Monday, September 22, 2014

Disappointment

It's a couple of days after the New Zealand election and the results are dire. Dire dire dire.

The western world seems  to be shifting to the right. Australia has a prime minister who is the very first to reverse climate change laws. Our neighbours. And we, in New Zealand, have been able to laugh at them. But then, Tony Abbott is only in his first term. We have no such excuse.

The National Party, our centre right, has been re-elected for a 3rd term with the special votes being our only hope of change. If you've been reading this blog for a very long time (I think I started back in 2010? There was an election in 2011) I've always stated that we could only ever afford the National Party to be in power for 1 term. That's it. After a term, we'd be in trouble.

And we are in trouble:
  • Poverty rates are high. Do a Google search on 'poverty rates New Zealand' and the first result is this page. While there are graphs up to around 2007, there seems to be little information thereafter except for the graphics on that page. The way to tackle poverty? Measure it apparently...
    • We have an all new class. The working poor. Basically, people who work, possibly more than 1 job, and are still impoverished. They're reliant on assistance such as food banks.
  • We're still very much in the middle of our recession. If it wasn't for the Christchurch earthquakes, our economy wouldn't have grown at all.
  • We need to look at the ways we measure our economy. It seems to me that our "improving" economy leaves a lot to be desired.
  • During this election we had several scandals.
    • "Dirty Politics", a book written by Nicky Hager revealed National's use of bloggers to influence the media. This included, and is not limited to, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau), unclassifying documents and bloggers, such as Cameron Slater, being notified of the information's declassification. The National government also helped Slater write his OIA (Official Information Act) requests and on at least one occasion, Slater was given the information he requested within the day (37 minutes in one instance) rather than the usual 20 days.
    • Kim Dotcom, famed for Megaupload and the raid upon his home, and his newly established Internet Party (joined with the Mana Party), revealed information relating to the denied mass surveillance being carried out in New Zealand. John Key, at one stage during his denials, had said that he would offer up his resignation if the GCSB conducted mass surveillance on New Zealanders. This was called "The Moment of Truth" - presented in a way that I don't think had high impact for New Zealanders.
  • Our national debt is HUGE and climbing at an astounding rate. While National are talking again about tax cuts, services are being cut and the national debt is climbing. Reference.
  • National have made a mess of prior election promises. For example, UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband). Chorus, the UFB main contract winner, and owner of most of the copper network in New Zealand, called foul when the Commerce Commission determined it's pricing for use of the copper network (what the majority of New Zealanders still use for Internet) is priced 23% higher than it should be. Since Chrous have a $1 billion interest free loan from the government for the UFB rollout, they can't let the company go under but it's a hot political mess if they interfere with the Commerce Commission's determination. Reference.
  • We seem to be moving to rather an extreme NGO (Non-government Organisation) controlled state with such things as:
    • The Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is of particular concern not solely on the basis the leaked contents, but more so for the fact that an agreement of this type is being negotiated in secret. To me, this represents an undermining of democracy as it looks to enact laws without citizen overview of what those laws are likely to be. From the leaked documents, corporations would be able to sue a government if they enacted laws which affected a corporations profits. This means that the government now looks after a corporation's profits before it's own citizens. The classic example is plain packaging on cigarettes. Reference.
    • Charter schools. New Zealand's schools have an interesting phenomenon of having a few different categories. A private school, for example, doesn't get state funding [I've just been informed that I'm completely wrong here. Reference1, Reference2. It looks like it's a reviewed decision which looks to be part of my "if you aren't able to stay afloat based upon the capitalist ideals such as you supplying something that's in demand at a price people will pay, then it's time for a great big review of what you're doing. Stop demanding the government protect you at the publics expense" ramble]. An integrated school, has it's staff paid for by the state. And a state/public schools are fully funded by the state. Charter schools are something entirely new and are widely criticized. The funds going into charter schools would have a huge impact on public schools in terms of being able to hire the staff to reduce class sizes (incidentally, back in 2012, National sought to change teacher:pupil funding ratios resulting in bigger class sizes and very likely less subject options. Reference1 outlines the issue. Reference2 reveals the thinking behind it - spoiler: it was about saving money rather than having any basis in education). The existing charter schools thus far average around 50 pupils each though a little under $20 million has been allocated for "establishment" funding. Reference.
  • Our economy's focus is squarely on unsustainable exports. Things like oil and dairy. Dairy intensification comes at the expense of clean rivers (waste) and oil carries with it the environmental risks that come with it. Reference1 - How the National Party are actively seeking to quash criticism of it's dairy intensification plans. Reference2 An opinion piece on a report about dairy intensification).
  • Services are being cut. Not bailing out Christchurch's ONLY rape crisis centre while sexual crimes have risen by 40% in the area for example. The Problem Gambling Foundation lost it's government funding - the largest provider of problem gambling services in Australasia (the most interesting line from that article: "...The report also noted that one disadvantage of the existing system was that PGF's independence meant the ministry had reduced "control over areas such as . . . political neutrality".
And so the left are feeling quite justifiably betrayed by the NZ voting public. Those unethical practices of the sitting government have essentially been rubber stamped as being okay. Our environment is taking a hit that is going to take a very long time to recover from. Our most vulnerable are being mistreated and misunderstood. What went wrong?


The blaming is coming on hot and fast. And those things that I always found myself proud of are being challenged. For example, I've seen multiple comments on Facebook about how it's all down to "the immigrants". Here's what I think went wrong:
  • Kim Dotcom didn't distance himself from the politics. The Internet Party joined a partnership with the Mana Party which eroded the Mana Party's support. The Internet Party did not bring in enough support to push Internet/Mana over the 5% threshold.
    • The moment of truth was a miss. It was a media circus featuring Kim Dotcom (he REALLY shouldn't have been on stage for this), Julian Asange (his "lesser rape" charges are troublesome though I would argue that if we really want to criticize, then we should also be fighting for laws that recognize lesser rape here), Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald (a reporter who really had no skin in the election though was called a "loser" by John Key, our current Prime Minister, within 24 hours of landing in the country) and Bob Amsterdam (a lawyer for Kim Dotcom). One comment that I saw on Facebook was about "foreigners" telling us how to vote. *sigh*.
  • The Labour Party has looked like a Party in crisis for a couple of terms now. Their last leadership battle saw the entire Party split into 3 camps and some members even got punished for there allegiance after the battle was done. If they want to appear as stable, they need to be fully united. While I think they got there, I think the impression that leadership battle left is something that's going to be a little harder to shake.
  • The Labour Party had a "Vote Positive" message during this campaign. It was a great message but it lacked something. It distanced them from talking about the dishonesty of government at the moment.
  • The, excuse my language here, Fucking Media.
    • During the Nicky Hager "Dirty Politics" fiasco, the media actively tried to persuade people from not reading the book. Instead saying things like "The average Kiwi doesn't want to read a book" and even putting the daughter of a somewhat troublesome media personality on TV to show people what the 'average' Kiwi thinks.
    • It even ended up in advertising. I was shocked and stunned when I saw a billboard advertising the TV show New Girl. It had the statement "All the dorkiness without the politicians" on it. In other words, the current state of affairs wasn't dishonest. It was just politicians being a little dorky.
    • Mike Hosking, on election night (I don't watch TV normally so I have little idea he kept up this line prior to election night), kept repeating the line "hell in a hand basket" when talking about any party on the left.
  • Despite ALL of the dishonesty shown by our government, the "preferred leader" numbers for David Cunliffe, leader of the Labour Party, bottomed out. I'm not sure what to make of this. But it did lead to a lot of people voting for "John Key" rather than for "National".
  • The Green Party is an up and coming party. While the public view little difference between National and Labour (though I think they're doing Labour a huge disservice by thinking this), the Green Party is starting to take that place of "caring for the people" that Labour previously held. While the Green Party has a strong environmental bent, they have an extensive policy portfolio. Rather than being seen as a sensible, "we're the only party to get our economic policy independently reviewed" party, they're still seen as being very much left.
  • The National Party have somehow managed to make people believe that they're the only ones who can sort out the economy. The supposed improved economy is something that puzzles me. With the growing poverty, working poor (an indicator that the minimum wage must go up), national debt levels, unemployment rate etc. I just have no idea how this is being measured and judged.
What needs to happen?

Well... We've now got a National government for another 3 years and we can't rely on them to do the right things. We need to be pushing for certain things to happen.
  • Raise the minimum wage. As the income inequality gap grows, demand lessens thereby stalling the economy. The currently accepted way of doing "stimulus packages" is ineffective in creating demand. Furthermore, those who are working should not be stuck in poverty. It's not the governments role to maintain a company's profit margins and if a business can not operate in a moral way without staying in business, then they don't deserve to be in business.
  • Foster the growth of emerging economies. New Zealand's technology exports is now third of all of our exports and is fast growing and sustainable. Yet no consideration is given to it.
  • Take care of our most vulnerable. We need to understand that poverty is not just a state of having no money. It's rather more complicated than that. The lack of money reduces options. The "Weetbix" discussion (I found this whole line of thinking troublesome on several fronts but the most ironic bit about is that it's a breakfast produced by Sanitarium. A company registered as a charity and owned by Seventh Day Adventists. It does not pay taxes) completely misses the point. If you have no money (and have had no money for a long time) there's a very good chance you also have no vehicle. Such a simple thing as a car makes a huge difference in terms of options. A trip to the supermarket for example... Meaning that in areas that can be considered food deserts, a local dairy/bakery can be seen as the only option. Long term poverty can lead to no longer thinking in terms of options at all. They need to be seen as people rather than drug addicts. We need to be fighting for ways out of poverty.
  • The insistence of lack of government control has lead to a hijacking of the concept. Rather than providing more freedom for people, it's turned into this idea that things should be privatized. In other words, getting out from under government's thumb and under for profits organisation's thumbs (or NGOs as to distract from the fact the profits come first). We need to be aware of this and to speak up when we see it happening. Without the mass bargaining power in things like healthcare, for example, healthcare costs significantly go up.
I think I've now accepted that over the next 3 years there's going to be very little that I can be proud of in New Zealand. This election has highlighted a few issues for me. 
  • The amount of racism in this country is astounding!
  • Despite the fact that we were the first country in the world to establish a welfare state, we have somehow stopped seeing our most vulnerable as people. 
  • Our clean green image is all but dead. While we used to value our environment as one of our biggest exports (tourism), the draw of oil drilling and dairy with promises of an improved economy (again... I want to know what the measures are here) comes at an expense that the New Zealand voters seem to be comfortable with.
  • I can only expect to experience the status quo. No nurturing of sustainable markets.

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