Showing posts from May, 2015

Sustaining today by denying the future

When I attended primary school over four decades ago the importance of saving and being financially secure was strongly encouraged from an early age. Our little deposit books from the Post Office Savings Bank had a squirrel on the cover to remind us of the importance of putting something aside to ensure a comfortable future. School banking ensured that a culture of responsible economic management and preparing for the future was ingrained at an early age and schools were rewarded for their efforts:

(Mataura Museum)
On leaving home I put money into a home ownership account with the Southland Building Society and after ten years it matured into sum that enabled me to pay the deposit on my first house. In 1987, as a young teacher of seven years experience, I was able to make an important property investment. My $5,000 deposit was able to purchase a house with the same value as my annual salary ($27,000), a tidy three bedroom wooden bungalow in a good area (admittedly in Invercargill). My …

Singing the Budget Blues

Despite our 'rock star' economy over the past three years it has not increased Government income to the level expected and the Government has not been able to deliver its promised surplus. If income doesn't change, but priorities shift, then the money has to come from somewhere and when one sector wins there has to be a balancing loser. I applaud the increase for beneficiaries but it has come at a cost to Kiwisaver and tougher work obligations.

The only way to increase funding without winners or losers is to increase the size of the pot. The majority of the Government's income is generated through direct and indirect taxation and dividends earned from State Owned enterprises (SOEs). Over the past financial year the Government earned $61.5 billion from income tax (core revenue) and $27.9 billion from dividends (and sales of state assets). The total Government income for the last financial year was $89.4 billion and its expenditure was $92.2 billion. Government borrowin…

Government Kills Relationships Aotearoa

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and her Government has done everything in their power to kill off Relationships Aotearoa (RA). The organisation is the country's largest and most effective provider of professional counselling and relationship education at a time when domestic violence is one of the biggest social issues confronting our country. In 2012 alone there were 90,000 domestic violence incidents reported (240 a day) and these are horrifying statistics considering most incidents go unreported.

The economic costs of supporting the victims and families affected by domestic violence has been estimated at well over $1 billion a year. It would seem logical that any investment in counselling and education would reduce costs in the long term and be worth every cent.

The Government, in its wisdom, has changed the way RA operates and has broken its services into different contracts and tied specific budgets to each. It has also passed on services that were once provided by t…

Schools, Beards and a Civil Society

The story of the student sent home because he had unshaven stubble on his face has sparked another debate on the extent of authority a school should expect to have over its students. This is an important discussion because it goes to the heart of the purpose of education and what we would like as educational outcomes for our young people and the future of our country.

I was privileged to attend a secondary school in the early 70s that was very much at the forefront of educational thinking. Invercargill's Kingswell High School began in 1971 (I started in '72) in the less affluent part of Invercargill and was led by respected educationalist, Graeme Gillespie. The school endured a lot of criticism for rejecting many of the traditional elements that most secondary schools support (and still do). We had no uniform in the senior years, no prefects, no traditional prize givings (recognising academic achievement), no corporal punishment (common at the time) and a strong focus on extr…

NZ's Social Democracy Leadership Ends.

New Zealand is a small pacific nation with a total population that is much smaller than many cities around the world. Despite our size we do have a reputation for having an impact that is much greater than our size should dictate. Our sporting achievements, social justice leadership and political influence has provided us with useful recognition and respect. Much of this has been achieved by thumbing our noses at major powers through making stands on moral issues and doing things our own way at home. We once had the highest standard of living in the world and New Zealand was known as being a family friendly country with one of the best education systems in the world. New Zealand was described as the Scandinavia of the Pacific because of our affluent, egalitarian society and governance that aligned with other social democracies.

While the last thirty years or so saw Neo-liberal economics infiltrating our governance, and increasing inequality, we were still leading the world in aspects…

UK FPP Electoral System Unfair

The First Past the Post (FPP) electoral system used in the UK is patently unfair and produced the following results:
The Conservative party are currently able to govern outright after 63.1% of the voters did not vote for them and they won almost 100 more seats than they would have done under a proportional system.The Labour Party won over 30 more seats than they would have under a proportional system but they would have been much closer to the Conservatives than they currently are.The UK Independence Party was particularly badly treated by the FPP system. Despite achieving 12.7% of the national vote (and 1/3 of the Conservative vote) they only got one seat. Under a proportional system they would have had 83 MPs.The Scottish National Party did better than any other party by getting 56 MPs with only 1/3 of the UKIP vote. The SNP ended up with the third largest number of MPs in parliament when their voting percentage placed them fifth.The Liberal Democrats proportionally deserved 51 MPs,…

Greed, Inequality and Denial

Inequality in New Zealand has now reached extremes that would have been thought unbelievable forty to fifty years ago. I remember holidaying in Queenstown as a child and youth in the late sixties and early seventies. Bankers, teachers, farmers and freezing workers would be holidaying side by side in camping grounds or in basic baches, comparing outboard motors on their boats and swapping fishing stories. The differences in income between the working class, professionals and business people didn't appear to be that great and most children just attended their closest school, as most public schools were considered relatively equal educationally. One income was all that was necessary to comfortably support a family.

Bill Richardson was one of Invercargill's richest men but his home was not much different from many others in Invercargill. Bill's wealth was realised in his truck museum and community involvement rather than his lifestyle. Most families in the sixties and seventie…