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Showing posts from 2016

John Key's Real Legacy

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The defining element of John Key's reign as New Zealand's 38th Prime Minister will be his ability to maintain a high level of popularity while dogged by scandal and having few lasting achievements. He should be recognised for his political instincts and ability to steadily push through National's agenda while avoiding blame for numerous failures. The title "Telfon John" was one of the few things that stuck. Key's major effort to achieve a legacy for himself was to push for a new national flag and it failed dismally. His resignation may indeed be for genuine reasons, like spending time with his family, but the timing is also clever because the underfunding of Government sectors is going to be seriously exposed and the housing bubble is close to bursting. Key's money trader instincts are highly tuned and I'm sure he smells disaster ahead.

Under Key's watch our public debt has increased from $10 billion in 2008 under Labour to almost %70 billion now…

Cuba vs USA, what Castro really achieved

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Castro's death has revealed the power of US propaganda. Here are some embarrassing facts when comparing the United States with Cuba in key areas:

HEALTH

Life expectancy
Cuba: 79.16
USA: 78.88

Health system, physician density
Cuba: 6.72 physicians per 1,000 population
USA: 2.45 physicians per 1,000 population

Obesity levels
Cuba: 21.5%
USA: 33.9%

INCOME DISTRIBUTION

Poverty
Cuba: 1.5% below poverty line
USA: 14.8 % below poverty line

FINANCIAL HEALTH

Government debt
Cuba: 17.0% of debt to GDP
USA: 104.1% of debt to GDP

EDUCATION

Literacy rate, 15-14 year olds
Cuba: 100%
USA: 99% (this has been questioned when some sources claim 86% is more accurate)

Education expenditure
Cuba: 12.8% of GDP
USA: 5.2% of GDP

CRIME

Incarceration rate
Cuba: 510 prisoners per 100,000 population
USA: 693 prisoners per 100,000 population

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Countries occupied or bombed since 1980
Cuba: Nil
USA: 14 (these are just the Muslim nations, there may be more)

To have achieved such high living standards wh…

Treating news as entertainment has dangerous consequences...

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The commercialisation of our news media and the ease with which unethical and egocentric politicians can cynically manipulate public opinion is now reaching extreme proportions. 
In the UK the political interests of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson were advanced successfully because their bombastic personas and simplistic messaging were picked up so widely in media. It is a sad fact that news outlets with the largest readership maintain their dominance through sensationalism and gossip, rather than educated and informed journalism. This works well for those who have few scruples and are comfortable operating in that environment.
The circulation of printed newspapers have plummeted in the UK over the past six years and the dominant newspapers include the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. I used to read the Independent and the Guardian when I lived in the UK over twenty years ago and I was shocked to note that the Independent's circulation is now not much more than the pop…

Prison numbers Government's fault

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This Government refuses to take responsibility for our prison population approaching 10,000 and its failures have necessitated a proposed $1 billion expenditure on increasing capacity.

The Prime Minister is claiming that crime numbers are dropping and it is an increase in the severity of crime (especially domestic violence) and tougher sentencing that is causing the problem. John Key blames recreational drugs as a major factor in crime and child poverty, this is clearly disingenuous on his part and deliberate spin to shift responsibility away from his Government. We now have levels of incarceration that place us just below Mexico and make us the 7th worst in the OECD.

The last eight years under a National led Government has seen many lost opportunities and the underfunding of systems and services that could have easily broken the cycles of crime and reduced prison numbers:
Alcohol has a greater presence and connection to crime than any other factor and yet this Government buckled unde…

The Real Cost of Bill's Surplus

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The Government revealed a $1.8 billion surplus and hinted at possible tax cuts. The surplus is the product of increased income and limiting spending. Bill English explained how the surplus will "increase options" for the Government but the reality is that it has mostly been achieved by restricting options for too many and delaying important expenditure. Rather than saving money in a useful way the arbitrary limits on spending in crucial areas will result in increasing future costs and unnecessary suffering, the examples are numerous:
Schools have found that their operation grants have not increased with inflation and the OECD has found expenditure per student puts us well below the average.Special needs education funding has been reduced affecting many thousands of children and more cuts are planned.Housing New Zealand's underinvestment in property maintenance is estimated at $1.5 billion and the corporation has difficulty operating at all on a restricted budget.Pharmac …

Marama's Gaza Protest Justified

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Marama Davidson's participation in the Women's Boat to Gaza should be celebrated with some pride in New Zealand. Marama joined twelve other women (including Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire) in a peaceful action of solidarity to support the besieged people of Gaza.

Without protests such as this the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the illegal activity of the Israeli Government can easily be ignored. The 2014 attacks on Gaza destroyed 100,000 Palestinians homes, killed over 2,000 (495 children) and left 900 survivors with permanent disabilities. An attempt by Turkey in 2010 to bring humanitarian support for those in Gaza resulted in an attack by Israeli forces that killed nine Turkish citizens.

Past New Zealand Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer, led a UN investigation into the Israeli blockade that found that it had resulted in "collective punishment" and was in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law".

Marama'…

Incomes and housing major issues for Invercargill

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The Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) is a well intentioned initiative supported by the Gore District Council, the Southland District Council and the Invercargill City Council. While the final strategy is still to be publicly released some key issues have been identified and some solutions suggested. The region's population is a relatively static and aging one, therefore a goal of increasing our population by 10,000 people by 2025 has already been proposed as a major goal.

I have some serious concerns about the logistical issues and economic realities of this goal. I asked Tom Campbell (SoRDS Chair) a question regarding our current housing supply and quality during a recent presentation and he informed the meeting that the provision of the necessary infrastructure was not part of their brief. I also have expressed my concern about the people that SoRDS are hoping to attract, it appears that the key magnets will be the Southern Institute of Technology's education…

Invercargill has a housing crisis too!

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Last month I helped organise a housing forum in Invercargill as a member of the Invercargill Social Housing Action committee. My role was to try and organise representatives of the government agencies, that had responsibilities for social housing, to attend and to obtain the latest data on social housing in the city. This turned out to be a difficult task as there are no publicly available telephone numbers for the local managers (both of whom are based in Dunedin).

I tried ringing Housing New Zealand's 0800 number and after a couple of attempts (waiting 5-10 minutes and being told all lines were busy through high demand) I realised that instant service is not a feature of the 'corporation'. I resorted to trying a back door method by ringing a number that was well promoted on the site for the public to use if they suspected state housing fraud (or dob in a tenant). I got an instant response, but this service had been contracted out and had no direct link to HNZ.

An email …

The National Government's Shiny Pants

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Health Minister Jonathon Coleman's spat with Treasury rang warning bells for me. It has been spun to look as though the good doctor wanted to fund much needed bowel cancer screening, but those nasty fiscal idealogues in Treasury blocked it. However reading Treasury's actual comments paints a different picture, it was lack of planning and 'under-funding' that created its concern. Treasury was not prepared to support an initiative that was unlikely to achieve its stated goals.

The Minister for the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Gerry Brownlee also suffered under Treasury's criticsms. Poor linking between project planning and transitional planning was cited, which meant decisions were out of sync and there wasn't sufficient regard for implications. Brownlee blustered about "lack of respect" and dismissed Treasury as mere "book keepers". However, talk to many in Christchurch and they will tell you about the frustration around the poor co-ord…

NZ Olympic Team Exposes Inequality

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The inequalities within our New Zealand society has been starkly revealed in our Olympic Team according to sports journalist Dylan Cleaver. The team is largely white, with the rugby sevens sneaking in the few brown faces. This is a damning indictment on the lack of inclusiveness in many of our sporting codes and their spending. When one considers how many of our  internationally successful athletes are Polynesian then it seems shortsighted to make participation in so many sports dependent on family income.

By 2038 the Super Diversity Stocktake has determined that 51% of New Zealanders will be Maori, Pasifika or Asian and those of European descent will be in the minority. Despite this reality the majority of the funds coming from High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) goes to sports that require considerable expense to participate in: rowing, cycling, sailing, equestrian, triathlon. Even sports like athletics and swimming, that don't have such a heavy equipment outlay, require…

The National Government cares about the homeless

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The National Government Ministers stepped out of their fleet of BMWs and picked their way through the central Auckland streets bringing words of comfort to the many homeless filling the doorways and huddled in cars. There had been a lot of negative press about their 'comprehensive' housing strategy and they wanted to reassure those with the greatest needs that they were doing everything they possibly could. The Labour/Green inquiry into homelessness wouldn't be necessary because they are on top of the issue.

The PM put his hand gently on the shoulder of an elderly woman wrapped in a tattered blanket. "It's not a crisis," he said soothingly, "we are going to make some changes to the RMA to address your housing challenges."

Anne Tolley spoke reassuringly to a family who were settling their children down on their cardboard beds for the night. "I have a nice warm motel for you at $120 a night, " she offered. "You can pay us back  in your…

Governor General should sack our corrupt Government

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New Zealand politicians and journalists are ranked well below most professions for trustworthiness in public opinion. There seems to be an increased acceptance that politicians can't be trusted to tell the truth or genuinely work in the interests of those they are supposed to serve. The fourth estate is supposed to expose corruption and keep our politicians honest and yet journalists are not trusted in this role either. Three recent events have revealed real corruption within our Government and exposed how ineffectual our news media has become in holding them to account.

Murray McCully features prominently in two events, the Saudi Farmer bribe and the bullying of MFAT officials. The third event is the internationally embarrassing revelations around our foreign trust regime and the Government's duplicity in supporting them.

TV3s The Nation has revealed some damning information regarding the $11.5 million Saudi sheep farm deal and exposed the obvious lies that were used to just…

Green Party's endless calls for inquiries justified

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Even though the Green Party itself jokes about its constant calls for inquiries there is a good deal of truth to the last sentence of a 2012 satirical post: "Every time the Green Party cries wolf it turns out there is one."

Our Prime Minister has been desperately spinning the results of John Shewan's report into New Zealand's foreign trust regime. Even though there was some concern from the opposition that Shewan's insider status would mean a weak review, it hasn't panned out that way. The report is actually very damning of the weaknesses of the current regime and recommends that changes are needed around disclosure. While Shewan wasn't prepared to say that New Zealand was operating as a tax haven, we clearly didn't have robust systems in place to detect illegal activities. While we may not fit the OECD criteria for a tax haven we were obviously being used as one and had been advertised as such by trust managers.

If it wasn't for the Panama Paper…

New funding system will damage public education further.

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The Global Education Reform Movement (Germ) has spread its Neo-liberal tentacles into public education systems around the world. New Zealand's public education system has not been damaged as badly as many and this is largely because we began as a world leader and it takes some time to breakdown a professional culture that took more than sixty years to build.

The New Zealand public education system was continually assessed as one of the top four in the world for many decades, largely because of Clarence Beeby's 1940s shift to a child centred approach to teaching. Beeby believed that an education system shouldn't be driven by assessment but by lifting the quality of teaching through high quality professional development. Investing in the professional support of teachers through a well funded advisory service was considered the best way to improve teacher practice and achieve the best outcomes for children. Using evidence to inform professional development was also extremely…

National Government Driving Drunk!

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This National Government is clearly intoxicated with money, power and influence and has impaired vision. Ministers replying to questions in the house, especially the PM, respond with arrogance and abuse not dissimilar to a drunk being reprimanded for bad behaviour.

Drunk drivers display poor judgement and barely notice the roadsigns or the road markings. The deterioration of our country's natural environment, the numbers of children experiencing poverty and the severe lack of housing are visible everywhere one looks but have been irresponsibly ignored.

This Government is also a hit and run driver. It hits NGOs and government services with funding cuts, drives away from the casualties and blames others for the damage. The Government often appears unaware of the bumps as the wheels of its car run over the bodies of its many victims.

A drunk driver can't implement complicated manoeuvres and this National Government botched the implementation of Novopay and finds driving the comp…