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Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft calls for a fairer, egalitarian New Zealand

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This weekend (26/27 May), two disparate voices called for a more egalitarian society in our country. The voices of Children’s Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, and Chief Executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), Kim Campbell, both made statements on  TV3’s The Nation and TVNZ’s Q+A (respectively), that only a few years ago would have been heresy to neo-liberal orthodoxy.

The neo-liberal economic model demands minimal state intervention in the economy and reliance on private enterprise to provide services and desired outcomes.

After thirtyfour years, the results of our experiment in minimal government/freemarket has been dubious. The housing “market” has failed to meet demand, blaming local government “regulations”, central government regulations/RMA,  “town boundaries”, lack of skilled workers, sunspot activity, etc.

Writing for The Spinoff last year, author and journalist, Max Rashbrooke pointed out;

In short: overall poverty hasn’t increased, but its most extreme forms have. In a way, what the [National] government has done is to revive the old and false idea, never far from middle New Zealand’s intellectual surface, of the distinction between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. The in-work battlers get carrots, the beneficiaries who make “poor choices” get mostly sticks. It’s a “distinction” that gets you nowhere, though, because those struggling the most are generally facing even tougher battles or have even fewer informal supports around them, rather than being lazier or more feckless.

The other point, of course, is that just maintaining poverty and inequality at their current high levels is a colossal failure. Under Labour both were falling, albeit slowly; that progress has been lost. The New Zealand Initiative likes to point out that our big increase in income inequality – the developed world’s largest – happened in the 1980s and 1990s, as if that diminishes the problem. In fact it intensifies it. Unfair inequality divides society, creating concentrated neighbourhoods of wealth and poverty, reducing people’s empathy for each other, and lowering trust. Poverty denies people a fair chance to succeed and leaves permanent scars on children. Every day those corrosions are left unchecked is a day lost, a day in which a child’s life is damaged and the social fabric is further rent. The fact that these problems have compounded for twenty years makes them worse than if they had sprung up yesterday. And such extremes – one in seven children living in poverty, while the wealthiest tenth have 60% of all assets – are neither necessary nor justifiable.

A July 2017 MSD report confirmed Rashbrooke’s observations;

Beneficiary incomes were flat or declining in real terms. The trajectory of incomes after deducting housing costs (AHC) is less favourable for the medium to long-term picture as housing costs now make up a much larger proportion of the household budget for most…

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For under 65s, over the whole bottom quintile, housing costs account on average for just over half of household income (51%), up from 29% in the late 1980s.

The same MSD report also briefly referred to the wealthiest in our country;

The share of income received by the top 1% of tax-payers has been steady in the 8-9% range since the early 1990s, up from 5% in the late 1980s.

[Note: “Quintile“: Any of five equal groups into which a population can be divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable.]

In a report this year, Oxfam revealed a ‘snapshot’ of inequality in New Zealand;

A staggering 28 per cent of all wealth created in New Zealand in 2017 went to the richest 1 per cent of Kiwis. While the 1.4 million people who make up the poorest 30 per cent of the population got barely 1 per cent, according to new research released by Oxfam today.

The research also reveals that 90 per cent of New Zealand owns less than half the nation’s wealth.

Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director, Rachael Le Mesurier,  stated the fairly obvious;

“Trickle-down economics isn’t working. The extreme gap between the very rich and the very poor in our country is shocking. As new wealth is created it continues to be concentrated in the hands of the already extremely wealthy.

2017 was a global billionaire bonanza. This is not a sign of success but of economic failure. Experts are clear, high levels of inequality are bad for economic growth – for everyone except the small number of super-rich, who on a global scale are often able to translate their disproportionate control of resources into disproportionate influence over political and economic decision making. This can lead to policies that are geared towards their interests, often at the expense of the majority.

To end the global inequality crisis, we must build an economy for ordinary working people, not the very few rich and powerful.”

Ms Le Mesurier added something that may not be quite so obvious to some – at least not for those who traditionally vote National;

“Kiwis love fairness, not inequality. Governments can tackle extreme inequality here and globally by ensuring the wealthy and multi-nationals pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance – then using that money to make our country and the global economy a fairer place.”

Since 2008, between 1,053,398 and 1,152,075 New Zealanders – roughly a quarter of the population – have voted for a party that has over-seen a worsening of extreme poverty; falling home ownership; and rising homelessness.

The claim that “Kiwis love fairness, not inequality” may not be as fairly reflecting our society as we might like to believe. At best, it might be claimed that  “*Most* Kiwis love fairness, not inequality”.

Despite not wanting to measure child poverty in 2012,  five years later, Deputy PM Paula Bennett had to concede the enormity of the crisis that National had ignored for so long;

“We had no idea how much it was going to cost. We had no idea it would ever be this big… In hindsight, you always wish you’d gone earlier”.

Thanks to National’s negligence – and supported by over one million voters – our homelessness is now the worst, according to an international report last year;

YaleGlobal Online, a magazine published by the prestigious US university, says “more than 40,000 people live on the streets or in emergency housing or substandard shelters” – almost 1 percent of the entire population, citing OECD statistics.

On 26 May, interviewed on The Nation by Lisa Owen, Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said what *most* New Zealanders know in  their hearts to be axiomatic – or the bloody obvious, in Kiwispeak;

“…The gap is now massive. We dropped the ball on policy for children. I think one of the big, I guess, platforms of our office, the one thing I have to say clearly, is we need to have a community-wide consensus on policy for children. We haven’t had that. We could do it. Other countries leave us behind. Scandinavian countries have parental leave for 16 months. They have free school lunches for preschool and school children for the whole community, free doctor and dental visits, good social housing, free early childhood education. That’s what we need. We’ve never had the systemic commitment to a good policy for children.”

To illustrate (literally) Judge Becroft’s comment  a report from UNICEF published last year compared New Zealand’s abysmal ranking with that of our Scandinavian cuzzies.

Food insecurity:

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Income poverty;

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League Table* – Country performance across nine child relevant goals:

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However, to prove that not all is lost, and that New Zealand can excel – we are the eighth largest milk producing nation on the planet;

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Without doubt we display incredible efficiency when it comes to our agrarian sector.

Not so good, however, when it comes to ridding our shores of child poverty and homelessness.

Priorities, eh?

In our rush to achieve neo-liberal nirvana after thirtyfour years of economic “reforms” and the engendering of hyper-individualism, New Zealanders can only look with envy at Scandinavian countries.

Even Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), Kim Campbell lamented on TVNZ’s Q+A on 27 May;

“In fact, a government who has stepped right away from the state housing story completely. You know, when I was growing up we had the Ministry of Works building state houses, which were made available through suspensory loans and so on. That’s all gone. And you’re seeing the outcome there. So, frankly, we could fix it if we wanted to.”

But there is no Ministry of Works anymore. It was privatised in November 1996.

We now have to rely on private enterprise to build houses.

We now have families living in garages; overcrowded houses; and cars.

We now have greater income inequality and extremes of poverty.

So as Mr Campbell said on Q+A;

“And you’re seeing the outcome there. So, frankly, we could fix it if we wanted to.”

If we wanted to“…

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[* The Right love League Tables, so that particular one should be in no dispute.]

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References

Scoop media: Mediaworks/Newshub Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft

TVNZ: Q+A – Panel on Homelessness

Investopedia: Neoliberalism

Scoop media:  ACT Party – NZers deserve honest appraisal of Government housing failure

The Spinoff: Why the attacks on National over poverty and inequality are unfounded – mostly

Ministry for Social Development: MSD’s Household Incomes Report and companion report using Non-Income Measures – Headline Findings

Oxford Living Dictionaries: Definition – Quintile

Scoop media: Oxfam NZ inequality data 2018

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2008

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2017

NZ Herald: Home ownership rates lowest in 66 years according to Statistics NZ

NZ Herald: Homelessness rising in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Mediaworks/Newshub: NZ’s homelessness the worst in OECD – by far

UNICEF: Building the Future – Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries

World Atlas: Top Milk Producing Countries In The World

Wikipedia: Ministry of Works and Development

Treasury NZ: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

TVNZ:  Tax is vital for reducing inequality but NZ is not collecting enough of it – Oxfam report

Additional

Fairfax media: Housing stocktake blames homelessness on drop in state housing

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Govt will have ‘failed completely’ if they don’t reform benefits – Andrew Becroft (video)

Previous related blogposts

An unfortunate advertising placement, child poverty, and breathing air

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)

Once were warm hearted

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

National’s new-found concern for the poor

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 May 2018..

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So “throwing money” at poverty does work, according to National?

17 December 2017 2 comments

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One of the most oft-used, parroted cliches in the right-wing lexicon…

Bill English said it;

The hard bit of that is reorganising Government – the way the Government works with our most complex families – because frankly, Government doesn’t do that good a job with people who have really serious needs.

So you shouldn’t expect waves of cash – that’s what everyone else is promising. We can tell you from years of looking at it hard, throwing money at intractable social problems won’t have an impact.”

And again he said it;

I suspect it will be a matter for public debate, because New Zealand First and Labour have a track record of throwing money at every problem and making no difference to those problems.

Paula Bennett said it;

Yeah well if throwing money was the answer to this problem then quite frankly we would see – you know the numbers are coming down significantly through those Labour years, because they put significantly more money into these organisations, but we haven’t seen fewer children being neglected.

And repeated it;

If I thought throwing an extra 30 or 40 dollars a week at beneficiaries would mean that those children were not abused and neglected, I’d be fighting with that with every inch that I’ve got. It is far more complex than that. Far more complex.”

Steven Joyce said it;

The Prime Minister set 10 challenging targets for public services in 2012. That is because we want results from spending, rather than just simply throwing money at problems.”

And again he said it;

Unfortunately, my dear friends at the TEU say we should keep throwing money at everything every time.”

Hekia Parata said it;

Unlike the Opposition, which is very keen to throw money at a problem…”

Gerry Brownlee kind of said it;

Labour’s first instinct is always to throw money at an advertising campaign, rather than fighting fire with fire.

And even National backbenchers like Melissa Lee added their ten cents worth and said it;

It is less about throwing money around on a problem and more about changing the way we work, so that the services we deliver are more effective.”

One of the most commonly parroted cliches from the rightwing of politics; “throwing money at the problem” – usually with the add-on; ” – doesn’t solve anything“.

Except, of course, when it comes to tax-cuts. Then it’s not so much “throwing money” at middle class and affluent voters – as labelling it a “reward” – as Joyce called it in May 2017;

The Budget 2017 Family Incomes Package will provide better rewards for hard work by adjusting the bottom two tax thresholds and lowering the marginal tax rates for low and middle income earners.”

Joyce’s proposed tax-cut wasn’t “throwing money” at families – it was described more like “… important that Kiwi families directly share in the benefits of New Zealand’s economic growth.

National ministers were adamant that “throwing money at problems… made no difference to those problems”. But – according to Joyce – throwing money at households through tax-cuts achieved a remarkable outcome;

The measures in this budget are expected to lift 20,000 households above the threshold for severe housing stress, and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half of the median income by around 50,000.

Perhaps there are two different forms of money being used; red money for the poor; blue money for the middle class? Perhaps National should have printed less of the red stuff, and more of the blue?

But what colour money was being thrown at invested in;

Obviously child poverty exists in this country. Despite former Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, refusing to measure the size of the problem five years ago – by September this year, National’s (then-)new, Bill English was forced to concede that it was a serious crisis confronting our country. In the face of mounting pressure from a resurgent Labour, he finally admitted that at least 100,000 children were living in poverty;

The Package is designed to especially assist low and middle income earners, and will reduce the number of children living in families earning less than half of the median income by around 50,000. Labour showed their true colours by voting against it.

If we can get elected within two or three years we can have a crack at the next 50,000 children, getting them out of poverty.

Suddenly, it seems, National ‘discovered’ child poverty existed in this country. It’s amazing how focused a government can be at election time when opposition parties are nipping at their heels.

Perhaps we should have an election every year?

In 2015, National stole a policy page from the Left by announcing it would raise welfare benefits by $25 a week. (Actually, $23 per week after extra accomodation supplements were taken out. Can’t have “benes” wasting an extra $2 on milk, bread  or something equally silly.) Almost overnight, National went from “not throwing money at welfare” – to “throwing money at welfare”.

According to a Radio NZ report, an estimated  110,000 families, with  190,000 children, would benefit from the increase.

The result was a predictable (if slight) success: child poverty fell by 1%.

As reported by Teuila Fuatai for Newsroom;

According to the 2017 Child Poverty Monitor, released by the office of the Children’s Commissioner today, the number of children living in homes considered to be in income poverty has dropped one percent in the last year – from 295,000 (28 percent) in 2016 to 290,000 (27 percent) this year.

Other figures from the annual report, now in its fifth year, also show a dip in the number of children considered to be from New Zealand’s poorest homes – with 70,000 children (six percent) satisfying the threshold for experiencing severe material hardship, down two percent from 85,000 in 2016.

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“In 1982, the percentage of children in families experiencing income poverty was 14 percent, compared to 27 percent now”, the report said.

Paula Bennett – who only five years ago stated categorically that “if throwing money was the answer to this problem then quite frankly we would see – you know the numbers are coming down significantly” – crowed about the success of a fall in poverty;

Judge Andrew Becroft has today confirmed that since the National Government increased benefits in 2015, there has been a drop in the number of children living in low income households.

This is great news and further consolidates National’s track record as a party that shows it cares, rather than just says it cares.

We were the Government that increased benefits for the first time in 40 years. Since 2010 we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 135,000 and since 2011 we reduced the number of children in benefit-dependent households by 61,000.”

It’s “throwing money at the problem” only until it works. Then it’s a success story, according to a right-wing minister.

As if to allay any doubt, Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft,  confirmed the obvious; that raising benefits helped those at the bottom, of the socio-economic ladder;

It’s the first time we can say that we’re sure that things aren’t getting worse; it’s the first time there’s been a small drop and it’s genuinely encouraging and cause for cautious optimism.

We’re probably seeing the first initial signs in terms of what the previous Government did, in terms of increasing benefit levels by $25 a week for families with children.”

Judge Becroft also attributed the fall in child poverty to dedicated hard work from community groups;

I think we have seen a real rise in the commitment by charities and NGOs and community groups. I think that is one of the untold stories; New Zealand, I think, understands the situation. There is much more of a humanitarian response. Communities are behind what is going on. Charities are doing good work. I think that is underestimated in all of this in terms of providing shoes, clothing, lunches, breakfast. I think the country as a whole is becoming much more involved, and I am encouraged by that.

When asked by The Nation’s Lisa Owen;

So that is charities. That is philanthropy. In terms of income poverty: barely a change. Charities can only give so much, though, can’t they?

Judge Becroft responded;

Yeah, that is true. I think the government has got the ultimate responsibility to put in a strong safety net.

Charities can apply band-aids like buying shoes for children or supplying school breakfasts. But it takes central government to lift incomes. Just as it took the previous National government to legislate to lift the wages (albeit over a five year period) of community support workers, home support, and aged-care staff.

Bennett was quick to claim credit  for  the fall in the number of children living in low income households by increasing welfare benefits.

It is time that National and other right-wing politicians abandoned their deceptive, emotionally-charged rhetoric that raising welfare benefits and other incomes is “throwing money at the problem”. Clearly it is not. Putting our taxes into unnecessary flag referenda, sheep deals for middle east businessmen, aluminium smelters, and cutting taxes for the rich – is “throwing money” away.

Constantly repeating the hoary “throwing money at the problem” cliche reminds us that the right is only too happy to use emotionally-charged rhetoric  to win public support. Even when it is a lie.

Putting money into alleviating  child poverty is not “throwing money at the problem”. The data has conclusively shown this to be a fact; additional money helps lift families out of poverty.

Ironically, by making such dishonest  utterances, they undermine their very real achievement in this area.

Shooting yourself in your own foot has never been so painful. Or stupid.

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References

Mediaworks:  No Budget ‘waves of cash’ to fix NZ’s social problems – English

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Scoop media:  Paula Bennett – offensive to say poverty causes child abuse

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Otago Daily Times:  Call for funding ‘unrealistic’ – Joyce

Parliament: Hansards –  Oral Questions – Questions to Ministers

Scoop media:  Anderton’s party should pay back $72,585

Parliament: Hansards –  General Debate

IRD:  Budget 2017

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

Fairfax media:  Flag referendum – Where does the $26 million go?

NZ Herald:  Saudi sheep deal – No evidence of legal threat from Saudi businessman

NZ Herald:  Filling the Cup – cost $500m and climbing

NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

TVNZ: Bill English says National’s families policy will lift ‘50,000 children above that poverty line’

Mediaworks:  Newshub Leaders Debate – Bill English commits to poverty target

Radio NZ:  Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

Newsroom:  Dip in NZ’s child poverty rate a start

National.org.nz:  Confirmation National’s changes halt child poverty

Fairfax media:  Why we shouldn’t celebrate child poverty falling for first time in years just yet

The World News:  On The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Judge Andrew Becroft

NZ Herald:  Government announces historic pay equity deal for care workers

Additional

Office of the Children’s Commissioner:  Child Poverty Monitor 2017 – Sustainable improvements needed

Fairfax media:  Why are you so afraid of tax?

Other Blogs

Boots Theory: No shit – money alleviates poverty

The Standard:  After nine long years National discovers there is child poverty in New Zealand

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

Are we being milked? asks Minister

High milk prices? Well, now we know why

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)

Once were warm hearted

An unfortunate advertising placement, child poverty, and breathing air

Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

National on Child Poverty?!

On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times

The Negotiated Pay Equity Settlement for Care Workers – beware the fish-hooks amidst the hyperbole

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Tracey Martin – The Children’s Champion

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 December 2017.

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Judith Collins owes an explanation to voters

25 November 2017 6 comments

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National’s narrative continues

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The National Party is continuing with it’s strategy to question and undermine the legitimacy of the  Labour-Green-NZFirst coalition government.

On 24 October,on Radio NZ’s Morning Report,  Bill English questioned whether or not Labour had a mandate to govern;

“ The voters at large probably expected that if you got 44 and a half percent of the vote, you were some part of the government or the big part of it.

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How to hold to account a government that’s been put together in an unusual way.

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Just remember this is a prime minister who’s the first one in a hundred years who lost the popular vote and lost it by quite a bit.

… It didn’t win the vote.

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when an election is lost, a larger party captured the direction New Zealand wanted to go in.

On further questioning, English was forced to concede that Labour had a mandate;

I accept that, absolutely… It’s a legitimate result…

Well, I’ve been saying all year that the… all the other parties put together can beat you on the day. And that’s what happened on Thursday. So that’s MMP. That’s how it works.

On the 10th of November, Judith Collins took up the narrative, questioning whether or not Peters had been conducting coalition negotiations in good faith;

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Collins complained that because Winston Peters had filed legal action against several National MPs and their staff, that this constituted “bad faith” bargaining;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

She further demanded an explanation from the NZ First leader;

“ I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation. Was he being genuine, or was it just a play?”

Now this is richly ironic on several levels.

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Bargaining in good faith

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Firstly, I am reminded of National’s legislative changes to workplace collective bargaining in 2014. As MoBIE reported at the time, “good faith bargaining” was watered down to the extent that “the duty of good faith does not require collective agreement to be concluded“;

Before the law change, parties bargaining for a collective agreement were required to conclude that agreement unless there was genuine reason not to. The change means that a collective agreement does not have to be concluded, however parties must still deal with each other in good faith.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 came into effect on 6 March 2015 and passed provisions in the Bill that “providing that the duty of good faith does not require parties to reach a collective agreement“.

So providing that employers could show they “acted in good faith“, there was no onus on them to conclude bargaining to achieve a collective agreement.

Sound familiar?

It should. It’s what Judith “Crusher” Collins has complained about;

At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.

The richest irony of all; National complaining that bargaining to establish a “collective agreement” for a National-NZFirst Coalition was not conducted in good faith.

“Good faith bargaining” and the “National Party” – not words we usually associate together in the same sentence.

My heart bleeds.

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New Zealanders owed an explanation?!

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Collins was engaging in some loud, toy-tossing whining when she demanded “I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision.  I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation”.

While we’re about who is owed explanations by whom, let’s re-cap on some matters that arose  in the last nine years of National’s governance – and remain outstanding ;

2009 – Paula Bennett releases personal details relating to two solo-mothers, after they challenged the Minister’s decision to cease the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to gain a free tertiary education);

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Not only did  Bennett not apologise  for misusing personal information for political point-scoring – she hinted she would do it again;

 …it would depend on the circumstances.

Paula Bennett: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2013 & 2014 – Judith Collins was revealed to have close connections with Oravida, which her husband was also a director of. Collins;

  • opened Oravida’s new Auckland headquarters in October 2013
  • whilst on a tax-payer funded trip to China, Collins had a private  dinner-function  with Oravida bosses and an un-named senior Chinese border official
  • on the same tax-payer funded trip to China,  Collins “stopped by”  Oravida’s Shanghai offices “on the way to the airport” – despite Oravida’s offices being   thirty kilometres in the opposite direction
  • prior to Collins’ dinner at Oravida’s Shanghai offices, Oravida  sought assistance from the NZ Government on Chinese border control problems
  • received donations totalling $86,000 for the National Party coffers
  • received thousands of dollars of donations from other Oravida-linked sources

The perception of a severe conflict of interest where Collins may have mis-used her Ministerial position to further Oravida’s interests remain unanswered.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

2014 – Judith Collins (again) was uncovered sharing information – including personal information, leaks, and gossip – with far-right blogger, Cameron Slater.

In his book ‘Dirty Politics‘, investigative journalist Nicky Hager Mediaworks outlined how Collins had;

  • … discussed details of the Bronwyn Pullar ACC case with Mr Slater and she may have been behind the leak;
  • … fed Mr Slater a constant stream of gossip, for example, anecdotes about Labour MP Trevor Mallard making a fool of himself;
  • … may have been involved in a prisoner transfer requested by Mr Slater, while she was Corrections Minister;
  • … emailed Mr Slater the name of a ministerial services staff member who he went on to attack on his blog.

Collins was also accused of running a vendetta against then Serious Fraud Office Director, Adam Feeley, and working with Slater to destroy the SFO boss’s career.

In 15 August 2014, then-Dear Leader Key refused categorically to  sack or even investigate Collins for alleged mis-use of ministerial power;

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most corrupt politicioan in NZ's history - judith collins

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Two weeks later, she was gone-burger. Collins had “resigned”;

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(Unsurprisingly, Collins was later “cleared” of allegations that “she was working with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater to get rid of former Serious Fraud Office  boss Adam Feeley”.  Evidently, despite several fifteen minute telephone calls between Slater and Collins, Justice Lester Chisholm insisted that the “Whaleoil” blogger had ” over-embellished” when he sent emails saying Collins was “gunning for Feeley”. Yeah, right.)

Yet, questions still persist surrounding Collins’ dealings with Cameron Slater and people she allegedly tried to destroy.

Judith Collins: New Zealanders are owed an explanation.

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Conclusion

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It is unquestionably the role of the Parliamentary Opposition to question the government and hold it to account. Along with the media (as flawed as it sometimes is), a strong Opposition is a necessary function of a healthy democracy.

But having someone like Judith Collins, who has so many unanswered questions hanging over her, demanding accountability undermines the effectiveness of the Opposition.

Collins’ time has come and gone. She should resign from Parliament altogether and let her place be taken by someone untainted by dubious associations; questionable conflicts of interest; and allegations of mis-use of ministerial power.

Other MPs have resigned for less.

 

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References

Radio NZ:  Bill English faces first caucus since defeat (alt.link)(audio)

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters takes legal action against National Party over leak ‘plot’

MoBIE:  Law changes to collective bargaining

MoBIE:  Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

Fairfax media: Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks: Timeline – Judith Collins and Oravida

Mediaworks: Key won’t investigate Collins claims

Interest.co.nz:  Judith Collins resigns after revelation of Slater email saying she was “gunning for Feeley”; Collins denies campaigning to oust SFO Director; Key says Collins had to go

Mediaworks:  Judith Collins cleared of colluding with Whale Oil blogger Slater

Fairfax media: How did Key mislead Parliament?

Other Blogs

The Paepae:  The Judith Collins Chisholm inquiry – Who was actually on trial?

The Standard:  Collective bargaining? Yeah right

Previous related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

“Fool me once”…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 November 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

9 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Parliament’s Grassy knoll: who tried to character-assassinate Winston?

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The leaking  of Winston Peter’s superannuation over-payment is well known. Also known is that Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley were briefed by Ministry of Social Development and State Services Commission, respectively, on Peters’ private details regarding the over-payment before it was leaked to the media and made public knowledge.

Also briefed – though it is unclear why, as he was not a warranted Minister of the Crown – was political appointee, Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson.

Evidently the only person in the entire country not briefed was the Prime Minister, Bill “Double Dipper from Dipton” English.

Bennett, Tolley, and Judith Collins have all denied any involvement in the leak.

Paula Bennett was adamant;

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. “

Which is true, in a Bizarro World kind of way. In 2009, when Bennett mis-used her Ministerial powers to reveal personal details of two solo mothers on the DPB, it was done in a very public manner.

However, Bennett never apologised publicly for the breaking of the two women’s privacy. And she stubbornly insisted she would do it again;

Asked if she would do the same thing again, Bennett said “it would depend on the circumstances”.

Perhaps Judith Collins, who disclosed a State servant’s name and personal information to a right-wing blogger, was involved in the leaking of Peters’ situation?

Prime Minister John Key has conceded it was “unwise” for Judith Collins to give Cameron Slater a public servant’s name, job title and phone number which was then used in an attack post on his Whale Oil blog.

However, John Key says no disciplinary action will be taken against the Justice Minister because the action pre-dated the final warning he gave Ms Collins over the Oravida scandal.

Mr Key says he still stands by the Justice Minister.

“I think the passing of private information, in terms of phone numbers, I think that’s unwise. It’s unwise of a Minister. Look in the end it’s one of those things,” Mr Key says.

Collins also refuse to accept she had done anything wrong – despite being forced to resign in 2014;

“I absolutely and strongly deny this and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour. I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.”

Only Minister Tolley has not been accused of a direct privacy violation of any individual(s) – at the moment. However, MSD is know to leak like a sieve and it was MSD that briefed the Minister regarding Winston Peters.

One thing is for certain; some Ministers are not averse when it comes to leaking personal details of individuals who run foul of this government.

They have ‘form’.

Postscript

Recent revelations that blogger and activist, Martyn Bradbury, has had his private bank details scrutinised by Police shows how little National and its state agencies respect the privacy of individuals.

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Especially those who dare criticise the current regime.

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A face-palm moment for ACT candidate, Anneka Carlson

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Meet Anneka Carlson, ACT’s New Plymouth candidate and number seven on their Party List;

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Carlson is seventh on the list and would enter parliament if ACT gained 5 per cent of the party vote.

The 28-year-old never dreamt of being a politician but standing for ACT in her home town “just feels right.”

“It was meant to happen.”

Parliament needed people with life skills and her life experiences would help stand her in good stead if she is elected, she said.

The former West Auckland police officer owned her own business in New Plymouth, is a North Taranaki SPCA board member, and ran fitness programmes for cancer support groups.

She is also completing a business studies degree extra-murally at Massey University. 

“I’m fairly young, and I’m surprised to be high on the list because I’m a bit of political newbie, but I’ve already seen lot of things from working in the police.

All well and good – engaging young New Zealanders to enter politics should be encouraged. It should never be  the sole “happy hunting grounds” for Baby Boomers seeking to feather their own nests, at the expense of younger generations.

Unfortunately, there are times when youth counts against a candidate.  Such as when Ms Carlson lamented ACT’s lack of public support;

“It makes me wonder why people don’t know more about ACT in New Plymouth.”

It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms Carlson wonders why ACT is not supported more at the ballot box. It’s not because “people don’t know more about ACT“.

Quite the contrary – most New Zealanders middle-aged and over – are very clear about ACT and what it stands for. After all, we lived through ACT-style so-called “reforms” in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

That is why ACT is not well supported except by a tiny minority of unreconstructed wealthy, privileged extremists. (Aka, the One Percent.)  At 28, Ms Carlson would be oblivious to all this.

But at least Ms Carlson understands how privileged she is as a middle-class pakeha from an economically well-supported background. As she herself admitted;

“I’ve come from a fairly privileged upbringing…”

At least Ms Carlson has a measure of self-awareness. Given time and experience she may understand how that privileged upbringing gives her a head start in life that is denied many others.

She may even experience that critical Road-To-Damascus revelation that ACT’s market-driven ideology has made matters much, much worse since 1984.

I suggest the next cuppa tea she has is not with David Seymour, but Jim Bolger.

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Another poll indicates coming change in government

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A recent Horizon Poll released on 1 September reconfirms the rise of Jacinda Ardern’s popularity with voters;

Jacinda Ardern has a 6% lead over Bill English as preferred Prime Minister among definite voters.

Among the 860 adult respondents who are both registered to vote and 100% likely to vote, Ardern leads English by 43% to 37%.

Among all of the 960 respondents to the August 11-15 Horizon Research poll Ardern leads 45% to 32%.

Winston Peters is preferred Prime Minister by 15% of all respondents and 14% of definite voters.

James Shaw, the Green Party leader, is preferred by 2%, and David Seymour of ACT and Te Ururoa Flavell of the Maori Party each by 1%.

Coincidentally, English’s current popularity at 37% is similar to Key’s Preferred Prime Minister ratings before he stepped down as Dear Leader Prime Minister.  By May last year, Key’s PPM rating had  fallen to 36.7% – continuing a steady downward trend.

Which means Ms Ardern is now more popular than John Key was, prior to his resignation.

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Another step back from globalisation

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Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has announced a major step back from neo-liberalism’s prime enabler, globalism, by announcing that the State government would prioritise local businesses for contracts. The aim is to create more local jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk was unapologetic in renouncing globalisation;

“ Our new procurement strategy is unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one.  No longer will we be constrained by free trade agreements that have seen jobs go off-shore or interstate.

Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered. Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.

This money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers as much as possible.”

According to the SBS report, Queensland spent  A$14 billion per annum  on supplies, services, plus A$4 billion  building and maintaining State infrastructure.

Ms Palaszczuk made a valid case for buying-local when she pointed out “this money comes from Queensland taxpayers, it is only right we spent it in a way that benefits Queensland businesses and workers“.

The prime role of a government in a Western-style democracy has always been (or should be!) to protect and enhance it’s citizens. Creating an environment where local jobs flourish  is part and parcel of that dictum.

Governments are not “in business” to create  jobs in other countries at the expense of their own workers.

ExportNZ’s Executive Director, Catherine Beard, was predictably hostile;

The ‘Buy Queensland’ promotion should be about encouraging Aussies to buy their local product, just like ‘Buy NZ Made’ encourages New Zealanders to buy Kiwi-made. It’s OK to encourage your people to buy local, but it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism.

The protectionism in Queensland’s policy is completely contrary to Closer Economic Relations between New Zealand and Australia.

In plain english, Ms Beard is fine with “it’s OK to encourage your people to buy local,” but “it’s not OK to mandate State Government weightings that amount to protectionism” because it harmed the interests of her members.

Tough. It’s about time globalisation began to be rolled back instead of continually exporting jobs and entire businesses to off-shore jurisdictions where labour is cheaper and easily exploitable because of lax (or unenforced) labour laws.

We need fair trade, not so-called “free” trade. “Free” trade is not free when we, the tax-payers, have to foot the bill to pay for welfare, because workers became unemployed after their jobs were exported to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, etc, or cheaper (and often shoddier) goods imported to unfairly compete with locally-made products.

Queensland’s Premier understands this. She wants jobs created for her own workers – not in some other country. Especially when those workers in other nations won’t be paying tax in Queensland.

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References

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

NZ Herald:  Beehive knew of Winston Peters’ super payments weeks ago

Mediaworks:  Paula Bennett says she doesn’t go ‘scuffling around doing leaks’

Fairfax media:  Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Mediaworks:  Collins ‘unwise’ to pass information to Slater

NZ Herald:  Statement from Judith Collins

Fairfax media:  Government backs down over collecting individuals’ data until security confirmed

Fairfax media:  Former promotional ‘hype girl’ keen to get more dancing to ACT’s tune

Fairfax media:  Tick party vote for ACT to bring quality candidates into parliament, leader says

Fairfax media:  The 9th floor – Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

Fairfax media:  Hamilton social service providers dispute PM’s ‘almost’ no homeless claim

Horizon Poll:  Ardern preferred Prime Minister with 6% lead

Mediaworks:  Newshub poll – Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

SBS: Qld govt to prioritise local businesses

Scoop media:  Trade Ministers need firm hand over Queensland

Other Blogs

Martyn Bradbury:  My case against a secret NZ Police investigation that breached my privacy and my civil rights

Previous related blogposts

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister – downward slide continues

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 September 2017.

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= fs =

Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

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Recent comments by Paula Bennett regarding introducing tipping to New Zealand are more revealing of National’s contempt for workers than most realise.

On 22 May, Bennett was reported as promoting tipping for reasons that – on the face of it – sound reasonable, but are questionable;

“ If you receive excellent service, you should tip.  I don’t think that tipping should be mandatory in New Zealand, but I do think that we shouldn’t tell people not to tip when they come here, which we did for a while.

 People will enjoy their work more and get paid more – it’s plus plus plus.
I don’t want us to turn into that mandatory tipping for people just to survive, but I do think if we reward good service it’s going to make everyone smile a bit more.”

“Smile a bit more”? “People will enjoy their work more”?

Perhaps in Bennett’s narrow world, hermetically-sealed in Parliament with her ministerial salary; perks; golden superannuation; and tax-payer-funded housing.

To put Bennett’s comments into some context, in March 2012 NZ Herald journalist, Fran O’Sullivan gave us a glimpse of her privileged life;

My sense is that Bennett always knew how to work the system to her advantage – and good for her. Let’s face it, at the time she went on to the domestic purposes benefit in 1986, knowing how to rort the system was a national sport.

[…]

At just 17, she gave birth to her only child, a daughter she named Ana. Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo. All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.

[…]

Bennett was also fortunate in getting a training allowance to go to university when her daughter was 8. Her backstory suggests that she was still on a benefit while studying.

The Training Incentive Allowance that paid for Bennett’s university education meant she was not lumbered with any of the $15 billion debt that 728,000 other Kiwi students are now facing. Her tertiary education was free.

This would not be a problem – except that one of Bennett’s first acts on becoming social welfare minister was to remove the same Training Incentive Allowance that she used to put herself through University;

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Evidently, Bennett’s working life was “too exhausting” and she made a “career move” back onto the DPB;

“ Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB.”

In opting to chuck in her paid job and return to the DPB, she became an oft-parroted cliche that  many on the Right – especially National/ACT supporters – often accuse welfare beneficiaries for.

From being an on-again-off-again beneficiary on the DPB, in 2005 Bennett became a beneficiary of the Parliamentary Service and she entered Parliament on the National Party List.

Today, as Deputy PM, the tax-payer is responsible for meeting her $326,697 p.a. salary, plus free housing, and other perks.

It would be a fair guess that Bennett does not require tipping to make up her weekly pay packet, to meet the necessities of life that many other New Zealanders find challenging in the 21st Century;

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In 2007 – and for the following five years – the former Dear Leader, John Key, constantly made eloquent speeches on raising the incomes of New Zealanders;

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

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

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

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

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

Who would have thought that Key’s goal of raising wages would be achieved… with tips.

It speaks volumes about National’s disconnect with the working men and women of this country, that the best that our generously paid Deputy Prime Minister can come up with is that raising wages should be dependent on the largesse of others.

Is this the essence of National’s ambition for New Zealanders?  That not only should we be tenants in our own country

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– but that we should be paid as such?

On 18 April, our new Dear Leader, Bill English announced a $2 billion pay increase for under paid care and support workers in the aged and residential care sector.

However, there appears to be a ‘fish hook’ in the much trumpeted announcement;

Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.

The pay increase will be “delivered over the next five years“.

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman asking, amongst  other things;

” You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “delivered over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

… will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?”

To date, Minister Coleman’s office has put off replying, stating that his office was busy and “response times vary between 4 – 6 weeks but also depend on the Minister’s schedule and availability“. (More on this later.)

Perhaps aged and residential care sector workers  should ask for tips in the meantime, from their clients?

According to the website Numbeo.com, New Zealand wages have not kept pace with our nearest neighbour;

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Former Dear Leader Key’s grand ambition of matching Australia’s income levels have remained illusory.

In fact, despite heightened economic activity through immigration and the Christchurch re-build, wages have remained suppressed. As Head of Trade Me Jobs, Jeremy Wade, said in April this year;

We’re seeing small increases in average pay across growth industries such as Construction and Customer Service, but overall wages aren’t matching demand.

The number of roles advertised has exploded in recent months which in turn means that the average number of applications per role has dropped 13 per cent on this time last year. Job hunters can be more selective, which makes it harder to fill these roles.

Some employers have looked to immigration channels to address this shortage. Immigration alone won’t correct the shortfall, though it may be suppressing wage growth…

Immigrationmay be suppressing wage growth“.

There is no “may” about it.  Immigration is suppressing wage growth.  The simple laws of market supply & demand dictate that in times of “low” unemployment, wages will rise as the supply of workers does not meet demand.

This is not some marxist-leninist tenet. This is core doctrine of the Free Market;

The law of supply and demand is the theory explaining the interaction between the supply of a resource and the demand for that resource. The law of supply and demand defines the effect the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price. Generally, a low supply and a high demand increases price, and in contrast, the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price tends to fall.

The only way that the price of labour can be suppressed is to increase the supply of labour. National has opened the floodgates of immigration, increasing the number of workers, and hence the price of labour has remained suppressed (also incidentally fuelling increasing housing demand, ballooning prices, and construction in Auckland).

There is a grim irony at play here.

National has exploited high immigration to generate economic activity and National ministers continually boast to the electorate that they have boosted economic activity;

Despite the dairy sector continuing to be under pressure, other sectors are performing well and contributing to an overall solid rate of economic growth.” – Bill English

We are the fifth fastest growing economy last year in the developed world. That’s unexpected.” – Steven Joyce

That’s why the good economic growth we’re seeing with rising incomes and a record number of jobs available is the best way this Government can help New Zealanders. ” – Paula Bennett

The New Zealand economy is diverse and dynamic. Strong GDP and job growth, together with the impact of technology, is driving change in every sector.” – Simon Bridges

But the same immigration that has generated that economic “growth” has also suppressed wages. National’s exploitation of high immigration to pretend we have “high economic growth” may have worked. But the unintended consequence of suppressed wages is now starting to haunt them.

What to do, what to do?!

Enter Paula Bennett and her desperate plea for New Zealanders to tip each other.

Unfortunately, tipping each other is simply a band-aid over low wages. In the end, like a pyramid scheme, the money-go-round of tipping fails to generate long term wage increases and we are back at Square One: low paid jobs and no prospects for improvement.

To compensate for chronic low wages, Labour introduced Working for Families in 2004. This became a means by which the State subsidised businesses to ensure that working families had some measure of a livable income.

Bennett’s lame suggestion – tipping – does not even pretend to come close to Labour’s solution.

Perhaps that is because National are in a quandry; cut back immigration to raise wages? That would wind back economic growth. Increase immigration to boost economic growth – and have wages stagnate.

This is what results when a political party with the unearned reputation of being “good economic managers” is revealed to being a fraud. Their short-term, unsustainable, “sugar-hit” policies eventually catch up with them.

Here’s a tip for you, Paula; saying silly things in election year is not helpful.

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References

Fairfax media:  Deputy PM Paula Bennett calls for more tipping

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Scoop media: John Key – Speech to the Bluegreens Forum

Beehive: Key Notes – Boosting Science and Innovation

Beehive: John Key – Speech from the Throne

Fairfax media: Key wants a high-wage NZ

NZ Herald: PM warns against Kiwis becoming ‘tenants’

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Numbeo: Cost of Living Comparison Between Australia and New Zealand

Trade Me: New Zealand job market booming but wages languish

Investopedia: Law Of Supply And Demand

Fairfax media: Record migration sees New Zealand population record largest ever increase

Fairfax media: New Zealand’s economic growth driven almost exclusively by rising population

Radio NZ: Billions for infrastructure reflects booming economy – Joyce

Fairfax media: Minister Paula Bennett – Challenge to house more people on taxpayer dollar

Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce: Minister of Economic Development Announces New Economic Data Tool

Wikipedia: Working for Families

Additional

The New York Times: Why Tipping Is Wrong

The Huffington Post: 9 Reasons We Should Abolish Tipping, Once And For All

Wikipedia: Paula Bennett

Other Bloggers

Martyn Bradbury – Paula Bennett’s call to tip is National’s new plan to subcontract out lifting wages without raising minimum wage

The Standard: Tipping vs fair wages

Previous related blogposts

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

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

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

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Hat-tip for above cartoon: Anthony Robbins

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2017.

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= fs =

Why I won’t be congratulating Nikki Kaye

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Bill  English today (24 April) announced his Cabinet re-shuffle.  As expected, departing non-performers and walking public-relations-disasters,  Nick Smith and Hekia Parata, were replaced by “rising stars” Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye, respectively.

Both Ms Adams and Ms Kaye have conveyed a public perception of calm efficiency, without the PR cluster-f***s that have come to characterise Nick Smith and Hekia Parata’s erratic performances in their respective ministerial  portfolios.

Smith’s accident-prone political career reached it’s nadir in March 2012 when he was forced to resign for mis-using his ministerial influence on behalf of a close friend and National Party apparatchik, Bronwyn Pullar.

Hekia Parata’s controversy-riddled career crashed in June 2012 when her proposal to increase class-room sizes was met with a deafening chorus of outrage from middle-class mums and dads. The backlash from voters was such that Parata was forced to back down in a humiliating policy u-turn.

English’s re-shuffle puts new(-ish) faces into his Cabinet giving the illusion of “rejuvenation”. But more importantly, it removes Parata and Smith from public view and from  media questioning.

As  housing and education are both going to be hot election issues this year, having Parata and Smith front to answer difficult questions regarding National’s problematic portfolios (health, education, housing, and dirty waterways) would be embarrassing. National’s tax-payer funded spin-doctors would be banging their heads against brick walls in sheer frustration.

Adams and Kaye had very little of the baggage that their predecessors had, in abundance.

Until, that is, on  15 March this year when then-Youth Minister, Nikki Kaye, launched into an ad hominem diatribe against Jacinda Ardern during a debate in Parliament. It was an orchestrated, pre-planned, personalised attack;

I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House—and we got Jacinda Ardern. Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done. What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot. Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.

On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she? She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.

Ardern, to her eternal credit, refused to take the bait to dive head-first into a political sewerage and replied in a manner that epitomises statesmanlike behaviour;

It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before. Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that. I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.

It was also in stark contrast to the 2014 General Election where Kaye and Ardern agreed to conducting an issues-driven campaign and not resort to increasingly dirty, personalised attack-politics.

That agreement served both women well. They became (generally) more respected than their more “excitable” colleagues in Parliament who were not averse to “getting down and dirty in the bear pit of politics”.

Two days after Kaye’s attack, Jacinda Ardern went further and actually tried to defend her rival on Mediawork’s ‘AM Show’;

I just know that Nikki doesn’t believe that…

… I don’t actually think she believes that, because we’ve worked side-by-side, she knows the case work I’ve done, she knows what I’ve done locally, so I’m going to shrug it off.

National’s Deputy PM, Paula Bennet – herself no stranger to a bit of ‘bene-bashing’ to stir up support from the red-neck element in our society – was having none of it, and refused to accept Ardern’s placatory comments;

That is so condescending Jacinda, that is absolutely condescending.

Bennett was making sure that Kaye’s vitriol would stick and no amount of charitable turning-the-cheek from Ardern would be allowed to dilute the venom.

The result of this petty bickering, name-calling, point-scoring chest thumping is ongoing public scorn and derision at behaviour they would not tolerate from their own children.

In her attack on Ardern, Nikki Kaye has shown that she is not above cheap politicking. It is not Ardern’s reputation that suffered when Kaye launched into her contrived bitchfest.

On the same ‘AM Show’ Bennett attempted to re-frame the viciousness of political scrapping by referring to it as “robust” debate;

“ Of course she meant what she stood up and said and she’s got every right to say it. It’s robustness, and when you step into leadership roles, you are going to be called out and times that’s going to be uncomfortable, and at times you are going to disagree. ”

“Robust” is one of those new ‘buzz-words’, like the increasingly loathed ‘resilient’ or weird-sounding ‘stake holders’. It  can be used to disguise bullying behaviour that would not be acceptable in any other workplace.

Imagine for a moment if the behaviour of personal attacks was replicated throughout society, in every workplace and home in the country. Such behaviour in domestic situations would be labelled domestic abuse. Very few would accept it as “robust discussion”.

Unfortunately, the host of the ‘AM Show’ – Duncan Garner – failed to pick up on this abusive aspect of politics. (Modern  media commercial imperatives demand conflict raging – not conflict resolution. Garner might as well handed both women a knife each and told them to get on with it.)

If Nikki Kaye (and all other Members  of Parliament) wants to work in a constructive, professional manner instead of a toxic culture of threats, point-scoring,  and abuse, each Parliamentarian is personally responsible for their own behaviour.

Ardern’s mild response to Nicki Kaye’s verbal abuse, and refusing to pander to Bennett ‘egging’-on, has raised the standard of behaviour for her parliamentary colleagues.

Ms Ardern was correct to refuse to lower herself to their level.

Kaye, Bennett, et al need to raise themselves up.

Nikki Kaye,  don’t let yourself be persuaded by your colleagues to engage in behaviour you would find unacceptable elsewhere.

Be the person you really are. You are better than this.

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Postscript1

One of Nikki Kaye’s “criticisms” of Jacinda Ardern was that she “struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done”.

The simple reality that being in Opposition renders an MP with very little legislative power. Even when a Private Member’s Bill is drawn from the Ballot; debated; put through Select Committee process; and passed into law by a majority of MPsit can still be vetoed by a dogma-driven Finance Minister.

However, even in Opposition,  Ms Ardern is not without her personal achievements.

In the 2014 General Election, Ms Ardern was Number 5 on the Labour Party list. Nicki Kaye was Number 19;

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One of those parties has more faith in their candidate and her abilities than the other.

Postscript2

In her 15 March diatribe, Nikki Kaye accused Labour of indulging in a certain style of superficial campaigning;

“This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops…”

When it comes to photo-ops, there is only one person in the last decade who mastered the art to a preternatural degree;

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Prime Minister John Key draped in current flag at NZ Open

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Whether it be babies, kittens, or puppies…

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john key photo op (1-4)

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Though some weren’t quite so keen…

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john key photo op (5)

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Some turned out to be downright dodgy…

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john key photo op (6)

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And some turned into an unmitigated disaster…

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Act member for Remuera, John Banks and Prime Minister John Key stop in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Urban Cafe. 12 November 2011 New Zealand Listener Picture by David White.

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But let’s get back to kitten and puppies – always an easy, safe bet for a photo-op… (especially with a visiting compliant Royal chucked in for good measure)…

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john key photo op (7-9)

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Talking about visiting Royals – they are proven rich-pickings for Key to exploit for photo-ops…

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john key photo op (10)

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And there were photo-ops-galore with various sundry Royals…

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john key photo op 11-14)

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Chuck in an Aussie Prime Minister…

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And another Aussie Prime Minister…

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John+Key+Julia+Gillard+Visits+New+Zealand+HLo_hFr7PRPl

 

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Yet another Aussie Prime Minister…

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And – wait for it! – an Aussie Prime Minister!!

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6862798-3x2-940x627

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Ok, that line of Aussies was getting tedious. Let’s try something different.

A former New Zealand Prime Minister…

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Or the current Brit Prime Minister.

Slow down, Dear Leader, you’ve got Cameron dead in your sights for that manly grip…

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Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (L), greets the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, outside 10 Downing Street in central London September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

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See? Nailed that handshake…

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john_key_and_david_cameron__number_10_Master

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Enough of Prime Ministers. Let’s try a current German Chancellor…

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Angela+Merkel+John+Key+New+Zealand+Prime+Minister+IxtkHCovagLl

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Or a (former) US State Secretary…

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John-Key-Hillary-Clinton-1200

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Maybe another Royal…

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john-key-prince-charles-rachael-park

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And a Queen or two…

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[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

[*scrape, scrape, shuffle, bow, bow, grin like a commoner*]

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Key and Queens

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Some bloke from China…

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New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, inside the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake, in Beijing, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

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And some bloke from America…

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key1200

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Here is our esteemed Dear Leader with perhaps The Most Important Bloke in America…

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5399238

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And we know what followed next…

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key - letterman

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Though perhaps not quite as embarrassing as this…

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RWC_JohnKey

*facepalm*

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But just to keep the “common touch” with the Great Unwashed…

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Key in toy boat

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And when you get tired of doing your own driving…

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key-smile-wave

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But for the Top Prize for photo-ops, you just can’t get more Ordinary Blokey than hanging out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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GettyImages-89998537-e1445817662233

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Still hangin’ out with Ritchie and The Boys…

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1445739667347

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Ah, John, I think this is The Boys telling you ‘enough is enough, go the f**k home!

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Good night John!

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Ok… getting a bit wanky now…

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John-Key-All-black

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And then it just hits rock-bottom, in Key’s eagerness to be In-On-The-Act…

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eight_col_hand_shake

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It’s obvious that our esteemed Dear Leader is not shy in front of a camera.

So… what was that you were saying about photo-ops, Ms Kaye?!

[Images and text above re-printed from previous blog-story: John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay) ]

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References

Radio NZ: Brownlee to take on Foreign Affairs in ministerial reshuffle

Otago Daily Times: Cabinet minister Nick Smith resigns

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

NZ Herald: Gloves off – National MPs target Labour’s Jacinda Ardern in series of attacks

Parliament: Hansards – Nikki Kaye

TV3 News: Nikki Kaye launches war of words on Jacinda Ardern

TV3 News – The AM Show: ‘Gloves off’ for Bennett, Ardern on The AM Show

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Radio NZ: Govt vetoes paid parental leave bill

Electoral Commission: 2014 General Election Party Lists

Other Blogs

The Standard: “All show and no substance”

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern backfires

The Standard: Nats’ attack on Ardern – Day 3

The Daily Blog: With all due respect to Nikki Kaye and Paula Bennett, if you want to slag off Jacinda Ardern

Previous related blogposts

National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Citizen A – Susan Devoy; Nick Smith; Len Brown; and DoC job losses – 28 March 2013

Nick Smith

Nick Smith – #Rua

Congratulations Dr Smith!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 April 2014.

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Why is Paula Bennett media-shy all of a sudden?

17 June 2016 5 comments

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1949-state-house-in-taita

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From December 2014…

A year and a half ago, Paula Bennett showed little hesitation in milking the opening of community housing for a photo-op*;

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paula bennett opens community housing

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Bennett was not shy in using tenants with disabilities as part of her “feel good” propaganda piece.

The Present…

Bennett appears to have lost her willingness to front up to the media and be photographed with the homeless who have been given shelter by the Te Puea Marae;

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Message of hope at Te Puea Marae

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According to John  Campbell, Bennett refused to appear on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint  for an interview.

Poverty in New Zealand has been put under the glare of  the media spotlight (at least, by Radio NZ) and National ministers have gone-to-ground. Their inaction on poverty has created a crisis in our society that is no longer possible to ignore.

When ministers  of an incumbent government are no longer willing to defend their policies and track-record, and refuse to be held to account by the media, then it is a clear sign they are in deep trouble.

No doubt Bennett’s taxpayer-funded spin-doctors have advised her to keep her head down; refuse all requests for interviews; and hope desperately that this latest crisis for National will blow over.

Unfortunately for Bennett and her parasitic, dogma-driven Tory cronies, they do not realise the tenacity and sense of fair-mindedness from one of New Zealand’s best investigative journalists: John Campbell.

This is what an inept, self-serving politician looks like when the bullshit is stripped away; their spin-doctors have no answers; and they stand revealed in the glare of public attention.

This is what speaking truth to power looks like.

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* Note: The identity of the tenant has been redacted to protect his privacy, and the title of the article removed for similar reasons. Readers are asked not to post  information or links which identify the tenants. – FM

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References

Radio NZ: Message of hope at Te Puea Marae

Previous related blogposts

Job Hunting, Bennett-style

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

Bennett & Borrows – where are the jobs?!?!

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Paula Bennett: one strike and she’s out.

Paula Bennett – massive *facepalm*

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Was Paula Bennett ever drug tested?

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed

Homelessness, Poverty, and the Final Solution

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Recommended previous related blogpost

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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homelessness in new zealand - tom scott - dominion post cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 June 2016.

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State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

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1949-state-house-in-taita

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State Houses – “Wrong place/wrong size”?

Last year (2015), National confirmed it’s intention to sell-off thousands of state houses to “community groups”;

Hundreds of state houses in Tauranga and Invercargill could be sold to independent providers in the first phase of the Government’s plans.

In January Prime Minister John Key announced that state house reforms would see up to 2000 state homes sold to “community housing providers” this year, as it cuts the number of state houses it owns by 8000 over three years.

Although the Government was marketing the process as “transfer” the houses would be sold to community groups, generally charity based providers. Because the houses would have to be kept as social housing rather than private sales, the houses were expected to be sold at a discount to the market value.

After nationwide consultation, Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said that the first sales were likely to take place in Invercargill and Tauranga.

In a blogpost in November last year, I pointed out the oft-repeated phrase used by our esteemed dear Leader and various Ministers;

Various ministers, including our esteemed Dear Leader,  have indicated that up to “a third” of state houses are “in the wrong place or wrong size (or ‘type’).

The “wrong size/wrong place” claim is the argument used by National to advance a major sell-off of Housing NZ properties.

On 1 November, 2014, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said on TV3’s ‘The Nation’,

“It’s about being smart in what we’re doing. So you just look at us having the wrong houses, in the wrong place, of the wrong size..”

On 2 December, 2014, the Minister responsible for Housing NZ, Bill English expressed his agreement with the proposition of one third of Housing NZ homes being in the “wrong size/wrong place” ;

“Yes. As recently as just last month Housing New Zealand issued a press release that said: ‘around one third of our housing stock is in the wrong place, wrong configuration or is mismatched with future demand’.

[…]

… in fact, a third of them are the wrong size, in the wrong place, and in poor condition.”

On 28 January this year, John Key announced in his “state of the nation” speech;

 “Around a third of Housing New Zealand properties are in the wrong place, or are the wrong type to meet existing and future demand.”

After lodging an OIA request with relevant Ministers late last year information released under the  Act suggests that National’s oft-repeated claim that around “one third” ( or 22,000)  of  state houses are in the “wrong place and wrong size” was not wholly supported by Housing NZ’s own figures. As I reported last November;

Housing NZ currently  “manages 67,245 homes” (as at 30 June 2015). When Key, and other National ministers refer to “around a third of Housing NZ properties”, simple arithmetic translates that fraction into 22,190 homes being the “wrong size/wrong place” .

[…]

In a response eventually received on  29 October 2015,  information in the form of a  chart -“Stock reconciliation taking into account impaired properties as at 31 January 2013” – was attached;

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minister english oia response 29 october 2015 - HNZ housing stock - wrong place wrong size

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In two columns headed “Right Place, wrong home” and “Wrong Place“, the respective figures add up to 13,560. This constitutes a little over half of the “22,000” that is being bandied about by National.

Like much of National’s “facts”,  the numbers did not stack up.

Which led to the last question I put to the Minister; “If HNZ houses that are in the “wrong place” are sold/given away to community organisations – what will make those houses suddenly become in the “right place”?

Because if it’s in the “wrong place” when owned by Housing NZ – why would it suddenly be in the “right place” owned by someone else?

The Minister’s response was baffling. In his 29 October 2015 letter to me he said;

“The Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers. In Tauranga and
Invercargill for example, the areas identified for initial potential transfers of social
housing properties from Housing New Zealand to community housing providers, MSD’s purchasing
intentions anticipate stable demand. Following a transfer, any new provider would receive
both the properties and a contract with MSD to continue to provide social housing.”

[See full text of letter here]

English’s response seemed to cast a distinction between State housing “in the wrong place/size” and properties to be sold/transferred to community organisations.

Yet, his statement above would appear to contradict a statement issued by English and Bennett earlier on 6 May last year, which is explained further below under the heading, “The Great Invercargill and Tauranga Sell-Off”.

See: State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

State Houses, “Wrong place/wrong size”? – Up-date

English’s responses to my questions were vague and offered little in the way of specific detail. In a follow-up letter to the Minister, I repeated two of my questions;

I refer you to two questions which you have not answered in my OIA request;

4. Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place”?

5. How many areas have been designated “wrong places”?

His response arrived too late to be included in my November 2015 blogpost, but is still highly relevant to the growing housing crisis in this country. On 9 December 2015, English said;

“The analysis produced by Housing New Zealand  in 2013 and provided to you with my previous response [see table here – FM] identifies  the number of houses as being in the wrong place on a regional basis. No specific locations have been designated ‘wrong places’ and, based on this analysis, each region has some properties assessed as being in the wrong place. These will generally be in provincial  areas away from the main centres.”

[See full text of letter here]

In none of the Minister’s correspondence was he able to provide specifics as to where State houses were in the “wrong place”. The ‘best’ he could do was list five regions; Auckland East & South; Auckland North West & Central; South Island, Central North Island, and Lower North Island.

Surprisingly, Auckland was deemed to have  8,180 houses  that are supposedly “Right Place, wrong home”  and a further 420 that are in the “Wrong Place” – 8,600 in total.

However, the Minister’s data was contradicted by the 2014/15 Housing NZ Annual Report which confirmed the on-going high demand for housing in Auckland;

“Across the country we also have too many three-
bedroom properties, while demand has grown for smaller
one- or two-bedroom homes or for much bigger homes.
Demand for homes in the Auckland region is high and
more Housing New Zealand homes are needed.” (p22)

English did, however, point out that “these will generally be in provincial  areas away from the main centres“.

Even that has proven to be a mis-leading assertion from the Minister. Tauranga is certainly a “main centre” by most definitions, and the choice of that city would  prove to be embarrassing to National, as the next chapter below showed.

The Great Invercargill and Tauranga Sell-Off

As National began to roll  out it’s sale of State houses, Bill English specifically referred to State houses being sold in  Tauranga and Invercargill. On 6 May last year, Bennett and English released this statement;

“This is another important step to creating a more effective and efficient social housing sector with more housing providers supporting tenants and their needs.” – Housing New Zealand Minister Bill English.

As announced by the Prime Minister in January, the Government’s Social Housing Reform Programme includes plans to transfer 1000 – 2000 HNZC houses to registered CHPs over the next year.

“We’ve gone through a robust process to identify the first areas for potential transactions. Tauranga and Invercargill have been chosen because they have stable demand for social housing, and active community housing providers keen to consider the next steps. Providers in other regions are also interested.” – Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett

The same media statement referenced;

The Social Housing Reform Programme (SHRP) is designed to get more people in need into quality social housing – either through Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) or registered Community Housing Providers (CHPs). The objectives of the Social Housing Reform Programme are to:

  • […]

  • Ensure social housing is the right design and size and is in the right places for people who need it.

English and Bennett continued to exploit the “wrong size/wrong place” spin that National was using to disguise the privatisation of State housing.

Bear in mind English’s statement in his 29 October 2015 letter to me, where he said;

“The Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers. In Tauranga and
Invercargill for example, the areas identified for initial potential transfers of social
housing properties from Housing New Zealand to community housing providers, MSD’s purchasing
intentions anticipate stable demand. Following a transfer, any new provider would receive
both the properties and a contract with MSD to continue to provide social housing.”

Obviously the Ministers find it difficult to keep their “story” straight.

In March this year, potential buyers for State houses in Tauranga and Invercargill had been lined up;

Four potential buyers have made the final shortlist to buy over 1400 state houses being sold in Tauranga and Invercargill.

[…]

In Tauranga, Accessible Properties, Hapori Connect Tauranga, and Kaiana Community Housing Partners made the shortlist to take over 1124 properties or tenancies.

However, even as National’s English and Bennett were prepping State houses for sale, the country’s housing crisis began to be reported elsewhere throughout New Zealand.

Tauranga was one of them;

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Housing situation critical - Tauranga principal - radio nz

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Tauranga gripped by housing crisis - sunlive

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Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars - TVNZ TV1 News

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Community leaders, social agencies call for urgency on 'housing crisis' - bay of plenty times

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People living in caravan parks while waiting for a rental - bay of plenty times

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Campsites for emergency housing debate - bay of plenty times

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People resorting to living in camping sites and caravan parks?

Is that what this country has come to after thirty years of neo-liberal “reforms”? To become a South Pacific version of America’s trailer-park “communities”?

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trailer park community USA

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If, by shuffling ownership of State houses from Housing NZ to “community groups”, National believes it will solve our housing crisis and growing homelessness – they are far more out of touch than I ever thought possible.

This is not just a stubborn pursuit of a free market dogma that has failed to meet basic social needs – this is pseudo-religious self-delusional behaviour from our elected representatives. English, Key, Bennett, Smith, et al, appear to be paralysed into inaction, like possums caught in the headlights of an approaching truck.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett floundering around like a beached cetacean. She first denied that a housing crisis existed in New  Zealand on 20 May;

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No housing crisis in NZ - Paula Bennett - radio nz

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Five days later, she was willing to bribe homeless and State housing tenants up to $5,000 to quit Auckland, making  a sudden announcement that caught Finance Minister Bill English off-guard;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

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I have said it before and will repeat my conclusions that National is incapable of resolving this crisis. Considerable State intervention is required, and that is anathema to a political party whose very DNA is based on the free market; reducing State involvement in commercial and social activities; and promoting private good over community benefit.

It will take a collective anger from New Zealanders to take notice of what is happening in their own society. At the moment, so many New Zealanders seem insulated from the  growing social problems that are worsening with each passing day.

As Shamubeel Eaqub said on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, on 26 May, there is an absence of empathy amongst many New Zealanders – a moral-disconnect with the poor; the homeless; those who have been left behind after thirty years of failed neo-liberal theory.

Remarkably, Eaqub invoked the name of Michael Savage, when New Zealanders were capable of building and solving social ills. For an economist,  Eaqub has deep insight where we have arrived in the year 2016;

The only thing that’s missing now is aspiration and leadership,” he said.

Perhaps our economist friend has nailed the problem perfectly; 21st century New Zealand is not just suffering from economic poverty. There is a poverty much, much worse.

A poverty of spirit.

And that affects us all, regardless of wealth and income.

 

 

 

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References

Fairfax media: Invercargill and Tauranga chosen for first state house sales

TV3: The Nation – Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett

Parliament: 6. State Housing—Suitability of Housing Stock

Fairfax media: John Key Speech – Next steps in social housing

Letter from Bill English, 9 December 2015

Housing NZ: 2014/15 Annual Report

Beehive.govt.nz: Next steps in social housing reform announced

Fairfax media: Invercargill state houses may survive sell-off as Government reveals short-list

Radio NZ: Housing situation critical – Tauranga principal

Sunlive: Tauranga gripped by housing crisis

TVNZ News: Housing crisis hits Tauranga, forcing families into garages and cars

Bay of Plenty Times: Community leaders, social agencies call for urgency on ‘housing crisis’

Bay of Plenty Times: People living in caravan parks while waiting for a rental

Bay of Plenty Times: Campsites for emergency housing debate

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Radio NZ: Airport CEO, health leader & economist look at the Budget

Additional

Dominion Post: Housing MPs cost taxpayers more

Treasury: Social Housing Transactions

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Paula Bennett blindsides her own Finance Minister in desperate scramble to respond to housing crisis

The Standard: Newshub poll – Key’s government has failed on housing

The Standard: Bennett’s housing “announcement” is a re-announcement and a lie

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

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emmerson - homeless - National govt housing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2016.

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Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett revealed

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70 percent pure NZ

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TVNZ’s Q+A on Sunday 24 April featured an interview with Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett. Her responses were further evidence that  National was  increasingly  unable (or unwilling) to cope with the growing threat of climate change.

Posing a series of surprisingly incisive questions and follow-ups, the ever-youthful-looking Jack Tame held Minister Bennett to account in a way that few other interviewers have done;

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paula bennett - climate change - Q+A - 24 april 2016

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Up untill now, Jack Tame’s presence in the US focused mainly on the theatrics of the  Hollywood entertainment industry or the equally-theatric Presidential primaries. They were for the most part light, breezy stories – even with the increasingly bizarre and somewhat menacing nature of the rise and rise of  Lex Luthor Donald Trump, as the potential Republican candidate.

However, on this occassion,   Tame’s Q+A interview was a masterful deconstruction of Minister Bennett’s waffle, revealing  how woefully unprepared for Tame’s skillful probing she really was.

As the thirteen minute segment progressed, it rapidly became apparent that, aside from platitudes and rhetoric,  Bennett had no real answers or  any actual, meaningful commitment to addressing New Zealand’s increasing emissions of  greenhouse-gas pollution of our atmosphere. It was as it she were still Social Welfare Minister, patiently explaining how National would be “helping” solo-mums with contraception, all the while sounding like an overly-concerned, benevolent, tough-loving  nana.

In fact, not since 2 May 2015 – when Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was interviewed and demolished by seasoned interviewer, Lisa Owen, on TV3’s The Nation – has a government minister had their ineptitude so publicly paraded for the entire country to witness (if they so decided to tune in on a Sunday morning, at 9am.

Unfortunately, we should not be surprised that National is luke-warm on the looming crisis of climate change. Despite making very clear promises, National has broken one of it’s prime committments to the Emissions Trading Scheme – to eventually  include agriculture.

The time-line to this act of duplicity clearly illustrates National’s early promises and then reneging;

13 May 2007

In a speech by  then Opposition-leader, John Key;

In particular I’m going to speak about the biggest environmental challenge of our time: global climate change.

The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively to confront this challenge.

The scientific consensus is clear: human-induced climate change is real and it’s threatening the planet. There are some armchair sceptics out there, but I’m not one of them…

… National is committed to growing our economy. Confronting climate change will be a vital part of the policy mix for fuelling that growth…

… In the decades ahead, peoples’ perceptions around climate change will affect the brand image of New Zealand and its exports. New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah…

… National will have policies that reflect the fact that living on a diet of carbon will be increasingly bad – bad for the world and bad for our economy. We will have policy that encourages ‘climate friendly’ choices like windmills, hydro power and tree planting, and reduces the desire for ‘climate unfriendly’ behaviours, like burning coal…

… National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target.

8 April 2010

Prime Minister John Key rejects demands  to amend the  Emissions Trading Scheme before it takes effect on the energy and transport sectors in July despite calls from business groups, farmers, and ACT.

Key tells reporters at the launch of the Global Research Alliance’s inaugural meeting on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

6 June 2010

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith announces that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  will depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

9 November 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith announces,

… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet.“

2 July 2012

Then-Climate Change Minister, Tim Groser,  announces four amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme;

  • Keeping the ‘one-for-two’ obligation in place until after this year. This means participants in the scheme will continue to surrender units for half the carbon they emit;
  • Maintaining the $25 ‘fixed-price option’ until at least 2015, which caps the price firms will face if carbon prices begin to rise internationally;
  • Introducing off-setting for pre-1990 forest land owners, and allocating the full second tranche of compensation where off-setting is not taken; and
  • Leaving agricultural emissions out of the ETS until at least 2015.

20 August 2012

National introduces  “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012”, which will remove agricultural emissions indefinitely, and will,

remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

National’s repudiation of it’s 2007 committment to include agriculture was complete. Despite a clear promise by our esteemed Dear Leader, agriculture was permanently omitted from the ETS.

As I pointed out in October 2012;

During National’s four years in office, they have broken several promises and the weakening of the ETS is simply one more on the list. It also further highlights  John Key’s ability to say one thing – whilst knowing full well that he has no intention of fulfilling committments, or will do completely the opposite.

An editorial in the Dominion Post, on 20 April, was no less scathing in it’s condemnation of National’s inertia;

The Government’s climate change policy has been a failure and will have to be rebuilt. There needs to be a fundamental change in the Emissions Trading Scheme, the subject this week of a damning report by the Gareth Morgan Foundation.  But other changes are also needed.

[…]

Bennett concedes, however, that the ETS was “not perfect”, and is now being reviewed. In fact the ETS has been a fiasco. What’s more, it continues to cast its dirty shadow. 

The Government has banned the purchase of  foreign credits, but it could still use the bad credits to meet its climate change targets up to 2020.

It must not do so. Instead, it needs to revamp the whole scheme, starting by ending the subsidies it gives to polluters such as the oil industry. The “one for two” scheme introduced in 2009 allows businesses to pay only half the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also needs to reverse its decision to keep agriculture, which produces half the country’s emissions, out of the ETS. National argues that making farming pay for its pollution would be unfair because there is no workable way yet of reducing animal emissions and our export industry should not be penalised. 

Farmers, however, are not exempt from the country’s global environmental duties, and will also respond to economic signals – even if this is a pledge to bring agriculture into the scheme within, say, five years

Jack Tame’s superb interview on 24 April merely confirms pathetic National’s track record on this issue and it now appears that  Minister Bennett will simply follow in the footsteps of her do-nothing-predecessors, Ministers Smith, Groser, et al.

Bennett certainly has no intention of adopting any of the bold, radical – but much-needed – policies as advocated by Professor Jim Skea, co-chairperson of the IPCC Working Group III, and interviewed by Radio NZ’s Kathryn Ryan on 27 April;

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How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel - Radio NZ - Kathryn Ryan - Prof Jim Skea - IPCC

(alt. link)

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Listen to the two interviews and judge for yourself which person is seriously committed to combating climate change – and which person is a politician who has plenty of empty platitudes to offer, but little else.

In her previous role as Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett had much to say about welfare-fraud.

Her empty words on  addressing climate change is a fraud on a much grander, and ultimately vastly more destructive,  scale.

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Postscript1: Memo to TVNZ

Jame Tame’s interview with Minister Bennett reveals a young man with considerable journalistic skills. He should be given every opportunity to make full use of his under-utilised talents.

TVNZ (and TV3) should maximise the talents of their journalistic and production staff by shifting Q+A and The Nation to prime time viewing slots during the early evening.

Why hide excellence early on weekend mornings, where it is not easily appreciated and valued by the general public?

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Postscript2: Memo to Paula Bennett

Ms Bennett, your performance on 24 April was a dismal failure. You are either unwilling to seriously confront the challenges of climate change or, apparently, you are in way over your head on this issue.

Either way, you should resign your Climate Change portfolio. This job is too important to be left to your glib inanities.

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Climate Change Paris Agreement signed

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target

NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR: ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister

Interest.co.nz: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014

Beehive.co.nz: Government announces ETS amendments

Parliament: Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012

Dominion Post: Editorial – Big changes are needed in the Government’s climate change plan

Radio NZ: How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuel ? (alt. link) (audio)

Previous related blogposts

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

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 April 2016.

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State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?

6 November 2015 5 comments

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1949 state house in Taita

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Information released under the Official Information Act (OIA) suggests that National’s oft-repeated claim that around “one third” ( or 22,000)  of  state houses are in the “wrong place and wrong size” is not supported by Housing NZ’s own figures.

Various ministers, including our esteemed Dear Leader,  have indicated that up to “a third” of state houses are “in the wrong place or wrong size (or ‘type’)“.

The “wrong size/wrong place” claim is the argument being used by National to advance a major sell-off of Housing NZ properties.

On 1 November, 2014, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said on TV3’s ‘The Nation’,

“It’s about being smart in what we’re doing. So you just look at us having the wrong houses, in the wrong place, of the wrong size..”

On 2 December, 2014, the Minister responsible for Housing NZ, Bill English expressed his agreement with the proposition of one third of Housing NZ homes being in the “wrong size/wrong place” ;

“Yes. As recently as just last month Housing New Zealand issued a press release that said: ‘around one third of our housing stock is in the wrong place, wrong configuration or is mismatched with future demand’.

[…]

… in fact, a third of them are the wrong size, in the wrong place, and in poor condition.”

On 28 January this year, John Key announced in his “state of the nation” speech;

 “Around a third of Housing New Zealand properties are in the wrong place, or are the wrong type to meet existing and future demand.”

Housing NZ currently  “manages 67,245 homes” (as at 30 June 2015). When Key, and other National ministers refer to “around a third of Housing NZ properties”, simple arithmetic translates that fraction into 22,190 homes being the “wrong size/wrong place” .

On 17 September I lodged OIA requests to Ministers Nick Smith, Paula Bennet, and Bill English. Only English was prepared to answer – and even that took  42 days (30 working days) to eventuate after a reminder was emailed to the Minister’s office.

In a response eventually received on  29 October,  information in the form of a  chart -“Stock reconciliation taking into account impaired properties as at 31 January 2013” – was attached;

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minister english oia response 29 october 2015 - HNZ housing stock - wrong place wrong size

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In two columns headed “Right Place, wrong home” and “Wrong Place“, the respective figures add up to 13,560. This constitutes a little over half of the “22,000” that is being bandied about by National.

I  specifically asked Bill English;  “How many [state houses] are the “wrong size and in what manner are they the “wrong size“? “Do they have too many rooms; too few rooms?

English replied;

“In general terms, Housing New Zealand has a shortage of smaller two bedroom homes and
larger family homes and a surplus of three bedroom homes, with the exception of Auckland
where there is a demand for homes of all sizes. The type or configuration of particular
properties may also affect demand making them difficult to let.”

English totally ignored the direct question “How many [state houses] are the “wrong size“. He either does not know, or is unwilling to admit the number. “In General terms” is not a specific quantity.

Furthermore, English says that “Housing New Zealand has a shortage of smaller two bedroom homes and larger family homes and a surplus of three bedroom homes, with the exception of Auckland where there is a demand for homes of all sizes.”

Unsurprisingly, the 2014/15 Housing NZ Annual Report confirms the high demand for housing in Auckland;

“Across the country we also have too many three-
bedroom properties, while demand has grown for smaller
one- or two-bedroom homes or for much bigger homes.
Demand for homes in the Auckland region is high and
more Housing New Zealand homes are needed.” (p22)

Yet, the chart referred above (“Stock reconciliation taking into account impaired properties as at 31 January 2013“) states that there are 8,180 houses in the Auckland region that are supposedly “Right Place, wrong home”  and a further 420 that are in the “Wrong Place” – 8,600 in total.

This would appear to contradict the Minister’s assertion that “there is a demand for homes of all sizes” throughout Auckland.  Both cannot be right.

This contradiction is further compounded by the fact that, as of 30 June, there were 2,267 people on the waiting list in the Auckland City area;

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auckland city housing nz waiting list 30 june 2015.

Even where houses have been the wrong size, Housing NZ has been undertaking a programme to add extensions, or entire new, smaller dwellings on larger sections;

Overcrowding is an issue that affects many of our
tenants’ health and wellbeing, especially in Auckland,
where there is high demand for larger homes. Our
bedroom extensions programme is helping to meet
demand from the social housing register in Auckland
by converting three-bedroom homes into four- and
five-bedroom homes. Adding an extra one or two
bedrooms (and another bathroom where necessary)
means more of our tenants are living in appropriately
sized and healthier homes. During 2014/15 we
completed bedroom extensions to 247 homes.

Our existing land in Auckland will also house more small
families, couples and single people in need. We are
building new two-bedroom homes on Auckland sections
that are big enough to have another dwelling. During
2014/15 we built an additional 107 two-bedroom units
on existing Housing New Zealand sections, which also
included making improvements to the existing homes
where these were required.“(p23)

If we substract the 8,600 homes in the Auckland region, from Housing NZ’s original estimate of 13,560 (see above chart), this leaves 4,960 houses “wrong place/wrong size”.

Nearly five thousand homes supposedly in the “wrong place/wrong size” category in Auckland – and there are still 2,267 people on Housing NZ’s waiting list in Auckland City. How is that feasible?

I further enquired from English; “Could you please explain what the term “wrong size, in the wrong place” actually refers to? Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place“?”

English replied;

In 2011 Housing NZ carried out an assessment of it’s future projected stock
requirements for the purpose of forward planning, based on its future use of intention of its
properties and informed by demand forecasting. This assessment was not intended to reflect
current demand at a point in time…

[..]

The analysis identifies some properties as being the wrong home, not specifically the wrong
size.”

It is worthwhile noting English’s comment that “Housing NZ carried out an assessment of it’s future projected stock  requirements for the purpose of forward planning,  [but] this assessment was not intended to reflect current demand at a point in time”.

The apparent purpose? According to English’s 29 October statement to me;

This relates to the number of bedrooms that a property has and also includes
properties that are wrongly configured to meet demand for social housing.

“Social housing” is National’s code for private providers.

The 2011 Housing NZ  assessment of it’s “future projected stock” appears to have been designed to meet the needs of “social housing”, aka private providers.

In respect to answering my question “Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place”?”, English’s response was vague and lacked any informative value (as did many of his answers);

“A property being in the wrong place refers to the location of the property in relation
to demand. On a regional basis, there are areas of general low demand. However, some of
Housing New Zealand’s properties may be in locations with high concentrations of state
housing or existing social issues that may contribute to them being difficult to let or
result in a high turnover of tenants.”

There were no geographical locations; no cities or towns; no suburbs given. The statement in itself is meaningless twaddle with a vague reference to “some of  Housing New Zealand’s properties may be in locations with high concentrations of state housing or existing social issues”.

Where these “wrong places” might be is anyone’s guess.

My follow-up question – “How many areas have been designated “wrong places”?” – was ignored entirely.

In an effort to drill down and assess where houses might be in the “wrong place”, I asked English; “where houses are in a particular “wrong place”, how many people are on HNZ waiting lists in those same “wrong places”?

The purpose of this question was straight-forward. Where demand for housing is high in a given region, it seems inconceivable that any properties in that same region would be in the “wrong place”. Auckland being a prime example.

I wanted to know how many other regions had high numbers on their waiting lists – whilst also having houses in the “wrong place”.

According to the above chart, the following regions designated as having houses in the “wrong places” have the following numbers of houses attached to them;

Auckland: 420

South Island: 740

Central North Island: 870

Lower North Island: 1,740

“Community Group Housing”: 100

Total: 3,870

Because of the (deliberate?) vagueness of English’s response, we have no way of knowing where, for example, the South Island’s supposed 740 houses are located in the “wrong place”.

It is difficult to understand why the Minister could not be more precise.

If the “wrong size/wrong place” issue is real, then National must have hard data, with supporting numbers, identifying where state houses are located  in the “wrong place”. This information should be on-file; readily accessible; and easily released to interested parties.  Then again, my OIA lodgement to Minister English took 30 working days (including one “request” for an extension) to complete.

Perhaps such data does not exist.

According to Housing NZ itself, every district within it’s authority has people on their waiting list;

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Housing NZ waiting list - by region - by bedrooms needed

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Source

Source

There is no district recording zero-need.

I asked English; “What replacement houses are being built to replace those that are the “wrong size”, and how many rooms will they have? More? Less?” andWhere Housing NZ houses are in the “wrong place” – will new State houses be built in exactly the same place?”.

The Minister responded;

Housing New Zealand’s Asset Management Strategy provides for the redevelopment of its
land holdings in order to align the typology, location and size of its portfolio with demand.
As a result, it is building more two, four and five bedroom properties. Where there is low
demand, Housing New Zealand will look to sell surplus properties and reinvest the proceeds
into providing homes in areas of high demand.

As outlined above, Housing NZ has a current programme of adding bedrooms to existing three bedroomed houses, and, where the land is big enough, adding two bedroom houses onto an existing built-up section.

English’s reference to selling “surplus properties” is troubling, as we are still none-the-wiser where such properties exist. Especially when all Housing NZ districts have people on waiting lists.

As for English’s assertion that “Housing New Zealand will look to sell surplus properties and reinvest the proceeds  into providing homes in areas of high demand” – Paula Bennett was not willing to give that assurance on 1 November last year, speaking on Q+A.

Which leads on to the last question I put to the Minister; “If HNZ houses that are in the “wrong place” are sold/given away to community organisations – what will make those houses suddenly become in the “right place”?”

Because if it’s in the “wrong place” when owned by Housing NZ – why would it suddenly be in the “right place” owned by someone else?

The Minister’s response was baffling;

The Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers. In Tauranga and
Invercargill for example, the areas identified for initial potential transfers of social
housing properties from Housing New Zealand to community housing providers, MSD’s purchasing
intentions anticipate stable demand. Following a transfer, any new provider would receive
both the properties and a contract with MSD to continue to provide social housing.”

That statement appears to be at complete variance with this undated Beehive document, headed “Social Housing Reform Programme – Media Qs and As“;

SOCIAL HOUSING REFORM PROGRAMME – Media Qs and As

“Around one third of the $18.7 billion Housing New Zealand portfolio is in
the wrong place or of the wrong type to meet this need.”

[…]

“To help community housing providers grow, there will be sales of
Housing New Zealand properties and we will involve these providers
in the redevelopment of Crown land…”

[…]

“Details will be determined after national engagement, including
with community housing providers and iwi,over coming months.
Providing we can achieve better services for tenants and fair
and reasonable value for taxpayers, we will look to sell
between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand properties over
the next year.”

[…]

“15. Will properties being sold be tenanted, and if so what
happens to the tenants?

In most cases where houses transfer to a community housing
provider, the properties will have tenants. The new owners
will continue providing social housing with the income-
related rent subsidy.”

[…]

“Look at selling between 1,000 and 2,000 Housing New Zealand
properties for continued use as social housing, run by approved
community housing providers. These providers might buy
properties on their own or go into partnership with other
organisations lending them money, contributing equity, or
providing other services.”

The document specifically refers to the sale of state housing, that are “the wrong place or of the wrong type“,  to community service providers.

And in Parliament, on 24 March, Bill English himself made reference to the sale of “wrong place” Housing NZ properties to Community providers;

“In the first place, Housing New Zealand has an ongoing sales
policy, and often it is selling houses that we do not need or
that are in the wrong place, or some of them have just become
unsuitable to be lived in and cannot be upgraded at reasonable
cost. In respect of the transactions that are coming up over
the next 6 months or so, there is a process of testing what
the real values of those houses are. For instance, many
community providers believe those houses are not up to date
on maintenance, and therefore are overvalued when they are
valued as if they can be sold for the best price on the day
in the location that they are in. Those are exactly the things
we are having discussions about over the next few months.”

[…]

“Neither property developers nor community housing providers
are compelled to buy houses off the Government. If they do
not want to do that—if they do not want to manage the tenants
or own the stock, which may be the wrong size in the wrong
place—then they certainly do not have to do that.”

Which creates doubt over English’s assertion that  “the Government has no plans to offer Housing New Zealand properties that have been
identified as being in the ‘wrong place’ to community housing providers”.

So if Housing NZ properties that are in the “wrong place” are sold to community housing providers – as confirmed by Minister English on at least two occassions – what will transform those “wrong place” houses into “right place” houses?

Very little of National’s “wrong size/wrong place” proposition makes sense – unless viewed through the lens of raising revenue by way of partial asset-sales.

That is the only thing that makes any sense of this issue.

The only reason that the “wrong size/wrong place” meme has worked for National thus far is that very few (if anyone) has delved behind the phrase to check it’s validity.

Perhaps it is time this issue was scrutinised more carefully?

The apparent fudging of Bill English’s response to my OIA request, in itself, speaks volumes.

Postscript

On 29 October, I wrote to Bill English expressing my dissatisfaction with his response to my OIA lodgement;

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: “B English (MIN)” <B.English@ministers.govt.nz>
date: Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:01 PM
subject: Re: State houses – wrong place, wrong size

 

Thank you for your letter dated 29 October.

I refer you to two questions which you have not answered in my OIA request;

4. Where are they situated that are considered the “wrong place”?

5. How many areas have been designated “wrong places”?

Please advise if you do not intend to answer those questions, and I will lodge a formal complaint with the Office of the OImbudsman.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Appendix1

In 2014/15 Housing NZ “returned” $321 million to the government’s Consolidated Fund. This comprised of $118 million in tax; $96 million in interest costs, and $107 million as a dividend. (2014/15 Annual Report, p24)

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References

TV3: The Nation – Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett

Parliament: 6. State Housing—Suitability of Housing Stock

Fairfax media: John Key Speech – Next steps in social housing

Housing NZ: 2014/15 Annual Report

Housing NZ: Register by priority and Auckland local board – 30 June 2015

Beehive.govt.nz: Social Housing Reform Programme – Media Qs and As

Parliament Today: Social Housing Reform — Objectives

Other Blogs

The Jackal: More homelessness under National

Previous related blogposts

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

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Housing NZ - state housing - over crowding

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2015.

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On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

2 October 2015 5 comments

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children-crossing-triangle-sign

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On past occassion, I have been critical of ‘The Nation‘ for not making greater use of facts and data when confronting National ministers. Without cold, hard facts and stats, slippery Ministers like Steven Joyce can find wiggle-room to avoid straight answers and indulge in wild flights of fantasy-spin.

But when the team at ‘The Nation‘ get it right, they do it well, and Ministers are laid bare for the public to see, hear, and assess for themselves.

Cases-in-point, the 2 May interview with Corrections Minister, Sam  Lotu-Iiga, and the more recent (26 September) interview with Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley;

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The Nation - Interview - Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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Both interviews showed Ministers out of their depths, and grappling with critical problems that apparently have “snuck up” on them – though the rest of the country had long been aware that not all was well in the Land of the Long White Cloud (and possible Red Peak).

Recent “revelations” of massive problems for children in State-care are only confirmation of what many in the sector already knew. According to Tolley’s own speech to the Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference  on 24 September;

By the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to Jun 1991 had reached the age of 21:

Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit.

Over 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child.

Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2.

More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18.

Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence.

Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence.

Overall, six out of every ten children in care are Māori children.

[…]

64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

In 2013, children who had been removed from home were on average 8 years old and many of these children had been involved with the system since 2 or 3 years of age.

[…]

Seven year-old children should not have eight different home placements.

A study of those in care in 2010 showed that 23 per cent of children who exited care and returned to their biological parents were subject to neglect or physical, emotional or sexual re-abuse within 18 months. Ten per cent of those who returned to kin or whānau were re-abused, while re-abuse rates for those who exited into non-kin and non-whānau placements was one per cent.

It has taken seven years for a National minister to come to understand this? Where have they been all this time – playing golf on Planet Key?

But not only has  this government ignored this crisis in supporting young people in State care – but they have been criminally guilty of making matters worse by job cuts and destabilisation by constant re-organisation of  MSD (Ministry of Social Development);

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Job cuts for MSD

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Then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, was adamant that there would be more frontline social workers, despite the massive number of redundancies. Her mantra at the time was;

”I can absolutely assure them that the concentration is on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most, and that’s where this Government is putting their priorities.”

Take note that in the “re-structuring”  in 2009, the job cuts included “a team of 18 child abuse education social workers“.  In effect,  skilled professionals working on behalf of children suffering abuse were sacked.

Only the Minister of Finance trying to balance his books, and those who perpetrate child abuse on small bodies, could possibly have been delighted at that announcement.

To deflect criticism from the growing problem of  child poverty and New Zealand’s “under-class” (which, in  October 2011, even Key was forced to admit was rising), Bennett resisted demands to assess just how bad the problem really was;

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Combating poverty more important than measuring it - Paula Bennett - MSD

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No measurement; no way of telling how bad it is. Very clever, Ms Bennett.

But worse was to come, as National slashed the state sector to make up for revenue lost through two tax cuts and the recessionary effects of the Global Financial Crisis;

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MSD restructure lacks transparency

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98 MSD staff face the axe - union

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This time, the person over-seeing on-going job-losses and re-structuring was the current Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. This time, the cuts were given a new euphemism; “re-alignment”.

Despite Bennett’s reassurances in June 2009  that there would be a “concentration […] on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most” – six years later the cutting of back-room support staff resulted in inevitable (and predictable) consequences. As Tolley herself was forced to admit on ‘The Nation‘;

“Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.”

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twitter - msd job cuts - anne tolley - the nation

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At that point, Lisa Owen asked Minister Tolley the question;

“So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?”

Tolley’s reply was pure gobbledegook;

“What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.”

The reason it is risable gobbledegook is that after hundreds of job losses – of mostly so-called “back room staff” one assumes – and restructurings, there cannot be too many “layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration” left in MSD.

Lisa Owen pushed the Minister further;

“…But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?”

When the Minister offered vague assurances that “we may well” expect more social workers, Ms Owen was blunt;

“But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?”

Tolley’s response was anything but reassuring;

“I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks…”

Listening to the Minister was not only far from reassuring, but left a sense of unease.

Our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has already said that “outsourcing” to private providers for MSD services is possible;

“Child Youth and Family does outsource to the private sector already some contracts, and I think last year $81 million of business went to private sector contractors, so I can’t get up and say there is no involvement with the private sector, because there already is that.

I don’t think we’re seriously talking about the private sector taking control of all the children, but if there is some small function they could do, maybe, I’d have to see what that is.”

“Some small function”?

What is Key referring to – delivery of afternoon tea and biscuits to CYF staff?

Or, as more likely, would “some small function” involve Serco – already in deep trouble over it’s incompetence over running of Mt Eden prison?

This is a possibility that Tolley herself touted as a possibility on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, as recently as June this year;

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Tolley Serco could run social services - MSD - CYF

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On 31 August,  CEO of the Association of Social Workers, Lucy Sandford-Reed,was reported on Radio NZ as saying  she believed call-centre operations might be outsourced;

“That really creates an opportunity for further fragmentation of the service delivery and could potentially create the opportunity for failure. And there has been a sense that a organisation like Serco could be looking at picking up those contracts.”

Tolley was adamant on ‘The Nation‘ that there would be no outsourcing of MSD’s front-line services. She told Lisa Owen to her face;

“Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

However, only two days earlier (24 September), it was reported that Serco had indeed been ‘sniffing’ around CYF facilities in Auckland;

CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Thursday 24 Sep 2015 4:30 p.m.

Serco case managers have visited several Child, Youth and Family facilities in Auckland, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed.

She’s previously denied knowledge of such visits, and told Parliament today she had been given incorrect advice by her ministry.

“I apologise for giving an incorrect answer (to previous questions)… I’m disappointed that I got incorrect information,” she said.

Opposition MPs suspect the visits were connected with the possibility of some CYF services being contracted out to Serco.

The question that begs to be asked is; why has National drawn attention to the (supposed) “failings” of CYF/MSD? Why was Tolley so eager to receive a report so scathing of her own department, as she stated in her 27 August press statement;

“I welcome the release of this report, which makes for grim reading for those involved in child protection, and have met with the Commissioner to discuss his findings.”

Usually, this is a government whose ministers are desperate only to present “good news” stories. They are quick to dismiss, minimise, or deride any criticism that does not fit with their “good management” narrative. Blaming the previous Labour government has become the #1 Default position of National ministers.

The only possible rationale why Tolley has commissioned a report into MSD/CYF – where no public or media pressure had demanded one – is that Paula Rebstock’s highly critical findings of MSD/CYF were pre-determined.

As Chris Trotter wrote in his analysis of Rebstock’s report on 2 April;

“The Rebstocks of this world are spared the close-up consequences of their recommendations. They are experts at reading between the lines of their terms of reference to discover exactly what it is that their commissioning ministers are expecting from them – and delivering it. So it was with Paula Bennett’s welfare review, and so it will be with Anne Tolley’s review of Child Youth and Family (CYF).

Once again in the lead role, Ms Rebstock will not have to work too hard to decode the meaning of Ms Tolley’s comment that: “CYF has drafted its own internal modernisation strategy and while it is a good starting point, it doesn’t go far enough”.”

Without doubt, Rebstock’s eventual (and predictable?) report into MSD/CYF was highly critical of that organisation.

Key has publicly disclosed that he is not averse to privatisation (aka, “outsourcing”) aspects of MSD/CYF’s services.

Despite Tolley’s denials, Serco has shown interest in CYF facilities.

Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Rebstock report; the willingness of Ministers to front up to the media to candidly admit to MSD/CYF’s shortcomings; is setting up a Problem demanding a Solution.

That “Solution” is privatisation of services.

Which perhaps is what Tolley was referring to in her 24 September speech;

“While the new operational model is being developed, a feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the Panel’s December report.”

Investment approach”?

As in business investment.

This explains  Tolley’s rejection of Lisa Owen’s suggestion of paying caregivers more money;

“Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money.”

Indeed, “people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money” – but it sure helps pay the bills, especially for professional services for some very damaged children.

No wonder Tolley was vague on whether more money or social workers would be provided to MSD/CYF, in her replies to Lisa Owen. This was never about increasing resources to the Ministry or caregivers.

This is about a private enterprise “solution” to a National government “problem”.

The Rebstock Report is simply the means to sell that “solution” to the public and media.

Machiavellian does not begin to cover this mad agenda.

 

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References

TV3: The Nation – Interview – National’s Chief Strategist Steven Joyce

Beehive.govt.nz: Speech to Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference

Fairfax media: Job cuts for MSD

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

Radio NZ: MSD restructure ‘lacks transparency’

Fairfax media: 98 MSD staff face the axe – union

Twitter: Frank Macskasy to The Nation

Radio NZ: Key – More CYF private sector involvement possible

TV3 News: Tolley – Serco could run social services

TV3 News: CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Minister welcomes State of Care report

Additional

MSD: Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Policies and Prospects (1999)

Other Blog posts

The Daily Blog: Fixing CYFs – Paula Rebstock is asked to “rescue” another state agency

The Daily Blog: Why The State Needs To Support Young People Until They’re 21

Previous related blogposts

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

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Phil-Disley-30102010-005

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 September 2015.

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Four Ways to Madness, Kiwi-style – a day in our media

22 September 2015 6 comments

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crazy-promises

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September 15 – A day in our history when four items of news were reported in our media, and few people seemed aware of  the new depths of craziness that our country has sunk to.

It was said that the old Soviet system was riddled with contradictions that, by 1991, led to it’s demise.

That charge could just as easily be levelled against the neo-liberal system, where the pursuit of the almighty dollar/euro/yen/etc has resulted in levels of crazy contradictions that are becoming more apparent with each passing day, and  increasingly difficult to sustain and justify by it’s proponents.

Those contradictions, I suspect, were part of the reason of Jeremy Corbyn’s ascension in the British Labour Party, and left-wing governments gaining ground in France, Greece, and elsewhere.

New Zealand has often been behind the times, so it may take a wee while longer for voters to fully comprehend that the neo-liberal system is a fraud, with only a few benefitting.

Four headlines. Four more examples of “free” market, corporate quackery. Four more nails in the neo-liberal coffin.

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Nail #1

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Silver Fern chair sees no problem with Chinese buy-in - radio nz - Bright Foods - China - state owned enterprise

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The purchaser of Silver Fern is Shanghai Making Aquarius Group. Shanghai Maling Aquarius Group will be purchasing a 50% shareholding of Silver Fern, paying $261 million for the buy-in.

Shanghai Maling Aquarius Group is one of four subsidiaries of Bright Foods, a State Owned Enterprise, 100% owned by the Chinese government (though registered in the Cayman Islands – no doubt for tax-avoidance purposes). Bright Foods owns 39.12% (as of September 2015) of Synlait Milk Ltd, which it bought into five years ago.

At $261 million, the purchase price is still a small fraction of the estimated US$4 trillion it has “in foreign currency reserves, which it is determined to invest overseas to earn a profit and exert its influence“, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

As usual, our National-led government has turned a blind eye to yet another buy-up of one of New Zealand’s primary industry producers.

Yet, with a 50% holding, that almost guarantees that half of Silver Fern’s profits will end up going back to Bright Foods and the Chinese government.

Another report states that investors from China are set to invest US$10.9 billion in our real estate, according to said Andrew Taylor, Juwai.com’s co-chief executive;

“Juwai.com projects that the pilot program will enable US$11 billion of new Chinese money to flow into New Zealand’s real estate market. That’s based on wealthy Chinese investing 10 per cent of their assets into international property, including commercial. It’s also based on NZ getting about 3.3 per cent of that property-specific investment, as it has in the past.

The question is; why is it permissable for a  foreign State Owned Enterprise to buy up New Zealand companies – whilst our own government is busy shedding ownership of Genesis Energy, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Air New Zealand, land owned by Landcorp, and houses owned by Housing NZ?

Why does National think that State ownership by the NZ Government in our productive industries is undesirable – but State ownership by foreign nations is perfectly acceptable?

This appears to be a major flaw in  neo-liberal ideology and one that National has yet to confront head-on.

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Nail #2

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Radio NZ - Politicians fling flag barbs - flag referendum - john key - red peak - andrew little

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It has been fairly obvious that the flag referendum has been foisted upon New Zealand for two reasons,

  1. A distraction to deflect public and media attention away from the deepening economic downturn that has every indication of turning into another full-blown recession,
  2. A personal vanity-project for John Key, because eradicating child poverty; addressing the Auckland housing crisis; or making meaningful inroads into New Zealand’s worsening greenhouse gas emissions is not the kind of legacy our esteemed Dear Leader thinks is important enough to warrant his attention (he is a busy man).

On 14 September, John Key surprised many people by “reaching out” to the NZ Labour Party to assist National to include the so-called “red peak” flag in  the up-coming referendum. As Radio NZ reported Key’s comments;

“If I drop out one of them, if I drop out one particular flag, there will be a group that will say that was wrong because I was going to vote for that – there will be another group that will say ‘I just didn’t realise this was a process that could be influenced through social campaign’.

If you look at Labour, they’ve been very disingenuous throughout the whole process so if I’ve got to go back to Parliament and change the law to have five, are you really telling me they wouldn’t then run a campaign that said I’m wasting Parliament’s time because I’m now going back to it?

I mean, these people can play games forever.

Well, they would need to go back and change their position on the flag process, instead of lying to the public and saying they’re opposed to this when their policy is actually to change the flag.

If they want to treat the whole process with respect, they’re welcome to come and have a discussion with me, but that is not the way they’ve played this thing.

And if Labour want to publicly come out and support the process and the change, that it’s an appropriate thing to do and argue that it’s an appropriate thing to do… then we might, but that hasn’t been what they’ve done so far.”

There seemed an element of desperation in Key’s plaintive demand for Labour’s support on the issue.

Which is hardly surprising, as support for the “red peak” option had surpassed 50,000 in an on-line petition – a number equivalent to the 50,000 who marched through Auckland in May 2010, opposing National’s proposed mining in protected Schedule 4 DoC conservation land and marine reserves. The sheer number forced National to back down, and on 20 July 2010, then-Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee announced;

“At the time the discussion document was released, I made it clear that it was a discussion. There were no preconceived positions from the Government. We have no intention of mining national parks.”

The question though is, who is playing games here?

Andrew Little explained;

“The Prime Minister can put Red Peak on the ballot paper without any party political support. He does it by Order in Council – he does not need other parties’ support for that.”

A brief explanation on what is an Order In Council;

Order in Council
A type of Legislative Instrument that is made by the Executive Council presided over by the Governor-General. Most Legislative Instruments are made by way of Order in Council. For more information about the Executive Council, see the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website. To find Orders in Council on this website, search or browse under Legislative Instruments.

Source: Parliament – Legislation – Glossary

Executive Council

The Executive Council is the highest formal instrument of government. It is the part of the executive branch of government that carries out formal acts of government.

By convention, the Executive Council comprises all Ministers of the Crown, whether those Ministers are inside or outside Cabinet. The Governor-General presides over, but is not a member of, the Executive Council. When a new Cabinet is sworn in, Ministers are first appointed as Executive Councillors and then receive warrants for their respective Ministerial portfolios.

The principal function of the Executive Council is to advise the Governor-General to make Orders in Council that are required to give effect to the Government’s decisions. Apart from Acts of parliament, Orders in Council are the main method by which the government implements decisions that need legal force. The Executive Council also meets from time to time to carry out formal acts of state.

Meetings

The Executive Council generally meets every Monday. At the meetings, the Executive Council gives formal advice to the Governor-General to sign Orders in Council (to make, for example, regulations or appointments). The meetings also provide an opportunity for Ministers to brief the Governor-General on significant political and constitutional issues that may have arisen during the week.

Source: Department of the Priome Minister and Cabinet – Executive

So apparently, unless I am missing something else, Andrew Little is 100% correct; “The Prime Minister can put Red Peak on the ballot paper without any party political support. He does it by Order in Council – he does not need other parties’ support for that.”

Which then begs the question; why is John Key trying to strong-arm Labour into supporting the addition of  the “red peak” option onto the ballot paper?

Answer: He is attempting to manufacture “cross party support” to extricate his government from a tricky situation. The flag referendum appears to be spiralling out of control with popular support growing for a flag design that is not simply a pathetic branding exercise (ie; silver fern) – but has become popular with a significant portion of the country.

If Key is to bow to popular pressure, he desperately needs Labour to come on-board, to neutralise a  guarenteed attack from the Opposition benches. As Key himself said on 15 September;

“And if Labour want to publicly come out and support the process and the change, that it’s an appropriate thing to do and argue that it’s an appropriate thing to do… then we might, but that hasn’t been what they’ve done so far.”

In effect, Key is employing precisely the same tactic Labour employed in 2007, where Helen Clark sought cross-party support to pass the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act (a.k.a the ‘Anti-Smacking Act’).

National’s parliamentary support, fronted by the then-Opposition Leader, John Key, gave a “seal of approval” from the Political Liberal-Right, to an otherwise contentious piece of legislation that was provoking howls of hysterical outrage from certain quarters.

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Key - Clarke- section 59 repeal

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Bringing Key on-board was risky for Labour, as it elevated Key to a near-equal position with then-Prime Minister, Helen Clark. But it was seen as necessary, to attempt to dilute the perception that this was “social engineering” inspired by Labour-Green “extremists”.

Eight years later, and this time John Key needs Labour to stifle a growing disenchantment with his personal vanity-project, which is threatening to take on a life of it’s own.

Key cannot afford to lose control of the flag debate. There is a reason that this is a binding referendum –  the framing of the debate; the four choices; and the sequence of questions (#1, which alternative flag do you want, followed by #2, pick one of two flags, an alternative or the current one) – are all under his personal control, via the Executive Council.

Andrew Little is correct, our esteemed Dear Leader could choose to add the “red peak” option by an Order in Council. Key does not require Labour’s assistance, either constitutionally or legally. But he doesn’t want to leave himself open to ridicule from Labour, and the perception that he has “lost control”.

When John Key stated on 15 September;

“I’m more than happy to meet with him but only on the condition it’s not about a yes or no vote. A yes or no vote doesn’t work. It doesn’t deliver what New Zealanders want.”

–  he was not talking about “what New Zealanders want”.

He was talking about what he, John Key, wants. And he needs Labour to do it.

The question is: why should Labour help Key?

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Nail #3

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This next bit comes courtesy from Paula Bennett, currently  Minister for Social Housing.

Radio NZ reported on 15 September,

A government think tank has released its final report on the country’s social services and is urging major reform.

But the Productivity Commission is unable to offer specific solutions as to how the government should deal with the group that is most difficult to look after.

Every year, the country spends $34 billion on social services, more than 10 percent of the GDP.

Read today’s final report into social services by the Productivity Commission (PDF, 4.3MB)

The commission recommends a move away from the current top-down approach, with more responsibility given to providers.

But it could not decide how to deal with the people with the most complex needs, instead suggesting that the government look at two possible solutions.

One option would be a standalone agency which oversees a client’s case across a number of agencies.

The second would be to fund District Health Boards (DHBs) to be responsible for the country’s most disadvantaged people.

It also recommends establishing a Ministerial Committee of Social Services, rather than an Office of Social Services, which had been recommended in its draft report. The ministerial committee would be responsible for reform of the sector.

The commission has defined social services as those including health care, social care, education and training, employment services and community services.

It has looked at agencies and services including Housing New Zealand, Work and Income, Whanau Ora, services for people with disabilities, and home care for the elderly.

Interviewed on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, Paula Bennett was quick to reassure listeners that National was not penny-pinching at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society;

@ 2.47

“But we’ve never thought that money was the problem as such. If it needs more money, we will.”

The usual lie from a National Minister, considering the severe funding cutbacks to community organisations such as Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis, community health organisations, Relationship Aotearoa, and many others.

But the following words to gush from her mouth simply beggared belief;

“What we’ve been really big on is the data analytics, that makes sure that we’re targetting the right services to the right kids and more importantly getting actual results for them.”

“Data analytics”?!

Bennett was adamant that  National has been  “really big on is the data analytics, that makes sure that”  they are  “targetting the right services to the right kids and more importantly getting actual results for them

Let’s take a moment to step back in time.

Specifically, set temporal co-ordinates of your Toyota Tardis to 16 August 2012. This NZ Herald story, from that year, tells the story;

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Measuring poverty line not a priority - Bennett

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The question here is; How can Bennett “target the right services to the right kids and more importantly get actual results for them” – when three years ago she stated categorically that finding the “data analytics” was not a priority?

What “data analytics” is she talking about?

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Nail #4

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The fiasco surrounding  the private company running Mt Eden and Wiri prisons got more bizarre on 15 September when it was revealed that  Serco had been let off $375,000 in fines for serious contract breaches.

Fines for breaching the contract between Serco and the Crown are one of the few sanctions that the government can levy on the company for not upholding contractual obligations.

A 15 September report from Radio NZ revealed;

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Serco let off $270k in fines - Minister

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The story then explained why  the heading – “$270k in fines’ – was an under-estimation;

Under questioning from Green Party corrections spokesperson David Clendon this afternoon, Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-liga spelt out the sum of Serco’s cancelled fines.

“Mr Speaker, since Serco took over management of Mt Eden Prison in 2011, I’m advised that Corrections has issued a total of 55 performance notices to Serco – seven have been withdrawn,” Mr Lotu-liga said.

“And the total amount of the withdrawals is $275,000.”

But it seems there are more fines that Serco has had cancelled and Mr Clendon asked the minister about one of them.

“Does the minister approve of Corrections’ decision to excuse the $100,000 fine that was imposed when Serco failed to take back razors that had been issued to prisoners, to inmates, if so why?” Mr Clendon asked.

Mr Lotu-liga responded that that was not one of the seven withdrawn fines he was referring too.

The chronically inept and terminally-tragic Corrections Minister, Sam Lotu-liga, was either unaware of the $100,000 fine – or was wilfully engaged in a cover-up.

However, whether the actual figure of $275,000 or $375,000 is actually irrelevant.

What is truly astounding is that someone within either the Minister’s office or the Corrections Dept had made the decision to scrub $375,000 in fines for serious contract breaches.

The obvious questions which beg to be asked and answered are;

  1. Who made the decision to dismiss $375,000 in fines issued to Serco?
  2. Why was the decision made to dismiss the fines?
  3. Does the same principle  of waiving fines extend to every citizen in New Zealand who has exceeded the speed limit; parked illegally; or committed  some other offence which resulted in a monetary penalty?
  4. What the hell is going on?!

The next time our esteemed Dear Leader or some other National minister utter the phrase, “One law for all” – they should be immediatly reminded that obviously “One Law for All” does not extend to companies like Serco.

15 September – one hell of a day for National. It got about as crazy as crazy can be in this country.

Or is there more to come?

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References

Radio NZ: Silver Fern chair sees no problem with Chinese buy-in

Wikipedia: Bright Foods

NZ Companies Office: Synlait Milk Limited

China Daily: China’s Bright Dairy invests in NZ’s Synlait

NY Times: China’s Global Ambitions, With Loans and Strings Attached

NZ Herald: Chinese investment set to boom

Radio NZ: Red Peak – Politicians fling flag barbs

Ministry for the Environment:  New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2013

Radio NZ: A flutter of hope for Red Peak?

NZ Herald: Red Peak – 50,000 strong petition handed over at Parliament

Fairfax media: Thousands march against mining

TV3: Govt confirms no mining Schedule 4, national parks

Te Ara – The NZ Enclyclopedia: Cross-party negotiation on legislation

Radio NZ: Major social service changes recommended

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Government willing to spend more on social services (alt. link)

Dominion Post: Women’s Refuge cuts may lead to waiting lists

NZ Herald: Govt funding cuts reduce rape crisis support hours

NZ Doctor: Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre to close its doors as management fails to implement directives from CDHB

Scoop media: Relationships Aotearoa – our story

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Radio NZ: Serco let off $270k in fines – Minister

Radio NZ: Serco let off $375k in fines (alt. link)

Previous related blogposts

Kiwis, Cows, and Canadian singers

That was Then, this is Now #10

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Three Questions to Key, Williamson, Coleman, et al

Taiwan FTA – Confirmation by TVNZ of China pressuring the Beehive?

Why Labour should NEVER play the “race card”

Letter to the editor: An idea regarding a new(ish) flag

The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

Flying the flags of discontent – MOBILISE!

It’s a Man’s World, I guess

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

The closure of three prisons and loss of 262 jobs – five issues for the National govt

So what is the rationale for private prisons?

Questions over Serco’s “independent” monitors and it’s Contract with the Crown

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

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184mupp

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 Septembr 2015.

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= fs =

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

18 September 2015 18 comments

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cold and damp houses - newspaper magazine front pages

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Recent statements by Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett,  Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand, Bill English,  Building and Housing Minister, Nick Smith, and Prime Minister John Key, have been shown to be deceptively misleading – and in many instances, outright lies.

Their public utterances have been revealed  to be untrue after this blogger discovered a statement from Housing NZ, buried deep within one of their Annual Reports.

#1 – Nick Smith

On 25 April 2014, Building and Housing Minister, Nick Smith, was indignant when he rejected a claim by the Labour Party that National was planning to siphon off  Christchurch earthquake insurance payouts to Housing NZ as government dividends.

As Radio NZ reported;

Papers obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act reveal plans to delay maintenance and redirect Canterbury quake insurance payouts to meet the Government’s demands for increased returns from state housing.

Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says Housing New Zealand has agreed to pay higher dividends to the Government by using some of its $320 million insurance payment and putting off repairs and maintenance.

Mr Twyford says the Government is robbing Housing New Zealand in Canterbury to fund dividends going into the Crown account. He says Housing Minister Nick Smith needs to explain why money that should have gone into the rebuild has gone into Government coffers instead.

But Housing Minister Nick Smith says it’s not a case of earmarking any particular income towards the dividend, but it’s not true to say it will come from the insurance payout.

He says insurance proceeds are going towards capital expenditure, including 2000 new houses, which will be under construction by the end of 2015.

Dr Smith says Housing New Zealand has always been expected to return a dividend to the Crown, including under the previous Labour-led Government. This comes from normal operating revenue, including rent and rent subsidies from the Government.

Housing New Zealand’s latest statement of intent shows $308 million in insurance money earmarked for capital expenditure this financial year.

#2 – Bill English

Barely five months later, Housing NZ announced a dividend of $118 million to be paid to the government for financial year – the largest since 2009-10;

Housing New Zealand returned a $108 million dividend in the past financial year, the third largest ever paid.

At the time the responsible minister, Bill English said the higher dividend would allow the Government to help more people with serious housing needs.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the idea the Government was continuing to make money off State housing when children were getting sick from living in those houses was unacceptable.

He said the Crown must rule out taking a dividend until all Housing New Zealand stock was up to standard.

“Given that Housing New Zealand homes are actually killing their residents, I think it makes no sense for there to be any dividend at all.

“Everything that they get should be ploughed back into making sure that their homes are safe.”

Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand, Bill English justified the massive  dividend with the extraordinary statement;

“Housing New Zealand has sufficient cash to invest in new houses and at the level that we’ve specified, and to do its maintenance programmes. So really the dividend is about just a bit of pressure on them to be efficient.”

The cash-grab by National had been hinted earlier, on 24 March, when Bill English signalled that maintenance on HNZ properties would be deferred;

Mr English says the lack of maintenance on state houses is concerning and that in the long run the government will need to invest the $1.2 billion dollars in state houses to get them up to scratch.

However, he says that won’t all happen this year.

When asked why Housing New Zealand had not spent as much money as it should have on maintenance, Mr English put the blame partly on the previous Labour government saying they had chosen to build new state houses rather than fix up old ones.

Yet, that quiet admission did not stop both Paula Bennett and Bill English from repeating their ‘spin’ that Housing NZ had sufficient cash for necessary maintenance of their housing stock;

Bill English  – 5 June 2015

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

#3 – Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Housing – 12 June 2015

@ 4.28

“What I will say is that it’s not, um, not a money problem. So there is enough money there for us to get that stock up.”

@ 5.42

“It’s not actually about the money. The money is there to be spent on the maintenance.”

Bill English – 8 September 2015

“Housing New Zealand has sufficient cash to invest in new houses and at the level that we’ve specified, and to do its maintenance programmes.”

Bill English – 9 September 2015

@ 2.36

“The constraint on repairs isn’t cash. They have enough money to do the jobs that they need to do.”

@ 4.28

“With respect to the maintenance. Ah, yes, if any tenant lets Housing NZ azbout any, what they call urgent maintenance needs, and they got 125,000 of those notifications, ah, in the last year or two, ah, then Housing NZ has the cash to act on those…”

@ 6.11

“In fact, our main challenge there is not [a] lack of money…”

@ 6.35

“So the constraint isn’t cash, it’s a lack of houses.”

All of which was  revealed to be dishonest spin by these two Ministers, when this statement was discovered from Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

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housing nz annual report 2013-14 maintenance cutbacks

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity.” – [p28]

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Perhaps English and Bennett forgot – or did not realise – that Housing NZ would disclose the true nature of their lack of funds for on-going maintenance of their increasingly dilapidated properties.

#4 – John Key

Perhaps English and Bennett both hoped that the media and public would buy their #1 deflection – that it was all a problem left over from the previous Labour government. Even our esteemed Dear Leader repeated the same spin in Parliament on 26 August this year;

“But what I can say is that this Government is proud of the fact that it is spending $300 million a year improving the mess we inherited from Labour. Its own house was never in order. It is not in order at the moment. No wonder we inherited-“

“It would be easier to take the member seriously if what Labour did when in Government was actually maintain the houses. But, in fact, not only did it not do that, it let them run down … It is a joke for the Labour Party members to come here and talk about this. They ran the housing stock down. They should hang their heads in shame—that is what they should do.”

“Where is the moral compass of an Opposition that just failed to upgrade and maintain houses? They were a mess under the Labour Government. They were a disgrace, and this Government has actually had to fix them up. It is the same old story all the time with Labour: hopeless in Government; roaring like lions in Opposition.”

“I am advised by the Minister responsible for HNZC that the previous Labour Government suspended the maintenance on those properties to build more properties. Labour let those houses run down, it let those tenants get sick, and now in Opposition it wants to pass the buck to someone else. It is a disgrace, Mr Little. It is a disgrace.”

In that one exchange, Key repeated the Blame Labour mantra four times.

During the 9 September interview on Radio NZ’s ‘Checkpoint‘ with Bill English, Guyon Espiner voiced his obvious disgust/weariness at that hoary old excuse;

“Ok, I think after seven or eight years we’ve had enough of you blaming the [previous] Labour government.”

Bennett and English did the same throughout various Radio NZ and television interviews.

At one point during the  9 September Radio NZ interview, English even  blamed tenants for the state of their run-down homes;

English: “And generally the reason a repair or an upgrade doesn’t happen is because they don’t –  is because they need to be told it’s needed, ah, they’re not in every house every week  but when, y’know as I said -“

Espiner: “So hang on, it’s the tenant’s fault, for not telling them, is it?”

Key used that blame-gaming on 26 August, in Parliament,  during his previously mentioned blame-game session;

“But also I will say that my mother took absolute pride in making sure that she kept the house clean, tidy, and ventilated.”

So, according to Key, English, and Bennett, the poor state of Housing NZ properties is due to;

  1. The previous Labour Government
  2. Tenants

Nothing to do with $664 million in dividends siphoned off by National to fund reduced tax revenue post-2009/10 tax cuts, which led to National demanding bigger and bigger dividends from SOEs such as Solid Energy; state-owned power companies, and social services such as Housing NZ.

If ever there was a clearer picture of transferring wealth from low-income New Zealanders to the top 10% of income earners and “high net worth” (ie; filthy rich) individuals – it is the financial gutting of Housing NZ.

Despite claims that Housing NZ has “the money is there to be spent on the maintenance” – the facts prove otherwise. Housing NZ’s own statement condemns two ministers and the Prime Minister as manipulative liars;

“To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity.”

# 5 – Nick Smith (again)

Perhaps the most tragic result of National’s cash-grab was the death of two-year old Emma-Lita Bourne, who died in a grotty, damp, cold State house. The death was preventable, as the Coroner, Brandt Shortland ,reported;

The coroner’s report into the toddler’s death, which was released on Thursday, says the poor condition of the state house in the South Auckland suburb of Otara was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s death.

[…]

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”

Building and Housing Minister* Nick Smith, expressed his version of human empathy with this callous observation of the little girl’s short life;

“People dying in winter of pneumonia and other illnesses is not new.”

Three lying ministers and an emotionless psychopath/automaton.

This is what we have for a government.

It also offers a third option for National’s blame-gaming spin when challenged on their failures;

 

  • The previous Labour Government
  • Tenants
  • Winter illnesses

 

No doubt National will come up with other excuses and others to point a finger at. This is, after all, the party of personal responsibility.

#6 – Memo to Mainstream Media

In the meantime,

Memo to Mainstream Media:

Next time English, Bennett, or Key claim that Housing NZ has sufficient money, after dividends are extracted, to carry out maintenance please ask them why HNZ stated in their 2013/14 Annual Report;

“To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity.”

Because we’d really like to know.

* National has not one, but three ministers for housing portfolios. And they still can’t get it right.

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Addendum1 – Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

Addendum2 – Housing NZ dividends under Labour

Annual Report 2001/02 – $9 million (p51)

Annual Report 2002/03 – $3 million (p55)

Annual Report 2003/04 – $176 million (p50)

Annual Report 2004/05 – $44 million (p42)

Annual Report 2005/06 – $14 million (p71)

Annual Report 2006/07 – $20 million (p54)

Annual Report 2007/08 – $13 million (p51)

Annual Report 2008/09 – $2 million (p71)

Total: $281 million (over 8 years – no figures found for ’00-’01 period)

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1-in-10health

Source: Shelter.org.uk

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References

Radio NZ: Housing NZ not cash cow – minister

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Morning Report – English defends $118M Housing NZ dividend (alt. link)

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend – audio (alt. link)

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2009-10 (p86)

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

TVNZ News: English concerned by State House deferred maintenance bill

Radio NZ: The state of state housing (alt. link)

Parliament: 2. Housing New Zealand Corporation, Minister – Confidence

Fairfax media:Damp state house played part in toddler’s death

National Party: About Personal Responsibility

Previous related blogposts

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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Theres always a market solution - housing nz - bill english

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 September 2015.

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= fs =

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

16 July 2015 7 comments

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hungry and homeless wellington new zealand

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Radio NZ’s reporter, Ruth Hill, posted this story on Friday 10 July. Note Ms Hill’s comment;

“However, 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

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Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork - radio nz - winz - msd

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Even as National  boasted about a drop in beneficiary numbers;

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Benefit numbers reach a six-year low  - fairfax media - winz - msd

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– unemployment continued to rise;

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Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent - radio nz - winz - msd - unemployment

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This discrepancy can be explained – in part – with RNZ reporter, Ruth Hill, revealing;

“Thousands of people are having their benefits cut off because they are not filling in the complicated paperwork required…

[…]

… 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

This was a ticking time-bomb predicted by beneficiary advocates in 2013, when National implemented many of it’s punitive welfare “reforms”;

The changes sparked protests in front of three Auckland Work and Income offices by Auckland Action Against Poverty protesters yesterday who said the moves were about “cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books” rather than getting them into decent jobs.

So how bad is the problem with WINZ forms?

On  8 February 2013,   I blogged on precisely this problem (WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers);

Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms issued to WINZ applicants.

For those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, to collect information;

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each WINZ form, please go to  blogpost: Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

National has a peculiar – but effective – way of dealing with unpleasant statistics.

It either does not engage in collecting data (eg; foreign house buyers, poverty levels, etc), or, it implements policies that will artificially impact on statistics without actually resolving under-lying problems. Whichever is the cheapest, easiest option. And whichever draws the least worst  headlines.

If pushing New Zealanders off welfare – by making the system unnecessarily  complex and frustrating  – has the end result of an apparent drop in welfare numbers, then that is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for this government.

Pushing people into poverty; homelessness; the degradation of street living and begging; are not matters that greatly concerned successive Social Welfare ministers, whether Paula Bennett, nor her successor, Anne “Look-At-Me-Standing-On-A-Crushed-Car” Tolley, as she told Radio NZ;

There is no reason for Work and Income to continue monitoring people who have chosen not to re-apply for a benefit.

If people require welfare support, it is their responsibility to get in touch and provide Work and Income with information that allows them to assess a beneficiary’s need. Once that is complete, Work and Income can provide the assistance people are eligible for.”

This is the same minister who told  TVNZ’s Q+A, political reporter, Corin Dann, on 21 June;

DANN:

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

TOLLEY:

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of the family whose child died of cold/damp related illness.

Make no mistake, the end purpose of seventythree forms, and having to re-apply every twelve months, is to cause frustration and dissuade people from re-applying for welfare benefits.

Ministers then trumpet “success” at a drop in welfare numbers.

The next time you see beggars on the streets with signs saying “no money, please give what you can” – they are most likely telling the truth. They are this government’s dirty little secret.

Addendum1

There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important.

Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.” – Paula Bennett, 16 August 2012

Addendum2

One of the more bizarre and ridiculous policies by the Ministry of Social Development is annual re-application forms sent to beneficiaries with permanent disabilities such as spina bifida.

For those who are not aware, spina bifida is a permanent, life-long condition. There is no cure.

MSD seems to believe that a miraculous recovery is possible, judging by the forms it sends every twelve months to people with spina bifida.

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jesus christ an the official from MSD

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References

Radio NZ: Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork

Fairfax media: Benefit numbers reach a six-year low

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent

Fairfax media: Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Fairfax media: Foreign house owner register downplayed

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

TVNZ Q+A:  Interview with Anne Tolley

NZ Spina Bifida Org

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2015.

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“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

29 June 2015 7 comments

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anne tolley - corin dann - tvnz - q+a - poverty - ministry of development

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On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 21 June,  political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. To describe the interview as pathetic would be generous.

To describe it as illustrative of how National views the poorest people of this country with barely-concealed disdain would be an understatement.

Tolley was former Minister of Corrections and Police, from 2011 to 2014.  Her crowning “achievement” was showing off  the destruction and compacting of a seized motor vehicle;

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Then Police Minister, Anne Tolley, triumphantly standing atop a crushed ‘boy racer’ car (with camera-carting media in attendance) – June 2012. (More)

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Her other “achievement” was over-seeing the awarding of a twentyfive year long contract to multi-national company, Serco, to manage the newly opened 960-bed Wiri Prison. That contract will sting tax-payers to the tune of $900 million – almost a billion  tax-dollars over quarter of a century.

Tolley’s latest ministerial ‘gig’  is to hold the portfolio of Minister for Social Development.

Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.

In a coronial  inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”

Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s  death;

@ 6.35 –

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

Tolley responded;

@ 6.54 –

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of that particular family!

Let’s re-cap;

  •  This was a family living in circumstances within her ministerial ambit.
  •  A child died from illness which the coroner has stated was, at the least, exacerbated, by her living conditions.

Any normal, rational  individual in a position of responsibility in such a situation would have called for a full report on the incident, as well as a copy of the coroner’s findings.

Yet, according to her own statement, Tolley has evidently not done so.

She does not  “know the details of that particular family”.

Dann suggested to the Minister “in charge” of Social Development that a solution would be to  provide heating for cold, damp State houses;

“One solution though, one solution at least is that the child, if there are children in that family, they get a guarantee of a warm house.”

Tolley’s response was dismissive, followed by bureacratic gobbledegook double-speak;

“Well, not necessarily. Not necessarily. Um, and, and, you can have a warm house that is completely enclosed, that is high moisture content, and you can have related illnesses to that as well.

So what I’m saying is, one part of that, you can solve one part of that. But actually all the other problems are going to continue. And what we’re trying to do is get, um, much more joined up work from the State agencies, but our focus [is] on actually changing the outcomes for those families.”

So, there you have it.

Heating cold, damp houses is “not necessarily” a solution.

But “joining up State agencies” will somehow provide the warmth to keep children out of hospitals.

This is ‘Pythonesque’ humour at it’s darkest and comes at the expense of sick and dying children.

No wonder Tolley made this eye-brow-raising comment a few minutes into the interview;

@3.40 –

“I liken it to National Standards.”

National Standards – another of National’s misguided, moronic, and messy experiments.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping comment from  Tolley also came at the very beginning of the interview, when she complained;

@ 0.40

“One of the main difficulties that we have is that we don’t know what works. We haven’t got good evidence. We haven’t got good data.”

There is good reason why we do not have “good evidence” and “good data” –  because former Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett did not want it;

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Measuring poverty line not a priority - Bennett

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Because having hard data on poverty means government having a measurable, defined problem dumped into its lap. And three years ago, Bennett was having none of that.

As Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, said at the time;

“The message is clear. Either Paula Bennett doesn’t want to admit to the scale of the problem, or she is afraid of exposing her government’s lack of progress in fixing it.”

Bennett’s excuses ranged from this;

“One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”

… to parroting neo-liberal clap-trap like this on TVNZ’s Q+A, in November 2013;

“At the end of the day, what is going to make the biggest difference for child poverty, in my opinion and this government’s opinion, and it is tackling the tough stuff. That is long-term welfare dependence. It’s actually more jobs, yeah, so that’s business growth. It feels like to me that Labour’s more interested in welfare growth and not business growth, and as a consequence, are we ever going to agree on that? Probably not.”

… and finally, this garbled ‘gem’ for why she refused to measure child poverty, in the same interview;

“So why do an official measure that then by very definition still has, quite frankly, you know, it’s, sort of, wherever you put the measure, you’re always going to have people in poverty, because you’re taking a median income, taking housing prices off it, so there’s always going to be people- “

Hopefully Minister Tolley will read this and understand why the department she inherited from her predecessor (Paula Bennett) has no “good evidence” or “good data”.

As for solving the life-threatening problem of cold, damp houses that are killing our children – Tolley’s plans to ‘re-jig’ government departments  and NGOs will not heat one single house.

Not. One. House.

But it will result in more children becoming ill, and dying.

This is happening on your watch, Minister Tolley.

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Emma-Lita Bourne – 2012-2014

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2015.

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References

TVNZ Q+A:  Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)

Green Party: $900 million for empty beds

NZ Herald:  Ana Apatu – Disempowered living in poverty

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

TVNZ: Q+A – Paula Bennett interview

Additional

Bryan Bruce – Inside Child Poverty (2011)

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Another broken promise from National…

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National Party - 2014 election - social housing policy - Housing NZ

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On 12 June, Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennet was interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. Kathryn Ryan asked why there were so many  thousands of State houses in desperate need on maintenance.

In the interview, Bennett claimed that money was not a problem in Housing NZ’s maintenance programme;

@ 4.29

“What I will say is that it’s not a money problem. So there is enough money there for us to get that stock up. It is a big programme of work that is constantly ongoing…

[…]

…So it’s not a matter of neglect.”

And again @ 5.41

“Which is really my point. So we’re saying it’s not actually about the money. The money is there to be spent for maintenance.”

Bennett’s statements were a parroting of  Bill English’s previous claim, made on 5 June  on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, who also denied  money was the core problem of run-down Housing NZ properties;

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

Bennett and English have both blamed lack of tradesmen and other spurious excuses for rundown houses.

But according to Housing NZ, the reason for our run-down State housing stock is very much a matter of lack of money, as I pointed out to Kathryn Ryan in an email I sent to her during her interview with Bennett;
from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 12, 2015
subject: Paula Bennet on Housing maintenance funding
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Kia ora Kathryn,Paula Bennett’s assertion that Housing NZ has plenty of funds for maintenance is at variance with this statement from Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

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The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period.This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.

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Either Bennett is ignorant, or she is spinning.

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Either way, not a good look.

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-Frank Macskasy

Ms Ryan read out my email, on air, subsequent to the interview.

Hopefully, the media will pick up on what is obviously a gross distortion from National’s spin doctors. By asserting that  there is no lack of money available, this shifts responsibility from  government to blaming others for lack of maintenance.

It also deflects attention from the fact that National has used Housing NZ as a cash cow by demanding dividends, in a futile attempt by Bill English to balance the government books and post a surplus (which he has also failed at spectacularly), as this ‘Dominion Post‘ editorial highlighted;

This year the Government expects to get $220m in tax and dividends from the corporation. It wants profits as well as social services. And it is also in thrall to its ideology of semi-privatisation.

Housing NZ was explicit in it’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

It is up to the media to challenge Ministers when they make assertions that are patently untrue.

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References

Radio NZ: The state of state housing

Radio NZ: The state of state housing (audio) (alt. link)

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 June 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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Lying National lying john key

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On 25 February 2014, Dear Leader John Key announced to the nation that his government’s asset sales programme was over;

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“Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to  [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

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Like so many of  the Prime Minister’s promises, that “Key Committment” did not last long. Not even a year.

As Fonterra’s payout to farmers collapsed and weakening exports to China’s slowing economy began to impact on the government’s tax-take,   Bill English’s much-heralded promise of a Budget surplus sank deeper than the m.v. Rena in 2011. English promised almost exactly a year ago on 16 May 2014;

It’s a real surplus and it follows a string of improvements in deficits starting at $18 billion four years ago, this year about $2.5b and next year a surplus of $370 [million], and then bigger surpluses after that.

Barely three months after the 2014 elections, Treasury had bad news for English and the National government;

Treasury this morning delivered a body blow to the Government’s hopes of returning to surplus, saying it now expects a deficit of over half a billion dollars for the June financial year.

At this morning’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, Acting Treasury Secretary Vicky Robertson said despite solid growth in the economy, the Crown’s finances would take a hit from lower than previously forecast tax take.

That had seen Treasury change its forecast operating balance before gains and losses (Obegal) for the 2014-15 year from a slim surplus of $297 million to a deficit of $572 million.

Treasury said softer outlook for economic drivers of the tax such as lower dairy prices and interest rates had seen the expected tax take for the year fall by $600 million.

In the same Herald report, English and Key  were both frantically doing their best King Canute impersonations since King Canute took a day to go to the beach;

But Finance Minister Bill English was this morning still clinging to the hope Treasury is wrong and the books will indeed be back in black this year as he and Mr Key have promised for some years.

I’m hopeful we will,” Mr Key told reporters this afternoon.

The view of the Minister of Finance is that we can still achieve that surplus. There’s a lot of different factors moving around here at the moment.

By 2 May of this year, even  National’s spin-meisters had run out of steam, and on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, English was forced to admit that the world was indeed round and not flat; money-printing pixies did not exist; and dreams of a budget surplus were a Tory fantasy;

No, I don’t call it a failure. It is what it is, and that is for the 14/15 year, we budgeted $370 million surplus. It looks like it will be a $500 or $600 million deficit, and the surplus will be the next year. So we’re on track.”

So “the surplus will be the next year“?

The Minister had better be hoping that the Christchurch re-build; the Auckland housing boom; and renewed growth in China’s economy,  will continue to stimulate the economy. Otherwise, that “500 or $600 million deficit” will balloon into $1 billion or $2 billion or…

National’s expensive, multi-billion dollar 2009 and 2010 tax cuts may not have been such a clever move after all.

English, though, is not about to surrender. His government’s policies may be predicated on tax revenue from re-building a semi-destroyed city; an unsustainable housing boom in Auckland; and waning dairy exports – but National’s Finance Minister has other ideas up his sleeve.

In his 2 May interview on ‘The Nation‘, English committed the government not to cut spending;

Lisa Owen: Okay. Well, before on The Nation, you said that the Government would not make any cuts to reach surplus. Is that still your plan?

Bill English: That’s right. We’re not going to make any specific extra decisions now just because our tax revenue’s a percentage point – 1 percent down.

If past experience has taught us one thing about this government; if they promise you one thing, you can be sure that somewhere, in some back room; they are planning something completely different.

English has committed the government not to “make any specific extra decisions now just because our tax revenue’s a percentage point – 1 percent down”.

It’s just a shame we can’t believe a word of what he says. The cuts had begun long before English uttered his lies to Lisa Owen.

The story unfolds…

16 May 2014…

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Budget 2014 - Surplus real, says English .

National’s “economic whizz-kid” had promised the country a “$372 million surplus” – as well as “an increase to paid parental leave from 14 weeks to 18, free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under 13,  extra money to ease the cost of early-childhood education, eligibility for paid parental leave extended, and the existing parental tax credit to  rise“.

Labour’s social policies had been nicked by National. English basked in political glory. Sceptics were ignored. The country went to the polls four months later.

20 September 2014…

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National Party wins third term

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And then reality began to reassert itself.

16 December 2014…

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No surplus this year - Treasury

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National’s core policy; it’s raison d’être; it’s reputation amongst New Zealanders who are only vaguely politically conscious – is it’s so-called “reputation for fiscal prudence and responsible economic manager”, and it was rapidly being sucked down a flushing toilet of indebtedness. If it couldn’t deliver on it’s promise of returning the books to surplus – as Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, had done between 2000 and 2008 – then what good was it?

English looked at his options to cut spending, and to raise money without creating headlines that shrieked “panic” or “broken promises”.

28 January 2015…

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Up to 8,000 state houses could be sold under John Key's radical plan - asset sales

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So much for Key’s assertion that “the truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme”.

Truth and John Key parted company a long time ago. Key’s announcement that up to 8,000 State houses could be sold came only eleven months after his earlier committment to New Zealanders that no further state assets would be sold.

13 April 2015…

John Key denies there is a housing crisis in New Zealand;

No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.

21 April 2015…

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No free GP visits for all children - Government - broken promises - health cuts - National - under 13s

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National’s broken promise flew in the face of committments made prior to last year’s general election, as then-Health Minister, Tony Ryall said;

Free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children aged under six will be extended to all children aged under 13 from July next year, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

Budget 2014 is investing $90 million over three years from 1 July 2015 so primary school-aged children can go to a doctor for free, any time of the day or night, and get their prescriptions free as well, he says.

“National brought in the policy of free GP visits and prescriptions for children under six, including free after-hours visits. Thanks to our prudent management of the health budget, we are extending this policy to all children under 13.

This is what careful financial management can deliver to Kiwi families.

Interestingly, there was a very minor – but all-important word missing between two otherwise identical Facebook postings by John Key and the National Party;

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Facebook - free GP visits for all children - Government - broken promises - health cuts - John Key - under 13s

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Facebook - free GP visits for all children - Government - broken promises - health cuts - National Party - under 13s

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Note the one missing word – “all” – from Key’s Facebook statement.  Otherwise, the statement is identical to the National Party Facebook page. Someone in the National Party’s politburo obviously wasn’t keeping track of re-writing their election promises.

Green Party Health and ACC spokesperson, Kevin Hague, hit the nail on the head when he demanded;

If one in ten kids have to pay up to $38 to go to the doctor when they have an accident, then that visit is not free and that’s a broken promise. It begs the question: what other promises are the Government going to renege on this year in a bid to save a bit more money?  This shows how desperate the Government is to reach a surplus that it’s trying to pinch pennies from injured children.”

30 April 2015…

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Government offloads 2800 state houses to Auckland development company

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Attempting to justify the transfer, English announced;

Over half of the new houses will be sold to help offset construction costs, and the remainder will be retained as social housing. Our bottom line is that there will be at least as many social houses in Tāmaki as the 2800 there now.

As with previous promises, National’s assurances cannot be relied upon. Ministers will utter soothing reassurances one day – and weeks, months, or years later will find justification why they had to retract.

National ministers simply cannot be trusted to keep their word. Even if 7,500 new homes are built, there is no guarantee that “half of the new houses will be … retained as social housing“. National will find a reason to sell them.

English further stated;

The Government owns one in 16 houses in Auckland and we need to do a better job with them for the sake of tenants and aspiring homeowners, as well as for the neighbourhoods they live in and the wider city…

…This transfer of ownership of HNZC properties and the responsibility for tenancy management to TRC will enable faster construction of warm, dry and safe houses that better meet people’s needs.”

His comments are a repetition of National’s spin that NZ Housing properties are ‘badly run down and in dire need of maintenance’;

Finance Minister Bill English has confirmed the Government will need to spend $1.5 billion upgrading state houses as they are sold to social housing providers.

Mr English conceded many state houses were not up to standard and had not been properly maintained.

He said the cost of deferred maintenance had risen to $1.5 billion and that the matter had been raised during discussions with social agencies considering buying state houses.

“They’ve highlighted that. So part of the benefit of the process we’re going through is that these agencies are going to apply a very tight scrutiny to the state of the houses that maybe they might be looking at buying.”

Mr English blamed the former Labour-led Government, saying it had focused more on building new state houses than on maintaining existing homes.

English’s apportioning of blame to the previous Labour government is disingenuous.

The sole reason why Housing NZ has not been able to maintain it’s properties is that it has had to pay dividends from income (rent paid by low-income/beneficiary tenants) to successive governments. According to National’s Building and Housing Minister, Dr Nick Smith;

The average dividend under the 5 years so far of this Government has been $88 million. The dividend this year [2014] is $90 million…

Fairfax reported Nick Smith as stating;

Smith said the dividend had been been fairly consistent in the past several years – $71m in 2010, $68m in 2011, $77m in 2012 and $90m in 2013.

Four years worth of dividends – $306 million – were paid to the government’s Consolidated Fund. No wonder Housing NZ is unable to maintain it’s properties.

National was brutal in it’s expectations of huge windfalls from Housing NZ;

The letters reveal that on six occasions ministers asked for dividends to be hiked, or paid faster. In March 2010, Maurice Williamson wrote: “I expect . . . a significantly higher annual return to the Crown.”

Phil Heatley, when he was housing minister, asked that in 2011-12 and 2012-13 the dividend be $45m higher than that forecast in the 2011 Budget. Later he revised expectations upwards, to $251m over three years.

In July last year, Smith said “dividend levels should be significant enough to represent a challenge”.

These demands from National ministers were placed on a government department charged with housing the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Williamson, Heatley, and Smith were content to bleed Housing NZ and let tenants live in cold, damp, miserable conditions.

Williamson, Heatley, and Smith – National’s 21st century slumlords.

As with Solid Energy, National exploited government departments and SOEs such as ACC, as “cash cows”, with which to balance their books to return to Budget surplus. (see: Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys )

It is also worthy to note that National Ministers are employing spin when it comes to state house  sales. English and other ministers use the term “transfer” and not sale.

On 6 May, Bill English stated that  houses would not be sold “unless tenants get better services and taxpayers get fair and reasonable value“.

On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 May, Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett, admitted that her government was selling state housing;

@ 2.13

Corin Dann: “But the point is, they are going to get these houses, they’re going to be sold these houses, aren’t they? You say transfer but it’s a sale of houses at a discount, right?

Paula Bennett: “Well, I’m sure it’ll be less than the market value, yes.

These are sales, not a transfer. “Transfer” implies a change of ownership without cost or exchange of money. There is Big Money involved in state house sales.

[Incorrect information deleted. – FM]

6 May 2015…

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 Invercargill and Tauranga chosen for first state house sales

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The Great Sell-off of Housing continues under National – with the government disposing of all state housing in Tauranga and Invercargill. Radio NZ reported;

The Government has announced it will begin selling off up to 1600 state houses in Tauranga and Invercargill to social housing groups.

There are 370 state houses in Invercargill and 1250 in Tauranga and it’s understood all of them could be sold if buyers come forward.

Only vetted and registered community housing providers will be able to buy them and, depending on their negotiations with the Government, they may not have to pay the market price.

There is nothing to stop private developers from acquiring state houses through back-door means, as this report on a landlords website explained;

The state houses will only be available for sale to registered Community Housing Providers (CHPs).

However, Housing NZ Minister Bill English said that registered CHPs can partner with other organisations to acquire and develop social housing.

Any transfer of houses will not affect the rent tenants pay or their eligibility for subsidised housing, and properties transferred as social houses will also have to stay as social housing unless the Government agrees otherwise.  In both Tauranga and Invercargill, Housing New Zealand owns a significant number of houses so there is potential for more than one organisation to acquire houses for community ownership.

This means there could be scope for private investors to get involved in the provision of social housing – either by becoming a registered CHP or by partnering with a registered CHP.

Speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 May, Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett confirmed that private investors could “partner” with Community Housing Providers to purchase state houses; re-develop the properties; and sell new residences at a profit.

On 6 May, English assured the public;

Any transfer of houses will not affect the rent tenants pay or their eligibility for subsidised housing, and properties transferred as social houses will also have to stay as social housing unless the Government agrees otherwise.”

Of course National will agree. This is a wholesale sell-off of state housing. Why wouldn’t they agree to new owners on-selling these properties for a profit? Otherwise new owners would be stuck with old, dilapidated properties, requiring expensive repairs, and soon getting into deep debt.

This is privatisation, by stealth,  through the back-door, using intermediaries. This is a whole new level of government subterfuge.

It also exposes John Key’s assurance – that state assert sales have ended – as a lie.

Conclusion

Finance Minister Bill English is desperately scrabbling for every dollar he can claw back. Miserly does not even begin to aptly describe this government’s actions.

It seems that the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 are being paid for by paperboys and girls; sick children; welfare beneficiaries; and Housing NZ tenants.

It remains to be seen what further cuts in social spending Bill English has planned. His reassurances on 2 May 2015 – that there would be no cuts to social spending – are to be treated with the same contempt as other promises, assurances, and committments that have been made, and broken, by John Key, Bill English, et al.

Governments are at their worst and most dangerous, when desperate. And this is a desperate government.

Addendum1

Karol, writing for The Standard, has more on this issue. See: “Key Govt asset stripping state housing‘.

Addendum2

Registered community housing provider, Habitat for Humanity Invercargill-branch  chairman, Stephen Falconer, is an enthusiastic cheerleader for National’s covert privatisation programme. He told the Otago Daily Times on 7 May;

We’re a private organisation, essentially, and we think that private enterprise can actually do a better job than Government on most things.

Because private enterprise has done such a stirling job thus far in meeting demand for housing in Auckland, Christchurch, and elsewhere?

It is disappointing that an ostensibly community organisation like Habitat for Humanity has bought into the government narrative, complete with parroting neo-liberal cliches that “private enterprise can actually do a better job than Government“.

If it were true that “private enterprise can actually do a better job than Government“, then why does Habitat for Humanity exist?

Addendum3

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett is interviewed by Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A. Along with Bill English’s admissions, her comments are a disturbing indication where National is going with state housing.  See:  Govt social housing target 3000 homes

 

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References

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

John Key: My key commitments to you

NBR: Weak dairy prices prompt analysts to pull back Fonterra forecast payout for next season

The Independent: How China’s slowing GDP growth could drag down the global economy

TV3 News: National Party wins third term

NZ Herald: No surplus this year – Treasury

Fairfax media: Budget 2014 – Surplus real, says English

TV3: The Nation – Bill English

Fairfax media: Budget 2014 – Surplus real, says English

TV1 News: Up to 8,000 state houses could be sold under John Key’s radical plan

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

NZ Herald:  No free GP visits for all children – Government

National Party: Free doctors’ visits, prescriptions for under 13s

Facebook: John Key

Facebook: National Party

Scoop media: Govt breaks free doctors visit promise to kids

Fairfax media: Government offloads 2800 state houses to Auckland development company

Radio NZ: Govt to spend $1.5b fixing up state houses

Parliament: Hansards – Questions for Oral Answer — Questions to Ministers – 8 May 2014

Fairfax media: Nats milking Housing NZ – Labour

Fairfax media: Not much in the cupboard for English to dine on

NZ Herald: State houses in Tauranga and Invercargill to go on the market

TVNZ Q+A: Govt social housing target 3000 homes

Landlords – For Kiwi Property Investors: State houses to go on sale in Tauranga & Invercargill

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 – ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: Invercargill and Tauranga chosen for first state house sales

Radio NZ: Tauranga, Invercargill state houses to be sold

Otago Daily Times: Invercargill among first state house transfer sites

Previous Related Blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

“It’s fundamentally a fairness issue”- Peter Dunne

Solid Energy – A solid drama of facts, fibs, and fall-guys

The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!

Other blogs

Polity: Housing horrors

The Jackal: Nationals housing failure

The Standard: Key Govt asset stripping state housing

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I will never turn my back on the poor

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2015.

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National MPs – giving us the finger in election year

18 July 2014 2 comments

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noddy

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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.

Amy Adams

Our so-called “Environment” Minister, Amy Adams, recently dismissed Dr Mike Joy’s criticisms of National’s new water standards.

Dr Joy stated;

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

Paula Bennett

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.”

How can a politician not keep her story straight within only a 48 hour period?!

Then again, this is the same politician who made full use of the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a free University education for herself – and then promptly dumped it in 2009.

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.”

To which Bennett replied with the stock-standard come-back from right-wing witless politicians;

I don’t think it’s throwing more money at it across the board if you like…

[…]
It is not going to be throwing more money at those on welfare...”

Because, as we all know, “throwing money” at the poorest in our society apparently doesn’t work to pull children out of poverty.

But “throwing money” at corporations such as Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Charter Schools,  et al, to “create jobs” or give “choice for better education” to parents, does work.

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.

Simon Bridges

This was one of National’s  election platforms in 2011;

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National Party staying strong on crime

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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.

Murray McCully

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.

McCully stated;

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,

  1. The terms of reference do not include Murray  McCully’s actions. This effectively gives the minister an ‘escape clause’ from the fiasco.
  2. 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.”
  3. Rob Hosking from the National Business Review suggested that the Inquiry will “not likely to be [completed] before the September 20 election”. How ‘convenient’.

Hekia Parata

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,

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No Art 050425e

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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.

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References

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

TV3: Minister agrees with diplomat’s alleged victim

TV3: The Nation Interview – Paula Bennett (transcript)

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

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

Scoop media: Warner Brothers Hobbit Deal a $67 Milllion Farce

NZ Herald: Editorial – Charter schools will give poorer parents choice

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

TV3: Ministerial inquiry launched into diplomat case

Interest.co.nz: Key suggests mid-level MFAT diplomat “considers career options”

NBR: McCully announces inquiry into MFAT’s handling of Malaysian diplomat allegations

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

Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


 

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Kirk

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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ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

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6a00d83451d75d69e20163022de8ed970d-450wi

 

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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;

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Dominion Post Editorial Dole scheme redundant from start

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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?

Do tell?

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.

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References

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: No apology from Bennett over leaked income data

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

TV3: The Nation (11.5.14, part 3, @ 8.10)

Previous related blogposts

Of witch hunts and solo mums

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

 

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stone the witch!

Above image (slightly altered) acknowledgment: Kirk

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2014.

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

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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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  <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>

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Kathryn Ryan
Nine to Noon Show, Radio NZ

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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]

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References

Beehive.govt.nz:  Budget 2014: ‘$3k to Christchurch’ to help job seekers

Radio NZ: Agency questions jobless incentive


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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Paula Bennett

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6 May, 2014

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Budget 2014: ‘$3k to Christchurch’ to help job seekers

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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" <letters@press.co.nz>

.

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]

 

 

.


 

References

Beehive.govt.nz: Budget 2014: ‘$3k to Christchurch’ to help job seekers


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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= fs =

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

.

old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:   "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Thu, 01 May 2014 23:51:54 +1200
TO:     "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

.

 

The editor
NZ Herald

.

News that Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, has
agreed to fund the Sexual Violence Sector with $10.4 million
dollars over the next two years is a welcome - if sadly
belated - step.

Two years ago, Rape Crisis in Wellington and  HELP
Foundation in Auckland were forced to cut services and staff
due to a lack of funding.

In 2012, with a $55,000 shortfall, Wellington's Rape Crisis
had to cut services and staff by 20%, and freeze wages of
remaining employees.

In the same year, Auckland's HELP Foundation faced a 
$200,000 funding-shortfall and also had to resort to cutting
counselling and other services such as their 24-hour
rape-crisis helpline. Spokeswoman Aimee Stockenstroom was
quoted as saying,

"Despite working intensely with a range of government
departments right up to the last minute and requests to meet
with Minister Paula Bennett, we have not obtained sufficient
funding to keep the 24-hour telephone crisis line
operating."

Now, in election year, this government has "found" $10.4
million.

Which poses several questions;

1. Is this new money - or have other social services been
cut, and money transferred from other much-needed
programmes?

2. Why was this money not provided when it was most needed
in 2012, where much needed services were cut for women in
dire need?

3. A cynic might say that Bennett has "found" this money in
2014 - an election year. Is it possible that a government
can be so self-serving; so callous; that it plays politics
with rape victims?

And lastly, 

4. What guarantee will there be that after two years, when
the $10.4 million runs out, that various rape counselling
services will not have to go through this funding struggle
all over again?



-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

.

It’ll be interesting to see if this one gets printed.

Even more interesting if Bennett dares reply to it!

.


 

References

Fairfax media:  Rape crisis line forced to cut staff

Dominion Post: Wellington rape centre forced to cut hours

NZ Herald: Rape crisis centres to get $10m boost

Scoop media: Wgtn Rape Crisis Groups Respond to Sexual Violence Funding


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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= fs =

When in trouble – blame the “filthy benes”!

21 April 2014 7 comments

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I love a good switch hunt - beneficiary bashing

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A recent Roy Morgan poll had some very disturbing news for National and it’s shrinking support-base;

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National down as NZ First gains

.

The poll results;

Right Bloc

National: 43% (down 2.5%)

Maori Party: 1.5% (down 0.5%)

ACT NZ: (0.5%, unchanged)

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged)

Conservative Party of NZ:  2.5% (up 1%)

Left Bloc

Labour Party: 32% (up 0.5%)

Greens: 13% (down 1%)

Mana Party: 0.5% (up 0.5%)

Internet Party: (0.5%, up 0.5%)

Wild Card

New Zealand First: 5.5% (up 2%)

The polling – which includes phoning respondents on cellphones – shows party/bloc support much more evenly divided than other polls. Any election night result is simply too close to call, and will depend on “wild cards” such as NZ First; how many Maori electorate seats will be won by Mana, at the expense of the Maori Party; and will the Nats cede an electorate seat to the CCCP (Colin Craig’s Conservative Party).

(Despite the closeness of the Left/Right bloc, this blogger still maintains that we will see a change in government post 20 September.)

No doubt all this information was already available to National’s own party strategists, and, rather predictably, they were prepared to distract public attention with Default Strategy #2;

.

 

Travelling beneficiaries' payments cut

.

Note the dates on the two stories above; 3 April. Coincidence? Not very likely. All political parties are aware of when Roy Morgan polling results are made public and this particular result would have come as no surprise to  National’s back room strategists and spin doctors.

National and Labour both conduct their own internal polling and are acutely aware that public opinion of decided voters is evenly balanced between the Left and Right blocs.

To rebuild flagging public support, the Nats are focused on reclaiming “soft”, low-information,  swing voters – especially those susceptible to dog-whistle politics. And you can’t get more “dog whistle” than beating up on welfare beneficiaries, as Bennett did;

“The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and available for work – not prioritising travel.  Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.”

This is precisely the despicable tactic used by ex-National leader, Don Brash, during his infamous Orewa Rotary Club Speech in 2004, when he railed against a  “government-funded culture of welfare dependency“, “racial separatism in New Zealand“, and the  “development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry“.

Considering that the Maori Party is one of National’s few remaining coalition partners, and rely on their support for Supply and Confidence, slagging of at Maori and the “entrenched Treaty grievance industry” is a no-go area.

Which leave… beneficiaries. They are the “New Jews” of 21st Century New Zealand – blamed for an alleged “poor work-ethic”;  “wasting tax-dollars”; and living the “high life” whilst the rest of us have to work for a crust.

It is noteworthy that, in the main, the mainstream media published Bennett’s media release without question. There was no in-depth analysis by journos wanting to know who these “21,000 beneficiaries” were, or their circumstances. No questions were asked. No delving behind the reported statistics was carried out.

In fact, not one single journalist, newspaper, TV current affairs programme, etc, actually even bothered to report what the unemployment benefit was ($210 per week, net).

Instead, the Herald – which seemed to be the main media outlet for this “story” –  published an editorial five days later, supporting and endorsing the official Party Line.

Never since the days of the Soviet state-organs, Pravda, Izveztia, etc, have news media been so utterly and completely compliant as mouth-pieces for government policies, statements, and naked propaganda.

If this is what the msm such as the NZ Herald call “freedom of the press“, then I suggest to them that their much-vaunted independence is a fiction. When government ministers’ media releases are reported almost verbatim, then  any pretence of media independence , press freedom, and investigative journalism flies out the window.

Interestingly, when James Coleman on RadioLive interviewed Labour’s Sue Moroney on this issue, he started of by asking;

“Well I wonder how you can afford to travel overseas while on a benefit?”

Unfortunately, except for Julie Moffett on NewstalkZB, who made some effort to present an alternative to the official “Party line”,  that line of questioning was not followed through.

Ms Moroney did, however, make this interesting point;

“I think that people will have questions about why there so many people travelling overseas. And I think it tells us a story about how bad the job market is in New Zealand. I think that quite a number of these people, and many of them are travelling to Australia in desperation, because they’ve run out of the opportunity in New Zealand to get a job. They’re sick of sitting on the scrap heap here, and getting rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter and are going to Australia and are trying their luck over there instead.”

Ms Moroney’s assertion would seem to be confirmed by Paula Bennett, when she stated,

“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.”

If someone on an unemployment benefit (now referred to as “Jobseeker”) has left New Zealand for longer than  eight weeks, that implies they have left this country for reasons other than a so-called “holiday” or family bereavement. As Sue Moroney suggested, they have left this country for good.

So why not phone WINZ’s 0800 number to inform them that they are travelling overseas?

Anyone who has recently had cause to phone WINZ (0800 559 009) will have their question provided. Waiting to speak to an operator on that line can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. Sometimes longer. And there is no guarantee that the information provided by a welfare recipient will be accurately recorded or passed on to the relevant WINZ Branch, or acted on.

This blogger is aware of at least one beneficiary who followed proper procedures to  advise WINZ of a change in his/her circumstances – only to have that information disregarded and their benefit cut. Only when WINZ was contacted on subsequent occassions and questions asked why that information (earning an income through a casual job) was not accepted, was the recipient’s benefit eventually reinstated. S/he had done everything right; carried out their obligations; made full disclosures – and was still penalised.

How often is this happening to others?

And if a beneficiary is leaving New Zealand (often paid by loans, friends, or family) to seek work in Australia – why should someone utterly frustrated with the system bother to contact WINZ, which is time-consuming, stressful, and when that information is not always passed on?

Who would bother?

I submit to the reader that most would simply give the one or two  fingered salute to this country as they departed.

.

evansknowlegewave

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However, such questionable “statistics” serve this government’s interests very well. They have a ready-made scape-goat to point the finger at – meanwhile distracting the public from the very obvious fact that there are simply not enough jobs to go around for everyone. Certainly not the 170,000 new jobs promised by National in 2011;

.

Budget 2011 - Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

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In turn, the media has ready-made, simplistic, tabloid-style headlines provided to it on a plate, to sell their advertising.

Whilst the majority (hopefully) of New Zealanders understand that this is red-neck, dog-whistle politicking in action, National need only  appeal to one or two percentage points of voters who unquestioningly digest this kind of prejudice –  and John Key is assured of a third term in office.

Unemployment is working – for National’s re-election.

Postscript #1

A bit of background into Paula Bennett’s life before she came to Parliament…

  • Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
  • Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo.
  • All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.
  • Paula Bennet was a recipient of the WINZ Training Incentive Allowance, which she scrapped in 2009
  • Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit

More

Postscript #2

Perhaps I spoke too soon. There appears one journalist willing to buck the National Party Line, it seems. Colin Espiner stands out from the maddened crowd of media sycophants…


 

References

NZ Herald: Travelling beneficiaries’ payments cut

Roy Morgan: 3 April 2014 Poll

NZ Herald: National down as NZ First gains

Scoop media: “Nationhood – Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club”

NZ Herald: Editorial – Travel is not a right for those taking welfare

National Party: Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers

RadioLive: Sue Moroney: Beneficiaries and overseas travel

NewstalkZB: Whip-rounds and debt paying for beneficiaries’ trips

TVNZ: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Fairfax media: Beneficiary bashing just too easy

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Is National in trouble in the polls?

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

Other blogs/blogposts

Against The Current: Mike Hosking says Bash A Beneficiary Day!

The Daily Blog: Paula Bennett’s racist beneficiary flying hatefest

The Little Pakeha: Wrestling with the narrative

The Standard: Poverty denial – NZ Herald editorial

 

 


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Paula Bennet.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2014.

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= fs =

Letter to the Editor: Is National in trouble in the polls?

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

 

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The latest bout of bene-bashing from Bennett and the rotten National government;

.

Travelling beneficiaries' payments cut

.

Bennett said;

“The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and available for work – not prioritising travel.

Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.”

My response;

.

FROM:    Frank Macskasy
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Sun, 06 Apr 2014 23:16:21 +1200
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

.

The Editor
NZ Herald
.


Paula Bennett's recent attack on welfare beneficiaries,
where she claimed that "21,000 beneficiaries have had their
benefits cut for going on unapproved overseas trips in the
last nine months" is simply too fantastical to be believed.

For one thing, how on earth does one fund a trip overseas on
an unemployment benefit of $210 a week (net) and pay rent,
power, food, clothing, medical expenses, school fees,
transport, phone, etc, etc?

This doesn't make sense. The arithmetic simply doesn't add
up.

One thing is for certain; National must be in trouble. They
have defaulted to Deflection #2;

1. Blame previous Labour government
2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

Perhaps National's own internal polling has them falling in
public support and Labour/Greens doing better than public
polling is suggesting?

How else would one explain Bennett's latest foray into
Fairytale Land?

-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

.

It is interesting to note that the Herald story, written by  deputy political editor, Claire Trevett, does not question anything that Bennett has said.

Not. One. Word.

I remember that this is what the media looked like when I lived briefly in Eastern Europe in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

This is what a media mouthpiece for an autocratic government looks like; faithful; reliable;  committed to the Party (in this case, National); and unquestioning.

This is what our media has become. They have been tamed.


 

References

NZ Herald: National down as NZ First gains

NZ Herald: Travelling beneficiaries’ payments cut

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


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= fs =

Letter to the editor: Shane Taurima and Maggie Barry

18 February 2014 4 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Tue, 18 Feb 2014 13:24:12 +1300
TO:     "Dominion Post" letters@dompost.co.nz 

.

The Editor
Dominion Post
.

The witch-hunt against former TVNZ presenter, Shane Taurima,
can best be described as hypocrisy on a National scale.

It is a bit rich for the likes of National MPs, Tau Henare,
Judith Collins, and Paula Bennett to be crying into their
beersies and alleging bias in Taurima's interviews when
amongst them sits their colleague, former radio presenter,
MP Maggie Barry.

On 5 March 2011 she stood as an unsuccessful  National
Party candidate in the Botany Bay by-election. That was only
three months after leaving her position as radio host at
Radio Live.

For six years prior to that,  Barry worked as a host and
interviewer at Radio NZ, interviewing many left-wing
politicians, political figures, activists, etc.

In 2011, she became a National Party member of Parliament.

There are other examples of journalists, television and
radio hosts, and other media personalities entering politics
- many working for the National Party.

Did anyone complain of undue bias from Maggie Barry or
indeed Richard Griffin - one time Radio NZ political editor,
and subsequent Chief Press Officer and Media Adviser to
Prime Minister and National Party leader, Jim Bolger?

Not a squeak.

The stench of hypocrisy is over-powering.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

 

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*

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References

Dominion Post: Labour links at TVNZ revealed

Wikipedia: Maggie Barry

Radio NZ: Richard Griffin

NZ Herald: TVNZ manager resigns after Labour Party revelations

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elections 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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= fs =