Red Alert

Archive for the ‘family’ Category


Posted by on July 17th, 2013

This week is Youth Parliament, where young people (16 to 18) selected by MPs experience two days of parliamentary life.

My Youth MP this year is Peniata Junior Endemann, who hit the news about a year ago, along with his mum, Emma Endemann, with their stories about why a Living Wage matters.

At 16 Peniata was already working 25 hours a week on $13.85 an hour to help keep his siblings in school and help provide the basic necessities for his family.

Peniata is studying at Edgewater College.  He’s into economics, sports, family, church and a bit of politics.  While he will do well at school, he has to think about his next steps : how he continues to support his family, and that probably means getting a job, not going to University.

At 18, he’s still working after school as a cleaner. So are his mum and sister.  All are paid near minimum wage.  All work for a contractor that changed hands recently, and both have been affected by breaches of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act, which the government wants to water down.

Peniata will be speaking in the legislative debate today on the Mock Bill, which proposes to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16, among other things.  Unfortunately, youth parliament won’t be televised, but I will post his speech when I am able.  Peniata could tell us all a thing or two about how the decisions of parliamentarians affect he and his family.

I’m proud he’s going to have the chance.

Time to listen up.



Domestic violence is a workplace issue

Posted by on November 25th, 2012

Today is the United Nations international day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In New Zealand, the White Ribbon campaign takes place throughout the whole of November and over the years, has increasingly gained support from the community, businesses, cultural groups, sports teams, local government and government agencies.

Thank you everyone who has taken the pledge to eliminate violence against women and who is involved in campaign activity throughout New Zealand.

There are other things we could perhaps learn from other countries. Australia is ahead of the rest of the world in recognising domestic violence as an issue which can potentially impact on workers and workplaces, with approximately 600,000 Australian employees now covered by domestic violence clauses in their agreement or award conditions.

Here’s a little help :



Be Careful Who You Quote

Posted by on October 25th, 2012

In a desperate bid to find a reason to oppose my bill to extend paid parental leave to 6 months, Business NZ rolled up to the select committee citing the opinion of Member of the European Parliament as evidence that employers in NZ might stop employing women of “child-bearing” age.

“Absurd legislation such as this closes the door on opportunities for young women and consigns them to a role as second class citizens, trapped at home by stupid legislators,” said the un-named MEP in Business NZs submission.

A quick google search revealed him to be Godfrey Bloom from the UK Independence Party.

Turns out, Godfrey has a lot to say about women.

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.” For example. Closely followed by:

“I just dont think (women) clean behind the fridge enough” and “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home.”

And Godfrey also has something to say about NZ. Wikipedia reports that he was filmed in 2009, congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior.

My advise to Business NZ is simple. Don’t make assertions that denigrate both women and NZ employers and use an MEP of questionable repute to justify your position.

Its a very bad look and the issue deserves better treatment than that.

Lack of PPL Dragging us Down

Posted by on May 10th, 2012

Our lack of paid parental leave is holding us back from being the best place in the world to raise children.
This was confirmed by the “State of the World’s Mothers” report released this week by Save the Children.
Even though we were placed fourth in their 13th annual report, its clear that our low rate of PPL was a key reason we slumped to 19th place when rated on their breastfeeding policy scorecard.
The report shows that 88% of NZ babies were breastfed at some stage, but that by 3 months that fell to just 56% and the data wasnt even available for NZ babies aged 6 months.
It is also of concern that NZ rated just 25th/44 countires on Save the Chidren’s scorecard for children living in developed countries.
I want NZ to be the best place in the world to raise children. Extending paid parental leave is one practical way we can achieve this.

Diabetics unite!

Posted by on March 21st, 2012

Pharmac has signed a provisional contract with an Auckland company to be the sole supplier of new glucose meters for diabetics. About 150,000 people are affected. Problem: no consumer testing – no backlight on the new one which is a bit tough when you are having a hypo event in the middle of the night; not enough memory to record history of blood sugar levels; batteries which conk out under 10C; sole supply out of Korea – the most stable peninsula we know? Tony Ryall is pressuring them to save $10 million through this contract. He ducked answering questions in the House today about this by exiting to comfort his upset mate, Nick Smith. Watch Campbell Live on TV3 tonight for this item.


Posted by on March 15th, 2012

I visited Moerewa on Tuesday to support the Talleys AFFCO workers. I went to a big meeting of locked out Talleys workers, their families and the community, and then spent some time on the picket outside the Works.

This is where the rubber hits the road, not in John Key’s announcement today of a Super Ministry which is “business facing” and will gulp up the Department of Labour and presumably with it, the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson.

Talley’s locked out these workers two weeks ago.  There are generations of workers involved here : fathers, sons, mothers, daughters. Some I talked to have worked at the Works for more than 40 years. Most are long serving workers. Skilled workers at that. You try wielding a boning knife.

The community is backing the workers.  A nice moment was when one of the local nurses came out with her Nurses Organisation banner to stand with the Talleys workers. She, of all people will know the impact this is having on the local community – not just on those who are locked out, but those affected by the downstream economic effect on a small community like Moerewa.

The workers told me they love their jobs and just want to work.  One young woman has just bought a house, another is due to have a child in the next couple of months.  The lockout is hurting.

The Tally family have a reputation for being anti-union.  The meat workers are the only unionised workforce they have to deal with among the 8000 or so employees in their food production businesses. Now it seems they’re hell bent on expunging the union from their meat works as well.

If what the workers told me is true, Talley’s breaks the law with impunity.  Sure, there’s a mountain of  Employment Authority and Employment Court decisions, but the law is meaningless if someone has enough dough to pay the fine, then do it again, or alternatively, tie the union up in endless litigation.

One story doing the rounds is that an AFFCO manager boasted that “no one ever went to jail breaking employment laws.”

That’s true. Sounds like an invitation to have a closer look at the penalties for serial offenders.

Moerewa is a brave community.  No-one was feeling sorry for themselves. Their concern was for each other, their whanau, their jobs and their community.

The Talley family might find these bonds harder to break than they think.

And John Key’s Super Ministry?

Irrelevant and meaningless for 1000 locked out workers in one of our key export industries.

Feeding our kids

Posted by on February 6th, 2012

$4.28 is less than I paid for the latte I just drank.

That is how much Craig and Carla Bradley can spend to feed each of their kids each day.

After rent, power, petrol and bugger all else.

Thank you to Simon Collins for his excellent reality check on inequality in Auckland in today’s Herald – see Trevor’s post below.

Equally sobering: a “comfortable” family – Anita and Nigel’s – on $150k (an MP’s salary) is close to the top 10% of NZ households. 

Fact is, we live in a poor and divided country.

So our constituency is not just the so-called ‘underclass’; it is most New Zealanders.

No-one wants to be poor. 

Every Kiwi kid deserves good fresh food, a few treats and trips to the beach.

Being poor is grinding and demoralising. 

It takes all your time; and your gut turns when your kids go without.

Most parents strive to do their utmost. 

There is unbelievable sacrifice and heroism all around us.

But most people don’t see the point in politics – they are too busy just living.

Despite this, a  gap this big between the 1% and the rest cannot stand.  It never has…

The change we want is that of Mickey Savage and the New Deal.

Not extremism, or racism; or God forbid, another ‘Great’ War.

So we must be relevant to New Zealanders’ daily struggles:

Feeding our kids; caring for our sick and old;

Making sure there are good schools and jobs for our young;

Looking after our living earth;

Seeking out those doing good stuff in our communities and working with them.

Humble enough to know we don’t have all the answers, because no-one does…

…and going on anyway.

Techno slavery

Posted by on January 31st, 2012

I missed this on Stuff, but heard it on RadioNZ today.

Workers who find themselves answering work emails on their smartphones after the end of their shifts in Brazil can now qualify for overtime under a new law.

The new legislation was approved by President Dilma Rousseff last month.

It says company emails to workers are equivalent to orders given directly to the employee.

Labour attorneys told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper the new law makes it possible for workers answering emails after hours to ask for overtime pay.

Judging by the vox pop comments of Brazilian workers on the RadioNZ piece, this isn’t necessarily a popular move. I can understand that. Turning off the emails after hours is a hard thing to do.  It has become such a way of life for many working people, but even more so for those who believe their job depends on it.

This issue has started to emerge in several corners of the world. In May 2011, Chicago policeman Jeffrey Allen filed a class action suit against the city, asking for unpaid overtime compensation.

In December 2011, German carmaker Volkswagen agreed to deactivate e-mails on German staff Blackberry devices out of office hours to give them a break.

German telco Deutsche Telekom and consumer goods maker Henkel have also introduced measures to curb after-hours emails to reduce the pressure on workers to be always on call.

Remember the “work life balance” stuff we used to talk about?

Am I just old-fashioned in thinking that working lives are important, but so are our families as well?

2 min 38 secs on the national party leader’s plan – have a look

Posted by on June 17th, 2011

Gifted Awareness Week: A time for questions

Posted by on June 1st, 2011

In this Government’s constant attempts to paint a crisis in our world-class education system they only ever want to talk about under-achievement.

Gifted Awareness Week (June 13-19) gives us a chance to reflect on the huge diversity of students in our education system.

Gifted students are not always the ones doing fabulously well. They may be the student with behavioural problems, the student who has trouble relating to their peers or the student who is disrupting the class.

Last week I visited the Correspondence School and was told that many gifted students use that service because the school environment doesn’t meet their needs.

It caused me to think about National’s national standards and how much harm the “one size fits all” approach does, not only to those students who are labelled failures but also those who need different challenges than most of their peers.

If a school’s worth is to be judged on how many students they get “over the bar” then not only will the under-achievers lose out, but so will those capable of very high-achievement.

Under that scenario it would be “human nature” for schools to direct their biggest effort into those who are just failing to reach the standard to get them “over the bar” and this could come at the expense of the others.

I would appreciate some feedback from those who have some experience with gifted children – either as family or in a professional capacity. What do you think?

A brighter future?

Posted by on May 15th, 2011

Dr David Clark is the Labour Candidate for Dunedin North. He has worked in shops, in a factory, as a Presbyterian Minister, as a University Tutor and as an analyst at the New Zealand Treasury. He currently runs a University Hall of Residence. 

Red Alert readers will have noted several recent stories about the very real way in which cost of living increases are affecting middle income families. I’ve encountered a fair few in Dunedin in recent weeks with similar stories. Here’s one that stuck out for me when I was out door-knocking yesterday…

Bill and Maree (not their real names) live in their own home, and have worked hard to pay off much of their mortgage. Daughter Lisa?has recently turned 17 and is living at home with Bill and Maree. Son Darren has just finished University. Bill and Maree have always held down solid jobs and bring in an average income. This has generally been enough. They were however impressed last election by John Key’s promise of tax cuts and ‘a brighter future’, and placed their vote with him.

But things have not turned out as hoped. Prices have risen and risen, and bills are getting harder to pay. The tax-cuts they were expecting haven’t lived up to expectations. And then Lisa fell pregnant. It wasn’t planned, but she’s determined to be a good mother.? Bill and Maree want to support her, but they’re fearful they won’t be able to provide all that is needed for the new addition to the household. Having worked hard consistently down through the years, they went down to WINZ with Lisa to see what support is available. Nothing: unless Lisa is estranged from the family. Not until she’s 18.

Bill and Maree are feeling hard done by. Having worked hard and paid taxes all of their lives, they were?expecting a little bit extra from Mr Key. Instead, they’re seeing seriously rich New Zealanders enjoy the big big tax cuts, while they don’t have quite enough to make ends meet. And then, to make matters worse, when they need a bit of help, they’re realising that’s not there either.

Bill and Maree are disillusioned. They’re changing their vote. But on top of their disappointment about Mr Key’s failure to deliver them a brighter future, they’ve another concern. It’s the future of their kids. Not only are they worried about their daughter: their son Darren?is wanting to settle down too.?

Darren’s just finished a degree and has been offered a very good job in Dunedin. But his partner’s pregnant, and they’re concerned about the cuts to Working For Families. With a student loan and the cuts to Working For Families, they too will struggle to make ends meet. Darren’s mates are telling him to move to Oz. One of them has already, and he’s earning nearly three times as much doing the same job.?

This story echoes others I’ve encountered in recent weeks.??

Many ‘swing’ voters feel disillusioned with the Government that they voted in last time.? Some say the jury is still out, and they want to give Key another chance. Others are sick of him.



Heartland #2

Posted by on May 14th, 2011

Three vignettes. Door-knocking today in South Dunedin. Heartland. Last election the party vote slipped, in line with the country-wide trend. Many people bought the “time for a change” line.

I’m now coming across a number of these people on their doorsteps and they’re re-thinking. Because the change hasn’t delivered.

Last week there was the young couple who moved here from Auckland with their two small kids. They thought they’d have a better lifestyle in Dunedin, could afford a house, the education opportunities were good. She’s always been a Labour voter. He hasn’t. Now he’s changing his mind because he can’t see how this government is stimulating the economy to help families. All he can see is cuts and rising costs and he’s not happy.

This week there was the young Dunedin couple who’ve just taken on their first mortgage. Two kids. He works for a big building firm. She works a few hours part time but wants to take on more. They are absolutely dependent on the 20 hours free early childhood education. She’s doing the sums and is worried she won’t be able to afford the childcare fees, but also can’t afford not to go back to work. It’s a double bind. Kiwisaver cuts were top of their mind because they got their first house using the Kiwisaver first home deposit subsidy. They’ve done everything they can, but prices jsut keep going up. They voted National last time. This time they doubt they will.

And finally the young woman, just turned 20, on her own with a 16 month old little girl. She hasn’t voted before, said she didn’t know much about politics. But I tell you what she did know about. Where every dollar was spent. She’s under pressure from WINZ to get a part time job but is resisting because she knows it’ll be a low wage job, she’ll have to pay childcare fees  and it will make her life harder. I asked her whether she’d like to do some study and she said yes, but how could she afford to? I can see an onging poverty trap, with little liklihood of escape.

Doesn’t bode well for the next generation.

Campbell Live – Cost of Living

Posted by on May 13th, 2011

The rising cost of living will be a feature of the election campaign. The median real wage has dropped substantially under the National government.

Parents Rely on Watershed

Posted by on May 9th, 2011

The BSA appeared in front of the Commerce Select Committee last week for their annual financial review.  They had undertaken a survey during the year called Watching the Watchers that indicated, amongst other things, that parents relied on the watershed of 8.30pm to know when the content shifted to adult themes.  I asked them what they were doing to respond to this in light of the adult content of many of the soaps – including Coronation Street – which screened before the watershed.  They said they could only act on complaints.  I asked them who was responsible for setting the watershed time – they said it was negotiated between them and the broadcasters – they didn’t think the broadcasters would want to change it. I wasn’t the only MP who thought that this was a concern.  The reporting of this has been interesting.  For the record I didn’t complain about the content of Coronation Street – I used to watch it many years ago – I stated that its content was no longer suitable for children.  And for that I have received overwhelming support from teachers & family counsellors, but most importantly from the parents of children, about the wider issue of what children are exposed to. Everyone agrees that it is up to the parents to screen what their children watch, but I keep coming back to the fact that the BSA survey has highlighted that parents rely on the threshold and it is unreliable when you look at the adult themes these popular soaps deal with today.  The Select Committee will report back to Parliament in the next week or so – I am sure we will be commenting on what is a highly complex issue.

John Key speeds away from Struggle Street in new BMW

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

Recently a Timaru Woman, Melissa Voice, challenged John Key to spend a few days in her shoes to find out how much of a financial struggle life can be.

Melissa is a single mum with two children. She works, she is debt free and lives within her means. She is doing all the right things but is still finding life a financial struggle. Like many Kiwis she is going backwards.

Her request to meet with John Key isn’t unreasonable – he has been PM for 2 ½ years now, during which time the cost of living has far outpaced incomes. This despite promising that everyone would be better off with him at the helm.

Melissa Voice should be applauded for speaking out and I will be more than happy to meet with her when I am next in Timaru.

For John Key, meeting everyday New Zealanders like Melissa Voice and hearing their stories should be a golden opportunity to show he is in touch with their concerns.

Clearly though, these kinds of meetings don’t meet his test of what is a good media “photo op”.

Mr Key has also recently declined invitations to spend time at food banks to see first-hand how tough life is for growing numbers of Kiwis.

Food banks around the country have reported a massive increase in demand for food banks and some like the one here in Wellington have run out of food, for the first time since the 1990s.

John Key and his government have brought in policies that have made most middle and low income people worse off, including raising gst at a time of rising prices, giving the lion’s share of tax cuts to the well off, increasing the cost of ECE and increasing ACC charges and doctors’ fees.   

The least he can do is face them when asked why.

Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011


t Cut Our Future

Heartland: going backwards

Posted by on April 24th, 2011

I’ve been door knocking this week in South Dunedin. Will be out regularly with a team of people touching base with how people are feeling.

In quantitative terms it’s not very efficient for the MP/candidate to be out doorknocking, because everyone wants to chat and ask you in for cups of tea. But in qualitative terms it’s pure gold.

This is heartland. Talking to people on their doorsteps keeps me grounded, lets me know in no uncertain terms where my flaws are,  where the flaws of my party lie. It also gives me great hope.

The people I speak to are honest. They don’t beat about the bush.

Many in my electorate are Labour voters and diehard Labour supporters. That doesn’t stop them giving me the odd piece of advice and sometimes a bit of a serve. I take everything they say seriously because they’re the ones who’re having to make do every week with an income which isn’t increasing though the price of everything else is.

Two conversations stand out.

The first was with a bloke in his 30s, a shift worker, Samoan, with a Maori wife and two wee kids. He said nothing had got better for him under National. Only harder. They both work and they don’t seem to be able to get anywhere. The early childhood cost increases were the thing that got him, he just didn’t understand the logic.

He’ll be voting Labour this time. He didn’t last time.

The second conversation was with an electrician, with his own business. He’s been a Labour voter in the past but not last time. He was a bit more philosophical about the wider geo-economic issues but didn’t believe the current government was investing in the economy.

His work wasn’t drying up, but people were more reluctant to pay the going rate for an electrician and he knew sparkies who were cutting their prices. He said that was the downward slope because that made it harder for all electricians to make a living.

His wife had just got a part time job, but he was concerned about the shrinking job market in Dunedin and with the lack of opportunities for kids coming out of school. He didn’t blame people for moving to Australia and was really disappointed he felt that way.

He’s thinking about voting Labour again.

The top of mind issue for everyone I spoke to was the high cost of living. I would have liked to talk more about ideas for the future. But most people are just consumed with getting through the week.

I’d rather be part of a government that’s taking people forward not backward.

Create your own ‘nice to have’ poster

Posted by on April 7th, 2011

“This is not a time we can afford to indulge in “nice-to-haves”, even though sections of the population feel the loss of those services.” Bill English, 29 March 2011

This quote is from a speech that Bill English gave to public service professionals.

Show Bill and John what would be “nice to have” by going to here to create your own poster, email and share it with friends and family.

Here’s mine:

Nice to have


Posted by on February 18th, 2011

One great thing about New Zealand is it is so small that our rellies are never too far removed.

Sometimes it can be surprising, such as when we found out my mother was named after King Te Rata Mahuta – she was Patricia Mary Te Rata Mahuta Kerr – because of close family connections.  There was some kind of family secret that I never really discovered.  But I do know there are Tainui bones in our family.

I remember the korowai under the house at my grandmother’s even although the obvious Irishness on her side dominated.  I come from a family of Irish rebels and my Grandma was always staunch on this. She hated the English.

My paternal grandfather was a Northumberland miner, who came to New Zealand, joined the Labour Party and became an MP in the Peter Fraser government of the war years.

While I celebrate this ancestry today, when I was growing up there was a sense that we weren’t quite good enough.  My mother, when we were growing up in a state house used to tell us that we were lower “middle class”.

My Dad was a socialist post-war, but ended up in a respectable accounting job for the Public Trust.  My Mum was a school secretary and mother of four.

Today, my cousins are all around me.  Tau Henare is one of them, on our Irish side.  I’m bound to have relatives in the Mahuta family, and my partner’s Fenton relatives are everywhere.

Whether recently, or long ago, our families made the journey to Aotearoa seeking a better life.  Politics has played no small part in the changes they would have witnessed.

I suspect today’s debates about poverty, the haves and the have-nots would resonate with them. There is still massive power and wealth in the hands of a few. There is arrogance from the better off and an attitude of blame that says that those we used to give a helping hand to through the welfare state have “made poor choices”.  There’s a narrative that workers should be grateful for a job provided by beneficent employers, and take whatever they are handed out.

Yes, I know there’s no comparison to when my various ancestors made the journey here.

It’s good that my relatives can have different views – on the right or the left, even though we will often disagree. I don’t know about them, but the  stories and struggles of my forebears have shaped my political opinions, and like them, my life experiences have confirmed them.

That’s why I’m Labour.