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Posts Tagged ‘rebuilding christchurch’

Unemployment, Christchurch, dairy prices – Bill English confirms blogger’s analysis

10 November 2015 2 comments

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Leg #1: Treasury reported in 2012, on the Christchurch re-build;

The Canterbury rebuild is expected to be a significant driver of economic growth over the next five to ten years. The timing and speed of the rebuild is uncertain, in part due to ongoing aftershocks, but the New Zealand Treasury expects it to commence around mid-to-late 2012.

Leg #2: The Reserve Bank, in 2014, on our Dairy sector;

The New Zealand dairy industry is experiencing prosperous times, continuing the strong growth in export earnings of the past eight years. Animal numbers and prices have increased and on and off farm productivity growth has been impressive.  And the future looks bright. There seem to be important structural reasons behind the rise in dairy prices that should continue into the medium term.

Leg #3: Steven Joyce, Associate Minister of Finance, this year, on the Auckland housing boom;

“Closer to home, the Reserve Bank … highlights several factors continuing to support growth domestically, including robust tourism, immigration, the large pipeline of construction activity in Auckland, and, importantly, the lower interest rates and the depreciation of the New Zealand dollar.”

There we have it – the three basic “legs” comprising National’s economic development policy. One is predicated on fluctuating international market-prices; another is an unsustainable property boom funded by billions borrowed from off-shore; and the other is the epitomy of ‘disaster’ capitalism.

In debating the fragility and unsustainability of these three sectors of our economy, I (and other bloggers from the Left) have pointed out time and again the transitory nature of the dairy sector boom; the Christchurch re-build boom; and the Auckland property market boom. Acolytes of the so-called free-market – ever dedicated to their quasi-religious right-wing notions – have dismissed our warnings.

On 4 November, the National government’s Finance Minister and sheep farmer, Bill English, made a statement in Parliament that has backed up our dire warnings – albeit somewhat late in the day;

“Of course, if unemployment was a direct choice of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, there would be none of it. You would just decide to have none. But, of course, it is not. It is a product of the world economy and its low growth rates, and of particular circumstances in New Zealand where the rebuild in Christchurch has flattened out and there has been a drop in national income of billions of dollars from the decrease in dairy prices, which was always going to affect the number of jobs in New Zealand, and now it is happening.”

Indeed; “and now it is happening”.

Two of National’s economic stimulators are either belly-up, or in the process of falling flat.

Only the Auckland housing boom remains. When that collapses, it will be much, much worse than the depressed Dairying sector. At that precise moment, international lenders will have noticed that we have been borrowing-up-large for one helluva massive property splurge-party – and they will be wanting their money back.

All $200 billion of it.

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Mortgage debt tops $200 billion

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According to Squirrel mortgage broker, John Bolton;

“People are completely oblivious of what’s going on. If you overlay what’s going on around the rest of the world, all bets are off.”

New Zealanders are about to wake up with the biggest “hang-over” since they first got trolleyed at teenagers.

Is this where I say, “I told you so”?

Will it matter by then?

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References

NZ Treasury: Recent Economic Performance and Outlook (2012)

Reserve Bank: The significance of dairy to the New Zealand economy

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – Sept 10 2015

Parliament: Hansards – Questions for oral answer – 2. Unemployment—Rate

Fairfax media: Mortgage debt tops $200 billion

Additional

Metro: 10 ideas that could solve the Auckland property crisis

Previous related blogposts

Labour’s collapse in the polls – why?

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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house price boom

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 November 2011.

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Nigella Lawson, GCSB, Christchurch re-build, and Malcolm Burgess on Campbell Live

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Nigella Lawson

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Is that the applause of millions of women (and men!) I can hear as Nigella Lawson re-takes control of her life?

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Nigella Lawson moves out, blender and all

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nigella Lawson moves out, blender and all

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If there’s any possible good that came out of this ghastly incident, it is that women (and a few men, perhaps) around the world have witnessed the stark reality that spousal abuse is not confined to just their lives. Even the rich and famous can be affected by this kind of violence.

On 18 March 2013, Judge Peter Boshier (Law Commissioner);  Jennifer Wademan (Barrister), and  Thomas Dewar Sziranyi Letts (Solicitor) presented a report entitled Domestic Violence and the Impact on Children’s Lives at the 6th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Sydney, Australia.

The contents of their speech was disturbing, as well as instructive;

For a country with just over 4 million people, New Zealand has a staggering 80,000 domestic violence cases a year. This level of abuse has resulted in over 200 women and children being killed as a result of domestic violence in 12 years and countless numbers of adults and children carryingthe physical and psychological effects of that violence with them through their lives. The cost inhuman and economic terms is horrific.

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New Zealand has a history of high levels of domestic violence, in part, we believe, because we are open about the problems that face us. While international research estimates that up to 80% ofdomestic violence goes unreported, and certainly that has been our experience in practice, in 2012 New Zealand Police recorded almost 47,000 incidents of domestic disputes, and initiated almost 100,000 Family Violence investigations. Of these investigations, children were present in almost 60% of cases.  If we assume the average household has 2 children, then at least 65,000 children were affected by domestic violence, in one year, in a country as small as New Zealand. Tragically, a third of all deaths from domestic violence involve children.

Source: Ministry of Justice – Domestic Violence and the Impact on Children’s Lives

I have little doubt that Ms Lawson’s experience at the hands of her husband three weeks ago was a nasty, violent, and humiliating experience. I also strongly suspect that what went on behind the walls, closed doors, and curtained windows of their family home was most likely  no less violent.

If Charles Saatchi could almost throttle his wife, in public, in a fit of rage – god only knows what he got up to out of sight.

There may well be women in our own country, also  the victims of spousal abuse, who have seen Ms Lawson make the decisive move to leave her violent husband and seek refuge elsewhere. Abused women and their children may see Ms Lawson as having escaped – and this may encourage them to do likewise.

How many will be thinking,

If she can do it, then so can I!

Whether Nigella Lawson may appreciate it or not, she may well have saved the lives of women and children here in New Zealand and around the world.

The next time I see her on TV, I’ll see Ms Lawson in an entirely new light; a woman with inner strength and a survivor.

Let’s hope others do as well.

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I have a date…

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… with a Parliamentary Select Committee in a week’s time.

Yep, I sent in a submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. This is the Bill which will legitamise the Bureau’s spying on 4.4 million New Zealanders.

As the Clerk of the Committee, Lesley Ferguson wrote in an email to me,

Thank you for your submission on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. A copy of your submission has been distributed to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee which is considering this bill.

 The Intelligence and Security Committee is to hear submissions orally. In accordance with your request to meet with the committee to give further evidence, a date and time of  Friday, 5 July 2013 from 10.20am to 10.40am has been allocated for you to appear before the committee to present your oral evidence.

 The committee will have read your written submission. It will therefore not be necessary to read your written submission to them. Instead, the committee will be expecting you to elaborate further on your written evidence.

 The venue for the hearing is Select Committee Meeting Room 2, Bowen House, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Please ensure you are at the venue at least 15 minutes before your allotted time.

 Please provide me with the name(s) and designation(s) of those who will be presenting to the committee.

 Your submission is released publicly upon you giving oral evidence to the committee.  The committee intends that hearings will be conducted in public. You may however apply for any or all of your evidence to be heard in private or secret. The committee would require reasons before agreeing to such a request. Please contact me if you wish to make such an application.

 While the evidence you provide to the committee is covered by parliamentary privilege, please note that a Court ruling held that a person may be liable in defamation if that person makes a defamatory statement in a situation that is protected by parliamentary privilege (such as an oral presentation to a select committee) and later affirms that statement (without actually repeating it) on an occasion that is not protected by parliamentary privilege.

 

 Now all I have to do is figure out what the heck I want to say…

I have a couple of ideas.

Anyone else?

By the way – I wonder what the SIS and GCSB thought of my submission?

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The Christchurch re-build…

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… seems to have engendered a detente between the Mayor and Christchurch City Council on one side, and Gerry Brownlee and Central Government on the other. It’s probably a somewhat shakey detente – one liable to crack, splinter, and fall apart at even a low  political seismic event.

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Govt announces Christchurch rebuild funding

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – Govt announces Christchurch rebuild funding

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It was only a month ago that Key was pressuring Christchurch City Council to sell it’s strategic assets to finance part of the rebuild,

It is for the council to say ‘do you want the nice-to-haves.  Then they’ll ask how are you going to pay? That could be through rates or asset sales.

Key referred to  “partially floating assets, so the council remained in control but still raised money”, was “ incredibly logical .

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Asset sales could help pay for rebuild – Key

Mayor Bob Parker and the Christchurch City Council rightly rejected the idea. After all, why should Christchurch be asset-stripped simply because of events beyond it’s control?

At least National’s decision to partially privatise state assets was as a result of it’s own folly by giving away billions in tax cuts that the country could ill afford. Future generations will be the ones to pay for National’s short-sighted decisions.

If Christchurch needs extra cash to assist in it’s rebuild then I have a suggestion: bonds.

Like the War Bonds during World War 2,

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War Bonds

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But instead of Bonds for Destruction – these would be Bonds for Construction! Not Bonds to Bomb – but Bonds To Build!

If every New Zealander, on average, bought $100 worth of  Bonds To Build that would assist Christchurch to the tune of around $440 million.

The government could assist by diverting  student debt repayments from New Zealanders abroad, into Bonds To Build.

It might even help if National post-poned further partial SOE sales and instead encouraged “mums  and dads” investors to buy Bonds instead.

Imagine stirring up our latent patriotism as Kiwis; getting kids involved to save their “pennies” and with every dollar, they bought a Bond To Build! I’m imagining Campbell Live jumping onboard and going school to school to film children buying Bonds.

Perhaps it sounds ‘goofy’ – but if bonds were useful during wartime, then just maybe we could resurrect this old idea and put it to good use again.

I know our household would be “in”!

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Malcolm Burgess on Campbell Live

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On Wdednesday night, 26 June, TV3’s Third Degree presented evidence which was the clearest indication to date  that Robin Bain did indeed commit familiy annihilation, killing his wife and children, and then turning the rifle on himself.

The evidence was in the form of marks on Robin’s thumb and finger which have been recognised by forearms experts as gunpowder residue – caused when a rifle clip is reloaded, and thethumb or finger scraps against the top of the ammo-clip.

Pictures of Robin Bain’s hand, and the gunpowder residue marks are visible – when you know what to look for,

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Bain case - Two dark lines on thumb point to father as killer -  image

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robin_bain_hand_with_magazine_marks_circled__david_bain_case__2_3_4_N2

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The twin lines are the same width as the top of the ammo clip, resting to the left of  Robin Bain’s hand. Third Degree conducted tests with the rifle and found that similar marks were left on the thumbs/fingers when others re-loaded the rifle; twin streaks. Gunpowder residue.

The following evening (27 June), John Campbell interviewed Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess,

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Campbell Live - David Bain - asst police commissioner malcolm burgess - new evidence - gunpowder residue

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Campbell Live – ‘It isn’t a powder smudge’ – Asst Police Commissioner

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Burgess’s responses to John Campbell’s questions were enlightening…

At 5:00, Burgess suggests that the marks are not gunpowder residue but cuts,

“ …one of the other alternatives that hasn’t been properly considered is that this is in fact a nick on Robin Bain’s thumb…”

John Campbell then pointed out that Police Pathologist, Dr Alex Dempster photographed and recorded every cut and abrasion on Robin Bain’s hands, and said, “he appears not to have photographed the cuts”.

Burgess couldn’t answer Campbell’s question, except postulating that “beyond perhaps observing that he would’ve clearly been  interested in fresh injuries   this indeed, if it is a nick or a cut,  does not appear to be a fresh injury”.

Campbell then pointed out that the distance between the two marks on Robin Bain’s thumb was “absolutely consistent with the distance – absolutely consistent with the distance in  the magazine [clip] – and  absolutely consistent with the kind of smudging that we see from the residue of  people who have  been loading magazines after discharging”.

Burgess steadfastly rejected the new evidence and said,

I’m not convinced that what we’re seeing is indeed what  was portrayed last night”.

Campbell then asked Burgess if the NZ Police would conduct similar tests to that carried out by the Third Degree team on 26 June. It was a fair question.

However Burgess’s response was luke-warm, at best,

Well, I guess we’re always open to look at exploring,  or I guess eliminating doubt, John, but that works from the principle that indeed what we’re seeing there is a powder smudge. I guess what we’re saying and what we’re suggesting by virtue of the fingerprint evidence is that perhaps that’s not indeed the case.  That’s it’s a cut, or a nick to the thumb, or some other mark there rather than a powder smudge.  So I think you’ve got to be a little careful which, what the basis of your hypothesis is before you start reaching [for] firm conclusions. We’re very happy, and indeed had we known this story was going to air in the form that it was , we would have been very happy to discuss the fingerprint evidence with Mr Bain’s team and see whether that enabled them to reach a [garbled] sustainable conclusion

When Campbell asked if the Police was not going to “stage any kind of test” to see if it was possible that the marks were gunpowder residue, Burgess replied,

Well I think the key for us is to try and  determine whether in fact  it’s an injury, whether in fact  the fingerprint evidence  can help us make that call – ”

Campbell, “How will you go about  determining that?

“ – and that therefore  in fact eliminates or tends to eliminate the possibility that it’s [gun]powder [residue].”

Burgess added near the end of the interview,

We’re interested in trying to establish the truth

No, he’s not.

He’s not trything to establish the truth whatsoever. His purpose is  solely to protect his backside and that of the NZ Police as a whole.

Every response from Burgess referred to “fingerprint evidence”. In Burgess’s  mind,  according to those  finger-print records taken by Police in 1994, the marks were  “cuts or nicks”, and not gunpowder residue.

He has already pre-judged this issue and come to a pre-determined conclusion: they are “cuts or nicks”, and nothing more.

Is it any wonder than police have stuffed up so many investigations, which have resulted in innocent people ending up in prison? How can an investigation be conducted with an open mind if officers like Burgess are pre-disposed to an outcome?

This is the kind of thinking that over-looks critical evidence.

This is the kind of thinking that sends innocent people to prison.

This is the kind of thinking  that misinterprets evidence.

For example, Robin Bain’s fingerprint file doesn’t show two cuts at all. It shows one mark on the lower part of his thumb that could be anything (which, remember, Police Pathologist, Alex Dempster, did not record as a cut or abrasion when he examined Robin Bain’s  hands),

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Campbell Live - David Bain - asst police commissioner malcolm burgess - new evidence - gunpowder residue - fingerprints

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So where is the second “nick or cut” on Robin Bain’s thumb-print? It isn’t there.

I won’t be waiting for the Police to review this new evidence. Burgess has made it abundantly clear that they have already dismissed the marks as “nicks or cuts”. Accepting the marks as gunpowder residue would mean the following;

  1. The clearest evidence yet that Police bungled the most basic aspects of the murder/suicide investigation,
  2. The best evidence to date (aside from the bloodied sockprints) that Robin Bain was the killer.
  3. An inability for the Police to consider new evidence where it threatens their image and reputation.

Of those three points, I find #3 the most disturbing.

With a supercilious smile and more than a hint of arroganance, Asst Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess  essentially told the public to “go get stuffed”; the NZ Police  will not countenance new evidence that may threaten their credibility or reputation.

This is ominous in a way that I can barely describe;  the Police are refusing to  look at new evidence impartially.

Does this mean  that their  first obligation is to themselves and their own reputation,  and not the law?

If so, they have become a law unto themselves.

If you doubt what I am telling you –  look at the video again.

Now tell me it doesn’t make you uneasy.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 June 2013.

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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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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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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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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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Christchurch – Picking the bones clean?

11 February 2012 3 comments

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It is fast becoming apparent that this government is eyeing up Christchurch’s community-owned assets, to “help” pay for the costs of that city’s re-build.

Gerry Brownlee recently  stated,

“Let me tell you, when the Government is spending $5.5billion anywhere, we expect the recipients of that to have some plan for how they will participate in what will be a very, very expensive recovery. And that plan has to be a lot better than ‘we’re just going to put up the rates and we’re going to borrow a lot more money’.” – Source

Which, strangely enough,  is pretty  much what National has done in the last three-and-a-bit years; raise gst; raise ACC premiums; raise EQC levies; and borrowed $380 million a week until we were (last reported) over $18 billion in debt,

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So it’s ok for Central government to raise taxes/charges/levies and borrow like crazy – but not Christchurch!?

Ok, got it.

So what alternatives are  Gerry Brownlee and John Key expecting of Christchurch City Council?

It appears that Key and Brownlee are indeed pressuring the Christchurch Council to privatise  it’s community-owned assets to raise $1 billion for re-building. Chief amongst these, I suspect would be the Orion Power company – one of few in New Zealand still in public ownership. (Orion is 89.3% owned by the Christchurch City Council and 10.7% owned by the Selwyn District Council.) Red Bus Ltd, Lyttelton Port Company, and Christchurch airport could also be privatised if Brownlee gets his way.

Brownlee stated,

“”We have asked Treasury, obviously, to give us advice about what the capacity is for Christchurch’s rating base to take on the extraordinary expense they have to face in the future,” he said.

”It is a $1billion-plus bill that they have to face and we are very interested, given that we are putting up $5.5b, as to how they might meet that cost.” ” – Source

Which is ‘code’ for “how are you guys going to cough up $1 billion for your re-build”?

It would be crazy  to expect the people of Christchurch to rebuild the second largest city in this country. After enduring so much devastation; the death of 184 loved oved ones; thousands of people leaving the stricken city; losing teaching staff and other skilled workers – expecting the local people to weather such an onerous billion-dollar cost is  patently unjust.

And it would be commercial insanity to privatise Council-owned assets at a time when, due to Christchurch’s current state, would constitute ca “fire sale” and not fetch the best possible prices.

As Gordon Campbell wrote on Scoop.co.nz.,

Please. It would be idiotic to force Christchurch to sell its assets to pay for its rebuild, under present conditions. Given the current state of the city, those assets would earn only fire sale returns. Hocking off the city’s assets dirt cheap is yet another version of the destruction of its legacy – and while it may make sense to Brownlee to sell off that legacy to any of his government’s real estate speculator mates who may be waiting in the wings, it would be a betrayal of the people of Christchurch who as [Lianne] Dalziel says, have been through enough: “What they don’t need are backroom deals being done on the future of their city and their city’s assets.”  – Source

As for the government’s financial problems – these are of John Key’s own making. Cutting taxes (April 2009, October 2010) during a recession, when we most needed to stimulate the economy via encouraging strong infra-structure investment was just irresponsible,

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Bill English may have “expected the “tax switch” to be revenue-neutral” – but his ‘expectations’ are not part of reality. Instead, National has left a gaping hole of several billions of dollars in government revenue. No wonder we’re borrowing $380 million a week – and paying hefty interest amounts on those borrowings!

Refusing to raise   taxes (except gst, which impacts mostly on the poorest) to finance the rebuild  of our second largest city simply defies logic. But then, I, and others, have long since given up trying to figure out this governments plans.

Even the business community said as much,last year,

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.” – Source

It’s fairly obvious that this government is relying on short-term “gains” (asset sales) to achieve long-term results. Applying “free market” policies to rebuild a crippled city is simply more right wing craziness.

A far better option would be the Green Party proposal for an Earthquake Levy. Such a levy would spread the cost of Christchurch’s re-build; take unnecessary financial pressure off Christchurch citizens; preserve Council-owned assets in public ownership; and retain the income stream – $100 million per annum – from these assets.

It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Does this government have the wit to investigate this, and/or other options?

Or does John Key really looking to buy into yet another fight with another community over another sensitive issue?

Your call, Mr Key.

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Additional

The Press: Brownlee turns up heat on council over rebuild

Green Party: How an earthquake levy could look

Scoop: On bank profits, and Gerry Brownlee’s asset sales plans for Christchurch

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Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising

25 October 2011 4 comments

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National currently has a set of eight billboards, each featuring Dear Leader’s face, plus a short “statement of intent”, such as “Balance the Books Sooner“, “Building Better Public Services“, etc. They’re catchy and  positive-sounding.

But when compared to National’s real track record over the past three years, the current crop of National Party election hoardings is right up there with Soviet-style propaganda and Orwellian Double-Think. The phrase  “barefaced strangling of Truth”  comes to mind.

Let’s ‘test’ National’s “statements of intent”…

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The first question is “sooner than who“? No one else is currently in government. And when Labour’s term of government ended, they had paid down net debt to about 5.6% of GDP. In dollar terms, Labour paid down NZ’s sovereign debt from approximately $25 billion in 2001 to about $10.2 billion by 2008.

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NZ Net Sovereign Debt 2001 - 2009 (Source NZ Treasury)

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Considering that only half of our sovereign debt  – $18.4 billion – is due to the cost of rebuilding Christchurch,  the remainder is due to two tax cuts (April 2009 and October 2010) which we could ill-afford as a nation. Those tax cuts mainly benefitted high-income earners and the top 10% of this country’s wealthiest.

The top 150 “rich listers” wealth increased by a staggering twenty percent in just this year alone.

So really, we are borrowing money from overseas, to stuff into the pockets of the richest people in this country.

Does that sound remotely sensible?

The second question is who pays to “balance the books”, after borrowing billions to pay for tax cuts?

Answer: who do you think?

So the next time you see one of these billboards, promising  to “Balance the Books Sooner” – don’t forget why those books need “balancing” in the first place, and who will be paying for that “balancing”.

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When I see this billboard around town, all I can see is this: “EXPORT MORE REAL JOBS”.

Like the case of the contract for new  rail wagons that was awarded to Chinese companies, rather than our own workers in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley. Result; around 70 jobs lost.

Little wonder that Dunedin’s mayor, David Cull was angry,

This is frankly a form of economic vandalism. What are we mounting here? An economic development strategy for China?”  Source

Minister of Transport Steven Joyce responded by saying,

The reality is KiwiRail has been treated like Cinderella for too long. This Government will not place requirements on KiwiRail which we don’t on any other government or private-owned company.” Source

It’s obvious how little Steven Joyce cares about his fellow New Zealanders losing their employment.

It seems we’re already very good at exporting… Dairy products… Seafood… Timber… And jobs.

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All I can say to this is that starting the rebuilding seems to be taken an awful long time.

In the meantime, we’re losing timber sawmillers through lack of demand. At a time when the construction industry should be going through massive growth – we are seeing Fletcher shares dropping in value and uncertainty in the industry. How can Fletcher’s profits be falling at a time when an entire city requires re-building???

Other jobs are also being lost in Christchurch. And the dole queues grow.

But yet again, it seems that this government is quite content with “exporting” jobs to overseas workers.

Despite Dear Leader’s cheery (if vacant) smile on the billboard, there seems little to be happy about. Certainly the lack of leadership, action, and jobs is nothing to be happy-clapping about.

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This particular billboard has a weird, dark, ominous feeling to it.

What, precisely, is the “welfare incentive to work”? If National is hinting that it plans to abolish or reduce social welfare – let them come out and announce it to the public.

At the same time, they can announce where the neccessary 154,000 new jobs are, to take on the unemployed.

Let’s not forget that those on unemployment are not there by choice. Let’s not forget that the December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate stood at 3.8%.

Then the full impact of the banking crisis and global recession hit us.

Unemployment reached7.3% in the  December 2009 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey.

As of August this year, the jobless rate has fallen to 6.5 per cent – just under twice that of 2007.

So, Mr Prime Minister, an “incentive to work” can be something as simple as having jobs available. But having contracts to manufacture rail wagons going to China, or allowing Irish builders to work on Christchurch’s reconstruction will not be very useful to anyone.

Threatening the unemployed with “the stick” is not as effective as offering them a “carrot” – a job.

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Building rail“?!

What new rail are you referring to, Dear Leader???

In fact, as far as I am aware, Mr Key, your government is cutting  back on funding public transport in Auckland,

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Telling fibs again, Dear Leader?

As for the rest,

  • Building roads. Yes, you are. But wouldn’t greater investment in public transport make more sense?
  • Fast broadband. Again, yes. This government is subsidising  telcos to the tune of $1.5 billion to build a fast broadband network throughout the country. (I thought subsidies were a naughty thing in the world of the free market?)

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This one is probably one of the top two most asinine claims for National to be making. The voting public would have to be practically braindead, with the IQ of a wild mushroom, to put any credibility on this statement. Of all the campaign statements that National has ever uttered, nothing screams Arrogance! better than this billboard.

Less debt“? “Less debt” than who – Rarotonga?

The government’s borrowings have exploded almost exponentially, until we currently owe $18.4 billion to various lenders overseas.

If  more borrowing equates to  “less debt” , I’d like to see my bank manager agree to lend me a few million!

As for “lower interest rates” – obviously no one in the National Party campaign committee passed this by the Finance Minister, Bill English,

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Can I send impending increases in my mortgage rates to Bill English or John Key to pay?

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Again, I’ve no idea what this statement is supposed to mean; “staying strong on crime”.

Does it mean locking up offenders for longer periods?

Does it mean more prisons?

Well, not according to Bill English, who recently admitted that prisons were a “moral and fiscal failure”,

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And the Prime Minister has recently suggested that we might not need any new prisons,

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So what, exactly, does “staying strong on crime” mean? Well, nothing really. It is basically a meaningless utterance that panders to the red-neck, lock’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key element in our society. As long as these low-information voters are kept happy, National is assured of a few more votes on Election Day.

This last billboard is probably the one that would most rankle with many people – especially those 2,000+ who have lost their jobs in the last few years, as government cuts back on state workers,

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I’m not quite sure with how a “better” public services can be “built” when this government has effectively been gutting it. Despite clear committments from John Key and Bill English that National would only cap the civil service and not cut numbers,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.” – Bill English

If National is elected to lead the next government, I personally guarantee that we will:  ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health a education by capping the number of bureacrats…” – John Key

That promise has been well and truly broken.

Sacking over 2000 workers who have worked with dedication and loyalty is hardly a fitting reward.

For such political statements to be made successfully, and without looking like liars and fools, politicians require only that the Voter has not been paying attention. Otherwise politicians would not dare put such rubbish out for  public consumption.

It’s simply amazing what garbage politicians will feed us, if they think they can get away with it.

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