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Showing posts from June, 2011

Brash Bashes Bureaucrats with Nazi Slur

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Don Brash made a hard hitting speech to Federated Farmers today that revealed much about how he thinks and what his true values are. Through my discussions with local farmers I have become aware that Federated Farmers does not fully represent the farming community and large numbers of farmers believe that the organization promotes extreme views that they are not comfortable with. It is obvious that when Don spoke to this group that he felt his views would be well received and while there were no standing ovations, there were no challenges to what he said.

The most controversial statement was his description of local RMA bureaucrats as "Little Hitlers" who got in the way of reasonable progress. According to Brash if someone owns land there should be no restrictions on what they do with it and petty bureaucracy needs to be dealt to. Of course, putting to one side the inappropriate "Hitler" comment, he has probably highlighted an issue that many may have experienced …

Waituna's Fate in Minister's hands

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Nick Smith is in town and having to confront some of our nation's most challenging environmental issues. This will be a real test of his commitment to protect the environment from catastrophic events and show, post election, what we can really expect from this government environmentally.

He faced his first hurdle when confronted by an excellent question from local environmentalist, Chris Henderson. Nick had been promoting the fact that any lignite mining in New Zealand would be modeled on international best practice and Chris' reasonable question "Minister, can you tell us, where is the world's best practice example of lignite mining?" stopped him in his tracks. He wasn't able to give an answer.

Of course the most immediate issue demanding the Minister's attention is the imminent "flipping" of the Waituna lagoon. Russel Norman put the issue high on his agenda and changed his programme earlier in the year to spend time looking at the problem fir…

Education Ministry Gets Poor Report

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The StateServices Commission, the Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have completed a combine report on the performance of the Education Ministry. This report was presumably instigated after the Ministry was ranked near the bottom of 37 Government departments in an earlier review.

The ten areas assessed were given either an A, B or C.
An "A" represented a strong result, a "B" represented being well placed to achieve and a "C'' indicated some development was needed.

REPORT CARD
A   Experiences of the public
B   Curriculum and National Standards
B   Early Childhood Education
B   Provision of Special Education Services
C   Vision, Strategy and Purpose
C   Leadership and Governance
C   Engagement with Staff
C   Efficiency
C   Delivering the Tertiary Education Strategy
C   Provision of Infrastructure for Schools

It is difficult not see this report in the context of the $25 million in cuts that took effect last year and would it be useful to…

Building Productivity National's Way

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After thirty years of teaching I have learned one or two things through the experience of just doing the job. The most important thing I have learned is that children only really learn and progress if they believe themselves capable of doing so and their self belief is hugely reliant on others believing in them.

Treating children with respect, consistency and fairness also goes a long way to getting respect from them and creating a positive and productive working environment. Strangely enough I have found that when I apply similar principles to adults, when I am in a management role, it also produces huge benefits to the worksite atmosphere and staff performance.

This government has sent clear messages to the New Zealand workforce that they don't back them or believe in them. They refuse to recognize that our workers should be paid a livable wage and so devalue the work that many do. They outsource manufacturing when a workforce capable of producing the same things already exists…

Alasdair Thompson Not Alone!

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In many ways Alasdair Thompson reflects a leadership style that once existed but has had a resurgence under this National Government. The sort of arrogant, bullying behaviour that Thompson continually displayed when confronted with legitimate requests for evidence was embarrassing enough but it took some very old fashioned sexist comments to fully expose the man and provide some real media pressure. Thompson's inept handling of the whole situation meant that his attempts to explain himself and apologize dug an even deeper hole and only served to support Catherine Delahunty's bill even further.

The passion and media attention given to this whole incident is was fully justified given the position that Thompson holds but it concerns me that there is a lack of media consistency when we have been confronted with similar ineptitude by other figures of authority. The aspect that has been lost through the whole menstrual saga is that this is not just an example of one man's ignor…

The Greening of China

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Despite its huge industrial expansion and reliance on fossil fuel to drive economic growth, China's carbon footprint per capita is still less than New Zealand. Admittedly China's population is immense when compared to New Zealand and on a global scale the damaging emissions from China are far worse than ours, but it still means as a country we aren't doing the best that we can.

While China has used coal to initially grow their economy, there is general acceptance that this is not an energy source that is sustainable or environmentally viable into the future. China is now a world leader in renewable and clean energy and its exports of solar and wind powered technology is becoming an increasingly important part of their economy. China is also building the world's most ambitious ecocity, that will serve as a model for future urban development across the country.

It is difficult to see how our "Clean Green", "100% Pure" claims will hold fast with so m…

Greens Make a Difference in the South

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As long as the Green Party has existed there has been a strong relationship between the Party and the people of the South. When many parties are afraid to make a stand on a local issue, and local MPs appear to go into hiding, it is the Green MPs who have been the most conspicuous.

Rob Donald had been a passionate supporter of retaining provincial building societies and banks in local ownership and when an initiative to align a parliamentarian with business was instigated, Rod became an enthusiastic supporter of the SBS bid to remain independent. A member of the current board recently told me the high regard the board had for Rod regarding his advocacy on their behalf.

Rod was also prominent during Invercargill's disastrous schooling review. A combination of Trevor Mallard's rash statement regarding the viability of some secondary schools and poor process by the Ministry of Education caused the loss of the diversity in schooling that Invercargill once enjoyed. At one of the ma…

The Eyes of Our Children

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I spent much of the day supporting my son while he competed in the provincial Lion's speech competition in Gore. There were 16 senior school competitors repesenting secondary schools from both Otago and Southland. All presented themselves well in their school uniforms and introductions for each competitor included their interests and future aspirations. I was impressed by all the students' involvement in sport, cultural activities, community service and their intention to work in highly qualified and useful jobs or professions.

Each competitor had to present a six minute speech on a topic of their choice then later make a one minute impromptu speech on a given subject. We heard speeches on such things as prejudice, etiquette, history, technology, communication, transition to adulthood and giraffes, to name a few. Poise, humour, research, eloquence and some strong messages dominated the day and many comments were made amongst the audience regarding a positive future ahead base…

Median Wage Drops While Company Profits Rise

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JKT links to Statistics New Zealand and reveals the 1.7 drop in the median weekly income (from all sources). The median income is now only $529 per week, $9 a week over the minimum wage (if looking at a 40 hr week). For a year's income it works out at $27,508, so almost half of all New Zealanders live on less than this. No the wonder the demand for food parcels is dramatically increasing and child poverty involves over 20% of our children.

Bill English and the National Government appear to have no intention of addressing the growing inequities and Bill has even stated that low wages will give us a competitive edge. National's enthusiasm for supporting corporates and the already wealthy as a way to stimulate the economy appears to reflect the failed "trickle down" theory of the past. This approach is fully exposed in the latest Time magazine's headlining article "The five Myths about the US economy". Myth number five is "The private sector will mak…

The Future According to Bill.

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A letter in today's Southland Times questions the logic of selling off our public-owned utilities to foreign corporates and likens the sales to "giving our heritage away for two blankets and a musket". Local MP Eric Roy defends the indefensible by attempting to promote the sell off as "gilt-edged" investment opportunities for kiwis and the freeing up of capital for other investments (presumably more motorways). Bill English also contributes his penny's worth in his regular column "From the Beehive" by repeating the party spin expressed by Eric. Bill also makes the bizarre claim that selling state assets will "get our economy growing sustainably".

I have often talked about the coming election providing a choice between two distinct futures and this idea shaped my speech at our campaign conference earlier this year. It is important that the voting public consider where the National led government is taking us and where we will be 5 or 10 …

Our Shameful Statistics For Elderly Care.

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The latest Consumer reveals some disturbing statistics about our rest homes. Out of the 287 homes audited over the past year, only 14% fully met the services delivery standards and over half couldn't even meet the "safe and appropriate environment" standards. These are especially appalling statistics considering the concern expressed by both the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Auditor General back in 2009 when both voiced serious misgivings about the quality of the oversight for rest homes.

Due to increasingly common media reports of inadequate care in rest homes and the cost cutting restrictions being placed on home care, some focussed research on the issues was jointly organised by the Green and Labour Parties (National refused to participate). Green MP, Sue Kedgley, and the recently retired Labour MP, Winnie Laban, toured the country last year and met with those directly affected by aged care services. The interest in the tour was such that in Invercargill …

Chicken Licken Politics

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It is a well accepted practice for right leaning Governments to use a sense of crisis to initiate high levels of change. The approach has been well documented by Naomi Klein in "The Shock Doctrine"and this government has shown it is not averse to using crisis to drive their predetermined agenda. While the Christchurch earthquake and the international economic collapse were genuine the National Government's  responses to them needs to be questioned as do a number of other crises they have fabricated for their own ends.

I have tried to describe each crisis and the how the National Government has used and responded to it and the Green solution:

ECONOMIC CRISIS

Situation:
Poorly regulated property markets, investment companies and financial advisors cause widespread collapse of institutions and overvalued, poorly secured investments. Government debt one of the lowest in OECD (Labour Government recording surpluses prior to collapse).High level of private debt through borrowin…

The Party Positioning Shuffle

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One step to the left, one step the right....it's the Party Positioning Shuffle.

Isn't it amazing how a few similar meaning words or phrases can hold so much power and significance. The difference between "definitely not", "extremely unlikely" and "highly unlikely" has caused passions to be unleashed, friendships to crack and the blogosphere to buzz. The meaning of "right" and "left" has been debated at length, the change in the leadership and political philosophies have been analysed in depth and some people have even contemplated if this means the end of the world as they have always perceived it.

The Green Party believes in honesty and transparency and it follows that to declare before hand the likely partnerships we would be prepared enter into, post election, is to provide a degree of comfort to the voter. The anguish caused by both New Zealand First and the Maori Party through an unexpected shift along the political conti…

Who Has the Ear of the Government?

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Tracy Watkins brings up a very valid concern regarding lobbyists and their secret influence on our Government. Corporate lobbyists in the US became a multimillion dollar industry and their influence, combined with the concern around the ethical nature of their activity, resulted in greater transparency being called for. Consequently all lobbyists in the US must now declare who they represent and are listed on a register. This transparency does not occur in New Zealand.

Russel Norman and the Green Party have advocated for greater public clarity around who our lobbyists are, whose interests they promote and probably even more importantly the access they have to the Government. This issue is becoming increasingly important under a National led government because of the nature of the decision making process being used currently.

Good legislation should be developed out of wide consultation, representing key stake holders, having all points of view recorded and have transparency around the…

Farewell Sue and Keith, an end of an era.

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Last evening in Auckland we celebrated both an opening and ending. In the opening powhiri Russel indicated the importance of the meeting for setting the scene for the election campaign. There are always remits that generate a range of positions and he reminded us the importance of achieving consensus and working towards our common purpose.

Later that evening the focus was around an ending. Sue Kedgely and Keith Locke would both be retiring after the election and this was an opportunity for the general membership to recognize their enormous contribution to the Party and the nation. Despite being the last of the first group of Green MPs in 1999, and both being in their sixties, neither of them showed signs of the battles and abuse they had endured through their parliamentary careers. Many people shared their memories of Keith and Sue and reminded us of their many achievements.
Sue was remembered for her passion and tenacity around safe and healthy food, her battles for the humane treatmen…

Auckland Transport

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I have just arrived in Auckland, ready for our Green Party conference and AGM. On the flight from Christchurch I ended up sitting beside a young woman who was a passionate supporter of market forces driving our economy and an especially strong supporter of the $11 billion that will be spent on Auckland motorways. As you can imagine we had a robust discussion and time passed quickly.

The woman believed that the motorways were necessary to not only speed up traffic but to boost the local economy. I suggested that a balance between public transport and motorways was needed and that the balance currently was weighted obscenely towards the latter. She responded with the claim that if something doesn't return a profit it shouldn't exist and public transport isn't worth investing in. I tried to explain how investment in public transport may have an initial cost but was a fraction of what was being spent on roads and if more people used trains and buses then the demand for motorw…