March, there is very little emphasis at any job creation whatsover. Throughout his  2,990 word-speech, job-creation is not mentioned once. But Key does refer to an expectation in  “reduction in long-term welfare dependency“.

How a “reduction in long-term welfare dependency” can be achieved whilst not investing in job creation is one of those unanswerable puzzles  of right wing parties like National.

It probably also did not help the plight of unemployed, solo-parents, etc, that Paula Bennett did away with most of the Training Incentive Allowance – an allowance she herself benefitted from when she was a  solo-mother,  going through University.

National is trapped. Trapped in a free-market paradigm of  hands-off government where only the ‘Market’ can create jobs, and a right wing government’s role is simply to keep taxes low; ministeries small; and regulations minimal.

The trap is that when the ‘Market” fails to deliver expectations, National is left with the ultimate responsibility of why the economy is still stagnating and so many people are out of work.

Default Plan B: shift responsibility onto welfare beneficiaries and infer that they are choosing a deliberate “lifestyle” and “welfare dependency”.

Outcome: National absolved of reponsibility.

The irony is that while right wingers are hot on personal responsibility – right wing parties like National are quick to dodge any form of it.

I leave the final word to the National Party and it’s “values”,

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Actually, no, I’ll have the last word: when National fails to deliver – expect blame to be dumped on scapegoats. Preferably the most vulnerable ones who can’t fight back.

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Additional

TVNZ: Budget 2011 – Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan

NZ Herald: Cycleway jobs fall short

NZ Herald: ‘Super ministry’ plans unveiled

Bill English: Business success at heart of Govt growth plan

Previous Blog posts

Performance Pay? Why not!

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#2)

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Good onya, Sue!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!


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A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)