SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY


Since the Key Government came to power some 1500 jobs have gone in the state sector and a further 500 jobs will go this year.

Then on TV3's The Nation last week, the Minister of Health Tony Ryall upped the stakes again, by indicating that there will be still further job losses

Said Ryall: 'I think we'll see several hundred more over that 500, that’s a reflection of the fact that individual government departments are looking at how best they can organise themselves with no funding increases,'

The response of the PSA was less than impressive.

Brenda Pilott, the National Secretary of the PSA, cut a pathetic figure on the television six o'clock new bulletins.

Once again she raised her 'concerns' about how further jobs cuts would impact on workloads and the delivery of services but, as far as Pilott was concerned, Ryall's announcement of more job loses was a fait accompli. Pilott again raised the white flag of surrender as she has done ever since the Government began its austerity drive.

It must be of some not inconsiderable satisfaction to John Key and co that it has been able to take the axe to the state sector without facing any resistance from the PSA whose brief is supposedly to defend the interests of its members.

I say 'supposedly' because it hasn't raised a finger to resist the Government's austerity measures.

There is a something rotten at the heart of the union movement and that 'something' is a cabal of well-heeled union bureaucrats who don't actually believe in the basic tenets of trade unionism.

For them, unions are not about protecting jobs and fighting for better wages and working conditions

For far too long the union bureaucracy has embraced the misguided idea of a 'partnership ' with government in an attempt to 'influence policy'.

It has delivered nothing but economic hardship for workers, for the jobless and the poor.

This is what has been delivered by the 'modern unionism' of CTU president Helen Kelly. It's a 'modern unionism' where the idea of 'class struggle' is regarded as 'irrelevant' and 'old fashioned'.

Its now all about 'advising' government, preparing 'reports', holding 'talks' and blah blah blah.

It has been disastrous policy that has left workers to be preyed on by the government and its business allies.

Unlike the PSA and CTU fat cats, the capitalist class does know it is engaged in a class struggle and it knows who its enemy is.

It is ruthlessly implementing its agenda and the bitter pill we are expected to swallow is the sight of a union bureaucracy actually giving the bosses a helping hand. Both the CTU and the PSA bureaucracies are sleeping with the enemy.

Such is the bankruptcy of the union fat cats is that have actively cooperated with the Key Government to implement its asuterity measures. It began with the so-called 'Jobs Summit' and it has been all downhill from there.

Instead of fighting for jobs, union officials have simply pointed workers in the direction of the nearest branch of Work and Income.

Last year, when a major Christchurch employer Lane Walker Rudkin announced massive job cuts all the Services Union was capable of doing was to hold a couple of cake stalls to raise a 'fighting fund' for workers.

Lane Walker Rudkin is no more and over a thousand jobs have vanished.

But, of course. no Services Union bureaucrats have lost their jobs.

Do the PSA and the CTU, as they are presently organised, have anything to offer workers if they will not only not fight the Government's austerity measures but have been actively making life easier for John Key and his business allies?

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF



Even at this early stage of the game, it's apparent that Mayor Sideshow Bob thinks he can boost his slim chances of re-election by grandstanding on the issue of Christchurch's boy racers.

The boy racers themselves, naturally enough, don't like being used by Bob for his own political ends.

it's case of history repeating itself.

Over the weekend hundreds of the boy racers descended on the central city to hold a final cruise down the main streets before a new bylaw comes into force banning cruising on certain streets at set times.

Sideshow Bob used the occasion to pontificate that it was the end of the road for the boy racers.

Bob clearly thinks that bashing the boy racers will earn him a few brownie points with Mr and Mrs Plumbly-Walker of the Merivale Bridge Club.

He tried this same tactic before the local body elections in 2008.

The Press even published a large front page photo of him standing in the middle of a Canterbury road, arms folded, trying to look tough and decisive.

Bob described the boy racers as 'ugly, immature and embarrassing' which didn't exactly go down well with his youthful opponents.

They congregated outside his apartment in the central city and made one hell of a noise.

A Canterbury University academic who studies car culture, Associate Professor Simon Kingham, called for dialogue between the authorities and the boy racers.

He said that Parker's comment that the boy racers were 'ugly, immature and embarrassing' was a unhelpful generalisation. He went on to say that "to associate them with the guys who have had a go at the police is tarnishing them all with the same brush'.

But Professor's Kingham's call for dialogue was ignored and now, three years later, Bob is again bagging the boy racers.

They have responded in exactly the same way they did last time.

Last week they surrounded Sideshow Bob's new place - which has also been the target for graffiti - and Bob promptly rang the police.

Bob told the media: 'We had a nice little greeting party surrounding our property. Someone lined a truck up with our gate and at that point we thought maybe it's a good time to call the boys in blue.'

Sideshow Bob's 'demonising' of the boy racers has simply been unhelpful and he hasn't yet worked out that whenever he has a go at them they will respond.

So the situation remains as irretractable as ever.

Trying to crush the boy racers with more laws and more aggressive police action is not to going to alleviate the situation - in fact will just inflame it even more.

LABOR PLAYS MUSICAL CHAIRS


Mike Smith is the former general secretary of the Labour Party and he is also the President of the silly old Fabian Society, presently trying to find a 'gentler and kinder capitalism'.

Given that he consistently defended the neoliberal policies of the Clark Government I don't have much time for Smith. He's yet another one of those Labourites who has walked the well trodden path from liberal lefty to right wing defender of the 'free market'.

So it comes as no surprise that Smith has praised the new right wing leader of the Australian Labor Party, Julia Gillard.

Writes Smith on The Standard: : 'I met Julia Gillard once, at dinner with the Australian ambassador five years ago. She is not flamboyant, but she evoked the old saying about still waters that run deep. It was clear that she was leadership material.'

Smith doesn't bother to tells why it was 'clear' that Gillard was a Labor leader in waiting.

Nor does he deem it important to give us some assessment of her politics.

Rather he seems infatuated by her apparent personal qualities. He tells us that, among other things, 'she has a fine sense of humour' and has ' a devastating line in parliamentary put downs . Yes being quick with the one liners is an essential quality for any political leader grappling with the crisis of late capitalism. Nice one, Mike!

According to Smith, who clearly is angling for a job on the Women's Weekly, Gillard is also 'a good communicator', and 'patient'. Curiously he also says she is 'self aware'. As opposed to what? Being unconscious?

What Smith doesn't tell us is that Gillard's rise to the top has been aided and abetted by the right wing of the ALP and by big business which has long been dissatisfied with Kevin Rudd.

Big business cheerleaders like Alan Jones have described Gillard as 'one smart lady' and a lady 'who should be running the country'.

I'm sure Smith agrees with this assessment.

Let's make it clear. Gillard is not a liberal and she certainly isn't a socialist.

As one Australian commentator has written of her:

'Real Labor lefties split their sides laughing back then to see Gillard portrayed as a dangerous socialist, because they knew from experience that the ambitious Member for Lalor was about as pragmatic as they come … Her strategic alliance with first one right-wing Labor leader (Simon Crean) and then another (Mark Latham) swung her up through the monkey-bars of the parliamentary Labor Party and amassed her sufficient influence to anoint a third: Kevin Rudd.
“She does not intend to grow old as one of those Labor pollies of whom it is said that they could have made a terrific leader had they not had the misfortune to be from the Labor Left.'


The woman that Mike Smith says will put the ALP 'on the right path again' has been an arch-opponent of a raft of progressive issues.

She has also displayed a marked hostility to the trade union movement.

Gillard has boasted that Labor’s industrial relations laws has resulted in the lowest rate of increase in wages since 1998.

At last year's conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions delegates heckled her when she rose to address the conference. Some delegates held up placards that portrayed her as Margaret Thatcher.

Her first act as Prime Minister has been to backpedal on plans to impose a 'super profit tax' on the mining industry.

This is the beginning of the sellout to corporate interests and it is little wonder that mining stocks shot up in price today.

This leadership change is all about saving the ALP from defeat in the coming federal election. The decision-making was made by the Labor power brokers and it has nothing to do with implementing changes that will directly improve the lives of ordinary Australians.

There will be no change in Labor's failed economic and social policies.

None of this though matters to Mike Smith.

His praise for Julia Gillard is atrocious but not surprising.

CAMERON'S CLASS WAR


In her goal to dismantle the welfare state and relieve her Government of the responsibility of looking after the victims of 25 years of neoliberal economic policies, I'm sure that Paula Bennett is taking note of the anti-welfare policies that the new British Government of ex-public schoolboy David Cameron is set to implement.

Given her hostility to beneficiaries I'm sure she will be 'inspired' by the Tories (and Liberal Democrats) 'emergency' budget which was dropped on the UK yesterday.

It is little more than an attack on the British working class and vulnerable beneficiaries have well and truly had the Tory cannons trained on them.

The British economy is in crisis and, despite attempts to evoke the 'spirit of Dunkirk', the only people who will be making the sacrifices will be the working class.

How's this for starters ? Beneficiaries who have been on the dole for more than a year will have their accommodation benefit cut. It's another attempt to 'drive' beneficiaries into jobs that don't exist. All this will achieve is to drive more beneficiaries into poverty. But I'm sure that Paula Bennett will be taking a look at the feasibility of this policy given her fondness for putting the boot in.

As well the Tories and their Lib-Dem lackeys are also going to cut the accommodation benefit for people who live in bigger houses than their domestic circumstances supposedly warrant. Bennett could certainly see money-saving possibilities in this policy. I can imagine WINZ functionaries visiting the homes of their 'clients' armed with tape measures and cameras.

Disgracefully David Cameron has frozen the child benefit for three years – a cut in real terms of around 12 percent

Just to make lives of beneficiaries and the poor even more miserable, the Cameron Government has increased VAT (their equivalent of our GST) from 17.5 percent to 20 percent.

There will be a 25 percent cut in state sector expenditure which will result in thousands of job losses. That will mean access to such things as basic health services will become even more difficult. Such is the extent of the cuts there must, inevitably, be cuts in front line services - something similar to what we are experiencing here in New Zealand right now.

According to Chancellor George Osborne these cuts for the poorest are to ensure that 'everyone makes a contribution to helping our country reduce its debts'.

Osborne is lying because, while snatching money from the poor, he has doled out the cash to his rich mates. It has been estimated that in the region of 120 million pounds will be taken from the poor and handed to the rich.

British companies, for example, will enjoy a nice windfall because corporate tax rate will be cut by one percent every year.

This comes at a time when new figures show that the bonuses of useless company director's has risen some 23 percent in the past twelve months.

These are the same clowns who were bailed out by the previous Labour Government. They are now hailing Cameron's budget as 'responsible' and 'much-needed'.

Of course the rationale for helping out the rich, is that the British economy needs its wealthy in order for the economy to grow and prosper - which is the same argument that former market trader John Key employed when handing out big tax cuts to people who didn't need them.

A more sensible and accurate view is that we would be all be better off without the rich altogether.

As Marx wrote, 'The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs'.

THE CYNICAL POLITICS OF MURRAY MCCULLY


The Minister of Foreign Affairs can always be relied on not to upset his friends.

Last year he refused to condemn the Israeli invasion of Gaza. This year he refused to condemn Israel for its military assault on the flotilla of supply ships heading for Gaza. The fact that nine unarmed people were killed by Israeli troops wasn't even enough to persuade McCully to take a stand.

McCully of course will never own up to his cowardice.

When Israel invaded Gaza he said 'he wasn't going to take sides'. Not long after this McCully was in Israel as a guest of the Israeli Government, who regard him as 'a friend'.

This year he told Parliament that he was going 'to wait' before he saw a report on the flotilla incident before making a statement. Presumably he's still waiting.

This year he also refused to condemn Japan for allowing its whaling fleet to hunt in protected waters. In fact, he added insult to injury by blaming the protest ships for 'causing trouble'.

Could McCully be more loathsome than he already is?

Yes, he can.

He's now criticised the Green's Russel Norman for waving a Tibetan flag in front of the Chinese Vice President.

He has described Norman's actions as 'massively disappointing'. 'Disappointing' to who exactly? McCully? The Chinese Stalinists?

McCully pontificated: "What I'm saying is that Dr Norman shouldn't have actually been in that situation in the first place, if he'd have shown good judgement and if he'd put New Zealand's interests to the fore.'

We can't go and upset the fragile sensibilities of the Chinese Vice President can we?

McCully has had nothing to say about the Chinese regime's flagrant violation of basic human rights but he does not hesitate to criticise a fellow New Zealander for merely exercising his democratic right to protest.

The realpolitiks of Murray McCully are bereft of principle and of ethics.

STAYING FRIENDS WITH A MONSTER


The visit of the Chinese Vice President to New Zealand was another opportunity for the Key Government to cosy up to a brutal regime that is, apparently, our 'new best friend.'

And, if you believe what the Minister of Trade has been saying, our good buddy has saved New Zealand from the worst effects of the Great Recession.

In something approaching sycophancy, Tim Groser told Vice President Xi Jinping that China 'had buffered New Zealand during recent difficult financial times'.

The 260,000 New Zealanders who are presently jobless would probably disagree with Groser that we are all living in a 'Chinese Wonderland.'

Tim Groser is keen to get all 'lovey-dovey' with the Chinese Stalinists but Chinese workers are less than enamoured with Xi Jinping and his fellow bureaucrats.

While the Key Government was playing footsy with the Chinese Vice President, widespread strikes continued in China.

Just how widespread the strikes are is hard to determine because the regime is actively trying to suppress news of the strikes reaching the west. It was none other Xi Jimping who issued the instructions to the Chinese state media to stop reporting all strike activity.

Typical of the strikes are those presently occurring in the Honda car plants.

These strikes are typically about the low pay and the unacceptable working conditions.

Nearly 2000 workers are on strike at one Honda plant . They currently earn the minimum wage of 900 yuan ($142) a month and are demanding a rise to 1700 yuan a month.

Honda has offered a 100 yuan increase which workers have described as 'an insult'

Striking workers are now being threatened with dismissal.

The workers are also striking over working conditions which are nothing less than brutal.

Workers are forced to stand for eight hours, with pregnant women allowed to sit only in their last trimester. Workers are not allowed to speak to one another, and they have to obtain passes before going to toilet. Workers are constantly monitored.

It's not an exaggeration to say that working conditions are prison-like.

The Honda have now elected a council of shop stewards to negotiate with management. The workers’ organisation was formed in opposition to the state-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), and some have called for a new independent union - a union that will truly represent and defend the interests of workers.

in Shanghai, 2,000 workers at TPO Displays, partly owned by electronics giant Foxconn, went on strike on Wednesday.

Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, is one of the largest makers of electronic components for companies including Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Ten Foxconn workers have committed suicide over the past month and workers' rights groups say that the low pay and gruelling work at the Foxconn factories have played a major role in the suicides.

The Chinese workforce endures a high level of suicides.

'Since 2005 to now, we have recorded hundreds of suicides and attempted suicides by workers who have not been paid," Geoffrey Crothall of the China Labour Bulletin recently told USA Today.

The Chinese regime - of which both Labour and National Governments are such a fan - is dithering in the face of the new wave of strikes It's instinct for self survival means it would like to violently suppress the strikes but it is worried that this might provoke a more generalised political movement against its continued rule.

The Chinese regime is a brutal monster but a monster that both National and Labour Governments are more than happy to call a friend.

IT WAS A GAME OF TWO HALVES....


I have not talked a lot about sport on this blog, especially my passion for football and my lifelong love/hate relationship with Newcastle United. First up, its not that kind of blog and secondly there's always the danger I will sound like one of those bores who rings up Radio Sport.

So I have resisted writing anything about the hysterical media over- reaction to New Zealand's 1-1 draw with Slovakia.

But I can resist it no more.

Yesterday I heard defender Tommy Smith say that he thought New Zealand could beat Italy. Smith plays for Ipswich Town which managed to avoid relegation from the English First Division.

Today the media was informing me that Italy would be 'nervous' about their chances against New Zealand

What a load of nonsense.

New Zealand is rated around 78th in the world. Italy are the world champions. New Zealand's squad play for clubs like the Wellington Phoenix. Some players don't even have a club. The Italian squad consists of players who play for the likes of AC Milan and Juventus.

Yes, I'm sure the Italians are quaking in their boots.

But our local media seem intent on raising expectations about the All Whites chances to unrealistic levels.

All this hoopla has been based on a somewhat fortunate draw with Slovakia.

In the rush to see who can be the most empty-headed cheerleader, the media have entirely ignored that New Zealand played poorly against a mediocre Slovakia and barely troubled their goalkeeper all day.

The have also conveniently forgotten that it was the game against Slovakia that the All Whites had targeted as the one they could realistically win.

The New Zealand goal, when it came, was more fortuitous than anything else. On another day that cross would have sailed harmlessly over the goal.

The Slovakian manager, perhaps displaying his inexperience,aided and abetted the New Zealand cause by inexplicably deciding to close up shop for the day. Instead of allowing his team to charge on for a knockout second goal he withdrew his most potent attackers and replaced them with defensive midfielders.

The All Whites should be satisfied it got its first point in a World Cup but its wishful thinking that it can beat either Italy or Paraguay.

I predict that Italy and the dangerous Paraguay will comfortably beat New Zealand.

And both the All Whites themselves and the media will have to share the blame for raising the public's expectations to such a degree that the defeats will come as crushing disappointments.

Normal transmission will now resume...

HYPOCRITICAL STANDARD


Do you think the Key Government will take the Chinese Government to task for the way its security goons manhandled the Green's Russel Norman in the grounds of Parliament?

The Chinese thugs got all upset because Norman was waving a Tibetan flag in the direction of Vice President Xi Jinping. They ripped the flag from Norman who was also knocked to the ground.

This is outrageous and unacceptable behaviour by the Chinese goons but you can bet that the Government will attempt to brush the entire incident under the carpet.

After all, because both Labour and National are keen to develop economic ties with China, most of our parliamentary politicians have turned a blind eye to such 'minor' things as the Chinese regime's flagrant violation of fundamental human rights.

When it comes to China its a case of 'see no evil, hear no evil,speak no evil'.

And that has also been the case with some of the local blogosphere.

Back in 2008 the Labour Government of Helen Clark refused to condemn the violent Chinese suppression of the Tibetan uprising. Of course Prime Minister Clark didn't quite put it this way. She said she wanted 'to find out the full story behind the riots.'

The Green's Keith Locke described Clark's comments as 'weasel words'.

The Clark Government, suprise, never did get round to condemning the Chinese regime. It wouldn't of been 'a good look' when you are about to sign a free trade agreement with that country.

There was no criticism of Labour's inaction by Labour-aligned blogs, the most popular being The Standard.

Indeed The Standard, clearly following the example set by Clark, mostly had nothing to say about the Chinese military crackdown.

So its ironic that The Standard is now bravely demanding that the Key Government make 'a formal protest to China' over this new case of Chinese thuggery.

The hypocrisy of The Standard is certainly breathtaking.

It seems that this brave blog is only prepared to criticise the Chinese regime when Labour isn't in power.

ALL IS NOT WELL WITH BOB'S LOYAL LIEUTENANT


A few weeks ago I suggested that if you wanted an indication of the way the political wind was blowing in Christchurch a good way to do it is by keeping an eye on Councillor Sue Wells.

Wells is politically ambitious but unfortunately for her, her allegiance to the unpopular Mayor Sideshow Bob means she runs the risk of being booted out of office come October.

So what is a councillor to do when faced with political demise and the loss of the big fat salary?

Wells has got a lot to live down, including her support for the $17 million dollar bailout of failed property developer Dave Henderson, so she certainnly needs to do something about bolstering her profile.

What she has come up with is about as credible as her claim that she is an 'independent' councillor even though she dislikes the Labour Party, liberals and lefties in general.

Wells has criticised some of her fellow councillors for attending a dinner held by the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club.

The club is seeking council permission to install gaming machines.

According to Wells the councillors had acted 'inappropriately'. It hints of corruption and backroom deals but Wells is well wide of the mark - just as she was when she described the Henderson bailout as 'a really good deal.'

The trotting club was entirely open about the purpose of the dinner and has described it as 'just a bit of lobbying.' As Councillor Yani Johansson has commented, the club was 'up-front about its motives'.

The councillors in fact did nothing wrong. Wells herself admits this but still claims that 'it was not a good look' for some of her fellow councillors to attend the dinner.

One can safely assume she means it was 'not a good look' in the way it has not been 'a good look ' for her to moonlight doing other jobs while at the same time being paid a generous salary to be a fulltime councillor.

Of course, Wells has a lot of experience in things that 'don't look good' including her voting for a massive 24 percent rise in council rents - which was later ruled illegal by the High Court.

This non-story about councillors attending a dinner made the front page of The Press today. Sue Wells might be thinking that all publicity is good publicity but, in reality , her attempt to improve her election chances by throwing mud at some of her fellow councillors just looks like the actions of someone who is desperate to save her own political skin.

BOB BOMBS IN LOCAL POLL



Yesterday I joined the demonstration in Cathedral Square to protest the sacking of the elected councillors of Environment Canterbury and the Government's insidious plans to open Canterbury's rivers and streams to the dairy industry and big business . The dairy industry, of course, has close and strong connections to the National Party.

One Government minister who stands to benefit is the Minister of Agriculture Minister David Carter, who has a farm in the Hurunui and who isn't saying no to the fast tracking of irrigation in the Hurunui.

Although the media says there were 3000 at the demonstration I think it was close to 4000. Regardless, this was the largest demonstration seen in Cathedral Square for some time. The fact it was a bitterly cold and damp afternoon didn't stop local people making their feelings known.

The Government has severely underestimated the depth of anger that there is Christchurch and Canterbury generally.

The Environment Minister Nick Smith has been bleating about giving his stool pigeons/ commissioners 'a chance' but this will cut no ice = people are well aware what Smith's agenda is and he isn't going to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

Speaking of unpopularity, Mayor Sideshow Bob must feeling a little uncomfortable right now since he was one of the central agitators to have the Ecan councillors sacked. He told the media that it was a 'constructive' move to deny local people their basic democratic rights.

Sideshow Bob's cavalier attitude toward local democracy hasn't gone down well with the local populace and I heard many and varied uncomplimentary comments and yells about Bob. I imagine this is only a small taste of what he is in store for once he hits the mayoral campaign trail.

Bob is in big trouble. A local opinion polls shows that Jim Anderton has more than twice the support of Sideshow - 46% to 21% with 11% yet to decide. 49% of those polled have a negative opinion of Bob.

Sideshow Bob might be feeling the heat but lets not forget that his stooges on the Christchurch City Council also supported the sacking of the Ecan councillors and that includes Gail Sheriff, Sue Wells and Barry Corbett.

Strangely they don't seem willing to defend themselves. They are trying to keep a low profile while Bob takes all the flak. Yes, they are all trying to save their political skins. Let's hope they all get booted out of office, along with Bob, come October.

NOSES IN THE TROUGH


When the Labour Government of Helen Clark was preaching economic responsibility and restraint to the rest of us, little did we know that Chris Carter was shouting his partner and Jonathan 'Billy Bunter' Hunt to a slap up meal in a London restaurant. The cost to the taxpayer ? A 'mere' $632.00.

Obviously a curry and a beer was just too 'downmarket' for these plonkers to even contemplate.

These are the same people who grandstand about every minor infringement of benefit claims but they have obviously been fiddling their expenses for years.

And its just not one or two of them. Everyone seems to have been at it.

Jim Anderton spent $620 on a massage and some spa treatment. This is not a good look for someone who has recently been attacking Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker about the reckless spending of the Christchurch City Council.

Judith Tizard spent some $150 on a bottle of Bollinger champagne.

While former Finance Minister Michael Cullen was resisting calls to raise the minimum wage he was spending $1500 wining and dining his Australian counterpart.

Parekura Horomia likes eating out a lot. He seems to have a fondness for Chinese food. He spent $750 bill at the Grand Century Chinese Restaurant in Wellington. That's a whole lot of fried rice. Unbelievably Horomia has defended his spending!

As Clayton Cosgrove once berated me for being ''a socialist' , I was fascinated to see that he spent $1,674 on just one suit, and $712 on a taxi trip.

These people are, frankly, spitting in our faces. They are already on unacceptably massive salaries to begin with (not to mention the shares and assets they've got locked away in trusts) so why does someone like Trevor Mallard think its ok to bill the taxpayer for a $1200 limousine trip?

Why does the Minister of Trade Tim Groser think the taxpayer should fund his drinking?

The New Zealand economy is failing and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. But all our 'parliamentary representatives' can do is feed their faces and fill their boots - while demanding we plebs make 'sacrifices.'

BENNETT PREPARES NEW ATTACK ON THE WELFARE STATE


In March Paula Bennett launched an assault on welfare beneficiaries announcing. among other things, including tougher work tests and forcing mothers of young children into jobs - all 43,000 of them.

It was the opening salvo in a new ideologically-driven assault on beneficiaries and the welfare state.

Of course Bennett didn't describe it this way. She wasn't harassing beneficiaries she claimed, she just wanted to 'help' people into jobs. And if they wouldn't let her help them - well, she would just cut off their benefits and make their lives even more desperate and miserable.

Although she consistently attempts to massage the figures, the official figures tell us that there are over 260,000 people jobless in this country. On top of that over 100,000 people are 'underemployed, people in casual or part time jobs but who really need full time jobs to make ends meet.

And youth unemployment is now at its highest level since 1994.

This is nothing short of a social catastrophe and one that Bennett has no answers for.

Bennett's response to these damming figures has been to flatly deny them. 'I'm convinced there are jobs out there,' she told the New Zealand Herald a few weeks ago. Yes, how how many jobs Paula? 260,000? I don't think so.

Just a fortnight ago over 2000 people applied for just 100 minimum wage jobs at a new Bunnings warehouse in Dunedin.

But, really, the figures don't seem to matter anymore to Bennett. She has taken what can only described as a moral position on how beneficiaries and the poor should be treated in New Zealand.

Her arguments are blind to economic conditions, the failure of an economic system to provide the jobs required.

Bennett's now infamous remark that 'the dream is over' for beneficiaries not only betrayed her prejudice that beneficiaries are living the high life but her odious belief that the poor are somehow different from everyone else and can be kicked around whenever she feels like it.

This week Bennett held a two day Welfare Working Group Forum at Victoria University, where plans to 'overhaul' the welfare system were to be supposedly discussed and debated.

This conference though was just window dressing. Bennett will claim that the Government has listened to the views of the community and then do what she wants to do anyway. She already has an agenda mapped out which involves more attacks on the rights and the living conditions of beneficiaries and a further dismantlement of the welfare state.

Despite saying that she wanted to 'listen', Bennett opened the conference and then promptly left.

She has some nasty policies in store for us all including insurance-based welfare. Workers and their employers would pay levies out of their wage bills into social insurance funds which would pay out a proportion of a worker's previous income when he or she becomes sick, disabled or unemployed.

These schemes typically last only a year or so and people are then expected to survive on a flat-rate benefit. Given the lack of jobs, it is a recipe for even more poverty and social distress.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford told the conference shifting to an insurance system would overturn 'a fundamental principle of the 1938 Social Security Act, that there is a community responsibility for making sure that people are helped when economic conditions mean they are unable to help themselves'.

Bennett is planning an attack not only the fundamental principles of the welfare state, but on an ethos that has shaped the development of modern New Zealand.

What is contemptible is that Bennett follows in a long and dismal line of politicians who have presided over the decline of the economy but still blame the unemployed for their inability to find work.

While Roger Douglas never managed to take the neoliberal axe to the welfare state, Bennett is going to have another good go at it over the coming months.

THE BLUE PARTY


'Fatal Paradox' pointed me to a story in the Dominion Post (July 7). Written by John Hartevelt and headlined 'Red is Dead as Guard Changes', I quote it at length because it does illustrate that the former left wing Green Party has been transformed into yet another conservative political machine, not dissimilar from all the other parliamentary parties.

Hartevelt makes some telling observations about the election of the Green's co-convener. He writes:

Georgina Morrison, the younger challenger to become the Green Party's new female co-convener, was bulging with a baby bump. She marched up on to the stage and stood behind the lectern to sell herself to the party.

Her rival for the position, Wendy Harper, preferred to roam about in front of the stage. She answered questions with wisecracks and swore like a trooper. She even dropped the f-bomb, without a care, in front of 200 people.

Ms Morrison, on the other hand, was all professionalism. She had speech notes, whereas Miss Harper winged it. Ms Morrison had swish, corporate clothes, whereas Miss Harper was sporting a sloppy green shirt and sparkly-framed glasses.

Ms Morrison, decades her rival's junior, was the immediate past co-leader of the Young Greens, a point she emphasised in her pitch to the party. Miss Harper, on the other hand, proudly announced that her 18-year-old son was newly independent.

The choice for the party was clear – a sharp, professional young environmentalist or a hardened, potty-mouthed unionist.

They chose the 25-year-old Ms Morrison. This was the party confirming its shift to a new generation of leadership.

The once progressive radical Green party is now a mere shadow of its former self. Norman, aided and abetted by his supporters, has gutted the Green's of its progressive politics.

Under his leadership, the Green Party lost ground at the last election but now he is claiming that he wants to see the party gain ten percent of the vote at next year's election.

Tacking some environmental concerns on to its political agenda does not conceal the fact that the Green Party has lost its distinctive voice, becoming merely just another option on the ballot sheet.

People are who labouring under the impression that the Green Party is still progressive need to take a look at its politics again.

Similarly, many people who vote Green still think that it is a more grassroots organisation and more democratic than the other parliamentary parties.

Wrong again.

Norman is in fact starting to display a more authoritarian style. It is Norman who has been instrumental into transforming the Green's into yet another top-down party - yet he continues to claim that the Green's are the 'most democratic party' in Parliament.

It's yet more claptrap from Russel Norman, a man who has moved a long way to the right since his days as a socialist activist in Australia.

PAUL HENRY GETS PUNKED


It was all fun and games this morning on TV1'a John Key Appreciation Show, otherwise known as Breakfast.

Paul Henry was punked by one 'Jay Pryor' who claimed to be a supporter of commercial whaling.

'Pryor' went to some lenghts to embarass TVNZ and Henry. He set up a website and managed to get a story about himself in the Sunday News. It was that story that hooked TVNZ who never bothered to check its authenticity.

'Jay Pryor' was actually Guy Williams, a local comedian who works for C4.

The interview was proving to be a instant hit on YouTube before TVNZ complained and the clip was removed.

TVNZ has no sense of homour and complains to YouTube whenever it feels its not being taken seriously.

In another coup, Willams also managed to get his photo taken with John Key. The PM was at TVNZ for another round of patsy questions from his mate Henry.

Key told Wlliams that he supported the International Whaling Committee's proposal for limited commercial whaling - which is something that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully has been trying hard not to say.

You can watch the interview that TVNZ wished never happened here.

'KEEPING IT REAL' WITH RUSSEL G



I pointed my patented bullshit meter at the television last night when Green Party co-leader Russel Norman appeared on my screen. There was little Russel at the Green Party conference telling everyone that the party had to 'keep it real.'

My patented bullshit meter went off the dial at this point.

Was Norman labouring under the impression he had morphed into Ali G? And, if so, can we expect him to be making a music video with Madonna sometime soon?

Given Norman's liking for using New Zealand 'celebrities' to promote the Green 'brand' perhaps its not as crazy as it sounds.

What was Norman talking about? And why does the Green Party keep on employing meaningless catchphrases. 'Keeping it real' is about as informative as the Green Party's tremendous election slogan - 'Vote for me.' Perhaps they could combine the two next year - 'Vote for me because I'm keeping it real.'

However, when he wasn't speaking in cliches, Norman confirmed again that he's still taking the Green Party to electoral failure via his commitment to market-led environmentalism. At the conference Norman said that the 'market had to be linked to the environment'.

Rather than rejecting neoliberalism Norman was instrumental in forging a deal with the Key Government. In return for helping out National, the Green's were tossed a few policy favours including an agreement to work together to implement a home insulation programme and to 'update' New Zealand's energy efficiency programme.

The Green's are still offering no alterative to neoliberalism. On television last night I heard 'Russel G' saying that the Green's should be competing for the conservative vote.

Indeed Norman told the conference that the Green's hoped to gain ten percent of the vote next year by presenting a 'more mainstream image.'

Since the party has already jettisoned most of its left wing politics one wonders just how 'more mainstream' Norman thinks the Green's can get.

On Saturday, co-leader Metiria Turei made Prime Minister John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett the focus of her attacks on the Government's record on addressing inequality.

This is the height of hypocrisy. How can the Green's legitimately attack the Key Government's failure to tackle social and economic inequality and at the same support the neoliberal agenda that has been responsible for that inequality? The answer is that they can try but will always be undone by the problem that they are not offering an alternative to neoliberalism - and the fact they signed a 'memo of understanding' with the Key government.

Norman's empty bravado about 'keeping it real' comes at a time when there is a whole load of dissatisfaction with the Green rank and file about the conservative political direction that Norman and the parliamentary MPs have taken the party.

That dissatisfaction has spilled over into a rank and file campaign against the way the Green party list is determine and advertisements were placed in national newspapers to air these concerns.

Bryce Edwards has some interesting observations to make on this dispute here.

The reality is that the Green Party, in its bid for more influence on government, has been transformed into a party that is virtually indistinguishable from the parties of the right.

I would say that the Green Party has moved away from its grassroots support, which the Green's have formerly placed great emphasis on, and has become a party that is effectively controlled and directed by Russel Norman and his parliamentary team.

Is this what Norman means by 'keeping it real'?

MCCULLY FAILS TO CONDEMN ISRAEL - AGAIN




Israeli authorities regard Murray McCully as being 'sympathetic' to the interests of Israel and he's demonstrated that sympathy again in recent days by his failure to condemn Israel's military assault on the peace flotilla heading for Gaza.

McCully slapped the Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur with a wet bus ticket. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs 'he made the Government's concern clear.'

He also helpfully went on to say that 'Tzur had outlined the difficulties faced by Israel in relation to Gaza, and the importance of the blockade to the security of Israel and issues around Gaza.'

Israel sent helicopters, warships and smaller naval vessels against six civilian boats carrying aid supplies and killed up to nineteen peace activists. All this happened in international waters.

McCully though has, once again, refused to condemn the barbaric behaviour of Israel.

In Parliament yesterday, in response to a series of questions from the Green's Keith Locke, McCully merely called for everyone to 'wait' for the results of the investigation that has been called for by the UN Security Council.

Is McCully really not sure who is responsible for killing the unarmed peace activists?

In Parliament he condemned 'the violence' but was careful not to name Israel as being responsible for that violence.

He knows too well that the UN's 'investigation' will go nowhere and let Israel off the hook once again.

The call for an 'investigation' comes just a few days after Amnesty International released a report condemning Western powers for their record of blocking diplomatic action against Israel.

The Amnesty International Report 2010 says that in 2009 says: ' Many countries pushed for accountability only when politically expedient, and placed regional solidarity above the need to address the rights of victims of abuse. Thus, the USA and European states used their position in the UN Security Council to shield Israel from strong measures of accountability for alleged war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Gaza.'

The failure of the West to take strong and meaningful action against Israel has directly contributed to the death of the peace activists. The Israeli Government knows that it doesn't matter what it does, the West will still do nothing.

Murray McCully's 'inertia' this week mirrored his 'inertia' last year.

When Israel invaded Gaza in 2008-9 McCully again refused to condemned Israel and since then has not backed the calls for Israel to be held to account for war crimes committed in Gaza.

McCully's enthusiasm to effectively back Israel when the going gets tough was highlighted when Israeli military jets bombed a United Nations-run school in Gaza in January 2009, killing at least 30 men, women and children.

Even when confronted by this horrific brutality McCully merely repeated that the Government was not going to 'take sides' on the Gaza issue.

McCully is again demonstrating that when it comes to Israel he will do as little as possible just in case he upsets his friends.

A VULTURE CALLED RUPERT IS CIRCLING AROUND TVNZ


In case you hadn't noticed, TVNZ is presently congratulating itself for fifty years of television. It comes at a time when the last embers of public television are about to be be snuffed out by the Minister of Broadcasting Jonathan Coleman.

One would of thought TVNZ would have, by now, seriously investigated the issues and dangers confronting public television in this country. Instead it has stayed well clear of them.

Of course this is the broadcaster that allows presenters like Paul Henry and Mark Sainsbury to show favouritism toward a government they obviously support and its not at all obvious that TVNZ itself is that bothered that it is in danger of being privatised.

The broadcaster that suddenly pulls quality drama off the air mid series when it doesn't rate (eg Damages) is tonight devoting two hours of its prime time schedule to Cheers To 5o Years Of Television. Hosted by light entertainment hack Jason Gunn, the publicity says it is 'an entertainment game show in which two teams of celebrities look back at 50 years of television in New Zealand.'

Doesn't this about sum up TVNZ? When some real examination of the issues confronting public television in New Zealand is required, TVNZ gives us a game show featuring TVNZ 'celebrities' . It's pathetic. If TVNZ wants to engage in some ego gratification then it should do so behind closed doors instead of dressing it up as 'light entertainment'.

The Television New Zealand Amendment Bill is presently making its way through Parliament. Once passed TVNZ will simply become a straightforward commercial operator. It won't even have to pretend to meet any public service obligations.

Once the bill goes through New Zealand will have become the first country in the OECD not to have a public broadcaster. I doubt that even Jason Gunn will be making any of his cheesy and unfunny jokes about this broadcasting travesty although Paul Henry will no doubt get a laugh out of it. As a former talkback host on Radio Live he often opined that TVNZ should be privatised.

Of course having divested TVNZ of any public service obligations, it can be privatised by a second-term National Government.

As the Green's Sue Kedgley said in Parliament in March, National wants to complete 'unfinished business'. Said Kedgley:

'It is finishing the unfinished business, because in the 1990s the intention was to sell TVNZ, but it did not succeed then, so, clearly, the Government is about to finish that unfinished agenda.'

The Minister of Broadcasting must be very happy that he can pursue his privatisation agenda with TVNZ itself not even raising a fuss.

While the Key Government is readying TVNZ for sale, it was Labour's disastrous broadcasting polices that opened the door to the commercial media moguls.

The ludicrous hybrid model under which TVHNZ was supposed to deliver dividends to the Government while at the same time meeting pubic service obligations, was always doomed to fail - and so it proved.

All Labour 'achieved' was to make TVNZ vulnerable to the insidious designs of the enemies of public broadcasting The vultures are already circling and one of them is called Rupert.

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