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Rebuilding the Country we grew up in – Little’s Big Task ahead

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1949-state-house-in-taita b

 

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2007: John Key says Housing is in crisis

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On 20 August 2007, National’s new leader, John Key, made a stirring speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he lambasted the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

(Hat-tip: Bert)

In 2007, Key described “home affordability and ownership” as a “crisis”.

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2016: John Key says Housing is a more like a “challenge”

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Almost exactly five years, one of my first blogposts involved the looming housing crisis. On 3 August, 2011, I wrote;

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way?

That was five years ago.

The housing crisis appears to have only recent dawned on National ministers. As Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett  said on 25 May this year;

“Certainly what we’ve seen is it has been more acute in the last two years.”

It is most certainly not a recent problem.  It is only “new” if you are a well-paid National minister, living in a tax-payer-funded residence.

In my blogpost five years ago, I offered a solution to the housing crisis confronting this country;

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. …]

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

[…]

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

National has been half-hearted in it’s will to address this crisis. It has implemented a few lukewarm, ad hoc measures, but they are five years too late and too little.

Some of National’s announcements have been panic-driven;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders - interest

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At other times, National has indulged in it’s favourite past-time of “blame-gaming”;

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housing crisis - national - blame game

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By 2016, under Key’s watch, homelessness has increased; housing affordability has worsened, and home ownership has plummeted. Our esteemed Dear Leader no longer calls it a “crisis“. It is now just a “challenge“;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly.”

“There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

Make no mistake, this is a direct consequence of National’s laissez-faire approach and an opportunistic reliance on mass immigration to keep the economy afloat at a time when dairying is no longer the main driver of economic growth.

By any definition, National’s “hands off” approach to housing – whether social housing for the poor or affordable housing for the Middle Classes – has been an abject failure.

The mood for change has never been as palpable since the dying days of the Shipley-led National government in 1999.

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The Labour Response

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On 10 July, Labour leader Andrew Little congratulated Labour on it’s 100th year birthday. He also put the boot firmly and fairly up National’s backside for it’s hopeless track record on housing.

If the supply of food were in short-supply and expensive as is housing for poor and middle-class New Zealanders, there would be rioting in the streets by now. By morning there would be a revolutionary government sitting in the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and Key and his ministerial cronies would be in hiding, exile, or under arrest.

Little began with a brief, but accurate refresher course in New Zealand history;

“We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.”

Little omitted Labour’s de-railing in the 1980s at the hands of a small cadre of Neo-liberal fifth columnists. They who delivered our country into the hands of  global finance. They who were the  authors of a failed economic experiment that caused generations of misery, and rewarded the top 10% with unearned wealth. They whose names will pass into history and be quietly forgotten.

This was a moment where Little – like his predecessor David Cunliffe –   turned his back on neo-liberalism and announced to the country that the experiment was over. Labour would take back the reigns of responsibility for ensuring housing for all;

“After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.”

A few salient statistics drove home the worsening crisis to anyone who needed convincing;

“Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%.

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

[…]

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.”

Little went on to explain how the housing crisis went in tandem with other worsening social indicators;

“And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don’t have space. And there’s not much light because it would waste the battery.”

These are matters raised that Labour’s opponants on the Right cannot easily dismiss or explain away. These are real events from real New Zealanders living under the currently all-too-real neo-liberal system.

Increasing child poverty; income/wealth disparity; and a worsening housing crisis – all of which are the spawn of thirty years of neo-liberalism.

Those who maintain that poverty has deepened because the “market” has not been sufficiently de-regulated, nor government reduced, nor taxes sufficiently cut, need to ask themselves; “At what point does an experiment that is showing no signs of positive improvement have to be concluded as an abject failure”?

As Little demanded from the party-faithful;

“When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?”

Little then laid out what he called Labour’s comprehensive plan to take to the  election next year. He said that a Labour government would;

 

  • …urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year. With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

 

  • …reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

 

  • …will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

 

  • …will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace. We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis. The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable. The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

 

  • …ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock..

 

  • …will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it. That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

 

  • …will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

 

Perhaps Labour’s most audacious plan is to set up a new “Affordable Housing Authority”.

If one reads his speech a certain way, he is planning on reviving a newer, 21st century version of the old Ministry of Works (which was privatised by National in late 1996.) If so, it could be the most direct  way to build houses for people in desperate need.

Considering that most of this country’s infra-structure was built by the old Ministry of Works (or similar state bodies), including the telecommunications systems being used to upload this blogpost onto this website, it would not be a far-stretch of the imagination that it could be done again.

If so, this wasn’t just a speech – it was a Manifesto for the Last Rites of Neo-liberalism.

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Property Investors throw their toys out of the cot

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The reactionary response from the NZ Property Investors Federation was utterly predictable. They were miffed. All of a sudden, their tax-free pot of gold was about to be denied to them

The Federation’s executive officer, Andrew King, bleated like a spoiled brat who had just been told to share his toys;

“In one part of his speech, he said there were homeless people and people living in overcrowded conditions and they wanted to do something about that.  How does making it harder to provide rental homes to these people achieve it? Unbelievable.”

It may have escaped King’s somewhat narrow-attention, but homelessness and over-crowding has worsened during the time that his members have enjoyed spectacular tax-free gains. What were they doing in the last eight years?

He also compared businesses, shares, and farms with housing;

“No other investment is like that. If you do the same with a farm, with shares, with a business, all of those wouldn’t be affected, just rental properties – it’s just wrong.”

Generally speaking, people do not live in “shares”,  “businesses”, or farm paddocks (yet). People live in houses. That is the critical difference.

On top of which, astronomical rents are directly contributing to homelessness and over-crowding;

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High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

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So to whine that, all of a sudden, Labour’s housing policies will “ make it harder to provide rental homes to these [homeless] people” is contemptible.

His members should be held to account for their part in our housing crisis. The sooner that a capital gains tax is introduced at the same rate as New Zealand’s company tax (28 cents in the dollar), the better.

Mr King’s absurd “pity me” comments have crossed the borderline into territory commonly known as;

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hypocrisy definition

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National discovers Problem & Solution!

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Last year, as stories of homelessness; over-crowding; fewer available  Housing NZ homes; and worsening housing affordability began to make headlines around the country,  National was grabbing money from a government department tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people in our society;

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Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

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In all, National has raked in over half a billion dollars from Housing NZ;

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

See more here: National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Labour took dividends as well, around a third of National’s figure. The difference between the two is that Labour builds State housing, whilst National continually flogs them off.

This amounts to looting a critical government organisation that is akin to thieving from a charity.

This year’s 2016 Budget indicated that Housing NZ would pay a  dividend  of $38 million  and $54 million next year, for 2017.

Twenty four hours after Andrew Little gave his speech to the country, Housing NZ suddenly announced no dividends would be paid for the next two years;

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RNZ - Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

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Labour’s Grant Robertson offered his rationale for National’s policy U-Turn;

“The first we hear from National that they suddenly believe Housing New Zealand needs to retain that money to invest in state houses is the morning after an announcement by the Labour Party that Housing New Zealand will never be required [by Labour] to provide a dividend to the government.

This is not a coincidence, this is a panicked, desperate response from the government.

What we know is that National has extracted dividends from Housing New Zealand over recent years and it’s quite clear that National has seen Housing New Zealand as a cash cow in the past.”

Bill English refuted allegations that National was panicking over Labour’s housing announcement only 24 hours previously;

“It’s nothing to do with Labour and the Greens. This is a $20 billion entity – you don’t come up with capital plans for the next five years because Labour puts out a press release.”

He also denied that National was  looting Housing NZ;

“We don’t accept that taking the dividend is stealing from state housing, because the dividend is not the constraint on what gets built…

…If there was less dividend, we’d just put in more capital – it’s not driven by the availability of the cash.”

National takes money in the form of dividends and taxes  from Housing NZ – whilst non-government charities are tax-free? And he earnestly claims it is not “stealing”?!

English then issued the most ridiculous explanation ever heard, that the figures in this year’s May 26 Budget “appear to be based on older HNZ numbers dating from almost a year ago“.

Yeah, right, Bill.

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flying-pig-clipart-1

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Is the Finance Minister really expecting New Zealanders to believe that the government’s May 2016 budget was full of inaccurate figures?

What is really galling is that Bill English, Steven Joyce, and other National Ministers expect us – the public – to believe this rubbish. It is revealing just how stupid they think we are.

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Who is in charge anyway?!

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Whenever National implements unpopular legislative changes, they often point to Labour having carried out similar policies.

In 2014, National “borrowed” Labour’s policy by implementing free health-care for children under 13.

Last year, National raised benefits by $25 (to take effect this year) for people on welfare.

This year, having their ‘hand forced’ by Labour’s housing policy, the Nats have cancelled dividends from Housing NZ for the next two years.

National seems to be highly influence by Labour.

Which  raises the question; who is actually setting policy and governing the country? Because it appears we almost have a de facto Labour Government pulling the strings.

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A Cautionary Note for Labour

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 July, Corin Dann quizzed Andrew Little on Labour’s policy toward Housing NZ tenants. Corin  Dann specifically asked Little about whether or not tenants should have state houses for life;

Corin Dann: You talk about state houses – an extra thousand state houses. Does Labour believe that someone should have a state house for life?

Andrew Little: I think we think when people are in circumstances where they can’t afford to buy their own home, can’t afford to rent, they’ve got to have a home. They’ve got to have a home, get their life on track, underway.

Corin Dann: Do they have it for life?

Andrew Little: If they’re at a point in their life where their circumstances have changed, and actually, they can afford to buy, my view is I would rather work with them to get them to buy that house so we could then release some funds to build the next state house.

Corin Dann: So you keen National’s policy? They don’t keep them for life?

Andrew Little: Well, I don’t agree with the policy that says we’ll target elderly people on fixed incomes in a state house and see if we can toss them out. That’s not a solution to anything. But what I would say is people who have gone into a state house early, got their lives sorted out,…

Corin Dann: They should move on if they can.

Andrew Little: …the circumstances are right, if we can sell that house to them, why wouldn’t we? And use the funds then to build the next state house for the next vulnerable person.

Selling State houses to tenants is text-book privatisation policy for National, and was a prime plank for the Bolger and  Shipley-led governments in the  1990s.

It is a dangerous road for a Labour government to go down.

Selling a state house to a tenant may seem a kindly gesture from a  benevolent left-wing government.

But eventually a National-led government will be elected back into power. Their track record on selling State houses is evident and they would have no hesitation in taking a Labour policy of selling State housing to tenants and expanding on it.

This is thin-edge-of-the-wedge, slippery-slope stuff.

This is mis-guided to the extreme, and will provide a future right-wing government a ready-made policy to act upon. And not in a nice way.

If Labour is serious in returning to it’s social democratic roots, it would do well to think carefully before embarking on such a naive policy.

Instead, it should consider the following;

[1] Transience

Transience is one of the greatest problems affecting low-income, poverty-stricken families. Moving from one house to another is debilitating to such families – especially for children.

A government report states that transience for children can have extreme, negative impact on  their learning;

Nearly 3,700 students were recognised as transient during the 2014 year. Māori students were more likely to be transient than students in other ethnic groups.

[…]

Students need stability in their schooling in order to experience continuity, belonging and support so that they stay interested and engaged in learning.

All schools face the constant challenge of ensuring that students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate at school. When students arrive at a school part-way through a term or school year, having been at another school with different routines, this challenge may become greater.

Students have better outcomes if they do not move school regularly. There is good evidence that student transience has a negative impact on student outcomes, both in New Zealand and overseas. Research suggests that students who move home or school frequently are more likely to underachieve in formal education when compared with students that have a more stable school life. A recent study found that school movement had an even stronger effect on educational success than residential movement.

There is also evidence that transience can have negative effects on student behaviour, and on short term social and health experience

Encouraging families to stay long-term in State housing not only creates a sense of community amongst tenants; stability for fragile, vulnerable families,  but assists in the long-term stability and education of children.

Not only is a state house “for-life” fair, it provides real, tangible, long-term benefits.

[2] Guaranteed Tenancy

Low-income, vulnerable families in State housing must be given guaranteed, protected security-of-tenure.

Currently, tenants are exposed to the winds-of-change whenever there is a change in government. Their tenure is at the pleasure of right-wing governments, and mass-evictions have been commonplace under John Key’s administration;

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state housing insecurity

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A progressive government must do all within it’s power to protect such vulnerable families. Otherwise what is the point of throwing out right-wing regimes when their ideologically-driven policies no longer palatable, and well past their Use-By date?

Tenancies must be secured. Either by the use of long-term contracts, enforceable in Courts of law, or by some other means such as entrenched legislation.

Labour-led governments come and go.

But tenancies for our most vulnerable must be protected from the whims of others.

[3] State Housing Protected

As well as protection for tenants of state housing, state houses themselves must be entrenched and protected from the rapaciousness of right-wing governments.

In modern, First World societies, the power of contract is supposedly sacrosanct.

It should not be beyond a progressive government to use some means of contract-law to safe-guard state housing. Once this is accomplished, it should make it near-impossible for a right-wing regime to wreak havoc with the lives of the poor.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we can make the concept of contract-law work in the favour of those who have least wealth to lose.

There is much more work to be done.

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References

Scoop media: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

theyworkforyou.co.nz: State Houses—Sale and Disposal

NZ History: Construction and sale of state houses, 1938-2002

Housing NZ Corporation: Rent, Buy or Own – overview (archived page)

Beehive: State houses available to buy from today

TV1 News: First home buyers set to be disappointed with Budget

Department of Building & Housing: Estimated building costs (archived page)

Dominion Post: Inequality report ignores tax cuts for rich – Goff

NZIER: Home

TVNZ News: NZ economic outlook grim until 2013 – NZIER (archived page)

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

NZ Herald: Auckland has the fifth least-affordable houses in the world

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

TV3 News: Key – No housing crisis, foreign buyers’ influence ‘minor’

Labour Party: Andrew Little’s Centenary policy speech

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Fairfax media: Labour’s plan to tax property investors slammed as ‘attack’ on rental property providers

Radio NZ: High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets – Sallies

IRD: Company Tax Rate

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

Fairfax media: Bill English denies U-turn after Steven Joyce reveals Housing NZ won’t pay dividend

National Business Review:  Govt blames outdated Budget figures for Housing NZ dividend U-turn

Metro mag: Opinion – Is John Key the finest actor of his generation?

NZDoctor.co.nz: Free care for the under-13s features in growth Budget

Radio NZ: Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (video)

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (transcript)

Te Ara NZ Encyclopedia: Housing and government – Total Housing Stock

Education Counts: Transient students

Dominion Post: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

Fairfax media: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

NZ Herald: Elderly, disabled included in state house review

NZ Herald: State tenants to make way for workers

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

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wheel estate

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor: Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education

19 February 2016 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s promise of a return to (limited) free tertiary education appears to be unsettling some, for whom the last thirty years has been dominated by the implementation and bedding-in of  user-pays (often gradually, so as not to spook the punters) ; reduced-tax; and minimalist-government ideology;

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letter to editor - the wellingtonian - sue usher - student debt

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I replied to Ms Usher’s public expression of “guilt twinges”…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
The Wellingtonian

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Sue Usher defends user-pays in Universities, asserting, “anyone who takes out a loan on anything surely knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; you are not given money, you are lent it”. (letters, 11 Feb)

Prior to 1992, there were no student loans/debt. Tertiary education was paid from taxes, with the expectation that graduates would, in turn, pay for following generations.

That was the social contract.

That contract dissolved when successive governments introduced user-pays, with seven tax cuts in 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The burden of higher education shifted from society, onto individuals. By 2014, student debt reached $14.8 billion.

Ms Usher admits this unfairness, “I acknowledge that repaying a loan and trying to buy a first home is a mighty challenge and feel slightly guilty that my generation did not have any such system”.

John Key and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, should also feel a twinge of guilt. Both obtained their University degrees free, paying almost nothing.

Those who parrot the cliche that education is a “private good” should consider if our doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, et-al, all decided to pack up and move overseas.

Or if none of us could read and write.

Education benefits us all, which user-pays fails to recognise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 February 2016.

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Letter to the editor – In response to Orwellian National Supporters

16 February 2016 2 comments

 

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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I see that National Party apparatchiks are up to their usual disingenuous tricks, trying to suggest that Labour was a worse manager of the New Zealand economy than National;

 

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Roger Mitchell

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As many are already aware, quite the opposite is true. I replied, presenting  a few salient facts to the Tory fan-boi;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Thu, Feb 11, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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I see that Roger Mitchell of Clive is parroting the right-wing myth that Helen Clark “must have wised up considerably since steering New Zealand on to the rocks, with Labour’s help, of course, and we have been going full astern ever since”. (Letters, 9 Feb)

In fact, during Labour’s administration, from 2000-08, their economic track record was enviable by today’s standards;

* paying down sovereign debt to around $15 billion, in the mid-2000s, to National’s debt-splurge of $54.7 billion as at June last year. (Much of it to pay for tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010)

* Government Debt-to-GDP was 14.5% in 2007, and is now at 38%,

* Labour’s Finance Minister Michael Cullen posted nine surpluses. Bill English has posted one, and even that was achieved by cutting state services.

* unemployment stood at 78,000 (3.5%) in 2007/08, compared to 133,000 (5.3%) today.

* GDP growth reached 5.5% in July 2004 – whilst reaching a temporary peak of 3.5% in January last year.

* According to Statistics NZ, home ownership fell from 54.5% in 2006, to 49.9% in 2013.

* Meanwhile, those renting increased from 33.1% in 2006 to 35.2% in 2013. Housing affordability has worsened in the last few years.

It may suit the agenda of National Party loyalists to indulge in fanciful Orwellian re-writing of recent history, but the facts speak for themselves; Labour was the more effective manager of this country’s economy.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Productivity Commission: Housing affordability

NZ Herald: Investment data shines spotlight on debt

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Home ownership

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed persons

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Debt to GDP

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

A Tale of Two Track Records: Labour vs National #1: New Zealand GDP

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 February 2016.

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= fs =

 

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

11 February 2016 8 comments

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student-loans-debt

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Prologue

As reported in a previous blogpost last year (Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week);

Fun Fact #1: Student loan stood at $14.235 billion, as at 30 June 2014 – up from 9.573 billion in 2008.

*Up-date* – Student loan stood at  $14.837 billion as at 30 June 2015 – up from $14.235 billion in 2014.

Fun Fact #2: As at 30 June 2013, 721,437 people had an outstanding student loan, registered with Inland Revenue. That’s roughly 16% of the population.

Fun Fact #3: Approximately 1.2 million people – roughly a quarter of the population –  have taken out  student loans.

Fun Fact #4: Students have borrowed $20.119 billion of which  $9.157 billion has been collected in loan repayments.  More than 415,000 loans have been fully repaid.

Fun Fact #5: $1.031.7 billion in loan repayments were received, $22.2 million less than last year. The total number of students completing formal qualifications reached 144,000 in 2013 – a decrease of 0.6% from 2012. The number of people enrolled in tertiary education has dropped, from  504,000 in 2005 to  about 420,000 (in 2014).

Fun Fact #6: The student fees/debt system began in 1992. Prior to that, students  had access to Bursaries and Student Allowances and tuition fees were minimal.

Fun Fact #7: “The median borrowing increased – from $7,441 in 2013 to $7,708 in 2014. The median loan balance also increased – from $13,882 in 2013 to $14,421 in 2014. Both were driven by higher fee borrowing: fees are rising and students are more likely to take more expensive courses. In the 2014 academic year, 72.4% of eligible students took out a loan, down from 73.8% in 2013… The number of borrowers in default has declined slightly on 2013/14, but the amount in default has increased.”

Fun Fact #8: On 17 May 2013, National announced new legislation would give the IRD powers to arrest loan defaulters at “the border” (ie, airports) if they are “about to leave or attempt to leave New Zealand after returning from overseas”.

Fun Fact #9: On 18 January this year, the first person arrested at the border for non-payment of a student debt was a 40-year-old with  an  outstanding debt that, with interest,  had ballooned from $40,000 to $130,000.

Fun Fact #10: The Prime Minister, John Key, and Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, both received near-free tertiary education, paid nearly entirely by the New Zealand taxpayer.

Sources: Ministry of Education, Beehive, NBR, and The Wireless

Some Recent History: 1972 – 1992

Prior to 1992, tertiary education at Universities was mostly free, with minimal course fees. On top of which, a student allowance plus part-time paid employment, was usually sufficient for students to graduate with minimal debt hanging over them.

This allowed graduates to start their adult lives, careers, and families with only as much debt as they chose to take on. This was usually in the form of a mortgage and business start-up costs (if they elected to be self-employed).

Those that earned more in a professional capacity, paid a higher rate of tax. This ensured that those who stood to gain the most, financially, from a near-free tertiary system, paid more in taxation. This – in part – assisted funding for future generations to move through the tertiary education system.

Those that did not achieve high income-brackets could contribute in other ways.

When National’s Ruth Richardson became Finance Minister in 1990, the social contract between generations “paying it forward” was broken. University fees were increased; student loans were made available to cover payment for increasing user-pays;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the 'mother of all budgets', but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

Acknowledgement of image: NZ Herald

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Ironically, Ruth Richardson herself was a beneficiary of New Zealand’s then near-free tertiary education system. In 1972, she graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Law  (Honours).  She immediately went to work – debt-free – for the NZ Department  of  Justice  (NZ).

She has made herself a Limited Liability Company, ostensibly to minimise her tax “liabilities”.  According to her website, her husband is General Manager of “Ruth Richardson Ltd”.

Some Recent History: 1986 – 2010

Though the tertiary education system was far from perfect – for example polytechnics could charge higher student fees – it offered near-free higher education and taxpayers were ultimately beneficiaries of a system that produced doctors, engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals to take New Zealand into the 21st Century.

Even those who went overseas in pursuit of lucrative work gained valuable experience which benefited the country as a whole, upon their return.

Unfortunately, the social contract between generations was broken as the Lange-Douglas Labour Government implemented neo-liberal policies that included user-pays as a new concept upon which to base State/individual transactions.

Labour did not implement user-pays in tertiary education – but it laid the fertile ground for the following Bolger-Richardson National government to radically change University funding for course fees.

For the right-wing Labour (of the 1980s) and National, smaller government meant tax-cuts, and from 1986 there were no less than seven cuts to taxation;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Each cut to taxation has meant less revenue for the government and resulted in either reductions to social services, and/or increases in user-pays.

The ballooning of “voluntary” school fees to over a billion dollars since 2000 is the clearest example yet of  tax-cuts making way for the covert rise in user-pays for what is supposedly “free” schooling in this country.

The under-funding of schools and desperate need for parents’ “donations” has become such a pressing problem that Patrick Walsh, of the Principals Association of New Zealand,  has openly suggested that the ideal of  free education should be abandoned;

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

Perhaps Walsh has a point. It would at least acknowledge the current semi-user-pays system as a reality, rather than fooling ourselves with dishonest and quaint notions of “school donations”.  Only then might New Zealanders clearly comprehend how we have arrived at a toxic mix of tax-cut bribes and implementation-by-stealth of user-pays in education, and other state services.

Education is not the only state service suffering from lack of adequate funding, as recent media reports from Canterbury and Waikato DHBs indicate. The increasing waiting times for public operations, and painful suffering of people with debilitating medical conditions,  is a telling indicator that our health care system is ailing through lack of funding.

A September 2012 Treasury paper,  “Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009“, revealed;

In 1900 tax revenues were approximately 8% of GDP. They rose to 28% of GDP during WWII and to a high of 37% in 2006. Currently tax revenues make up around 29% of GDP.

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government-tax-revenue-by-source-1903-2011

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Source

Taxation has fallen – as have once-free services which New Zealanders took for granted. At the same time, population growth has put pressure on (reduced) government revenue and spending.

In 1984 the population stood at 3,175,737 (as at 1981 Census).

By 2013: our population had swelled by over a million to 4,242,048 (as at 2013 Census).

We are spending less, for more people, to meet expectations that are simply unrealistic after seven tax cuts.

Rather unsurprisingly, the consequences of successive tax-cuts have been predictable, and well-reported in the media;

According to the most recent data, taken from the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 44,000 Kiwis – who could comfortably fit into Eden Park with thousands of empty seats to spare – hold more wealth than three million New Zealanders. Put differently, this lists the share of wealth owned by the top one per cent of Kiwis as 25.1 per cent, meaning they control more than the bottom 70 per cent of the population.

New Zealand’s wealthiest individual, Graeme Hart, is ranked number 200 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, with US$7 billion. That makes his net worth more than the bottom 30 per cent of New Zealanders, or 1.3 million people. 

The Progressive Response

January 31st marked a giant step Kiwi-kind that – if endorsed by voters – could prove to be the the first nail-in-the-coffin for user-pays.

Labour leader, Andrew Little, announced a policy that, while seemingly radical in the 21st century, was common-place policy in this country pre-1980s.

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Little proposed;

“… that the next Labour government will invest in three years of free training and education after high school throughout a person’s life.

[…]

Three years of free skills training, of apprenticeships or higher education right across your working life.”

He then pointedly explained not just where the money would come from – but that bribes in the form of  successive tax-cuts had under-mined our once-proud cultural expectations of state-provided services;

“The money is there – the Government just has it earmarked for tax cuts. We will use that money instead to invest in New Zealand’s future.”

In effect, this would be a massive admission of failure in user-pays, and the beginning of rolling back thirty years of New Right doctrine.

The Neo-Libs Strike Back

The response of the National Party and it’s front-organisation, the so-called “Taxpayers’ Union“, has been utterly predictable.

From Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, came these two ‘clangers’ via Twitter;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

Source

Source

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Judging by the angry responses on Joyce’s Twitter account, his comments were more provocative and self-defeating, than achieving any ‘hits’ on Labour’s policy-announcement.

John Key fared little better after his jaw-dropping gaffe on this issue;

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John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses' taxes should fund students

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Aside from the usual tactic of playing on low-paid workers’ dire plight to criticise free education (or free anything provided by the State), links were quickly drawn to Key’s on-going assault on waitress Amanda Bailey, in Auckland’s Rosie Cafe;

Prime Minister John Key has drawn a barrage of criticism after questioning if Labour’s fee free study policy was fair on waitresses who would be paying tax to subsidise students.

His comments also drew a quick response from some critics on social media who drew the link with Key’s repeated pulling of Auckland cafe waitress Amanda Bailey’s ponytail.

Key’s rhetorical question attempted to paint free tertiary education as unfair on low-paid workers;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to a student who will absolutely earn a lot more?”

The question could equally be put;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to…”;

  • National Ministers  gifting themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use. Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)
  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

But the main question should be;

“How much should the waitress.. how much of her taxes should go to paying for tax-cuts for the top 1% of  New Zealanders.”

When National cut taxes for high-income earners in 2010, and raised GST from 12.5% to 15%, this was essentially a transfer of wealth from low-income earners to the uber-wealthy. Low income earners pay disproportionately more in GST than the wealthy.

People like Ruth Richardson can structure their tax-affairs by registering as a limited liability company (or using Trusts and other accounting trickery) – which allows her to claim back on GST – this puts the rest of us at a distinct disadvantage.

Other companies such as Facebook and Apple have made big profits in New Zealand, but paid minimal tax. Facebook paid $23,034 in 2013/14 (out of alleged revenue of just $846,391), whilst Apple paid $5.5 million in 2012/13 (out of $571 million revenue).

As for criticisms from the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – this is a front-organisation for National. It’s organisers are party apparatchiks from National and ACT;

Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the  Board members of the Taxpayers Union. He has been a member of the National Party since 1986, as his candid Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog reveals.

John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager,  ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.

Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.

Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.

Jono (Jonathan) Brown; Administrator/Accounts Clerk at the Apostolic Equippers [Church] Wellington, which, amongst other conservative policies,  opposed the marriage equality Bill.

See: A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Publishing criticisms from the “Taxpayers Union” is simply another PR statement from National, masquerading as independent analysis.

People’s Exhibit #1 – The Case for Key’s and Joyce’s Hypocrisy

Undeniably the worst aspect of National’s condemnation of  free tertiary education rests with our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce.

Both men were recipients of free, tax-payer-funded, University education.

In Key’s case, his  was obtained at Canterbury University, from 1979 to 1981;

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POLITICS - John Key - A snapshot - tertiary university education - free education

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Has Key re-paid any of his University education? One suspects the answer is a firm “no”.

And with seven tax cuts, neither did he pay for it with taxation, as high-income earners paid less and less since 1986 – five years before graduating.

In Joyce’s case, as first reported on 6 August 2015, in a previous blogpost;

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.

  2. After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth, at age 21 (1984).

  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

Joyce completed his University studies and gained his degree eight years before the Bolger-led National government introduced student fees/debt in 1992.

One wonders how Joyce reconciles his free tertiary education – as well as benefiting from seven tax-cuts, along with John Key – with justifying National’s  issuing warrants-to-arrest for loans defaulters;

Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Key and Joyce never paid for their free University tuition.

Yet they expect other New Zealanders who followed in their foot-steps to pay for theirs.

Or face arrest.

What does it say about us as a nation, when we elect hypocrites as our elected representatives, who bludge of the tax-payer?

If this does not fly in the face of New Zealanders’ values of fairness and giving everyone a fair go – then we are not the same people we once were.

Postscript

Tweet from Steven Joyce, condemning Labour’s policy for free tertiary education;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite - achieving nothing

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Can we take it from the Tertiary Education Minister that his own university education “achieved absolutely nothing”?

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References

National Business Review: Budget 2015 – student loans – does the government dare to act?

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2015

The Wireless: Getting by on a student budget

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Statistics NZ: Annual unemployment rate has increased from 1987

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Ruth Richardson CV

Ruth Richardson NZ Ltd: Home page

Fairfax media: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

Fairfax media: ‘Human scandal’ as Christchurch elderly refused access to surgeries

Fairfax media: ‘Painful wait’ for surgery

NZ Treasury:  Average Marginal Income Tax Rates for New Zealand, 1907-2009

NZ 1984 Yearbook: 3A – General Summary – Increase of population

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts

Oxfam NZ: Richest 10% of Kiwis control more wealth than remaining 90%

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

Andrew Little: State of the Nation speech

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Twitter: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: John Key draws flak after questioning why waitresses’ taxes should fund students

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Radio NZ: Saudi abattoir deal will proceed – PM

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

NZ Herald: GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Time to pay some tax, Facebook?

NZ Herald: Apple’s NZ unit coughs up 0.4pc tax

Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Fairfax media: IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown

Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: John Key said WHAT about waitresses’???

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous related blogposts

A Query to the Taxpayers Union

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

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

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*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace "Social Security" with Superannuation, and "Medicare" with public health system.

*Note: For New Zealand audiences, simply replace “Social Security” with Superannuation, and “Medicare” with public health system.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 February 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the Editor – Steven Joyce, Hypocrite of the Year

2 February 2016 6 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s recent policy announcement regarding re-introducing free tertiary education met with predictable knee-jerk hysteria from the Right;

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Labour's announcement welcomed and slammed

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Though why the media still seeks comment from the so-called  “Taxpayers Union” escapes me, as they are a well-known front-group for the National Party, and are run almost exclusively by National and ACT party apparatchiks.

National’s Tertiary education minister, Steven Joyce, was somewhat frothy-mouthy with his panicky tweeting;

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Steven joyce - tertiary education - hypocrite

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Image courtesy of The Daily Blog

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Which prompted me to write letters to the editor to remind New Zealanders of a certain salient fact…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Immediatly after the release of Labour’s new tertiary education policy, which promised three years of free education, National’s Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce tweeted,

“Labour Party wants to take more than a billion dollars a year off taxpayers to achieve absolutely nothing #desperate”

Which is an irony, considering that Steven Joyce received a free university education, courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer, before user-pays was implemented in 1992.

Even more ironic is that whilst National is unleashing the Police to arrest graduates who have not re-paid their student loans, neither Steven Joyce nor John Key have ever repaid their free University educations.

The only ones desperate are Joyce, Key, and other National ministers, who have rorted the system; gained personal benefit; and now displaying a level of hypocrisy that can only be described as breath-taking.

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-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jan 31, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Soon after Labour leader Andrew Little released their “new” policy advocating free tertiary education for the first three years, National’s own Tertiary Education Minister was quick to respond on Twitter;

“Labour more desperate than we all thought.Stealing massively expensive InternetMana policy on “free tertiary education from last election”

Which is astounding, for two reasons;

1. New Zealand once had free tertiary education and was readily affordable until seven tax cuts since 1986 gutted taxation-revenue, making social services less affordable and increasingly more user-pays.

2. Both John Key and Steven Joyce benefitted from a free tertiary educatyion. Yes, folks, Both Key and Joyce had their University tuition paid by the taxpayer. Neither men have ever repaid a single cent of their education.

Now Joyce is issuing comments on social media condemning the concept of free education? The same free education he personally benefitted from?!

The man’s hypocrisy is boundless.

Education was wasted on him.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: Labour’s announcement welcomed and slammed

The Daily Blog: Why does Steven Joyce hate education so much?

Previous Prize Hypocrites

Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

Judith Collins – Hypocrite of the Week

Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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= fs =

Andrew Little: if you want to send a really strong message to New Zealanders…

14 November 2015 4 comments

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Andrew-Little

 

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Palmerston North, 8 November 2015 – E nga mana

E nga tapu

E Te whanau o te roopu reipa

Tena koutou katoa

Talofa lava

Kia orana

Malo e lelei

Nǐ hǎo

Namaste

Thank you so much for that welcome.

Can I acknowledge party president Nigel Haworth, our new senior vice president Virginia Andersen, our Māori vice president Nanaia Mahuta and all of our hard working New Zealand Councilors.

I also want to acknowledge our outgoing General Secretary Tim Barnett. Tim, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for this party and the huge effort you have made.

Thank you to everyone in our caucus, especially my Deputy Annette King and our Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.

And can I also acknowledge and say thank you for your patience to the two most important people in the world to me: my wife Leigh and my son Cam.

Why We Fight

Over 100 years ago, a group of miners gathered in a small union hall in Waihi and voted to take a stand against a company that was exploiting them.

The dispute had gone on for months already.

The miners’ hopes were simple.

They wanted to be treated well at work, to be paid fairly, and they wanted to know that when they went to work they would come home safely.

So the miners went on strike to press their case.

The response was immediate and devastating.

The full power of a corrupt and cosy establishment was unleashed against them.

The Prime Minister of the day branded them “enemies of order.”

One miner was beaten to death.

A young union organiser, a recent immigrant from Scotland, was helping the miners with their cause, travelling the country to raise money and give speeches in support.

He saw first hand the lengths that the powerful would go to in order to cling on to their position.

He saw that if the dreams of ordinary people were going to be possible, they needed more than a voice — they needed to have their hands on the law-making power of Parliament.

That young man’s name was Peter Fraser.

The party that he helped found, our party, has been on the job for nearly 100 years.

  • 100 years of fighting for a more just New Zealand.
  • 100 years of standing up to the smug and the self-contented.
  • 100 years of making life better for all New Zealanders;

All the people who organised together and campaigned together over the last century, people like you and me; they’ve left us an awesome legacy.

Just think of what our party has achieved:

  • Think of Joe Savage, who built our modern social safety net, our health care, our pensions, and who carried the furniture into the very first state house.
  • Think of Peter Fraser fighting for a state education system at home, and a lasting peace abroad.
  • Think of Walter Nash and his fight for affordable home loans.
  • Think of Norman Kirk walking onto the grounds at Waitangi hand in hand with a young Māori boy, sending the powerful message that it was time to restore mana to the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Think of David Lange and the courage it took to stand up to a superpower. To assert what he called the power of humanity, the power of decision, over the madness of nuclear war.
  • And, just a few years ago, think of all the good Helen Clark did to lift New Zealand families through the Cullen Fund, KiwiSaver and Working for Families.

Our party has never been afraid to take on the big fights:

  • To lift New Zealanders up.
  • To restore opportunity.
  • To help us live our dreams.

You know, as New Zealanders, we don’t ask for the world. We have some simple aspirations.

Owning a home; having security for the people we love; a chance to enjoy the outdoors and the environment we love; and a job that gives us the time and the money to lead a fulfilling life.

These are the aspirations that we all share.

Together, they’re the Kiwi Dream, a dream that’s central to our country’s identity.

We’ve always been a progressive, big hearted people.

We believe in looking out for each other and doing the right thing.

We believe everyone should have the same opportunities to make the most of this life.

Our forebears in this great party put these values at the heart of the Labour project.

Whenever the Kiwi dream has been threatened, Labour championed it.

Whenever the rights of New Zealanders needed defending, Labour defended them.

That’s what previous generations did.

Now it’s our turn. Now it’s our turn.

We’ve come together this weekend to begin the work of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream.

I came to this party because Labour has always stood up for a fair go — for opportunity for everyone.

It’s an enormous honour to have been elected your Leader — I don’t underestimate the responsibility I hold.

But I’m not one of those people who can say I was born to Labour.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

The first time my Mum voted for a Labour candidate was when she voted for me.

My Dad was another story altogether. He was a staunch National supporter.

He used to yell at the TV whenever political opponents came on the telly.

The people who most got under his skin? Union leaders, and pretty much everyone in the Labour Party.

So, “Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party and former union leader” probably isn’t the ambition he had for his son.

He’s probably up there right now going “god, look at my boy, where did I go wrong?”

But the truth is, he did a great job.

He and mum taught me some basic values.

Think for yourself. Make up your own mind. Stand up for other people and never be afraid to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it.

So Dad, you did the right thing, you were just in the wrong party.

My own political views were forged in the era of the Springbok Tour, and of the controversies over justice for Arthur Allan Thomas and justice in the Erebus Disaster.

I watched these events unfold and discovered in myself an intolerance for injustice.

When I see injustice, it sticks in my craw and I am compelled to stand up to it, and fight it.

The injustice I speak of is when the powerful and the privileged abuse their position to take advantage of the weak.

Here’s what I believe:

  • I believe in dignity. The dignity of the person matters most; and every person must have the opportunity to realise their full potential;
  • I believe in equality. A system that shuts people out because of where they live, or who they are, or who they love, or who their parents are is unjust and cannot stand;
  • I believe in the great freedoms that make us who we are. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association.

I know that the freedom I cherish cannot come at the expense of other people’s freedom. And I am very clear: there is no freedom in poverty and deprivation.

And I believe in fair rewards, too. Everyone who works to make this country great should share in the rewards.

It’s those values that I have carried with me my entire life.

The experiences I’ve had in my working life have taught me the type of leadership you need if you want to fight and win for progressive causes.

I learnt that it isn’t about making everyone happy or trying to avoid confrontation and disagreement.

Instead it’s about taking a stand because it’s the right thing to do.

I learned that real change — lasting change — change that’s worth fighting for takes patience, and resolve and determination.

It takes a long term view, keeping your eyes on the prize, not being drawn into every battle and skirmish and never giving up on what matters.

It’s these values and a lifetime of fighting for them that’s led me to believe we need to change the direction of our country.

Because right now this government isn’t living up to our values.

We aren’t being true to who we are, and that means more people are being shut out of the Kiwi Dream.

Most Kiwis believe that hard work should bring fair rewards.

But our economy is increasingly weighted in favour of those already doing well, while putting up barriers that stop other people getting ahead.

That’s why the incomes of the top 10 percent of New Zealanders are now ten times the income of the bottom 10 per cent. Ten times.

Most New Zealanders used to grow up believing they would be able to own their own home if they worked hard and saved hard.

But our houses have become playthings for speculators, many of whom live offshore — putting home ownership out of reach of ordinary New Zealanders.

That’s why in Auckland last year, the average house made more than three times as much as the average worker.

That’s right, the average Aucklander made $58,000 last year, but the average house price went up by more than $180,000.

That’s just crazy.

And now home ownership rates have hit their lowest level in 64 years.

We have to turn that around.

Most Kiwis also expect New Zealand to be a force for good on the world stage.

But this government is ducking its obligations and turning us into a lightweight in the international community.

We enlisted the support of many countries to get onto the UN Security Council.

We promised we would be the conscience of the world — that we would provide moral leadership.

But when we were faced with a real question of moral leadership: a humanitarian crisis engulfing millions of Syrian refugees, New Zealanders looked on in horror as the government dithered and prevaricated because they were waiting for a poll.

This is not the legacy of our great internationalist leaders: Fraser, Kirk, Clark.

And what about health?

Most Kiwis believe when you get sick, the public health system will be there to help you get well.

But our health system is stretched to breaking point, slashing services and denying Kiwis the care they need.

That’s why when Graham Higgins from Northland needed a procedure to diagnose his cancer, he had to wait over 6 months — by which time his cancer had become terminal.

I’ve battled cancer myself.

I know what it’s like to wait for the results of that test that could change your life.

So I’m making this commitment right now: when I’m Prime Minister I’ll make sure Kiwis get the care they need when they need it and I’ll give our doctors and nurses and health workers the funding they need to do their jobs.

But these aren’t the only values we’ve lost in the last few years.

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system,

If we want to restore the Kiwi Dream then we have to change the government.

And, once we’ve done that, we have to change the way we govern, too.

Right now, it seems the government is more interested in slapstick and personal sledging than in genuine leadership;

It’s more interested in flags and pandas than in serious issues.

It seems like the latest political sideshow is often more important than what is happening to you or your family.

I didn’t become an MP to play parliamentary parlour games.

I came into politics to help people.

To change lives for the better.

To take this country forward.

I ran for the leadership of our party because I want to lead a Government that makes a genuine difference.

Today, I want to give New Zealanders a clear idea of the shape and character of the sixth Labour Government.

I want to show you how we’ll put Kiwi values back to work in our government, so everyone can live the Kiwi Dream.

The Economy

It starts with restoring the values that should underpin how we run our economy.

We need to remember who we run the economy for.

People. New Zealanders. Their families.

This government’s forgotten that.

They’ve been rewarding property speculators, tax dodgers and big corporates at the expense of Kiwi families.

And here’s the truth: it’s not working.

The economy is slowing.

Just when we should be soaring, we’re stalling again.

Just this week we’ve learned the economy lost 11,000 jobs in the last three months.

Unemployment has hit 6% and is expected to reach 7% by the end of next year.

That’s the highest level since the height of the GFC.

The economy is actually going backwards in half of our regions.

If we’re going to restore the Kiwi Dream of opportunity for everyone, we need a stronger economy

That starts with getting more New Zealanders into higher skilled, better paid jobs.

Ask me my three priorities as Labour Leader?

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

You can ask me my top ten as well but I think you get the gist.

A job is about more than just a pay packet, it’s about the dignity of work. It’s about a place and a purpose in your community.

Every Kiwi who can work should be able to work.

Every business that needs a skilled worker should be able to find one.

And where people can’t work, the government should support them because we won’t allow Kiwis to be thrown on the scrap heap.

From day one, we’ll kick-start the economy.

  • We’ll bring forward major infrastructure projects like the City Rail Link in Auckland and passenger rail in Canterbury.
  • We’ll build better schools so every Kiwi kid can learn in a modern, high quality building.
  • We’ll set up a Regional Infrastructure Fund for major development projects to create jobs and boost our regions.

We will be relentlessly focussed on the future. That’s why I’m proud of Grant Robertson’s Future of Work Commission, which is showing us how to build a better economy for the future.

We’ll create thousands of new jobs in new industries by restoring research and development tax credits — giving our businesses a tax break on every dollar they spend on innovation.

We’ll modernise our education system so our kids are better prepared for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

And we’ll tackle climate change, because the only way our economy has a future is if our planet has a future.

That means aiming higher on renewable energy — we should be bold enough to say we want to see 100% renewable energy in New Zealand.

That also means doing better on reducing emissions. I want us to reach across the political divide, bring parties together and agree on ways to make New Zealand a leader on climate change. We don’t want to be a shirker on this issue.

Labour’s proposal for the Paris conference is a 40% CO2 reduction below 1990 levels. That’s the kind of ambition we need on this issue.

We also need to improve our social safety net so it works better in a world where people change their careers more often.

And today, I want to add the next element of Labour’s economic plan.

As you might have guessed, it’s about jobs.

It’s about the government lifting its game and living its values.

There are 151,000 New Zealanders out of work already and that number is increasing. 151,000.

On top of that, there’s 90,000 underemployed New Zealanders, and another 200,000 who can only find temporary work.

For everyone to have a fair shot at the Kiwi Dream, everyone needs a chance at a decent, secure job, and the government should be doing its bit to make that happen.

But it isn’t.

Not even on the most basic decisions.

The government spends $40 billion a year purchasing goods and services.

That’s huge buying power but, currently, government bodies only consider their own bottom line when they make purchasing decisions. Not the country’s bottom line, just their own.

They buy ‘cheaper’ options, often from overseas, regardless of the impact on New Zealand, even if it means Kiwis will lose work.

That’s the kind of dangerously short sighted thinking that has been behind some of the biggest government botch ups in the last few years.

  • the Hillside workshop closure in Dunedin and asbestos in imported rail wagons;
  • The Novopay debacle
  • Kiwi businesses shut out of the $1.9 billion IRD computer system contract.

At a time when our economy is stalled and our regions are struggling, there is a better way.

So today I’m announcing the first part of our jobs plan.

We’ll use the government’s buying power to create jobs here at home instead of sending them off overseas.

We will make job creation and the overall benefit to New Zealand a priority in how the government chooses its suppliers.

No more shipping tax-payers’ money offshore and starving our own companies of opportunities.

No more sending jobs overseas when we could be supporting a stronger economy here at home.

That’s billions of dollars that we will focus on creating jobs here in New Zealand.

And because we are putting existing money to better use, this policy has little to no fiscal cost.

Our plan, which we’re calling “Our Work, Our Future,” will put people to work, boost our businesses and it won’t break the bank.

Rebuilding the Kiwi Dream also means restoring opportunity to the thousands of New Zealand kids who are missing out — robbed of their future by the circumstances of their birth.

It means shining a light into dark corners of our country where people are trapped.

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of the human spirit that means we choose to leave hundreds of thousands of children languishing in deprivation.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of imagination that means we stop thinking of creative ways to bring that poverty to an end.

Because I know that when this speech is over we will hear the usual chorus of jaded and cynical voices. They’ll say:

“It can’t be done. It’s too ambitious. You’re dreaming.”

To the cynics I say this:

Even if you’ve given up, I haven’t. I won’t. Ever. It’s not who I am.

New Zealanders are sick and tired of a politics that’s defined by cynicism and devoid of ambition.

It’s time to do better.

New Zealand, I’m asking you to join with me in a concerted effort to eradicate poverty in our country.

In government, we will put action on poverty at the heart of everything we do.

We’ll increase the number of hours people can work without having their benefit cut — to give more people a pathway back into full time work.

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

And we will get serious about lifting wages by working with unions and employers on modern and progressive workplace relations that boosts wages and lifts productivity and shares the gains fairly.

Every decision my government makes will be checked against its impact on child poverty.

So, every Budget, every year, we won’t just report on GDP growth or how much money we’ve spent, we’ll front up and tell the country how many children a Labour government has lifted out of poverty.

Standing up for Kiwis

The final part of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream is having a government that stands up for Kiwis again.

For many of us in this room, I know the TPPA is very important.

There are many things we still don’t know about what’s in the agreement.

But there is one thing we do know.

The National Government has signed us up to a clause that says we will not be able to make laws restricting the sale of land or housing to non-resident foreigners.

That’s what they’ve done.

They’ve signed us up to a commitment to other governments, and other people who don’t live in New Zealand, who don’t want to live in New Zealand, who don’t care about New Zealand.

That commitment limits what our democratically elected representatives in parliament can do.

And it’s wrong.

It’s wrong.

It’s an attack on democracy.

It’s selling out our democratic right to make our own laws.

And this matters to me because I’ve had some fights for New Zealanders under some very bad laws.

I started my law career under the Employment Contracts Act — a terrible law that cut the wages of thousands of New Zealanders.

The reason I came to Parliament was to make sure that we had laws that were good for New Zealand.

And I’m not giving that away to anybody.

But I’m not the only one with that view.

Remember Peter Fraser — one of the founding voices of our party. He saw what was happening to the Waihi Miners and he saw that for ordinary people to have a shot at their dreams they needed a democratic government on their side.

That’s what is at stake here.

Can we hold on to our democratic rights? Not if we let National trade them away.

So, I’m telling you, when it comes to undermining our democracy and our sovereignty in the TPPA, I am totally opposed and I will fight with every fibre in my body to stop it, to resist it, to make sure it never happens in New Zealand.

Our party has always backed the Kiwi Dream.

For nearly 100 years Labour has been fighting for New Zealand.

And today, it’s our turn to continue that fight.

Today, too many people feel like their dreams are slipping away.

And this government isn’t standing up for Kiwis or for what we believe.

It’s our job to turn this around.

In just two years, we can change the government and we can change this country.

We can restore opportunity.

We can create jobs.

We can end poverty and help Kiwis get ahead again.

Together, we can rise to the challenge of a new era, and chart a better course of our country.

I’m asking all of you today to make your voice heard.

I’m asking you to join our campaign, to talk to your neighbours and your friends and your family, to show them there is a better way.

Let’s send the message out from this hall today that the days of doing the easy thing are over.

It’s time to do the right thing.

The days of cowering to powerful vested interests are over.

It’s time to stand up for New Zealand.

The days of shrugging our shoulders and tolerating poverty and inequality are over.

It’s time to aim higher and do better.

It’s time to raise our sights.

We can do this.

We must do this, and we will do this.

New Zealand, together, it’s time for us to rebuild the Kiwi dream.

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[Re-published verbatim via the Labour Party website]

Comment: Andrew Little said;

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system…

[…]

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century...

[…]

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

Fine words. Words conveying a strong message.

Now Andrew Little needs to follow up those words of hope by doing something simple and at little cost to the tax-system; announce a new role of Minister for Children, and take on the position himself.

John Key has allocated the portfolio of Minister for Tourism to himself, and takes his role ‘seriously’ by regularly holidaying on the sun-drenched, warm-sands, of a Hawaiian beach. Nice for him. He gets a very nice tan out of it.

Andrew Little should do the polar opposite; take on the role of Minister for Children, and show the people of New Zealand where the priorities of a real Prime Minister should be.

Come the day after the next election, the plaque on the Ninth Floor PM’s office should read;

Rt. Hon. Andrew Little
Prime Minister
Minister for Children

He’ll miss out on the suntan, but his reward will be true legacy-making stuff.

And better than a new flag, any day.

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What's Done to children they will do to society

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2015.

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Letter to the editor – Annette King on the TPPA

8 October 2015 5 comments
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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Wed, Oct 7, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor

Sunday Star Times

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From a sound-bite aired on  TV1 News on 7 October,  Annette King criticised the recently-agreed TPPA for denying New Zealand the right to choose it’s own destiny with regards to land and house ownership. She said that as a future Labour-led government;

“We retain the right under any trade deal to put the sovereignty of New Zealand first.”

Those are powerful words.

Question is; will a Labour-led government exercise that right?

After Helen Clark’s recent disappointing performance, I am not reassured.

Frank Macskasy

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[Address & phone number supplied]

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