Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Party Gender Balance

Out of interest I have looked at each party's list rankings and worked the ratio and percentage of women who would be elected if they got the best possible vote. I compared the parties on the so called 'left' and 'right' of the political spectrum and those that consider themselves in the centre.


ACT                             1/5                20%            

Conservatives              2/5                40%

National                       17/60            27%


United Future              0/1                 0%  

Maori Party                 2/5                 40%

New Zealand First      2/10               20%


Labour                       21/40              52.5%

Greens                        9/20               45%

Internet Mana             2/5                 40%

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on the importance of gender balance in governance situations.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Complicit, Compliant and Corrupt

The big issue with what is being revealed by Kim Dotcom and Glenn Greenwald is not so much that metadata is being accessed from ordinary New Zealanders (although this is huge) but the lack of reassurance that the very person who monitors the activities of our spy agencies' activities can't be trusted. It was bad enough that he lied about the appointment of Fletcher to lead the GCSB but the evasiveness about their activities and his claims that he had no knowledge of some of them defies credibility. The way Key has lashed out at Greenwald by calling him a "loser" and "Dotcom's henchman" when he has an international reputation as an honest and capable journalist is not what a true diplomat and world leader would do. We will never know the real truth (or have faith in what we are told) behind our relationship with the Five Eyes or what the GCSB is really up to while John Key is sole person who has the authority to provide that information. 
New Zealand’s SIS and GCSB have never had a particularly good reputation. Keith Locke was spied on since the age of 11 and it is clear that the main uses of cyber spying currently is to protect commercial interests and to listen to those who oppose the policies of the government of the day. Actual terrorism has never been a serious issue for New Zealand and the US has more to fear from its own mentally disturbed mass killers than any terrorist. The death toll from the Twin Towers pales in comparison from those killed in the US by their fellow citizens.
New Zealand’s most recent act of terrorism (Rainbow Warrior) was actually from a friendly country and our police, not our secret service, caught those involved because our spies were too busy documenting what Keith Locke was eating for lunch.
The US is involved in mass surveillance and at any hint of activity that it doesn’t like it sends in a drone and takes people out with no attempt to verify guilt or innocence. It has even been caught tracking the mobile phone calls of allied leaders. Obviously we have dangerous people who threaten the peace and stability of the world but I do not accept ignoring basic human rights and the rule of the law to achieve control. In many cases it just generates more hatred and opposition to the west when innocent people are killed on a regular basis.

Our spy agencies should be more transparent to the New Zealand people about the extent of their activities (not the detail) and any domestic activity should be under the control of the police. Do we really want to be complicit in state sanctioned spying on our allies (as is currently occurring) to get an unfair advantage in commercial markets and trade negotiations? What is X-Keyscore actually doing and why does Key desperately try to divert attention away from it? 
A few years ago China was one of the most dangerous threats to world peace and democracy and now they are our major trading partner. Anyone who tries to question their treatment of the people of Tibet are shouted down and we even bow to Chinese wishes about not supporting Falun Gong members. The fact that members of the Five Eyes Alliance are possibly more likely to spy on their own citizens than China is a worrying hint that something rotten is happening within our democracies.
We have lost our moral compass and I do not agree with the idea that we need to support the Five Eyes because everyone else is spying too. The same flawed argument was used about nuclear weaponry and I suggest that people listen to David Lange’s excellent Oxford speech for a lesson on morality. The argument of using mass surveillance to ensure world peace and security is very similar to that of justifying nuclear weapons, and it is a hollow one.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ten Reasons for Voting Green

Obviously as a Green candidate I have a strong loyalty for my own party, but I do follow the media and I do have an insider's advantage of knowing how my party operates. The Green Party has never been so strong and we have spent the last few years preparing ourselves to be fit to govern.

Here are ten reasons, in no particular order, why Party Voting Green is a wise choice:

1) Strong and Stable Leadership. The combined thirteen years of leadership experience (Russel eight, Metiria five) has meant that the Greens have rarely been embarrassed by the the sort of gaffes over policy and discipline that many other parties have suffered. Our leaders have come away from debates and interviews with high praise from the media. Even Mike Hosking praises Russel Norman for his statesman like presence and Metiria impresses with her sharp mind and good humour. The Greens have the most detailed and properly costed policies of any party and our leadership have rarely faltered in promoting it.

2) Capable Candidates. Our current fourteen MPs have performed solidly over the last three years and have shown to be a disciplined team. The fact that many people can name more Green MPs than Labour or National is proof of their effectiveness. Whether it be the asset sales, child poverty, ACC failures, animal welfare, economics, problem gambling, climate change or transport, Green MPs have been at the forefront of the debates. We have a very rigorous candidate selection process and the party expects a high level of discipline and adherence to our principles. All 60 of our candidates have impressive CVs.

3) Fiscally Responsible. We have very detailed and fully costed policies that are practical and achievable. No other Party has had its policies independently scrutinized to the extent of the Green Party. We will not spend money unless we have generated the revenue first and will have larger surpluses and pay down debt well before National would.

4) Economic Vision. The Greens have the most progressive and future focused economic policies. A reliance on primary commodities such as milk powder and logs leave us vulnerable to the fluctuations of those markets. Unless we invest and support research and development and value added industries we will continue to have a low wage economy and lack the resilience that a diverse and sophisticated economy will provide. The industries with the strongest growth are in green technology and we would be foolish not to aim to be a leader in the global green markets. Rather than a high tax, high spend approach we have a moderate but smart plan for generating income by focusing on incentives and investments to grow the economy across a broad range of sectors.

5) Lifting Children out of Poverty. For a small country that is rich in resources, and has supposedly come out of the economic recession better than most, it seems criminal that 285,000 children should be suffering from various degrees of poverty. The early years set the foundation for the adult of the future so there cannot be any delay in making sure every child has appropriate food, clothing and a warm healthy home. The Greens have properly targeted policies that will see our most vulnerable children get the support they urgently need.

6) Rescuing Our Environment. The Current Government has sacrificed our rivers, native species and natural environments for short-term economic gain. Our marine habitats and conservation estate have never been under greater threat. Our clean green environment is an important part of our export branding (75% of our exports are dependent on it) and our clean environment is an important factor in our quality of life. We should be able to swim in our rivers, and enjoy clean beaches. Our children and grandchildren should still be able to enjoy the diversity of native species and experience our wild places as we did. Economic success does not have to depend on environmental destruction and we need to make some strong adjustments to ensure that we have a sustainable economy that rewards and supports sustainable business practices.

7) Clean, Transparent Politics. The Green Party has a track record of clean politics in Parliament that is strongly influenced by our Principles. Unethical and corrupt practices have been able to flourish under this Government and democratic process and human rights have been sidelined time and time again. A fully independent Royal Commission of Inquiry is needed to restore the public's faith in our Government and let some sunlight and fresh air into our democracy. The Greens' principle of appropriate decision making will mean that those most affected by any decision should have a significant role in making that decision. Under a Green Government we would not have the kind of debacle that occurred with the closing of Christchurch schools and government services will again listen and address the needs of New Zealanders and not publicly shame those who have alternative views.

8) A Fairer Society. New Zealand has had the fastest growing inequity of incomes in the OECD for some years and we now have a wealthy elite who have greater access to our resources and services than the majority of New Zealanders. We need to address inequality by ensuring that the basics for a comfortable and healthy life are available to all. This means healthy food, healthy homes, quality education and strong communities. It doesn't mean handouts but providing the support and assistance necessary to help families and communities to function independently and be self determining.

9) Infrastructure that works. Anyone who travels overseas, especially in Europe, becomes aware about how limited our transport options are. We are practically forced to use our cars because our public transport cannot be relied on and walking and cycling is often too dangerous to consider. The spending of the last Government has almost been entirely on a few expensive motorways and our cities and regions have suffered. Our children should be able to bike or walk to school independently and safely (as many of us once did) and investing in trains and buses will make travel more efficient and our roads less congested.

The latest North and South magazine has an article that reveals that although we have amongst cheapest and cleanest power production in the world it actually costs New Zealand consumers almost double than most. Power charges now support excessive and unnecessary profits for power companies and their shareholders and have become a form of taxation for our Government. The people who have to pay the most for their power can afford it the least. 40,000 homes had their power cut off last year because of unpaid bills and yet it is poor families living in cold damp homes that have to use the most electricity. Respiratory illness amongst children is growing at an alarming rate, we need to make power costs fair and affordable again.

10) Be Part of the Change. There is the old saying that 'you get what you vote for' and even a non-vote is a form of voting if you choose not to exercise it. The National Party only just had enough to govern in the last election, partly due to the fact that 25% of voters did not vote. If you are unhappy with the direction of the country and feel that you have not had a fair share of our 'Rock Star' economy, then you have an opportunity for change. If you want a healthier, cleaner environment and feel comfortable that your children and grandchildren will have a secure future then your vote can lead to that outcome. Think of how you would feel after September 20 if the Government that results enables a real future we can look forward to and your vote had a part in it.

If you really love New Zealand and want a cleaner, fairer, smarter future...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Whale Oil and Tolley Attacked Principals and Myself

Dirty Politics keeps giving and giving and the latest revelation is a possible link between Anne Tolley and Cameron Slater. Anne Tolley was Education Minister when National Standards were first introduced and, as with all education changes under this government, there was no real consultation and the concerns of the profession were ignored. Teachers wanted the system to be trailled first and there was a nationwide protest when this commonsense request was ignored. The National Government legislated the Standards into law which made any refusal to implement the Standards illegal and Tolley threatened to sack boards and principals who did not comply.

Just like Novopay the Standards were introduced half baked while Education Ministry staff desperately tried to create the system as it was in operation. Teachers were forced to attend professional development where the material being presented by facilitators had already been superseded by the constantly changing information online.

Some of the strongest opposition came from Southland principals and there were times when passions resulted in some emotive comments. It did seem odd at the time that any unfortunate throwaway comment made by any Principal made it to national media and the individuals concerned heavily criticized. Cameron Slater obviously had the job of looking out for anything coming out of the schools and principals who attempted to boycott the standards and attack them.

As has been pointed out by many, no individual could keep up the volume of content on Whale Oil without help and the research involved in getting the names and backgrounds of targeted individuals would also be time consuming. It was clear in the emails that supported Hager's book that the names and backgrounds were being passed on to Slater from Government staff and possibly even Ministers.

When Anne Tolley visited Invercargill in 2011, local Principals were keen to present an open letter to the Minister that expressed their professional concerns about the National Standards. At that time I was  on the executive of the New Zealand Educational Institute and was working part time as a special needs teacher. I had the time to co-ordinate the letter and collect the signatures of the 12 principals involved. Unfortunately I was unable to present the letter in person due to reasonable objections from the school being visited, so it was then sent to Anne Tolley's office and the Southland Times.

The Southland Times contacted the Minister for her comments and although I wasn't a signatory and had no personal contact with her it was me she attacked not the Principals. Tolley refused to engage with the content of the letter and claimed it was just a political stunt from myself as a Green Party and NZEI executive member (as if all the Invercargill principals were under my influence). I regularly had letters published in the Southland Times and the Listener that were critical of the Government's education policies and it was clear that I was an identified activist.

Two years later I happened to make a comment critical of Charter Schools on the Whale Oil blog and shortly afterwards Slater put up a post identifying me as a member of NZEI's National Executive and including a derogatory comment regarding my character. I find it hard to believe that Slater himself had the time to research each person who provided a contrary view to his own unless he already had some outside support and the names at hand.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Greens Are Deep In Dirty Politics

I have a confession, as a Green candidate I too have been involved in some dirty politics and it has been filthier than many would expect.

I had someone contact me recently because of his concern about poor service from an SOE but in the resulting conversation he revealed that he worked as a drain and tile layer on farms. As far as he was concerned riparian planting was a cosmetic joke because the drainage systems he was putting in place  just funneled effluent directly into our streams and rivers.

I recently spent a day getting down and dirty with a bunch of 'Bluffies' cleaning up the roadside between Invercargill and our southernmost port. We filled heaps of sacks with rubbish chucked from cars and trucks. It was a pleasure to help Joyce Kolk who has led many teams to clean up our beaches and public places.

Today I spent an afternoon delivering Green Party leaflets and chatting to people as I caught them gardening or cleaning cars in the Spring sunshine. I happened to come across one man who was really pleased to meet me, he was a keen fisherman and whitebaiter and also passionate about our marine and freshwater environments. He was particularly concerned about Oreti Beach, a southern treasure and where Burt Munro raced his famous Indian motorcycle. He was appalled that the beach and sand dunes were being used as a playground for boy racers, motorcycles and four wheel drive vehicles. The area is also being trashed by copious amounts of litter.

The Green Party isn't afraid of making a stand to protect our rivers and beaches from rubbish and effluent that is far worse than anything seen in a Judith Collins email. The politics behind intensive farming and environmental degradation is deeply engrained and very dirty. To clean up our environment we also have to clean up the way we govern it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Green Election Policy Highly Sophisticated.

As each new election policy is released by the Greens I am impressed by the depth of thinking, costing and multiple benefits that come with them. We have made a convincing impression this election that we are ready to govern and are easily holding our own against the other parties with highly relevant and practical policies.

National's policies look like as if they are just throwing money around where they think they will get some traction, but with no long term vision. Their regional road spending and the building of Auckland schools just look like stuff that they should be doing anyway dressed up to look like new spending and lacking consultation. The carrot of tax cuts is also being dangled in front of voters by Key despite English's reservations that the money exists to do this.

The Green Party are offering tax cuts through our carbon tax policy, we know where the money is coming from because we have generated it first. This policy will future proof our economy by shifting the focus to sustainable business practices and put money in people's pockets at the same time.

Extending our home insulation scheme (that we originally established as part of a memorandum of agreement with the National led Government) will just continue the success of this initiative. Not only are we making families healthier, and less of a drain on our health system, but the scheme supports local businesses and jobs. Like most of our policies this is an investment, not one way spending, as there is a return of $5 for every dollar spent.

Our Green Card is a simple yet effective way of providing financial support for struggling students by saving them around $40 a week in transport costs, reducing traffic and encouraging the use of public transport ouside peak times. It will also allow students to potentially save even more money through renting cheaper flats more distant from their tertiary institutions.

The Safe to School policy is another seemingly simple policy that has multiple benefits. It will allow children to be independent, increase the level of activity for our children to curb our growing child obesity rates, and take traffic off the roads during the congested times before and after school. Councils will be able to access money to make their towns and cities more family friendly without increasing rates.

Another thing I like about our policies is that they are all interrelated and it is our holistic approach that will deliver the 'balance' that National often talks about, but never achieves. A degrading environment, growing inequity and an economy based on borrowing and exporting raw commodities does not constitute balance.

All Green policies make sense because they are grounded in evidence and will force our economy to work for us rather than the other way around. Under National our economy has performed well for only a small section of our society and our environment and our families have had to be unreasonably sacrificed to support it. A well functioning economy should benefit all people and improve our quality of life as well as our environment. Party voting Green will support progressive policies and a cleaner, fairer and smarter future.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Primary Teachers Rise Up!

I have been a primary teacher for 35 years and for over half of that time I have been an active member of the New Zealand Educational Institute, New Zealand's largest education union. NZEI Te Riu Roa represents 50,000 members, including primary teachers and principals, early childhood teachers, special education professionals and support staff in schools. Around three quarters of the membership are female and a large proportion of the work of the union has a professional focus. When the Institute was first formed in 1883 its sole focus was professional but when employment agreements needed to be negotiated it took on this role.

The current Government likes to dismiss the Institute as 'just a union' and implies that any opposition to government policy is based on industrial concerns and self interest. The truth is very different, over its 131 year history NZEI has only resorted to strike action twice and agreement negotiations are approached in good faith and supported by professional evidence. In our current agreement we included the introduction of a new qualification, the Advanced Classroom Expertise Teacher (ACET), this was an attempt to introduce a new career pathway that recognises the importance of keeping good teachers in the classroom. A robust process has been put in place to ensure that teachers must meet important professional criteria to earn the ACET title.

A lack of good faith was demonstrated by the Government when they negotiated this new career pathway into our agreement without giving any indication that they were working on their own idea of recognizing expert teachers. The ACE teacher will earn an extra $5,000 a year after establishing their professional expertise, but shortly after settling the agreement the Government announced that they were introducing a Lead Teacher role that would pay $10,000 and these positions would be a appointed ones. No consultation on these positions or hints about their plans were passed on until their release by the Prime Minister. We were only allowed 800 ACE teachers under our agreement and yet the Government is planning to appoint 5,000 lead teachers using criteria that will probably hinge on willingness to advance policy than based on professional capabilities.

NZEI is full of members who are very focussed on the day to day demands of teaching and to get teachers to attend union meetings, even to negotiate agreements, is sometimes a struggle as their teaching responsibilities generally take priority. Most schools would rather just send a few representatives than all having to attend as there are always things to be done at school. To get 70% of primary teachers and principals to attend meetings across the country is actually remarkable and to have 93% of them reject the Governments plans outright demonstrates a clear consensus.

Having recently resigned from the National Executive of NZEI I was personally surprised at the strength of feeling the came from the membership. Two options had been provided to choose from at the meetings, one was an outright rejection of the Governments plans and the other was to manage the proposed changes through our agreement. The first option was a strong stand, would need wide support and there was always the concern we could be done to anyway. The second option meant accepting much in the plan and negotiating a more positive outcome. My own feeling was that after National Standards was forced on us through legislation (making opposition illegal) that the membership would probably want the protection of using our agreement to enable some way of minimising the damage.

I did not fully appreciate the levels of frustration and anger within the profession after the last five years under this Government. Primary education has weathered hit after hit of ideologically based systemic change and cut services and teachers have had enough. There was a high level of shock when support staff were trying to negotiate an increase to their minimal wages and poor working conditions and were being told that there was just no money available, when suddenly the Government announced $359,000,000 of new spending. This was a huge sum in education terms and when the detail was revealed I remember seeing some of our leadership in tears, little of the spending would address the real needs of our struggling children. Teachers were not interested in the potential of earning more money ($10-40,000 is actually substantial for a teacher or principal) they were just appalled at the lack of appreciation of what actually needed to be addressed in the sector.

In his announcement John Key claimed that teaching makes the biggest difference to lifting achievement when it is clearly not true. All research points to the fact that achievement is closely related to the socio-economic circumstances of the child and 90% of all influences on achievement occur outside the school. Good teaching helps but it can never be the significant solution.

If there was extra money available for our sector then there are things that most teachers could identify that would have nothing to do with paying a few teachers and principals more. This Government's determination not to consult properly with the profession has dominated their governance and teachers have finally had enough. A line in the sand has been drawn and the profession are standing firm. This is not a political stunt, this is about saving our public education system from an arrogant, uncaring Government that has been allowed to get away with too much already.