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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 10 February 2014

10 February 2014 Leave a comment

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 10 February 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (22′ 58″ )

  • John Key’s meeting with Tony Abbott
  • CER,  Aussie supermarkets boycotting NZ-made goods
  • migration to Australia
  • low wages, minimum wage
  • National Party, Keith Holyoake
  • paid parental leave, Working for Families, Colin Espiner
  • Waitangi Day, Foreshore & Seabed, deep sea oil drilling, Nga Puhi
  • MMP, “coat tailing”, Epsom, Conservative Party, ACT
  • Len Brown, Auckland rail link

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The road to Youth Rates – Wrong way, Prime Minister, Wrong way!

23 March 2013 15 comments

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closing the wage gap with Australia as promised by John Key

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1. Backgrounder

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It was during the 2008 general election that the issue of the growing wage disparity with our Aussie cuzzies became an issue. Curiously, it was the then-Opposition Leader, John Key, capitalist; multi-millionaire; and currency trader, who was making some very odd comments.

Indeed, he was sounding positively socialist – at the time;

We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

Acknowledgement: John Key’s website – “National Tough On Crime”

One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.  We must cut taxes and grow our economy, and National will have policies to ensure both occur.” – John Key, 6 September 2008

Acknowledgement: National Party – “Environment Policy Launch

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

Acknowledgement: Government statement

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Key wants a high-wage NZ

Which sounded all well and good…

Until reality set in. And we remembered that John Key was leader of the National Party – not Labour, Greens, Mana, or the Alliance.

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2. Present Day

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As this blogger wrote last year;

On 9 October (2012), Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson announced that National intended to introduce a new Youth Rate, to take effect in April (2013). The rate would be set at $10.80 an hour – compared to the minimum rate of $13.50 [soon to be $13.75]  an hour currently, and would include 16 to 19 year olds.

As Scoop.co.nz reported,

That equates to $10.80 an hour, or $432 before tax for a 40-hour week. From April next year, the ‘Starting Out Wage’ will apply to 16- and 17-year-olds in the first six months of a job, to 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after spending more than six months on a benefit, or 16 to 19-year-olds in a recognised industry training course.”

Acknowledgement:  Scoop – NZ teens face $10.80 an hour youth wage rate

It is doubtful if National’s Youth Rates will actually create new jobs. More likely, a drop in youth wages will simply create more ‘churn’ in employment/unemployment numbers.

As David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, inadvertently revealed,

Without an incentive an employer with a choice between an experienced worker and an inexperienced worker will choose experience every time.”

Acknowledgement:  Scoop – Starting-out wage will help young people onto job ladder

So there’s no new job for the  younger worker – s/he is merely displacing an older worker. Which probably results in  older workers joining the migration to Australia.

End result; a loss of skill and experience for New Zealand, and a gain for our Aussie cuzzies.

Note: the above figures relate to the adult Minimum wage at $13.75 an hour. At the time  the above statements were written, the adult minimum wage was $13.50 an hour. National very generously raised it by 25 cents an hour, and will take effect on 1 April this year.  (Low income earners would celebrate by popping the corks on a few bottles of Wairarapa ‘champagne’ – but 25 cents an hour doesn’t quite cover it. Perhaps a bottle of fizzy will suffice.)

So what was the rationale for National to implement what, effectively, is a wage cut for 16-19 year olds?

Minister for [Cheap] Labour, Simon Bridges said on 21 March this year – and I reprint his statement in full;

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Starting out wage - youth rates - simon bridges - national government - minister for labour - cutting wages

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Acknowledgement: Government statement – Starting-out wage available from 1 May

Nowhere in that statement does Bridges state –  or even hint –  that cutting the wages of 16 to 19 year olds will create one single new job.

Contrast that to Kate Wilkinson’s statement on 18 July 2010, when National introduced the 90 Day Trial Employment Period,

“The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families,” says Ms Wilkinson.

“There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff.”

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“The evaluation showed that 40 percent of employers who had hired someone on a trial period said it was unlikely they would have taken on new employees without it.

Acknowledgement: Government statement – 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

Wilkinson assured the country that, in return for employees losing job protection for 90 days, that the counter-benefit would result in  “stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families.

So how did that work out?

Let’s check the stats, shall we? From mid-2010 to the latest data for this year,

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Unemployment Rate - july 2010 - march 2013

Acknowledgement: Trading Economics/Statistics NZ

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From July 2010, unemployment rose to January 2011; dropped to July 2011; and then began an inexorable climb to 7.3%.

Even the drop to 6.9% [highlighted in the red box] in January 2013 is illusory, as Statistics NZ reported on Radio NZ,

The numbers officially out of work eased back from a 13-year high at the end of 2012.

But the fall in the unemployment rate was due to more leaving the workforce than new jobs being created.

The numbers of those deemed officially unable to find a job fell by 10,000 to 163,000 in the final three months, figures released by Statistics New Zealand on Thursday morning show.

As a result, the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% of the workforce to 6.9%.

The Household Labour Force Survey shows that employment fell by 23,000, led by there being more women out of work.

It was the third consecutive quarterly fall, taking those employed as a proportion of the workforce to a 10-year low.

The unemployment rate fell only because even more people gave up looking for work than lost jobs.

In all, 33,000 people dropped out of the workforce in the final three months of 2012 – the highest number to do so on record.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

If we add those missing 33,000 people to the number who are unemployed, the figures become  jaw-droppingly ghastly,

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Unemployment persons - july 2010 - march 2013

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Acknowledgement: Trading Economics/Statistics NZ

It’s fairly obvious; the 90 Day Trial Period not only did not create new jobs – but unemployment has skyrocketed.

Quite clearly, there are other factors that create new jobs, and silly, ill-considered, simplistic,  neo-liberal gimmicks do not contribute to the mix.

This blogger predicts that precisely the same will happen when youth rates are implemented on 1 April,

  • No new jobs will be created
  • Employment numbers will remain high
  • Older workers will be displaced in favour of cheaper, younger workers
  • New Zealanders will continue to migrate, en masse, to Australia, where jobs and wages have not  been undermined by an ideologically-blinded government

Is reducing the wages bill for  businesses really the best that Dear Leader can come up with? Because, really, the only thing that a new Youth Rates will do is transfer employment to cheaper workers and drag down wages with it.

This is not a plan for wage growth, it is a plan for a low-wage economy, with those New Zealanders who can, escaping to Australia.

Let’s not forget that on 10 April, 2011, Bill English actually welcomed lower wages, on TVNZ’s Q+A,

GUYON Can I talk about the real economy for people?  They see the cost of living keep going up.  They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much.  I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper.  I mean, is that an advantage now?

BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it?  I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?
BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia.  So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia.  We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

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

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

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia.  So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand.  If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

Acknowledgement:  TVNZ Q+A – Interview with Bill English

If the Nats think that the Australian government will sit idly by whilst Aussie businesses relocate to this country for cheaper wages, they are fooling themselves.  Australia will retaliate in some way – and it won’t be pleasant for us.

In last year’s May budget, the Nats decided to tax  the meagre wages of paper boys and girls (see: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour).  Now Key and English are cutting their pay again.

If this is truly the best that the Right can come up with, then they are bankrupt of ideas.

New Zealanders should ponder one, simple question; is this what we really  want for our country and our kids?

Meanwhile, we can add Key’s pledge to raise wages to his growing record of other broken promises. It’s turning into quite a list.

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Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages: 6. Youth Rates (11 Nov 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Employment/unemployment (9 Jan 2013)

References

Government statement: 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers (18 July 2010)

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour (25 May 2012)

NZ Herald: Minimum wage to increase by 25c (26 Feb 2013)

Government statement: Starting-out wage available from 1 May (21 March 2013)

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Migration

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The rhetoric:

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national_party_leader_john_key_stands_in_front_of__2136807254

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One of National’s biggest election issues was that of migration. Key and his mates practically crucified the incumbent Labour government in 2008 over the continuing loss of New Zealanders to Australia.

Even one of their election hoardings (see above) made the migration issue a prominent feature of National’s attack-advertising.

And Key poured it on in thick layers of election rhetoric,

When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins?  Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job.  Our Aussie cousins, who have been given a tax cut in every Budget for the past five years and who will continue to have their taxes cut for Budgets to come.

Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch.  We have to give them better reasons to stay .” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”  – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: Environment Policy Launch

Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – John Key, 23 November 2011

See: Kiwi exodus to Australia nears record levels

In effect, National – led by our  Smile & Wave Dear Leader – was promising New Zealand voters that they, alone, knew the secret to stemming emigration and the loss of New Zealanders to Australia and beyond. It was a bold committment to make to the electorate.

Short of erecting a new Berlin-style wall; with armed guards; and patrolling gunboats to detain Kiwi boatpeople attempting to flee to Australia, how could National  perform such a feat?

The reality:

Despite National’s rhetoric and attacks on Labour, their own track record in persuading New Zealanders to remain here and not leave for greener (or browner, in Australia) pastures was utterly abysmal.

In fact,quite the contrary, Statistics NZ revealed that the Great Escape to Oz has accelerated,

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Permanent and Long Term (PLT ) Net Migration

of NZ Citizens/Residents To/From Australia

Year to November Departures Arrivals Net Loss/Gain(linked to source)

2005

34,730

13,430

-21,300

2006

33,873

13,371

– 20,502

2007

40,786

13,621

– 27,165

2008

48,500

13,200

– 35,300

Sub-Total

157,889

53,622

– 104,267

2009

34,100

14,600

– 19,500

2010

35,800

15,800

– 20,100

2011

50,100

14,400

– 35,800

2012

53,500

14,600

– 38,800

Sub-Total

173,500

59,400 – 114,200

Sources: Statistics NZ International Travel and Migration – information releases

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After four years of National, net migration to Australia (excluding other countries such as the UK, etc) has increased by   ten thousand people more than under Labour.

To be fair, migration involves factors that are often beyond the control of governments from either end of the political spectrums.

The true issue here is not whether Labour or National or Uncle Tom Cobbly can stem migration. The real issue here is that National cynically exploited migration for purely selfish, political ends. They manipulated the public debate and exploited people’s concerns.

This is why the public view politicians with such odium and distrust.

Little surprise then, that politicians consistantly rank at the bottom of  ‘Reader’s Digest ‘ list of respected professions, usually below Used Car Salespeople and just above tele-marketers. See previous blogpost:  League Tables that really count! )

Another issue here is that despite National’s right-wing reforms, tax cuts, and partial-asset sales/share floats – New Zealanders are continuing to vote with their feet. An increasing number of families and young people are departing our shores in  a vote of no-confidence in John Key and his administration.

It also suggests that the neo-liberal concept of the atomisation of  “society” – replaced by  the Individual and  families – has reached it’s inevitable consequence. If all that matters is the Individual and their own needs, then concepts such as national identity and cultural heritage are hopelessly out-dated concepts. In which case, people will simply follow the money and nothing else matters.

If we are ever to attract New Zealanders back to our country, and to persuade those already here that it is worthwhile being part of this society, then we have to move away from raw Individualism and self-interest. To encourage people to be a part of a society, that society has to be vibrant, strong, and offer more than just cash incentives.

This is why National will never be able to reverse the outward flow of people and loss of talent  overseas;  the Nats are part of the neo-liberal paradigm for whom society will always take a back seat to the rights and primacy of the Individual. Key and his mob will always be trapped by their own neo-liberal dogma, and can offer us nothing except much hand-wringing; more excuses; and well-worn election rhetoric.

The last word goes to this chap, who no doubt sums up the feelings of many New Zealanders who have departed our shores,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.

See: Student loan avoiders told to pay up

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Report_Card_migration

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Did this catch Dear Leader Key by surprise as well?

15 November 2012 8 comments

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Full story

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The sale of Hillside Workshops will affect it’s workers badly,

KiwiRail is making 80 to 90 workers at the Hillside railway workshop in Dunedin redundant after making only a partial sale of the site.”

See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

I wonder – was John Key as surprised with this announcement today as he was a week ago,  when the HLFS   figures were recently  released, revealing that  unemployment was now at 7.3%?

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.” – John Key, 8 November 2012

Perhaps he was. Perhaps, as Bryan Gould pointed out in the NZ Herald today,

In the wake of the grim news about factory closures and lay-offs over recent months, the figures were only to be expected. Indeed, the warnings about a crisis in manufacturing have been coming thick and fast, and from all quarters.

There was, though, one person, it seems, who was blindsided by the bad news. The Prime Minister, we were told by the television news, was “taken by surprise”. The only explanation for this is that John Key has paid little attention to the unemployment issue over the past four years, despite its destructive impact both on individuals and their families, and on society as a whole.”

See: Bryan Gould: Plight of jobless makes us all poorer

After four years of  Key’s “leadership”, what do we have?

  • High unemployment
  • A shortage of housing, and rising house prices
  • Exporters suffering under a high dollar
  • National policy designed to drive down wages (see: John Key’s track record on raising wages)
  • A stagnating economy

Adding to the above,  this report out today,

Continuing bad economic news is prompting forecasters to speculate the economy may have gone backwards for the first time in two years.

Retail figures for the September quarter showing a big fall in spending follow weak inflation and job numbers for the same period have been released in recent weeks.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon says there is a reasonable likelihood the economy contracted in the most recent quarter.

Deutsche Bank senior economist Darren Gibbs believes that at best, the economy failed to grow at all and possibly went backwards during the period.

He said a manufacturing survey for October due in the next fortnight will give the first indication of whether or not the economy’s loss of momentum is continuing in the current quarter.

Finance Minister Bill English told Morning Report that the numbers bounce from quarter to quarter and the latest figures are not of concern.

He said the economy is as uncertain as it has been for years, and the Government will continue to focus on straight forward objectives, like getting back to surplus and rebuilding Christchurch.”

See: Economy may be going backwards

No wonder New Zealanders are escaping to Australia faster than East Germans climbing The Wall, during the Soviet era,

A net loss of 39,500 people to Australia contributed to New Zealand’s net loss of migrants in
the September 2012 year. This is down from the record net loss of 40,000 in the August 2012
year. The September figure resulted from 53,700 departures to Australia, offset by 14,200
arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.”

See: International Travel and Migration: September 2012

It’s not just the low pay (which is being driven lower by National policies); nor the cost of housing rising higher and higher as a minority speculate on  property for tax-free gains; nor rising unemployment; nor the growing wealth-divide.

What is driving New Zealanders to escape – and I use that word with precise deliberation – is that our society has a strong impulse for self-flagellation that manifests as constantly making wrong economic decisions. Instead of looking at the long term – sufficient numbers of New Zealand voters opt for short term benefits. The result is that few of our economic problems are actually  addressed in a meaningful way.

The joke is that so many New Zealanders still hold a quasi-religious faith in the National Party as “prudent managers” of the economy.

Which is sad, really.

National is the last political body to earn the reputation of “prudent manager”.

Any Prime Minister who reveals surprise at a worsening economic situation – despite data  screaming “Red Alert! Red Alert!” on every indicator, is one who is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t a clue what is going on around him.

How can a Prime Minister with an entire government department at his disposal, which spends $17,547,000 a year,  be oblivious to 13,000 people losing their jobs in the last three months?

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Does he not read a newspaper?

Or, as with the GCSB briefing in February, was Key simply not paying attention?

Or perhaps, as with the John Banks police file, did he wilfully choose not to look at the information?

Precisely why are we paying this man $411,510 each year?!

One other reason why so many New Zealand voters are so deluded into voting for National; the old ‘aspirational middle class‘ thing.

We all want to be affluent, succesful, and secure. The National Party is filled to the brim with millionaires, rich lawyers, businessmen and women, etc. Even Paula Bennett knew how to rort the welfare system when she was on the DPB, and bought a nice house with WINZ assistance.

Mowst of us want that. So by electing National,  some of that success will rub of onto us, right?

Right?

So f*****g wrong.

Who benefitted from National’s 2009 and 2010 tax cuts? Check out the data,

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2009 taxcuts

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2010 taxcuts

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As the numbers above show, the higher your earnings, the greater your tax cut. Conversely,  the lower your earnings, the less you got.

If you earned $40,000 p.a. your tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010 was – $9.94.

At the same time, GST went up. That meant you were now paying 15% on food, electricity, fuel (more actually), rates, etc.

High income earners have done very nicely out of the tax cuts.

By contrast, the Australian governments treated their low-middle income earners somewhat differently,

As part of the Government’s policy to spread the benefits of the mining boom, one million people will be freed from paying tax when the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be paid A$410 a year for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.”

See: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

That is called re-distribution of wealth to those who need it.

As compared to National’s re-distribution of wealth to those who do not need it.

It takes a while for the Aspirationists to wake up and realise that they’ve been conned. In the meantime, Key smiles and waves and bats away serious economic problems; Paula Bennett targets and blames the unemployed for daring to be unemployed; Hekia Parata is busy undermining our education system; John Banks is throwing taxpayers money at private Charter schools; and the rest of the National Party are further dismantling our once egalitarian society, and doing dubious back-room deals with casinos, big business, foreign governments, and god-knows-who-else.

The only thing that would really, really, really piss me off is that National voters became disenchanted with their own “government” – a mess of their own making –  and headed off to Australia. To hell with that!

It’s a shame that Aussie Customs can’t made a small addition to their Immigration Declaration Form,

Have you ever,

[] been convicted of a drugs offence?

[] been a part of a terrorist group?

[] voted National?

Ticking the last box should be grounds for immediate repatriation to New Zealand.

The Aussies may already have started: I understand that Paul Henry is being sent back to New Zealand?

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“Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!

8 October 2012 15 comments

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2008…

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This was one of National’s election hoardings in 2008,

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National made a big deal of New Zealanders migrating to Australia. Essentially it became an election issue, with John Key painting  our population loss to Australia as a “vote of no confidence” in the incumbent Labour government.

As Key said,

The brain drain worries the hell out of me. I have no doubt we can kiss goodbye to at least half of you in the next five to 10 years.” – John Key, 31 May 2007

See: Business students host National Party leader

When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins?  Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job.  Our Aussie cousins, who have been given a tax cut in every Budget for the past five years and who will continue to have their taxes cut for Budgets to come.

Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch.  We have to give them better reasons to stay. ” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Key and the Nats made a nice little ‘song-and-dance’ about the brain-drain to Australia. They  pledged to voters  that, once elected, would set about enacting policies to encourage New Zealanders to stay and help build our economy.

So, how did it work out?

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2009…

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Hmmmm, it’s only been a year for Dear Leader and his cronies colleagues. Let’s be fair and give them more time…

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2010…

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Uh oh. Still not looking terribly ‘flash’, is it? Well, it’s only two years since the Tories were elected on a promise to engage with New Zealanders and create a country that, as Dear Leader Key said in January 2008, “we have to give them better reasons to stay“.

Maybe next year?

Let’s wait and see…

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2011…

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Bugger.

Oh well. Maybe next year?

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2012…

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Well, that seems to have flopped. Majorly flopped.

So what is National’s response to such an utter  failure of their policies? What new initiatives did Dear Leader and his well-paid, well-staffed Ministers come up with?

This is their master-stroke solution,

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So this is National’s  ‘Plan B’? Instead of calling the mass exodus of New Zealanders a  “brain drain”; lamenting the loss of our “best and brightest”; National’s spin-doctors (paid out of yours and my taxes) have re-labelled the slow de-population of our nation as a “brain exchange”?!

Damn clever these spin-doctors, eh?

Just imagine; the re-spinning of all our social and economic problems can be overcome in precisely the same ‘clever’ way. Just slap something with a re-label, and hey, ‘bob’s-your-aunty’.

As Dear Leader Key tells us,

Yup, we started that debate, but the truth is our population has been rising. At the very minimum you could say it’s a ‘brain exchange’ because there’s quite a lot of bright people arriving into New Zealand.” – John Key, 7 October 2012

Sorted.

Except, it’s not ‘sorted’. Nowhere near ‘sorted’.

Key is correct; New Zealand’s population continues to “grow”. But only because the rest of the global human population is only too willing to migrate to New Zealand from various Third World nations; poverty-stricken societies; and hell-holes like Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, etc.

This blogger has no problem with immigrants – my own parents escaped from an Eastern European nation after the Red Army rampaged through the capital city, shooting and killing.

This blogger, does, however, have a problem with a Party that was elected to power on certain promises – and has failed spectacularly at every level to make good those promises.

It is my contention that New Zealanders have ‘jumped the ditch’ – not simply because of the lure of jobs and higher wages in Australia – but because, as a nation, we have failed to instill a sense of belonging in many of our young people.

Since the tsunami that was Rogernomics swept away many of our old values, and replaced our sense of nationhood with an odious philosophy of individualistic Me First, it is my contention that we have taught this generation to ‘follow the money’. Citizenship; a sense of belonging; and valuing and being valued,  is way down on a list of priorities for many folk. Or non-existant.

I share this with the reader,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years”.

See: Student loan avoiders told to pay up

I offer this salient piece of advice to Dear Leader andf the National Party; if we expect committment from New Zealanders – then, as a nation, we must show committment to our young folk, and to each other.

That involves old fashioned concepts and values such as pride in our country. Not just our flag or rugby team or latest successful movie by Peter Jackson – but pride in a nation that invests in each citizen with universal, free education; food in schools programmes; decent housing; comprehensive free healthcare for our young people; fair wages sufficient to raise a family on;  everyone paying their taxes (no exceptions for capital gains, sorry),  and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Our Scandinavian cuzzies have achieved this model of society. Even we used to have something similar once upon a time.

Building a sense of nationhood, therefore,  is not about building personal fortunes or buying the latest consumer gadget.

After thirty years of experimenting with the doctrine of Individualistism and Me First, I think it’s fairly obvious that it has failed us. We may have state-of-the-art flatscreen TVs – but our kids are not watching them with us. They’re skyping us from Australia, or where-ever.

If we want a sense of nationhood, it cannot be purchased; imported; traded on the sharemarket; sold; or commodified. It is something deep and innate within us that has to be nurtured by a sense of belonging.

And judging by the exodus from these islands, you really have to ask yourself how strong that sense of belonging is, any more.

The final wave goodbye from many of our fellow Kiwis,

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Sources

Exodus to Oz continues unabated (27 Feb 2009)

Kiwis move to Aussie in record numbers (29 Sept 2010)

Kiwi exodus to Australia nears record levels (23 Nov 2011)

Kiwis still flocking across Tasman (23 June 2012)

Key changes tack with ‘brain exchange’ tag (7 Oct 2012)

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Voting with their feet…

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"Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch. We have to give them better reasons to stay." - 29 January 2008

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It seems that far from “giving them better reasons to stay“, John Key and his incompetant government may be accelerating the exodus to Australia,

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Full Story

Despite bribing us with two tax cuts, New Zealanders continue to migrate to Australia.

No – “migration” is the wrong word. They are not just migrants, they are  economic refugees. This is a mass break-out and escape of New Zealanders and their families for whom life in this country no longer holds any future.

Far from “giving them better reasons to stay“,  social ties to this country appears to be weakening.

John Key raised voters’ expectation with grandiose promises of job creation,

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Much of National’s campaign was predicated on new jobs and boosting the economy,

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Instead, we have been given mass sackings of state sector workers, for no discernible purpose,

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Full Story

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With more sacking to come, and instead of boosting the economy, National is content to rearrange government departments, to form monolithic, Soviet style Ministeries,

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Full Story

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Is this making sense to anyone?

It may be perfectly “sensible” to National and ACT and their slowly diminishing support-base – but not 53,000 New Zealanders who have had a bellyful of a stagnating economy; tax cuts for high income earners; tinkering; and not much more,

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Full Story

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Which is why it is interesting to remind ourselves of  Dear Leader’s speech in 2008,

We know Kiwis are suffocating under the burden of rising mortgage payments and interest rates.  We know you cringe at the thought of filling up the car, paying for the groceries, or trying to pay off your credit card.  ” – John Key, 29 January 2008

It seems matters have not changed much in four years,

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Full Story

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It’s unsurprising that Kiwis who have been thrown onto the economic scrap-heap by a government that has no vision and no plan, except to cut and slash, are deserting their country of birth,

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Full Story

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Is this the “Brighter Future” which our Dear Leader promised us?

This is no plan for a “Brighter Future”. National  is hell-bent on an ideological crusade to cut the state sector; cut taxes for companies and the rich – and then hope for the best.

This, folks, is what a neo-liberal, “free market”, government does. They wait on the ‘Market’ to deliver jobs, higher wages, and better living standards,

Sustainable economic growth which creates permanent worthwhile jobs is best achieved by building a competitive economy that allows business to trade successfully with the rest of the world,the Ministers say,13 March 2012 .

We’ll be waiting an awful long time.

Actually, some of us will be waiting. The rest are off.

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Previous Blog Post

Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

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Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

6 March 2012 3 comments

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During the Cold War, Eastern Europeans used to “vote with their feet” and escape to the West. Often that migration was done at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The Poles, Hungarians, Czecks, East Germans, et al, who crossed from the Eastern European Zone did so in search of freedom – political, economic, and social. For them, the repression in their home nations was sufficient motivation to up-root and leave behind family and friends, in search of something better.

Whilst the risk isn’t quite the same for us (no armed border guards; semi-rabid guard dogs; sentry towers with searchlights and machine-gun posts), New Zealanders are still voting with their feet,
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Full Story

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Unlike their Eastern European cuzzies, New Zealanders are not leaving simply to improve their financial lot (though that certainly plays a major part).

I believe there is much more involved in the psychology behind this migration.

Since the Rogernomics New Right “reforms” of the late 1980s, New Zealand  has been socially re-engineered. New, neo-liberalistic values of obeisance for wealth; state sector “efficiency”; low taxes; minimal government;  user pays in many, previously free social services; and a quasi-religious intolerance of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale who are left behind in the mad scramble for money and status.

A new creed of Personal Good trumps Social Needs, and Individual Rights/Needs trumps Community Well-being.

It is a New Right puritanism that demands solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers) “go out to work” –  blind to the concept of raising a family as being a vital form of work.

It is the demand for Individual Rights to have 24/7 access to alcohol – irrespective of harm caused to society (see BERL report) and the eventual cost to tax-payers.

It is the craven reverance shown to 150 Rich Listers who increased their wealth by a massive 20% in 2010 – whilst condemning working men and women who are struggling to keep their wages and conditions in the face of an onslaught by employers, emboldened by a right wing government. (Eg; AFFCO, Maritime Workers, ANZCO-CMP Rangitikei)

It is a nasty streak of crass, moralistic judgementalism that blames the poor for being poor; invalids for being born with a disability or suffering a crippling accident; solo-mums (but not solo-fathers) for daring to be responsible enough to raise a family; and the unemployed for being in the wrong Place/Time when the global banking crisis metastasized into a full-blown worldwide Recession, turning them from wage earning tax-payers – to one of crony capitalism’s “collateral damage”.

In all this, having a sense of community; of belonging to a wider society; and of being a New Zealander  – has been sublimated. Except for ANZAC Day; a national disaster; and when the All Blacks are thrashing the Wallabies, we show very little sense of nationalistic pride or social cohesion.

Indeed, I recall some years ago being in a 24/7 convenience store in downtown Wellington, on ANZAC Day. It was not yet 1pm, so by law alcohol could not be sold.

I noticed a customer in the store selecting a bottle of wine from the chiller and taking it to the checkout, to purchase. As per liquor laws, the checkout operator could not legally sell that bottle of wine, until after 1pm.

The operator explained that it was the law; it was ANZAC Day; and it was a mark of respect (most shops weren’t even open before 1pm).

The customer, a  fashionably-dressed young(-ish) man remonstrated with the checkout operator and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear; “I don’t give a shit about ANZAC Day. I just want to buy this wine.”

And that, I believe sums up our present society. That young man simply didn’t care. He  wanted something and he couldn’t believe it was being denied to him.

To him (and others like him, who usually vote ACT and/or National), all he knew was that he WANTED a THING and his right to have it, if he could pay for it, was paramount.

What does that say about a society?

Firstly, what it says is, to some folk,  a society is little more than a flimsy, abstract concept – and not much more – with ‘Society’ being subservient to the demands of the Individual.

Secondly, if Society is nothing more than an abstract concept – as one person recently wrote to me on Facebook – then there is no way whatsoever that an individual can feel a sense of “belonging”.

“Belong” to what? A geographic place on a map that happens to have a different name and colouring to another geographic place adjacent to it?

If people who happened to be born in a Geographic Area; designated “New Zealand”; coloured pale-green on the map; decide that they can earn more money in another Geographic Area; designated “Australia”; coloured ochre on the map – then moving from “A” to “B” is nothing more than a logistical exercise. Kinda like shifting house from one street to another.

When we have no concept of “society” – then people will “vote with their feet”. They simply have nothing else to consider when making a decision except solely on material factors.

An expat New Zealander, living in a Geographic Area across the Tasman Sea, told the “Dominion Post“,

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“A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”Source

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If we extrapolate this situation to it’s logical outcome, it becomes obvious that New Zealand’s future is to become a vast training ground for the global economy, with thousand of polytechs, Universities, and other training institutions churning out hundreds of thousands of trained workers for the global economy.

Our children will be born; raised; schooled; educated; and then despatched to  another Geographic Area. It gives a whole new meaning to Kiwis “leaving the nest”.

When Finance Minister Bill English  told Radio New Zealand,
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We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support business that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills.

“We are getting those in place, despite the fact that we’ve had a substantial recession. We believe we can make considerable progress over the next four to five years.” – Source

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… he was quite correct – though not quite in the way he was intending. New Zealand will “provide people with skills and reward those skills” – just not for this country.

National leader John Key, once again, was of in la-la land as usual when he said,
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Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – Source

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Dear Leader really should stop smoking that wacky baccy. It’s all utter rubbish of course. The economy is not “growing at a faster rate than Australia” (except in Key’s fantasies) and rather than “closing that after-tax wage gap” – it’s actually been widening.

Worse than that, employers – with support from National  – are actively engaged in a “class war” against their own employees to lower wages and to destroy workers’ rights to bargain collectively through a  Union.

The lockout of AFFCO workers  and threat by Ports of Auckland Ltd to casualise and contract out their workforce is nothing more or less than a campaign to reduce wages and increase profits for shareholders.

So much for Key’s bizarre claim “we have been closing that after-tax wage gap“. (No wonder we trust politicians at the same level as used-car salesmen.)

Not a very pretty picture… and yet that is the future we seem to be creating for ourselves.

How do we go about undoing the last 27 years of free-market, monetarist obsession?

Do New Zealanders even want to?

We should care – quite a bit, in fact.

The more skilled (and semi-skilled) people we lose to another Geographic Area, the fewer taxpayers we have remaining here.  Those taxpayers would be the ones who would be paying for our retirement; our  pension; and caring for us in Retirement Homes up and down the country.

Which means, amongst other things, that we’d better start paying Rest Home workers a more generous wage rather than a paltry $13.61 an hour  –  or else we’ll be wiping our own drool from our mouths and sitting for hours on end in damp, cold, incontinence pads. Even semi-skilled workers contribute more to our society than we realise.

If we want to instill a sense of society in our children – instead of simply living in an “economy” or Geographic Area – then we had better start re-assessing our priorities and values.

We can start with simple things.

Like; children. What is more important; a tax-cut, or providing free health-care and nutritious meals at schools for all children?

(If your answer is “Tax cut” because feeding children is an Individual and not a  Social need, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

Children who are all well-fed and healthy tend to do better at school. They learn better. They succeed. And they go on to succeed in life.

But more importantly, if society as a whole looks after all children – irrespective of whether they were lucky enough to be born into a good family,  or unlucky to be born into a stressed family of poverty and despair – then those children may, in turn look after us in decades to come.

If we want our children to feel a part of a society – our society – then we have to instill that sense of society in them at an early age.

Who knows – instilling a sense of society in all our children may achieve other desirable goals; lower crime; lower imprisonment rates; an urge to contribute more to the community;  less family stress and divorce; stronger families; less community fragmentation and alienation…

We’ve tried everything else these past three decades – and things aren’t getting better.

The focus on materialism and Individualism has not delivered a better society, higher wages, or other beneficial social and economic outcomes. Instead, many of our fellow New Zealanders are turning away and going elsewhere for a better life.

Quite simply, if people are Voting with their feet, then this is a Vote of No Confidence in our country.

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