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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 23 May 2014

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 23 May 2014  –

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– Brent Edwards –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

Youth unemployment has decreased since the last election but that still leaves 75 thousand young people in New Zealand who are not doing any kind of work, training or education.

 

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 23 May 2014 ( 17′  5″ )

  • Budget 2014, Paid Parental Leave, Free medical care for Under 13s
  • Income inequality & child poverty
  • Youth unemployment (NEETs)
  • wage growth, jobs
  • external deficit, exports, China, dairy industry, tourism
  • housing, capital gains tax
  • government surplus, research and science, innovation
  • health spending, education spending, superannuation spending
  • superannuation age of eligibility, Bill English
  • tax cuts

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Budget 2014 – How has National exposed itself in Election Year?

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2014 election

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Right Wing blogger and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, wrote in the Dominion Post on the day after the Budget,

“By contrast I expect debate on the New Zealand Budget to be over by Monday morning.”

Really?!

Don’t you believe it, sunshine.

National’s sixth budget contained spending on;

  • $171.8 million to extend paid parental leave (PPL):
    • Additional four weeks, starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016.
    • Extend eligibility of paid parental leave to caregivers other than parents (for example, “Home for Life” caregivers), and to extend parental leave payments to people in less-regular jobs or who recently changed jobs.
  • $42.3 million to increase the parental tax credit (PTC) from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increase the payment period from eight to 10 weeks, from 1 April 2015.
  • $155.7 million to help early childhood centres remain affordable and increase participation towards the 98 per cent target.
  • $33.2 million in 2014/15 to help vulnerable children, including eight new Children’s Teams to identify and work with at-risk children, screening of people who work with children, and additional resources to support children in care.
  • $90 million to provide free GP visits and prescriptions for children aged under 13, starting on 1 July 2015.

(Source: Treasury)

 

It was perhaps the last item – free healthcare for Under 13s – that took the media, public, and Opposition by surprise. As others have stated, it was a policy lifted straight from the policy pages of Labour, Greens, or Mana.

Other increases in  funding included increased funding ($10.4 million) for sexual violence services

Sexual violence services have been critically under-funded since 2012 and many were forced to cut back on staffing as funding dried up in Wellington, Auckland, and elsewhere. It is fairly evident that funding increases for child healthcare, parental leave,  and sexual violence services have all been left for 2014.

Which conveniently also happens to be election year.

As far as cynical self-interest goes, these Budget funding-measures are an obvious – if utterly crude – attempt at  currying public favour as Election Day bears down on this government.

Why was funding for sexual violence community groups not made available earlier, so that full staffing levels and services for survivors could be maintained? $10.4 million dollars out of a Government revenue of $64.1 billion is not massive by any standard. In fact, it is just a shade under one year’s worth of Ministerial travel, at $11 million.

By comparison, National gave a  tax-payer funded bail-out of $30 million to the Rio Tinto  aluminium smelter last August – three times what was eventually budgetted for sexual violence services.

Even the $2 million of taxpayer’s money paid  by National to a Golf Tournament over the last three years would have assisted these much-needed groups  keep their services intact and skilled counsellors employed,  until this month’s Budget.

Leaving critical funding till Election Year is tantamount to abusing the victims of sexual violence all over again.

The same could be said of funding free healthcare for Under 13s. If it is a good idea now – why was it not a good idea two years ago?

It’s not as if John Key did not acknowledge the growing under-class in this country only three years ago;

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Key admits underclass still growing

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And a year later, this staggering headline appeared in the media – a story few of us would ever believe would happen here, in Gods Own;

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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Little wonder then, that Dr Nikki Turner, from the  Child Poverty Action Group, was less than impressed by National’s sudden transformation into a quasi-social democratic party with a newly-cloned heart, and a belated attempt to improve children’s health;

A child lobby group says free doctors’ visits and prescriptions will make little difference to reducing child poverty without also improving the incomes and the housing conditions of the very poor.

“Without adequate income, without adequate warmth and housing, we’re not going to (make) a lot of difference at this stage to our children’s health.”

Indeed. Without addressing the core causes of poverty-related diseases, National’s free health-care plan is simply a  multi-million dollar band-aid. The root causes of those diseases will still be present in many households up and down the country.

If Key and English thought that their band-aid solutions would be gratefully accepted by an uncritical, compliant media and public, they were mistaken.

An un-named author of an editorial in the Dominion Post on 16 May stated,

“This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?”

The same editorial went on,

“The other glaring black hole in the Budget is the housing crisis. More and more New Zealanders cannot afford a house, and the Government’s response is muted and inadequate. The Budget promises to remove tariffs on building supplies, a sensible step following revelations about the high price of such materials here compared with Australia. But the change will cut only a few thousand dollars from the price of a house.

Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.”

This is where John Key and Bill English have mis-calculated badly, and which no one (?) has picked up.

After all, if a problem with children’s health was not critical, why would a fiscally conservative government fund free doctor’s visits to the tune of $90 million? Indeed, as Trevor McGlinchey for the NZ Council of  Christian Social Services said, on 16 May,

“In providing $500 million of support for children and families over four years the Government has recognised many of our families are suffering.”

The key-word here is “recognised“.

In funding free healthcare, National has admitted to anyone who will take notice that a problem of some magnitude exists in this country. They can no longer hide behind platitudes.

As the above editorial went on to state,

“At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.”

The author of that piece is being optimistic. By acknowledging that a problem exists; by acknowledging that state funding is required; and by acknowledging that a “radical” (for National, this is radical stuff) solution is required – they have left themselves wide open in this election campaign.

A campaign manager with a posse of motivated, clued-up, and capable strategists, will be able to use this in the up-coming election campaign. Like a game of chess, in trying to show how “clever” they were in manipulating public perception, National have left their “social policy flank” exposed and vulnerable.

So much for Kiwiblogger Mr Farrar’s misplaced optimism that “I expect debate on the New Zealand Budget to be over by Monday morning”.

Quite the contrary, David.

By shining a bright, $90 million spotlight on this problem, they can no longer deny that it exists or is “improving”.

It’s only just begun.

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Postscript #1

The cost of financing this country’s $59 billion debt is shown in this Dominion Post graphic;

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Revenue and expenses 2014 budget new zealand government

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The cost of financing our debt is shown to to $3.9 billion, per year.

Two years ago, the Green Party used Parliamentary Library information to estimate the cost of the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts;

“The Green Party has today revealed that the National Government has so far had to borrow an additional $2 billion dollars to fund their 2010 tax cut package for upper income earners.

New information prepared for the Green Party by the Parliamentary Library show that the estimated lost tax revenues from National’s 2010 tax cut package are between $1.6–$2.2 billion. The lost revenue calculation includes company and personal income tax revenues offset by increases in GST.”

The cost of those tax cuts is  roughly the equivalent of what we are now paying to service our overall debt.

So much for National’s “prudent fiscal managing” of the government’s books.

Postscript#2

Someone at the Dominion Post seems to have a rather shocking memory. At the bottom of Page A4, in their 16 May edition, this item was published;

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Past budgets 2009 - Dominion Post - 16 May 2014

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Promised tax-cuts in 2009 were not “axed”. As this IRD page explained;

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IRD technical tax area 2009 

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Key even made this helpful suggestion to those who did not want their tax cuts to donate them to charity,

“I am just as sure there are many who are in a position to donate some of that extra income”.

Which would make it hard to donate non-existent tax cuts, as the author of the Dominion Post article claimed.

Postscript #3

This graph from Treasury (with a minor enhancement by this blogger) shows our borrowings from 2003 to 2013, with subsequent estimations.

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Treasury New Zealand debt

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According to the graph, we can see how Labour paid down the country’s sovereign debt, leaving New  Zealand well-placed to weather the on-coming Global Financial Crisis and resulting recession. Something even Key and English have had to admit on occasion;

“The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008. It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016. Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion. Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

Indeed.

 

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References

Dominion Post: English spreads the lolly far and wide

NZ Treasury:  Key Facts for Taxpayers (Part 1)

NZ Herald: Budget 2014 – Building products tariffs lifted temporarily

Manawatu Standard: Boost for rape crisis services welcomed

Fairfax media:  Rape crisis line forced to cut staff

Dominion Post: Wellington rape centre forced to cut hours

NZ Treasury: Government Revenue

Fairfax media: MPs’ travel costs rise

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

NZ Herald: Golf event tots up $2m in Govt aid

NZ Herald:  Key admits underclass still growing

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Radio NZ: Child lobby sceptical of budget moves

Dominion Post: Editorial – The crowd goes mild at Budget

Parliament: Inequality—Assets and Income

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

Dominion Post: Child poverty still not being corrected

IRD: [2009] Tax cuts for individuals

Otago Daily Times: Key says donate tax cuts to charity

NZ Treasury:  Net debt peaks as a share of GDP in 2014/15

National.co.nz: Mixed Ownership

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: playing politics with rape victims, National-style

Letter to the Editor: $3000 offer to the Unemployed is a joke – and not a very funny one!

Letter to Radio NZ: $3000 offer to the Unemployed is a joke – and not a very funny one (v.2)

 

 

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 May 2014.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 3 March 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 3 March 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams discuss the recent political polls.

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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′ 38″ )

  • ACT, ACT’s conference, Jamie Whyte,
  • Labour Party, 2014 election, Matt McCarten,
  • David Cunliffe, secret trust,
  • Tony Ryall, health portfolio,
  • Labour candidate-selection,
  • Paid Parental Leave,
  • John Key-Helen Clark

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – David Cunliffe

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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– Radio NZ, Nine To Noon –

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– Wednesday 25 February 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan –

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews (27′ 50″ )

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

@ 22.00:  “We will create incentives for private employers to be certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown contracts.”

This will not only support firms that pay their staff properly – but will de facto give preference to local businesses to supply goods and services!

If this doesn’t motivate Small-Medium Enterprises to switch their allegiances from the Nats to Labour, I don’t know what will!

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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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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 31 January 2014  –

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– Brent Edwards –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

This week was the time for David Cunliffe to put his mark on the Labour Party just months after taking over the leadership from David Shearer.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014 ( 17′ 18″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Another National Disgrace!

12 April 2012 1 comment

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Q: National intends to spend $900 million on one of the above. Can you guess which one? (Answer at the bottom of page.)

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National’s arrogance in the last month has stunned most of the country. Aside for some diehard, right wing, National/ACT groupies – many people who voted National last November must  be seriously questioning their decision.

In an all-out effort to alienate the public and paint themselves as arrogant autocrats, National has, or is currently involved in;

  • Secret negotiations with Sky City to  amend current legislation and allow the casino 500 extra pokie machines in return for a $350 million convention centre. Neither John Key nor any other Minister will disclose what these secret negotiations entail, citing “commercial sensitivity”.  Which is kinda strange as there are no other casino operators in Auckland to be sensitive about. What is certain is that more pokies = more problem gamblers.
  • Secret negotiations with a private secondary school in Whanganui, to facilitate integration with the State schooling system. What on Earth could be so sensitive as to keep details secret – how many pieces of chalk can they possibly  use?!
  • National’s intention to prevent further public scrutiny of SOEs once they are part-privatised. This will treat part-privatised SOEs as full private companies rather than  semi-public enterprises.
  • National is keeping secret contract details of first to part-private, part State-owned schools (Public Private Partnership)
  • Proceeding with massively unpopular State Asset part-privatisation despite over-whelming opposition from the public.
  • Mining on the  conservation estate (never a popular move).
  • And now a threat by National Minister, Bill English, to use the government veto on all private members’ Bill, irrespective of  any Parliamentary  mandate.

It is this increasingly public display of arrogance from National that is now colouring their style of government.  They are no longer even bothering to hide their disdain for the democratic process;  transparent government; or public opinion.

Associate Education Minister, Craig Foss was particularly arrogant in his attitude to answering questions on Whanganui Collegiate’s secret integration into the State school system, when he was interviewed on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report” on 11 April,

Listen to more from Craig Foss on Morning Report

Bill English is on record as stating categorically that even if Parliament votes to put the Bill to a Select Committee, that National will veto it (at the third reading).  In effect, regardless of a majority in Parliament voting to consider the Bill – the minority National Party  will ‘kill’ it. A minority dictating to the majority?

We know what that’s called, don’t we?

In fact, we haven’t had this kind of authoritarian rule since this chap ran practically everything,

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Sir Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1975 to 1984

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English has complained that our economy cannot cope with an estimated extra $150 million on extending paid parental leave from 14 weeks to six months. He claims,

We have maintained paid parental leave and we currently spend about $150 million [a year] on it.

But we are still two or three years from getting out of the woods on the deficit so we think it is a bit soon to be trying to expand entitlements when our big challenge has been to maintain them as they are.

That’s just misleading the public. The fact is doubling it will cost another $150 million a year. You’d have to borrow half a billion over the next three or four years. We’re simply not willing to do that.

Expanding entitlements at this stage would be ”getting a bit ahead of ourselves when we are still $10 billion away from clearing our overdraft.

“We’ve got to get on with that and be fair to everybody in achieving surplus and people can have those choices once we get there.” – Source

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If our $10 billion overdraft was such a major sticking point, it obviously did not stop National from “investing” $220 million into a rugby tournament,

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Full Story

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Or State Owned Enterprises lavishing $54 million in staff bonuses,

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Full Story

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Or any of the following government expenditure for “must haves” such as,

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Full Story

PSA National Secretary, Richard Wagstaff, is certainly correct when he states that recorded crimes rates are dropping and the  projected prison muster for 2016 has been calculated to drop from  11,561  to about 8200.

Which makes one wonder why National is about to squander nearly a billion dollars on another prison we may not need, and is likely to end up being moth-balled. (National has a tradition of indulging in ‘Think Big’ projects – only to have them closed down later.)

One billion dollars… twice the amount we could be spending on paid parental leave, according to Bill English,

“You’d have to borrow half a billion over the next three or four years.”

A new prison is a “must have”.

But according to National’s Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson,  extending paid parental leave was “simply unaffordable“.

Every parent in New Zealand should be thoroughly dismayed at National’s priorities. Throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at rugby games and prisons seems to make National positively delirious with joy – but investing in the future of our children is “simply unaffordable“?!

Nothing describes the warped nature of National’s priorities worse than this.

Parents take note:  National will not invest in your children.

Not until they grow older;  go off the rails;  and end up in prison.

Then, National will positively lavish your child with cash.  For a prison  cell.

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Related Blogpost

Priorities?

Media reports

Nats under pressure over parental leave

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Answer to above question (as if you didn’t already know):  $900 million will be spend on a new prison at Wiri, in Sth Auckland.

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