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National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

12 June 2013 1 comment

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Want a good reason for voting for MMP

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Something I’ve noticed in the last few days, as the Aaron Gilmore saga drags on, is the number of snide references being made to our electoral system, MMP (Mixed Member Proportional).

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"...what he's reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not every party leader is powerless."

what he’s reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not, every party leader is powerless.”John Key, 9 May 2013

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 As with the sacking from NZ First's caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP. List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.

As with the sacking from NZ First’s caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP.
List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.”Un-named author, 11 May 2013

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“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”

“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”Michelle Boag, May 2013

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The new meme is that the MMP system is somehow permitting Aaron Gilmore to remain in Parliament, and is vexing his Leader’s desire to remove him. The subtext is that MMP is severely ‘flawed’,  allowing errant members of Parliament to flout the ‘system’ and disregard the wishes of the public – and their Party leaders.

The corollary is that the previous system, First Past the Post (FPP) was somehow ‘superior’; tougher on wayward politicians, and allowed Party leaders to ditch them.

Both views are patently false.

As usual, watch out for politicians and their hangers-on – they speak with a forked tongue.

The reality is that pre-MMP, during our First Past the Post era, there were several members of Parliament who split away from their Parties (either National or Labour).

The Roll Call of Honour/Dis-Honour – depending on your point of view:

Matiu  Rata – resigned from Labour, 1979

Jim Anderton – resigned from Labour, April 1989

Gilbert Myles – resigned from National, late 1991

Hamish MacIntyre – resigned from National, late 1991

Cam Campion – resigned from National, March 1993

Winston Peters – resigned from National, early 1993*

Of the six MPs listed above, only Peters resigned from Parliament (as well as his Party), prompting a by-election on 17 April 1993. Rata prompted a by-election the following year, in June 1980.

Peters’ resignation was made of his own volition, as he sought a mandate from his Electorate after a public and very acrimonious split from the Bolger-led National Government of the day. (Indeed, Peters’ by-election was  dismissed  as a “stunt” by his opponants. I guess you can’t win either way.)

The remaining for MPs, Anderton; Myles; MacIntyre; and  Campion all remained as sitting Independent MPs until the following general election. Only Anderton and Peters were re-elected in subsequent elections.

All five MPs were electorate-based, and elected under FPP. In this respect, both MMP and FPP share a common feature; at no time could either Labour or National force their five ‘rogue’ MPs from Parliament.

This is a fact that Key, Boag, and the un-named author of the Dominion Post editorial should be fully aquainted with.

It appears to me is that by ‘dissing’ MMP, the conservative elements in politics (Key, Boag, and an obviously right-leaning anonymous  editorialist) are attempting to shift blame from their own short-comings  onto our electoral system. “Scape goating” is the appropriate term, I believe.

But worse than that – by smearing our electoral system, the Conservative Establishment is further undermining the public perception of democracy in New Zealand.  The apalling low voter turn-out in 2011 –  74.2% , the lowest turnout since 1887 – can only be exacerbated when those with a loud public voice ridicule and deride our electoral system.

The subtext here is; “our electoral system is crap; don’t bother using it; don’t vote; disengage”.

This, of course, suits the purposes of the Conservative Establishment. The less people who vote, the better for them. Their hope is that their own voter base will ignore the subliminal messaging and continue to cast their ballots on Election Day.

It is a sad day in our country when those with a strong public voice (political leaders, public figures, anonymous editorial writers, etc) use their positions to undermine democracy and further erode public participation, when instead they have a duty to promote a sense of  civic duty in our nation.

What’s the bet that come the next election, John Key, Michelle Boag, and the anonymous Dominion Post editorialist will all be voting?

Of course they will. They understand the power of the ballot.

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When you stop voting

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2013.

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References

TVNZ:   Gilmore refuses to resign amid fresh allegations (9 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Gilmore should accept it’s time to go  (11 May 2013)

National Business Review: Boag: how best to deal with Gilmore

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Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters…

23 February 2013 3 comments

Coming  to “The Daily Blog” on 1 March…

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Wha)

13 March 2012 2 comments

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POAL management met with maritime workers and their union reps in Len Brown’s office yesterday, with the mayor mediating. The meeting  lasted supposedly for three hours – after which the protagonists emerged.

POAL announced no change in their position; the  sackings of 292 port workers would not be rescinded and casualisation and contracting out would proceed as planned.

POAL Board  chairman,  Pearson stated emphatically,

The collective negotiations are over. We’re now into implementing the decision. The contractors have already been engaged and they are recruiting.

“Where I feel the mayor could help in the mediation is to try and get the staff that are out on strike to apply for jobs with the contractors because we understand that there’s a sinister element in the union that’s preventing the individual employees to make that decision.” – Radio NZ

Pearson’s melodramatic reference to “a sinister element in the union ” would be laughable, if 292 families were not impacted by POAL’s intransigence,

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POAL management’s intransigence could be egoism at work from Broad Chairman Richard Pearson and CEO Tony Gibson – except there is much more to it than that.

POAL have consistantly stated that the casualisation and contracting out of their workforce was predicated on the port performing badly and needing to improve it’s comopetiveness. As  port CEO Tony Gibson said,

We’ve weighed up all the options and we believe this is the best decision for the future of the Port. Auckland enjoys significant natural advantages, including its proximity to New Zealand’s largest market, where 60% of exports, and 70% of import business takes place. Until now we have been constrained by practices which have reduced the Port’s competitiveness, and in recent months industrial action, which has lost us significant business.”

POAL Board chairman Richard Pearson said on TVNZ’s Q+A,

Well, from my perspective, Paul, I came into this situation, and I’ve been 37 years in the container port business and ports all around the world. I have never seen such a waste of resource going on here. I have never seen a situation where you pay someone for 43 hours and they work 26. I’ve never seen a situation where ships wait to come in to start waiting for the start of a shift. You know, that’s like aeroplanes flying around waiting for-

Paul, Australasia’s not the benchmark for good container-port operations around the world, with all due respect, okay? As I’ve said to you, I have never seen such a potential asset like we’ve got at Auckland that could actually run better... [abridged] ” – Ibid

Paul, we’ve got them going. They’re working. 25 years Tauranga’s been working on this model, and it’s been working well. And during that time, we’ve lost 12% of our market to Tauranga. We can’t wait. We have to make this change now, and we have to make it quickly. ” – Ibid

POAL’s webpage, “Questions & Answers: Changes at Ports of Auckland“,  puts great emphasis on increased productivity and competitiveness.

Gibson and Pearson seem to be alarmed – almost in panic – at POAL’s  ‘lack of productivity’.

Which is curious.

Because recent official government reports paint a completely different picture,

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ministry of transport container pruductivity at nz ports october 2011

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The report states, in part,

New Zealand ports had differing results in 2009 and 2010, reflecting the differing situations for each
port. Tauranga performed well for crane, ship and vessel rates, while Auckland and Otago had vessel
rates comparable with Tauranga. The trends over the last two calendar years show that crane rates at
New Zealand ports on average have been static, but ship and vessel rates on average have grown
about four percent per annum. The container productivity of New Zealand ports appears at least
comparable with, and in some cases better than, Australian and other international ports.”

Auckland and Otago’s vessel rates are relatively higher than their crane rates. Container
terminal productivity tends to be higher when a ship loads and unloads more containers.
These ports have had regular calls from larger container ships (that is, ships with capacity for
4,100 containers). Consequently, these ports tend to use relatively more crane time4 than
other ports to load and unload containers from ships.”

Comparisons with Australian ports

Table 3 below compares New Zealand and Australian ports in 2010. Table 4 below compares
trends over 2009 and 2010 for national-average crane, ship and vessel rates. Some
conclusions are as follows.
• The national-average crane rate for New Zealand ports is slightly behind the nationalaverage
for Australian ports.
• The national-average ship and vessel rates for New Zealand ports are ahead of the
national-average for Australian ports.
• Crane rates in both countries are largely unchanged over the period.
• Ship and vessel rates in both countries are increasing (average growth rates in both
countries are about four percent per annum). The growth appears to be due to ports
using relatively more crane time than in previous years. This may be related to the
average size of container ships increasing in recent years.
• Comparing across all these ports, there is no apparent evidence that productivity
increases with larger total volumes of containers at ports (‘economies of scale’).”

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Conclusions

There is a mixture of container productivity results for New Zealand’s six main container ports,
reflecting the differing situations for each port. Overall, the top three container operations
appear to be Auckland, Tauranga and Otago. The trend over the last two years is for national average
crane productivity to be static, but national-average ship and vessel productivity to
grow about four percent per annum. This growth seems to be due to ports using relatively
more crane time than in previous years, which may be related to an increasing average size
of container ships.”

Just to emphasise the point; “Overall, the top three container operations

Which – yet again – shows up POAL management to be  somewhat ‘loose‘ with the truth.

One cannot but help come to the conclusion that Ports of Auckland is a reasonably efficient operation.

Profit-wise, it is also performing well, judging by NBR reports,

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Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

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Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

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Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

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Instead, it appears that the agenda to destroy the union and impose casualisation is a deliberate plan to drive down wages.  It seems to be a response to Auckland City Council’s demand to increase their rate of return from 6% to 12%. As Len Brown said on TVNZ’s Q+A on 11 March,

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PAUL Well, how firm are you on this?  Have you laid down the law on the 12%?

LEN  We have given it to them in our statement of corporate intent.  Right at the start of the year, I went down to the port, met all the workers and the employees and the company directors down there and said, ‘Right, this is what we’re expecting from the port.’  And we had an hour’s Q & A-
 
PAUL This is what we’re expecting.  Is this-?  I mean, were you laying the law about the return you want in five years – 12%?
 
LEN  We were laying down the law in terms of what we expected from the port in terms of its return and in terms of its performance generally.

PAUL Where did you get the 12%?

LEN  So, the 12% was an estimate, a view that certainly I’ve been working on for right through the last sort of 18 months, two years.  It was view that was discussed our own table with the officers, with our own council-
 
PAUL So it’s a guess?  It’s a good guess?

LEN  No, it’s an estimate.
 
PAUL (laughs)
 
LEN  This is what we think we should be aiming to achieve.  And so we went back to the company and said, ‘Okay, this where we think you should be.  What is your advice back to us?’  Their advice was, ‘Give us five years and we believe that we can receive that.’

PAUL Well, excuse me, look at this.  Okay, 12%, that’s your estimate – guesstimate.  Tauranga returns 6.8%, Lyttelton 8.6%, Sydney 6.7%, Melbourne 3.1%, Auckland 6% — 6.3% after tax.

LEN  So not just about return either-
 
PAUL Where’s the 12% being made anywhere?

LEN  It’s about competitiveness against other ports.  So we are losing share against Tauranga.  We are competing flat out against Brisbane, in particular, and Sydney.  It was our desire that we wanted the port to be much much stronger in terms of its– “

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So there we have it. The drive for greater profit.

Paid for out of the wages of ordinary workers.

Does this seem remotely fair to anyone? (ACT supporters need not respond to this question.)

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On the social networking ‘battlefront’,  supporters of  POAL have set up their own Facebook page,

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ports of auckland facebook page

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Meanwhile,  POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd)  continues to waste ratepayers’ money on full-page and half-page ads in our daily newspapers.

This propaganda piece appeared in the Business Section of the NZ Herald today,

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By “sheer coincidence” the ad was placed opposite an advertisement appealing to  port workers to abandon the picket line and contact either of the  two recruiting companies.

This is not just a gross mis-use of company funds – it is an abuse of economic power. This is a clear example of why trade unions are still very much  a necessity.

With trade unions to monitor workers’ rights and conditions, companies are able to  wield considerable power in any dispute.

(Acknowledgement to Cathy Casey.)

Interestingly, POAL states on their website that “We do not have any vacancies at the Ports of Auckland at this stage“,

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292 port workers would be happy to hear that.

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*** Update ***

Union seeks injunction to halt wharfie dismissals

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It’s a simple matter of choice.

1 September 2011 2 comments

With Labour’s release today, of their youth skills/employment policy, voters are now presented with the clearest choice yet between the two main parties. Aside from the issue of asset sales, where National has announced a programme of part-privatisation, and Labour opposes any/all privatisation, employment policy is the real litmus of both party’s essential core philosopies.

National prefers to step back and allow the “free market” to work it’s magic.

Labour has no hesitation in using the power of the State to address social-economic problems.

The National Business Review – hardly an organ for marxist-leninist groups – was  moved to report on an opinion piece penned by Duncan Garner;

“In a lengthy blog post, Unemployed youth would fill Eden Park, Duncan Garner declares that ‘this government’s biggest failure to date is our young people’.  With 58,000 youth not in work or education, ‘We are at crisis point. 27.6% of those aged 15-24 are out of work and out of luck. It’s even higher for Maori and Pacific youth’. And how has the Government performed on this issue? Garner says ‘there is a yawning gap between Key’s rhetoric and the reality’, and asks, ‘So what did Key do in the weekend to target the problem? Very little’. He suggests that ‘Key needs to be bold, he needs to take risks’.”

Source

In stating that Key had done “very little” to target the problem,  Garner was referring to the Prime Minister’s policy speech at National’s Conference on 13 August.  Indeed, thus far National’s track record at addressing unemployment has consisted of the following;

  • Building a cycleway. Anticipated new jobs: 4,000. Actual new jobs created: 215.  (Source)
  • Hiring an advisor for Finance Minister, Bill English, at $2,000 a day. (Source)
  • A new payment card for 16,17, and some 18 year old beneficiaries that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettes; (though it’s already illegal for 16 and 17 year olds to purchase these products)
  • … and… that’s it.

Source

It is worth noting the seriousness of youth unemployment in this country. According to the Department of Labour;

“Youth aged 15–19 years have an unemployment rate over three times that of the entire working-age population. Young workers are more vulnerable to downturns in labour market conditions due to their lower skill levels and lesser work experience. The latest official figures show that 17.2% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 8.4% of those aged 20 to 24 years were unemployed, which represents a deterioration of the trends found in the report. Maori and Pacific youth had significantly higher unemployment rates.”

Source

Ducan Garner seems in no mood to respond to John Key’s “smiles and waves” politics when he opens his piece with this caustic observation;

“58,000. This is the crucial number that should be ringing in John Key’s ears every night he bunks down in the refurbished Premier House.

58,000 young people between the ages of 15-24 are not in education, training or work. The majority of them are on a benefit.”

Garner adds,

“Sure the recession has been tough on young people worldwide. 81 million youths are now unemployed around the globe, it was 71 million before the recession. It is a ticking time bomb. In London, it’s already exploded.”

Source

And there we have it:
  1. Problem: growing, lingering unemployment.
  2. Potential disaster: social unrest, exploding into mass-violence.
  3. Solution – ?
To demonstrate how utterly vacuous National’s policy has been to date, let me juxtapose two media reports  outlining policy releases from both Labour and National.  Have a good look at these;

[click to expand]

Labour would cut dole, increase training

National to clamp down on youth beneficiaries

Which offers new jobs, and which offers tinkering with welfare?

At a time when New Zealand has 170,000 unemployed – of which 58,000 are aged 15-24; when we will be needing thousands of skilled tradespeople to re-build a broken city that has endured massive earthquake devastastion; the current government has done next-to-nothing during its three year tenure.

Except create 215 new jobs in building a cycleway; hire some very expensive advisors; and give tax cuts to some very rich people.

In doing so, we do not have the skilled tradespeople required to re-build Christchurch.  Because we are currently losing around 20 skilled tradespeople a day to overseas destinations such as Australia.  At the same time, people are losing their jobs in Christchurch and unemployment is rising.

To show how badly this government has failed, nothing better illustrates that failure than this;

 

 

Only the most die-hard National/ACT supporter will believe this this situation is acceptable. (And they usually come up with all manner of excuses why it is acceptable.) But I suspect – or at least hope – that ordinary New Zealanders who look at this situation and will ask the inevitable hard questions;

  1. Why are we not offering training for unemployed?
  2. Why are we not planning  to put our people to work?
  3. Why are we hiring workers from overseas?
  4. How will this help unemployed New Zealanders to get back into the workforce?

On the 13 of August, at the National Party Conference,  Prime Minister John Key stated,that “the current system “is not working and needs to change“.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about job creation or training for unemployed. He was talking about not letting 16 and 17 year olds buy booze and ciggies.

Goff says it is ”crazy”to have high youth unemployment alongside a growing skills shortage crisis“.

Which one resonates with you?

Postscript;

 

A bouquet  to Hutt Gas and Plumbing Systems Ltd ,  a Lower Hutt company that is one of the many thousands of small businesses in our communities, quietly ‘beavering’ away in the background,  that make  our economy work.

 

 

Hutt Gas & Plumbing featured on TV1’s evening news where Phil Goff released Labour’s youth skills and employment package.

Hutt Gas & Plumbing train several apprentices, giving young people an opportunity to learn a trade; earn a wage; and contribute to their local community.  These folk are the real pillars of our society. Not the big, flash corporations and financial institutions that shuffle bits of paper around, and make their profits on speculation.

These are the small companies that deserve our support and encouragement. They are the ones that some of our children will rely on for jobs’ training to get into a trade.

Kudos to Labour for planning to increase apprenticeships. This is the hard policy planning that will create jobs and give our kids opportunities.

And a bloody big brickbat for Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce, for  saying that Labour’s proposal was just National policy dressed up,

They’re basically doing what the government is already doing, they just want to throw more money at it.”

It’s rather revealing that National thinks that creating jobs for our young people is  “throwing money”.

Because buying 34 new BMW limousines, for National ministers, is not “throwing money”?

That was Then, this is Now #3

23 August 2011 2 comments

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

16 August 2011 7 comments

Perhaps the greatest urban-myth, perpetrated and perpetuated by those whose interests it serves, is that the unemployed are there-by-choice, and unwilling to work.

Of course, this is absurd and an outright falsehood.

Fact 1:  The New Zealand December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment stood  at 3.4% . This was prior to the global recession hitting NZ.

Fact 2:  By the end of 2008, the New Zealand December Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rose to 4.6%.

Fact 3:  The New Zealand December 2010 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rate increased to 6.8% .

Fact  4: In three years, the Household Labourforce Survey unemployed doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%

Fact  5: In other countries such as the US, unemployment went from 4.8%  in the fourth quarter of 2007 to stand at 9.1%  by July of this year.

Whether the largest economy on Earth, or one of the smallest, the impact of the global banking crisis and following recession caused companies to collapse; down-size; and “rationalise” (reduce) staff. This caused unemployment to skyrocket.

Events in Wall St, USA, had an impact on Main Sts, New Zealand;

“Jobs to go at textile factories”

“Headlines do not reveal true picture of job losses”

“‘Another kick in the guts for rural NZ'”

“Job losses to hit military next week”

“Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut”

“Hellaby’s closes: 18 jobs go”

“Australasian Colorado shops closing”

“Grim day of redundancies”

“Jobs to go at troubled baker Yarrows”

“KiwiRail plans to lay off Dunedin staff”

“Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa”

“Ovation confirms 304 job losses “

“Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement”

“NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs”

“Ballantynes faces post-quake job cuts”

“Lane Walker Rudkin 470 Redundancies A Tragedy”

And many more here .

As unemployment increased, the number of job-seekers increased. Even the Prime Minister, John Key, has remarked,

“We’re part of a global environment so we can’t control all of the factors that affect New Zealand, but all the indications we have is that 2011 will be a better year.”

Dozens, and often hundreds of unemployed job-seekers would turn up at businesses, that were hiring staff;

It is apparent that the global recession has caused the demise of some businesses, and forced others to greatly reduce staffing numbers. This is beyond the control of any individual in this country.

So why is there a perception amongst some individuals and groups that the jobless have chosen their unemployment as some kind of “lifestyle choice”? Especially when is it clear that WINZ unemployment benefits are nowhere as generous as some might believe.

Trying to apportion responsibility for people losing their jobs is victim-blaming  and is utterly  repugnant. Such victim-blaming is an unwelcome aspect of the human capacity for bigotry.

Why do people do it?

* The Opportunists.

It serves the purpose of some political parties such as National and ACT to blame unemployed for their predicament.

It allows National the opportunity to escape any possibility of responsibility at addressing this critical economic and social problem. And it’s a vote-winner with the next group,

* The Greedy.

For many neo-liberals who cherish the ideology of the free-market and minimalist-government, any form of taxation by the State is “theft”. And when the State hands over some of that tax-money to the Unemployed so that they can survive – they resent it. And do they complain bitterly!

These neo-liberal free-marketeers resent having to contribute their fair share to the society they live in. (Though they think nothing of driving on tax-payer funded roads; being cared for in tax-payer funded A&E Hospital Wards; protected by tax-payer funded Police; educated in tax-payer funded schools, etc.)

Greed – it does funny things to peoples’ humanity.

* The Perpetually Angry.

The uninformed, perpetually angry, people who obtain their information through TV news and/or Talkback radio. They have friends,, who know someone who has heard of a person, who apparently lives in luxury on the dole

These are people who have very little experience of the society they live in and generally have a circle of friends who validate their misconceptions.  For them, everyone is a dole-bludger; the recession happened to Someone, Somewhere Else; and everyone should be living comfortably, regardless of circumstances. Their worldview generally doesn’t extend much past their front door.

Anger – it stops people thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, The Greedy and The Perpetually Angry have no constructive solutions to offer us.

One hopes that  the National government will reconsider their decision to  cut almost $146 million from skills training.

Nor does it help when we export jobs overseas,

“Army shifts $2m contract to China”

“Chinese firm beats Hillside to KiwiRail contract”

So not only are New Zealanders losing their jobs because of corporate greed and mis-management in Wall St, USA – but our current policies actually encourage contracts to be awarded to other countries,  in effect “exporting” jobs.

Is this making sense to anyone?

Is it little wonder we have high unemployment, who need the dole to simply survive?

Because demonising a vulnerable group in our society will not achieve a single damn thing; create a single damn job; nor give us the Decent Society that we once enjoyed living in.

So far, my fellow New Zealanders,  there is precious little decency going on here.