LB: Government Spin and Hidden Secrets

Written By: - Date published: 4:24 pm, March 8th, 2014 - 34 comments
Categories: Economy, education, employment, Environment, national - Tags: ,

This post was originally posted at Local Bodies by bspout. It is a pretty good summary of National’s spins away from reality.

This National led Government has seriously mismanaged things and is desperate to hide the true effects of its governance over the last five years. I half suspect many of the retiring National MPs are jumping ship because they don’t want to be around when the proverbial hits the fan.

National have carefully constructed showy facades that hide flimsy realities and I have attempted to give some examples below:

THE ECONOMY

The facade: A Rock Star Economy

The Reality: We are enjoying the the dairy commodity boom, another property bubble and the activity generated from the Christchurch rebuild. Agricultural markets fluctuate, all our eggs are in one agricultural basket and all we need is another embarrassing contamination and we could lose markets quickly. Overblown property prices only benefit a few, a later crash is inevitable and Christchurch is a temporary phenomenon. The recovery is an unequal one, only 36% of those participating in a Stuff survey feel that they are better off and for the very wealthy the recession ended three years ago, the trickle down isn’t occurring. Research and Development is underfunded as a % of our GDP. Our current account deficit is still one of the highest in the OECD and the use of GDP is not a good measure of general economic performance.

What the Government is doing: Throwing out lots of ‘good news’ stories and claiming anyone who points out the weaknesses are just party poopers. It is still selling assets (Genesis Energy) and borrowing heavily.

EDUCATION

The facadeWe’re fixing a failing system and we’re making good progress.

The Reality: Our once successful public education system didn’t need fixing. It is reeling from the forced introduction of the flawed National Standards, the Novopay debacle, the constant blaming of underachievement on teachers (rather than poverty and inequity) and buying into the global eduction reform movement (GERM) that has had a devastating effect on other countries. For the first time in decades we have plummeted in our international ranking. Our teaching has narrowed to literacy and numeracy, constant data collection and our advisors and special education support have been cut. Early childhood centres are no longer funded to employ 100% qualified staff, our teachers are demoralized and our support staff feel undervalued.

What the Government is doing: Using flawed data and misinformation to give the impression of improvements (when there are none) and refusing to allow scrutiny of that data. Parata claims that Level 2 results have seen a remarkable 7% lift in Pasifika pass rates and 4% for Maori, but these statistics are being questioned. Attempts to analyze the data was suddenly blocked by the NZQA, who strangely removed the information from their website (May ’13). When the Listener lodged an OIA request to see what prompted this decision, nothing could be found, it had just happened. The $359 million windfall for super teachers and principals will make little difference to achievement but will potentiallybuy out education leadership and make them compliant to flawed government policy.

THE ENVIRONMENT

The facade: Our environment is better than most and looks great in movies.

The Reality: 80% of our lowland rivers polluted, our wetlands and estuaries are experiencing eutrophication and 50% of our native species are heading for extinction. The growing intensification of dairying and the expansion of coal mining, fracking and deep sea oil drilling will see our greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow. Our clean green, 100% pure branding is being questioned internationally.

What the Government is doing: The RMA is being weakened and public input into consents for potentially polluting industries like deep sea oil drilling is being blocked. The Government has cut funding to an already struggling DoC and is determined to push through irrigation schemes, despite concerns, to further intensify dairying. The Government is still pursuing the mining of conservation areas. The Government stopped the comprehensive State of the Environment reporting and all reporting will now be limitedto what they want the public to know. Independent scientific assessments from the likes of scientist Mike Joy have been actively discouraged.

CHILD POVERTY

The facade: poverty has flatlined, the Government has increased immunisations, is insulating homes  and getting people into work.

The Reality: At least 20% of children live in poverty where their basic daily needs are not met (food, clothing, sleeping arrangements) and it has been estimated that around 50% of all children will experience poverty at some time. Maori and Pasifika families have suffered more than others with the median household incomes dropping considerably over the last few years. Inequality is growing faster in New Zealand than most OECD countries. New Zealand has amongst the worst statistics (29th out of 30) for the health and welfare of children.

What the Government is doing: Lifting demands and expectations that parents should be in work (no matter the pay, hours and conditions) and encouraging growth of early childhood centres but not funding above 80% qualified staff. Keeping the minimum wage low so that we have growing numbers of working poor. No expectation that rental homes meet minimum  standards. Knowingly misrepresenting poverty statistics and refusing tomeasure child poverty or follow the advice of the Children’s Commissioner and theSalvation Army.

EMPLOYMENT

The facade: The Government is creating more jobs and unemployment is dropping (now 6%)

The Reality: We still have almost double the levels of unemployment that existed when National came to power in 2008 (3.9 unemployment) and we now have one of the largest percentages of those under-employed in the OECD. Roy Morgan has assessed our unemployment as actually 2.5% above official statistics and has unemployment at 8.5% and a further 11.3% are looking for more work or are under-employed. This means that almost 20% of our workers are either unemployed or under-employed and this is equal to 519,000 people. This number has increased by 69,000 since the last quarter estimates. The working poor are being seen in growing numbers at food banks. Many manufacturers are struggling with the value of our dollar and the high costs of rental property and power. Our wealthiest business people have seen huge increases in wealth (much due to property investment) since 2011 but this has not translated to higher wages or greater investment in jobs. New Zealand is now regarded as lower wage economy with flexible employment law that is suitable for setting up call centres.

What the Government is doing: Keeping wages low with the introduction of a youth rate and using Working for Families to subsidise wages for employers ($3 billion per year).Government procurement does not support New Zealand businesses as it could and we are losing skilled workers and higher paid jobs that would employ the 25% of our university graduates that head overseas. The Government is also changing employment law to limit things like collective bargaining and removing compulsory meal breaks to favour employers.

I intend to use future posts to describe how the Green Party would do things differently and put in place  sustainable alternatives that will allow more New Zealanders to prosper. I haven’t covered other secrets that are of concern, like the real truth behind GCSB operations and the secret TTPA negotiations, but this will do as a start I guess.

34 comments on “LB: Government Spin and Hidden Secrets”

  1. geoff 1

    Great post, clearly covers most of the big failings of National.

    • Chooky 1.1

      +100…great points

      Labour needs to be punching these points home where ever and when ever possible

      David Cunliffe needs to be seen with Shane Jones together punching these points home…Jones puts the Maori/Polynesian face on the Labour Party …and he is a King Batsman…together Cunliffe and Jones could be a formidable duo!

      (cf the new Mayor Tommy Carcetti and his right hand man Norman Wilson in the fourth season of ‘The Wire’….this TV series set in Baltimore which apart from a very graphic illustration of USA education( and what we should and should not do here in NZ) ….is also a very astute portrayal of how to operate in a difficult and divided political environment and win!)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Carcetti

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Wilson_(fictional_character)

      • Chooky 1.1.1

        oops havent seen the following series ….but this duo works very well initially

        …one thing Labour does need is a strong Maori face in the leadership/spokespeople ranks… and there are plenty of very able Maori waiting in the wings…as yet unused

        ….cf. National which is doing everything it can to up its attractiveness to the very people it is screwing

  2. karol 2

    Yes, this is an excellent post. It also focuses on the issues. The left had been making inroads on many of these issues, such as on child poverty, the inequality gap, power prices, TPP, the invasive surveillance state, youth unemployment, house unaffordability, the need for fair employment practices and wages, etc – plus a little bit on the shallowness of the “rockstar economy” concept.

    So the right has unleashed a barrage of diversions onto MPs clothes, houses, etc., and beating up minor slips into something major. Team Key doesn’t want to talk too much about these significant issues.

  3. Jimmie 3

    A great essay on leftist rhetoric. A sad pity that voters don’t seem to share the author’s sentiments.

    If John Key is the devil incarnate and has mismanaged NZ inc for the last 5 years don’t you think that National would be sitting on 30% in the polls and Labour would be knocking on 45%?

    This hasn’t happened so there is something wrong with the scenario as painted above – it could be that NZ inc is doing quite well and John Key looks set to hit a 3rd term later this year.

    • lprent 3.1

      You did miss the bit about “spin” right? Do you need a wikipedia link about what it is used for? Basically the author is saying that National is masking the reality from the public using spin.

      /sarc

      Shorter version – are you are a mindless dork?

      • Old Tony 3.1.1

        Prefers Jimmies version to the untruths and distortions of this item:
        1. Government austerity in 2008 courtesy of Labour spraying money around like confetti so any impact like GFC left no room to manoeuvre.
        2. Mother of all housing booms caused in part by Labour’s envy tax increase in 2001 or thereabouts which Westpac did some research on and noted had caused a significant part of total price increases as higher earners used the differential between personal and other tax rates to their advantage in buying property.
        3. Economy has been one of the most successful in the world post GFC as any comparison of growth rates will show.
        4. Fall in comparative education achievement primarily attributable to Labour’s period in office given the lag in these things.
        5. Earthquake did have some minor impact believe it or not but clearly the Greens haven’t noticed.
        6 Unemployment great compared to many other economies.
        7. Expenditure on health and education continued to grow post GFC unlike places like Ireland and even Canada where real cuts occurred.

        And so we could go on.

        • Pasupial 3.1.1.1

          Old fool

          Do you have any evidence, or are you just spewing untruths and distortions randomly?

          1. “Labour spraying money around like confetti”; a strange turn of phrase for paying off debt rather than borrowing to pay for tax-cuts like NAct.
          2. “Labour’s envy tax increase in 2001 or thereabouts”; check your facts, yes 39% for $60000 was higher than 33% (1988-2000), but lower than any rate from 1935 through 1988. A targeted progressive tax for those who profited most from social infrastructure, compare with the current regressive GST hike that takes from those who can least afford it.
          3. GDP is not the economy, the GINI has really come out of the bottle since NAct took office.
          4. I don’t trust your assertion that education disparities are “primarily attributable to Labour’s period in office given the lag in these things”; evidence please.
          5. LB noted “activity generated from the Christchurch rebuild” if you’d bothered to read the post.
          6. Our unemployment rates have indeed increased greatly compared to many other economies.
          7. Evidence please (for public rather than private education and health-care).

          And so we could go on.

          • David H 3.1.1.1.1

            Spraying money around? 9 years of Surplusses whilst paying for the folly of the previous Nat government.

            National
            Borrows and spends like there’s no tomorrow if you are rich enough to join in the largess.
            So when Labour wins the next election, the state of Nationals 6 years of books will tell a nasty story of mismanagement, upon incompetence, right up-to ministerial level and higher!

        • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.2

          “Left no room for manouvre”. Lying asshole Old Tony

          “This is the rainy day the government has been saving up for”. Bill English.

          So, who to believe, the lying asshole or Bill English? The lying asshole would say believe Bill English. Go figure.

          • Old Tony 3.1.1.2.1

            Abuse aside that is not a bad riposte. I don’t think the two things are inconsistent. Labour paid down debt, set up Cullen fund etc and those things were great aids to the Nats in grappling with the GFC. However they also entrenched huge increases in Government spending through no-interest student loans, working for families etc which could not readily be unwound post GFC and did markedly cramp the new government’s ability to act.

            I think the last Labour government did some good things, but the hopelessly lopsided commentary of this item deserves an equally one-sided response.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.2.1.1

              More bullshit. In 1999, government spending was 35% of gdp. In 2008, government spending was 35% of gdp.

              Shall we just assume that everything you believe is wrong?

            • felix 3.1.1.2.1.2

              When talking about the interest on student loans I think we should go back a bit further. The loans aren’t some naturally occurring phenomenon which has to exist while we only quibble over who pays the interest.

              The introduction of the loans represented the end of “free” education, prior to that the state paid nearly the full cost. This system was only demolished so right-wing govts could cut taxes and there is no reason we can’t go back to sharing the cost of education more widely as a public good.

              This is where the discussion should centre. Interest on student loans is a cost to the state but the loan itself is proportionally a far greater burden to the individual citizen.

      • Jimmie 3.1.2

        Putting aside your childish name calling lprent, believing an alternative reality that NZ is turning into a third world country that will only be fixed by the election of Labour/Greens this year is laughable and chasing a fantasy.

        This is the same mindset that caused the left to lose in 2011. Basically the hypothesis that NZ is going down the toilet, the Nats are using evil spin doctors to hypnotize the electorate, and the government will change as soon as enough voters awake from their stupour is what is driving the left heading towards the election this year.

        Is it because the reality that unemployment/crime are going down, the economy is growing strongly, and consistent popular support for John Key is just too painful for the left to accept?

        Or is it because the Opposition consists of a hopelessly divided Labour party who don’t know what or who they stand for and a Green party with the economic literacy on par with a 5 year old?

        After 6 years in the political wilderness and steering another 3 in the face the paradigm of the evil spinning Nats conveniently sidesteps the necessary surgery and reality check required by Labour of getting their house in order. (A change in leader has done nothing to change this)

        • geoff 3.1.2.1

          Hopefully your side keeps believing that bullshit, Jimmie, because you won’t even see it coming when reality rolls in and knocks you flat on your arse.

          • Jimmie 3.1.2.1.1

            Well I suggest you book mark that comment and maybe we can revisit the subject the day after the election lol?

            • instauration 3.1.2.1.1.1

              Jimmie
              Can you suggest a colour or season to ascribe the next election ?

        • Sosoo 3.1.2.2

          In times of recession, people tend to become more conservative as they look to hang on to what they have. Of course, while individually rational, it’s collectively self-defeating behaviour, and that’s why we have been in this general malaise for so many years now.

          National is disproportionately gaining votes from older people who pigged out on the welfare state while things were good, and now don’t want to pay their fair share. It’s annoying, but putting up with periods of conservative stupidity is the cross that intelligent people everywhere must bear.

          • Clubconnecter 3.1.2.2.1

            It’s also fair to say that Nact and Blinglish created a ‘false’ recession by digging an enormous hole with their 2008 tax cuts, which in turn, they used as justification for the asset theft (still on going) in term 2. Just for the RWNJ’s – Yes I am in the top tax bracket and would happily pay 39% again.

            “National is disproportionately gaining votes from older people who pigged out on the welfare state while things were good, and now don’t want to pay their fair share. It’s annoying, but putting up with periods of conservative stupidity is the cross that intelligent people everywhere must bear.”

            Excellent point. It can’t be emphasised enough. NZ Super recipients account for the largest proportion of ‘beneficiaries’ by a wide margin – the ‘boomers’ who are more than happy to accept ‘welfare’ but don’t want to pay for it.

            Suffices to say I think that many NZ’er’s are selfish, having been manipulated into the current paradigm by 30 years of NeoLib ideology, policy, propaganda and media.

    • Peter 3.2

      So none of these criticisms are valid because Kiwis’ love seeing John Keys photo on the cover of the Woman’s Weekly? There are none so blind as those who do not want to see.

      • Sosoo 3.2.1

        The Woman’s Weekly is pitched at conservatives: it’s their version of the New York Review of Books.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    We do have a rock star economy.

    It’s Justin Beiber, rather than Mick Jagger, though.

    A flash-in-the-pan sugar-hit with no underlying quality or staying power.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    There has been no real productivity growth during this government’s term. The financial numbers are epiphenomena of a real economy that is stagnant or in a morbid decline. Were the economy genuinely growing employment numbers and tax receipts would be much better. What have had, and what we have is the kind of robber government associated with South American military juntas. They will say anything, but they are here to steal. Nothing they do works, and they don’t care. If we want the kind of New Zealand we grew up in we are going to have to have these buggers out. It really doesn’t matter how, the pretence of democracy is so broken it has not constrained them at all.

  6. The section on child poverty is, much as I hate to say it, unfair to the government.

    The ‘facade’ part isn’t actually a facade – the ‘getting people into work’ bit certainly is, but poverty genuinely has pretty much flatlined, with only a slight increase under the current government, and that attributable to the GFC. And they have subsidised housing insulation, even if it was the Greens’ idea.

    The ‘reality’ part was mostly also a reality under the last Labour government and will be a reality under the next one. It will continue to be a reality as long as we have upwards of 20% of children being raised on a benefit at or soon after birth, and it will continue to be a lot worse for Maori as long as they have upwards of 40% of children in that category. The government that has a useful idea what can be done about that would be a very unusual one, and it’s a bit rich to blame the current one for not being that government.

    The ‘what the government is doing’ part is, again, largely what a Labour government would do, with the difference that the current government aims to see pay and employment conditions worsen (which is really the only sense in which they are genuinely doing something that increases child poverty, and is covered elsewhere in your post). Any sane government will expect and if possible require that the income spent on raising children is income earned by the children’s parents working for a living – National is in no sense unusual in this. And, as you point out, they are encouraging the growth of childcare centres – your quibbling about proportion of ‘qualified’ staff required is just that. Childcare centres don’t actually need 100% qualified staff, and this push to make them 100% qualified is yet another example of how the takeover of Labour by the tertiary-educated public-sector middle class is strongly against the interests of the working class Labour is supposedly meant to represent.

    • RedBaronCV 7.1

      There wouldn’t be so many children raised on a benefit if:
      – jobs paid decent wages
      – wealthy males paid decent child support instead of dumping their kids on the state.

      • Psycho Milt 7.1.1

        I’m afraid going easy on deadbeat dads isn’t unique to the current government either.

        A Labour government may do something to drive up wages (don’t assume it though – the last one decided it was easier just to top up low wages with welfare payments), but the cultural shift towards beneficiary parenting proved resistant to the last jobs boom and will likely prove resistant to the next one. As long as we all pretend that sole parenthood is a perfectly good family type, rather than an unfortunate circumstance to be avoided if possible, there’s little the government’s going to be able to do about child poverty.

        • JanM 7.1.1.1

          Maybe if there was more genuine help to support relationships in trouble there would be fewer solo families, but at present even the little support available seems to be being eroded by a lack of funding – penny wise and pound foolish, eh?
          It’s cheaper in the short term to vilify the people who aren’t coping than to give them a hand-up when they are in vulnerable circumstances, but the long term consequences can be anything but inexpensive to deal with.
          Solo parenthood will continue to be a significant part of our society until we work out how to be the fence at the top rather than the ambulance at the bottom.

          • Psycho Milt 7.1.1.1.1

            Oh, please – I’ve met plenty of supposedly “vulnerable people who aren’t coping” who are actually just too self-centred to make the necessary compromises for a marriage to work. And a lot of that 20+% who are on a benefit at the birth of the child or shortly after aren’t in anything you could describe as a “relationship.”

        • RedBaronCV 7.1.1.2

          The issue PsychoM isn’t the single parent who does the work and pays the money for the children – the reponsible one , it’s the parent who can’t be bothered being a parent and does the runner without paying. Very prevalent in the high income group.

          It’s interesting psychology that so many state resources are put into hounding the responsible parent and none into hounding the parent who doesn’t bother.

    • JanM 7.2

      And your knowledge base for making statements against all ece teachers being qualified is???????????

      • Psycho Milt 7.2.1

        The lack of any evidence for its necessity.
        The fact that childcare centres have functioned perfectly well without 100% qualified staff in the past.
        Having personally witnessed the value of practical expertise and depth of experience some of these “unqualified” childcare workers bring to the job, particularly to care of the under-2s, when my own kids were attending one.
        Having personally witnessed the resentment some of these “unqualified” staff felt at the prospect of being forced to either take up unnecessary and expensive tertiary education they didn’t want, find another line of work, or retire early.

  7. mickmarvel 8

    Key has got this one in the bag. We are stuffed. That stupid anden talks that much shit she is chasing people away.

  8. mickmarvel 9

    Solo parents are a large block of our voting base. we must not be seen to vilify them. They must believe we have their welfare at heart.

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