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A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

24 January 2014 9 comments

Continued from:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part tahi

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new-zealand-national-party_3382 adapted 2014

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An incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?*) coalition government will have much work to do – especially in it’s first three years.

In the six years that National has been in power, they have passed many odious and often repressive pieces of legislation. Labour and the Greens have already committed to repealing some of these laws and policies.

As a Labour-led coalition government addresses growing problems of child poverty; income inequality; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; and chronic unemployment (currently at 7.1% according to the 2013 Census), a legislative programme will demand a long list of progressive reforms.

In no particular order;

Welfare “reforms”

Drug testing welfare recipients – the sign of a National government desperate to deflect attention away from it’s lack of credible job creation policies, and stigmatise the victims of the Global Financial Crisis by insinuating that they are lazy, shiftless, drug-numbed layabouts.

Or, as the Salon website wrote  last year about this very same issue in the United States,

The logic behind extant drug testing laws goes something like this: Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to buy illegal drugs. People collecting welfare receive taxpayer money. Some of these people use illegal drugs. Therefore, we should test them in order to stop giving taxpayer money to those who use illegal drugs.

It’s true, people on welfare use drugs. But so do people from every socioeconomic level. People on welfare also receive taxpayer money. But so do people from every socioeconomic level. If the goal is to stop people from potentially using taxpayer money to purchase illegal substances then we should apply these programs to every person receiving government funds. That means testing students who receive government scholarships, laboratories receiving government research grants, and farmers receiving farm subsidies. It means testing veterans, police officers and firefighters. It means testing the employees of the companies that administer the tests. And it most certainly means testing politicians, from the governor all the way down to city council members.

But you won’t see any governors calling for extensive testing. This is because none of these other groups have the stigma of poverty attached to them — a stigma that leads many to turn a blind eye to harmful policies that affect only the poor, but would never be tolerated if done to other groups.

Welfare-based drug testing is only a symptom of a larger societal ill that sees the poor as inherently parasitic and viceful (e.g., “They take advantage of government programs, not us.” “They do drugs, not us.”). As a result, legislators heap unfair, ineffective policies on those in poverty simply to court public favor by playing to their prejudices. The welfare queen, cashing government checks, smoking drugs and living the life of luxury, continues to be a useful myth when it comes to winning votes. And as more of these policies, whose support is borne by an unfounded disdain for the poor, are enacted, the humanity of those living in poverty is further eroded as the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows even wider.

The same Salon article reported,

In 2009, Arizona was the first state to adopt a program that drug-tested recipients of welfare whom officials had “reasonable cause” to believe were using drugs. Besides stigmatizing recipients of government assistance, implying that they’re a group of no-good drug fiends, the bill was implemented to try rand resuscitate a failing budget, and Arizona officials believed that testing could save the state $1.7 million a year.

But in 2012, three years and 87,000 screenings later, only one person had failed a drug test. Total savings from denying that one person benefits? $560. Total benefits paid out in that time? $200 million. Even if we include the savings from cutting benefits to the 1,633 people who didn’t return the pre-test survey, it brings the total to only 0.1 percent of the amount distributed over that period.

Similar results were found for Oklahoma and Florida,

Similarly lackluster results have dogged Oklahoma’s drug testing program in which only 29 people failed. When contacted, Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services said it didn’t keep track of the amount the state saved by denying benefits to those who tested positive, but testing fees are estimated to have totaled $74,000.

Florida had a testing program in 2011 that was halted by the courts not long after it was started. During its brief lifespan it had similarly poor results. Only 2.6 percent of those tested turned up positive for illicit substances. And since Florida reimbursed those who were clean for the cost of their tests, the state actually lost $45,780 because of the program.

So what were the results here in New Zealand? As the NZ Herald reported on 11 January, this year;

Of the 8,001 beneficiaries sent for jobs requiring drug testing, only 22 tested positive to drug use or refused to take tests.

Twentytwo people. Out of 8,001. That’s a “fail” rate of – wait fer it – 0.27% !!

When asked how much this exercise in futility has cost the taxpayer, deputy chief executive of Work and Income, Debbie Power, replied that “there was no information available showing how much the drug testing scheme cost.  There was also no information showing actual or estimated savings”.

Which, intriguingly, mirrors the United States situation, where they also could not provide financial details when requested.

Similar policies in both the USA and New Zealand, and a similar lack of available information surrounding costs.

Coincidence? Or is this right-wing strategy emanating from the same (or inter-connected) right-wing think tank/s?

The lack of information is made even more farcical when Welfare Minister Paula Bennett claimed that the policy was “driving beneficiaries away from using drugs“. Yet, her office admitted to having no data to support the claim. Nothing. Zilch. In other words, she made it up.

She probably also made up the original “costings” figures in August 2012, when she announced the policy,

She said estimates at the high end put the cost of enforcing the policy at $10 million. “We really think the real cost is around $3 million for those that will be known as dependent, once this testing comes in. The savings are estimated to be around $10.5 million.”

The crackdown would involve up to 13,000 beneficiaries a year getting treatment for drug dependency.

Ms Bennett said a Ministry of Health report from 2007/2008 said beneficiaries were three times more likely to be cannabis users. “That would put them at around 20 per cent of beneficiaries, if you went by that number. The UN says that New Zealand and Australia have the highest use of cannabis anywhere in the world,” she said.

Funny how Bennett had the figures available  in 2012 – but not readily available now, after the drug testing policy has been in force for a little over six months?

Nor did Bennett have “time to trawl through evidence” supposedly provided  “from face-to-face meetings with employers and others” who had supposedly complained “about beneficiaries failing drug tests“, when requested by Helen Kelly from the CTU.

Perhaps  everyone in this country should be drug-tested? No exceptions. John Key can lead the way. His wife and children next.

After all, as a civil servant, he himself is a beneficiary of the State. (A very highly paid one, at that.)

It is also worthwhile noting that Police Minister Anne Tolley categorically refused to consider drug-testing for New Zealand’s police,

Anne Tolley says the overwhelming majority of police staff are doing a fantastic job and they should not face workplace drug testing. She says police are quick to prosecute their own if there is any wrongdoing.

Considering that police officers have access to deadly weapons, one would have thought that mandatory drug testing would be done as a matter of course.  Only recently, a Police Prosecutor was convicted for possession and use of cannabis and methamphetamine.

Why are all New Zealanders not drug tested? Why the insistance by this government of focusing only on welfare recipients?

Because, as The Salon article above pointed out with crystal clarity, it serves the purpose of the National Party to deflect attention onto the unemployed; depict them as lazy drug-users; and thereby Key and his Ministers avoid  taking political responsibility for chronic levels of high  unemployment. As Bennett alluded to on 28 August 2012,

Welfare reforms are resetting expectations and obligations and recreational drug use is simply not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work.

Illegal drug use should not get in the way of getting a job if you are on a benefit.

Too many beneficiaries are missing out on job opportunities because of recreational drug use and that’s just not acceptable.”

She used all the dog-whistle references in that speech. This is what is known as scape-goating, and if sufficient numbers of gullible, uninformed voters ‘buy’ into this strategy, then it serves National’s purpose as it seeks re-election this year.

As “Bomber” Bradbury pointed out on Tumeke in August 2012,

“…National don’t believe in creating jobs, they create ‘environments’ where jobs are created, likewise they won’t find the unemployed jobs, they’ll find ways to create an environment that disqualifies them from gaining a benefit in the first place.

Drug testing beneficiaries isn’t aimed at making them work ready in a 9.1% real unemployment labour market, it’s aimed at disqualifying them from recieving a benefit, thus removing them from the official 6.9% unemployment rate into the invisible world of poverty.”

Which Paula Bennett confirmed on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012, in a roundabout way,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.”

Regardless of the obvious bullshit nature of this machiavellian policy, an incoming Labour-led coalition must repeal this odious policy forthwith. In doing so, Cunliffe and the new Minister of Social Welfare must explain clearly and concisely to the electorate the duplicitous nature of this policy and why it serves no purpose in creating jobs.

Labour and it’s allies must not only dump this policy – they should take the opportunity to educate the public so that National will find it impossible to ever reinstate it again.

National Standards

Another favourite of right-wing politicians, National Standards was introduced in 2010, and  has been steadily opposed by every education sector group, whether it was the NZ Principals’ Federation, NZEI, Boards of Trustees; PPTA; and many parents.

A year earlier, an open letter had been sent to then Minister of Education, Anne Tolley. The letter was signed by high-regarded professionals and experts in the education sector;  Prof. Martin Thrupp (University of Waikato); Prof. John Hattie (University of Auckland); Prof. Terry Crooks (University of Otago); and Lester Flockton (University of Otago), and stated in part,

Minister, in our view the flaws in the new system are so serious that full implementation of the intended National Standards system over the next three years is unlikely to be successful. It will not achieve intended goals and is likely to lead to dangerous side effects.

We are very concerned that the intended National Standards system wrongly assumes that children are failing if they do not meet the standard for their age. This will lead to the repeated labelling of many young children as failures and will be self-fulfilling because it will damage children’s self-esteem and turn them off learning and achieving in literacy and numeracy and other curricula areas. There are many successful New Zealanders with unexceptional school records who would not have succeeded had they been constantly labelled as failures during their childhood. A better form of assessment and reporting would focus on the progress that children are making and we believe this is the approach that should be being used.

Minister, you are aware the international record on the effects of national testing is damning. We recognise the intended National Standards are not national tests, but our understanding of why national testing has such adverse effects convinces us that the intended National Standards system will suffer most of the same problems. We are concerned about the damage that will occur if the performance of children against the Standards is reported publicly, as has happened internationally. We stress that such reporting of results at each year level will distort and impoverish the  culture of teaching and learning and assessment within schools. It will undermine the new curriculum and lead to a narrower, less interesting form of primary education for New Zealand children. It will also result in inappropriate judgements about the quality of schools and teachers.

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In our view the intended  National Standards system has little chance of engaging the hearts and minds of New Zealand primary teachers. Our primary teachers have a strong ethic of care for children. We believe they are opposing National Standards not because they are reluctant to be accountable but because of genuine concerns about the effects of the national standards system on children and their learning. “

Part of the problem of National Standards – aside from the bizarre notion of attempting to “standardise” all children’s learning – was the likelihood of National Standards results being turned in to League Tables. Such a move would pit school against school and introduce competition into a system that was better served by collegial, co-operative action.

In other words, this was a thinly-veiled neo-liberal policy being implemented. The ultimate goal? Further commercialisation of schools? Privatisation?

As a sop to mounting criticism, in October 2009, then Education Minister, Anne Tolley, pledged not to facilitate National Standards,

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

By 2011, that pledge had changed,

National leader John Key this afternoon announced the party’s full education policy, including early childhood, schools and the tertiary sector.

He said National’s “next steps” on the controversial National Standards scheme would include using performance information to “strengthen the accountability of schools”.

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Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said a National-led Government would not roll out any league tables of its own but primary schools would, from next year, be required to publish their results against the National Standards. There were be no steps to stop media or anyone else from constructing league tables out of the information.

“We want the system to be far more accountable to parents and communities,” Tolley said.

(Hat-tip: Dim Post blog)

Unsurprising really. Experience has shown that trusting National politicians to keep their word is a wholly futile exercise.

On 11 June 2013, Labour’s education spokesperson, Chris Hipkins pledged that an incoming Labour-led government would scrap National Standards. He made no bones about Labour’s view on the policy,

It’s now abundantly clear that National Standard results are neither national nor standard. There is no proper process in place to ensure that a student judged as meeting a standard wouldn’t get a different outcome if assessed by a different teacher at a different school. The data released today is therefore is completely useless.”

Useless indeed. This is another of National’s ideologically-motivated policies that deserves to be “filed” here,

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(* At this point in time, NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters,  has not indicated which bloc – Labour or National – he intends to coalesce with. As such, any involvement by NZ First in a progressive government cannot be counted upon.)

To be continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part toru

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 January 2014.

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References

Salon: An inane, money-eating sham: Drug tests for welfare a huge failure

NZ Herald: Drug testing of beneficiaries set to come into force from July

NZ Herald: Minister claims low drug result as victory

Radio NZ: Bennett defends drug-testing of beneficiaries

Dominion Post: PM gets $9200 pay rise

Radio NZ:  Police minister says no to drug tests at work

Related blogpost: Letter to the Editor: Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Radio NZ: Prosecutor sentenced over drug charges

Beehive: Pre-employment drug testing for jobseekers

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Tumeke: What the real aim of drug testing beneficiaries is

Roy Morgan: unemployment statistics

Open Letter to the Minister of Education, Hon Anne Tolley

Fairfax media: Tolley and unions strike league tables deal

Fairfax media: Nats open door to primary school league tables

NZ Herald: Labour would dump National Standards

Labour Party: Only constant is Hekia’s waffle

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League Tables that really count!

20 June 2012 7 comments

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A Real League Table:

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New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions 2011

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1. Firefighters

2. Rescue volunteers

3. Paramedics

4. Pilots

5. Nurses

6. Medical specialists

7. Pharmacists

8. Veterinarians

9. Armed Forces

10. GPs

11. Police

12. Teachers

13. Scientists

14. Farmers

15. Childcare workers

16. Judges

17. Bus/train/tram drivers

18. Chefs

19. Dentists

20. Psychologists/counsellors

21. Hairdressers

22. Plumbers

23. Waiters

24. Mechanics

25. Builders

26. Cleaners

27. Shop assistants

28. Religious ministers

29. Charity collectors

30. Bankers

31. Accountants

32. Taxi drivers

33. Tow truck drivers

34. CEOs

35. Financial planners

36. Lawyers

37. Celebrities

38. Journalists

39. Real estate agents

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40. Car Salesmen*

41. Sex workers*

42. Politicians*

43. Telemarketers*

* From 2010 Survey, appended to this list.

See:  Reader’s Digest New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions 2011

See:  Reader’s Digest New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions 2010

It seems a bit unfair that telemarketers are ranked below politicians.  Telemarketers are simply trying to earn money to put food on their families tables.

And interesting that sex-workers rank above politicians. At least with sex workers, you know when you’re being ‘screwed’*?

At the same time, whilst politicians are second from the bottom of this League Table – teachers rate at #12, between Police and Scientists!

This blogger makes the point that politicians should be looking at themselves and why they rate lower than prostitutes, in the public eye, rather than constantly attacking teachers and our education system.

The only system that is ‘broke’ is not in our schools – it is with our elected representatives.

John Key may crow that his party won the ‘biggest victory’ under MMP – but he’s missing a salient point. People only voted for him and/or National because a whole bunch of voters couldn’t be bothered fighting against misleadingly high poll ratings.

Ok – politicians are at the bottom of this League Table of professions.

So what do they intend to do about it?

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* No offence intended to sex workers.

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Acknowledgement for idea for this blogpost

Katherine Raue

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Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

6 December 2011 8 comments

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What’s past is prologue

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“Class war” – not a piece of left-wing jargon I normally employ, as it has connotations that are seemingly out-of-date in the 21st Century. It is a term I normally associate with 1960s-style, cloth-cap marxist-leninist or maoist cadres, addressing factory workers as they’re about to “Down Tools and All Out, Bruvvers“!

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In 1947 a union official addresses London dockers. In the post-war years efforts were made by the unions to recruit new workers coming into British industry.

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However, “class war” seems to pretty well describe what this ‘new’ hard-right wing government is planning.

Since the Election on November 26, it is  apparent that this government has moved well away from the centre-right position it occupied from 2008-11.  There is a definite undertone of  cold harshness about this ‘new’ government. The old “smile and wave” has been replaced with a grim tension as the National-Dunne-ACT Coalition begins to announce policies that were never announced during the election campaign.

It is as if the facade of the  cheerful “vacant optimism” of John Key has been allowed to fall away – to be replaced with something cold and quite alien. I think New Zealanders are waking up to a Prime Minister that they never voted for.

It appears that the  first term of National was to “bed in” this government and lay fertile ground for their real policies – policies that are intended to transform this country as Rogernomic did in the late 1980s. National has declared war on our   social services,  remnants of our egalitarian past when most or all New Zealanders had a fair go.

Since Rogernomics, we were promised that increased wealth creation would “trickle down” to middle and low income earners, and  as a result incomes would rise. This has not happened. in fact, quite the reverse.

The OECD  (not exactly a left-wing organisation)  has warned “about the rise of the high earners in rich societies and the falling share of income going to those at the bottom, saying governments must move quickly to tackle inequality ,”

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Full Story

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Warren Buffett – one of the richest men on this planet – has said pretty much the same thing,

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Full Story

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Buffett has stated,

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

The same could be said of high income earners and wealthy throughout the world, including here in New Zealand.

Since 1986, there have been seven tax cuts in New Zealand. Gst was introduced at 10% in the same year, and increased to 15% this year (despite assurance by John Key that he would not raise gst).

GST impacts disproportionately on low-income earners as they  spend all their income on necessities, whilst higher-income earners/wealthy invest, speculate,  or “park” their money. “Parking” wealth does not lead to increased spending in the economy and businesses suffer accordingly. Investment does not always lead to more jobs or higher wages either – simply an increased return to the investor.

The growing disparity between rich, middle-classes, and low income/poor began in earnest in the late 1970s,

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It is noteworthy that right-wing governments in the UK (“Thatcherism”) and USA (“Reagonomics”) implemented neo-liberal government policies such as tax cuts for the rich;   reduced social services and government spending; and stagnant wage-growth, at the same time – the late 1970s.

Could there be a link? Of course there is. Only a fool would deny the causal factors of neo-liberal governments and growing wealth disparity.

In New Zealand, right wing neo-liberal policies were introduced a little later, in the mid-1980s.

The result has been predictable, and follows overseas trends,

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Full Story

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Income disparity has been a growing problem and despite endless promises that “trickle down” theory works – wages have stayed static and those earning minimum wage barely have sufficient to surevive.  When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, Bill English agreed,

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GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

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The tax cut last year exacerbated that growing gap between the rich/high income earners and those on middle/low incomes,

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Source

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Only the most politically partisan – blinded by misplaced quasi-religious beliefs in neo-liberal ideology – can ignore the ample evidence that so-called “free market”  policies serve to make only the rich, richer. Meanwhile those at the bottom are mired in poverty. The middle-classes become debt-laden, as they have to borrow more and more to keep afloat financially.

We have created a recipe for disaster and in 2008 the fiscal chickens came home to roost.

In November 2011, 957,769  voters cast their ballot for a charismatic Prime Minister who seemed to be fairly centrist and common sense.

957,769  voters were duped.

This was not the same John Key nor National government they elected in November 2008.

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The Right Strikes Back

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Charter Schools

Charter Schools is nothing less than gradual privatisation by stealth. Instead of announcing to New Zealanders that schools will be put on Trademe and sold to highest bidders, the “Charter Schools” policy is far more subtle; and done piece by piece; step by step.

99% of New Zealanders would never countenance our schools being put on the chopping block and flogged of to Heinz Watties, Church of Scientology, Toyota, the Mormons, Uncle Tom Cobbly, etc. But that is precisely what “Charter Schools” is about. Under “Charter Schools”, a religious group or corporation can fund and take control of  your local school.

A Radio NZ report states,

Christian school leaders say the Government’s plan to trial so-called charter schools could give them a way to reach the most needy families.

Charter schools are part of a movement in the United States and Britain to get business and non-profit organisations to run government-funded schools free from many of the rules that govern regular state schools.

The schools are not allowed to charge fees, but can set teacher pay and their own school day and year.

A trial for such schools in South Auckland and central and eastern Christchurch was part of the confidence and supply agreement reached between the National and ACT parties on Monday.

Christian school leaders say the proposed schools might give Christian schools a way round current restrictions on their enrolments.

Most are integrated schools and must focus their enrolments on Christians. Charter schools would get the same funding, without those restrictions.

Christian school leaders say that will interest schools that want to help poor communities.

They say the schools would be fulfilling a Christian mission and would not try to convert people to Christianity. ” – Source

So if a christian fundamentalist group like “Exclusive  Brethren” took over my local primary school, they would not be replacing the science curriculum with Creationism? Or teaching girls to be “silent and obedient to men”? Or canning sex-education?

A NZ Herald article had this to say about “Chart Schools”,

The National party yesterday agreed to incorporate charter schooling as part of its government support deal with the Act Party, allowing private entities such as businesses, church groups and iwi organisations to take over management of schools but retain state funding under the scheme.

The charter school scheme will be trialled in South Auckland and Christchurch within the next three years.

Groups representing teachers and principals are outraged at the proposal.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president Robin Duff labelled the charter school trial nothing but a “social experiment” on already vulnerable students.

“Why are they not putting a school like this in Epsom? I think some honest answers are needed.”

He said models overseas were ineffective; Stanford University research showed students at only 17 per cent of charter schools did better than at traditional schools.” – Source

When John Key was interviewed about the new  “Charter Schools” policy that ACT and National had jointly announced, he replied on Radio NZ,

“‘That’s MMP for you, isn’t it? That you agree to different proposals.”

Rubbish.

Once again, Key is spinning a lie to cover his backside.

The facts are simple, and a  visit to National and ACT’s website yields some interesting information.

National

There is no mention made whatsoever of “Charter Schools” in National’s policy, “Education in Schools“.  Nothing even remotely close.

National makes policy on employing unqualified people off the street to teach our children,

We will make it easier for schools to employ people with specialist skills who may not be a registered teacher, but who can undergo basic teacher training. That training may be on-the-job training.

They even hint at League Tables,

They also have clear targets they can measure their own achievements, and the achievements of their school, against.”

National will make secondary school performance information available to parents, so they are informed about their child’s learning environment.”

Improve reporting of system-level performance, including investigating school level reporting.”

National wants to psyco-analyse people to gauge their “disposition to teach”, in a quasi-Nanny State/Big Brotherish kind of way,

Improve the quality of initial teacher education, including a move to a post graduate qualification and minimum undergrad entry requirements, as well as a formal assessment of a ‘disposition to teach’.”

And National isn’t “quasi” in some of it’s Big Brotherish surveillance of ordinary New Zealanders,

Track students who leave school before 18 and make sure they are in some form of education or training.
Schools will be asked to report students who are leaving school and not going onto further training or employment, so we can support them and ensure they don’t end up on welfare.

So, if you’re 17 and about to leave school, for whatever reason, expect the eyes of  The State to be watching you.

National also makes some very grand, heart-warming, claims stating their supporting for schools in Christchurch in their “Education in Schools”  policy,

Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.”

However, they make no reference to the fact that, in September, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced cutting 167 full-time equivalent-positions from Christchurch schools, effective next year.  This lapse in painting a full picture of National’s policy and track record in Christchurch is another unpleasant example of dishonesty from this government.

But a big Nothing/Nada/No Way reference to “School Charters”.

ACT

Quite predictably, ACT, and it’s website, is a right-winger’s Onanistic delight.

Again, there is no mention of  “Schools Chart” in ACT’s education policy. Though they do rabbit on about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  ”

In fact, this is ACT’s full education policy,

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Source

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It’s interesting that ACT (and to a lesser degree, National) both make out that our education system is in dire straits.  Their inference is that only their policies will achieve grand outcomes – no one elses.

And yet, things are not as bad as they would have us believe,

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Full Story

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Ok, so we’re not ‘perfect’, and obviously we “Can Do Better” on our OECD Report Card. But matters are not so desperate that National has to implement a policy that neither they nor ACT campaigned on.  National, specifically, has no reference coming even remotely close to “Charter Schools” in it’s education policy.

Quite simply, National has ‘sprung’ this on the public. They have no mandate for such a radical re-shaping of our education system.

Trying to blame it on MMP and suggesting that it is ACT policy is duplicitous. They have deceived the elecorate – and as such parents, teachers, students, and the rest of the community have a legitimate right to resist implementation of this policy.

I suspect that “Chart Schools” is merely the tip of the iceberg. National and ACT have other surprises in store for us, and New Zealand will be in for a rude shock.

The Right Wing are in ascendancy in Parliament and they will run rampant with their “reforms”, mandate or not.

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Denniston Plateau

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Yet more evidence (if we ever really needed it) that this National-led coalition has taken off  the kid-gloves and has adopted an agressive, uncompromising,  right-wing posture. As well as ramming through  policy that was never presented to the electorate, expect National to be more open and brazen in breaking promises.

National’s intention to mine the ecologically-sensitive Denniston Plateau was made public by “Conservation” Minister Kate Wilkinson, a mere one-working day day after the election.  She could barely wait for the ballot papers to be counted before issuing a public statement that broke  a promise to make  future applications to mine on the conservation land  publicly notifiable.

On 20 July 201o, after mass protests throughout the country opposing mining on Schedule 4 Conservation land, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson issued this statement,

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After carefully considering the feedback received on the Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and Beyond discussion paper, the Government has agreed that:

  • i. No areas will be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
  • ii. All of the 14 areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4 will be added to the schedule.
  • iii. A technical investigation will be undertaken of Northland (in strategic alliance with Northland Regional Council, the Far North District Council, and Enterprise Northland), the West Coast of the South Island and various other highly prospective areas in the South Island – excluding any Schedule 4 areas. This will identify mineral deposits and assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.
  • iv. Areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas (for example, national parks and marine reserves) will in the future be automatically added to Schedule 4. Such classifications will be agreed by Cabinet.
  • v. Significant applications to mine on public conservation land will be publicly notified.

– Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson – 20 July, 2010

Source

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Australian mining company, Bathurst Resources, wants to mine an additional 50-80 million tonnes from the area over a 35 year period. Forest & Bird state,

The adjacent Stockton Plateau has been half destroyed by opencast mining in the past few decades. The Denniston Plateau has a history of underground mining, but has been spared – until now – this fate.

A new opencast coal mine proposed for the Denniston Plateau would destroy 200 hectares and increase New Zealand’s coal exports by up to 63% per year. But that would only be the beginning. The Australian company holds mining permits across the Plateau, which would generate an estimated 50 million tonnes of coal.” – Source

In effect, this,

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Denniston Plateau

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Would become this,

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Stockton Mine

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National’s open contempt for the democratic process; honouring election committments; and public consultation – should now be apparent to everyone. Worse still is their contempt for the people of this country.

How else does one explain a government that has so blatantly gone back on so many of it’s promises?

Wilkinson’s readiness to go back on her word is something that she – and her colleagues – should be deeply ashamed of.

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Urgency laws?

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National’s previous term saw the highest use of  “Urgency” to ram through legislation, in decades.

Expect more of the same, as they implement their right wing agenda at breakneck speed, before 2014. This is the method used by Douglas and Prebble in the 1980s.

Indeed, Douglas boasted at the speed at which he and his cronies introduced their “reforms”. The result was that public opposition to their agenda was difficult to mount.

The right wing have little time for the democratic process and public consultation. That should be readily apparent to us all by now.

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ACC

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I’ve no doubt that whilst ACC will not be privatised – that workplace accident compensation will be opened up to “marketplace competition”. This will be a rehash of National’s earlier experiment in accident insurance competition in the late ’90s.

Neo-libs. They love to recycle old policies, whether or not they were ever successful.

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Maori Party

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The Maori Party has not yet gone into formal coalition with National. They are currently conducting consultation with their constituents, by holding Hui around the country.

I have no doubt in my mind that Maori Party members will bitterly denounce any suggestion that they coalesce with National. To many, the last week has already been a fore taste of the right wing whirlwind that is about to hit this country.

For the Maori Party to be associated in any way, shape, or form with the impending storm will be a colossal misjudgement on the part of Maori Party leadership – and will guarantee their political demise in 2014.

Wise heads will try to warn Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia, and Te Ururoa Flavell, that entering into coalition with National and it’s coat-tailing little mini-Nats (Dunne and Banks) will be the death knell for the Maori Party.

The question remains; will they heed that warning? Or will they suffer the same fate as Tau Henare’s Mauri Pacific Party in 1999?

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Things To Come

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Let no one be under any illusion that this National Coalition v.2 is nothing like it’s predecessor from 2008-11. This is a fully-fledged, ideologically-driven, determined Right Wing Government.

And it has nothing to do with ACT.  ACT is a political corpse, and John Banks is carrying on in name only.

Despite MMP being designed to reign in the executive power of large parties, and prevent FPP-style single-party rule – National has managed to rort the system by creating proxies – Peter Dunne and John Banks – who are essentially National Party ministers-by-default.

National did not fail in their fight to win an outright majority in the House. They succeeded.

I hope that the voters of Epsom and Ohariu knew what they were doing when they voted for Banks and Dunne (and Green and Labour voters when they failed to vote tactically). Because they have helped achieved the near impossible under MMP:  a single-party government.

And we know what happens when a single-party government rules Parliament. What does a single-party government do?

Whatever it wants.

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References

National: Education in Schools Policy

ACT: Education policy

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Additional Reading

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

Save the Denniston Plateau:Ours Not Mine

On income inequality – Gordon Campbell

The gap between NZs rich and poor

New Zealand wealth gap alarms charities

Wealth gap divides nation

Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

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Video

2011-12-06 – 3News – OECD: Inequality Growing Fastest in NZ

OECD: Record inequality between rich and poor

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Dear Minister…

John-Paul Powley

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Dear Anne Tolley, and John Key

I woke up this morning and read your education policy as summarised in the media. This whole article on your proposed education policy made me furious.  The article suggested that these were the key points:

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EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION:

Target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education by 2015

New interactive website for parents to choose “the best” local ECE service

New funding model to be trialled in 2014

SCHOOLS:

Require publication of National Standards data in 2012

New assessment of “disposition to teach” for trainee teachers

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A long time ago when National Standards were introduced I predicted that they would creep to Secondary schools and that we would  see league tables.  It didn’t bother me that on both points you said this wouldn’t happen.  It was clearly a lie, and it is no comfort to me to see my predictions turn out to be correct.

It seem to me that there is simply no possibility of negotiating with your government in good faith and this makes me angry, because I am a reasonable person who believes that conflict is a dead end.

Here are some points that I would like to address to you:

  • How can you want 98% of kids in early childhood education, but cut the funding to these centres that make them affordable, and how can you want 98% of kids to go to centres where you do not believe that it is important that 100% of the staff there are fully qualified?
  • What does the term “best” ECE centres mean?  Doesn’t this just mean the centres with the wealthiest and best educated parents?  How does a competitive model in education work when some people can’t afford the best, and are you committed in terms of the massive amounts of money and time it will take to build up struggling centres, or is it a fail-and-close-them-down model?
  • You said that you would not create a situation of league tables two years ago.  This was clearly a lie.  Do you think it is a good model to our students to lie in order to get what you want, and then use double speak to try to pretend that you never said such things in the past?
  • League tables are good for comparing apples with apples, but after the first round of tables are printed there will no longer be apples and apples, there will be schools that are better than others when measured against one criteria.   My daughter started school yesterday, and I know the pressure to send your child to the “best” school and not the local school, but I believe in my local school and I was DELIGHTED to send her to the local school and see her running in and playing with the Somali kids, and the Pasifika kids, and the Indian kids, and the European kids all together, learning together, and being wonderful and curious together, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to all the white kids when the school down the road does better on the league table, because it is a wealthier and more homogenous school.  Are we committed to a multi-cultural New Zealand or not?  Or is that just talk?  Past experience shows that Europeans like me abandon schools that are sinking faster than rats on a sinking ship because they can, and that parents who can’t afford to make the change don’t (even though they care just as much for their children).  I’m not proud of this fact, but I have to admit it is true.  Do you understand this?  I don’t think that you do, and I think that this is the weakness of a party that is made up of a homogenous and wealthy group and would prefer a voting system where they can just stop mucking about and govern alone.  You do not represent everyone, and you should never, ever be allowed to govern alone for that reason.  Not because I do not like you, but because NO ONE should govern alone.
  • Disposition to teach?  My first years teaching in a low decile school were hell.  I went home, lay down on the floor and cried.  If someone had offered me a job doing something else at the moment I would have taken it.  Now I am at the end of my sixth year teaching and I think I do a damn good job.  Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools.  My experience of a  decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves.  Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools?  Where do you want good teachers to go?  Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years?  I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids.  Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
  • Can I ask you this?  What was broken about our education system?  One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing?  Our identified area of concern was our long tail.  A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with.  Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented?  I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
  • Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.

Yours sincerely,

John-Paul Powley

http://manoferrors.wordpress.com

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Additional

 

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