Month: June 2012

Letter to the World

26 June 2012

Dear World,

Today the New Zealand Government passed a bill permitting the Government to sell property that does not belong to them. If an individual sells property that does not belong to them it is theft and constitutes a criminal offence. The Government today legalised the partial conversion of state assets against the will of the people of New Zealand.  
The Government claimed that they had a mandate to partially sell state assets because they campaigned on the issue for the year leading up to the last election in 2011 in which they were re-elected.  On election night, the National Party only secured 47% of the vote while 53% of those who voted did not support the National Party. New Zealand also suffered its lowest voter turnout in history signalling the lack of confidence our people had in the Government.
Public polls, protests, and multiple media streams have demonstrated the persistent opposition to the partial sale of our assets and the people of New Zealand will persist with their opposition until the Government listen to the democratic will of our people.
The Mixed Ownership Model Bill today passed its third reading meaning that it will become law after assented to by the Governor General. It passed its third reading by a single vote – 61:60. The balance of power, the one vote, was held by a Member of Parliament who represents a single electorate. In the months leading up to the passage of this bill, his electorate campaigned heavily against the sale of state assets and urged him to refrain from allowing this bill to pass. He did not listen. He chose to override the democratic will of his constituents and voted in favour of this bill.
During the Select Committee stage 1448 submissions were received.  Only 9 (0.6%) of those submissions were in favour of the bill while 1421 (98.1%) of the submissions were opposed to the sale of state assets. The Government abused its authority and position of a bare majority to ram through the bill knowingly and deliberately in the face of public opposition.
The people of New Zealand have made it clear that they wished to exercise their democratic right to a referendum and petitions for a referendum are currently in circulation. The Government refuses to hold off the partial sale to allow a referendum, arguing that a referendum has been held and it was called the election. This illustrates to the world that our Government is not only arrogant but is also anti-democratic. It is silencing our voices and suppressing our will.
This is a pledge to the world community to reprimand our government for its anti-democratic practices.
This is a pledge to boycott the purchasing of any shares the Government offers in respect of the partial sale of our assets.  The Government will embark on a multimillion dollar advertising campaign which will dishonestly and without claim of right represent to potential investors that they, the Government, have the consent of the rightful owners to sell 49% of shares in these companies.   If you purchase these shares then you do so against the will of the people who are the rightful owners and are simply an accessory to the crime against our people.
The Government has accused us of being xenophobic, we are not. The people of New Zealand value foreign investment and look forward to securing investments with foreign interests now and in the future but we do not want assets that were bought with our taxes to be sold without our consent.
Please help the people of New Zealand raise their voices against the anti-democratic practices of our Government. Please support us in keeping our assets for the benefit of our future generations.
You can support the people of New Zealand by sharing our message.
Thank you.
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Maui Street: Kelvin Davis on improving education

Maui Street: Kelvin Davis on improving education: When the government says that national standards, charter schools, league tables, performance pay, quality vs quantity of teachers will all …

Davis provides a brief opinion as to how league tables, performance pay for teachers, charter schools and the like have some benefit to some students but there is no evidence that those who the policies are meant to assist (i.e. the least advantaged students) will benefit from such policies. It would be good to see Davis provide an actual argument next time rather than a simple commentary. My views are simple, the least advantaged students will always be adversely affected by policies that are narrowly focused toward economic outcomes without consideration of social outcomes.

In fact I read an article yesterday from The Listener (June 23) where John Key justifies the mass migration of New Zealanders to Australia – his argument was that its quite rational for low skilled workers to leave NZ for better pay in Australia. Sure John Key, it is rational for the worker, but it is not rational for a government to endorse a system where citizens have to rely on the economy of another country in order to improve their chances in life. Key then proceeds to argue that the problem is that you can lose some people that you want to keep! So clearly Key has no concern about the numbers leaving for Australia it is dependent on whether or not they have the skills that Key sees as valuable.  So what do we have? We have a government that perpetuates inequality and that is committed to a “skills based cleansing” regime.

Returning to the education issue – if National’s education policies only benefit some students (let me make it clear the benefit is not to our least advantaged students), then under a National led government they are submitting those students to a skills based cleansing regime.  It’s no wonder, that National won’t support an increase in the minimum wage – that would incentivise our unskilled and low skilled workers to stay in NZ.

Misfits of Economics & State Assets

The selling off of state assets debate is probably about to go viral as the Mixed Ownership Model passed its second reading. The realisation has hit home that the government is in a position to pass bogus law notwithstanding public opinion on the matter. The issue appears to be black and white, either sell them (right) or keep them (left). However, many New Zealander’s hold unfounded views that the sale of state assets is good for the economy either because they do not understand what the sale of state assets will mean or because they have been persuaded by an over enthusiastic right winged peer that selling state assets is good for the economy because John Key said so. Let’s have a look at the model and its associated flaws.

The Mixed-Ownership Model (MOM)

This model is designed to ensure that the Government retains a 51% share of each of the assets it intends to sell. That means that 49% of each company is up for grabs. The model is intended to provide ‘mum and dad investors’ the opportunity to invest in highly profitable companies that they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to do. However, the most a single shareholder can purchase is 10% in each company. This 10% cap protects each company from obtaining another controlling interest in the company, and pre-emptively safeguards against overzealous foreign investment.

Problem with ‘mum and dad’ investors
Firstly, mum and dad investors (small business) are rapidly becoming the working poor, so the likelihood of them being able to purchase those shares is slim to none.

Secondly, even if mum and dad make an offer, one that is in their price range, the Government will not sell if it does not meet their baseline. This back out clause is reassuring for those who oppose asset sales, however, it is somewhat a game changer for those potential ‘mum and dad’ investors who voted in the Government on the basis that the opportunity to invest was within reach. Game changer might be a bit strong, but the marketing was then certainly misleading.

Problem with foreign investment
There is nothing in the MOM that prevents investors from on selling to foreign investors. Now, I am not opposed to foreign investment in NZ provided investment is regulated and does not adversely affect the public.

In the context of the MOM, this essentially means that wealthy New Zealanders that can afford to buy shares in the state assets can buy the shares at a bargain price (remembering that the government has already expressed that they will sell below market value). They can then sell those shares for a profit to the highest bidder. Usually this will be a foreign investor. Now, if all shareholders sold their 10% to foreign interests, it simply means that the government would retain 51%, and the remaining 49% could be owned by foreigners. The impact on society here, is that as the government is the majority shareholder, must protect the interests of its shareholders and not the interests of the public. In order to create profits it could result in higher energy prices, fewer jobs for New Zealanders, and profits that would otherwise have returned to the domestic economy by retaining the assets will now go offshore into the pockets of foreign investors.

The short term injection of capital from the initial sale of shares will be spent to fund non-profitable infrastructure projects. Nonsense.

Problem for the taxpayer
Why the austerity measures in this year’s budget? Simple answer – to fund the tax cuts for the rich. This is not an attack on those who receive the benefit of National’s tax cut policy, but to point out that NZ simply cannot afford them. This is obvious from the mere fact that the government has undertaken austerity measures, which means, no new spending. So in order to fund infrastructure projects on an austerity budget, National’s answer is not to retract the tax cut policy to spread the wealth and invest in infrastructure while retaining highly profitable assets. No. Instead these misfits of economics insist on retaining the unaffordable tax cuts, selling off profitable state assets and making them available for purchase by those who already receive the benefit of the tax cuts enabling them the privilege of investing in highly profitable companies below market value with the future option to sell for a profit.

The MOM will be passed at its third reading by a one seat majority. Whatever happened to democracy? The mandate relied on is a fallacy which I have discussed in a previous post. Additionally, Act and United Future both campaigned on a deliberation with the public in respect of the MOM, so the bare majority that National and right wing commentators are calling a mandate is flawed.

National Party say less debt and more investment through the MOM. This is misleading. Whilst the government may not be borrowing more, the sale of state assets is not going to reduce debt in New Zealand and will instead cost the government more than its willing to publicly admit.

UPDATE: 
Government plans to spend up to $400m more on asset sales
The time has come for the National Government to be up front about the cost of providing a so-called ‘loyalty bonus’ to purchasers of shares in its asset sales programme, Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said today.

On Q+A this morning, Tony Ryall joined John Key in expressing support for a loyalty scheme, such as the 1 for 15 bonus share that was offered to retail shareholders in Queensland Rail National who held their shares for two years, but would not offer any information on how much it would cost.

On a $6 billion sales programme, a 1 for 15 share bonus would cost the Government up to $400m. This would be on top of the $120m that the Government has indicated it expects to spend on middleman such as investment bankers and advertising companies, and the $100m annual increase to the Government’s deficit due to foregone profits.

“It is ludicrous that the Government is just a couple of months away from selling the first of our energy companies yet it still won’t tell the public how much it would cost”, said Dr Norman.

“Either they are trying to hide the truth from New Zealanders or, just as worryingly, they don’t know themselves…it is becoming clear that there are huge undisclosed costs that further undercut the economic case for asset sales…a loyalty scheme could cost as much as $400m, on top of sales costs that the Government conservatively estimates at $120m. That’s half a billion dollars spent on selling assets that Kiwis want to keep!…Additionally, Budget 2012 shows the net loss of profits cutting a $100m a year hole in the Government’s books. The plain truth is that asset sales don’t make sense for New Zealand. That’s why the vast majority of New Zealanders want the Government to drop this ideologically-driven policy,” said Dr Norman

This is how wars start…

“IF MY CHILDREN GO HUNGRY, YOUR CHILDREN WILL SHED BLOOD”
 At first glance, the observer is probably horrified at the words of the miners in the image above. I was, my initial reaction was since when should children become the objects of the working class hatred of the ruling class? But then I gave it some more consideration.
Look a little more closely at the message. The miners are so concerned that their children will be starved through the greed of the ruling class, that in order to get a response from those in control, they have to send a strong message. It is the wrong message, but nonetheless one likely to harness the attention of the ruling class in Spain. It is wrong because the children of the ruling class should not be held responsible or victimised for the decisions of their parents. But on the other hand, the world sits by silently while the ruling class subject the children of working class and poor families to a life of poverty which implicates starvation, crime, violence and  most likely mass retaliation. And this is how wars start.
So who starts wars? It is not those opposing the ruling class, it is the ruling class themselves.  And it is an apathetic global community that allows wars to be fought. Who has made the global society apathetic? The ruling class. I recently saw a cartoon which stated ” the rich tell the middle class what to think about the poor” – it certainly resonates. The ruling class need to be held accountable for the misery they cause, apathy only allows them to sustain the misery.
So in the words of Karl Marx “workers of the world unite” for positive change (unity cannot rule with resentment at its heart).

Performance pay for Police?

Should Police be subject to a performance pay scheme? No. There are a number of arguments supporting rewarding a person for excellence or for doing a great job and many try to translate the usual private practice of introducing KPI’s to measure performance and structure pay increases around the attainment of those KPI’s. The Public Sector is not the same as Private Sector with different rights and obligations attaching to individuals and state agents, and the government should recognise this.  
What is the rationale for introducing performance pay? The goddam surplus. Is the proposed system to reward Police for doing a good job? No, it’s a system designed to pay Police as little as possible with minimum increases in their pay as they move up the ranks. This largely affects new recruits and frontline staff. Moreover,performance pay systems for Police were tried and failed. No kidding. So why keep flogging a dead horse?
POLICE PAY
Duringtraining, police officer recruits earn $35,417 a year (total package $39,321,which includes benefits such as compulsory superannuation). New graduates starton $51,815 a year (total package $58,004, which includes benefits such as superannuationand payment for passing their Physical Competency Test). With two years’service and on completion of their probationary period, police officers earn onaverage $70,674. After five years, this increases to an average of $76,141.

What are the targets that would be set for Police in order to meet their KPI’s and to receive a pay increase? The inherent nature of their role affects the rights of individuals.In comments I made to friends, I was accused of being a leftist advocate and inciting moral panic. But how much value do you place on your rights? I’m certainly not keen to see Police receive pay increases based on targets that couldpotentially impact on the right of the individual and in fact, can’t even beginto comprehend how those targets might be set. Also, there is no private sector role synonymous with Policing, so no relevant transferable model from which to structure a Police performance system. Additionally, introducing performance measures given the unpredictability of Policing and the multiple functions of their role would make it extremely difficult for Police to meet the targets, since much of what they do or do not achieve would be out of their control – their duty to the public and their professional obligations to the service are often in conflict. The only measures that could be put in place would be around the standard of work within the Office, yet the part of a Police Officers role that is most important is the work they do in the community, this is largely autonomous work with a great deal of discretion in order to protect the rights of individuals. How is that to be measured?
I’m not here condoning all Police action, since clearly there have been a number of instances where their conduct has been questionable, but I do not believe that a performance pay system is good for the Police or for the public.

Shearer’s standout performance? not really.

http://tumeke.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/final-backbenches-in-auckland-review.html

In response to the above view posted in Tumeke!, here is my opinion as to who performed well and who had an epic public failure.
Russell Norman was the only one to provide an intellectual response to the questions asked, remained composed and had a likeable presence, therefore, he was the winner on the night. Tumeke! reviewed him as performing only third best, but there is an apparent Labour bias in the analysis. Arguably, I could be said to have a Green party bias given my posts of late, however, my bias is not with any particular party, but it clearly and unambiguously leans towards  the left.
Winston Peters at second on the basis that he pulled Nikki Kaye and David Shearer into line for having nothing useful to say, his usual humour (whether your laughing with him or at him) shone through and he had the balls to say what others would not – that the transport infrastructure is going to cost a crap load more than any party wishes to admit.
Shearer at third, but  marginally and Kaye the epic public failure. The difference between Kaye and Shearer – Kaye allowed her frustration to cloud her ability to provide reasoned answers, any answers she did give or tried to give were clearly manufactured by the National Party political spin team, which hampered her ability to engage with what was being asked, whilst Shearer was surprisingly cocky considering his lack of new ideas and inability or in fact unwillingness to answer a question posed by Kaye as to whether Labour would back a rail from from Auckland airport into the city.
Following Backbenches on Dateline last night a piece on the Greek crisis helped me draw some comparisons to NZ. The Greeks are tending toward more radical parties on both the left and the right as the major parties battle it out for centre stage and fail to actually represent those who voted them in, essentially those empowering them. NZ is no different.
Labour are in no better position this morning than they were yesterday morning because of Shearer’s supposed standout performance. Labours idea of good policy appears to be to disagree with everything that National says, and when the mind is blank borrow policies form smaller parties, slightly tweak it and claim it as your own. Labour will only get through the election next time round with new, creative robust policy that represents the people who they want to vote for them. Put your left foot in Labour, before its amputated.

Child poverty – sad face

Why don’t the government ask the Public for assistance to carry out the Mana Party tagline ‘feed our kids’? Or perhaps given our ineffective government at the moment, we the public should take action to feed our hungry children.
NZ’s population is about 4.2 million. If every wage earner, including beneficiaries and pensioners contributed at least $1 (non-taxable) from their income each week, then the Public could raise at least $2 million a week (about $104 mil a year) which could provide breakfast and lunch for all kids through state/integrated schools. And probably extras like clothing and shoes on a needs basis.
Just an idea. We shouldn’t just sit by while the government allows around 270,000 kids to starve.

The education tail

Interesting point made by ex-Labour President on Q&A this morning. Every education system fails certain pupils which they call ‘the tail’ of that system. However, to remedy the problem it is expensive and requires very small class sizes of about 4-6 pupils.
Whats Nationals answer? Increase class sizes and reduce teacher numbers. Who pays? The children whom the policy is supposed to support. Yet again it is the vulnerable that suffer while the privileged remain unaffected. National’s education economic policy will fail our children – it is (metaphorically) political pedophilia. Grooming parents in their first term through unsustainable tax cuts then fiddling with education in a way that victimises children especially those who are already disadvantaged under current schemes. Unreal.

Maori have more rights? Yeah right.

Myth 1 – Maori are entitled to more funding for tertiary education simply by virtue of them being Maori.
Answer: Bollocks. Maori scholarships are distributed through private iwi trusts and are NOT Crown grants. They are no different from a family trust, or any other scholarship program. Settlor’s of trusts have the right to decide who the beneficiaries will be. There are many scholarships available for diverse purposes and they all have a specific criteria for eligibility.
Myth 2 – Maori quota at University is discriminatory and enables Maori into certain programs over others simply by virtue of being Maori.
Answer: Not having the quota is discriminatory. The quota was first introduced as a means of remedy for the failing of the education system on Maori and subsequently to introduce diversity into university programmes where Maori were less likely to enrol because of the unequal opportunities derived from poor recognition of Maori educational needs. Regardless of ignorant attitudes that suggest Maori are at the bottom of the heap by choice, the ‘quota’ will only change when it is realised that a Euro centric educational system does NOT meet the needs of Maori students. The Kurakaupapa schools set up are evidence that Maori achieve better where they can freely express their views and understanding within the context of their own cultural environment. This is the baseline on which Maori and Pakeha could have an equal starting point – where Maori are educated in a way that is meaningful to Maori. Once there is this equal baseline, then the decision to remove the quota could be considered. But New Zealand – we are a long way off.
Why are New Zealander’s afraid of empowering Maori?
Conservative attitudes suggest Maori are urbanised and therefore their culture is irrelevant in this day and age. Wake up. Maori were forced into urbanisation through shady land deals and confiscation. Maori were forced to assimilate by suppressing their cultural values and language. What effect did the colonisers think this would have on future generations of Maori? They didn’t think and therein lies the problem. This history, my conservative friends, is the reason Maori do not have an equal starting point, it is why Maori struggle to find their place in society and why Maori are disproportionately represented in all the areas of social concern. Now, whilst admittedly Maori may have different kinds of rights, such as rights derived from Treaty settlements, they most certainly do NOT have more rights.
Stop punishing Maori for seeking empowerment – understand that tikanga Maori is beneficial to all, the foundation of Maori lore is INCLUSIVE! Maori are not even asking for all New Zealanders to strictly adhere to principles of Tikanga, the way Maori were forced into the Westminster system of law and governance, they are asking that tikanga for them be formally recognised and respected in relation to matters that affect their tikanga because that is what was agreed by those who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Left – Green politics makes sense

Gone are the days where the policy defining the Greens was decriminalising/legalising marijuana. Just read a simple quote that sums up the reason why Russel Norman and Metiria Turei have made the Greens a viable voting choice:
This Budget is full of poor choices: borrowing for tax cuts for the wealthy, subsidising polluters, and unneeded roads while cutting support for students, reducing the number of teachers, and doing nothing for the environment.” (Russel Norman, MP)
Green politics should resonate with all New Zealander’s as it represents the interests of all people – protecting the environment and the vulnerable, promoting equality and democracy and ensuring that economic policy is compliant with all these matters. Ignore Don Brash’s ‘one rule for all’ its a logical fallacy – you cannot have a ‘one rule for all’ without creating inequality because not everyone has the same starting point. The vulnerable require more assistance to bring them up to an equal starting point. That is why it surprises me that the Maori Party took to National when it’s fundamental values are more closely aligned to the Greens. Tikanga Maori is inherently green politics – its about the people, the environment and the collective responsibility of the people in response to the environment. Its about reciprocity and balance and protecting the vulnerable. How then do the Maori Party see a conservative agenda fulfilling these values? Puzzling.
Mana sits even further left than the Greens and while many see it as a party for Maori and extreme politics its no further left than Act is right. Mana get unwarranted bad press  – the scaremongering of the media typecasting who the party stands for, FYI New Zealand, Mana stands for you all – it is indiscriminate politics. Yes it promotes policy that seeks to improve the opportunities for Maori, but when you look at the stats, it is predominantly Maori who feature in all the negative ratios. Don’t we want to fix this?.
You’d be correct if you thought that the kind of policy promoted by the Greens and Mana means to undermine the gap between the rich and the poor, but don’t buy into the conservative view that the left want the rich to subsidise the poor to the extent that they become the poor! Its an illogical and irrational fear fuelled by conservative idiots, creating class divisions to protect their own assets by exploiting the vulnerable. The Greens and Mana are probably the only 2 true left parties – and underlying all their policies is to stop the exploitation of the vulnerable for the benefit of the rich.
Its time for the Greens and Mana to really step up and show NZ why the left is worth voting for since Labour are failing miserably.