Labour: South of the Mason-Dixon line

Scratch the surface, and you see deep-seated racism alive and well in New Zealand.

Unfortunately for those of us on the environmental left, it is alive and well in the Labour Party which, I guess, is another good reason to be Green.

Hone Harawira was attacked by Phil Goff – not for the stupid sexist “rape” and “motherfucker” terminology in his ill-advised email (for which he has apologised) – but on this basis:

When you come out and you make a comment like that, where you brand a whole ethnic group in this country in the most obscene and vile way, and then apologise for the language, but not for the meaning, there is no place in parliament for that.

Harawira’s actual words were:

“White motherfuckers have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries…”

Which is true. Harawira didn’t implicate white people in general. But some white colonists and their descendants did precisely what Harawira describes – starting with legislation designed to alienate Maori land in the 1860s and, shamefully and most recently, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen – both of whom I otherwise hold a lot of respect for – through the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It pains me that otherwise astute and well researched commentators such as Marty G at The Standard have bought into the Goff line. I’m not sure if they actually believe it, or if it is just blind loyalty to the Labour Party.

As Zetetic, another commentator at The Standard says:

It’s clear that Turia and Sharples will always go with the elite. Harawira represented the Maori working class.

Harawira’s clearly been deeply unhappy with the direction Turia and Sharples have taken the party. Betraying the Maori working class on issues like tax cuts and ACC. Cuddling up to the bosses’ party.

Right on! Despite his silly choice of language, Hone is one of us.

So I’m sure he won’t mind me posting this song by a bunch of white motherfuckers, albeit leftie and environmentalist ones, for him:

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The righteousness of the politically pure

The Standard has an anonymous Guest Post this morning promoting today as World Vegetarian Day.

I agree that a vegetarian lifestyle is the most sustainable lifestyle, and I think promoting it through having a World Vegetarian Day is a good idea. But I can’t agree with the conclusion of the post:

To put it simply, you cannot be a socialist, a greenie or any kind of progressive and eat meat.

That is like saying you can’t be a socialist if you own property, or that you can’t be a green if you drive a car. It is that sort of holier than thou self-righteous attitude that puts a lot of people off socialist and green politics.

As a Green, I acknowledge the diversity within our Party, and acknowledge that different people will have different ways of expressing their greenness, and different levels of sacrifice in their personal lives they are prepared to make to do so.

I choose not to drive a car, but I choose to eat meat. Why am I any less green than someone who does the opposite?

What is the test, John?

John Key seems to want to have it both ways as far as confidence in Ministers is concerned. Following Richard Worth’s forced resignation, Key responded:

Asked if he as Prime Minister owed the public an explanation, Mr Key said: “No. The test of whether someone enjoys my confidence is not a legal test and I have never argued that Dr Worth broke any legal test.”

But in video deleted from TVNZ’s website, but recovered by The Standard, Key expresses confidence in Bill English despite his Ministerial expenses rort, stating:

It’s a legal test and I am absolutely satisfied he has met the legal test… Well there is a requirtement that’s around the legal test and I am satisfied he has no pecuniary interest.

So, it’s one rule for one Minister, and a different rule for another. Guess it depends on the expendibility of the Minister concerned, and presumably Key considers sacking the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister is an even worse look that having him continue to perpetrate the accomodation allowance rort.

Hat Tip: Draco T Bastard in The Standard comments thread

Strike three, and out!

Strike 1

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson reports that ACT MP David Garrotte‘s Three Strikes Bill has an apparent inconsistency with the New Zealand Bill of Right’s Act.

Strike 2

Garrotte’s Three Strikes Bill criticied by the United Nations Human Rights Council as likely to violate two human rights conventions.

Strike 3

Garrotte caught out lying in his claim that 77 lives would have been saved if his Three Strikes Bill had been in force. Official information responses from the Corrections Department reveal there would have been none.

Having copped his third strike on the Bill, David Garrett should withdraw it and resign from Parliament.

But just for good measure, as Tane at The Standard has just pointed out, the Garrotte has also now been caught out lying to his own supporters.

Time to go, David.

The agenda for lower wages

The National Party’s pre-election employment relations policy was notably silent on the issue of the minimum wage. That made some of us who remembered the infamous “nil” minimum wage increases in the 1990s very suspicious.

Over the last couple of days we have seen Sue Bradford at frogblog and Steve Pierson at The Standard speculating, presumably on the basis of some inside information, that the Department of Labour is recommending an increase in the minimum wage of as little as 50c an hour, but that Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson is going even further in recommending to Cabinet a “nil” minimum wage increase.

Then, right on cue, Business New Zealand chimes in this morning with a call for Government to freeze the minimum wage at its current dollar figure.

As Sue Bradford says:

To freeze the minimum wage now is a recipe for further cuts to spending, deeper poverty for the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families directly impacted, and an intensified recessionary spiral.

And it is not just those who sit right on the minimum wage that are affected – it is also all the huge numbers of workers whose low rate of pay, often between the $12 and $15 mark – is determined by the minimum wage rate.

So it seems National may have learned nothing from their disastrous employment relations policies of the 1990s, and that, despite John Key’s talk about reducing the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand, we might be in for another stumble towards an even lower wage economy.

That would be consistent with the other employment relations policies that National have announced or implemented. Just before Christmas we saw them rush their Fire at Will Bill through Parliament under urgency with no Select Committee hearing or opportunity for public submissions. The best way to increase wages is to encourage collective bargaining, but this Bill will do just the opposite. Employers with fewer that 20 employees will be able to dismiss employees for any reason after the start of march. That includes the ability to dismiss employees who join a union. New employees are likely to be coerced into bargaining individually for fear of losing their jobs, which usually means just accepting whatever the employer offers.

And worse is yet to come. Another plank to National’s employment relations policy is this:

Restore workers’ rights to bargain collectively without having to belong to a union.

This is the Employment Contracts Act revisited in all but name – effectively allowing employers to undermine collective bargaining by bargaining separately with a small group of vulnerable non-unionised workers, striking a low wage deal with them, then telling the union they can take it or leave it and locking out the non-unionised workers if they don’t take it.

Maybe John Key wasn’t misquoted after all when he was reported to have told a Kerikeri business audience in late 2007 that he “would love to see wages drop”!

[EDIT: Just picked up on a new post from Steve Pierson at The Standard re Business NZ’s proposal to assist low income workers through tax cuts rather than increasing the minimum wage: He makes some good arguments why this is a silly idea]:

1) tax cuts for minimum wage workers have just been cancelled by National/ACT
2) tax revenue pays for the social wage – healthcare, education etc; tax cuts mean cutting the social wage, or higher debt paid for in the future. If you have to spend your tax cut paying for services that used to be paid for from tax revenue, you’re not any better off.
3) You can’t cut tax year after year to counter inflation, you run out of tax.
4) The tax cuts you would need to make up for not adjusting the minimum wage are massive. You would need to reduce them by 20% to make up for not doing the 50 cent adjustment. That’s even larger than the tax cuts National/ACT cancelled.
5) Finally, if you’re going to cut tax for minimum wage workers you’re going to cut them for all taxpayers, including the very wealthy, at enormous cost (unless you put in a counter-veiling tax rise – yeah right). If the purpose of the minimum wage is to ensure a decent income for workers, then tax cuts are an incredibility inefficient way of doing that.

Beware the Accident Corporatisation Castration

Don’t have an accident if National leads the next government!

Now, I know that sems a weird thing to say, but you will need to be ultra-cautious if there is a National-led governemnt, becasue their policy will mean you will likely be declined ACC cover and either have to battle them through the courts or foot the treatment and rehabilitation bills yourself.

I say this as someone with considerable experience in this area. For much of the 1990s and the first three years of this decade I worked as an advocate for ACC claimants, representing them at reviews and District Court appeals.

Now ACC staff have, since the early 1990s, had the “my job is to save the Corporation money” ethic instilled into them. Hence there are lots of decisions that are wrong in law, although it has gradually improved over the last 8 years.

But from my experience of working as an ACC claimant advocate, the time accident compensation plumbed the depths of malfeasance was during the brief period 1999-2000 when the last National Government privatised workplace accident insurance.

There are two ways that private insurers can minimise cost and deliver a return to their shareholders. The first is to engage in injury prevention. That is expensive. The second is to deliberately and maliciously decline claims that are valid.

That is what the private insurers did in the 1999-2000 period, and I witnessed it first-hand as an advocate for claimants over that time. The private insurers work on the basis that ACC review and appeal soxts are so minimal that most lawyers and advocates won’t work on a contingency basis, however valid the claim. And the law is so complex that most claimants don’t have the expertise to represent themselves.

So the private insurers falsely and maliciously decline claims in the knowledge that most claimants will not have the resources to challenge the decisions.

If they wrongly decline 10 claims, and only two have the persistance or resources to challenge them legally, then that is a bloody good deal for the private insurers and their shareholders.

Steve Pierson has blogged about this here earlier today at The Standard. I think he is spot on, and I have the experience working in the area to give credibility to his claims.

If National lead the next government, be very, very afraid of having an accident.

Oh, dem pesky polls – giz us enough votes for Mojo (Part 2)

5 weeks ago I blogged about the possibility of the Greens getting their 13th ranked candidate Mojo Mathers elected. Well, I thought I might have been overly optimistic then, but not now!

Seems the Greens are on a roll. We’ve had three polls in the last week. OneNews showing the Greens at 7.0%, Roy Morgan at 9.0%, and TV3 at 6.8%.

Having been languishing just above the 5% threshold for most of the Parliamentary term, these polls have to be very encouraging.

We need 11% to get Mojo Mathers elected. It seemed a pipe dream 5 weeks ago, but now could be a possibility.

The best of those polls for the Greens was the Roy Morgan one. Thanks to Tane at The Standard for this lovely pie chart that shows that, on the basis of that poll, any government post-election is likely to require the Greens’ support:

Meanwhile, David Farrar at Kiwiblog has done an analysis that on current polling the Maori Party could decide which of the two bigger parties leads the next Government.

So things are looking good in that regard too, given that the Maori Party and the Green Party have much in common re supporting ecological responsibility, social justice, and developing a genuine Tiriti relationship, and most often vote the same way in Parliament.

Lies upon lies

Seems it is the season for lies. Hot on the heels of Winston Peters being the first politician in years to be censured by Parliament for telling lies, John Key has been caught out with his own lies about his Transrail shareholding.

And it seems in trying to cover his lies, he has told another one this morning. Being interviewed by Paul Henry on Breakfast, Key stated:

Any question I asked would have been in the public domain really, er, any information I had was in the public domain.

Now, that is true of Parliamentary Written Questions, but the documents released by Michael Cullen reveal that John Key also made and received responses to Official Information Act requests about Transrail.

Now responses to Official Information Act requests are not in the public domain. The only people who would have known the contents of those responses would be Key and anyone he chose to send them to.

Seems he’s been caught with his pants on fire again.

SiCKO: Natty-style

Well, yet another leaked National Party policy. But this time Trevor Mallard has shunned the glory of releasing it and allowed Jim Anderton his day in the sun. Anderton’s usually among the most tedious and boring of Ministers, but he really enjoyed himself releasing the Nats’ Health policy.

He could have also mentioned that the National Party health policy reminded him of this (well, at least it reminds me of it):

The key (pardon the pun) points are highlighted at The Standard.

– Pharmac’s independent decisions could be overruled by politicians.
– Private health insurance would be subsidised by the taxpayer.
– No more money for public health

[Edit: Actually, it’s just occurred to me that this is the Nats’ Accident Compensation policy too.]