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Metiria Turei has started something

17 August 2017 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enrol and Vote from Overseas

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

[…]

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

All quite legal.

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

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

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

As Stephanie Rodgers wrote for Radio NZ;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sixty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metiria Turei was 23.

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

Because I really, really, really want to understand.

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

Well, that’s a surprise, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

  • Establishment
  • Wealthy
  • Powerful
  • White
  • Male

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But of course it was.

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

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

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

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

Like this;

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

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

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

Too much information, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t stop us all.

 

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Postscript – Minister for Sheer Hypocrisy Speaks Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

Electoral Commission: Enrol and Vote from Overseas

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

Radio NZ:  I will remember Metiria Turei differently

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

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

Radio NZ:  Deputy PM on Turei’s benefit dishonesty

NZ Herald: Bennett rejects ‘hypocrite’ claims

Additional

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

Other Bloggers

Gordon Campbell on the Turei finale

Bill:  Corbyn-esque NZ

Chris Trotter:  Avenge Metiria!

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

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

Previous related blogposts

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

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

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

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

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

11 August 2017 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
The Wellingtonian

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It astounds me that several reactionary media “personalities” have demanded Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, to resign from Parliament because she was forced to lie to social welfare so her benefit would not be cut.

In 2009 then Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English was caught claiming a ministerial housing allowance for a Wellington property he already owned through a family trust. After public anger mounted, he was eventually forced to repay $32,000 to the taxpayer. (“Bill English buckles over housing allowance”, Dominion Post)

This despite his ministerial salary of $276,200 per year – plus perks, gold-plated super scheme, and free/subsidised air travel after he retires from Parliament. (“Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home”, NZ Herald)

Meanwhile, Metiria Turei, a 23 year old solo-mum, struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. All this during Ruth Richardson’s infamous benefit cuts. Thousands of families were forced deeper into poverty, and the effects are still with us today with rising homelessness.

Despite this, the Establishment Media led by Duncan Garner, Mike Hosking, and Patrick Gower mount a nasty vendetta against her?

Their actions illustrate precisely why Ms Turei voluntarily disclosed misleading social welfare in the mid-1990s; the stench of double standards is stomach turning.

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Several media “personalities” are demanding that Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei resign from Parliament because she happened to register and vote in an electorate she did not usually live in?

How many thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and still vote in the last electorate they were registered in, prior to emigrating?

In 2005, then Opposition-leader, John Key, was guilty of the same “crime” Ms Turei is now accused of, as the media reported;

“National Party rising star John Key won’t be able to vote in the Helensville electorate he represents in the election this year… The former banker, who owns six New Zealand homes, said he made the change to clear up potential misunderstanding. Mr Key and his wife, Bronagh, are listed in electoral rolls for 2002, 2003, and 2004 as “residing” at a Waimauku address in the Helensville electorate, but have never lived there.” ( “National MP’s home away from home”, NZ Herald)

The matter of “multiple residences” did not stop Key from becoming Prime Minister three years later, and later knighted.

But if a poor, young, brown woman does the same thing, the Establishment Media goes crazy?

The Electoral Act 1993 is clear:

“A person resides at the place where that person chooses to make his or her home by reason of family or personal relations, or for other domestic or personal reasons.”

It is time for the media hysteria to stop and focus on the real critical problems confronting us as a nation. Enough fake news!

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Metiria Turei’s honest disclosure of her interaction with WINZ in the 1990s may have caused an unintended consequence.

In being upfront and honest about her indiscretions with WINZ, she has sparked a storm of hysteria from reactionary “media personalities”, right wing politicians, conservative commentators, and those who gleefully sit in judgement of others.

As a consequence, she has become a warning to other politicians that truthfulness, openness, and candor will not be rewarded.

Every other politicians will look at the witch hunt pursuing Ms Turei and double-down on keeping secret their secrets.

Politicians will become even more risk-averse to telling the truth.

The next time a politician is challenged to be more open, the fate of Ms Turei will cross their mind and serve as a grim warning; honesty is not well rewarded in politics. It is brutally punished.

So. Which politician would like to raise his/her hand to reveal some skeleton from their closet? Someone? Anyone?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 4 August 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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National as been very quiet over Metiria Turei’s admissions of neglecting to tell WINZ that she had flatmates, so her DPB would not be cut. In the early 1990s, welfare had been savagely cut in Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of all Budgets” to a level where starvation and homelessness loomed to rising numbers of unemployed.

By the end of 1991, nearly 200,000 Kiwis were out of work as free-market policies were thrust upon us.

Perhaps National does not want to draw attention to Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, who was also on welfare at the time? Questions have been raised over Ms Bennett’s activities at the time.

Some in media have been less reticent. Certain reactionary “media personalities” have attacked her mercilessly. No doubt these same (predominantly white, well-paid, middle-aged male) critics lived saintly lives when they were in their 20s? Of course they did.

She was 23 when she filed an incorrect address so she could vote for a friend in the McGillicudy Serious Party. The whole point of McGillicudy was to take the mickey out of politics.

When did some lose their tolerance for youthful silliness to such a degree that, decades later a pack would be baying for her blood?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: North and South <north&south@bauermedia.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
North & South

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Recent disclosures by Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, that she was forced to lie to social welfare in the 1990s has provoked the usual outrage from the reactionary Establishment media. Media “personalities” Patrick Gower, Duncan Garner, and Mike Hosking – all affluent white men – are baying for her blood.

However, this is not about so-called welfare fraud. This is about one gutsy woman speaking out against a broken welfare system. Since Ruth Richardson’s disastrous benefit cuts in 1992, thousands of families became mired deeper in poverty; creating worsening homelessness; hungry and barefoot children going to school; and a rise of poverty-related disease.

It is in this environment of punishing the poor and those who lost their jobs during the ideological re-structuring of our economy, that has pushed many to lie or with-hold information to WINZ. It is a matter of sheer desperate survival.

Not that Messrs Garner, Hosking, and Gower would know anything of surviving poverty. Their homes are warm; their beds comfy; their bellies full. When Fairfax political journo, Tracy Watkins joined the media feeding-frenzy, accusing Ms Turei that she “failed the most basic political test – the hypocrisy one”, it was probably written after a nice meal, with a glass of ‘cheeky pinot’ (or was it a Brown Bros riesling?) on her work-desk at home. (“Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble”, Tracy Watkins, Fairfax)

No cold, damp homes or empty stomachs for these Media Establishment journos, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, has been noticeably low-key on this issue.

Herself a former DPB beneficiary, Bennett made full use of social welfare to obtain a free University education through a Training Incentive Allowance (TIA), and a Housing NZ grant to buy her own home. (“Bennett knows about life on Struggle St”, Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald)

As Social Welfare Minister, one of her first acts in 2009 was to terminate the TIA. No other solo-mum or solo-dad would have the same chance she did.

There have been questions asked about Bennett’s activities whilst on the DPB. Those questions remain unanswered. Unlike Metiria Turei, the Ministry of Social Development appears to show no interest in our Deputy PM’s past.

While Bennett keeps her head down, her “attack dogs” in the Establishment media are ripping into her opponant, Ms Turei.

After all, how dare she speak out about the grim realities of living on welfare?

Such is Ms Turei’s real “crime”.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

NZ Herald:  National MP’s home away from home

Legislation:  Electoral Act 1993

NZ Herald: Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home  (alt ref: The Indian Weekender:  Know your leaders – Bill English and Paula Bennett)

Fairfax media:  Tracy Watkins – Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble

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

Additional

NZ Herald:  Political Roundup – The Consequences of Metiria Turei’s benefit confession

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

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“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over

 

humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the

 

habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed,  and well-fed.”

 

– Herman Melville, 1819 – 1891

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 August 2017.

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Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

7 August 2017 1 comment

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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My response to Newshub and Radio NZ this morning;

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Enough of this bullshit!

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

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

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#iammetiria

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References

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

Twitter: Newshub – Metiria Turei

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

Previous related blogpost

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

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

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Some background info for Guyon Espiner

1 August 2017 5 comments

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On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on 26 July, Co-Host Guyon Espiner interviewed Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei on why she didn’t find a job to support herself at University and pay for the care of her baby. He was critical in her activities in the McGillicudy Serious Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party instead of seeking some sort of part-time employment.

The reason why any job seeking by Ms Turei during the early/mid 1990s would have been futile is common knowledge to those who remember the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ by then Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

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Unemployment at that time reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s/30s;

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Unemployment Rate

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Unemployed Number of People

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Nearly 200,000 people were out of work at the time.

There simply was no  work for thousands of New Zealanders who had lost their jobs.

In April this year, a well known journalist wrote this analysis of Jim Bolger and the extreme neo-liberal “reforms” of the early 1990s;

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National prime minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change”.

But hang on. Didn’t he, along with finance minister Ruth Richardson, embark on that model, or at least enthusiastically pick up from where Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour government left off?

Bolger doesn’t have a problem calling those policies neoliberal although he prefers to call them “pragmatic” decisions to respond to the circumstances. It sets us up for the ride we go on with Bolger through the 1990s, a time of radical social and economic change.

Judge for yourself whether or not they were the right policies but do it armed with the context. Bolger describes his 17-hour honeymoon after becoming PM in 1990. He recalls ashen faced officials telling him before he was even sworn in that the BNZ was going bust and if that happened nearly “half of New Zealand’s companies would have collapsed”.

The fiscal crisis sparked the Mother of All Budgets and deep cuts to the welfare state. Some believe this was the start of the entrenched poverty we agonise about to this day.

That author was Guyon Espiner, co-host of Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’.

Either Espiner has forgotten the lessons of history, grimly recounted to him by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger – or he wilfully chose to ignore the dire circumstances that Metiria Turei, and thousands of other New Zealanders, found themselves in at the time.

Neither is an edifying prospect for a supposedly professional journalist with a wealth of knowledge to tap into. He should have known that he was demanding the near-impossible from Ms Turei.

The interview was one of a series throughout mainstream media where the scent of blood has been picked up by the journalist-pack, and they are in full flight of their quarry.

The circumstances of why she was forced to lie to WINZ is almost incidental.

The fact that she did lie to WINZ is of secondary importance to the Right; the mainstream media; and to the Establishment.

The real reason she is being pursued and vilified is because she dared to speak out. While the Establishment will tolerate benefit fraud – and occassionally make sport of anyone discovered doing it – they will not tolerate anyone from the lower classes stepping forward to tell their story.

Ms Turei’s grievous crime is not the money she took. It is her subversion.

That is the real threat to the Establishment.

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#iammetiria

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References

Radio NZ:  Greens say household income report is damning

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:  The ‘mother of all budgets’

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed Number of People

The Spinoff:  Neoliberalism has ‘failed’ and the ‘model needs to change’

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 July 2017.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth… *** UP DATE ***

11 February 2014 2 comments

Continued from: Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

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Unemployed under-employment

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Additional to my original blogpost on The Daily Blog on 6 February.

In up-coming unemployment stats, I’ll be focusing on the Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the narrower “unemployed” stats from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). It is evident from the numbers of under-employed and the extremely narrow defining on what constitutes an unemployed person, that we are not getting the full picture from the HLFS.

Coupled to that, the Census last year revealed unemployment to be at an astonishing 7.1% whilst Roy Morgan poll (5 December 2013) had the figure at 8.5%.

By comparison, the HLFS (at roughly the same time) had unemployment at 6.2%.

So unemployment stats ranged from 6.2% (HLFS) to 8.5% (Roy Morgan).

Coupled to that is the narrow definition of the HLFS used by Statistics NZ (see below), and we begin to see why the “official unemployment rate” appears more ‘benign’.

From the January 2014 Parliamentary report, Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context;

The Reserve Bank has expressed concern at its variance with other indicators. [2]   A commentator in the Westpac Bulletin, puzzled by the continued weakness of the HLFS in 2012 compared to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) and other labour market indicators, described it as ‘confusion reigns’ and suggested that survey ‘volatility’ played a role. [3]   The ANZ commentator is cautious: ‘The HLFS has been very volatile in recent years, and we and the Reserve Bank will treat the result with a degree of scepticism, preferring to take note of a wide range of labour market indicators.’ [4]  

These broader labour market indicators include external ones such as business and consumer surveys and job advertisements. These are in addition to those derived from official statistics such as changes in the employment and labour force participation rates, full- and part-time work, and hours worked, together with fine-grained analysis of changes by region, industry and age.

Various reasons for the volatility of the unemployment rate and its variance with other labour market indicators have been discussed – the impact of the recession, the dynamic nature of the labour market, the survey nature of the HLFS, and differences in coverage of the statistics. It has been suggested that the HLFS is more volatile at a turning point – either going into or out of recession…

The latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) stats;

Officially unemployed stats;

The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter, down 0.2 percentage points to 6.0 percent. This decrease reflected 2,000 fewer people being unemployed [147,000]. The fall in unemployment was from fewer men unemployed.

Official unemployment: down

The  under-employment stats;

Over the year, the total number of under-employed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the under-employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Official under-employment: up

The HLFS Jobless  stats;

In the year to December 2013, the number of people in the jobless category fell 27,400 to 257,100. Alongside the 15,000 fall in the number of people unemployed, there was also a 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking.

Official Jobless: down

Source

Observation #1: Under-employment is increasing, which brings into question how effective the “drop” in unemployment and Jobless actually is. As being “employed” is defined as working for one hour (or more) per week; with or without pay: the whole statistical reporting of true unemployment in New Zealand is now called into question. Especially with regards to the next point.

Observation  #2: “A 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking” signifies that the drop in Unemployment/Jobless can also be attributed to people giving up, as this Radio NZ report stated in February last year (2013).

Observation #3: As stated in the “Definitions” below, a person who is job seeking only through newspapers is not considered in the “Unemployed” category, but under the wider “Jobless” definition. Considering that a number of  households  cannot afford the internet, and do not qualify for WINZ registration, this makes a sizeable “chunk” of unemployed effectively invisible.

Observation #4: The above Observation suits successive governments, which are desperate to report lower unemployed so as to gain support from voters.

 

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Up-coming unemployment stats will focus  on  Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the more restrictive “unemployed” stats from the HLFS. Hopefully this will create a more comprehensive ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in the jobs ‘market’.

Further Information

“4 out of 5 New Zealand homes had access to the Internet, up 5 percent since 2009.”

– Statistics NZ

The corollary to that is that one in five households – a staggering 20%! – do not have internet access.

Which means that job seekers on little or no income (especially if they do not qualify for WINZ support) may rely solely on newspapers to look for jobs.

But as I’ve reported above, using a newspaper to be job-seeking does not quality you as “unemployed”.

20%.

That’s quite a number.

No wonder of official unemployment stats are dodgy as hell.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Roy Morgan:  New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5% and a further 11.3% (up 2.7%) of workforce are under-employed

Roy Morgan:  Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia not the “perception” of unemployment

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Definitions – About the Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: Household Use of Information and Communication Technology: 2012

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Previous related blogpost

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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18 percent of 18-24 year olds unemployed

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 February 2014.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth…

11 February 2014 3 comments

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Continued from:    Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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Unemployment logo

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This is the plain, unvarnished truth that most New Zealanders don’t know; don’t understand, and quite frankly, many do not want to know or understand. For many – especially National/Act supporters living in their own fantasyland – this is the reality that would shatter their comfortable upper-middle-class world-view.

First, read Mike Treen’s excellent analysis on The Daily Blog, on 30 January;

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EXCLUSIVE - Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

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(Note the pathetic and largely ineffectual attempts by right wing blogger; self-proclaimed “social welfare expert”; and ex-Act candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, and one or two other National Party supporters to undermine Mike’s analysis. They are unable to address or answer even the most simple points Mike and others have raised.)

Then, read Matt McCarten’s piece in the NZ Herald, a few days later;

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Matt McCarten - Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

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And now, here’s the ‘kicker‘;

According to Statistics New Zealand, which carries out both the five yearly Census as well as the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), the definition of an employed person is so loose and wide-ranging as to make the term meaningless;

Definitions

About the Household Labour Force Survey

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) provides a regular, timely, and comprehensive portrayal of New Zealand’s labour force. Each quarter, Statistics NZ produces a range of statistics relating to employment, unemployment, and people not in the labour force.

The survey started in October 1985 and the first results published were for the March 1986 quarter.

More definitions

The labour force category to which a person is assigned depends on their actual activity during a survey reference week.

This section includes definitions used in the HLFS release. These conform closely to the international standard definitions specified by the International Labour Organization.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

So, if youworked for one hour” – even without pay! ” – you are automatically classed as employed by this country’s statisticians.

No wonder that the Roy Morgan poll consistently reports that New Zealand has a higher unemployment rate than is generally reported by Statistic NZ’s HLFS or Census.

Quite simply,

  • It appears that our stats are horribly wrong and are under-stating the severity of unemployment in New Zealand by several degrees of magnitude,
  • Lower unemployment figures suit the agendas of successive governments (National, as well as Labour-led),
  • Community organisations are over-worked struggling to put  band-aids on the growing problem of hidden unemployment,
  • New Zealand as a whole suffers through loss of productivity; increasing costs due to poverty; and other socio-economic problems.

When a government agency purports to measure employment and unemployment, and defines being employed as “working for one hour or more”, either paid or unpaid, those are not statistics – they are a sick joke. In effect, we are fooling ourselves as a nation that we have “low unemployment”.

These are not facts – they are propaganda; half-truths; mis-information; lies-dressed-up-as-comforting-facts. The reality – unpalatable as it may be for many – is that our unemployment is much, much worse than we have been led to believe.

If New Zealanders want to keep up this pretense, they will eventually have to “pay the Piper”, as societal problems worsen. And then, the rioting begins.

Note: For future reference, any subsequent use of Statistics NZ data referring to unemployment, in any upcoming blogposts,  will carry the caveat;

Definition of Employed (by Statistics NZ) includes any person who is;

  • anyone working for only one hour (or more)
  • anyone not paid for their labour

Accordingly, Statistics NZ information may not present a fully accurate picture of this country’s unemployment/employment rates.”

*** Up-date ***

The HLFS results for the December 2013 Quarter reported a “drop” in unemployment from 6.2% to 6.0%.

Interestingly, as Radio NZ reported, “the fall in unemployment did not match the pick up in jobs, due to more people searching for work“.

This ties in with the fact that “employment” is defined as anyone working for one hour (or more).

If more people are looking for work, this suggests any number of factors,

  • The HLFS survey is failing to pick up accurate numbers of unemployment,
  • Statistics NZ’s definition for unemployed is too narrow,
  • The number of under-employed is (as Roy Morgan reveals) so high as to mask real unemployment.

Also interesting to note that the drop in the HLFS survey results mirror the fall in Roy Morgans polling, further lending credibility to the latter.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Statistics NZ: Hours Worked in Employment

Scoop News:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE: Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

NZ Herald: Matt McCarten: Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Scoop News: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Statistics NZ:  Labour market statistics for the December 2013 quarter

Radio NZ: Unemployment falls to 6 percent

Previous related blogposts

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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unemployed welfare beneficiaries paula bennett

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 February 2014.

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OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

13 December 2013 6 comments

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6a00d83451d75d69e2016305affbbe970d-800wi

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In National’s on-going war against the poor; the unemployed; solo-mums; widows; etc, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, recently trumpeted “new” developments in the campaign against “welfare abuse”.

He proclaimed  “new” measures by this government to detect and deal to (alleged) fraudsters,

“The information sharing, which compares MSD records with Inland Revenue data to identify working age beneficiaries who have not accurately reported their income to Work and Income, started in March this year.”

Source: Information sharing continues to stop fraudsters

However, as I pointed out in July of this year, Borrows appears to be somewhat “loose with the truth”. The MSD has had the ability to share information with other government departments going back to 2001 – if not  earlier (see:  Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us) .

The initial evidence for this fact lay with two letters  from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The other evidence was a startling admission from Borrows – detailed later in this blogpost – in an OIA request lodged with the Minister’s office in July.

The first of two letters was from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

and,

The Inland Revenue records indicate that you commenced employment: 16 March 2009…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

Obviously, the MSD had data-matching with the IRD going back to at least mid-2009.

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the NZ Customs Service (not Immigration Dept as I mistakenly wrote) were comparing information.

So for Borrows to claim that “information sharing, which compares MSD records with Inland Revenue data to identify working age beneficiaries who have not accurately reported their income to Work and Income, started in March this year ” – shows either that he has poor knowledge of departmental policy, or is wilfully misrepresenting the truth.

If Borrows is lying, it would be part and parcel of National’s disturbing agenda to demonise welfare recipients and make them the scapegoats of this Tory government’s failure to create jobs.

On 19 July, I lodged an OIA request with Borrows’ office.  I asked ten questions from the Minister through the course of two emails. Here are the questions and responses I received on 12 September;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

Borrows replied; “From 18 March to 14 July 2013 the information sharing agreement detected 3,139 cases of benefit fraud which resulted in the cancellation of a benefit.”

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

Borrows; “In May 2012 an Order in Council was passed that allows for Inland Revenue to share information with the Ministry of Social Development. To support this a memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

This has led to a new programme of work in which Inland Revenue provides the Ministry of Social Development with income and employer information for all working age people in receipt of a benefit. In September 2012 a test of the information sharing agreement was undertaken to ensure data integrity and system compatibility. Full information sharing for the detection of undeclared earnings commenced in March 2013.”

However, further on in Borrow’s letter, he presents this chart of two government departments and the dates they commenced data-sharing with the MSD,

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information sharing with MSD - borrows

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Note the years given for the IRD (1992) and NZ Customs Service (1996). This ties in perfectly with the letters from WINZ and MSD above.

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigration also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

According to Borrows; Yes. Though with NZ Customs, not the Immigration Service. My bad.

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

According to Borrows; from 1996 onward.

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?   6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

Borrows listed the following as data sharing with the MSD; ACC (2005), Corrections Dept (1995), Department of Internal Affairs (2004 onward), Housing NZ (2006), Inland Revenue (1992 onward), NZ Customs Service (1996 onward), and Ministry of Justice (2013)

7. Of the 3,139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

– 1 week

– 2 weeks

– 3 weeks

– 4 weeks

– 2 months

– 3 months

– 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

– Over one year

This was probably the most pertinent question, and Borrows point blank refused to answer it, stating;

Your request for information about the amount of time a client was in receipt of a benefit whilst earning income from another source is refused under section 18(f)  of the Official Information Act.This would require the Ministry to undertake a manual search of each of the individual  client’s files to collate the information. As such I am refusing this part of your request as responding to it would require substantial collation or research.”

This is an unbelievable response!

For one thing, it indicates that the Minister has no information as to how long a welfare recipient was earning both a benefit and other income.

Was it one week? Or one year? Two weeks?  Or two decades?

There are many cases of a brief overlap, as the 7 July 2009 letter above shows (where the over-lap was a fortnight before the recipient advised WINZ). There was a gap of  just over a week between the job interview and job offer, and the person’s first induction course.

Borrows simply has no knowledge of how long these over-laps were. If the majority were one or two weeks, this can be put down to human error or a mis-understanding of employment start-dates – not planned fraud.

Worse was to come.

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?

Borrows replied,

Information about the number of prosecutions undertaken is refused under section 9(2)(f)(iv) of the Official Information Act. This part of the Act allows me to refuse your request as the Ministry is still in the process of deciding whether to prosecute these individuals, therefore this matter is still under active consideration. While I understand that there is a significant public interestin the functions of the Ministry, I believe that in this case the public  interest does not outweigh the necessity to protect the Ministry’s investigation and prosecution process.”

I take it from his response that “as the Ministry is still in the process of deciding whether to prosecute these individuals, therefore this matter is still under active consideration” – that no prosecutions have taken place up until the time of the letter being written.

Not one single person out of the  3,139 cases was prosecuted.

Not. A. One.

So the alleged fraud was either of an insignificant nature (one or two weeks) – or the cases were so flimsy and ill-defined that a Court would have thrown out the charges.

Or they weren’t “fraud” at all.

9. How many have been convicted?

Borrows’ response,

Prosecutions stemming from these cases are still in progress, and I am advised that none have yet been resolved. As such there have been no convictions to date.”

No convictions?

So much media hype surrounding 3,139 cases – and not a single prosecution or conviction.

It seems apparent that this was little more than a propaganda exercise and useful only to beef up National’s ‘tough-on-welfare-abuse” image. Any serious fraud is never countenanced by any government and prosecutions are relentlessly pursued,

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Alleged identity theft for pension

Source

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And lastly, I asked,

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

Borrows replied,

In every instance of the 3,139 alleged benefit frauds, those in receipt of these were also employed.

Note the Minister’s use of  “alleged”. Without a single court case leading to a single conviction, nothing has been proven. There was no fraud, as such, because no one has been convicted of any such offence.

We have only a  politician’s word that this has happened.

And thus far, Mr Borrows seems to be lacking in any credibility whatsoever.

It is also interesting to note that whilst Borrows knew the answer to Q10 – he had no data on Q7.

If the mainstream media had the time or inclination to delve further behind the press releases, they might uncover the same situation I have; that this has been part of a propaganda exercise by government ministers to boost National’s reputation as being “tough on welfare cheats”.

New Zealand has a dark side to it’s much vaunted “fair go”. We can  be quick to judge; easy led to indulge in prejudice; and punitive to a nasty level.

National’s strategists and spin-doctors are well aware of this nasty side to our collective psyche and play it like a maestro.

We may not force jews to wear the yellow star of David and ship them off to death camps – but when a Tory government re-victimises the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, simply to gain a few polling points, and seemingly gets away with it – then you know that this is a country that is willing to be led into darkness.

And all the while with a complicit media, only too eager to be the government’s unquestioning, obedient, mouthpiece,

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Susan's Editorial Benefit fraudsters stealing from you and me

Source

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Whatever happened to journalists looking behind government utterances?

Or is the new policy Don’t Question Authority?

At the very least, journalists like Susan Wood should have expected payment for her blatant  towing of the National Party-line.  She has shown herself to be a Good Citizen. Obedient. Unquestioning. Loyal.

So when do we start shipping welfare beneficiaries off to work camps?

Would that satisfy that subconscious, punitive urge for New Zealanders?

Or would that finally – finally – be a step too far?

And in the meantime, how many more times will gullible New Zealanders fall for National’s get-tough-on-welfare-fraud propagandising?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 December 2013.

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References

OIA letter from Chester Borrows

Scoop media: Information sharing continues to stop fraudsters

Radio NZ: Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Dominion Post: House call plan to nab benefit fraudsters

NewstalkZB: Susan’s Editorial: Benefit fraudsters stealing from you and me

NZ Herald: Alleged identity theft for pension

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare – The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

TV3: Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging – study

Previous related blogposts

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

A letter to the editor

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