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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

9 January 2013 20 comments

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

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

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

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Compassion

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The measure of compassion expressed by a government is the one thing that separates a government Of the People – to regimes  that encompass the worst forms of self-interest; autocracy; barbarism; and corruption.

Of all aspects of National’s performance, compassion is one that has no measurement; no means by which to compare performance from one year to the next; or from one government to the other.

However, there are three issues relating to National’s performance and John Key’s leadership, that give an overall impression of this government’s capacity for compassion.

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Pompe Disease sufferers

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I first wrote about seven people – all of whom were afflicted with Pompe Disease – in October 2011. (See:  Priorities?)

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dying-man-turned-away-at-parliament

Full story

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As I wrote then,

“It seems that this government can spend millions on rugby, party zones, luxury limousines, ministerial travel and other perks – but spending money to save the lives of our fellow New Zealanders is “unaffordable” ?

Well, at least this illustrates the priorities of this government like nothing else does. It is obvious what is more important to John Key and his colleagues in the National Party.

What makes this tragedy even more ghastly is that in 2008, John Key campaigned on behalf of  women suffering from breast cancer for Pharmac to fully  fund herceptin. Pharmac at that time had decided to fund only a nine week course – whilst campaigners were demanding a full 12 month period of funding. (see: Herceptin: What’s it going to take? )

Perhaps the difference between Mr Hill’s case, suffering from Pompe’s disease, is that 2008 was an election year and National was campaigning hard against an incumbent Labour government, led by an experienced, politically savy,  and fairly popular  prime minister.

National of course, won the 2008 election and Key “made good” on his election promise to force Pharmac to extend funding for herceptin (see:  Key: Herceptin funding proudest achievement).”

An email to Health Minister Tony Ryall, on 22 October 2011, yielded no results.

On 12 June 2012, Allyson Locke – another Pompe Disease sufferer – went public with her story,

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mum-not-prepared-to-wait-and-die

Full story

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In November 2012, Allyson wrote directly to John Key, via his Facebook account,

Dear Mr Key
     
I have written to you several times over the past 2 years regarding people with Pompe Disease not being able to get treatment. Pompe Disease is a rare (7 people in NZ have it) and fatal disease. There is a medication available in NZ which will halt the disease and in most cases give some improvement. This is an enormous positive for a fatal disease. The medication has been proven to work and there are published medical papers regarding this. The medication is expensive, but there are medications funded in NZ which are more expensive, and less proven.

My question to you Mr Key is, why do you continue to ignore the plight of Kiwis who suffer from Pompe disease, letting us die from slow and painful deaths at young ages. The youngest person in NZ who has this disease is only 20 years old. She has been declined for treatment. Another one of our members has been declined 4 times, FOUR TIMES! Nearly 60 other countries world wide fund this medication.

To be honest, your treatment of those of us with Pompe Disease is nothing short of ignorant and criminal. It’s about time you stood up and answered to us. You’re OUR Prime Minister, let’s hear what YOU have to say about it. We are sick of being ignored by you and your PHARMAC crew. If it was a member of your family i bet the medication would be funded asap. But because we are nameless faces, you don’t care. WE are KIWIS and we NEED treatment! If we had cancer we would get treatment! We wouldn’t have to beg and plead for our lives.

But I’m not too proud to beg. I’m dying, and i need treatment. What will you do for us? Please answer me.

Sincerely
Allyson Lock

She received no reply. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

Thereafter, I wrote directly to John Key as well (see:  Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key).

My email was forwarded to Health Minister, Tony Ryall, who at least has the intestinal fortitude to respond to my queries, unlike our spineless “Prime Minister”,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-22-nov-2012

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(See:  Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions)

I found Ryall’s response curious and requested clarification on his stament that he was “as a Minister […]  prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”,

Date:Thursday, 22 November 2012 9:41 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,

I am in receipt of your email dated 22 November, regarding Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) for sufferers of Pompe Disease. I understand you have already been in contact with Ms Allyson Lock on this matter.

You state that your reason for not supporting funding for ERT is – and I quote you – that “as a Minister I am prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”.

I refer your attention to the 2008 election campaign where your Party pledged to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer, from nine weeks to twelve months, even though Pharmac had up to that point been resisting all such requests on the grounds of cost and efficacy.

Post election, after becoming government, you implemented your election promise, and you stated in a press release dated 10 December 2008,

“We are extending funding for Herceptin to allow patients and their doctors to have a choice of a 12 months course. The nine-week treatment option also remains funded and available.”

I refer your attention to the following press releases from yourself and the Prime Minister, announcing additional funding for herception, despite PHARMAC’s initial decision opposing the move;

12-month Herceptin treatment now available

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00083.htm

Government honours Herceptin promise

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00082.htm

I have three subsequent questions, which you may be able to clarify;

1. If you are unable to intervene in PHARMAC’s  decision making process – what process did you use to fund herception from nine weeks to twelve months?

2. Where was funding obtained from?

3. Why are you unable to use the same process to fund ERT as you did for Herceptin?

I hope this problem can be resolved with some urgency, as Pompe Disease is terminal, and seven New Zealanders are facing a death sentence unless help is forthcoming.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

Minister Ryall’s response only seemed to add to the impression that National’s intervention for breast cancer sufferers in 2008 was a political stunt, motivated for electoral advantage,  and nothing more. He wrote back on 5 December,

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email-tony-ryall-pompe-disease-5-dec-2012

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(See: Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? )

In his email, Ryall outlined how National circumvented the law and used Ministry of Health money as a slush fund to pay for their 2008 electoral promise (to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer sufferers).

I replied six days later,

Date: Tuesday, 11 December 2012 9:17 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: In response to your letter dated 5 December
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”

Sir,

Re; Pompe Disease sufferers

Thank you for your letter dated 5 December explaining the circumstances and means by which Herception was funded outside of normal PHARMAC channels. Using the Ministry of Health to directly fund an extension of Herceptin for breast cancer sufferers was certainly a novel approach.

It occurs to me that the same process can be employed to fund Enzyme Replacement Therapies (ERT) for the seven New Zealanders who are suffering from the terminal condition known as Pompe Disease.

I do not accept that, as you suggest in your 5 December letter, that   in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments” since your government seems to find funding for events such as the Rugby World Cap ($220m); advertising by the NZ Defence Force ($20m); bonuses for  state owned enterprises employees ($54m); millions spent on tax breaks and advertising campaigns in the movie industry, etc.

There appears to be no valid reason that Pompe Disease sufferers are not offered the same “lifeline” that you extended breast cancer sufferers in 2008.

It is my contention that through clever negotiations,  government should be able to secure necessary ERT medication at a reasonable price, perhaps by offering contracts in others areas.

At least we have established that government is not constrained by legislation surrounding PHARMAC and that  flexibility exists with funding mechanisms.

I urge you to reconsider this issue and to find ways and means to facilitate a positive outcome for Pompe Disease sufferers.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

I have yet to receive a response.

Addendum 1

On 8 May 2012 Finance Minister, Bill English, conceded that partial-privatisation of Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River, Solid Energy, and further sell-down of Air New Zealand might result in the government having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in those SOEs (see:  Govt might have to borrow more once assets sold).  But that’s ok, because English said,

You’re looking at over the next three or four years growth in the Crown balance sheet net value of 20 or 25 billion dollars, so a few hundred million here and there is not acutally that big a commitment.

It’s a shame the same sentiment cannot extended to New Zealanders desperatel requiring life-giving medicines.

Addendum 2

On 20 December 2012, the Remuneration Authority granted a 1.9% salary increase – back-dated to 1 July 2012 – for all politicians. (See:  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise)

Which is difficult to reconcile with Minister Ryall’s comment on 5 December 2012,

as I advised you in my letter of 22 November 2012, in the current fiscal environment, unfortunately funding is not available for all treatments.

There is no compassion here.

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Salisbury School

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Salibury School.

This one beggars belief.

On 27 August 2012, Education Minister and National’s #1 Screw-Up announced the closure of an all-girl’s special needs residential school, at Richmond –  Salisbury School,

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Salisbury School faces closure

Full story

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The all-female students were to be “re-integrated” (ie;  forcibly amalgamated) with Halswell School, in Christchurch. Halswell is described as a “Boys School, Sch. for Intellectual Impairments” on one website, www.school.nz.

There were immediate concerns about the wisdom and safety of placing vulnerable young women in an all-male environment, where both genders were highly vulnerable and at-risk from inappropriate  behaviour.

Despite the well-meaning – but ultimately misguided views of some – it is impossible to monitor every single young person. The numerous incidences of sexual abuse in religious institutions such as Catholic Schools should be sufficient evidence that children can be at severe risk of inappropriate behaviour and exploitation by others.

As an aside, this blogger condemns in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible comments and attitudes of certain individuals who, by their words, supported Parata’s unsound and dangerous proposals. (See:  Government ‘right’ to close school – academic)

Luckily for the young women of  Salisbury School and their families, sanity –  in the form of Justice Dobson of the High Court – prevailed.  On 12 December  2012, Justice Dobson ruled that  the Minister of Education’s decision to close Salisbury School was illegal.

Illegal – and completely, utterly, insane.

Justice Dobson said the proposed amalgamation created “the prospect of greater risk of sexual or physical abuse” to the girls if they shifted to a co-ed institution. It doesn’t take a Quantum Physicist to figure that one out (see:  School denies sex risk to pupils).

Only a person totally lacking in insight could have contemplated needlessly placing vulnerable young women into a position of potential harm.

Little wonder that Salisbury’s  Board chairwoman, Helen McDonnell stated with obvious frustration and anger,

We do not believe the minister intends to retain Salisbury after 2014; her views, and those of her ministry, are clearly pre-determined. Therefore, we call on the Government to appoint another minister to take any decisions considered to be necessary.”

Parata is spectacularly inept beyond polite description.

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cartoon - parata - I will do my homework

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And only a political Party – National  in this instance – that shared such a lack of insight and awareness of personal  vulnerabilities,  could even contemplate  allowing such madness to proceed.

Question: had Parata’s decision stood and the amalgamation proceeded – who would have accepted responsibility for any harm to any of the young women students transferred to  Halswell with this mythical “wraparound care”?

Answer: no one.

Such is the way here in New Zealand.

Compassion? None demonstrated here. Only cold, hard-hearted indifference. And stupidity beyond belief.

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Welfare beneficiaries

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There is  nothing as low as kicking people when they are down.

The 2007/08 the Global Financial Crisis started a world away in Wall Street, USA. It would be fair to say that the Boards of Lehmann Bros, Goldman Sachs, AIG, General Motors, et al, did not comprise of  social welfare beneficiaries. It was not the Unemployed, solo-mothers, widows, Sick and Invalid, who made the decisions that would plunge the planet’s economy into an on-going Recession.

But listening to the likes of Paula Bennett and John Key, you would be be hard-pressed not to come to the conclusion that the victims of the Recession – and now social welfare recipients – did not cause the global economic meltdown.

Never have so few powerless been blamed for so many awful decisions by the  powerful.

Amongst Bennett’s agenda to demonise welfare recipients,

  • solo parents on the Domestic Purposes Benefit would be required to look for part-time work when their youngest child is five and fulltime work when that child turns fourteen, (see:  Key: Mums of one-year-olds better off working). The inference being that looking after the nation’s children is not “real work”.
  • Parents receiving welfare payments  would be made to enrol their children in early childhood education centres and  with a doctor.  (see:  Welfare reforms target kids’ education, health) The inference being that if you’ve just been made redundant, or left a violent partner, and in receipt of a social welfare benefit, that you are suddenly unfit to be a parent.
  • mothers who have an additional baby already on the Domestic Purposes Benefit will be required to look for work after 12 months, (see:  IBID). The inference being that women on the DPB are deliberately becoming pregnant to receive more “handouts”. Fortunately, MSD data shows different.
  • a proposal to  force women and their daughters, receiving a state benefit, on to contraception  (but no mandatory sterilisation for men on welfare) .  (see:  Birth control plan ‘belittling to women’). The inference being that women on welfare are of “loose morals”.
  • a proposal to force social welfare recipients to immunise their children (see:  Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs). The inference being that welfare recipirents are lazy, dirty, and diseased.
  • mandatory drug-testing for welfare recipients (see:  Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted). The inference being that welfare recipients – many of whom were in paid employment prior to the Global Financial Crisis – are now suddenly lazy drug addicts.
  • actual drug and alcohol addicts recieving welfare assistance would not be drug tested.   (see:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing) Which kind of shows the pointlessness of this exercise; testing non-addicts – but leaving real addicts alone. Rationale: pandering to National’s ill-informed  Radio Talk back constituency; rabid right wing; and other assorted low-information voters.
  • a plan to  stop welfare payments to beneficiaries subject to arrest warrants (see:  Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut) Inference; that those on welfare are all criminals.
  • specifically nominating “kidnappers” as having their welfare cut (see: Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan) Inference; Really, really – welfare beneficiaries are criminals!! In reality, people convicted and imprisoned for serious crimes already lose any welfare payments. Is Bennett suggesting that people have their benefits stopped before due process of the law determining guilt or innocence?
  • and umpteen media stories, “explaining” the high cost of social welfare,   generated from Bennett’s office (see: Single mum on DPB for decades, Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum, Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homesBeneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime, Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion . Notice how the sums involved get bigger and bigger?). Inference; bloody welfare beneficiaries are sucking this country dry. Never mind that prior to 2007/08, and the Global Financial Crisis, most welfare recipients actually had jobs.  In September 2008 there were 23,273 unemployed receiving a benefit. By September 2012, that number had more than doubled to 50,390   (see: MSD – September 2012 ). Did 27,117 suddenly decide that unemployment benefits of $200 a week was better than $600 or $700?! Only a  right wing bene-basher of low intelligence might think so – and most of those bigots are not quite right in the head,
  • and just in case the Talkback Radio mob are too thick to comprehend National’s smear-campaign, Key spelt it out in simple syllables; Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

See previous related blogposts:

Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

Paula Bennett: one strike and she’s out

How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

The real obscenity here is two-fold,

1. That a financial crisis emanating from the other side of the planet, involving greed, and a considerable degree of law-breaking, was able to ruin the lives of so many workers and their families – whilst the CEOs of many of the cotrporations involved pocketed big, seven-figure, “bonuses”.

2. That John Key and Paula Bennett both benefitted from a social welfare system that gave them access to tax-payer’s money; subsidised accomodation; free education; etc. Bennett was even able to buy herself a house using her WINZ benefit. (See previous related blogpost: Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy)

For both Key and Bennett to now manipulate public opinion against welfare beneficiaries to take the “heat” of National for rising unemployment is despicable.

Key has stated that he believes welfare reform  would help lift people out of poverty. (See:  Key admits underclass still growing)

This makes no sense.

It is not welfare “reform” that is needed – there is nothing wrong with our welfare system. It is working precisely as it was intended to during times of hardship for ordinary New Zealanders. (See previous related blogpost: Welfare ain’t broke – It’s the Jobs that ain’t there, John-boy!)

What is needed are jobs and a programme for growth. Welfare “reforms” is a useless red-herring being dangled in front of National’s constituents (who still hold to the fantasy that beneficiaries caused the GFC as an excuse to stay on welfare).

Until John Key, Paula Bennett, Bill English, et al, stop fixating on welfare “reforms, one thing is crystal clear – National has no plans to reduce unemployment by creating jobs. Their only agenda is to frighten or coerce people of welfare, and deeper into poverty.

This isn’t compassion – it’s criminal.

Compassion? A psychopath would show more feelings toward his/her cat.

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compassion

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Tax cuts and jobs – how are they working out so far, my fellow New Zealanders?

10 November 2012 14 comments

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Setting the scene

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The Rhetoric…

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

National Party: Tax Policy 2008

The Reality…

The public service has slashed 555 jobs in the past year and is expected to lose almost 400 more by June 2014, the government has revealed.”

Fairfax Media: 555 jobs gone from public sector

“Treasury today published the Government’s financial statements for the 10 months ended April 30, which showed the debt mountain had grown to $71.6b.”

Fairfax Media: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

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The Rhetoric…

In the longer term, our tax package encourages people to invest in their own skills and make best use of their abilities, because they get to keep more of any higher wages they earn. It encourages them to look for and to take up better and higher-paying jobs that make more use of their skills.”

National Party: 2008: Personal Tax

The Reality…

Thousands of New Zealanders – including many disillusioned immigrants – are looking for new jobs and new lives in Australia…

… And, judging by the long queues for the $15 event, it seems many of the employers will have no problem finding takers among job seekers who say they are fed up with New Zealand and believe the lifestyle, pay and opportunities are far better across the Tasman.”

NZ Herald: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

The unemployment rate rose half a percentage point to 7.3 per cent in the September quarter, the highest level since June 1999, according to Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey.

NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high

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Consequences

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On 1 October 2010, as National implemented it’s second round of tax cuts, John Key made this statement,

Our changes to the tax system are about:

  • Helping hardworking families get ahead
  • Boosting growth to create jobs and lift incomes
  • Encouraging savings and investment
  • Making the tax rules fairer for all New Zealanders.

Many of you have told me that you are worried about the increasing cost of living. That’s why the tax changes are so important.

From today, the average family will be about $25 a week better off, even after the increase in GST. The average earner will be about $15 a week better off. A retired couple receiving only NZ Super will be about $11 a week better off.

National was elected to secure a brighter future for New Zealanders and we are delivering on our promises.”

See: National Party: Special Edition – Tax cuts today

It is a common theme amongst the New Right and neo-liberal dogma that cutting taxes equates to more jobs. The idea is that with more money in people’s pockets; they spend more; consumption rises; industry has to produce more; and subsequently hires more staff.

That’s a lot of assumptions to make. As John Key, Bill English, and other National ministers stated, many people used their tax cuts to save and/or pay off debt,

One of the things we are trying to do is lift the national savings rate. When you lift the consumption taxes and lower personal taxes, you encourage people to save. That’s definitely happening, we’ve got a positive savings rate in New Zealand now.” – John Key, 2 April 2012

See: Key defends tax cuts in light of zero Budget

And I think it is going to keep dropping. Kiwis have got the message that debt is a bad thing” – but they had been convinced about the merits of saving more. People do want to save and they know there is no free lunch.” – Bill English, 14 March 2012

See: Debt being paid off, but savings not growing

And even if people do spend more, there is no guarantee that businesses will hire more staff. Much of our consumer goods now originates from overseas, and what we spend here in NZ probably has little effect with overseas manufacturers.

Even locally, there is certainly no guarantee that an extra $15 or $20 in taxcuts will result in more jobs. Especially when gst, fuel, electricity,  and government charges have risen to eat up tax cuts for low and medium paid workers.

New Zealand finance bosses are feeling good about the economic recovery, but research shows that optimism doesn’t extend to hiring new staff.

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half’s survey of 200 chief financial officers and finance directors found 79 per cent were confident about the prospects of national growth in 2012.

Those who thought their own company would pick up speed in the year ahead made up an even higher proportion, at 87 per cent.

However, the rise in confidence did not translate to more jobs – just 13 per cent planned to take on new finance and accounting staff. “

See: Confidence up, but jobs still not a priority

So John Key’s hopelessly optimistic vision of   “boosting growth to create jobs” has become a distant dream, based on -?

  • Naive faith in a discredited “free market” dogma?
  • Helping out his rich mates?
  • A misguided belief that creating jobs could be easily done at the stroke of a pen?
  • Free Market fairies and Employment angels?!
  • All of the above?

To make the picture complete, I present for the reader’s interest this graph, correlating the ’09 and ’10 tax cuts, with unemployment levels,

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Source

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The graph above vividly illustrates the fallacy linking tax cuts to job creation.

Indeed, after two taxcuts, this country has little to show for it except slashed state services; thousands of state sector workers sacked; and having to borrow billions more from overseas to make up for the shortfall in the tax-take.

The closure of two schools for disabled children, Salisbury Residential School in Nelson and McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch, is perhaps the most tragic face of National’s harsh policies.  When we cut taxes, we cut essential state services, there is no other option.

National supporters and low-information voters may hold cherished beliefs  that cutting taxes are a good thing – until they themselves, or a family member,  requires a state service that has been wound back, or eliminated altogether.

Whilst most of us understand that cutting taxes does not lead automatically to the Holy Grail of  more jobs, our Dear Leader seemed stunned by the shock rise in unemployment,

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.

Oh goodness, Dear Leader. “Surprised”, were we?

How can he have been surprised when unemployment has been rising since January, when it was at 6.4%?!

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Source

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Was he not paying attention – much like his briefing at GCSB offices when Kim Dotcom’s arrest was discussed?

Mr Key really needs to bring his mind back from the golf courses of Planet Key.

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Postscript

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Speaking from Japan (where it’s probably the safest place for him, right about now) John Key dismissed ideas of investing in job creation policies, saying,

 “It would be a dangerous precedence for us to start saying we are going to support a particular industry over another where there’s change. If you want to roll that all the way back we’d still be producing cars in New Zealand and that probably wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s best interests.

See: No tax break plans to keep jobs in NZ – Key

Key is happy to throw  tax breaks at the highest income earners in this country – but thinks that tax breaks for preserving jobs “wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s best interests“?!?!

And let’s not forget the generous tax breaks he gave to Warner Bros – a multi-billion dollar corporation – as a ‘sweetener’ to keep “The Hobbit” in New Zealand (when there was in reality no risk of production going overseas, according to Peter Jackson).

This man may have been raised in a state house, by a solo-mum, but it appears that he has lost all perspective. His fitness to be Prime Minister has to be seriously questioned.

Only six months earlier, Key was reported in the Dominion Post thusly,

The number of unemployed people increased 6.1 per cent to 160,000 but the labour force participation rate also rose, by 0.6 points to 68.8 per cent.

Key said the unemployment rate was “a very weird one at the moment”.

About 9000 jobs had been created and the Government was on track to create 170,000 over four years, he said.” – Dominion Post, 7 May 2012

See: Key – “Europe shows zero Budget wisdom”

Deluded? Make up your mind after  he went on to say the following (Warning: Contains Crazyiness),

The number of people looking for work or in work is virtually a record in New Zealand, the second highest rate ever. What that shows you is that New Zealanders are more confident the economy is coming right and actually bothering to look for work. I know it sounds crazy.” – John Key, 7 May 2012

See: Ibid

Well, yes; crazy.

Only John Key could be so utterly disingenuous as to laud rising unemployment as ” New Zealanders are more confident the economy “.

Batshit crazy, actually.

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Sources

Fairfax Media: Key defends tax cuts in light of zero Budget

National Party: Special Edition: Tax cuts today

Radio NZ: Tax breaks to save jobs ‘a dangerous precedent’

TV3: Opinion – Is our economy collapsing?

Sh*t to p*ss you off

TV3: NBR Rich List 2011 – NZ’s wealthy doing just fine

NZ Herald: We’re doing all right, says English, despite GDP slowdown

NZ Herald: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

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National’s prioritises Education needs

2 November 2012 28 comments

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More craziness from National…

In a repeat of National’s cost-cutting and closure of  critical social services in the late 1990s, Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced the closure of  two very special; much needed, schools – Christchurch’s McKenzie Residential School and Nelson’s Salisbury Residential School,

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Full story

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These are schools  which provide special education for children with severe behavioural difficulties. These are safe environments for children, who, because of their special needs, would find it difficult – impossible –  to cope in mainstream schools.

Despite most of  365 submissions opposing the closure of  McKenzie Residential School, the decision to close McKenzie and Salibury proceeded.

Which begs the question as to why bother making submissions when National rarely listens to a community.

As the decisionswere announced, Parata stated,

At the very heart of this difficult decision lies the opportunity to provide services and support for more children with complex needs in their local community.

The net result will be better support for more students and keeping communities together. I am satisfied that this combination of services will make sufficient provision for all children with special education needs both locally and nationally.

Our priority now is to ensure that every student currently enrolled in one of the schools closing has an individualised transition plan developed with them, their parents or caregivers, the residential school and their local school. That plan could be to support the student returning home and going to their local school with the wrap around service or to transfer to one of the residential special schools staying open.”

Source

She added,

We can link local services with the remaining residential provision to achieve a more personalised and high quality approach for children and their families.

Source

All of which is  meaningless drivel; platitudes to attempt to quell growing unease within two communities that they are losing two vital services from their areas.

National is promising something it calls a “wrap-around” service for children who are moved from McKenzie and Salisbury, to mainstream schools.

This blogger holds grave concerns for any such promises of  such a service.

In the 1990s, as Psychiatric Institutions closed, and their patients emptied into communities up and down the country, the-then Bolger-led National government promised extensive funding for  support services for  psychiatric patients.

That funding was nowhere as much as was promised or required, and ex-psych patients ended up living in public toilets; on the streets; and mostly with very little vital support.

Some ended up committing violent crimes.

National has a track record in closing down social services; making grandiose promises for funding alternative services – and failing to deliver.

This blogger predicts  precisely the same will happen in this situation. Ex-students of Salisbury and McKenzie will not recieve the support they require; they will end up being “excluded” (modern jargon for expelled) from mainstream schools; and will end up living at home with their parents.

This is utterly predictable.

Only a fool would believe liars such as the Education Minister and others within the National “government”. None of them can be trusted.

National carried out similar  policies in the late 1990s, which resulted in cutbacks to health, public housing, education, police, and other essential state services. All carried out in the name of  “efficiency”.

The result was a country in turmloil; National being thrown out of office on 27 November 1999, losing five seats, whilst Labour picked up twelve, and subsequently formed a new government. (Source)

One questions why two perfectly acceptable; well-run; community-based schools are facing closure? Why is National then planning (?) to spend heavily (?) on support workers for each child integrated into a mainstream school? What is the point of disrupting the lives of so many young, vulnerable children?

Is National so desperate to save money to balance it’s precious books that it is willing to take away a valuable resource for children with severe behavioural difficulties?

The mind of a government minister that can contemplate such a destructive act is perhaps more disturbed than the children at the centre of this tragedy.

Salisbury School is considering legal action – which this blogger supports 100%.  If the only persuasion that National will listen to is a Court injunction, then so be it.

Personal Story

In a previous blogpost – Once upon a time there was a solo-mum – I outlined the true-story of solo-mum, Sally*,  and her sons, Wayne*,  and Zack*. (* not real names)

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I referred to Sally’s younger son, Zack (11),

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)”

Since that blogpost was written in March of this year, young Zack was “excluded” (ie, expelled) from his second school.

Zack’s ADHD, Aspergers, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder makes him very hard to handle within a mainstream school. He requires a full-time, one-on-one, support-teacher to keep him steady in class and to direct his learning.

Without that support, Zack becomes confrontational; difficult to communicate with; and reacts badly to other children’s behaviour.

Zack was receiving only 3 or 4 hours per school day (six hours) assistance from a support-teacher.

The remaining hours, he was left without support and the class teacher had to handle his unpredictable behaviour,  which could disrupt class proceedings, as well as 30 other children.

One day, in a fit of anger (because another stuudent was making a noise that Zack’s Aspergers-ADHD mind could not cope with) he ran off and left the school. Teachers were called out to search the immediate neighbourhood for him. Police were called and scoured the area.

Zack was found, collecting sticks of the road, and delivered back into the care of Sally’s grandmother…

This is one instance where “wraparound” care does not exist – and no school will accept Zack without it. But without funding from the Ministry of Education, Zack will not have that so-called “wraparound” support.

It should be noted that whilst Zack has challenging, disruptive behaviours, he has a high-functioning form on the autism spectrum (very bright).

The children at Salisbury and McKenzie would have behaviours far more challenging, and far more potentially disruptive, in a mainstream class.

Update; Zack starts at a new school next week. His attendance will be determined by Ministry funding  and time allocated  for a support-teacher. Adequate funding for a full day is by no means guaranteed, and Sally remain anxious on this matter.

Sally has been told in no uncertain terms; without a full-time teacher-support, his new school will limit his attendance within class.

This, folks,   supposedly constitutes National’s idea of a  “wraparound” service.

We should be very worried about assurances from Minister Parata.

Meanwhile…

Even as National closes down two schools for our most vulnerable, behaviourally-difficult children, we hear this news,

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Full story

So evidently, closing down schools for special needs children is a necessity.

Preserving, funding, and giving full State support for one of the most elite schools in this country – is National’s top priority?

Have we got that?

Good.

Meanwhile, one of the special-needs schools made this critical point to Minister Parata,

Salisbury School Board of Trustees chairperson Helen McDonnell said the school is concerned about the risks of the female students because they could be forced to move to the co-educational Halswell School 400 kilometres away.

“Parents are right to be anxious about their daughters’ safety at Halswell because a co-educational environment is inappropriate, unreasonable and potentially dangerous.

“[It] denies them the chance to get the specialist education they deserve and which their future depends on”.”

Source

The female students at Salisbury school, whilst having the bodies of an eleven year old – have the minds of a 5 year old. And they will be placed in a co-ed situation with boys.

I think we can all understand where this is heading…

National – never underestimate their ability to totally screw-up a perfectly viable situation, and cause utter chaos and misery for those involved.

Elite Wanganui Collegiate School, on the other hand, has no such problems.

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Sources

The Press: McKenzie Residential School to close (31 October 2012)

TVNZ: School says closure could put special students at risk (31 October 2012)

Radio NZ: Special needs school board considers legal fight (1 November 2012)

Radio NZ: Listen to item on Morning Report

The Press: Residential pupils sent to mainstream schools (2 November 2012)

Fairfax News: Legality of closing school doubted (2 November 2012)

NZ Herald: Wanganui Collegiate to be integrated (2 November 2012)

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