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

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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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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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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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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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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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Drug Testing the Unemployed – National’s Epic Fail at Job Creation

29 August 2012 31 comments

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This blogger has three questions for John Key and  the National Party,

1. Is is true that Paula Bennett made a correct statement when she  admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on   29 April 2012,

No. 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. ” – Source

2. If National can claim the Global Financial Crisis as the reason for New Zealand’s low economic growth – why does the same rationale not apply to the unemployed, and if it does, why spend an estimated $14 million on drug testing when joblessness is a result of economic circumstances, and not drug-induced laziness?

3. How is National’s pledge to create 170,000 new jobs – made in November last year – working out? Especially when unemployment recently increased from 6.7% to 6.8%?

A day after National announced it’s intentions to drug-test the unemployed, Solid Energy broke the news that it was planning to make up to 263 of it’s miners, contractors, and other staff, redundandant.  Workers from Huntly East Mine and Spring Creek on the West Coast will lose their jobs.

See: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

See: Spring Creek mine work suspended

This follows on from other redundancies announced just this year alone,

How many of the above redundant workers will Bennett insist be drug-tested?

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But more to the point – is this really a problem? Or, as is likely, is this a shameful attempt by National to deflect attention away from rising unemployment; their failure to manage an economy to generate new jobs; and to deflect blame onto the unemployed?

Because any sane, dispassionate analysis of this problem does not indicate that drug taking is the cause of 162,000 people currently out of work.

See: Unemployment rises: 6.8pc

Especially when in 2007, unemployment stood at 3.4%  – or 77,000 people!

See: Household Labour Force Survey December 2007 quarter

What has changed?

As National ministers  like John Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, et al  like to consistently remind us – when their economic track record is held up for scrutiny – it’s called the “Global Financial Crisis”,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. ” – John Key

See: View from the Top

In the midst of a very deep global downturn we expect volatility and low growth, as we are seeing around the world economies.” – Steven Joyce

See: Parliamentary Questions and Answers – August 29

However, the government deferred the increase due to the challenging economic circumstances New Zealand was experiencing as it continued to recover from the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.” – Gerry Brownlee

See: Petrol excise, road user charges increases

The global economic situation is like a dark cloud on the horizon and it’s not going to go away possibly for a generation – certainly for 15 or 20 years.” – Bill English

See: English warns of financial crisis lasting a generation

It’s abundantly clear that National has no reservation in blaming the Global Financial Crisis for the sad state of our economy.  They refer to overseas influences time and time again.

So why does the same economic situation not apply to other economic indicators – like unemployment?

Why try to smear unemployed – who up until recently were in full-time, paid, employment – and brand them as drug-taking, lazy, “bludgers”?

Why did Bennett make this statement,

Recreational drug use is simply not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work. Thousands of working New Zealanders are in jobs requiring they be clean of drugs; it’s reasonable to expect someone looking for work to do the same.”

See: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

Bennett is implying that someone looking for work must be on drugs? Why?

The answer, I submit to the reader, is that National is playing to it’s audience of middle class, low-information voters; right wing extremists; and the plain crazy nutjobs. These are the target demographics for the Nats.

Because any sane person will look at the above list of redundancies from the likes of Brightwater Engineering, Telecom, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc,  – and wonder – WTF?! Why is National spending $14 million of my tax dollars on drug-testing redundant engineers, telecommunication workers, diplomats, etc?!

Because it plays to an audience of predominantly middle class (and quite a segment of the working class), who find it all to easy to believe the cliched  stereotypes  that depict  All Welfare Beneficiaries Are There By Choice. Internet fora are full of uninformed, prejudiced, and outright  crazy ‘trolls’ who revel in their distorted view of those on welfare, or low-paying jobs.

Never mind that four years ago we had half the unemployment we do now.

Do those ignorant fools believe that unemployed are out of work by choice, having given up their average wage/salary of $800 to $900 per week, so they could live in luxury on $204.96 (net, weekly unemployed benefit)?

See: WINZ Unemployment Benefit (current)

Drug testing the unemployed has nothing to do with any perceived problem with drug abuse.

This is a carefully constructed, skillfully diseminated, lie.

National is spending $14 million on a problem that does not exist.

National is desperate to turn public attention away from,

  1. Increasing unemployment
  2. Increasing poverty levels
  3. More and more New Zealanders heading overseas
  4. A stagnating economy
  5. National’s lack of traction in creating the 170,000 new jobs they pledged last year

Middle Class voters are being targetted by National’s tax-payer funded spin doctors and political strategists. Their agenda is clear and simple;

  • Brand  the unemployed as “lazy” and “on drugs”.
  • So it can’t be a failure on the part of National to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us.

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

Above all else, National’s nasty little strategy is an admission of failure on their part. They have failed utterly to,

  • grow the economy
  • create jobs
  • raise wages
  • stem the flow of skilled New Zealanders to Australia

Because clearly, if a government was building an economy that was generating more and more jobs, then what would be the need to create a bogeyman of lazy, drugged unemployed?

Especially when Labour presided over a growing economy with low unemployment,

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There was no talk of “lazy/drugged unemployed”  in 2007.

No Global Financial Crisis either.

Truly, National has hit rock bottom with this vile strategy. How long, one wonders, before the middle classes out in Voterland realise that they are being conned by some very cunning politicians and their back-room strategists?

A question for the Middle Classes;

We live in uncertain times. Any one of us are only one step away from being unemployed ourselves. How  would you feel being branded a possible drug-user by the likes of Paula Bennett and John Key?

Not too happy I’d suspect?

And one final question for the Prime Minister,

Where are the jobs?

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Previous related blogpost

Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

Related Information

Employment-Unemployment Fact Sheet #1: Queues for Vacancies

Other blogs

Tumeke: What the real aim of drug testing beneficiaries is

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What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

20 August 2012 12 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats? (Part tahi)

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

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Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

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Full story

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This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3’s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

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Full story

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Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

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Paula Bennett

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Of all National ministers, Bennett’s  behaviour has become  most  irrational,  offensive,  and just downright bizarre.

Not content with “offering” sterilisation to  solo-mums (but never solo-dads)  and their daughters, her views on poverty are so breathtakingly, woefully ignorant that this blogger has come to the conclusion that her tax-payer funded tertiary education was a complete waste of time and money.

See:  Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s latest weird comments raised eyebrows and and a few hackles,

Get in the real world.

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

See:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Bennet then lashed out, saying she “wasn’t interested in measuring child poverty“, and instead her government was more focused on addressing the problems,

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: scoop.co.nz – Combating poverty more important than measuring it

How can National “combat poverty” if they are not aware of the scale of it? How can a government budget appropriately, without knowing the numbers involved?

Are they just going to guess?

Which then brings us to the issue of Bennett’s instance that the unemployed be drug-tested,

There is certainly a line between recreational use and addiction and that is challenging in itself and it’s something we’ll have to work through.

“At the end of the day you’ve potentially got thousands of New Zealanders who are unable to work because of recreational use and this paper also identifies that as a real problem, so we need to keep working our way through a solution“.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Again, the question needs to be asked – how many unemployed are on drugs?

Is it 99%?

Is it 50%?

Is it 10%?

Is it 2%?

Is it 0.00001%?

We need to know this, because National may be about to throw $14 million of our tax dollars at this “problem”,

The plan to cut benefits for job seekers who fail drug tests has been met with criticism by the Ministry of Health, saying it could cost up to $14 million a year.

[abridged]

Ms Bennett told Radio New Zealand she would not reconsider sanctioning only drug users based on the Ministry of Health’s concerns and said she was going ahead with the policy.”

See: Bennett ignored advice from Health Ministry – Logie

Bennett’s response?

I just don’t feel that we need to trawl through evidence and give that much kind of evidence to something that is just so obvious.

And added, that she was acting on information from,

“…the visits, from face to face meetings, I don’t know, from some of the international research I’ve seen.”

See: Paula Bennett so sure she’s right

Never let facts get in the way of some damned good prejudice, eh, Ms Bennett?

National’s intention to throw millions of our tax dollars at a problem that may or may not exist, and has not been quantified, beggars belief. It also makes a hollow mockery of John Key’s 2008 pledge to spend our money wisely,

We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.”

See:  John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

National was in opposition when Dear Leader made that pledge. Things change, I guess, when a Party becomes government and has access to our taxes.

The ‘bullishness’ of a cornered National Minister is clearly coming through on this issue.

So if Paula Bennett is ignoring Health Ministry advice,

  1. Where is she getting her advice and data from?
  2. Does she know the number of unemployed who are using recreational drugs?
  3. How much has National budgetted for this programme?
  4. If National has budgetted for drug testing – they must have an idea how many unemployed will be affected?
  5. In which case, we’re back to #1; Where is she getting her advice and data from?

Would Bennett know, for example, how  many of these recently-made redundant workers are on drugs;

See previous blogpost: Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

The answer, my friends, is not blown in the wind – it’s blown out her —- !

Let’s dispense with  the bovine excrement and stop the tip-toeing on this issue.

National was elected in 2008 on a pledge to raise our wages to parity with Australia.

See: John Key – A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Not only have they failed, but our wage-gap with our Aussie cuzzies is actually widening.

See: Wage gap grows $1 a month – Labour

National was elected in 2011 on a pledge to create 170,000 new jobs.

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

Instead, our unemployment has risen to 6.8%.

See:  Unemployment rises: 6.8pc

In almost every respect, National’s policies – which are heavily reliant on the free market to deliver desired outcomes like growth and jobs – have failed.

John Key is presiding over,

  • a stagnant economy
  • rising unemployment
  • a low wage economy
  • wide gap with Australia
  • rising government debt
  • more New Zealanders escaping to Australia
  • and no plans to fix this mess except cuts to the state sector, asset sales, charter schools, crushing cars, and “reforming” the welfare system

That’s it. The “Grand Plan”. That’s as good as it get’s folks.

With more and more redundancies (see above) and  unemployment continuing to creep upward, Bennett’s plans to drug test the jobless is a deflection – an attempt to blame the victims of National’s (lack of) policies.

Drug testing the unemployed  is a ploy.

The unemployed are victims of the global financial crisis. Just  as National likes to make out that that it’s economic policies are also impacted by the recent GFC and resultant recession. It’s obscene that National uses the GFC as an excuse for their failings – and yet deny the unemployed the very same rationale for having lost their jobs.

By demanding drug testing, Bennett is sending a clear message to National’s redneck constituency, and to low information voters, that all unemployed are drug-addled, lazy,  ne’er-do-wells.

Because as we all know, being on the dole on $204.96 (nett, weekly) is a “lifestyle choice”, rather than working and earning the average wage; $800.

National has no idea how many unemployed are on drugs.

But they are still prepared to waste millions of dollars on pursuing a policy of drug testing.

All because they have failed to create the jobs they promised.

All because they need a scapegoat to show their dim-witted constituents that it’s the welfare beneficiaries at fault.

The Nazis used the scapegoating technique well well in the 1930s, when they blamed Jews, communists, gypsies, trade unionists, etc, for Germany’s economic problems.

National’s strategy here should be crystal-clear to us all; they are dangling the unemployed as scapegoats to the ill-informed; the prejudiced; and  low-information voters, for whom unemployment is a vague concept; the Global Financial Crisis happened “somewhere else“; and the dole is some unimaginably generous payment.

Very few low-information voters understand that the dole for a single person is only $204.96 (nett, weekly).

Very few National supporters understand that unemployment was 3.7% in 2007 and is now 6.8% because of an event that was sparked thousands of kilometres away in Wall St, USA.

And very few low-information and National voters want to understand this. Because to understand the realities of unemployment means that the next step is; what are they going to do about it?!

Like, this gentleman, posting on Facebook, who had no interest in anything except spouting his own narrow, ill-informed,  prejudice. I thought I’d share his “considered opinion” with the reader,

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These are the people that Paula Bennett, and National, are pandering to.

Prejudice is easier.

It means they can blame someone else.

It means not having to think about the issues involved.

Because it’s always someone elses’ fault.

Like Steven Joyce, who blamed Labour, the Greens, and Hone Harawira on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 19 August. It’s always “someone elses’ fault”.

Unfortunately for Bennett, though, her  repugnant behaviour has become so entrenched that she is unable to behave appropriately even to her own colleagues,

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Source

Listen: Listen to more on Checkpoint

The more that National fails to deliver results, the more they will blame others.

Why should National take responsibility for a lack of jobs and rising unemployment? After all…

… they’re only the government.

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part toru: John Banks)

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Guest Author: Bennett’s child poverty shocker ignored by Stuff

– Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

July 16, 2012

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Fairfax avoid today’s leading political news, again.

Fairfax Media have yet again applied their eerie “1984″ technique of ignoring big news when it is likely to cost the National Party votes.

Yesterday’s outbursts in Parliament from “Social Development” Minister Paula Bennett, in which she made flippant remarks about child poverty, was leading the political news at other, more moderate media today, but there wasn’t a word about it from Gina Rinehart’s Fairfaxian double-thinkers at stuff.co.nz.

The New Zealand Herald ran the story under the headline, “Bennett slammed over child poverty claim”, while Radio New Zealand used Speaker Lockwood Smith’s assessment that “Bennett’s behaviour was worse than a three-year-old”.  Such newsworthy fair would delight any real news editor, and is indeed the sort of hard-edged information that has traditionally sold newspapers.  But, over at Fairfax – where news values takes a back seat to partisan loyalty to the National Party – readers were denied anything at all on Bennett’s latest lapse of judgement.

In fact, avoiding the worst of Paula Bennett’s ourageous, reactionary bile over the years, has effectively made this Minister a one-woman credibility disaster for Fairfax Media, who appear to simply groan and then bury their Rightwing heads in the sand every time a National Party member makes an embarassing gaff.

I won’t pretend otherwise; Paula Bennett truly disgusts me.   That’s the only way I can describe the feeling that fills my stomach every time I’m reminded of her existence.  Aside from being a despicable bully and a nasty little fascist, her role in cultivating policies that contribute to child poverty is abhorrent. Denying child poverty is even worse.  She makes ‘Ministry of Social Development’ sound nothing short of Orwellian, and embodies all that is vulgar and immoral about the current Government.   To see a major news corporation avoid the worst of her faux pas is simpy offensive to fair-minded and thinking New Zealanders.

Fairfax’s coverage of Bennett’s bullying of beneficiaries three years ago was woefully inadequate at the time, and they seem to be deflecting any criticism this time around by distracting readers with one of those dodgy, un-scrutinized on-line polls about whether beneficieries should be drug testesd; cue their army of brainwashed, redneck readers, dog-whistled into beneficiery bashing action.

Come on New Zealand!  We need NEWS from our news media, not daily doses of Rightwing propaganda.  Please help make a difference by sharing this blog, boycotting Fairfax’s publications, avoiding stuff.co.nz, joining us on facebook (Fearfacts) and telling your friends to do the same.  Kia ora.

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NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Radio NZ:  Bennett’s behaviour worse than 3 year old speaker

Tumeke:  Paula Bennett sees no child poverty

Tumeke: Paula Bennett misleads country on drug

 

 

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Acknowledgement

Reprinted with kind permission from Fearfactsexposed

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