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

M.P.’s pay frozen for 12 months

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a 12 month freeze in the pay of Members of Parliament. The announcement of the freeze comes as the Government carries out negotiations with teachers and the police force. It also comes as the Prime Minister announces a review of the process by which the Independent Remuneration Authority goes about its business.

This is a clever move, as it is one that will draw support from both sides of the House of Representatives. It is not often an M.P. wants to be seen out of line with public opinion on the subject of Members of Parliament’s pay. And over the last several years M.P.’s would have become aware of a growing level of public frustration with them getting pay rises whilst the median wage remained stagnant.

Members of Parliament will be well aware of the potential salaries that they could be earning in the private sector. The fact that they are not in the private sector suggests that high incomes are not necessarily the major priority – or if they are a priority, one that M.P.’s are prepared to sacrifice to ensure a job with a degree of power attached. Whilst many might have come from being directors on company boards, legal backgrounds or were in professions such as teaching, medicine, law enforcement or social work, most likely it is their experiences in these places that made them decide to become a Member of Parliament.

The fact that they are in the public sector and understand that every 3 years their job is up for grabs, will fill them with a desire to – if nothing else – at least seen to be listening to the public and getting out among voters. The many kilometres covered doing the business of the party or the Government, depending on whose benches one sits, are matched by nights working late in the office. Then there is the time away from family and dependents, the missing out on things like the children’s birthday or weddings or other family oriented events. They tend to add up.

I do note though that Stacey Kirk has compared the pay of the New Zealand Prime Minister with that of the American President. There is a bit of playing the facts a bit fast and loose here. Ms Kirk ignores in her comparison the fact that NZ$1 will only currently buy about US$0.66 at the time of publishing this article. The U.S. President is paid U.S.$400,000 per annum, which right now comes out at about N.Z.$604,000.

I hope the public enjoy the 12 months that M.P.’s wages are frozen because the cynic in me thinks that somehow – accidentally or otherwise – the first rise afterwards will come with a hiss and a roar. I hope therefore that it is appended to something like the rate of inflation or the Consumer Price Index or other appropriate measure.

Greens move on tyre waste, announce plans for other waste types

The Green Party Annual Conference has wound up, with the party taking steps to keep both the social wing and the environmental wing of the party happy. In a weekend where the party had to address significant concerns arising out of the mess left by Metiria Turei’s departure in 2017, a back to basics approach was announced. It would see the party return to dealing with its core issues, whilst enjoying the fruits of some significant policy wins.

In keeping with their back to basics theme, the Green Party announced moves against waste tyre dumps in New Zealand. The problem, which in June 2017 saw an announcement of investment in a tyre processing facility, is one that New Zealand has been lagging behind other countries on for awhile.

It is not the only significant announcement that was made on waste, which I personally believe rivals climate change in potential severity if not addressed, but also in terms of opportunities for clean tech and new research. It was also announced that a waste stewardship programme would be designed for a range of waste types including tyres, lithium batteries, agri-chemicals and synthetic greenhouse gases.

All of this is well and good, but a much more wide ranging approach is needed for waste across the board. Whether it is common waste such as paper, plastic, wood, glass, or more problematic waste such as chemicals, waste fuel by products, electronic waste or otherwise, a comprehensive plan is needed. I believe a national policy statement on waste management, backed by appropriate rules and objectives. Councils need to introduce bylaws that are specific to their area, and compliant with any eventual policy statement.

Mayors of city and district councils around New Zealand have registered their support for increasing the fee for dumping rubbish at landfills from $10 to $40. The only problem I have here is that this then increases the risk of illegal dumping by the few that refuse to comply with local bylaws pertaining to waste, so I wonder if that means their councils would then be prepared to more aggressively pursue those who dump wherever they can instead of using their council bins.

Maybe this will come out over the next few months with regards to waste. I certainly hope so. New Zealand needs to reduce its waste footprint in order to maintain our current environment and improve our environmental standards in the long term. The growing realization that reducing waste can involve job creation should help to soothe the fears of those who think that the ever suffering rate/taxpayer will be further encumbered with costs that they can ill afford it.

A bigger question is how willingly will consumer and industrial advocates come on board and realize it is not all a Green conspiracy against their agenda’s and profits.





The Green Party recovery

This weekend the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is holding its Annual Conference in Palmerston North. It is their first since Metiria Turei’s resignation in the wake of her admitting she had lied to Work and Income New Zealand about her time as a solo mother. It is also their first as a governing party in the Labour-led coalition. One year on, how are they getting on?

Perhaps it is best summed up by co-leader James Shaw, who in his opening address to the party faithful, reminded them that it was not just he who made the decision to enter the coalition. It was made by the party membership. Mr Shaw also reminded them that in coalition, compromises are necessary and that sometimes this involves swallowing a proverbial dead rat or two. In the case of the Green Party this includes the Waka Bill, that will make Members of Parliament expelled from their caucus quit Parliament as well.

This bill could be quite contentious. As a strong believer of democratic process myself, I am not that enthusiastic about it, and can see why the caucus was originally dead set against it. The key problem is that the Waka Bill denies the Member the right to go back to the electorate and find out whether they still want a particular party representing them.

But there have been wins and these have to be acknowledged. When one is in Government it is a case of making the most of the opportunities to effect credible change because one never knows how the next election will turn out, who will be in Government and whether key policies will have to be sacrificed or not. In the case of this Government, whilst the Greens have been made to sacrifice a couple of policies, they have also had some big policy wins – a phasing out of oil and gas; a nation wide phasing out of single use plastic bags.

It is also a rebuilding time. The Greens came dangerously close to electoral oblivion with Mrs Turei’s resignation in disgrace from Parliament last year. Her popularity in the Green Party until that fatal admission was considerable and had she not made it, I do not think anyone would have been any the wiser. It would have probably given them all back all of their 14 list seats, and ensured more portfolios around the Cabinet table are held by Green Party M.P.’s. But she did, and whilst her admission of guilt was commendable, she should have immediately followed it up with a statement saying that the monies owed had already been paid back. The public probably would have left it at that.

Thus far her successor Marama Davidson has not enjoyed the same high profile as Mrs Turei. Nor has she enjoyed the same popularity. As a supporter of the more social wing of the party, Mrs Davidson has not had the opportunities that Minister of Transport and fellow Green M.P. Julie Anne Genter has had. Ms Genter was lucky enough to be able to make a substantial transport policy announcement a few months after becoming Minister. And having a capable rival Ms Genter in the race for the Green Party leadership meant Mrs Davidson had to work for her right to be co-leader.

Ms Genter, who is just about to go on maternity leave for her first child has been a consistently heavy hitter when it comes to policy. Her ability to outflank National Ministers of Transport without them really realizing – much less admitting – that there is a Green Minister who can hold their ground, constantly led to testy exchanges in Parliament.

Mrs Davidson, whilst appealing to the social minded supporters of the Green Party, I have yet to see have such exchanges. It is not to say that such events should be a measure of how one performs, but it is in Parliament as well as in terms of policy and being active in public, that she will be judged. So far Mrs Davidson has been relatively invisible.

It will be interesting to see how the Green Conference goes, and how the rest of this term turns out for them. Can they overcome the hurdles inadvertently laid down by Mrs Turei’s departure and will the membership realize that coalitions are about compromise, however much it might stink some days? That remains to be seen.

Looking at the issues behind the teachers strike

On 15 August 2018 Primary and Intermediate School teachers and principals went on strike over their pay and work conditions. Whilst there were much support for them getting a pay rise, looking back at them and having a chance to digest the feedback from others, I wonder now how support they got for addressing the conditions of their work.

1) Get a pay rise
2) Get attention focussed on the atrocious amount of other work that teachers have to do, a portion of which I simply do not believe teachers should be doing

The first aim is indisputable, though we might disagree on the pay rise happens.

It is the second one I want to focus on. The expectation that somehow they are also supposed to be part time parents, social workers, bureaucrats and jacks of all trades as well is silly. Lets get real here.

The sum of our expectations does not match the sum of what teachers can realistically expect to do. Teachers are making a 10/10 effort to meet expectations, but New Zealanders are not making a 10/10 effort to be realistic about what they can do. I think it must be soul destroying to a teacher, 100% committed to their profession, their school and their students to walk away at the end of a day and think “I screwed that up didn’t I?”.

Well, no, I doubt you screwed up anything – at least not knowing. What’s screwed up is the idea that you can do better than what you do in a teaching environment where I think there are a number of background problems.

1) Do the assessment regimes as they currently stand, actually work? You can assess a student all you want, but if the metrics that come out are goobledegook, I doubt very much when you have Teacher/Parent nights that is going to help – granted I have no idea what a school report looks like today, my high school reports in the 1990’s had three sections:

A) Curricula – where the teacher grades your performance in that area
B) Person – where the teacher notes your attendance, behaviour and whether you turned up to class in an acceptable standard
C) Commentary – self explanatory

2) Is it time to hit “reset” on our expectations of teachers, and put more responsibility back on the parent, the other social agencies – yes a teacher will see a student five days of the week, most weeks of the year and in that time they will be expected to get to know them a bit and identify behaviours,

3) Is the Education Act due for a review or overhaul – did it mandate or provide for them being all of these other things that we expect them to be? Maybe it did – I honestly have no idea what is in the Education Act 1989, but if it did not, then the time has come.

4) How much of what goes on can be put down to our addiction to social media? Would it really be too much to mandate a requirement for to hand over their phones at the start of class and only get them back a morning break and lunch time?

I think this is a conversation that we need to have as a nation, among our school communities and as parents and teachers. You could give teachers a 50% pay rise, which no doubt they would absolutely love, but if the arse is in the legislation or an aspect of teaching that cannot be sorted out by pay rises, then nothing is solved, except maybe retaining teachers is a bit easier.

The teacher’s strike 2018

This was a long time coming. Prior to this strike Primary School and Intermediate School teachers and principals had not walked off the job since 1993. During the Fifth Labour Government of former Prime Minister Helen Clark, High School teachers had gone on strike in a wave of rolling strikes. The 2018i strike was an opportunity for the rest to catch up with the high schools.

No one should be surprised it has happened. Schools have undergone huge change in the last two decades. The idea that a teacher’s workload is from when the students arrive at the start of the day, through to 1500 hours, is now generally recognized as nonsense and that teachers are only half done with their working day when the students leave at the end of each day.

The workload has also diversified considerably. In 1989 a Primary School teacher was not a de facto social worker, though they were definitely trained to watch for visual or behavioural signals from students that suggest there might be problems in their lives. Statutory paper work required by law has also increased, much to the chagrin of teachers. How much of it they actually need to do and is not already covered under other laws, is questionable.

Without doubt teachers face many challenges in their careers, irrespective of which school  they teach at.

We can be certain that there will always be disciplinary issues among some students, no matter how they are (not) taught discipline at school or at home – complaints about aggressive students with no understanding or respect for other people, their property or the community at large. Will the student be made to stand facing the corner of the room or will they be given a Managing Student Behaviour¹ notice, which is what my old high school often did with students who were disrupting classes.

Another big and no completely unavoidable issue is how to make sure that students are able to benefit from social media technology, whilst being safe and learning how to use their devices responsibly. Classes in my opinion should be made to surrender their cellphones at the start of each period and shall be able to collect them again afterwards. Videoing abuse is one thing, but then posting it for others to see quickly sends a message that the abused is vulnerable.

And then there are student fees. Whether it is for text books, or stationery or for activity needs the annual cost of these is considerable. Not all parents can afford to pay and therefore not surprisingly can cause a break down in the relationship between parent and teacher

So, I welcome the strike, which I think was necessary to release pent up anger and frustration with the state of the eduication system. But now that the teachers have had that opportunity to vent, it is time to go back to the negotiations table and work out a deal for all primary and intermediate school teachers and their support staff.