Funding the Government’s spending priorities


When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister, she entered office with a long list if promises. They looked fantastic and still do today. But one question exists:

HOW IS NEW ZEALAND PAYING FOR THIS?

I am concerned that despite Ms Ardern being to say that the Labour party was able to prove it had it’s plans costed, Labour have under estimated the money they will need to spend. I think that the party pushed itself into an unnecessary tight spot by not raising taxes.

There are ways around some of the associated issues through user pay charges for example when it comes to National Parks – Department of Conservation for example could require a $10 fee for anyone over 16 but under 65 entering a National Park. It would be used to fund maintenance, repairs and upgrades on top of base funding from the Government. Another source could come from requiring tourists to have medical insurance whilst in New Zealand. Too often tourists receive medical care in New Zealand and walk out the door without making arrangements to pay the outstanding bill, which means that the unfortunate taxpayer coughs up the money.

Some income sources could be controversial, but need to be explored nonetheless. One of these would be legalising cannabis. The effect of this, aside from saving potentially millions from being wasted on trying to criminalize a problem that will probably exist until civilisation is finished, would also enable cannabis based businesses to flourish, and thereby a taxable stram of business. The American states where it is legal to sell cannabis have reported significant increases in their tax take as a result of being able sell cannabis products.

Labour is most likely going to have raise taxes. Currently those brackets that existed since 2010 and are not tight enough are still intact. They are:

  • $1-14,000 = 10.5%
  • $14,000-$48,000 = 17.5%
  • $48,000-$70,000 = 21.0%
  • $70,000+  = 33%

My assumption is an income tax rise is on the cards. Big or small. Long-term or short-term, it is coming.

Education in for biggest overhaul since “Tomorrow’s Schools”


In 1989 the then Labour Government unveiled what they called “Tomorrow’s Schools”, which was a radical overhaul of the New Zealand education system. The reforms, which shifted financial and administrative responsibility to the Board of Trustees that each school has been around nearly 30 years. It has stood up to major disasters, debates about class sizes and rapidly evolving technological challenges. But now, comes its biggest test of all: reform.

I have written in past articles about the need to scrap National Standards. I am not convinced that a child at that age should be subject to such a demanding assessment regime for a range of reasons. Yes, there needs to be some sort of measure of progress against which parents can measure their child. Much criticism has been made of the system which was implemented by former Education Minister Anne Tolley and her successor Hekia Parata without trials, with the latter threatening to sack any Board of Trustees that did not follow her directions. I think a simplified system needs to be trialled in schools and only rolled out if an overwhelming number support it. Otherwise go back to the system that existed in 2008.

I also support the scrapping of N.C.E.A. in high schools. Again I have written about this in prior articles. There was nothing of substance that was wrong with the old assessment regime. With the exception of the following provisions, I recommend going back to the old system:

  1. All subjects have internal assessment so that those who find exams conditions difficult are not put out
  2. All subjects have end of year exams
  3. Scrap the scaling system – what a student would have been awarded without scaling is what they are awarded
  4. Remove unit standards from traditional courses such as Geography, History and Maths and use them for technical and trade courses

The Minister for Education, Chris Hipkins, has also announced an overhaul of Early Childhood Education in the process. This is where I think the Government will strike resistance. Parents of pre-school children will be asking, “do we actually need these reforms, and if so, what are they going to look like?”

Another area that is going to be subject to reforms is Polytechnics, where trades are taught. Again, other than appropriately funding these institutions, students like the parents of pre-schoolers, might very well be asking themselves and their institutions whether or not these reforms – in whatever form they come – are necessary.

I do have one concern spread across the entire education spectrum. My concern is that if basic maths, reading and writing are not taught on paper first, students will find themselves very short on certain skill types that my generation and older generations. They include:

  • Learning to use an index in a book;
  • showing the working for complex equations; comprehension of what one is reading
  • being able to form sentence structures without the grammatical assistance of a programme like Microsoft Word.
  • Being able to speak – I had major speech impediments that are not noticeable now when I was a child, but I was taken to a speech therapist who also let my teacher go with me so that they could learn the warning signs and use them to spot problems in other children

Unless the above skill set has emphasis placed on it, there will be generations of children in the future who will struggle in society. They will have trouble working in places of employment and possibly doing every day things such as filling out application forms. New Zealand calls itself first world and in many respects we are just that, but when I hear about students struggling to read, write and do mathematics, I cannot help but wonder if they are lacking these skills. If so, that makes addressing this problem a major priority.

 

Text of T.P.P.A. replacement to be released


A few weeks ago, New Zealand First betrayed its membership by deciding to support Labour’s attempt to advance the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. Many said that they would quit the party over it and the party has slumped in the most recent Colmar Brunton Poll to just 3%.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she will unveil the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’s replacement, the so called Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (or C.P.T.P.P.)on Wednesday. Ms Ardern insists that the C.P.T.P.P. is a significant step forward for New Zealand trade development. New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters, who believes that his party can now support the agreement, says that the clauses that made the party oppose it have now been removed and he can tolerate it.

WRONG. The clauses have not been removed. They have only been suspended in an attempt to get United States President Donald Trump to back track on his withdrawal of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement a few days after he took office. No changes of substance have been made and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is still the trojan horse it was before Mr Trump decided to withdraw the United States from it.

Nothing has changed in other words.

I support New Zealand developing strong trade relations with other nations. But there are checks and balances that should be in place before we have these agreements. The purpose of these checks and balances is to make sure that due process is followed and that the Agreement in whatever form it turns out to be, really will help New Zealand. For this to happen New Zealand First’s “Fight Foreign Corporate Control Bill should have been advanced instead of being shot down by National and A.C.T. on the grounds of being “anti-trade”.

There is a clearly defined difference between having a trade deal and undermining New Zealand so that it is more susceptible to corporate takeover. Having a trade deal means New Zealand can conduct trade with the nations that it negotiated the deal/s in question with. New Zealand respects them as nations and they respect us. Businesses are invited to submit concerns and suggestions at the select committee stage and the committee draft recommendations that are then agreed to or dropped. A corporate deal that favours multinationals and undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty does no such thing.

So I wait with baited breath to see what happens to this dastardly agreement in its latest phase. But this particular deal is not one New Zealand should be proud of or a part of.

Labour surges; National dives – and a smorgasbord of issues demand action


A new political poll came out yesterday, which put Labour ahead of National. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity is also well ahead of out going National Party leader Bill English.

The recent poll of support for our political parties should not really come as a surprise. Despite the best attempts of the National Party to get a fix on Ms Ardern and her Labour led minority Government, Ms Ardern’s popularity is soaring just like her party’s.

At 48%, Labour’s support is the highest it has been in 15 years. It would have have enough to be able to jettison one of its minor support parties and govern with the other. In this case it would not have any choice, as on current support of just 5% the Greens would be the only one returned to Parliament. At 3% New Zealand First would not be returned to Parliament, the lowest support that the party of Winston Peters has seen in nearly a decade.

If an election were held today, these results would show a radically altered Parliament.

  • LABOUR = 48%/58 seats (59 seats)
  • NATIONAL = 43%/52 seats (54 seats)
  • GREENS = 5%/6 seats
  • ACT = 1%¹ = 1%/1 seat

¹David Seymour holds the Epsom seat, thus A.C.T. has a place in Parliament. ²Remaining seats needed to fill the 120 seat Parliament come from the party lists.

But the real pressure on Labour is still to come. The real pressure comes from the smorgasbord of issues demanding action from a Government that promised much. Issues with crime, the economy, mental health, waste, education and a host of others are ringing loudly. In a year where the rise of particular social movements – one calling for better recognition that sexual harassment is totally not okay, and the other a seemingly sudden declaration of war on single use plastic – Labour can grab an opportunity to steal a march with legislative changes or other support to shore up its base.

Labour needs to be careful though as many of the other issues are ones where normally one hears an emphasis on them from conservative parties, such as justice and the economy. Labour needs to move on one or more of these to deprive National of political oxygen. With almost daily violent crime being reported up and down the country, and an alarming level of it involving drug addled individuals wielding weapons, it is not a great look for a country that prides itself on being safe.

So, whilst Labour can take some pleasure in the results, there is much to be done and the public are hungry for action.

Drones: A doubled edged sword


You see them hovering above events. The real “eye in the sky”, remotely controlled by someone nearby. Your friends might have one, or you might know people who use them for work purposes – or been unlucky enough to have a prying one hovering over your property.

Welcome – for better or for worse – to the world of drones.

I do not know anyone personally who owns a drone. I have wondered occasionally about the pros and cons of having one.

Let me be clear. Drones certainly have their uses. Civilian construction contractors often use them to view safely structures or dangerous terrain when working on projects. When the demolition phase of the Christchurch recovery was in progress drones were very useful for flying into and around buildings that were too dangerous to approach on foot. This also included houses in Scarborough, on the cliffs overlooking Redcliffs as well as other Port Hill suburbs.

Recreational users also find them popular. One example is a clip taken at Lake Coleridge at the end of Intake Road, gives a perspective on the Lake Coleridge power station intake that cannot be gained from foot access due to the safety hazards posed by the intake and it being in a fenced off area.

Drones also have military uses – and abuses. Surveillance of ones territory is one thing; using one to deliver lethal force is quite another (and a particularly concerning grey area of international law).

Civil Aviation Authority requires that all drone operators comply with their code for controlled devices. It does not matter whether you are a recreational user, civil or other user, there are certain things you can and cannot do.

Given that there are concerns about drone users who do not think about or have malicious intentions when they fly drones over private property, people who have not consented to being filmed and so forth, I believe a certification process is required. It is not that I believe drone use should be limited, but it is important to know and respect the fact that improper use of a drone can constitute serious criminal offending for which consequences are inevitable.

The concerns are justified. As the use of drones increases so will the likelihood of them being found in improper locations. The likelihood of of one endangering traffic, humans or aircraft due to being flown in circumstances where they should be grounded will increase.

And this is shown by the cases that occasionally appear before the Courts, in which drone users are charged because they put their craft in the way of helicopters or aircraft on legitimate business. One such case recently was a tourist who was made to forfeit his drone after flying it in front of helicopters trying to fight a scrub fire. He knew that it could potentially cause a crash. He had no reasonable explanation for his actions. Others have been prosecuted for flying their aircraft into flight paths of oncoming aircraft ranging from single seat private planes through to commercial passenger jets.

I am also aware of a couple of cases a few years ago where drones were seen hovering over peoples properties without their permission. One gentleman mentioned a drone hovering outside his place whilst his wife was home. Others mentioned concerns about users flying them overhead whilst children were playing. None of this is okay and breaches the C.A.A. rules. It also represents an unacceptable privacy invasion that no one should have to accept.

The number of drones is going to continue to grow as newer models come into the market and prices fall. So will the risk of improper use. I support a certification process for drones. Anyone over the age of say 16 should be permitted to buy one, but not before they get a certification to demonstrate they understand and agree to comply with legal obligations set down by the C.A.A. and other authorities. Repeated failure to comply should require forfeiture of the drone and of your certification.