Lefter 72 ~ Dot-con

There’s an election coming up. Once again, National is polling strongly, Labour has yet to make real headway, and the Greens (and Labour, for that matter) have what percentages they do retain threatened by the Internet Mana party. This new hybrid party will only do any real good in the current socio-political scene by appealing to those who would vote National, but if anything, having Laila Harré as head of The Internet Party and teaming it with Mana makes them look left wing, rather than as a party typical National supporters might swing to. The only real impact this unnatural hybrid can make is to energise the overly large sector of the young adult demographic that doesn’t actually vote. This is also, of course, the most attractive sector (and the only place for any real traction) for the Greens and Labour too, to increase their vote. So once again, this new party conglomeration is actually more threatening to the left than it is to the right, despite the stated intentions of Kim Dotcom and his oft-quoted deep (and justified) dislike of John Key.

Even this is a marker for the left – it’s an attractive position to those who already dislike National and Key, while being unattractive to those who do like Key. Internet-Mana is unlikely to sway anyone from the right while simultaeniously adding to the fragmentation of the left.

So, thanks a lot.

Of course, philosophically, Kim Dotcom belongs on the right – after all, he’s a laissez faire trader who made millions from selling other people’s intellectual property illegally. At heart, he belongs with Act.

Meanwhile, what does National actually stand for? As we have seen repeatedly, it’s a party run by the rich. Almost every week for the last year we’ve had our faces rubbed in the directorships, landholdings, property portfolios, company and international trade interests and the personal wealth of ministers in National. We also often see that John Key is once again holidaying in his luxury pad in Hawaii – he has another at that rich people’s preserve at Omaha north of Auckland.
So who do you think these people instinctively serve? Not ordinary New Zealanders.

Let me be clear, here: nobody ever gets rich from just doing good. Meanwhile that vast pool of people that has little is where wealth actually comes from. They buy stuff. It doesn’t actually matter how little they can afford, as long as you can get them to buy something they don’t need, you’re onto a winner. And when they run out of money completely and end up out on the street, so what? Social services have been cut to make the current account deficit look better. It’s good PR.

If a large proportion of this struggling market doesn’t vote at all, National couldn’t be happier.

And if you think National has anyone at all in the party with a good heart, look who they need as their allies. You’d have to be pretty blinkered to think Act was a party you’d want to go into coalition with. Its leader was found guilty of fraud, its founding philosopher sounds like a fizzing right-wing nutcase and it’s new leaders are, frankly, both naive and hilarious. And if the blank-eyed ravings of Colin Craig and his personal Conservative Party doesn’t make you feel odd in the stomach, well, vote National. Because these are the only viable partner options for National, although the vestige of the Māori Party might still be around. For the fact remains that National has been slowly dismantling Māori ever since the party made the mistake of its pact with Key.

National needs to be as popular as possible – it wants and needs to govern with a full majority. Then it can finish destroying New Zealand’s egalitarian society and welfare state all by itself.

The only hope for New Zealand is that National doesn’t make it.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on July 17, 2014 at1:18 pm Comments (0)
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Lefter 70 ~ The country should be rousing about housing

Are you pleased with the budget? It does nothing to counter the crazy rise of house prices, most notably in Auckland. It does nothing to make more houses affordable, though at least National has been putting some thinking into the issue. What National’s plan amounts to is to allow in immigrants at the current rate (which is escalating) despite evidence that immigration is one of the primary factors in pushing up house prices, while also keeping the pressure on house availability, which is constrained. Why? Because rich people own houses, and they stand to gain from this. Meanwhile, National is changing the rules for state housing: a state house used to be for life, in a contract signed with the Crown. The contract changed a few years ago, to be with the government, and went to a three-year term … except nobody ever saw one of these contracts. Certainly, nobody was told about these contracts – not even the tenants of state houses.

Glen Innes and other poor Auckland suburbs are currently having their state houses moved off, to make the land available to developers. This is the other part of National’s brilliant plan. Contrary to the Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, which aims to keep Auckland within its bounds and make it denser, National’s brilliant idea is to scrape the state houses off their sites, getting rid of the tenants in the process. Fifteen families in Glen Innes got their marching orders last week – 90 days to get out. This process, largely kept out of the papers, allows developers to build those godawful suburbs you see everywhere. Simultaneously, National intends opening up land on the verges of Auckland to developers. In other words, so Auckland can sprawl more.

If you think Auckland has problems with traffic congestion and a pretty crap public transport system, it’s because of that very sprawl. At least the council is trying to deal with this, by improving public transport and trying to institute denser housing developments. This is why the council is at odds with National – letting Auckland sprawl more only suits one group. You guessed it: the rich. They get to make huge profits from the houses and land. And yes, the rich vote National (or worse). The greedy always want more – with National, they get it.

National working for the average New Zealander? Not bloody likely. Your government is evicting poor families to add to Auckland’s problems by contributing to sprawl for the benefit of one of the lower forms of life: property developers.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on May 16, 2014 at9:58 am Comments (0)

Lefter 69 ~ Thank goodness for David Parker

I haven’t had much positive to say lately about Labour, but it’s from despair rather than malice. Finally, though, a light at the end of the tunnel. And an incandescently bright one, too. Let’s hope it shines on all the dark corners created by National over the last two terms, with their patsy yes-man partners. David Parker presented a policy – a policy! At last! One that’s profound, well thought out and, best of all, even innovative. And it’s not one National can steal, as it’s too counter to National’s coda. Neo Liberals might rail at the level of state economic control it implies, but that’s because it’s a policy that’s bad for the greedy and good for everyone else. Yes, that’s what I mean: it’s a good policy that’s good for the country. Parker even nails his ‘egalitarian outcomes’ to the masthead – it’s what Labour was founded on, but how long since you heard anyone say it? 

Civilised countries have schemes, you see, that draw on national savings plans to balance the economy. Personal savings helped Japan weather the collapse of the ‘Asian Tiger’. Best of all, KiwiSaver does something to counter the stranglehold Australian banks have on New Zealand money. Again, a good thing. Note that Just days after the ANZ posted a record NZ profit, Westpac followed suit … at the same time as Westpac is running ads to asking Kiwis to donate to their rescue helicopter. Excuse me? Your record profits came from us.

Pay for it yourself.

How long does anyone honestly believe New Zealand can carry on as a low-wage, high risk (in Rod Oram’s words) economy? Until the bubble bursts. But that’s the game National is playing. National knows Labour will have to put everything back together again sooner or later, and so the cynical seesaw continues.

We entrust our welfare – social and economic – to those we vote for. National has blatantly been flogging the country’s assets off while keeping the economy turning in favour of local consumers rather than our exporters. People are pleased because they can buy more stuff they don’t need, as the country sinks deeper into debt. Debt always comes back to bite. But it’s such an easy sell – everyone likes buying stuff. We can hardly stop ourselves – so someone has to do it for us. Meanwhile, National’s core constituency gets richer in the short term.

And good lord, the Sunday Star Times even has passages that are quote-worthy. I love this one from Parker: “Giving rights to the minority never takes it away from the majority.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s majority party is becoming very frayed around the edges. MPs have quit, Judith Collins and Maurice Williams have shown where arrogance leads and John Key’s smile looks increasingly strained.

Good-oh.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on May 5, 2014 at9:57 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 67 ~ Labour’s love’s lost

Shane Jones quit Labour. People say it’s because Labour has drifted too far from the centre and leftwards, but I disagree. Labour does need to get away from the centre. Currently, this wishy-washy centrist Labour looks like National Lite, and since National already holds the reigns, people will just vote National as the familiar line of least resistance. The option is centre? Well, National is already there and already governing. 

The trouble is, with Cunliffe faffing around and not being definitive about anything, and no decent Labour policies we can sink our teeth into, National Lite is what we have with Labour 2014 anyway. Sure, Cunliffe can quip (so can Key), but is wit all he has?

I’ve written and said this many times before, but Labour doesn’t know what it is any more. If Labour doesn’t know, we don’t either. Who wants to vote for something with an identity crisis? Not me. So I’m afraid, unless something amazing happens (and I’m no longer holding my breath), Labour will not win this election, condemning us to another three years of Key and all his social damage in pursuit of lining the pockets of the wealthy few. How they must be laughing at the rest of us!

But what will then be the outcome for Labour, and the left in New Zealand, when National wins again? Collapse and, hopefully, finally, the rebuild I’ve been calling for. Somebody posited to me recently a Labour co-led by Jacinda Adern and Grant Robertson. It would certainly make a striking and bold statement in the gender stakes, and they’re both very valuable, clever, experienced people, but would they create a new Labour we can believe in? Because that’s what we need.

I want a left-wing government. It’s another thing I’ve been repeating. That’s because I’m an anarchist at heart: I hope for a world in which people are good enough to work together for the greater good thanks to non-violent cooperation. I’m not stupid enough to think this is imminent by any means, but I truly believe it’s a worthwhile aspiration. One which can only come closer under a left wing government.

But Labour, currently, isn’t really left wing. It’s policies are National Lite, it doesn’t know what it stands for, but at the same time it’s tarred by Old Left (the unions, for goodness sake!). Labour’s leadership struggles to satisfy Old Labour while making a pretence of engaging new (younger voters), but Labour should have taken the bull by the horns after losing the last election and set about defining a new role, image and purpose for itself for this century. But it failed. Actually, I don’t believe it even tried..

Jones was Old Labour. But so is Cunliffe, I’m afraid.

Labour is, currently, doomed to fail.

And that failure will be New Zealand’s.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on April 24, 2014 at8:28 am Comments (0)

Lefter 66 ~ National: Rusting on its laurels

National has been demonstrating the three strongest planks of its fiscal policy and crowing about the results. These are: wait it out; hope for oil; and sell everything possible.

This is the kind of hands-on fiscal management that voters apparently wanted, as it’s a commonly-cited excuse for voting National. If you look back, National has done very little, if anything, to foster the job market, create jobs off its own bat or in fact do any kind of monetary management at all. National seems to attract two kinds of voters: those who know bugger all and don’t care but at least hope to become a little personally wealthier, and those moribund conservatives to whom social responsibility is anathema, always looking for people to blame for their own lack of success or those to denigrate because they’ve found it, and thus feel superior.

Meanwhile, as John Key gears up for the election, he’s looking increasingly concerned at the prospects of governing in partnership with nutters and right-wing ‘philosophers’. There’s a philosophy of greed? Demonstrably yes, unfortunately. Look at Act’s two new top people. Its interesting, if not unsettling, that such a facile thing can be dressed up as academia. But I guess everything can be, ultimately.

Once again, it’s high time for Labour to demonstrate it is different to National. Yes, I mean left wing. Some Labour people may need to look up what it actually means. I still think Labour has an identity crisis. It wants to act, and to be, socialist, but it’s too scared to say so. State a position and market it, Labour. That’s what you need to do. Sure Cunliffe can snipe effectively at Key, but how about some policies?

This just shows that the right has won the battle for hearts and minds, which is bizarre in a way since those are two of the things it cares very little for. It’s not just heartless, it denigrates culture in favour of business, thereby discounting pursuits of the mind as counter to profit.

Where does that leave Labour? Scared of what it represents, and bound by decades of what it has been. Why doesn’t Labour oppose drilling and mining? Because it doesn’t have much union support left (since unions are so small now) but what there is left, Labour feels it can’t afford to lose. Drilling and mining means workers and workers are, still, sometimes, in unions.

Which means once again the Greens steal the moral high ground on this, along with policies that seek to protect the poor, to educate and to raise New Zealanders up as good global citizens.

The more the Greens position themselves as socially left, the more some Labour voters will identify with them.

That’s what I’ve been doing. And Labour’s biggest criticism of the Greens is that they’ve never been tested in government.

Well, that’s possible  to rectify.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on February 7, 2014 at6:26 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 65 ~ Greed and prejudice

I predict that’s how this government will be seen from a few years hence. There has been a steady stream of measures that advantage those above certain pay scales while demonising, stigmatising and punishing those below.

A lot of the conscious or subconscious motivation for the demonising process is pseudospeciation. You and I are the same species. Our human species spent a few hundred-thousand years (at least) escaping from, preying upon and defending ourselves against other species: big cats, crocodiles, angry antelopes – you name it.

As we brought these mostly under control, or at least learnt to control our environments to the extent where the ever present danger wasn’t so ever present, the restless human mind fostered conflict between people instead, to make up for the shortfall in … I don’t know, adrenaline rushes or something? Or purely from self interest and covetousness for what others had.

Which is not to say I’m a complete cynic. Humans also collaborated to farm, build villages, transport networks, to trade, so swap knowledge and to otherwise mutually benefit each other.

Anyway, back to pseudospeciation. If I call you a kike, a pom, a jungle-bunny or any of the other thousands of pejorative terms we have invented for each other over the millennia, I am making you ‘other’. Not human like me. Something I can more easily be prejudiced against and ignorant about.

The more National punishes those on low incomes, no incomes and benefits, the more people on good incomes can feel they are not as human as them. The more easy it is to scorn them, fail to identify with them and, most importantly, to empathise with their state and conditions. The more Māori slammed into prison, the more others can tell themselves ‘they’re not like us’. The more money the wealthy make, the wider the gap between us and ‘them’.

As the gulf widens, the more they can kid themselves they are better, more deserving and above all, right.

Right being the operative word.

There are three major tiers to New Zealand society these days — those with hardly anything, the middle band and the wealthy. The middle band – the middle class, if you like – used to be much bigger. Now they’re either being pushed into the underclass by multifarious moves by this Government (and Labour pushed some of those out there was well, but it’s getting much worse under Key and Joyce) or sold the line that they, too, can reach the top band.

This makes them into de facto National supporters (or worse). They’ve bought the Key Kool Aid of upwards mobility, status elevation and cash, thanks to tax breaks, prosecutions redirected towards benefit fraudsters and away from the much more prevalent and costly white collar crime, and measures like the ability to fire people within 90 days without any reason or right of comeback, meaning companies can use cheap, low-wage hires to get them through busy periods. This is just another Faustian bargain.

And they fool themselves they work hard for this.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand on August 29, 2013 at7:17 pm Comments (1)

Left 64 ~ Labour leadership: where’s Jacinda?

I feel I have to weigh in on Labour’s leadership. Everybody else is. Do you judge people by their faces? There’s a theory that by around 30, your life experience etches itself on your face so it more truly reflects your personality. Look happy or calm, that’s because you have been happy or calm a lot and so on.

Andrew Little looks a bit bitter, don’t you think? Grant Roberts looks like a baby. Cunliffe looks like a Cheshire cat, sure, but not like negative experiences have dictated his life – while Shane Jones somehow looks defeated already.

But of this somewhat unsatisfying foursome, Jones would be my pick if he made a run (I don’t expect him to). He’s savvy, clever, quick and a good debater.

Jones would help get Maori back on side and a lot of men, anyway, would forgive him the porn thing. The stupid thing there, sorry to say, was that Jones used his ministerial credit card to purchase porn in a hotel – not the porn itself. Under the surface, that’s what many guys would actually think, since the figures of men actually looking at porn is  high, and just not generally admitted to. So it’s disingenuous (if awful) for many men to castigate Jones for looking at porn.

But using that credit card showed an incredible naivety or, worse perhaps, simple lack of thought, and that’s a worry – attention to detail was Helen Clark’s big strength. I don’t think he has that – or at least, he didn’t. Has he now?

The likely winner is Cunliffe. Grant may have the numbers outside caucus, but it’s caucus that brought Shearer down. Cunliffe has caucus support, he’s  smart and he’s combative – he would certainly take the fight to Key, which Key might be anxious about (not a bad  thing). But Cunliffe has a mean streak and he’s made dedicated enemies because of it.

Some people reckon Grant could get the numbers to trump Cunliffe, but the problem is I don’t think he’d get the vote of the country come election time unless Grant really ups his game and looks much more decisive in front of the camera. He needs to develop some gravitas.

Yes, Grant is gay. This is hardly insurmountable. The CEO of Apple is gay and he’s widely perceived as effective, decisive and at the top of his game.

Being gay is ever more tolerated in New Zealand (thank goodness). It’s not a bad thing at all as far as many women are concerned, and even for NZ blokes most will admit the onus is on effective leadership, however perceptions around sexuality may make them feel. The church isn’t exactly on side with Labour anyway, thanks to all the advances for gay rights championed by Labour – and this means the most challenging sector of Labour’s traditional base for a gay leader is South Auckland Polynesians, who are already feeling alienated.

With smart handling, none of this is impassable – but currently Grant, to my eyes anyway, simply doesn’t look ready.

But I wish Jacinda Adern would put her hat in the ring. Jacinda’s name is already being mentioned by people, including in the media, as a contender for leadership. Sure, many would say she’s not ready (I think she is –many people just aren’t ready for her). My point is, if Adern goes for leadership now, it puts the party, Labour supporters and the country on notice that she’s a future contender for leadership. Adern is not that far past 30, she’s already incredibly accomplished, smart and successful, and she already has enviable international experience. And Adern is assured and erudite in front of the camera.

If she does put her hat in the ring, she will draw some support. She probably won’t win – but it puts the country on notice she’s a possible future leader. Which I think is a really good thing, to give many people hope for a revived Labour that can be relevant for people under (and over!) 50.

If Cunliffe wins, he might keep Adern at arm’s length as a possible rival, but is that such a bad thing? He’s 20- years older. She’s going to outlast him anyway, one way or another. Or he might, if he’s as clever as people say he is, keep her close, to help him engage with younger voters. Either way is not so bad, I reckon.

And if Grant wins (I’d be most keen on him upping his game and winning) he would probably keep Jacinda Adern close anyway. He’s smart, she’s smart. Their ages are fairly close and they’d make a wonderful combo, along with other young and effective Labour MPs. The party would really appear infused with fresh blood, which it desperately needs. The blood’s there, it’s just mostly invisible. Move into the light…

The other thing like about Jacinda is that she’s not scared of the Greens. Shearer couldn’t seem to take them seriously and Goff treated them as irrelevant even when they had become clearly relevant. And Adern and Turei, now that’s a power combo!

Problem is, at the end of the day, Labour still doesn’t seem to know what it’s about. And if Labour doesn’t, nobody else does.

Whoever wins, I still want to know what Labour actually represents. Succinctly and clearly. Please!

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on August 23, 2013 at10:13 am Comments (2)

Lefter 63 ~ the Key to failure

It’s a salient feature of New Zealand politics that personalities – and personal issues – soon overtake actual politics. Depressingly, this fact doesn’t seem limited to New Zealand but let’s not go there (Australia’s Labor pains have been embarrassing as well as divisive). Regardless, as John Key’s incipient nastiness increasingly emerges, so does a little desperation. They are, of course, related.

The National Party has been gambling on increasing it’s majority to it can govern alone, so has been steadily eroding and emasculating the Māori Party. Actively or not, it has also presided over the decline and fall of United.

Meanwhile, National has been implementing it’s standard Tory-style policies of privatisation and of further elevating the elevated classes (of which Key is a salient member, having clawed his way to wealth via the immoral and counterproductive route of currency trading). Everything is up for privatisation. Mines, transport, primary industries sure – that’s standard stuff for the right. It doesn’t work, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that when you privatise, the wealthy make more money, and then when it fails, the burden is carried by the rest of the population, then baled out by government using the tax money paid by what’s left of the besieged middle class. And since the very rich pay bugger-all tax and have loads of money, it doesn’t effect them. It’s actually another oppressive measure disguised as ‘economic necessity’ that further erodes the middle class while doing no good whatsoever to the underclass.

But privatising education, and even enquiries into domestic abuse? That strikes me as a new plateau of disdainful cynicism. Fortunately the Glenn inquiry is collapsing under its own weight, making National look as bad as, oh, say an underhand deal with a casino. Which in itself is an unspoken poverty and stupidity tax.

Anyway, as the Maori Party grinds itself into an impossible position, and Dunn reaps the rewards of his own lack of a clear position (which has, till now, always allowed him to deal with anyone who’ll have him), National needs to pull some dramatic moves to ensure it can win the next election.

Hence the u-turn (an apt metaphor) on Auckland’s transport woes. This is quite a desperate act, but it acknowledges the power of Auckland. Previously the government was diametrically opposed to the left-leaning council helmed by Len Brown. The mayor must applaud the shift, because he gets what he wants, but it also puts him in the invidious position of being in bed with Key. Let’s just wait and see how this all pans out. Personally, I think Len Brown is just a populist jerk who enjoys the limelight, but I guess the jury is out till the next local election.

However, the real worry is that Key’s ploy may just work. Aucklanders are rightly pissed off at the sorry state of transport, and it’s expensive to fix, but it has to be done. If Key looks like he’s behind it, it will bring back his wavering middle supporters.

Meanwhile, in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, Labour retained its majority but the most important fact is that, while Mana (avowedly left-wing) trumped the Maori Party, together they got more votes than Labour. The by-election was both a triumph for the left and a clear signal of where NZ Maori sympathies still lie.

Can you see the two Māori parties coalescing? I can’t. If Pita Sharples sorts himself out and steps down and Tariana Turia also goes,  Tu Ururoa Flavell takes the (co-?) helm. He still needs to sort out his differences with Harawira, which may not be possible. If anything, the two Māori-focused have become more opposed philosophically: one of collaborationist versus one embracing resurgence of the distinctive Māori culture. An accord between the two Māori-representative parties would make them a force to be reckoned with once again, but it may also be a blind alley. There’s a distinct place in our culture for the political and cultural values of Hone Harawera’s party, but the Māori Party’s aims have become far from distinct. And it’s hard for lap dogs to change their ways.

Mana  leans more towards Labour (which has been, of course, traditionally more affiliated to Māori, and which has certainly done Māori a lot more good over the decades than National). National will  have to move to shore up the Māori Party’s position – and this will go down like a cup of cold sick with many of its remaining supporters and make them look even worse. Key’s only option is to try and further demonise Mana.

So wait and see what Key does in this space.

But does Labour deserve our support? My own support is never available unconditionally. Labour has done some unforgivable things in the past, including the Foreshore and Seabed act that created the completely unnecessary rift between the left and Maori in the first place. And there were lots of personal issues involved in that process as well.

But sure, we can move on. I’ve said it before: Labour is nowhere near left wing enough for me but I’d rather live under Labour (and/or the Greens) than anyone else.

But Labour with who at the top? Shearer is on notice, apparently. I think he’s a nice bloke. So? In the spin when he was running for Labour’s top job, we heard he ‘stood up to warlords’ in African climes. There’s little evidence of that mettle back here in New Zealand. And he’s still getting really basic things completely wrong.

News bytes, David. I paraphrase but fairly recently, John Key accused the Labour Green joint announcements as wacky evidence of the extreme left.

This is the kind of thing National supporters will gleefully seize on and brandish at every opportunity. So what do we get in return?

Shearer said ‘that’s just a line’. Blah.

So National supporters can yell at me ‘wacky extreme left’ (quite truthfully) and I get … Nothing. I know this kind of thing is rubbish, but it’s important rubbish – especially in the age of instant social media.

It  reminds me of my criticisms of Phil Goff. I conceded he may have been a very intelligent and worthwhile leader (and indeed, he proved this in his vigorous, if frighteningly solo, election campaign) but wrote that his advisors patently needed firing.

It seems they haven’t lost their jobs.

Increasingly, the next election looks like National’s to lose. But I’d rather have it Labour, Greens and Mana’s to win.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, Pacific, Politics, Thought on July 1, 2013 at9:26 am Comments (0)

Lefter 62 ~ Welcome to Mexico!

From Texas to Mexico …  I love Mexican food. Mexican beer can be great, tequila has its uses … Mexican music is awesome. The weather sounds good (haven’t been there) and the beaches look fab, in films anyway.

Then of course there’s the drugs, the kidnappings, the drug-related violence and lawlessness, the terrible scourge of widespread low income, the corresponding shanty towns and slums — and the child poverty rate that is at a shameful rate of 26%.

And some of these things we have in common. New Zealand also has some excellent beer, the weather can be great, we have excellent beaches, some pretty good music… drugs don’t exactly rule most communities but they certainly rule some, and the corruption that goes hand in hand is at about a commensurate rate.

But where a correlation is stronger is child poverty. New Zealand has a lesser rate than Mexico. One percent less. Relieved?

You shouldn’t be. If you ever needed evidence that this government doesn’t care about its people, this should be it: 25% of our kids live in poverty. It’s got worse in National’s term – the NZ rate in 2006-2007 was at a still shameful 22%.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty more evidence of this government’s shameful lack of concern for the citizens it pretends to represent.

For example, let’s talk about Auckland. Like it or not, Auckland is the economic powerhouse of the country. Even if most of our wealth does come from farms and other sources with a land-based provenance, it either goes through the port of, or is administered from, or is somehow otherwise touched by, Auckland.

The Auckland Council has a plan for sustaining growth for the Queen City. Unfortunately, the council has a nominal lefty for a mayor in Len Brown, and the National Government does not like Len Brown. So the Key Government has an alternative plan for Auckland. It’s about as opposite as you can get from the council’s Unitary Plan. Who do you think is going to win this?

Interestingly (or it should be) is that Auckland has growth plans – almost nowhere else in the country does. If other NZ places had growth plans, Auckland’s wouldn’t be so important. Or so necessary. It’s a tacit acceptance that every other region of New Zealand is stagnating or worse.

Auckland Council’s plan isn’t perfect, but does, sensibly, try and limit the growth outwards of this massive, sprawling city by allowing for higher density housing within current city limits. You know, like the housing in most big cities of the world. High density housing can actually be done very well, and has been done very well, in various places. But it does require thinking through.

Shame it’s not going to happen. National’s plan, you’d think, would be written for the benefit of the people. You know, those very people among whom sits that startling and shameful figure for child poverty. But it’s not – it may as well have been written by developers. That’s who it suits. Developers put money into land to ‘develop’, making for themselves a massive profit.

National’s plan makes more land available on the outskirts of Auckland, which developers want, simplifies the consent process (which developers want), says virtually nothing about public transport while extending routes to work ever further, allocates more money to roading and, most cynically of all perhaps, has created a 3 cents per litre tax rise per year on petrol for three years. This will pay for more roading. More roads, more cars, more petrol, more tax, more roading … It just goes around generating money, and congestion, for Aucklanders.

Key could care less. He probably gets home to his Remmers mansion by private helicopter anyway.

This petrol tax bill was put through under urgency.

Meanwhile, Pacific Island Aucklanders have been shown (by the Salvation Army) to have been hardest hit by this recession. Anyone surprised?

Money first, people last. And we voted Key in.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on May 20, 2013 at5:59 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 61 ~ NZ power shares in the heart of Texas

Do you consider Texas USA to be like Albania and/or North Korea? Me neither. However, Stephen Joyce fails to see the distinction.

When Labour and the Greens together announced a policy that makes the New Zealand resource of New Zealand-generated power more affordable to New Zealanders (does any of that sound wrong or bad so far?), National’s tory twerps immediately used the Communist card, saying they were trying to make New Zealand like Albania and North Korea. Unfortunately for them, it’s Texas that uses the very model the Labour-Green announcement detailed. Doh!

As far as ‘scaring investors off’, why should I care? Investors, correct me if I am wrong, are those who put money into things that will reap them big rewards. Investing and morals, unfortunately, hardly ever go hand-in-hand. The two main divers of investing are fear and greed, after all. The massive profits our energy utilities have been making are very enticing to these people. Now it’s not so attractive? Boohoo, because you’re looking to profit off the poverty our overpriced power is creating, or at least adding to. You should be ashamed.

We generate this power – we’re not importing it. It’s a New Zealand resource. We have rights to it – well, we should have, as New Zealand citizens.

The model is as follows: privatising New Zealand’s power utilities meant the resulting entities created have been able to develop massive profits. For themselves. In the fond imaginings of those on the right, numbers of entities offering power means they will ‘compete’. This competition is supposed to result in efficiency and lower prices. Yet the market is not a moral or caring thing. It’s just a profit-generating device divorced from human toil, production and daily reality.

Unfortunately, the competition model is usually just a fond imagining. The actuality is quite different.

With the New Zealand power model, it’s easy to see how this happened. It uses a spot pricing model that dictates that the highest spot price in a given period sets the overall price for all power generated, so it fails to take in the difference between very cheaply generated power (of which we have plenty) and the most expensive/least efficient. This is grossly unfair and, if anything, keeps the expensive and inefficient generation going, since it sets the price for the rest. Cue massive profits to those private entities.

A few years on, we’re all paying a lot more for the power we need,, despite being a country rich in generation capabilities, compared to most. In effect, the situation is the same as a monopoly except that the profits are spread around a few more capitalists. And, of course, this is the reality that Key, Joyce et al know only too well, what they really expect and also, unfortunately, what keeps them in power. It’s friends in high (ie, moneyed) places, with the power and the money, that keep Key and his cronies where they are, as they serve their needs and not ours. That’s why National can afford (and does afford) much better spin doctors to pull the wool over our eyes.

I know this is a fact Labour greatly laments, but honestly, spin is hardly rocket surgery. Labour often makes PR mistakes that are simply stupid. I don’t know who Labour hires, but seriously, it’s not hard to get better advice. At any price. Or at least, it’s potentially feasible to work out which advice is good and which is not.

But with this one, Labour is clearly onto something. As so many Labour supporters (or at least, occasional Labour voters like myself) have been saying for years, Green and Labour are a natural fit. If only Labour would stop being so damned arrogant about it. Helen Clark letting the moratorium on genetic engineering lapse did more to turn me off Labour last decade than anything else.

We applaud this change.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on May 8, 2013 at11:56 am Comments (0)