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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination? Labour Leadership Q&A #4

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 4

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?

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 starting yesterday (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 three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?

Submitted by : Lesley Soper, Invercargill



Answer from Shane Jones

The previous Labour Government made progress in this area.

It increased the wages of nurses.

I will use my position of leadership to ensure that the States resources are spent to give concrete improvement towards pay equity.

This is a core feature of Labour Party strategy and will not be neglected if I am leader.


Answer from Grant Robertson

I am really proud of the work of SFWU, Kristine and her lawyer Peter Cranney in getting that ruling.

It offers the prospect that equal pay will now become a matter of common law, and we will not need legislation to ensure it.

But we must be vigilant. National has no commitment to equal pay, and if legislation is needed, just as previous Labour governments have done we will pass it.

An immediate increase to the minimum wage, scrapping the Youth Rates, support for the Living Wage campaign and re-establishment of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit within government are also important parts of ensuring that we achieve equal pay for work of equal value


Answer from David Cunliffe

I believe we need to lead by example. National has not been ambitious for women. When National took office, there were 1153 women in boardroom positions. Today, there are only 1059, and falling. Government has a role to play in setting a leadership example, that is why I am committed to no less 50 % of the Labour caucus being women by no later than 2017.

Labour has a strong record of working to address gender pay inequality.

I am committed to investigating legislative and policy changes to close the gap based on the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. This includes, recognising the right to equal pay, a positive duty to advance equality, and a mechanism to determine work of equal value.

I am also supportive of ensuring information about pay rates are made available so that comparisons can be made and unfair inequalities in pay rates between men and women are revealed.


Poverty : How would you ensure no one needs to live in poverty? Labour Leadership Q&A #2

Posted by on September 10th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 2

Poverty : How would you ensure no one needs to live in poverty?

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.


Question : What strategies would you wish to put in place to ensure no one needed to live in poverty? What steps would you advocate to significantly reduce the gap between the rich and the poor?

Submitted by : Ken Hutchison, Hastings and Bob Kirk, Auckland


Answer From David Cunliffe

Inequality is one of the biggest issues we face and we must strive to build a fairer, more inclusive New Zealand.

I am committed to a top tax rate of 39 per cent, the introduction of a capital gains tax, and making sure the wealthiest New Zealanders pay their share of tax. I will repeal National’s changes to the Employment Relations Act and I’ll ensure that we have fair employment laws, starting with industry standard agreements. I’ll raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the first 100 days of a Labour Government and I’ll also invest in a living wage for all Kiwis – our government will set the standard.

We will need to create decent well-paid jobs. My aim is full employment, with every New Zealander who is ready, willing and able to work in a job or training for one. Creating these jobs will require an economic development package that gets Government off the side-lines and into new partnerships with the community, the regions, and local government to create economic and social value.


Answer from Shane Jones

The minimum wage should be lifted to $15per hour. However as our housing policy, power policy, early childhood education, primary health care improvements roll out, household budgets will improve.

A review of supermarket behaviour is vital because the cost of food in NZ is absurdly high. The cost of rental property must come down.

I understand the need for a living wage. I would start by implementing such a policy in the aged care sector as per the report by Judy McGregor.

I do not have the fiscal data to offer an open ended commitment beyond that point. I am concerned that this policy could be seen as good for State employees but will not apply to those in the private sector. We must remember it will be paid for by tax payers not employed by the Government.


Answer from Grant Robertson

Growing inequality is the most urgent issue facing our country.

We must have the courage to be bold and tackle it head on. This includes giving all children a good start in life in a warm, dry safe home. And it means lifting wages.

We can directly influence this by lifting the minimum wage immediately to $15 per hour, and supporting the Living Wage Campaign.

The government should show leadership to lift the wages of those who work for us, and send the clear signal that anyone who contracts to government should pay the Living Wage.

We also need to build a productive, people centred economy that will deliver higher wages. This includes giving workers back some power in wage negotiations through collective bargaining and industry standard agreements.

I will introduce legislation in my first 100 days, developed with unions to make this happen. We must also use the tax system to ensure everyone pays their fair share. This includes a capital gains tax, cracking down on tax evasion and lifting the top rate for high income earners. If everyone pays their fair share, everyone can have a fair go.


Health By Numbers

Posted by on December 19th, 2012

Both Vernon Small and Corin Dann anointed Tony Ryall their politician of the year. Both cited the same reason: When was the last time you heard of a health scandal?

I agree that Tony Ryall is the best politician on National’s front bench. But that doesn’t make him a good Health Minister. By forcing hospitals to focus on delivering short term statistics he can crow about in Parliament and micro-managing any emerging issue that will resonate with National’s base he has managed the politics of the health portfolio sublimely.

But by sucking resources out of public and primary health and refusing to do anything to prevent the looming obesity crisis or the fact that poverty is a primary driver of ill health, Tony Ryall is setting future health ministers up for massive problems. They will have to grapple with a health system that simply will not be able to cope with the demand that will be placed upon it. Very difficult choices will have to be made about how much we spend on health, how the revenue is raised and what the public health system can deliver. If we leave that all too late, drastic steps will need to be taken and the public health system as we know it will cease to exist.

Just like superannuation, National has their head in the sand on health. They are more worried about getting the numbers right for today’s political purposes rather than doing what is right for the future.

Tony Ryall has build a magnificent house of cards. It looks splendid right now, but the signs it could collapse at any time are there:

Maryan Street has already called Ryall out on his dodgy elective surgery numbers. Simple procedures get priority over more complex surgeries regardless of the outcome they achieve for the sole purpose of getting the numbers up.

At the Health Select Committee fincncial review of the Ministry of Health I pointed out that despite both Labour and National getting elective surgery waiting times down to now being on par with the USA and National diverting resources into getting more and more surgeries done, New Zealand ranks amongst the worst developed countries for post-operative complications such as infections and surgical items being left in the patient. So it’s all about quantity, not quality. Of course, those post-op complications are costly and soak up resources that could be used on better things.

Today there is an emerging story that the national screening programme which identifies hearing irregularities in newborns has been botched resulting in up to two-thousand babies being recalled to hospital to have their hearing re-checked. Why? Because some of the screeners only tested one ear and, bizarrely, some tested themselves rather than the baby. As Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew had to concede on Radio NZ this morning the only logical explanation for this was to save time, get more tests done and produce the numbers the Government is looking for.

Good on the Government for dumping this story after Parliament has risen so this little health scandal can be squashed before the next question time and good on Ryall for sending Goodhew to face the music. Perhaps it was to make up for his sexist graphic about doctors and nurses (which again contained dodgy numbers).

Tony Ryall the best politician of 2012? Yes. But he’s a crap Health Minister and we will all be paying for it in the future.

The Poor List

Posted by on July 29th, 2011

The wealth of New Zealand’s 150 richest people have grown by almost 20% in one year with the combined wealth of New Zealand’s richest burgeoning from $38.2 billion to $45.2 billion – the highest total ever.

But it seems enough is never enough. Having made their fortune, some of the Rich Listers are still demanding the  “freedom” to make even more money.  They want reduction in costs for business and excessive regulation addressed. I take that to mean the usual : cut workers’ rights, privatise ACC, reduce taxes. This is despite New Zealand consistently ranking as having the highest levels of business “freedoms” in the world.

They talk about “wealth creation” as if they have done it all on their own, without the help of governments, taxpayers, workers and the generations gone before.

The NBR editor-in-chief Nevil Gibson even called the Rich Listers “national treasures” in the headline of his editorial about the Rich List.

For goodness sake. What have we come to?

I want to know where the poor list is.

Yes, we talk about the poor, (occasionally) but they are faceless individuals.  If their stories are told, they are often blamed by the likes of John Key for having a “poor attitude”.

Being poor is nothing to celebrate, but we have to talk about it and face facts.

The question is how we better share wealth in New Zealand today.

Could the Rich Listers tell us their ideas for that – just for a change, rather than the continuing demand for more of the same that has led us to being one of the most unequal societies in the world.


My night at the shelter

Posted by on April 21st, 2011

Earlier in the year Mike Leon who runs the Wellington Mens Night Shelter asked if I would come and spend a night staying at the shelter. I have worked with Mike and his team over the last couple of years, and have great respect for what they do, so I said yes. On the condition that I was not taking a bed that someone else needed. That night was last night.

Mike, of course, had an ulterior motive. The Shelter has never been busier, and its resources are stretched beyond breaking point. They would love to do more for those that stay there, but they just dont have the resources to do it. An MP staying was bound to draw attention- and you can see the end result of that on Campbell Live here.

For those that dont know the Shelter caters for homeless men with around 20 dormitory style beds, and another 20 or so hostel rooms upstairs. For the dorm beds you pay $10 a night. There is no food (many of the residents eat at the soup kitchen). It is not luxury. A single bed, with a cabinet. There are partitions that provide some privacy, but certainly do not block out the noise! By all accounts last night was a pretty calm night. It was uncomfortable, noisey, and there was a fairly tense atmosphere. But its a bed and a roof over the head.

I had really good chats with a number of those there. They range in age from early 20s to early 70s. Everyone has a different story. There is Tom (name changed) who’s life took a turn for the worse when he got a brain injury in a car accident a few years back, has chronic alcohol problems and is desperate to get in a rehabilitation facility (more that another day). There is Ian (name changed) who got evicted from his last flat and just can’t get the money together to find another one as he does not have a job. He has a list of places he has applied to, from here to the Kapiti Coast, but nothing is coming his way. There’s Nathan (name changed) recently out of Rimutaka Prison, with nowhere to go. He has a set of health problems that make the mind boggle, and at least at the Shelter the wonderful doctors and nurses from the Te Aro Health Centre come in each week and he can see them.

Mike and his team are a magnificent ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that is homelessness. But we must build the fences at the top. What was clear from almost every conversation I had last night was that the people there have ambitions and dreams. They might be modest in some eyes, but they are about dignity. They want a job, a secure place to live that is theirs and many talked of wanting someone to share it with.

We need to take homelessness seriously. The government would not even have an inquiry when it was proposed by Moana Mackey. That would be just the first step for me. To really tackle homelessness we need to find stable accomodation for these guys, and put in place the support and the programmes that will allow them to live independent lives. That will be easier for some than others. Some will need extensive support to deal with their addictions (did someone say a Wet House), others will need support to get basic life skills and other work skills. But it is worth the investment. Not just for them, but for all of us. It is a social and economic scandal that in a relatively wealthy country people are caught in this cycle. The social cost is huge, the pure economic cost (and loss) is huge.

In the meantime what Mike and his people do is a great service to the community. If you want to support them they need money, blankets and sheets. If you want to donate food, and you live in Wellington the Downtown Community Ministry is desperate for more food for its foodbank. If you want to solve the underlying issues, well, that would politicise this story, but I think you get my drift.

Super city should be more than roads rates and rubbish

Posted by on November 20th, 2009

Much of the debate about the Auckland super city has focused on the structures of the new Council. Precious little air time has been devoted to some of the most interesting things the Royal Commission had to say about social wellbeing in the new city.

The Government has tried to sell the super city on the basis of efficiency, and the economic benefits. But it has been virtually silent on whether some of  this ambition for Auckland should also be applied to the arc of entrenched poverty and inequality that stretches across our southern and western suburbs.

The Royal Commission recommended a new partnership between central and local government to promote social well being. It proposed devolved decision making to a Social Issues Board that would include a Minister, the Mayor, some councillors, the city CEO, and the heads of central government social service agencies.  The Board would be responsible for developing one regional social wellbeing strategy and making recommendations to Cabinet and the Council on resourcing.

On Paula Bennett’s advice Cabinet junked the idea. She thought it would put her as Minister in an untenable situation having to sit on a board with mere mortals. Instead they decided to set up a Social Issues Forum. No decison making. Just a talkshop.

Aucklanders are deeply sceptical about the super city. Perhaps if they thought it would team up with central government to tackle important quality of life issues like public transport, housing affordability, and more liveable sustainable communities, they might warm to the idea.

Labour says the Government is wasting an opportunity. We believe social well being should be at the heart of the super city project.

I am setting out Labour’s vision for social development and the super city at a conference today hosted by North Shore City. Click here for the full speech.

1.4 billon reasons

Posted by on August 30th, 2009

Last night I emceed the Auckland launch of the Global Poverty Project, a new international campaign to eliminate extreme poverty.

About 700 people were there to see an inspiring presentation by Hugh Evans, a charismatic 26 year old Australian who has made the fight against extreme poverty his mission in life. The event was one of six launches around NZ and follows 40 around Australia in recent weeks.

The campaign aims to build a global movement behind the Millenium Development Goals – a set of internationally agreed targets to reduce hunger and extreme poverty, and get every child into school among others. It is sound stuff, and backed by the UN and NGOs like Oxfam, Tear Fund, and VSA. Evans’ presentation is called 1.4 billion reasons – one for each person on the planet living in extreme poverty.

It is fantastic to see this kind of campaigning.  Average age in the hall was under 25,  it was an ethnically diverse audience, and well tuned into the politics of the issue from the quality of the contributions from the floor. This is timely  – given we have a Government that is making our overseas aid programme a tool of its regional free trade agenda, and can barely conceal its disdain for the Millenium Development Goals.

You can help. Join up now.

On inequality

Posted by on August 7th, 2009

After my post on Monday about inequality I went and read Bryan Perry’s new report for the Ministry of Social Development, recommended in a comment by David Craig. The full title is Household Incomes in New Zealand: trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2008.

It is sobering stuff, although it does have some heartening evidence of the positive impact of Labour policies.

First the good news. Thanks to the targeted tax credits of the 5th Labour Government’s Working for Families, 2004-8 was the first time in the last 25 years that income inequality decreased. The incomes of the bottom 50% rose more quickly than the incomes of the top 50%.  The reintroduction of income-related rents for state house tenants also made a difference by reducing housing costs for very low income households from 2001.

From 1988 to 2001 the bottom 40% of households actually lost income. But from 2001, when Labour policies were starting to kick in, lower income households (except for the bottom 10%) actually had bigger percentage increases in their incomes than the higher income households.

For those of us who care about inequality these are things to celebrate.

Now the bad news.

Much of the gain from Working for Families was eaten up by skyrocketing housing costs over the last few years.

Looking over the period from the late 1980s, income inequality rose rapidly through to 1994, then rose at a slower rate until 2004. We still have very high rates of inequality compared to most of the OECD, and compared to pre-1988 New Zealand. New Zealand has had the biggest increase in inequality in the OECD from the mid-1980s to mid-2000s. In 2004 we were the 23rd most unequal out of 30.

Labour’s policies really started to bite from 2004, but on the whole poverty and inequality levels still haven’t really recovered from the 1980s and 90s. We have a lot to do.

And now for the first graphs to appear on Red Alert (could be the start of a wonderful new thing):

j8In the graph above you can see NZ topped the charts when it came to increase in inequality from mid-80s to mid-2000s. Spain, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, France, and the UK actually got less unequal!  (The Gini Coefficient is a measure of inequality.)

d15Here you can see what has happened to inequality (using the Gini Coefficient again) based on income after housing costs (AHC) and before housing costs (BHC) 1980-2010.

Nats drop aid target when going gets tough

Posted by on May 31st, 2009

Q: How much of a priority should it be to give overseas aid when we are in the teeth of a global recession?

A: Even more of a priority than normal…when it is predicted the same recession will drive 100 million people into extreme poverty this year.

You might think overseas aid should get cut, along with pay equity, public sector jobs, research and technology, superannuation, public transport and so much else in these straitened times. You might think that. Especially if your name is Murray McCully or Bill English. But is it right?

I say no. The poor in developing countries are far more vulnerable than we are in times of global recession because they don’t have the safety nets we do. Which is why the World Bank and IMF are urging rich countries like us to accelerate our promised increases in aid. But last Thursday’s budget has the Government slamming on the brakes, stripping $194 million out of the next three years’ of aid spending. They are still increasing the aid budget in real terms but much more slowly than the multi-year commitments made by Labour.

Why does this matter? I think it is because we have a responsibility to people in our Pacific neighborhood who are worse off than us. No matter how grim the recession is for us right now, it is nothing compared to the extreme poverty felt by people in say Papua New Guinea who have much less ability to weather the storm. In the Pacific the financial crisis could well squeeze income from remittances and tourism. On top of shrinking aid budgets that could make life very tough. The other thing is that we have made international commitments to fight extreme poverty in the poorest countries. This goes beyond the year by year ups and downs in our own national circumstances.

With these Budget cuts National has walked away from a  30 year commitment by successive New Zealand governments to the international spending target on overseas aid which is 0.7% of Gross National Income per capita.  Instead of reaching 0.35% of GNI as planned, New Zealand’s aid spending will stall at 0.31% for the next three years.  This is a setback.  New Zealand gives less as a percentage of our national income per head than almost any other developed nation. If we are going to meet our international responsibilities we must commit to staged increases year on year.

McCully professes not to pay much heed to the 0.7% target. Notes in the Budget documents confirm it is no longer a priority for this Government.

Readers may have heard Radio NZ report today that papers released under the OIA show Treasury did not think McCully had a strong case for getting rid of NZAID’s semi-autonomous status and warned of risks around the loss of transparency that would occur as a result of McCully putting the agency back into the foreign affairs ministry.  There is plenty more where that came from but I will save it for another post.