Friday, 29 August 2008

lesson in leadership

i know it's going to sound terribly partisan, but i still have to say it. the way helen clark has dealt with winston peters, her ability to negotiate the "standing aside" and the fact that she has treated him with dignity and respect even though she must be totally pissed off - all shows her very strong leadership skills. compare this with john key rubbing bill english's nose in the dirt a few weeks ago, and mr english then doing the same to maurice williamson re the toll roads. these guys don't have a clue about leadership and one has to wonder how they can possibly work constructively together in cabinet.

despite the stand-aside tonight, there will still be fallout from this whole thing. for a start, it has let national off the hook for a few days and may slow the momentum that labour has been building up for the past month or so. of course, alot now depends on the outcome of the two inquiries (SFO & privileges committee). dr cullen said in the house on thursday that labour really want mr glenn to front up to the PC, & it looks like he's going to do so.

an interesting point has been raised by colin espiner on his blog:

Incidentally, there is an intriguing side angle to all of this. The SFO, by launching an inquiry into Peters, has effectively saved its own life. A bill that was due to be passed under urgency by Parliament next week would have effectively abolished the SFO, reduced its powers, and folded staff into the police.

The SFO was vehemently opposed to this move, as you can imagine. So is the National Party. The bill has now been placed on hold while the investigation takes place. With only two weeks of Parliament remaining, it will almost certainly now not be passed. If National wins the election, it will never be passed.

I’m not for a moment suggesting the SFO launched the inquiry into Peters to save its own skin, just pointing out that Peters could justifiably claim a slight conflict of interest on the part of the SFO, given the benefit to itself of holding the inquiry.

the one thing you can say about mr peters (and believe me, i'm no fan of his) is that he has been providing plenty of entertainment. i don't think people have been this interested in politics for a long while.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

things are getting better

while we all wait to see how long mr peters can keep his job, there is actually other news. the MSD social report is out, with comment here and here. the good news being that income inequality has been reduced, as a result of the working for families package.

a list of key facts can be found here. a couple of the negative results are that housing affordability is down and it looks like we are not winning the battle on obesity. the latter is a difficult one to win, because any move to encourage healthy eating and exercise quickly get written off as "pc gone mad". in that kind of environment, persuading people to look after their health is a challenge.

i'm a little bemused with comments from the police association that the decision around the use of tasers has been politicised. greg o'connor has been criticising the commissioner's (and minister's) decision to go to parliament on this decision, saying that it is a matter for police. i strongly disagree. i don't think that it should be an internal matter for the police if they choose to arm themselves more heavily, particularly with a weapon such as the taser.

it is a matter for the public, and we are represented by our elected representatives. if the police wanted to make a decision to arm themselves with guns, they should not be allowed to take that decision without the public having their say. there does need to be some control over the power of the police, and that control is provided by the state, through parliament.

i should think that an act of parliament was required before the police could make any decision about the use of guns. i would have preferred an act of parliament in order for them to use tasers.

for mr o'connor to say that there should be no politics involved in the process is nonsense. there must be politics involved when there is an exercise of power. he wants the decision to be based on evidence, but evidence requires interpretation. and it requires someone independent from the police to be looking at it and making judgement.

in the absence of an act of parliament, at the very least parliament was consulted and the parties who could be bothered put forward their views. i fully support the move.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Race Relations in Aotearoa New Zealand

well, what a lot of things were happening in the political arena today. winston peters looks to be facing the end of his career, although i find it hard to believe that he will be beaten by the issues around the owen glenn donation. the fact that close-up's on-line poll had 30% of people not wanting him to be sacked as foreign minister was interesting. given that polls like this are hugely biased, and usually to the right, it was a surprising result. of course, it could mean every nz first party supporter in the country rang in 5 times. but if that wasn't the case, then mr peters may still get his 5% of the vote, if he can survive the current scandal.

funniest thing today was seeing john key trying to be tough and failing badly on close up. all he could confirm was that he wouldn't have mr peters in his cabinet; but he couldn't rule out going into coalition with nz first. what a difference the absence of paul henry has made in the past month or so. mike hosking has been doing a great job of asking the tough questions and demanding a straight answer. that he does so across the board and without favour is to his credit.

then there was the decision on the tasers. not sure that i support this one, even with all the provisions they have in place ie can't be carried by officers (have to be in the police car, not on their person); officers have to be properly trained to use them, and i think i heard something about an in-built recording mechanism. i have no doubt that police officers face some dangerous situations where their personal safety is at risk. but tasers just don't seem to be the right answer - they're pretty nasty and the statistics tariana turia quoted about the greater use of tasers against people of colour just make me feel wary. nonetheless, with the majority of parties supporting the move (the maori party and the greens were the exceptions), it looks like they will be used.

and finally, there was the emissions trading scheme which now has enough support to pass through all its stages before the election, which is great.

as promised yesterday, i've found the list of recipients of the diversity action awards:

Auckland Interfaith Council; Asia New Zealand Foundation; Changemakers Refugee Forum; Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand; Marlborough Migrant Centre; National Association of ESOL Home Tutors; New Plymouth District Council; TVNZ's Tagata Pasifika; Christchurch Art Gallery; and Waitakere City Libraries.

and also waikato museum and asia downunder. at the awards ceremony, the reasoning for each of the awards was given, and each of these were very worthy recipients.

the diversity forum also saw the launch of the statement on race relations in nz. i thought that the bill of rights would have covered all of this, but the statement does go much further. so while it includes freedom from discrimination and freedom of expression, it goes much further:

1. acknowledging the Treaty as the nation's founding document
2. freedom from discrimination
3. freedom of expression, including respecting the rights of others

4. the right to be free from harm
5. the opportunity to be involved in decision-making
6. the right to decent work, education, health services and housing
7. the right of newcomers to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as all New Zealanders
8. the opportunity to learn about our diverse society
9. the right to practise our own cultures and use our own languages
10. the responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of others and to contribute to harmonious race relations.

it's a pity that this has been overshadowed by the other news of the day. these statements are well worth discussing and debating around the country. number 5, for example, could have significant implications as would some of the others. it's time we had a healthy debate about this, one held without the usual nastiness and attempts at point scoring.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

diversity awards

i've had an extremely busy couple of days at the diversity forum. i took my older child to the youth forum on sunday, which she really enjoyed. sunday night, i went to a panel discussion at the town hall which was great. monday was a full day with so many interesting events on, it was really hard to choose. in the morning, i attended the police forum, and in the afternoon i was at the religious diversity forum.

then rushed off to radio nz for the panel with jim mora, and ended up opposite stephen franks. if you didn't manage to hear it yesterday, you can still listen from the radio nz website here and here. we had what i thought was a good discussion on MMP.

the funny bit was where stephen was trying to argue that people shouldn't vote based on policy but based on the people (personality cult anyone!). his rationale was that parties never delivered on the policies they campaigned on anyway. this is just so much nonsense. labour has been extremely busy delivering policy over the last 9 years, whether it's the primary health strategy (including cheaper doctors visits), the cap on tertiary fees and interest-free student loans, industry training and modern apprenticeships, paid parental leave, kiwibank, kiwisaver, kiwirail, etc etc etc.

stephen was simply trying to divert attention away from the fact that national has failed to provide detailed policy documents. and some policy is being announced by their spokespeople (as it should), only to be contradicted the next day by the leadership. there seem to be some serious problems inside the national party, and neither the behaviour of key nor english has been up to the standard that would develop cohesion and loyalty within the team. they'd do well if they only stuck to one very simple rule: don't embarras members of your own top team in public.

rodney hide's behaviour in the house today was appallingly bad. it looked like a very calculated intention to get himself thrown out of the house. the speaker gave him absolutely every opportunity, and at least 7 attempts to get his line of questioning right. but he was adamant that he wanted to get thrown out just so he could complain about being shut up.

he's an experienced MP, he knows the rules very well. he knew damn well he was breaking them. if he doesn't want to play by the rules, he should simply stay out of the house. for a party that has always had an extremely tough line on "law and order" (i prefer to call it justice), he seems to regard the rules of the house with complete contempt. i think he should get the harshest punishment he would have doled out to others who break the law.

for those interested in the US-india civil nuclear agreement, which i sort of wrote about at the very end of this post, a press release has been put out here. but i can't make any sense of it at all. it sounds like nz is going to allow india to have some kind of exemption so that the agreement can go ahead. i'd love to hear from anyone with more expertise in foreign affairs than moi to explain what exactly is happening here and what the implications are.

and on a more positive note, it was lovely to attend the cermony for diversity awards last night. i can't find a full list of the organisations who were given awards, but i'll keep looking over the next few days. waitakere library has a press release about their award here. other recipients were tagata pasifika, asia down under, waikato museum, and 8 others. wish i had a better memory! but it was really nice to see positive achievements recognised and celebrated. just a pity that none of the major media appear to have picked this up.

finally, it was great to catch up with so many familiar and friendly faces, as well as meeting new ones. julie middleton, ex herald journalist with a very positive focus on ethnic issues, is back in the country and it was lovely to see her. another person it was nice to see again was tom calma, aboriginal and torres strait island social justice commissioner and australian social justice and race relations commissioner. i had the opportunity to meet him a couple of years ago, and he struck me as a very wise man. he was chosen as the person who received the apology to the stolen generations, and responded to it.

and several people told me they read my blog, which was great! given that i'm so technologically incompetent i don't know how to work out how many hits i'm getting, the personal feedback makes me feel that the time i put into this is worthwhile.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

diversity forum

i won't be blogging for a few days now, as i'll be at the HRC diversity forum. there are so many wonderful events happening, it's hard to choose. i've got 3 on my list for monday morning, and another 3 i'd like to be at during the afternoon. tomorrow is similarly conflicted with both afternoon and evening running 2 concurrent sessions and i want to be at both.

you could say that the forum is simply a talkfest. which would be true. but if we don't talk about problems and discuss possible solutions, then how will anything change? there is the opportunity for government agencies and other organisations to get feedback from ethnic minority communities. there is the ability to make contacts and network. the research focused forum will be particularly useful in that regard. most importantly, it gives ethnic minorities a voice, and that is particularly important. there is nothing more empowering than being heard, with respect.

i'll be speaking at the religious diversity forum, along with verpal singh (you may have seen/heard him doing some media work after the death of navtej singh). the first part of the session has a focus "on the principles of safety and freedom from discrimination set out in the Statementon Religious Diversity." us two were chosen to speak because muslims and sikhs are the most visibly different religious minorities. interestingly, it's the women that stand out most for muslims, while the men stand out most with the sikhs. so it will be interesting to hear the difference in experiences of discrimination, from a gendered point of view.

now here's something i didn't know: 1 september is "gamble free day", organised by the problem gambling foundation. they are offering a "10% dining discount at the participating restaurants (137 restaurants in the five major cities in NZ)". you can get vouchers from this information came with the promo:

Did you know:
· Everyday in NZ $5.5 million is lost on gambling
· There are 14 convictions relating to gambling everyday
· Among those who seek help, the average amount of money lost from Asian clients is 7 times that of other ethnic clients

that last one is interesting. i wonder if it's because asians gamble more or because they wait longer before seeking help.

Friday, 22 August 2008

the asian radio show

just a quick note to promote a new radio show on radio live, which sapna samant has been involved with:

Starting on 23 August on Radio Live at 7.30 pm, THE ASIAN RADIO SHOW brings a different perspective to ‘being Asian’ in New Zealand. Funded by New Zealand On Air, this show aims to inform, entertain and engage audiences about life in Aotearoa New Zealand through Asian eyes. And sometimes about Asian lives through non-Asian eyes.

Being Asian in New Zealand is complex and The Asian Radio Show acknowledges that complexity through storytelling, reports, interviews and panel discussions with just a touch of irreverence.

Fronted by stand-up comedian and actor Tarun Mohanbhai and co-produced by thedownlowconcept and Holy Cow Media, The Asian Radio Show covers the spectrum from the frivolous to the important. From fashion to sexuality, health, politics, Asian posterchildren and even cosmetic dentistry in Cambodia. Issues that matter to all New Zealanders and are of relevance to those of Asian origin.

Mitch Harris of Radio Live says the show is another way of including New Zealanders from all backgrounds and experiences. “The Asian Radio Show isn’t just a show for people from Asia, or of Asian descent, it focuses on stories of interest for everyone but works to highlight issues often overlooked by mainstream media. I’m really looking forward to getting those stories out there.”

let me sheepishly admit that this is a little bit of self-promotion, in that i'll be on the first show along with pansy wong, discussing politics. i haven't heard the final cut of the show, so am hoping it comes out ok! but i think this is a great development nonetheless - a decent asian show on a commercial station, at a decent time. yay!!

and while i'm at it, i'll also be on radio nz's "the panel" on monday. wish me luck!

chris trotter has started a new blog, which i've added to the blogroll. i sometimes find that i violently disagree with what he writes, but the analysis is usually good and every now and then he'll come up with something absolutely stunning. in any case, i've had a look through a couple of posts, and it looks pretty good. chris is taking the trouble to interact with commenters, and they're keeping tight moderation on the comments. i wish him well with the blog.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

only words

i've spent a lot of the evening researching this comment relating to porn. so i'll leave you to read through that and some of the related links.

on the topic of hate speech, here is a comment from catherine mckinnon, from her book, "only words":

“We argued that group libel, most of it concededly expression, promotes the disadvantage of unequal groups; that group-based enmity, ill will, intolerance, and prejudice are the attitudinal engines of the exclusion, denigration, and subordination that make up and propel social inequality; that without bigotry, social systems of enforced separation, ghettoisation, and apartheid would be unnecessary, impossible, and unthinkable; that stereotyping and stigmatisation of historically disadvantaged groups through group hate propaganda shape their social image and reputation, which controls their access to opportunities more powerfully than their individual abilities ever do; and that it is impossible for an individual to receive equality of opportunity when surrounded by an atmosphere of group hate.

“We argued that group defamation is a verbal form inequality takes. . . . We argued that group defamation in this sense is not a mere expression of opinion but a practice of discrimination in verbal form, a link in systemic discrimination that keeps target groups in subordinated positions through the promotion of terror, intolerance, degradation, segregation, exclusion, vilification, violence, and genocide.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


it seems that everyone is into diversity at the moment. the police join in the act, with an increasing level of diversity in their new recruits. this is as a result of significant promotion within ethnic minority communities. the low numbers of women graduate is a concern though, with only 16 female graduates out of 76.

in case you missed it, i posted a photograph of roqaya al-gassra at the hand mirror yesterday. she's in the semi-finals tonight, i'm hoping she does well.

and i see the media has finally caught up with the discussion paper on changes to sexual violence legislation, which i wrote about last week. the reactions have focused on the suggestion that there be some requirement for the accused to show what steps he took to obtain consent. it's a significant change, but significant changes are required if we are going to improve the current situation.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

tiring day

i've had another extremely busy day today. there was an open day at shama, to commemorate our 7th anniversary. then there was a waikato interfaith council meeting, but i couldn't stay for long. then rush back home for a teleconference. and that was in addition to the normal workday and kids to deal with!

the open day at shama was great. finally, after all these 7 years, i was able to stand up and say that we are on our feet and delivering successful programmes. after all these years of struggle, of ups and down and almost shutting up shop, we are finally a fully functioning ethnic women's centre providing a range of programmes and support for the ethnic women of hamilton and the waikato.

and finally, i'm so glad that there is going to be a pre-march in front of the boobs on bikes parade tomorrow organised by the auckland women's centre. i can't remember where i read it first, but i echo the sentiment that it's so great someone is finally standing up against this stuff. wish i could have been there.

Monday, 18 August 2008

national's candidates

pop over to the hand mirror, to see my post on national's women candidates.

other interesting points on their list are:
- the fall of david bennett, in light of chris finlayson, nathan guy, craig foss and chris tremain all rising spectacularly on the list;
- the rise of maurice williamson, that failed minister of transport and of telecommunications, who set nz back more than 10 years due to his inability to ensure significant investment in these areas;
- the old guard all staying put, including mr brownlee, mr ryall, mr power, mr david carter, the 2 dr smiths, and dr mapp. all in the top 15, and all have been there for years. no mood for renewal at the top of the party then.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

te hurihanga - the turning point

there's a lovely piece in the waikato times this weekend about the pilot youth justice programme, te hurihanga. the programme was developed:

in the mid-1990s, when Judge Carolyn Henwood, a Wellington Youth Court judge, kept seeing young men coming before her bench not once or twice, but multiple times... After researching overseas programmes, she developed the seed of the idea that would become Te Hurihanga, focusing on sustaining and nurturing these young men, and the communities surrounding them.

the programme is intensive and expenisve, involving live-in facilities, education, counselling and also support for the whole family. it is the best way to help these young men turn their lives around.

unfortunately the project has had a chequered history, mostly because no suburb in hamilton wanted to have the facility in their neighbourhood. the level of antagonism has been incredibly high and quite sad. the project moved from suburb to suburb, with mayoral candidates and electorate candidates whipping up the fear and hysteria in the quest for votes.

the unit was finally set up in the outskirts of hillcrest, and the opposition by the "hillcrest action group" (hag for short!) has been pretty nasty. i understand and agree with the right of communities to protest. i understand the fears people had of the young men running away from the unit, and therefore possibly being a danger to the neighbourhood. i particularly understand the anger at the politics involved in the decision-making process.

however, i don't think any of that justifies the lengths to which these people went. for example, they distributed pamphlets (cheap A4 photocopies) to mailboxes in the neighbourhood that had patently false information. now hag denies any involvement, but someone from the suburb claimed that the unit would house sexual offenders and violent criminals who could escape to molest children in the neighbourhood. this was totally untrue.

then there were the defacements of public property, with little coloured posters being glued on to lights on the main highways and other places. there were the unauthorised, nasty messages delivered into letterboxes during local body elections against city councillors who were deemed to have supported the project. but the worst were the signs at the foundation laying ceremony. as i went into the te ara hou village, i saw very young children holding signs that read "sod off".

it amazes that the parents of these children didn't think about the lessons they were giving these kids. they were teaching their children to hate, to be aggressive, to ignore the law, and all for a project that will, in the long run, make their communities safer. after all, the young men who enter the programmes are already out in the streets, already involved in burglaries, probably in their neighbourhood. having them in a facility helping to turn their lives around would be much safer than having them in custody for a few months then back on the street to offend again.

i'm proud to have been a member of the te hurihanga support group, from the earliest days of the project moving to hillcrest. this has been a group of committed people in the area making sure the staff of the project know they are supported and welcomed. the staff are truly wonderful, and the research backing the project, which they are happy to share with anyone, is absolutely solid.

it's wonderful that the unit is proving that it can change the lives of these young men. and kudos to the young men as well. it takes a lot of courage to take that first step, to acknowledge that the life you're leading is not going to lead to any place good, and to make a commitment to change. many of them will have come from difficult family situations, which is why the work with the whole family is so important.

i hope that this pilot can now be taken to other cities, hopefully with a lot less antagonism.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

improvements to sexual violence legislation

have posted at the hand mirror tonight.

my thoughts are with the PM tonight, as she is no doubt grieving for the loss of a friend.

and if you haven't already, read this piece in the herald.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

investing in vulnerable children

it's too late for me to write anything meaningful tonight, have been busy with other things. so best to direct you to other places, such as this excellent post by russell brown on the situation in georgia, with some great links. and this interesting piece forwarded to me by janfrie wakim, written by a muslim woman in india. it may be a little difficult to follow, with the arabic words interspersed (talaq means divorce, ulema means religious scholars), but her conclusion is brilliant:

Sitting in that office, listening to the maulanas and sharing with them my own views, I realized the need for conscious efforts to be made to bridge the gap between the ulema and Muslim women. There is a desperate need for forums whereby Muslim women and the ulema can interact, exchange views and learn from each other’s experiences in a spirit of genuine sharing. From that dialogue, who knows, might emerge possibilities of helping bring Muslim women out of that ‘dangerous triangle’ that invisiblised and silenced all their issues and concerns by framing discourse about them simply in terms of arbitrary divorce, polygamy and the veil. Sadly, the need for that dialogue is too easily brushed aside by many of those involved in debates about Muslim women who refuse to listen to other points of view—and these include many women’s activists and traditional ulema alike.

finally, some useful points about child abuse prevention as an election issue are raised in this press release from dr annabel taylor from canterbury university:

“It is encouraging that notifications have increased, as this appears to indicate a growing intolerance of child abuse and neglect within New Zealand communities, rather than an increase in the incidence of abuse.

“What to do with the children suffering from abuse and neglect is the important next step to take. Early intervention is crucial. Working intensively with high-risk families is the most successfully proven method of reducing the risk, and therefore the incidence, of child abuse. It is the Family Help Trust’s experience that families want to do better, but they need support to do this,” she said.

According to Annabel Taylor, the next step is to ask how much New Zealanders are prepared to invest in caring for the most vulnerable children.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

vote this way

yesterday i forgot to link to this piece by tapu misa, which is one of the best i've read on the herceptin debate. the real concern is of the failure to publish full data:

A recent article in the Lancet claimed that Herceptin as used throughout much of the world is much less effective than thought because important clinical data from 1000 women has been omitted from published results, resulting in "publication bias".

As the Lancet's editor Richard Horton has noted, some crucial data on side-effects was missing, and the fact that results from two of the three trials had been combined suggest "that neither trial alone would demonstrate a positive result".

given that some of these side effects could include serious heart problems, there really should be some rules against the hiding of unfavourable data - though i don't know how you'd police it.

my fellow-bloggers at the hand mirror have posted in full detail on the national party's welfare policy, and it's well worth popping over to have a read. judith collins was on radio nz this morning, stating that there would be no need to employ extra staff at MSD to carry out all the extra checks on beneficiaries. this was because she claimed there were only a third of them on the "front line". the PSA shows refutes that:

“The facts are that more than 90% of the staff at the Ministry of Social Development are involved in front-line work,” says Public Service Association National Secretary, Brenda Pilott. “The other 9.7% perform essential work providing legal, financial, IT, human resource, policy and communications support to the front line staff.”

of course, unless ms collins gives us the source data and her definition of what constitutes front-line and back-line staff, we can only suppose she is talking nonsense. if she's getting her data from ANZ chief economist cameron bagrie, then she definitely is.

in other news, the catholic church hierarchy has decided not to render unto ceaser, in that they are providing guidance for members of the faith in order to help them make their voting decision. of course they are careful not to endorse any particular party. however, having read through some of the issues in the article, i find that it would be difficult to make any kind of decision based on the list given. unless you go for a lefty christian party that embraces social justice, opposes a hard-line justice policy, rejects racism but also opposes homosexuality and abortion. i haven't yet seen a party which has that particular mix of policies. therefore, you'd have to make trade-offs based on the values you think are most important. it's not clear from the article any guidance has been given to the faithful on which issues they should place before others, and without that, the list is not very helpful.

and finally, i came across a situation at work last week where a client had an investment with ING. remember that ANZ pretty much pushed their clients into the ING investments, and when they bought out national bank, those clients got the same treatment. in previous years, the investment would pay out an amount of income (in cash) from the investment every quarter.

since october last year, ING chose to take advantage of changes in tax rules, which meant that income from that investment is no longer taxable to investors. that sounds really good, except that it has also meant that they no longer pay out any cash distribution either. i rang their 0800 number to confirm this. for elderly clients who rely on the cash to meet their daily living expenses, this is a real blow.

never mind, you say. just take the money out and invest it somewhere else. except you can't do that. ING is one of those that has frozen the funds so that investors can't make that decision. i think it's appalling that this can happen. of course it's better than the bridgecorp investors who lose their nest eggs or blue chip investors who are losing the homes that represent their life savings. but it's still pretty rotten that companies in the finance sector can get away with this kind of behaviour.

Monday, 11 August 2008

the crime of poverty

while everyone is occupied with the olympics (including moi), there are other happenings in the world. the oil wars are spreading. we already have US & the "coalition of the willing" in iraq; what looks like US/europe/israel against iran maybe backed by china teetering at the edge; and now russia against georgia, with the UN taking a strong interest. while the current situation in georgia may die down, the quick escalation of the conflict shows that it won't take much for things to go seriously wrong.

in local news, i can't believe that christchurch city council has bailed out property developer dave henderson, at a cost of $17 million. this is the same council that couldn't see fit to provide rent relief for its poorer citizens. most galling with this decision is the 3 day time limit for councillor to make a decision, and the lack of public scrutiny allowed. it's so typical of the right, providing corporate welfare while ignoring those that really need help. this similar to the situation in america, where billions of dollars of federal funds have gone to failing finance companies, while those at the bottom are losing their homes through foreclosures.

and in that spirit, the national party has decided to dump on solo mothers and sickness beneficiaries. there's plenty of analysis at the standard, as well as from gordon campbell and a piece here from rogernome. best bit from the standard to show what a waste of time this policy is:

All of this is silly solutions in search of a problem. Beneficiary numbers are falling, the cost of the system is falling, and the number of long-term beneficiaries is falling even faster. The DPB work requirements would not apply to the 60% of recipients caring for a child under 6, or the 20% already earning an income, or the 22% who state their child’s health is a barrier to work. The 29% who state their own health is a barrier to work might simply be shifted to the invalids’ benefit. And what of the few it does apply to? What if they can’t find work that neatly fits within school hours? Should they leave their children home alone or just keep attending taxpayer-funded training? There is no long-term DPB dependency problem: 64% of DPB recipients have been getting it less than four years and only 11% (that’s 10,000 parents) have had it for longer than 10 years (many of them will have children with severe health issues). This is not about solutions; it’s just beneficiary bashing to grab a few votes.

another tendency of those on the right is to save their nastiest attacks for those they deem the least able to speak back. hence in the 2005 campaign, we had the rt hon winston peters with his "end of tolerance" speech, taking it to the muslim community. beneficiaries are a much easier target, because a lot of them also tend to be people of colour. so you can have a subtly racist attack without appearing to do such a thing. you can ignore the structural barriers that are a large factor in the under-achievement of this group of people, and punish them for problems that are often not of their making.

but this is also a gender attack (given that the majority on the DPB are women). it's an attack on women who are deemed not worthy enough to be mothers. that such women, and more importantly their children, need greater support to achieve better outcomes is totally ignored. as rogernome points out, national has not yet shown it's prepared to put the money towards the kind of support solo-parents need:

As justification for its attack on solo parents, National decries NZ's low solo-parent employment rate (44%), whilst celebrating the success of the Nordic countries, which have comparable figures of 70-80%. See page 7 of the background paper . What National doesn't reveal is the fact that, these results have only been achieved through a generous welfare state, which provides very cheap day-care ($50 per-week in Sweden) and long periods of paid maternal leave (13 months at 80% of total normal pay). These of course are policies that National wouldn't dream of introducing, so it's a bit hypocritical for them to be citing these countries as success stories.

finally, this story about an indian diplomat coming to seek support for its nuclear deal with america. india used to be the country that lead the non-aligned movement, and a key campaigner on international disarmament. i find it especially sad to see that they have moved so far away from that good work, as the governments of the last decade or so have become increasingly right-wing and hardline. i hope that our government will be able to stand out against this move. nuclear escalation is a bad thing, no matter where it happens.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

public sector unions

have posted on a few topics at the hand mirror.

also wanted to share this press release refuting the claim by prof john gibson that public servants are paid way more than their private sectors counterparts, and this is because of the evil unions. ok, he didn't say "evil". but the research frankly astounds me. not only does it appear to be inaccurate, but what does it hope to achieve. does prof gibson want public servants to earn a lot less, thereby presumably keeping private sector wages low? but isn't one of nz's problems that it already is a a low-wage economy???

and if his research is correct, and presuming that we all agree that nz should be a high-wage economy, then the conclusion would surely be that we need to strengthen the bargaining power of private sector unions. because his results seems to be showing that effective collective bargaining raises wage levels. so why is he concluding that public sector unions are doing us a disservice by being effective? they are showing us what good unions can do for those they represent, and if the employment contracts act had not been brought in, we would have seen similar gains in the private sector.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

how not to behave under pressure

while i previously had some sympathy for the national pary in regards to the secret recordings at their conference (and i still do believe the concerns raised in my earlier post are valid), all such sympathy has gone out the window.

john key's various interviews full of baseless accusations today are pathetic and dishonest. on morning report he accused helen clark of getting nicky hager to "steal" national party emails. that would be the same nicky hager who caused considerable trouble for labour in the 2002 campaign. hardly the person she would first turn to, even if she were inclined to indulge in such activity. and mr hager has always maintained that the emails (and minutes of national party meetings and dr brash's diary and other papers, conveniently forgotten) were given to him by a national party insider.

but for mr key to make such an accusation, with absolutely no proof is appalling. this is what you call a personal attack, and totally uncalled for.

he has then gone on to accuse the labour party of being responsible for the recordings. again, without any proof whatsoever. his basis for this claim is that a couple of young labour members tried to infiltrate the national party conference and were ejected. that claim is shown to be total bollocks here. in any case, party conferences have pretty tight security and you can't get in without being a member who is vouched for by other more senior members. moreover, duncan garner stated on 3news tonight that the person he received the recordings from has claimed not to be a member of any political party.

mr garner stated this in the first item of news at 6pm today, yet mr key was on close-up at 7pm still making baseless accusations. he'd had 50 minutes to be advised, and to rein in his comments, but his advisors must be pretty useless, and he himself not particularly interested in the truth. mike hoskings put it to mr key a couple of times that he "was flying a kite" ie had no idea if any member of the labour party was actually involved. here was an opportunity for mr key to say "no, i don't know it for a fact, i'll wait til our investigations are complete", but no, he carried on with his accusations.

if it turns out that he is wrong, then i expect a pretty public apology from him. mr hager and the PM deserve an apology anyway for the accusations against them. how people act under pressure is telling, and if this how mr key responds to a mini-scandal, i'd hate to think how he (in)effective he could be if in charge when there is a real crisis that will affect the lives of people in this country. let's just hope that never happens.

the biggest mistake, however, is not all of the above. i think he made his greatest tactical error in requiring bill english to apologise yesterday. it was humiliating for mr english, made even more so by mr key glowering beside him, chock-full of hostility. for a start, mr key needs to learn how to stand by members of his team, even when they do wrong. there are many instances of the PM doing this - remember JT's apology, which ended with him crying on the PM's shoulder (unaware that the camera was on them). she supported david benson-pope until it was impossible to do so, similarly taito philip field. even when you sack one of your team, you have to be sure to do it in a way that is as sensitive as possible. you certainly don't put on the show that we had with bill english's apology.

in this case, i don't think mr english had even done anything that bad. i had the distinct feeling, watching the apology, that mr key was rubbing mr english's nose in it. that is surely going to come back to haunt him. leadership is about turning your enemies into allies. as helen clark has done with michael cullen (who tried to oust her from the leadership), jim anderton (who had a very major fall-out in the late 80s) and winston peters (who dealt very poorly with the labour party in the post-1996 election negotiations).

mr key has shown this week that he does not have anywhere near the leadership skills that are required to keep a united team, and on top of that, to manage delicate MMP relationships with other parties. if his team do stay united uptil the election, it will be because of mr english's forgiving nature (or his thirst for power), not because of mr key's abilities.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

islam awareness week

it's islam awareness week this week. bit of a funny title, as if islam is a condition that people need more knowledge about. at the time that it was started, i think that's exactly what it felt like. IAW was a response to the hostility against muslim that arose out of the 11 sept bombings in america. it has become an annual event in nz for the last few years, with a variety of events organised for the week. it was actually initiated by muslim university students associations that held events at our universities. but the rest of the community has picked up the concept, and events are now a little more co-ordinated across the country.

i went to one such event in hamilton tonight, at the hamilton city council reception lounge. in comparison to previous years, the crowd was a little light. in a way, it didn't seem like a bad thing. it's a reflection that the level of hostility against muslims has begun to recede, or that we've achieved a little bit of normalcy. i don't know, it somehow seemed to be a sign that people have come to accept us as part of the furniture rather as a complete oddity. or maybe i'm being overly optimistic, and people are just bored & we're no longer a novelty.

nonetheless, it's important to give the wider community an opportunity to interact with the muslim community, and vice versa. it's like sharing diwali celebrations with the hindu community or chinese new year. or the visit i made to the mormon temple in december last year - which i must admit felt a little wierd, but at least it was a positive interaction. which is important in building a strong community.

great to see that children's commissioner cindy kiro has won an apology from radio live for comment made by michael laws. i have a lot of respect for ms kiro, having heard her speak twice, and following the work she does via the media. i get sick of the criticism hurled against her when she advocates for children, especially by those claiming to have strong family values.

Monday, 4 August 2008

party conferences

i've posted at the hand mirror.

there's been a lot of comment in the media and the blogs about bill english's recorded conversation at the national party conference. sure, there were some interesting tidbits, like his intention to sell kiwibank at some point, and this was a bit of an eye-opener:

And the reality is if we had been the government with the surpluses they had, we would have had something, like working for families, but not the same. We would have given them quite a bit of cash back. And what happens is – you go in there to try and change it, frankly Don and co got a bit carried away, cos they didn’t understand it. If you give people money then, it is very hard, there’s a set of inevitable problems. It’s like physics, right. If you push something up its gonna drop. If you give people cash, you have high marginal tax rates. OK, that’s it. You can’t get round that. Don thought he could but he couldn’t. So did John, actually – but you can’t. So the only – the raw choice is: fix the problems; or take money off them. And there’s no way you can fix the problems without taking money off them.... So later on we’re gonna have to have a bit of a sort out. Yeah, we’re gonna do something, but we can’t do it now.

hmm. but aside from all that, which is quite worrying, there is also the worry of political party conferences being hijacked by the media. it happened at the labour party conference as well, with someone taping a mike william's speech that wasn't open to the media.

what this means is that party members aren't free to have discussions at their own party conferences. that is a problem. i accept that the conferences are pretty-much staged and choreographed media events a lot of the time. but for the rest of the time, it's an opportunity for party members to get access to MPs and (in labour's case) ministers. it's a time to have serious discussion about policy, and to air and share a variety of views.

i would hate to think that all of that is to be compromised just so the media can get it's scandal for the week. yes, i agree it's important for nz'ers to see what someone like bill english really thinks. we need to know what the nats are not prepared to tell us in the public sphere. but i feel distinctly uncomfortable with it happening in this kind of context. i could cope with the ian wishart job done on john tamihere, mostly because it was a one-on-one situation. i can cope with leaked documents and emails, especially if they are leaked by an insider who is having doubts about the ethics of what is going on.

but there does need to be a safe space for party activists to have conversations, and if that is not going to be at a party conference then where will it be?

but the best bit of the conference had to be bob clarkson thanking the 150 brethren who helped him win his seat. pity he didn't clarify how, although it's almost certain they were involved in push-polling. (for those who don't know, it means calling up voters and asking questions like "would you vote for john mccain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" the truth is that senator mccain adopted a bengali child, but the way the question is posed, the listener who doesn't know that will come away believing that he did what the question suggests. note that the questions also relies on latent racism).

we certainly felt the effects of the brethren campaign here in hamilton. while i don't have any problems with any political or religious group getting involved with campaigning, i do have a problem when they remain hidden and when they use dirty tactics. if they want to be involved, they should have been honest and up-front about it.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

regulation can be good

i had a lovely day on friday. i drove down to new plymouth to speak to a women's group there and meet up with the settlement support co-ordinator. i've found that speaking to groups in small towns is not as daunting as you would think. i used to be a little nervous, thinking that they would be more hostile than a metropolitan crowd. in that they may have less interaction with ethnic minorities, particularly ones that are so obviously different as me!

but they were a wonderful audience, and i had a lot of positive feedback. i was really interested in one of the programmes they have running there. it's basically a mentoring programme, where a women's group (forgot what it's called) take responsibility for providing one mentor for each ethnic minority migrant woman. the mentor will take her shopping, to the doctor, or just help out as needed. i thought it was really sweet, and an effective way of making migrants feel welcome.

this piece from hon lianne dalziell in the herald is worth a read. it's about regulation for the finance sector, particularly around financial advisors (ie the people who advised you to your money into bridgecorp or five star finance, but didn't tell you they were getting paid a nice commission to do so) and non-bank deposit-takers (ie finance companies).

an important point she makes is that:

the Government cannot legislate to eliminate risk. And even if we could, we wouldn't, because without it we would have no entrepreneurship, no investment, no innovation and no growth to ignite our transformational ambitions for New Zealand.

also found this piece interesting, although i don't agree with everything the writer says. i found the link in the comments section of gordon campbell's latest post on the olympics. mr campbell's post covers the human rights abuses in china, particularly leading up to the olympics. the brendan o'neill piece talks about the double standards in protests against china. i don't think the fact that other countries commit human rights abuses should be a reason to not speak out about what's happening in china. however, we should be equally vocal in highlighting other abuses around the world.