National MPs and ministers have been busy this year with more botch-ups, scandals, an attempted smear campaign, and spinning bullshit to cover their arses with multiple policy failures in health, education, the environment, child poverty, etc, etc, etc…
The fact that National still appears to be riding high in political polls speaks more for a population heavily sedated by trivia and superficial “news” reporting, and for mind-numbingly inane mass-entertainment – rather than any actual success.
Some of the more mind-blowing comments that have recently been made by National ministers have flown below the radar.
Our so-called “Environment” Minister, Amy Adams, recently dismissed Dr Mike Joy’s criticisms of National’s new water standards.
But Dr Mike Joy, an environmental ecologist at Massey university, says the new standards are a “backwards step for fresh water”.
“You could just drive a truck through it,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.
“There’s so many gaps, so many things we’ve been measuring up until now that they’ve dropped.”
The changes put limits on the amount of toxins and bacteria that can be present in water, which the Government says will require some communities and farms to improve their waste-disposal systems.
But the weakening of other limits were essentially a “licence to pollute,” Joy said, and would allow for a big increase in the amount of pollution in rivers.
“We’ve got a decline going on,” he said.
“Rivers are getting worse, lakes are getting worse. This should be something that puts the brakes on, but instead it’s an opening-up. It’s like lifting the speed limit from 50kmh to 500kmh – that’s the kind of level of change around nitrate pollution.”
Joy said more than 90 per cent of rivers in lowland areas – those coming from urban areas and farms – were already too dangerous to swim in.
To which Adams responded;
Ms Adams also corrected the Green Party’s and Dr Joy’s comparison of nitrogen levels in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers to those in the Yangtzee River.
“Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the core pollutant there.
In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the primary issue for the Yangtze River is industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments, rather than nitrogen.”
What the World Wide Fund for Nature (which Adams mis-quoted) really stated was;
“The major pollutants in the Yangtze mainstem are suspended substances, oxidizing organic and inorganic compounds, and ammonia nitrogen. This has severely reduced drinking water quality and contributed to dramatic eutrophication.”
And from the Science Daily;
“For the first time, a team including foreign scientists was authorized by the Chinese government to study water quality on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River…
For example, nitrogen concentrations have approximately doubled over the past 20 years. In Shanghai, concentrations of dissolved nitrogen were twice as high as at the Three Gorges Dam, reflecting the increasing use of mineral fertilizers in agriculture…
However, where the river enters the East China Sea, the huge pollutant loads are expected to have devastating effects: each day, 1500 tonnes of nitrogen is discharged, causing eutrophication and growth of blue-green algae in the coastal waters…
In the Yangtze, concentrations of nitrogen, metals and organic compounds are increasing, as shown by comparisons with earlier measurements in the literature.“
As usual with right-wingers, it pays to check their “facts”. They’re usually bullshit. (As well as batshit crazy.)
Dr Mike Joy – 1
Amy Adams – 0
Bennett seems not to know where she stands on the problem of New Zealand’s hidden rape culture.
On 10 July, on TV3’s Third Degree, Bennett accepted the reality of our rape culture;
“And you can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think.”
Two days later, she changed her mind, this time on TV3’s The Nation;
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand…
I think what we do in New Zealand is we report more [sexual violence] than any other country. So actually some of those that are being reported are incidences that haven’t even led to violence.”
On 10 July, on Third Degree, Bennett accepted that her government had failed Tania Billingsley;
“Could things have been handled differently? We’re the first ones that have said yes it should have been. But for her I feel incredibly sad that the incident has happened in the beginning. And that’s where most of her hurt and anger is.”
Again, after two days, Bennett’s views seemed to have changed, as this exchange on The Nation showed;
Lisa Owen: “Ok, so how do you think that your male colleagues handled the alleged assault on Tania Billingsley and the departure of the Malaysian diplomat? Did they lose sight of the victim? Did they trivialise that?”
Paula Bennett: “Well look I’m not prepared to go into what has happened in that case. But my short answer to that would be no.”
Paula Bennett (2.0)
On TV’s The Nation, Lisa Owen took Paula Bennett to task on our growing endemic rate of child poverty. Owen pointed out to Bennett;
“…people like Jonathan Boston say that eradicating poverty is a political choice. Is it just that you’re not making a big enough political choice? A billion dollars, an extra billion dollars a year he said will make an enormous dent in this.”
Because, as we all know, “throwing money” at the poorest in our society apparently doesn’t work to pull children out of poverty.
Or “throwing money” at people by way of tax cuts works to “stimulate the economy“.
Strangely, “throwing money” at welfare beneficiaries – by way of a Training Incentive Allowance – helped former solo-mother, Paula Bennett, obtain a free tertiary education and she is currently (until 20 September) a highly-remunerated Minister of the Crown.
So why is “throwing money” by way of corporate welfare; tax-cuts; Charter school subsidies, etc, a ‘good‘ thing – but “throwing money” at poverty to eliminate this scourge from 21st century New Zealand – is a ‘bad‘ thing?!
National ministers have yet to answer this question.
God knows we “throw enough money” at them with their generous salaries.
This was one of National’s election platforms in 2011;
“Staying strong on crime“.
Except when National decides that a particular law is “inconvenient”. Then it will instruct it’s ministeries not to prosecute offenders. As Minister Simon Bridges recently instructed the Labour Inspectorate;
Radio New Zealand has obtained documents under the Official Information Act which show the Labour Inspectorate has moved away from the proactive approach to enforcement and has redistributed its efforts to crack down on illegial migrant workers.
Traditionally labour inspectors have been out on the streets at Easter, catching out shop owners who open illegally, but will now wait for members of the public to complain about shops being open and will follow those up with warning letters.
Special briefing notes from the Labour Inspectorate General Manager George Mason to the minister show the inspectorate has questioned the effectiveness of the shop trading act, which allows for a $1,000 penalty for breaches of the law.
In many cases the judicial system was reluctant to impose the maximum fine, Mr Mason told the minister.
He said in recent years not many complaints from the public were received and this year not a single shop was prosecuted for opening at Easter.
But Simon Bridges said shops can still be prosecuted and will be if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary.
The law will be upheld – if the Inspectorate felt it was necessary?!
When a government will not uphold the law because it conflicts with their own ideological stance – then why have laws at all?
And can the rest of us pick and choose which laws are convenient to uphold, and which we can break?
It appears so…
Mr Bridges is showing us the way.
After the debacle of the Malaysian diplomat, accused of burglary and attempted rape, and the question over why Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully failed to keep track over events in his own ministry, an inquiry was launched on 11 July.
“A thorough and transparent inquiry is important, as those managing diplomatic immunity issues for the Government need to enjoy the full, unfettered confidence of the New Zealand public.”
Although one wonders just how “ thorough and transparent” any inquiry will be when,
- The terms of reference do not include Murray McCully’s actions. This effectively gives the minister an ‘escape clause’ from the fiasco.
- John Key has already pre-determined who the guilty party is, within the Ministry, when he stated on 4 July; “If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position then they need to think very strongly about whether they’re in the right job.”
- Rob Hosking from the National Business Review suggested that the Inquiry will “not likely to be [completed] before the September 20 election”. How ‘convenient’.
On 8 June 2012, as National’s planned to increase class-room sizes blew up in their faces with a combined teacher-parent revolt, I wrote;
Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,
“The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership.”
Sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged.
That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of reduction in social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.
Two years later: On 7 July, Radio NZ’s Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, spoke to National’s accident-prone Hekia Parata and put it to her that Labour’s plans to reduce class-room sizes by 2018 were proving very popular with parents. Ferguson pointed out that Labour’s policy was in direct opposition with Parata’s humiliating failure to increase class-room sizes.
At 3.05 into the interview, Parata replied,
“And at the time we were in a different fiscal environment and we were focusing right then on how did we find the money to invest in quality. And now we’re in a better fiscal environment, we can do both,both more teachers and more quality...”
Which is confirmation, if any was needed, that National’s plans to reduce teacher numbers and increase class-room sizes was nothing more than an outrageous cost-cutting exercise. Happily, it failed as New Zealanders stood up, en masse, and told National,
New Zealanders were not prepared to sacrifice their children’s learning and future on the alter to National’s cost-cutting. If Key and his cronies were foolish enough to cut taxes as part of their 2008 election bribes, it was most certainly not going to be paid for by the children of the middle classes.
So far, #Teamkey seems to be going ‘swimmingly’ well.
Fairfax media: Water rule changes seen as ‘licence to pollute’
World Wildlife Fund: Threat of Pollution in the Yangtze
Science Daily: First-ever Precise Data On Yangtze Water Quality
NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto
Scoop media: Warner Brothers Hobbit Deal a $67 Milllion Farce
Beehive.govt.nz: Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes
Radio NZ: Govt defends trading law enforcement
Dominion Post: Malaysian diplomat case inquiry head named
NZ Herald: Diplomat case: Court file released
Interest.co.nz: Key suggests mid-level MFAT diplomat “considers career options”
Scoop media: Teacher funding ratios to remain the same
Radio NZ: Listen Hekia Parata on Morning Report
Radio NZ: Labour pledges to reduce class sizes
Previous related blogposts
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 July 2014.
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One of the most enduring, irrational, and hateful myths constantly spat our by various right-wingers is that solo-mothers (but never solo-dads) are “breeding for business“. It is a cliche that rolls of the tongue easily; requires no evidence; and ignores simple realities of life such as women who escape violent relationships or are deserted by their partners for the blonde office-colleague.
Whether it is John Key referring to women as “breeding for business“, or anonymous redneck bigots parroting their cliches via on-line fora – solo-mums (but never solo-fathers) make for easy targets. As one ignorant, right-wing bigot said on his blog,
“It seems like a good start but incentives really need to be focused on making it harder for Mums to pop out kids on the DPB and easier if one chooses to be honest with others and themselves and work for a living to support themselves and their family.”
Prejudice requires no justification. It just panders to negative emotion rather than critical thought.
The myth of the “breeding solo mum” (but never “breeding solo dads”) is based on misogyny and enduring patriarchal punitive attitudes.
After all, when is the last time solo-fathers were targeted by right wing bloggers; beneficiariary bashers; or this government. Answer – practically never. If ever.
Equally pernicious is the right wing blogger, commentator, or self-proclaimed “expert”, who mis-uses statistics to prove their point, but which, upon closer analysis, debunks their case entirely.
The rationale for prejudice is fairly simple.
It absolves right-wing governments from adopting constructive, but costly policies such as the Training Incentive Allowance, which allow solo-parents (mums and dads) to gain an education and re-enter the workforce when family committments allow. This is how the current Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, obtained her university degree – the Training Incentive Allowance.
In July 2009, Bennett scrapped the allowance altogether. And when two solo-mothers criticised Bennett’s actions, the Social Welfare Minister reacted with the full power of the State at her finger-tips, and released their personal details to the media. It was a frightening, sickening, display of abuse of State power unseen since Rob Muldoon’s reign of fear.
Three years later, despite the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Hesketh, upholding a complaint again Bennett, the Minister was unrepentant and said she would do the same thing again after “taking advice”.
Two years ago, as the economy stagnated and unemployment soared to 7.3%, National ramped up it’s brutal and destructive campaign against those on welfare. Key and his cronies needed a scapegoat to deflect public attention from daily bad headlines, and welfare beneficiaries were targetted.
Bennett launched a public campaign advocating that solo-mothers and their daughters should be “encouraged” to take contraception. National and ACT both supported this draconian, Daddy State policy.
For two erstwhile liberal parties committed to getting government out of peoples’ lives, they were very, very keen to get into the bedrooms of women.
But not middle-class women who were either independent via employment or a part of their (male) partner’s hegemony. This was directed at women who were single, poor, abandoned, and reliant on State support. In other words, vulnerable women.
And as we all know, bullies, rapists, misogynists, etc, prefer their intended targets to be as vulnerable as possible.
That allows their bodies to be owned and controlled.
So National and it’s lap-dogs, in the form of serial-liar, John Banks, and “Mr Sensible”, Peter Dunne, supported moves to control women’s bodies.
All of which was carried out with the sub-text that solo-mothers (but never solo-fathers, remember) were reckless breeders. “Breeding for business” as John Key put it.
As unemployment skyrocketed to 7.3%, and awkward questions were being asked of National’s economic plans for growth, Bennett was lighting the torches for the mob to ferret out; hunt down; and deal to, women who were “breeding for business“.
Of course Bennett denied that women would be coerced to take contraception;
“It’s not compulsory, it’s just something to add to them trying to plan their family so they’ve got choices. It’s completely reasonable.”
Of course it was not compulsory. It was not meant to be. That was never the point of National’s on-going demonisation of beneficiaries – especially solo-mums (but never…) as a multitude of anti-welfare headlines hit the media in 2012, courtesy of National.
It was all part of National’s covert strategy to divert public, media, and political attention from economic problems confronting this country. National’s hands-off ideology was not working, and a very dramatic distraction was needed. A distraction that jerked all the right visceral responses. A distraction that National’s rightwing sycophants, cronies, and malcontents could pick up and promote.
A distraction that was too much for the powerless to fight back.
Solo-mothers… Reckless “breeders for business“… Young sluts… Dropping babies for cash…
The National Government would sort out these wanton women of loose morals.
Cue; two years later, this recent editorial in the Dominion Post. As far as editorials in a conservative newspaper went, it was quite extraordinary, as it exposed and laid bare National’s manipulative, self-serving policy of vilification against those on welfare. I repost the entire editorial, rather than just the headline and first couple of paragraphs, as I usually do;
The Dominion Post – not normally renowned as the champion of the underdog when it comes to social welfare issues. So for the un-named writer to denounce National with such vehemence speaks volumes that the media was no longer buying into the “bene-bashing” narrative.
What is more, ACT’s latest leader, Philosopher/Libertarian, Jamie Whyte – in response to a point made by Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman – let slip on TV3’s The Nation on 10 May;
“Do you really think people only have children because you flick them a few bucks?”
.Oh, really, Mr Whyte?
So people do not have children just “because you flick them a few bucks”?
Money is not a motivator?
Well, bugger me. Who’d’ve thought?!
Of course not. “Breeding for business” is a fiction.
But for certain right-wing politicians, it suits their agendas to demonise the poor; the powerless; and the marginalised.
Fortunately, though, every so often the truth will out.
Thank you, Mr Whyte, for going on the record.
NZ Herald: National takes aim at solo parents on DPB
Political Animal: National’s Welfare “Reform” : Is that it?
Waikato Times: Furious mum rejects ‘bludger’ tag
NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high
Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’
NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan
Dominion Post: Editorial – Dole scheme redundant from start
Previous related blogposts
Above image (slightly altered) acknowledgment: Kirk
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2014.
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FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: National's cunning $3000 plan for the unemployed DATE: Wed, 07 May 2014 10:02:39 +1200 TO: Kathryn Ryan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kathryn Ryan Nine to Noon Show, Radio NZ . After three years the best that the Nats can come up with is Bennett's plan to pay unemployed $3,000 to relocate to Christchurch to find work. The only problem is; 1. There is no guaranteed work, as Select Recruitment managing director Karen Bardwell has stated "the rebuild had yet to kick into high gear and the demand for low to medium skilled workers simply wasn't there". http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/243602/agency-questions-jobless-incentive 2. There is a critical housing shortage with astronomical rents being demanded/paid. Where will 1,000 workers find a place to live? Bennett doesn't say. 3. The $3,000 grant is predicated on; 3A. The job being for 30 hours per week or more, 3B. The job lasting 91 days or more htt p://beehive.govt.nz/release/budget-2014-%E2%80%983k-christchurch%E2%80%99-help-job-se ekers Item 3A and 3B are the fish-hooks. If an employer decides to cut back a worker's hours or, initiates the 90 Trial Period law - the workers has to repay the $3,000. The implications of this are obvious. Not only is a worker in a precarious position to keep his/her job - but has a potential $3,000 debt hanging over their head. The potential for abuse by manipulative, exploitative employers is obvious. The risk is all on the unemployed, and very few people would be willing to put themselves into such a vulnerable situation. Pity. It was the 'germ' of a fairly good idea. But as usual, National hasn't thought it through. Or was it designed to fail by making it so unattractive that no one in their right mind would take it up, and Bennett could once again bang on about "lazy benes"? It wouldn't be the first time. -Frank Macskasy [address & phone number supplied]
Beehive.govt.nz: Budget 2014: ‘$3k to Christchurch’ to help job seekers
Radio NZ: Agency questions jobless incentive
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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6 May, 2014
The Government is providing further support for the Canterbury rebuild with $3.5 million of new operating funding for 2014/15 in Budget 2014 to assist beneficiaries to take up work in Christchurch.
“We’re offering up to 1,000 beneficiaries a one-off payment of $3,000 each if they have a full-time job offer in Canterbury and are ready and willing to move there,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.
“The rebuild is creating thousands of jobs in Christchurch, and there are people around New Zealand ready to take them up, but who don’t currently have the means to get there.
“With an unemployment rate in Canterbury of 3.4 per cent – lower than the 6 per cent rate nationally – there are plenty of opportunities. There is demand not only in construction, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries too.
“Work and Income will be working closely with employers to connect them with beneficiaries who’d be suited to work for them, and I’m confident this incentive will provide a boost for the rebuild, and for the employment prospects of beneficiaries,” Mrs Bennett says.
The $3,000 payment will help beneficiaries with the move to Canterbury, sorting accommodation, clothing, tools and any other purchases they might need to make when getting settled.
This offer will be open to beneficiaries of all ages, but a particular focus will be placed on young people aged 18-24 years, as the rebuild provides the opportunity for them to gain employment skills that will set them up for life.
To qualify, the job offered must be for over 30 hours a week, and for longer than 91 days. The payment will be non-taxable, and exempt from an income and asset test.
If the recipient goes back on benefit within three months of the payment without a sufficient reason, then the payment must be repaid.
This initiative will cover jobs within the geographical areas of Ashburton, Hurunui, Selwyn, and Waimakariri District Councils, and the Christchurch City Council.
An interesting idea… until one read the second-to-last line. Which prompted this response from me;
FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Letters to the editor DATE: Wed, 07 May 2014 00:52:23 +1200 TO: "The Press" <email@example.com>
.The Editor THE PRESS . When I first heard that National's Paula Bennett was offering $3000 for unemployed to relocate to Christchurch to find work, I thought it was an interesting idea with merit. Though one wonders why it took three years for National to come up with it. An election year bribe?. Upon closer inspection there are two fish-hooks in this plan. A job has to be over 30 hours a week, and longer than ninetyone days, or else the $3000 must be re-paid. Should an employer reduce those thirty hours, or use the government's own Ninety Day Trial Period to sack the worker - that $3000 must be repaid. The unemployed person takes the risk in taking up the $3000 grant, but their fate is in the hands of the employer, whose decisions can result in the worker having to repay the money. The plan's sheer inherent contradictions undermines any potential effectiveness. In fact, it seems designed to fail. -Frank Macskasy [address & phone number supplied]
Beehive.govt.nz: Budget 2014: ‘$3k to Christchurch’ to help job seekers
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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