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Metiria Turei has started something

17 August 2017 4 comments

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When Metiria Turei announced her resignation as co-leader of the Green Party, on the afternoon of 9 August, it could be said that the bullies had won.

The reactionary media pack – led chiefly by so-called “journalists” Patrick Gower, Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner, Tracy Watkins, and  John Armstrong – had joined the hunt. They scented blood. The prize?  Who would be first to announce her resignation. Watching and listening to Gower almost salivating as he put the verbal “ultra-violence” boot into Metiria was nauseating.

The political Right-Wing – led chiefly by ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour – not only clamoured for her resignation, but actively promoted rumour after rumour to undermine her reputation. Mischief-making falsities from the Right is done with malice and glee. Especially if the “fake dirt” can be thrown anonymously via social media.  Seymour’s role in this is even more jaw-droppingly hypocritical when one studies the lengthy list of former, disgraced ACT MPS – and there have been several, for such a minor party.

Various sundry vociferous critics from the “Moral Majority” – led chiefly by Joe and Jane Bloggs – pakeha, middle class; home-owning; privileged. They have never know hunger or having to choose between paying the rent or new shoes for the kids. For them, the mantra is “can’t afford to feed kids – don’t have them”.  (Which is code for “fuck off, we don’t want to see you poor people because it makes us feel guilty and we don’t like it. You’re in our Comfort Zone”.)

Fellow blogger, Martyn Bradbury described that relentless attack on Ms Turei thusly;

It is a grim reality of the double standards that are always used against the Left in politics. The truth is that this was a class attack by rich white male broadcasters who used their privilege to launch a character assassination against Metiria for daring to give beneficiaries hope that the way they are treated will be finally discussed.

And that is precisely the point. This was never about Metiria having to lie to Social Welfare when she was 23.

It certainly wasn’t about her so-called “electoral fraud”. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and are actively encouraged to vote in electorates they haven’t resided in for years. The Electoral Commission even encourages citizens to vote in electorates they are absent from;

Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Just because you are out of the country doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having your say in New Zealand’s elections.

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Your electorate will be the one in which you last lived for a month or more. 

All quite legal.

But when a mischievous young person does pretty much the same thing as a prank, to support a joke political “party” – people lose their minds?!

Ms Turei was certainly not the first woman on the Left to be vilified. Before her, there was Sue Bradford. And before her, Fran Wilde. When Conservative New Zealand is threatened by women who “cross the line”, it reacts brutally.

Ms Turei not only “crossed the line”, she was an uppity brown woman who got lippy and insolent to The Established Order of  Things.  The Establishment slapped her down – hard.

As Stephanie Rodgers wrote for Radio NZ;

I will remember that for 30 years, no one really challenged the brutal reality of life for the poor in New Zealand. We lamented child poverty rates. We railed against increasingly draconian policies and re-brandings. But there was a gentlemen’s agreement that things weren’t that bad, the system did what it could, it was just so complicated, we can’t simply give people money, they’ve got rights but they have responsibilities too.

I will remember that as soon as someone – a Māori woman who survived poverty and didn’t forget where she came from – said ‘This is fundamentally wrong, and we must do better,’ she was finished.

The “weapon of choice” to take down this uppity woman was not Ms Turei’s political opponants in the National/ACT Party (though that stooge, Seymour, certainly did his masters’ bidding). That would be too obvious. New Zealanders with a vestigial sense of fair play would quickly recognise a political “hit job” carried out by the governing party. Especially with Paula Bennett apparently having a few of her own skeletons stashed away in her closet.

No, retribution would be exacted by New Zealand’s own “Media Elite” – prominent personalities from TV (Garner, Gower, and Hosking); print media (Tracy Watkin and John Armstrong), and the usual goon-brigade of semi-articulate radio “talkback” hosts.

Radio NZ was largely exempt from the media pack hunting down their quarry. Until 10 August,that is. On a programme called ‘Caucus‘, Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin discussed Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in her 20s.

Driving home this evening, I listened to the three of them discussing Metiria Turei’s lying to Social Welfare in the 1990s. I listened and listened, and became more incredulous and angry with each uttered word.

I switched off the car radio. Outside, the dismal grey sky occassionally sprayed sheets of rain over me as I and  thousands of other vehicles slowly moved along the  Motorway. “60K” the illuminated overhead signs demanded.

Sixty?

We should be so lucky! We did 30 or maybe  40 and were thankful for it.

Despite the gloomy grey sky, blanketed with bulging dark clouds, it was a damn sight more cheerful outside than in my  vehicle, having listened to three journalists who I usually hold in high regard. It was darker, gloomier, and worse inside than out.

For the first time ever, I had willfully switched off a Radio NZ political programme. Listening to three, privileged, well-paid, middle-class, pakeha professionals pontificating on the sins of a 23 year old young maori woman two decades ago was more than I could stomach.  Louder than ever, Herman Melville’s now-oft repeated quote bounced around inside my head;

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”

Maybe I’m wrong and I don’t know the full extent of the lives of Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – but that’s the point. We don’t know their lives.

The Inquisitors who have hounded and interrogated Ms Turei have done so with utter impunity as to how they lived their lives in their teens and twenties. Perhaps they lived their lives faultlessly.

Because – and here’s the point – the journalists and media personalities are not investigating anything Ms Turei did in her adult years, especially as a Member of Parliament.  They are scrutinising her past life.

It was a time when every single one of us cocks-up one way or another. (I certainly did. I haven’t worn my halo since puberty.)

Case in point; all three likened her transgression to lie to Social Welfare with Bill English’s rorting of the Ministerial Accomodation allowance in 2009;

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Note how then Dear Leader, John “Pull the Other One (pony tail)” Key phrased English’s deliberately rorting the system as an unfortunate distraction“.

At least Ms Turei never called her lying to Social Welfare as an unfortunate distraction“. Can you imagine the reaction of the Establishment Media?!?! They would have burned her alive at a stake on the Parliamentary forecourts.

But the point here is that Bill English was 48 when he rorted the Ministerial accomodation allowance.

Metiria Turei was 23.

Please Guyon Espiner, Lisa Owen, and Tim Watkin – tell us how they are remotely similar? If you can explain this to us, the Unwashed Masses, perhaps we can begin to glimpse your reasoning to hound this woman till she finally cracks and resigns.

Because I really, really, really want to understand.

The next complaint they had was the messy nature of Metiria Turei’s “back story”. Lisa Owen referred to “missing bits of her story” and “gaps” in her life.

Well, that’s a surprise, isn’t it?

That young people have messy lives that are often not tidy; not neatly packaged for future scrutiny; and often much of what we’ve done as young adults totally eludes our memories.

My own life has been “colourful” to put it mildly. Much of it I can recall. Much of it, I’ve forgotten or the details are hazy. If anyone asked me what I was doing when I was 23, I might offer basic facts – but certainly not details.

Most normal, rational, fair-minded people would find it  utterly unreasonable to expect the often chaotic lives of young people – especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap – to be recalled two decades later. Especially by an unrelenting media pack demanding minute details.

John Key’s “poor memory” was a standing joke in this country. The most famous example when he couldn’t recall the last time he had txt-messaged a far-right blogger. It had been only 24 hours previously. But he said he “forgot”;

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Screw that. We know he was a lying, manipulative con-man. But he got away with it because he ticked all the right boxes;

  • Establishment
  • Wealthy
  • Powerful
  • White
  • Male

On top of which, he was further rewarded with a knighthood. (I didn’t know liars were knighted.)

By contrast, Ms Turei was anything but but any of the above.

As  State House Tenant Advocate, Vanessa Kururangi, blogged recently;

If you’re brown, don’t dream of conquering mountains.
If you’re a woman, don’t you start having an opinion.
If you’re intelligent, play that shit down.
If you have stretch marks, you don’t stand a chance.
If you have aroha, don’t share it with others.
If you extend your arms, it had better not be for a handout.
If you have a voice, keep it zipped.
If you have a skeleton, best you bury the whole house, not just the closet.
Also, learn to lie.

“Learn to lie”. That last one is a lesson all our politicians have had beaten into their skulls by events  over the last two weeks. Lie like John Key when he “forgets” stuff. Tell the truth – and prepare to be excoriated.

None of which stopped Espiner, Owen, and Watkin from holding her to a higher standard than Key. None of them paused to think; “Hang on, are we really expecting too much from a young woman in her early 20s who lived like most young people who have no perception of long-term consequences?

They’ll deny it was a witch-hunt, of course. All of them will; Tracy Watkins, John Armstrong, Mike “I Love John” Hosking, Duncan Garner, and Patrick “I’m Holding The Line” Gower, as well as Espiner, Owen, and Watkin, and a few others who I cannot be bothered to list.  Otherwise known as the “Media Elite”.

But of course it was.

Meanwhile, stories of poverty continue in our daily media. There is much hand-wringing, soul-searching, and those same  Media Elite wanting answers to questions.

Metiria Turei may not have had the answers. But she knew the welfare system is broken and keeps people mired deeper in poverty, creating new cycles of despair, lack of hope, violence, hunger, disease…

Metiria Turei may not have revealed every intimate secret she had at the time. Why should she? Does poverty really mean having to give away your privacy so that privileged folk in the Middle Class can pass moral judgement on whether you are worthy of charity. That’s really going ‘Victorian’ on poor peoples’ asses.

Maybe it would be fairer if, when a Media Elite asks a poor person who they’ve been fucking recently, that Media Elite can swap his or her details at the same time?

Like this;

Patrick Gower: “So tell us, Wretched Poor Person, who’ve you been having sex with while on the DPB?”

Solo Mum: “I’ve had sex three times, Mr Gower, Sir, with the same person.”

Patrick Gower: “Away with you, Woman of Loose Morals!” [Turns to TV camera] “In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to say I had sex with my partner, Mary the Merino, but no suck luck. It’s just me and my right hand, folks. Now back to the studio.”

Too much information, right?

But that’s how much the media demands to scrutinise the lives of the poor – especially those on welfare. As if receiving a state benefit demands surrendering privacy.

In case certain individuals from the Media Elite believe I’m being crude and unfair – damn straight I am. The last two weeks have shown me what the new standards are. I’m quite capable of playing by those rules.

On the day that Ms Turei announced her resignation I was thoroughly ashamed to be a New Zealander.  I saw the nasty, vindictive, petty-minded elements of our society. And the Media Elite played along; encouraging it; enabling it.

A day later, as I talked to grass-roots Green Party supporters, and read the comments of other people on social media, I began to hear the voices of the better nature of New Zealanders.

And you know what, my “friends” in the Media Elite? You can’t do a damn thing about it. As “Bill” from The Standard wrote;

Something’s happening right under our noses in New Zealand and a fair few people are missing it. When Metiria Turei highlighted the fact that New Zealand’s Social Security system is deployed as a weapon against poor people, 30 years worth of pent up frustration and/or remembered experiences from innumerable people suddenly found an outlet.

Metiria Turei has started something. You can’t stop it.

You can’t stop us all.

 

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Postscript – Minister for Sheer Hypocrisy Speaks Out

Former welfare beneficiary and now Deputy PM, Paula “Good Time Party Girl” Bennett recently admonished Metiria Turei, lecturing her on the Protestant work ethic;

“ I was often on benefit, I had jobs and I was always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit.”

Which seems in stark contrast to an earlier remark that Bennett made to NZ Herald journalist, Amelia Romanos, in February 2012;

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

So, Bennett wasn’t “always trying to get off when I was on, because I wanted to work and didn’t want to be on a benefit“. Sometimes she got a bit tired.

What was that you were saying to Ms Turei, Minister Bennett?

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References

Radio NZ:  ‘Outside opponents want to see us fail’ – Metiria Turei

Electoral Commission: Enrol and Vote from Overseas

Radio NZ: How Metiria Turei saved the Labour Party (audio)(alt.link)

Radio NZ:  I will remember Metiria Turei differently

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

Mediaworks/Newshub:  John Key ‘genuinely couldn’t recall’ text messages

Radio NZ:  Deputy PM on Turei’s benefit dishonesty

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

The Spinoff:  The sins of Metiria, Bill and John – sense-checking the fact checkers

Other Bloggers

Gordon Campbell on the Turei finale

Bill:  Corbyn-esque NZ

Chris Trotter:  Avenge Metiria!

Vanessa Kururangi: “A Guide To Politics – Rules on How to Survive”

Curwen Rolinson:  Jacinda Effect > Metiria Affect – Why The Greens’ Polls Are Down

Previous related blogposts

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

The most grievous betrayal of all – two so-called “Green” MPs who should know better

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

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Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

7 August 2017 1 comment

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The media witch-hunt against Metiria Turei gathers pace with “Newshub” digging up another story about the Green co-leader. Shock! Horror! She lived at a different address to the one on the electoral roll so she could vote for her friend in the McGillicudy Serious Party.

Really?

This is the kind of superficial bullshit that has undermined real journalism in this country.

No wonder Donald Trump has struck a chord with people who view journalists with deep disdain.

No wonder other politicians are risk-averse  when it comes to telling the truth. No wonder former DPB beneficiary, and now National Minister, Paula Bennett may not have disclosed everything she did whilst on welfare. Who can blame her for keeping her head down?

In the meantime, families continue to live in garages, cars, or packed a dozen-deep in cramped, moldy houses. Homeless are dying in the streets. And Housing NZ is turfing out families in the middle of winter;

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My response to Newshub and Radio NZ this morning;

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Enough of this bullshit!

Metiria Turei put her career on the line by disclosing her past with WINZ.  It is time for activists to come to her aid and support her publicly.

Anyone wanting assistance writing letters to editors/media may contact me at fmacskasy@gmail.com and I will assist with wording and supplying email addresses.

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#iammetiria

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  More questions raised about Metiria Turei’s living situation

Twitter: Newshub – Metiria Turei

Radio NZ:  Crash victim’s family told to leave state house

Previous related blogpost

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

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

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A blighted future – The price of an apple

4 August 2013 11 comments

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Metropolis- Maria-children of the poor

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Sometimes, the most innocuous events bring you up hard against the realities of our modern life…

On the way home today (30 July) I stopped briefly at a supermarket to purchase a few items that we’d run out of at home.

Having found the half dozen items I needed, I waited patiently in the queue at the checkout. My mind was elsewhere – mostly pondering events at the anti-animal testing rally I had covered earlier in the day.

The woman in front of me paid for her goods and walked off.

As I moved to the eftpos terminal to pay for my items, I noticed an apple had been left in the trolley, and alerted the checkout operator that the customer had forgotten to take it  with her. The operator took the apple and placed it beside her monitor-screen and said,

“No, she left it. She couldn’t pay for it.”

I hadn’t realised. I’d been so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I had not noticed the incident (otherwise I would have happily paid for it myself). The checkout operator said that in the past she had often paid for shortfalls where people were obviously on low or fixed incomes, but she could no longer afford to do it.

On the low wage that many checkout operators earn, it is tragic that the poorest paid are trying to help those who are even worse of financially.

I took a cellphone pic of the apple, sitting by the operators monitor,

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apple at supermarket

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When peoples incomes are so stretched that they have to forego something as basic as one single apple, then we have arrived at a sorry state of affairs.

Is this to be  our “Bright New Future”? Or have we arrived at it, already?

And is this what people expected of our smile and wave Prime Minister?

Meanwhile, the NBR released it’s 2013 Rich List…

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rich list 2013

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 July 2013.

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

9 January 2013 3 comments

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

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

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

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Social welfare safety net

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On the other hand this is still the best country imn the world to be raised as a child - yeah, right.

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The rhetoric:

It started well… National’s bad old image as a “bene-bashing Party, pandering to the ill-educated; the mis-informed; and the downright  ignorant, appeared to be a thing of the past.

John Key was a product of a civilised society where social welfare could give kids from the most disadvantaged households a chance to better themselves.

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work.

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My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me. ” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

Key even seemed to “steal” policies from the centre-left Labour Party,

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Full story

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Perhaps National, under Key’s leadership, had learnt from it’s mistakes in the 1990s?

No such luck.

The Reality:

As the Global Financial Crisis plunged most of world’s nations (China and Australia being the two lucky exceptions) into recession, the ranks of the unemployted swelled.

As Brian Gaynor, executive director of Milford Asset Management,  wrote in the NZ Herald on 18 August 2012,

At the end of May, the 34-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent.

Nearly 48 million were out of work, 15 million more than when the financial crisis began in 2007.

The unemployment rate continues to rise in the eurozone and is now 11.1 per cent.

See: Baby boomers clogging the job market

Here in New Zealand, unemployment skyrocketted from 78,000 in late 2007/early 2008, to the current 175,000 – over a doubling in only four years.

That’s 97,000 who had jobs prior to the Global Financial Crisis who are now out of work.

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new zealand unemployment numbers jan 2007 - jan 2012

See: tradingeconomics.com – Unemployment numbers

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If it weren’t for the 114,200 who have migrated to Australia in the same four year period, soaking up thousands of potential jobless New Zealanders, one shudders at the unemployment rate we would now have (see related blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). Thank the mercies for our more affluent, and clever,  neighbour.

It’s fairly obvious to all but the most entrenched, bene-bashing, Talkback Radio moron that New Zealand has not escaped the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

National’s devotion to market-forces has caught Key, English, and Joyce in a  trap of their own making.  Their dogma dictates that the State “cannot create jobs” – only the Market can do that, as Key stated on several occassions,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key,  24 August 2012

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

When the “Market” fails to behave as neo-liberal doctrine demands – then there is a problem. National cannot admit that it’s free market policies have failed. (It took the Russians seventy years to finally concede that their centralised market policy had failed them.)

For the National politburo, who cannot concede Market failure, there must be another reason why jobless numbers are increasing – not decreasing. It must be the fault of those on welfare. The unemployed must be to blame, as the Market is never, ever wrong.

Accordingly, from early-2011 onward, National began a concerted campaign against those receiving welfare assistance. It was a vicious, de-humanising, de-moralising campaign against those whose only “crime” was,

  • having lost their jobs,
  • had little access to training or apprenticeship,
  • raising children on their own,
  • were sick, injured, or disabled

From 2011, we started seeing headlines like these in our media,

Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Baby turns one, so get to work mum (6 June 2011)

Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homes (13 June 2011)

Single mum on DPB for decades (20 Sept 2011)

Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum (21.2.2012)

Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ (8 May 2012)

Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs (12 May 2012)

And if local bene-bashing stories weren’t sufficient to drive home the agenda of demonising this sector of society, National and it’s media corporate-whores could always rely on some excellent shock-value stories from overseas,

Man who fathered 30 kids says he needs a break – on child support (21 May 2012)

This next one was very popular at Federated Farmers – that well-known bastion of liberal sensibilities. The way that Bill English played his audience of cow-cockies and sheep-herders, with a barely-disguised smirk on his face, spoke volumes…

Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted (28 June 2012)

Benefit cuts for drug users defended by PM (2 July 2012)

Said Paula Bennett,

There’s two words we don’t use often enough in this country and that’s self-responsibility. The size of someone’s family is their business, so long as they don’t expect someone else to pay for it.”

So saith the woman who was on the DPB; had free taxpayer funded tertiary education; gave up her part-time job at the time because it was “too hard”; and had WINZ assistance to buy her own home…

Big families mean big welfare dollars (15 July 2012)

Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’ (23 July 2012)

Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut (6 Sept 2012)

Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan (7 Sept 2012)

And to really, really make sure we’ve been paying attention to this Nazi-style demonisation propaganda,

Beneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime (12 Sept 2012)

And in case we missed it first time, Fairfax gave the political dagger-in-beneficiaries-backs another good, hard, twist,

Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion (12 Sept 2012)

Though Bill English promised, hand-on-heart, that this was not an exercise in “bene bashing,

Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’ (13 Sept 2012)

Then the Nats came up with the idea of a law change of  “one strike and you’re out”  for welfare beneficiaries who turned  down any “suitable” job offer from July 2013. Which would be laughable, because both Key and Bennett  have conceded that there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone.

So what would be the point of a “one strike and you’re out” for the unemployed, except to paint them as “work shy” and “lazy”?

Propaganda. Nasty stuff.

‘One strike’ rule for beneficiaries (18 Sept 2012)

Funny thing… the media never compared welfare beneficiaries entitlements with that of politicians. How many beneficiaries get free air-travel for the rest of their lives for themselves and their spouses? Or a gold-plated superannuation scheme none of us are entitled to?

Those were just some of the media stories and headlines that assaulted our sensibilities and attempted to paint the unemployed  – the victims of the GFC – as “bene bludgers”.

All because National could not cope with the growing numbers of Kiwis losing their jobs, and had no plan to address growing unemployment.

So default to Setting ‘B’: Blame the Benes.

When Key stated that the most recent jobless stats – 7.3% unemployed –  had “come as a bit of a surprise” (see: Unemployment surges to 13-year high ), he obviously had not been paying attention to yearly figures from New Zealand Statistics.

Jobless numbers had ‘only’  been rising since the beginning of 2012,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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The scary headlines above were only partially offset by other media stories of New Zealand’s increasingly visible ‘underbelly’. Poverty was no longer staying behind closed doors, away from “polite society”,

Hungry kids scavenge pig slops (11 May 2012)

Welfare rejig carries whiff of hypocrisy (12 May 2012)

Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless (13 May 2012)

The same hate-campaign was being conducted overseas,

Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control (18 May 2012)

No food, no shoes and kids kept home (23 May 2012)

Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels (30 May 2012)

And then we came to the attention of the United Nations. Quasi-nazism – not exactly the “cool look” we want for New Zealand and it’s tourism industry,

Struggling families borrow to buy food (21 July 2012)

UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries (2 Aug 2012)

Principal wants taxpayers to fund breakfast scheme (12 Aug 2012)

Ministry memo critical of plan to drug test beneficiaries (17 Aug 2012)

Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU  (24 Aug 2012)

Playing politics is not helping kids (26 Aug 2012)

Even multi-millionaire, Gareth Morgan, had to state the bloody obvious for those voters who were still less-than-fully-brain-functional,

Bennett accused of dehumanising beneficiaries (6 Sept 2012)

Precious little sense on Planet Paula (17 Sept 2012)

Belt tightening won’t reduce unemployment (23 Sept 2012)

Experts lament state of NZ child poverty (24 Sept 2012)

And when the Nats did try to address a social problem, the result would have been comical – had the issue of murdered children reminded us what was at stake,

Child-abuse funds ‘blown on hype’ (1 Dec 2012)

Social welfare – the stats:

From the Ministry of Social Development’s website;

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Numbers of working-age clients1 receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 – 2012

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End of quarter

Unemployment Benefits 2 Domestic Purposes Benefits 3

Sickness Benefits 4

Invalid’s Benefits Other main benefits 5 All main benefits
September 2002

112,147

109,078

37,275

64,596

21,613

344,709

September 2003

94,527

109,366

40,802

68,361

19,366

332,422

September 2004

65,764

109,021

44,110

4,067

17,624

308,158

September 2005

50,153

105,692

46,067

73,813

16,440

292,165

September 2006

41,027

100,579

47,527

75,988

17,026

282,147

September 2007

23,158

96,673

48,995

78,268

16,140

263,234

September 2008

23,273

98,473

48,208

83,618

16,036

269,608

September 2009

60,660

107,658

56,384

85,015

17,094

326,811

September 2010

65,281

112,765

58,661

85,305

16,200

338,212

September 2011

55,661

114,147

58,651

84,524

15,513

328,496

September 2012

50,390

110,738

59,595

83,570

16,649

320,942

Notes:

1 This report defines working-age clients as aged 18 – 64 years, to reflect the minimum age of entitlement of most benefits and the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

2 Comprises Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Benefits – Hardship.

3 Comprises Domestic Purposes Benefits – Sole Parent, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Care of Sick or Infirm, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Women Alone, and Emergency Maintenance Allowances.

4 Comprises Sickness Benefits and Sickness Benefits – Hardship.

5 Comprises Emergency Benefits, Independent Youth Benefits, Youth Payments, Young Parent Payments, Unemployment

Benefits – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Hardship – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Student Hardship, Widow’s Benefits, and (until April 2004) Transitional Retirement Benefits. Youth Payments and Young Parent Payments replaced Independent Youth Benefits from August 2012.

Source: MSD – September 2012

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Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis.  Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate.

Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis. Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate. The rising red line, signifying Sickness/Invalid beneficiaries is linked to ACC discharging it’s clients onto welfare, to make their own books “look good”.

Source: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

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Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Source: IBID

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The above data yields three interesting observations;

#1 Beneficiary numbers mirror Global Financial Crisis

Unsurprisingly, the numbers receiving social welfare benefits shot up just after the Global Financial Crisis hit New Zealand’s economy,  impacting on employment. The effects of the GFC continue to this day to create redundancies and unemployment throughout the country.

Low-information voters and the lunatic right-wing fringe element in our society maintain the fantasy that welfare is a “lifestyle choice”, where beneficiaries are attracted by “big money” paid out in benefits.

Not only are welfare payments usually abysmally low (just barely sufficient to survive on) – but the stats above clearly show the correlation between the GFC and rising beneficiary recipients.

There were 51,334 more people receiving welfare benefits in September 2012 than there were in September 2008. This increase can be sheeted home to,

  • the Global Financial Crisis destroying jobs,
  • National’s lack of proactive job creation policies helping to push up unemployed numbers,
  • ACC’s policies with regards to to injured and sick (see below).

Such is the folly of relying on the “Market” to deliver jobs.

Such is the hypocrisy of Bennett, Key, English, Joyce, et al, who blame welfare beneficiaries for being out of work – and threatening them with all manner of sanctions.

#2 Overall beneficiaries are down

Surprisingly, those receiving welfare benefits up to September 2012 still number 23,767 fewer than September 2002. Overall beneficiary numbers are not increasing anywhere as much as what Paula Bennett, John Key, and their right wing fellow-travellers are insisting.

There are two possible reasons for this.

Firstly, 114,200 (net) New Zealanders left our shores for Australia from 2009 to 2012 (see previous blogpost:  Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration). Many left to find work overseas. These migrants might have added to unemployed and solo-parent  welfare recipient numbers, had they stuck around here in New Zealand.

Secondly, see #3 below.

#3 Unemployment Benefits vs Household Labourforce Survey Unemployed

It is a ‘quirk’ of New Zealand’s welfare system that married or de facto couples cannot receive welfare assistance if one should loose his/her job, but the other remains in paid work.

On the other hand, two people not in a relationship (eg; flatting in the same house), are eligible for welfare should one become unemployed and the other remains in-work.

There seems no logic to this contradictory situation and is even more unfair when one considers that the married/de facto couple both paid taxes, prior to one losing his/her job. That’s New Zealand’s bizarre welfare rules for you.

Which may explain why those receiving Unemployment Benefits from WINZ numbered  50,390 in September 2012 – whilst the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) recorded 175,000 unemployed people (see:  Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter).

WINZ records only those paid an Unemployment Benefit.

The HLFS records everyone, within a more inclusive criteria, irrespective of whether they receive a benefit or not.

Addendum 1:

Interestingly, the figures above  for Invalid and Sickness Beneficiaries rose significantly from 2009. This ties in with a NZ Herald report, dated 23 June 2012,

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The proportion of long-term ACC clients moving on to benefits has surged since the corporation adopted a tough new stance, which has fuelled allegations that they are being forced off compensation before they are rehabilitated.

Figures supplied by the corporation yesterday also show it has slashed the number of long-term claimants on its books by a quarter since mid-2009.

[…]

But yesterday’s figures show that the proportion of long-term claimants leaving ACC and going on to health-related, unemployment or domestic purposes benefits rose sharply from early 2009.

In the five years to 2008, the proportion going on to benefits was 12.1 per cent, but during 2009 that rose to 16.4. In the first five months of 2010, the most recent data held by ACC, the proportion rose to 19.4 per cent.

ACC figures also showed the corporation had reduced the number of long-term claimants on its books by 3644 or 25 per cent to 10773 in the three years since June 2009. That reduction is well ahead of ACC’s targets.

See: More ACC clients going on to welfare

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Throughout all these events which are beyond the influence and control of the unemployed, solo-parents, widows, invalids, sick, etc, National’s demonisation of those on welfare has been  a shocking indictment of  John Key’s leadership.

What is it in the mental make-up of politicians like Paula Bennett, John Key, Steven Joyce, and Bill English, that treating those who have lost their jobs, or looking after children,  as  “bludgers” is morally acceptable?

Especially when they must have access to precisely the same information that I, as a blogger, have.

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Benefit myth busting

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Addendum 2:

National’s response to unemployment is the introduction of “reforms” to social welfare legislation,

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday introduced the second round of reform legislation.

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill replaces the current benefits with three new categories: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment.

It also includes provisions allowing payments to be cut if beneficiaries fail a drug test, have an outstanding arrest warrant, or if parents who do not meet “social obligations” for getting their children into health and education programmes.

See: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

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As Bennett admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

The question that begs to be asked: how many new jobs will this create?

Addendum 3:

So what did happen to National Food In Schools programme, that it launched with such fanfare in February 2007?

Not surprisingly, Key’s attitude seems to have gone through a Reverse Road to Damascus Experience,

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Key in poverty 'la la land'

Full story

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Govt guarded on free school meals

Full story

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But then, going from Opposition to Government will do that to politicians.

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Social Welfare Safety Net

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

9 January 2013 6 comments

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

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

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

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Crime

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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The rhetoric

We also need to ensure there is effective policing in all parts of our cities and in all areas of the country. We will not tolerate violence and antisocial behaviour. Under a National government, gangs will not be controlling neighbourhoods so posties can’t even deliver the daily mail.

The tragic events surrounding the parole of Graeme Burton show that Labour’s law and order policies seem to be based on the rights of criminals.

Let me say that under National, the parole system will be focused on protecting innocent Kiwis from hardened, unrepentant and dangerous criminals. Under any government I lead there will be no parole for repeat violent offenders.

We will do more than that to improve our criminal justice system, but for today let me send the clearest of messages. Those who break the laws of our society destroy the fabric of The Kiwi Way. No government I lead will put up with that. ” – John Key, 30 January 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

Law and order is to National what environmentalism is to the Greens; it’s ‘raw meat’ for their conservative constituents – many of whom have little understanding nor interest in the root causes of crime. Poverty, unemployment; a growing wealth gap; hopelessness; alienation – these are   inconceivable to many National supporters.

So Key and his National  cronies, spin doctors, and Party strategists are on solid ground when it comes to this issue. Throw in a bit of beneficiary bashing…

We also have a serious and growing problem with long-term welfare dependency.”

See: IBID

And a bit of brown bashing…

I don’t think that’s necessary and I think my view is widely held by a lot of New Zealanders. If it was holding New Zealand back, sure we could arguably go and do that but that’s not where I see these things going. He can make any claims he likes. The Maori King entitled to a different view to mine, it doesn’t mean I’m culturally ignorant.

I don’t think it’s right. If someone wants to take that land grab, they can give it a go.

See: Government could nationalise water – Key

… and the Nats are practically guaranteed the government. Never underestimate the casual racism of a significant sector of our society.

This racism plays into the hands of National who regularly tap such latent conservative streaks in our society for their own political agenda.

More rhetoric

The Government is committed to keeping New Zealanders safe – on our streets and in our communities. We’ve delivered the lowest crime rate in 30 years, but we want to continue to keep driving the crime rate down.” – John Key, 3 July 2012

See: Prime Minister welcomes first action plan

Key has taken credit for a “drop” in crime on several occassions this year. But is he telling the truth? Telling lies? Or bending the truth and misrepresenting the facts to suit his Party’s agenda?

Let’s check the stats from NZ Police, shall we?

Crime trends for the year ending June 2008,

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Crime Statistics year ending 30 June 2008 - New Zealand Police

Source

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And crime trends up to 2012,

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NZ Crime Statistics 2011-2012

Source

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And guess what…?

The trends clearly show a gradual reduction of reported crime since 1996/97.

For Key to claim this as a “success” for his administration reminds us, yet again, that the man will bend the truth to suit his demands. Quite simply, the drop in crime has been ongoing for the last sixteen years and has little to do with Dear Leader and his Party’s policies.

Reported crime was also dropping druring the 2000-08 Labour-led government.

Will John Key take credit for that “success” as well?

Addendum

If, as data shows, and as Key has been crowing, crime has been steadily reducing since 1996, why is National committing to spending $300 million for a new prison at Wiri, South Auckland, and a further $540 million to operate and maintain? That is $840 million of our taxes that could be better invested in upgrading delapidated state houses and raising this country’s children out of poverty.

See: Fletcher signs $300m Wiri prison contract

Could it be that the motivation lies with providing a profitable Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) with Fletcher Building,  Serco, Spotless Facility Services,  John Laing, InfraRed, Accident Compensation Corporation, and  Macquarie Capital? That’s nearly $1 billion going to private corporations for a prison we seem not to need.

Who sez crime doesn’t pay?

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Report_Card_Crime

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Identifying a hypocrite in three easy steps.

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Source

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2.

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Full story

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3.

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Full story

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So poverty is a result of  “poor choices”?

I guess that justifies Dear Leader John Key turning his back on society’s most vulnerable. After all,  “poor choices” justifies blaming the poor for being poor, instead of having $50 million in their bank account.

So Mr Key, how did that free tertiary education and subsidised state house work out for you?

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Categories: Social Issues Tags: , ,

Guest Author: Citizen Meegan’s submission to Parliament – hand’s off our stuff!

Meegan Manuka (aka, Madd Hatter)

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. Kia Ora,

My name is Meegan Manuka and I am a Whanganui local here to talk to you about the purposed changes to the mixed ownership model act and the sale of our state owned assets.

On the 9th of February I attended a so called, “iwi consultation” at Whanganui racecourse.  And after seeing the drama that unfolded and learning what is being planned, I am concerned, very concerned.

Soon after I arrived at this meeting, the drama began. We had iwi met and manhandled by police and forced away from the door, locked out and prevented from entering. The curtains were then drawn to stop all inside the venue seeing what was happening.

I got up and opened the curtains to allow full view of the injustice outside. I walked to the door and asked the Maori warden guarding the door why the iwi were not allowed inside. He told me he was instructed to keep them outside because they were carrying tinorangatiratanga flags…

What happened to freedom of expression? Is this country becoming a police state? This consultation was not a true and fair representative debate. The full spectrum of iwi opinion and philosophy and the voices of those iwi wanting to enter were not heard. How can national even claim to have considered the view of iwi during this “consultation” if the iwi are not even allowed in to participate in the debate in the first place?

To further clarify my question, how can you claim to have consulted with and considered iwi views when some of the iwi were purposefully denied the right to participate and lend their voice to the consultation process? Their voices were NOT heard, their views were not considered, and they were not allowed to be a part of the consultation. This is twisted and unethical.

Anyway, I was one of the lucky ones allowed inside; maybe I look like I’m less of a threat…
Upon arrival I was given a booklet. This booklet actually. “EXTENSIONS OF THE MIXED OWNERSHIP MODEL ETC”.

After leaving the meeting I set about analysing this booklet and to say it made me angry is an understatement.

A lot of emphasis was put on section 9 of the SOE act both on the news and at the meeting.  On page 5 of this booklet it states, “Section 9 of the SOE Act provides that NOTHING IN THIS ACT shall permit the crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the principals of the treaty of waitangi…” well this sounds fine and dandy doesn’t it… until nek minute I read this… “To proceed with the mixed ownership model, the government purposes to remove the four state owned enterprises from the ambit of the state owned enterprises Act…” which means… in reality, all this section 9 stuff is just a smoke screen and yes, you have kept section 9 in the SOE act, but that is totally irrelevant because those four companies are being removed from the SOE act anyway. This is totally misleading.

Trickkky monkeyyss….

It then goes on to say on page 6 that, “no other investor will be able to hold more than ten per cent of the shares in each company which will help ensure widespread ownership.”

Sounds good, until I read page 8… “…although trustee corporations and nominee companies that hold shares on behalf of other persons may be exempt from the ten per cent limit.” Once again you tricky monkeys… why didn’t you tell us that in the first place unless you are planning something dodgy?

Now, THIS is the bit made me furious… page 8…Section 27AD… to provide a regime… wow regime is the right word isn’t it?… a regime for memorials to be placed on the titles of land that is transferred by the crown to SOE’s… THIS LAND MUST BE RESUMED BY THE CROWN IF THE WAITANGI TRIBUNAL MAKES A RECOMMENDATION FOR ITS RETURN TO MAORI OWNERSHIP…

Now, if the waitangi tribunal says give the land to Maori the crown keeps it?

I guess this might have something to do with the fact that over 7000 hectares of Tuhoe land is now listed as “no owner”…. Yeah, you heard right, 7000 HECTARES of Maori land has recently been listed as “NO OWNER…” and the owners can’t do anything about it…

We’ve seen a lot of this slight of hand politics lately and it sets a dangerous president.  Politicians need to remember who pays you… WE PAY YOU… to do what we tell you to do.

There hasn’t been enough REAL consultaion with the people. And I’m not only talking about the iwi consultation now, I’m talking in consultation in general.  As a concerned citizen I believe that this is a rouge government and is not acting in the best interests of New Zealanders.

But I guess fundamentally it’s very easy to see why.

On the first day of parliament, MP’s are sworn in. They are presented with a piece of paper by the clerk of the house which they have to parrot. It reads…

I … insert name here… solemnly sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bare true allegiance to her majesty queen Elizabeth the second, her Aires and successors according to law…” what good little parrots…

Do you not realise that by swearing allegiance to the Crown you are inadvertently NOT swearing allegiance to the people of New Zealand…and are therefore not acting in our best interests… us, the people who go to work every day to pay for the millions of dollars of debt you are incurring in our names every week???

So where does that leave us, the very people who voted you in and whose taxes pay your obscene pay rises, world trips and salaries?

I’ll tell you where it leaves us, in debt… Too broke to pay for milk, can’t afford to go to a dentist…power prices going up, poisoned by polluted water and air from cancer causing fracking emissions, emissions like benzene, that are not even included in the emissions trading scheme , stuck in a never ending February 22nd, living in an unsafe green zoned house or kicked out of a safe red zoned house or fined $200,000, having our EQC claim lost for the fifth time… locked out of our work and starving for protesting about unsafe work conditions, beaten into submission by police… police who should be protecting us… while peacefully protesting the removal of our state owned home of 60 years… paying diligently towards our retirement only to find out that we are investing in a super fund that is spending our money on BOMBS and tobacco companies!!!

This is not the New Zealand I want for our kids…

We need to be world leaders and innovators for them, not sheep who bend over backwards and submit to the self-destructive patterns of other counties…. Instead we need to learn from their mistakes. We need to shift away from living on our land to living with it.

We have to think about what sort of world we are leaving behind for our children, they are 30% of our population and 100% of our future… we need to leave some for them.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to leave them in an oily, gassy, debt-ridden, over-regulated drought of a mess that can’t be cleaned up. We need to turn this around now.

I demand a transparent honest government, one that won’t trick us and will give us the opportunity to be heard and the right to fair process.

One that doesn’t put the value of a dollar in their own wallets over the value of kiwi lives.

One that adopts new and existing, more financially viable and environmentally sustainable technology that can reduce our emmissons by up to 80% instead of relying on over century old polluting technology.

I want a government that thinks about our kids, and their future.

I motion a vote of no confidence in this rouge government.

And if National is so confident that they are doing what is right and they have the support of Kiwis, I also ask for a referendum about the sale of state owned assets.  New Zealand, Aotearoa, everyone in this room… it is time to stand up and remind them who the real bosses are.

No reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra koutou katoa.

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Related Blogposts

February 7 (Part Tahi)

February 7 (Part Rua)

February 7 (Part Toru)

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The fuse is lit…

13 February 2012 2 comments

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The social bomb of poverty is lit

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One of the inescapable consequences of poverty;  over-crowding and damp housing; poor nutrition; and unaffordable healthcare,

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It is interesting that Dr Baker says,

“Maybe we should be using the same approach to deal with all infectious diseases in children.”

A basic thing would be a housing warrant of fitness that covers health, safety and sustainability issues, a bit like the five-star approach with appliances.” He believes that could be run by the Auckland Council.”

A “warrant of fitness” for rental housing is precisely what Jazmine Heka is calling for in one of her petitions. Good, decent, housing would go a long way to preventing the spread of some infectious disease. Bryan Bruce pointed this out to us last year, in his excellent documentary, last year.

Taxpayers and landlords of good housing might care to note that they are subsidising bad landlords with sub-standard accomodation. Bad landlords collect the rent – but we taxpayers foot the medical bill for their tenants who become sick.

If middle-class New Zealanders believe that this issue does not affect them -let me dis-abuse them of that delusion.

Disease bacteria and virii make no distinction between social classes.

Disease bacteria and virii do not care if you live in Epsom or South Auckland.

Disease bacteria and virii care not one jot what your income or bank balance is.

If Mr Smith from North Shore walks past Ms Jones from Otara; and one is carrying an infectious disease and coughs as you walk past each other – congratulations. You’ve just been infected.

Or, pushing a trolley through a supermarket. You’d be surprised at the grime and micro-organisms on supermarket trolley handles. So the previous handler sneezed, and gripped the trolley? Now you have the same trolley?

Congratulations. You’ve just been infected.

Your child goes to the same school as someone from an over-crowded house, where measles, rheumatic fever,  or meningitis is rampant? Congratulations – you and/or your children are  going to be sick.

Poverty related disease do not respect socio-economic divisions or suburban boundaries.

If the middle classes believe they are immune, simply because they live in a “nice street”; drive the latest model Holden; and have a very generous income – think again.

The time bomb fuse is lit. The first major outbreak of measles has already happened. The next disease may be lethal and result in many grieving families.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the way of our country. We wait for a few fatalities and rising death toll before we are spurred to action. Until then… *shrug*

This is simply not good enough.

If we aspire to be a developed, civilised society – a First World nation – then standing idly by while disease like rheumatic fever continue to spread through our community is simply unacceptable.  As a society, we are not doing enough to prevent these diseases from spreading – and we will pay dearly for our inaction.

For one thing, we need to take firm responsibility for ensuring the availability of good, decent housing,

  • Private rentals need to be maintained at a standard that is healthy for tenants. Having (some) private landlords pass-the-buck, and shove the cost of their inaction onto the public heathcare system (ie; the taxpayer) is unacceptable.
  • Government must build more State housing. Many low income families simply cannot afford private rents – the “market” has failed those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap. The State must step in and pay for new housing – or it will pay for increased health costs. One way or another, society will pay.
  • Government must implement a cross-Party action-plan to address this quietly, simmering crisis. Playing politics whilst Aotearoa burns (through rheumatic fever) is nothing less than criminal negligence. These people were elected to Parliament to work for the good of this country, and it’s time they sat down around a table and got down to some serious, constructive planning,

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John Key

David Shearer

Winston Peters

Metiria Turei – Russell Norman

Pita Sharples – Tariana Turia

Hone Harawira

John Banks

Peter Dunne

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John Key is paid $411,510 per annum. Cabinet Ministers are paid $257,800.  It’s time they started earning those very nice salaries, instead of  sitting on their hands and playing silly-buggers across the Debating Chamber.

I refuse to believe that we do not have the collective wit to address poverty in this country.

Because make no mistake; every time a child dies in New Zealand through preventable poverty-related disease, those who I hold  accountable are those who make grand pledges at  election time and promise all manner of good things to us, to win our votes.

I hold these people to account!!!

If, like me, you are feeling enough is enough, leave your thoughts on John Key’s Facebook page. (Don’t worry, the SIS won’t come after you.)

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Party like it’s Nineteen Fifty Two!!

1 January 2012 7 comments

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Superintendent Paula Rose, the public face of road safety policing in this country, reported that the road toll for last year (2011) was the lowest on record since 1952. Certainly, 284 fatalities is a remarkable feat when compared to the 800+ that was killed in just one year alone in the decade of the 1970s.

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Source

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Even more remarkable when the population was almost half what it is now, and with a lower vehicle-fleet on the roads,

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About now, you might be wondering what this piece has to do with politics.

It’s quite simple.

The drop in road crashes, fatalities, and demands on our hospital services was not a natural occurrence that happened spontaneously.

The lowest road toll since 1952 – despite a steady increase in population, vehicle fleet, roads, and social mobility– happened because society and successive governments took decisive measures to achieve certain objectives.

Through a mix of advertising campaigns; tough legislation; proactive policing; and measures that extended into every aspect of our lives, work, recreational pursuits, etc – society acted collectively to meet desired outcomes.

The free market; individualism; neo-liberal ideology had zero part to play in reducing the road toll from 800+ in the 1970s to 284, last year. If anything, laws that were enforced regarding,

  • reducing drink-driving
  • wearing seat belts
  • reducing speed
  • outlawing cellphone usage whilst driving
  • toughening up on vehicle WoF safety
  • etc

… all played a part in ensuring that 500 people are alive today that – had the road toll not changed – would be dead and in the ground, or scattered ashes, last year. This is where the Cult of the Individual and the Free Market falls down badly. Not with just road safety – but the needs of society as a whole. Those who decry the collective action taken to reduce the road toll as “Nanny Statism” might care to reflect that they themselves could have ended up as a statistic in a walnut coffin.

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Instead, the collective action of governments and community action has kept them alive.

The amazing reduction of the road toll is a vivid example of what  society can achieve when it works together, for the common good.

The enacting of laws; diligent policing; ubiquitous advertising campaigns; and communities that had had enough of losing loved ones to an endless series of horrific crashes – achieved a goal of saving lives. It was (and still is!) an incredibly complex programme – but determination from government; enforcement agencies; and communities working  in unison made it happen.

Imagine if we, as a nation, and starting with good leadership from the community, determined that our goals for the next few years would be;

  • eliminating poverty
  • creating jobs
  • reducing the wealth-gap
  • ensuring a healthy environment for our children

In a previous Blog piece entitled New Year’s Wish List for 2012, I outlined just such goals. A correspondent, Debbie -bless her heart – asked,

However, what are the chances?”

I think the chances are about the same as the magnificent achievement that Superindentant Paula Rose was congratulating us for.

There is no reason on Earth why the four goals above cannot be made into reality.

The benefits would be as positive as reducing the road toll and our country would truly be the envy of the world.

What are the chances, Mr Key? Mr Shearer?

And will you rely on the free market to do it? Because as sure as evolution made little green apples – it wasn’t the free market that saved 500+ people from the grave last year.

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Additional

Inside Child Poverty

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)

From “Nanny State” to “Daddy State”…

I don’t think there’s much question that  serious social problems in this country  are not being addressed in any meaningful way by this current government…

So is the Prime Minister, John Key, really  aware of what is actually going on in New Zealand right now?  Well, judge for yourself…

So what is National doing about soaring youth unemployment?

At their recent Conference, held in Wellington, they came up with this…

(Article abbreviated)

They’re going to clamp down on booze and cigarettes?!?!

That’s it?

Oh good lord! And people thought that Labour was “Nanny Statist”?!?!

I wonder who will be next to feel the iron fist of National’s Polit-buro state control? The retired? Civil Servants? Anyone using state hospitals???

Congratulations, my fellow New Zealanders: we have gone past Nanny State to Big Brother.

It might be worthwhile considering that,

  • Not all unemployed youth smoke
  • Not all unemployed youth drink
  • Even if they do,  Key says that they will still receive “a limited amount of money for young people to spend at their discretion“.  Like… on booze and ciggies?!
  • Even if they won’t have enough “discretionary pocket money” – what is to stop them stealing it? Or selling their Food Card for cash, and then buying ciggies and booze?

In the meantime, how many jobs will this piece of neo-Nanny Statism create?

The answer, I submit, is:

Even the NZ Herald was quick to acknowledge this simple fact in their August 16 editorial,

Yet there is also nothing in the Prime Minister’s announcement that creates jobs for young people. There, the Government still has work to do.”

Meanwhile, as National blames the young unemployed of this country for the world recession, and proposes to penalise them by tinkering with their only means of survival – the problem continues unabated,

The last time youth unemployment was this high was in 1992…

1992?

Wasn’t that the previous National government led by Jim Bolger, with Ruth Richardson as Minister of Finance? And didn’t she implement a slash and burn economic policy in her “Mother of All Budgets” that resulted in unemployment reaching over 10%?!?!

Why, yes. It was.

Are we starting to see a pattern develop here, folks?

It is abundantly clear that National has no clue how to address this problem. Attacking welfare benefits which keep people from starving to death, or more likely, breaking into our homes to find food, is not an answer. It is a cheap shot geared toward winning votes from uneducated voters who hold the illusion that living on a benefit is a cosy arrangement (it is not).

There are no policies being announced to create jobs, or to train young people into a trade or profession.

National should be throwing open the doors of our polytechs to train young people into tradespeople that the community desperately needs. With the re-building of Christchurch shortly to commence – where are the necessary tradespeople going to come from? (Most have buggered of to Australia.)

If this is the best that National can come up with, then, my fellow New Zealanders, we are in deep ka-ka.

Meanwhile…

Dr Mapp said the research science and technology was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country.

“To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in global markets.”

The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9m and run for three years.

They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4m a year for three years.

Dr Mapp said they provide the businesses involved with more financial security over that period.

Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in  software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics.

Wellington companies which received grants:

Core Technology: $629,400

Open Cloud: $2,394,920

Xero: $4,040,000

Xero was founded by Rod Drury in 2006,  who made $65 million in the same year after selling his email archiving system AfterMail. Xero purchased Australian online payroll company,  Paycycle, in July of this year for A$1.5 million.

Which begs the question as to why the government has given away $4 million of tax-payers money when the owner is ‘flush’ with $65 million and has enough capital to buy off-shore  companies elsewhere.

Is this a prudent use of tax-payers’ money,  especially when,

* government is cutting back on social services?

* government has cut back on youth training programmes?

* government is borrowing $380 million a week, and telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts”?

At a time when government is berrating unemployed 16 and 17 year olds for being on the dole and  “smoking ciggies”, instead of  providing meaningful training and/or employment, it seems that National is still “picking winners” in the field of commerce.

$4 million could go a long way in providing training, and a future, for many 16 year olds.

By contrast, how much do young people, living away from home, recieve from WINZ? It must be a grand sum, to earn the Prime Minister’s stern attention. The answer is:

It’s a shame they’re not “picking winners”  with our unemployed youth.

And so it came to pass…

12 August 2011 4 comments

It is a basic tenet of belief, amongst the Left, Liberals, and Social Democrats, that everything in a society is inter-connected, whether we like it or not.  That inter-connection applies as much to macro-economics and  governmental policies as it does to how much money you and I have in our pockets to spend.

Accordingly, where there are severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness – which co-exists with a consumerist society; upwardly mobile professionals; and wealth accumulated by a small minority – there is a powder keg of frustration waiting to explode.

Four days ago, the explosion happened in London.

It was predictable.

And the UK’s  “Guardian” newspaper did predict it, here,

Note the date: Friday, 29 July:  one week before the riotting exploded onto London’s streets.

The article describes severe cut-backs to various local community groups. These are the groups trying to pick up, and hold together, the fragmented pieces of a society stressed by the inhuman forces of neo-liberalism.  As unemployment escalates and even the safety net of the welfare system is cut back – wealth continues to accumulate in the hands of a privileged few.

Unfortunately, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, just doesn’t seem to get it,

This is not about poverty, this is about culture,’ David Cameron told parliament. ‘In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.

The man is either deluded, or is playing to a very angry public audience.

In case my fellow New Zealanders believe that the powder-keg of social unrest cannot happen in Godzone, it may do us well to reflect in the following;

»  We have a National-led government that is pursuing policies similar to the Conservative-led government in the UK; cutbacks; attacks on welfare beneficiaries; resisting wage-growth; opening up the economy to foreign control; and not addressing unemployment in this country in any meaningful way.

»  Tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010 benefitted the highest income earners in the country. Those on the bottom recieved not just less in tax cuts – but found themselves paying more for food, goods, and services as GST increased from 12.5% to 15%.

»  The top 150 wealthiest individuals in New Zealand increased their wealth  from $38.2 billion to $45.2b – about a 20 percent increase.

»  Unemployment is still high, at 6.5%. Youth unemployment in NZ is at nearly 18%. The figure for Maori (25%) and Pacific Islanders (28%) remains high.

»  Government is cutting back on social services; reducing government workers via forced redundancies; and has launched an election-year campaign targetting welfare recipients.

»  Despite the devastation in Christchurch, employment in the construction sector actually  fell by 12,700 people compared to a year ago.

As Irish comedian, Andrew Maxwell put it, so very succinctly,

“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper. “

In essence, the same conditions that exist in Britain, as ouitlined in the “Guardian” article – exist here in New Zealand (though probably not yet on the same scale).

The riots on the other side of the world should serve as a salient warning to us all; society cannot endure severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness  – without consequence.

With the economic mess in Europe and a near-bankrupt United States, it is obvious that the unfettered unregulated “free market” has left us all much worse off. The neo-liberal experiment is as much a failure in economic ideology as the old Soviet marxist-leninism. Both are extremes. Both are inflexible and thus vulnerable to crises. Neither offer a practical solution to the demands of society and commerce.

The question is – do our leaders have the wit to realise this?

Or more important still – do we?

And what are we going to do about it?