Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Red Alert’ Category

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


Posted by on January 24th, 2012

Though our aim divine/
The delivery is human/
A labour of love

A haiku about Red Alert dedicated to John Hartevelt

Filed under: Red Alert

Re-thinking Red Alert

Posted by on December 29th, 2011

As signalled in a previous post, I’m having a bit of a re-think about Red Alert. In particular, how to build on its strengths and address some of the issues that have arisen in the last couple of years.

In the last term of parliament, Red Alert was a bit of an experiment in how NZ Labour politicians could communicate directly with the public and have some honest conversations about policy, issues of the day and expound our thoughts in general.

It was a bit ad hoc, which was largely a strength as the blog is pretty widely acknowledged as being real and honest. The voices on Red Alert are MPs. They aren’t paid staff. That should continue.

However, there’s always room for improvement and here’s a few preliminary thoughts from me. I welcome your constructive  input.

I’ve been given a new portfolio called Open Government, perhaps a first for any major political party as a formal portfolio. I’ve been doing a bit of research  and will write a piece in the next couple of weeks about the portfolio, its importance and what it can achieve. It’s unusual to have an opposition portfolio which doesn’t match up to a Government Ministry.  It should be noted that the National Government is most unlikely to actively promote open government, despite Bill English doing some good work in pushing for more open data in the public sector. Red Alert will be a vehicle for demonstrating how a Labour Government would promote Open Government.

Red Alert is no longer an experiment. It’s now part of the fabric of political discourse in this country. It may have also changed things a bit. I’d like to see Red Alert and Labour’s strong presence generally in social media become more focussed. As I see it our purpose is two-fold.

First, to continue to engage in direct conversation with New Zealanders about our thoughts and ideas. Second, for the medium to be a tool to build campaigns.

I’d like to see us concentrate more on the second. It will require more effort to work collaboratively across the political spectrum with those we can work with. It requires building more skills. And tolerance of differences.

However, there are some challenges. The biggest, as I see it, is  those who would deliberately use underhand and hostile tactics  to undermine attempts to demonstrate open-ness and a different way of engaging with New Zealanders. Red Alert’s tolerance will not extend to them.

Honest debate and disagreement is one thing. It’s an important part of democracy. Personal attacks, abuse and pack behaviours designed to destroy new voices and new ideas and a different way of engaging are another.

Red Alert is a vehicle for Labour’s caucus to communicate directly with New Zealanders. We know and welcome the scrutiny and sometimes criticism from the mainstream media. We also welcome the engagement with bloggers and commentators in the new media environment provided by the internet.

I believe that there should be consistency with new media  in the rules and protocols applied to mainstream media. Red Alert is just one of those new mediums. We are not journalists. Nor should we ever presume to be. But we have responsibilities in how we communicate. And we can show an example.

The voices on Red Alert are of elected politicians. People who believe that the only way to make change happen is to make it happen. I believe that that if politicians are seen to do things differently, then New Zealanders can begin to have more faith in us.

It’s worth considering that around a third of eligible New Zealanders didn’t vote in the last election. For any party. That’s something we should all be grappling with.

4000 posts on Red Alert

Posted by on August 15th, 2011

Thought it was worth noting. Well done everyone. And to our readers and commenters.


37 out of 42 Labour MPs have posted on Red Alert. Some more than others.

No surprisingly, Trevor wins with 1,185 posts
Clare 605
Grant 448
Chris Hipkins 257
Darien 249

There have been 89,271 comments.

I reckon what we’ve done is ground-breaking and real. We’ll keep thinking of new and better ways to communicate with you.  It’s a two-way street. Without you we’d just be talking to ourselves.

The trolls under the bridge

Posted by on August 9th, 2011

One of the childhood stories that sticks in my mind is that of the Billy Goats Gruff. It’s a Norwegian fairytale and it tells the story of three goats who try to get over a bridge inhabited by a nasty troll underneath. They work together and manage to get to the other side safely. The troll is vanquished.

Time to use that strategy. The trolls who inhabit this site are on notice.

You have been tolerated for long enough. Your tactics are increasingly obvious. Real debate is encouraged on Red Alert, but not trolling.

You will be banned without notice.

I was going to put this post up a few days ago. Instead I ran a poll. As a litmus test. The results are pretty clear. Of the people who comment, most are put off by the tone of many commenters.

In the last couple of weeks the intensity of trolling by anonymous commenters on Red Alert has increased.

Genuine comments will be posted, no matter what their angle. Moderating policy will be followed.

If you are anonymous, breach the moderating policy and provide a false email address which can’t be verified, you will be banned. You can email one of the moderators if you want to contest the decision. But you must provide your identity to us which will be kept confidential.

If you are a regular commenter and breach the moderating policy you will get a warning. If you are banned you can email one of us to put your case. It will be heard.

That’s fair. Because this blog is for everyone, it’s not a playground for nasty trolls.

Poll: How do you feel about commenting?

Posted by on August 7th, 2011

How do you feel about commenting on Red Alert posts?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

NB: You can answer more than one question


Posted by on July 28th, 2011

I thought it might be time to have a chat about our moderation policy on Red Alert.

It’s been a while since we told you all what it is, and it’s important that we remember that new people view Red Alert all the time; there are new commenters. And some of the existing ones can forget.

I thought it might also be useful to say a few words to anyone who has transgressed the policy and found themself  “in moderation” (where their comments get held up until they have been vetted and approved. Or worse, have been banned.

The Red Alert moderators (myself, Trevor, Grant and Chris) will review your status if you ask us to.

Here’s the moderation policy:

  1. Keep it relevant to the post.
  2. Keep it clean. Don’t use offensive language. We’re tolerant, but we use the test of wanting to have intermediate age school kids using this site for research.
  3. Don’t make it personal. Stick to the issues rather than the person. By all means criticise what people have said or done, but do it in a way that is not personal. Leave families out of it. And we moderate attacks on National and ACT MPs on the same basis as Labour.
  4. Don’t tell lies

If you’re commenting for the first time, your comment will go into moderation, and is generally approved. After that your comments should automatically appear.

But if you step outside the guidelines, you’ll be placed “in moderation” which means your comments will sit in a box and be looked at by one of us before being approved.


The terrible twos

Posted by on May 5th, 2011


Today Red Alert turns two.

It’s funny but we seem older. Not sure about wiser. But we are a credible and established force in the New Zealand political blogosphere.

Most Labour MPs blog . Most of us are active on facebook. Many of us are on Twitter. These are our real voices. We don’t always agree with each other, but we do share common values.

We’re focussed, we’re pretty tough and we have hearts. We also have ideas.

Most importantly we say what we think so we can talk to you; our readers, commenters, critics and supporters. Tell us what you’re thinking about us and don’t hold back (within reason).

What do you like about us, what do you want from us?

PS: And I promise the edit function on the comments is coming

Some facts:

  • 3,545 posts
  • Most posts: well who do you think? Trevor Mallard 1020
  • Next most posts: me on 519 (I’m a bit behind)
  • Newest poster: Annette King
  • Interesting new regular posts: Play of the Day, Tweet of the Week

PS: I forgot to thank my fellow moderators. Trevor, Grant and Chippie (Mr Hipkins). We work well together. We have occasional intense discussions, but we exercise our responsibility fairly and without prejudice (as long as you don’t cross the line). For those who disagree our moderation policy is here.


Posted by on March 27th, 2011

What Clare says

And having an accident and being full of pain killing drugs means that I am taking a bit of extra care as well.

As some of you know I write my posts pretty quickly – sometimes having thought carefully about an issue and sometimes not.

This break has meant I have an accumulation of posts in my head. Some are old issues, some current, some new and some just idiosyncratic.

They include:-
1. More on why we really had a by-election in Botany.
2. How Finlayson misled the Supreme Court.
3. The real level of the UFB subsidy to Telecom
4. How the cost of living is now hitting upper middle income earners.
5. What is the definition of well off these days.
6. The lost opportunity to develop trades esp building skills in 2011.
7. Who ends up owning privatised SOEs.
8. Will kids born in 2009 be worse educated than those before ?
9. We have to do something about primary care costs to free up hospitals EDs.
10. Why do we risk our meat exports by privatising inspection?
11. How to destroy teacher professional development.

Filed under: Red Alert

Red Alert’s 3000th post

Posted by on December 7th, 2010

Congratulations Labour MPs for your prolific work over the last 18 months on Red Alert.

Since May 2009 we have:

  • 34/42 MPs posting on Red Alert
  • written 3000 posts
  • accepted 68,156 comments

Thanks to fellow moderators (Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins) for all your work trying to keep RA honest and a place where people feel okay about commenting.

I’m sure 2011 will show increased enthusiasm on Red Alert, by both posters and commenters.

And we will have some new features, I promise (including an edit function for commenting)

Tell us what you think so far. And what you’d like next.

Does John Key know he’s our latest follower?

Posted by on November 28th, 2010

John Key is following Red Alert on Twitter. Good on him. Keeping up to date.

Every time we do a post on Red Alert, it gets automatically posted onto Twitter. John Key is now a follower. Means he doesn’t have to regularly check in to Red Alert, he can just follow us on Twitter.

Presume he made the decision himself!


The state of our news. Is it crap?

Posted by on September 7th, 2010

Some more reflections on how the news media has been covering the Christchurch earthquake (#eqnz on twitter).

My previous post reflected my reaction as a member of the public without much access to technology and media during Saturday and Sunday. I was aware of difficulties in quality media coverage getting off the ground in the first few hours after the quake but was reasonably happy with what I saw during Saturday and Sunday when I could access media.

However it’s becoming more apparent that there were issues and that they need to be looked at.

TV3’s lack of continuous coverage on Saturday has created some ructions within that broadcaster. Mike McRoberts has expressed his frustration about this as reported in today’s NZ Herald.

RadioNZ did have a special morning report on at 7am, but resumed ordinary programing and didn’t get it’s act together until well into Saturday morning. That’s simply not good enough.

TVNZ had ongoing coverage throughout the day and into the night. Not sure exactly when they kicked it off.

Prime TV too seemed to have coverage throughout the day. And well into the night. (update on this coming)

I’ve had a number of emails from people reading my previous post saying that they got better coverage from overseas media.

And I’ve discussed the important role that social media has played. Allowing people to make contact with each other via their mobile phone applications for Facebook and Twitter. And providing people with up to date information that the news media wasn’t providing.

It appears that social media was the place where meany people went to get information. I think it’s certainly worth investigating more the important role it plays. Many organisations, including Civil Defence are now using social media effectively, in particular Twitter.

I received info on this new Govt website on the Canterbury Earthquake today via Twitter before any other media.

Blogs like Red Alert are also playing an important role.

My colleague Brendon Burns and Lianne Dalziel are reporting directly on Red Alert from their Christchurch electorates on the extent of the devastation and the human stories they are encountering. All Chch based MPs are affected and working tirelessly. I, like many of my colleagues, feel a bit helpless.

I hope that all NZ media reassess their ability to respnd quickly in an emergency to provide the nation and those directly affected with accurate information and quality reporting. One of the things this emergency has revealed is that there appear to be no working journalists overnight in our country and that our ability to respond quickly at a weekend leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Our public media services; radio and TV and web-based are the most critical at a time like this. We need them to be resourced and responsive.

MPs who tweat (sorry tweet)

Posted by on August 29th, 2010

At yesterday’s OpenLabourNZ event in Wellington there was a discussion about the growing importance of social media and how it is transforming engagement in the political process.

The growing use of twitter and facebook by members of parliament as well as public servants was also discussed and the inevitable issues that result when someone makes a controversial comment that can land them in trouble.

The point of the discussion was that social media interaction was becoming more normalised and it was important for employers (and media) not to over react when comments were posted that seemed inflammtory.

Of course there are lines that have to be drawn. A case in point on Red Alert is how the moderation of comments policy has evolved and got stronger over the last year. David Farrar on Kiwiblog also wrote about this issue.

Given the highly charged nature of the political world it’s interesting to see how many MPs are using social media.

Twitter is fast becoming a tool for discussion and commentary during question time in the House and many New Zealand politicans are actively using twitter on a regular basis.

I thought you might be interested in seeing this twitter analysis tool created by Brenda Wallace, a Wellington based software developer and girl geek.

Engage is a tool to measure twitter use by NZ and Australian MPs. It measures the actual interaction by MPs rather than just the number of broadcast messages. And ranks them.

It’s interesting that Rob Muldoon (his ghost) ranks the highest. I am currently second, because of the amount of tweating over the weekend on OpenLabourNZ. I’m sure that will change as Metiria Turei and Jacinda Ardern are hot on my heels.

But while there are quite a few MPs on twitter, not many use it a lot.

I think we will see this change in the coming months.

If you want to get onto twitter go to It’s easy and it’s extraordionary.

Update: It appears that Iain Lees-Galloway and Gareth Hughes are also up there in twitter use. Good on them. 46 NZ MPs are currently on twitter (according to Brenda’s site)

Acknowledgement: I spelt Tweet wrong in the headline. I’m better at doing it than talking about it. Here’s some info about twitter

Registrations open for NZ’s first political open policy public event

Posted by on August 16th, 2010

Registrations are open to a public event as a part of what I think is NZ’s first attempt to develop political policy in an open forum directly involving the community, and using online technology.

The public event on 28 August in Wellington brings together ideas generated over the last four months on how to deliver open and transparent government.

OpenLabourNZ was launched via Red Alert at the end of April. It’s an experiment in how Labour can more deeply engage with the community and seek their input, by using new technologies and methods to increase participation and collaboration in developing policy.

While it will be a uniquely New Zealand event, the format is drawing on similar processes used in open government initiatives in Australia, the US and the UK.

To date, OpenLabourNZ has attracted hundreds of responses by blogs, Twitter and Facebook and direct communication with the Party.

We are serious about being open and transparent. This is a new initiative, but through it we hope to demonstrate that we mean business and will take the policy to the election and into government.

A series of high profile international and New Zealand speakers will be announced in the next few days.

Event details
The public event will be held at the Lion Harbourview Lounge on the second floor of the Michael Fowler Centre on Saturday 28 August from 10am – 3pm.

The event will also be streamed live over the Internet, so people who can’t be there in person can still participate. People participating from home will be able to do so using Twitter, Facebook and an online forum. Details about how to participate online will be announced soon.

If you are able to attend in person, please register as places are limited. You are asked to participate in good faith. This is a Labour Party focussed event but it is intended to attract a wide range of participants interested in the goal of open and transparent government and how to achieve that.

Registration is free, and you can register by emailing

A note on moderation

Posted by on July 27th, 2010

To all those who get frustrated when their comments are stuck in moderation for a while.

Firstly, you are in moderation because you have said something that has given us cause for concern and while your comments are generally allowed through they are watched. Or because a word or a link you have inserted in your comment has caused you to end up in moderation. The moderators are four MPs. Myself, Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins.

No staff, just MPs who have meetings, House duty and other activities that take up their time. Sometimes (not often) comments are stuck in moderation for an hour or two while we are all doing something else.

Secondly, while it’s a weakness of Red Alert that comments sometimes get stuck it’s also a strength that your comments are only moderated by MPs. It’s the real deal. So it’s not a conspiracy or anything, it’s just human stuff.

Thanks for your patience.


Kiwiblog reaches the age of reason

Posted by on July 27th, 2010

In the spirit of good relations in the blogosphere, I thought it was worth acknowledging Kiwiblog for reaching the wise old age of seven today (they say that’s the age of reason!)

David Farrar, or DPF as he is also known, (I shan’t mention other nicknames because I’m above all that) fronts Kiwiblog and has a strong and respected reputation (generally) for putting up issues and running a strong case. I can’t say the same about many of the people who comment on his blog, he runs a pretty much un-moderated ship and I find much of the discussion bigoted and distasteful.

But Red Alert congratulates DPF. He’s formidable and despite the fact that we strongly disagree on many things, we agree on others and we can have a good debate. That’s healthy politics.

Why we blog

Posted by on July 20th, 2010

Red Alert entered the Internet Industry Awards in the Positive Societal Impact cateory. It’s the second time we’ve entered. And the second time we’ve been unsuccessful.

We think Red Alert might be making a bit of a difference in our country, showing that politicians are accessible, have good ideas and want to engage with people. It’s about doing politics differently.

Despite not being successful, it was still a worthwhile exercise.

As part of our entry we made a wee video clip on why we blog.

You might like to have a look.

It’s your turn to tell us what you think of us

Posted by on July 1st, 2010

Red Alert is entering the New Zealand Internet Industry Awards 2010.

As part of our entry we’re doing a little video clip about why we blog.

We’d love you to participate in our entry by taking a short video clip of yourself and saying what you think about us (Red Alert that is) and why you comment.

Just a couple of sentences.

You could put the clip up on You Tube and either link to it on a comment or send to me directly

We know that many of you don’t want to reveal your identity. That’s fine. Just use your cat or a sock puppet with a voice over.

We’d love to hear from you and unless you are rude or offensive, we’ll use what you say.


PS: Deadline is Monday afternoon. 3pm. Dare you

Poll result

Posted by on June 18th, 2010

Last week Red Alert published its first poll.

The question was:  Should Auckland’s new trains be built in NZ?

The results were:

  • Yes (75%, 534 Votes)
  • No (25%, 176 Votes)
    Total Voters: 710

A fairly resounding result and a high response rate we think.

There were 53 comments and a very thoughful discussion about the issues around kiwi content in large government contracts and the capacity of NZ to build carriages and engines.
As you’ll see below we have another poll running and plan to run them three times a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
We welcome your suggestions for polls.

2000 posts on Red Alert

Posted by on May 19th, 2010

A few weeks ago we celebrated Red Alert’s first birthday. Today we hit another milestone – this is our 2000th post. We’ve had 37,063 comments. Not a bad effort for a bunch of pretty busy people. Keep in mind that we write and respond to these posts ourselves. Comment moderation is also done by MPs. As always, we welcome feedback…

Filed under: blogs, Red Alert