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Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

31 March 2018 2 comments

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What’s worse than “fake news”? Sloppy news.

Sloppy as in: where a supposedly reputable mainstream media outlet presents a news story, but with a glaring error.  Case in point, TVNZ’s story on 25 March, reporting that “$1.7 million of taxpater’s money had been spent last year on airfares and escorts to deport overstayers – more than in any of the last five years“;

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The figures  presented were accurate enough.

The presentation, though, was misleading, with the intro statement reading;

The Government is spending a startling amount of money to get rid of overstayers in New Zealand, but few people are being deported and very little of that money is being recovered.

The most recent figure of $1.7 million related to 2017. (See image above).

The money had been spent by the previous, National government – not by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition. By referring to “the government”,  TVNZ’s story suggested that responsibility for this spending lies with the current Coalition.

Silly slip-ups of this nature present an unfair critical picture of the newly elected Coalition government and let’s the National Party off the hook when it comes to owning their chronic mismanagement and waste of taxpayer’s money.

It may seem trivial to some, but it is inaccurate and misleading. It is sloppy news.

Not many people would have picked up on that error. The public may likely assume that the news reader’s reference to “the government” refers to the current Coalition.

The Coalition will have enough problems cleaning up nine years of National’s toxic legacies  without the msm trying to point responsibility to Labour, NZ First, and the Greens. (They’ll have their own stuff-ups to own up to in the future.)

Not good enough, TVNZ.

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References

TVNZ:   More than 10,000 overstayers in NZ and Immigration not actively looking for most of them

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 March 2018.

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Labour and NZ First sign up to TPPA – “is this capitalism with a human face”?

17 March 2018 3 comments

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

 

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“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong. That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.” – Winston Peters, 19 October 2017

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8 March, Wellington, New Zealand:  As Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker flew to Chile to  sign the TPPA in Santiago,  around a hundred people gathered in Parliament’s grounds to oppose the Coalition government’s decision to accept the deal;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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The message from speakers and the assembled people was best summed up with this message;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking

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Grant Brookes, from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation was one of several speakers to address the protest. He was highly critical of the so-called “revised” agreement;

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He said;

“The NZ Nurses organisation objects to this government’s intention to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in Chile later today. We assert that despite some improvements, the CPTTP is not ready to be signed. Trade Minister David Parker  […]  acknowledges that the deal is not perfect. Speaking on Newshub last week he said he would give it a score of seven out of 10 for New Zealand.

Let’s imagine for one minute that that score is accurate, but what does seven out of ten mean when it comes to your health?

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What if you turned up to the Emergency Department with a serious cut, and you were told you could have stitches to seven tenths of your wound? What does it mean if you were in pain and you were given a treatment that left you 30% sore?”

On 3 March, Minister David Parker was interviewed by Lisa Owen for TV3’s The Nation. He told Ms Owen;

Lisa Owen: Yes, exactly. Scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being out of this galaxy, deal of the century – what grade do you give it?

David Parker: Probably a 7 to good, improved access into Japan, where beef exports have been dropping; they’ve dropped by 38 per cent recently because of Australian competition with lower tariffs. That’ll be fixed. Not an especially good deal for dairy but better than nothing, and relatively more important than it was before the attacks on the World Trade Organization architecture that are happening because of some other countries who seem to want to blow the system up.

Though Parker defended the signing of the agreement, he appeared lukewarm to the deal, adding;

“I don’t think it’s the best trade agreement; that’s why I gave it a seven.”

Parker’s lack of enthusiasm echoed criticisms made by  Grant Brookes at the protest;

“Although there have been improvements, threats to population health and all that sustains it, remain in the text. There are, for example, intellectual property provisions which have been suspended but they are still there, and they could still delay access for new medicines.

The same is true for the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions. They remain [in] the text. And these privileges benefit multinational corporations over our sovereign and indigenous interests.”

He specifically mentioned;

“The Treaty of Waitangi exception, as it’s called in the text, is not robust enough that indigenous rights are protected and is not consistent with the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal. This means that Maori efforts to address health disparities could be undermined.”

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms of the trade agreement lay in it’s omissions;

“The environment chapter – it doesn’t even mention climate change which the World Health Organisation has called the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.”

He added;

“The defenders of this deal […] point to possible economic gains, although no one is saying today these are going to be huge.”

Some estimates put any economic benefit to this country at around 1% of New Zealand’s economy – over time.

As if to underscore  Grant’s list of flaws with the TPPA, this protestor listed each one;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Following Grant was Rick Zwann, from Action Stations;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Rick pointed out the large number of Labour MPs who had attended anti-TPPA protests in previous years, and who were now nowhere to be seen. He also pointed out some fairly basic flaws in  the process by which National, Labour, and NZ First had signed up to the deal;

“When we did polling around this, 75% of New Zealanders wanted independent analysis of this agreement before it was signed. […] This is an issue that New Zealanders right across the board, no matter what political party they voted for, no matter their age, no matter their backgrounds, they want to know actually what this deal would do and mean for us.

They don’t trust the MFAT analysis that has happened which is basically a re-write of the analysis that happened for the initial agreement […] the analysis that many of the parties who now voting for it, heavily critiqued. It just makes sense that we should have some independent analysis so we’re able to really look at what this deal would mean for us.”

He added;

“It makes sense because if you’re buying a house […] you wouldn’t just trust what the real estate agent is saying. You’d go and get a builder to look at that house and give you an independent report on what that house would actually be like to live in. If you’re going to do that for an investment like a house, why wouldn’t you do that for something as massive as this agreement which affects all parts of our society and all parts of our economy?”

While Labour and NZ First were noticeably “missing in action” from the protest, the one party in Parliament to stay true to it’s pre-election commitments was prominent;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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One thing that can be said about the Greens – they rarely back-track on what they say.

Following Rick, Lisa McLaren spoke for Generation Zero;

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy

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Lisa raised concerns how the TPPA would impact on climate-change legislation currently being drafted by the Coalition government. Her speech was brief but straight to the heart of the matter;

“We’re really lucky because the new government has come in and said they’re going to create this new climate law and they’re going to pass it through next year. In fact it’s being drafted across the road as we speak.

But we’re really concerned about what this new TPP deal will do to this new climate law. What policies are not going to be able to be put in place for future generations to reduce emissions. We’re really, really concerned that there hasn’t been any independent analysis […] We’re calling for the government if they do sign on, to go through that independent process before this deal is ratified. They have the opportunity to do that.”

Lisa raised the very real spectre of future generations being bound by a flawed international agreement;

“Personally, I’m worried about when my kids are in Parliament, I want them to aim for the stars and be the leaders. But I’m really really concerned by what they’re going to be bound by if we don’t get this right. So I’m calling on them to get it right, for my future.”

Other citizens had their messages for the Coalition government;

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Exclusions?

On 9 March, Trade Minister David Parker announced that “side letters” had been signed with five participating nations of the TPPA, prohibiting   investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) lawsuits. The five are;

  • Brunei Darussalam,
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • Viet Nam
  • Australia

Parker announced through a Beehive press statement;

I’m pleased we have been able to make so much progress in just a few months. We haven’t been able to get every country on board, but signing letters with this many CPTPP partners is a real achievement.

He added;

A further two countries, Canada and Chile, have joined New Zealand in a declaration that they will use investor-state dispute settlement responsibly.

A cynic (or realist) would immediately want to know the definition of what constitutes “using investor-state dispute settlement responsibly” ?

The real problem is that the TPPA has eleven signatories – not just the five listed above. The others are;

  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Singapore

Five countries have not agreed to signing “side letters” prohibiting ISDS lawsuits.

It would be a simple matter for a company to relocate it’s Head Office from a signatory-state to a “side letter” (eg, Peru) to a non-signatory state (eg; Mexico).

As Green Party leader James Shaw said on 21 February;

There is the continued existence of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms for some countries and that allows large multi-national companies to what we call ‘jurisdiction shop’ and simply locate where they still have that possibility.”

This is precisely what took place in November 2011, when tobacco corporation Philip Morris sued the Australian government to prevent implementation of plain-packaging laws;

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over a new law making plain packaging mandatory for cigarettes from December 2012.

Australia’s parliament has passed legislation that means all tobacco will need to be sold in plain olive-brown packets with graphic health warnings.

Canberra said the law was “one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history”.

But Philip Morris Asia  said the move breached a bilateral investment treaty.

It said it had served a notice of arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

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Philip Morris Asia said it wanted the legislation to be suspended. It said it would ask for compensation for the billions of dollars it said the new law would cost it.

To carry out it’s law-suit under the 1993 Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty, Philip Morris first had to move it’s registered office from Australia to Hong Kong.

Once that step was accomplished, Philip Morris had the legal right to sue the Australia government using the ISDS provisions of the Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty. Which it did so in 2011.

After a protracted four year court battle, Philip Morris lost its case. But not before the Australian government spent an estimated A$50 million in taxpayers’ money to defend it’s sovereign right to pass health-related legislation. Philip Morris is resisting paying legal costs incurred by the Australian government.

Now imagine a New Zealand government having to stand up against a billion-dollar corporation and spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars dollars to pass legislation to protect the health of it’s citizens.

If the previous National government’s timidity in the face of it’s own proposed plain-packaging legislation in 2016 was any indication, our own politicians may be extremely “risk averse” when it comes to confronting multi-nationals.

When asked if  National would proceed with plain-packaging legislation in the face of potential billion-dollar lawsuits, then-Dear Leader, John Key responded;

Late last year I asked for advice on that matter, and the advice I got back was that they felt we were on very firm ground and didn’t feel there was really any issues.

“No real issues”? Yet Key was cautious enough to tread carefully on the fear-threat of possible litigation;

It was waiting, and I think the view I initially took was given Australia was in the middle of this court case it probably didn’t make sense for us to embark on that, and then potentially face exactly the same costs for the taxpayer in defending another legal action.

National revealed how risk-averse it was to litigation when it caved in the face of an alleged threat to be sued by Saudi Arabian businessman, Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf ;

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told Parliament that Saudi businessman Hmood Alali Alkhalaf had a potential $20m-$30m lawsuit against the New Zealand Government, after he lost money when a ban on live exports for slaughter was continued.

The Government then spent $11.5m setting up a demonstration farm in the Saudi desert, including a $4m facilitation payment to Alkhalaf.

(Side-note: There is now a very real question hanging over Murray McCully’s assertions that the New Zealand government was in fact facing a multi-million dollar  lawsuit from Al Khalaf . It has been suggested that McCully fabricated or exaggerated the whole story.)

New Zealanders have just cause to doubt whether their own government would have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to a multi-national with deep corporate pockets to launch a lawsuit against us.

We caved in the face of French demands to release two agents convicted of sabotage and murder.

We caved to (apparent) threats from Warner Bros to  move production of The Hobbit to another country. (The threat turned out to be baseless – but it nevertheless succeeded in ‘spooking’ the public.)

We (apparently) caved to demands from a lone Saudi businessman.

And then there was this curious event in June 2013, when the Chinese government may have exerted heavy pressure on the National government over a proposed fta with Taiwan – an island-state it considers a “renegade province”;

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The frightening possibility is that we, the public, might never even know if the threat of litigation under ISDS clauses forced a government-of-the-day to comply with demands from a multi-national.

When it comes to political self-interest and corporate “commercial sensitivity”, we have the makings of a toxic brew of secret back-door machinations.

After all, the entire TPPA negotiation was conducted in secrecy. Not exactly an auspicious start for such a supposedly beneficial trade agreement.

And not exactly a good start for Labour and NZ First.

Postscript

At the protest, Bryan Bruce of “Inside Child Poverty” fame, conducting an interview for his latest  documentary-project;

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Based on his past documentaries exposing poverty, homelessness, and growing inequality, an exposé on the TPPA should prove illuminating for middle New Zealanders.

Thank the gods for independent documentary-makers. It will be refreshing to see an investigative doco on the TPPA, even if ‘sandwiched’ between “reality” tv shows such as  My Kitchen Rules, Real Housewives of Eketahuna, The Block, Survivor ‘Wherever’, etc.

Refreshing indeed, to watch some real reality for a change.

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References

Scoop media:  Peters – Post-Election Announcement Speech

Radio NZ:  New TPP deal signed by NZ in Chile

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews David Parker

Radio NZ:  New TPP deal signed by NZ in Chile

Action Station

Generation Zero

Beehive:  New Zealand signs side letters curbing investor-state dispute settlement

Radio NZ:  Greens remain opposed to TPP

BBC:  Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette packaging

NZDRC: 1993 Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty

Sydney Morning Herald:  Australia versus Philip Morris. How we took on big tobacco and won

The Guardian: Secrecy over costs in Philip Morris plain packaging case stokes TPP fears

Fairfax media:  Tobacco plain packaging likely to be law by end of year – John Key

Fairfax media:  Govt accused of telling Saudi businessman to sue

Radio NZ:  Saudi sheep deal – MFAT didn’t provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

SBS News: NZ at risk of losing the Hobbit

NZ Herald:  Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

NZ Herald:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco

Additional

It’s our Future

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: Let’s be clear – when Labour & NZ First sign the TPPA this week – it will be as cheap traitors for less than 30 pieces of silver

The Daily Blog: Open letter to Trade Minister David Parker

The Standard:  TPPA rally at parliament today

The Standard: March 8 2018 – the TPPA and our nuclear free moment

The Standard:  TPP2 – Electric Boogaloo

Previous related blogposts

Key’s TPPA Falsehoods – “We’ve never, ever been sued” ***up-date ***

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA

What’s the beef, guv?

Taiwan FTA – Confirmation by TVNZ of China pressuring the Beehive?

Copyright (c) Notice

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

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

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 March 2018.

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The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

9 February 2018 4 comments

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On 2 November last year – and still smarting from a colossal rebuff from NZ First – Bill English was unabashedly vindictive at losing out on coalition talks to form a fourth National-led administration;

“You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party.

And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs – it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority.

You will get to understand that it is a minority Government with a majority Opposition, and the Greens as the support party. That is how we are going to run it…we have no obligation to smooth [Labour’s] path. None whatsoever.”

Just how difficult English intended for the new Coalition government has been made abundantly clear over the last three months. At every opportunity in front of a live radio microphone, tv camera, or any available passing set of ears, English has carped at every announcement and action undertaken by the Coalition.

National has gone so far as to create an attack-website in Labour-party colours, inciting resentment at the Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition;

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A noticeable feature of this website is a lack any  marker identifying it as a National Party construct. Aside from the authoriser – National’s General Manager, “G Hamilton”, the website shows no obvious affiliation to the Nats.

Not very honest of them, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the National Party: deception to suit their agenda.

English’s  fixation on making National  a disruptive force and to deny the Coalition a “smooth path” landed him with egg on his face on 30 January this year, when he mis-led listeners to Radio NZ’s  Morning Report.

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Speaking to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson, English complained bitterly that he had not been consulted over the Coalition’s government’s Child Poverty Bill;

“ Well we haven’t seen the bill yet. We’ve been offered a official’s briefing today. The day the Bill’s been introduced. So we’ve no ability to influence it. That’s not a good way to influence bi-partisan approach. It’s pretty limited I have to say. So we’ll have a look at it, ah, we want to see it’s more than symbolism…

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Well, they haven’t gone about it in a very sensible way if they want concensus. First we’ve had no [unintelligible word] opportunity to influence the Bill…”

English desperately attempted to deflect the conversation to a purely fiscally-driven narrative;

“ This new government has used up all it’s spare cash according to it’s own limits. And they don’t have much ability actually over the next few years to do anything beyond the first of April this year.

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New Zealand has a fantastic opportunity here. Sustainable surpluses, the ability to lift incomes at the bottom end, the ability to dig in and do the long term investment in dealing with long – with deprivation, and the government is doing it’s best to mess that up.”

However, English’s claim that he and his Party had had no opportunity for consensus-building on this critical issue affecting New Zealand was convincingly demolished that very same afternoon.

Not only had Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern approached National last year, seeking consensus and feedback from National – she had done it in writing;

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[Image courtesy of Radio NZ]

There we have it: in black and white writing. And stamped with the Opposition Leader’s [currently Bill English – but subject to change very shortly] Office; 13 December 2017.

Prime Minister Ardern wrote to English requesting his support for the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill – and seeking his feedback . She did everything feasible to engage English and his Party short of banging on his office door with her high-heels, demanding that he participate;

“ Damn you, Bill! Come out and engage with us!”

English’s obstructionism has either clouded his memory – or he was willfully not telling the truth. The former indicates that his memory is becoming unreliable. The latter, that he is a liar. Neither is a particularly comforting option.

Thankfully, Labour has learned not to trust National.That lesson was firmly driven home for Labour on 8 November last year when National disrupted the election of Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House by threatening to put the issue to a vote and insisting they had the numbers to vote down Mallard’s nomination.

They didn’t. It was a sly bluff;

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Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson negotiate with duplicitous and self-serving National Opposition MPs

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After that debacle, Labour’s Whip, Chris Hipkins promised;

Lesson learnt, they won’t catch us out on that ever again in the future.

Adding;

Perhaps when dealing with the Opposition, I’ll be a little more careful to make sure I get a specific undertaking from them in future.

Indeed. Lesson learned.

Thankfully, a simple little thing like a letter has shown up Bill English to be either unreliable – or willing to engage in outright lying to smear the Coalition.

Postscript1

Bill English condemned the Coalition government’s decision to scrap National’s “Better Public Service” targets, set in 2012, and revised in 2017. The initial targets were set to:

  • Reducing long-term welfare dependence
  • A good start to life for mothers and babies
  • Reduce assaults and abuse of children
  • Improve mathematics and literacy skills and upskill the New Zealand workforce
  • Reducing crime
  • Better access to social housing
  • Improving interaction with government

The Labour-led coalition has decided to do away with National’s “Better Public Service” targets and instead opted to focus on Child poverty. This did not sit well with Bill English, who complained bitterly;

[The targets] meant that when New Zealand’s public servants turned up to work they knew exactly what it was they should be doing to improve lives and to do their jobs better – and they, along with the Government, were held to account because their results were measured.

It’s a step backwards to lazy, dumb Government.

The public service was starting to get good at digging into our hardest long term social problems: child abuse, family violence, serious criminal offending, and long term welfare dependency.

Instead, we are likely to see a shift to higher-level longer-term targets that apply to no one in particular and for which no one in particular can be held accountable and that’s not good enough.

I think there will be a lot of public servants who are putting their feet up around the country because now they don’t have to worry too much about achieving much or being accountable. But I think there will be even more public servants disappointed because they had a sense of purpose.

Prime Minister Ardern responded;

“ We will in the longer term absolutely be replacing those Better Public Service targets. Our view always has been that those targets didn’t give us the systemic change that we need for some of those big issues that the country faces.

Unfortunately for English, the most devastating critique of his so-called “Better Public Service” targets came not from a left-wing Prime Minister – but from one of his own Cabinet Ministers in July 2016.

When asked on TV3’s The Nation  about National’s failure to move 65,000 people off the benefit within the next two years – one of the “Better Public Service” targets – then MSD Minister Anne Tolley replied;

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It’s a very aspirational target.

So Bill English is upset that targets – which are, at best, only “very aspirational” – are being dumped?

It is unclear why he is so wedded to targets when they are only “very aspirational“, according to one of his former Ministers. Minister Tolley was able to easily dismiss National’s  “Better Public Service” targets with barely an explanation.

Aspirational is meaningless if not backed up by legislation and measureable standards.

Such as the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill.

Perhaps Bill English should become “more aspirational“?

Postscript2

English’s pathological opposition to the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill can be better understood when one understands that National policies have actively contributed to growing homelessness and increasing child poverty.

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

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

In nine years, National sold off thousands of state homes – a policy that continued until a housing crisis forced families to live in over-crowded houses; run-down “boarding houses”  garages, and cars.

National’s desperate attempt to stave off increasingly horrifying stories of hardship and poverty forced them to enter… the motel business;

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If Mr English appears to have difficulty supporting the Coalition’s Child Poverty Bill, perhaps it’s because he knows his government is partly responsible for the current poverty-stricken state of the country today.

He knows National did not have to sell off 7,400 state houses.

He knows National need not have squeezed a staggering $664 million out of Housing NZ by way of annual dividends over a seven year period.

He knows that the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 benefitted the wealthy predominantly, whilst increasing gst and raising user-pays part-charges for prescription medicines impacted disproportionately on the poorest people of this country.

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Those are amongst National’s legacies after nine years. Policies that benefitted the well-off; placated the comfortable Middle Classes; and made life harder for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

His guilt must be so deep-seated that English is only able to deal with it by continually criticising those who are willing to clean up the mess left after nine years of National.

Christian guilt can be a terrible, debilitating thing.

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References

NZ Herald:  Bill English warns Labour: ‘it’s not our job to make this place run’

National Party: Lets Undo This

Beehive:  Taking action to reduce child poverty

Radio NZ:  English on government’s child poverty legislation

Radio NZ:  PM ‘saddened’ at claims Nats not consulted on poverty Bill

TVNZ:  Anne Tolley still gets nod as Deputy Speaker despite Nats ruthlessly attacking Labour

NZ Herald:  Labour and National face off in Parliament opening over Speaker vote

Beehive:  New Better Public Services targets

MSD:  Better Public Services

Fairfax media: Bill English slams Government for getting rid of public service targets

Scoop media:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Bill English, Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata

NZ Herald: Anne Tolley – Government’s benefits target ‘very aspirational’

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

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

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Additional

Gordon Campbell on the battle over select committees

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Bill your pants may be on fire

Previous related blogposts

Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr English – Social Services under National’s tender mercies

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

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

National continues to panic on housing crisis as election day looms

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 February 2018.

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Handouts to the Racing Industry? So no more homeless then?!

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Deputy PM, Racing Minister, and de facto godfather, Winston Peters  announced on Sunday (28 January) that the New Zealand racing industry was due for tax-cuts for horse breeders and a taxpayer-funded all-weather horse racing track;

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He’s promising the racing industry a multi-million dollar track that can be used even when its pouring with rain. Mr Peters says it is expected to cost around $10 million to construct.

It comes as several races throughout the country had to be abandoned.

The Minister says both taxpayers and the industry will be helping to pay for the new track.

Mr Peters is also promising tax relief for owners who are breeding horses for racing. He says the current legislation, which he delivered last time he was Racing Minister, isn’t working like it should.

This, at a time when homelessness in this country has been steadily rising since the 2006 Census;

The number of homeless people in New Zealand rose between the last two Census counts, a new study says.

The University of Otago study, which is based on Census data, said one in 100 were homeless in 2013, compared with one in 120 in 2006 and one in 130 in 2001.

The study used the Government’s official definition of homeless, which is people living in severely crowded houses, in motels, boarding houses, on the street or in cars.

Between 2006 and 2013, the rise in homeless people outstripped population growth.  New Zealand’s population grew by 4.8 per cent over this period, while the number of homeless grew by 25 per cent.

As Prime Minister Ardern said on TV3’s The Nation on 21 October last year;

“When you have a market economy, it all comes down to whether or not you acknowledge where the market has failed and where intervention is required. Has it failed our people in recent times? Yes. How can you claim you’ve been successful when you have growth roughly 3 percent, but you’ve got the worst homelessness in the developed world?”

For Winston Peters to be offering tax-breaks and taxpayer funded covered racetracks, at a time of critical need for boosting funding for housing, hospitals, mental healthcare, and other services is a return to the corporate cronyism we’ve experienced for the last nine years under National.

National’s corporate cronyism has included;

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There is probably more. National’s nine years in office has been less free-market and more corporate welfare than Muldoonism at it’s height. They’ve simply been more adept at hiding it.

In 2013, when it came to throwing taxpayers’ dollars at The Hobbit, Winston Peters was scathing at National’s corporate welfare  largesse;

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Peters even demanded that Warner Bros repay taxpayer’s money;

“Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers.”

After all the criticisms from Labour and NZ First at National’s corporate welfarism, the Coalition government has succumbed to the same folly of throwing money – our money! – at multi-million dollar businesses.

For an industry sector that turns over $1.6 billion, it beggars belief that they have their corporate hands out for taxpayer largesse and tax breaks. What other industry will be receiving tax breaks? Tourism? Wine and beer producers? Why not our nascent computer-gaming industry? Or Rocketlabs?

Key must be laughing his head off at this fiasco. After all the ‘stick’ given to Key and his National government for their corporate welfare, the Labour-led coalition have engaged in the same practice – only three months into their first term.

Was there no one with sufficient political nouse in Labour or NZ First’s Parliamentary offices to express reservations over this daft plan? That giving tax-dollars and tax-breaks to a “sport” enjoyed by predominantly affluent New Zealanders is not a particularly good idea? Especially when Labour and NZ First (and the Greens) made so much of New Zealand’s housing crisis during last year’s election campaign?

In effect, Peters has just handed the National Opposition a bloody big stick with which to whack the Coalition over their  heads. English and his minions will be gleefully strategising over how they can best use this corporate welfare to attack the Coalition.

National’s strategists have already started by launching this attack-website carrying negative messages;

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Side-note: Interestingly, the website is done in Labour Party colours – not National’s own blue livery. The National Party is not even directly mentioned anywhere on the main page. (Though the “Privacy Policy” link will take you to the National Party website. The authorisation statement is by “G. Hamilton”, National’s General Manager – though few people would know that.)

The racing industry has complained that a covered race-track is essential to allow all-weather events to be held. If so, let the racing industry pay for it. The “Sport of Kings” should not be paid from the taxes of hard-working New Zealanders who expect essential services in health, education, conservation, housing, mental health, policing, etc from their hard-earned tax-dollars. Not enhancing horse-racing facilities.

For perhaps the first (and hopefully the only) time, I find myself nodding in agreement with far-right blogger and former Libertarian/ACT candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, when she wrote her own critique of Peters’ plans;

Today [28 January] Racing Minister Winston Peters apparently promised an all weather track at the cost of $10 million (double it for starters) and either promised or called for tax breaks because the industry (breeding in particular) brings in so much money.

If tax breaks can make one industry stronger, then they can make any industry stronger.

Government picking winners is a recipe for corruption and injustice. We cannot expect New Zealanders who have not a skerrick of interest in the racing industry to disproportionately pay taxes to advance it.

Tax breaks are not subsidies if they are applied universally. Reduce tax period.

You are a guardian of public money Winston. Not a private investor.

On the upside, I am looking forward to our Prime anti-poverty crusader getting it in the neck today over her government’s support for “rich pricks”.

I, for one, will not be defending this policy from criticism from the Right. Because with thousands of New Zealanders homeless and struggling in poverty, it is indefensible. Absolutely, utterly, indefensible.

If the Coalition government wants to assist the racing industry, and they are incapable of raising their own funds, then a suitable compromise is  available. The State could easily borrow on behalf of the racing industry and on-lend to the appropriate racing club. Governments with good credit ratings can generally borrow at lower interest rates than from the commercial banking sector.

But it would have to be paid back.

The responsibility of this Coalition government is simple: Putting roofs over homeless families.

Not roofs over race tracks.

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References

NZ Herald:   Jacinda Ardern arrives at Ratana Pa in first visit by Labour PM since Clark

TVNZ:   Winston Peters announces a multi-million dollar all weather horse racing track is on the way

NZ Herald:  Homelessness rising in New Zealand

Mediaworks:  Homelessness proves capitalism is a ‘blatant failure’ – Jacinda Ardern

Fairfax media: Government denies MediaWorks loan

NZ Herald:  Filling the Cup – cost $500m and climbing

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

Fairfax media:  Federated Farmers say moving to ETS will cost primary industry $83m

Radio NZ:  Saudi sheep deal – MFAT didn’t provide legal advice on lawsuit risk

Interest.co.nz: Key says Government won’t add to NZ$30 million of support given to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Pt open

Fairfax media: $191m in public grants paid to Hollywood for Hobbit trilogy

Fairfax media:  Government called on to stand by existing irrigation contracts

Radio NZ:  Government defends Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax media:  Peters – Hobbit subsidy should be handed back

Otago Daily Times:  Peters signals intention to make ‘positive changes’

National Party: Let’s Undo This

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters back at helm of racing as a return to the old days is heralded

Youtube: Bad Taste

Other Blogs

Lindsay Mitchell:  Winston picking winners

Previous related blogposts

National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

“National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare”

Corporate Welfare under National

The Corporate Welfare of Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 January 2018.

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Professor Bill English lectures young New Zealanders on free education

25 January 2018 4 comments

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The new Labour-led Coalition is preparing to implement it’s election promise of one year free tertiary education, planned to start this year.  By 2024, Labour plans to increase free tertiary education to three years. As their website points out;

Government investment in tertiary education and training has fallen and so has participation. In 2010, 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds were in tertiary education or training, but by 2015 (the latest data) that had dropped to 35 per cent.

Despite Labour’s interest-free loans, cost remains a major barrier to post-school education. 65 per cent of parents list cost as a reason young people do not go into post-school learning, and 44 per cent of students report they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. The cost barrier comprises both fees, which are up over 40 per cent since 2008, and rising living costs such as rent.

Study debt holds people back for years after they leave education. On average, people take eight years to clear their debt. Repayments make it harder to save and this is a contributing factor in plummeting home ownership among under 40s.

Education minister, Chris Hipkins has stated that apprentices and industry trainees will receive two years of fees-free training as their courses are not fulltime.

User-pays (even partially) in tertiary education has been  one of the cornerstones of neo-liberalism. Prior to 1990, tertiary education was mostly free. After 1990, Universities began charging fees for tuition. In 1992, the Student Loan Scheme was enacted.

Fees have even been rising in secondary school education – traditionally considered free for users –  under the guise of “donations”.  Under-funding of the education system has been so bad that schools have been “caught masking voluntary donations as school fees“. As  Palmerston North Boys’ High School rector, David Bovey, revealed in September 2016;

“We could not exist in our current form on the Ministry of Education Operation Grant. Thus, we really do rely on the goodwill of parents to support what we do.”

Between 2000 and 2015 “voluntary donations” to state schools amounted to more than  $1 billion.  Some schools  drew more than $2 million in so-called “voluntary donations” in a year.

The notion of free education in this country has become like our “clean and green” environment and “100% Pure” rivers: a fiction. New Zealanders are deluding themselves if they believe education is still free.

The Labour-led coalition’s policy of gradually increasing free tertiary education will be the un-picking of twentyeight years of neo-liberal user-pays in the education sector.

The Right are not happy.

Bill English – currently filling in his duties as Leader of the Opposition until he is rolled – was scathing and irrational in his condemnation of the Coalition’s free first year plans. On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, he responded to questioning regarding the Coalition’s planned education reforms, saying;

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@ 6.01:

“ The free first year of tertiary education that’s free was explained to us as, um, y’know being paid for by getting rid of what was the tax cuts that were on the books, was explained to us in Parliament as MPs didn’t need the thousand dollars a year. Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

“Poorly targetted”?

How can free tertiary education be “poorly targetted” when it will be focused on New Zealanders wanting further education; on-going training; to be better equipped for the rapidly evolving needs of the 21st Century?

How can it be any more “poorly targetted” than the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 – and National’s planned tax cuts for this year – that gave massive windfalls of cash to the highest income earners? As Audrey Young reported in the NZ Herald in February 2010;

Herald calculations on the basis of one of the scenarios in the tax working group report (cutting personal tax rates to 30c, 19c and 10.5c) would see someone on $50,000 get about $12 a week net, taking into account higher prices with the GST increase.

A person on $90,000 would get about $50 more a week.

Mr Key has defended his plan against accusations it is skewed to the rich and is light on boldness.

On top of which, the tax-cuts for the wealthy and high-income earners was funded partly by raising GST from 12.5 to 15% – a move impacting on low-income earners the most. Increases in user-pays such as increased prescription charges in January 2013 (from $3 to $5) also hit low-income families and individuals the hardest.

According to research carried out by the Parliamentary Library, the 2010 tax cuts alone cost the country $2 billion.

But according to Bill English, helping young people to achieve academic and training goals is “poorly targetted”.

Bill English is the same politician who, in the last few years, has consistently  denigrated young people and workers in this country.

In 2016;

“ A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

Last year;

“ One of the hurdles these days is just passing a 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.”

And again in December year;

Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”

English’s contemptuous disdain for workers and young New Zealanders is apparent for all to see.

It should be remembered though, that (according to Wikipedia) Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1991/92.

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

This blogger wondered if his (near-)free tertiary education was “poorly targetted”? So I wrote to Mr English, seeking his clarification on matters that have arisen from his interview and comments;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Bill English <bill.english@parliament.govt.nz>
date: 18 January 2018
subject: Radio NZ interview – some follow-up questions

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Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament
Wellington

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Kia Ora Mr English,

On 17 January, on Radio NZ’s Summer Report, you criticised the Coalition government’s programme to implement one year free university for students and two years free trades courses for apprentices, and industry trainees as “poorly targetted”.

You were highly disparaging of the policy, complaining that;

“ …Well, in my case they’ve handed my household now six thousand dollars a year! Because we have someone eligible for the first year of free education. So it’s a very expensive, very poorly targetted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, a couple of thousand more people into tertiary education. I think that’s what the officials have said. So it would’ve been better if they didn’t implement it. ’cause it’s a hugely expensive way to get a few more people into polytech.”

Can you confirm the following points relating to this issue:

1. That you yourself received a near-free university education whilst studying commerce at the University of Otago, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington?

2. That you received a student allowance whilst studying?

3. That subsequent to the economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s, that you paid less and less tax through subsequent tax cuts in those decades as well as 2009 and 2010?

4. That the (near-)free university education you yourself enjoyed was poorly targetted?

5. That you have benefitted doubly by next-to-nothing university fees as well as increased income through multiple tax cuts? And no student debt to pay off?

6. That young New Zealanders have not enjoyed the same benefits of a (near-)free tertiary education that you yourself had in the 1980s?

I look forward to any response you may have to shed light on this issue.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Any response from Mr English will be reported in an up-date on this story.

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References

NZ Herald:  About 80,000 expected to get fees-free study in 2018

NZ Labour Party:  Making tertiary education and training affordable for all

Productivity Commission: History of tertiary education reforms in New Zealand (p3)

Fairfax media:  Under-pressure schools get dodgy with donations

Radio NZ:  Live – Opposition leader Bill English (alt.link)

NZ Herald:  Tax cuts – High earners set to benefit most

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Previous related blogposts

Mr English: Where are National’s secret coalition negotiation papers?

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

8 January 2018 2 comments

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Jamiebaby want Yum-Yums!!

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As  Parliament recently debated the new government’s Families Package Bill, some National MPs were increasingly upset that Urgency had briefly taken the debate into their precious lunch period;

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Jamie Lee-Ross became hysterical at the prospect of his ‘lunchies’ being delayed, and screamed at the Parliamentary Chair, Adrian Rurawhe;

“ Point of order, point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, point of order. This is outrageous, I have a right to raise a point of order. We have gone past 1 o’clock. It is in the Standing Orders of this Parliament, that there is the break for the lunch break.”

As blogger  “Micky Savage” aptly put it for The Standard;

“ But with a late showing Moore’s antics were put to one side and National’s Jami Lee-Ross is this week’s doofus of the week. He earned this prize after putting on a huge hissy fit in Parliament after his lunch hour was delayed by 5 minutes. Refusing to accept Jacinda Ardern’s hope for a bi partisan effort to address child poverty is bad enough, trying to stonewall the enacting bill’s passage through the house was even worse, but throwing a temper tantrum because your lunch hour has been slightly delayed takes the cake.

Watch the video and marvel at the intensity of the temper tantrum thrown by him in raising the point of order. If my three year old behaved like this I would be embarrassed.”

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The  irony should not be lost on us all that the Families Package Bill – once passed – would help lift an estimated 88,000 families out of the trap that is poverty.  This trap being one of neo-liberalism’s most vile legacies.

385,000 families would receive an extra $75 a week for groceries, power, accommodation, and other necessities that make the difference between living in dignity – or desperation.

If successful, this one single policy will be a crowning achievement for Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party. The coalition would have done more in a couple of months what National failed to achieve in nine years.

It is true that National MPs’s lunch was indeed delayed. But only because of their own constant filibustering, to stall passage of the bill, as reported by Fairfax’s Laura Walters;

Rurawhe stopped MPs from delivering their points of order because he believed they were “repetitive and trivial”, and were being used by MPs to re-litigate the same points, in an effort to filibuster the Families Package (Income and Tax Benefits) Bill.

The obscenity of this ploy is hard to overlook; right-wing MPs obstructing a bill to alleviate poverty and then complaining their lunch was being delayed.

This is the soulless nature of the National Party. They are prepared to play political games and indulge in childish petty point-scoring – even though  it obstructs efforts to alleviate poverty in this country.

Even more scandalous is that no one in the mainstream media (including the much vaunted Radio NZ) has picked up this crass and utterly selfish abuse of parliamentary process.

But an even more twisted irony is Jamie Lee-Ross complaining about an industrial relations matter; a lunch break. More than one commentator on Fairfax, The Standard, and elsewhere have pointed out Lee-Ross’s hypocrisy on this issue. From  Fairfax’s comments section;

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From the Youtube comments;

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And from The Standard;

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And they’re all correct.  Jami-Lee Ross has a vindictive, hostile view of trade unions.In January 2012, Ross was scathing of the Maritime Union in it’s dispute with Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland…

[…]

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

In 2013, during the POAL-Maritime Union dispute,  Ross admitted that he had been colluding with Ports of Auckland management to draft his proposed  strike-breaking legislative amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill.The Bill would have permitted scab labour to be hired to replace striking workers.

On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June 2013, Ross confirmed that he had been in talks with employers during the height of the industrial dispute between the POAL and MUNZ (Maritime Union);

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The questioning from Rachel Smalley elicited revelations that Ross has discussed his Bill with Ports of Auckland, in direct response to the strike at the time;

@3.26, Smalley asked Ross,

Where does this Bill have it’s origins? 

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… is it on the wharves of the Ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?

Ross  deflected, obviously realising that his collusion with POAL management had been uncovered. @4.00 Smalley repeated her direct questioning, not willing to let Ross off-the-hook with mealy-mouthed platitudes about “protecting low paid workers” and “freedom of choice” bullshit;

Have you discussed this Bill with the Ports of Auckland?

Caught in the vice of her softly-spoken questions, Ross admitted the obvious;

Oh a long time ago, ah, that was an issue that was raised…

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… Oh might have been when the industrial dispute was in full swing. ”

When asked by Smalley , “What was the Port’s input into the Bill?“, Ross confirmed  POAL’s involvement;

The Ports indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike they’re unable to keep their business going, in the same manner that able to before.

It is hardly a mystery that National and big business connive together to suppress union activity in industrial relations. For the first time, though, New Zealanders watched  a Tory MP admit admit this collusion, in full public view. (For which Ross probably received a right royal bollicking from his Ministerial superiors.)

Unsurprisingly, as it became clear that Ross’s Bill was weaponised legislation,with the aim of curtailing union influence, it was defeated on it’s first Reading in November 2013.

However, National’s successor to Ross’s doomed Bill – the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 – passed through all stages of Parliament and made law by Assent by November 2014.

As well as the notorious  “Continuity of employment – Part 6A” section (which denied guaranteed continuity of employment for workers if a small/medium business changed ownership), the  new provisions attacked workers’ conditions such as meal breaks. The power to reduce or remove meal breaks was handed to the employer on a…well… plate.

Even MoBIE could not sugar-coat the “flexibility” of the so-called “reforms” and it became clear that employers could dictate when and how (if at all) employers had meal breaks;

The changes say:

  • when employers can make reasonable restrictions on rest and meal breaks
  • employers can specify when breaks are taken, if employees and employers cannot agree on when and how long breaks should be
  • that an employer is exempt from giving breaks – when employees agree to reasonable compensation or where the employer cannot reasonably give the employee rest and meal breaks

Given National’s anti-union legislation where bosses now call the shots on meal breaks, it appears that  the new work environment is not to Jamie-Lee Ross’ liking. He wants his dinner and was prepared to throw a full-blown screaming ‘tanty’ to get it.

But as ‘Mickeysavage’ pointed out on The Standard;

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Let’s not forget that the legislation being debated at the time was Labour’s Family Package – a package estimated to lift an estimated 88,000 families out of poverty.

It would mean thousands of children having more food to eat; not going to school hungry; able to learn better in the classroom; able to get ahead in life, and be given a decent chance to succeed.

But National was too busy playing political games – “filibustering”. Not only were they delaying their own dinner break – they were prepared to deny impoverished families additional income. This is the depths to which National’s members of Parliament are prepared to go: politicking at the expense of the poor.

But not to panic, folks.

Jamie-Lee Ross eventually had a very nice meal.

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References

IRD:  Families Package Bill introduced

Radio NZ:  Delayed lunch break brings out hangry MPs

Fairfax media:  Long days and busy schedules start to get to MPs

NZ Herald:  Tempers flare in Parliament as families’ package debate drags out

Youtube:  Families Package (Income Tax and Benefits) Bill- Committee Stage- Part 1 – Video 53

Scoop media:  Union biting the hand that feeds – Jamie Lee-Ross

Parliament: Bills Digest – Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill 2013 (Member’s Bill)

Youtube: Ports behind bill

Parliament:  Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

MoBIE:   Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act]

Parliament:  Continuity of employment – Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act] – Rest and Meal Breaks

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Doofus of the week – Jami Lee-Ross

Previous related blogposts

Harbour battles & casual fear

Confirmed: National welcomes low-wage economy

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 January 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

6 January 2018 3 comments

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Bill English has low hopes for young New Zealanders.

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Bill English – putting the peasantry in their place

When born-to-rule Tories – with a bloated sense of self-worth and entitlement – slip up and let us peasants know how they really view us – it is usually unsurprising to most on the Left.

Take, for example, Bill English’s candid admission that New Zealand’s lower wage rates were beneficial when it came to competing with Australia. On 10 April  2011, in an exchange with Guyon Espiner on TVNZ’s Q+A, English boasted of the benefits of low wages;

GUYON 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 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.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL 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.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact. We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing. This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia. That’s lifting the standard. They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL 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.

Perhaps realising he had dug a hole for himself, English added at the end; “…  and lift incomes“. Though of course, if “incomes lifted”, New Zealand workers would no longer be competitive with their  Australian cuzzies, according to his Bizarro-world “logic”.

In 2016,  at a Federated Farmers meeting in Feilding, English probably felt “at home” and sufficiently comfortable in his surroundings to let his guard down. English attacked workers again, trashing them as “hopeless“;

“A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

A year later, English took a further swipe at New Zealand workers, effectively labelling them en-masse as “druggies. On 27 February 2017, he told the Parliamentary press;

“One of the hurdles these days is just passing a 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.”

English’s startling (and offensive) generalisation came as a response to questions why National was allowing a flood of immigrant workers when 140,000 local workers remained unemployed.

Blaming others is de rigueur for National when facing one of their countless failures;

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Some more blame-gaming;

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And yet more…

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Not satisfied with those digs at workers and the unemployed, English made it clear only four days before Christmas precisely what he thought of young people bettering themselves through higher education. Responding to Labour’s enactment of their election promise for one year’s free tertiary education – English lamented that “Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”;

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That’s right, folks. Bill English’s ambition for young New Zealanders is to get a job at McDonalds; work hard; and  – stay there. No higher education for you mini-peasants!

McDonalds New Zealand realised immediatley the implications of English’s derisory comment and quickly fired out a statement countering the former-Prime Minister;

“We don’t expect to see much impact as a result of the Government’s free fees policy.”

When a major business contradicts National – the political party ostensibly representing the interests of business – you know Bill English has screwed up. Essentially his brain was in ‘neutral’ when his mouth opened and words tumbled out.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that English is so harsh in his criticism. Labour’s one year free tertiary education is only the beginning. It heralds a gradual return to what  New Zealanders once enjoyed: near-free tertiary education.

It is another cog removed from the creaking neo-liberal system as it is dismantled, piece-by-rotten-piece.

Postscript

According to Wikipedia;

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1992.

That means Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

A job at McDonalds awaits him.

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References

Scoop media:  Guyon Espiner interviews Finance Minister, Bill English

Fairfax media:  Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Mediaworks:  Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’ – Bill English

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Kiwi workers are pretty damned hopeless – says Bill English

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

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 1 January 2018.

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= fs =