Showing posts from December, 2012

2012 the Year of Planet Key

2012 is all but over and our celebrity Prime Minister and his team are finding that their plans are unravelling alarmingly.

The invitation to all and sundry to come and dig, drill and frack fossil fuel from us resulted in hundreds of thousands marching (from Auckland to Invercargill) against mining in in our National Parks, a wake up call from the Rena disaster, general dismay about Pike River, some concerns flagged by the Environment Commisioner regarding fracking regulations and a huge set back with the pulling out of Petrobras.

The selling of our state assets have been stalled by ongoing legal action from Maori, Solid Energy's dropping profitability and a very popular petition to get a citizen's initiated referendum.

The cutting of funding to the state sector has seen endless debacles from short staffed departments failing to manage the implementation of new systems (Novapay being the stand out fail), the constant leaking of private information, CEOs resigning and money sp…

Jane Clifton and the Greens in 2012.

Political commentator Jane Clifton is an enigma when it comes to her political leanings. She was married to National MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, and she has recently been seen out and about "holding hands"with Trevor Mallard. I am not one who normally spreads gossip but it is interesting to try and understand the influences on a prominent, widely published columnist and, in the case of Clifton, she is apparently comfortable associating with members from either of the two larger parties. What is intriguing in most of her writing for the Listener is the almost total absence of any reference to the Greens.

Over the entire past year of writing about politics in New Zealand I can only remember the Greens being referred to a handful of times by Clifton. While her commentary on National and Labour is obviously informed by her relationships with individuals in both parties, anything written about the Greens appears to lack substance (and she hasn't been …

Fair Trade Not Free Trade

This National led Government, and the Labour Government before it, put great store on free trade agreements. Our most significant trade agreements would have to be our one with China and our CER with Australia. There has been great enthusiasm for both agreements but little evidence that we have really benefitted from them.

In regards to the CER a New Zealand Productivity Commission report found the the magnitude of the benefits were uncertain and any supposed benefits may have occurred without an agreement. There is always the concern that an FTA between a larger and smaller economy will always favour the former. Australia has certainly benefited from the flow of dividends from our banks (3.4 billion over the past year) and the steady stream of skilled labour. The fact that they don't pay safety net benefits for around half of the 483,400 New Zealanders living, working and paying tax in Australia must be a huge saving, especially when we provide those benefits for Australians liv…

New Zealand's Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa

Our Government has failed to deliver these presents over the past year and, as a last resort, we thought we would include them in our Christmas wish list. The chances of having them being delivered by yourself, down our chimneys, seems much more likely than any other way we can think of (barring a snap election and the installation of a Green/Labour Government).

Jobs, about 300,000 so that everyone who wants to be fully employed, can be, and maybe some of the  477,000 or so who have gone to Australia can return.  Clean Rivers, it would be great if families could enjoy a swim in their local river or creek again over the Summer break.A Living Wage, 40% of our children who live in poverty have a working parent. The median family income has dropped over the last few years and an increase in family incomes would be a great present.A Low Carbon Future, it would be wonderful to gift our children with a real future that doesn't include catastrophic climate change. A car…

Ombudsman Exposes Dishonesty and Poor Process.

Ombudsman David McGee was so concerned by the reported difficulties for schools and communities to access information regarding Christchurch school closures, that he initiated his own inquiry. His report revealed that the Ministry of Education had deliberately withheld information that was necessary to support a proper consultation process and had advised that the Christchurch City Council should lie on its behalf. McGee is one of many appointed authorities who have openly questioning the processes being employed by this Government, and its departments and ministries, to support their policies. As the author of Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, which is the authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure (in its third edition), his opinion carries considerable weight.

David McGee's investigation addressed three specific matters:
That the Ministry advised the Christchurch City Council to refuse a request for official information on the basis that the information was not held by…

Greens Embrace Our Economy's Real Future!

Under this National led Government the only things that have really grown are Government debt, unemployment, pollution and the value of our dollar. Their major initiatives to turn the economy around  have been to mine coal, encourage oil exploration, sell state assets and to build motorways. The price of coal has plummet, Petrobras has pulled out of further oil exploration, the asset sales have met wide opposition and the motorways are failing cost benefit analysis.

The Green Party's Memorandum of Understanding with the Government meant the adoption of the Green's home insulation scheme which has been one of the the most successful initiatives of the past four years. Over 230,000 homes have been insulated, around 2,000 jobs have been created and the savings in energy and health costs have been considerable. While National tries to promote the view that the Greens are against progress and creating real jobs, reality tells a different story.

The Green Party has just released an…

New Zealand Shamed By Collins' Actions

Judith Collins' treatment of Canadian Justice Ian Binnie and his report is disgraceful and is seriously damaging to our international reputation. Her claim that the report is seriously flawed does not hold up to scrutiny and is purely a matter of opinion.

Binnie himself had no issue with our Justice Minister disagreeing with his report but her reaction to the findings in the report was highly out of order and lacked fairness. The fact that Collins was publicly critical of the Binnie Report and had employed Robert Fisher to review it without approaching Binnie about her concerns or questioning him about his interpretation of his mandate was patently unfair. Collins had already met with Binnie and questioned elements of fact which were readily included in amendments, it was clear at that time that she had not questioned his interpretation of his mandate, this only came later. Collins has deliberately and calculatedly discredited an internationally regarded jurist who had produced s…

Appropriate Decision Making Lacking

One of the four principles our Green Party charter is "Apropriate Decision Making" and this is recognised in how we operate throughout our membership structures and at caucus level. When I first became involved with the party I did find the use of consensus decision making on major remits ponderous and protracted at times, however, after many years of being involved in the process, I totally support it.

I have been involved in many different organisations at a governance level and have seen how decisions that are based on limited consultation and are rammed through by a quick vote and a narrow majority generally have negative consequences. Even those that use a 75% majority vote for major decisions often end up with the 25% feeling disgruntled and the decision having to be revisited at a later point. A consensus decision doesn't have to mean 100% agreement but it does mean that those who disagree are prepared to recognise they are in a minority and will support consensu…

Eric Roy and His Hand Basket

The National MP for Invercargill, Eric Roy, publishes a little opinion piece in the Southland Express (a weekly community newspaper) every week. This week he has written in support of National's economic management under the title "We're Getting There". Eric has manipulated data and provided a rather dishonest summary of National's progress. I have reprinted his comments and included my analysis in blue:

WE'RE GETTING THERE ("hell" and "hand baskets" come to mind)

"The last household income survey has been released and shows the average annual household income from wages and salaries increased from $77,843 to $82,029 to the end of June  - a 5.4% increase."

Averages distort the reality when it comes to wages, median incomes give a more accurate picture of what most people are experiencing. The median household income has actually dropped over the same period so that most households are worse off. The rise in the average is because…

The Southland Economic Debate

Like many regions the Southland economy is suffering. Our largest employer, the Tiwai Smelter,  is cutting staff and threatening closure, many of our meat works are also down sizing and there is a real possibility that we could lose up to 4,000 jobs. Local CTU convenor Anna Huffstutler decided that because the Government was taking a hands off, "the market will decide" approach to our impending crisis that something needed to be done. She organised a debate* and invited political parties, the Invercargill Mayor, Tim Shadbolt, and the CTU National Secretary, Peter Conway. By doing this Anna hoped to bring the issues into the public domain and force those who are in positions of power to present some solutions and possibly get some commitments for action.

Interestingly Invercargill's National MP Eric Roy could only make a day that didn't suit the other invitees and so Anna approached Clutha Southland MP Bill English, but he also was unavailable (as was Steven Joyce). …

Christchurch Teachers Support Illegal Strike!

While the last four years have been difficult for most teachers under this National led Government it has been considerably worse for Christchurch. We all had to manage the implementation of the untested National Standards under the threats of sacking boards and principals if there was non compliance. We have all been concerned by the refusals from Ministers Tolley and Parata to properly consult with the profession or collaborate over educational change. We have all suffered from having a Secretary of Education leading the Ministry who obviously has no understanding of the New Zealand system. We all survived the proposed mass sacking of teachers to support the Government's idea that larger classes produce better outcomes for children. We have struggled with understanding why we should introduce systems like Charter Schools into New Zealand and we have all suffered from the poorly managed introduction of the Novapay system that resulted in over 8,000 errors and has wasted untold h…

New Zealand is a High Growth Nation

New Zealand can easily claim to be a high growth country and there are a number of areas where are leading the world. For much of this growth we can thank the National led Government because it has largely occurred under their watch:

We have growing unemployment, it has more than doubled since January 2008. The level of Government borrowing has more than tripled. Our levels of child poverty have grown alarmingly. In 2006 1/6 of our children lived in poverty (In households earning less than 60% of the median household income) and it is now said to be 1/4 and 50% of all children experience poverty at some time in their childhood.We have a huge growth in spending on consultants, over ten times over the past ten years.  2007-08 $1,968,000 2008-09 $2,037,000 2009-10 $5,542,000 2010-11 $4,674, 000 2011-12 $14,445,000                 2012-13 $21,927,000 (budget) The demand for housing has grown substantially (see page 22 of linked report) and around 400,000 will be needed over the next 20 years…

The Reserve Bank's Indecent Relationship

The takeovers of our local banks by Australian ones was part of the neoliberal agenda in the 1980s and the view that the size of the bank ensured sustainability and security. The BNZ has been bailed out twice in its history (1894 and 1990) and was eventually sold to the National Australia Bank Group in 1992. The community owned Trust Banks were amalgamated in the late 80's and early 90's into Trust Bank New Zealand Limited which was then subject to a takeover by Westpac in 1996 (so ending around 130 years of community banking). PostBank once provided banking in most rural areas until over 600 branches were closed in 1988. By the mid 90's the shift to larger, Australian based banks for most of New Zealand's Banking was largely achieved.

The change in our banking culture has been accompanied by a change in the way that banks operate, in earlier times banks were largely seen as providing a service and supporting economic and business activity and according the Encycloped…