Saturday, September 29, 2012

What would Helen Clark have thought of John key this week...

What would Helen Clark have thought of John Key this week? Not much I'm picking!

This was the week the emperor found himself with no clothes, new or otherwise; this was the week John Key was revealed to be human after all; this was the week his Government looked distinctly ordinary.
In short, this was the week when Mr Key was found out. For Opposition MPs who have long resented Mr Key's deceptively easy ride up the greasy pole of politics, it has come not a moment too soon.
Yet, if you had said on Monday morning that by Friday, the Prime Minister would be issuing an apology to Germany's version of the Michelin Man, you would have been deemed certifiable.
The apology capped a huge public relations triumph for Kim Dotcom, thanks to some monumental bungling by New Zealand authorities.
The episode should serve as a reminder to the prime minister that while he is still hugely popular, he is also mortal.
The Grim Reaper wears many disguises - but none as bizarre as the internet tycoon.
Opposition parties are punting on this being the turning point in their fortunes after witnessing - perhaps for the first time - Mr Key really struggling during question time in Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.
Mr Key's cautioning people to postpone judgement until the release of the report of the prime minister-instigated investigation by Paul Neazor into why the Government Communications and Security Bureau had illegally eavesdropped on Mr Dotcom and associates sounded hollow.
So proved the case. The report added little to what was already public knowledge. But it gave the Opposition grounds for a snap debate in Parliament on Thursday. Mr Key was in Christchurch, but was the target of relentless volleys of vitriol denigrating his record as prime minister.
Even so, the Dotcom scandal will probably be more a nuisance for National than a game-changer.
Take the current round of job cuts as a reference point, for example. The lay-offs and restructurings announced this week will arguably have far more political impact than the fate of Mr Dotcom.
However, even redundancies will not hurt National until they start cutting swathes through the ranks of middle-income earners.
What was a traumatic week for National may not mark the turning point that Opposition parties are punting on it being.
What has changed, if only briefly, is the prime minister's demeanour. His natural effervescence and self-confidence seemed to desert him in the House, and his normally precise answers to questions sounded vague and uncertain. On Wednesday afternoon, he had to return to the debating chamber to correct one of his answers.
The Dotcom voodoo, which turns the normal into the abnormal and vice versa, had struck Mr Key the week before. For some reason known only to himself, the prime minister indulged in a charade which required him not to read the police report on John Banks' mayoral campaign donations, so that he would not be obliged to sack or discipline the Act New Zealand MP.
Surprisingly, Mr Key's gambit might just have worked. But only because the tawdry Banks affair was dramatically upstaged by a Government intelligence agency that opted not to tell its minister of its involvement in the most high-profile police operation this year.
It begs a question: if Mr Dotcom did not make it on to the agenda, just what was so big in the tiny world of New Zealand intelligence that it could shut out the attempt to extradite Dotcom to the United States?
Therein lies a clue. Helping the Americans may have been deemed politically tricky. The fewer who knew the better.
It still beggars belief that the Prime Minister was not told. It would have been more than somewhat embarrassing if he had learnt what the GCSB was up to from the Americans.
If it is correct he was unaware of what was going on, there was a woeful failure of communication between the various intelligence units in the Prime Minister's Department and the GCSB.
But that seems most unlikely, given the seniority and experience of the bureaucrats in the department.
The more you look at the shemozzle, the less things stack up.
For example, the GCSB told Mr Key of the unlawful operation against Mr Dotcom earlier this month. But Mr Key did not find out for another week that Bill English, as Acting Prime Minister, had signed what is effectively a suppression order under the Court Proceedings Act to stop the GCSB's involvement from seeping out into the public domain.
Mr Key tore strips off the GCSB after the release of Mr Neazor's report, which laid responsibility more at the police's door, at least in terms of avoiding a repeat mix-up. In laying into the GCSB, Key is trying to distance himself from taking individual ministerial responsibility for the botch-up.
The purest form of that concept would require Mr Key's resignation.
That would be going too far, but Mr Key's initial refusal to take any responsibility for something that happened in his portfolio on the grounds he did not know about it totally devalues the concept of ministerial responsibility.
It takes it to a level even lower than Bob Semple's famous 1940s dictum about a minister being responsible but not to blame.
John Armstrong is The New Zealand Herald political correspondent.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Greens welfare initiative is sensible - Key is barking mad, says Gareth Morgan..

Greens welfare initiative is sensible – Key barking mad?


Metiria Turei Green Party
Metiria Turei’s bill unlikely to be passed.
By Susan Guthrie and Gareth Morgan
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei last week introduced a Bill in Parliament that extends the child welfare payment currently paid to low income working parents to other low income non-working parents. It is unlikely the Bill will be passed.
The Bill proposes something short of a universal child payment because it doesn’t replace the current targeted welfare system, just broadens the eligibility for one targeted payment called the ‘in-work tax credit’. However the Greens seem clearly in support of a universal payment for kids, calling their Bill ‘Income Tax (universalization of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill’. Moving towards universal, not targeted, welfare payments is something we supported in the Big Kahuna and the Greens are to be commended for going in this direction.
The experts say universal payments for kids are the right way to go. Professor Peter Saunders, the chair of the Foundation for International Studies on Social Security, spoke in Auckland recently and said that global research established that a universal child payment is one of three key factors to reduce child poverty. Parental employment and decent wages are the other two.
Could John Key’s response to Turei’s proposed legislation be more superficial?
“She argues that we have people that are well off, then she wants to give the same millionaires yet more money to raise their kids – she is barking mad,” Mr Key said.
Quite apart from the fact that he seems to misunderstand the Bill, does he not realise that we already hand over something like $18,000 a year net as a welfare payment to many millionaires, they just happen to be over 65 (that payment is called NZ Superannuation)? He has no problem doing it for that age group, but does doing it for kids. His criticism is flaky, his stance hypocritical.
Of course what’s really bugging Mr Key is that a universal child payment means more tax has to be collected. And the only sensible way to do that is to shut down the gaping tax loopholes that are a cancer in our tax system. And guess who that would hurt? Yes, the millionaires Mr Key represents. He isn’t really objecting to giving money to millionaires, he’s objecting to taking it from them. This is where his ability to objectively assess the role of tax and benefits flounders, he cannot accept that a tax regime that sees the biggest suckers paying tax are PAYE earners as somehow wrong. Far rather that, it seems to this bond trader, than taxing those who generate the most income in the true sense of that word, those in control of the most wealth.
He hadn’t a leg to stand on, he’s an apologist for tax loopholes for the rich. Pity there are so many mugs amongst the voting public who can’t see it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Auckland mayor Len Brown calls for a speedy passage of the alcohol bill...

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. File photo / Getty Images

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. File photo / Getty Images
Auckland Mayor Len Brown is urging Parliament to pass the alcohol law reform legislation soon, so communities can prepare to use the new rules effectively.
Speaking to the Hospitality New Zealand conference in Wellington this afternoon, Mr Brown said he wanted communities and the industry to be able to engage in local solutions to alcohol-related issues.
"We need a speedy passage of the Alcohol Reform Bill so we can get on with the job of giving local communities more say over the number, location and opening hours of liquor outlets and the policies that regulate alcohol in their areas.
"The most important provision in the bill is the requirement for territorial authorities to establish Local Alcohol Plans so this can happen."
He said the Auckland Council had already started work on how these would roll out.
"The community has told us loud and clear that they want more say over the location and opening hours of liquor outlets.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Illegal spying at GCSB not surprising...

A lawyer for internet tycoon Kim Dotcom says unlawful spying on the tycoon is deeply concerning.
Prime Minister John Key says the snooping on Kim Dotcom by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was outside the law because the Megaupload founder, who is facing internet piracy charges in the US, is a New Zealand resident.
He said warrants were needed when the people involved were citizens or residents, and in those cases the Security Intelligence Service gathered information.
Dotcom's US-based lawyer Ira Rothken welcomed an inquiry into the spying announced by Mr Key on Monday.
"We won't comment on how it's going to impact the case, if at all, but we're deeply concerned that there appears to be allegations of domestic spying on residents which bypasses the judicial process and checks and balances on privacy," he told Radio New Zealand.
"If there's spying going on and they're intercepting communications with the folks involved in Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the legal team, certainly we'd want to know about it, and you would hope that there would be appropriate remedy."
Mr Rothken said New Zealand law protected against this sort of activity but said the spying was no surprise given the zeal with which the US and New Zealand had prosecuted the case against Dotcom and three associates.
Dotcom reacted to the announcement by tweeting that he felt like "a real life James Bond villain in a real life political copyright thriller scripted by Hollywood and the White House".
He is facing internet piracy and money laundering charges in the US, with extradition proceedings due to start in March.
Mr Key said in his announcement he was disappointed that "unlawful acts" had taken place.
Opposition parties want to know why the GCSB was involved at all when Dotcom isn't a threat to New Zealand's national security.

Benefit tightening won't help beneficiaries says Gareth Morgan


Beneficiaries need help and support to improve their prospects, not eligibility tests and punishments.
It just replaces one bouncer with another. Photo / Getty Images

It just replaces one bouncer with another. Photo / Getty Images
It is tempting to call the National Government's Social Security Amendment (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Bill the most irrelevant sideshow in the circus that is tighter targeting of social benefits.
Anyone would think these politicians and the bureaucracy implementing the latest raft of tests for benefit eligibility haven't a clue what they're doing, While it's irrelevant in terms of achieving anything apart from political populism, sadly it is very damaging for anyone in need of a Winz benefit.
Among other things, the bill replaces the current policy of cutting the benefit by 50 per cent for four weeks if a beneficiary turns down 'suitable work' to a complete forfeit for 13 weeks for some beneficiaries. And benefits will be cut for parents who fail to enrol their children in early childcare for a minimum number of hours a week or fail to register their children with a GP.
Forcing people into any job won't contribute to reducing our working age populations' reliance on income support. Those working on low paid incomes get benefits nowadays anyway, that's how absurdly disjointed benefits have become from the market value of low skilled labour.
The numbers on benefits move in line with business cycles. When the economy is growing and employers are short-staffed beneficiaries go to work - even those most maligned of beneficiaries, sole parents. National is conducting a witch hunt and it is not just disappointing in terms of the intellectual vacuum that underlies its social policy, it's a despicable display of victimising the less fortunate.
If it showed the same intellectual rigour in economic policies that encouraged investment instead of property speculation, that used market forces to lift incomes and employment - and desisted from beneficiary bashing - its credibility would be enhanced.
Forcing mechanical engineers to be bouncers is just a game of musical chairs replacing one bouncer with another. Unless the economy gets going you are not going to see fewer people on Winz's books. Why is this basic tenet of Economics 101 beyond political opportunists? It is so disappointing that the economic literacy of our politicians is so bereft.
Could we say, at a pinch, the bill shares the jobs around, giving everyone a job for some of the time and preventing any one person becoming dependent on a benefit long term? Unfortunately it does the opposite.
In the absence of this "forced work" policy it is unlikely unemployed engineers would compete with unskilled people, they'd simply wait out the cycle. Under National's purge they'll be forced to take unskilled work. We know what's going to happen - the unskilled workers will bear the brunt of the weak labour market, not only unemployed due to new competition from skilled workers but prevented from acquiring on-the-job skills of great value to them and no value to engineers.
Forcing skilled workers to take on unskilled work means this bill works against the interests of the very people most at risk of being unemployed for much of their lives. How stunningly unintelligent.
The facts show that most people on benefits return to work and get on with their lives. Long term benefit dependency is not the norm. National's reactionary populism is a giant step backwards in policy sophistication and is depressing. Lowest common denominator thinking is one step from chaos. Can't these finance sector cowboys-turned-politicians see that the growth in income and wealth disparities that New Zealand has experienced since the financial deregulation of the mid-1980s is the villain of the piece? At least as much as the economic downturn is.
The issues behind long term benefit dependency are more complex than a lack of willingness to work. Lack of skills and training, low self-esteem, mental illness, addictions and other health problems, other physical impairments are the drivers.
Does "punishment" solve these issues? The reality is some long term unemployed won't be offered jobs, no matter what the policy. What's important is giving them a quality of life that does not undermine their health and abilities further and offering effective support to acquire skills.
What is needed then is a system of income and other support that accepts the reality of the workplace, helps people to improve their prospects in a way that does not undermine their self-respect and importantly protects children from the difficulties experienced by their parents.
And of course, a system of income support that is low cost to administer would be good too. None of this is delivered by the Social Welfare Amendment Bill.

Dr Gareth Morgan is a director at Gareth Morgan Investments. Any opinions expressed in this column are personal views and are not made on behalf of Gareth Morgan Investments.
By Gareth Morgan

Sunday, September 23, 2012

John Key must come clean and tell the truth about the GCSB and the Dotcom raid...

  • SIS portfolio

Key must come clean on his knowledge of Dotcom

David Shearer | Monday, September 24, 2012 - 14:06
John Key must explain how the Government Communications Security Bureau, an agency which reports directly to him, apparently illegally spied on people involved in the Kim Dotcom case, says Labour Leader David Shearer.
“This is a shocking breach of New Zealand’s very strict laws restricting the ability of our spy agencies to snoop on people.
“John Key must also come clean about his claim that he hadn’t heard of Kim Dotcom until the Solicitor-General briefed him the day before the raid on the German businessman’s mansion. This is simply not credible given the range of people close to John Key who were involved in the Dotcom case.
“He is responsible as Prime Minister for signing off all intercept warrants by GSCB. While it’s been revealed that ‘some’ bugging was done illegally, it is not credible to think that other monitoring by the agency was not signed by the Prime Minister before the raid was carried out.
“This is not about national security. This is about John Key’s own word and whether he has told the truth to New Zealanders,” said David Shearer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Key informs Taleban in advance that SAS troopers are returning to Afghanistan...

That dopey prime minister of NZ, John key has let the Taleban know in advance that four Kiwi SAS troopers are coming back to Afghanistan to investigate the deaths of five kiwi soldiers. But still four SAS troopers are the equivalent of twenty ordinary soldiers. The Taleban will not sleep to well knowing these special forces troops are looking for those responsible for killing Kiwi soldiers, one of whom was a female medic. Lucky for them that Cpl Willie Apiata VC has retired from the SAS.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Welfare with a sting in the tail - that is an understatement...

The Standard

Why is National attacking the poor in New Zealand?

Paula Bennett’s 143-page second welfare changes bill is out – with a nasty added sting in the tail.
Anyone who refuses a ‘suitable’ job will be blocked from getting a benefit for 13 weeks. ‘Suitable’ means any work with 20-40 hours per week for the unemployed, or any work with 10-20 hours per week for sole parents with children aged 5-13 and sickness beneficiaries who aren’t capable of working fulltime.
Job’s on the other side of town and it’s impractical to get there? Don’t care, your children can starve.
One strike and you’re out – even murderers get 3 strikes…
Here – as in Britain, which is undergoing a similar ‘simplification’ of the benefit system – the framing is that welfare is a trap that people can’t get out of. As though poor quality housing, an inability to afford heating and having to carefully manage the weekly budget to afford any milk for the kids is somehow addictive. In Britain, the Tories are slowly managing to get that idea accepted, even as people say they want higher taxes rather than more cuts.
The enforced Early Childhood Education for beneficiaries (especially when ECE is scarce in low income areas, and usually not free as advertised), has provoked plenty of comment.
Tapu Misa has life on Planet Paula:
Doesn’t everybody know that when you get money from the state, you automatically lose the right to make decisions about your own children?
It stands to reason: if you’re too hopeless to work, you’re too hopeless to be trusted with the care of your own children.
Clearly, only ignorant and lazy people are unemployed.
It’s true that people who get Working For Families are also receiving money from the state, but they still have rights because people who do a minimum of 20 hours a week never neglect their children. It’s just common sense, isn’t it?
Andrew Cardow of Massey wonders how the party that cried ‘Nanny State’ could be so interfering with how you bring up your children – without even any good evidence that their solution will help.
Apparently efficient lightbulbs is insanity, but telling you how to raise your kids isn’t the Government invading the private lives of citizens at all…
But best was Toby Manhire who contrasted:
Fail to keep any preschool child aged 3 or over in certified education for at least 15 hours a week and your benefit could be cut by as much as half, comes the warning, part of a list of “social obligations”.
with Paula Bennett’s maiden speech to Parliament:
“we are pushed to increase women’s participation in the workforce, we need to ask who will be raising our next generation … I advocate for choice – for women to work part-time or full-time in paid work, or not at all, or to stay home and raise their children … A good government does not come into people’s homes and tell them how to raise their children.”
Compulsory vaccination? Drug-testing? Compulsory ECE? Does any of that mesh with this government’s rhetoric of a small state who keeps out of people’s lives? Doesn’t interfere with how they raise their children?
Apart from a cut of $8.53/week for widows, the only ‘savings’ will be from forcing people off the benefit and onto the streets by insisting they work ‘suitable’ jobs that may not be practical – as Kay Brereton Coordinator of the Wellington People’s Centre says: “It could be quite huge because I have seen people turning down jobs for really good reasons and having their benefit sanctioned as a result.”
As villifying as this package is, at least there aren’t the cuts that the UK are looking at – a benefit freeze because wages have been shrinking in real terms under their Tory government (like here).
But then this government seems to keep wanting to copy the UK Tories’ failed economic policies, so maybe we better watch out for ‘reform’ round 3…

Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting beneficiaries out of welfare "trap"? Yeah right!

National's reforms are designed to get beneficiaries out of the welfare "trap".  Yeah right! What a big-hearted government. Then what? If you don't send your child to pre-school, if you don't answer the phone  from Work and Income on the third call, if you don't have a drug test - you will lose 50% of your social  welfare benefit. What about the children? If parents can't feed them adequately, CYFs will take the children into care. Then you don't need a benefit - you can go to work .But where are the jobs? I'm not a brain-surgeon you may say. Here is a one-way ticket to Brisbane!

John Banks accused of lying about donations - strong words!

Mr Banks came under heavy scrutiny by reporters at Parliament but failed to answer questions

Mr Banks came under heavy scrutiny by reporters at Parliament but failed to answer questions

ACT leader John Banks has been accused in Parliament of lying about donations he received from internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.
Labour MPs grilled Prime Minister John Key today about the donations, trying to force an admission that Mr Banks didn't tell the truth when he told Mr Key's chief of staff he didn't know where the two $25,000 donations to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign came from.
Sworn testimony in a police report released last week shows Mr Banks did know, but Mr Key is still denying the MP misled him.
Labour's Trevor Mallard wanted to know why Mr Key still considered he hadn't been misled by Mr Banks "when the evidence shows that John Banks lied to his chief of staff and the media".
Mr Key said the evidence didn't show Mr Banks had lied.
"He complied with the law," Mr Key said, citing the police conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Banks over his election return which recorded the donations as anonymous.
Labour MPs shouted "he lied" as the questioning went on, but Mr Key refused to concede that Mr Banks had done anything that warranted his dismissal as a minister.
And Mr Banks came to Parliament in a defiant mood.
He refused to answer questions about the affidavits in the police file.
"Four months ago these politically-motivated allegations were made in Parliament by the Labour Party.
“A team of the very best police officers this country could assemble went through this intensively and extensively.
“They weighed every word of every witness, every sentence of every witness, every paragraph of every witness and they concluded no charges.
“We’ve moved on,” he says.
Mr Dotcom tweeted not long after, calling for Mr Banks’ interview with police to be released.
“John Banks bigmouthed ‘full disclosure’ & ‘nothing to hide’ yet his police interview remains undisclosed & hidden,” the tweet said.
NZN/3 News

Read more:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three strikes telephone benefit cuts

Sun, 16 Sep 2012 6:09p.m.
The drastic measure forms part of the Government's crackdown on long-term welfare dependency

The drastic measure forms part of the Government's crackdown on long-term welfare dependency

Beneficiaries who fail to answer three phone calls and a voicemail from Work and Income are being told they'll have their welfare payments slashed in half.
The drastic measure forms part of the Government's crackdown on long-term welfare dependency.
But beneficiaries and their advocates are angry. They say they haven't been told about it.
Hana Bellingham is among 53,000 people who are receiving the unemployment benefit in New Zealand.
But she's one of the few who've heard about what's been called the Government's "three strikes" phone call policy.
“It's been a while since I've heard from you guys and I was informed by a friend if I missed three phone calls from Work and Income that my benefit could potentially be cut off?” Ms Bellingham asks the organisation over the phone.
“If they call you three times and cannot make contact with you they will actually look at suspending your unemployment benefit,” responds the Work and Income worker on the other end of the phone.
Work and Income says it will also send clients a letter, urging them to make contact. So how much of the benefit would be cut? It's 50 percent initially and after that if they still try and get in contact, that's when they'll look at suspending the full benefit.

Read more:

Friday, September 14, 2012

John Key too weak to take action against John Banks


John Banks is trying to blame the Police for the fact that the transcript of his 3-hour interview with detectives over his campaign donations was held back from the OIA release of the Police file. Another lie. It was Banks’ choice for the transcript to be withheld. So much for “nothing to fear, nothing to hide”. And, now, his press sec’s dropped him further in it.
Banks’ story has always depended on the absurd defence that he signed his donations return without reading it so he didn’t know it was a pack of lies, and that’s somehow OK – despite the fact that the act of signing a statutory document is the act of confirming that it is true and correct.
Haivng already lied to the meida saying “Mr Banks is not responsible for what the police have released”, his press secretary blew a massive hole in his defence, saying: “John Banks did read the document”. Whoops.
Of course, she’s started to try to back-track now, instead saying that Banks’ campaign treasury had only “gone over” the declaration with him (which still sounds a lot like reading – guided, informed reading even).
But the truth is out.
Banks knew full well that his donation form was incorrectly listing donations from SkyCity, Dotcom, and very probably all his other big donors as anonymous when he knew who had given him the money.
Key, of course, is being shown to be a complete paper tiger by all this. Any Prime Minister should have sacked any minister in this situation long ago. But Key can’t. He is weak. Banks is in charge, not Key.

A letter from Frank Macskasy to John Key....



John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking John Banks
Continued from: John Banks – escaping justice
Following on from the police decision on 26 July not to prosecute John Banks for submitting an allegedly fraudulent Electoral Return, containing incorrect details of donors, this blogger emailed the Prime Minister on this issue,
From: Frank Macskasy <>
To: John Key <>
Cc: Jim Mora <>,
Chris Hipkins <>,
Chris Laidlaw RNZ <>,
Dominion Post <>,
Daily News <>,
Daily Post <>,
David Shearer <>,
Hutt News <>,
Kim Hill <>,
Listener <>,
Metiria Turei <>,
Morning Report <>,
NZ Herald <>,
Nine To Noon RNZ <>,
Otago Daily Times <>,
Q+A <>,
Russel Norman <>,
Southland Times <>,
TVNZ News <>,
The Press <>,
The Wellingtonian <>,
Waikato Times <>,
Wairarapa Times-Age <>,
Winston Peters <>
Subject: Corrupt practices under the Local Electoral Act (2001)
Date: Saturday, 28 July 2012 6:57 PM
Rt Hon. John Key
Prime Minister
Parliament House
28 July 2012

With regards to matters raised by TV3′s John Campbell, Trevor Mallard, and others, surrounding John Banks; his 2010 Electoral Return; and subsequent Police investigation, I invite you to read and consider questions and comments made on my blogpost, “John Banks – escaping justice“.
You will note that I have raised several questions regarding this matter, and have written to Police Asst Commissioner, Malcolm Burgess, for clarification and answers to issues that I regard as important.
I have also contacted Transparency International, a global NGO that rates countries according to levels of corruption within their society. Last year, New Zealand ranked #1 on a Corruption Transparency Index 2011. Following the John Banks Donations Affair, I have invited Transparency Internation to review our top ranking, in terms of least corrupt nation on Earth.
Far from being a “closed matter”, I believe this issue is of vital importance – especially since it appears that many of Kim Dotcom’s allegations against John Banks have been substantiated.
The question that I am asking; will you remove John Banks from his Ministerial roles?
-Frank Macskasy
Frankly Speaking
No reply (or even acknowledgement) received as yet, by14 September.
An acknowledgement was, however, received from Winston Peters’ office.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

National government offering only half the RV for land in Christchurch....


Offering half RV for land is just not on...

Lianne Dalziel |
Gerry Brownlee has sneaked out an announcement that the Government will only offer half the rateable value of some red-zone land while most in Canterbury were rightly focussed on the fate of their local schools, says Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Lianne Dalziel.
“Today the attention of all Cantabrians was on the fate of their local schools. A big worry for every parent in the region. But Gerry Brownlee has cynically used this opportunity to sneak out his announcement that owners of uninsured houses or vacant land in the red zone will only get an offer of half the rateable value of the land.
“Offering just half the rateable value for land is not on. The full rateable value for other land owners in the red zone was nowhere near the market or replacement value. Half that amount adds insult to injury.
“How dare the Minister be so judgemental about people who don’t have insurance. We have heard tragic stories from people who haven’t realised they had become uninsured after their husband or wife had died. Other examples include making the hard choice about what they could afford after the breadwinner has been hospitalised or when a business was struggling to get off the ground.
“And if you only own bare land you can’t insure it for EQC cover anyway.
“This is very bad news for people who have been hung out to dry by a government who promised to preserve people’s equity in their property.
“By avoiding the use of his powers under the Act, the Minister may be hoping that he will avoid the scrutiny of the court, but this time he has taken on people who literally have nothing left to lose.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beneficiary bashing National costs welfare...

Opposition parties say the Government's moves to price the future cost of benefits is a cynical attempt to drive a further wedge between working New Zealand and families without work.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett will today disclose the first valuation of the Government's future liability for benefits.
Calculations by the Social Development Ministry put the total lifetime cost of main beneficiaries at $44.7 billion at March last year - or $134,638 for each beneficiary.
Greens welfare spokeswoman Metiria Turei today said such a the report was designed to highlight only the most extreme costs of welfare.
"The Government is very keen to stigmatise beneficiaries as much as possible."
The introduction of a punitive approach to welfare was solely about National getting votes, she said.
"They have no compassion for the families that they are attacking in the process. Families like those in Christchurch that lost work during the earthquake or the Kawerau families that are losing work at the paper mill have done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.
"The Government is intentionally driving a wedge between working New Zealanders and families without work for no advantage to New Zealand or to those families."
Turei said the majority of 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit would be off welfare within 12 months.
Labour's welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern today said most of the almost 97,000 people on the domestic purposes benefit would be off government assistance within four years.
The Government had taken into account the average length of time people remained on various benefit categories. "That's why it's such an inaccurate thing to try to do. They've chosen a snapshot in time, at a pretty bad time."
Ardern questioned the purpose of putting a value on future benefits.
"Is it to tell us we need more jobs? We absolutely know that. To tell us there is a particular group which is at high risk that cost us more? We can already predict that and should already be addressing that."
The Government was costing what was "politically convenient", she said.
"The cost of superannuation is significant but the Government is not interested in addressing the sustainability of that system."
Prime Minister John Key has ruled out raising the age of eligibility for superannuation despite economists and almost every other political party agreeing the rising cost is unaffordable.
Both Labour and the Greens are concerned about new "social obligations" announced yesterday which require beneficiaries to send their children to school or early childhood education centres, enrol them with a doctor and complete basic health checks, or face having their benefits cut.
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The Greens say the same obligations should apply to others receiving government assistance such as Working For Families and Labour says it will harm children.
However, Bennett said the changes would stop vulnerable children missing out on vital education and health services.
"These obligations are reasonable and achievable and they reflect the expectations most New Zealanders have of parents, this is a positive move for vulnerable families.”
Last week Bennett announced benefit payments would be stopped to beneficiaries who were subject to arrest warrants and from next July beneficiaries will also be penalised if they refuse to apply for drug-tested jobs.
National's welfare reforms are expected to save the Government up to $1b over four years. The Government spends about $7.6b on welfare payments a year.
Acknowledgements: - © Fairfax NZ News

Monday, September 10, 2012

ACC spends millions on its hatchet doctors...

ACC is spending millions of dollars flying doctors around New Zealand to assess long-term clients who have already been assessed by other doctors.
The policy has been slammed by John Miller - one of the country's top lawyers specialising in ACC legislation - who said the so-called “independence” of some assessors was a sham.
ACC lawyers, advocates and claimant groups know those doctors as “hatchet men and women”, Mr Miller said.
“They are not independent, as a substantial part of their income comes from ACC,” he said.
ACC figures reveal the corporation pays millions of dollars a year to a group of “independent assessors”, often flying them to towns or cities where other doctors with suitable qualifications already practise.

John Key and his slum landlord mates...


Key warned last month that the Government could use either incentives or regulation to ensure landlords get their properties up to an adequate standard.  Photo / Ross Setford
Key warned last month that the Government could use either incentives or regulation to ensure landlords get their properties up to an adequate standard. Photo / Ross Setford
The Prime Minister has been asked to investigate one of his MPs who allegedly refused to insulate his rental property because he couldn't get a big enough public subsidy.
During a Herald on Sunday investigation, Mt Wellington tenant Joshua Tuitupou said National MP Jian Yang told him he had to get a Community Services Card before the MP would get the home insulated; otherwise, he said, it was too expensive.
If a tenant has the low-income health card, their landlord can claim a subsidy of up to $2500 on retrofitting insulation to the house. Without the card, the maximum subsidy is $1300.
Labour housing spokeswoman Annette King has written to John Key saying taxpayers would find it "unacceptable for an MP to arrange their affairs to provide a personal financial advantage for themselves".
"This allegation requires investigation as, if correct, it reflects on all Members of Parliament."
Jian Yang failed to respond to the newspaper's inquiries last week, but this week he emailed through a statement.