Thursday, 26 November 2009

eid-ul adha

on saturday is the second major muslim festival of eid-ul adha, a commemoration of the life of abraham. it also ties in with the hajj (pilgrimage to makkah, saudi arabia). it's a quieter celebration compared to eid-ul fitr which commemorates the end of ramadan. it's also a festival that is more about sharing.

as it happens, i have 4 things to be at on saturday, and have managed to get out of 2 of them, may not be able to avoid the 3rd and will most likely go to the 4th, which is to hear valerie browning talk about the plight of the afar people of africa. this is one of the joys of being a minority and having your festival days not recognised by the majority of the country. sometimes i wonder what it would be like to have the whole country celebrating with us. it's a feeling i miss, because i don't really identify with christmas so don't really feel a part of it. besides which, i find the whole commercial hype around that celebration to be quite frustrating.

still, i'm looking forward to a day set aside for friends and family. eid mubarak to you all.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

stifling dissent

many organisations have been facing budget cuts in the last year, particularly with the new government having a very difficult time balancing the budget. the pathways to partnership programme, which secured funding for NGO's over 4 years, has been cut. the labour government secured funding contracts for 3 years, but the current government has told service providers that contracts are "under constant review".

what this means is that those organisations are unable to criticise government policy or government funding cuts. to do so means the risk of losing what funding they have left, and people are scared to speak out. we already know that ministers in this government are quite prepared to directly attack individuals who dare to speak out, and to partially release personal information so that those individuals are subject to public abuse. organisations whose staff speak out face similar consequences, except that the impact is much more widespread ie clients who use the services and are often in desperate need will be the ones to miss out.

now this is a real attack on freedom of speech and on the right to political dissent. it means that the public is not accessing information they have a right to, because many of these cuts are not announced publicly by the government or they are announced so quietly that no-one knows about them. it's an appalling state of affairs.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

mortgagee sales

mortgagee sales are at an all time high:

There were 343 mortgagee sales in September, a 130% jump from the 149 such sales in September 2008, according to Terralink International. In September 2007, before the recession started to bite, there were just 16 foreclosures.

“We’re likely to see mortgagee sales continue well into 2010,” said Phillip Borken, economist at ANZ National Bank. A struggling labour market and a steady increase in household debt are “key economic drivers behind the increase in forced sales.”

i heard a story today of a home that had been put up for a mortgagee sale. the people who were losing their home ended up taking out every single fitting they could get their hands on, including switches, fixed appliances, sink tops in the bathroom, in-built speakers. basically they gutted the house as well as they could and spoiled much of what was left.

i can't say that i approve of the destruction as such, but i do have a hard time finding any sympathy for the banks. what our friend from the anz national bank doesn't tell us is that banks were pushing loans on to people, forcing staff to meet targets of increased lending to consumers. these consumers were lead to believe that property was a sure thing, that capital gains were absolutely inevitable and that there was little risk involved.

they were also presented with the added incentive of tax losses that could be offset against other taxable income. under these conditions, i've seen plenty of people who are now seriously losing money on rental properties that were never a viable investment. even if they can keep up the interest payments, it's going to be a very long time before the capital gains will equal the amount they've paid out in interest.

as for the tax deductibility, you pay out $100 in interest, you get $39 back (assuming you're at the highest tax rate). that still means you've lost $61 dollars, and more if you're at a lower tax rate. the point is that property ownership is nowhere near risk-free, and particularly not when you're borrowing 100% of the purchase price.

many of the banks' customers certainly didn't have the background knowledge to be wary about this kind of thing. but the banks do have that kind of knowledge, and they failed to protect their customers or to follow sound practices. if they lose money on mortgagee sales now, in most cases it's pretty well deserved. it's just a pity that the people who took out the loans are also losing substantially as well.

as it is, it looks like the banks are still making plenty of money:

Household debt peaked at over 160% of households’ disposable income in 2008, nearly three times the level of December 1990, according to central bank figures. Debt currently stands at 152% of income, based on the latest quarterly figures.

which means that an awful lot of people are paying an awful lot of interest.

Monday, 23 November 2009

at the nesian festival

i've just put up a post at the hand mirror about the tension between social connectedness and political activism for social justice.

on saturday i was at the nesian festival, putting in some time on the labour party stall. it was a great day, with celebration of the various pasifika cultures and some great food. thank you to the fijians who put on a yummy halal lamb curry!

at the stall, we got quite a bit of interest. people are pretty annoyed with the proposed changes to ACC, as well as the ACE cuts. i ended up having a 20 minute debate with a young male free-market lover who thinks tax cuts solve a myriad of problems and privatisation is the way to go. despite so much evidence to the contrary.

silly me, to waste my time like that, but it was a conversation that i just couldn't seem to get out of. i know i didn't change his mind about anything (not that anything he said had an impact on me either), but i always enjoy revealing that i'm chartered accountants to these types, because for some stupid reason, they seem to think that lefties don't have a strong grasp of economics. hmm. i'll have to send them along to a presentation by bryan gould, brian easton, peter conway or rod oram!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

rocky horror

i've got a couple of posts up at the hand mirror, one about discrimination against young mothers by the community max scheme, and the other about seeking permission to propose.

i tried watching the film version of the rocky horror show tonight. i've never seen it, and it's one of these things that you feel you should have watched, just because so many people talk about it so often. and it has a particular link to hamilton, we even have a statue to prove it!

but i just couldn't be bothered sitting through the whole thing. i gave up after an hour, cos i was so bored. i can see how it might have been cutting edge when it first came out, but it's not so anymore. so i guess i'll just remain ignorant of what all the fuss is about, and watch mamma mia instead!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

tax investigations

this morning i went to a course for work - we accountants have to complete a certain number of continuing professional development. and today we got to hear (amongst other things) about the work IRD are doing around tax investigations and audit. you'll find some of the figures here, the key one being that tax investigations resulted in the IRD netting $1.269 billion.

the biggest culprits are "large enterprises", which is to be expected because they would be paying the largest amounts of tax and so developing schemes to avoid paying. the banks were particularly busy in this area, given the recent court cases that went against them. if anything, this proves that the IRD should be focussing most of it's efforts here, as this is where they will get the most returns.

i found it interesting (but i guess that's just me) to hear about the way the IRD has changed the way they select cases to be investigated. it used to be a pretty random approach, but now they use all sorts of sophisticated statistical modelling based on particular risk factors. which means they've been able to be more efficient in their work, and that is a good thing.

however, i can tell you that being audited by the IRD is not a nice experience. luckily, any audits i've been involved with have gone pretty smoothly. it's all about having good paperwork to back up your position and seeking proper advice when it comes to extra tricky positions. but even then, having someone combing through all your work can be stressful, especially when any errors could lead to significant penalties and interest for your client.

what surprises me though, is that only 10% ($127 million) of the take is from cases of tax evasion and fraud. i would have though this would be a higher percentage, but there you go. either the fraudsters are too clever to be caught or there aren't quite so many of them as there are people who are just making mistakes or getting it wrong.

amongst the interesting stuff i've been reading recently, i found this paper giving a maori woman's perpective on the piano. what surprised me the most is that i just didn't notice the negative portrayal of maori in the film when i watched it, being distracted by the main story i guess.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

the long walk

i haven't been sleeping too well lately, so haven't had much energy to be posting. also not helped by the fact that i decided to do the 6 km walk in the round the bridges event on sunday.

don't ask me what possessed me to enter this event, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. for the first time ever, we had a muslim women's team & i wanted to be part of that. there were 13 of us "scarfies", and the funniest bit was just before the race started. we were all standing in place (towards the back, of course), and the announcer said "very soon, the moment that you've all been training so hard for". we all collapsed with laughter, as very little training had been done by any of us!

and yes, i really felt it. i'd been trying to get in some walking during the week. i'd done 3.8km around the hamilton lake the previous sunday, and a couple of half hour sessions on the treadmill. it's just so hard to find the time!

i was ok for the first 3 kms, particularly when we were walking right next to the river. i really love the fact that our river doesn't have any development close to the banks. it retains all it's natural beauty, and in many places, you hardly know you're in the city.

the 5th km was the hardest, which i felt was a drag (reminded of the stephen king novellette, "the long walk". well, ok, no-one was actually shooting at me, but i definitely identified with the descriptions of pain!). the 6th i didn't mind so much because i knew it was almost over, and even managed to put on a burst of energy for the last 250m. who would have thought! but the really painful bit was walking from garden place (where the race ended) to my car. my feet were so incredibly sore, it took me quite a while to shuffle along to the carpark.

still, i'm glad i did it. i enjoyed the company, and the feeling of being part of such a big event. and i wasn't too sore on monday, just the end of my toes really. if you're really interested, you can see photos and videos of myself and my daughter here.

and i have a more serious post on the recent law commission report up at the hand mirror.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

being consulted

i've posted at the hand mirror again today, about an organisation that is selling life skills.

today i attended a consultation meeting organised by the human rights commission, about workplace issues. it was an interesting meeting and i'll link to the report once it comes out. i don't feel comfortable saying too much about what was discussed before then, except that i'm really glad that HRC are doing this. there are some really serious problems faced in the workplace, and i hope that this process leads to some improvements to deal with it.

it was also lovely meeting the equal employment opportunities commissioner, judy mcgregor. i know of her from her work, which i greatly admire, but hadn't met her until today.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

decent people

i have a post up at the hand mirror on hate speech.

i didn't have time to write on monday night because we went to the end-of-year prize-giving ceremony for my elder daughter's high school. it's her final year, and i'm not allowed to tell what she got (fair enough, i used to hate it when my parents told my results!), but let's just say that i'm very proud of her.

one of the nicest things the assistant principal said just before she read out the names and awards for the group my daughter was in went something like this: "not only have these young people achieved excellence, but the most important thing about them is that they are all thoroughly decent people, each and every one of them". i have to say it brought a tear to my eye, and reminded me again (just as it did at exactly this time last year) that we rarely celebrate the thorough decentness of our young people.

we hear plenty about how rude, obnoxious, silly, or whatever else they are. we hear about it when they break the law. we denigrate the new technologies they embrace or their way of doing and seeing things, even though there is nothing inherently wrong, for example, with txt language or social networking on the internet. we just automatically believe that everything was so much better in our day, and that this generation is so much worse than the last.

well i don't think they are. not the young people that i see regularly, and certainly not the young people we briefly got to know on monday night. we need to celebrate these young people so much more, and to let them know just how wonderful they are both as individuals and as a group.

yeah, so that's what i was doing monday night, and last night i decided to have a break. so there!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

fort hood

i've had a pretty busy weekend, following a hectic week, so again little on-line time. yesterday i attended a media workshop in auckland, followed by lunch with some wonderful women, and a visit to see a newborn. today we had the shama AGM.

but my mind is really with the families of soldiers killed and injured at fort hood. it's a horrible thing, and i can't begin to imagine what those people are going through. the first i heard of the shooting was from emails sent out by CAIR, condemning the shooting, and then later, giving details of a press conference. that was enough to let me know (even though the name hadn't been released) that the killer had been muslim.

we don't know yet whether his religion was a factor in the shooting. after all, there is the fact that fort hood has a high number of suicides, 75 since 2003. then there is the fact that funding of mental health services for american military personnel is not anywhere near sufficient:

There is a shortage of professionals specifically trained in the nuances of military life, and those who are highly qualified often experience "burn out" due to the demands placed on them. Another complex and challenging task is how to modify the military culture so that mental health services are more accepted and less stigmatized. This would greatly improve the probability that service members would seek care when needed, but even if providers were available and seeking treatment was deemed acceptable, appropriate mental health services are often not readily accessible. This is usually due to a variety of factors that include long waiting lists, limited clinic hours, a poor referral process and geographical location.

there is the fact that the killer was, as a psychologist, having to listen to some pretty horrific stories about current conflicts, and then put in the position of having to go out and serve in the same place. we don't know what level of peer support he had in his job to help him deal with the daily stress.

i have to say that i don't know much about the nuts and bolts of military operation. i didn't know, for example, that you can't just resign from the military, nor can you walk away. if you refuse to serve in the role you've been assigned, they put you in a military prison. there is no escape. and if you have heard from traumatised soldiers about their experiences, and if you feel that you have been harassed because of your religion (as a cousin of the killer has alleged), and are being sent on this assignment as a punishment, then the feeling of being trapped might be overwhelming.

which is not to excuse what he did. of course not. it's just to say that there are many other factors that may explain why he did it other than religion. and that's why i've found the media coverage around the shooting disturbing - particularly the fact that he had worn "traditional" muslim dress some hours earlier when going shopping. or that he was not a convert. or any number of other details which may be totally irrelevant as to why he did this.

i am at least heartened by president obama stating clearly that assumptions as to motive should not be made. because the backlash against the muslim community in america has begun, with death threats being delivered to a mosque in texas. the wider effects of this tragedy on other muslim personnel serving is also a concern. as is the impact on the family of the killer.

it's a tragedy that touches so many people. when i think that tragedies similar to this were happening every day in iraq and afghanistan, and are still happening regularly, well it's really hard to process. i can't think of anything that will be a comfort to the loved ones of the soldiers who died in fort hood. my thoughts are with them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


ugh, i'm just not getting any time online, which is frustrating because i have a lot of thoughts in my head. but i had three meetings back-to-back on monday night, then a dinner to go to last night, and this evening i have spent time with a high school student in wellington and a university student in canada, answering questions in relation to their studies. and this was to be my quiet evening at home!

but it's all been really positive stuff. now it's close to midnight, so i'll just put in a short post about the proposed ACC levy hike for motorbike users. it strikes that this proposal has been put out there by the government to deflect attention away from other changes. the bikies will complain and protest, the government will back down to show how much they listen to the concerns of the electorate, and everyone will be happy. in the meantime, all sorts of cover will be taken away and the work account privatised, with little fuss or protest.

i think most people on PAYE don't appreciate the effects that competition in the work account will have for them. it will mean that employers will choose the cheapest cover for their employees. and the cheapest cover will mean that the insurer will try to pay out as little as possible and try to reject as many claims as possible in order to keep costs down and profits up. employees will have no say in who the employer insures with, but will suffer if they have an accident due to poorer cover. it means choice for the employer but none for the employee, who will amost certainly be worse off.

it's frustrating to see these tactics being used, and listening to an interview with a member of the ulysses club, i t was sad to hear that he had bought the government line that ACC is in crisis. it's great that this group is organising a major protest, but don't just protest about the changes for bikers. please protest against the whole raft of changes which are being forced through unnecessarily.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

shoddy advertising

i was going to write about the immigration bill, which passed it's third reading tonight. i'm not at all happy with it. but i did a linky love post at the hand mirror instead. so i'll leave the immigration stuff for another day.

in the meantime, here's a comment i left over at the standard, regarding bill english featuring in advertisments for channel 7:

oh, i think this was a deliberate strategy by tvnz, as it is with many advertisers. create something as controversial as possible and hopefully just over the line to draw out complaints. then sit back and enjoy the free publicity, while being totally self-righteous and innocent. even if no-one complains, people will take notice of the ad because of it’s controversial nature, and then you try harder next time to offend and draw the complaint. it’s all win for the advertiser and client. not so much for the rest of us.

i'm sure i've written about this method before on the hand mirror, particularly in relation to the way women are treated in ads. i never buy hells pizzas, simply because their advertisers deliberately use exactly this technique, and i think it's pathetic.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

a belated labour day post

i was meaning to write a labour day post, but ended up writing about something else instead. so i'll do a belated one.

labour day is a day for us to think about rights for workers that were won after long struggles and much sacrifice. things like the 40 hour working week, sick leave, holidays, health & safety in the workplace, a legal minimum wage, protection for child workers, the right to union membership and collective bargaining, and so much more.

of course, many of these conditions were lost in one foul swoop with the employment contracts act in 1991, and some have slowly been won back. every improvement in workers' rights has involved a lot of hard work and having to deal with strong and powerful lobby groups such as the BRT and employers groups.

one of the campaigns i was briefly involved with was the move to make rest breaks compulsory. it was great to see this legislation passed last year, and so frustrating to see that it's going to be reversed shortly by the new government. it's so stupid. productivity improves when people are allowed decent breaks, and one really has to wonder at the mentality of employers who advocate for measures that are actually against their own interests.

but mostly, i feel for those already poorly paid workers, often working more than one job, who won't get the breaks they desperately need.

in sympathy with those workers, i hope those of you who are in auckland will support the campaign for a living wage this friday night:

The Campaign for a Living Wage will be taking to the streets of Auckland's CBD on Friday night, to demand a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour, and an end to poverty wages.
Download posters for the march HERE.

Kick off is at 7pm at Aotea Square. Speakers and groups supporting:
Mike Treen, Unite
Robert Reid, National Distribution Union
Darien Fenton, Labour
Sue Bradford, Greens
Sonya Church, Young Workers Resource Centre
Donna Wynd, Child Poverty Action Network

Bring banners, flags and placards from your group too!

We are doing movement stalls outside Starbucks on 220 Queen St Thursday and Friday before the march from 4 til 6 pm

Monday, 26 October 2009

modern life

i've posted over at the hand mirror earlier in the evening, about my love for modern appliances.

i've had a quiet day, after being in auckland on saturday and sunday for the fianz national convention. this was the first event of this kind organised, and went off quite well with a mixture of sports, speeches and competitions. it took a lot of work to pull together, and i'm glad to see that it was well attended.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

it's a very personal crime

there are only two certainties in life - death & taxes. i'm sure you've all heard that one. and the combination of the two gives a nice negativity to tax - such an unfair burden on us all, no?

well, i don't mind paying taxes. of course i don't want to be paying more than i have to, but the concept itself doesn't bother me. taxes are a means to a fair and just society, a means to the provision of social services and to many other benefits that improve my life directly or indirectly.

it appears that there are many people who don't think that way. my evidence for that assertion is gathered from the work i do. i'm a chartered accoutant after all, tax is what i deal with throughout my working day. so i get a pretty good idea of how people think about paying their taxes. and i can't say i always like it, but i don't mind their attitude as long as they pay up.

what really annoys me is the people who try to cheat on their taxes. and there are plenty of them out there. the ones who don't put all their cash from sales into the business bank account. who pocket the money, without paying the GST component back to the government, and without paying income tax on that income. and who feel absolutely no guilt in doing so.

of course such people know better than to disclose such behaviour to their accountant. but we do all know it happens. what amazes me though, is how they feel as if they are doing no wrong. the government is a huge and impersonal institution which collects billions of dollars. it doesn't seem so bad if you don't put in as much as you're supposed. and you can convince yourself that those fools just waste your money anyway, so they don't deserve.

the depersonalisation of the governmental institution makes it easier to feel no sense of wrong-doing. i come across people who will, in every other aspect of their life, claim to have the highest morals, and who will happily look down their noses at others for behaviour or actions that don't measure up to their own standards. the hypocrisy is quite breathtaking.

it makes me really angry, and for one simple reason. these people are stealing directly from me. every cent they don't pay is a cent that someone else has to pay. those of us on the PAYE system can't hide our income - it's taxed before we get it. and our tax rate is higher than it should be, because some people aren't paying their fare share.

it's not an impersonal crime, it's a direct crime against individuals. when people fail to pay their taxes in full, they are cheating their own family members and friends. it's an immoral act, the same as sneaking into someone else's house and taking their stuff.

i guess there are more than two certainties in life. there will always be people who cheat on their taxes, well that's another one.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

gender testing kits

i've posted at the hand mirror today, about gender testing kits for use in earlier stages of pregnancy. i also had a post up a couple of days back about a ban against face-covering at al-azhar university in egypt.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

the prize that wasn't

tonight i was going to write about president barrack obama's winning the nobel peace prize. but now it's really late, and what is there to say really, besides "meh". it's an aspirational choice for an aspirational presidential candidate, rather than an award for actual achievements. they may as well have given the prize to the american people as a whole, as a "thank you for not voting in another george w bush clone" award, which is what this seems to be.

it would be so much nicer if they gave the prize to someone who wasn't a public figure, but just an ordinary person who had achieved something local of significance, that may have involved significant effort & sacrifice. there are plenty of people making a difference in small ways, and honouring someone like that, well it brings home to us how much we personally can achieve. not everyone can be an obama, but everyone can do something meaningful, if they put their mind to it.

Monday, 19 October 2009

who's exploiting who?

whew, i've just spent the last couple of hours wading through the over 200 hundred emails piling in up in just one of my personal email accounts. although i have only myself to blame for letting this happen, and happily a fair few of them were able to be culled without requiring a response from me.

so, another one of the things i was thinking about but hadn't written on was the rt hon winston peters' speech recently about immigration. i haven't read the speech, and have no intention of doing so. i'd much rather beat myself around the head with a blunt instrument frankly!

but. i was having a discussion about his basic approach to immigration issues over the weekend. obviously he is trying to push buttons to generate some media coverage and support. but the problem is that there are serious issues to be discussed about immigration.

the biggest one for me is the importation of workers who will be prepared to work for worse pay and conditions than local workers, simply to avoid the level of poverty they face in their country of origin. i have a strong objection to this type of thing, and i've written about it previously at the hand mirror, particularly in regards to workers in the aged care sector. the two evils of such an approach is that 1) it reduces the wages and conditions of workers in this country and 2) it just adds to the fact that we do little to resolve poverty in their country of origin (through trade or aid).

now, we need to be having some decent and serious public debate about this issue. but we rarely are able to, mostly because of the dog-whistling and underlying racism of the winston peters approach. the fundamental difference between his approach and the one that i would take is this: he sees immigrants as exploiting this country, but i see this country as exploiting immigrants.

of course, it's not just this country - many others do the same. illegal immigrants keep the horticultural industries of many countries viable. as soon as the picking season is over, there will often be a much publicised raid that captures some number of illegals and deports them. but nothing serious is ever done, because economic prosperity depends on cheap labour.

and it never happens that any politician of note stands up and says "our country is exploiting immigrants". because there's no votes in it, of course. it's a reality that no-one wants to hear. but funnily enough, people are quite happy to hear about and absorb the myth that immigrants are exploiting our country and somehow ripping us off. which is why mr peters has been able to thrive for so many years.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

death by a thousand cuts

yes, finally a post from me. i've spent the last 10 days or so being completely unavailable on-line, in that i didn't connect to the internet at all at home & haven't check my private email addresses during the day either. i find i need to do this every now and then, when things start to overwhelm me. it's a way of retiring from the world, and only interacting in ways and with people that i want to interact with. and it's a way of claiming my time as my own and not at the whims and demands of the various groups and organisations i volunteer with.

there are also times when i feel like my own e-spaces that i have created don't feel safe to me. that's wierd too, and i guess arises mostly because there are things that i don't want to have to deal with, and requests that i just want to avoid. it's one of the things about modern life, this being constantly on-call, that i sometimes find difficult to deal with. i suppose it would much better for me to develop a backbone and learn to say no more clearly and more often. i just find a passive withdrawal to be more my style. and it also deals with the people who just don't hear "no", no matter how loudly you say it.

so anyway, i'm mostly back in the e-world and have been trying to catch up on the quieter day of this weekend, in between groceries and getting the washing out and generally cleaning up. and there are plenty of issues to be writing about over the last couple of weeks, it's hard to choose.

but the one that bothers me most are the cuts to ACC. i've blogged plenty about changes around sensitive claims over at the hand mirror, and there is a petition alive on the issue as well as a march coming up soon. but most of the other cuts are pretty nasty too. a while back i wrote about accidental death cover, which included cover when a spouse commits suicide. i really can't believe that they are planning to take this support away, on the basis that spouses who die of medical causes don't get similar state support.

of all the stupid reasons to withhold cover! that reasoning applies to almost every type of cover provided by ACC. as for the "we don't have enough money argument", again nonsense. there are plenty of posts over at the standard proving that this is so, but very simply, an organisation that made a billion dollar surplus last year is not short on funds. add to this the fact that predictions of future liability will vary considerably depending on what assumptions you make about many components of the calculations (eg will interest rates in 10 years be 4%? 10%? and what about in 20 years? how long will the average person with lifelong compensation live? 20 years? 30 years? etc etc).

i'm also beginning to have serious doubts about the wisdom of requiring ACC to be fully-funded. there's a strong argument for putting aside moneys for future superannuation liabilities based on an aging population and the fact that advances in medical technologies have meant that people live a lot longer. however, for ACC, one would think that the opposite would be true. technology and government action through regulation, safety campaigns and financial incentives (eg reduced levies to reward employers who provide safer workplaces) should serve to reduce the number of accidents. an example is the road toll, which has generally trended downwards through a range of measures aimed at deterrance and at changing social attitudes, as well as technological features in new vehicles (airbags etc).

and i hate how the discourse on this issue, just like so many others, is being reduced to the level of the individual. there seems to be very little discourse about the social and societal benefits of the scheme, and the value to us all of providing a comprehensive government run scheme. i guess i'm especially feeling angry about that after hearing a littel bit of rodney hide on tv friday morning (yeah, i was at the airport, i don't watch the show voluntarily and avoid listening to anything mr hide has to say as much as i can). but there he was, trying to make peole who receive ACC into welfare beneficiaries (as if this, in and of itself, is somehow a bad thing) who we should all think of as ripping off the system. bring it down to the individual, ignore community and collective benefits, and then wonder why we've turned into such a bunch of selfish morons. sigh.

so all in all, i'm finding it really sad that ACC is being pared back in this way, and am appalled by the proposals revealed in the sunday star times today. there is no doubt at all that ACC is being slowly prepared for privatisation, and that private insurance companies are set to make a windfall, at the expense of us all.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


i've had a couple of really busy days, hence the absence of posts. monday evening, i managed a visit to a sick relative in hospital as well as two other meetings (not to mention the usual cooking and chauffering of children to regular classes). last night i had to fit in a teleconference while i was at an event, which meant that i blew $20 just to take part in the call by mobile. grrr. the things we do.

but it was the event itself that i'd like to dwell on a little further. regular readers of this blog (yeah, all two of you!) may recall that i wrote earlier in the year about my encounters with religious hatred, and some thoughts i had after my visit to mr s in auckland about setting up an indian interfaith group. i can't say that i personally made any progress on this, other than mentioning my thoughts to a few people here and there.

but last night i attended an event that gave me a lot of hope and positive feeling. it was a joint eid and diwali celebration* organised by an organisation called the koshish trust. it was attended by indians and pakistanis, and there was a good mix of sikh, hindus and muslims. there may have been christians there, but i didn't recognise them. a joint celebration of religious festivals, particularly here in nz, was a wonderful thing to be part of.

a really touching moment for me was when the programme stopped for the sunset prayer at around 7.30, and all the muslims got up to pray in congregation in one corner of the hall. everyone else just amused themselves for ten minutes and then we all got on with the programme (which was a mix of bollywood dancing, ghazals, poetry recitals etc). this isn't something i've seen happen in other parts of the country, so was quite proud of my hamilton community. the level of goodwill in the room was pretty high, helped by the fact that we mostly knew each other, and cared about each other enough to make a strong statement against divisivenss and hatred.

i didn't have any hand in the event other than attending and being a part of it. and i'm really glad i did so. we had some visitors from auckland at the event, so i'm hoping that there might be something similar happening there in the not too distant future.

*hence, if you hadn't worked it out already, the title of this post. it's the name the organisers chose for the event.

Friday, 2 October 2009

natural disasters

the disasters in indonesia and samoa have been really tragic, and mostly the reason why i haven't been posting in the last couple of days. i've been in tears a couple of times in the last few days, hearing accounts from people who have suffered and looking at pictures of the devastation.

my reaction to the news that a tsunami would be hitting coromandel (this was before i'd heard that it wasn't going to be a major event) was pretty unsettling. i'm not sure that i actually want to admit to it, but i felt more upset at that threat than i did when hearing that it had already hit samoa. admittedly at that point, the reports of the loss of life hadn't come through yet and i had no concept of how big a tragedy it was for our neighbours in the pacific.

but the thought of my own country being at serious risk caused me real grief. we're so used to being safe here from most natural disasters, as well as being safe from war and racial violence. we've never had to face the reality of bomb blasts in major cities, like iraqis or afghanis or so many other countries do. we've had very few mass shootings like they seem to have much too regularly in america. we're actually very much protected from multiple deaths from natural or human causes that i found even the thought of it upsetting. even though, in hamilton, we were never remotely at risk.

i've been trying to analyse what lead to this reaction. is the root is some kind of nationalism? or just the fact that a potential tragedy happening on these shores and so close to home made it somehow more real? i can't seem to pin it down. all i know was that any danger to this country and the people here seemed unbearable to me.

since then, i've been following reports of overseas events, and thinking how sad it is that one of the main reasons for the loss of life (particularly in indonesia) is because these are countries that can't afford strong infrastructure and standards that require buildings to be earthquake and disaster proof. many people live in whatever cheap structures they can afford, structures that won't withstand a natural disaster.

as they bury their dead, try to clean up the mess and start to rebuild, we can send money to help and maybe some volunteers. but in the end we carry on our lives, being thankful that at least we in this country are safe. for now.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

delays in access to counselling

i've had a couple of posts up at the hand mirror today, one on an interesting post i found talking about transnational feminism, and another on delays in accessing ACC funded counselling for sexual abuse victims.

Monday, 28 September 2009

one who knows little shares her knowledge

tonight i lead a session about blogging. yup, technologically illiterate moi opened up the world of blogging for others. actually, for people who know little or nothing about blogs, there's quite a lot to learn. and that's just about finding blogs, figuring out how they work, commenting etc. i managed to fill up an hour without actually telling anyone how to set up a blog and write their own posts.

one of the things i ended spending a bit of time on was internet safety. particularly about the permanence of words put up on the internet, and the potential nastiness of comment threads.

i'm thinking that internet safety is something that should probably be emphasised at a much younger age. i know that my kids did get taught about safety around chatting with strangers online, and around accessing inappropriate sites. but i don't know if they're taught enough about the dangers of the stuff that they create themselves, and how it could come back to haunt them in later years. increasingly, people are leaving more and more of themselves in the public sphere, in words, photographs and video. the consequences of which are not always thought through.

[ETA: just came across this link about protecting your privacy on the internet thanx to david do!]

but in happier news, research shows that the internet is improving the writing skills of children. so much for all those who lament the use txt speak and sitting in front of the computer!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

policies for the working class

this post is a follow-up to the discussion that's been happening over at the hand mirror on the post i put up yesterday. probably best to read through the post and comments there if you want a background to this little rant. in particular, i wanted to respond to this comment from hugh:

Yes, everything you've outlined above was positive. But conversely, we had steadily rising university fees, the outlawing of party pills, the near impossibility of home ownership for first time home owners, the continuing lack of a capital gains tax, increasing immigration restrictions, and of course the steadily rising cost of basic household food items.

i'll take each of the issues in turn. on university fees, the labour government had a cap on fees and kept tight control on rising costs, much more so than the previous government and let's see what this one does. at present, this government is capping numbers, which means we have infrastructure and human resources lying idle, while some of those who want a tertiary education won't be able to access one. the cutting of allowances that helped beneficiaries gain a tertiary education has also been a stupid move.

the removal of interest on student loans was a way of keeping costs down, and i was totally in support of the universal student allowance that would have been brought in had labour won a fourth term.

of course more could have been done. i'd like to have seen free tertiary education, but that would have required an increase in taxes, which i don't think the electorate would have accepted. it's a hard-sell when the opposition and media were so belligerent in their campaign of tax cuts. but yes, i'd accept that there is scope to do more in this area.

on outlawing of party pills, that's mostly a moral issue & i personally agree with that one. there was also a health aspect involved, and as far as i know, the advice given by health professionals supported the ban.

the home ownership problem was an extremely complicated one, and a lot of work has been done on it both within the party and by government officials. policies put in place were the kiwisaver government contribution of $5,000 after 5 years of investment in kiwisaver, to help with the deposit. there was also the welcome home scheme, which the current government has kept and expanded.

the capital gains tax wasn't favoured because evidence showed that such a tax hadn't proved effective in australia in reducing the speculation that was leading to higher prices. also, given the rules that already catch people who buy and sell rental properties regularly, it wouldn't have generated much revenue. there is an argument around equal treatment for all investment types, and that one is probably the most compelling. however that issue of equality wouldn't solve the problem of rising house prices.

another option was to ring-fence taxable losses, so that they couldn't be offset against other income. i'd favour that one; the only downside being that it would raise rents which would have a negative impact on those on lower incomes.

that in effect was one of the major problems. any policy solution would have the effect of either raising house prices (ie if you gave people more cash to buy a house, you stimulated demand and prices would rise) and/or raising rents (as landlords would try to recover costs). so again, i'd disagree with the notion that nothing was done in this area. and as more policy was being developed, the bubble burst and house prices started to fall, which meant it was no longer so much of a priority.

on the immigration restrictions, this is one area where i'd agree with hugh. i didn't like the direction that the immigration bill was taking. but the select committee never reported back on the bill, so i have no idea what changes they might have made. not sure what the new government is doing with the bill. in terms of policy, the current policy is much more restrictive, and the treatment of those on work visas has become particularly harsh. but overall, i think the previous government could have done better on immigration.

in terms of the rising costs of basic household items, agreed that this is definitely a problem. the most effective way to deal with it (bar price controls a la muldoon) is to have increased incomes, and there is no doubt that real wages increased over the term of the labour government. working for families has also had a major impact - i know, because i'm doing plenty of returns for farmers with kids, who are getting around $8-10,000 back just on WFF this year. raising the minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining provisions were also helpful.

one policy proposal i've seen in this area is to remove the GST on food items, and that won't work. apart from the administrative nightmare, the likelihood is that it will be the retailers who benefit most. they won't be passing on the full benefits of a reduction in GST, in fact i expect very little of it would be passed on to the consumer. i say this because we have most recently seen this problem with subsidies for home insulation: costs have gone up to swallow up most of the subsidy, and this government has had to issue some pretty stern statements about that. there was a similar issue with GPs, and hon annette king had a real fight to ensure that subsidies for doctors visits were passed on to patients.

in this area, i think those in the workforce with lower incomes were pretty well served by the fifth labour government. not only did real incomes increase, but the fact that there were record levels of low unemployment meant that more people were getting a working wage. the weakness was beneficiaries, and i would dearly loved to have seen the basic benefit level rise. out of all the issues i've covered above, this would be my greatest disappointment.

so, on the whole, i don't think labour abandoned the working class nor did it fail to deliver for those on lower incomes. i'll always accept that more could have been done, i think everyone accepts that. nobody is perfect after all.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


i have to confess to watching "dirty dancing" tonight. yes, i know. it's not that i've been a patrick swayze fan, more that it was a film that took me back to younger days - a bit of indulging in nostalgia more than anything else. i can't say it was a great film, but it was a good one with a strong female character. we really need more of those!

i put up a post at the hand mirror last night, about the defence used in the david bain trial. and another one up tonight about the labour party and the women's vote.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

celebration time

well, it's been a hectic few days, preparing for eid-ul fitr (for all those lovely people who wished me a "happy end of ramadan thingy", you now know what it's called!) and then celebrating the day. most people were expecting the celebration to be on sunday, but i was actually happy for it to be on monday as i had an extra day to prepare.

we start the day with prayers at the hamilton gardens pavilion, and from there spend the day visiting friends and eating. i think we managed to visit about 10 houses in 3 hours, before heading home to receive our own visitors. there were a steady stream of these all afternoon. and it's not over yet, we've had a bit more visiting to do tonight and tomorrow night as well.

the kids get plenty of presents, mostly of money as well as everyone having something new to wear for the day. a few days prior to the celebration, mosques will start collecting the "fitra" donations, which are set this year at $10 for every person earning an income. that money is then quietly distributed to the poor in the community, so that everyone can have new clothes and nice food to celebrate.

so yes, not much time for blogging or politics or keeping up with emails and the news. although, i see that the case against "double-bunking" has started, and am hoping that it goes the way of the prison workers. i don't see why they should have to face greater risks because the government won't look at better options for dealing with prisoners. like more investment in rehabilitation so that they can be sent out into the community, or like more home detention (which also decreases recidivism), or shorter sentences where appropriate.

and also, i'd like to offer solidarity to the open country cheese workers who have been treated very shoddily by their employer. yet another way for employers to drive down the earnings of their employees, and it's sickening. monetary donations to support these workers can be sent to the solidarity fund at BNZ, account number 02 0320 0082084 026.

in the meantime, to all my friends out their, eid mubarak, happy eid, selamat hari raya and i hope you had a successful ramadan.

Friday, 18 September 2009

social inclusion

decided to have a night away from the internets last night. it's good for the soul sometimes! and i thought i'd put something up tonight cos it's going to be a pretty busy weekend.

back to labour party conference, and one of the sessions was called "social inclusion", where we got to hear from one monsignor david cappo. i went into the session thinking it would be about discrimination, and how to overcome it. but no, it was something else altogether. i'm going to write about it from memory cos i didn't take notes, so will likely have some of the details and the terminology a bit wrong. but hopefully you will get the main points.

mr (cos i don't know what the short form of his title is) cappo spoke to us about social exclusion that results from poverty, homelessness, truancy and crime. it was, in fact, a session about social justice, and a pretty illuminating one at that.

in south australia, which is where mr cappo resides, the new labour premier appointed mr cappo to head a social inclusion board, back in the year 2002. said board now has a good number of staff, and some pretty impressive powers. they can go into any government department and require them to implement policy developed by the board. they collect data on the effectiveness of programmes, and do hold departments, their heads and their ministers to account. seriously to account, as in hauling their asses in front of the board to explain themselves, and requiring them to change policies.

members of the board sit with on a particular cabinet committee, which is unheard of. non-elected persons don't get to sit on cabinet committees, but these people do. whether or not they have voting powers, we didn't find out.

the board has developed some pretty unique initiatives which have resulted in positive movement in statistics around, for example, truancy and homelessness. it has meant that people who are otherwise deemed "problematic" become engaged with society and feel as if they are part of the community. and one of the main ways this is happening in south australia is by making the community take responsibility for them.

yup. none of this "personal responsiblity" stuff. none of the "if you fall by the wayside then it's your own damn fault and you can stay in the gutter where you belong". no, it's an approach where the community is required to come together to help out those who are less fortunate.

one of the first things the board does is "active listening" ie consultation with a purpose. for a start, those who come to the consultation meetings are not allowed to discuss "the problem". mr cappo was quite clear that everyone already knows what the problem is. the purpose of the consultation is to come up with solutions. also, these meetings aren't open to the public, but are specifically targetted to those who have a background or expertise in the area.

the one example that i remember most clearly is around truancy. this was treated as a community problem, and so the community was asked to be involved in the solution. they set up these committees within local communities, and gave them both a budget and the authority to spend that budget. these "innovative community action networks" (ICAN)would include businesspeople, social service agencies and others. all members of the ICAN acted on a voluntary basis.

the ICAN would have local knowlege (or get it), and would then work on local solutions. so one example mr cappo gave was finding out where the truant kids went. in one particularly community, the kids went to the local mall and hung out in a cafe. so the local ICAN committee came up with the solution of putting a cafe in the school, and changing teaching methods so the kids would feel more engaged. mr cappo also talked about providing different forms of education for teen mums (which i think we already do well here in some schools), ensuring that these young women got some kind of education, even if it wasn't the traditional model.

the solutions were non-conventional, and they worked. the key was local knowledge, proper resourcing and the willingness to do things differently. and the results, from the statistics he gave us, were pretty overwhelming.

it's definitely a refreshing approach. in dear old nz, we'd have to hear endlessly about "pandering" to certain groups, about "one law for all" even though we know that a single approach doesn't work for everyone. there would be all these middle class and upper middle class people here feeling hard done by because their darlings weren't getting special treatment, like the poor kids were. but it seems that they have avoided all of this in south australia, cos their labour government keeps getting re-elected.

the only one little thing that bothered me about this set-up is that this all-powerful commission (which is one of three i think, another one being an economic one) sits outside the democratic process. the people on the commission are appointed by the premier, and i guess they are accountable to him and he is accountable to the voters, so there is some control in a roundabout way. it just seems to me that there is potential for such a set-up to go horribly wrong if you had the wrong people doing the appointing. and i wasn't entirely happy with mr cappo's response to a question on aboriginal issues.

but on the whole, it's such a different and better philosophy. mostly because it's about community, about collective responsibility, and about caring enough to put in the resources to get the results. it's about treating all members of society with respect, even those who have fallen off the rails. and it's also about getting results.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

almost there

i've posted at the hand mirror today about the clayton weatherston sentencing. i don't have energy to do much more. about 5 more days to the end of ramadan, and then we'll be having our major celebration for the year. just now, i'm hanging on during the final stage. i was fasting for friday and sunday while at rotorua for the conference, even though i didn't have to fast when out of town. however, i'm now thinking that was a mistake, cos i'm feeling quite drained. oh well, not long to go now.

Monday, 14 September 2009

back from conference

whew, what a weekend! i've been in rotorua on friday, saturday and sunday at the labour party annual conference. the most important day for me was friday, which is sector day. i had to be at a couple of sector meetings during the day, both of which went well. women's sector was particularly excellent, very well-attended with a lot of buzz in the room.

i've also, this year, been elected to nz council from my region - which is a big responsibility. i'm still new to the role and finding my feet, but i feel honoured that the waikato-bay of plenty region chose me to be their representative. i'm probably the first person from an ethnic minority community (being not maori or pasifika) to get to the council, and what's really inspiring for me is that i've done it via a generally contested position.

so yes, that also took up a bit of time. the friday night conference opening was a cracker, and andrew little really stepped up to the mark. he spoke so well about labour values, and with real passion and conviction. and then there was jim anderton, who was, well, jim anderton. full of common sense and practical ideas.

the saturday workshops were great, and there's some good coverage over at red alert. i'll cover some of the issues over the next few days, as i get time. today, i wanted to talk about the economics workshop, where we got to hear from lachlan mckenzie of federated farmers & selwyn pellet of endace.

first of all, let me say that i was really pleased that mr mckenzie presented at a labour conference, and that he got a pretty fair hearing. i didn't get to hear his speech myself, it's covered very briefly by trevor mallard. but i was there for the questions, and there were a couple asked about the ETS and the delay for the agriculture sector.

mr mckenzie didn't directly answer one of these questions, and to another his reply was something along the lines of the fact that the technology to reduce agricultural emissions hadn't been developed yet, so the sector needed more time. he said that if there were measures that farmers could take, then they would be taking them, but unfortunately these measures hadn't yet been found.

i thought that was incredibly frustrating. who does he think is going to find those measure, and where is the technology supposed to come from? fed farmers were pretty virulently opposed to a small tax that would fund such research. they have supported a government that campaigned on scrapping the $700 million fast forward fund and the R&D tax credit, which said government actioned as soon as it could.

he showed no responsibility, on behalf of his organisation or his sector, for coming up with any kind of solutions, and that's what angers me. after all, even if you put aside all the social and moral arguments (and i don't think that we should), the economic success of the farming sector depends on them reducing emissions. i remember rod oram making this point several times, and stating that he couldn't understand why the sector wasn't rushing to develop and embrace climate change policy. we're already on the back foot with our geographical distance from major markets, so we have to work hard in other areas to remain competitive.

it's doubly annoying because this lack of action and of taking responsibility (and mostly downright oppostion) by the agricultural sector will mean that we all suffer, as a country. while mr mckenzie did talk a lot of sense about other areas, this is one that left me feeling pretty disappointed.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

open day coverage... not!

shama had it's open day last week. i was fully intending to go, but found myself just too tired after work so missed out. by all accounts, it was a successful event, with some moving presentations from ethnic women who had benefitted from the services we provide. we use the open day to recognise our staff, volunteers, the women who use the centre, and our funders.

this year, we invited the waikato times to attend and cover the event. the coverage we got was a few photos in the "schmoose" section of the paper (yup, that's what they call the society page). there was absolutely no mention of shama, and the photos were labelled "ethnic women". neither was there mention of an open day, but there was mention of an AGM, for reasons that aren't apparent. meh.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

getting tired

ramadan is nearly two thirds over, and i'm really starting to feel it now. mostly it's the tiredness that's getting to me, and i find that i'm less productive. which makes me wonder how those with a genuinely inadequate diet arising from poverty cope with their days. especially if they have the knowledge that there really is no way out.

i know i'll be back to normal in another 11 or so days, and that makes it so much easier to cope.

in the meanwhile, i've been putting a few posts up at the hand mirror, one linking to catriona maclennan's paper on consent laws, another on the rather odd decision to have nigel latta be part of the review team who will determine whether or not the new s59 is working properly, another on ACE protests happening around the country this saturday, and a last one on the success of collective action which has seen a back down from a clothing manufacturer.

and one final note. i was thinking, in response to the gang patch ban in w(h)anganui, that 5,000 should turn up there with patches. maybe do it once a month. it'll clog up the court system so fast that they might want to have another think about the sanity of that particular piece of legislation. we really don't have mass civil disobedience happening in this country, but this is one that i think would be quite interesting in terms of a non-violent protest.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


this seems to be my year for free stuff. the girls were given free make-over vouchers from farmers, to be used at the elizabeth arden counter. so off we went a few weeks ago, and they got made-up to the hilt. i counted at least 14 products that were used, starting with the cleanser and toner, moisturiser, foundation etc etc. if you're a woman, you'll know the whole routine.

knowing the general price range of each product, i thought of how many hundreds of dollars it would cost if you were to buy all of them and use them daily. for a person who gave up on all make-up quite some years ago, i'm thinking that it seems like an awful lot of time, effort and expense. but i can also see the seduction aspect of the process - the girls did look quite stunning after it was all done.

even more seductive was the $60 voucher from professionail, which bought a manicure each for myself and the girls. it was the first time we'd had a manicure. it was very nice. the pedicures looked great as well, with the massage chairs and the foot spas. yup, i can see how easy it is to get hooked on this stuff.

and today, i picked up the free photograph i won from seddon portrait house. it's beautiful, with a lovely wood frame. over $1,500 worth of photograph, but it definitely looks like it. the staff there were wonderful, and i never did get any kind of hard-sell when i went in for the viewing 6 weeks ago. i totally showed off the photograph at work, and at a dinner function i was at tonight. why not? they deserve the publicity. so if you live in hamilton and want to get professional photograph done, i'd definitely recommend them.

i'm thinking at this point i should say something deep and meaningful about our consumerist society, and how easy it is to get sucked in to buying stuff. but no, not today. today i'm just going to enjoy my photograph, and remember fondly the other experiences. sometimes it's ok to be frivolous.

Monday, 7 September 2009

a special place

my mum has a special place in our mosque, by which i mean her own particular physical space. it's at the right hand end of the first row, in the women's section. this is where she likes to be when she prays. i don't know why, i guess it's just that part of human nature that makes us creatures of habit.

my mother's special space is respected and protected by the rest of the community. and particularly the somali community. they make sure that space is available for her. apparently, it's a well-known fact amongst the somali women that no-one else should take that space. women of other communities are much the same, they just don't take her space if she happens to be there.

my mum goes to the mosque regularly, pretty much every day. so when she isn't there, people notice. when she was overseas at the beginning of ramadan, i had an elderly somalian woman ask me, in her broken english, "where your mum?". another pakistani woman told me that praying in the mosque just didn't feel right without my mum standing in her special place.

i find these connections to be fascinating. these are women that never socialise, that never see each other outside the mosque. they don't converse much inside the mosque either, because many of the senior somali women don't speak english. but despite that, there is that sense of closeness, of concern, of belonging that i find really touching. it's such a little thing, the protection of a little bit of space in the corner of the mosque. but it seems to say so much about human connections, that i can't adequately describe.

our mosque is special. it's special because of the mix of colours and races you find there. from the white europeans, to the ivory of the arabs, to the golden bronze of the malays and indonesians, to the darker brown of the south asians and maori and right across the spectrum to the various shades of black that make up africa. it's all there in one room, particularly noticeable in ramadan because more people come to the mosque for prayer.

this not something you see in many countries. mosques in muslim countries will be dominated by the ethnicity of the people native to the land. you may get a bit of diversity, but not so much. mosques in other western countries tend to get drawn along ethnic lines. as an example, i remember attending a RISEAP conference in sydney back in 1989. it lasted 7 days, and each evening, dinner for delegates was hosted by a different mosque. so, we went to the lebanese mosque in lakemba, to the yugoslav (as it was back then) mosque, to the south african mosque, and so on. you get the picture.

it's not that the ethnic groups don't get along, and anyone is always welcome in any mosque. it's just that people tend to drift towards others who are similar to them in culture, language and religious practice.

a bit of that happens in auckland, where it's mostly south asians that go to the stoddard road mosque, fijians who go to the south auckland mosque. but even then, there's still a reasonable amount of diversity. in a smaller community like hamilton, we don't have the numbers to have different mosques for different ethnic groups.

so we all come together in the one mosque, and it's a pretty amazing feeling to be in that bunch. it's amazing because race and colour truly don't matter, and not being able to understand one another really doesn't matter much either. we understand enough, we understand that we belong together in that place. i wish that was how the rest of the world could be.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

diversity awards

one thing about ramadan is that it is a very social month. muslims love to invite one another for the evening meal to break their fast, pray and then share dinner together. to the extent that when one 5 year old was asked at school what ramadan was about, she said "oh, that's the time of year we have parties".

so today, i helped to cook for 28 people. i did some of the preparation last night, hence no energy to post, when i finally got to bed at 10.30pm! but it's all worth it, it adds to the specialness that is ramadan.

in the meantime, i've put up a couple of posts at the hand mirror, a brief one with links relating to the cartwright inquiry, and another one about the case of the muslim woman who was barred from a hastings courtroom.

i really missed not being at the diversity forum this year, it's such a great opportunity to catch up with people and to see the wonderful work going on in this country to reduce discrimination and to increase a sense of community and belonging for all nzers. the diversity awards are an opportunity to recognise the best of these, and i'd highly recommend a read through of this year's winners.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

another case of "we don't know how lucky we are"

i've just finished watching the two documentaries broadcast on maori tv, the first about uighur activist rebiya kadeer, and the second a chinese government documentary broadcast in response.

i was moved by the first if a little disappointment. the latter stems from the fact that i would have liked to have been provided with more history of the uighurs and their current situation. but it was, after all, more a documentary about one woman and her family, with contextual bits thrown in. and i can imagine that it is extremely difficult to get any detailed information out of china - ms kadeer herself spoke about video tapes being destroyed as she left the country.

nonetheless, it was an incredible story of someone with a lot of determination, resilience and courage. the price of freedom for her has been and continues to be extremely high. i can't imagine what it would be like to have four children in a jail where there is no independent prisons investigation authority, closed media and little chance of appeal against abuses of basic human rights.

also telling was the fact that at least one of her children was not entirely supportive of her stance. that must be even more difficult situation, with the daughter more concerned about her siblings than the overall struggle. it's an entirely understandable position. sadder was her desire to just get on her with her life, which she expressed early on in the documentary. obviously she hasn't chosen to be part of the movement her mother belongs to, and again, i can understand her desire to put it all aside. being the child of an activist is no fun thing, especially when the consequences of that activism can be so devastating for other family members.

it's hard to see where the struggle for self-determination will go for the uighur people. the central chinese government, like it's indian counterpart, can not allow one region any kind of independence without seeing the whole country break up into many parts. after all, if one region is successful in gaining independence, then other parts of the country will want the same.

layered into all of this are the global politics. while america was keen to have china as an ally during the initial phase of the war on terror, strong economic growth has lead to china becoming a threat. hence the policy of developing strong alliances with countries bordering china. having china becoming more unstable or even splitting up would see a greater reduction in any percieved threat. so seeing a turn-aound from george w bush in recognising ms kadeer was not entirely heartening.

the counter documentary produced by the chinese government was pretty disturbing as well. pretty graphic in the depiction of violence, it definitely made a point. there is absolutely no way to defend the senseless violence against unarmed people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

it's a pretty ugly situation all around. on the one hand, we have a government that commits gross abuses of human rights and will go to any lengths to preserve national unity and stability. in such an environment, there are very few options when it comes to the struggle for self-determination.

well, i'm really glad that maori tv didn't cave in to pressure and screened the documentary. if nothing else, i do feel better informed about the situation, and it's great to have a voice from the uighur people giving us their perspective on the situation.

Monday, 31 August 2009

zeal dispute sorted out

in case you missed them, i had a couple of posts up at the hand mirror on friday, one about the national government preventing the leader of the opposition visiting our local firestation, for no good reason that i can see. the other is about proposed cuts to preparatory courses for university entrance, specially designed for those who have not managed to complete the NCEA qualification.

in good news today, the zeal 320 dispute (whereby an air nz subsidiary were paying lower wages to zeal workers than air nz workers) has been satisfactorily settled. you can get more information here:

The 15 month deal achieves a number of substantial improvements including a 3.95% pay increase, a 6.7% increase in a tour of duty allowance after 12 months, introduction of a new guaranteed allowance of either $149 or $186 a fortnight based on last year's value of an at-risk bonus scheme, a $1000 up-front payment and the addition of a number of non-financial clauses.

A working group to look at hours of work and rostering will also be established.