About robglennie000

Kia Ora This blog is my vent for releasing my frustrations with the state of New Zealand, the New Zealand Government and things going on in New Zealand society, as well as around the world. I vent daily NZDT at 0900 hours. Please feel free to leave comments. Please also feel free to follow my blog. Best Regards, Rob

New Zealand First hangs in the balance: Is rural development its saviour?


For six years, New Zealand First was one of the biggest foes that the Trans Pacific Partnership had. It, along with the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, represented a bloc in Parliament who wanted New Zealand to have nothing to do with what some called a corporate take over. It marched on the streets alongside the Greens and Labour M.P.’s. It assisted with petitions and introduced legislation to Parliament in an attempt to derail the T.P.P.A.

But in January this year, the Government, with New Zealand First standing proudly alongside, announced that they would support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The response was swift and it could also be lethal. New Zealand First plunged in support from getting 9 Members of Parliament post election to being so low in the polls that it would not be back in Parliament if an election were held today.

There are a number of potential causes for the decline of the centrist/populist party that had in its ranks a growing number of younger people including myself.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement u-turn that New Zealand First has done might be the final straw for a lot of people who see it as the ultimate betrayal of everything the party stands for. Up to the election it had campaigned steadfastly against the agreement in any form and got my vote for that reason. And whilst Fletcher Tabuteau’s Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill might still be potentially revived, is Mr Tabuteau still interested?

Internal strife in the party, whose Board seems to be sluggish and averse to communication, has not helped. In 2015, having managed to gain 3 new Members of Parliament New Zealand First was optimistic about its future. Members of the Party and Members of Parliament were saying they could double the number of M.P.’s at the 2017 election. None seemed to have made any allowance for a Labour resurgence. Nor did anyone reckon with “Jacindamania”, the phenomenon that swept New Zealand in the weeks following Jacinda Ardern being appointed Leader of the Labour Party/Leader of the Opposition and then, following the election and New Zealand First’s decision to support Labour, Prime Minister.

A third problem could be Shane Jones. The former Labour Member of Parliament left in 2014 after questions were raised about him approving the application of a Chinese businessman for New Zealand citizenship. In June 2017 he was confirmed at no. 8 on the New Zealand First Party list for the election, over and above a number of hard working loyal party members and candidates deserving of promotion.

But…

Could the party be saved from itself by the rural development fund? New Zealand First has long been a proponent of supporting the regions, which have been ignored in large part by the National and Labour parties, and are traditionally conservative. Part of New Zealand First policy at the election was a rural development fund that would support the rural communities that have faced long term decline from the closure of meat works, the centralisation of services such as the post office, banking, hospital and medical centres as well as schools and police stations.

Mr Jones is Regional Development Minister, and on 23 February 2018 he and Ms Ardern unveiled the N.Z.$3 billion rural development fund. This will fund a range of regional developments and the initial funding allows for investment in railways and totara forestry in Northland.

Given its struggles internally and externally, New Zealand First will be hoping that this enables the party to claw back some of the respect lost. This happened it announced it would support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’s successor, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (C.P.T.P.P.).

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.