Wednesday, 22 April 2009

hidden costs

i started a post last night, but with other stuff needing to be done, i didn't get very far. so i'm starting again.

i did want to raise a couple of refugee issues that i heard at the waikato interfaith council AGM. one of the sad things was that the woman who spoke to us said that she didn't often share what she did for a job with people she didn't know well. the reason being that disclosing her job would often result in a 20 minute anti-immigrant tirade that she didn't have the energy to deal with. bringing people around to identifying with refugees is a time-consuming business, and not always successful.

there was an example of a refugee family moving into a state house in a more affluent neighbourhood. neighbours had written letters of protest before the family had even arrived in the country, in an attempt to prevent them from moving into that house. thankfully, things have improved but not without effort.

the speaker talked about the importance of faith for successful settlement. trying experiences have differing impacts on the level of faith - some refugees found they became stronger in their faith, others found they moved away from it. faith communities in nz have been very helpful in providing a support system and a network for these families.

the issue of trust was an interesting one. refugees understandably found it difficult to trust those in authority, and also to trust the new community they were coming to. some of this was based on fear, such as the fear that children would be subject to strong evangelical activity designed to convert them. these fears often act as a barrier, preventing them from forming strong relationships with local residents.

settlement services put a lot of effort into breaking down those barriers and helping to develop those relationships. the work of volunteers who mentor refugees is crucial and can lead to long-lasting friendships.

onto other things, i too am disappointed that nz wasn't represented at a government level at the durban conference on racism. i think this piece at larvatus prodeo raises an interesting issue:

As things stand, the boycott call has been taken up by the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, and according to Wikipedia by Sweden. The European Union and several of the EU’s member states are still considering their position. At any event it appears that the boycott of a UN conference on racism wll be confined almost exclusively to countries of the wealthy white West, including several former colonial powers who arguably have unfinished business in relation to their former colonies and the peoples thereof, and four products of British colonialism who certainly have unfinished business with their indigenous peoples.

the rest of the post and the comments section is well worth a read, if for nothing else than the fact that these issues were debated in a respectful manner. funny how it's more off at the leftwing blogs where the meaningful discussions can occur.

finally, a government that promised to boost jobs and the economy is busy cutting jobs in the public service. i'm feeling the direct effects of this at work, and with more cuts to come at inland revenue, things will only get worse. until last year, tax agents (accountants & the like) could get through to the IRD by phone within 10 minutes, and if you called at the right time of the day, you'd get through immediately.

now, call waiting times are usually around 15-20 minutes, and in order to avoid this wait, you can leave a message and someone will call you back. they do get back to you in an hour or so, which isn't too bad. but it's still annoying, because you have to put the file away, and then be interrupted from other work to go back to it when you get the call back. it adds time to the job.

but worse, many times the lines are so busy that you can't even leave a message and are told to call back at another time. that is just inexcusable. IRD had enough staff last year to answer calls, why can't they do it this year? again, it means adding time to the job, as you have to keep trying to get through.

these costs get passed on to our clients, who have to pay a higher bill because things are taking longer. so, while the government offers (measly) tax cuts on the one hand, they make you worse off because of these hidden costs which are never factored into any equation anywhere.

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