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Justice : What is your view of the New Zealand justice system? Labour Leadership Q&A #6

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 6

Justice : What is your view of the New Zealand justice system?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over the past 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting today (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.

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Question : Can you indicate your views on the justice system in New Zealand. Do you endorse restorative justice or prefer the fill the prisons option?

Submitted by : Julie Berriman, Blenheim

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

Answer from Grant Robertson

I think it’s time we admitted that the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key justice system hasn’t worked.

Instead of making our communities safer, prisons too often result in criminals graduating to more serious crime – perpetuating the problem.

Rather than treating justice as a political hobby horse we need to have a rigorous debate on how to build a pragmatic and evidenced based response to crime.

We must address the causes of crime, in particular unemployment, poverty and lack of educational success if we are to have any hope of reducing offending.

While prisons will remain an unfortunate necessity for serious offenders, restorative justice can play a much larger role than it does now.

It’s been proven to lead to better outcomes for victims and reduce re-offending by up to 20%.

Where prison is required its vital that we invest in effective rehabilitation such as drug and alcohol counselling, teaching literacy and skills training so offenders break the cycle of crime.

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Answer from David Cunliffe

I believe all New Zealanders should have the chance to live in and enjoy safe communities. One where crime levels are low and there is a fair justice system.

Those who commit crimes should be dealt with firmly and responsibly to encourage rehabilitation and reduce repeat offending.

More prisons and prisoners are not sustainable.

We need to address the causes of crime and wider symptoms and create a safe and secure society that guarantees civil and human rights, ensures equal access to justice, and promotes public safety.

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Answer from Shane Jones

The prisons are already full of too many Whanau from te Ao Maori.

Our focus should always be on early intervention, jobs and industry for our young people to steer them alway from crime.

A weak job market, limited training opportunities and poor investment in our regions breeds hopelessness.

Obviously security is vital in the community however economic remedies are the best investment for changing people’s lives.

ENDS


Peoples : How would bring Maori & Pakeha into a multi-ethnic future? Labour Leadership Q&A #5

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 5

Peoples : How would bring Maori & Pakeha into a multi-ethnic future?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over the past 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. All-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.

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Question : How are you going to blend the two main traditions we have in New Zealand, Maori and Pakeha, to provide the basic identity profile with which we can go forward into a multi-ethnic future?

Submitted by : Ian Free, Auckland

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

Answer from David Cunliffe

A Labour Government that I lead would honour the Treaty of Waitangi and invest in that proud diverse future.

I will commit to a regular series of iwi forums across the country, to develop lasting partnerships with all major iwi. I want to demonstrate that Labour is committed to the treaty partnership and it is part of how we work together.

We would encourage the arts across the board, and invest in further building our unique, strong national identity. But most of all, I have a deep and unswerving commitment to honour the diversity of all our communities and all our people.

As a West Auckland MP, with almost 40% of my constituents not born in NZ, I also know the value of an inclusive multiculturalism built on our bicultural foundations.

Both are built on the same principles that are fundamental to Labour – that every New Zealander is of the same moral value – and that every Kiwi kid deserves a good start so they can make the best of their lives.
Labour needs to deepen its alliances with our ethnic communities. Labour’s policy of a creating a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs with new powers and responsibilities will help to achieve this. Their struggle for a fair chance in New Zealand is part of our broader struggle for a fairer, more decent New Zealand that celebrates diversity.

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Answer from Shane Jones

As our leader I am totally confident that I can offer a unifying influence given my ancestry, education and communication.

Identity is not static. It is imperative however we not cast ourselves adrift from the bi-cultural narrative inherent in the Treaty of Waitangi.

The creative sector and our curriculum should encourage the blending of Maori culture into our broader civic culture.

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Answer from Grant Robertson

I think the word ‘blend’ in the question comes from the wrong starting point.

For me, using the Treaty of Waitangi as the base as our founding document we can create a strong foundation.

I support New Zealand becoming a republic, but it must be done acknowledging the Treaty. I also support the teaching of Te Reo Maori in all schools as a way of strengthening our culture.

What we must do is support the celebration of the many cultures in New Zealand, including through language and culture weeks, teaching of language in schools.

Our rich diversity provides a terrific platform to build our nation for the 21st century.

ENDS


Our Meka

Posted by on June 11th, 2013

Pictured here on the campaign trail at Matariki celebrations

She’s full of energy. She’s strong and feisty. And she’s coming to parliament. This is our Meka Whaitiri. She’s the Labour candidate for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, which was our Parekura Horomia’s seat. The by-election is on Saturday 29 June

Advanced voting for the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti byelection opens tomorrow, 12 June, and Meka Whaitiri will cast an early vote with rangatahi and first time voters in Flaxmere Public Library at 10am.

Here’s a bit of background:

I was born in Manutuke and moved to Whakatu when I was 10. I worked as a Rousey when I was younger up on the East Coast and went on to work in the Casings department at the Whakatu Works with all of my whanau through my teens and early 20s.

I went to Uni in Wellington and my first job as a graduate was working with Parekura in the Department of Labour. Parekura and our team set up the Community Employment Group which enable us to work with whanau, hapu and marae up and down the country for eight years to create jobs and industry for whanau. Our motto was, ‘local solutions to local problems’. One of our initiatives that we assisted to start up was the Whale Watching business in Kaikoura.

I had a great working life in Wellington working with our people, including as the first General Manager of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. I ended up heading back to work with Parekura as his Senior Advisor when he was the Minister of Maori Affairs before returning home in 2008 to work for Ngati Kahungunu Iwi as the CEO.

I live in Whakatu (Hastings) next to my whanau homestead with my two boys (which you may have seen in their youtube video clips:

I believe things are very hard for our whanau on the ground – I know this bevcause I see it day in day out, within my own whanau but also as I travel up and down the electorate. The reality is there a very few jobs for our whanau. Industry has closed and our kids are going over to Australia in the droves. I want to do something about this and this is one of the reasons I have put my hand up to be the Labour candidate for Ikaroa-Rawhiti.

Mauri ora ki a koe, ki to whanau hoki

Comments Off

Cartoons irresponsible and racist

Posted by on May 31st, 2013

 I believe the two cartoons in the Christchurch Press and the Marlborough Express were a clumsy and objectionable attempt to draw attention and raise debate about an important issue.  The approach taken is indefensible and potentially damaging.

 The cartoon depicts two stereotypes.  The first is that those who access food in schools have the financial resources to feed their children but would rather spend the money on gambling, smoking, booze and a lavish life style.  While there may be some people who fall in this category there are many who don’t and who just simply can’t make ends meet either on a low income or on a benefit.  These depictions refuse to accept that. The second is that most of those who fall in this category are brown, overweight and irresponsible.

 Like all stereotypes the depictions malign those parents who access food in schools most of whom the cartoons depict as Māori and Pacific Islanders.  Therefore they are offensive.  The defence that the cartoons depict people of different ethnic background is just plain unbelievable.  The figures are overwhelmingly brown and overweight, gamble, smoke, drink and have a flash lifestyle.

 If the cartoonist’s message was that in New Zealand everyone should be able to feed their children because we are a welfare state, he failed miserably in getting that across.  Rather the cartoons accidentally or deliberately discount the fact that for whatever reason a good number of children live in poverty and they come to school hungry and in no position to take advantage of the education offered.  Any perspective that had an understanding of the needs of children would not depict the programme to feed our hungry children in this way. 

 The alternative surely can’t be to let the children go hungry or take them away from their parents?  Neither option is realistic and shows little appreciation of the real financial pressures on many families who are not in work or who are in poorly paid jobs.

 The second stereotype is even more troubling.  Some would say it incites racial disharmony.  It certainly does not assist positive race relations.  If the cartoons had asked people to take negative action on the parents, who it believes are brown, it would have breached the Human Rights Act for inciting racial disharmony.  As such it would have led to the commencement of the process of mediation and even eventual prosecution.  I accept that it does not reach that threshold.

 The cartoonist does have a responsibility to present issues fairly.  Satire is fine but there is a fine line.  There are many complex issues behind child poverty.  The cartoons should also show an appreciation of the impact of the depictions on minority ethnic groups.  Instead they trivialise these two issues and as such the two papers ought to print a retraction.  The Race Relations Commissioner should also take a much stronger line to discredit this approach and to caution cartonists who periodically stay into this style.

 Dr Rajen Prasad MP

 

 


Parliament A Unique Workplace – Can Be Better

Posted by on May 21st, 2013

Have you ever noticed how some women just seem to have it all sorted? I didn’t realise how multi-talented women really were until I became a mum.

Since the birth of my third child I have appreciated my mother even more, admired other mothers tremendously and realised not only do I have a passion to make a difference in the lives of others, I want to be a good mum.

There are a number of conversations you start having by virtue of carrying out ‘mummy’ duties. Breastfeeding in public places can be as political as protesting or standing on the picket-line. Some people frown, or turn away and look a bit embarrassed and others give a reassuring smile as if to say ‘Good on You!’

Women share quite openly their experiences of Breastfeeding, when they made the choice to go back to work, how to manage illness when the whole family catches a bug, coping with the pressure of achieving work-life balance. This world of conversation can be as foreign to some people as a different language but it’s a perspective into which I have now been inducted.

The fact remains women who choose to Breastfeeding are doing so because they want their children to have the best possible start in life. And we shouldn’t assume that all  women who bottle feed didn’t try to breast-feed. It’s not easy business persevering with the right latch and getting the timing right, expressing, producing milk like a well run factory. It can be hard and I support every mum who makes the best choices she can to provide a healthy loving environment for bubs.

Returning to work is a decision that causes a whole heap of stress. If I had a dollar for every moment that I questioned myself on this single issue, there would be a tidy sum put away.

I have heard horror stories of women who returned to work with no consideration about their change in circumstances but I must say that they are the exception not the rule. New Zealand has come along way. We can chalk up many gains for women starting with the first country to give women the right to vote. Progressive change towards family friendly workplaces is considered a requirement for the modern labour market, improving productivity, overall job satisfaction and loyalty of employees.

Labour’s introduction of the Paid Parental Leave entitlement for 14 weeks sought to recognise that there is no greater job than that of being a parent. Sue Moroney’s Bill proposing to extend that leave to 26 weeks is a step in the right direction. Sadly though not surprisingly the Government is seeking to Veto the move, the fact that its on the radar of many families around the country will build momentum and it certainly ‘an idea whose time has come’.

Employers in each workplace should be encouraged to consider what level of flexibility is reasonable and achievable according to their circumstances. In Parliament, if you have the privilege of serving as an MP there are some important obligations that must be met to achieve the required outcomes of the role. But we must remember that MPs have working conditions, hours, workplaces and performance indicators that are very unique.

Our job requires a lot of travel, a high level of public interaction,   long hours sitting in Parliament, long meetings, more travel, advocacy and community work, and regular weekend obligations. The performance measures are peculiar consisting of re-election, public visibility, media profile, performance in the House and attendance in Parliament. It’s no wonder that many women get turned off by the whole scene. The whole idea of having children while serving as an MP can be even more daunting.

The short answer is that many women in our Parliament have done this in stoic fashion Ruth Richardson, Whetu Tirikatene and Katherine Rich all had their children while serving as MPs. They for me are examples that it is possible. Politics aside (for a moment) each one made progressive and subtle changes to the Parliamentary environment to accommodate their needs and those serving after them have benefitted.

My call is simple. Consideration of leave provisions for nursing mum MPs during exceptional circumstances where Members are required to sit in the House under urgency. No mum should be required to take their child to their workplace during the evening especially if they have no care provisions. They should be able to have their vote cast in a way that preserves their ability to perform a necessary duty for the role of MP without prejudicing their Party. This is a matter for Parliament to consider.

One small baby step for Parliament would send a signal to all workplaces that working mums are an asset to the workplace not a burden and if they choose to Breastfeed, then that has to be good!


A Rocky Road To Asset Sales

Posted by on November 27th, 2012

National has failed to reach its target of selling of shares in State Owned Energy Companies prior to Christmas 2012. They underestimated the broad public consensus opposing the move and they overplayed the level of ‘support’ from iwi leaders that did not equate to real votes on the ground for the Mixed Ownership Model (MOM) being promulgated.
Today the New Zealand Maori Council (NZMC) will present their case in the High Court. There are several strands to the arguments being debated about water, the rationale builds on the firm belief that;

➢ The Crown has a moral obligation to recognise the tino rangatiratanga that Maori assert over their Taonga and a fiduciary obligation to protect those rights and interests

It seems to me that this argument was the initial premise that built the case for the New Zealand Maori Council who sought to object to the Sale of Shares in SOE’s and the Mom model being promoted by the Government. That the Tribunal went a step further and suggested a ‘shares plus’ model to resolve the disputed action was, in my view, a pragmatic step to try and reconcile a way forward.

It was unhelpful and has become a red herring to the real issue that is that Maori do have proprietary rights and interests in water albeit undefined.

➢ That the common interest that all New Zealanders have in water is not prejudiced by Maori seeking greater protection of their proprietary rights and interests in water

Insofar as water is concerned, Maori accept that there is a common interest in water and that the Crown must take steps to preserve and protect those bundles of rights. The assertion that’ no-one owns water’ is offensive to Maori who see the hypocrisy of a water management framework that ascribes rights and interests through resource consents and allocation models.

This is why iwi have sought greater input into the RMA framework and the current management regime to accommodate the generic interests of Maori as kaitiaki and the co-existing rights of iwi insofar as localised Treaty Settlement outcomes.

The moment the Crown seeks to privatize rights in water through exclusive shareholding interests in water companies, transferability of water permits or the like, then the game changes and iwi/Maori are forced to ensure that their collective interests will not be disenfranchised.

In many respects, if New Zealanders who believe that Energy Companies should be operated for the benefit of all New Zealanders, they would support the actions of the NZMC to stop the sale of SOE’s and seek greater clarity over the nature and extent of proprietary rights and interests in water.

➢ That s.9 of the SOE Act was a mechanism used by Maori to protect their interests vis-à-vis Crown actions and the new clause inserted in the Public Finance Bill does not ascribe the same level of protection

This legal mechanism was intended to be Nationals solution to soften the Maori sentiment towards a share sell-down of 49% in SOE’s. But the Government failed to consider whether its actions fundamentally breached the Treaty of Waitangi and the fiduciary obligation to protect the ‘rangatiratanga’ of Maori in relation to water.

The Maori Party a close ally and coalition partner tried to dance on a pinhead by saying that they supported consultation with ‘the people’. They hid behind a small group of iwi leaders who showed some interest in the MOM model and transferring the s.9 clause of the SOE Act into a similar provision of the Public Finance Act. Yet they opposed Assets Sales. This is a confused position and reeked of political maneuvering rather than principles and should the NZMC be successful it will be despite the action of the Maori Party.

Once again, the take home point is that while the Government believes it may have a political mandate, 3 Maori electorate members of the Maori Party does not constitute a broad consensus or mandate from iwi or Maori on the issue and the Government should be concerned if the Court pursues the fiduciary obligation that the Crown has to protect the interests of Maori insofar as Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

➢ That the Treaty Settlement process does not adequately provide for Maori proprietary rights and interests in water that may be specific and localised to whanau and hapuu
The Waikato River Settlement is a case in point. It is a historical settlement that has affirmed co-governance and co-management mechanisms in the ongoing management of New Zealand’s most utilised waterway. That settlement does not, however, ascribe proprietary rights and interests to hapuu or whanau who may have a puna, aquifer, lake, waterfall or stream in many parts of the rohe.

The NZMC court action may assist those hapuu and whanau whose interests may not be captured in the Treaty Settlement but have an important bundle of rights that need to be protected.

➢ That the final determination of the extent of Maori rights and interests in water will need to be accommodated in Resource Management legislation alongside Treaty Settlements
Whatever the outcome of the NZMC case, change is inevitable insofar as the Resource Management Act, water catchment management, co-existing rights vis-à-vis efficient allocation models. The Land and water Forum has been a constructive process to focus many minds on the challenge of sustaining more efficient water management regimes to enable productive enterprise, be cognisant of Maori rights and interests, protect the ongoing quality of waterways and sustain community utilization.

A post Land and Water Forum should lead to more sophisticated water-management tools and frameworks that bring together ‘competing interests’ with greater coherence around the sustainable use and allocation of water.

➢ That the Crown does not have the moral mandate of Maori to sell 49% of shares in State Owned Energy Companies because it prejudices the ability for Maori to assert their tino rangatiratanga over a significant Taonga that is managed in the common interest of ALL New Zealanders
Last but not least the political point to be made time and time again in relation to the Governments Asset Sale Agenda and the rights and interests being asserted by Iwi and Maori alike is that the Crown must assure itself and the Court that their actions do not prejudice the Article 2 interests of hapuu and iwi.
If they cannot demonstrate this high threshold based on proper consultation or a significant and broad-based mandate from hapuu and iwi then it would be safer to retain that common interest that all New Zealanders have in water by holding onto New Zealand’s Energy Companies for the ‘Public Good’.

I remember a kaumatua once saying that:
“…the trick to walking on water is knowing where the rocks are…”

Now is a very good time for the Government to rethink its SOE Asset Sales Agenda….


Look to Local Success for Maori and Pasifika students

Posted by on October 11th, 2012

Attending the Raise Pacific Education Conference held at the Auckland Museum was an opportunity to consider what success looks like for the growing number of Maori and Pacific young people. I highlighted the importance of looking towards local exemplars in our public schools that are working and improving the engagement, retention and achievement of Maori and Pacific students. There are alot of great examples in our local schools in Auckland that are raising the bar and showing the way such as Otahuhu College, Kia Aroha College, Massey High School and Western Springs High School to name a few. The problem is that they are spread out and it takes a long time to roll these innovations across the system so more students benefit from ‘what works’. This is an exciting time to be Polynesian and living in the country’s largest city, the growing reality is that the demographic mix is becoming more diverse and more polynesian. So our communities, schools and city of Auckland will have to shift the way in which planning for the future incorporates Maori and Pacific values and identity.
Its important to recognise that in education more should and must be done to lift achievement outcomes for all our children. There are two distinct paths, under the current Government, National standards, league tables and performance pay will seek to push polynesian kids down a path that will create winners and losers. It will create a culture of teachers “teaching to the test”, ultimately schools will treat all kids the same as if they are forcing round pegs into square holes. This is not the model for a high performing system.

Its disappointing that the government is using private sector models like charter schools as a solution to the challenge. All those schools will do is take from the public purse and privatise profits with little or no real gain in outcome for Maori or Pacific kids. Its time to dismiss empty rhetoric and invest in quality public education. By tackling the causes of poverty and inequality Labour will bring together solutions that exist outside the school gate to support the good work that teachers and school communities achieve to support their children within the school gates.

Getting more parents involved in their local Boards of Trustees and owning educational outcomes can make a huge difference. We must guard against the inclination of the Government who wants to pull decision-making back to the centre and tell parents and communities what works best.

We need only look at the sweeping reforms being proposed for the children of Christchurch to see that the Government is not serious about consulting with the community for the best schooling opportunities for children.

It looks like the ‘one size fits all’ creep could be a real prospect for young people in South Auckland if that behaviour continues.

Labour is looking to the future and wants to work constructively with parents, teachers and communities to ensure that every child no matter where they come from can be assured of a great education in their local community. The future for New Zealand urges us to think and act differently to ensure that success in education belongs to all our children. That does mean a different way of doing things and it will mean shifting the ‘norm referencing’ that currently occurs in our education system.


He Aitua

Posted by on August 3rd, 2012

‘Kua hinga te totaranui o te wao nui a Tane’
‘A great Totara has fallen in Tane’s forest’

At the far northern boundary of my Te Tai Tonga electorate is the suburb of Waiwhetu, in the city of Lower Hutt.

It’s the home of the Te Matehou hapu of Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko ote Ika (An Ati Awa tribal grouping) and today they farewell one of their Kuia Ra Waho,a nanny from another iwi, Jean Puketapu of Tuhoe.

Whaea Jean was at the forefront of the Te Kohanga Reo movement in 1982. Her husband Kara Puketapu was, at the time, Secretary of Maori affairs and his Tu Tangata Programme that he implemented in the 80’s included language revival at an early child level. The first Kohanga in the country opened up just over the hill from Waiwhetu marae at Pukeatua in Wainuiomata where Kara and Jean where living at the time. She was the first teacher of a Kohanga Reo as we know it today.The wider Tuhoe families have arrived to tautoko the Puketapu whanau and the wider hapu of Te Ati Awa to say farewell to a most important kuia in the Kohanga movement and in the tribal life of Te Ati Awa and Tuhoe ki Poneke.

Unfortunately I’m up in Te Wahipounamu today so wont be able to attend the tangi but I managed to sneak away from ‘the house’ for the afternoon on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day with the haukainga. I arrived before the first set of manuhiri and must say, felt priviliged to have been accorded the haukainga status of being able to ‘sneak in through the side door’ to spend private time with the kuia and her immediate family before the crowds started to arrive, and so I acknowledge their aroha towards me.Today will be a busy day for Waiwhetu and I wish them well. They’ve just finished hosting the Waitangi Tribunal for two weeks and now they find themselves back on the paepae and in the wharekai as they continue to hold and uplift the mana of our tupuna and our customs. Such is the way of everyday Maori life.

“Nana te Whariki Papatipu o te Kohanga Reo,o te Matauranga, i raranga”


Assets and Elbows

Posted by on March 1st, 2012

Can the Government tell an asset from an elbow?

Had it thought through the fatal flaws in its partial privatization drive, or has it been taken by surprise? Hat tip to Clayton Cosgrove for bringing SOE sale issues to the fore. Here’s a potted summary of some emerging commercial and economic development implications:

- When the SOE’s are partially privatised they become companies with a partial public shareholding, regulated by commercial law and not the SOE Act. They are no longer SOEs. They no longer have the Crown’s good corporate citizen obigations. Elbow #1.

- That is why the s9 Treaty Clause debate is so fundamental. Iwi are 100% right to be outraged that the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi could be sold down the river (literally). If the Crown’s response is to indemnify the private investor and bear 100% of the ongoing Treaty obligation, then the taxpayer is effectively subsidising the private investor. Clayton nailed this last week. Elbow #2.

- Minority shareholders rights include the ability to invest in future profitable expansion plans. Dilemma for Crown: pony up its 51% of those future capital requirements or face equity dilution below 51% and loss of residual control. The Govt’s response has been to hedge how much it wil initially sell. Does 45% leave it enough of a buffer? For how long? How long is a piece of string? How does this affect its sale proceeds? In a rare moment of frankness Bill English fessed up that those proceeds are only a “guess”. You bet they are. Elbow #3.

- Magically the Government’s new-found forecasts of SOE dividend loss are not, apparenty. These were shamefully omitted from the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) because they were apparently too hard to calculate. They have since been found in a bottom drawer and Lo! they show there will be precious few future divvies, so little loss. Ooops Why would a private investor buy them then? Elbow #4.

- Except Air NZ of course, which will be as cheap as chips after its sad losses last year. Crazy, stupid fire sale. Elbow #5.

- Speaking of which, future takeover threats must now be managed. Minority shareholders have rights. If a future merger or takeover provides them a windfall, they have the right to sell, most likely to foreign corporates or hedge funds (subject to the 10% individual cap, if any). What would the Crown do in the face of such temptation? Could it face legal action from minorities if it blocked such a future sale? How is the public protected from future leveraged asset stripping? Elbow #6.

- Potential cross-shareholding complications arise, as confirmed by the Chair of the Commerce Commission at the Commerce Committee hearing this morning. (I can’t comment on the Committee’s views but can on the issues diiscussed in public hearing). Lets say a foreign energy company bought the maximum allowable shareholding in each of the 3 SOE generators – risks of information pooling, coordination and anti-competitive behaviour would need to be policed by the Commission. At best there would be a lag while consumers suffered and prices rose. The Crown itself would have to be subject to Commission oversight in this regard. Sound complicated? Elbow #7.

Back to the original dilemma: did John Key know about all these issues when he started this privatisation crusade? If so, why was the Government not more transparent about them all before the election – with the public and even with its potential coalition partner?

Oh yeah, I momentarily forgot. It’s politics.

That being the case, lets fight this crazy plan to the last comma.


Youth NEETs change since 2008

Posted by on February 26th, 2012
Youth NEETs

Youth NEETs

Despite the foodhardy belief by some that all is well with New Zealand employment under National, if they would just pull their heads out of John Key’s armpits for a second and took seriously that our unemployment rate from Dec 2008 to Dec 2011 has doubled, and these are NOT just numbers but REAL people with families to support, then perhaps they might get a sense of the looming employment crisis that I’m talking about. Take note of the job losses so far announced with MFAT, Air NZ, and a host of other companies that have laid off workers in the last few months.

What should also compoud our collective concern is the increasing numbers of Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training. As of December 2011 they numbered 83,000 as highlighted in the graph above.

Some might be providing homecare to family members but I suspect the vast majority are drifting doing nothing. These are our future leaders – now mostly at risk. Without work, without skills and without the hope for a better future, what will be the chances of them slipping into drugs, alchoholism, crime and benefit dependency? If these trends continue to worsen, what is there to stop it from becoming a ticking time bomb making New Zealand susceptible to the kinds of riots we’ve witnessed on TV occuring in Europe and the likes.

The NZ Institute who released proposals last year of reducing youth disadvantage estimated that the cost of youth unemployment, youth incarceration, youth on the sole parent benefit and taxes forgone, is around $900 million per year. Youth Not in Employment, Education or Training is not only a tragic waste of talent and potential, but we also all carry the cost.

We should also be worried that Maori & Pasefika youth make up a large number of NEETS. While the 6.3% unemployment rate in NZ is worrying, its not at the crisis levels of the PIGS. But the 6.3% unemployment rate hides the fact that for some parts of New Zealand unemployment truly is at crisis levels. I’ve shown int the graph below the figures by HLFS showing 43.3% of Pasifika 15-19 year olds are unemployed. That’s a shocking figure, right up there with the worst youth unemployment rates of Europe.

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment

Pasifika & Maori Youth Unemployment


Total Employment Change from 2008 Reveals Imminent Crisis

Posted by on February 21st, 2012

Increase in unemployment under National

Increase in unemployment under National

The Household Labour Force Survey Survey report of the December 2011 Quarter released last week revealed that our unemployment rate slipped slightly to 6.3% from 6.6%. While a rate of 6.3% in itself doesn’t necessarily mean we have reached crisis levels, the focus on the overall unemployment rate does conceal detail about our employment situation that if brought to the surface will shine light on what I believe is an immiment crisis looming in our economic horizon.

Since JohnKey’s National took office in November 2008, 53,000 New Zealanders have joined the unemployment ranks. That’s a 54% increase in the number of people unemployed to a total of 150,000. For these people, National’s promise of a ‘brighter future’ has utterly failed to materialise, especially if you have a mortgage and teenage children you are supporting through school.

While the impact of the recession cannot be ignored, the number of people unemployed has actually increased since the recession officially ended in mid-2009. The official unemployment figures only tell part of the story. Many more people are without work but are not counted as being unemployed. Many are described by the Salvation Army as being “discouraged unemployed”. They would like to work and would accept a job offer if given, but they would not be deemed as actively seeking work because for instance looking for work through a newspaper does not meet the threshold of “actively seeking work”. The number of Kiwis jobless has increased by almost 100,000 under National’s watch to now 261,300 people as of December 2011. In the meantime 59,964 people are receiving the Unemployment Benefit as at December 2011 a fall of 7% from 67,084 as of the December 2010.
So is this it? Is this the brighter future promised to all New Zealanders?

Number of people jobless


Asset Sales:Treaty Clause to be ditched, what else will go?

Posted by on January 31st, 2012

Wira Gardiner has taken on a lot of difficult jobs for governments of all hues, but I think hitting the road to sell ditching the Treaty of Waitangi clause from any new legislation for assets to be sold is going to be his most difficult task.

It seems the government regard the Treaty clause as it is currently contained in the State Owned Enterprises Act that covers the companies on the block will be an impediment to sale. Pesky Treaty getting in the way of National’s plan to sell off our future! The easy response from the government of course is to just get rid of it.

This is going to cause major ructions among Maori, and rightly so. Another question for the government to answer is what will happen to the “social responsibility” clause that also governs SOEs?

an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so

Will it survive in the new legislation for the assets that are being sold?

If it goes its clearer than ever that these sales are in fact privatisation. The rhetoric about the government keeping control of the assets is empty if the legislation that will govern them removes the protections that give all New Zealanders confidence that the assets are working in the best interests of the country. These will simply be private companies acting without reference to providing a social good for all of us.

These hui will be fascinating. Morgan Godfrey has already noted that support seems to be dwindling among iwi. I know for sure we will be putting pressure on National in Parliament and in the community to stop the sales. Interesting times indeed.


Sir Michael Marmot- Health Equity

Posted by on July 13th, 2011

Today I am attending a symposium organised by the NZMA on health inequities to coincide with the visit of Sir Michael Marmot from the UK. I have blogged before about the influence of Sir Michael on the excellent NZMA statement on health equity.

Its occasions like this that highlight just how ridiculous are the assertions of Maori privilege made by Don Brash. Just a couple of examples have been highlighted by Tony Blakely from Otago University and Don Simmers and Norman Sharpe from the NZMA.

- despite improvements in the first decade of this century Maori life expectancy is 7-8 years short of non-Maori.
- mortaility rates for Maori in middle age are 2-3 tomes higher than non-Maori including all causes such as heart disease.
- Maori babies are 5 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome than non-Maori
- diabetes rates, suicide rates and infectious disease rates and mortality are all higher for Maori than non-Maori

Health inequities are certainly relate to economic depravation,and it was a good achievement that income inequality in New Zealand did reduce slightly in the 2000s under Labour, but there is much more to do. It is also clear that there is an ethnic component above and beyond that. Addressing this is not privileging a group, it is in fact correcting a systemic disadvantage. Doing so, with early intervention, will benefit us all in promoting social inclusion and reducing the cost of expensive health interventions at a later stage.


Te Tai Tokerau

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

My take is that Hone will have to make a choice on whether he stays at home until November to defend his seat or working hard around the country effectively helping Labour take back the other four Maori seats.

In either case there is a very real possibility of Labour winning all seven in November – especially given the way Pita Sharples rejected Hone’s overtures this morning.

And it is the end of any thinking person of the left supporting Mana because there is no guarantee of Hone winning and a very real chance of party votes for Mana being wasted. If Sue Bradford had still been a Green they would have been in the box seat.


Poll warning Te Tai Tokerau

Posted by on June 13th, 2011

Poll warning again. Native Affairs poll has Hone and Kelvin within 1%.

Sample only 500, done by landline. Maori electorates notoriously difficult to poll.

It is clear that the race is close and the Maori Party is collapsing (actually nationally as well as up north).

But as Kelvin pointed out it is who gets more votes not who answers their phone that counts and therefore organisation will be vital.

Fairly soon the Maori Party will informally throw in the towel because they want Hone to lose more than they hate Labour winning.


Who is the real taniwha here?

Posted by on June 9th, 2011

The great taniwha stops transport project story has popped up again, this time after a member of the Auckland Council’s Maori statutory board asked whether the Council had considered the impact of the rail tunnel on the taniwha Horotiu who lived in an ancient creek running past the Town Hall and down Queen St.

The modern taniwha has carved out an interesting role where modern infrastructure projects meet politics.  The Herald reports taniwha sparked public debate in 2002 when the presence of a one-eyed taniwha called Karu Tahi stopped work on the Waikato Expressway. Taniwha inspired an on-site protest during construction of the Ngawha Prison, near Kaikohe.

The taniwha story provokes very different responses on each side of the Maori-Pakeha divide. For Maori I suspect it is a part of the ongoing struggle to get authorities to engage and listen to iwi and their concerns. For most Pakeha the growing influence of taniwha is probably seen as political correctness gone mad.

But neither of those should distract from the main game here. The real threat to Auckland’s long-awaited rail link is not the Queen St taniwha. It is a roads-mad Transport Minister determined to sink the plan for a modern rapid transit system in our biggest city.

If there is a taniwha threatening the rail link its name is Steven Joyce.


Just who is funding the “Tupperwaka”?

Posted by on June 7th, 2011

Sometimes when you ask a question in Parliament it does not go exactly according to plan. Today I was asking a question based on this story in the New Zealand Herald which said that the PM was stumping up $300,000 for the running costs of the so-called “tupperwaka.”

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Mr Key said it was not unusual for the Prime Minister to fund new projects he personally believed had merit. “In this instance the money was appropriated via the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,” the spokeswoman said.

It is in fact very unusual for DPMC to fund anything like this, hence my question. Sadly for me, the Prime Minister got up in Question Time today and said that the spokeswoman was incorrect because they had received incorrect advice and that the money in fact came from contingency funding in the 2010 Budget that was given to Te Puni Kokiri.

But how could a mistake like this be made? Well, a look at the Cabinet papers authorising the spending on the plastic waka provide a clue. Recommendation 9 of the paper CAB (11) 50 says the following

note that the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage have confirmed contributions of up to $0.300 million and up to $0.800 million respectively to underwrite the showcasing and festival programmes to be staged within and around Te Waka.

Hmmm, that sure sounds like the PM was going to fund it. Interestingly, and somewhat conveniently, by the time the funding was finalised it was described as being from the Emerging Priorities Fund, and today we learn this appears to have been through TPK.

Whatever, the whole process around approving funding for the plastic waka is murky, with little in the way of transparency. In tight fiscal times it does not seem to be a priority or an “emerging priority” for that matter.


Have the Maori Party conceded in Te Tai Tokerau

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

It has become clear over the last couple of weeks that only Kelvin Davis can beat Hone Harawira. The Maori Party want him out of parliament even more than we do. That might explain their choice of a low profile candidate yesterday. As the Herald said :-

…. old party launched Solomon Tipene’s bid to win the Te Tai Tokerau byelection.

The great-grandfather was the surprise pick for the Maori Party, which also interviewed lawyer Mere Mangu and actor Waihoroi Shortland, tipped by many in the north as the frontrunner.

the Hone shotgun scenario on lets-not.co.nz is creating lots of interest including some criticism.


Why the Maori Party is third in Te Tai Tokerau

Posted by on May 17th, 2011

Maui Street is a great blog. Don’t always agree but Morgan has his finger on the pulse.

Here he outlines the Maori Party’s problems.


Kelvin – why are Maori good for waiting staff and singing but not Real New Zealand showcase?

Posted by on May 10th, 2011

For those without broadband, the Hansard is below: (more…)