The Jackal

21 Jul 2017

The contrast between Labour and National is clear

With both leaders being equally wooden, the 2017 election looks set to be contested on policy and not just personality, which is a good thing.

There’s no question that New Zealand could do better... with the right levers in place our once great country could start to recover both socially and economically from the last global recession and the neoliberal dogma that has infected politics for far too long.

Obviously National will claim that we already have recovered, but all they’ve really done is created a false economy based on high immigration and inflation that has badly impacted middle and low income New Zealanders, who have been devalued in the current unsustainable system.

The real question will be if enough voter’s have seen and care about the social disintegration that has occurred under the current government? To highlight the damage, I’ve been asking the National party a few questions on Twitter about their once promised brighter future:

Of course none of the National MPs who frequent Twitter bothered to respond. They would prefer to pretend everything is fine based on some arbitrary numbers about the economy.

With National burying their heads in the sand by proposing more trickle down economics with tax cuts for the already wealthy, it’s good to see some coverage about Labour’s alternative budget in the media that shows they resolutely stand with the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden in New Zealand.

Today, Stuff reported:

Editorial: Clear fiscal choices are on offer 
Tax cut or social spend? Which is affordable? And if both are, which choice is better for New Zealand in the long run?

As political journalist Vernon Small says, Labour's recently released draft budget is relatively careful and even middle of the road. Only a "Right-wing warrior" could call it reckless. That warrior turned out to be Act leader David Seymour who quickly dubbed the Labour plan economically irresponsible. He was joined by National's Steven Joyce who attacked it as tax and spend.

But others have shown it is entirely manageable. Labour plan to spend an extra $17 billion over four years without going into deficit. Nearly half will come from cancelling the proposed tax cuts that National has dangled before voters. That gives Labour an extra $8.3b to play with, according to an analysis by Newsroom financial commentator Bernard Hickey.

One thing the media is currently getting wrong with the budget debate is that Labour is still proposing tax cuts for people on middle and low incomes… they just aren’t proposing to give the lions share to people who don’t need it.

20 Jul 2017

It’s time to take out the trash

The National party might pretend that they care about the environment, but they don’t. Instead it’s treated like an unlimited resource or throwaway item.

Instead of just being used to falsely advertise people into travelling here to drink polluted water, New Zealand's environment must be protected from ignorant politicians and polluting industries. We must ensure that there is a world worth inheriting left for the generations to come.

One way to do that is to reduce and recycle as much rubbish as we can, instead of just shipping it off to China.

Yesterday, Newshub reported:

Kiwis need new way to clean up as China closes dumps

China no longer wants to be the world's rubbish dump, announcing it will ban the import of 24 kinds of waste, including some plastics, metals and materials, by the end of the year.

The recycling industry in New Zealand says it should spark a rethink on what we throw out.

"This is not something that's going to happen overnight, it's not the wholesale closure of one market, but certainly it does start to make us think we are very reliant on one market and say, 'How do we stop producing this waste in the first place?'," Waste Management Institute's Paul Evans told Newshub.

We obviously have issues of scale in New Zealand meaning government intervention is required to ensure we reduce and recycle our waste.

"In New Zealand, there is a challenge around scale in the products we create and also these products require significant investment," Mr Evans said.

Waste management company Environ NZ is planning a plastics recycling plant for Canterbury and it says the Chinese decision could help its business case.

But the Greens say there's a better way.

"What we could be doing is reducing the amount of waste that we make, and that means taking a really hard line about unnecessary packaging," Green MP Denise Roche told Newshub.

Unfortunately National won’t sort the worsening rubbish problem in New Zealand. They prefer to just leave such things in the too hard basket or put everything in a landfill or burn it. The environment will always play second fiddle to vested business interests under a government led by Bill English.

But Kiwis aren't getting that message. Instead, it's just the opposite.

We send about 3.7 million tonnes of waste to landfills a year - 16 percent more than three years ago - and less than 6 percent of that was recycled.

Each New Zealander produces 3.2 tonnes of rubbish a year and less than 30 percent is recycled.

With China saying we don't want your trash, Kiwis will have to find a way to clean up their own mess.

The National party have proven themselves unreliable at organising even basic waste management programs. Just look at Nick Smith’s procrastination over the used tyres problem for instance. The environment will pay the price if there's no change in government come September 24.

National culpable for youth suicide

The youth suicide rate in New Zealand is atrocious! Every year it stands as an embarrassing failure of our system to look after and value young people properly. But why have things got so bad? Well one reason is a government that doesn’t really care. National is more concerned with token gestures to try and save face rather than actually putting money where it matters.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

More kids in crisis being turned away by public system

Now a deep-thinking 13-year-old, Max has a message for Prime Minister Bill English.

"My mum tried really hard to get me help. She rang many places, places that advertise that they are available 24/7, places that advertise that they are there for you if you need them.

"Nobody was. Nobody believed my mum that I was 10 and had been serious about killing myself," he wrote in a letter to the New Zealand Herald.

People looking for help and not finding it is an all too regular occurrence under National.

"I worry that the taxes we are paying aren't going to the places they should and we will continue to see a rise in child suicide because of this. I hope we can get Bill English to listen to us," Max wrote, signing off with a smiley face. 
Almost 2000 young people like Max were rejected or quickly referred on from specialist mental health services in New Zealand last year. That number, contained in documents released under the Official Information Act (OIA), grows every year.

It’s little wonder that New Zealand remains a world leader on youth suicide. If the government is failing to properly fund mental health and other frontline services and this is worsening people’s circumstances they’re in fact culpable for people committing suicide.

Under Section 179 of the Crimes Act it's illegal to assist someone else to commit suicide, which is arguably what the National led government is doing. They’re assisting hundreds of vulnerable people to commit suicide through a lack of proper funding for prevention services.

19 Jul 2017

The polarised immigration debate

The immigration debate has become badly polarised and you can understand why. On one side we have NZ First because it’s a vote winner and Labour because of their social conscience both wanting to reduce the number of immigrants coming into New Zealand.

On the other we have the Act party, Maori party and National all wanting to maintain or increase the flow of migrants into New Zealand to grow the economy. The Greens now appear to be sitting on the fence.

It’s true that migrants aren’t to blame for the lack of proper infrastructure that would allow them to better integrate without displacing New Zealanders. However that argument doesn’t help the current situation much, whereby wages are being kept artificially low through increased competition and housing is becoming more unaffordable for the same reason.

With the resources it has, New Zealand really shouldn’t be in a situation where we are struggling to look after the current population. That is where the priority should lie and why we should in the short-term look to set a limit. New Zealand simply cannot presently maintain a free-market approach to immigration on a global scale.

Claiming that such a view is “xenophobic and divisive” or that the people expressing it have “irrational fears” and that New Zealanders are “useless and don’t work hard enough” isn’t an argument based in reality. It’s an unconsidered reaction by people with very little intellectual ability or concern for New Zealanders.

When we have stories about migrant kiwifruit workers being taken for a ride, is it any wonder that such underhanded businesses cannot find enough Kiwi’s to fill those positions?

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Kiwifruit industry sting reveals workers ripped off

More than half the employers did not meet all minimum employment standards, including things such as providing employment agreements and paying the minimum wage.

Some employers were able to immediately address the breaches but 20 improvement notices and six enforceable undertakings were issued.

Two employers were issued with an infringement notice in addition to their improvement notice for $1000 each.

"There are no acceptable excuses for employers failing to meet all minimum standards or provide people with all their minimum entitlements," said Labour Inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan.

"Almost all of the employers found in breach were using migrant labour, which is concerning because these are vulnerable people who may not fully know their rights and entitlements. Significant arrears were uncovered with one employer owing more than $25,000 to their employees, and it's likely the lack of records is disguising more widespread non-compliance with minimum wage.

If the highly profitable kiwifruit industry were paying proper wages, they would be able to find enough Kiwi’s to fill those jobs. They would also find that local people work just as hard as migrants, who generally speaking also have very good work ethics. Immigration for the sake of increasing the profits of certain businesses is clearly a flawed argument.

Of course there are benefits to having a good number of immigrants settling in New Zealand and the diversified culture they bring, of that there is no question. But there are also negative consequences of having too many people competing for the same resources. Housing and low wages are two serious and long-term problems in New Zealand that will need time and considerable policy across the board to remedy.

It’s unfortunate to see that certain vested interests have entrenched themselves in unmovable positions and the issue has become somewhat of a political football. Confusing immigrants with refugees or asylum seekers and throwing baseless insults around isn’t going to progress the debate at all. But I guess that was never the intention of some of our biased politicians.

18 Jul 2017

Police are not entitled to special treatment

All too often in New Zealand people get away with serious crimes simply because of who they are or what they do. It’s a fault of our justice system, which often treats people differently and hands down sentences disproportionate to the crimes committed.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Court says man who harassed Dunedin businessman for 2.5 years can be revealed as policeman

The stalker who harassed a Dunedin businessman for two-and-a-half years can now be revealed as a police officer.

Constable Jeremy Fraser Buis, 39, was sentenced following a judge-alone trial in March to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay the victim, Danny Pryde, $15,000 after being found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage.

A very light sentence considering the crimes committed.

Buis had been on paid leave for nearly two-and-a-half years, which Basham stressed was standard employment practice.

At sentencing, Judge Paul Kellar suppressed the man's occupation at the request of defence counsel Anne Stevens.

Talk about preferential treatment… over two years on paid leave is just ridiculous! But suppressing Buis’ occupation simply because he was a police officer is entirely unacceptable! Thankfully I'm not the only one to think so.

But yesterday, the Otago Daily Times successfully appealed the ruling in the High Court at Dunedin.

Counsel Charlotte Carr said: "To treat a police officer differently could lead to ridicule and contempt from the public and to suppress a particular occupation invites a perception that certain classes of persons will be treated differently before the court."

Justice David Gendall said the judge's grounds for the suppression of the man's profession were unclear and he said there was "significant public interest" in the order being quashed.

"Ordering the suppression of Mr Buis' occupation because he is a police officer undermines the principle that all members of society are equal under the law," Gendall said.

"Police are not entitled to special treatment."

At least some people in our justice system get it. The public perception that police are somehow above the law must not be exacerbated by a biased justice system.

Hopefully in future Justice Gendall’s decision will stand as a test case and all requests for name suppression will be determined on the case and not the occupation or standing of the people involved.

In the mean time Buis should lose his taxpayer funded holiday and find a new occupation more befitting his credentials.