Friday, 29 May 2009

not making sense

isn't amazing how many different ways people find to make life hell for others. i find it so difficult to understand really, this lack of empathy or concern about the effects of one's own actions. the inability to see beyond one's own experiences and imagine what life must be like for another. the willful decision to put one own's happiness above everything else, with a total disregard of the impact it will have.

which is not to say that i've never hurt anyone else. i know that i have, and there are some things that i would change if i could. but i can't think of a time when i deliberately carried out an action with an intent to cause pain. it's usually more of a lack of care on my part, a lack of sufficient thought as to consequences or how things would be interpreted.

but how to explain deliberate acts of cruelness or selfishness. i'm not a psychologist, so don't have at my fingertips any behavioural theories or particular knowledge of human development. i guess a lot of it is because of upbringing, and a result of nasty experiences. a cycle of misbehaviour as it were.

i'm rambling here, i know, because i've had a difficult day and am finding it hard to make sense of things. the best thing no doubt is to accept that things just don't make sense and there are no easy answers. i'm sure a good night's sleep will help.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

budget 2009

the budget has been delivered and it's not as bad as it could have been, which doesn't mean that it's good. the tax cuts are gone but they were never viable in the first place and that was clear in october last year. to promise tax cuts during that campaign, given the economic forecasts, were nothing short of duplicitous.

which takes us back to the 80s and 90s, when all sorts of promises were made during campaign time but the exact opposite was done within months after the election. hence the rt hon helen clark being extremely careful about what she promised. by sticking the rule of "underpromise, overdeliver", at least she brought some level of trust back to campaign promises.

there are a lot of hidden cuts in the budget as well as some pretty open ones. many others have talked about those. but i get very annoyed that all these cuts are being blamed on the recession. a lot of them can be blamed directly on the 1 april 2009 cuts, which should have been cancelled as well. that's money that could have been directed to social programmes, such as the sexual abuse help line, or the drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme at whaimarama youth complex which has just been told of a funding cut.

i was talking to the manager of budget advisory services in hamilton this morning. of course they are getting more clients than ever, but are facing a very uncertain future when it comes to their own funding. it looks like the "pathways to partnership" funding has been partly brought forward, and the rest may be cut.

at the same time, the modern apprenticeship scheme has been cut, as have various tertiary education scholarships. and the training component of the 9-day fortnight (which was the main point of the proposal in the first place) was never put in place. so at a time when investment should be made into upskilling nz'ers so that we are well placed when we come out of recession, all we get are cuts.

similarly in the area of research and development, particularly in the agricultural sector which surely needs it at a time of falling dairy prices, there is a total lack of investment. jim anderton gave a very good budget speech today, but i can't find it on-line just now. he spoke really well about R&D and about the superannuation fund.

all in all, pretty depressing response to the current economic situation.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

resisting the drug companies

another night with no time for a decent post. i found this piece on morning report today quite interesting. it's about some australian & nz psychiatrists who are boycotting their main annual conference, because they don't believe such conferences should be funded by drug companies.

the person spoken to explained how they had put forward proposals for alternative funding models, and the possibility of psychiatrists paying a conference fee to cover the costs. he also mentioned that the conferences could be done significantly more cheaply.

i know that accountants don't get commercial sponsors paying the costs of our conferences. accounting firms pay the costs for their staff and partners/directors. given that CA's have to complete 20 hours of structured professional development each year, it's a significant cost. i'm sure if the accounting profession can wear the costs, then so can the psychiatrists.

what was more telling was this particular psychiatrist talking about the influence that drug company representatives have on prescriptions decisions. decisions that should be made based on scientific evidence, not on slick PR.

good on this group to try and break away from the influence of drug companies, and i hope it's catching!

and in the meantime, pity the poor of california as their governor chooses to cut programmes that will significantly impact on the vulnerable, rather than raise taxes on the wealthy who are better able to weather the cost. i seriously hope that we aren't going to see shades of this in the budget tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

more cuts to services

i've put up a couple of posts at the hand mirror today, one about research on political leanings of parents of daughters and the other on funding cuts to the sexual abuse crisis line.

Monday, 25 May 2009

campaigning in mt albert

i had to be in auckland this saturday, so took the opportunity to spend time on the mt albert campaign. i had a great time, and the campaign is very well-organised and vibrant. volunteers were coming through the door all day, and there was a really electric atmosphere.

i did some door-knocking on one of the nicer streets, and we got a reasonable response. there were some undecideds and a couple of i-don't-cares. funniest was one fellow who told me he was a definite nat, but would be voting for david shearer because of that melissa lee. and i think this is one the main problems she faces: she has alienated some of national's core support.

also did a spot of leafletting and got called a communist - well not directly. some middle-aged white guy said something along the lines of "are those pamphlets from that communist labour party?". yeah, really witty. i wish i'd asked him if his parents had smacked him when he was little.

it was certainly an interesting day, and it helped that it was bright and sunny. and once again, i have to hand it to the volunteers. all those people who put in countless hours for a cause they believe in and for no personal gain. it's so frustrating that the rest of the population don't realise the benefit they receive from these people who are basically the wheels of our democracy. there are the people who think about policy and put forward ideas and who debate the issues; those who work on fundraising; those who volunteer for the dull administrative work; those who pound the pavement, and plenty more.

these are the people who ensure the party functions and provides a vehicle for social democratic ideas to become part of government policy. i salute you all, you're doing a wonderful job.

Friday, 22 May 2009

winter show

i put up a post on the hand mirror last night about the impact of culture & environment on individual choices, and another one this morning about the so-called "no moan zone" idea that came out of an entrpreneurial summit.

tonight we went to the waikat winter show. i haven't been for years and wanted to take the kids. it was good night to be there, if you don't like crowds cos pretty much everyone else was at the rugby. so no queues for the rides, no waiting in line for your hot chips. but it was sooooo cold.

not much of a show though, not like i remember from my younger days. a lot of the stalls were empty, and there weren't many rides. i guess it's a testament to the fact that there are so many other forms of entertainment these days, and so many regular events where you can get similar types of entertainment. still, the girls went on something called "kamikaze" which looked pretty nasty but they claim to have enjoyed it. and of course we had to go on the dodgems, i absolutely love those!!!

but still, there was the feeling that the show was part of a bygone era and not likely to last too much longer. which seems sad really - even our leisure activities are increasingly being run by big business.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

the things we do

tonight i've been busy preparing a lecture for 4th year finance students which i have to deliver on friday. apparently universities want lectures to have a quota of speakers from out "in the real world" (as if uni is some kind of fake or pretend world). but they don't want to pay for them any more - budget constraints and all that. scumbags.

but this is a favour for an acquaintance (i so have to learn how to say no), and so i'm treating it as part of my public service. unfortunately it's about a lot of accounting stuff (rather than say politics, or religion, or social issues), so i don't believe i'll be expanding their minds or anything remotely like that. sigh.

so in lieu of a proper post, i'll direct you to:
- here, an excellent post about how african americans are listening to the GOP much more attentively than they seem to think.
- here, for some light entertainment based on reporting gone bad (hat tip to a commentor at public address, whose name i can't remember, nor can i remember the post they commented. sorry!).
- here, where you'll find labour MPs blogging, and doing a fantastic job of it (have just added red alert to my blogroll as well).
- here, for an interview with mohammed hanif, commonwealth prizewinning journalist & author.

and that's it, i'm off to bed.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


the verdict has just come in the "ear-flicking" case - the jury has just found returned a guilty verdict on the charge of jimmy mason punching his son in the face and flicking his ear. this would be one of the cases brought up by bob mcroskie and the pro-smacking crowd as an example of how terrible the new s59 was. but somehow it was always described as a flick-on-the-ear and not a punch-to-the-face. it'll be interesting to see how they describe this incident from here on in.

it's been a difficult few days fighting trolls over at the hand mirror. i also had one here last week, but since i moderate comments, he was pretty easy to deal with. i just ignored him and he went away. it's really just attention that they seem to be looking for, and when you deny it to them, they go looking for it elsewhere.

however the hand mirror trolls were something worse. when they couldn't get through our moderation, they'd send very nasty and threatening messages fulling of as much foul language as they could fit in. i'd delete them after reading the first couple of words, so spare myself from the worst of the nastiness.

i just don't understand the mentality of these people who have no other purpose but to destroy. and the rage they directed towards us when they failed to achieve that purpose was supposed to achieve what? it makes me wonder what kind of upbringing these people have had, that they don't have even the basic grounding of treating others with respect, of being able to argue an issue without disparaging the people they are arguing with, and of being able to withdraw in good grace.

that particular type of trolling seems to be nothing more than effort to silence a point of view they cannot agree with. i've seen a concerted troll attack on another blog, much more organised, much more vitriolic and seeming to be very calculated. maybe it's because i tend to read women's blogs more, but it appears to me that the nastiness is much more strongly directed at women. and it was no coincidence that the nastiest trolling at the hand mirror started when we put up a post about matthew johns.

that culture of intimidation and aggressiveness that is the hallmark of the current scandal in rugby league transfers itself directly to the internet, and we see online behaviour that is a direct translation of the physical violence in real life.

until we're prepared to recognise that violence for what it is, until we can stop apologising for it, until we can stop blaming victims for the violence, until we're prepared to change the culture, cyberbullying will be a major issue on the internet.

luckily we have a strong team at the hand mirror. as anna pointed out, we're activists and not so easily put off. and for now, it seems we have our blog back. no doubt the trolls will be back in the future, if we dare to challenge another of their icons. which is all the more reason to continue speaking out.

Monday, 18 May 2009

an emotional story

maori tv does it again. last night they had a documentary film about the pull-out from gaza by the israeli government. i'll get on to that in a moment, but i just want to make the point that the maori tv model shows what properly funded public sector broadcasting can bring us. this film would never have aired on the other channels.

the film itself was very moving, and was presented from the point of view of the police and army who had the responsibility of removing settlers and demolishing settlements in gaza. there was no vocie over of any kind, the film didn't seek to make any judgements as such. i saw it as a means for people to see the pressure that was put on these people in authority, the abuse they had to suffer and the patience they showed, in carrying out a task that they did not necessarily agree with.

from that perspective, it was extremely effective. it showed decent people who were simply carrying out their jobs. it showed extremely young people who struggled with the curses and the angry tirades, the pleading and the tears that were directed at them. it showed the cost of peace in the middle east, and the entrenched positions of some of the players.

the only problem i had, and it isn't a criticism of the film as such, was the absence of palestinians in the story. the reason i say it isn't a criticism is because the film was very focussed on what it was bringing to the viewer, and palestinians really weren't part of the story. the point i want to highlight, though, is that the palestinians must feel exactly the same way as the settlers did when the land was taken from them, and is being taken still.

as i watched one of the settlers crying because she was being evicted from a home that she had lived in for 20 years, i wondered if she could possibly identify with palestinians who had lost land that had been in their family for hundreds of years. i wonder if she would understand and sympathise with their tears. i think of all the home demolitions, the wall, the inability to farm their own land or use the water, the continually increasing number of settlements encroaching on the occupied territories. all of these are losses that are deep and painful, and cause much heartbreak.

this piece on radio nz gave a pretty good understanding of settler thinking, as well as the thinking of the current israeli prime minister. frankly, it will be a miracle if the rate of growth of illegal settlements in the west bank slows; forget about dismantling them.

there is so much emotion tied to this land. and i don't mean to give the impression that i'm insensitive to the grief of the people who were taken from gaza. that's far from the case, and i especially feel for the younger ones who have known nothing else.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

products of our environment

i'm sitting here watching the debate in the house, and the opposition valiantly trying to delay the supercouncil bill for as long as they can. of course it will pass in the end, but at least the delaying tactics highlight just what a nasty piece of legislation this is.

the media have been pretty full of melissa lee today, as have most of the blogs. i must say that i almost felt sorry for her during paul henry's badgering on close-up - even the other candidates were clearly uncomfortable with his behaviour. but really, it's the underlying thinking behind the remark that's the most concerning. as a commentor on AEN pointed out today:

One of the quotes I've used in my PhD ... is by Patti Lather (1991, page 1), who says: "...all researchers construct their object of inquiry out of the materials that their culture provides, and values play a central role in this linguistically, ideologically, and historically embedded project that we call science."

Applying the quote to this context I think we are products of our environments and the discourses that are available to us. What makes me most sad, is that what Melissa said and the values underlying it are much much more pervasive and deeply embedded in this society..that's what is really scary.

i've heard similar attitudes as displayed by ms lee by other members of minority communities in nz. it seems that minority status and the experiences that come with it don't always confer greater understanding of the suffering of others. in fact, it can lead to a higher degree of intolerance, particularly if the person has achieved some degree of success.

that intolerance tends to be centred around class, which can be often represented by race. it's not a coincidence that poverty and race are intermingled, as exclusion on the basis of race is a cause of poverty. as is exclusion on the basis of disability, gender, marital status etc. there are individuals who are able to succeed despite that exclusion, but most will not be able to do so. and it is common to blame those who are excluded for the effects of their exclusion.

whether or not ms lee learns from this experience - and i mean learns to respect and empathise with others, rather than just learning to keep her opinions to herself in future - is entirely up to her.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

kiss pay equity goodbye...

i've just put up a post at the hand mirror about the death of the pay and employment equity unit at the department of labour.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

setting it up to fail...

like many bloggers today, i share a sense of "what the ...!" on hearing news of christine rankin being appointed as a families commissioner. julie has a nice list of reasons why she just isn't appropriate for the job (as well as a nice list of things are totally irrelevant), and peter dunne has some as well.

i certainly can't add to those, but only emphasise the one that stands out for me: how difficult she made life for those in need, those at the bottom who needed support from an organisation that was set up to support them. information was deliberately withheld from people desperately needing help, the whole process was humiliating. and it's not like the numbers of beneficiaries couldn't have been reduced through education and employment policy, because the incoming labour government did exactly that, and very successfully.

in addition, her intolerance and her tendency to blame people for their misfortunes while ignoring societal/structural factors are really not going to be helpful in her new role. neither is her disdain for research - the implication being that she doesn't want facts or information to help her make better decisions.

the main concern is that the appointment of ms rankin and mr pilbrow is going to cause some major divisions between the seven commissioners. and if ever there was proof of that, it's in this press release from chief families commissioner jan pryor, "welcoming" the two new appointees:

The Commission is also aware of Ms Rankin’s commitment to the prevention of child abuse and shares her concern about this issue.

It was this shared concern that led the Board to its unanimous decision to support the new child discipline law....

The law is working well and is achieving what was intended - parents who are charged with assaulting a child can no longer defend themselves in court by claiming they were using reasonable force to discipline the child.

The Commission’s reasons for supporting the law have not changed.

We based our position on research which shows very clearly that positive parenting strategies (such as rewarding good behaviour and distracting young children and ignoring minor unwanted behaviour) are far more effective and safer than physical punishment. Research also shows that most child abuse cases begin as physical punishment. There are risks that smacking can escalate to abuse - and the harder a child is hit, the more damaging it is for their future wellbeing. Hitting children also models violence as a way of resolving conflict.

One of the objectives of law reform was to make the law congruent with positive non-violent parenting messages and the law now clearly states that there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child’s behaviour.

This is a direct message to parents encouraging them to use strategies for managing their child’s behaviour that do not include smacking or hitting.

this appears to be a direct dig at both appointees, but particularly at ms rankin who actively and publicly campaigned against the changes to s59 of the crimes act. not a good sign. it seems that the government is keen on this organisation failing, so they'll have an excuse to scrap it. it's not like they ever valued it, given their opposition to its formation and countless questions in the house implying it's a total waste of time.

a waste of time having an idependent body advocate for family friendly policies? says a lot about the values of this government.

Monday, 11 May 2009

immigration cuts

i have no particular insights to offer this evening, so will share from an email posted to AEN regarding work permits. the email gives notice of a public meeting to be held on 30 may, 10am to 12pm, at windy ridge school, seaview road, glenfield, auckland. the meeting is in response to the following news item:

“Mr Coleman said there would not be new temporary migrants coming in as no new permits would be issued, and temporary permit holders would not have their permits renewed.”
---- Plan to slash permits worries migrants, New Zealand Herald, 6 Apr 2009

This issue has impact to the 130,000 work permits issued to migrants by Immigration New Zealand in 2007-2008. In fact, some migrants are already affected because Migrant Action Trust has been receiving calls from distressed migrants (on work permit) then made redundant and unable to find another job in the present economic climate. Worst affected are those who were recruited off-shore, have now been made redundant and also unable to find another job.

The objective of this meeting is to find solutions to the issues faced by migrants during the current global financial crisis and to discuss other areas of concern unique to migrants.

To get the most out of this forum, we invite community leaders, migrants who are not attached to a group and the media to send issues of concern and relevant recommendations to on or before 15th of May 2009. If you wish to speak on your item, also let us know.

in related news, i heard helen kelly, president of the council of trade unions, on checkpoint tonight. she appeared to be calling for reduced numbers of permanent migrants in order to deal with growing unemployment. this was played as part of a story about economist philip legraine, who believes cutting immigration is wrong during a recession.

on the one hand, it makes sense in that we don't want an extra bunch of people coming into the country with no work and become a "burden". but on the other hand, these new migrants increase demand and therefore economic activity. and as mr legraine points out, they bring a range of experiences, contacts and skills that are a positive addition.

cutbacks in a recession are generally a pretty bad idea, as they tend to lead to a downward spiral. it would be much better to focus on job creation - something this government is failing spectacularly to do - rather than on cutting immigration. if you want to grow the economy, you need to increase activity and the government is the best place to do that.

or at least they would have been, if they hadn't just spent $1.5 billion dollars in tax cuts that are highly unlikely to stimulate the economy - simply because they aren't reaching the majority of the population.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

special moments

it's been a lovely day. i'm not particularly a fan of mother's day, particularly not the commercialisation of it. and i wouldn't mind ignoring it altogether. but as i wrote last year:

i see that my girls want the opportunity to show me that they think i'm special and important, and it's hard to create those opportunities every day.

so we started this morning with a walk around the lake in hamilton with a group of muslim women. i've actually been doing that for the last five weeks, and it's been a lot of fun. a great chance to get out and catch up with friends while doing something healthy. we started out in bright sunshine, but it started raining about half way, so we ended up being a bit soggy by the end.

then it was off to baker's delight, which is something i hardly ever do, but i couldn't resist a request from the girls. so we bought lots of fresh baking and went over to the grandparents' house to have breakfast together. which was also lovely.

the afternoon was filled with a shama board meeting and the weekly religious class my girls attend, and when we got home i was presented with a beautiful home-made card and a "mamma mia" dvd. we'd all seen the film at the theatre when it came out & watched it again on dvd during our holiday up north. but i can't seem to get tired of this film.

so we snuggled up in bed, put the dvd on the laptop and watched it again, and cried and laughed again, and it was sweet. the card is next to me now, cut out in a heart shape, and with a drawing of us swimming at the beach inside. and a "thank you for all the fun things we did this year" with a list of what they were. that's one thing i'm so glad about, that i took the time this year to create some special memories for all of us. i always wanted my kids' childhood memories to be a comfort and a source of strength for them, because i know a lot of children don't have that.

i remember reading in a book (don't know which one) this line: "it's for moments like these that we live all the others". and today has been one of those moments. a very happy mother's day.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

unnecessarily intrusive

i've decided that i'm against having television courtrooms. i came to this conclusion after watching coverage of the bain trial yesterday. both radio and television played the horrible 111 tape of david bain ringing in to report the murders. i just can't see the point of publicly playing it. the jury will need to hear for, but the general public don't. it's like intrusive voyeurism at its worst.

well not quite at its worst. the worst were the tv news close-up shots on mr bain as the court was shown television footage of the dead bodies in the house. i can't say how awful and intrusive i've found that. not that i generally have much sympathy for mr bain, he may or may not be guilty and the jury will come to a decision about that. but still, to do a close-up focus on his face while he is having difficulty dealing with it is plain wrong.

again, it serves no purpose and causes much discomfort. i don't see the benefit of having trials filmed really. transcripts are available, reporters can give eye-witness accounts of what they have seen and heard during the day, and that is more than sufficient to full the purposes of "news" ie the need to be informed. more than that is unnecessary.

we have no right to view someone else's pain without their consent, and i don't believe mr bain's express consent would have been sought prior to airing of the courtroom footage. i felt equally uncomfortable with the footage of tony vietch while the judge was reading her statement during his sentencing. that he chose to give a media conference afterwards is up to him. but his visual reaction to hearing what the judge said is really none of our business.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

planning to fail

i don't have much to say today, except that i'm very saddened at the death of the police officer in napier. and for those injured. and for the rest of the community that has been affected. during the day i was thinking how it would feel if my kids were in a school close to the area of such an event. i'd be sick with worry, and desperate to get them out.

my heart also goes out to the family of the killer, who have been thrust into the spotlight for no fault of their own. it's such a horrible situation all round.

there's also a post up at the hand mirror, where i discuss the action plan for nz women, which may be under threat.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

human rights film festival

i've added a new blog to the blogroll today, called editing the herald. i was directed to it by julie in a post at the hand mirror. the writer does a fantastic job of pulling apart lazy journalism on the part of the granny. in a rather futile gesture, someone at the herald set their lawyer on this blogger. the results are pretty entertaining, and i suspect the herald has totally been pwned.

the human rights film festival is coming up soon in the main centres. there look to be some really good offerings, and the ones i would have liked to see are:
  • upstream battle about "Native Americans in Northern California [who] fight for their fish and the survival of their culture".
  • kicking it about the "homeless world cup". "From shattering misconceptions about the homeless to seeing people living at the edge of society discover that they also can be winners, the film shows in a real and powerful way that sport can and does change lives."
  • 8 which has directors such as mira nair, jane campion and gus van sant "give us their free and personal vision about our world".

unfortunately i won't be able to watch any of these, as the festival won't be coming to hamilton :(. we've lost our rialto theatre as well, which was the one showing the less commercially-hyped films. it's all too depressing. thank goodness i have the internet!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

religious diversity

i put up a post at the hand mirror earlier today, recognising the 18th international day of the midwife.

there were two people i know interviewed on nine-to-noon (radio nz) today. first was kefeng chu, nz police's strategic ethnic advisor and all round nice guy, talking about the new document on religious diversity prepared by and for the police. i blogged about this a while back, here. i thought kefeng did a great job explaining the issues during the interview.

second was the ozzie mozzie, irfan yusuf, talking about his new book "once were radicals". nz readers may know mr yusuf from his frequent opinion pieces in the herald and other nz papers. his book was reviewed by richard begbie of the canberra times, which is not available online (grrr), but here is an extract:

Once Were Radicals offers a window into the complexities and often hilarious confusions of a Muslim boy growing up in Australia in the late 20th century.

Yusuf, who went on to do law and become something of a commentator on religion, culture and politics, has lived in Australia since his Pakistani-Indian parents migrated when he was five months old.

The book, winner of the 2007 Iremonger Award for writing on public issues, explores most areas of Islam in both its political and spiritual dimensions. For Muslim readers the territory will be familiar, though large parts of Yusuf's experience will surely bring both encouragement and relief to younger Muslims dealing with their faith in a Western, secular context. The non- Muslim, on the other hand, will find here a mass of detail and unexpected diversity that can verge on the bewildering.

While Australia likes to think of itself as multicultural, our chance brushes with other cultures pale alongside the boy Yusuf's experiences.

another review by the australian can be found here, and there's another radio interview here. and if you're very interested, you can join up the facebook group here.

and finally, the human rights commission has put out a discussion document on religion in schools:

The paper is based on frequently asked questions and concerns about religion in schools, with a focus on state primary schools. It sets out relevant legislation about religion in schools and is intended to act as a resource for Boards of Trustees, Principals and the wider school community in thinking about how schools can give a place to religion whilst ensuring security and dignity for all.

We invite you to provide comment on the enclosed draft by emailing the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme at:

Monday, 4 May 2009

privatisation in the health sector

i've got a post up at the hand mirror about the newly appointed chair of the waikato district health board. there are some other disturbing developments in health, with the sacking of the board of the waikato primary health organisation:

This effectively moves a large health budget from the not-for-profit PHO to private control....

[Former Waikato Primary Health Board deputy chairperson Tania] Hodges
says the big issue is, if the DHB or Minister don’t act and if Pinnacle is allowed to take control of primary care within the region without any questions being asked then that essentially gives the green light for IPAs or doctors’ groups to control primary care throughout the whole country.

“Primary care in this country will then be run by private businesses for private profit...."

Waikato Primary Health is one of the most efficient PHOs in the country with an enrolled population of 310,000 people in the Waikato, King Country and Coromandel.

this is pretty shocking news. it has taken years to put the primary health system in place, and many medical professionals have fought very hard against it. one of the main advantages of the PHO structure was that it meant the doctors were accountable to the community. that level of accountability has now been removed, and this is of major concern.

another item of interest is this open letter from the united nations association of nz to hon murray mccully:

We are concerned that the failure of New Zealand to attend the recent United Nations Durban II review conference on racism is undermining the nation’s interests.

Our security and prosperity depend crucially on our ability to work with other nations on bilateral, regional and global levels....

The Durban II conference was clearly going to be a difficult and contentious one, and proved to be so. However, it was a conference that dealt with issues of significance for New Zealand, with critical sub-issues which bear on global security and stability....

Our withdrawal speaks of timidity and lack of confidence in our ability to face the realities of the world of international affairs. We have also failed to do justice to the capability and determination of our diplomatic staff to make a positive contribution to this very challenging situation.

More critically, we have contributed to the threat of a world which is incapable of coming together to address sensitive issues.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

the power of the collective

since i was blogging about disablism on may day, i thought i'd get in a belated post on workers' issues today. yeah, i know, being an accountant means i don't technically qualify as working class. but i still do identify with the issues, and i think that comes more from my religious background.

when it comes to "the poor", well, they aren't to be seen as a blight on society, as the lazy and good-for-nothing who are solely responsible for their own condition. in almost every case, poverty is a result either of circumstances or birth. it's very hard to pull yourself out of a situation when you have little access to quality education, and when you're in a job with low wages meaning you have to work long hours just to get by.

it's when you see people struggling with circumstances that they have little power to change, that's really heartbreaking. for those people, the power of the collective is really the only power they have. as individuals, they have very little ability to influence, but as part of a large group, they can make substantial changes.

i was at a dinner on saturday night, and our hostess worked in the area of human resources. we had this discussion about how much easier she found it to deal with unions, as compared to employment lawyers. the difference was that the union person had nothing personally to gain from a dispute, so they were much more likely to look for a win-win solution. employment lawyers on the hand were looking for as large a cash settlement as they could get, to ensure they got a sufficient cut to keep their business going.

the latter situation puts a much greater strain on employers, who know that taking a case to the employment tribunal will cost at least $20,000. it also puts a greater strain on employees, who are put through mediation by lawyers even when it isn't in their interests. i've watched an employee in mediation quickly reduced to tears when the list of their incompetencies were spelled out in a room full of people. there is just no way that should have happened, it was humiliating and the person was only there at the insistence of the lawyer.

of course, the only reason that employment lawyers have entered into this area of practice is because the national party brought in the employment contract act in 1990. over the years, i've heard so many complaints about how much they've hated having to pay out in cases where they believe they are not at fault. and they have blamed this situation on employment laws which favour employees, when in fact it is the system change of allowing lawyers into the field which has caused the problem. and any attempts to strengthen unions or to change undo measures put in by the employment contracts act have been fought vigorously by these same employers who are suffering under the provisions it brought in.

yeah, not smart really. the fact is that strong unions are good for business and good for the economy. strong unions are better able to ensure decent wages and conditions. decent wages mean that those at the bottom end will have more cash to spend, which stimulates the economy and ensures greater profits for business. better working conditions means a happier, healthier and more productive workforce, with lower staff turnover. ie better profit for business. it's a win-win situation.

Friday, 1 May 2009

against disablism

i put up a post yesterday on the hand mirror, on education for boys, and for girls.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

today is blogging against disablism day. for those of us who are able-bodied, it's very easy to dismiss or ignore the concerns of the disabled. this was brought home to me last year (as i mentioned at the time on my blog) when my younger daughter broke a bone in her ankle. it meant an extended period in a cast, and all the attendant hassles of showering her, moving her about and also losing out on the help she used to give me around the house. as i'd sit down exhausted at the end of every day, i'd wonder how caregivers managed who didn't have the comfort of knowing the situation was temporary.

and of course, the greater strain on the disabled person living in a society that is not designed for them or their needs, that mostly views them as a burden or a drain on societal resources and has often treated them with a mixture of pity and contempt.

mental disability is something i've had more experience with. sometimes it's more difficult than a visible disability, because the effects are not always obvious. while the person with a visible disability will yet get sympathy and support, mental illness can be suffered in silence. particularly when there is shame attached to the condition, which is a barrier to seeking help. depression, that most common of illnesses, saps energy and creates an island around the sufferer, who tends to push people away because of the constant negativity.

so today i was asked to join a facebook group called intentional peer support*:

Intentional Peer Support is trauma-informed, and is focused on developing healthy relationships. IPS evolved as a response to needing Mental Health options which were not focused on diagnoses and 'what's wrong', with an emphasis on building relationships and skills to enable people to work through 'crisis' without resorting to hospitals or other institutional options.

The wider objective of IPS is to be a vehicle of social change and community development- as people work at ways of building and sustaining healthy and meaningful relationships with one another.

i don't know anything much about this but hope to learn more over time. the notion of building community and developing positive relationships appeals to me. i'm more than a little tired of the focus on individual achievement and personal responsibility, with little recognition of the power of community and social networks, and how much we need these for our well-being.

to finish off, i'd also like to put in a couple of plugs for the netguide web awards. not for my own blog, which is too small to be in the running, but it would be nice if you would consider voting for the hand mirror as best blog and community radio hamilton for the best entertainment site. i'd also go for scoop as the best media site.

*or try if facebook doesn't work for you.