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Rebuilding the Country we grew up in – Little’s Big Task ahead

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1949-state-house-in-taita b

 

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2007: John Key says Housing is in crisis

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On 20 August 2007, National’s new leader, John Key, made a stirring speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he lambasted the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

(Hat-tip: Bert)

In 2007, Key described “home affordability and ownership” as a “crisis”.

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2016: John Key says Housing is a more like a “challenge”

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Almost exactly five years, one of my first blogposts involved the looming housing crisis. On 3 August, 2011, I wrote;

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way?

That was five years ago.

The housing crisis appears to have only recent dawned on National ministers. As Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett  said on 25 May this year;

“Certainly what we’ve seen is it has been more acute in the last two years.”

It is most certainly not a recent problem.  It is only “new” if you are a well-paid National minister, living in a tax-payer-funded residence.

In my blogpost five years ago, I offered a solution to the housing crisis confronting this country;

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. …]

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

[…]

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

National has been half-hearted in it’s will to address this crisis. It has implemented a few lukewarm, ad hoc measures, but they are five years too late and too little.

Some of National’s announcements have been panic-driven;

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders - interest

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At other times, National has indulged in it’s favourite past-time of “blame-gaming”;

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housing crisis - national - blame game

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By 2016, under Key’s watch, homelessness has increased; housing affordability has worsened, and home ownership has plummeted. Our esteemed Dear Leader no longer calls it a “crisis“. It is now just a “challenge“;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly.”

“There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

Make no mistake, this is a direct consequence of National’s laissez-faire approach and an opportunistic reliance on mass immigration to keep the economy afloat at a time when dairying is no longer the main driver of economic growth.

By any definition, National’s “hands off” approach to housing – whether social housing for the poor or affordable housing for the Middle Classes – has been an abject failure.

The mood for change has never been as palpable since the dying days of the Shipley-led National government in 1999.

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The Labour Response

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On 10 July, Labour leader Andrew Little congratulated Labour on it’s 100th year birthday. He also put the boot firmly and fairly up National’s backside for it’s hopeless track record on housing.

If the supply of food were in short-supply and expensive as is housing for poor and middle-class New Zealanders, there would be rioting in the streets by now. By morning there would be a revolutionary government sitting in the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and Key and his ministerial cronies would be in hiding, exile, or under arrest.

Little began with a brief, but accurate refresher course in New Zealand history;

“We’re here to celebrate Labour’s creation of the welfare state, the achievements of widespread home ownership and the creation of state housing, a free health system and a free education system.

In short, we celebrate the building of a nation.

We celebrate and we remember the image of Michael Joseph Savage carrying the very first furniture into the very first state house.

Offering hope to people that the years of depression were over and there were brighter days ahead.

We’re here to celebrate the beginning of the reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha and the restoration of the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We’re celebrating the decision to make New Zealand nuclear free. We celebrate the courage shown by thousands of New Zealanders who marched against the Springbok Tour.

We’re celebrating KiwiBank. Kiwisaver. Working for Families. The Cullen Fund.

We celebrate Homosexual Law Reform and we remember the scene of the packed galleries in Parliament rising in song after we passed Marriage Equality.

These are Labour achievements.

This is the legacy of our party.”

Little omitted Labour’s de-railing in the 1980s at the hands of a small cadre of Neo-liberal fifth columnists. They who delivered our country into the hands of  global finance. They who were the  authors of a failed economic experiment that caused generations of misery, and rewarded the top 10% with unearned wealth. They whose names will pass into history and be quietly forgotten.

This was a moment where Little – like his predecessor David Cunliffe –   turned his back on neo-liberalism and announced to the country that the experiment was over. Labour would take back the reigns of responsibility for ensuring housing for all;

“After eight years, this government’s lost touch.

And nowhere, nowhere, is this government more out of touch and out of ideas than on housing.

Housing is at the core of a good life.

It provides security and stability.

It helps families put down roots in their communities and save for retirement

It is one of the most common sources of capital for people setting up their own small business.

The ambition of widespread homeownership sits at the heart of our social contract. It is at the heart of the Kiwi Dream.

The promise that if you work hard and do the right thing, you can earn a place of your own.”

A few salient statistics drove home the worsening crisis to anyone who needed convincing;

“Since 2008, when this government came to office, the average house price in Auckland has nearly doubled.

But over the same period, incomes have increased by only 24%.

In the last year, house prices in Auckland have increased by $2600 a week.

Twenty six hundred dollars a week.

It’s crazy. How on earth do you save enough to keep up with that?

[…]

The proportion of Auckland houses being bought by investors has now reached 46% – around twice the level of first home buyers.”

Little went on to explain how the housing crisis went in tandem with other worsening social indicators;

“And then there is the hard edge of the crisis.

The rising poverty and homelessness that National turns a blind eye to.

We’ve all heard the stories of Kiwi kids admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses because the cold damp homes they have to live in are making them sick.

We’ve all seen the awful media reports in the last few weeks about what life is like for those who can’t find any home at all.

Of the 42,000 people living in overcrowded conditions or in garages or in cars.

Of children sleeping under bushes in South Auckland.

We’ve seen the story of the 11 year old girl, whose mother has a job, but whose family spent months living in a van before they were taken in by Te Puea Marae.

She said that the hardest part is actually not being able to read in the van, because you don’t have space. And there’s not much light because it would waste the battery.”

These are matters raised that Labour’s opponants on the Right cannot easily dismiss or explain away. These are real events from real New Zealanders living under the currently all-too-real neo-liberal system.

Increasing child poverty; income/wealth disparity; and a worsening housing crisis – all of which are the spawn of thirty years of neo-liberalism.

Those who maintain that poverty has deepened because the “market” has not been sufficiently de-regulated, nor government reduced, nor taxes sufficiently cut, need to ask themselves; “At what point does an experiment that is showing no signs of positive improvement have to be concluded as an abject failure”?

As Little demanded from the party-faithful;

“When did this become the New Zealand we lived in?”

Little then laid out what he called Labour’s comprehensive plan to take to the  election next year. He said that a Labour government would;

 

  • …urgently address the shortage of emergency housing – with $60 million to provide 1400 new beds in emergency accommodation – enough for 5100 extra people a year. With the existing support that will take the number of people helped each year to over 8,000.

 

  • …reform housing New Zealand – so that instead of being run like a corporation making a profit off the most vulnerable, we can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building thousands of new, modern, high quality state houses instead.

 

  • …will build 100,000 new affordable homes to be on sold to first home buyers.

 

  • …will set up an Affordable Housing Authority to deliver ambitious new urban development projects, at scale and at pace. We are going to change the face of our towns and cities, and fix this housing crisis. The Authority will have a target to meet: 50% across all of the homes in its developments will have to be affordable. The Authority will look after the Government’s urban land holdings, and will make sure there is a pipeline of land for future needs – for housing, business, schools, parks and hospitals.

 

  • …ban offshore buyers from the market unless they are willing to build a new home and add to the stock..

 

  • …will extend the bright line test so that if you sell an investment property within five years, you’ll pay the full tax on it. That means the short term speculators won’t be able to get away tax free anymore. It means ending the tax incentives to speculate in short term property gains at the expense of families trying to get into a home.

 

  • …will begin consulting on how to end the loop hole of negative gearing.

 

Perhaps Labour’s most audacious plan is to set up a new “Affordable Housing Authority”.

If one reads his speech a certain way, he is planning on reviving a newer, 21st century version of the old Ministry of Works (which was privatised by National in late 1996.) If so, it could be the most direct  way to build houses for people in desperate need.

Considering that most of this country’s infra-structure was built by the old Ministry of Works (or similar state bodies), including the telecommunications systems being used to upload this blogpost onto this website, it would not be a far-stretch of the imagination that it could be done again.

If so, this wasn’t just a speech – it was a Manifesto for the Last Rites of Neo-liberalism.

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Property Investors throw their toys out of the cot

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The reactionary response from the NZ Property Investors Federation was utterly predictable. They were miffed. All of a sudden, their tax-free pot of gold was about to be denied to them

The Federation’s executive officer, Andrew King, bleated like a spoiled brat who had just been told to share his toys;

“In one part of his speech, he said there were homeless people and people living in overcrowded conditions and they wanted to do something about that.  How does making it harder to provide rental homes to these people achieve it? Unbelievable.”

It may have escaped King’s somewhat narrow-attention, but homelessness and over-crowding has worsened during the time that his members have enjoyed spectacular tax-free gains. What were they doing in the last eight years?

He also compared businesses, shares, and farms with housing;

“No other investment is like that. If you do the same with a farm, with shares, with a business, all of those wouldn’t be affected, just rental properties – it’s just wrong.”

Generally speaking, people do not live in “shares”,  “businesses”, or farm paddocks (yet). People live in houses. That is the critical difference.

On top of which, astronomical rents are directly contributing to homelessness and over-crowding;

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High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets - Sallies

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So to whine that, all of a sudden, Labour’s housing policies will “ make it harder to provide rental homes to these [homeless] people” is contemptible.

His members should be held to account for their part in our housing crisis. The sooner that a capital gains tax is introduced at the same rate as New Zealand’s company tax (28 cents in the dollar), the better.

Mr King’s absurd “pity me” comments have crossed the borderline into territory commonly known as;

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hypocrisy definition

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National discovers Problem & Solution!

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Last year, as stories of homelessness; over-crowding; fewer available  Housing NZ homes; and worsening housing affordability began to make headlines around the country,  National was grabbing money from a government department tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people in our society;

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Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

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In all, National has raked in over half a billion dollars from Housing NZ;

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

See more here: National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

Labour took dividends as well, around a third of National’s figure. The difference between the two is that Labour builds State housing, whilst National continually flogs them off.

This amounts to looting a critical government organisation that is akin to thieving from a charity.

This year’s 2016 Budget indicated that Housing NZ would pay a  dividend  of $38 million  and $54 million next year, for 2017.

Twenty four hours after Andrew Little gave his speech to the country, Housing NZ suddenly announced no dividends would be paid for the next two years;

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RNZ - Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

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Labour’s Grant Robertson offered his rationale for National’s policy U-Turn;

“The first we hear from National that they suddenly believe Housing New Zealand needs to retain that money to invest in state houses is the morning after an announcement by the Labour Party that Housing New Zealand will never be required [by Labour] to provide a dividend to the government.

This is not a coincidence, this is a panicked, desperate response from the government.

What we know is that National has extracted dividends from Housing New Zealand over recent years and it’s quite clear that National has seen Housing New Zealand as a cash cow in the past.”

Bill English refuted allegations that National was panicking over Labour’s housing announcement only 24 hours previously;

“It’s nothing to do with Labour and the Greens. This is a $20 billion entity – you don’t come up with capital plans for the next five years because Labour puts out a press release.”

He also denied that National was  looting Housing NZ;

“We don’t accept that taking the dividend is stealing from state housing, because the dividend is not the constraint on what gets built…

…If there was less dividend, we’d just put in more capital – it’s not driven by the availability of the cash.”

National takes money in the form of dividends and taxes  from Housing NZ – whilst non-government charities are tax-free? And he earnestly claims it is not “stealing”?!

English then issued the most ridiculous explanation ever heard, that the figures in this year’s May 26 Budget “appear to be based on older HNZ numbers dating from almost a year ago“.

Yeah, right, Bill.

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flying-pig-clipart-1

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Is the Finance Minister really expecting New Zealanders to believe that the government’s May 2016 budget was full of inaccurate figures?

What is really galling is that Bill English, Steven Joyce, and other National Ministers expect us – the public – to believe this rubbish. It is revealing just how stupid they think we are.

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Who is in charge anyway?!

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Whenever National implements unpopular legislative changes, they often point to Labour having carried out similar policies.

In 2014, National “borrowed” Labour’s policy by implementing free health-care for children under 13.

Last year, National raised benefits by $25 (to take effect this year) for people on welfare.

This year, having their ‘hand forced’ by Labour’s housing policy, the Nats have cancelled dividends from Housing NZ for the next two years.

National seems to be highly influence by Labour.

Which  raises the question; who is actually setting policy and governing the country? Because it appears we almost have a de facto Labour Government pulling the strings.

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A Cautionary Note for Labour

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On TVNZ’s Q+A on 10 July, Corin Dann quizzed Andrew Little on Labour’s policy toward Housing NZ tenants. Corin  Dann specifically asked Little about whether or not tenants should have state houses for life;

Corin Dann: You talk about state houses – an extra thousand state houses. Does Labour believe that someone should have a state house for life?

Andrew Little: I think we think when people are in circumstances where they can’t afford to buy their own home, can’t afford to rent, they’ve got to have a home. They’ve got to have a home, get their life on track, underway.

Corin Dann: Do they have it for life?

Andrew Little: If they’re at a point in their life where their circumstances have changed, and actually, they can afford to buy, my view is I would rather work with them to get them to buy that house so we could then release some funds to build the next state house.

Corin Dann: So you keen National’s policy? They don’t keep them for life?

Andrew Little: Well, I don’t agree with the policy that says we’ll target elderly people on fixed incomes in a state house and see if we can toss them out. That’s not a solution to anything. But what I would say is people who have gone into a state house early, got their lives sorted out,…

Corin Dann: They should move on if they can.

Andrew Little: …the circumstances are right, if we can sell that house to them, why wouldn’t we? And use the funds then to build the next state house for the next vulnerable person.

Selling State houses to tenants is text-book privatisation policy for National, and was a prime plank for the Bolger and  Shipley-led governments in the  1990s.

It is a dangerous road for a Labour government to go down.

Selling a state house to a tenant may seem a kindly gesture from a  benevolent left-wing government.

But eventually a National-led government will be elected back into power. Their track record on selling State houses is evident and they would have no hesitation in taking a Labour policy of selling State housing to tenants and expanding on it.

This is thin-edge-of-the-wedge, slippery-slope stuff.

This is mis-guided to the extreme, and will provide a future right-wing government a ready-made policy to act upon. And not in a nice way.

If Labour is serious in returning to it’s social democratic roots, it would do well to think carefully before embarking on such a naive policy.

Instead, it should consider the following;

[1] Transience

Transience is one of the greatest problems affecting low-income, poverty-stricken families. Moving from one house to another is debilitating to such families – especially for children.

A government report states that transience for children can have extreme, negative impact on  their learning;

Nearly 3,700 students were recognised as transient during the 2014 year. Māori students were more likely to be transient than students in other ethnic groups.

[…]

Students need stability in their schooling in order to experience continuity, belonging and support so that they stay interested and engaged in learning.

All schools face the constant challenge of ensuring that students feel they belong and are encouraged to participate at school. When students arrive at a school part-way through a term or school year, having been at another school with different routines, this challenge may become greater.

Students have better outcomes if they do not move school regularly. There is good evidence that student transience has a negative impact on student outcomes, both in New Zealand and overseas. Research suggests that students who move home or school frequently are more likely to underachieve in formal education when compared with students that have a more stable school life. A recent study found that school movement had an even stronger effect on educational success than residential movement.

There is also evidence that transience can have negative effects on student behaviour, and on short term social and health experience

Encouraging families to stay long-term in State housing not only creates a sense of community amongst tenants; stability for fragile, vulnerable families,  but assists in the long-term stability and education of children.

Not only is a state house “for-life” fair, it provides real, tangible, long-term benefits.

[2] Guaranteed Tenancy

Low-income, vulnerable families in State housing must be given guaranteed, protected security-of-tenure.

Currently, tenants are exposed to the winds-of-change whenever there is a change in government. Their tenure is at the pleasure of right-wing governments, and mass-evictions have been commonplace under John Key’s administration;

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state housing insecurity

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A progressive government must do all within it’s power to protect such vulnerable families. Otherwise what is the point of throwing out right-wing regimes when their ideologically-driven policies no longer palatable, and well past their Use-By date?

Tenancies must be secured. Either by the use of long-term contracts, enforceable in Courts of law, or by some other means such as entrenched legislation.

Labour-led governments come and go.

But tenancies for our most vulnerable must be protected from the whims of others.

[3] State Housing Protected

As well as protection for tenants of state housing, state houses themselves must be entrenched and protected from the rapaciousness of right-wing governments.

In modern, First World societies, the power of contract is supposedly sacrosanct.

It should not be beyond a progressive government to use some means of contract-law to safe-guard state housing. Once this is accomplished, it should make it near-impossible for a right-wing regime to wreak havoc with the lives of the poor.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we can make the concept of contract-law work in the favour of those who have least wealth to lose.

There is much more work to be done.

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References

Scoop media: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

theyworkforyou.co.nz: State Houses—Sale and Disposal

NZ History: Construction and sale of state houses, 1938-2002

Housing NZ Corporation: Rent, Buy or Own – overview (archived page)

Beehive: State houses available to buy from today

TV1 News: First home buyers set to be disappointed with Budget

Department of Building & Housing: Estimated building costs (archived page)

Dominion Post: Inequality report ignores tax cuts for rich – Goff

NZIER: Home

TVNZ News: NZ economic outlook grim until 2013 – NZIER (archived page)

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders

Hive News: Hive News Tuesday – Key blames ‘Dirty Politics’ for lack of state house sale debate

Reuters: NZ Prime Minister says central bank should get on with housing measures

Parliament Today: Housing NZ’s Woes Blamed on Labour

TV3 News: Housing blame game flares up in Parliament

NewstalkZB: Govt accused of blaming Auckland Council for its own failings on housing

Sharechat: Key blames Labour for barrier to foreign buyer ban

Youtube: Bill English Blames Greens for Housing Crisis

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

NZ Herald: Auckland has the fifth least-affordable houses in the world

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

TV3 News: Key – No housing crisis, foreign buyers’ influence ‘minor’

Labour Party: Andrew Little’s Centenary policy speech

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Fairfax media: Labour’s plan to tax property investors slammed as ‘attack’ on rental property providers

Radio NZ: High Auckland rents forcing people onto the streets – Sallies

IRD: Company Tax Rate

Radio NZ: Housing NZ to pay Crown $118m dividend

Radio NZ: Housing NZ confirms it will not pay govt dividend

Fairfax media: Bill English denies U-turn after Steven Joyce reveals Housing NZ won’t pay dividend

National Business Review:  Govt blames outdated Budget figures for Housing NZ dividend U-turn

Metro mag: Opinion – Is John Key the finest actor of his generation?

NZDoctor.co.nz: Free care for the under-13s features in growth Budget

Radio NZ: Welfare increases – what $25 buys you

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (video)

TVNZ: Q+A – Corin Dann and Andrew Little (transcript)

Te Ara NZ Encyclopedia: Housing and government – Total Housing Stock

Education Counts: Transient students

Dominion Post: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

Fairfax media: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

NZ Herald: Elderly, disabled included in state house review

NZ Herald: State tenants to make way for workers

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?

Upper Hutt residents mobilise to fight State House sell-off

Park-up in Wellington – People speaking against the scourge of homelessness

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

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wheel estate

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – National’s “pennies from heaven”

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

 

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sun, Jul 3, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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At the recent National Party Conference, Key took a rather childish swipe at other political parties by suggesting that their economic policies were predicated on “pennies from heaven”, referencing Bing Crosbie’s song by the same name.

In the next breath, he advised faithful National party followers that his government would be borrowing $1 billion from overseas lenders, to build houses in a belated attempt to address growing homelessness in this country.

Maybe not “pennies from heaven”, but dollars from overseas banks?

Meanwhile, National is still hinting at more tax cuts to come. This will further increase indebtedness of the government (ie, all New Zealanders) from the current $60 billion (approx) to an estimated $93.9 billion (gross) by next year, according to Treasury.

All of which has to be borrowed and paid back.

There are no “pennies from heaven” – a lesson National has failed to learn.

Who, amongst us, still believe National are “sound, prudent” fiscal managers? Anyone?

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: $1 billion fund to boost housing build

NZ Treasury: Residual Cash and Net Core Crown Debt (2016)

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Budget 2016 – Who wins; who loses; who pays?

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Budget-2016

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The point is if we’re going to have a tax programme [of tax cuts] – we’re not ruling that out in for 2017 or campaigning on it for a fourth term. But having probably a bigger one, to be blunt.” – John Key, 16 May 2016

Philosophically we believe in lower taxes and smaller government, and government’s definitely getting smaller.”- John Key, 16 May 2016

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Paula Bennett denies there is a housing crisis in New Zealand;

I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need.” – Paula Bennett, 20 May 2016

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Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless and state house tenants to leave Auckland and go live in provinces;

I would say to those that are homeless that there is a chance that they could get a house in days if they were willing to look outside of Auckland.” – Paula Bennett, 25 May 2016

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Very quietly, a cut here and a decrease there, a failure to keep up with inflation in one place, and ignoring increasing population in another place, the Government is walking away from New Zealand’s longstanding social compact.

In his Budget speech, Bill English proudly says that government expenditure is down to less than 30 per cent of GDP, and that’s the way that it’s going to stay.

But how is this retreat from the economy achieved?

It happens by spending less on health and less on education, and not spending enough on housing for the least well off New Zealanders.–  Deborah Russell, 26 May 2016

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While it’s true the overall numbers of Housing NZ homes haven’t risen dramatically, the mix is changing and there are more in Auckland and less in places that we don’t need them.” – John Key, 27 May 2016

 

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Sadly, it seems once again that the Budget is a missed opportunity for children, while the military and Government spy agencies do extremely well. I don’t recall seeing any public opinion polls or evidence indicating the need for more investment in either of these areas, especially when there is such desperate need among families with children.

The Government has achieved its objective of appearing fiscally responsible and not much else. But through a lack of planning and an apparent lack of caring children are living in garages or cars, and do not have the nutrition or warm clothing that they need. Kiwi kids have a right to better lives than that.” – Vivien Maidaborn, New Zealand Executive Director, Unicef, 29 May 2016

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We would like to see some tax reductions, particularly for those middle income taxpayers who find themselves getting into higher tax brackets.” – Finance Minister Bill English, 27 May 2016

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There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that the 2016 Budget is geared 100% toward building up a surplus for tax cuts to be announced next year. Just in time for the 2017 Election. John Key and Bill English have strongly indicated as much with their “kite-flying” with hints of cuts-to-come.

Funding for various state services have either barely increased – or drastically cut. The result has been a $700 million surplus – which appears to have been achieved at the expense of cutting funding for social NGOs and state services for the most vulnerable people in our society.

Some of the winners and losers from this year’s Budget…

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Winner

GCSB and SIS;

Funding for spy agencies (GCSB and SIS) will increase over the next four years by $178.7 million.

Loser

Department of Conservation;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $471,932,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $430,190,000

Budget: Cut $41,742,000

Who Pays?

Endangered species throughout New Zealand and future generations of New Zealanders.

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Winner

Prime Minister’s Department;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $65,710,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $77,442,000

Budget: Increase $11,732,000

Loser

Radio NZ;

For 2015/16 Budget, allocated $31,816,000

For 2016/17 Budget, allocated $31,816,000 (Based on zero change to NZ on Air funding; $128,726,000.)

Budget: frozen – nil increase since 2008/09.

Note, based on the Reserve Bank Inflation Calculator, Radio NZ’s funding should be around $36,570,000 and it’s funding freeze by National constitutes a 14.9% under-funding;

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reserve bank inflation calculator - radio nz funding

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Who Pays?

We all do.

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Winner

Education – Charter Schools;

Funding for up to seven new charter schools will be provided in the 2016 Budget, the Government has announced. – NZ Herald

$328.9m of capital funding and $20.2m of operating funding would go towards public private partnerships (PPPs) for seven new schools and three rebuilds. – Fairfax media

Loser

Public schools operation grants – frozen;

School operational funding has been frozen in this year’s Budget in favour of targeted funding for [under-achieving, at-risk] 150,000 kids.

[…]

$43.2 million over four years will be provided to those schools with under-achieving students, and it’s expected the money will be used to raise achievement, there’s no accountability attached to the funding.

[…]

The targeted funding works out at about $1.79 per student, per school week – schools won’t even know which students are being targeted as the policy’s designed not to identify them. – Fairfax media

Early Childhood Education subsidy-funding – frozen;

Early childhood education providers got no increase to their government subsidies for the second consecutive year.Radio NZ

Who Pays?

Our children.

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Winner

NZ military –

The Defence Force receives new operating funding of $300.9 million over four years as part of Budget 2016 to support the work it does, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says. – Gerry Brownlee, Minister of Defence

Loser

Home Insulation Programme –

National has cut home insulation funding to its lowest ever level in Budget 2016…

[…]

Budget 2016 allocates just $12 million this year for the Warm Up New Zealand programme this year and $4.5 million for the Healthy Homes programme, compared to $23.9 million for Home Insulation last year. – Scoop media/Green Party

Who Pays?

 

  • “low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs.
  • …young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.” – Jonathan Coleman, Simon Bridges

 

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There are three significant stand-outs for this Budget…

1 – This Surplus was achieved at the expense of the poor.

With school operational funding frozen; no increase for early childhood education funding;  a dire crisis of homelessness; State houses being sold of by National; and a critical shortage of housing – it does not take much wit to understand that Bill English’s $700 million Budget surplus was achieved by under-spending in key social areas.

Worse still, National continues to doggedly pursue it’s policy to sell up to eight thousand state houses  by 2017.

Compounding National’s mis-management of the country’s scandalous housing crisis is National’s unrelenting and inhumane demand for dividends from Housing NZ.

This far, National has extracted over half a billion dollars from Housing New Zealand by way of dividends.

Housing NZ dividends under National

HNZ Annual Report 2009-10 – $132 million   (p86)

HNZ Annual Report 2010-11 – $71 million   (p66)

HNZ Annual Report 2011-12 – $68 million   (p57)

HNZ Annual Report 2012-13 – $77 million   (p47)

HNZ Annual Report 2013-14 – $90 million –  (p37)

HNZ Annual Report 2014-15 – $108 million –  (p33)

HNZ Statement of Performance Expectations 2015/16 – $118 million – (p12)

Total: $664 million (over seven years)

The above figures do not include taxes paid by Housing NZ to the National government.

Imagine how many state house could have been built by Housing NZ in the last seven years.

Imagine that every low-income family that needed a warm, dry, home – could have had one by now.

Imagine that instead, National will be demanding another dividend this year from Housing NZ – and will be effectively giving it away by means of tax-cuts to affluent New Zealanders.

2 – Many so-call “increases” are illusory.

When taken over a four year period many of English’s Budget “increases” are actually a cut in expenditure. Just two examples from many;

School  funding for 150,000 under-achieving, at-risk school children, was budgeted at  $43.2 million This sounds good. But that figure is spread not over the 2016/17 period – but  over four years.

Same with the Warm Up New Zealand and Healthy Homes Initiative, touted by Ministers Coleman and  Bridges as;

“…to insulate rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs” and “to reduce preventable illnesses among young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes”

The media release touted;

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$36m for warmer, healthier homes

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But look further into the detail;

The investment includes:

  • $18 million of operating funding over two years to extend the Warm Up New Zealand programme to insulate rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs.

  • $18 million over four years to expand the Healthy Homes Initiative to reduce preventable illnesses among young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.

This is how English created his Budget “surplus” – with cleverly concealed cuts to social programmes that impact on the poorest; most powerless; most desperate people in our society.

And we wonder why entire families are living in garages, cars, and tents?

And we wonder how it came to be that children are dying from mould in damp houses?

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Damp state house played part in toddler's death

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3 – This is an Ideological Budget

Make no mistake – this was an ideological budget with “Neo-Liberal Approved” stamped in big, red letters all over it. It was cold-blooded and remorseless in it’s pursuit of specific objectives;

  • reducing government spending on the poor, by freezing/cutting expenditure on social services
  • increased government spending on security agencies (spy, defence, police), in case the 1981 up-rising is repeated
  • satisfying demands from National’s business, conservative, and anti-welfare constituents
  • to give Bill English a second surplus
  • set the stage for tax cuts to be announced in next years’ budget
  • and offer an electoral bribe to voters in time for the 2017 general election

As is almost always the case, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are the ones who pay for National’s ideologically-inspired budget. Sometimes they pay with their lives.

Expect more of the same next year.

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Addendum

Spotted at a Z Service Station in the Hutt Valley; this Charity “voting” box, where customers vote for the charity of their choice. The charity gaining  most tokens wins a $4,000 donation from Z. Of the four, Fostering Kids NZ is ‘miles’ ahead with tokens;

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Manpreet, standinmg beside Coin-Vote Box, at Z Service Station in Hutt Valley

Z staffer, Manpreet, standing beside Coin-Vote Box, at a Service Station in the Hutt Valley

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Note the level of support for Fostering Kids NZ;

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Fostering kids - charity - homelessness - budget 2016 (2)

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It is refreshing to see indications that  New Zealanders are still compassionate to children  from vulnerable, less well-off families. There is still hope for our society, even if people like Key, English, Bennett, Tolley, et al have turned their heads to look the other way.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Deborah L for her sharp eye, spotting, photographing, and sending me the above images along with relevant info.

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References

Fairfax media: Prime Minister John Key hints at $3billion tax cuts for next election

Fairfax media: John Key is beating the tax cuts drum for 2017 with bigger surpluses ahead

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

NZ Herald: Dr Deborah Russell – Budget 2016 – How do we look after all New Zealanders?

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – PM puts onus on Auckland Council to create land supply

Fairfax media: Budget 2016 – A bare-minimum budget for children

Radio NZ: Tax cuts may be on cards – English

NZ Herald: Budget 2016 – $700m surplus this year

Radio NZ: Budget 2016 – SIS and GCSB get extra $178.7 million over four years

Budget 2016: Vote Conservation

Treasury: Budget 2016 – Vote Prime Minister & Cabinet

Budget 2016: Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage

NZ on Air: Radio NZ Funding Decisions 1993-2016

Reserve Bank: Inflation Calculator

Budget 2016: Vote Education

NZ Herald: New charter school funding announced

Fairfax media: Budget 2016 – School property and early childhood the big winners

Radio NZ: Budget promises funding for nine new schools

Treasury: Summary of Initiatives in Budget 2016

Budget 2016: Defence Force receives $301m new funding

Scoop media: Government cuts Warm-Up programme that saves lives

Beehive.co.nz: $36m for warmer, healthier homes

Radio NZ: Thousands of state houses up for sale

Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death

Interest.co.nz: Govt sees NZ$0.7 bln OBEGAL surplus in 2016/17

TV3 The Nation: Interview with Bill English

Additional

NZ Herald: Shamubeel Eaqub – House crisis puts Auckland’s future at risk

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Budget 2016 – What Bill English Didn’t Say In His Speech

The Daily Blog: The rules for the old too good for children?

The Standard: The Mother Budget

The Standard: Key’s powerful speech on the urgent housing crisis

The Standard: John Key used to be ambitious about dealing with poverty in New Zealand

The Standard:  Budget 2016 – F for Fail

Previous related blogposts

Tax cuts & school children

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

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

Letter to the Editor – tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered

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give the rich tax cuts

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 June 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Who are the Real Greedies?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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It is amazing how many blame the victims of neo-liberal ideology, rather than looking at the causes of why things happen.  Are some people really so simple-minded that they can’t see beyond their immediate prejudices…?

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letter to the editor - dominion post - sylvia moore

 

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So yet again, I point out some ‘home truths’ to people like Ms Moore, who seems to have selective amnesia when it comes to recent history…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Sat, May 21, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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In attacking so-called “loan defaulters”, Sylvia Moore has targetted the wrong group. (letters, 20 May)

She is indeed correct that increased student fees and student loans were introduced in 1992. Before that, tertiary education was near-free.

Beneficiaries of free tertiary education were people like John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, et al. Even Paula Bennett was recipient of free tertiary education, through the Training Incentive Allowance – which she scrapped in 2009 after becoming Minister for Social Welfare.

When Moore states that “perhaps if they [student loan defaulters] repaid their loans, the government, might be able to allocate a grant to parents in need of help” misses the point that since 1986 there have been seven tax cuts. The last two in 2009 and 2010 cost over $2 billion per annum

That is why schools and hospitals are being under-funded and children are in need in equipment such as lap-tops, as Ms Moore pointed out.

It is a double standard that we now saddle our youth with massive student debts and threats of prosecution.

Perhaps she should cast her ire at National Ministers who have gained personal benefit from free education and are now abusing their power to force others to pay for what they got for free.

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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

Tax cuts & school children

Nick Hanauer – a devastating demolition of the Neo-liberal dogma of tax cuts!

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

Letter to the Editor – tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

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student-loan-debt

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 May 2016.

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= fs =

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

31 October 2015 3 comments

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wage-gap-real-estate-gender-inequality

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Fun Fact #1

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax cuts in New Zealand;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

Fun Fact #2

John Key says he supports New Zealanders paid higher wages. In fact, he stated  that desire in 2007, and repeated it in  2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012;

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We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”   – John Key, 6 September 2008

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I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

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Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

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We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

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The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more  jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

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We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Mr Key has not repeated those statements since April 2012.

Fun Fact #3

The gender pay gap in New Zealand has worsened, from 9.9% last year to 11.8% this year;

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eight_col_Stat

Source

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Timeline

2012

Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union lodge a claim with the Employment Relations Authority, alleging Ms Bartlett’s employer Terranova Homes and Care Ltd was in breach of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

November 2012

Ms Bartlett’s case referred to the Employment Court as it raises an important question of law.

June 2013

A preliminary Employment Court hearing held on questions of law.

23 August 2013

Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

Unions are hailing an Employment Court decision which allows a female rest home caregiver to argue she is underpaid because she is in a female-dominated industry.

Hutt Valley woman Kristine Bartlett is arguing her employer Terranova Homes is violating equal pay for equal work legislation, saying she would get more money if she was not working in an industry dominated by female staff.

The Employment Court held a preliminary hearing after Terranova Homes argued the court could only compare staff within its own workplace and not look at other workplaces.

The three court judges say the legislation makes specific provision for work predominantly performed by women.

The law says pay rates must be the same as male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility and service performing the work under substantially similar conditions and with substantially similar effort.

The judges said there was no way gender discrimination in pay could be removed if they could not compare pay rates more widely.

January 2014

Terranova appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal.

February 2014

A decision on a landmark pay equality case has been reserved by the Court of Appeal.

The Employment Court last year found in favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett, who argued her $14.32 hourly pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The ruling – which paves the way for pay equality in the female-dominated aged care sector – has been challenged in the Court of Appeal by Ms Bartlett’s employer, Terranova Homes. The two-day hearing finished yesterday with the decision by Justices Mark O’Regan, Lynton Stevens and Christine French reserved.

October 2014

The Court of Appeal has supported an Employment Court decision which ruled that a Lower Hutt rest home worker should receive pay parity with other equivalent sectors.

Kristine Bartlett won her landmark Employment Court case last year – arguing that being paid less than 15 dollars per hour, despite working in rest homes for over 20 years, was discriminatory. Her employer, Terranova Homes and Care, took the issue to the Court of Appeal. But the Appeal Court has dismissed the appeal, saying the language and purpose of the Equal Pay Act back up the decision by the Employment Court.

November 2014

Today the New Zealand Aged Care Association will appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of TerraNova Homes and Care Limited in their case with the Service and Food Workers’ Union and Kristine Bartlett.

“This case has vast implications for all New Zealanders and we felt compelled to have the highest court in the land settle the questions around the Equal Pay Act 1972 once and for all,” said Martin Taylor, CEO of the NZACA.

“In handing down its recent judgement, the Court of Appeal said the decision was finely balanced with strong arguments favouring both sides. We believe the issue must be seriously looked at and tested again.

22 December 2014

Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in landmark pay equity case

The Supreme Court has denied aged care provider Terranova Homes and Care, at the centre of a landmark court case paving the way for gender pay equity, leave to appeal the ruling.In October the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Terranova Homes against an earlier Employment Court ruling backing Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett’s claim that women care workers’ low pay was discriminatory. She took a case against her employer, arguing her $14.32 an hour pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

The Service and Food Workers Union also made a claim on behalf of 15 other caregivers employed by the company, asking for a statement of the general principles to be observed for implementing equal pay.

In a Supreme Court decision out this afternoon, the judges said it considered the company’s appeal premature.

20 October 2015

Equal pay on the way for women?

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Early 2016

Case scheduled to go before the Employment Court  to early 2016 (dates to be determined). 

(Acknowledgement: Much of the above Time-line, with  exceptions, is re-published from the New Zealand Aged Care Association.)

 

The Case: exploited labour

The case of Kristine Bartlett  is a relatively simple one. For twentytwo years working-experience in rest-home facilities she earned just barely above minimum wage. Since the 1990s, her wages have risen by $5.

Ms Bartlett’s profession is predominantly female, and like many female-dominated professions, it is paid less than male-equivalent jobs.

As Fairfax media Christie Hall wrote  on 19 January;

On  23 August 2013,  the Employment Court ruled that Ms Bartlett’s was in fact underpaid because she worked  in a female-dominated industry. (The document is well-worth reading and provides sound, rational, and carefully-constructed argument for advancing equal pay for women.)

Subsequent Court decisions have upheld the Employment Court (see Timeline above).

The NZ Aged Care Association (NZACA) has expended large sums of money on legal action to thwart  the cost of raising wages for aged-care workers. NZACA fears the increased cost of a ballooning wages-bill impacting on it’s members, which has traditionally relied on low-paid labour to operate.

In October 2014, in a press release published on nzdoctor.co.nz, NZACA stated;

Unfortunately the Government subsidy for aged care is not enough for providers to make a profit. Over the last decade, 200 aged care facilities have closed primarily for financial reasons. The majority of these facilities relied on the government’s subsidy for their revenue.

[…]

The existing aged care sector cannot afford to increase all aged care worker’s wages at an estimated cost of $120 – $140 million alone – the sector will need increased Government subsidies to prevent further closures of our aged care facilities.

In an undated statement on NZACA’s website, the Association states;

The Government contract undervalues the worth of caregivers working in the private aged care sector. A caregiver working in a District Health Board geriatric hospital receives on average $17.50 an hour compared with an average hourly rate of $15.30 in our sector.

NZCA has been lobbying Government for many years to put more money into this sector which cares for New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

And in November 2014, NZACA’s CEO, Martin Taylor, stated;

“Another reason why we need to appeal is that there are hundreds of rest homes operated by individuals and community trusts from Kaitaia to Bluff who have told us they would close if wages went up significantly and funding stayed the same.

When you understand this reality we have no option but to appeal, despite everyone agreeing caregivers are worth more.”

On 23 December last year Service and Food Workers Union National secretary, John Ryall, said it was about time the Government  took responsibility to achieve gender pay equity;

“The Government is the sector funder and it is really up to it to decide whether it wants a resolution to the long standing pay equity issue,” he said.

Encouraging National to act will be no easy task to achieve.

Bronwen Beechey, writing for Fightback! on 17 April 2015, pointed out National’s apalling track record when it came to implementing equal pay legislation;

The Employment Equity Act was passed in 1990, but repealed within months after the National Party came to government.

In 2009, the current National government abolished the Pay and Employment Equity plan of Action and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit that had been set up in the Department of Labour in 2004.

A cynic would suggest that low wages assist National to reduce the amount it has to pay to subsidise aged-care workers. It is providing a service ‘on-the-cheap’, in a way similar to  fast-food chains employing staff at minimum wage, to produce  high-carb, fat-laden, ‘fast food’.

In fact, it would not be the first time that National has been exposed as supporting low wages – despite Key’s pious utterances otherwise.

Three and a half years ago, on  10 April 2011, on TVNZ’s Q+A, English made his now-infamous comments justifying a low-wage economy;

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

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

Three years later, on 30 July 2014, John Key appeared to ‘forget’ his earlier pronouncements on increasing wages when he responded to a question in Parliament from David Cunliffe;

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Prime Minister support the pay increase for the quarter of a million workers who would directly benefit from Labour’s minimum wage changes, which will provide a significant boost to the economy through boosting workers’ spending power?

Rt Hon John Key: In a word, no. The reason for that is I am not so irresponsible that I would say to 6,000 New Zealanders that they are losing their jobs because the Labour Party is polling at 25 percent—

No wonder E Tu  union spokesperson, Alistair Duncan, was wary of how National would respond to the Court rulings, as he said on 21 October;

“This is a well-timed and very smart move – if we can deliver genuine equal pay, it will be a very good thing.  But it’s not certain and we now need to work very hard to make sure we get equal pay for equal value.”

Meanwhile, as aged-care workers (and low-paid women workers in other industries) have had their case validated by the Courts, employers are not so happy. A new ‘bogey-man’ was erected by the Employers and Manufacturers Association CEO;

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said the task force would need to establish clear terms of reference, because comparing the relative value of different jobs was complex.

He said any decision to boost pay rates in some industries would come with a cost.

“The government has the greatest interest in this because they’re paying for most of the aged care and hospital workers and they must be concerned that if you increase their salaries, people’s taxes may go through the roof.”

This argument that, by increasing wages, people’s taxes “may go through the roof” is not just over-the-top scare-mongering – but is instructive of the mentality of individuals like Kim Campbell.

The argument that Campbell is putting forward is that taxpayers are entitled to cheap labour.

Is this the inevitable consequence after seven tax cuts, spanning twentynine years?

Because if reduced tax revenue has resulted in central government being unable to pay fair wages for workers (whether as state sector employees or subsidised workers in the private sector), then we have created a rod for our own backs.

Regardless whether sufficient tax revenue exists or not, Campbell’s suggestion that taxpayers are somehow justified in expecting an exploited workforce is odious. It is attempting to re-create a quasi-modern-day slave work-force.

The Employment Court addressed this very issue in it’s 22 August 2013 Judgment:

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

If successive governments were foolish in cutting taxes (usually as election bribes) to such a level that the State can no longer afford to pay for services New Zealanders expect as of right, then the solution is crystal clear: raise taxes.

Or go without.

I doubt many National-voting New Zealanders will happily contemplate a future in their dotage without a workforce of aged-care staff who are remunerated sufficiently to wipe the spittle from their wrinkled chins; change their faeces-and-urine-soaked underwear; and all the other myriad tasks associated with necessary good care.

Just how much do New Zealanders want aged-care in their twilight years?

If we do, we should be prepared to pay for it.

National Prompted to act

The successful court cases supporting Kristin Bartlett’,  equal-pay case has prompted National to finally move on the problem;

The government has set up a taskforce to look into pay equity issues, which could lead to a change to the current law.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse said unions and employers had agreed to a working group to establish principles for dealing with pay equity claims.

It had been prompted by a recent Court of Appeal decision on pay rates in the aged care sector, which found women in predominantly female workforces were paid less.

Mr Woodhouse said there were other cases before the courts.

“We believe the most efficient way to deal with that, and to step back and take a look at what the principles for pay equity might look like is to get this working group together, and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to do that.”

Unions had agreed to put legal action on hold until March 2016 to allow the working group to proceed, he said.

This problem could never be resolved without government involvement. By subsidising aged-care workers, it is in effect, a secondary employer, and therefore has responsibilities to make good an untenable and unfair situation.

Otherwise, if National cannot resolve this decades long problem, more radical and direct solutions need to be considered.

Possible solutions

  1. Where aged-care facilities are non-profit, increase subsidies paid directly to workers or change their employment status to State employees, with similar pay rates, benefits, and protections.
  2. Where an aged-care company, are profit-making ventures that return a dividend to shareholders, such Oceania (45 facilities), Ryman (25 facilities), and Radius (19 facilities), they should be made by law to increase the wages of their staff first and foremost.
  3. Nationalise the aged-care industry. Looking after the elderly should not be an “industry” where the profit motive (in many instances) is the guiding principle. This should be no more acceptable than having primary schools or hospices run as businesses.

If private enterprise cannot pay it’s workers a fair wage, as well as operate effectively, then the State has a responsibility to intervene and assume a more direct role.

Neo-liberal activists and fellow-travellers may balk at such a suggestion, but they should consider one important factor they may have forgotten: we all grow old eventually. Including free-marketeers.

Appendix1

Legislation.

Equal Pay Act 1972

Court may state principles for implementation of equal pay
  • The court shall have power from time to time, of its own motion or on the application of any organisation of employers or employees, to state, for the guidance of parties in negotiations, the general principles to be observed for the implementation of equal pay in accordance with the provisions of sections 3 to 8.

Appendix2

Employment Court.

[108]

Reference was also made to the likely high costs of adopting a broader
approach, if it leads to a significant wage increase for the plaintiff members.
The Aged Care Association made the point that it receives funding from the Government,
via the Ministry of Health, on a per bed basis and that it would not be able to absorb
any increase. Although the Ministry was invited to appear as intervener it apparently
declined to do so. Accordingly, we did not have the benefit of hearing from it. In
any event, it is apparent that the Government of the day, in promoting the Bill, was
aware of the potential financial implications of the legislation. The Minister
of Labour made the point that female industries would feel the greatest impact in terms
of cost, a point later echoed by the Hon E S F Holland. [pg 31]

[109]

Further, and more fundamentally, the expressed concerns relating to cost
overlook one important point, namely the unquantifiable cost (including societal
cost) of adopting an approach which may have the effect of perpetuating
discrimination against a significant and vulnerable group in the community simply
because they are women, doing what has been described as undervalued women’s work. [pg 32]

[110]

History is redolent with examples of strongly voiced concerns about the
implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives on the basis that they will spell
financial and social ruin, but which prove to be misplaced or have been acceptable as
the short term price of the longer term social good. The abolition of slavery is an old
example, and the prohibition on discrimination in employment based on sex is both a
recent and particularly apposite example. [pg 32]

Employment Court – Judgment: 22 August 2013

Appendix3

Employment Court.

Never let it be said that the Employment Court is bereft of a sense of humour, as this comment suggests;

[31]
The purpose of the Equal Pay Act is plain, and is reflected in its long title. [p 9]

Appendix4

On 2 April, Aged Care Association’s CEO, Martin Taylor, left his role at NZACA and assumed a new position  as Labour leader, Andrew Little’s,  director of research and policy. The nzdoctor.co.nz press release refers to Taylor’s role in the Kristin Bartlett equal-pay case.

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References

Ministry for Women: Gender pay gap

Radio NZ: Caregivers back equal pay campaign

New Zealand Aged Care Association: Equal Pay Case

TV3 News: Landmark ruling on equal pay welcomed

NZ Herald: Landmark pay equality case decision reserved

Scoop media: Court dismisses appeal by Hutt rest home, supports decision on equal pay

Scoop media: TerraNova Case Appealed To Supreme Court

Scoop media: Supreme Court denies Terranova leave to appeal in pay case

Radio NZ: Equal pay on the way for women?

Radio NZ: Landmark ruling for women

Fairfax media: Where next for equal pay

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Understanding caregiver wages in aged residential care

Fightback!: Fight for Equal Pay continues

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviws Bill English (April 2011)

Parliament: Hansards – Wage Rates – Growth, Inequality, and Minimum Wage

Legislation: Equal Pay Act 1972

Employment Court: Judgment: 22 August 2013

Nzdoctor.co.nz: Andrew Little headhunts Aged Care boss Martin Taylor

Additional

NBR:  National bows to minimum wage myths – ACT

NZ Herald: Battle to close the pay gap

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Roads, grandma, and John Key

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion

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06aae5cfcc5a4e7930db4d28aaa90f57

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 October 2015.

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A Message to Radio NZ – English continues fiscal irresponsibility with tax-cut hints

15 October 2015 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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To: Radio NZ, Morning Report
Txt no: 2101
Date: 15 October 2015

Hospital DHBs are in debt; community groups underfunded; and there’s a $60 billion government debt hangjng over our heads – and English is planning an election bribe with hints if tax cuts? This is irresponsible in the extreme. Question is, will kiwis buy this bribe? As long as they know we will end up paying for it with higher debt and slashed public services. We get what we pay for, or in this case, what we don’t pay for.

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

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References

Radio NZ: English won’t guarantee future surpluses

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Letter to the Editor – tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

7 September 2014 5 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Thu, Sep 4, 2014
subject: Letters to the editor

 

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The editor

Sunday Star Times

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National must be in panic-mode if they are resorting to the tactic of bribing voters with promised tax cuts.

Key and English both maintain that the government’s books will be “back in surplus” next year.

That is not the whole truth. In  fact, it is a lie.

The government (and therefore taxpayers) owe $68 billion in debt that this government has borrowed since 2008.

On top of that, the dairy pay-out to farmers is expected to fall dramatically, taking more revenue out of the economy and reducing the government’s tax-take.

And we still have billions to spend on re-building Christchurch.

In the light of this, it is grossly irresponsible for any politician to be making promises that are simply unsustainable.  Tax cuts will have to be paid for and simply putting it “on tick” and adding it to the $68 billion debt is verging on criminal negligence.

I sincerely hope that voters think carefully before accepting this bribe. We should be smarter than that.-Frank Macskasy

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[address & phone number supplied]

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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