Friday, November 26, 2010

So the Mana by-election was a victory for the Gnats - haha...

PAIHIA, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 05:  Labour Par...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeSo the Mana by-election was a victory for the Gnats - haha...

It was always going to be difficult for the Labour candidate Kris Faafoi, he was unknown and up against a seasoned candidate in Hekia Parata.Nobody was going to replace Winnie Laban in a hurry. Her sudden decision to leave politics has never really been discussed.

There were a couple of other good candidates standing which pulled votes off the Labour candidate. But he won and won by over a thousand votes. About 47% of voters bothered to vote, remembering it was postal voting too, which does not guarantee people to vote.

He will triple his majority at next years general elections and double that three years later.

I don't think that Phil Goff had too much an influence on the result; but his inability to find some traction is of concern to the Labour Party.

Labour won and the Gnats came second. Next years general elections will be determined also by the re-emergence of New Zealand First who received 4.5% of the vote at the last elections. I expect Rodney Hide to be defeated, the Maori Party to decline because of their association with National, the Greens to increase their percentage of votes, and New Zealand First to poll at least 5% of the vote. If they go with Labour and the Greens it will be goodbye nurse despite whatever Labour was showing in the pre-election polls. And who cares how popular John key may still be - he may well be a popular political corpse!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Labour steps up attacks on Pansy Wong and the travel perks controversy...

Philip Bruce Goff, current Leader of the Oppos...Image via Wikipedia
Labour has continued its attack on Pansy Wong, revealing new photos which it says show the MP for Botany using her ministerial title to promote her husband's hovercraft business in China.
Prime Minister John Key concedes this could have been enough to get her sacked from Cabinet even without her abusing the taxpayer travel perk
Wong resigned as a Cabinet minister last Friday, admitting she misused her taxpayer-funded travel subsidy by paying for her husband Sammy Wong's travel to China in 2008, while he was on personal business.
Labour said the issue is black and white, claiming photos from a Chinese website show Wong using her ministerial position to promote her husband's business.

And the Opposition is calling for her to be ousted from parliament.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it is vital to prevent corruption that MPs do not merge personal business interests with parliamentary entitlements.

But Key does not have the power to sack Wong as MP for Botany because she was elected to the position.
"If Pansy Wong was a Minister today, then there would be a question that needs to be answered. On the face of things it appears to be in breach of the Cabinet manual, but she's not a Minister, and I can't sack someone that's quit," Key said.

In March last year, former Minister Richard Worth also came under fire, accused of promoting his business interests on a trip to India.

Labour MP for Dunedin North, Pete Hodgson, said the issue has been ongoing.
"Pansy Wong's been doing it and nobody thought to go to Cabinet and say stop doing if after Richard Worth. I wonder who is next?" Hodgson said.
Speaker's decision delayed
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, said he will meet with authorities tomorrow night to discuss scrapping the international travel perk that sparked the controversy.
Smith had been expected to make an announcement on the matter today, but instead, he has decided to consult with the Parliamentary Service Commission before deciding if changes will be made.
Smith will meet with the Commission tomorrow night.

Smith recently moved to make international travel expenditure by MPs less transparent, before backtracking after party leaders, including Key, spoke out against it.

Smith has defended MPs' use of the subsidy, taking the view that seeing it is funded out of their own salary packages it should be their business what they do with it, as long as it is not abused.

Earlier today, Prime Minister John Key said MPs' travel perks were a "relic of the past" and should be sc
He wants an end to the subsidy system and the Remuneration Authority to be charged with looking at how MPs' salaries could be adjusted to counter it.

"Realistically, I think it's hard to justify to the New Zealand public that the taxpayers out there should be paying for an MP to take a holiday," Key said on TV ONE's Breakfast this morning.

Other MPs have also got themselves in hot water over questionable use of the subsidy and Key said it was destroying public confidence in the way the system worked and undermining the institution of parliament.
"The strong view of National Party MPs is that this entitlement has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished as soon as possible," Key said.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Read: Thinking - solutions to mass imprisonment

The logo of the Australian Greens political party.Image via Wikipedia

Read: Thinking’ – solutions to mass imprisonment.

by David Clendon

Last night I spent Parliament’s dinner break at the launch of a new website, an initiative of the Robson Hanan Trust led by Kim Workman.
To quote from the introduction on the site:
“Rethinking Crime and Punishment” is a strategic initiative to increase public debate about the use of prison and alternative forms of punishment in New Zealand.
In the western world, New Zealand is second only to the United States in the rate at which it locks people up. Whatever your view of prison, we think there is a need for fresh thinking and a much wider public discussion.”
We are spending an awful lot of money on Corrections, to the extent that it fast becoming one of the largest single items on the country’s budget.
Most of it goes on building and maintaining prisons and keeping more people locked up for longer.  This is a really dumb way to spend money – wasteful of capital, wasteful of resources, and worst of all wasteful and destructive of human potential.
We in the Greens are believers in evidence-based decision making and practice, and this government often claims to be equally committed to an evidence based approach to policy.
Actions speak louder than words however, and their drive to spend more and more on containment and a hopelessly inadequate amount on rehabilitation, drug and alcohol treatment, reintegration services, and other real solutions, reflects their confusion.
‘Rethinking’ is a project committed to presenting well researched and clearly presented information that points to how we can keep people out of prison, make our communities safer and more equitable, save a great deal of money over time, and make a lot of peoples’ lives much better.
For anyone wanting to be better informed to advocate for change, or for those who think the current system is working but are willing to engage with evidence and arguments to the contrary, I encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter accessible on the website.
I hope our minister of finance has a look too.  He said in a speech recently:
 “The politicians’ task is to turn the objective of community safety into some high level outcomes, like reduced prison numbers, or reduced youth offending rates. The public service needs to think about the governance and accountability structure that can drive decisions to achieve these outcomes.
We have any amount of policy analysis and any amount of public support for success. But there is very little accumulated wisdom on what governance and accountability will deliver the desired policy result.”
I think that is a cop out.  There is any amount of information, research, analysis, and examples of how to achieve those ‘high level outcomes’, and a lot of it will appear on this new site.
What is missing is the political will, the courage to ignore the populist rantings of the ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ brigade, and to invest in some long term solutions rather than spending on short sighted responses that will continue to fail.
KR says: Gives you something to really think about, doesn't it? Have a good read!
Acknowledgements: David Clendon/ Frogblog
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

No Middle Ground on Middle Earth...

The Warner Bros Co 26Image via Wikipedia by Frank Macscasy (Guest)

No Middle Ground on Middle Earth”

If ever mass hysteria gripped this country, it was no better demonstrated that the last few weeks, when an industrial dispute erupted between Peter Jackson and Actor's Equity. The reaction from every segment of New Zealand society was one of collective naked fury not seen since the Under Arm Incident of 1981 or as divisive as the Springbok Tour, in the same year.
A simple dispute between Employer and Union turned into a near-panic and events spiralled unbelievably out of control, taking all the main players by surprise. There were street marches; Utube videos of Union officials harassed by anonymous video-photographers; threats; counter-threats; abusive emails(again mostly anonymous); newspaper editorials; and Talkback radio and internet chatrooms that demanded blood and the sacrifice of First Born.
All over a couple of movies about hairy-footed fantasy characters.
Actors Equity, to it's credit realised that the ire of the Village Mob had been aroused; were screaming for retribution; and duly called off any and all industrial action. Mostly to no avail, as reason had taken leave of most New Zealanders, it seems.
Finally, our esteemed Prime Minister and Typical All-Round Nice Bloke, John Key, faced off against a high-powered gang of Hollywood executives from Warner Bros. He went into the meeting declaring beforehand that there would be “no bidding war” with the likes of Slovakia or Hungary to retain the movies.
He came out some hours later confirming that tax-payers would be paying $85 million to Warner Bros, and we would be changing our labour laws to comply with their wishes. The Mafia couldn't have asked for a better outcome.
But was on Earth caused such a nationwide, feverish hysteria from so many normally easy-going Kiwis? What sparked such an outrage that saw local actors threatened with violence and even death? Even Robyn Malcolm stated she would be selling her home – such was the naked hatred being expressed toward members of New Zealand's Actor's Equity.
To be clear, this mass hysteria has little to do with an industrial dispute.
It has little to do with the prospect of losing a $650 million dollar venture to Eastern Europe.
And to be brutally clear, most folk couldn't care tuppence about local actors and technicians losing their jobs in the process.
After all, New Zealanders have stood by quietly and meekly as company after company relocated their manufacturing base and call centres tro China, Australia, Fiji, India, and elsewhere. Certainly not one single New Zealanders marched in the streets when Fisher & Paykel moved their manufacturing to China or when Telstra Clear moved part of it's call centre to The Philippines; as did many other companies.
Since the late 1980s, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost overseas, and most of our manufacturing sector has followed suit. Even our farmland is now up for grabs (more on this in a moment).
So obviously, New Zealanders are not to fussed about the 'gutting' of our economy. It has been happening for over twenty years and mostly with practiced indifferance by The Kiwi Masses.
So what was it that stirred the blood of ordinary New Zealand men and women to boiling point?
The answer, I would suggest, lies in our sense of self; our national identity.
Quite simply – we don't have one.
Once upon a time, we took pride in our rugby team, the All Blacks. Players such as Colin Meads, Sid Going, Brian Lahore, Ian Kirkpatrick were the stuff of legends. We were a tiny nation, but our team of fifteen black-garbed heroes could venture forth and thrash teams from far more numerically-populated nations. Australia, Britain, South Africa, France – all fell before The Mighty Blacks.
Then, as rugby became commercialised and slightly less “heroic”; splintered into various other 'codes'; tickets became outrageously expensive; and the names became more South Pacific than South Island – we slowly ceased to identify ourselves with the game. We became more sophisticated and were tempted with other sporting distractions in which we could take a small measure of national pride.
Also once upon a time, we took pride in being a rural country that could out-produce any other agricultural and farming country on this planet. Our archetypal hero, Fred Dagg, was a simple character with common sense wisdom and good-natured, blokish, humour.
But we outgrew Fred Dagg; John Clark moved to Australia; and our farmers began to speak with American, Australian, and Chinese accents.
We were a nation left with not many heroes, except for randy doctors and nurses on “Shortland Street” and high-flying financiers such as Faye & Richwhite and Allan Hawkins. Except that Faye & Richwhite were eventually investigated by the Securities Commission for insider-trading; the NZ Railways they purchased was looted and our rail system fell apart through lack of maintenance; and Allan Hawkins ended up in jail. The doctors and nurses on “Shortland Street” carried on with their amourous activities.
Then almost overnight, a new hero burst upon the scene: Peter Jackson.
Jackson started off in 1987 with his Z Grade splattermovie, “Bad Taste”. He quickly ran out of money and required tax-payer bail-out to the tune of $235,000 from the New Zealand Film Commission.
The film achieved a small measure of cult-status and kick-started Jackson's career. His subsequent films were popular, employing unique and charming aspects of Kiwi culture and humour.
In 2001, Jackson's first installment of “The Lord of The Rings” was released and became an international sensation. The eventual-trilogy earned Jackson Hollywood accolades; millions of dollars; and more Oscar Awards than could be carried in Fred Dagg's old wheelbarrow.
Indeed, the entire country shared in the radiant glory. New Zealand was suddenly the centre of international attention, if not most of the Known Universe. To be a Kiwi was cool. Tourists flocked to our country, eager to see the mountains; the rivers; the forests; and Hobbits roaming freely. Aotearoa became Hobbiton.
The Mountain Troll stood guard in Wellington's civic square. A heroe's parade at the World Premiere of “Return of the King” wound it's way through Wellington's streets. Dragons adorned The Embassy and Readings Theatres. A giant arrow was clevelerly plunged into the side of a Courtney Place pub. And a giant statue of Gollum greeted visitors to Wellington's International Air Terminal.
We suddenly knew who we were; we were the mythical land of Middle Earth. We were the nation that produced a man who could complete three complex movies, back-to-back, reaping hundreds of millions in profit in the process.
It put New Zealand on the map and our national and personal pride was boundless.
When the trilogy won a combined total of seventeen Oscars, Billy Crystal was moved to say, at the 2004 Academy Award ceremonies; "It's now official. There is no one left in New Zealand to thank." .That was the point at which Kiwis experienced a collective orgasm.
As many of the protest-placards stated during the recent “Save The Hobbit” marches; “New Zealand IS Middle Earth”.
So when Actor's Equity began their industrial action at the end of September, they were not just taking on Peter Jackson. Nor were they taking on Warner Bros. No, Actor's Equity was “attacking” New Zealand's deepest, cultural psyche.
New Zealanders now identifed so closely with hobbits and Middle Earth that any suggestion that movie productions be moved offshore was akin to wounding our collective heart. No wonder we responded with such irrational anger and hatred; our very national identity was under threat and as any psychologist will tell you, assaulting a person's psyche can have far more dire consequences than simply biffing him one.
New Zealand was not about to lose something we identified so closely with. (Because we had nothing else left in which to express our national pride.) And certainly not through industrial action led by an Australian, through an Australian trade union – which in itself raised stark issues surrounding our rivalry with that country. Australia was (in)famous for attempting to steal our cultural icons and now it appeared that they were after 'Our Precious', The Hobbit.
Yes, it seems we are that insecure.
So when John Key bent over backwards to the Wide Boys from Warner Bros, he was prostituting this country because he had no alternative. Far better to “take one for the team” than an alternative that, conceivably, could have resulted in people actually being harmed or killed.
Yes, the hatred was that palpable.
For a brief moment in our history, we went collectively mad. We were Bilbo Baggins faced with the awful prospect of losing The Ring forever.
And like Bilbo, we just couldn't bear to part with The Precious. We were The Precious and without it, we were faced with an culteral emptiness.
We are indeed slaves to The One Ring
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Hobbit film arrangements could see all employment law and conditions undermined...

Cropped screenshot of the Warner Brothers film...Image via WikipediaThe whole Hobbit film charade was a union beat-up. Peter Jackson was looking after his own backside and blamed the rather naive union leaders for the whole controversy. The unions didn't create the situation, but gave the NZ government somebody to blame They will learn from it.. And Jackson has no credibility any more as a person, apart from his obvious film making abilities.

The Hollywood heavies from Warner Brothers films  had a bottom line: They wanted higher subsidies for the two Hobbit films and some guarantees that there would not be any union disruption; there are no guarantees for the future.

The Avator films were coming here regardless of the Hobbit controversy. The whole thing was an emotional  beat-up and New Zealand and its people the losers.

It has been claimed  that the cost of the Hobbit films could be higher than the extra $15 million in subsidies. signed away recently, and kiwi workers could be the real losers here.

The door has been opened for a radical rewrite of of our employment laws that will see workers rights stripped away even further than in the past - contracting work could start to be the norm in other industries too.  A distinct class of workers has been defined - the real relationship between 'masters and servants'.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association wants the new law that was rushed through under urgency extended to all sectors. If this was ever done workers in this country would have all their rights and benefits stripped away from them: Holiday pay, sick pay and the protection of employment laws

As contractors you would have to provide all your own tools and equipment, rent your desks, computers, pay for your own telephones etc.

The Warner Brothers hitmen wanted certainty in the industry here. Something they can't guarantee back home in the US . But at present under existing law, the Inland Revenue Department, the employees themselves and other government departments can challenge any bogus arrangements.

It has been said that we must protect the existing master - servant foundation of our employment laws, because it is based on facts, not convenience. And also protects existing working conditions. Even the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 couldn't undermine employment law, just amend it.

But Peter Jackson supports the undermining of our employments laws to enable him to make a few million dollars more from his film making. He should be run out of New Zealand under permanent exile. What did he do to earn his knighthood? Now you know why Helen Clark and the previous Labour -led government abolished these colonial rewards. Peter Jackson and the ratbags from Warner Brothers films deserve each other!

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