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Life in Lock Down: Day 4

30 March 2020 26 comments

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Lock Down: Day 4 – A photo essay with observations

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March 29: Usual wake up routine as RNZ snaps on my radio-clock. Jim Mora’s voice slowly enters my conciousness; there’s talk of a second wave of covid19 taking hold in South Korea; the week in Parliament – not that there’s been much activity in the Debating Chamber; the plight of New Zealanders stuck in Peru and having to pay extortionate prices for return air flights (even if air flights *ARE* available)…

It is raining heavily outside. My back yard will be a swamp fit for pukekos. I am relieved; this will keep people inside.

Lurch out of bed… jug on… feed companion animal (double check to make sure I give her cat food and not my coffee)… prepare for Q+A  on TVNZ. Breakfast is figs and peanut butter on rye toast again (which I love)… Coffee ready… note pad… tablet…

Jack Tame’s eternally youthful visage appears on screen. He tells the nation there were eightythree new cases yesterday, taking the numbers up to 451. He wonders if this is going to be the “new normal”…

He presents his guests for the day… his first guest, Minister of Health David Clark.

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Though nothing really new  through the interview, Minister Clark did drive home the most basic point;

“Ultimately it’s in our hands… I’ve heard reports of people playing touch rugby or going into business that are non-essential. That cannot continue. We have zero tolerance for that kind of thing going on. If people do those kinds of things we will need to stay in lockdown longer because that behaviour affects all of us. So we’re asking every New Zealander to play their part.

… It’s about staying home, staying safe, and ultimately that will save lives.”

The problem of community workers without protective gear was raised. These are essential support professionals who are often faced with numbers of clients – without any protection at all.

Jack’s next guest, Professor Shaun Hendy, an expert in modelling pandemic spread;

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Jack opened describing a “morbid alternative. Researchers researchers at Auckland University say that without intervention or preventative measures as many as eighty thousand New Zealanders could have died from Covid19”.

Professor Hendy expressed concern at potential growth of community transfers: locals inadvertently transferring the virus as they continued to ignore strict rules for personal “bubbles. He warned;

“It could get very bad… the 80,000 figure that was the kind of the worst case scenario that we were looking at; we’re not facing that now we’re taking these steps. But we still have to be… still a possibility that we could have tens of thousands of deaths.

But, given the steps the government is taking, given the lockdown they’re taking, that’s reducing the possibility of that happening all the time.

By going into lockdown, us keeping to our bubbles, we’re protecing ourselves, by not having contact with other people who might be infected. But also if we do get infected then we’re reducing the number of people we might go on to infect.

And that number… we want that number to get below ‘1’. So on average, right, every person is infecting less than one other person, and if we get that, then what we will see, we’ll actually contain and be able to eliminate the disease in New Zealand and that’s the number we’re looking for.”

He said that the number of possible deaths in New Zealand was “still up in the air”. It depended on how New Zealanders observed the lock down.

Professor Hendy warned “If not, these lock down measures would have to go on longer, and we still facing a scenario where we might have thousands of deaths.”

He also predicted restrictions to international travel until an effective vaccine had been developed. Otherwise the country could be re-infected.

The next segment had reporter Whena Owen in various Wairarapa towns talking to people from rural and small town New Zealand. Some interesting insights.  Eyebrows and alarms must have been raised when one gentleman – supposedly self-isolating in a campervan in one spot for the next three and a half weeks – was gone when Ms Owen returned the following day to speak to him;

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Ms Owen’s report was followed by a crackly Skype interview with National Party Leader, Simon Bridges, now heading the Epidemic Response Committee.

The interview went fairly well and Mr Bridges gave a fair response to Jack Tame’s questioning of his disastrous speech in Parliament on 18 March. But the Opposition Leader couldn’t help himself and took another swipe at the Coalition government’s increase to welfare payments. Which is ironic when considering how many of Mr Bridges’ voting base may well up up as WINZ “clients”.

Following on was an interview with Grant Webster, CEO of Tourism Holdings Ltd. While confirming the massive damage wrought to tourism, Mr Webster suggested that post-lockdown, New Zealand might reinvent itself as a “high end” destination with “lower end” tourism “falling away”.

If true, it could prove a significant boon to our natural environment that has been severely impacted by large numbers of tourists. DoC could finally spend it’s budget on its core purpose: conservation, rather than building carparks and toilets.

Mr Webster predicted that 2020 and next next would both be “tough”. He expressed the view that what would happen next would be “covid19 related”.

Perhaps the last interview was saved because of it’s chilling aspects. Guardian US weekend editor, Martin Pengelly, gave a run-down of the covid19 crisis and chaos in the United States.

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He described the situation as;

“It’s very bad. It’s very very bad indeed.

Hospital system over-whelmed, or soon be over-whelmed. US Navy medical ships, one’s in Los Angeles, one’s setting off for New York now. Deadlock between state governments and Federal governments about resources, about ventilators, about the whole response.

… It got to this stage because of a number of factors, including the macro-factor of the US having no public health system. There is access to public health, but no working system.

… New York, where I am, is [an] alarming hot-spot [and] the worst is coming.”

He called it a very confusing and bleak situation.

As the United States stands on the precipice of catastrophe, Trump is stroking his own ego, denying assistance to states that are governed by Democrat leaders; Biden is struggling to remain relevant; and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is being whispered about as the secret candidate to stand against the incumbent President.

On Youtube, The Young Turks ran a piece showing how Biden is not coping with what little media media attention he has been getting. Again, mention is made of Governor Cuomo.

My txt-msg sent to Q+A was read out at the conclusion of the programme;

“Shaun Hendy’spoint is simple: ongoing transmission depends on us. Not govt. Not foreigners. Not even the virus. It’s US.Thesooner people get their heads around this, the better outcome we have.” – @fmacskasy – 9:22 AM · Mar 29, 2020

Writing and formatting this blogpost took up most of my late morning, early afternoon. Managed to stop for a bit of late lunch at 2PM; melted cheesy on rye bread with chopped onion, paprika, and basil. And coffee. Fed cat again. (Cat got water, not coffee.)

By mid-afternoon, the weather has cleared up. The sun is out. This is not good.

This afternoon, I discovered that things have taken a turn-for-the-worst. As I replied to a poster on The Daily Blog;

“As at 1pm today the first person in Aotearoa New Zealand has died from covid19. The numbers of infections has risen to 514.

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I don’t mind confessing that it is a frightening prospect to go to work tomorrow. But I’m one of the “lucky bastards” who works in an essential service. Lucky me.

If I catch the virus, my diabetes and age group (to put it delicately I’m no longer in my 20s…) will be two strikes against me. I think the medical term is “I’m f****d”.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(PS: In the event of my demise my Will is in my Filing Cabinet; someone feed my cat; and please clear my Browser History. )

Anyways, I think this explains my low tolerance threshold for those individuals who think this is a holiday and life is normal.

We lost “normal” last week.”

On a more mundane note, I had a txt-msg chat with a mate; the 78th World Science Fiction Convention – aka CoNZealand – scheduled to take place 29 July to 2 August this year in Wellington has been effectively cancelled. The irony should not escape us; one of the most well-used plot-devices in science fiction literature and film (remember the old 1970s television series, “The Survivors“?) – has blown a global annual sf fan gathering out of the water with a viral version of a  photon torpedo.

5.45PM: Dinner is two egg sandwiches on rye. Not much of an appetite, might try to eat something later. Cat is happy though.

Watched TV1 news at 6PM, carrying the story of Aotearoa’s first covid19 fatality. Will this drive home to New Zealanders just how f*****g serious this is?! Short  answer? Probably not.

I’m familiar with the New Zealand psyche of hyper-individualism; giving the two-fingered salute to Authority; accompanied by a toxic bloated sense of entitlement which so many people seem afflicted with. We’ve devoted an entire pop-culture to anti-establishment sentiments, with Goodbye Pork Pie probably our best effort. For a small minority, requiring people to stay home is a challenge to do the polar opposite.

It will take more people to die before it slowly dawns on that tiny minority that, yes, This Is A Thing.

Might watch some Seth Meyers or Star Trek Continues later on Youtube. (The actor who portrays Capt James Kirk bears a striking resemblance to William Shatner The Younger.) Looking forward to relaxing and laughing to some of Seth Meyers’ ascerbic satire and some nostalgia sf…

9.30PM: Hot mug of sugar free drinking chocolate and my cat on my lap, settled in to watch Miriama Kamo present her ‘Sunday’ programme. The backgrounder on where viruses like H1N1, SARS, and now covid19 spring from is a testament to humanity’s abuse of our surrounding natural environment.

It may be  anthropomorphising it, but it certainly feels as if Nature is mightily pissed of at us and is giving the human race a swift kick up the pants.

Afterward, I sat back down at the computer to refresh my memory how long ago Aotearoa New Zealand experienced its first covid19 case.

It was 28 February.

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Only a month and one day later, our country has 514 (known) cases.

I’m no mathematician – anything past the multiplication table escapes me – but even I recognise the steep rising curve in numbers. At that rate, had our PM not made perhaps the boldest call since we joined Great Britain in declaring war on Nazi Germany, the numbers would be in the tens of thousands by the end of the year. The experts at Auckland University, as covered this morning in Q+A, knew pretty much what they were talking about.

It is half past ten at night as I put the finishing touches to todays entry to Life in Lockdown.

Work tomorrow. I have latex gloves in my satchel – and nothing else. A full hazmat suit would be nice. Is there a choice in colours? Perhaps something ‘Star Trekky’? (But not in red. Trek fans know what I’m talking about.)

I should be so lucky.

And finally, let’s remember to all do our bit. It’s not quantum mechanics, people.

You have a better chance at survival if you follow the protocols;

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And, in Frank Speak;

Stay the F**K home!!

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References

TVNZ Q+A: Minister of Health says there is enough protective equipment for health workers

TVNZ Q+A: People should prepare themselves for the possibility of a longer lockdown – Scientist

TVNZ: Q+A looks at how one small town coped with shutting down life as we know it

RNZ: Coronavirus – Simon Bridges criticised for ‘politics-as-usual’ pot shots amid covid-19 crisis

TVNZ Q+A: The shutdown could provide a reset for the tourism industry – Tourism Holdings CEO

TVNZ: Q+A:  Very confused, very bleak – New York journalist on the COVID-19 crisis in America

Youtube: The Young Turks – Joe Biden GIVES UP Mid Interview

NewstalkZB:  ‘A very sad day’ – NZ has its first coronavirus death

CoNZealand

Wikipedia: The Survivors (1975)

NZ Herald: The life of Pie

RNZ: New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 30 March 2020.

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Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

5 March 2019 1 comment

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apartheid

noun

1. (in the Republic of South Africa) a rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population.
2. any system or practice that separates people according to color, ethnicity, caste, etc.

Dictionary.com

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Imagine having to apply a State body to confirm who and how you identify. Imagine if you are a Pakeha or Maori; CIS male or female; or a gay, lesbian, or bisexual,  having to acquire evidence from multiple medical specialists and compile a file to support your identity.

Imagine if you, reading this blog, had to rely on that Court’s decision as to how you would be identified by society.

Imagine, for example, if the identities of fellow bloggers Willie Jackson’s as a male Maori; David Farrar as a male Pakeha; Martyn Bradbury as a male Pakeha; Susan St John as a female Pakeha, former blogger Marama Davidson as a female Maori – were all determined by a Court of law.

Imagine if the required paperwork to present your application to the Court involved corroborating documentation from various professionals.

Imagine that the process was not free, but costs thousands of dollars. Imagine if you could not afford the cost, you could not apply to the Court: it was dependent on your ability to pay.

Imagine that the final decision then rests with a Court and a solitary judge (usually an old white male).

Imagine that your application could be knocked back; denied on a number of grounds.

Imagine that without approval from the Court, you could not identify as the gender, race, etc, that you felt yourself to be.

No need to imagine.

It exists.

There is a class of New Zealanders for whom all of the above is a reality: dictated by law.

But not for everyone. For the majority of us, there is no legal requirement for us to undergo a process to define who we are.

If you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you are who you are. The State plays no role in determining who you are or how your identify (for gay and bisexual men, since 1986).

You are a free citizen.

But the same does not apply for 100% of New Zealanders. We have a two-class system operating in this country.

If you accept the broad definition above, it may be surprising to discover we have an invisible  form of apartheid operating in this country.

The following is ‘Andrea’s’* story and how our own apartheid system has impacted on her.

Andrea is in her late 50s/early 60s. She is a university-educated professional, highly respected and successful in her field. Her research papers are required reading and has been referenced overseas by others working in her area of endeavour.

She is smart, observant, highly capable, articulate, and with a strong, supportive, close circle of  friends, loyal work colleagues, and loving family. She has two sons who adore her and are not shy or short of offering plenty of hugs, and an ex-partner with whom she maintains tight bonds of friendship and mutual support.

Andrea is also a trans-woman.

Andrea’s journey to transition to the gender she identifies with – female – did not begin in 2002, when she undertook gender-reassignment surgery here in New Zealand.

Andrea’s journey did not begin in 1999 when she came out to her work colleagues.

Andrea’s journey did not begin a year earlier, when she confronted her own true self and disclosed to her then-wife, Sharon*, that she identified as a woman and not as the male’s body she had been born into. It ended their marriage (which had already been under considerable pressure because of Andrea’s hidden gender dysphoria) – but in turn her disclosure to Sharon created a much stronger bond of trust and friendship.

Andrea’s journey began when she was three years old, when she “didn’t feel right” as a boy, and wanted to be a girl.

Her journey was not a simple one. But she says the surgical intervention she went through seventeen years ago was the least of her considerable challenges.

The surgery itself was reasonably straight forward,” she says.

The real challenges were the legal, procedural, and regulatory barriers she had to face.

To achieve a diagnosis for gender dysphoria and gain access to the female hormone oestrogen she first had to be assessed by a psychologist. That assessment consisted of ten, one hour long, sessions. It was a financial cost she had to bear.

Her next step was another specialist, an endocrinologist. That assessment was paid through her local DHB. This allowed Andrea to be prescribed androgen-blockers as well as critically-needed oestrogen.

She underwent electrolysis for unwanted facial hair. This process would be required for the following fifteen years. Cost, around $25,000, paid by Andrea.

Then came the major event that would transform her forever: genital reassignment surgery by New Zealand’s sole plastic surgeon qualified in this particular field. Cost, around $27,000,  again paid by Andrea.

But first – more professionals came and went through her life. The surgeon required two independent psychologist’s assessments; a psychiatric assessment and report, and an assessment by a social worker. The cost of these professionals – around $4,000 – was paid by Andrea.

In 2003, following succesful surgery, Andrea applied to the Family Court for a Declaration changing her gender, and recognising her as female. This required a sworn affidavit from Andrea’s endocrinologist to be presented by her lawyer.

A personal, sworn affidavit was also demanded from Andrea,  affirming that she would not change her mind – despite already having undergone radical genital reassignment surgery. (Perhaps law-makers thought she might “want it put back” later that afternoon?)

Cost of lawyer and court fees: paid by Andrea.

Andrea suffered an unexpected setback when the Judge refused to accept the endocrinologist’s affidavit. He demanded instead that the operating surgeon supply the required documentation.

Disappointed, but with black humour, Andrea asked her lawyer;

“What does he want? That I lift my dress and drop my knickers?”

Her lawyer replied that would probably not be helpful.

She paid more lawyer’s fees – around $3,000 – to obtain the surgeon’s affidavit. Another Court hearing followed.

That was followed by a process called tracheal shave – paid by Andrea. Cost, around $7,000.

The eventual Declaration by the Court reaffirming Andrea as legally female allowed her to be issued with a new much-needed female birth certificate.

That, in turn, would allow Andrea to apply for a passport in her newly identified female gender.

This permitted her to undertake facial feminisation surgery in Belgium. Cost, approximately $40,000, paid by Andrea.

That was followed by vocal chord surgery in Luxembourg in 2016, costing Andrea about $15,000.

A year later she had additional corrective surgery. More cost for Andrea; $12,000.

Andrea recognises that she is highly privileged. Her social status; high education; generous income; progressive employer and work-colleagues; and well-defined support network have benefitted her in ways that the vast majority of trans-people do not enjoy.

At the time the public health system funded only two trans-gendering operations per year and she could personally afford to “jump the queue”. There is an underlying painful sadness in Andrea’s tone when says ruefully that most trans-people are nowhere as lucky or privileged as she is.

Her decades-long journey to become her true self could by no means be described as a “spur-of-the-moment” fancy. The many years she waited; the number of professionals involved; each momentous step; the milestones achieved; the high financial cost;  the regulatory demands from medical professionals and Court; the incredible patience and support from her colleagues, friends, and family – was not for the faint-hearted.

Yet, this is what we demand from those who are our trans-brothers and trans-sisters.

Nowhere else do we expect people to jump through regulatory hoops and cross artificial barriers to simply be allowed to be who we are. Whether you are straight or gay or bi-sexual, you don’t have to fill out a form and beg a Judge’s approval on a “Declaration”.

But we demand it from people who identify as “trans”. For no apparent, logical,  reason that makes any coherent sense.

There is the spurious argument that trans-men and trans-women are a “special case” because they require invasive surgery to allow them to function as they identify.

Yet we don’t expect the elderly to undergo multiple psychiatric, psychological, social worker assessments, plus a Court Declation, to undergo hip surgery. Or organ transplants. Or any of the myriad millions of other invasive medical interventions which nearly all New Zealanders undergo throughout their lives.

But we demand it from trans-men and trans-women.

There is no clear reason why we treat trans-men and trans-women so completely differently to the rest of the population.

As a person who self-identifies as a CIS Male, who do I have to appeal to, to be recognised as such? No one of course.

If the State demanded such stringent, bureaucratic, legal  rules from the rest of us, there would be widespread, massive public resistance. “State thuggery” and “nanny statism” would be screamed from both Left and Right.

But for reasons that remain unclear, it is considered acceptable to treat trans-people in such a callous, inhumane way.

In some ways, the way we treat trans-people is a form of legally-sanctioned, socialised bullying. As if society has found the smallest, weakest, most vulnerable minority in our community and saddled them with huge demands that exists nowhere else.

On TVNZ’s Q+A, Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, announced that the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill would  be deferred. She offered the excuse that it was necessary  to deal with “problems” caused by the select committee process;

“However, significant changes were made to the Bill by the select committee around gender self-identification and this occurred without adequate public consultation. This has created a fundamental legal issue.”

The Select Committee is usually the appropriate forum where public consultation takes place. It is unclear where Ms Martin believes “adequate public consultation” should occur, if not Parliament’s Select Committee – the highest “Court” in the nation.

It would be disturbing if a tiny, shrill minority of so-called “gender critical feminists” has put pressure on Ms Martin. If a Minister of a supposedly progressive government cannot act with courage to protect our most vulnerable, then that would be a tragedy.

I hope I am wrong in thinking that is what took place behind closed doors.

When Fran Wilde presented gay reform legislation to Parliament in 1986, she suffered unbelievable threats of intimidation, violence, and death. Opposition to homosexuality elicited insane arguments from homophobes;

Some people argued that the law would lead to more homosexuality and that this would eventually mean the collapse of the family unit. Fear and a lack of understanding led some to claim that young boys would be put at risk. Homosexuality and paedophilia – sex with children – were sometimes regarded as the same thing.

 

Many of the lunatic arguments against legalising male homosexuality in 1986 are being repeated again against trans-people. Most of those arguments are similar to the “claim that young boys would be put at risk” – but this time the supposed “victims” of the trans-bogey are girls and women “threatened in safe places”. Such claims are unclear in specifics and are deliberately vague to create a sense of unease with a phantom menace.

So-called “gender critical feminists” have taken to using offensive and degrading terms such ‘misgendering’ and ‘deadnaming’ to further undermine and deny trans-gender activists’ identities. It is an unnecessary, cruel tactic more commonly found on right-wing websites.

But Ang Jury, from New Zealand Women’s Refuge refutes any suggestion of problems with trans-gender women with Susan Strongman reporting for Radio NZ that “there is a solid process around deciding who gets into safe houses, and that transgender women have been allowed into many refuge spaces for years without issue“.

Last year, National Council of Women and YWCA came out strongly in support of the trans-gender community, with NCW CEO, Gill Greer, stating;

“Trans women’s rights are women’s rights – and ‘women’s rights are human rights.”

Feminists who support the trans-movement know full well that there are few such “safe places” and that most sexual abuse/attacks on girls and women occur in the home (or work place) and the perpetrator is usually known to the victim/survivor.

Exploiting the fear of “stranger danger” against the trans-community – many of whom have themselves been victims of harassment and/or sexual assault – is obscene.

The trans-community and it’s supporters counter opposition to the right to self-ID and describe it as fear-mongering;

Local transphobic campaigners are backed by a large group of extremely bigoted international social media accounts, many of which are controlled by extreme right wing and religious fundamentalists.

This article from the Southern Poverty Law Centre helps explains the relationships between the groups driving the campaign.

Campaigners are making claims about predators using the proposed law changes to gain access to vulnerable people. These claims are manufactured and intended to create a moral panic. Evidence shows that no such incidents have been reported in countries where these changes have been made.

It’s important to remember that anybody making changes to markers on their birth certificates would make a statutory declaration in front of a Justice of the Peace under penalty of perjury. The ability to more easily change the gender marker on your birth certificate can’t be carried out on a whim or with dubious intent. The changes proposed simply brings the process for changing all major forms of identification in line with one another.

Minister Tracey Martin has a moment in our history to do the right thing. Fran Wilde led the way with gay law reform.

But the movement for social justice and inclusion did not end thirty-three years ago. Just as the feminist movement still has much to accomplish.

We cannot, as a society, exclude a small minority by creating a system or practice that separates people according to their status as trans-gendered.

That is apartheid.

And we’re all agreed that apartheid is a bad thing?

To Minister Martin I say this:  thirty-three years years ago, your Parliamentary predecessor, Fran Wilde, did the right thing by standing up for gay men. She endured a storm of personal threats and vitriol that would wither most of us.

But she stood up for what was right.

Will you do the same; will you stand up for what is right?

It’s not a difficult question. Fran Wilde knew the answer.

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Acknowledgement: this author wishes to thank Andrea and others in the Wellington trans-community for sharing their experiences  and allowing me to honour their stories. – Frank Macskasy

* Name changed to protect ‘Andrea’s’ and ‘Sharon’s’ privacy and prevent harassment.

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References

Dictionary.com: Apartheid

Radio NZ: Births, deaths and marriages bill deferred to allow more public consultation

NZ History: Homosexual law reformPage 4 – Reforming the law

The Right To Self ID: What is the Births Deaths and Marriages Act?

YWCA: We support trans rights in Aotearoa

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Additional

Radio NZ: Transgender and non-binary communities disappointed at bill deferral

Robinhead: Gender Roles

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2019.

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Media bullsh*t vs the Bovine variety

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A case in point where the media can misrepresent what an elected representative  has stated occurred immediately after Corin Dann interviewed Environment Minister, David Parker, on 6 May, on TVNZ’s Q+A;

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David Parker and Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A, 6 May 2018

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The interview itself was professional, with Dann asking pertinent questions and drilling down into Minister Parker’s stated objective to reduce agricultural pollution of our waterways.

Corin Dann asked;

“So an admirable goal, but the question is — how will you do it? Now, you have a— you’ve talked about beefing up the current guidelines, the national policy statement on water. How far will you go? And I guess the key question is here — will you cap the number of cows that can be in a certain paddock, depending on nutrient levels? In other words, potentially force farmers to destock?”

To which Minister Parker replied;

“Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Note the Minister’s carefully chosen words;

“…the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.”

Minister Parker flatly rejected “ a raw cap on cow numbers” – explaining “it will be done on nutrient limits“.

For a politician, it was a remarkable moment, providing a clear-cut answer to a crucial question. (How many National Ministers have ever given such an unambiguous response?)

How did the rest of the mainstream media report Minister Parker’s comments?

Dishonestly.

TVNZ – Q+A’s broadcaster – presented Minister Parker’s position on the same day as the programme was aired, with this stunningly inaccurate headline and lead-paragraph;

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Despite Minister Parker’s categorical statement that reducing effluent-pollution “won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits” – TVNZ chose to misreport the Minister’s position. Anyone who had not watched/listened to Minister Parker’s original interview would inevitably have concluded that cow-reduction was on Minister Parker’s main agenda.

Later that same day – 6 May – Radio NZ also misrepresented Minister Parker in an online article headline and lead-paragraph;

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However, the author of the Radio NZ write-up could not have been ignorant of Minister Parker’s stated position, because the second paragraph read;

Environment Minister David Parker said there wouldn’t be a direct cap on the number of cattle, but instead work was being done on restricting the amount of nutrients being lost from farm to waterway.

Two day later, the Otago Daily Times followed suit;

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– though in a stunning exercise in double-think, the un-named Editorial-writer presented two conflicting statements of Minister Parker’s position;

At the weekend, Mr Parker indicated he wants fewer cows per hectare because the number now is higher than the environment can sustain.

This will not be done through a raw cap on cow numbers. Instead, it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrients that can be lost from a farm to a waterway.

It was clear from on-line stories that the mainstream media were finding difficulty in reporting Minister Parker’s statements. After all, how could effluent be reduced with reducing cow numbers?

Despite the Minister stating without ambiguity that he was targetting “the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue” – the msm couldn’t seem to get their heads around that concept.

How could effluent be reduced without cutting cow numbers?

Canterbury dairy farmer, Willy Leferink, offered one solution;

Mr Leferink said he had built a large hangar-like barn on his land to house his cows at certain times during winter which would collect and treat their waste instead of it dropping straight onto paddocks.

It’s bad enough when a politician misrepresents a situation. Former Dear Leader John Key built quite a reputation around misrepresentation; omission; bending the truth; and some outright lies.

But we expect more from our media.

If an elected representative expresses a clear direction, the correct response of the media is to report it fairly to the public. Question; probe; and doubt, by all means. Look behind the facade. Follow-up. Do the stuff we expect from the Fourth Estate.

But do not misreport.

Misquoting or misreporting adds nothing to the sum total of informed discourse.  It only reaffirms suspicion that the media cannot be trusted.

For when the media that has exhausted its trust with the public, the road to political corruption and the rise of demagoguery becomes easier to travel.

Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a fable about loss of credibility that is as valid now as it was 2,600 years ago.

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References

Scoop media: TVNZ Q+A – Minister David Parker interviewed by Corin Dann (transcript)

TVNZ: Environment Minister admits some dairy farmers may have to reduce cow numbers under tough new waterway pollution rules

Radio NZ: Farmers may be forced to reduce cattle numbers

Otago Daily Times: Fewer cows no easy task

Radio NZ: Moves made to reduce runoff already – farmers

Wikipedia: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

When the mainstream media go feral

Only four years too late – TVNZ-Colmar Brunton catch up with The Daily Blog

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 May 2018.

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National spins new “fake news” narrative: there is no health crisis

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National is under attack. It’s reputation as a “prudent fiscal manager” is threatened by a growing realisation that it has achieved government surpluses at the expense of under-funded DHBs, decaying infrastructure, poorly resourced mental healthcare, budget cuts to DoC, frozen funding for Radio New Zealand, cuts to early childhood education and schools, etc.

After nine years of frozen budgets (a cut, once inflation, population growth, and other pressures are factored in), New Zealanders have been made to understand the painful realities of austerity-National-style;

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It is against a backdrop of  startling revelations that hospital buildings are rotting from within and threatened with sewage leaking through walls, that National’s credibility has been challenged.

The new narrative is that National’s so-called “successful fiscal stewardship” has been achieved by deferring vitally-needed spending on critical infrastructure and basic social services.

In essence, after nine years in government, National is being held to account.

But National is beginning to push-back on the new narrative.

This became apparent on 29 April, on TVNZ Q+A’s Twitter account when several ‘tweets’ by obvious-National tribalists (and one disaffected ex-Labour member) all featured a similar theme.  The recurring use of the terms “false story” appeared several times along with the short-hand cliche, “fake news”;

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All of which could be dismissed as the self-induced, delusional denials of individuals who identify a little too closely with the National Party – except it does not end with a handful of misguided National Party members.

On the same day Q+A was broadcast, and whilst National’s faithful Keyboard-warriors were engaging in “fake news” denials all over social media, NewstalkZB posted this on their Twitter account;

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NewstalkZB’s website carried this story that the above ‘tweet’ referred to;

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On  TV3/Newshub, Woodhouse was reported as saying;

[Michael Woodhouse] said the Government has racked up a “woeful litany” of broken promises in just six months, including “the manufactured Middlemore crisis, raising massive expectations for nurse pay increases he won’t now meet, the debacle of the air ambulance tender, inertia and an unnecessary inquiry in mental health”.

Woodhouses’ statements were taken from a National Party Press Release, dated 29 April, where he alleged;

“The Prime Minister recently stated the issues at Middlemore Hospital are emblematic. I agree – emblematic of a Government that has manufactured a crisis that doesn’t exist in order to mask its broken promises.

The Minister’s record now includes the manufactured Middlemore crisis, raising massive expectations for nurse pay increases he won’t now meet, the debacle of the air ambulance tender, inertia and an unnecessary inquiry in Mental Health and now a billion dollar broken promise. This is a woeful litany after just six months in office.”

Woodhouse has a singular gift for misrepresenting facts and ‘bending the truth’ when it suits him.

On 12 February 2018 on Radio NZ, National’s Housing spokesperson – Michael Woodhouse – responded to New Zealand’s housing crisis – by denying it!

He stated categorically;

“They acknowledge that social housing includes housing provided by NGOs [non governmental organisations] but then ignore that when they conclude that the number of state housing properties have gone down. Clearly that hasn’t happened, they’ve gone up.”

His assertion “that the number of state housing properties have … gone up” was a bare-faced lie.

After nine years in office, National had disposed of some six thousand state houses. As this blogger reported in February this year;

In the 2008/09 Annual Report, Housing NZ stated that it “manages a portfolio of more than 69,000 houses” (p4).

Nine years later, Housing NZ’s 2016/17 Annual Report revealed “we own or manage approximately 63,000 homes”. (p7)

Either Mr Woodhouse’s or my arithmetic is way out, because that is a 6,000 drop in State housing.

National’s track record after nine years in government is so bad that that cannot rely on the truth to validate themselves.   Instead, they must resort to lies.

National’s MPs and their tribalist supporters have nothing to be proud of.

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References

Fairfax media: Is National really better than Labour with the Government books? Well, not really

Radio NZ: Doctors blame under-funding for DHB blowouts

Mediaworks: Sickening state of Auckland hospital buildings revealed

Radio NZ: DoC funding cut by $40m – independent expert

Mediaworks: What’s behind New Zealand’s mental health funding crisis?

NZ Herald: Govt has cut millions off early childhood education – Study

Manawatu Standard: Struggling schools cut teacher aide hours to keep up with minimum wage increase

NZ Herald: John Drinnan – Radio NZ survives the big freeze

Fairfax media: Funding in Auckland health sector not keeping up with population growth, politicians told

Radio NZ: Sewage leaking into Middlemore building’s walls

Fairfax media: Over 5000 at risk of going blind waiting for treatment, Ministry of Health says

Twitter: TVNZ Q+A

Twitter: NewstalkZB – Michael Woodhouse – 29 April 2018

NewstalkZB:  Government manufacturing a health-sector crisis – Michael Woodhouse

Mediaworks: GP visits might not get cheaper soon after all

Scoop media: Clark confirms broken promise on GP fees

Radio NZ: Housing report paints ‘sobering picture’ of crisis

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2016/17

Related Other Blogs

The Standard: Micky Savage – National’s fiscal ineptitude over Auckland transport

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury -New Zealand’s new Alt-Right Twitter Trolls – Dirty Politics 2018

Previous related blogposts

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

“Fool me once”

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

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

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – rua

6 January 2018 3 comments

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Bill English has low hopes for young New Zealanders.

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Bill English – putting the peasantry in their place

When born-to-rule Tories – with a bloated sense of self-worth and entitlement – slip up and let us peasants know how they really view us – it is usually unsurprising to most on the Left.

Take, for example, Bill English’s candid admission that New Zealand’s lower wage rates were beneficial when it came to competing with Australia. On 10 April  2011, in an exchange with Guyon Espiner on TVNZ’s Q+A, English boasted of the benefits of low wages;

GUYON Can I talk about the real economy for people? They see the cost of living keep going up. They see wages really not- if not quite keeping pace with that, certainly not outstripping it much. I mean, you said at the weekend to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum that one of our advantages over Australia was that our wages were 30% cheaper. I mean, is that an advantage now?

BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact. We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing. This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia. That’s lifting the standard. They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia. So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand. If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

Perhaps realising he had dug a hole for himself, English added at the end; “…  and lift incomes“. Though of course, if “incomes lifted”, New Zealand workers would no longer be competitive with their  Australian cuzzies, according to his Bizarro-world “logic”.

In 2016,  at a Federated Farmers meeting in Feilding, English probably felt “at home” and sufficiently comfortable in his surroundings to let his guard down. English attacked workers again, trashing them as “hopeless“;

“A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

A year later, English took a further swipe at New Zealand workers, effectively labelling them en-masse as “druggies. On 27 February 2017, he told the Parliamentary press;

“One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

English’s startling (and offensive) generalisation came as a response to questions why National was allowing a flood of immigrant workers when 140,000 local workers remained unemployed.

Blaming others is de rigueur for National when facing one of their countless failures;

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Some more blame-gaming;

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And yet more…

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Not satisfied with those digs at workers and the unemployed, English made it clear only four days before Christmas precisely what he thought of young people bettering themselves through higher education. Responding to Labour’s enactment of their election promise for one year’s free tertiary education – English lamented that “Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”;

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That’s right, folks. Bill English’s ambition for young New Zealanders is to get a job at McDonalds; work hard; and  – stay there. No higher education for you mini-peasants!

McDonalds New Zealand realised immediatley the implications of English’s derisory comment and quickly fired out a statement countering the former-Prime Minister;

“We don’t expect to see much impact as a result of the Government’s free fees policy.”

When a major business contradicts National – the political party ostensibly representing the interests of business – you know Bill English has screwed up. Essentially his brain was in ‘neutral’ when his mouth opened and words tumbled out.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that English is so harsh in his criticism. Labour’s one year free tertiary education is only the beginning. It heralds a gradual return to what  New Zealanders once enjoyed: near-free tertiary education.

It is another cog removed from the creaking neo-liberal system as it is dismantled, piece-by-rotten-piece.

Postscript

According to Wikipedia;

[Bill] English went on to study commerce at the University of Otago, where he was a resident at Selwyn College, and then completed an honours degree in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After finishing his studies, English returned to Dipton and farmed for a few years. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in Wellington as a policy analyst for the New Zealand Treasury…

Bill English undertook his tertiary education prior to 1987. Student fees/loans did not start until 1992.

That means Bill English graduated with his Commerce and English Lit degrees without having to pay fees or take  out massive loans. His tertiary education was (near-)free.

A job at McDonalds awaits him.

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References

Scoop media:  Guyon Espiner interviews Finance Minister, Bill English

Fairfax media:  Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Mediaworks:  Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’ – Bill English

Wikipedia:  Bill English

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Kiwi workers are pretty damned hopeless – says Bill English

Previous related blogposts

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 January 2018.

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Letter to the editor – “Throwing money at the problem” of homelessness

23 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jun 19, 2016
subject: Letter to the Editor

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Letter to the editor
The Listener

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 19 June, former National Party President, Michelle Boag referred to solving homelessness as “throwing money at the problem”.

Because as we all know, the homeless should just bunk down at the nearest Marae or in a ute parked up by some handy public toilets.

Meanwhile, National forked out a $30 million subsidy to Rio Tinto; $26 million for a flag referendum, and $11.5 million to a Saudi businessman for a farm in the middle of the Saudi desert. These are evidently not “throwing money at the problem”. They are ‘investments’.

In the next breath, Boag shed a couple of crocodile tears saying, “we want to be a compassionate society”.

Well, actually, many of us already are compassionate.

It’s Boag who seems to have trouble with the concept.

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Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – The Panel

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Dodgy tax havens and even dodgier Peter Dunne’s memory

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ft-paraisos-fiscales

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“To put it bluntly, if the label ‘tax haven’ is being bandied about now as it is, sticks, then that’s extremely damaging. You think of the way we perceive other countries that we’ve historically labelled as tax havens. We don’t view them credibly, and I think that’s the big risk to New Zealand.” – Peter Dunne, TVNZ’s Q+A, 2 May 2016

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Against a swirling back-drop of revelations surrounding the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca, John Key’s lawyer, Ken Whitney, then-Revenue Minister Todd McLay,  the IRD dumping a review into foreign trusts, and New Zealand’s reputation for offering secret trusts as part of the tax-haven industry,  TVNZ’s Greg Boyd interviewed former Revenue Minister, Peter Dunne for Q+A on 2 May;

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peter dunne interviewed on Q+A by Greg Boyd

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Boyd’s first question to Dunne seemed innocuous enough, setting the basis of the interview. Dunne’s response appeared unremarkable;

Greg Boyd: “When you were in the job, if the IRD had concerns about this country’s international reputation, how seriously would you have taken that?”

Peter Dunne: “Very seriously. And the way it works is that they report on a series of issues that are both current in the New Zealand tax environment or the international tax environment, and clearly the Government would be foolish not to take heed of that advice. I have to say that at the time I was minister, the big issue of concern that was just beginning to bubble related to the Googles and the big multinationals and the share of tax they were paying. The issue of foreign trusts was on the edges of that, but I didn’t receive any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they were a problem.”

To put some context to Dunne’s response above, first bear in mind that Dunne was Revenue Minister across two governments, Labour and National, from October 2005 to  June 2013, when he abruptly resigned

…after an investigation into how a top-secret report on the GCSB was leaked to media pointed to him.

Eighty-six emails were sent between Mr Dunne and Dominion Post reporter Andrea Vance in the lead up to the leak but Mr Dunne turned down requests to make them public.

Edited copies of the emails from Mr Dunne show 44 of them discussed the GCSB report, and he planned to meet with Ms Vance the day before she went public…

But how credible was Dunne’s assertion on last week’s Q+A that;

“…The issue of foreign trusts was on the edges of that, but I didn’t receive any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they were a problem.”

– when in May 2012, New Zealand and Russia had been removed from the  European Union banking and corporate “white list” over this country’s frighteningly inadequate  money-laundering controls?

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New Zealand removed from EU 'white list' - money laundering - tax havens

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As reported by Fairfax’s Michael Field, Latvia’s Deputy State Secretary on financial policy issues in the Ministry of Finance, Arina Andreicika, stated;

“I would like to inform you that Latvia has intended to exclude New Zealand and Russian Federation from the list of countries whose legal requirements of money laundering and terrorist financing prevention are equivalent to legislation of the European Union.”

Our removal from the EU “white list” had put New Zealand in the same league as the corruption-ridden Russian Federation.

Gareth Vaughan, from Interest.co.nz, reported;

New Zealand’s dumping from the list also comes amid growing publicity around New Zealand registered companies being linked to crime overseas. This includes a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project on how Tormex Ltd, a New Zealand registered company, allegedly laundered US$680 million through a Latvian bank account. It’s just one of many examples of entities exploiting New Zealand’s simple company registration regime. Another is the General Equity Building Society, which claims to hold about US$5.5 billion of equity through unnamed mines, gold, silver and granite ore.

In the same story, Vaughan added,

The World Bank and International Finance Corporation rank New Zealand the easiest of 183 countries surveyed in which  to start a business. Commerce Minister Craig Foss told interest.co.nz in April the Government had no plans to tighten company registration rules.

In the previously mentioned Fairfax story, Michael Field reported;

On the Auckland shell company accused of laundering $680m at a Riga bank, Foss said it was removed from the register in 2010 because it failed to file an annual return.

Too late. The damage to our reputation had been done.

In May 2012, when the European Union’s announcement became public, Peter Dunne was still Minister for Revenue. (His resignation after his alleged involvement in the leaking of the GCSB report was still thirteen months in the future.)

In November 2013, then co-leader of the Green Party, Dr Russel Norman, warned;

“Our secretive foreign trust regime and lax company registration requirements are damaging our international reputation.  Anonymous shell companies and secret trusts are one of the most common ways of moving tainted money into the banking system.”

Yet, only months earlier, as the full implications of the EU’s moves were becoming clear, evidently then-Revenue Minister Peter Dunne “didn’t receive any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they [foreign trusts] were a problem“.

However, whilst  then-Revenue Minister Peter Dunne had not received “any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they [foreign trusts] were a problem“, the Tax Justice Network had, by November 2013, “ranked New Zealand for the first time on its Financial Secrecy Index [at number 48 – see page 17 here]. New Zealand features on the Index due to our lack of transparency around foreign trusts and registered companies, and our below-average levels of co-operation with other countries when it comes to fighting international tax evasion”.

Is it Dunne’s  assertion on Q+A, really credible;

“…The issue of foreign trusts was on the edges of that, but I didn’t receive any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they were a problem.”

No, it is not credible.

As far back as October 2012, Dunne was certainly aware of the problem of secret trusts in New Zealand;

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Dunne dismisses tax haven suggestions

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The Herald report goes on to state;

Mr Dunne today dismissed the idea that New Zealand was a tax haven for foreign trusts.

“The key identifying characteristics of tax havens are secrecy and lack of transparency. Those are simply not factors here in New Zealand. Our legislation for taxing trusts is fully transparent.”

Dunne’s dismissive attitude toward tax havens and foreign trusts is starkly summed up in this excerpt from 60 Minutes on TV3’s website;

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Govt rejects tax haven claim - peter dunne - revenue minister - 60 minutes

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However, Dunne’s defensive assertions were made to look foolish and mendacious when Herald reporter, Matthew Backhouse , added;

The trusts must be registered with Inland Revenue, but are not required to pay tax and their ownership is effectively anonymous.

At the time, our esteemed Dear Leader also supported New Zealand’s involvement in secret foreign tax trusts;

Prime Minister John Key was today unconcerned by Mr Dunne’s comments.

He had not seen the 60 Minutes interview but Mr Dunne would have been using “the absolutely correct technical terms”, he said.

Mr Key said servicing foreign trusts in New Zealand was a strong and legitimate business that employed a lot of professionals and added to the New Zealand economy.

“It’s a very sensible place to house a trust.”

It is difficult to believe Dunne’s assertion that he “didn’t receive any specific advice from the IRD at that time that they [foreign trusts] were a problem“.

Especially as revelations on 60 Minutes clearly revealed that a problem with tax evasion existed; trusts were central to the rorts; and Dunne was responding to it.

Even Key referenced foreign tax trusts as he rushed to defend his then-Revenue Minister;

Key who said Dunne was right. “He’ll be using the absolutely correct technical term. There are two things, going back to my days at university – tax evasion and tax avoidance. There is actually quite legitimate business in New Zealand for servicing foreign trusts”.

In response to Dunne’s denials, Labour’s then-Revenue spokesperson, David Clark, showed amazing prescience when he warned;

“We are in danger of losing our hard-one reputation as an ethical and respectable country. Peter Dunne’s relaxed attitude to overseas tax avoidance and National’s failed attempts to create a foreign funds hub shows the Government has no concerns about us becoming the Cayman Islands of the South Pacific.”

And Dunne is now telling us that he did not know that foreign trusts were a problem?

In 2012, Dunne stated;

“The key identifying characteristics of tax havens are secrecy and lack of transparency. Those are simply not factors here in New Zealand. Our legislation for taxing trusts is fully transparent.”

The legislation may be “transparent”.

John Key, Todd McLay, and Peter Dunne are not.

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Peter Dunne Interviewed by Greg Boyed (video)

Radio NZ: Further revelations don’t blunt PMs faith in lawyer

TVNZ: Q+A – Peter Dunne Interviewed by Greg Boyed (transcript)

Wikipedia: Peter Dunne

Southland Times: Taxing Times – New Minister of Revenue still has work to do

NZ Herald: Key’s Government

TV3 News: Peter Dunne resigns as minister

Fairfax Media: New Zealand removed from EU ‘white list’

Interest.co.nz: How NZ needs to overcome ‘deficiencies” in bank and financial institution regulation to get back on EU anti money laundering and counter terrorist financing ‘White List’

Radio NZ: NZ struck from EU list over money-laundering controls

Scoop media: Foreign trusts earn New Zealand tax haven status

Tax Justice: Financial Secrecy Index 2013

NZ Herald: Dunne dismisses tax haven suggestions

TV3 News: Govt rejects tax haven claim

Scoop media: Dunne evades tax haven questions

Additional

Liberation: New Zealand cartoons about tax, transparency and the Panama papers

Parliament: The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (Requirements and Compliance) Regulations 2011

Dept of Internal Affairs:  AML/CFT Act and Regulations

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan – Key chases luck o’ the Irish

Converge: New Zealand – A Tax Haven For Super-Rich Foreigners

Previous related blogposts

When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

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scott cartoon - panama papers - tax havens

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 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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The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

19 April 2015 9 comments

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campbell live header

 

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Q+ A and The Nation

The biggest news story of the week broke on  Thursday, 9 April, with Mediaworks revealing to a stunned public  that ‘Campbell Live‘ – which had just celebrated it’s tenth anniversary – was “under review”. It was a story appearing in practically every media outlet in the country;

Fairfax media

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fairfax - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Campbell Live to be reviewed

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NZ Herald

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nz herald - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Campbell Live to be axed TV bosses place show under review

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Radio NZ

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radio nz - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - The end for Campbell Live

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NZ Newswire

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nz newswire - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Support swells as Campbell Live faces chop

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NewstalkZB

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National Business Review

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NBR - national business review - tv3 - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Will Campbell Live survive

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On Facebook, a Save Campbell Live!  group quickly sprang up, with 1,545 members as 12.01am, 14 April.

One petition on Change.org has acquired 19,654 signatures, and another on Action Stations has 66,974.

The tweet hashtag, , was trending near the top of Twitter’s New Zealand Trends on 9 April;

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#savecampbelllive

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Acknowledgement for use of image above: Halloween Mike1

As well as the msm, most of the top blogs in the country covered the story, one way or another (see: Other blogs)

So I was looking forward to see some serious analysis on ‘The Nation‘ and/or ‘Q+A‘, on this issue.

Incredibly, and alarmingly, none was forthcoming, except for a brief throw-away-line by comedians Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego, during their sixty-second satirical-slot on ‘The Nation‘ (though without any actual direct reference to John Campbell), to “being replaced by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce“.

TV1’s ‘Q+A‘ was also strangely silent on an issue that had been a nationwide talking point.

Instead, on Saturday’s ‘The Nation‘, we had stories on;

  • Legal highs, with interviews with Peter Dunne and Matt Bowden
  • the booming Auckland Property market, with interviews with Mayor Len Brown; Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse; Kate Healy from Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Rawa Ltd, and property developer David Whitburn

Sunday’s ‘Q+A‘ on TV1  gave us;

  • an interview with HSBC economist, Paul Bloxham, who coined the phrase “rock star economy”
  • urban-designer, Charles Montgomery, on how to improve our cities

Considering that ‘Campbell Live‘ is one of the last serious current affairs programme remaining on free-to-air television, one would have thought that this was worthy of scrutiny by either ‘Q+A’ or ‘The Nation‘.

Understandably, perhaps, TV3’s executives Julie Christie and Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Weldon – who have allegedly expressed a dislike for  ‘Campbell Live‘ – may have dissuaded ‘The Nation‘ from enquiring further into the matter.

When Fairfax Media made redundant large numbers of sub-editors a few years ago, the event was not reported in ‘The Dominion Post‘ or any other Fairfax title. The news was suppressed by management. In this respect media management can be every bit as shy of public scrutiny as the politicians they profess to scrutinise.

The media demand press freedom to allow public scrutiny – except when it applies to them.

Stranger still is that TVNZ – a direct commercial competitor to Mediaworks – made no mention of goings-on at TV3. One would think that a major event in this country’s media would have rated some sort of story or analysis with media experts.

Instead – nothing.

Television executives seem very shy when it comes to public attention on their own activities.

How NOT to promote a flagship programme

Palmerston North teacher, Scott Milne, pointed out that ‘Campbell Live‘s’ poor ratings may be due to Mediaworks not promoting the programme as enthusiastically as it does with others.

On Twitter, Scott posted this screen-shot of a TV3 webpage;

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Twitter - tv3 - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Scott Milne

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When an advert for hair shampoo (lower right on page) is larger than the promo for a current affairs show, it becomes fairly clear how well the broadcaster is supporting their own product (the programme – not the shampoo).

Perhaps there is an element of truth to suggestions that certain Mediaworks executives are not “fans” of Campbell and/or his show?

The sooner that a free-to-air, non-commercial, public broadcasting channel is established, the better it will be for this country. If  the UK can have the BBC and  Australia has the ABC and SBS – why can’t we have something similar?

Short answer: lack of political will coupled with ideological stubborness.

If we had a new NZBC, commercial free, and dedicated to something resembling quality programming – TVNZ and Mediaworks/TV3 could broadcast all the crappy reality and crime shows that the rest of the public could possibly stomach.

More than anything, a lack of a free-to-air, non-commercial, public broadcasting channel shows how immature we are as a nation. Distracted by trivia has given us the only form of  dumbed-down  television the masses can digest.

More head-scratching decisions at TV3?

News over the weekend indicates that TV3 will be cutting back their weekend news bulletins at 6pm to only half an hour – less when you subtract advertising, weather, and sports;

TV3 is to chop its Sunday night news bulletin to 30 minutes, in the latest dramatic move to turn its news department into a “news, commentary and conversation” team.

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon is at odds with many among his 200-strong news staff after announcing “bubbles and bagels” to celebrate the launch of Paul Henry – at the same time as Campbell Live staff were being told their programme faced the axe.

“It was just insensitive and inappropriate,” a TV3 news staffer said.

A cut-down version of ‘Third Degree‘ will be given a new – and somewhat bizarre – name;  “3D and will be shortened to 30 minutes“.

If  MediaWorks executives still have faith in their 6PM news bulletin and ‘Third Degree/3D‘, they have an unusual way of showing it. Which raises a few questions – what do they hope to gain? More time allocated for commercial programming?

Those viewers who enjoy watching the 6PM news bulletins may find themselves feeling cheated at TV3’s cut-down, “budget” version. They may vote with their remotes to switch to TV1, where the format will offer an unchanged, longer version.

After all, if you enjoy watching TV news, which would you opt for?

Those who don’t watch TV news won’t care either way.

So MediaWork’s decision will impact only on news-watchers – and cutting back the format to 30 minutes may yet prove to be one of the  biggest blunders in TV3’s history. Perhaps bigger than it’s excellent 1993 sitcom, ‘Melody Rules‘…

MediaWorks group head of news Mark Jennings just keeps digging…

Just when you thought that threats to ‘Campbell Live’s‘ survival and cutting TV3’s 6pm news bulletin was bad enough, MediaWorks group head of news Mark Jennings seems to have made things worse by these incongruous utterances on 12 April;

“We know that Sunday night is a good place for current affairs. People are increasingly time poor and we believe 30 minutes of news plus 30 minutes of current affairs is a winning formula for this popular timeslot.”

No, Mr Jennings, we are not “time poor” – we are information poor.  In a world of superficiality and bastardised media services masqerading as “news”, we are poor in real, in-depth, news and analysis.

When “X Factor NZ” receives more  promotion from MediaWorks than one of the most respected broadcasters in the country – then it is fairly obvious where management’s priorities lie.

Trying to pass off responsibility for questionable decision-making by MediaWorks executives, onto the public being “time poor”, is exceedingly bad form. And dishonest.

If people are so “time poor”, the 6PM news bulletin might as well be cut to 15 minutes. Or eliminated altogether. There. Sorted. Plenty of time for people now…

… to switch to TV1.

Mr Jennings added;

“This way we can guarantee a pacey, high-quality product that will be appointment viewing.”

Yes, “pacey” – until each advertising break. Take ten or fifteen minutes out of each ‘3D” episode, and it become so “pacey” as to rush past the viewer. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

And then, this “gem” from Mr Jennings;

“I am very proud of our investigative journalism, and the 3D Investigates strand will build on our ground-breaking work on the Teina Pora and David Bain cases, and the Fox Glacier crash.”

Yes, indeed. He is so “proud of [TV3’s] investigative journalism” – that he is cutting both the 6PM News Bulletin and ‘Third Degree‘ in half – and considering dumping ‘Campbell Live‘.

What a peculiar way to express one’s “pride” in their work.

With regards to ‘Campbell Live‘, Mr Jennings explained his rationale for reviewing the programme;

“Viewer expectations in 2015 are quite different from those of 2005 and we need to constantly review our programming to ensure we are meeting those expectations.”

How “viewer expectations in 2015 are quite different from those of 2005″ is never quite explained. But it cannot be that different; people may take their information from the internet, but they also still watch television.

The advent of television was supposedly the death knell for movies. That belief was wrong.

On-line e-books were supposed to make real books redundant. That belief, too, was wrong.

People will watch television. What they won’t watch is crap.

In that respect, “viewer expectations in 2015 are [not so] different from those of 2005″.

Perhaps MediaWorks’ management should be looking at themselves and not at the public for reasons of ‘Campbell Live‘ not gaining increased viewership.

First and foremost; has it been promoted with the same vigour and gusto as Paul Henry? ‘The Block‘? ‘X Factor‘? ‘The Bachelor‘?

If the answer is “no” – the solution that follows on is fairly evident. Does it need to be spelled out?

MSM antics just get weirder and weirder…

Just when you thought the msm couldn’t get any weirder, comes this strange story about Fairfax media touting for ‘freebies’ from it’s readers;

Fairfax encourages readers to write

NZCity, 11 April 2015
Fairfax Media New Zealand has outlined more of its plans to make readers involved in its editorial process.

The company’s Stuff Nation product already publishes more than 2300 articles every year written by readers and the pieces are among stuff.co.nz’s most read and commented on.

Fairfax Media New Zealand group executive editor Sinead Boucher told theNewspaperWorks masthead newsrooms will set assignments for readers on newsworthy topics, as well as encourage them to send in more personal topics they may wish to discuss.

Pieces will be individually verified and edited by Fairfax journalists and edits discussed with contributors.

It’s not an attempt to get free content or do away with journalists, Ms Boucher says.

The company wants readers to play a larger role.

Popular issues include bullying, elections, obesity, the road toll, marriage equality and the property market.

On March 18, Fairfax Media New Zealand announced it was introducing a new approach to digital storytelling with a renewed focus on local journalism.

A series of changes and proposed changes aimed at enhancing local and national journalism across digital and print will be rolled out nationally.

Accepting op-ed pieces or letters-to-the-editor is one thing.

But “setting assignments for readers on newsworthy topics” appears to me that Fairfax is attempting to attract free content, which it will then on-sell for commercial gain.

There is a word for that: exploitation.

Not exactly surprising though, as Fairfax has lost many of their journalists and sub-editors over the last decade, as the company seeks to increase it’s profits and returns to shareholders.

“It’s not an attempt to get free content or do away with journalists”, Ms Boucher says.

That should go on a Tui billboard.

With fewer staff expected to do more; increasing use of “news hubs”; and a focus on on-line content at the expense of newspapers – that is precisely what Fairfax are aiming at.

Is this the future of newspapers; a msm-version of de facto bloggers-in-lieu-of-real-journalists, mass-producing stories on the cheap (free)?  If so, it makes for grim reading.

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References

Fairfax media: Campbell Live vs Jono and Ben

Fairfax media: Campbell Live to be reviewed

NZ Herald: Campbell Live to be axed? TV bosses place show under review

Radio NZ: The end for Campbell Live?

NZ Newswire: Support swells as Campbell Live faces chop

Mediaworks/TV3: MediaWorks confirms Campbell Live review

Newstalk ZB: Campbell Live facing the axe

NBR: Will Campbell Live survive?

TV3: The Nation (11/12 April 2015)

TVNZ: Q+A (12 April 2015)

Converge: Fairfax In Trouble

Twitter: Scott Milne

Fairfax media: Campbell Live should have moved with the times, pundits say

TV3: TV3 to reduce Sunday 6pm news bulletin to 30 minutes

Wikipedia: Melody Rules

TV3: TV3 current affairs moves to premium timeslot

Scoop media: Jono and Ben and Campbell Live

NZ CIty:  Fairfax encourages readers to write

Additional

Previous related blogposts


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emerson-charlie-hypocrisy-john key.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2015.

 

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How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

29 November 2014 7 comments
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Patrick gower - twitter - laila harre - mana internet party alliance

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Isn’t it interesting that Patrick Gower – who made his partisan feelings crystal clear on Twitter on 29 May with this extraordinary outburst;

 “Lalia Harré – you make me feel sick by how you are rorting MMP http://www.3news.co.nz/Opinion-Hone-and-Dotcoms-grubby-deal/tabid/1382/articleID/346334/Default.aspx#ixzz334vE4jKO Same goes for your pals Hone, Dotcom, Minto and Sykes.

– is also the same one who interviewed Laila Harre on Saturday, 22 November, on TV3’s “The Nation”? What measure of  neutrality did “The Nation’s” producer, Tim Watkin, believe that Gower possessed, to run that interview?

Quite simply, any reasonable individual would have arrived at the conclusion that Gower should have disqualified himself and the role given, instead, to the highly talented Lisa Owen.

Notice how Gower was very well behaved during the interview, when face-to-face with  Harré?

But once Harré was off the set and he was with the panel (Mike Williams and Matthew Hooton), the gloves and mask came off and Gower’s vitriol issued forth;

“… She blamed Labour there, she blamed the Greens, she blamed the National Party, she blamed the media, she blamed Georgina Beyer, although she did say-“

“… I think there’s two words for what we saw over there, before and that’s called in denial. Hmmph!”

“… She’s not going to go in with the Greens, she’s betrayed them. Labour won’t have a a bar of her. No chance of Laila Harré coming back to Parliament. And that’s why you see this sort of denial from her. She’s got it horribly, horribly wrong and she still can’t admit it.”

It should be noted that neither Williams (an ex-Labour President) nor Hooton (a right-wing commentator) could possibly comment impartially on the Mana-Internet Alliance. Both Labour and the Right had a unified agenda to smash Mana-Internet at the election (See: 2014 Election – Post-mortem Up-date). There was simply no attempt at balance with the panelists or the the host-interviewer (Gower).

What is abundantly clear is that Gower seemed to lack a certain inner fortitude to say the things he did to the panelists, to Harré’s face.

This was part of  an ongoing, unrelenting onslaught against the Left. The same dirty media that saw right-wing, self-professed “media personalities” appointed to host political debates, despite public opposition and cries of partisanship;

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Can Mike Hosking host the leader's debate - fairfax poll

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There was good reason for public disquiet over Mike Hosking hosting one of the election leadership debates. His political allegiance was already well known;

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"As I see it, all things considered we are doing pretty bloody well. We box above our weight. "We have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them in Government."

Hosking: “As I see it, all things considered we are doing pretty bloody well. We box above our weight.
“We have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them [National] in Government.”

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An example of media bias was clearly shown over the issue of two holidays by two party Leaders. As I wrote on 24 July;

The recent non-story on David Cunliffe’s three day holiday should be proof-positive that the mainstream media (msm) is fixated on pumping out as many “bad news” reporting as can be generated by a headline-seeking; advertising-driven; lazy corporate-media system.

We’re all aware that whilst Cunliffe took a three day break (I’m surprised he bothered to come back, instead of telling this country to go get f- – – – – !), our illustrious Dear Leader was off on a ten-day holiday, sunning his pale, $55 million arse, on a Maui beach in Hawaii.

Whilst the media did indeed mention that salient fact (albeit in passing), it was taken as a given that the leader of a party polling 50%-plus in the polls is entitled to a holiday.

Meanwhile, the leader of a mid-twenties-polling (?) Party is – it was hinted – not entitled to any such break.

The subtext was blindingly obvious; success breeds reward. In this case, a warm, sunny Hawaiian beach.

And failure means you don’t deserve a single damn thing, so get-back-to-work-peasant!

(See:  When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays)

Perhaps the most outrageous, recent political “hatchet job” was the Herald’s  character assassination scheme launched against David Cunliffe, using unproven (and later discredited) allegations from immigrant-businessman, Donghua Liu. The story behind Liu’s shonkey allegations; a 13 year old letter; and information strategically released by National minister, Michael Woodshouse, to Herald and TV3 journos, was nothing less than a disturbing abuse of ministerial power and media influence. (See:  The Donghua Liu Affair – The Players Revealed)

When a party leader continually receives bad press (eg; condemnation over taking a 3 day break; the colour of the scarf he wore; a manufactured “scandal” regarding a 13 year old letter, etc) what is the mainstream media telling this country?

At one stage the level of attacks against Cunliffe descended into pettiness and farce when, on TV3, on 24 July,  TV3’s Tova O’Brien ran this report on their 6PM News bulletin, about Key’s face appearing – photo-shopped – on the cover of the “Rugby News“;

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tova o'brien - tv3 - john key - cover rugby news - david cunliffe

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However, stuck at the very end of the video-version of the story, was this oddball, juvenile parting-quip by O’Brien;
“So once again the blue team gets one over the red team. Yes, it’s cringey, but it’s left Cunliffe looking whingey.”

(See: When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according to Tova O’Brien)

As I pointed out on 30 July,

Despite the fact that the story was ostensibly about Key getting his face photo-shopped onto a magazine and scoring some free election-year publicity – a supposedly well-educated, “impartial” journo still managed to somehow insert a childish comment about David Cunliffe. That’s despite the fact that Cunliffe’s comments were much more restrained and measured than the criticism  made by Winston Peters in the same video.

So there we have it, folks. Even when the story is about John Key – a silly little journo still managed to turn it into a swipe at David Cunliffe.

Such was the mainstream stream leading up to the election on 20 September.

Returning to Patrick Gower, there are three questions I would like to pose to him;

1. Why is it that Gower condemned the Internet-Mana alliance as “sickening” – but not the ACT-National deal in Epsom, with the same intensity?

2. Or the National-NZ First-Maori Party deal to endorse Labour’s Kelvin Davis over Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau?

3. Why was Dotcom’s funding of Mana-Internet such a big deal worthy of condemnation – but millionaires funding National and ACT is barely noted, in passing, if at all?

Otherwise, Patrick, this is not impartial, intelligent journalism.

It’s not even close.

Postscript1 (Brick-bat)

Note to MSM journos, sub-editors (those remaining), current affairs/news producers, et al) – ok, we get the “Stuart Little” reference,

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andrew little - stuart little

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Ho, ho, ho.

But enough already.

It was funny for the first thirty seconds. Now it’s just lame.

Message to journos: don’t be lame. It’s not cool.

Postscript2 (Bouquet)

For an excellent interview with a political leader (whether Labour, National, Greens, whatever), check out TVNZ’s Q+A today (22/23 November), where veteran reporter/interviewer, Heather du Plessis-Allan interviewed new Labour Leader, Andrew Little. This is how an interview should be conducted; the host asks the questions; the guest is given time to respond, without interuption.

All TV/radio hosts take note.

 

 

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References

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Pundit: Tim Watkin

TV3: Laila Harre stepping down as Internet Party leader

TV3: “The Nation” Panel – Patrick Gower, Mike Williams & Matthew Hooton

Fairfax Media: Labour claims Hosking’s biased

NZ Herald: Media – Hosking plugs car and Key

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

TV3: David Cunliffe owns up to getting it wrong

TV3: Stuart Little, leader of the Opposition?

TVNZ: Q+A 22/23 November

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

The Donghua Liu Affair – The Players Revealed

When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays

When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according to Tova O’Brien

2014 Election – Post-mortem Up-date


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media sensationalism and laziness - Jon Stewart

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 November 2014

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

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lying politician

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In the ongoing debate on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, Dear  Leader John Key has been at pains to try to reassure New Zealanders that any TPPA document would be “first  presented to Parliament”.

On 1 October 2013, Key said;

With all [free trade agreements] the way that they work is that have to be ratified by Parliament, and we have to build a parliamentary majority, and all of that has to happen through the transparency of the deal.”

“…my advice is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will require legislation, so, ultimately, once it has gone through the select committee and the public have had their chance to have input, and it has gone through all of those various stages, the Government of the day will require a parliamentary mandate, so by definition people would have had a lot of input.”

And on 31st March this year, Key asserted on NewstalkZB;

In the end, this thing has to go through our Parliament has to be ratified by our Parliament and has to bear scrutiny and I believe is in the best interests of New Zealand.”

Professor Jane Kelsey was one of many who countered Key’s assertions that Parliament would “ratify” any final agreement. Also on 31 March, she stated;

 “How many times do the Prime Minister and other members of the government have to be hauled up for misrepresenting the role of Parliament in making treaties, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’? The Prime Minister is either woefully ignorant of the fundamental process of treaty making, as set out in the Cabinet Manual, or he is wilfully misrepresenting the process to the New Zealand public.

Parliament’s role in treaty making is largely symbolic. It has no power to decide whether or not the TPPA should be signed or ratified and no ability to change its terms TPPA or require it to be renegotiated.

The select committee process is a farcical exercise because its members know they cannot change the treaty.

At most, Parliament could refuse to pass legislation that is required to bring a particular law into compliance with the TPPA. But the government will have plenty of non-legislative ways to achieve compliance.”

Finally, on 15 June, on TVNZ’s Q+A, National’s own Trade Minister, Tim Groser responsible for TPPA negotiations clearly and utterly refuted any notion that the TPPA would have to be “ratified” by Parliament;

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“Oh well, we wouldn't put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament. If we're the government of the day, that has to put the ratifying legislation through Parliament, a deal didn't make a great deal of sense to New Zealand.”

Oh well, we wouldn’t put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament. If we’re the government of the day, that has to put the ratifying legislation through Parliament, a deal didn’t make a great deal of sense to New Zealand.”

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Note the first part of Groser’s response to interviewer,  Corin Dann;

Oh well, we wouldn’t put [this] before the New Zealand Parliament.

There we have it. The Trade Minister himself confirming what Jane Kelsey and other critics of the secret deal-making  surrounding the TPPA have said all along: once the government agrees to a final document, it will not require ratification by Parliament.

John Key making a mistake once, is understandable.

John Key repeating that same mistake at least  three times is no longer a “mistake”. It becomes willful misinformation. A deliberate lie.

Caught out again – this time by one of his own Ministers!

Charge: broken promise/deflection/half-truth/hypocrisy/outright lie/misinformation?

Verdict: Outright lie/misinformation

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References

TV3: Key accused of spreading TPPA ‘mistruths’

Parliament:  Questions for Oral Answer — Questions to Ministers

NewstalkZB:  Key defends TPPA negotiations

Scoop media: One more time, PM: Parliament does not get to ratify TPPA

TVNZ: Government may not seek bipartisan support for a TPP – Groser

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr Key #4: “Trolls & bottom-feeders”

 


 

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TPPA thuggery

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2014.

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Review: TV3’s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

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TV3 - The-Nation - poverty - inequality

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In the last three years I have been truly outraged and sickened only twice when watching a current affairs/documentary programme. The first was Bryan Bruce’s “Inside Child Poverty“, broadcast back on 22 November 2011.

Bryan presented the viewer with a country of increasing child poverty, disease, low-quality housing; and growing inequality that few of us (except hardcore ACT and National supporters) would have believed possible in a wealthy country like New Zealand. Especially a country which once prided itself on egalitarianism, fairness, and looking after those less fortunate than the privileged Middle Classes.

The second time was just recent – watching TV3’s current affairs programme,  The Nation, on 24 May. The one word that came to mind as I watched the episode was: revulsion. Not revulsion at the fact that our once proud egalitarian nation is now one of the most unequal on the face of this planet – but revulsion at the injection of humour in interviews; panel discussion, and levity between the hosts, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower.

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Hosts for TV3's "The Nation", Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

Hosts for TV3’s “The Nation”, Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower

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I am not even referring to Patrick Gower “interviewing” Ben Uffindell, editor of the satirical blogsite, The Citizen. Though one certainly has to question why this segment was deemed worthy of insertion? What was the point of suggesting that children living in poverty – many of whom go to school without food (or  are given “food” that is of dubious nutritional value); no shoes; no rain coats; or lacking other items which Middle Class families take for granted – would find it funny to be given ice cream or a South American animal?

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TV3 - The Nation - Ben Uffindell

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I recall a legend of someone else trying to “make light” of the plight of the poor. That person suggested cake, in lieu of ice cream.

The highly talented Mr Uffindell has never been  invited to comment on other pressing issues and problems confronting our country. So why start with inequality and associated problems with child poverty? A question I posed to The Nation, via Twitter;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  Twitter feed 24 May 2014

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So why is levity suddenly the order-of-the-day when poverty and inequality is under the media microscope?

Because we are “just laughing at ourselves” some might say?

No. We are not “laughing at ourselves”. We are laughing at the thought  of children, living in  poverty, being given free ice cream and llamas.

We are not “laughing at ourselves”.  We are laughing at children and families living in poverty – at their expense.

That is the difference.

Funnily enough, there was certainly no humour on  The Nation (10 may) when ACT’s Jamie Whyte proposed a  flat tax policy. Where was the mirth? The satirical hilarity? Where was the wink-wink-nudge-nudge repartee between The Nation’s hosts?

Any humour must have been lost amongst the rustling sound of $100 bills been eagerly counted…

TV3 - The Nation - Torben Akel

Bill English stated in the above video,

“Income inequality has not got worse. In fact we’re one of two developed countries where the OECD has recently as yesterday have said it’s stable since 1994. And in fact in the last few years there’s some indications it’s fallen slightly.”

Torben Akel asked for evidence to back up English’s claims;

“What we got was a page lifted from a new OECD report with a graph showing income inequality here in 2010 was less than it was in the mid nineties.”

So the “new” OECD report was based on  data, taken in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and resulting Recession?! Data that was four years old?!

Akel continued with this – and here is the relevant bit;

“As for what had happened in the last few years, we were directed to the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes report, released last July. And specifically, this graph, which shows why the Beehive [is] so sure our income gap isn’t growing.”

A cover of the Report flashed on our television screens;

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -  household incomes in New Zealand - Bryan Perry

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The document above is Bryan Perry’s Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011. It used data from Treasury to assess child poverty in this country;

“To calculate disposable income Statistics New Zealand uses the Treasury’s tax-benefit microsimulation model (Taxwell1) to estimate tax liabilities for individuals and benefit units. The resulting personal disposable incomes are summed to give disposable household income. Disposable household income is sometimes referred to as net income or after-tax cash income.”

– p25

“The Treasury has also developed a set of weights for use with its HES-based tax-benefit microsimulation model, Taxwell. The Taxwell weights include the number of beneficiaries as one of the key benchmarks, in accordance with Treasury’s primary use for the HES in the Taxwell model. Treasury’s Taxwell weights therefore provide a better estimate, for example, of the number of children in beneficiary families, although to achieve this there has been a trade-off with achieving other benchmarks…”

-p33

“We know that the estimates using Statistics New Zealand’s weights consistently under-estimate the number of beneficiaries compared with the administrative data. Generally, the estimates using the Treasury’s Taxwell weights are closer to the administrative data, but the sampling error from the HES can still lead to either or both weighting regimes under- or over-estimating the population numbers. “

-p128

The relevance of all this?

As reported back in February, Treasury had under-estimated the level of children living in poverty, as Bernard Hickey wrote on the 28th,

“Treasury and Statistics said in a joint statement they had double counted accommodation supplements in estimates of household disposable income between 2009 and 2012, which meant incomes were over-estimated by NZ$1.2 billion and the number of children in families earning less than 50% of the median income was under-estimated by 25,000.”

For those who want to read the actual Media Statement from Treasury,  can be found here: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements. Refer to the table headed “Miscalculation – Scale – Key statistics affected”.

Bryan Perry’s revised report can be found here: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014. In it, he states,

“The revised trend-line figure is 32.9 compared with 32.7 [Gini Co-efficient] before the corrections. The trend line is still flat.”

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TV3 - The Nation - inequality -GINI inequality 1992 - 2012 - Bryan Perry

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(The Gini Co-efficient measures inequality, with the higher the value, the lower the equality in income.)

The”trend line” may still be “flat”, but I submit to the reader that for a family on low income; paying exorbitant rent; in a cold, damp house, with very little food in the pantry and fridge – it matters very little.

What does matter is that since 1984, before the Neo-Liberal “revolution”, the Gini Coefficient was only 28.

It is now 37.7.

We are going in the wrong direction.

So not only are National’s claims not backed up by evidence; not only has data been found to be incorrect; but also Torben Akel and The Nation’s research team missed the obvious; inequality has worsened since 1984.

Falling home ownership rates are another indicator which confirm increasing inequality in this country (and throughout the rest of the world).

The Nation’s comedic episode continued with this exchange between hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower, and panellists, author Max Rashbrooke, and right-wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton;

Lisa Owen: “Let’s change to a lighter note. The Civilian Party. Let’s be clear. That was a bit of fun. It was tongue in cheek, if anyone’s confused about that out there. Do we need this in an election year. Do we need some humour?”

Max Rashbrooke: “Oh I think, absolutely. I mean it’s great to see Ben do his thing with the Civilian [Party].

If there’s a problem though, it’s that some of his policies which he puts out as satire, are actually quite close to reality. I mean he talks about we should tax the poor, more. Well actually, if you add up income tax and gst, people on low incomes are paying pretty much the same proportion of their income in tax as people at the top half. If you added capital gains into that story, the poor are probably paying a bigger chunk of their income than the rich are.”

Patrick Gower: “And, and, I, I agree with you there. Because llamas, in my opinion have been dodging tax for years and years, and until someone moves on that loophole, um…”

[general hilarity ensues]

Then Matthew Hooton had to go spoil it all by getting All Serious again, and witter on about Paradise in Scandinavia with more of his skewed ‘spin’ on those country’s taxation system.

Yup. Poverty and rising inequality. A laugh a minute.

What next on The Nation – point and laugh at people with disabilities?

“Jolly good fun”!

Postscript

TVNZ’s Q+A on  25 May also had Ben Uffindell as a guest. As usual, his wit was on form. The big, big difference between Q+A and The Nation? On the former, he satirised and poked fun at politicians. On the latter, the targets for laughter were children in poverty.

Draw your own conclusions.

 

 

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References

TV3: Inside Child Poverty

TV3: Child poverty doco ‘apolitical’ – filmmaker

TV3: Party calls for free ice-cream and llamas

Twitter: Frank Macskasy/The Nation

TV3: ACT leader steals thunder in minor party debate

TV3: New Zealand’s record on inequality

Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Hive News: Inequality data error revealed

NZ Treasury: Media Statement: Data error prompts process improvements

Ministry of Social Development: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 Revised Tables and Figures
27 February 2014

Wikipedia: Gini Coefficient

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census – Trend of lower home ownership continues

TV3: Panel – Patrick Gower, Max Rashbrooke and Matthew Hooton

Other blogs

The Standard: Snapshot of a nation: inequality

 

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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

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Media Review for 26 May: Q+A, Susan Wood, & some casual racism

21 June 2013 3 comments

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painting the media

Sunday morning TV current affairs yielded a wide range of issues discussed; Len Brown and the Auckland Unitary Plan; Hekia Parata’s political career; US-NZ relations; New Zealand Universities; the high incidence of asthma in Maori; the Living Wage campaign; the rising careers of Dayna Grant and Maisey Rika; and the recently released findings of the Independent Police Complaints Authority. Plus the obligatory ‘plug’ for TV3′s “X Factor” on TV3′s  “The Nation“.

On the issue of the IPCA’s report, “Q+A” host, Susan Wood introduced the issue with this segment;

SUSAN WOOD: “And the police conduct authority delivering it’s findings on the Urewera raid. Some road blocks and searches found  to be unlawful. Some on the receiving end thinking about compensation.”

[cut to:]

RUATOKI CITIZEN: “Because you know, stress and all that kind of stuff. Cleaning the house. Because it took quite a while. That tear gas is quite hard to get rid of. I had to paint the ceiling.”

SUSAN WOOD:  (smiling) “Who’d have known?”

Time Stamp: 1.05 – 1.20

TVNZ – Q+A – Series 2013, Episode 12

A screen-shot captures the moment when Wood made light of the young man’s experience, with her flippant, dismissive remark,

 

Q+A 26.5.2013 - Susan Wood on tear gas - who'd have know

“Who’d have known?”

 

Yes, Susan. Who’d have known that a white pakeha could so openly lack empathy with fellow New Zealanders, in our own country, that had been terrorised by a para-military exercise that our own IPCA labelled as unlawful, unjustifiable and unreasonable?

Who would have thought, Susan, that women and  young children could be locked up in a garage for nine hours under guard,  without food, and a supposedly reputable journo like you could make light of it?

Who’d have thought, Susan, that an entire small town could be locked down and sealed off from the rest of the country in a scene straight out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” – and it would be an object of mirth for you?

When something like this – perhaps one of the most shameful events in our recent history – is so casually dismissed by  you, then perhaps you should reconsider if you’re in the right job.

Your flippancy might be suitable on the cyber-sewer that is Whalesoil or  David Farrar’s marginally less odious Kiwiblog,  like this insensitive clod, anonymously revelling in his racism,

 

ruatoki raids_kiwiblog_rightwing halfwit post

Kiwiblog – Greens see racism everywhere

 

Is that the kind of racist moron you’re lining up with, Susan?

Sorry, but  one expects better from a supposedly experienced,  professional in our media. Just because they were brown folk and poor, and not like your refined middle-class neighbours in your fine, leafy suburb – a bit of empathy mightn’t go astray here.

Or  has the mask slipped, revealing the true attitudes of white mainstream media in this country?

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Robert Kennedy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 May 2013.

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More dispatches from Planet Key

17 March 2013 4 comments

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planet key

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Planet Key’s #3 Moon “Brownlee”; Largest of the Moons, it tends to disturb other bodies through it’s presence. “Brownlee” has a rough surface and highly abrasive atmosphere that many find obnoxious. “Brownlee’s” gravitational influence has a negative, perturbing,  influence on nearby bodies such as Planet Christchurch.

Brownlee recently let rip at Christchurch City Council for not carrying out repairs to council-owned community housing fast enough,

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Brownlee says housing councillor should go

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Consider for a moment that Brownlee, as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery  Minister, is in constant contact with CERA, Christchurch’s mayor, and anyone else remotely connected with that city and it’s re-build.

Brownlee has channels of communications that are open to him that allows him to discuss issues and problems as they arise.

So what was the purpose of this display of public excoriation of the Christchurch Council and especially the vilification of one Councillor, Yani Johanson?!

Does Mr Johanson not have a telephone?

Email? Skype? A paper letter? Smoke signals? (The latter seems to work well for the Vatican.)

Could Brownlee not have sat down around a table and asked the most basic of questions,

How can we help?”

Or is the public display of testosterone-fuelled machismo Minister Brownlee’s new modus operandi when dealing with those who fall within his ministerial orbit?

This kind of authoritarianism may be the norm in Zimbabwe, Burma, or North Korea – but here in New Zealand it comes across as the cries and foot-stamping of a petulant child.

Meanwhile, National ministers should look in their own backyard when it comes to housing,

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Pomare housing demolition begins

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post

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Christchurch has been wracked by two massive earthquakes and thousands more quakes since. Every aspect of their basic infra-structure was damaged or ruined to varying degrees.

I think we can cut them some slack when it comes to re-building an entire city, from beneath ground-up.

Meanwhile, nearly eighteen months later, with no earthquakes or any other major disasters (unless one  calls a National Government a major disaster), one wonders why National ministers have not progressed any further to re-build Pomare’s state housing?

After nearly a year and a half, all we’re seeing is a vast vacant lot, where once peoples’  homes existed,

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Pomare state housing_vacant lot_farmers cres

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Any ideas, Mr Brownlee?

(More on this issue in an up-coming blog-story)

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Planet Key’s #4 Moon “Dunne”; covered in a dense, white atmosphere; “Dunne” is known to move from Planet Key to Planet Labour depending on which mass is greatest. The largest surface object on “Dunne” is the ‘Make Me a Minister’ volcano, which erupts whenever there is a nearby power-source.

As Minister of Revenue and Flashy Hairstyles, Peter Dunne is charged with taxation issues in this country.

No doubt his job was made considerably harder with two tax cuts (2009 and 2010) which considerably reduced taxation revenue for the State. (see:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see:  Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b) Indeed, English was forced to tax children and their paper-rounds. (see:  Key rejects criticism of ‘paperboy tax’)

Taxing kid’s meagre earnings. That’s how low and desperate National ministers have gone, to make up for the 2009/10 ‘lolly scrambles’ when the Nats  gave away billions in unaffordable tax cuts.

To try to fill the fiscal hole that Bill English, Peter Dunne, et al, have put themselves into, they’ve been scrambling to raise government charges  and tax everything and anything else that moves. (see: Prescription fees increase, see: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase, see: Student fees rise faster than inflation, see: Petrol price rises to balance books)

The latest attempt to raise new taxes is Peter Dunne’s ‘carpark tax’,

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Business will evade car park tax

Acknowledgement: Fairfax media

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Well, well, well… a new tax?

A new fringe benefit tax?!

This is interesting.

Because John Key has always insisted that his Party cuts taxes and doesn’t increase them. Specifically, way back on 4 April 2005, when National was in Opposition,

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National Party Finance spokesman John Key has signalled an overhaul of the Fringe Benefit Tax, during a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club today.

“The next National Government will cut the red tape and compliance costs that are choking our businesses and preventing them from getting off first base,” he says.

“A practical example of what I am talking about is in the area of Fringe Benefit Tax.

“Today I want to announce that National will revamp Fringe Benefit Tax to remove a substantial amount of the paperwork that currently occupies too much administrative time for many of our businesses, especially the small ones.

[…]

We won’t entertain suggestions of applying FBT to on-premises car parks.” 

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

And again in 2010, when a video was uncovered where Dear Leader was quoted as saying,

National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.

See: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

When challenged on this in the House, just recently,  Minister for Everything, Steven Joyce, responded with this bit of bovine faecal material,

I would say that I think a fair amount has changed since that statement was made back in April 2005, which was when Don Brash was leader of the National Party. Since that time we have had three leaders of the Labour Party, and maybe a fourth leader of the Labour Party—”

Source: Parliament Hansards – 9. Tax System Changes—Employee Car-parks

Yeah. Lot’s of things have changed. Like, for example, the difference between being in Opposition and Promising the Moon – and being in Government and having to explain why the Moon is still out of reach.

And when the Nats have to make smart-arse comments about Labour’s leaders, then you know they’re really on the ropes. Defensive much, Mr Joyce?

Like Key’s broken promise on GST, the “carpark” tax is another instance of National breaking it’s election promises. Which indicates, mainly, that National’s tax-cuts were never as affordable as they made out in 2008.

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Special Edition Tax cuts today - John Key

Acknowledgement: National Party

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Planet Key’s #5 Moon “Bennett”; “Bennett” originated from the asteroid belt, where many poorer dwarf-planets with low mass; minimal mineral wealth; and mostly invisible, are locked in orbits that will take them nowhere. “Bennett” gravitated to the National Zone where her mass and mineral wealth increased by close association with  Planet Key and it’s many  moons.

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To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated 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

To quote Minister Bennett’s latest utterances on this issue, on 12 March 2013, when hundreds of  people recently queued for just seven jobs at Carter Holt Harvey in Auckland,

“Well I am absolutely thrilled that 200 turned up quite frankly we’ve got more than 50,000 on the unemployment benefit but work expectations of them I think the fact that they are lining up that they want those jobs um speaks for itself and about peoples’ motivation to get work.”
 

“There’s always a lot of people going for certain types of jobs and if in particular if they are lower skilled they feel they can do them, they don’t have a lot of work experience, they have been out of work for some time.”

 
“No I don’t feel there is a job for everyone and I think it’s damn tough but I am incredibly proud of New Zealanders and their  motivation and the fact that they want them and I know that the economy is improving and we are going to see more happening.”

See: TV3  – Campbell Live:  Sign of the times: hundreds queue for 7 jobs

Acknowledgement for transcript:  Waitakere News – Don Elder, Paula Bennett and the rest of us

Ok, so the lightbulb has finally clicked in Bennett’s head. New Zealand has a problem. We do not have enough jobs for the number of unemployed and solo-parents who want to work.

It’s not often that a politician acknowledges the bleedin’ obvious – so kudos to her for having the  courage to do so. (John Key might learn a thing from Bennett in terms of not ducking  issues.)

However, if there are not sufficient jobs to go around – what is the point in wasting taxpayers’ money and Parliament’s time on this exercise in futility,

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Welfare reform bill passed into law

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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And why is language like this used by Bennett,

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Reforms to help beneficiaries out of 'trap'

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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If there are insufficient jobs – as Bennett herself has now acknowledged on at least two occassions, then ipso facto, the following must be true;

  1. The only ‘trap’ is a lack of work – not welfare
  2. Why “reform” the welfare system  when welfare itself is not broke – it’s the economy that is not working (as are 170,000 people)
  3. Why muddy the waters with  rhetoric like  “trap of benefit dependency“; “introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work“; or that welfare had “become a bit of a trap for quite a few people“?

What does “a bit of a trap for quite a few people” mean? That it’s a “little” trap as opposed to a “big” trap? Or is she attempting to minimise the impact of her beneficiary-bashing by trying to soften her rhetoric?

So the “dog whistle” rhetoric filters down to the right wing; the ill-informed; and other welfare-hating cliques in our society – but the message is watered-down for the Middle Classes who are uncomfortable with victimising the unemployed, or who may even know someone who recently lost their jobs.

That’s the trouble with beneficiary bashing during times of high unemployment. Most of us know someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own. Bennett is walking a tight-rope here.

Eventually, people will be asking; why are National ministers  wasting time on pointless welfare “reform” when it’s jobs we need?

Once that message percolates into the collective consciousness of the masses, National will be left standing naked – their corrupt, bene-bashing, dog-whistle politics exposed for all to see.

A few questions for Ms Bennett,

Why are you messing around with welform “reform”, when it’s jobs that we need?

Why aren’t you and your well-paid ministerial colleagues reforming the economy to create more jobs?

How much are these “reforms”  costing us, the tax-payer?

How many extra jobs will welfare “reforms” create?

I don’t expect answers to these questions because, really, they are unanswerable.

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Links

Facebook: Pomare save our community

Copyright (c)  Notice

All self-made images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

17 January 2013 13 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s no great secret that the news media in this country – with perhaps one or two exceptions –  has been going downhill  in the last three decades.

As an example, the previous entities, the ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘ in Wellington,  once employed three reporters – two full time and one part-time – to cover  local body politics and events in the city.  No councillor or mayor could pass wind without one of the journos picking it up. If something smelled rotten, the journos would sniff it out fairly smartly.

Now, with continuing cutbacks at Fairfax media, and most sub-editors gone, the combined entity known as the ‘Dominion Post‘ has one journalist covering City Council activities on a part-time basis. Coverage has becomes sporadic, disjointed, and out of context.

Which is why Wellingtonians now have little idea what’s happening at their  Council.

TVNZ and TV3 once had current affairs programmes, at prime time, conducting in depth investigations into government activities and dubious behaviour from dodgy politicians.

Many of those programmes, ‘Holmes‘, ‘Assignment‘, have gone.  ‘Sunday” was an hour long on Sunday nights – that’s been cut to thirty minutes.

The main current affairs prpgrammes – TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ – have been relegated to Sunday mornings at 8am and 9am. Hardly conducive to encouraging the public to be aware of political issues in our country. Only insomniacs and the  most committed political junkie would be willing to forego a Sunday morning lie-in to watch TV journos in action with our elected representatives.

Private and State radio is perhaps  the only part of the  industry that has remained consistent.

Talkback Radio – idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

It is the realm where superficial “knowledge”  is the main currency and shrill prejudice holds sway over calm reasoned analysis on issues. Imagine allotting a bunch of bigoted, ill-informed rednecks  equal speaking time at the Oxford debates, shouting down their more knowledgeable and wiser debating opponants, and that gives an insight into talkback radio.

Even the talkback “hosts” are not ones to rise above the common, noisome mud of prejudice and wilful ignorance, as happened last week,

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

It’s all part of the commercial radio game; win as many listeners as you can by being as offensive and outrageous as you can. That wins ratings, which in turn let’s you sell more advertising, leading to higher profits, which results in  increasing dividends to ever more demanding shareholders.

In a free market society, being offensive and prejudiced (or even better still, offensively prejudiced) is profitable. (See: Laws told off for ‘shoot rabid reporters’ comment)

Ever wondered why radio stations and newspapers “love” Michael Laws so much? Wonder no more. He sells advertising.

Ironically, when radio stations like NewstalkZB are then held to account for  offensive behaviour, the additional publicity they gain – as in the case of the subsequent NZ Herald story above – gives them even more public attention. And higher ratings. And sell more advertising… It’s a win/win for them.

Radio NZ – after the political assassination of TVNZ7 – the last remaining non-commercial, public service media in this country.

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story

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It’s fairly obvious why Peter Cavanagh is resigning as  Chief Executive: National has plans to commercialise Radio NZ.

This will no doubt be aided and abetted by Radio NZ board chairman, Richard Griffin. As well as having been a former Radio NZ political editor, Griffin took the job of  press secretary to former National, prime minister, Jim Bolger (See:  Richard Griffin to chair Radio NZ board).

The stage is set…

For National,  non-commercial SOEs such as Radio NZ and TVNZ are anathema to their free market ideology – the very same ideology that saw the closure of TVNZ7 by deliberate political design, despite public support for the channel,

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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The commercialisation of  media such as TVNZ is of considerable benefit to National Party (and perhaps Labour?) politicians, for two very good reasons,

  1. They yield a profit to the State, thereby making government’s job much easier to balance The Books.
  2. Commercialisation encourages ratings-driven programming. Hence the preponderence of crime ‘drama’, reality TV shows of every description, cheap US sitcoms, home improvement shows, and more cooking programmes than you can shake a wooden spatula at.

The second rationale has a by-product that governing politicians welcome with cunningly-disguised glee; ratings driven programming does not include current affairs shows and documentary making. These are now funded by NZ on Air – and even NZOA has been captured by National’s party apparatchiks,

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

See previous blogpost: NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

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It is no coincidence that the gradual demise of intelligent programmes that inform and challenge  the viewer has been consistant with the rise and rise of commercialisation of the media – especially the state owned “public broadcaster”, TVNZ.

Quite simply, junk programmes such as cooking porn;  MaF officials measuring the size of fish in someone’s bucket; and crime ‘dramas’ depicting the latest grisly murder (usually a female victim) in ghoulish detail, is what sells advertising.

And it should be no surprise that as the media shies away from serious reporting of current affairs, we had the lowest voter turnout last year since 1887 (see:  Steve Liddle: Election apathy shows need for civics at school).

The Americanisation of our media (“if it bleeds, it leads”) is creating the Americanisation of our electoral process (apathy and low voter turnout – see: Voter turnout in 2012 US presidential elections 9% lower than 2008 ).

Major political parties – especially those on the Right, such as National – love this kind of thing. An unsophisticated public results in low-information voters. Low information voters allow  governments to get way with all manner of dubious policies such as cuts to services; more user pays; environmentally-damaging activities, and further implementation of neo-liberal ideology.

It literally encourages the dumbing-down of society until the consequences are satirised in movies like this,

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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Idiocracy” was produced as a speculative “what if” sf movie. It’s now more like a documentary. If you haven’t see it – this blogger strongly recommends that you do. You’ll be feeling a creepy sense of deja vu throughout it (and you’ll never look at ‘power drinks’ in quite the same way again).

It now appears that we, the New Zealand public, have till the end of the year to mobilise to pressure National not to interfere with the running of Radio NZ.

A statement from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting on 16 January, said,

The real story here is that the National Government – having fully commercialised TVNZ and done away with non-commercial TV channels Stratos, TV6 & 7 – is also slowly strangling RNZ to the point that it cannot survive. In 2007 a KPMG report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage found that RNZ was already running as efficiently as possible. It recommended a funding increase to allow RNZ to continue its high standards. But the following year, the National Government froze the RNZ budget and that freeze still exists with RNZ operating on the same budget as 5 years ago.

The CBB believes this is a shockingly poor way to treat our national radio broadcaster: the station we rely on in times of emergency, disaster and crisis. We note the repeated absence on RNZ of our Prime Minister (who prefers to goof around on commercial stations) and many of his Cabinet colleagues. This fact and frequent remarks made by Ministers, makes it clear that the decision to freeze funding to RNZ is an attempt to influence the station’s ability to present in-depth news and current affairs. This contradicts statutory requirements that the government does not influence RNZ editorial stance and may even be illegal.

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

The under-funding of Radio NZ has been abysmal, with National wilfully attempting to strangle the broadcaster by a lack of money.

The situation for Radio NZ has become so dire that in late 2011, the Crown Entity registered itself as a charity,

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

This is a deliberate campaign against Radio NZ and constitutes political interference – something that is strictly forbidden by law. National has found a way to circumvent that law.

Make no mistake, the dumbing down of Radio NZ is National’s final mission-plan to eliminate all critical, in-depth  media analysis and reporting  in this country. Turning Radio NZ in a radio-version of TVNZ would destroy any remaining  semblance of serious current affairs programming, resulting in another medium for mindless, unquestioning, consumerism.

This is the neo-liberal agenda at it’s nastiest. To be successful in re-shaping a society into a “free market”, the new right must first remove all critical elements in society and either destroy it or marginalise it.

The commercialisation of Radio NZ would be the beginning of that marginalisation. Next would be a partial privatisation, followed by a full-scale sell-off.

This blogger encourages the reader to;

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Join Save Radio New Zealand on Facebook. Get your friends and family to “Like” the facebook page – the more the better! Support a replacement for Peter Cavanagh  who will  maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

2.

If you have a National MP as your electorate MP, let him/her know your your vote in 2014 will depend on what happens to Radio NZ.  Tell your National MP that not only will you vote for another Party, but you’ll be making a donation to them as well! Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

3.

Write a short letter to your local newspaper and voice your feelings on this issue. The deliberate demise of TVNZ7 was bad enough – but attacking Radio NZ is the final straw. Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

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Write to Labour Leader David Shearer and demand that, if he expects voter support, that Labour reverse National’s  policies and undoes any commercialisation of Radio New Zealand.

On Point #4, the demise of TVNZ7 and impending commercialisation of Radio NZ  underscores one very critical issue: that important services such as Radio NZ must be protected by entrenched legislation that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for incoming  National regimes to to undermine such Crown entities.

It is unbelievable that an organisation such as Radio NZ – which has been operating in one form or another since 1925 – is vulnerable to the ideological machinations of a “government” that has been in office for only the last four years.  In existence for 88 years – vulnerable to attack in four?!

A new Labour-led government’s Broadcasting Minister’s first task must be to enact legislation that;

  • entrenches protection for Radio NZ,
  • denies right governments any opportunity to commercialise the broadcaster,
  • ring-fenches funding and ties it to the rate of inflation – perhaps by the Remuneration Authority which also sets MP’s salaries and perks.

The same protections must be in place for any new non-commercial public TV broadcaster that is set up by an incoming Labour-led government. Crown Entities must be free of covert political interference by the likes of Key, English, Joyce, et al, who cannot resist sticking their grubby fingers into places they shouldn’t.

At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, this issue is not just about saving Radio NZ from commercialisation. This is a battle for the minds and souls of New Zealanders.

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

Despite its budget freeze, National Radio continues to do an excellent job. Its current affairs programmes are intelligent and objective. That’s why you rarely hear the prime minister on Morning Report or Checkpoint. As the recent BBC Hardtalk episode showed, Mr Key becomes dangerously exposed when interviewed by a tough, intelligent journalist. He tends to send in street-smart Gerry Brownlee to take one for the team on Radio New Zealand, while he has a cosy yet inane chat with ex-children’s presenter Petra Bagust on Breakfast or talks to Veitchy on sports radio about hot chicks. That’s far more fun than explaining to Mary Wilson why parents are going to have to pay more for childcare.”

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes (late Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria, United States, etc), despots control the media with an iron fist. Members of the state security apparatus watch every word printed; every word uttered; every picture or video screened.

In the West, we do despotic control of the media in more subtle ways. We use “market forces” instead of  secret police forces.

The Western model is far more successful because the general populace doesn’t realise it’s happening. In fact, the general populace rather like “Master Chef Albania” or “CSI Timbuktu” or “Mumbai Squalid Home Improvement”. Unfortunately, watching such drivel doesn’t make the populace any smarter or informed. It simply prepares them for Talkback radio.

It’s up to the rest of us to lead the fight and stop National in it’s tracks.

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

References

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

NZ Herald: Radio Network apologises for ‘dyke’ slur against Alison Mau

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

Brian Edwards: TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

Tumeke: Is the NZ Herald a newspaper or a Police press release?

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

Whoar: “..Radio NZ tops 2012 ratings..”

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A lesson in Energy Economics

17 September 2012 Leave a comment

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This is the Treaty of Waitangi, signed by most tribes in New Zealand, and by the Representative of Her Majesty, Lieutenant-Governor, William Hobson,

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The full English text can be read here: Treaty of Waitangi.

The relevant part to the treaty, guaranteeing rights to land, forests, water, mountain, etc, is this bit, Article 2,

Article the second [Article 2]

Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.

Seems fairly clear; what’s theirs is theirs and no nicking each others’ stuff.

Now, unfortunately, I have fellow New Zealanders who hold to the belief that the Treaty of Waitangi is “no longer relevant” or is “outdated”.

Interesting idea that; “no longer relevant”.

Firstly, the Treaty has no “expiry date” or “statute of limitations”. Nothing in the  small print  states that the Treaty is valid for only X number of years.

Secondly, imagine trying to tell our American cuzzies that their Declaration of Independence – signed in 1776AD, and therefore some 64 years older than our own Treaty – is “no longer relevant” or  “outdated”? They’d have half their US Marines camped outside your front door – and not in a happy way, either.

And of course, there is the Magna Carta, signed in 1215AD, and which is the basis of much of our modern law.  If the Magna Carta is “no longer relevant” or  “outdated” then we are in serious trouble, as the state would have arbitrary powers of detention and imprisonment without right of trial, and we would lose other legal protections from State abuse.

And then there are the Ten Commandments, several thousand years old, which state the most basic laws of a civilised society; no killing, no stealing, no false accusations, etc.

Few people would try to assert that these basic laws are “no longer relevant” or  “outdated”?

Time does not extinguish rights.

Those who object to the principles of the Treaty do so out of fear and misconceptions (and sometimes out of downright racist hostility) than any notions of fairness.

The Treaty is the basis upon which our ancestors agreed to live together and to respect each other. We should respect that agreement and use it in the spirit in which it was signed.

Otherwise we disrespect our forebears (on all sides) and do ourselves a dishonour in the  process.

Moving forward and onward…

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II

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In replying to Maori claims of water rights, Dear Leader John Key has stated earnestly that “no one owns the water”.

Until now,  Maori have made no claims over water in terms of this country’s energy production. With Meridian, Mighty River Power, and Genesis Energy under collective  state ownership, it could equally be said that “no one owned the power companies – they belonged to us all.

If, until now, we all benefitted from collective ownership of power companies, then, equally the source of that power was in collective ownership. Now National is attempting to privatise 49% of  Meridian, Mighty River Power, and Genesis Energy – effectively changing the rules.

The concept of private ownership is now contemplated for up-till-now collectively-owned assets. So what about the source of that power which will now benefit a small group who will own 49%?

Can the source of hydro power be owned, especially when it produces profits?

Let’s test that idea, shall we?

Simple question: who owns the following resources?

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Oil. Natural  gas. Coal. Uranium. None of this stuff  is free. Someone owns the ground or the process used to extract it.  There is a concept of private ownership  over these energy sources that can be quantified, measured, controlled,  priced, and sold.

Until Pakeha arrived on these fair shores as the second wave of  “boat people” – refugees from a class-stratified society – Maori had no concept of private ownership. Property was not owned by individuals. Iwi and hapu held collective kawanatanga over their lands, waters, forests, hills, seashores, etc.

Once Pakeha arrived, the notion of private ownership and Land Titles were introduced to Maori.

Some Pakeha might object – but water is sacred!

So is land. God knows enough of our young men have gone off to war to defend our nation; our people; our lands, from foreign domination, in two World Wars.

Some Pakeha would object – but water is ephemeral!

So are radio/television  frequencies. But that hasn’t stopped the government to leasing/selling those to private companies. (Try broadcasting on the same wavelength as TVNZ or TV3, and see what the reaction from those companies and the State would be.)

This is a hydro power station,

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Powered by this stuff,

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Water  generates the turbines which produces the power that is on-sold to consumers.

So how does water differ from oil, gas, coal, and uranium?

Private ownership?  It suited us Pakeha when it was used to our benefit to “acquire” land from Maori.

Maori learnt that lesson well and the shoe is now on the other foot.

If Pakeha are going to flog of 49% of  assets that, up till now, no one owned and collectively benefitted us all, then by the gods, Maori can – and should – apply precisely the same principle.

Welcome to the world of capitalism – our ‘gift’ to Maori

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III

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Pakeha schizophrenia over private ownership was nowhere better summed up than on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 16 September, when Shane Taurima interviewed Dear Leader John Key on this issue,

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In a stunning act of conversion to social democratic principles, John Key equated the collective ownership of water with oil and gas,

… So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Really?!?!

JohnKey is telling us that, ” natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another “?!?

Since when did National or Labour nationalise the oil and gas industry???

This little piece of news-trivia slipped by me, that’s for sure. (Must’ve been announced on the other TV channel when we wasted two minutes watching ‘The Ridges‘.)

It’s pure bullshit of course. John Key is spinning porkies when he’s suggesting that the oil and gas industry is ” there for the national interest of everyone “. These resources belong to various corporations – not ”  for the benefit of all New Zealanders “.

In fact, the last time New Zealand held any State ownership in any aspect of the oil and gas industry was  with Petrocorp and Maui gas – both  privatised, respectively, in 1988 and 1990.

See: Treasury – Income from State Asset Sales

John Key’s assertion that the oil and gas industry is ” there for the national interest of everyone ” is either delusional (spending too much time with John Banks?) or a clumsy fairytale to try to woo New Zealanders into a cosy, cotton-wool, fantasy world.

This blogger would welcome and support National nationalising all oil and gas production in this country, ”  for the benefit of all New Zealanders “.

The fact is that Dear Leader blew it.

Not only was his paradigm absurdly false – but it actually shored up the legitamacy of Maori claims over water rights.

If private ownership can be conferred over this country’s oil and gas resources, for the private benefit of shareholders, then John Key needs to explain – in far more truthful terms this time – why water is different.

This blogger  believes that so far he has made a complete hash of things.

More importantly, will a Court take a similar view?

My money is on Maori winning this one.

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IV

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An email sent to Dear Leader,

Date: Monday, 17 September 2012 12:11 AM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Nationalisation of oil and gas resources
To: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: David Shearer <david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Russel Norman <Russel.Norman@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Metiria Turei <metiria.turei@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Winston Peters <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia Ora Mr Key,
 
On 16 September, you stated on TVNZ’s Q+A the following statement,
” … So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “
 

Source:  http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/interview-prime-minister-john-key-5085886

I missed the occassion when our oil and gas industries were nationalised, so that profits would remain in New Zealand,  “for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another”.

This is an excellent state of affairs and I welcome your government’s conversion to social democracy whereby  our ”  natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone “.

I take it as a given then, that you have not only abandoned your asset sales programme, but will be re-nationalising Contact Energy.

In which case, it is a truism that “no one owns the oil and gas” in the ground, and subsequently these resources belong to all New Zealanders collectively.

I may have to reconsider my vote, come 2014, as I wish to support the newly discovered  social-democratic principles shown by your Party.

With regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

See: https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/a-lesson-in-energy-economics/

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Folic Acid vs Vitamin B9

2 September 2012 10 comments

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Folic Acid

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Definition

Folic acid is a water-soluable vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins. These vitamins help the body break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used for energy. Excess B vitamins are excreted from the body rather than stored for later use. This is why sufficient daily intake of folic acid is necessary.

Description

Folic acid is also known as folate, or folacin. It is one of the nutrients most often found to be deficient in the Western diet, and there is evidence that deficiency is a problem on a worldwide scale. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas and lentils, liver, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, nutritional yeast, tuna, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched bread and grain products to boost intake and to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD).

Purpose

Folic acid works together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to metabolize protein in the body. It is important for the formation of red and white blood cells. It is necessary for the proper differentiation and growth of cells and for the development of the fetus. It is also used to form the nucleic acid of DNA and RNA. It increases the appetite and stimulates the production of stomach acid for digestion and it aids in maintaining a healthy liver. A deficiency of folic acid may lead to anemia, in which there is decreased production of red blood cells. This reduces the amounts of oxygen and nutrients that are able to get to the tissues. Symptoms may include fatigue, reduced secretion of digestive acids, confusion, and forgetfulness. During pregnancy, a folic acid deficiency may lead to preeclampsia, premature birth, and increased bleeding after birth.
People who are at high risk of strokes and heart disease may greatly benefit by taking folic acid supplements. An elevated blood level of the amino acid homocysteine has been identified as a risk factor for some of these diseases. High levels of homocysteine have also been found to contribute to problems with osteoporosis. Folic acid, together with vitamins B6 and B12, helps break down homocysteine, and may help reverse the problems associated with elevated levels.
Pregnant women have an increased need for folic acid, both for themselves and their child. Folic acid is necessary for the proper growth and development of the fetus. Adequate intake of folic acid is vital for the prevention of several types of birth defects, particularly NTDs. The neural tube of the embryo develops into the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and the skull. If this tube forms incompletely during the first few months of pregnancy a serious, and often fatal, defect results in spina bifida or anencephaly. Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conception through the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%.It also helps prevent a cleft lip and palate.
Research shows that folic acid can be used to successfully treat cervical dysplasia, a condition diagnosed by a Pap smear, of having abnormal cells in the cervix. This condition is considered to be a possible precursor to cervical cancer, and is diagnosed as an abnormal Pap smear. Daily consumption of 1,000 mcg of folic acid for three or more months has resulted in improved cervical cells upon repeat Pap smears.
Studies suggest that long-term use of folic acid supplements may also help prevent lung and colon cancer. Researchers have also found that alcoholics who have low folic acid levels face a greatly increased possibility of developing colon cancer.

Preparations

To correct a folic acid deficiency, supplements are taken in addition to food. Since the functioning of the B vitamins is interrelated, it is generally recommended that the appropriate dose of B-complex vitamins be taken in place of single B vitamin supplements. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for folate is 400 mcg per day for adults, 600 mcg per day for pregnant women, and 500 mcg for nursing women. Medicinal dosages of up to 1,000-2,000 mcg per day may be prescribed.

Precautions

Folic acid is not stable. It is easily destroyed by exposure to light, air, water, and cooking. Therefore, the supplement should be stored in a dark container in a cold, dry place, such as a refrigerator. Many medications interfere with the body’s absorption and use of folic acid. This includes sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, estrogen, anti-convulsants, birth control pills, antacids, quinine, and some antibiotics. Using large amounts of folic acid (e.g., over 5,000 mcg per day) can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency and thereby risk of irreversible nerve damage.

Side effects

At levels of 5,000 mcg or less, folic acid is generally safe for use. Side effects are uncommon. However, large doses may cause nausea, decreased appetite, bloating, gas, decreased ability to concentrate, and insomnia. Large doses may also decrease the effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), a seizure medication.

Source:  The Free Dictionary

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Overdose risks

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The risk of toxicity from folic acid is low, because folate is a water-soluble vitamin and is regularly removed from the body through urine.

Source: Vitamins and minerals: efficacy and safety, U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Folic Acid. Folate. Vitamin B9. Vitamin Bc. Folacin. Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid.  Pteroyl-L-glutamate. Pteroylmonoglutamic acid. Take your pick.

All different names to one of many naturally occurring compounds which our (and other animals) bodies need to survive.

Before western society decided to process the hell out of our foods, we ingested Folic Acid/Vitamin B9 in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lettuce, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, beans, peas,  lentils, bananas, oranges, peaches, Sunflower seeds, and meats such as liver and poultry, etc.

See:  Foods rich in folic acid and vitamin B12

So it’s not exactly some weird concoction, brewed up  by a mad scientist slaving over bubbling beakers and arcing electrodes in Victor von Frankenstein’s basement,

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When the issue first arose in 2009, the debate whether to add Folic Acid/Folate/Vitamin B9/Vitamin Bc/Folacin/Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid/Pteroyl-L-glutamate/Pteroylmonoglutamic acid to all breads,  was lost on Day One  when the vitamin was referred tro as “Folic Acid”.

This blogger will be the first to admit that  had never heard of “folic acid” or “folate”.

Folic acid… Sounded suspiciously like hydrochloric acid… sulphuric acid… hydroflouric acid…  Nasty chemicals which have no place in the human body.

Except that the unfortunately-sounding apellation – folic acid – had nothing to do with any of the above tissue-damaging chemicals above. Like ascorbic acid – aka, ascorbate or Vitamin C.

Like most  people, the substance was more recognisable with it’s more benign label; Vitamin B9. A quick googling soon informed me that folic acid = Vitamin B9.

*whew*

Panic over.

Visions of a nefarious government secret agency lacing our food with ACID were dispelled.

But… how many other people failed to make the connection? Most folk have only a basic understanding of  Nature and science. Fears arise easily – especially when things have gone terribly wrong in history…

Atomic power… asbestos… pesticides… thalidomide… chloroflurocarbons… human-produced atmospheric CO2… History is littered with triumphs of science and technology – only to learn later that there were unintended consequences.

Heck, the Ancient Romans used to store and  drink wine from urns made from lead. Wine is acidic… and it leeched lead from it’s vessels. The consequential lead poisoning must have been horrific.

The 21st century version of lead-poisoning in antiquity is plastic bottles containing BPA (bisphenol A) – which has been discovered to have nasty effects on the human body.

See: BPA Chemical Leaches From Hard Plastic Drinking Bottles Into The Body, Study

When humans are unfamiliar with something, they are naturally cautious and wary. (A survival trait, no doubt, when our ancestors had to cope with poisonous plants, big nasty  insects, hungry sabre-tooth tigers, and other perils of  Paleolithic Earth.)

The reality  of Vitamin B9 was  simple and straight forward; it was a natural compound that could reduce the incidence of Neural Tube Defects. But even that term – Neural Tube Defects – meant nothing to the average Bloke and Blokette.  It was a vague medical term that  99% of us had never heard before.

Another way to explain Neural Tube Defects is spina bifida (one form of NTD),

The human nervous system develops from a small, specialized plate of cells along the back of an embryo. Early in development, the edges of this plate begin to curl up toward each other, creating the neural tube—a narrow sheath that closes to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. As development progresses, the top of the tube becomes the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord. This process is usually complete by the 28th day of pregnancy. But if problems occur during this process, the result can be brain disorders called neural tube defects, including spina bifida…

… Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). It is the most common neural tube defect in the United States – affecting 1,500 to 2,000 of the more than 4 million babies born in the country each year.

See: MedicineNet.com – Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defect)

Whilst many with spina bifida can walk with assistance-devices, others will be confined to wheelchairs for their entire lives.

Many will have problems with urination, having to use plastic catheters inserted into their urethra/penis to urinate. Some will need hygiene pads to contain uncontrollably excreted faeces in their underwear. Others have other surgically-enhanced techniques for relieving themselves.

A number will require ongoing surgery to address complications caused by their condition,

Some children will need subsequent surgeries to manage problems with the feet, hips, or spine. Individuals with hydrocephalus generally will require additional surgeries to replace the shunt, which can be outgrown or become clogged.

Some individuals with spina bifida require assistive devices such as braces, crutches, or wheelchairs. The location of the malformation on the spine often indicates the type of assistive devices needed. Children with a defect high on the spine and more extensive paralysis will often require a wheelchair, while those with a defect lower on the spine may be able to use crutches, bladder catherizations, leg braces, or walkers.

Treatment for paralysis and bladder and bowel problems typically begins soon after birth, and may include special exercises for the legs and feet to help prepare the child for walking with braces or crutches when he or she is older.

See: How is spina bifida treated?

For people  with spina bifida, in wheelchairs, they will need ongoing assistance until their final day.  The way they overcome they restricted mobility and challenges  is nothing short of heroic.

There are many things they will struggle with, and many that will be beyond their abilities without varying degrees of assistance.

For  many of us, visiting a friend who happens to live a few dozen steps up from the road is something we do without much consideration. Not so for a person with spina bifida.

Imagine the degradation of being lifted up stairs to enter a building, and being carried up by others. (Not all buildings have electors or ramps, contrary to public perception – and 99.99% of private homes certainly do not have elevators.)

If you’re in a wheelchair, you will most likely never journey through New Zealand’s wilderness.

And going to a beach will most likely involve being carried bodily onto the sand. (Unless they can afford an expensive, specialised, wheelchair.)

A home for a person with spina bifida has be be totally adapted to his/her needs; wheelchair ramps (both front and rear door);  bathroom adapted to be a “wet area”; modified cabinets, benches, oven, sink, in kitchens; lowered light switches, etc.

The State has to provide ongoing assistance in many areas of a wheelchair bound person’s life and home.

Relationships can be more difficult to form, as many people do not see past a wheelchair or crutches.

I encourage an able-bodied person to try to spend 24 hours in a wheelchair. You probably wouldn’t  make it past 30  minutes.

I write this not for pity for people with spina bifida – they don’t need our pity – but for understanding that for every decision we make, there are consequences.

Not adding vitamin B9  to bread will have consequences; women giving birth to babies afflicted with spina bifida.

Critics of fortification use the cliche of  “mass medication” and insist that pregnant women take vitamin B9 supplements to assist their unborn child.

“Mass medication” is a mis-nomer. Vitamin B9 is not “medicine”. It is a natural occurring compound like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, etc, etc, etc.

And if folic acid/vitamin B9/folate/whatever was so harmful – why are bottles of B9 supplements available in every single supermarket, chemists, health-food shop in New Zealand?

No one has ever suggested that adding Vitamin C to our fruit drinks is “mass medication” – it would be ridiculous to suggest so.

And by the time a woman discovers that she is pregnant, it may be too late to take Vitamin B9 supplements,

Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conceptionthrough the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%…”

Source:  The Free Dictionary

Where did the campaign, along with the “mass medication” meme, originate? Like many of these fear-campaigns, it’s a matter of ‘following the money‘,

The Bakers’ Association has labelled the compulsory introduction “mass medication” of the population, and warned that bread containing folic acid will be less safe than it is now. “

The Bakers’ Association “mass medication” rhetoric was followed by ex-National MP, and neo-liberal,  Katherine Rich, who was now leading the NZ Food and Grocery Council,

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said there was no good reason to medicate an entire nation without clear benefits and known risks.

“They are embarking on a medical experiment of grand proportions,” she said. “If there are long-term effects and the Government is keen on adding folic acid, they should indemnify”.”

See: Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread

See previous blogpost: Crony Watch!

The same Katherine Rich who opposed liquor controls for supermarkets and has been a staunch defender of  light-handed regulation of the alcohol industry.

See: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes

Interesting how two separate business organisations were using similar fear-tactics; “mass medication” (Bakers’ Association) and “medical experiment” (NZ Food and Grocery Council ). And note that the NZ Herald in which those comments were reported is dated 17 May 2009 – one of the very first references to “mass medication”.

These fear tactics were unsupported by any hard facts, and relied on dubious “experts” and dodgy “science”. It was all very convenient for commercial interests that were more concerned at cost – than the health of this nation’s children.

Bomber Bradbury, from the ‘Tumeke’ blog summed it up nicely when he said,

” There was also a torrent of anger about ‘putting stuff in my food, personal choice blah blah blah’. I’m all for the heavy hand of Government regulation if it means avoiding 70+ children each year (abortions plus live births) being born with deformities. I don’t buy into the ‘personal choice’ stuff at all, we all concede certain choices to live together and if putting folic acid into bread reduces deformities, what’s the problem? The issue HAS to be based on the science, and right now there is science that suggests a connection with cancer – if that science is as weak as some have posted here, and is as weak as Gluckman thinks it is, then it should be a 6month review tops to explore that and make a call. Kicking for touch with a 3 year moratorium is weak by Key and means 200 kids + will be born with deformities in those 3 years.

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.”

See: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call

Bomber Bradbury has hit the nail on the head when he says,

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.

Bingo!

Profits from bread: privatised.

Massive financial costs of 20+ children born with spina bifida: socialised.

How many times have we heard that?!

Concerns over “increased cancer” fears were dispelled in a discussion on 8 July, on TVNZ’s Q+A, with Andrew Marshall from the Paediatric Society of NZ,

GREG BOYED

First and foremost, a couple of hundred more cases of cancer per year – what are your responses to that?

ANDREW MARSHALL

Completely false. If we look at the United States where they introduced mandatory fortification in ’98, there’s been a reduction in all cancers since that time. So it’s not true it will increase cancer. It reduces cancer overall.

GREG What are your thoughts on Dr Smith’s science, because, as he said, he’s done extensive studies on an extensive number of people.

ANDREW I’ve reviewed his studies. He is very selective in the studies he chooses. He talks about a meta-analysis of 38,000. There’s a different meta-analysis using a similar population – some of the studies overlap – of 35,000, which is much stronger. It shows no relationship with cancer, no increased risk, no statistical risk. So he’s selective in the studies he chooses, and he’s chosen a weaker study which showed a borderline. Even the writers of that study said there was no definite increase; it was borderline.

See: Q+A: Transcript of Andrew Marshall interview

On 2 September 2012, “Food Safety” Minister, Kate Wilkinson was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A. Greg Boyd asked why National had decided not to opt to add vitamin B9 to nearly all bread.  In a breath-taking example of ignoring real research and common sense, Wilkinson said,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science, because, as you know with science, you can have scientists arguing black and scientists arguing white. At the end of the day, the consultation went out. The submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary, so people can make up their own mind whether they want folic acid in their bread or not. “

As Q+A producer, Tim Watkin,  said on the ‘Pundit’  blog,

So the baking industry won the day over the medical folk, not by the strength of their arguments or superiority of their science, but by the weight of numbers.

Bizarre.

We’re an anti-intellectual enough country at the best of times, but to be so cavalier about science is a terrible signal to send.

See: Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson

For Wilkinson to state,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science…

The clear message is that people want choice.”

… means we have abandoned common sense and policies made for social good,  and allowed commercial interests and the paranoia of a few individuals, to determine the health and safety of our children?!

One must also ask that if National was swayed by “the submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary” – why have they not taken heed of the vast number of submissions opposing state asset sales.

See: Hundreds beg committee to stop sale of state assets

Selective much?

Executive director, John Forman, from The Organisation for Rare Disorders was also  obviously disappointed by National’s decision,

“Up to 20 babies every year will die or be seriously disabled by neural tube defects (NTD) in New Zealand, thanks to the Government’s decision today to keep the fortification of bread voluntary.”

See: Folic acid to remain voluntary

Indeed, whilst we enjoy our “choice” – unborn children do not. Their future lives will be blighted by the choices that we adults have made for them.

Spooked by back-room dealings and manipulations by vested interests, we have allowed ourselves to be panicked and corralled like a bunch of sheep. The food industry maintains its profits by not having to pay for vitamin B9 to be added to bread, and National maintain’s it’s slavish adhrerence to the mantra of “personal choice”.

Another example of the Cult of the Individual, with it’s nasty, self-centered “Me First” attitude, and all it’s dreadful consequences.

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Additional

Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread (May, 2009)

Q + A: Paul Holmes interviews Sue Kedgley and Kate Wilkinson about folic acid (July, 2009)

Minister sides with bakers on folic acid (July, 2009)

Will bill make food safer or be a form of control? (February, 2012)

Folate fortified bread back on table (May, 2012)

Australians beating us over meat labelling (May, 2012)

Folic acid to remain voluntary (August, 2012)

Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson (September, 2012)

Previous blogposts

Crony Watch!

Other blogs

Tumeke: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call (July, 2009)

The Pundit: National’s folic tangle (July, 2009)

Corporations & Health Watch: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes (December, 2011)

The Pundit: The folate debate – no easy choices (July, 2012)

The Pundit: Get foliced! Now science is just a ‘nice to have‘ (September, 2012)

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Q+A – 5 August 2012

5 August 2012 12 comments

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Q+A,  Charter schools

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See video

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The highly contentious issue of Charter Schools was canvassed on Q+A this morning (5 August). Corin Dann interviewed  NZEI President Ian Leckie and Former ACT president Catherine Isaac.

The Associate Minister for Education and ACT Party MP, John Banks, was nowhere to be seen. Curiously, it was left up to Catherine Isaac – not an elected member of Parliament – to front on the issue of Charter schools.

As Corin Dann said to Ms Isaacs,

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CORIN OK, Ian Leckie, thank you. Now, Catherine, just finally, is it disappointing-? Are you disappointed that John Banks couldn’t come on this morning and front this issue? I mean, he’s your minister, your person in Parliament. We were pretty disappointed that he couldn’t come on.

ISAAC I couldn’t comment on that. I’m not sure why he couldn’t come on. I haven’t discussed that with him.

CORIN Well, it seems to be… Our feeling is that he’s reluctant, because he may be asked questions about the saga, of course, that’s been running over donations. And why I’m asking you this question is because does that make him an ineffectual minister to be fronting this flagship policy of your party’s?

ISAAC I’m sure you’ll find he’ll be fronting it.

CORIN So he won’t-? Does that mean he’d be-?

ISAAC Well, I can’t speak for him, of course, but he’s very positive about this policy. He’s extremely excited about it, and I’m sure you’ll see him appearing as often as he can.

CORIN But as a high-ranking party member, can you speak for the party? It must be disappointing.

ISAAC I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party. But I think that you will find that John Banks will be a powerful advocate for this policy.

CORIN Do you think he’s been unfairly treated by the media and others?

ISAAC I don’t have a view on that.

CORIN You don’t have a view at all?

ISAAC I don’t

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Catherine Issac and Ian Leckie interview

Corin Dann has summed it up perfectly; John Banks has become  an ineffectual Minister when he is no longer able to front to explain radical new policies that National/ACT are implementing. It’s fairly obvious Banks is too frightened to appear where journalists are in a position to ask him hard questions over the Undeclared Donations saga.

It is also astounding that Catherine Isaacs appeared for National/ACT, when, as she herself stated,

“I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party.”

If she can’t speak for the ACT Party – what was she doing, fronting on Q+A, to promote Charter Schools, which is ACT policy?

Maybe John Banks just ‘forgot’ to turn up for the interview?

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Q+A, Fred Pearce

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Of particular interest to us should be journalist and author of  ‘The Landgrabbers: The new fight over who owns the Earth‘, Fred Pearce,

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See video

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Pearce was interviewed over the critical issue of foreign buy-ups of arable farmland threoughout the world. Pearce revealed that buy-ups of land wasn’t just occurring here in New Zealand – but was taking place in Africa, South America, and elsewhere.

He was adamant in stating that the “land grabs” were part of a process of certain nations securing food sources at a time in our history when this will become a critical issue. He stated, in part,

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JESSICA Are we right to be jumpy here in New Zealand?

PEARCE I think you are, actually, because you’re a relatively small country. Your land is valuable. Clearly there’s a lot of interest internationally in your dairy farming. There’s a tradition of German interest in New Zealand. And it could easily get out of hand, but it’s still relatively small-scale in New Zealand. Now, the figures I’ve seen suggest 1% or perhaps 2% of New Zealand farmland is in foreign hands, and while that could increase, that’s a heck of a lot less than, say, Liberia in West Africa, where two-thirds of all their land is now under some kind of concession to foreign investors, or South Sudan, the new state that was just set up a year ago in Africa, where 10% of all the land had been given away in some kind of lease deal to foreigners even before the state was created, before they’d raised the flag. So, you know, on the scale of things, New Zealand isn’t in a bad state. But you do have to watch out, because there is a huge kind of land rush round the world going on, and prospectors and national governments and big corporations in expanding nations like China and India are looking out for really quite large areas of land, and if they can get hold of them and at a good price, then they will.

JESSICA Why does it matter whether its foreigners or locals who own the land?

PEARCE Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. In good times, people will invest and it probably won’t matter too much. But in bad times, it can be a problem. And you have to say that land is a very fundamental asset for a country. There’s nothing much more fundamental than land to a nation. And if you sell or give long leases on that land to foreign entities, then you lose control of it. You have much more democratic control, if push comes to shove, with a nationally owned company than you do with a foreign-owned company. But it is also true that we’re all part of a global economy now. Even if the company that owns the land is based in New Zealand, it may well have bankers who are abroad. So we can’t, I think, sort of put up very high walls around our country. But we do need to have democratic accountability. We need make sensible democratic decisions about how much we’re prepared to give land to other countries or other countries. Now, they may bring in expertise, which we want; they may bring in finance that we want. But there again, they may be out for a quick hit. They may be wanting to make a quick profit and not really contribute to the national economy, and those are the kind of things that one has to look out for. As I say, I think New Zealand is a kind of grown-up nation. New Zealand can look after itself. But many – especially in Africa – small, new, poor nations really do have great difficulty in keeping control of their assets if rich foreigners want to come calling.

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Fred Pearce interview

It seems that we New Zealanders were right to be concerned with offshore investors buying up arable land and that we risk losing control of this valuable asset at our peril.

Whether foreign ownership emanates from Berlin, Beijing, or Boston – be concerned. Be very concerned.

As Pearce said about land,

You know, they’re not making land any more, so, you know, you’ve got to look after what you have. 

By the way, as a side-note; during the video interview with Pearce, an object appeared at the top right of the screen. It faded away momentarily, then came back brighter and more defined.

Anyone got any ideas what it was? (Cue: the X-Files  theme.)

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Q+A, Paul Holmes

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Also on TVNZ’s Q+A this morning; Paul Holmes.

But not the Paul Holmes we’ve known since 1989, when he first  beamed into our  homes.

This morning, Paul looked terrible;  gaunt, weak, with shaky voice – the result of recent open-heart surgery. At one point he had to reach and grasp an object to support himself on his feet. His appearance was so shocking that at any moment I expected him to collapse,

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Source

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What was TVNZ thinking, allowing him on-air?

It was irresponsible.

It was heart-wrenching, watching him struggle to stay on his feet.

Not good, TVNZ.

And for Paul,

Get well soon, mate.  You’ve got too much work to do, skivving of up on that farm of yours. TV is not the same without your impish grin on our TV screens.

Get better, please.

And we’ll see you back, when you’re 100% again!

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John Key – keep your grubby hands of Local Body Councils!

17 July 2012 8 comments

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Full story

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At a recent Local Government conference in Queenstown, John Key exhorted local body councils to “reign in” spending and “focus on core services”,

The Government proposes axing the community wellbeings from the Local Government Act to make councils focus on ”core responsibilities” and reduce the rates burden on constituents.  “

See:  Councils to pressure Govt over reforms

This theme of “core services” is one that National has been banging-on about since Nick Smith was Local Government Minister. In May of this year, Smith’s replacement as LG Minister, David Carter,  was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A.

To suggest that he was sending “mixed messages” was fairly evident. But interviewer Greg Boyd managed to elicit responses from Carter that revealed National’s obessesive mania for local governments to stick to “core services”,

GREG BOYD            Well, hold on.  It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this.  They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not.  Which way is it to go?
 
DAVID CARTER            We are not saying that councils can only do core services.  If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park.  You could argue that’s not a core service.  The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that.  The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make.  It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.

[abridged]

GREG BOYD            So you are limiting local government?  They are going to be in charge of very basic things and numbers and keeping an eye on rates.  You are limiting their scope quite a bit.
 
DAVID     CARTER       We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes.   In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing.  I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone.  It cost local government in that area a lot of money.  We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity.  And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.

See: Q+A Interview with David Carter 20 May 2012

So the upshot is;

  • Flower Shows – good
  • Grand Prix racing – bad

No doubt local government bodies will await further diktats from the Minister as to what is permissable and what is not.  (And it;’s laughable how National painted Labour as “nanny statist?!”)

Yet, National is not averse to spending tax-payers money on events that are not Central Government  “core services”,

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Full story

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National had no qualms in spending $39 million of our money on rugby. On top of that, they supported the spending of a further $200 million of public money on the Games.

And National certainly doesn’t seem to mind when SEO’s paid out $54 million in “performance bonuses” to their staff in 2011, with power companies spending the highest.

See:  SEOs pay $54m in staff bonuses

Perhaps John Key and National should look at themselves first as to what they are spending our taxes on.

Especially when recent disclosures to Radio NZ reveal that private consultants have been paid  hundreds of millions of dollars for “advice” of dubious quality and necessity.

This blogger detects not just the sickly-sweet stench of hypocrisy on this issue, but signs of National’s propensity for heavy-handed, ideologically-motivated,  State interference where they are not welcomed, nor justified.

National has it’s own “core services” to focus on – unemployment, stagnating economy, low wages, New Zealanders leaving for Australia, and  deeply unpopular programmes of state asset sales, charter schools, mining, school league tables, alcohol abuse, etc .

National should be focusing in their own backyard – because from where I sit, they have enough of a mess to clean up, without peering over the fence onto other people’s “turf”.

We’re still waiting for those 170,000 new jobs, Dear Leader.

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A John, a Tony, and a Winston

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This morning’s  ‘Q+A’ (TV1), and ‘The Nation’  (TV3),  featured interviews with John Key, Tony Ryall, and Winston Peters. Peters  also appeared on John Tamihere’s panel on ‘Think Tank‘ – but more on that in a moment.

The three interviews and panel yielded some interesting points…

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Tony Ryall, Minister for State Own Enterprises

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One of National’s constant cop-outs on why the economy is stagnating and unemployment is so high, is a constant finger-pointing at the previous Labour government. According to Key, English, et al in National, the previous Labour government left the economy in a “parlous state”,

In 2008 the Government inherited an economy that had been in recession for nearly a year and that was up against a world economy in crisis….

… Under the last Labour Government the economy got way out of balance.

… We inherited from Labour a set of government books showing never-ending budget deficits and government debt spiralling out of control. This would have ruined the economy and created an onerous debt burden destructive to jobs and income growth.

See:  John Key, Statement to Parliament 2011,  8 February, 2011

I do agree with the view that for New Zealand to have a sustained recovery based on a stronger export sector will be a challenge with the dollar at the current levels. But I imagine that that member will not try to make a political point about that, because it is precisely record-high interest rates and a record-high dollar, driven by the previous Government’s reckless economic management, that have put the export sector into such a difficult position. “

See: Bill English, Parliamentary Questions And Answers – 30 July 2009

None of it is true, of course, and National’s attempt to re-write history is simply a dishonest strategy to excuse their own shocking performance at growing the economy.  In fact, this blogger pointed this out in a carefully researched analysis of Labour’s track record from 2000 to 2008.

See:  Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

Today (17 June), SOE Minister Tony Ryall let slip on ‘Q+A’  an admission that Labour’s record on fiscal management was not what National Party strategists had been alleging,

TONY RYALL  Uh, its certainly about debt. You know, New Zealands debt is currently $52 billion, $53 billion. Expected to go to $72 billion in the next three years. Thats getting to a level that were uncomfortable with. Thats the reason why we want to sell a minority stake in these assets, free up some cash that can then be invested in the other priority assets that New Zealanders want in the future

[abridged]

TONY  RYALL Thats right. Because at the moment, were going from $8 billion when we started in 2008. The debts now around $52 billion. Were expecting to be at $72 billion in another three years time…

See: TVNZ  Q+A  Transcript interview with Tony Ryall

So much for National; their party apparatchiks; and supporters who constantly warn us that Labour was, and is, a “borrow and spend” Party. National seems to be quite adept at racking up massive overseas debt – whilst cutting taxes locally.

Eventually though, that debt has to be re-paid. Hence why National is selling state assets and cutting back on state/social services.

Thank you, Tony Ryall, for the admission that the previous government, in fact, was not as fiscally inept as you and your colleagues have made out. Nor as inept as your handling of the country’s economy.

Feel free to call an early election any time soon?

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John Key, Prime Minister (Temporary)

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John Key’s appearance on today’s ‘The Nation‘ as the front man for an ideologically-driven National Party was on-par with past performances as the ever-smiling, smooth-talking politician, whose role it is to put a “human face” on the neo-liberal agenda.

There were several issues touched upon in the interview – though none as deeply as perhaps the viewer might have desired. On the issue of National’s deal-making with Sky City, Key was let off the hook lightly – with Fairfax interviewer, John Hartevelt looking slightly bemused when a particularly promising line of questioning was cut short.

Perhaps the interview tried cramming in too many issues, for the alloted time?

On the issue of the Auditor General’s investigation on National’s involvement in deal-making with Sky City on the possible awarding of a contract to build a new Convention centre, one comment from Key, in particular, should have raised a few eyebrows and generated further questioning.

At 6.37 into the interview;

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start of, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero.

In a very casual, matter-of-fact manner, Key has stated that whilst he had “talks to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre” – that there is no record whatsoever of any such talks or interaction with any of the parties involved.

What we do know is this,

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he offered a deal to Sky City allowing the casino to have more pokie machines in return for building a multimillion-dollar convention centre. Mr Key, speaking from Indonesia, confirmed he made the offer to Sky City in his capacity as Minister of Tourism, Newstalk ZB reported…

… Mr Key was asked last July in a question for written answer from Green MP Sue Kedgley whether he or any of his ministers had met representatives from the casino to discuss changes to the Gambling Act.

He replied: “I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003″.  “

See: NZ Herald SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

See: Blogpost Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

The problem here, is that with Key’s “office having absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, no phone calls” we, the public have no way of knowing what has transpired. There is simply no telling what has gone on between Key and “critical players”.

I don’t know about you, the reader, but I am not in the slightest reassured by Key’s explanation.  It is an extremely worrying development in our system when important matters between government of commercial intrerests can be discussed in secret; off the record; and with no paper trail or other indication as to how arrangements were agreed upon.

The potential for corruption is plain for all to see.

If Key does not comprehend this, then his political advisors are not doing their jobs properly. This is not the transparent government that we have come to expect in a modern society – nor what John Key promised us.

See:  Open and Transparent Government – Declaration

John Key then went on to mount an extraordinary and peculiar attack on Winston Peters.

At 27.35 into the interview;

KEY: I dare him to go out there and say he will not under any conditions form a government with Labour, even if Labour’s policy is to raise the super age from 2020, not in the three-year period from 2014 to 2017.

“I dare him to say he will not, because he’s tricky and he’ll find a way all around all of that stuff. “

See: TV1 News -National in trouble – Peters

See:  TV1 VIDEO: Prime Minister John Key on ACC, super and the future

Curiously, when pushed by John Hartevelt, Key did not categorically rule out  a coalition deal with Peters as he did in 2008.

This blogger believes that  Key and National understand   Rule #1 in politics: learn to count.

If National’s support drops in 2014 (or earlier election) they will require a coalition partner with more numbers than the one-man parties of ACT and United Future. Only NZ First comes anywhere near offering the Nats a  potential coalition partner.

At the very least, National’s strategists want to drive Peters away from any potential coalition-partnership or Supply & Confidence support deal for a Labour-led government.

As for Peters – this blogger doubts that he will repeat his fatal mistake of entering into coalition with National, as he did in  on 11 December 1996. Peters understands that his constituency vote for him because it is a protest vote against the incumbent government – in this case, National.

Just as in 1996, people voted for him as part of a wide-spectrum political bloc of anti-National sentiment that was sweeping the country. By coalescing with the Nats in 1996, Peters ignored that sentiment and suffered the wrath of the electorate – first at the superannuation referendum in 1998, which was soundly defeated 92% to 8%. A year later, at the general election, Peters barely scrapped back into Parliament by winning his seat with a 63 vote majority. His Party polled under the 5% threshold.

No doubt National will continue to play their silly-bugger games to de-stabilise the  Labour-led governmen-in-waiting. They have no option, as their own internal polling must be reflecting what mainstream polling is showing; the public have had enough of National; it’s “Bright Future” never-never promises;  and want change. Come 2014 (if not earlier), the Nats will be dog-tucker and will be gone by dinner-time on election night.

Again, feel free to call an early election any time soon, Dear Leader?

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Winston Peters appeared on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, and afterward on TV3’s ‘Think Tank‘, hosted by John Tamihere. Neither appearances could have been more starkly contrasting.

On ‘Q+A‘, interviewed by the personable Greg Boyd, Peters resorted ‘to form’, and displayed  his typical media-combativeness and mis-mash  of slogans and faux-outrage, that is his public persona.

It was painful to watch.

See: TVNZ Q+A Winston Peters on Coalition and Superannuation

‘Nuff said.

Contrast Peter’s cringeworthy performance on ‘Q+A‘, with his appearance on  ‘Think Tank‘, today, as one of three guests; Labour Leader David Shearer and Auckland University professor, Jane Kelsey.  This was a Winston Peters from a Parallel Universe where he appeared thoughful; measured; insightful; and practically led the panel. This is a Winston Peters who commands respect and attention – not the Jeykill & Hyde version on ‘Q+A’ who alienates the viewer with his  antics.

See: TV3 Think Tank 17 June

As a critic of Winston Peters, my suggestion to him is this; lose the attitude. Or at least tone it down. The media can be a pain in the arse, for sure, but why wind them up needlessly?

Save the aggro for the debating chamber in the House. That is where Peters can best utilise that righteous anger he is so famous for. And where he can best show the public that he is on our side as the champion of the Ordinary Kiwi Battler.

The Winston Peters that this blogger saw on ‘Think Tank‘ is the one that will help re-build NZ first.

Not the grumpy old bugger who got into a shouting-match with Greg Boyd.

If Peters reads this, take my criticisms as constructive. Or not. As a Labour-Green supporter, I’m not terribly fussed if he makes it back to Parliament at the next election, or fades away into the Twilight Zone.

But perhaps his supporters and Party activists deserve that opportunity?

Just my 5 cents + 15% gst worth.

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Acknowledgement

Cartoons by Murray Webb

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How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

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Frank Macskasy - Frankly Speaking - Blog - Welfare - unemployment - reforms

Source

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National today announced that “there will be an upfront investment in welfare reform of $520 million over four years to support more beneficiaries into work“.

What, precisely, does that mean; “to support more beneficiaries into work“?!

A NZ Herald report attempted to provide some answers,

The funding package includes $80 million for early childhood education and childcare assistance payments, $55.1 million for 155 Work and Income staff who will be dedicated to support people back into work, and $148.8 million for youth services.

Ms Bennett said the $287.5 million included $81.5 million of additional funding, but the remainder would come from “reprioritised” funding from within Social Development.” – Source

Bennett added,

The Government’s welfare changes require significant up-front financial support. We’ve made a commitment to provide that investment to ensure fewer people are on welfare long term.” – Ibid

Extra funding for childcare  is always a good thing (though with National, expect the obligatory ‘fish hooks’ – National gives nothing away without a hidden barb somewhere in the deal), and this Blogger congratulates such a move.

But where this Blogger has serious concerns is the euphemism employed by  Bennett, Key, and other well-paid right wing politicians,  when they claim that ‘reforms’  “will be to support people back into work “.

National’s idea of what constitutes “support” is often at stark variance with how others might define support.

The all important issue is; are there enough jobs in the country for beneficiaries to go into?  This is no empty question, as Paula Bennett herself admitted last Sunday (29 April), on TVNZ’s Q+A,

SHANE         
Can I ask you about work, though? Do you think that there is a job out there for all these young people who really really want a job? Is there a job out there for young people who really want a job?

PAULA         
No. 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.

Source

If, as Bennett admits, there there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, then what is the purpose of spending over  half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on “welfare reforms”?

Next question: why not invest that $520 million in job creation progammes? We have a critical housing shortage; growing poverty;  and unemployment is rising again – why not invest in job creation?

Why invest in welfare “reforms” – when welfare ain’t broke? Welfare is working precisely as intended and is keeping people alive, fed, and housed at a time of economic recession/stagnation.

As Bennett admitted on Q+A, it is the employment market that is broken and there are not enough jobs for those who want one. It’s as simple as that: not enough jobs.

Which means that John Key and Paula Bennett are wasting $520 million of our taxes on a pointless, futile exercise.

How many new jobs will  welfare “reforms” create? Not a single one.

This may give ‘jollies’ to National Party groupies; assorted right wing zealots; anti-beneficiary bigots; and low-information voters – but in the end this waste of resources and obvious exercise in beneficiary victimisation will be  as useful as seeking a meaningful relationship by scouring internet porn-sites.

I don’t mind if right wingers indulge in a mindless,  political, circle-jerk. But not when we, the taxpayer, have to pay for it.

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Postscript

Our Dear Leader, the Prime Minister of New Zealand enjoyed the benefits of a modern welfare society that protects those in need;

  • 1967: Key’s mother would have had access to the widow’s benefit when her husband passed away,
  • The Key family lived in a low-rent,  State House, in Christchurch
  • 1979-81: Key received a free tertiary education at Canterbury University (BCom in accounting)
  • Key would most likely have received a student allowance during his tertiary studies
  • Key received an extra $5,096 p/a from the April 2009 taxcuts
  • Key recieved an extra $7,100 p/a from the October 2010 taxcuts

Source

Paula Bennett, Minister of Welfare,

  • Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
  • Just two years later, she used 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 Training Incentive Allowance (a WINZ benefit)
  • Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit

Source

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References

NZ Herald: Budget: Welfare plans revealed

NZ Herald: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

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National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender (Part #Rua)

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When National took office in November, 2008, unemployment was on the way up. From a record low of 3.4% in December 2007, it stood at 4.8% a year later.

By December 2009, the Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate had risen  to 7.3%,

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Source

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The unemployment rate has since dropped back to 6.3%, for the December 2011 quarter. The slow drop from 7.3% to 6.3% has taken two years to achieve – and even the cause of that outcome is debateable, as New Zealand  “baby boomers”  start retiring and others  escape our stagnating economy to Australia.

I will make one thing clear; I do not lay blame nor responsibility for the doubling of our unemployment at the feet at National. The 2008  global banking crisis, ongoing recession, and massive debt-problems were issues beyond any political Party in any country. National inherited an international situation not of it’s direct making. (Though National does espouse a neo-liberal ideology which most certainly contributed to the crisis in capitalism.)

As an interesting aside; National and it’s groupies  (quite rightly) blame the 2008 recession for our high unemployment rate. However, they conveniently ignore the 2008 recession when engaging in beneficiary-bashing – then the issue of  increased unemployment is a “lifestyle choice”.

However, this blogger maintains that whilst the rise in unemployment was not National’s fault – that National has been derelict in it’s duty to address the crisis in joblessness. Bashing beneficiaries and painting them as lazy layabouts indulging in a “lifestyle choice” will not create one single job.

Blaming beneficiaries for a global situation they had no hand in making is an abrogation of responsibility by National.

I think we all know by now that National hasn’t a clue when it comes to job creation. They have no policies to generate jobs, and what what they have been doing has been tragically counter-productive,

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Full Story

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Full Story

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This blogger is aware of one solo-mum who used the TIA to go through University; upskill; find a well-paid job;   move of welfare; and is now a tax-paying member of society. But I guess that is not the meme that National wants  entering the public consciousness. Their agenda is better served by scapegoating solo-mothers. (But never solo-dads.)

See:   Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Paula Bennett  used the TIA to put herself through University; upskill; and then move on to a more well-paid benefit; she became Minister of Welfare.

See: Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Bennett’s axing of the TIA and other cutbacks in training and upskilling is what is colloquially known as a false economy.  It may save a few million bucks now – but will only delay the Day of Reckoning when we end up with an untrained, low-skilled society.

Even John Key made this a theme of his speech four years ago,

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The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  

Because the hard truth is that Labour’s economic underperformance hasn’t delivered the social dividend they promised us.  

So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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John Key finished of that speech  by saying,

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We will not sweep problems under the carpet.  We will not meet the country’s challenges by quietly lowering our expectations.”

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So how has National performed?

Not so good, I’m afraid. (But that’s hardly surprising.)

Aside from cutting back on training, National seems to be engaged in a clandestine programme to actually keep wages depressed. Bill English admitted as much last year, on TVNZ’s Q+A when he let slip that New Zealands lower wages were a competitive advantage to Australia,

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“”Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it? I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well…

“… we need to get on with competing with Australia. So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia. We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.” – Bill English, 10 April 2011

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Despite a low-wage economy being counter-intuitive for a multitude of common-sense reasons, it appears that – with National’s coded  assent – some local industries are attempting to drive down wages and develop a low-wage economy.

The current industrial disputes with AFFCO and Ports of Auckland Ltd are based purely around driving down wages  by cutting conditions; casualisation; and crushing unions in the workplace.

In October last year, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels that their industry needed more cheap foreign labour,

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SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.” ” – Source

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See: Is this where New Zealand is heading?

See: Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint

The prospect of slave crews on foreign fishing vessels in our territorial waters was a step too far, even for right-wing blogger and National Party cadre, David Farrar. He seemed horrified at what a ministerial inquiry and US journalist had uncovered. (Or perhaps it was faux-disgust, to try to distance National from slavery on New Zealand’s high seas. Who can tell.)

See: A Slave By Any Other Name

However, it was not a good look for one of our industries to be lobbying National to permit more cheap labour into New Zealand. Even if it was to be far out at sea, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, our US-based clients were not too happy when they found out what was going on under our noses, and from which we were seen to be profitting,

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Full Story

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Now, National’s inaction on job creation, training, and upskilling is beginning to bite. Reliance on the free market has not achieved any desirable, measurable goals. In fact, business is still luke-warm at hiring and training new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s director director, Andrew Brushfield, expressed surprise at  the “cautious hiring predictions among New Zealand CFOs”. Really? No sh*t, Sherlock.

So where does that leave us;

  • A National government that is cutting training allowances
  • No government employment-creation programme to speak of
  • No state apprenticeship programme
  • Leaving job creation and training to the ‘market’
  • The ‘market’ being reluctant to generate employment

No wonder unemployment is still at 150,000.

And little wonder that, with 150,000 jobless, and no jobs training, the Christchurch re-build is now hampered by a shortage of skilled tradespeople,

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Full Story

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Full Story

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To illustrate how short-sighted National (and it’s right wing hangers-on and sycophantic businesspeople),  Weltec offers seventeen week (full time) courses in the painting trade,

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Source

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If has been fourteen months since the tragic, devasting quake of 22 February 2011. We could have had a small army of in-training workforce ready to go by now.

FBG Developments managing director, Fletcher Glass,  could have his 50 painters – and more – instead of complaining bittlerly,

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You can’t train skilled tradespeople in two years, and even if you could train 24,000 tradespeople, you would over-saturate the market after the rebuild.  If you get tradespeople from other parts of the country, you will deplete those places of tradespeople, and that will drive rates up. That will make house prices go up, so buying a house would be even less achievable.’

Hiring overseas workers would prevent Christchurch from turning its problem into a nationwide problem. If you need 6000 painters at the peak of the rebuild, that’s every painter in Dunedin and Wellington.” – Ibid

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What absolute rubbish.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Glass , like SeaFIC, is seeking  painters from Southeast Asia because they will accept minimum wage.

So we can add the following to the above list, as to why we have a shortage of trained tradespeople to take part in Christchurch’s re-build,

  • Employer self-interest

As a point of interest, the above media article also conducted a poll. It asked a simple question,

Should New Zealand fast track visas for overseas tradesmen?

Yes, we need more workers urgently
85 votes, 20.4%

No, we should train more NZers
332 votes, 79.6%

Nearly 80% of New Zealanders have enough common sense to realise what we should be doing. Obviously, none of those 80% are represented by any of National’s current  59 members of Parliament.

In case anyone is foolish enough to accuse this blogger of being fiscally naive, I refer to a BERL report, last year,

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Industry training has billions in benefits – study

A new study suggests the country could lose between $7.2 and $15.1 billion dollars annually if the Government withdrew its investment in industry training.

The study by the Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) sets out to quantify the costs and benefits of industry training both to businesses and to the country.

According to one model, it found a cut in all public funding towards industry training would result in a loss in gross domestic product of 0.6 to 1.8 percent by 2014, and between 2.9 and 6 percent by 2021.

That equated to a loss of between $1.2 and $3.7 billion annually in the short-term and between $7.2 and $15.1 billion in the long term.

BERL said under such a scenario, the loss of skilled labour would have a detrimental effect on the export sector, crimping its capacity and reducing its competitiveness as industries competed for a smaller pool of talent.

The report, commissioned by the Industry Training Federation, said the results underlined how the country’s skill levels could ”positively impact on the quality and value of the goods and services produced, and the standard of living in New Zealand”.

However, it also noted the economy was complex and warned that ”any attempts to prioritise or isolate particular industries, sectors, occupations or skills as being more or less important are economically unsound  “.  – Source

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Training up unemployed New Zealanders who’ve lost their jobs over the last four years of recession; it’s not just a good idea or a “nice to have” – it’s bloody well obvious!

National’s faith in free market forces is admirable. But the rest of us gave up believing in Father Christmas, Easter Bunny, and Superman as we grew up. (Though having Superman around might be useful.)  It is high time that John Key and his Merry Band gave up their quasi-religious belief in the Invisible Hand of The Free Market.

Ideology will not re-build Christchurch. We need many hands – trained up and paid well – to do the work. 150,000 pair of hands!

I leave (almost) the last word to  Dear Leader,

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We know this isn’t as good as it gets.  We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting.  We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward. 

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. ” – John Key, “State of the Nation Speech”,  29 January 2008

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Wouldn’t that be a fine thing?

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Key on Q+A – Verdict?

1 April 2012 1 comment

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Today was not a good day for Dear Leader…

John Key was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A, by Shane Taurima. Key was obviously not the happy-go-lucky, supremely confident person  he had been these last few years.

In fact, Dear Leader appeared unhappy. Even imperceptibly rattled on occassion. As if he had things on his mind…

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Full Story

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During the interview, Shane Taurima touched on relevant issues that had been plaguing National in the last week. As Taurima’s probing into current issues progressed on;

  • The ACC/Browyn Fuller/Nick Smith scandal
  • Questioning whether John Keywas involved in Bronwyn Pullar’s “support team” in her letter to Sovereign Insurance?
  • Nick Smith’s resignation
  • Judith Collins defamation proceedings against two Labour MPs and Radio NZ – and who would pay for it
  • Factional infighting within National
  • A torrent of leaks from within National
  • Murray McCully’s mis-handling over restructuring of MFAT, and the backlash from diplomats…

And then – albeit belatedly – Key engaged the political equivalent of a Deflector Shield, and casually made reference to the following,

JOHN Thats the criticism of his political opponents, but actually thats not correct. I mean, the Chief Executive has set the direction that he wants to take the ministry. Of course, the minister as the purchasing agent, if you like, makes it clear the sorts of things he wants. Yes, John Allens set out an aggressive agenda of potential change, and not all of its going to be accepted. Youve had the Heads of Mission now coming back to New Zealand to sit down and talk to the Chief Executive. But in the end, that organisation is going to change. Im sure therell be some things thatll be rejected and some thatll be accepted. MFAT people themselves tell me regularly that there needs to be change, and we need to basically save money. Now, were gonna have a budget thats coming up in May. Last years budget was a zero budget. What Id say to NZers tonight is that there is every probability that this years budget in 2012 will either be zero or very close to a zero budget, and thats because the governments absolutely committed to going back into surplus by 2014/2015.

*Peoowww!!!*

Taurima took the bait, and his next question was no longer about embarressments to the National Party. Key had re-written the interview agenda,

SHANE So, let us confirm that, cos thats a fairly significant announcement. Youre saying that there will be no or very little new spending. A zero budget this year.

Well played, Dear Leader! Though a tad too late. The interview was already mostly over, with only four minor questions left for Taurima to ask, including,

SHANE You mentioned a future prime minister, and I do want to put this question to you, about you seeing out the rest of this term.

Which was a fairly gormless question to ask. I doubt very much if, only four months into National’s second term, Key would answer anything except with the “Yeah”  he uttered twice.

By the end of the interview, one could not escape the conclusion that Key’s veneer of teflon-coating and born-to-rule  confidence had worn away. He was defensive throughout, and on the backfoot having to explain away the actions of not one; not two; but three Ministers.

From here on in, it’s all down hill, Dear Leader…

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Related Blogpost

Bugger the polls?

Other Blogs

The Standard: Nat Civil War – Key backs Boag over Collins

Additional

Watch full interview here

Read full transcript here

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Wha)

13 March 2012 2 comments

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

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

POAL Board  chairman,  Pearson stated emphatically,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is curious.

Because recent official government reports paint a completely different picture,

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ministry of transport container pruductivity at nz ports october 2011

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The report states, in part,

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

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

Comparisons with Australian ports

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

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Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

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Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

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Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

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

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

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

PAUL Where did you get the 12%?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paid for out of the wages of ordinary workers.

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

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

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ports of auckland facebook page

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

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

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

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

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

(Acknowledgement to Cathy Casey.)

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

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292 port workers would be happy to hear that.

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*** Update ***

Union seeks injunction to halt wharfie dismissals

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