Thursday, August 30, 2012

David Shearer on poverty today....

This week your Labour team and I have put all our efforts into tackling the Government’s shocking record on inequality and poverty.
New Zealand now has the widest gap ever between rich and poor. And it’s not just the poorest who are doing it tough – middle income households are being squeezed as well. One in five of our children are suffering hardship and 40% of children living in poverty come from homes where the parents are actually working. These families are working hard and yet still struggling to make ends meet. It is a National disgrace, and John Key’s doing nothing about it.
John Key’s reaction has been dismissive and disgraceful. He calmly says ‘things are just bouncing around’ for struggling families and rejects out of hand the suggestion of universal child support as ‘dopey’. Given he refuses to accept there’s even a problem, it’s perhaps not surprising he’s consistently refused Labour’s offer to work together to address poverty in NZ.
Labour will invest in our children because they deserve the best start in life. We’re working on a plan to deal with child poverty and to help hard-working Kiwis earn a decent income so they can support their families. As part of that plan Labour wants to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour and we have a member’s bill in MP David Clark’s name before Parliament at the moment to achieve that.
We’ve had a number of MP’s individual bills come up for debate, including Louisa Wall’s marriage equality legislation, which passed its first reading by 80 votes to 40. It gives all Kiwi couples the right to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The debate around this issue has been robust but respectful and we welcome the fact that all New Zealanders will now get a chance to have their say at select committee.
Your MPs will be out working in our regions and local communities next week, with Parliament taking a break from sitting. It’s a chance for us to make another big push to get the signatures we need for the asset sales petition. We’ve collected 240,000 signatures so far, and with your support we will force a referendum and make John Key listen to the people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Its time for capital tax - says Gareth Morgan...

How long will the NZ people have to suffer? The time for capital tax is now!


The time for capital tax is now!
One article that stood out over the weekend was this article on the fact that half of NZ’s super rich are dodging tax. Susan Guthrie (who wrote The Big Kahuna with me) and I were chatting about this and her response below summarises our thoughts on the piece.
Figures handed over to journalists by the IRD last week showed that between 2009 and 2011 fewer than half of a sample of New Zealand’s ‘super rich’ were paying the top individual tax rate of 33 percent. With wealth of over $50 million you’d expect these people to be earning a whole lot more than the $70,001 per annum needed to breach the top tax threshold. If you haven’t got your calculator handy, $70,001 is a paltry 0.1% return on $50 million of assets – are our super rich really that lousy at making money?
What could be behind the figures? Let’s start with the ‘we’re innocent’ explanation. The super rich may declare more income to the IRD than $70,001 but it may be declared via the super rich’s family trust. Family trusts pay 33% tax on their income and any tax paid here won’t be included in the IRD’s personal tax data set. That’s one explanation of the data Revenue Minister Peter Dunne pointed to.
However, only recently has declaring income via a family trust been an innocent tax arrangement. Prior to 2011, the top individual tax rate was 38% while income declared in a trust was taxed at 33%. So until 2011 the super rich were ‘minimising’ tax by receiving income through their trusts.
What else could be behind the apparent paltry tax-collect from the super rich? There are plenty of legal loopholes to avoid paying tax altogether. For example, if the super rich receive their income as capital gains made from selling shares purchased for the ‘long term’, the gains will be entirely tax free for most investors. Similarly, selling property for more than you bought it generates tax free income for all but legally recognised property developers. Complex international arrangements are yet another mainstay of ‘tax planning’.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that last week the IRD also announced it’s ‘compliance focus’ for the coming year. Limited to working in a system with gaping legal loopholes the IRD’s compliance focus is inevitably pathetic – chasing the misguided few who try to break the law. People who make false claims for Child Support or Working for Families and businesses which don’t declare every dollar are examples. None of this is going to address what really counts – namely the fact that our tax system is a huge contributing factor to growing inequality in New Zealand.
And if the tax system’s role in making New Zealand more unequal isn’t of any interest to you, maybe you’re interested in the fact that $423 million a year is spent by IRD just telling people about the complex rules and chasing up the losers who try to break the rules. A further $249 million a year is spent on administering the loophole-riddled system and designing new ways to tweak it. That’s $672 million a year on a leaky sieve.
As long as we persist with a tax system which focuses on income and ignores wealth itself our tax system will cause growing inequality in New Zealand and will itself be a huge drain on New Zealander’s resources.

The Queer Avengers have just started - so they say!




The Queer Avengers are underlining that marriage equality is not the end of the line for LGBT struggles. Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill passed its first reading on the 29th of August, after more than 1,000 marched to Parliament in support of the Bill.
The Queer Avengers note that the cross-partisan support for this bill is positive, but there are harder struggles ahead. "Marriage is a modest reform, it’s not a fundamental change, politicians are generally okay with it," notes Queer Avenger Sara Fraser. "We’re only just getting started."
The Queer Avengers say much has changed, and still needs to change. "We have a lot more freedom now to express ourselves, without fear of getting beaten up," concedes Fraser. "But there’s so much more to do."
Fraser particularly highlights the oppression faced by youth. "Kids are still getting kicked out home for coming out, still self-harming and committing suicide. Addressing queer and trans homelessness is much more challenging for the system, it requires a lot more investment than just extending marriage rights."
"Equality will not just trickle down to the most marginal. We need to fight for it, and more voices need to be heard."
Fraser also highlights that there is a broader spectrum of relationships and identities which marriage and adoption law does not address, including indigenous kinship structures and polyamory. "Consent is the bottom line, not state sanction," says Fraser. "What’s upset me most has been the reaction from our own communities. That we must behave, don’t rock the boat, don’t make too much noise and don’t mention other types of relationship."
"This isn’t just about marriage," concludes Fraser. "It’s about rights, it’s about equality and consent. We’re calling for a struggle beyond marriage."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A government announcement is to be made about the future of NZ's four residential special schools...

Red Alert

Residential special schools

Posted by on August 26th, 2012
I understand the Minister of Education is going to be making an announcement this week on the future of the country’s four residential special schools. Over the past few months the Ministry has been consulting on a new ‘wrap around’ service that their official consultation document suggests will cost about a third of the cost of accommodating a pupil at one of the residential schools (but of course, this isn’t about cost saving…)
From the outside, it very much looks like the whole consultation has been skewed towards a pre-determined outcome, the closure of the schools. Having visited all four schools, spoken with some of the kids, the principals, teachers, parents, boards of trustees and many others with an interest in this process, I can firmly say that I think closure is the wrong option.
I believe in an inclusive education system. I don’t think kids with special needs should be shunted out or ‘institutionalised’. But that’s not what residential special schools do. In effect, they’re the most intensive ‘wrap around’ service out there. Kids don’t stay there forever, usually no more than 18 months to two years. In that time they often make huge progress, and a lot of effort is put into ensuring that their reintegration back into their original school and home life is as smooth as possible.
At one of the schools I spoke to a kid who’d come from a pretty unfortunate background. Drugs, crime, and dysfunction were all a constant feature of his life. Taken away from all of that, he was allowed to be a kid again. He was catching up on a lot of the education he’d missed out on, and plans had been put in place to ensure that the environment he returned to wasn’t the one he’d come from. Quite frankly it was inspiring.
Far from closing them, if anything, we need to look at increasing the number of special residential schools, and make them ‘centres of excellence’ that can provide advice, expertise and assistance to other schools so that we end up with fewer kids needing the highest level interventions in the first place.
Before Hekia Parata signs off on any final decision, I would urge her to take the time to visit these schools and see first hand what she is doing. It would be wrong for her to simply sign-off on the recommendations of her officials without taking the time to develop her own understanding of the issues.

Collins crushed by the booze lobby...

The Standard

Collins crushed by booze lobby

What a craven cave-in. Lobbied by big booze, Collins has given in. Alco-pops will be left to the industry to regulate. Collins says the Government can step in quickly and regulate if they don’t – yeah right. The alcohol industry already has a strategy to make this ineffective.
What was going through Collins’ mind? Maybe this:
I think I’ll do a chatty video – “I met the nice people with Mark Unsworth and and they told me that they could bring in their booze from Aussie anyway and I thought free trade is really important and they’re lawyers and so am I. And David Farrar told me he’d done some research for them last year and I thought he’s really nice and gives me so many good ideas. Oh and if John does decide to go back to Hawaii soon I could use their help with getting some more research done.”
In the real world, the Herald editorial is forthright: “The Government’s cave-in on alco-pops is shameful.” David Farrar is defensive about it. Sue Kedgely is also on the offensive, when Stuff gets it up on the website.
It’s not a good look. John Key wants to give the pokie industry free rein, which means more families suffer. Judith Collins wants to give the booze industry free rein, which means more families suffer, and more hospitals are overrun.
As leaders they both get a fail.

Acknowledgements:  The Standard

Friday, August 24, 2012

Asset sales should be dropped - Opposition parties...

NZCity CalculatorReturn to NZCity

Opposition parties say a finding that Maori rights to water need to be sorted ahead of partial asset sales shows the whole scheme should be dropped.

Opposition parties are renewing their call for the government's partial asset sale programme to be dropped after the Waitangi Tribunal found it needed to sort out Maori water rights first.
The government's plan to partially privatise energy companies Meridian, Genesis and Mighty River Power drew opposition from the Maori Council, which took a claim to the tribunal saying Maori had ownership rights over water.
The tribunal's interim report, which is non-binding, says Maori do not "own water" but can claim "residual property rights" which must be properly acknowledged for the government to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.
"We consider that the sale must be delayed while an accommodation is reached with Maori."
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the government should drop the asset sales rather than ignore the recommendations, which could lead to court battles with iwi, or do a deal with iwi.
The decision adds to problems with ballooning sales costs, risks over the possibility of the Tiwai point aluminium smelter closing, Solid Energy and Air NZ not ready for sale and more than 200,000 people signing a petition calling for a referendum on asset sales, he said.
"This is a crisis that National has brought upon itself by trying to push through asset sales that New Zealanders do not want," Dr Norman said.
NZ First leader Winston Peters says Prime Minister John Key's decision to pursue the asset sales had made an issue out of the ownership of water.
"Could he not see that a tribunal's findings are no way to formulate public policy? In this case that would be the role of the court system," he said.
"This whole mess tells you volumes about John Key's incompetence over the government's ill-conceived flagship policy which was never a solid idea."
A spokeswoman for State-Owned Enterprises minister Tony Ryall says ministers will consider the finding as they prepare to make decisions in early September about the proposed Mighty River Power share offer.

Acknowledgements:  NZN

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Injunction on RNZ eased over KiwiRail report...


KiwiRail is trying to block the publication of an internal draft report on the future of New Zealand's rail network.
Late on Wednesday night, the High Court granted KiwiRail an injunction preventing Radio New Zealand News from revealing the contents of the draft Infrastructure and Engineering Business Plan 2013-15.
The High Court on Thursday eased the restriction to allow coverage of debate on the issue in Parliament.
In the House, Labour MP Phil Twyford questioned Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who was replying on behalf of the State Owned Enterprises Minister.
"Has the board of KiwiRail advised him that from 2014 onwards the rail asset will decline, disruption risk will grow, that when spending gets back to current levels it will take many years to pull back...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Concern on both sides of the Tasman at kiwi migration to Aussie

Australian MP Kelvin Thompson’s concern about the number of Kiwis heading across the ditch shows that the only people in Australasia not bothered about the issue are the National Government, says Labour’s Economic Development Spokesperson David Cunliffe.
“Australia is often called ‘the lucky country’. They’re getting some of our best and brightest. But even Australians are now worried about the number of Kiwis heading their way.
“We’re mates with the Aussies and we don’t want to put them out. But National seems to think it can solve its unemployment problem by outsourcing it Australia.
“Bill English says there’s no point in standing around in the airport crying about it. At this rate we’ll have people leaving Auckland Airport with hankies, being greeted in Sydney with placards.
“Now that Australasians on both sides of the Tasman think Kiwi migration is an issue, it’s past time that the National Government woke up.
“The next time John Key meets Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard he should apologise for mismanaging our economy so badly. And he should apologise to New Zealand for failing to deliver on his promise that Kiwis would no longer ‘wave goodbye to their loved ones’.
“The ability for Kiwis and Aussies to move back and forth between our two countries is a wonderful example of our trans-Tasman mateship. But New Zealand shouldn’t be sending a university’s worth of young and talented people to Australia every year. Even they are sick of it.”

But Australians are not yet prepared to work to the demands of WA employers in setting up new mines and infastucture. Three or four weeks on, and a week off is no good for them. Until they are, Kiwis will do these jobs.

National government to ban doctors and nurses from treating patched gang members in public hospitals...

This is fascism  because doctors and nurses are bound to treat and help ANYBODY who needs their help.

The Standard   Read the latest news about a crazy National party government...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fallen Kiwi soldier had criticised PM Key for attending baseball tornament rather than mates funerals...

    Bad choice John key -  son's baseball tournament over slain soldiers funerals. NZ will remember in 2014...
  • Slain soldier criticised Key for missing troops' funeral  (Source: NZDF)
    Fallen soldier Luke Tamatea. - Source: NZDF
  • Watch Video

    • Image of the three soldiers who died on Sunday..  (Source: ONE News)Soldiers killed in Afghanistan named (3:31


One of the New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan yesterday had slammed Prime Minister John Key just days before his death for not attending the funeral service of two slain soldiers.
Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and colleagues Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, died when their Humvee was hit by a bomb at 9.20am on Sunday (4.50pm NZT).
Less than two weeks before his death, Tamatea posted criticism of Key on Facebook over the Prime Minister's decision not to attend the funeral service of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, who died earlier this month.
The 26-year-olds, who were part of the same deployment as the latest soldiers to die, were killed by insurgents in Bamiyan Province on August 4 after a fierce three-minute gun fight.
Key was not in attendance at Malone's and Durrer's funeral on August 11 as he had a pre-arranged trip to the United States to watch his son Max play in the first New Zealand under-17 baseball team to ever play in the World Series.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New welfare initiative for youth started today...

A new welfare regime for thousands of teenage beneficiaries began on Monday.
It's the first phase of the government's welfare reforms, targeted at about 17,000 young people who aren't in education, employment or training.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says more than $148 million is going into support services managed by 43 community organisations.

"The key components to the services, along with mentoring and support, are an unwavering emphasis on education and training as well as parenting courses for those with children," she said.
"Youth services will be contacting the individuals they will be working with directly and begin the process of getting them back on track."

Ms Bennett says it will take time to match each young beneficiary with a provider, and information sharing between government agencies will be used to identify some of them.

I've read the rhetoric, but just what will be directed at our young people? It will take time said Paula Bennett. Code for I'm not quite sure, perhaps?

Friday, August 17, 2012

State housing on large plots to be redeveloped...

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Housing NZ is bringing in private developers as part of a $45 million plan to redevelop state houses on big sections in Auckland.

Eighty ageing state houses on large sections in Auckland are to be redeveloped in a Housing New Zealand programme costing around $45 million.
The 24 redevelopment projects, mostly in West Auckland, would be carried out in partnership with the private and community housing sectors over the next three years, Housing NZ said.
They would involve the building and refurbishment of at least 150 houses, some to be state rentals and the rest for private ownership and social housing providers, Housing NZ asset development manager Sean Bignell said.
State-housing levels in Auckland would remain about the same.
"We want to replace these 80 old state houses on very large sections with more contemporary housing options that fit into the broader community and are safe, affordable and use quality materials and modern construction methods," he said.
Housing NZ had a lot of old homes on quarter- and half-acre sections in Auckland, which was not sustainable given the city's housing shortage.
"We cannot keep holding and repairing properties that are an inefficient use of land and really are a barrier to achieving more and better housing options as is desperately needed in Auckland."
A panel of developers had been selected to tender for the projects as well as future opportunities.
The tenants living in the 80 rental properties had been informed. Some would be able to remain living there and the rest would be shifted to other state houses.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Put away the knives says The Standard - the polls are up!

I suspect that the knives that were out for a couple days this week will be quietly slipped back into their sheaths now. Labour’s up in the latest Roy Morgan. So are the Greens. The Left’s at 46% vs the Banks Key Government’s 44.5%. We won’t see more hamfisted attempts to undermine Shearer and attack Cunliffe clearing the path for someone else. Well, not until the next bad...

Read more:

Any coup against David Shearer would backfire on Labour - kick arse David...

The next prime minister of New Zealand, David Shearer. Will see John Key off at the airport.
If it is true that there are members of the Labour caucus in Parliament contemplating a coup against Labour leader David Shearer, they would be advised to sit down and think about things for a while.
If David Cunliffe is the centre of a conspiracy, his supporters should remember that he failed to give former leader Phil Goff the support needed to win the last elections. Just a few seats would have enabled Phil Goff to become prime minister, and send John Key off to Hawaii and retirement; he has no wish to become leader of the Opposition again.
If the alleged plotters were successful, they would never be elected to office anyway. They wouldn't get my vote - it would go to a new socialist party that would spring up. - the NZ Social Democrats.
:)) laughing

Monday, August 13, 2012

Willie Apiata VC quits defence force - like 900 others - no goodbyes from big brass either...

Opinion: Apiata disgraced by Defence Force big brass 

Maybe Apiata's departure relates to pay and conditions - the rest of the Armed Forces are certainly complaining

Maybe Apiata's departure relates to pay and conditions - the rest of the Armed Forces are certainly complaining

Opinion by Political Reporter Patrick Gower
There could hardly be a worse advertisement for the New Zealand Defence Force right now.
Willie Apiata, VC, quits - and doesn't even get so much as a goodbye from the top brass.
Yes, the Army's poster boy just walked on out - like over 900 other servicemen and women have in the past two years.
It goes like this - morale is in the doldrums, there's a pay freeze and the Government's cost-cutting reforms have really hurt.
All this adds up to people just not wanting to work for the armed forces as much as they used to.
And now the departed includes none other than Willie Apiata - just how symbolic is that?
His departure from the SAS was broken to the public by a muttering Defence Minister on the way to Parliament yesterday.
The Defence Force then rushed out a bland statement - I strongly suspect they did not know what to say.
And finally it put something out on behalf of Apiata himself.
It was all very disorganised - there was certainly no military-style precision.
It all points to there being some deeper issue to Apiata's departure.
As the rumour mill has it, he's been arguing over getting some extra leave to be with his family (denied by the Government).
And then there are rumours about discipline issues and the like (also denied by the Government) that always circulate when there's a rushed departure like this.
The nature of the release does nothing to quell those - and when they are not true it's simply not fair on Apiata.
Or maybe Apiata's departure relates to pay and conditions - the rest of the Armed Forces are certainly complaining.
Are our SAS and the associated special forces’ soldiers remunerated properly?
Do the SAS have the right numbers to ward off attrition issues?
Are there the right pathways for experienced career soldiers like Apiata to stay in the services?
I'm really surprised there was no exit strategy for Apiata.
There's no special role designated for him, no matter how small to keep him attached to the forces - for want of a better description, some sort of "cushy retirement number".

Apiata is going to work for the High Wire Trust - it works with troubled youth.
But the Government/Army has its own programme - the so-called "boot camps". Wouldn't Apiata have been the ideal man for this?
A roving role up and down the country - he could have been put in a "civilianised role" and paid a decent wedge.
Clearly the Army had no plan for dealing with Apiata - its been a shambles.
And the very least, they should have given him some sort of send-off where he could extol the virtues of a career as a soldier.
Maybe the Defence Force muzzled him because they didn't want media asking about morale and pay issues?
It's clear that Apiata still loves the SAS - he's staying on as a reserve.
Maybe he didn't want a big send-off - but that doesn't stop something a little more organised than yesterday.
And what about the amount the Defence Force has pumped into the marketing and PR "brand Willie"? On those grounds alone it's a loss to the balance sheet.
The clumsy goodbye to Apiata is not a good look.
Put it this way: I can't see the NZRFU acting like this when Richie McCaw finally calls it a day.
Whatever the reasons behind this, Apiata's final salute from the top brass was not befitting of the great man's deeds.
Response from Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones:
Patrick, I can assure you and the public of New Zealand that Corporal Apiata, V.C. will get the send-off from the Defence Force that HE wants.
I think if the New Zealand public has learnt anything about Willie since he rose to prominence for his remarkable act of gallantry, it is that Willie is an incredibly humble man who has never sought the spotlight for himself.
Where he has made public appearances and supported causes, these have been where he sensed he could make a difference to his community and New Zealand.
So too it is in the way he wishes to leave the Defence Force. As Defence Force leaders we will first and foremost be guided by Willie’s own wishes to make the transition to his new role beyond the Defence Force in his own quiet and deliberate way.
As Chief of Defence Force, I believe he has earned that right. As to the “rushed” way you claim the NZ Defence Force handled this issue, our statement was of course in response to imminent news media stories we became aware of.
It was not the Defence Force that sought to initiate a story but your own brethren. Again, our statement was in accordance with Willie’s wishes.
With regard to the other innuendo and gossip you speculate about in your “opinion piece”, all I can do is refer you again to the statement that Corporal Apiata, V.C. made through the Defence Force yesterday afternoon.
As regularly voted one of New Zealand’s “most trusted New Zealanders”, I hope Patrick that you will take Willie’s word on this matter - if not my own - that he left his fulltime military role under good terms, and will continue his long association with the Defence Force as a Reserve Force member:
“This has been a decision that I have not taken lightly and it is one that has taken me many months to make. I am leaving to pursue my goals and to grow with my family. I am very proud of my service with the NZDF and I am very grateful for all of the support I have received from the NZSAS and the NZDF.”

Read more:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mob used Whanau Ora program money to buy cannabis...

They used Whanau Ora money to by cannabis it is alleged...
Mongrel Mob members used money from the Government's Whanau Ora programme to buy cannabis for drug dealing, police allege.
The claim is part of the police summary of facts in the case against a 26-year-old Mongrel Mob Notorious member who yesterday pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court to a joint charge of conspiracy to sell cannabis.
Michael Logan Wong-Tong, of Turangi, was one of 10 men arrested in May and one of four charged jointly on a conspiracy to sell charge, after a four-month investigation - which included use of electronic interception - into the gang's drug dealing in the Dunedin area.
Those charged include five Mongrel Mob Notorious gang members and a gang associate.
Police say the misappropriation of $20,000 from the We Against Violence Trust - which had a contract with Te Puni Kokori (the Maori Development Ministry) to deliver services via the Whanau Ora programme until April - was discovered during the operation.
Four of the men were also charged with dishonestly converting the trust's money.
The summary of facts for Wong-Tong's case outlined intercepted phone calls and text messages.
It said that in a March telephone call between two of those jointly charged with Wong-Tong, one man said he had "booked a van" from Auckland and that the plan was to "come straight back south".
He also said he "had it sorted as he was going to use the Whanau Ora money".
The next day, $10,020 was transferred from the We Against Violence Trust's bank account to that man's personal account.
Over the following three days, the men travelled to Auckland, withdrawing cash along the way from the personal account and picking up another man.
Two of them then travelled south, picking up Wong-Tong during the journey.
Police searched the van on a Cook Strait ferry and seized 3.15kg of cannabis, which, if bought at the going rate at the time, would have cost $24,500, the summary said.
The We Against Violence Trust did work on whanau violence and community support.
Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia declined to comment yesterday, saying the matter was still before the courts.
In May, she said she would be surprised if the money allocated through the Government had been misappropriated, because Te Puni Kokori and Whanau Ora had strict eligibility and reporting criteria.
Since then, Te Puni Kokori has declined a request for documents relating to an investigation it did on the trust after the news of the alleged misappropriation.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman said the ministry was assisting police. She declined to comment further.
Wong-Tong will be sentenced on October 7.
Acknowledgements:  - Otago Daily Times

Breaking news: Anti-sale protesters invade Bell Gully offices...

Read Frank Mackasy's story here:

Aotearoa is not for sale at any price!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

John Key accused of diplomatic blunder...

Labour says Prime Minister John Key's criticism of Hungarian troops in Afghanistan was a stupid blunder that has damaged the international relationship.

The two Kiwi soldiers killed in Bamyan Province in Afghanistan...

Prime Minister John Key's disparaging comments about Hungarian troops in Afghanistan are being described as a diplomatic blunder.
Following the deaths at the weekend of two New Zealand soldiers in Bamyan province, Mr Key on Monday questioned the competence of Hungarian forces in neighbouring Baghlan province.
The soldiers were shot by insurgents who apparently infiltrated from Baghlan province, where the Hungarians operate.
"They don't go out at night - they might when they're in Budapest but not when they're in Afghanistan," Mr Key said.
He revealed New Zealand troops were going to patrol beyond the Bamyan border because there was "a gap" in security arrangements.
Hungary's defence ministry says Mr Key's comments were "inappropriate" and "lack the spirit of comradeship and union that we would like to preserve".
Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, Phil Goff, says it was a gratuitous insult.
"John Key's comments that Hungarians would go out at night in Budapest but not on patrol in Afghanistan has understandably been seen by them as questioning their courage," he said on Friday.
"Hungary has lost seven of its soldiers in Afghanistan in the difficult Baghlan province... if John Key has genuine issues about how they are doing their job he should have raised it directly with them and in confidence."
Mr Goff says "publicly slanging them off" in the way Mr Key did has caused anger and resentment against New Zealand and undermined the relationship between Kiwis and their allies.
"Frankly, it's stupid," he said.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Good speech David - but don't look for guilt among beneficiaries...

David Shearer, Labour Leader, Speech to Grey Power - Auckland
Thank you Anne-Marie Coury for your welcome.
I understand Anne-Marie's father-in-law was the press secretary to Walter Nash, the former Labour prime minister.
I am going to talk to you about something Nash stood for that I think is just as applicable today: He wanted to make sure everyone got a fair go, whether they were a retired New Zealander, or a young family just starting out.
The basic social contract back then was that everyone would pull their weight, do the right thing, and they expected the government to keep its side of the bargain.
Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.
He said: "see that guy over there, he's on a sickness benefit, yet he's up there painting the roof of his house. That's not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?"
From what he told me, he was right, it wasn't bloody fair, and I said so. I have little tolerance for people who don't pull their weight.
We don't like others ripping the system off - and those who get most incensed about it are people like this bloke who works hard, does what he believes is the right thing and earns close to the minimum wage.
His comment cuts to the heart of something very important to New Zealanders: fairness.
Fairness is a core feature of New Zealand. It is heavily ingrained in our DNA. I believe it stems from our history, a country built on equality, free from the old class addled system of Great Britain.
We have a social contract in New Zealand. It works like this: if you need help because of something unexpected: an accident, a loss, or if misfortune befalls you, you will be supported.
But once you're back on your own feet, we expect you to pull your weight once again and contribute back to society.
The Government's role is to ensure that this transition happens - through up-skilling, education and a nudge behind those not meeting their side of the contract.
One of the first instances of this social contract was put into practice by three people, Arnold Nordmeyer, Gervan McMillan and Andrew McRae Davidson. They were the local church minister, GP and school principal who had the foresight to establish a small healthcare fund for workers on the Wairaki Dam.
It was tough, depression-era labour: building a dam by hand with picks and shovels, yet the workers would pay into the fund each week out of their meagre incomes, and in return they would get free health care and medicine.
McMillan and Nordmeyer went on to become MPs in the Labour Government, and their Wairaki healthcare scheme later developed into our universal health care.
It was the beginnings for of that social contract: That people could end up in hardship through no fault of their own, and in those cases we have a responsibility to provide a decent standard of living.
But it's never been about all take and no give.
The other side of the contract is that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to their community. You didn't get social security if you could work. If you couldn't work, your community looked after you.
The same principles apply to superannuation. While you are working you contribute to superannuation, so that when you retire there is something set aside to live on.
That is fair.
In fact, our scheme is one of the fairest in the world because it set aside the same amount for everyone, whether you were at home raising the kids, working to build the dam, or the boss.
It's a scheme to be proud of, and its crowning success is that in New Zealand we have one of the lowest rates of poverty among seniors of anywhere in the world.
I want to make sure that endures into the future. All New Zealanders should be able to look forward to receiving super - including our children and grandchildren.
When I speak to young people, I notice they have lost hope that super will be there when they reach retirement age.
They have lost their faith in politicians who have used this issue as a political football and are only interested in the politics of the here and now, not about building for the future.
They can see that we're living longer, that we have more people in retirement than ever before, and that the numbers are growing rapidly.
I believe it's our responsibility to find a way to pay for that so our young people don't miss out when it's their turn.
Today, for every retired New Zealander there are about 5.6 people working and paying taxes. By 2040, there will be about 2.5 people working for every one retired.
By the time of the next election - 2014 - the cost of superannuation will exceed everything we spend in education - pre-school, primary, secondary and all the polytechnics and universities. And it will continue to rise.
So how do we preserve NZ Superannuation for future generations?
Dr Cullen helped -- he ran a strong economy that achieved good surpluses, and put some of those surpluses into the NZ Superannuation Fund to help with some future costs. But it doesn't pay the increase in costs, and after the global crisis the government stopped contributing altogether.
The Labour government added to it with KiwiSaver so people in the workforce could set aside something extra for their retirement, and the economy would benefit from deeper pools of savings.
That has been very successful - 1.7 million people are enrolled in KiwiSaver.
Australia has employers contributing 9% into their super scheme - it's massive now and they have capital in the trillions of dollars.
It was the same scheme introduced by the Labour Government that Muldoon cut in 1975. Just think where we could be now if we'd continued with it.
But the superannuation bill hasn't stopped growing.
So we in Labour have looked at the options. And the overriding principle in our plan is fairness. Much of what we propose is based on the analysis of the independent Retirement Commissioner. That we raise the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 - just like Australia, the UK and the US have done.
John Key says we can avoid the problem by growing our economy faster. Problem is, we've barely managed 1% economic growth since he became Prime Minister.
It's simply not being honest to guarantee we can pay for our super beyond the life of his government. No economist agrees with him.
Instead, we need to take some tough decisions. I'm prepared to do that. But only on the basis what we do is fair.
First, young New Zealanders should be able to look forward to superannuation when they retire.
We can't expect them to keep paying a growing superannuation bill just because we refuse to take the tough decisions.
A young person starting out today goes into debt to pay for their education. Then they face house prices totally out of reach for an earner on the average wage.
Meanwhile do we want more and more of the tax they pay to go to an expanding super bill when there's still health and education to pay for? That's not on. It's not fair.
Second, it's fair to give New Zealanders plenty of time to prepare for any changes. They must be phased in gradually so people have plenty of warning.
No one near retirement age is going to lose their current entitlement, because that
wouldn't be fair.
Third, we need to be fair to people in manual jobs or who, for whatever reason, cannot continue to work.
If you're a bricklayer or you've been on the freezing works chain for 40 years and your back has given out, there will be transitional assistance for you.
Fourth, we won't cut the rate of superannuation - that's not fair to anyone. Let me reiterate that - it's not fair to make changes for super for people who are already retired, and I won't.
I want us to look ahead at the kind of country New Zealand is going to be in 10 or 20 years from now, and ask how we prepare for that future. Our plan protects everyone who is retired now, while also guaranteeing younger Kiwis they too will be provided for in their old age.
Finally, I want to restate my pledge that I will work across the parliament with whatever party to achieve a consensus on how we move forward.
We are prepared to take the tough decisions. But there are other ideas that we are also prepared to look at. It's time politicians worked in the best interests of New Zealand.
Superannuation is about planning for the future. And planning for New Zealand's future is what responsible leaders should be doing.
Your taxes and my taxes have paid for some very productive assets: power stations and power companies, assets like the Waitaki dam that I mentioned -- built by our ancestors with picks and shovels. They should be passed on to future generations.
This government wants to sell those assets off for short-term gain. But once they're gone, we won't be able to buy them back. They'll be gone forever. Our children won't have them.
There's no fairness in taking something that's owned by everyone, and putting it in the hands of the small number of New Zealanders who can afford to buy shares.
Most New Zealanders are too busy trying to pay their power bills to think about buying shares in power stations.
And power prices doubled when they sold Contact Energy off in the 90s. I don't want to see that happen again.
A striking feature of speaking to Grey Power audiences is that most questions relate to jobs and education - because they are questions about your children and grandchildren.
You know people are leaving New Zealand in record numbers. 53,000 went to Australia last year - it's never been higher. Email and Skype are great, but nothing beats a hug. And you don't get many hugs when you live here and your kids are on the other side of the Tasman.
When the National Government came into office promising to be aspirational for New Zealand, they said they could stem the flow of the migrants to Australia and help the underclass.
But all they've delivered are books deep in deficit and an economy that has hardly grown in four years.
The old idea that we can compete by paying lower wages - that doesn't work. Asset sales, selling off our productive farmland, they're not working either.
So what will grow the jobs, grow our incomes, and keep your grand kids here?
My top priority is education, and making sure our kids leave school with great job skills.
I think a lot of people in this room remember the days when you could leave school and get a decent trades job: an apprenticeship that set you up with skills for the workplace.
The deal was - the employer took on a pretty raw recruit, and by the end they got a highly skilled staffer. Somewhere along the line we've lost that.
Meanwhile we're so short of tradespeople in Christchurch the government wants to begin importing workers from the Philippines.
We have 87,000 kids are not in work or in training. What are they doing each day?
If you keep churning out kids like that - it's not only a waste of talent, it's a ticking time bomb. Crime. Social failure and family catastrophe. Higher health costs.
These effects hit everyone - even those who have good jobs end up having to pay the taxes to clean up the mess.
Wouldn't it be great if they'd been offered trades training instead of given a choice of preparing for a degree or dropping out and disappearing?
We propose giving the dole money to an employer to take on an apprentice. The employer gets a subsidy for the apprentice - and the young person gets the training.
And it costs no more than now.
I'm happy if the current government steals the idea, at least it will help our young people.
If we can get far more of our kids succeeding at school and graduating into great jobs where they can flourish, then more of our young New Zealanders are going to stay in this country and see a future for their families here.
I don't want them heading off to Australia because that's the only place where they think they can find work.
So that's where we need to start - creating a new economy starts with modernising our skills, so young New Zealanders are able to enter fascinating, high-paying, higher-skilled jobs.
But it comes back to where we started. Fairness. That original Kiwi social contract.
Knowing we can all rely on super being there when we need it.
Then we can get on with what kiwis do best: innovating, exporting and getting our economy pumping again.

The Riverman says:  Good speech David, but don't look for guilty parties  among Social Welfare beneficiaries -  the National government isn't treating all Kiwis fairly, so don't blame beneficiaries for not being fair themselves. National is creating a dog eat dog society, so I don't want to see David Shearer supporting them.. If beneficiaries aren't entitled to a benefit they will soon be found out. Your job is to get Kiwis working again through investment and training. Resuscitate the apprenticeship scheme that National has abandoned again. There could be a shortage of tradesmen for the Christchurch rebuild.