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Posts Tagged ‘Family First’

The Vote, Electricity, and Sex! (That’ll grab your attention!)

18 June 2013 6 comments

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TV3 The Vote  18 June

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Question: How would it feel to be pregnant?

Answer: No idea. I’m not a woman.

Question: How would it feel to be a billionaire?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never had that kind of wealth.

Question: How would it feel to be intellectually handicapped through foetal alcohol syndrome.

Answer: No idea. I’m not intellectually handicapped, nor affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

Question: How would it feel to be in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never been in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people.

Yet, TV3 is asking viewers – many of whom are reasonably well-off, comfortable, secure, well-fed, warm,  middle class families – to understand the effects that long-term, ingrained poverty has on families?

The question tomorrow (19 June) will be;

Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree?

It a ludicrous question, of course.  Those who’ve never experienced poverty have little idea what it’s really like.

What is even more stomach-turning is that the debating team that supports the Question – that The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting – are these following characters,

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The Vote - Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie has a background in teaching and accounting, having graduated from Auckland University in 1986 with a Masters of Commerce with Honours, and a Diploma in Teaching from the Auckland College of Education. He lectured in accounting, taxation, and commercial law at Manukau Polytechnic for four years, before becoming Director of Youth for Christ (YFC) South Auckland in 1990. In 1994, he set up the Papatoetoe Adolescent Christian Trust (PACT) working with at-risk youth and their families in schools and the South Auckland community. In 1996 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In 2002, he joined the Rhema Broadcasting Group as Breakfast / Talkback Host on their nationwide programme, and Television presenter on their Current Affairs show “NZone Focus”.In 2006 he left RBG to establish the advocacy and research organization Family First (NZ) and is its National Director. Bob is married to Tina, and they have three children.

The Vote - Hannah Tamaki

Hannah Tamaki

Hannah is the co-founder of Destiny Churches New Zealand with her husband, Bishop Brian Tamaki. The church movement possesses one of the largest Maori memberships in the country. In addition to being a grandmother of 10 adoring grandchildren, Hannah’s role involves senior level leadership as well as ground-floor mentoring and counselling with families requirement spiritual and practical input and guidance. Besides running a very successful and well attended women’s ministry, Hannah founded Healing Hands Trust which assists women and their whanau with acute medical conditions requiring urgent surgery, and she has played a lead role in establishing a school and early childhood centre. Hannah’s unwavering passion for people is evident in everything she puts her hands to.

The Vote - Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin is a former Families Commissioner, CEO of the ‘For Sake of Our Children Trust’ and has recently taken up the position of CEO of the Conservative Party. Christine was on a Domestic Purposes Benefit and had no University Degree before taking on a temporary job with the Department of Social Welfare in 1978. By 1998 she had worked her way to the top, becoming the youngest director in the country. She was later appointed General Manager and then Chief Executive of Work and Income New Zealand, responsible for around 5500 staff. Christine is committed to the well-being of children and is renowned as a speaker on leadership, culture change and political/social issues, as well as sharing her own story of making it against the odds.

Acknowledegment: TV3 – The Vote

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Why are three middle class, affluent, well-resourced, high-income earning individuals pontificating about the effects of poverty on this country’s poorest people? What the hell would they know?

It’s like having men debating the effects of pregnancy and/or abortion on women’s bodies and minds.

It’s like having white anglo-saxons denying the existance of racism.

And really, none of those three are in any position to moralise.

One is an advocate of beating children and is openly homophobic.

Another has grown bloated-rich on the backs of her poor (often Maori) congregation.

And the last – well, I’ll keep my knowledge of the “Ear-ringed One’s” past proclivities to myself.

The question is utterly meaningless in the wider context, and the “Yes/No” nature denies the complexities of the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

For what it’s worth (admittedlynot much), we’ll be voting a firm,

‘No’

Text 3665.

Or, vote on-line.

If only to show that there is more to this than playing the ‘blame-game’.

As for Rankin, Tamaki, and McCoskie – I don’t expect much from them except tediously-repeated prejudice, rhetoric, and stereotyping.

Prove me wrong, you three.

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Labour promises to cut power prices

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NBR - Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

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Industry critics shocked by chairman's report

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Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment, in October 2010.

Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.

Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises.

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) statistics show average power prices rose from 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on average in May 2001 to 26 cents in May 2011.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Power prices double over decade

Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. The reality is that, we, the public, have been subsidising business. (On top of which,  electricity costs for business are tax-deductible – unlike for residential users.)

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MED domestic business electricity prices

Acknowledgement: Ministry of Economic Development (MED) – Prices

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The MED graph above is fairly crystal clear.

So much for Layton’s scare-mongering  bullshit – some of which was published on the right-wing publication, the NBR (National Business Review).

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electricity - Electricity Authority - NZ Power - rising power prices

Brent Layton – scare-mongering for his National mates?

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Grey Power is 100% when they state;

“We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”

As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece and cadre for the “market”, is part of the problem.

This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority – and sacking Layton.

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Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

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On the issue of  Bob McCroskie and his ultra-conservative, right-wing group, Family First, they have released a report called “R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand – A Critical Review”.

The report criticises sex education in New Zealand, with the author, United States psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman, stating,

A premise of modern sex education is that young people have the right to make their own decisions about sexual activity, and no judging is allowed. Risky behaviours are normalised and even celebrated. Children and adolescents are introduced to sexual activities their parents would prefer they not even know about, let alone practice. It’s reasonable to ask: is the ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ foisted on young people all over the world about sexual health, or sexual licence?

While most of these resources claim to promote sexual health, we find, overall, little encouragement of restraint or self-discipline. Instead, students are informed that at any age, sexual freedom is a ‘right.

The information is not accurate, comprehensive, or up-to-date. Sex is seen as risky only when it’s ‘unprotected’. The efficacy of condoms is overstated, in some cases vastly so. The quantitative data about their use is absent. The vulnerability of the immature cervix and the hazards of anal intercourse are omitted. Chlamydia is incorrectly described as ‘easily cured’. Young people are led to believe that sex is easily divorced from emotional attachment. Worst of all, critical life and death information is distorted or ignored.

Students are left misinformed, and with a false sense of security. Surely this is the last thing parents want.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Sex Ed Preaches Sexual Licence, Not Sexual Health

The Scoop press release issued by Family First describes Dr Miriam Grossman thusly,

“Miriam Grossman MD is known internationally for her courage in breaking ranks and calling foul on the sexuality education industry. She has lectured at the British House of Lords and the United Nations. Dr Grossman is board certified in psychiatry and in the sub-specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry. Dr Grossman visited New Zealand last year.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

So who is Dr Miriam Grossman? And why has she provided an anti-sex education report for the ultra-conservative Family First?

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Dr Miriam Grossman - anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

Dr Miriam Grossman – anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

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Because Dr Miriam Grossman herself is an  anti-sex education, ultra-conservative.

Without re-writing what has already been written about this person, instead I will quote from GayNZ. Their comments mirror mine precisely,

For a change, Grossman isn’t a fundamentalist Protestant or conservative Catholic- although she is a religious social conservative, namely an Orthodox Jew. It should be noted that not all Orthodox Jews subscribe to co-belligerency with the Christian Right, wary of the troubled fundamentalist and Catholic pasts insofar as anti-Semitism is concerned. However, Grosssman doesn’t fall into that category- she is a regular guest of US Christian Right organisations like Focus on the Family and participates within the World Congress of Families, a US Christian Right-centred international networking annual conference, to be held in Madrid in May 2012 this year.

And as one might guess, the “World Congress of Families” is fixated on a narrow range of religious social conservative obsessions- opposition to feminism, opposition to LGBT legislative reform, opposition to abortion rights, opposition to comprehensive sex education and nothing that really affects real families all that much. According to the March 2012, our own beloved Family First isn’t a ‘partner’ like notorious antigay organisations Americans for “Truth” about Homosexuality, Focus on the Family and Family Research Council (US), Christian Concern (UK), Endeavour Forum and the Australian Family Association (Australia), REAL Women (Canada), Human Life International and Tradition Family and Property.

Grossman’s forte is attacking comprehensive sexuality organisation as produced by mainstream evidence-based organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and our own Family Planning Association. This involves indoctrinating young women with propaganda about STIs and psychological stresses involved with initiating and maintaining sexual relationships, while neglecting important correlates like self-esteem education and information about contraception. These ‘fear-based curricula’ don’t actually prevent teenagers from having sex, and they do lack information about how to protect oneself from HIV/AIDS and STI through condoms and other forms of contraception. Needless to say, Grossman toes the religious social conservative party line when it comes to homosexuality too- on the basis of extremely biased ‘evidence’ from the exgay NARTH organisation, she argues that sexual orientation can be easily modified. She herself is associated with the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, a US antifeminist research organisation. People For the American Way has excellent articles on insight into their agenda on their website, which provide useful rebuttals of the ‘science’ involved.

It’s easy to speculate what sort of ‘research’ will be cited at this event. We are supposed to be blinded by the fact that Grossman has professional qualifications without asking whether her particular opinion is congruent with evidence-based research and practise from mainstream professional opinion and practise. Whenever one encounters religious social conservative professionals, one is met with badly designed ‘research’ methods and practise, selective citation or distortion of others research if it contradicts religious social conservative dogma and ‘cherry picking’ of selective data sets compared to a wider body of research that shows some inconvenient conclusions that refute their case. In two words, junk ‘science’

No wonder Family First invited her to their Forum. I would also hazard a guess that her involvement suggests that Family First may be becoming increasingly dependent on the US Christian Right and its Canadian, British and Australian satellites for its survival in terms of propaganda, tactics and strategy. I could only count four fundamentalist small business donors for the Forum this year- Business and Tax Advisors, FetchALamp, Pharmabrokers and Leaning Options. Obviously, the recession is biting deep into their pool of available donors, judging from the meagre nature of this list. Family First is also actively involved in propagandising for one of her books, of which there are two, published by conservative US imprints Regnery and Sentinel.

How convenient to be so forewarned.

Acknowledgement: GayNZ – Who is Miriam Grossman?

Dr Miriam Grossman, Family First, and Bob McCoskrie – all advocating that when it comes to sex education, ignorance is bliss.

And McCoskrie is appearing on Third Degree The Vote, tomorrow night, debating against the concept of poverty’s affect on children?

More ignorance is bliss no doubt.

Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Dr Miriam Grossman: when you want some fear-mongering in your sex ed

Frogblog: Family First gets it wrong on sexuality education also

Herstory: Dr Miriam Grossman, lies, bent truths, and irresponsible medicine

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Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment. Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.

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

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Free Milk - Auckland School Children 1939c free milk 1937-1967 ATL

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1. We’ve had the ‘chat’

We should all know the facts and stats by now;

In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)

By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)

A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

The same UNICEF report rated our country  third for clean air and fourth for children’s education outcomes in reading, maths, science and literacy. I’m sure clean air and high achievements in readin’, writin’, ‘n ‘rithmetic, will mean a lot to young chldren going to school with empty bellies… (Note sarcasm.)

In 2011, Dennis McKinlay, executive director at Unicef New Zealand, said,

New Zealand currently spends US$14,600 ($17,500) per child whilst, in comparison, Scandinavian countries spend US$50,000 per child under six. Other countries, like the Netherlands, spend less but have better outcomes. The stark reality is that poor outcomes for children are costing New Zealand $6 billion per year in areas such as health, welfare services, crime and justice.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Study: Quarter of NZ kids in poverty

McKinlay was 100% on the mark when he said spending  on children should not be considered as a social cost but as an economic investment for the future of the country.

We have lost our moral compass when we demand tax cuts ahead of good policies that benefit our children.

The situation is so dire for many families that their households are often empty of food. After rent, power, and other fixed costs are  taken out of their meagre incomes, there is simply not much left for discretionary spending on things  like food, medication, clothing, etc.

As a blogger, “Burnt out Teacher” (Amanda Kennedy),  recently wrote on The Daily Blog,

You have $440 dollars after tax from your minimum wage job. $290 of it goes on your rent. You have $150 left. You pay $198 towards your power bill. Your car needs registering at a cost of $290.97. You owe Watercare $58.20 for last month. You need at least $15 of petrol to get to the doctor and back (the doctor will cost another $20 per child) because your children have asthma and your house is damp and cold. Both kids need new shoes for winter. Your boyfriend just beat you up. You are crying. How much debt are you in, and what are your kids going to eat today?

Acknowledgement:  The Daily Blog – Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

To those who care enough, I encourage you to read “Burnt out Teacher’s” full blogpost. It makes for sobering reading.

2. More ‘chat’?

On 7 May, Children’s Commissioner, Dr  Russell Wills, wrote an op-ed piece for the Dominion Post;

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Time for a chat on food in schools

Acknowledgement: The Dominion Post – Time for a chat on food in schools

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As Dr Wills said,

We need solutions that recognise the many complex causes of child hunger and poverty if we are to use the limited resources we have to make a real difference to children’s education and health outcomes.

Blaming parents is unhelpful and simplistic.

So far, so good.

However, in the next sentence from Dr Wills gave cause for concern,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Dr Wills may or may not realise that by  issuing the statement that “fully state-funded school cafeterias… tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence…” – he is perpetuating several unhealthy prejudices which the politically rightwing and conservative religious groups use to oppose food in schools for children.

Namely the extremist neo-conservative group, the so-called “Family First”, which also stated,

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided…

[…]

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided.

Acknowledgement: “Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

Hopefully it is a mere coincidence that Dr Wills’ comments seem to mirror the extremist views of “Family First”.

Where Dr Wills’ op-ed piece falls down is his proposals for how to provide food in schools. Dr Wills proposed that schools be responsible for growing their own food, and to operate in partnerships with businesses. He promoted philanthropy rather than state intervention.

I asked for feedback from the principals of  two low decile schools, and from Bryan Bruce, documentary-maker,  child poverty campaigner,  and producer of  the documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“, on Dr Wills’ proposals.

I first asked all three;  having read Dr Wills’ op-ed piece, “Time for a chat on food in schools”, what was their overall view on the points he had made?

Ruth O’Neill
Principal, Cannons Creek School

The points he makes are quite valid. I think he is right that we do need a different approach to the way cafeteria type models run overseas.  NZ general has its main meal in the evening – however in saying that these children often only eat what they are given at school and don’t eat much in the evening. To form a group to look into the best way to supply food is a good idea.

Mike Fackney
Principal, Taita Central School

 

Overall, his comments are generally valid and his suggested solutions have merit – but only if you regard the solutions as short-term solutions. The real solution to child poverty is for structural changes to NZ society and changed government policies, particularly ensuring a decent living income for all. With this approach, all families would be able to afford the food, afford the time to put into their kids (not working 2 jobs, or working early morning shifts, etc). Education for parents to help with budgeting, cooking, etc would also fill a gap. Without this approach, the proposed solutions rely on businesses, charities, and schools.

I then asked, what was their view on Dr Wills’ suggestions that,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Ruth O’Neill
 

I think he is right.  We need to look for a nutritious alternative that does not take school time – we are there to provide education not food.  The food needs to be provided by an independent source that is reliable.

Mike Fackney
 

I worked in UK schools for 4 years from 1999-2002, and saw the ‘school dinners’ (lunches) programme in operation. I don’t know about the cost to the authorities, but I don’t think it took up much school management time. The food quality was variable, but this is easily changed with the right will, as showed by Jamie Oliver’s crusade to make school dinners healthy.

Bryan Bruce
Documentary Producer

You can find good and bad examples of state funded cafeterias. So we know how bad it could be – let’s regulate the process from the start and model ourselves on the best ones – like the one I visited in Sweden . It is in a migrant area and the food was nutritious, tasty and much enjoyed by the kids .

My next point;  Dr Wills suggested that, “in some schools parents and whanau are encouraged to help garden, harvest veges, cook and serve the food. This teaches gardening and cooking skills, and helps build relationships between parents, whanau and teachers

Ruth O’Neill
 

This is a glorious hope – but it wont work in the long term.  Yes it is great to grow veges and encourage parents to be involved but this won’t supply the lunches everyday. The parents are not reliable enough to turn up everyday and make lunch – for it to work properly it needs to be a commercial venture.  Schools have to have a fully guaranteed liunch programme everyday that they don’t need to worry about.

Mike Fackney
 

Great if it works. Problems include vandalism to gardens, and difficulty to have parents regularly available. Yes it may help with relationships but not necessarily – relationship are better built over students’ education.

Bryan Bruce
 

While I think its a very good idea to teach kids how to grow food, but the idea of sustaining a school food programme on a grow your own basis would take up most of the playing fields and leave the kids with little time for anything else .

I then asked, is this practical practical in the short term? Long term? Would gardening, harvesting veges, cooking and serving the food be more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals?  Where would vegetables be cooked?

Ruth O’Neill
 

I have no idea where the food would be cooked on a large scale.  You have to employ people who have the skills to provide food on a large scale everyday.  We would have nowhere at present that you could cook or eat on a large scale.

Mike Fackney
 

I believe it would be [more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals].

With the UK school dinners, the schools have commercial kitchens. This school [Taita Central School] certain doesn’t have the necessary kitchen facilities.

Bryan Bruce
 

Food is a fundamental health need. Let’s put in the Swedish model – full time caterers and school restaurants. This will create jobs, ( for chefs, cooks, builders) which will stimulate our economy, reduce our health spend on crisis care for obese, diabetic and future adults with dodgy hearts.

Dr Wills further claimed that,  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme.”

Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?

Does reliance on “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food” take students away from an already packed curriculum and place more demands on teachers and other staff?

Ruth O’Neill
 

Teachers do not have time to do this on the scale that is needed to feed the whole school.  Being out in the sunshine gardening is lovely – but what about winter!!!  We won’t get to National Standards in Reading, Writing, and Maths if we are out gardening all day.  To have small class gardens that we have where children grow vegetables and take them home is great and teaches the skills of growing food but this won’t work on an everyday basis to feed everyone.

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills suggestion that  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme” – Mike Fackney responded,

This is fine, but not something which can really continue on an on-going basis, particularly with all the other expectations the government has on schools.

And when asked “Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?” – he replied,

It’s never really a desirable proposal for schools to rely on private support.

Bryan Bruce
 

Bryan Bruce was even less enthusiastic at Dr Wills’ proposals,

We seem to be going back to the 19th Century idea of relying on charities and volunteers to look after the poor. Haven’t we learned anything ?

In my view it’s like this – teachers are not hired to be caterers. They are doing it out of compassion. Are we now asking them to be full time gardeners as well.

Dr Wills also said ; “In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

He also states,

However, I think there could be two potential roles for government funding. First, there is a place for a co-ordination role to bring together schools and businesses, and manage the programme and the workload for principals and business owners.

Second, there is an argument to match government funding to philanthropy on a sliding scale.

For example, $3 for every $1 raised in a decile 1 school, decreasing for better-off schools.

Matched funding like this encourages communities to build and own their own solutions, and incentivises businesses to give to their communities rather than replacing philanthropy with taxpayer funding, which has the opposite effect. Funding could be made available only to programmes that adhere to agreed standards, raising the quality of programmes. None of this requires legislative change.”

Dr Wills appears to be promoting a State/Philantropy Partnership policy. Is this a practical means by which to promote food in schools, or is it an abrogation of duties which should be the State’s responsibility on this issue?

What happens where businesses or private philantropy is not forthcoming – especially in poorer areas with high unemployment and few businesses? And would private businesses expect a quid pro quo, ie, advertising on school grounds?

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Upper Hutt School

Photograph:  Upper Hutt School, Upper Hutt

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Ruth O’Neill
 

This again puts pressure on schools to spend time on activities other than teaching children!!  There is no money in the community. $10 is alot of money in Cannons Creek.  We do not charge more that $2 or $3 for a school trip and subsidise the rest with school money. We have no school fees and provide such things as sunhats, beanies, shoes, socks, etc ourselves.  I think there needs to be further investigation into how poor is poor.  It may only be small groups of decile 1 schools that need this support.

 

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills’s comment that  “in many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

Mike  replies,

A far easier way is that it’s organised through the taxation system (i.e. a fairer taxation system) and provided by government – as schools are.

As for the rest of Dr Wills’ comments above, Mike says,

All of this sounds like an organisation nightmare.

Bryan Bruce
 

If we want to rebuild a fair an equitable society where every child gets a fair go you can’t have kids in poor schools gardening to grow their dinner while kids in rich schools get their lunch provided and spend their school time doing maths and reading. If the public school system does not treat every child equally (and it already isn’t) then watch the gap between the rich and the poor get bigger and bigger.

Dr Wills also suggests that ,  “ … we need a small project to bring together schools, NGOs, officials and experts to reach a consensus on what food in schools done well looks like. From there we could develop guidelines and standards for food in schools programmes.
Is this a viable, necessary step? Or a case of “talking heads around a table” whilst the problem of hungry children goes unaddressed?

Ruth O’Neill
 

This sounds like a great idea – count me in. If this is going to be addressed properly and a long term healthy solution found then it needs a focused approach. With the right people and funding it could move quite quickly.

When I asked, can we afford Dr Wills’  suggestion “Maybe it’s time for a cup of tea on food in schools?“, Bryan Bruce was less than impressed,

Bryan Bruce

 

Forget the cup of tea and the charity and poor kids being constant gardeners – let’s get on and feed our kids properly so the teachers are freed to do their job and our kids can learn the 21 st Century skills they will need to earn money, pay their taxes and grow our economy.

Ruth also offered her thoughts on  matters arising  from Dr Wills’ ideas.
Questons such as; who cares and tends to the gardens during school holidays? Are school staff expected to tend to garden plots during holidays?

Ruth O’Neill

I can tell you that the class gardens all go to seed over the xmas break and then it takes all of term 1 when the soil is rock hard to get them up and running again.  Then in the winter they are like a bog!!! On any given weekend people will come into the grounds and trash them, throw alcohol and broken glass bottles in them. Urinate in them – would you want your child doing the gardening?? Or people steal the veges.

What about schools that have little or no spare land for gardens?

 Exactly??? Or who have high vandalism.

I then asked how much food can be grown to sustain anywhere from thirty to a few hundred school children in any given school? The respone from Ruth was fairly predictable,

You could not grow enough food to maintain the whole programme. It is also a question of having the right veges on the right day to make the soup or the sandwiches. You need lettuces and tomatoes everyday!!

And of course the also-obvious question which I put to Ruth –  what do children eat whilst crops are growing?

Exactly – totally impractical unless it is on a massive commercial scale for a big group of schools and the funding to buy in produce when needed to supplement supplies.

 

And is a “chat”  really necessary – or is it time to Just Do It; to get on with feeding our children and leave the “conversation” to some other time? (It’s easy for middle class professionals to want to engage in public debate. Especially on a full belly.)

Ruth O’Neill

It needs addressing and in a timely manner – the chat would need to lead to actions and funding.

Mike Fackney

All of the above are very valid concerns.

This blogger concurs with Bryan, Ruth, and Mike; Dr Wills has suggested some positive ideas – but the prospect of turning our schools into vast agricultural plots to feed hungry child is simply not practical.

Children go to school, first and foremost, to learn.

Those children from low-income or impoverished families should not be made to become mini-farmers.

Teachers go to school, first and foremost, to teach.

They do not expect to add Farm Manager to their C.V.

Child poverty is here, in our country. Whilst right wing conservatives  ‘tut-tut’ and wag their judgemental fingers at the problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”), children through no fault of their own are going hungry and their  learning experience is diminished.

As a nation, it is almost as if we have embarked on a deliberate course of increasing poverty and ensuring the advent of the next generation of impoverished New Zealanders.

If that is our aim, then we are exceeding all expectations. The UNICEF report referred to above proves that poverty is a growth industry in this country.

The time for “chat” is over.

3. “Feed The Kids” Bill in Parliament – Chat with MPs

The Mana Party in Parliament has a Bill before the House. The bill is designed to fund nutritional breakfasts and lunches to all their students in decile 1 and 2 schools.

For more info, see: Feed the Kids Bill

As their website points out,

  • Feeding the kids should be our first priority as a nation.
  • The Bill aims to set up government funded breakfast and lunch programmes in all decile 1-2 schools.
  • It’s a simple, easy and immediate way to address growing levels of child poverty in Aotearoa and has been a key recommendation of leading organisations such as the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.
  • The Bill is expected to come before Parliament for its first reading on Wednesday 5 June. So far Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, and Independent MP Brendan Horan have agreed to support it.
  • We need one more vote to get it passed and to a select committee for further consideration.

One more vote.

That’s all it will take.

Accordingly, Documentary-maker and child poverty campaigner, Bryan Bruce, is encouraging people to write to all MPs, asking that they vote for the Bill. As Bryan wrote on his Facebook Page,

You’re 7 years old. It’s winter. You haven’t had breakfast and you’re hungry. What do you want to hear?

“Why doesn’t your Mum feed you in the morning? I hope you’re not going to grow up to be a bad parent like her?”

OR

“Hey! Here’s some Milo. There’s toast over there and weetbix , milk and fruit on the table. Help yourself.”

We can’t change tomorrow if we don’t do the right thing today.

Please contact your local MP and ask them to support the Feed The Kids Bill. You will find their email addresses here:

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Bryan even suggests a pre-formatted letter to send,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

My name is…………. I live in your electorate . I urge you to commit to cross- party talks on how to end Child Poverty in New Zealand.

Please begin by agreeing to Cross-Party discussions on how we can implement a policy of supplying healthy meals in schools and show good faith by supporting the Feed The Kids Bill as a first step.

Yours faithfully………

Even something as simple as,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. Nothing is as important as ensuring that all children have a decent chance in life.

Yours faithfully………

Or,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. This is so important to me that I’ll be basing my vote at the next election for those candidates/parties who support this Bill.

Yours faithfully………

The MPs email addresses,

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Adams, Amy National Party, Selwyn
Ardern, Jacinda Labour Party, List
Ardern, Shane National Party, Taranaki-King Country
Auchinvole, Chris National Party, List
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh National Party, List
Banks, John ACT New Zealand, Epsom
Barry, Maggie National Party, North Shore
Beaumont, Carol Labour Party, List
Bennett, David National Party, Hamilton East
Bennett, Paula National Party, Waitakere
Blue, Jackie National Party, List
Borrows, Chester National Party, Whanganui
Bridges, Simon National Party, Tauranga
Browning, Steffan Green Party, List
Brownlee, Gerry National Party, Ilam
Calder, Cam National Party, List
Carter, David National Party, List
Clark, David Labour Party, Dunedin North
Clendon, David Green Party, List
Coleman, Jonathan National Party, Northcote
Collins, Judith National Party, Papakura
Cosgrove, Clayton Labour Party, List
Cunliffe, David Labour Party, New Lynn
Curran, Clare Labour Party, Dunedin South
Dalziel, Lianne Labour Party, Christchurch East
Dean, Jacqui National Party, Waitaki
Delahunty, Catherine Green Party, List
Dunne, Peter United Future, Ohariu
Dyson, Ruth Labour Party, Port Hills
English, Bill National Party, Clutha-Southland
Faafoi, Kris Labour Party, Mana
Fenton, Darien Labour Party, List
Finlayson, Christopher National Party, List
Flavell, Te Ururoa Maori Party, Waiariki
Foss, Craig National Party, Tukituki
Genter, Julie Anne Green Party, List
Gilmore, Aaron National Party, List
Goff, Phil Labour Party, Mt Roskill
Goldsmith, Paul National Party, List
Goodhew, Jo National Party, Rangitata
Graham, Kennedy Green Party, List
Groser, Tim National Party, List
Guy, Nathan National Party, Otaki
Hague, Kevin Green Party, List
Harawira, Hone Mana, Te Tai Tokerau
Hayes, John National Party, Wairarapa
Heatley, Phil National Party, Whangarei
Henare, Tau National Party, List
Hipkins, Chris Labour Party, Rimutaka
Horan, Brendan Independent, List
Hughes, Gareth Green Party, List
Huo, Raymond Labour Party, List
Hutchison, Paul National Party, Hunua
Jones, Shane Labour Party, List
Joyce, Steven National Party, List
Kaye, Nikki National Party, Auckland Central
Key, John National Party, Helensville
King, Annette Labour Party, Rongotai
King, Colin National Party, Kaikoura
Lee, Melissa National Party, List
Lees-Galloway, Iain Labour Party, Palmerston North
Little, Andrew Labour Party, List
Logie, Jan Green Party, List
Lole-Taylor, Asenati NZ First, List
Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam National Party, Maungakiekie
Macindoe, Tim National Party, Hamilton West
Mackey, Moana Labour Party, List
Mahuta, Nanaia Labour Party, Hauraki-Waikato
Mallard, Trevor Labour Party, Hutt South
Martin, Tracey NZ First, List
Mathers, Mojo Green Party, List
McClay, Todd National Party, Rotorua
McCully, Murray National Party, East Coast Bays
McKelvie, Ian National Party, Rangitikei
Mitchell, Mark National Party, Rodney
Moroney, Sue Labour Party, List
Ngaro, Alfred National Party, List
Norman, Russel Green Party, List
O’Connor, Damien Labour Party, West Coast-Tasman
O’Connor, Simon National Party, Tamaki
O’Rourke, Denis NZ First, List
Parata, Hekia National Party, List
Parker, David Labour Party, List
Peters, Winston NZ First, List
Prasad, Rajen Labour Party, List
Prosser, Richard NZ First, List
Robertson, Grant Labour Party, Wellington Central
Robertson, Ross Labour Party, Manukau East
Roche, Denise Green Party, List
Ross, Jami-Lee National Party, Botany
Roy, Eric National Party, Invercargill
Ryall, Tony National Party, Bay of Plenty
Sabin, Mike National Party, Northland
Sage, Eugenie Green Party, List
Shanks, Katrina National Party, List
Sharples, Pita Maori Party, Tamaki Makaurau
Shearer, David Labour Party, Mt Albert
Simpson, Scott National Party, Coromandel
Sio, Su’a William Labour Party, Mangere
Smith, Nick National Party, Nelson
Stewart, Barbara NZ First, List
Street, Maryan Labour Party, List
Tirikatene, Rino Labour Party, Te Tai Tonga
Tisch, Lindsay National Party, Waikato
Tolley, Anne National Party, East Coast
Tremain, Chris National Party, Napier
Turei, Metiria Green Party, List
Turia, Tariana Maori Party, Te Tai Hauauru
Twyford, Phil Labour Party, Te Atatu
Upston, Louise National Party, Taupo
Wagner, Nicky National Party, Christchurch Central
Walker, Holly Green Party, List
Wall, Louisa Labour Party, Manurewa
Wilkinson, Kate National Party, Waimakariri
Williams, Andrew NZ First, List
Williamson, Maurice National Party, Pakuranga
Woodhouse, Michael National Party, List
Woods, Megan Labour Party, Wigram
Yang, Jian National Party, List
Young, Jonathan National Party, New Plymouth

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I leave the final word to Bryan, from his Facebook page,

OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Significance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.


If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you,
Bryan

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2013.

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Acknowledgement

My sincerest appreciation and thanks go  to Bryan Bruce, Mike Fackney, and  Ruth O’Neill for taking time out of their busy schedules to respond to my questions.

Other Blog Posts

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

References

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Scoop: Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels   (30 May 2012)

NZ Herald: Poverty not only reason for suicide spike, says Key (30 Oct 2012)

Fairfax Media: Time for a chat on food in schools (7 May 2013)

Additional

Mana Party: Feed the Kids #fact sheet

Feed The Kids

Facebook: Community Campaign for Food in Schools – NZ

Ten Myths About Welfare

The Children’s Social Health Monitor: Child Poverty and Living Standards

Other blogposts

The Pundit: Children’s Commissioner fronts for Nats on food in schools: Corporate agenda rules

And from the nasty side of Conservative Rightwing politics

“Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

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Christians – can we vote on YOUR marriage now?

22 January 2013 13 comments

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Lobby group presents petition against same sex marriage

Source

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72,000 signatories to Family First’s petition want the right to vote on other people’s right to be married?

That would be fair – if the rest of us had a chance to vote on whether or not those 72,000 Christians (?) should be married or not.

We could make it totally democratic and run on-going Referenda on  couples, through Facebook. Each couple could state their case to voters and the public could vote “Yay” or  “Nay”.

Is it too late to have a belated vote on whether Mr MCoskrie (and Garth McVicar!?) should be allowed to be married? (Not to each other, I mean. Although… )

This is how ridiculous it gets, that so-called “Christians”  think it appropriate to vote on other peoples’ private lives.

Little wonder that so many view religious fundamentalism as intrusive in our lives.

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Facebook-Like-or-Dislike

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(Note: with apologies to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Pantheists, etc, who are more tolerant. )

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Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Marriage equality and polygamy

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Marriage equality? Have YOUR say – courtesy of Family First!

1 August 2012 4 comments

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Conservative, quasi-religious, anti-gay/lesbian organisation, “Family First”, has created a website to oppose marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

For some odd, indefinable reason, these “Family First”  blokes (and blokettes), seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that allowing marriage equality to all consenting adults, regardless of sexual-orientation, somehow impinges on their lives and  human rights.

Buggered if  I know why.

To me, it’s fairly plain and simple; if you’re a bloke of the straight-bloke persuasion, and you don’t fancy marrying another bloke – it’s simple. Don’t marry him.

Genius!

Ditto if you’re a blokette of the straight-blokette persuasion. Don’t fancy your hairdresser, ‘Trixie’? Cool. Don’t marry her.

Sorted!

In opposing marriage equality for gays and lesbians, “Family First” sez,

If it weren’t for the fact that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman leads to children and brings with it a further obligation to care for those children, the notion of marriage would probably never have existed…”

Ancient “notions of marriage  ” also included people in power (usually males), having 50+ wives.

Also, referring to  the ” fact that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman leads to children ” is a bit mis-leading. Not all marriages lead to children. Especially for those who are sterile; too old; carry a contagious organism (eg; HIV); or simply choose not to have children – does that mean their marriages are invalid?

What says “Family First’s” director, Bob  McCoskrie on those points?

Next, “Family First” states,

The state – which did not invent marriage – has no authority to re-invent it.

Fine. In which case we should get rid of all laws enacted by the State, relating to marriage and just have a free-for-all?! Hmmm, “Family First” is more radical than I believed.

Anyway, I’d like to thank “Family First” for assisting the cause for marriage equality.

“Family First”, under their front-organisation, “Protect Marriage”, has set up a website whereby folks can email all 121 MPs, to support equal rights for gays and lesbians to marry (if they so wish),

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Click here

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Simply go to the page above; lick on “All MP’s”; and fill in the email form. Easy peasy.

What a nice bunch these “Family First” folk are, helping us to support marriage equality by providing a platform by which to contact members of parliament.

Enjoy!

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And by the way… the term “Family First” in marriage is a bit of a mis-nomer. Christians prefer that you get Married First; then have a Family Second. Or is Bob  McCoskrie advocating sex before marriage?!

Naughty boy!

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John Key has another un-named source???

3 April 2012 8 comments

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John Key continues to bury his head in the sand regarding Skycity’s demand for 500 extra pokie-machines, in return for a $350 million convention centre.

Considerable community concern has been expressed that National’s close connections with Skycity may result in more pokie machines, with the inevitable consequence of increased problem gambling.  Even the neo-conservative organisation, “Family First” has condemned National and Skycity’s plans to expand it’s operations.

National Director of Family First, Bob McCoskrie, said,

Tourists come to see the country and the culture – not the casinos. If tourists were really focused on gambling, they would be going to Las Vegas – not the Sky City casino venue in Auckland.”

“Casinos thrive on the false promise of getting rich quickly, but the reality is that those who can least afford to gamble are gambling themselves deeper into debt. The government should be protecting families – not fleecing them. It is ironic that the government is targeting loan sharks at the same time as increasing the number of pokie machines.” – Source

McCoskrie said that “there are far too many pokie machines in our communities. Recent figures show one  machine for every 180 kiwis, yet one for every 4000 in US“.

Indeed. Here in New Zealand, we do ‘Dumb‘ exceedingly well.

The Green Party has been particularly scathing of National’s intention to amend legislation, to facilitate Skycity’s expansion plans.

Green Party spokesperson, Kevin Hague, condemned National’s irresponsibility in no uncertain terms,

The profits that Sky City believes it can extract from vulnerable gamblers are obviously immense to make it worthwhile for them to build the centre.

This ‘public policy for sale’ approach by the Government is strongly reminiscent of its rush to change industrial relations law to suit another multinational corporate, Warner Brothers.

I predict that the ‘behind closed doors’ negotiations between the Government and Sky City will find ways of allowing Sky City to extract more profit from the New Zealand public without needing to change the law, thereby entirely shutting the public out from having a say.

The extraordinary hardship and suffering caused by the gambling industry in New Zealand should see the Government trying to find ways of reducing the size and reach of the industry, not cosying up to it and making the regulatory framework looser.” – Source

Why is it that everything has a fair degree of common sense on this issue – except National?!

The Prime Minister, John “Dear Leader” Key, has been in utter denial about the destructive effects of gambling addiction.  It’s not just his head that is buried in the sand – he’s climbed in, and buried himself.

Amongst other statements of unbelievable naivety, Dear Leader has stated,

In a casino they are in a better environment say than attached to a pub deliberating targeting low income people in South Auckland.” – Source

Yeah, right.

Because low income people don’t go to casinos!?

Actually, they do. This blogger has visited Skycity Casino on a couple of occassions. (No, I didn’t place a bet. If I wanted to waste money, it’s easier to throw it out the window.) On both occassions, judging by dress style; worn clothing and shoes; and other tell-tale signs, many of those who seemed cybernetically linked to rows of pokie machines – were from low-income households.

I could not recall a single person in a suit, or upmarket dress, on the pokies.

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But perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of  Keys comments was when he  referred to  a “professor” from  University of Adelaide – whom he did not namewho had told of  a gambling studies conference in 2008, where it was claimed that Sky City’s host responsibility programme was “probably the most advanced in the world“.

An un-named source?

Another one?

Is this Un-named Source related to the other Un-named Source, who had supposedly emailed John Key about a supposed meeting – where Standard & Poors had supposedly claimed that New Zealand would have had a credit down-grade had there been a Labour Government in office??

(Which, later, Standard & Poors  rejected as being untrue.)

The same Un-named Source who supposedly sent Key this unsigned email,

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Cobblers!

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But it strikes me as symptomatic of the bizarre “JohnKey  In Wonderland” we have created in our country when  the Prime Minister bases government policy on mysterious, un-named sources, who we cannot discuss; nor debate; nor even understand; because we know nothing about his/her/it’s credentials.

Too many of these Un-named Sources floating around. Hard to keep track of them.  We need to start numbering them.

Or, here’s an idea, give them names?

And just maybe, New Zealanders need to be just a little less trusting of the man – whose name I  will keep confidential – who is our Prime Minister.

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Related blogposts

“I dunno. I wasn’t told. I wasn’t there.”

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

Additional

Govt folds for SkyCity

Green Party: Gambling Policy Summary

Green Party:  Public policy on gambling should not be for sale

Tumeke: Sky City to gain $25 million from 350 more pokies in dirty deal with Government

NZ Herald: Axe tobacco, ban cigarette exports – health professor

NZ Herald: ‘Big Tobacco’ on trial  – Canada’s biggest-ever lawsuit

NZ Herald: Government gets big bucks for bad habits

NZ Herald: Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

Scoop.co.nz:  Tourists Come to See Country & Culture – Not Casinos

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