Saturday, February 05, 2011

ACT to campaign on One Law for All

Speaking on National Radio during the week Rodney Hide talked up ACT's achievement of ensuring a National-led, stable government for New Zealand and downplayed the internal problems the party has experienced. What interested me was when asked why people wouldn't vote National rather than ACT (it was put to him that National are moving into their territory with things like asset sales) he basically outlined the three election issues for ACT this year. 1/ The Economy 2/ Education and 3/ One Law for All. His emphasis was on the last. No mention of law and order, no mention of welfare, no mention of health, all usually in the running when deciding election year strategy.

No surprises really with the efforts that ACT have been making to block the Seabed and Foreshore legislation. What bothers me is the debate teases out a lot of ignorant, anti-Maori sentiment. The type heard on talkback this week concerning a fee being charged to media attending the lower marae at Waitangi. Many Maori callers saw it as a racket and disagreed with the action. But some Pakeha just start running off at the mouth about Maori get this and Maori get that. I tried to make the point to Sean Plunket that it is those sort of sentiments that are racist. People seem unable to grasp that in their own accusations of race based privilege or discrimination they are being inherently racist themselves by lumping all Maori together. Do reprehensible individual Pakeha actions generally elicit cries that "Pakeha do this" and "Pakeha do that"? No they don't.

I am still betwixt and between regarding the Coastal and Marine Bill and whether it will advance or set back race relations. That will only be known when and if the legislation is passed. But I am very uncomfortable with divisive scaremongering, the blithe imposition of the Pakeha worldview on Maori, and the reversal (since 2005) in both National and ACT positions on establishing customary rights and all that might entail. One law for all surely infers Maori should also have recognised property rights.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Underneath the unemployment rate

Yesterday the unemployment rate for December was released - up from 6.4 percent in September to 6.8%.

But here are some comparisons to December 2009 (first column);

Total unemployment 7 6.8
Male unemployment 7 6.5
Female unemployment 7 7
Maori 15.4 15.5
15-19 year-old 26.5 25.5
one parent with dependent children only 47.7 51.7
Auckland 8 7.8
Wellington 6.3 5.4
Canterbury 5.7 6

So things are slightly improved overall but with a slight worsening for some groups.

But the one parent statistic is interesting. Remember last year part-time work-testing was introduced for single parents whose youngest child was 6 or older. This could have been expected to have had an anticipatory effect pre-change, as well as real effect post change. But the number without work has actually increased quite markedly.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Hot day at Taurenikau

Something different from my usual portraits. Since I have had the shop/studio Richard Ponder, whose own gallery is a few metres away, has been popping in and encouraging me to experiment more. First result - a purposely under-developed scene created from a series of photos I took at Taurenikau last month. It was a very hot day and I wanted to capture that feeling and also the movement of the horses. The canvas was coated in violet, a new colour for me, and I have left quite a lot of it showing. The turquoise is also a new pre-made colour on my palette.

Honest John versus perfidious Peters

Winston Peters would make me laugh if I had even a skerrick of good feeling whenever I hear him speak. But I don't. About the Prime Minister ruling him out of any National-led government he says:

"New Zealanders don't take kindly to being told what they've got to do, particularly when they're the masters come election day."

Labour leader Phil Goff also believed Mr Key was arrogant for ruling out NZ First prior to voters having their say.

"I'm going to let the voters make the decision."

What Key has given voters is clarity about what their decision means. He has afforded them more power - not less.

Key has done three honest, up front things this year; given people the option to vote for or against asset sales; given us the date of the election and ruled Peters out of any coalition arrangement. This is what people want more of from politicians.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gillard focuses on getting beneficiaries into work

Good to see the Australian PM focusing on getting people off welfare and into work AND stressing the importance of work to people's well-being. Unfortunately for the pro-welfarists governments of every hue are now pushing this message;

AUSTRALIA must get many more people into the labour force or working more, Julia Gillard has said.

In her first economic speech of 2011, the Prime Minister said: ''To the maximum extent possible, I want to ensure that every Australian who can work, does work.

''I want to ensure that the incentives of work always outweigh the attractions of staying on welfare''.

With Australia now technically at full employment and the mining boom creating a skills shortage that will affect the rest of the economy, Ms Gillard said up to 2 million working-age Australians were not in the full-time workforce or registered for work.

The government looked ''with particular care and concern'' at this large number. Of the 2 million, about 800,000 were in part-time jobs but wanted to work more. Another 800,000 were outside the labour market, including discouraged job seekers. Also, many thousands on disability pensions might have some capacity to work.

''We know that not all of them can work right away. Many of them will need re-skilling; the right mix of incentives; help to overcome ill-health or meet family responsibilities,'' she said.

''But we do want them to re-engage with the workforce and gain the benefits that come from having a job - increased income, social engagement and friendship, self-esteem and well-being.''

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Between a rock and a hard place


You've had the experience of walking along and negotiating around someone who is walking slowly, weaving, or bumping into other pedestrians for an obvious reason: He or she is talking on a cell phone, listening to an iPod, or texting on a Blackberry.

And you've had the natural, inevitable response to this annoyance: demanding a law to prevent it.

Oh, you haven't responded that way?

No I bloody haven't. I do get mad. I wonder why some people are so bloody oblivious; why it is too difficult to tuck themselves away in a non-traffic space for the duration of their call; why they lack the ability to co-exist courteously and intelligently with the surrounding people and environment. The same thoughts flash through my mind when I see people who have stopped their vehicles in the middle of the road to chat to a friend; or stand two shopping trolleys abreast in the supermarket aisle yacking; or travel at 40 km in a 70 km zone.

I do not demand a law to prevent it.(Oh, confession, I have been known to suggest that if people have to keep down to a speed limit they should need to keep up to it also, but if push came to shove I wouldn't actually support such a law. Some people are such awful drivers they probably cannot handle faster speeds. But that's a whole new topic...)

Obliviousness. Or oblivion. Whatever. One of my pet hates. Probably the best way to wake people up is to deal with it on the spot. Give them a rude and abrupt shock of some sort. Preferably with your mouth, not vehicle. That would have more impact and effect than a remote, faceless, unenforced law.

The trouble is those of us who do try not to inconvenience others, who are consciously trying to live co-operatively with others, who are prepared to make compromises like walking a few more metres in the rain because double parking outside a school is dangerous, are also not the type of people who enjoy being unpleasant and confrontational. That's THEM.

So its rock and a hard place time. I don't have the answer. Except that parents should do a better job of teaching and showing their kids that being even semi-conscious of their planet earth co-inhabitants would be a good idea. For everyone.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The brand new Fazioli

Yesterday the Waikanae Music Society unveiled their brand new Fazioli. Sounds something like a Ferrari - in name, not engine sound. And the price ticket wasn't far removed either. It cost them $174,000. What is it? A grand piano. Brand-spanking new and just arrived from Italy.

We were there to hear Michael Houston give it its first workout - J S Bach, Schumann, some jazz sonata which was my second favourite piece and finishing with the most ethereal Liszt. No expert by any stretch of the imagination, his performance seemed flawless to me. But I didn't like his jacket or lack of encore for an audience largely on its feet. Recital etiquette is also beyond my own realm of familiarity. Robert, 16 year-old son and currently grand piano obsessionist was suitably awestruck. Unlike attending a more upmarket venue, he was able to get a close-up inspection of the Fazioli during interval. A truly remarkable piece of craftsmanship.

But where the heck do they store such a valuable and vulnerable object?

The new left party

Did anyone else wonder if Keith Locke, by announcing his resignation from Parliament, was freeing himself up for the rumoured new leftist party? Today Sue Bradford has pushed the murmurings along a further step by saying she is prepared to lead such a party. What has been overlooked, or at the least not commented on by the media, is the organisation and communication efforts surrounding the creation of the Alternative Welfare Working Group provide a strong basis for launching the new party. It is a strange mix of social conservatives and social liberals but they will be able to agree on a strongly state-controlled wealth redistributionist philosophy. ACT hung together for many years with a similar mix when you think about it.

That would leave the Greens free to focus on the environment and hopefully more willing to consider property rights as the best protector of it, although Metiria Turei is busily positioning her party as the natural vehicle for Maori aspirations.

I believe the party will emerge, and in part the emergence will have been driven by National's attempts to reform welfare, which I thoroughly support notwithstanding my expectation their policy will be well short of what is really needed.

What this highlights again, however, is the extreme political difficultly in ever undoing policies that become virtual institutions, one of the best examples being the DPB. If a new left party can effectively mobilise the beneficiary vote, and National will play as big a role in that as their own efforts, they will have every chance of gaining political representation. And with Labour looking impotent under Goff their chances are further improved.

Now is the time and I expect to see developments speed up. It wouldn't be a surprise if they coined their party something along the lines of The Social Justice Party. Their big mistake is believing that only the state can deliver such a thing, and ignoring the existing repercussions of such a fraught idea. And that is the ground on which they should be countered.