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Showing posts from February, 2014

Celebration and Despair

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At a personal level I have got much to celebrate, I have been selected as the Green Party candidate for Invercargill and I have had a steady stream of support for our local campaign. A number of people who I haven't heard from since the last election have been getting in contact and are offering their services again. We also have a wonderful French wwoofer who has brought order back to my wild and neglected vege garden and I have been enjoying delicious cooking smells as she prepares this evening's meal.

The despair comes from a series of recent news items that epitomises this John Key led government's approach to governance.

1) Oil exploration consents will be non notifiable, which means that the public will have no involvement in the approval process. While the consents will be considered under "discretionary" activity rather than "permitted" the Environmental Protection Agency will now be the sole environmental watchdog for future consents. While th…

Green Party Candidate For Invercargill 2nd Time

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It doesn't seem like three years ago when I first stood as a Green Party candidate in Invercargill, however a lot of water (much of it full of sediments and nitrogen) has flowed under the bridge since then. I am a older, wiser, possibly a little leaner and the Green Party is much stronger.

I noticed it was May in 2011 when I was selected last time and I am three months ahead this time round. In fact I am the first of any party to announce my candidacy for Invercargill (I have heard that the National Party are selecting theirs this weekend).

Lesley Soper was actually selected for the Labour Party in December of 2013, but when the sitting National MP Eric Roy announced his retirement the Labour Party strangely opened nominations again. Lesley, a seasoned campaigner (with past experience as an MP) is being challenged by Michael Gibson, an ACC advocate.

Two weeks ago I attended the Green Party Campaign Conference in Auckland, one of the best managed and professional conferences that …

Discrimination, Opinion Polls and Altered Perceptions

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We have a number of polls that regularly inform us of the level of support for each of our political parties. Most people accept them as being impartially and honestly managed and as there is reasonably close similarity between them it appears to confirm their legitimacy. However, if I said that almost 20% of potential voters are excluded from being able to participate in the polls most people would cry foul, and yet that is most likely the case.

Almost all polls are conducted through telephone landlines and yet there are rapidly growing numbers of people who have ditched landlines completely. Halfway through 2013 almost 17% of those who participated in a Stuff poll didn't have a landline and another 24% were contemplating dumping theirs. Since it is largely those on minimal incomes or younger people who have opted for only having mobile phones, I think we can safely assume at least 20% of potential voters would currently be excluded from participating in most political polls.

Th…

Executive Principals and National's Education Dystopia

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If you asked teachers and school communities what would make the most difference in helping their kids and lifting achievement, especially in lower decile communities, I know what the responses would be. They would ask for greater access to special education services and RTLBs, more teacher aids to provide support for their high needs children and have our once amazing advisory services reinstated. They would ask for more time to organise high interest programmes and less time on data collection and report writing. Teachers would also like to have their professional knowledge respected and greater autonomy to decide themselves how to meet the needs of those in their class. Having nurses and social workers available to deal with the constant health and welfare issues that confront many teachers as they try to teach would also be useful.

When John Key announced the Government's plan of spending a whopping $359 million on education it was received with a sort of stunned incredulity.…

Greens' Solar Sense and National's Nonsense

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Russel Norman's recent announcement of the Green Party's solar energy initiative is a fiscally neutral, smart policy. Home owners will access cheap government loans that are attached to the house, not the person, and will be paid off through the rates bill. The policy is already being seen as a positive move by those who understand the benefits of solar energy. A $10,000 solar panel installation will save a home owner $28,000 over the 25 year life of the system.

Solar energy uptake has been slow in New Zealand compared to many other countries but it is by far the fastest growing energy sector. By having having a target of installing panels on 30,000 homes in the first term of government the Greens have set a realistic goal and allowed for a well managed growth of the industry.

The benefits of the policy go well beyond the 30,000 homes, it will also support the development of new businesses, in the same way that the home insulation scheme did, and will provide hundreds of jobs…

Rich Schools, Poor Schools

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I am a strong advocate for public schools and the philosophy behind quality public education. It should be a basic right of any child, in any affluent first world country, to have ready access to a good education, no matter their social economic status or culture. All public schools should be funded equitably so that, as much as possible, a child's local school can be expected to deliver teaching and learning of a high standard.

When I started teaching in 1980 the system wasn't perfect but there was little noticeable difference between schools in resourcing and professional support. We had inspectors and advisors who had a good idea of the needs of individual schools and took a fairly paternalistic approach to ensuring their support went where it was needed most. I also remember a clear career pathway where one was expected to build experience in different roles before taking on leadership positions. Beginning teachers were not employed in small rural schools, for example, be…

First they ignore you...

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"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win"
-Mahatma Gandhi

The 2014 election year looks as though it is developing into a campaign of personal attacks and rummaging though others' dirty washing. I don't mind being a member of a party that 'goes hard' on the issues but when we got a public analysis of the cost and aesthetic value of an MP's clothing, and whether they have the right to wear it, a new low had been reached.

Many Green Party members are a little bemused and surprised at the amount of the attention the Green Party and its MPs are getting at this stage of the year. It almost appears that National and its supporters are more inclined to level their attacks on the Green Party than Labour.

While abuse and attacks are coming thick and fast it is easy to feel offended when the vast majority of the accusations are inaccurate, exaggerated, total beat ups or just plain lies. The immediate and most natural respon…

Waitangi Day and the Right to Protest

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John Key's overly enthusiastic condemnation of protestors at Waitangi was another attempt to feed the perception that protest is unhealthy and unnecessary. It turns out that the Governor General wasn't under any threat and the scuffle was really a minor incident. I am sure that there was a tactical element to Key's comments given that the Te Reinga Hikoi against deep sea drilling was due to arrive the following day and he wanted to minimize its impact by labeling any protest as undesirable. His comment to reporters was cleverly worded:

"Most people go to Waitangi to have a great time but there are one or two people that go to cause trouble and use the media to advance their own causes and their own issues."

By making this statement Key was able to dismiss any other protest as just involving a few malcontents who are selfishly spoiling a nice day for a minority cause. What the Prime Minister conveniently refuses to recognise is the long history of protests at Wai…

"They go hard, they really go hard"

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John Key and his ministers obviously feel under pressure from the Greens due to their determined and "hard" approach.

"…see who says the hardest and nastiest comments, they almost always come from the Greens," claims the Prime Minister. "They go hard, they go really hard…I don't feel too bullied but they don't hold back."

Gerry Brownlee has staggered out of the house on some days battered and bruised by the ferocious attacks from Julie Anne Genter. There was one time when the Speaker was forced to step in and help him when he had no answer for one of Julie Anne's direct hits. Bill English also gets rattled by the thorough research behind Julie Anne's questions and has to read out written answers to protect himself.

Gareth Hughes also plays hard and Gerry Brownlee and Amy Adams have both found themselves struggling to find convincing answers to his probing questions.

Metiria Turei also a reputation for hard hitting during question time and…

National Attacks the Jacket Not the Message

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2014 started well with the annual Picnic for the Planet where the Green Party does its version of a State of the Nation speech, it serves the same purpose as what National and Labour do, only it's more fun. This year Co-leader, Metiria, announced the Green's $100 million dollar 'schools as hubs' initiative and it went down extremely well, with many who work in education actually singing its praises.

National were obviously stuck for a response when the Greens' plans were modest compared to their own $359 million proposal and were obviously more practical. All they could come up with in rebuttal was that they were already being done and were nothing new. Of course all those with any experience of their local school would know how hollow that claim was.

A fly on the wall witnessing the meeting of National's strategists may have been aware of slight level of panic. The main approach in dealing with the Greens was to ridicule and constantly refer to printing money…