Saturday, January 02, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010

Does NZ's future success rest on skin colour?

Rawiri Taonui, head of Maori and Indigenous studies at Canterbury University, has written a piece in today's NZ Herald about the flying of two flags, entitled Time for New Zealand to show all its colour.

Whether Pakeha see two flags as divisive or unifying is directly proportionate to the extent of hangups about race. Those who have difficulty relating to Maori, especially if they are dark skinned, physically large and/or overtly ethnic and tribal, and have not spent much time on a marae, will see the flag as separatist simply out of fear of difference and diversity. Fortunately, this lot are in rapid decline. New Zealand will be 50 per cent brown by 2030. Those who are at ease with themselves, respect Maori and like other cultures will see the flags as representative of an over-arching unity, of every colour, hue and creed. They are the New Zealanders of the future.

The flying of a Maori flag does not worry me IF it is a unifying move. Only time will tell.

What interested me here is the statement that by 2030 50 percent of New Zealanders will be brown. According to Statistics NZ data, by 2026 the population will be 5,517,600. European or other will make up 62.2 percent, Maori 14.8, Asian 14.3 and Pacific 8.7. Apart from the Asian number, not much change from today.

But what bothers me is the talk about skin colour in the first place. The title of the piece is not only a reference to flag colour but pigment. What is Rawiri Taonui getting at here? That a group exists that doesn't like Maori because they are brown, but that group, or "that lot", couldn't include people who are also brown? That Maori, Asian and Pacific people will live in a state of harmony and mutual respect because they are all brown?

He is saying that people who respect Maori and like other cultures will see flying both flags as unifying. Maybe. I would probably fit this group (with lots of provisos). And yet....

Why bring colour into it? Does he think that the more brown the country gets the more unity there will be? What, then, about the non-brown people progressively becoming a minority? Or should we hit the magic 50 percent and stop right there?

Then we can all live happily ever after?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Research into casual sex surprises

The Dominion Post reproduced this column today. Essentially new research, with a reasonably large sample, found that young people having casual sex are not suffering ill effects from it. The researchers were apparently taken aback.

I'm not. Morality, values, ethics, whatever label you want to put on it, is changing constantly. Any stigma attached to casual sex is diminishing (interestingly the researchers found a mismatch between the number of males versus females admitting to causal sex and theorised that men are more likely to label their encounter as casual whereas females label it as something more).

But I think there is another reason for the result. There are most certainly people for whom casual sex will cause emotional problems - guilt, self-recrimination, etc - so those people are avoiding it. Those for whom that would be a waste of mental energy just get on and enjoy it on their own terms. Most people, despite contemporary paternalistic wisdom telling us otherwise, are capable of making sensible choices. It would just be better if 'most' was a bigger percentage.

Creative accounting Douglas-style

54 percent of your and every one else’s personal tax goes towards healthcare. The growth is scary, when just two years ago the figure was 41 percent of your personal tax. Saying 54 percent can hide what this means. If you earn minimum wage, you will pay about $2500 every year for healthcare. If you earn the average wage, you will pay over $6000 for healthcare.

That's Roger Douglas on Health. It's from an e-mailed pamphlet that landed in my in-box a few days ago. It also features here.

My immediate reaction is BS. Roger is up to more creative accounting. And I didn't think much more about it.

I was reminded of it again this morning however when reading a well-written op-ed from Des Gorman, head of Auckland University's School of Medicine, and the chairman of Health Workforce New Zealand.

Health accounts for 20 per cent of Government expenditure and half of the new money in the 2009 Budget was allocated to health.

Correct. In which case 20 percent of the tax you pay goes towards healthcare. Unless the government apportions more income tax to health than it apportions to any other area of expenditure. Which it does not.

Whatever tax is paid - income, GST, corporate, excise - goes into the consolidated account and is then allocated accordingly. If we applied Roger's formula across the board government would be spending 170 percent more than it collects. For instance I could calculate that welfare spending is costing you $9,000 a year ($20 billion divided by 2.2 million individuals) or 81 percent of your "personal tax" if you earn the "average wage". See how quickly this is coming unstuck? 100 percent has already been exceeded.

As I have said before I am not totally averse to Roger's ideas - I support individual responsibility but do not like compulsion. However, creative accounting turns me off totally. Why would I trust the rest of the message when I can't trust the numbers?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lifestyle welfare

Here is the Boxing Day Dominion Post editorial. I was pleased to see the writer using the term 'lifestyle' not only because it is factual, but because it labels the group needing attention as distinct from all beneficiaries.

My response was published this morning (apologies for the unintentional sizing inconsistency).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another false allegation?

Remember the troublesome two who claimed they had been attacked in New Plymouth earlier this year?

Can't help wondering if this isn't a similar situation. What would two youths want with a Hannah Montana teeshirt?

The disconcerting thing is, I don't know whether to hope I am right or wrong. And I feel uncomfortable about my skepticism, but that's what happens when crying wolf isn't an unusual occurence.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Douglas and ACT

This post wouldn't have happened without prompting. As it stands ACT doesn't interest me but a comment today made me mentally reflect on why.

Chuck Bird has twice made reference to ACT's constitution on this blog. As I am no longer a member I am not sure why. The constitutional excerpt;

“...maintain social and economic support for those unable to help themselves and who are in genuine need of assistance”

defines out what Chuck thinks welfare should be, which includes retaining a welfare state. He was therefore unhappy with a repetitive commentor who harps on monotonously about how we should ZERO ALL BENEFITS.

Chuck thinks he will put off ACT voters. I am flattered Chuck thinks that many people read my blog.

However, getting rid of all benefits is closer to what Douglas proposes than what is in the ACT constitution. Douglas has always wanted all New Zealanders to fund their own social security needs through individualised accounts.

From the NZ Herald;

"Sir Roger's Budget would cut Government expenditure by more than a quarter within one year.

People would be expected to pay for their children's primary and secondary education directly; tax credits would be available for those whose tax cuts were insufficient to cover those costs directly.

They would also be expected to take out catastrophic health insurance and meet more minor health costs like GP visits, out of pocket. Accident, sickness and unemployment insurance would also be a matter of individual responsibility."

Now, I am not averse to Douglas' thinking BUT its not going to happen any time soon. He hasn't managed to build any movement for it here or in the UK in 20 years.

Which is why I have always channelled my efforts into realistic (most would call it radical) reform of the current system. There was a period when state social security did what it was supposed to do. Can we ever return to that? Quite possibly not. But the prospect is more palatable to voters than what Douglas wants.

My approach is also what Muriel Newman pushed for a long time. When Muriel was welfare spokesperson EVERYONE knew what ACT policy was. Since Roger assumed that portfolio nobody knows what ACT policy is because he promotes ideas with the rider that "the views expressed are Sir Roger's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Act, but it features prominently on the party's website."

The situation is just mickey mouse. And it was mickey mouse going into the election. If ACT had had concrete policy based on the US reforms it could have negotiated welfare reform as part of its agreement with National. Instead it chose a platform of getting tough on crime. Well, I hate to say this, but crime is only going to increase until welfare is reformed, because welfare is breeding tomorrow's criminals as I write.

National's fault that more people are needing foodbank parcels

That's what Ron Maynard of the Southland Food Bank Charitable Trust says;

Southland Food Bank Charitable Trust co-ordinator Ron Maynard said he had also noted an increase in the number of families needing handouts, which he attributed to a rise in the cost of living and the National Party coming into power.

"I think it is the times we are living in – since National (Party) come in it has got worse. That is one reason if you want to get political about it," Mr Maynard said.

Has National cut welfare benefits? Is National responsible for NZ experiencing a recession? Did National stop adjusting benefits for cost of living increases? Isn't it true that there are fewer people on benefits in Southland than there were 5 years ago, when Labour was mid-term?

Doesn't it just make you want to groan when people dealing with 'need' say such banal things? Instead of some serious analysis we get a political knee-jerk response.

Of course it is not the wont of food bank coordinators to question applicants. But perhaps they should be looking at the underlying reasons why the majority of low income people do not need their services, and a handful do.