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While the Left fiddles, the Right beats their war-drum

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While the Left has been fiddling about with much gnashing of teeth and tears of concern over the right of two Canadian neo-fascists to speak at an Auckland City council venue – National’s focus has been laser-like at regaining power in 2020.

Like rust, the Right doesn’t sleep. Their failure to install a fourth-term National government came about only because of a fatal mis-step by (most likely) someone in the National Party/Government in a clumsy, ham-fisted ploy to undermine Winston Peters and cripple NZ First in last year’s general election.

Whoever released Peters’ superannuation over-payments to the media did so with political malice-aforethought. It was an agenda to neuter Peters and his party, and it was executed with callous precision.

It failed  because Peters was canny enough to counter with a parry that revealed the ploy for the ruthless strategy that it was.

The black-ops plan succeeded in only alienating Peters and reminding him that National was not to be trusted. With thirtythree years political experience, Peters had no intention to be anyone’s “useful idiot”.

With no potential coalition partner on the horizon (unless one is manufactured by a National MP splintering from his party), National’s only remaining options are;

  1. Coalition with the Greens. Chances: worse than winning Powerball Lotto.
  2. Winning 50%-plus of the Party Vote. Chances: somewhat better than Option One.

National opened it’s 2020 election campaign with three salvos of highly publicised policy released with much fanfare at it’s recent conference.

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Charter Schools

For most middle and upper-middle class voters Charter Schools are a non-issue. Their children either attend State schools, Integrated Schools, or Private Schools. The common thread between all three is that they are established; staffed with qualified professionals; and the curriculum is bog-standard (with minor variations-on-a-theme.)

Charter Schools would appear to further  ghettoise education for lower socio-economic families – a fact already well-known as “white flight” from low-decile State schools.

National’s hard-line stance to increase Charter School numbers should it be re-elected to power is curious because it would not appear to be much of a drawcard  for propertied middleclass voters who tend to vote along self-interest lines.

Which indicates that the policy has other intentions; a toxic “witches’ brew” of  ideological (further) commercialisation of education and a subtle, well-camouflaged attack on teacher’s unions.

So: not specifically designed to be a vote-winning policy. More of an  weaponised attack-policy on State education and unions.

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Classroom sizes

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising policy to be released was classroom size reduction. Made by current National Party leader, Simon Bridges on the day of the Conference opening on 29 July, he committed National to this radical (for Tories) social policy in clear english;

“All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve. That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.

Those ratios should be reduced.”

Mr Bridges’ newfound concern for classroom sizes harks back to several speeches made by former PM, John Key, in 2007 and 2008, where he lamented growing social problems in New Zealand.

In 2007;

“As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.”

And again in 2007;

“During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

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“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

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“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

In 2008;

“This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.”

Once elected into power, National quiety dropped it’s concern for social problems. Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, did not even want to countenance measuring growing child poverty in this country. It suddenly became the fault of the poor.

Now Simon Bridges has dusted off National’s Manual for Crying Crocodile Tears.

Ironically, in tapping into parental fears of over-burdened schools and their children suffering because of over-worked teachers, Mr Bridges’ policy commitment stands diametrically opposed to National’s doomed policy announced on 16 May 2012 to increase classroom sizes;

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The policy was announced by gaff-prone former education minister, Hekia Parata, who  clumsily (if honestly) admitted that the move was purely for fiscal reasons;

”The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs… ”

Teachers – and more importantly, voting middle-class parents were having none of it. National’s cost-cutting of welfare, health, and state housing was one thing. But interfering with their Little Johnny and Janey’s education? Like hell.

Especially when it was revealed that then-Prime Minister, John Key’s own children attended private schools with… smaller class sizes!

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The over-powering stench of hypocrisy further infuriated the voting public. The policy lasted twentyone days before it was hastily dumped;

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Simon Bridges was unequivocal:  a National government would spend more on education;

“National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.”

However, National has not explained how they will pay for the cost of additional teachers. Especially as National continues to  advocate for a billion dollar mega-prison to be built;  promised to dump the Coalition’s fuel taxes, and has not ruled out offering election tax-cut bribes.

As National has been fond of demanding: where will the money come from for extra teachers? Is this National’s own multi-billion dollar fiscal hole?

It was left to Labour’s own education minister, Chris Hipkins to point out;

“It’s very expensive to make even a modest change to class sizes and I think that’s something we want to talk to the teaching profession about.”

However, barely a day after his Conference speech, Mr Bridges was already backtracking;

Simon Bridges admits his promise of smaller class sizes may not mean fewer students per classroom.

The National leader announced a new policy to reduce the teacher-student ratio, as a centrepiece of his conference address over the weekend.

However, many primary schools run “modern learning environments” with several classes in the same room.

Bridges told Kerre McIvor National’s policy is about the number of staff per student, not the number of students per room.

” So in those modern learning environments, that may mean more teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller classrooms.”

At least Hekia Parata’s plan to increase classroom sizes lasted three weeks.  Mr Bridges’ ersatz “commitment” did not last 24 hours.

The Coalition should be making mincemeat out of Mr Bridges’ policy u-turn.

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Crime

An oldie, but a goodie.  Tories understand how to tug the fear-strings of a sizeable chunk of the voting middle-class. National and other conservative parties around the world are (in)famous for manipulating middle-class fears on crime for electoral purposes.

One of their 2011 election hoardings explicitly exploited  those fears;

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A recent video campaign on National’s Facebook platform has gone a step further into whipping up fear and paranoia;

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This is a shameful, naked ploy to play on peoples’ fears.

It was backed up by former mercenary, and current National Party “Justice” Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, who tried to offer “alternative facts” relating to crime figures;

The Government needs to stop looking for excuses to go soft on crime and come up with a plan to reduce crime, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“No doubt the report today from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor saying that being tough on crime is to blame for rising prison costs and inmate numbers is music to Andrew Little and Grant Robertson’s ears.

“They’ve been looking for excuses to loosen up bail and sentencing laws so that the Government doesn’t have to go ahead with building the new Waikeria prison and can boast about reducing prison numbers.

“But the cost of prisons cannot be an excuse not to put people in prison, if that’s where they need to be. The priority must be to ensure that victims are kept safe from violent criminals.

“We know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending.

“Violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011 and this is largely the type of crime that people get sent to prison for. This is also the type of crime that has the most serious and long-lasting impact on victims’ lives.

Which is confusing as not too long ago, National was trumpeting several propaganda infographics on their Twitter account;

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Mr Mitchell is at pains to point out that  “we know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending” – yet the infographics above make no such distinction. On the contrary, the second “broken bottles” infographic makes clear the figures relate to “Total Recorded Crimes”.

Perhaps they should get their propaganda straight.

In a startling admission, Mr Mitchell confirmed that ““violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011″. It appears that the “Three Strikes Law” – enacted the previous year in 2010 – has failed to reduce criminal offending.

The questions that  Coalition government ministers should be putting to their National Party colleagues are;

  1. Is it not irresponsible to be exploiting fear about crime for electoral purposes? How will knee-jerk rhetoric assist an intelligent debate on imprisonment and rehabilitation?
  2. If crime, imprisonment, and rehabilitation require cross-party concensus, will National continue to pursue electioneering on “tough on crime”?
  3. If National pursues a get-tough-on-crime election platform in 2020, and if they are elected to government – how will they pay for hundreds more prisoners jailed? Will National borrow a billion dollars to pay for a new mega-prison? Will health, education, DoC, and social housing budgets be cut? Will National increase GST, as they did in 2010 (despite promising not to)?
  4. What is the limit that National will tolerate for an increasing prison population?

National has made clear that it intends to play the “tough-on-crime” card at the next election. The propaganda campaign has already begun.

The Coalition Parties need to formulate a clear strategy to combat fear-mongering by a National party desperate to regain power.

The question that should be put to National is; where will the billions of dollars for new prisons come from?

The prison population has all but doubled in eighteen years, and tripled since 1987, as successive governments have ramped up “tough on crime” rhetoric and pandered to fearful low-information voters;

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Tough-on-crime may be National’s default strategy. If addressed correctly, it can also be their weakness.

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References

NZ Herald: Steven Joyce says he would have advised against leaking Winston Peters’ super details

The Daily Blog: Real reason why National are considering cutting ACT off

NZ Herald: National Party conference kicks off with nod for Simon Bridges from former Australian PM John Howard

Massey University: Education Policy Response Group (p30)

Fairfax media: Parents’ choice driving ‘eye-opening’ segregation in New Zealand schools

NZ Herald: National will cut primary school class sizes if it gets into Govt, Simon Bridges tells conference

NZ Herald: John Key’s ‘A fair go for all’ speech

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Fairfax media: Bigger class sizes announced

NZ Herald: Key called hypocrite over class sizes

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Fairfax media: Smaller class sizes under Nats, says Simon Bridges in major speech

NewstalkZB: Simon Bridges explains smaller class size policy

Radio NZ: No promises from Hipkins on reducing class sizes

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges says scale-back of Waikeria prison flies in the face of latest prison projections

NZ Herald: Sir John Key downplays Simon Bridges’ polling ahead of National Party conference

TVNZ: Simon Bridges says he’ll dump regional fuel tax if elected

Fairfax media: Does the Government have any money for this Budget? Yes

NZ Herald: Murder and mutilation comments emerge on National’s new ‘tough on crime’ social media campaign

National Party: Prison costs cannot be excuse to go soft on crime

Twitter: National Party – The crime rate is falling under National.

Parliament Legislation: Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax media: National leader Simon Bridges talks up ‘tough on crime’ stance

Fairfax media: 20 Years of ‘tough on crime’ stance sees prison population surge

Additional

Radio NZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: What everyone seemed to miss in their criticism of the National Party Conference

The Daily Blog: What the 2018 National Party Conference tells us

Previous related blogposts

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

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2018.

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National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

18 July 2014 2 comments

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noddy

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National MPs and ministers have been busy this year with more botch-ups, scandals, an attempted smear campaign, and spinning bullshit to cover their arses with multiple policy failures in health, education, the environment, child poverty, etc, etc, etc…

The fact that National still appears to be riding high in political polls speaks more for a population heavily sedated by trivia and superficial “news” reporting, and for mind-numbingly inane mass-entertainment – rather than any actual success.

Some of the more mind-blowing comments that have recently been made by National ministers have flown below the radar.

Amy Adams

Our so-called “Environment” Minister, Amy Adams, recently dismissed Dr Mike Joy’s criticisms of National’s new water standards.

Dr Joy stated;

But Dr Mike Joy, an environmental ecologist at Massey university, says the new standards are a “backwards step for fresh water”.

“You could just drive a truck through it,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

“There’s so many gaps, so many things we’ve been measuring up until now that they’ve dropped.”

The changes put limits on the amount of toxins and bacteria that can be present in water, which the Government says will require some communities and farms to improve their waste-disposal systems.

But the weakening of other limits were essentially a “licence to pollute,” Joy said, and would allow for a big increase in the amount of pollution in rivers.

“We’ve got a decline going on,” he said.

“Rivers are getting worse, lakes are getting worse. This should be something that puts the brakes on, but instead it’s an opening-up. It’s like lifting the speed limit from 50kmh to 500kmh – that’s the kind of level of change around nitrate pollution.”

Joy said more than 90 per cent of rivers in lowland areas – those coming from urban areas and farms – were already too dangerous to swim in.

To which Adams responded;

Ms Adams also corrected the Green Party’s and Dr Joy’s comparison of nitrogen levels in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers to those in the Yangtzee River.

“Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the core pollutant there.

In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the primary issue for the Yangtze River is industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments, rather than nitrogen.”

What the World Wide Fund for Nature (which Adams mis-quoted) really stated was;

“The major pollutants in the Yangtze mainstem are suspended substances, oxidizing organic and inorganic compounds, and ammonia nitrogen. This has severely reduced drinking water quality and contributed to dramatic eutrophication.”

And from the Science Daily;

For the first time, a team including foreign scientists was authorized by the Chinese government to study water quality on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River…

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For example, nitrogen concentrations have approximately doubled over the past 20 years. In Shanghai, concentrations of dissolved nitrogen were twice as high as at the Three Gorges Dam, reflecting the increasing use of mineral fertilizers in agriculture…

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However, where the river enters the East China Sea, the huge pollutant loads are expected to have devastating effects: each day, 1500 tonnes of nitrogen is discharged, causing eutrophication and growth of blue-green algae in the coastal waters…

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In the Yangtze, concentrations of nitrogen, metals and organic compounds are increasing, as shown by comparisons with earlier measurements in the literature.

As usual with right-wingers, it pays to check their “facts”. They’re usually bullshit. (As well as batshit crazy.)

Dr Mike Joy – 1

Amy Adams – 0

Paula Bennett

Bennett seems not to know where she stands on the problem of New Zealand’s hidden rape culture.

On 10 July, on TV3’s Third Degree, Bennett accepted the reality of our rape culture;

And you can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think.”

Two days later, she changed her mind, this time on TV3’s The Nation;

I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand…

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I think what we do in New Zealand is we report more [sexual violence] than any other country. So actually some of those that are being reported are incidences that haven’t even led to violence.”

On 10 July, on Third Degree,  Bennett accepted that her government had failed Tania Billingsley;

Could things have been handled differently? We’re the first ones that have said yes it should have been. But for her I feel incredibly sad that the incident has happened in the beginning. And that’s where most of her hurt and anger is.”

Again, after two days, Bennett’s views seemed to have changed, as this exchange on The Nation showed;

Lisa Owen: “Ok, so how do you think that your male colleagues handled the alleged assault on Tania Billingsley and the departure of the Malaysian diplomat? Did they lose sight of the victim? Did they trivialise that?

Paula Bennett: “Well look I’m not prepared to go into what has happened in that case.  But my short answer to that would be no.”

How can a politician not keep her story straight within only a 48 hour period?!

Then again, this is the same politician who made full use of the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free University education for herself – and then promptly dumped it in 2009.

Paula Bennett (2.0)

On TV’s The Nation, Lisa Owen took Paula Bennett to task on our growing endemic rate of child poverty. Owen pointed out to Bennett;

“…people like Jonathan Boston say that eradicating poverty is a political choice. Is it just that you’re not making a big enough political choice? A billion dollars, an extra billion dollars a year he said will make an enormous dent in this.”

To which Bennett replied with the stock-standard come-back from right-wing witless politicians;

I don’t think it’s throwing more money at it across the board if you like…

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It is not going to be throwing more money at those on welfare...”

Because, as we all know, “throwing money” at the poorest in our society apparently doesn’t work to pull children out of poverty.

But “throwing money” at corporations such as Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Charter Schools,  et al, to “create jobs” or give “choice for better education” to parents, does work.

Or “throwing money” at people by way of tax cuts works to “stimulate the economy“.

Strangely, “throwing money” at welfare beneficiaries –  by way of a Training Incentive Allowance –  helped former solo-mother,  Paula Bennett, obtain a free tertiary education and she is currently (until 20 September) a  highly-remunerated Minister of the Crown.

So why is “throwing money” by way of corporate welfare; tax-cuts; Charter school subsidies, etc, a ‘good‘ thing – but “throwing money” at poverty to eliminate this scourge from 21st century New Zealand – is a ‘bad‘ thing?!

National ministers have yet to answer this question.

God knows we “throw enough money” at them with their generous salaries.

Simon Bridges

This was one of National’s  election platforms in 2011;

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National Party staying strong on crime

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Staying strong on crime“.

Except when National decides that a particular law is “inconvenient”. Then it will instruct it’s ministeries not to prosecute offenders. As Minister Simon Bridges recently instructed the Labour Inspectorate;

 

Radio New Zealand has obtained documents under the Official Information Act which show the Labour Inspectorate has moved away from the proactive approach to enforcement and has redistributed its efforts to crack down on illegial migrant workers.

Traditionally labour inspectors have been out on the streets at Easter, catching out shop owners who open illegally, but will now wait for members of the public to complain about shops being open and will follow those up with warning letters.

Special briefing notes from the Labour Inspectorate General Manager George Mason to the minister show the inspectorate has questioned the effectiveness of the shop trading act, which allows for a $1,000 penalty for breaches of the law.

In many cases the judicial system was reluctant to impose the maximum fine, Mr Mason told the minister.

He said in recent years not many complaints from the public were received and this year not a single shop was prosecuted for opening at Easter.

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But Simon Bridges said shops can still be prosecuted and will be if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary.

The law will be upheld – if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary?!

When a government will not uphold the law because it conflicts with their own ideological stance – then why have laws at all?

And can the rest of us pick and choose which laws are convenient to uphold, and which we can break?

It appears so…

Mr Bridges is showing us the way.

Murray McCully

After the debacle of the Malaysian diplomat, accused of burglary and attempted rape, and the question over why Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully failed to keep track over events in his own ministry, an inquiry was launched on 11 July.

McCully stated;

A thorough and transparent inquiry is important, as those managing diplomatic immunity issues for the Government need to enjoy the full, unfettered confidence of the New Zealand public.”

Although one wonders just how “ thorough and transparent” any inquiry will be when,

  1. The terms of reference do not include Murray  McCully’s actions. This effectively gives the minister an ‘escape clause’ from the fiasco.
  2. John Key has already pre-determined who the guilty party is, within the Ministry,  when he stated on 4 July; “If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position then they need to think very strongly about whether they’re in the right job.”
  3. Rob Hosking from the National Business Review suggested that the Inquiry will “not likely to be [completed] before the September 20 election”. How ‘convenient’.

Hekia Parata

On 8 June 2012, as National’s planned to increase class-room sizes blew up in their faces with a combined teacher-parent revolt, I wrote;

Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,

  “The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership.”

Sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged.

That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of  reduction in  social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.

Two years later: On 7 July, Radio NZ’s Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, spoke to National’s  accident-prone Hekia Parata and put it to her that Labour’s plans  to reduce class-room sizes by 2018 were proving very popular with parents. Ferguson pointed out that Labour’s policy was in direct opposition with Parata’s  humiliating failure to increase class-room sizes.

At 3.05 into the interview, Parata replied,

And at the time we were in a different fiscal environment and we were focusing right then on how did we find the money to invest in quality. And now we’re in a better fiscal environment, we can do both,both more teachers and more quality...”

Which is confirmation, if any was needed, that National’s plans to reduce teacher numbers and increase class-room sizes was nothing more than an outrageous cost-cutting exercise. Happily, it failed as New Zealanders stood up, en masse, and told National,

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No Art 050425e

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New Zealanders were not prepared to sacrifice their children’s learning and future on the alter to National’s cost-cutting. If Key and his cronies were foolish enough to cut taxes as part of their 2008 election bribes, it was most certainly not going to be paid for by the children of the middle classes.

So far, #Teamkey seems to be going ‘swimmingly’ well.

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References

Fairfax media: Water rule changes seen as ‘licence to pollute’

World Wildlife Fund: Threat of Pollution in the Yangtze

Science Daily: First-ever Precise Data On Yangtze Water Quality

TV3: Minister agrees with diplomat’s alleged victim

TV3: The Nation Interview – Paula Bennett (transcript)

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

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

Scoop media: Warner Brothers Hobbit Deal a $67 Milllion Farce

NZ Herald: Editorial – Charter schools will give poorer parents choice

Beehive.govt.nz: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Radio NZ: Govt defends trading law enforcement

Dominion Post: Malaysian diplomat case inquiry head named

NZ Herald: Diplomat case: Court file released

TV3: Ministerial inquiry launched into diplomat case

Interest.co.nz: Key suggests mid-level MFAT diplomat “considers career options”

NBR: McCully announces inquiry into MFAT’s handling of Malaysian diplomat allegations

Scoop media:  Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Radio NZ:  Listen Hekia Parata on Morning Report

Radio NZ:  Labour pledges to reduce class sizes

Previous related blogposts

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 July 2014.

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The Shining Path according to Dear Leader (Part Rua)

11 June 2012 2 comments

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Upon Dear Leader’s return to New Zealand, he has waded into the debacle of classroom sizes and teacher numbers by insisting that National’s policies were sound – and it was only us plebs who didn’t understand the wisdom of their policies.

Dear Leader pronounced, from atop the Mount  as he received instruction from Heavenly Father,

”  It’s the right policy, but if you don’t have parent support and you can’t get some reasonable buy-in from the sector, then you run the risk of industrial action which undermines the rest of your education system and I think, in the context of a $10 billion spend for what was a $40 million policy, it just wasn’t worth it. “

See:  Key: We were right, despite U-turn

Then he added,

But, you know, governments from time to time adjust policies . . . if we never listen to people and never take on board what they’re saying then there is an argument for that as well – and that’s called arrogance.

And I think we’re a lot of things as a government, but we’re not arrogant.”

*splutter*cough*cough*splutter*

Does anyone check Key’s gormless utterance before he releases them to the public?!?!

Honestly – “ but we’re not arrogant.”

Oh reallly?!?!

Not arrogrant?

Pray tell, Dear Leader; if governments from time to time adjust policies and you’re willing to take on board what they’re saying – will you be abandoning state asset sales?

Because as sure as most of the public was opposed to increased classroom sizes and cutting teacher-numbers – a similar number are opposed to asset sales as well.

Or, Dear Leader, will you be arrogant ?

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Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

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Dominion Post poll

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Disclaimer: This blogger is not a National Party voter. In fact, Hell would experience a Christchurch-style snowstorm before I would support National in any manner – unless it was to assist them to call an early election.

Having said that, there are three reasons why Hekia Parata does not deserve being stood down as Minister of Education – despite the debacle over classroom sizes and cutting teacher numbers.

1. Collective Responsibility

Parata’s attempt to cut back on teacher numbers was a budgetary consideration handed down from on-high, from Bill English’s office.

Since 2008, National has been cutting back on government departments and state sector employees.  Almost every part of government – from the Department of Conservation to the NZ Defence Force – has been forced to cut staffing numbers.  These cuts were part of National’s policy of reducing state expenditure after their April 2009 and October 2010 tax-cuts.

See: Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa

See: DOC confirms 96 jobs to go

See: MFAT plan puts 50 jobs on the line

See: Housing NZ staff face further cuts

See: 2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

See: IRD cuts 51 provincial jobs

With massive borrowings of $380 million a week; a ballooning deficit; and a shortfall in taxation revenue, National is deperate for deep cuts if it is to balance the books by 2014-15.

As journalist Duncan Garner wrote earlier this year in January,

Key has finally dropped the optimism and is talking about the downside. He doesn’t do downside well – he prefers the good news.

But there’s no walking away from the reality. The Government’s treasured surplus target in 2014/15 may not happen. And if it wants to get there then more cuts are on the way. “

See: Economy on skids, cuts to come

Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,

The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership. “

See: Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged.

That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of  reduction in  social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.

2. No mis-deed

Parata did nothing illegal, immoral, or inappropriate.

She simply carried out National Party policy.

So if  the buck stops anywhere, it should be on the desks of Dear Leader John Key, and Finance Minister Bill English. At this point, rather than unfairly targetting one single person, we should be looking at National as a whole.

Will the Prime Minister take responsibility for National’s slash a burn of the state sector? Fat chance.  Thus far,  Dear Leader has shown little inclination to taken responsibility for anything – unless it involved opening the Rugby World Cup; supping beer with visiting royalty; or other smile and wave photo-ops.

In fact, John Key seems more than willing to allow Hekia Parata to be hung out to dry on this issue.

This blogger sees no political gain in demanding Ms Parata’s head on a plate.

However, in the spirit of collective responsibility and shared culpability, National  should resign and call for an early election. The classroom/teacher debacle has impacted on National’s mandate and an early election is necessary to restore confidence in government.

3. Who would replace her?

Perhaps the strongest reason not to sack Parata is simply that it would achieve very little for National’s opponants. John Key would simply replace her with another Minister – one perhaps tougher and more doggedly determined in pursuing narrow, National Party policy.

Better Parata, a chastened lame duck –  than a cocky pitbull, looking to prove himself in the eyes of his fellow Tories.

Keeping Parata as Education Minister, it is unlikely that she will attempt further cuts to the education sector. Not unless she has a deeper masochistic streak we were unaware of?

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Postscript

Further to my previous blogpost where I wrote,

Congratulations to National.

John Key, Bill English, Hekia Parata, et al, have succeeded in teaching our children their first lesson in politics. An entire generation of children have seen political machinations at work, first hand, and the “bad guys” were ministers from  the National Party.

When our children learn about the Right Wing in politics, in such a personalised, in-your-face manner, the future of this country suddenly became a lot more rosy.

Future support for the Greens, Labour, and other centre-left Parties is all but assured.

Thank you, Ms Parata. You are a fine teacher for our young folk.

Duncan Garner wrote in his blog on 6 June,

I got home last night and my 12-year-old step daughter was waiting for me with a stern message: “We all hate John Key,” she exclaimed.

Why, I said – pretending to be shocked by it all, but secretly knowing what she was about to say.

“Well, he’s going to close our cooking and technology classes at our school. So we all hate him. And we’re writing him letters – no one likes him at our school anymore,” she said.

I won’t name the school. But whether or not she’s right, and whether or not this Government backpedals on its move to increase class sizes, the fallout is immense – and perception is reality – especially for the children and their mums and dads.

See:  Hekia Parata should’ve asked one simple question

John Key’s legacy for the future:  an entire generation alienated by this arrogant National government –  a gift  of immeasurable value to the left wing. Just as many who lived through the “reforms” of Roger Douglas in the 1980s use the term “Rogernomics” as a pejorative, to describe destructive, extremist, politics from a past era.

No one saw that coming.

And now, waiting in the wings,  the coming asset sales furore…

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Additional

Colin James: A win for Shearer. But much work still to do

Related Blogpost

Class-sizes, pigs wearing lipstick, and State-enforced sterilisation

Other blogs

Minister’s rose-tinted glasses are two generations out of date

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Class-sizes, pigs wearing lipstick, and State-enforced sterilisation

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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When National released it’s 2012 Budget on 24 May, it either over-looked the issue of increasing class-sizes and cutting of teacher numbers (which is what National’s “capping” actually is)   – or woefully  under-estimated  the angry  reaction from Middle Class New Zealand.

Teachers, Principals, Boards of Trustees, and Parents formed a United Front opposing National’s proposals. The public were no fools – after three and a half years they understand only to  well was “capping” meant.

See:  2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

Regardless of whether they overlooked or under-estimated the reaction –  Education Minister, Hekia Parata, was left looking like a possum in the middle of the road, with a  Public Juggernaut bearing down on her.

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As recently as 6 June, Ms Parata was adamant; there would be no backdown on the reforms,

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Pressure on the Education Minister mounted. National was coming under concerted attack from Opposition parties; parents; schools; and the community itself. There was little doubt that John Key’s government had bitten off far more than it could chew, and had seriously underestimated the public mood on this issue.

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By 6 June, John Key was giving Parata the message to “sort this sh*t out”, when he told her,

It is important she engages with them…in the end the government’s got its policy but the administration of that policy happens through schools themselves and the unions play an important role in that. “

See:  Education Minister must meet unions – PM

Though in reality, Key’s credibility itself was taking several serious hits. Firstly, the revelations that Key sent his children to private schools, which boasted smaller class sizes for bettering educational outcomes, did not go down well with the public. In fact, most folk probably detected more than a hint of strong stench of hypocrisy from Dear Leader,

”  Prime Minister John Key’s son attended King’s College in Otahuhu, which said on its website: “Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom”. “

See: Ministers’ kids skip big classes

Then Key’s let-them-eat-cake-comment further raised the ire of the public, when he said,

In reality we are saying over the course of a three year period the maximum impact on any school can be two [full time equivalent teachers]. Now that that is not a dramatic impact.over all. ” – Source

To which, by now, the public were becoming more than a little bemused, and a “Screw you, mate!” hardening of attitude was started to fester.

Being paid $411,100 a year out of our taxes is one thing. But messing with our children’s education whilst sending your own offspring to private schools was going beyond public tolerance.

National’s party strategists  soon began to pick up mounting public anger.

National MPs were being flooded with angry emails and other correspondence at their electorate offices.

National’s polling (no doubt with David Farrar’s able, tax-payer funded, assistance) began registering a seismic shift in public opinion – none of it positive for the Nats.

The shitski – as they say in Russia – was hitting the fanski. Time for Plan B:

Initiate Default Deflection Plan – Look over there!

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Social Welfare Minister duly stepped into the glare of public attention with suggestions of the State forcibly removing children from unfit parents – which the State can already do, by the way, considering the number of children in CYFS care. But Bennett went further, with hints of forced sterilisation and court orders permanently banning  “unfit parents” from reproducting.

(If these plans had included banning certain politicians from breeding… )

This deflection achieved only modest success. It failed to spark the raging public debate which Bennett created with her plans, last month,  to “encourage” solo-mums (but never solo-dads) to go on contraception to prevent having further children.

See:  Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

That debate raged – but never went anywhere. It died  a quiet ‘death’ and barely anyone remembers it now (oh, that public amnesia is getting worse). But it did it’s job, deflecting public attention from worsening economic stats and growing unemployment figures.

See:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

The purpose of Bennett’s political “hand grenade” was not to seriously force solo-mums (but never solo-dads) on to contraception.  A cursory check of the dates of the report – Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc – shows it was a public issue at the same moment as Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ .

Public deflection, using highly controversial “dog whistle” politics – works every time. (That’s why they call it “dog whistle” politics!)

However, not this time. As Hekia Parata stood paralysed on the road, with the  juggernaut of public opinion bearing down on her and her colleagues, one must always remember;   in such situations, possums always come of second best,

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As Mathew Mannine, one-time National-voter;  Wellington father of three; and protestor against plans to increase classes,  said on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint,

Well, as they say, a pig’s a pig even if you put lipstick on it, and I think that’s what she was trying to do, and there was no way at all, from the parents I’ve spoken to, that this policy would’ve flown. “

Indeed. So saith Middle New Zealand – a lesson National has learnt the hard way.

Two further interesting points arise from this debacle.

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Hekia Parata says that canning this policy will incur a cost,

The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership. “

This is a  rather candid admission that reducing teacher numbers and increasing class sizes was never about “teaching quality”.

Let us disabuse ourselves of that fantasy; this was about cost-cutting pure-and-simple, and talk of  “improving teaching quality” was nothing more than a fiction.  This was National engaging in window dressing, to cover up a blatant exercise in reducing spending in education.

Anyone who believes otherwise should contact this blogger – I have shares in Wellington Harbour bridge going very cheap.

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Congratulations to National.

John Key, Bill English, Hekia Parata, et al, have succeeded in teaching our children their first lesson in politics. An entire generation of children have seen political machinations at work, first hand, and the “bad guys” were ministers from  the National Party.

When our children learn about the Right Wing in politics, in such a personalised, in-your-face manner, the future of this country suddenly became a lot more rosy.

Future support for the Greens, Labour, and other centre-left Parties is all but assured.

Thank you, Ms Parata. You are a fine teacher for our young folk.

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Related Blogposts

Frankly speaking on Budget 2012

Media

Listen to reaction on Radio NZ Checkpoint

Listen to parent’s reaction on Radio NZ Checkpoint

Media Release

Hekia Parata:  Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Other blogs

John Minto:  Minister’s rose-tinted glasses are two generations out of date

Just Left:  Smaller class sizes — for people like us

Local Bodies:  Hekia’s Huge Tui Billboard!

Local Bodies:  Parata’s Future?

Robert Guyton: National Folds

Red Alert: Who Reads Hekia’s Advice?

The Standard: Flip-flop still leaves hole in education budget

The Standard: Parata to the Headmaster’s office?

Pundit: Don’t look here! Look over there!

Gordon Campbell on the turmoil in education

No Right Turn: Anger works

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Tax cuts & school children

2 February 2012 13 comments

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Source

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Despite recession hitting our economy in 2008, and despite a looming $30 billion deficit, John Key’s government proceeded with tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010.

To make up for the billions lost in taxation revenue, government borrowed millions every week,  from overseas banks, and began a programme of harsh cost-cutting,

Finance Minister Bill English is is not ruling out an increase to the ratio of students to teachers, saying all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.

Mr English says there is clear evidence that class size does not affect the quality of students’ education.” – Source

What did the tax cuts cost us?

The PSA published the following report,

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Tax cuts widen the gap between rich and poor

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  •  Government chose to make tax cuts in worst recession in 70 years
  •  Total tax cuts worth $5.5 billion
  •  Top 10% income earners got tax cuts worth $2.5 billion
  •  GST increased to 15% – hurts low and middle income most
  •  Tax cuts + GST left $1.4 billion hole in budget

Since 2008, National has introduced tax cuts that cost New Zealand around $5.5 billion a year in lost revenue. Most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest.

National’s first set of tax cuts – the personal tax cuts and ‘Independent earner rebate’ taking effect in April 2009 – cost approximately $1 billion a year.

The second set of cuts – cutting the top income tax rate from 38% to 33%, and the company rate to 28% – will cost $4.5 billion a year, according to figures from the 2010 Budget. That gives a total of $5.5 billion.

National claimed that because it was also increasing GST, the tax changes would be “revenue neutral” – that is, the increase in GST would cancel out the income tax cuts. In fact, the losses from the income tax cut will outweigh the gains from GST by $1.4 billion. In other words, the so-called “tax switch” has blown a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

The tax cuts have also made New Zealand a less fair place. According to Labour, the wealthiest 10% of New Zealanders will get 43% of the tax savings. And the gap in take-home pay between someone on $30,000 and someone on $150,000 a year grew by $135 a week as a result of the tax cuts.

New Zealand’s income tax rates are among the lowest in the OECD, as the Tax Working Group acknowledged.
In Australia , for example, income over $80,000 is taxed at 37%, and income over $180,000 is taxed at 45%.

Figures from the OECD itself show that, before National’s tax cuts, New Zealand’s “all in” top income tax rate – a measure that includes all taxes on income, including local and regional ones – was 38%. In contrast, the all in top income tax rate in Australia was 47%, and in most countries it was higher still.

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Bill English says,

…all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.”

No doubt as part of government’s desperate attempt to cover the “$1.4 billion hole in the budget“, courtesy of their  ’09 and ’10 tax cuts.

The tax cuts have benefitted the top 10% of our economy, with the top 1% increasing their wealth by a staggering 20%,

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Full Story

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Even John Key did rather well out of the tax cuts,

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Source

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For John  Key,  to suggest that the latest research showed the income gap in New Zealand was actually narrowing, is breath-takingly disingenuous. The reality of every day life for New Zealanders is different from that of a millionaire who has long since lost touch with Mr and Mrs Everyperson,

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Full Story

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It’s abundantly clear: Government is cutting the very social services that we need, to remain a First World nation.

National gave us tax cuts and put a few extra dollars into our pockets – and a whole lot more into the deep pockets of the country’s richest people.

New Zealanders obviously haven’t got their heads around one simple, inarguable fact; we don’t get something for nothing. If we want social services, then we need to pay for them.

Now, the chooks have come home to roost. We are having to pay for those tax cuts – or rather, our children are paying. Children who never voted for this shabby government.

I wonder what the 1,058,638 people who voted for this government are feeling right now? Are you folks feeling warm fuzzies?

Because all I’m feeling is the chill of a society that values tax cuts more than our children and their future.

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