Red Alert

Archive for October, 2009

ACC Biker Protest

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

Just attended the protest by the Ulysses Motorcycle Club and friends at Parliament (photos to follow).   Biggest demonstration here for a while with at least 600 bikes and probably 1000 people.   Bikers are prepared to pay their fair share in terms of ACC, but increases of $500 a year are simply not fair.

Annette King spoke on behalf of Labour MPs present (myself, Charles Chauvel and Chris Hipkins) and made the point that National’s approach is fundamentally undermining the ACC scheme.  It was never designed as a user pays insurance scheme. If each category of person pays to meet the costs of accidents in their field then we can expect to see rugby players and clubs paying huge levies and the elderly and farmers as well.

It was great that the bikers I spoke to at the rally understand that they are only one of the groups under attack from National’s changes. I think National have badly miscalculated the strength of feeling here, and the fact that Kiwis understand that the only people who will win from a user pays, privatised ACC are lawyers and insurance companies. Watch out for a big protest from the biker community on November 17th.  It will be big.

Filed under: ACC

Saturday Sport- Action Dan

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

Daniel Vettori has made a lot of his ‘strategic advantages’.   He is all over our TV screens advertising glasses, sorry, eyewear. He runs like the man with the shortest hamstrings in the world, but manages to roll in off 6-8 paces and bamboozle the world’s best batsman. He swings a bat like he has the fear of god he will drop it, but is now among the greatest all rounders in the history of the game.

But has it all gone too far now?  The New Zealand cricket team is in danger of looking like one of those teams at primary school where there was one guy (I am thinking of you Brett McCormack) who was captain, opened the bowling, opened the batting and made sure he was under every skied shot.

Vettori is hugely talented, and has a remarkable cricket brain.  He has, literally, grown up as an international cricketer. He knows cricket, in all of its forms, better than almost anyone in New Zealand.  But, to state the obvious, taking on the roles of selector and part time coach will have to lead to burn-out.  I actually like the idea of a captain on the field who is fully in charge. One of the sad things about a sport like American Football is the way everything is scripted by coaches.  But there is a limit.

New Zealand cricket is in an interesting place.  We are not in the glory days of the 80s, but equally we are not throwing players like Robert Kennedy or Kerry Walmsley to the lions.  There is a core of experience and  some good young players coming through, watch out for Kane Williamson this year. What is needed now in my view is some patience, and a structure built around Dan and the boys that takes some pressure off them. Fundamentally this means a coach (or coaching staff) who Dan and the senior players respect, and strong management. It was clear Andy Moles was not providing that, and I am not sure about Dave Currie either. Clearly John Wright should figure in thefuture, but he will not be the only answer. Perhaps Rixon on a short term contract until someone like Mike Hesson from Otago is ready.

Whatever the case, we have a summer with both Pakistan and the Aussies to deal with, and Dan will be mighty tired by the end of it. Especially if he insists on rolling the pitch every morning.

Filed under: sport

Parliamentary service leading militant employers

Posted by on October 31st, 2009


It is bad enough that the government has been  encouraging private sector employers (Telecom, Open Country Cheese, NZ Bus) to be militant but now we see not just a government agency but the Parliamentary Service itself is trying to claw conditions back from some of the lowest paid workers in the building. And threatening to lock them out for minor stopwork action.  Like Talleys doing the negotiating.

Grant Robertson, Carol Beaumont and I joined their protest.

Update Darien and Chippie were there too.

The standard on pay the bill english’s changing story on trust

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

They call it Bill’s pants are on fire.

Hands up for learning

Posted by on October 30th, 2009


Like several Labour MPs inclding Phil I went to a school today to celebrate World Teachers Day by putting our hands up for learning. I was at Pukeatua School in Wainuiomata.

Good to have a special opportunity to tell teachers that we value them.

I am finding that more and more parents are making it clear to me their view that their local school does a good job and that they get good quality reports on their kids progress.

More on this over the next few days.

15809 voices silenced

Posted by on October 30th, 2009

Today, the report of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on the petition of Sue Moroney and 15808 others was published.  The petition, tabled just a month ago, requested that the House of Representatives “call on the National Government to reverse its decision to scrap pay equity investigations for school support staff and social workers, implement the findings of previously completed pay and employment equity reviews, and develop a strategy to eliminate the gender pay gap in New Zealand.”

The majority of the committee (ie National members) say they “have no matters to bring to the attention of the House”.

How can the government possibly know this without bothering to hear from any of the petitioners?

Labour members on the Committee say in the report that the 15,808 petitioners should have been given the opportunity for the matters raised in the petition to be examined by the select committee in more detail. At the very least the select committee should have heard from Sue Moroney and the Government departments involved before deciding not to call for public submissions.

As a member of the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee, I was perturbed by the cavalier way in which National responded to this petition.  They don’t agree with it – we know that – but I would have thought that such a large petition would be considered for more than a nano-second by this government.

This is the way the world’s changing #3

Posted by on October 30th, 2009

For those of you who scoff at the role of social media such as twitter and facebook  in our lives and question how it’s transforming mainstream media generally, have a look at this. The Media140 Sydney event is an international collaboration and discussion which asks “What is the future of journalism in the Social Media Age?” 

Direct engagement between people and those making the news. Red Alert is a clear example of this.

This is important stuff, and it heartens me that so many in the mainstream media (in Australia) are wanting to discuss it. Is that discussion happening here?

South D’s got talent (and you can see it)

Posted by on October 30th, 2009

Here I am being parochial again. And trying to lighten things up a bit. After all, we shouldn’t always focus on what’s wrong. There’s lots to celebrate about our country and our communities. And South D (South Dunedin) is one such community.

A few week’s ago I raved about an event I helped organise called South Dunedin’s Got Talent. Well tonight, Dunedin’s very own Channel 9 TV station has a programme dedicated to that event. It starts at 8.30pm. Here’s the promo.

And for all you out-of-towners, it can be viewed online later. A highlight is the hip hop song South D’s got talent, by Joel Taniora, who wrote it especially for the event. He came second.

Go on, watch it. It might make you laugh, but it also might make you feel good for a minute about the wealth of talent there is out there. In our communities.

First Bob Jones now Prebble talking up Labour

Posted by on October 30th, 2009

I’ve previously linked to a Bob Jones article picking a Labour win in 2011.

Here’s a link to the Prebble piece at Gauntlet.  He notes that Labour got more votes than National in 1978 after a massive defeat in 1975, he says inter alia:

Back in the present, Phil Goff is a much more impressive figure than Bill Rowling was. He is smarter for a start, and is a much more experienced politician going into an election, having 15 years prior experience as a successful minister, compared to Rowling’s three years and John Key’s single year. Goff has fought far more elections than either man. Experience counts.

Take the Mt Albert by-election which is the only head to head comparison we have of Phil Goff versus John Key. Labour’s polling two months out only gave Labour only a very slight lead.

Goff and Key then took the major decisions that turned a possible National win into a Labour landslide. Both Leaders selected their candidates. Phil Goff picked David Shearer who did not put a foot wrong. John Key picked Melissa Lee who was the wrong candidate even before she opened her month and proved it. Very few Koreans live in Mount Albert.

Both men had a big say in who organised the campaign. Goff relied on Labour’s hardened professionals who run a textbook campaign. John Key made the bizarre choice of a cabinet minister, Jonathon Coleman, as National’s campaign manager.

Some claim by-elections are a more reliable guide than polling. The by-election shows how soft National’s support is and how in a general election a 5.85% % two-party swing is enitrely possible. It raises serious questions about John Key’s leadership in a campaign.

If John Key was more experienced, National would not have contested the Mt Albert by-election. National under Muldoon did not contest Sydenham when Norman Kirk died, thus depriving Labour of a contested victory.

We could not believe it when the Nats decided to contest Mt Albert – most of us thought it was going to be a Green v Labour race.

After appointing Michael Cullen to a string of boards it then becomes hard to argue he was a disastrous financial manager. Similarly, supporting Helen Clark for work at the UN lends credibility to Labour. Credibility, the feeling that a party can be trusted to be in charge of the country, is political gold, and is what elections are won with.

Subsequently, Labour won twelve new seats. No party that had just lost government has ever gained a dozen new MPs. They mostly come from Helen Clark’s office where are they trained to be professional career politicians who will do what it takes to win. Their youth and enthusiasm is revitalising the party.

Well they don’t mostly come from Helen’s office but they sure have hit the ground running. They are very very good and over time we will see the results of that.

Hide’s corporatisation shocker

Posted by on October 29th, 2009

I’ve been saying for a while the Government’s agenda for Auckland is to corporatise our democracy and privatise our assets.  In 24 hours they have delivered on both.

Yesterday we had Rodney Hide announcing plans to loosen up the controls on privatisation of water services just two months after he and his National cronies denied any plans to privatise when they voted down my private member’s bill to protect Auckland’s assets.

And now I hear from concerned senior staff at the Auckland Transition Agency of the agency’s extreme corporatisation agenda for the super city. The plan, due to be announced on Monday after agency chair Mark Ford briefs mayors today, is to parcel almost all the functions of the new city into commercially-run ‘council controlled organisations’ (CCOs). The elected mayor and councillors will presumably turn up to work and eat their lunch. There will be nothing else for them to do.  Why would good people bother standing for office under this model?

Up to eight CCOs with their own boards and CEOs will run all the main city services including transport, water, stadiums, land development, and economic development. They are even planning to corporatise libraries and community houses.  A rump Auckland Council CEO will be left to administer things like human resources, public relations, IT and finance.

To make it even more difficult for elected representatives to exercise any kind of accountability, these CCOs will all report to a Council-owned holding company with its own CEO and board.

So you are a ratepayer. You get mad that the trains aren’t running on time. Or the footpath is not being maintained. You get on the phone to your local councillor. What is the councillor going to do? Talk to the Mayor? Talk to the Council CEO? Ask him or her to talk to the holding company CEO, and in turn ask him or her to talk to the CEO of the council controlled organisation, who in turn will probably have to talk to the contractor?

Get ready to spend a lot of time waiting on the end of a phone to the customer services call centre.

This Government is planning to run our country’s biggest city like a group of companies. But Auckland is not a private firm. It is a collection of communities.

A case can be made for the CCO model for certain activities where you might want to insulate from direct political control. But not the whole operation of our city. It is corporatisation gone mad.

Cactus Kate on why bill should go

Posted by on October 29th, 2009

Again I’m not sure my colleagues will like linking to this but Kate’s line on English is pretty hard to disagree with.

Obviously Kate and I differ on where to afterwards but there must be someone in that caucus who believes in something and is prepared to follow through.

Then again maybe it is better to just keep him there. The replacement might pick up too many of the prickly woman’s policy ideas.

Privatisation of ACC- A reminder from 2005

Posted by on October 29th, 2009

The ” oh go on, twist my arm’ approach from National on beginning the privatising of ACC as part of its agreement with ACT gave me pause to remember this episode from the 2005 election campaign.

A memo written by the head of the Insurance Council said the following in describing National’s 2005 policy.

“The details of the policy have been deliberately kept out of the announcement after consultation with the Insurance Council.”

He went on to say that National’s announcement would be

very positive for the industry, particularly the scope of the competition across all accounts”.

This has always been where National wants to go with ACC. This approach is fundamentally against the spirit of the ACC scheme. As Sir Owen Woodhouse has said the involvement of private insurers driven by a profit motive will fundementally undermine the scheme.

Filed under: ACC

This is the way the world’s changing #2

Posted by on October 29th, 2009

Shifting the mood away from the unpleasantness of constant urgency for little real purpose and the futility and frustration of a government that’s changing laws that benefit a few and not the many.

Let’s contemplate for a minute  how the world is truly changing and the implications for the many. In a good way. Mostly. I talked about this a week or so ago.

A couple of things to read. If you dare. And apologies to those who’s heads hurt reading this stuff. It’s important and actually liberating.

First:  On the politics, the ethics and the etiquette of Twitter. An interesting read because it shows how Twitter has fast gained traction in the media world, that it poses particular dilemmas and conundrums for journalists and how much it exists in real time. I recommend.

Second:  Today, Canonical, a European company committed to free software, releases Ubuntu 9.10 (codenamed “Karmic Koala”)

Ubuntu is the leading desktop Linux distribution. They put out a new release every 6 months, generally without hoopla. You might have noticed in the last week, there’s been a lot of hoopla about a few other software releases (ie. big advertising campaigns).

Why is this important? The speed of progress demonstrated by Ubuntu really shows the power of open source. A single entity, even one as big as Microsoft or Google, really struggles to keep up with the speed of development across various open source applications. What Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) does is simply test, bundle and release a collection of desktop and server software.

Why am I telling you this? Because open source is integral to governments (and parliaments) all over the world being effective in our present and our future.

I’ve begun a conversation about this and it must continue. Not sure where our government is at with it. There’s no doubt it’s a seamless fit with Labour values. Ultimately it’s about co-operation. Borderless and with good will.

Bill English and that TV ad

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

This piece from Campbell Live says it all really.

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

The Hon Rodney Hide announced his package of changes to the Local Government Act today. The self-styled Minister of Ratepayers must have been disappointed. His long trumpeted and nutty agenda for local government has been well and truly sidelined.

But you have to hand it to Hide. He’s always entertaining. On the final page of his background briefing, and unmentioned in the press release was a sting in the tail that appears to have come out of nowhere – it certainly wasn’t mentioned in Hide’s cabinet paper back in April.

The Government plans to loosen up the restrictions on the privatisation of municipal water supply. They intend to more than double the maximum time period councils can contract with private sector water companies, from 15 to 35 years. They want to lift the prohibition on private companies owning water infrastructure during the contract period. And they want to repeal the requirement for councils to retain control over the management of water services that have been contracted out.

It is all designed to encourage contracting out, and public-private partnerships. It is the privatisation of our water supply. Something Hide and the National Party denied was on their agenda as recently as August 19 when they voted down my private member’s bill to protect Auckland’s assets from privatisation under the super city.

Remember, 89% of Aucklanders said they were opposed to any privatisation of our water supply.

Meanwhile Hide’s ambition to cap rates, impose compulsory referenda on councils for all significant decisions, and get rid of the requirement on councils to consult communities on things like privatisation, all appear to have been dropped. And given the overwhelmingly negative public reaction since his agenda was floated back in April I am not surprised.

All that is left is a watered down and muddled version of his core services idea that leaves more questions unanswered than answered:

Encourage councils to focus on core services by amending section 12 of the Local Government Act (the power of general competence) to require councils to have particular regard to the importance of:

  • infrastructural services
  • solid waste services
  • hazard and disaster management
  • libraries, recreation, culture and heritage services
  • the performance of regulatory responsibilities and statutory duties.

Well, what about public transport? Water? Pensioner housing? Innovative social programmes like COMET in Manukau City that Hide was so impressed by? Cleaning up beaches and streams? Economic development like Waitakere’s New Lynn project? The Tamaki Transformation? The Auckland waterfront?

English Outed

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

The A-G’s report into Bill English confirms that he does have a pecuiary interest in the house he sought to rent to the taxpayer for $47k.p.a. Here is the relevant quote: ‘the Crown was renting a property for Mr English from a trust in which he had an interest, and the arrangement was explicitly based on a view that he did not have an interest.’

That means he should never have received the money.

It means his ‘voluntary’ return of the money is no longer voluntary.

It means that the legal construct that said he (somehow) did not have an interest came nowhere near fooling the A-G. She applied common sense instead of legal shading. Bill English is a common sense fellow. He would have known his construct was self serving.

Further it now makes Bill English’s claim that he changed his trust deed ‘for personal and family reasons’, well, incredible. That is, a deceit. The truth, contained in both the A-G’s report and written questions is that Bill English’s family trust was first discussed in officialdom in Nov 08 and by about Dec 3 Bill had a clear idea what he needed to do. He changed the deed in Jan, signed a declaration that he had no pecuniary interest on Feb 1 and the cash flowed until the Dom asked questions months later when expenses were made public for the first time.

So this was a construct.

But I still haven’t got to the bottom of one aspect: given that no Minister has ever before sought to rent their house to the taxpayer at above backbench rates and conditions, new rules needed to be created to allow it. Who did the creating? My only clue is an email from officialdom that says the ‘ninth floor’ did. Mr Key has so far not answered that question. Best I try again.

News vs spin at TVNZ

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

Pleased to see the two G-men, Guyon and Garner, both reported tonight on the Plain English promo. Espiner is fronting one of the programmes in the series. He and the News department were either not alerted or ignored in the decision to plug the whole series with 135 free adverts for Bill English. His report tonight basically branded TVNZ as being naive for not understanding that promoting the Minister of Finance so voraciously is “political” even if not intended. Good to see a journo prepared to focus in-house even if it may cause conniptions for the internal PR machine which maintains it’s there is nothing untoward with the shameless promotion of a Govt Minister.  What next? Education specials with Anne Tolley? ACC cuts explained by Nick Smith? Your Health with the Beautiful  Tony?

Garner took a similar line on Campbell live. No doubt Tv3 will be enjoying its state rival being bagged by its many including its own.

Tomorrow night sees the launch of the Tivo personal digital recorder by TVNZ with a big guest list. Not sure anyone from Dipton attending.

PMs Literary Awards

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

Just back from the PMs Literary Awards held at Premier House. Congratulations to C.K. Stead, Brian Turner and Ranginui Walker for winning this year. The awards were created by former PM Helen Clark and Creative NZ to acknowledge established writers who have made a sustained contribution to our literary scene. The prize money is, for once in literary awards, very good, and the winners are always incredibly grateful.

I have great admiration for all the writers, but I have a particular affection for Brian Turner. Apart from a mutual love of cricket and Central Otago landscape I have always admired Brian’s  style of writing that evokes the land and the natural world with an economy of language and a huge depth of feeling.

So, here is one of his poems I like a lot. This one is for Clare.

Otago Peninsula

There, beneath a portcullis of rain
lie the bones of time-rent men and women.

They lie awash in the slush
that saddened and sometimes defeated them.

Scabby hedges cling to the slopes
of hills yoked by sky.

Here the whole range of earth’s colours
sprawl on paddock, stone wall and crumpled sea.

Nothing is left untouched by sparse sunlight,
slanting rain, fists of wind punching

the ribs of the land. Here, under tough grasses
and the crust of sheep and cattle tracks

crumble the fondest dreams and prophecies.
No one came who stayed to conquer, no one came

who was not beaten down
or turned away for another time.

Finlayson on mealbreaks

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

Wilkinson wasn’t in the House today so Finlayson answered. I don’t know what the Chief Justice saw in him. He is [deleted after careful consideration – Clare]

He totally misrepresented the current legislation. Failed to mention that the air traffic excuse for this shocking bill was solved using the amendments passed under Labour last year.

Here is what he said, and what it means I think is that it is the intention of the government to force the bill through before Christmas with no Select Committee:

11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour-Hutt South) to the Minister of Labour: What has happened since compulsory rest and meal breaks for employees came into effect this year, which has led to her proposing changes to that legislation?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Labour): From complaints received by the Minister it has become clear, if it was not already, that not everyone has a cup of tea at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and stops for lunch precisely at 1 p.m., except possibly Parliament when it is in urgency and, on most occasions, the courts. The changes are aimed at ensuring flexibility in the workplace by allowing employers and employees to time their breaks in a way that does not disrupt their work. The Government does not believe it should restrict the rights of employees to ask their employer if they can skip afternoon tea and go home a little earlier than usual in order to pick up their children from sports practice.


Paula Benefit and The Spirit Level

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

Good to see Green colleagues giving The Spirit Level an extended promo in Question Time today.  It is a fine book much discussed already on Red Alert here and here and here.

The Greens repeatedly questioned Social Development Minister Paula Bennett about the book’s argument that the more unequal a society is, the worse it performs, and the strong correlation between income inequality and numerous social ills including teen pregnancy, obesity, mental illness, violence and poor educational achievement. And whether National Government policies like tax cuts for the rich, and the canning of the training incentive allowance, would increase or decrease inequality.

It is not surprising Bennett hadn’t read the book. But she appeared not to even understand the concept of a link between inequality and social problems.  Hopeless.  Pretty remarkable for a Minister of Social Development.