Red Alert

Archive for April, 2010

Pita Sharples sells wharekura out

Posted by on April 30th, 2010

I’ve worked with Pita Sharples for 33 years. I’ve admired his work in Maori Education while  disagreeing with his separatist funding and control views.

I can not however understand how can sleep at night after agreeing to the massive funding cuts for wharekura outlined below.

Wharekura can sometimes cause problems in communities. There is an issue with size, quality, subject choice and viability. They can undermine otherwise viable schools. Approval should not be automatic. Pita’s approach seems to be that he wants them wherever a small group of parents do – notwithstanding their educational viability.

But worse he has sold his soul to Chopper Tolley and agreed to a funding formula which discriminates negatively on the basis of using Maori language when all the evidence is that they need more. And under Labour they got that.

The table below shows what they would have got under Labour. And if you take out the Maori Language factor funding  you can see what a school with pakeha kids or Maori kids taught in English would get.

Wharekura Funding

School Base Funding Per Pupil Funding Decile Funding Maori Language TOTAL TOTAL under Tolley

Yr 1-6:  49.5

Yr 7-8:  16.5

Yr 9-10:  12

TOTAL:  78

Decile 1

$134,292.78 $180,428.29 $59,444.58 $77,416.56 $451,582.21 $206,000

Yr 1-6: 27

Yr 7-8:  9

Yr 9-10: 9

TOTAL:  45

Decile 2

$134,292.78 $35,069.67 $20,647.80 $44,663.40 $234,673.65 $140,000
Te Tonga o Hokianga

Yr 1-6: 45

Yr 7-8:  15

Yr 9-10: 12

Yr 11:  12


Decile 2

$134,292.78 $67,967.46 $38,542.56 $83,371.68 $324,174.48 $218,000
Te Wairoa

Yr 1-6: 38.25

Yr 7-8:  12.75

Yr 9-10:  12

Yr 11-12:  3

Total 66

Decile 1(B)

$134,292.78 $52,061.54 $50,299.26 $65,506.32 $302,159.90 $182,000
Nga Uri a Maui

Yr 1-6: 72

Yr 7-8: 24

Yr 9-10: 6

Yr 11-12: 1

Total 103

Decile 1(C)

$134,292.78 $77,948.94 $68,167.46 $102,229.56 $382,638.74 $256,000
Kawakawa Mai Tahiti

Yr 1-6: 51

Yr 7-8: 17

Yr 9-10: 19

Yr 11-13: 15

Total 93

Decile 1

$134,292.78 $83,445.69 $70876.23 $92,304.36 $380,919.06 $236,000

Yr 1-6: 15.75

Yr 7-8: 5.25

Yr 9-10: 7

Yr 11-13: 6

Total 34

Decile 1

$134,292.78 $28,215.05 $2,591.74 $33,745.68 $198,845.25 $118,000


  • ¾ of years 1-8 in years 1-6, and ¼ in years 7-8
  • Mid-point of decile range used where not otherwise stated
  • 80-100% Maori language immersion

#OpenLabourNZ: What you are saying so far

Posted by on April 30th, 2010

Labour’s first attempt to develop open policy in an online environment is called #OpenLabourNZ. Our  first policy is on open and transparent government. Here’s a summary of the ideas and views coming through so far:

Important not to look like party is “out of ideas”
Who will own ideas generated by this?
How will commitment to act on the ideas generated be ensured?

Party values
Will you be led more by public or party opinion?
What will happen when/if party opinion is out of line with public opinion? Is there room for flexibility?
Ensure core values of the party are retained
Make a commitment to acting on the ideas that are generated by the public, in keeping with party values

Moderation/ Technical elements
Format of submissions
Promotions of this process outside Red Alert and blogs
Possibility of creating a Wiki
Ensuring you engage those who don’t already use Twitter or social networking sites

Civil Education
This is a new opportunity for immediacy and directness, sparking interest in parliamentary processes
Engaging those who may feel disconnected from “the system” – particularly younger generations

When is water privatisation not water privatisation?

Posted by on April 30th, 2010

Answer: When the government says it’s not.

Water privatisation is on the agenda with the tabling in the House yesterday of Rodney Hide’s local government amendment bill.

The bill will allow private companies to own water infrastructure (dams, pipelines, treatment plans, you name it) for up to 35 years.  Although curiously the bill’s explanatory notes and the Government’s press statement explains this is not privatisation. Yeah right!

If 35 years isn’t privatisation, how long would a dam have to be in private ownership before the Government conceded it was privatisation? 50? 100? Help me out here.

The provisions are designed to encourage public private partnerships (PPPs) which internationally have become the favoured mechanism for privatisation of municipal water in recent years.  And in particular BOOT schemes (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer). The Local Government Act 2002 limits contracting out of water services to a period of 15 years and prohibits private ownership of municipal water infrastructure – both those will go under Hide’s bill.

Hide says the current provisions in the Local Government Act prohibiting the sale of Council water assets still apply. They would continue to apply to existing assets but not to new ones built under the new regime.

Alongside the desire to open up municipal water to private control, is another provision which would repeal the current obligation of councils to consult the public before contracting out public services to the private sector.

The Prime Minister stands up in Parliament and says “there is no privatisation agenda” as he did this week. But his Government is removing the democratic safeguards against privatisation of local government assets.  The other example currently before the House is the third super city bill’s repeal of the requirement for a majority approval in a binding referendum before the Ports of Auckland can be sold.

Put the privatisation and contracting out agenda alongside Key’s corporatisation of Auckland local government by handing over 75% of the city’s operations and assets to hand picked commercial boards, and it is pretty easy to see what National-ACT are doing  to local government.

The bill contains a number of other elements we’ll be considering closely in the coming days: reducing councils’ obligations to consult the community, some requirement to focus on so-called core services (although most of Hide’s nutty core services and mandatory referenda ideas did not get through Cabinet), financial transparency and pre-election reporting.  The bill could get its first reading as early as Tuesday.

#OpenLabourNZ How it will work

Posted by on April 30th, 2010

Labour announced yesterday that we are trying something new. A new way of developing policy. Out in the open, and involving you.

We are developing a policy on open and transparent government. This is how you can participate.

Stage 1. Participate in the first round of discussion

This is a brainstorming phase. We want to hear all your ideas, suggestions, and the issues you think are important regards open and transparent government. At this stage any contribution is welcome and valid, no matter how left field. Blog posts, links to news articles and reports or research, commentary on what’s happening in other countries, your half thought through or fully structured thoughts, anything is welcome.

It would be great if you could use the OpenLabourNZ tag whenever you write about the issue. This will make it easier for us to find and aggregate your input.

To participate you can:

Stage 2. Participate in a public event

Labour will host a public event in about four/five weeks (date to be announced) which you can attend in person, or through remote access. We hope to stream it live and to have several prominent speakers on open, transparent government. This is an opportunity to take part in a live discussion on the main issues raised during the first round of discussions and to hear other people’s views.

Stage 3. Comment on the draft policy on the wiki

After the public event, a draft policy paper will be put together by an independent writer who will be tasked with drawing together all the major themes and issues raised during Stages 1 and 2. The draft paper will be placed on a wiki for editing by anyone who wants to participate, over a defined period. It will then be finalised, and presented to Labour as a major piece of input into our policy development process.

Please participate in good faith. If you have any questions, just post them on this  blog or email me directly.

The consequences of losing a bet at work

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

Purely out of concern for the health of the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Select Committee (Tau Henare), I bet him $20 I could lose 10kg faster than him.
Parekura overheard and thought he’d be in on the wager.
Mita Ririnui and Hone Harawira overheard Tau and I talking about the weigh-in, and thought that they could benefit from a bit of diet and exercise, and before you know it the whole event has grown legs with the Dom Post putting it on their front page, Te Karere, Te Kaea and Breakfast are all doing stories on it.
Close-Up has interviewed us all and will follow our progress each week for the eight weeks of the challenge.
Now I hear Simon Bridges, Paul Quinn and Shane Jones are all on board.
I can understand Simon and Paul needing to lose a few pounds, but Shane Jones? We all know he’s the epitome of physical perfection. An Adonis in his own mind. This has upped the ante – especially when he greeted me this morning with “Kia ora Twiggy.”
I thought I’d just cut down on food portions and go for a brisk walk a couple of times a week, now I’m hearing of nutritionalists and personal trainers being called into the mix. The others are obviously concerned.
We’re just waging $20 each, although one smart alec emailed a photo titled “The consequences of losing a bet at work” – some poor bugger obviously lost a bet at work, the consequence being he had to wear a Borat ‘man-kini’ for the day.This wouldn’t work for us. We have to wear a tie and jacket in the House.

Maori Party votes against workers rights

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

The Maori Party just voted with National and Act on gutting the meals and restbreaks legislation that Labour brought in in 2008. 

I don’t get it.   The Maori Party says it stands up for the vulnerable and the powerless.  They make fine speeches about it all the time.   During the debate on the get the sack in 90 days bill, Pita Sharples said :

 Our policy for workers is to support, uphold and extend their rights – particularly to make workplaces and work legislation more worker and whanau friendly,” said Co-leader Dr Pita Sharples.

Well, this bill actually takes away the rights of workers to a break at work, unless the employer agrees and even then, the break could be one minute long.   It makes the workplace less worker and whanau friendly, and it makes the workplace less safe.

The day after we remembered the 6000 New Zealand workers who have been killed or injured on the job, a bill that will ensure that health and safety is compromised has been supported by the Maori Party. 

This will particularly affect the vulnerable and the powerless – the non-unionised, small workplaces, the low-paid and the marginalised.

I’m confused, but I’m also disappointed.  When it comes to workers’ rights, I’m happy to have allies wherever we can find them in this parliament, but I’m left guessing about the Maori Party.

Dr Smith continues to defend the indefensible

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

Dr Smith may be good at obfuscating, but its not an admirable skill. This week he claimed the figures used by Phil Goff at question time to highlight the drastic reduction in (mainly) women accessing counselling following sexual crimes were incorrect. They were Dr Smith’s own figures, in answers to parliamentary questions. Phil rounded the historic monthly ACC approvals for October 2008 down from 312 to 300 and contrasted it to the patently unjustifiable 6 approvals in February 2010. Only to the extend of the rounding to 300 – which was to the advantage of the government! – were the figures ‘incorrect’, as Dr Smith stated.

Dr Smith should be criticised for this.  He should be held to account. He was repeatedly warned by all and sundry that his plan was patently wrong. Not just by us in Labour – but by numerous professional associations (the Psychologists, the Psychotherapists, the Social Workers), Rape Crisis and many individuals adversely affected by the change. His misrepesentation of the work by Massey University, which he purported to use to justify the changes, was such that they publicly stated their advice was not being implemented.

There can be no doubt the changes were wrong. There can be no doubt Dr Smith has responsibility. There can be no doubt that you don’t need a time and money wasting inquiry to conclude injustice and suffering has been caused. It is abundantly clear that neither Dr Smith nor ACC can justify the over 95% decrease in the number of people being approved for counselling – at a time when sexual crimes have increased.

The Minister’s stubborn refusal to restore the prior rules in the interim while this mess is sorted out sees these injustices multiply. The consequences are very real for the sometimes desperate people currently unable to get help.

Surely the proper thing for the Minister to do is to admit error and restore the prior rules, because the new ones are plainly unfair. Few people in this job like to say Ministers are pesonally responsible for tragic outcomes, but if hundreds if not thousands of sexually abused women are denied counselling, then it is likely that avoidable self harm by some will occur.

Dr Smith needs to admit his error and do the right thing NOW.  I’m surprised John Key has not already intervened.

A Gain for All Maori!

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

Parliament has just voted to raise the excise tax on tobacco with the hope to reduce consumption amongst New Zealanders. I for one think that credit should be given when its due!  This one goes to Tariana! Health and well-being is a matter of personal responsibility but I have witnessed first hand the impact of smoking amongst my whanau. There is alot of work to do and when statistics tell us that 5000 NZers die each year from smoking related illnesses urgent action is necessary. 46% of smokers are Maori a high percentage are women and far too many die as a result and that’s without second hand smoking taking its toll! This is the type of measure that will be felt throughout many communities – Let’s make sure that the future for Maori is a smoke-free one!

#OpenLabourNZ A new way of doing things

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

Labour is about to try something new. A new way of developing policy. Out in the open, and involving you.

Labour wants to start by developing a policy on open and transparent government. We want to do that in an open and transparent way.

Over the next couple of weeks there will be a series of posts on Red Alert on this.

  • The first post will outline the process and how you can participate.
  • The second will present some initial principles and ideas to generate discussion.

This is exciting and new and because it’s our first time, we might make some mistakes. We hope you’ll show goodwill and tolerance and above all, that you’ll have things to say.

Open and transparent government is about how politicians, the governing party and the public sector constructively interacts with citizens to be more democratic and effective.

Will you be writing Labour policy?
We want to be upfront with you from the beginning

Your input will contribute to Labour’s policy. The #openlabournz document will be taken as a key input for Labour to consider in developing its policy, noting the other drivers and that there will be changes possibly made between it and the final policy. However, please be assured that the final output will be of high quality, and that high quality suggestions are always taken very seriously in Labour Party policy development.

Labour is of course a political party and politics will dictate what the final policy looks like and how it is arrived at. Once the #openlabournz document is completed, we will keep you posted about where the policy is at, and where it ends up. Labour’s policy finalisation process is for Labour members and you’re welcome to participate in that next step through the usual route of joining the party.

Why are we doing this?
Red Alert was established as a tool using new technology to build a voice for Labour and to demonstrate that we are doing things differently and prepared to truly “engage” with the public in ways we haven’t before.

The debates on Red Alert are good. There is a definite need however for another mechanism which takes the discussion further on particular issues. A way of providing an open forum for discussion that can provide input into Labour policy. That’s authentic. That shows we are who we say we are.

#OpenLabourNZ is a way to do that. If the process works, we’ll do it again on other issues. You might have suggestions. So remember the hash tag #OpenLabourNZ. And watch this space for the next post.

Keeping kiwi jobs kiwi

Posted by on April 29th, 2010

Good on Tom Pullar-Strecker for ferreting this out in today’s DomPost, where he reports that Indian technology giants Tech Mahindra and Wipro are bidding for a huge information technology outsourcing contract at Telecom in competition with IBM and Hewlett-Packard, according to a report from Mumbai. There’s no doubt Telecom are looking at a potential very big outsourcing move which could take large numbers of Kiwi jobs offshore.

I just happened to have also been sent the article I think he based his story on which says that India’s top outsourcing vendors Tech Mahindra and Wipro, apart from multinational rivals IBM and HP, are currently in discussions with Telecom for a contract potentially worth up to $1 billion and plans to cut costs and improve profits by outsourcing non-core IT work.

All in line with information I’ve been given previously, which Telecom has been denying.

Two weeks ago Telecom announced it was axing 200 managers, mainly from Telecom Technology and Telecom shared services. It is my understanding that those jobs represent a workforce of between 1000 and 2000. There are a myriad of projects and other jobs within Telecom that will be affected.

Last week we saw Telstra Clear announces it will cut up to 170 call centre jobs in Christchurch and Paraparaumu to outsource them to the Philippines. Unrelated, but part of an ongoing and worrying trend.

Acrosss the ditch yesterday we saw Telstra announce it was axing 900 operations employees responsible for installing and maintaining the telco’s infrastructure networks, saying technology has made the roles redundant. 

Telecom is contemplating massive change. I think they should come clean  becasue there’s so many jobs at stake. I also think the government should pay attention. This is our telecommunications infrastructure.

Key Slippery on Childhood Education

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

The Nats were looking decidedly uncomfortable today about their plans for to cut funding for early childhood education in May’s budget.

Both TV1 and TV3 covered this story that the Government was hoping to bury in the budget day haze that will surround the taxation issue.

Remember, you heard it on Red Alert first, when I blogged on their plans for funding cuts to ECE last week.

Want to mine our parks? Put it to the vote

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

This afternoon I had a go at introducing my first member’s bill.  It’s pretty straight forward. 

At the moment the Minister of Conservation can remove land from Schedule 4 (which protects 13% of the most pristine parts of the country from mining) by pretty much making the decision and then Gazetting it. My bill removes that power, and instead requires approval from the House of Representatives before any land can be removed from Schedule 4.  Basically, it makes all of us accountable for the decision to mine, or not to mine.

It has another important consequence. It takes the power out of the hands of the Minister of Conservation, and for good reason. The Minister has utterly failed to act as an advocate for the Conservation estate thus far. I don’t think the fate of the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park should lie with her and her alone- let alone Gerry Brownlee as has been proposed.

A couple of people have asked me about the bill in comparison to Metiria Turei’s bill, which was drawn last week.  Metiria’s bill removes the ability to take land out of schedule 4 -full stop.  I hope it passes.  If however the Government votes it down,  I would like to hear them explain why then at the very least, all Member’s of Parliament should not have a right to vote on changes to schedule 4, why each of us should not be held to account on decisions that will have a significant impact on local communities, our environment, and our reputation. 

If they want to mine our parks, we should put it to the vote.

A thousand journos

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

As the knife is sharpened for second round cuts to TVNZ, including $5m off the news budget, the ABC’s managing director Mark Scott has given a speech how his organisation maintains a news operation of 1000 journalists, why that is important and why it continues to be funded.

Here’s a snapshot…In an Australian context, the demise of most of the long-time media barons and family ownership structures around media organisations has inevitably led commercial broadcasters to first reduce the priority given to, and then reduce investment in, serious news and current affairs.

The evidence is strongest in radio and in regional areas, but also in the major television networks.

If the product doesn’t deliver profits, commercial investors must first slash costs, then investment, then simply walk away. They carry no overarching commitment to journalism as a public good, as something inherently necessary in a society with responsible government and accountable public and private institutions. Their brief is to maximise the return to shareholders. That is their responsibility and our systems of corporate governance and accountability would not have it any other way.

But now, after years of commercial market cuts to investment in news and current affairs, we’re in a good position to appreciate the wisdom of a continuing public investment in the ABC’s news service.

Meanwhile, the TVNZ ‘Charter Gutting” Bill was due to complete its first reading today but the tobacco excise hike has delayed that.


Rubbing it in

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

On Friday at 5pm, the doors will close at the regional council, Environment Canterbury – ECan – for elected councillors.  You’d think they’d be allowed to exit with some dignity, perhaps shouted a drink to thank them for their work, whatever your views of them, prior to the Government-appointed Commissioners taking over on Monday.

But  no.  As they exit the building, 50 metres away, the National Party will be preparing to host, I kid not,  The Jenny Shipley lecture as a party fundraiser. And the topic for those faithfull shelling out their ten bucks?

“Canterbury Water – A Collaborative Approach.”   Chch Mayor Bob Parker, well-known for his collaborative approach to ECan, ” will provide some historical context to the debate on Canterbury water.”  Another collaborator, Nick Smith will present the Government’s view.   

What goes round, comes round.

Workers Memorial Day

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

workers_memorial_dayWorkers Memorial Day is the day where working people join together to mourn New Zealand workers and workers throughout the world who are injured, diseased or killed on the job.  In New Zealand one worker a week is killed on the job every week, and thousands more injured.

It’s ironic that parliament is currently debating a weakening of the right of workers to rest breaks, when evidence shows that without proper breaks, workers have a greater risk of accidents. 

At the same time, the government has been cutting workplace health and safety programmes and reducing entitlements to ACC.

So, today is indeed a day to mourn for the dead, but fight for the living!

New meaning for the term ‘snap debate’

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

On the way to the House for Question Time this afternoon I went past the media scrum in the foyer. Radio NZ’s political editor Brent Edwards was hobbling around on crutches. Brent took part in a celebrity debate last week with myself, Annette King, Lianne Dalziel and others. It was a fundraiser for the South Wellington Karate Club. During the debate Brent decided to show off some of his karate moves. During the second part of his debate speech he was hugging the podium pretty close. Now we know why – as he stretched back he snapped his achilles. Have to say I’m pretty impressed he made it through the rest of the debate without letting on. Amazing what a powerful thing pride can be… Brings whole new meaning to the term ‘snap debate’ though!

Australian telco cutting core network jobs

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

This is interesting. Australia’s biggest telco Telstra  has announced it will lose 900 operations employees saying technology has made the roles redundant.

Staff were called to meetings yesterday to be told of the potential cuts, which affects employees in the operations team, responsible for installing and maintaining the telco’s infrastructure networks.

It has the union puzzled who say that  customer service willbe affected by the cuts, equating to one in 16 of operational staff despite Telstra’s new chief executive, David Thodey, having a big drive on to improve customer service.

Wonder if those jobs will go offshore?

Pressure building on broadband

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

Big decision ahead for the government. Who will get the $1.5 billion for rolling out ultrafast broadband. As much as Steven Joyce wants everyone to think the decision won’t be made by him, but by outsourcing to Crown Fibre Holdings, it will be. And should be. He’s ultimately accountable. And so is John Key.

The outsourcing argument isn’t good enough. Ultrafast broadband for 75% of NZ households was the government’s biggest election pledge. It’s taken almost two years to turn their slogan into a deliverable. And they’re not there yet. By a long shot.

The Crown Fibre Holdings Company has been set up to make it work. They’ve got a mammoth task. NO doubt they are competent and taking things seriously. The decision will set the future of telecommunications in this country for the next decade or so.

Do they swing towards electricity lines companies rolling out fibre, or towards Telecom, our biggest telco, which is under serious pressure.

If they go with the former, then the shape of the electricity industry will change dramatically. It will mean convergence of networks. That’s a very interesting proposition. But it will make Telecom’s future questionable.

If they go with the latter it will require structural separation of Telecom. Which will also seriously impact on Telecom. Telcom has made some bad decisions, they have under-invested in our telecommunications infrastructure. They have a copper network that still has life in it, but will be surpassed.

Telecom is worthy of serious consideration for broadband. So are the electricity lines companies. But which is the right decision?  This is a very difficult decision for the government.

Why is Steven Joyce so silent on these issues. And why is the process so secret and drawn out? After all it is taxpayers money.

Student association abolition bill

Posted by on April 28th, 2010

Spent part of the morning hearing submissions on Roger Douglas’ bill.

Brief comment from Sir Roger – written not that coherant. coherent.

Then brilliant submission with high quality supporting material from NZUSA. Legal opinions on Bill of Rights issues and a PWC report which makes it clear that university fees will have to go up by much more than the student association fees mainly because of the large voluntary input in associations.

Good supporting submission from VUWSA – challenged by a couple of nats on committee but they ended up looking like they wished they had read the submission before they asked questions.

Dr Ian Murphy talked about the role of University Sport NZ and how it would be fatally wounded by the inevitable withdrawal of association funding. A significant proportion of our high performance sportspeople are students and international university games are part of their pathways.

This bill is a clear case of an old failed ideology coming up against facts and a pragmatic approach.

Unfortunately I think some of the committee members closed their minds before they entered the room.

Off to electorate engagement so Grant gets to listen to the right wing submissions.

Len Brown a Superstar!

Posted by on April 28th, 2010
As a beloved candidate, Len Brown is invited to show off his skills as an artist

As a beloved candidate, Len Brown is invited to show off his skills as an artist

The end result! Unbelievable! Surely the even the Louvre would be proud to have this on display!

The end result! Unbelievable! Surely the even the Louvre would be proud to have this on display!

His Worship the Mayor Len Brown and I were invited to join five other “real artists” to showcase our talents with the brush at an event to mark the lead-up to the Shanghai Expo on Sunday at the New Lynn community centre.

With more than 400 people crammed into the hall to wish the New Zealand delegation good luck for the Expo (opening in Shanghai on May 1), the pressure was on me and Len to produce a masterful piece of art.

We combined to create a golden Kiwi shoulder to shoulder with the Expo’s mascot –Haibao (meaning “the treasure from the sea”).

I had the pleasure of drawing the eyes for the mascot while Len added more colourful touches to the golden Kiwi – which drew rapturous applause from the audience.

One attendee told me he and his family would be voting for Len as Mayor for the Supercity:

He is our singing mayor and I’m sure he will voice our interest very well