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Voter turnout : How do we motivate more people to vote? Labour Leadership Q&A #8

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 8

Voter turnout : How do we motivate more people to vote?

Question : To win the next election we need to motivate people to vote and win some of the swing voters in the middle. Share one strategy that you think would be most effective in achieving this?

Submitted by : Dalene Mactier, Southbridge

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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 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. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues 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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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

Answer from David Cunliffe

We need three things: strategy, unity and urgency. At the last election more than 800,000 people didn’t vote. At the 2011 election, Labour failed to persuade enough New Zealanders that it was a credible alternative.

When National was telling them that they would cut them off at the knees, they don’t want to hear from Labour that it would too, just a little nearer to the ankles and with more anaesthetic.

I will lead a true red Labour Party, not a pale blue one. I will lead a team that is a clear alternative to John Key.

Voters will understand the difference between Labour and National and how we will build a fairer, more inclusive New Zealand.

We must be united to win. Voters disengage when there is disunity.

Everyone in Labour must put the interests of the party and the country first. We also need to be ready to win now.

We have less than a year to lift our numbers. John Key will spend billions to get re-elected. He is battle-ready and has the best spin money can buy.

New Zealanders need us to win so that they can get back on the ladder to success.

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Answer from Shane Jones

Voter turnout is essential.

I am confident I can reconnect the Party with a broader range of voters. I am able to deal with the reasons why 800,000 kiwis chose not to vote in 2011.

A significant percentage of them are in the provinces.

I believe I can broaden the appeal of the Party to these people.

There is no single silver bullet.

However a robust organisation on the ground with vivid messages will work.

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Answer from Grant Robertson

We need to be talking to people about the things that matter in their lives – how can they afford their first home, what opportunities are there for their kids when the leave school and university, are there decent jobs out there for them?

If we talk to people about the issues that matter to them, they will see that Labour has the vision and the policies to make a difference in to their lives.

I don’t think for a minute that middle New Zealand is better off under a National Government.

Under National their wages are stagnant, their power bills are growing and our public schools are getting shafted.

I will unite Labour so we can focus on selling our policies to New Zealanders and if we can do that we’ll win.

ENDS


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


Touchstone

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.

 

 


Marginalising young workers

Posted by on March 22nd, 2013

This week, the government passed its Minimum Wage (Starting Out Wage) Amendment bill by one vote. The Bill was introduced late last year by Kate Wilkinson before she was sacked and has been taken up with enthusiasm by her replacement, the Hon Simon Bridges.

From 1 May, 16 and 17-year-old workers can be paid 80% of the adult minimum wage ($11.00 an hour) for six months. If they start a new job, they can start again on youth rates, regardless of previous job experience. 18 and 19-year-olds, who may have previously had jobs paying adult wages, can also be paid sub-minimum rates if they have been unfortunate enough to be on a social security benefit for six months, including the invalids benefit and sickness benefit.

Cutting workers’ rights and pay is classic National Party. They’ve already made it impossible for young workers to challenge any unfair treatment and dismissal in the first 90 days of employment, which was supposed to open up thousands of jobs. They have failed to address youth unemployment in any way, shape or form, which is a national scandal. And so, they’re resorting to their tried and failed policies of last century.

The bottom line is this : cutting workers pay does not create jobs. Employers take on workers when there is work to be done, not because they can pay them less. Full stop.

MoBIE openly admitted that it had very little way of telling whether this bill will meet its government’s claim that it will reduce youth unemployment. They came up with a “best guess” that it could create 400 to 1,100 net jobs. I’m wary of these numbers. Who can forget the 2011 Budget projection of 170,000 new jobs by 2015?  Not much sign of that as unemployment continues to rise, more good jobs are lost, and our youth unemployment is up there with the worst in the OECD.

Other advice on the bill was worrying. Treasury suggested that paying sub-minimum wages is something that could be extended in the future to other workers who have a high unemployment rate – so look out Maori and Pasifika workers, or those who live in areas where jobs are scarce. The Ministry of Education warned that youth rates were at odds with the Government’s own stated education goals and would impact on the incomes of working students, thus creating barriers to gaining qualifications.

The Government did not listen to the more than 520 submissions opposed to this bill. It ignored the business community who said youth rates are not a silver bullet and the Government needs to do a lot better on youth unemployment.

It seems to me that the government’s accepted that a low wage, low skill economy is our future, where people are paid less and work longer, where good jobs are off-shored because of a lack of investment and hands-on economic policy and where those who are young and can’t escape overseas to a better life are consigned to economic marginalisation.


A bill to protect younger workers

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

It is a little ironic that the day before the government passed its first reading of the Minimum Wage bill that cuts young workers’ pay, my bill, (Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill)  was drawn from the ballot.

I’m pleased that this bill will get a hearing, because it’s about protecting young workers under 16. It will provide that young workers aged 15 cannot be employed as self employed contractors and must instead be employed under the Employment Relations Act as employees.

The most obvious example is leaflet and newspaper deliveries. Caritas did some work on this a few years back and highlighted the issues of low pay, health and safety risks and children being subjected to unfair contracting.  Here’s some examples of the contracts for leaflet deliverers they came across :

Contract A: “The parties acknowledge that this agreement is entered into by both parties on the basis that the Deliverer is an independent Contractor and that the Deliverer is not an agent or employee of the Company….The Contractor is an independent Contractor and as such is free…to select the Contractor’s own means and methods of performing the services and, subject to the delivery window requested by [Company], the hours during which the Contractor will perform those services.”

Contract B: “You are employed by [Company] under a contract for services, which means that you are an independent contractor.  This contract does not therefore create an employment relationship between you and [Company].”

Contract C: “All Distributors are Independent Contractors and therefore are required to file an IR3 at the end of each year.”

Contract D: “The Contractor is an independent Contractor and as such is free (in addition to the Contractor’s freedom to engage sub-contractors and others to use carrying equipment…) to select the Contractor’s own means and methods of performing the services…The Contractor shall bear all costs and expenses incurred by the Contractor in connection with the performance of the services.

Based on a crude assessment of their data, Caritas estimated that most of the pay rates fell somewhere between $1.67 and $6.25 per hour.

There has been a long tradition in New Zealand of young people delivering newspapers and leaflets. No problem with that. But expecting young people to understand commercial law, pay their own tax and ACC and take on the responsibilities of contractors under Commercial Law is not fair.

We need to ensure young workers are treated fairly under employment law, with rights to personal grievance, written agreements, sick leave, holidays and other employment entitlements.

It’s important to note my bill doesn’t apply to young workers providing work for individual householders, such as lawnmowing, babysitting and so on.

The bill is a basic measure to improve children’s overall working conditions and something I hope the Parliament will take seriously.


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.


A Dear John Letter …..

Posted by on May 25th, 2012

dear john2

Yesterday National delivered a budget that offered zero opportunities for young New Zealanders. Removing the tax credit on part-time work for young people, restricting student allowances and increasing student loan repayments are all examples of how young people are paying for National’s deficit of ideas. Nothing was presented yesterday to offer young people hope for their futures. Rather, what was presented will have even more of our young people scampering for the nearest departure lounge.

Over the last 24 hours my inbox has been running hot with messgaes from young people feeling like they have been abandoned by this Government.

This afternoon I received this email from a constituent of mine. She has also sent it to the Prime Minister. I guess she really means it!

I really don’t have to say anymore – it speaks for itself!

 

Dear John,
I’m breaking up with you. I can’t handle this anymore. You weren’t my first pick anyway, to be honest. Russel charmed me, Pita and Tariana said nice things, and even Phil was better company. But we ended up together you and I, facing the gloom and doom of an ageing population, a broadening gap between here and the West Island, the ever-looming GFC, and now, the recovery effort here in Christchurch. You were all right to start with; we got on well enough. Your friends aren’t that great. Anne annoyed me when she closed the school down the road from me, Bill is boring, Gerry keeps on eating all the pies, and Banksy’s a liar, plus your perpetual smirk started to wind me up, but mostly, we managed.  

 But this budget John, it’s the breaking point. That’s it. It’s over.

You know how I finish my LLB/BA this year, having worked part time jobs since I was 15, and essentially 7 day weeks for the past 4 and a bit years? You know how I haven’t been eligible for student allowance until very recently when Dad had to stop working? You know how my student loan is currently sitting around 60 K? Yeah, this budget isn’t helping. Cancelling student allowance for postgraduate study? What were you thinking, John?!?

 I don’t know if you know, but I was looking at doing an LLM next year, in some facet of resource management that would actually be useful and productive for the nation.  My husband is currently finishing off his very useful and productive PhD in mechanical engineering, with a little bit to go next year. Our combined student debt is around the 100 K mark. Another year for us without allowance is another 10 K to that debt.  I realise that you used to shuffle huge sums around for Merril Lynch, so 10 K seems like nothing, but can I tell you what this combined debt means for us?

 It means a struggle for a first home. Heck, it might mean no home at all, in current conditions. It means having fewer children, if producing at all. They tell us the right people aren’t having enough offspring. Children are a priority for us, but not if we can’t afford them. Most of all however, this debt means going overseas. Australia beckons, but we were thinking further afield, like Canada. We’re likely to stay there. There’s very little here for us anymore.

 So it comes to this, John. It’s over. You said so much about bridging the gap between here and Australia. Expecting students to take such a hit while expecting them to pay for the ever-increasing superannuation explosion and the resulting problems that that little nutshell is going to have is f*cking stupid, John. Do you expect us to let you back in next election? Forget your sins, expect us to let you ‘change’? Ha, you could only hope. I’ve got a new politician in my life. His name is David. He offers far more than you. Get lost John.

 No longer yours,

A soon to be graduating lawyer and her engineer husband who are leaving NZ – and not looking back.


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


National’s job claims vs reality

Posted by on February 23rd, 2012
National's job claims vs reality

National's job claims vs reality

Even though the Household Labour Force Survey report reveals that John Key’s ‘brighter future’ promise has utterly failed to materialise in terms of jobs for a growing group of New Zealanders, it hasn’t stopped Mr Key claiming it won’t still come true. Yet we know he has no overall plan, no vision for how this will happen. Last year he made the incredible claim that Budget 2011 would create 170,000 jobs over the next 5 years. He continued to make this claim despite not being able to show anything in the Budget that would actually lead to job creation other than low interest rates and ECE funding. Simply managing the economy and ticking off boxes and hoping that market forces will deliver on the jobs is unbelievable. As expected the Govt is on track to once again fall short of its promise. The 2011 Budget documents predicted 36,000 jobs would be created in the year to March 2012. As at Dec 2011 just 10,000 jobs have been created, leaving the Govt to create a massive 26,000 jobs in the final quarter. If JohnKey keeps promising New Zealanders the world but not delivering, his credibility will be on the line, and we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, don’t we?


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


A note to those who supported VSM

Posted by on October 13th, 2011

Massey Unniversity has responded to the Voluntary Student Membership Act by increasing its fees next year by an amount about equivalent to that paid by students to their Student Associations.

Just to note:
- it seems like the fees are compulsory
- the government will have a big say on what the increase can be used for – not even the university
- it looks like students through their association may be able to negotiate with the university about what services are kept – but no guarantees
- it’s likely to be the model that will spread across NZ – I was in Waikato University yesterday and they are looking at something similar

So all those who backed VSM will still pay the same, but you won’t have any real say about how your money is spent – even less if you decide not to belong to the student association. Taxation without representation it’s called.

And now you don’t even get the choice of a referendum.
What was wrong with an opt-out clause and accountability around association spending as we suggested?

Well done. Everyone loses.


Students will lose, but still pay

Posted by on September 26th, 2011

ACT and National will push voluntary student association bill through parliament this week on the last Members Day. We can expect a good deal of student opposition around the country. Good for them.

Next year, students won’t pay any fees to student associations. That’s inevitable, would you pay your council rates if they were voluntary? Wherever student associations have become voluntary they effectively collapsed.

What happens next?

Well, the university, polytech or institution will step in, charge students a levy, and continue some of the services through subcontracting companies or students to do it for them. It’s already been gazetted (NZ Gazette No. 138). Institutions can charge students for: advocacy and legal advice, careers advice and guidance, counselling services, employment information, financial support and advice, health servieces, childcare facilities, sports and recreation facilities.

In other words, all the stuff that supports students and makes these institutions of learning vital, interesting places.

So, voluntary student association membership will result in … money taken off students compulsorily, leaving them with no power to determine what services are kept. Taxation without representation is one way it can be represented.

The National-Act spin that student associations are the last bastions of compulsory unionism is bollocks … it’s idealogy pure and simple.

We could’ve had a good, enduring Bill with an opt out clause and some rules around accountability of student association spending. I’d spoken a number of times with Heather Roy about some possibilities. She was willing to compromise when she her Bill looked in doubt but held the hard line when she thought she’d get it through.

Too bad, fortunately it won’t last long.


Upbeat about #ownourfuture

Posted by on September 3rd, 2011

Jordan Carter is a Wellington-based candidate on the Labour list.

This week we announced two policies I really like: a sound position on digital copyright, and some real changes to the policies that affect young people on the way from school to work.

The youth employment announcement was the more important (I’ll leave you to wonder why it got no coverage at all in the Dominion Post or the Herald on Friday…), and is part of what we are funding through the tax policy package we announced in July. It will make a real difference for teenagers stuck without work/training or education.

I haven’t seen anyone arguing that the youth skills and employment stuff is a bad idea — praise is pretty universal, other than the odd angry Tory who has frothed that Labour is somehow stealing their policies.  Why a governing party would think an opposition was stealing its policy when said government doesn’t have any policy (just rhetoric) is beyond me, but we’ll let that rest for now too.

These join earlier policy announcements on the cost of living (tax free zone and GST off fresh fruit and veg) and the land sales initiatives we announced last year, to start to give a flavour of where Labour is heading with policy in this year’s election:
•    focusing on the issues that will make a real difference to people in building their futures here
•    tackling really hard and big choices in the interests of New Zealand’s development
•    arguing that in tough economic times, we have to respond by investing in the things that will leave us ready to grow when times improve

They’re summed up with the theme that Phil Goff launched our tax policy with: Own Our Future.

That isn’t a slogan plucked from the air. It is a simple distillation about what many of us Kiwis want to see for the country: a place where we control our own destiny, and where the big picture of economic and social development is happening in our interests, not in the interests of landlords who live somewhere else and to whom we are all mere economic units.

That sense of ownership, of control, of self-determination, is critical to our sense of dignity and self-worth, actually, and it tugs deep at the heartstrings of most New Zealanders.  People know that we’re on the edge a bit, and that carrying on down the track of not saving enough, of selling ourselves out to the highest bidder, isn’t the way to build a future here.

I can’t remember if I have quoted him before, but there’s a snippet from Allen Curnow (a Kiwi poet, for those who don’t know) from his 1943 sonnet “The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch” that sums this feeling up:

Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year
Will learn the trick of standing upright here.

Curnow was lamenting the Moa’s inability to adapt to the arrival of people on these islands of ours.

I’m not lamenting anything: I’m demanding something — that we make that dream of standing on our own two feet in the world something real, something tangible.  That we have a government that believes in it, rather than one which believes it is impossible.


Let’s back jobs for young Kiwis

Posted by on September 2nd, 2011

Yesterday Labour launched our Youth Skills policy. Jacinda did an excellent post on the details just after it went public. If you live in Wellington and missed it in the DomPost this morning, look again. You’ll see all the salient details comprehensively covered in the news brief below and to the left of the quarter page article and photo espousing John Key’s babysitting and travel companion potential.

There is a certain symmetry to Labour launching a policy to get young Kiwis into work on the same day the National government signed off on a deal to buy a bunch of new electric trains for Auckland from overseas, rather than build them locally here in New Zealand. I think it’s great that Auckland are getting much needed investment in their public transport infrastructure, but why aren’t we cashing in the potential to create somewhere around 1,000 new jobs and add up to $250 million to our GDP?

The link between these two announcements actually runs a lot deeper than highlighting the contrast between Labour, who want to create local jobs, and National, who want to export them overseas. When I speak to a lot of the tradespeople in my electorate, I’m reminded just how many of them did their apprenticeships at the railway workshops, the post office, the car assembly plants, or the freezing works. With the exception of the railway workshops, that now employs a fraction of the staff it once did, all of those big employers are gone.

Those tradespeople are now sole traders or work largely in firms that employ fewer than 10 people. Taking on an apprentice is something they’re more than happy to do. They learned their trade on the job and they’re more than happy to give future generations the same chance. But it’s a huge commitment financially and a lot to ask of such small businesses. That’s why I know they’ll welcome Labour’s plan to convert the dole into apprenticeships subsidies.

A lot of people have remarked to me in the past how crazy it is we pay a young person to sit at home on the dole but we won’t provide some financial support to those willing to take them on and train them up. Well Labour is going to do something about that. Our Youth Skills policy is one that I’m very proud to campaign on. Our plan to get thousands of young Kiwis into work, education and training is in marked contrast to National’s plan to give a couple of hundred young beneficiaries a pre-pay purchase card.

So while baby-sitter John devotes his time to worrying about how young people spend their pocket money, Labour is focused on providing them with a meaningful vocation and hope for the future. Oh, what was that about nanny state again…?


Getting all under 20s earning or learning

Posted by on September 1st, 2011

At midday today we released our youth employment policy. There was a reason we chose to do it at a plumbing and gas outfit in the Hutt- our policy focuses heavily on apprenticeships. But that is by no means all it does.

You would have heard us pretty consistently challenging the government over youth unemployment on several fronts. First, the need to create sustainable jobs rather than throwing money at make work schemes, second we need more vocational training places (the government has cut $140mill out of this area) and third, the scale of the problem means we need a pretty comprehensive set of ideas to deal with it. That’s exactly what we announced today. Here’s the summary version:

- 1000 placements for at risk youth in the Gateway scheme, which puts young people into work place learning while they’re still at school
-Improving career services and vocational pathways, especially for young people interested in options outside of tertiary study
- Extending youth transition services to make sure that every school leaver is supported into further training, education and employment. This follows the recommendations of the New Zealand Institute and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs
- Converting dole payments into a subsidy for employers to take on 9000 new apprentices
- 5000 new training places for 16 and 17 year olds, 1,000 of which are targeted at maori trades training, and 1,000 for pasifika young people, with a mentoring component attached (both groups are over represented in our youth unemployment statistics)
- 1,000 additional apprenticeships allocated to group apprenticeships, shared apprenticeships and public service cadets
- An additional 1,500 Conservation Corp places
- Staged apprenticeships in Christchurch, so that apprentices can get basic skills quickly and play a productive role in the rebuild without having to bring in workers from overseas

The whole package comes in at $251 million, but after factoring in the money that is saved through reprioritisation of current government spending, and the savings via the dole, the total cost comes in at $171million and will be funded by our already announced tax plan. Ultimately though, this is a package that has us investing a bit, to save a lot. The New Zealand institute has calculated that the cost of unemployed and disengaged youth to tax payers in $900million.

And finally, job creation. We already know that the demand for skilled trades people exists, but employers just can’t afford to train new people in the job- our dole subsidy scheme will help with that. More broadly though, we also know that our economic policy (supporting exporters, our R&D tax credit, and moving investment to the productive economy) will all play a role in creating sustainable jobs.

There is more to be said on employment beyond young people, but this is a critical area, and one we’re Labour is showing we’re willing to invest in order to save….in so many ways.


Another Key con: or pretending to do something when you really aren’t

Posted by on August 28th, 2011

Lesley Soper is the Labour candidate for Invercargill

Read with fascination the Southland Times Report (Aug 15, p.2) on John Key’s  great National Party Conference announcement of the start of welfare system overhaul.   16 & 17 year-olds first it seems.      They won’t complain too much, and rednecks will think they deserve a bit of ‘nanny state’ overseeing.    Food Stamps don’t equal opportunity or jobs BUT IT WILL LOOK AS IF WE ARE DOING SOMETHING, WHICH WILL HELP DISGUISE OUR UTTER FAILURE TO DO ANYTHING TO DEAL WITH THE WORSE NZ YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

Food Stamps can also be the thin edge of the wedge, & extended to others when we ‘have a Mandate’.

Under this new Policy schools will have to tell authorities when 16 and 17 year-olds leave during the year, and the young people  will be attached to a “responsible adult”.

Quotes from the PM included :  “the first problem that has to be addressed is finding out who the disengaged young people are … we simply don’t know, because we lose track of them when they leave school. … that has to change … and for the first time we will be able to find out who they are, what their circumstances are, what problems they had …”.

But Wait!   The photographic memory clicks in from my years as an MP.   This has to be nonsense.    Didn’t I make more than one visit to a great Youth Transition Service ‘Work’n it Out’ which operates a Call Centre and extended services from Invercargill  [readers will know from my earlier blog on proposed IRD cuts in Invercargill that we run excellent ‘virtual’ operations down here];  and operates under an MSD Contract?     Yes, I did, and it still exists.     Been operating for more than 5 years.     Reports performance and outcomes to MSD every month.   You can look it up online at www.wio.co.nz.   The Social Development Minister & PM could read the reports.   They probably have, but perhaps have ‘forgotten’.

What does this service do?   [and what has it been doing for more than 5 years?]   Well, strangely enough it has been working with 50 Secondary Schools from Timaru South to track every school-leaver at any point through the year, from  ages 16-20.  There are also some self or family referrals, and referrals from other govt departments, but by & large this is a major project to track and assist school-leavers with the rest of their lives.   And it has been working incredibly well!

We are not talking small numbers here.   This is thousands of young people added to the database every year.    They are systematically contacted by the callcentre; they are asked about their plans for further education, training or employment.   They are offered support and assistance, often on a one-to-one customised support basis.  They are tracked from that first call or contact on a regular basis till age 20.     Few of them are non-contactable; very few reject the contact.

Report Data is comprehensive.    We know who these young people are; where they have come from; where they have gone or are going; which industries they are working in; how many are in which other forms of education and training courses; how many return to school; how many head into apprenticeships, full-or-part-time work.

So if this is all already happening, on a large scale, covering quarter of the country geographically [& there are other Youth Transition Services too], and in areas where there are National MP’s [including English, Roy &  Dean], and data exists;  why the announcement of a  ‘First Ever New Policy’;  ‘Never Before Tried’ ; ‘Revolutionary First’ as a  ‘Key Plank’ of the National Party Conference?

Could it be that some Political Spin was required to distract from the failure of the National Government to actually address Youth Unemployment and to create jobs?   Could it be a ‘Key Con’ to pretend to be doing something to distract from actual cuts National has made to apprenticeships and skills training?   Could it be a ‘Big Vision’ like ‘The Cycleway’ or the Budget ‘promise’ of 170,000 jobs  -  with absolutely no substance?    Could it be sheer ignorance of what is already in place?    Or could it be that no-one in Auckland pays any attention to successful initiatives in  Invercargill unless they involve Shadbolt or snow?     Take your pick.

Another ‘Key Con’ when what is really needed is a real economic plan that means young people get real jobs.   Remember the statistic  -  when National came in there were roughly 200 under 24 year-olds who had been on UEB for more than a year.   The number now?


Benefit Card- Priceless

Posted by on August 27th, 2011

Short, to the point, worth a watch. “Some governments actually set out to reduce unemployment, for everything else, there’s Benefit Card”.


Young people need jobs, not welfare reform

Posted by on August 14th, 2011

This afternoon John Key delivered the closing address at the National Party conference.  Perhaps my expectations were a little too high- but after calls from across the spectrum (including the business community) for Key to present the country with his plan for economic growth, I didn’t expect a speech as narrowly and as poorly focused as this.

First a little context. Currently youth unemployment for 15 to 19 year olds is the highest on record and we have one of the highest proportions of youth to adult unemployment in the OECD.  None of this is new, in fact this is the Government’s third attempt at a youth unemployment package. But surely, when you have 58,000 young people not in employment, training or education, you start looking at a comprehensive education, transition, skills training and job creation package. Surely? Apparently not when there are a small group of young people on a benefit that can be targeted instead.

While John Key has finally acknowledged the youth transition issues we have been raising, this element has been lost amongst his much bigger announcement that the roughly 1600 young people on the independent youth benefit will face new restrictions on how their benefit is managed. Key put it like this:

“We are not going to simply hand over benefit money every fortnight. Instead, we will have a much more managed system of payments… We envisage that:  some essential costs, like rent and power, will be paid directly on the young person’s behalf; money for basic living costs like food and groceries will be loaded onto a payment card that can only be used to buy certain types of goods and cannot be used to buy things like alcohol or cigarettes; and that a certain, limited amount will be available for the young person to spend at their own discretion……Most importantly, each of these young people will have to be in education, training or work-based learning.”

A couple of points need to be made in response. First, the threshold for this benefit is extremely high. You have to demonstrate a breakdown in your home environment, and you have to be in education or be actively seeking work or a place in training.  Secondly, it’s already illegal to buy alcohol and cigarettes if you are on the independent youth benefit simply by virtue of your age. And finally, if the biggest issue is that these kids are vulnerable, and that they need to be in training, education or need help finding work- how does cracking down on how they spend their $167.83 per week achieve any of that?

The way I see it, this is the crux of the issue- young people want to work, but the jobs aren’t there. In fact when National came into Government, there were roughly 220 young people who had been trying to find work and had been on an unemployment for more than a year. Now that number is 8 times higher. If we want to make a real difference, we need to respond with a decent plan, not food stamps.


Mr Key and the Child Labour question

Posted by on July 6th, 2011

On Sunday’s Q and A programme, a prickly Indian Minister cut short a question from Guyon Espiner about child labour in India, saying “it was insulting to India.”

When asked about it, John Key responded by saying that “an FTA was not the forum to address child labour issues.  That must be done through the International Labour Organisation and New Zealand had raised the issues there”

No they haven’t.  At least not since National has been in government.  And Mr Key clearly hasn’t looked that closely at New Zealand’s own question of child labour. While we can’t compare our child labour issues with developing countries, we do have children at work, many exploited and who have few rights.

The classic are the leaflet deliverers. Some are paid around 25 cents an hour.  They are employed as independent contractors, so they have no right to join a union, have to pay their own ACC and tax, don’t get sick leave and holiday pay.

Labour helpfully has a bill that Mr Key could adopt, if he really cares about child labour.  It’s called the Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill.  The Bill provides that all workers aged 15 and under must be employed on employment agreements under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (and its amendments) and have all rights, including the right to join a union, bargain collectively and the rights to personal grievance currently provided to employees under the Act.   No such worker can be employed as an independent or dependent contractor.

It’s not such an unusual thing to do.  Homeworkers, under New Zealand law are considered employees under the Employment Relations Act, regardless of whether they are engaged, employed or contracted.  This is because they are considered (and have been proven to be) vulnerable to exploitation if they are employed as contractors.

So, John Key he could do something about New Zealand’s child workers if he really cared.

Or will he wait until that’s raised at the ILO as well?


How to win young workers and influence them

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

The ACT Party had costly advertisements in the weekend newspapers telling young workers that ACT supports them so much that they will cut their wages.

“ACTs solution (to youth unemployment) is simple, cost-effective and unobstrusive. Allow youth rates again. That would provide young people many more opportunities to get their foothold on the job ladder.”

If there are all these jobs out there for young people on low wages, who’s doing them at the moment?  Guess who – workers getting higher pay.

So ACT’s answer to youth unemployment is to take jobs from older workers and give them to young workers on lousy pay – just to do them a favour?

It’s a bit like Paula Bennett telling the House that a young worker of 52 years of age is delighted to have a job as a “checkout chick” when she was asked about a bottom line for youth pay.

Spare me.