Quick bites

Written By: - Date published: 7:37 am, August 21st, 2010 - 25 comments
Categories: Economy, International, Media, Politics, Social issues - Tags:

There are a bunch of interesting little stories floating around this week that we didn’t get round to writing full posts on or that we wrote drafts for but never finished. So here’s a new, possibly weekly feature – Quick Bites:
NZ Institute: ‘Nats have no plan’
Suicide funding cut
Nats’ interesting donors
Workers’ rights under attack
One foot out of Iraq
Party on Garth

NZ Institute: ‘Nats have no plan’
The title of the New Zealand Institute’s new paper, ‘A goal is not a strategy‘ is a slap in the face for John ‘we’ll catch Australia by 2025, promise’ Key. You can promise all you like but with no plan for getting there, it will never happen. Not that it will matter to Key – he will be safely retired in Hawaii long before 2025.

From Stuff: “Dr Boven said the biggest cause of the wealth gap with Australia was labour productivity in the private sector”. Oh, I thought it was all those lazy bureaucrats’ fault. An under-acknowledged fact is that the driver of labour productivity is capital investment and skills (ie education). It’s not a question of people being harder workers in Australia, it’s that they have better equipment to work with and better education.

“Pretty much all the OECD countries have this economic liberalisation rhetoric about leaving the market alone. New Zealand’s the only one that actually believes the rhetoric. Other countries do a great deal to tilt the playing field.”  For once, the New Zealand Institute gets it right. The tired old rightwing formula of tax cuts for the rich, privatisation, and weaker work rights/lower wages isn’t the path that richer countries have followed. If we want to catch the richer countries, we need to do what they do, not follow the failed ideology of the Business Roundtable.

Suicide funding cut
The Government’s health cuts have struck again. Now a programme called ‘Postvention’ that helps families of people who commit suicide (and have a 4 times greater than normal chance of committing suicide themselves) has been axed due to lack of money. What a mean bunch of fuckers these rich boy Nats are. Key has voted himself $22,000 a year of tax cuts but there’s nothing in the kitty for this important work.

Nats’ interesting donors
So, the Nats’ money worries are sorted. They’re the party of big business, so they asked some of the rich businessmen they’ve been shoveling tax cuts to for a bit of dosh. Interesting thing is one of the donations comes from people involved in Natural Dairy NZ, formerly called China Jin Hui Mining Corporation – the Chinese company trying to buy the Crafar farms. I wonder how much more relaxed that will make Key about Kiwis becoming tenants in their own country.

Workers’ rights under attack
Unite has another story of the Nats’ Fire at Will law being abused, and they’re fighting back:

A special direct action group called the UTU Squad is picketing the Mission Bay Burger Fuel store on Friday from 12-2pm to protest the sacking of a worker on the 89th day of her employment.
Joanne Bartlett’s dismissal came a few days after she had asked for more than a single 10 minute lunch break each day she had been receiving for an 8 hour shift. Ms Bartlett had consistently received the highest grades in Burger Fuel’s training programme and had culinary school qualifications. She had also worked extra shifts when requested. No reason was given for the dismissal.

Remember, if National has it’s way, your next job – whatever the size of the firm – will probably come with a 90 day fire at will clause as a compulsory condition of employment.

One foot out of Iraq
The last US combat troops have left Iraq. But 50,000 ‘advisers’ remain. That’s more than the US had in Vietnam until 1965. US military deaths are down to one a week but Iraqi forces are dying at one a die, civilians at ten a day at least, and no-one knows about the insurgents. Iraq hasn’t formed a government, still, after elections in March. And make no mistake, there are a lot of well-armed groups who are keeping their powder dry until the Americans are totally gone.

From the Herald:
“Journalists covering the arrival of the surviving Oyang 70 crew this morning are angry about they way they were treated.

Reporters were kept well away from the scene at the Port of Lyttelton where the crew were ushered onto a bus.

As the bus headed through the Lyttelton tunnel police moved to block off following media then closed the tunnel for 15 minutes – presumably to prevent journalists from discovering the location of the hotel they’re heading to.
One camera crew did manage to join the convoy of plain clothes police in what a Newstalk ZB reporter at the scene described as a “dangerous manoeuvre” before the tunnel was blocked off.”

Hmm. Sounds like the survivors didn’t want to talk to you, guys. And I can’t see any overriding public interest in footage of them coming ashore or where they’re staying. So how’s about this? Stop being vultures feeding on human misery and start acting like professional reporters.

Party on Garth
I can’t believe it. I agree with nearly everything in Garth George’s latest. I’m just going to quote the whole second half of it:

“our low-wage workers have little power these days to change their conditions because a series of political, economic and corporate decisions over the past 25 years or so have taken away the bargaining power of workers, especially those on lower pay scales.Those decisions included deregulating industries that were once strongly unionised, economic policies focused almost solely on maintaining low inflation and a corporate ideological shift that eliminated the social contract with workers and replaced it with a single-minded emphasis on maximising profits and pleasing shareholders.

As we all know only too well, those decisions have made conditions worse in low-wage jobs and made the gap between rich and poor into a yawning chasm.

Major employers – these days owned mostly by overseas corporations – pay their managers and executives large salaries while their service workers struggle just to exist.

They spend millions on renovating buildings that don’t need it and indulge in a host of other costly, non-essential activities, yet they don’t pay decent wages.

The welfare of workers should be of highest priority in every business and industry.

We hear ad nauseam about the need to increase investment and productivity, yet our biggest employers treat their employees as a bum on a seat, a mind and a pair of hands to be exploited, rather than as a person.

They all have “human resources” rather than personnel departments – redolent of the Marxist definition of workers as “economic units” – and see their employees as a liability rather than an asset.

So I reckon that if we want to increase our productivity hugely and quickly, factories, retailers, banks, restaurant chains, petrol stations and all other businesses that employ low-paid workers should increase the hourly wages of those workers substantially.

It is said that you can’t buy loyalty but it seems obvious to me that if a worker is shown to be valued, both financially and as a human being, he or she will work more willingly, longer and harder and produce more goods and more profits.

And they will give a second boost to the economy by spending more and saving more and creating more jobs.

A third boon to the economy would be to ease the social welfare burden.

Well-paid, well-looked-after workers are unlikely to chuck in their jobs to go on the dole and higher wages would give those on the dole more incentive to find work.”

25 comments on “Quick bites”

  1. Janice 1

    If the Chinese consortium, after giving such a large donation to National, is now allowed to purchase the Crafer farms, surely that will open National up to accusations of corruption. Even they could be pushed to spin this. But then will Labour and the MSM follow up on it?

    • Tigger 1.1

      I hope we’ll hear lots of it from various sources during election time should it come to pass…National and Farrar will paint it as anti-Chinese racism…but ironically it is their supporters who will have the most trouble with this buy off – nothing pings right-wing envy like those Asians having more money than them…

      • Janice 1.1.1

        I have just had a thought that perhaps to avoid the cries of corruption that will (might) happen if the Chinese get the farms, that National will donate the money they have paid to the (unnamed) charity that gets Donkey’s salary (including his $22,000 tax break).

  2. RedLogix 2

    I was rather stunned to read that line in the NZI report:

    “Pretty much all the OECD countries have this economic liberalisation rhetoric about leaving the market alone. New Zealand’s the only one that actually believes the rhetoric. Other countries do a great deal to tilt the playing field.’

    It’s a testament to how blindly, how tightly bound to their failed ideology they are, that they can quote direct irrefutable evidence of it’s failure…. and still not spot the irony.

    • Olwyn 2.1

      The idea seems to be, when you have dug yourself into a hole that you can’t get out of, just keep digging.

    • Debs 2.2

      You lost me, Redlogix, who is They – the Institute? They seem to have spotted the gap, they’re pointing it out. Where is the irony? (Or is the irony to be found in your not spotting the evidence/assessment alignment?)

  3. The Chairman 3

    Growing the pie

    Our economy is largely made up of small to medium size enterprises with many only locally focused, underestimating the nations requirement to grow its offshore return.

    Moreover, the recession has exposed weak company balance sheets and an over reliance on debt. Leaving many in the private sector in an exceptionally poor position to take advantage of the new growth opportunities presented (FTAs) or with the funding required to invest in the necessary R&D and the latest productivity boosting equipment.

    Therefore, Government needs to partake in commerce, utilising its magnitude, flexibility, resources, and position, to help overcome specific constraints and shortcomings impeding our economic growth.

    Achieving this requires the nation to invest in new publicly owned ventures, education/training, etc and not merely supplying taxpayer handouts subsidising private sector profit.

    The new report from the New Zealand Institute says: “the importance of the internationalisation obstacle has been underestimated and the market failure in overcoming it has not been recognised.”

    The Institute suggests that economic liberalisation has created a mindset that relies too heavily on market forces to provide answers, and “a reluctance to intervene or ’tilt the playing field’,” as other more successful exporting countries have done.

    It goes on to say if government debt were allowed to rise to 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product specifically to overcome the internationalisation barrier, “that would be a material reallocation of resources.”

    It proposes a “material reallocation” – billions of dollars of government funds and effort to be thrown at high value manufacturing and internationalisation efforts over a number of years.

    More here http://tinyurl.com/3yjd2s4

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Seems I’m guilty of not reading the actual report, and the Stuff article I read did a remarkably poor job of conveying it’s real import. Because what you quote above is a rather significant break from the very narrow ‘market as the hand of God’ story we’ve heard from the NZI for many years.

      In fact much I can agree with, and much that seems rather remminiscent of the Finnish experience.

      The new report from the New Zealand Institute says: “the importance of the internationalisation obstacle has been underestimated and the market failure in overcoming it has not been recognised.’

      Which very much tallies with my own experience. For many years I was travelling for a corporate, with the privilege of visiting hundreds of small to medium sized businesses. Almost all of them were very good at what they did. New Zealand scientists, engineers and skilled technical people are world class and could compete on a product/service basis anywhere in the world.

      Instead they were locked into little go nowhere SME’s that spent most of their energy trying to cut the throat of their competing SME down the road or in the next town. While competition is desireable and inevitable to some degree, when it becomes all consuming it’s hugely wasteful. Inevitably the result is poor cash flows, lack of capital formation, lack of productivity investment, lack of R&D and professional continuing education and training, and above all…poor salaries and wages in a global context.

      The biggest component to this ‘internationalisation obstacle’ as the NZI describe it, is the sheer lack of business leadership and capacity to succeed in the global market. More than anything else we need a stable core of business leaders who have the experience in world markets, and that only happens if there are safe, stable opportunities for them learn the ropes. And that can only happen with some manner of govt backing.

      In that aspect this NZI report identifies exactly one of the most egregious failures of the market, and the phobia govt’s here have for ‘picking winners’. As a nation we’ve failed to have the balls to back ourselves, our endemic blame culture and tall poppy slashing mechanism ensuring that we’ve remained huddled in our little provincial shells, bickering over the meager scraps within our limited grasp.

  4. millsy 4

    RE: ‘Party on Garth’

    That is a guy who needs to up/down his medication. A few weeks ago he posted a tirade against unions and lavishly supported the governments labour law reform package.

    RE: Workers’ rights under attack

    It doesnt take a cloth cap-wearing unionist from the Durham coalfields with a thick Yorkshire accent to realise that employers in this country see their workers as expenable labour units to be thrown away like the garbage. These laws only codify it.

  5. Armchair Critic 5

    I found this bit of news really strange.
    Have a look here Granny gets it wrong in the editorial, praising the CEO of the new Auckland council for his honesty. Evidently the ratepayers should expect “screw-ups” once the changeover occurs on 1 November.
    FFS, does anyone apart from me think this is straight out of Kafka?
    Here is the head of a massive bureaucracy broadcasting that they are planning to “screw-up”
    He can’t tell us how, or when, or why, or what they will to either prevent the “screw-up”, or fix it afterwards.
    All he can tell us is that they plan to screw-up.
    And he’s being paid almost $700k to preside over the forthcoming screw ups. Without any local government experience.
    Just bizarre. A decent editor would be telling Mr McKay to get his act together.

    • loota 5.1

      A decent editor would be telling Mr McKay to get his act together.

      I believe you just explained your own puzzlement.

      A decent editor with concern for the future governance and management of Auckland would tell McKay to sort his shit out, not try and lower the expectations of rate payers.

      • Armchair Critic 5.1.1

        I’m not puzzled, just disappointed.
        Imagine if Paul Reynolds had said “we’re introducing a new 3G network and it’s going to have a few reliability problems, but we’ll sort them out. Eventually.” What would Granny’s editor have said?
        Imagine if Henry Ford II has said “we’re introducing a new car called the Pinto and we’ve decided to save a few bucks on a part, because we reckon the cost of adding the part is higher than the potential damages payouts if we don’t install it.” What would Granny’s editor have said?
        Imagine if Stan Koebel of the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission had said “We won’t properly treat the public water supply, even though we know it is vulnerable to containation. And when we have clear evidence that it is contaminated with E.coli we will publicly deny there is contamination.” What would Granny’s editor have said?
        The new CEO was appointed for his supposed business acumen, and is remunerated according.
        Any business that admitted they plan to fail would be condemned, and rightly so. Given that the government see Auckland City as a business, where is the outcry from National and ACT about such an outrageous statement? Oh, yeah, it’s because this National/ACT government is the government that Kafka wrote about.

      • Zetetic 5.1.2

        A decent editor wouldn’t be working for the herald

    • RedLogix 5.2

      It’s still the truth. Fact is that any merger of differing organisations is fraught with the unexpected, no matter how much planning and how many overpaid consultants are employed. There is almost always a two-year period while everything shakes down, the various systems, values and drivers realign themselves, and the people sort through all their new relationships.

      Perfection from day one is unrealistic.Been through it several times in my own working career; even with good will and intentions (much less when it’s forced on an unhappy, reluctant workforce) it’s never easy.

      • Armchair Critic 5.2.1

        Perfection from day one is unrealistic.
        But the message from the CEO should have been about what they will do to prevent the screw-ups in the first place, or fix them once they are made.
        And the message from Granny should have been at least questioning of the CEO’s statement, or condemning it.

  6. RedLogix 6

    Interesting thing is one of the donations comes from people involved in Natural Dairy NZ, formerly called China Jin Hui Mining Corporation the Chinese company trying to buy the Crafar farms.

    Now let me quote from this story in today’s Herald:

    The millions of dollars made from the misery of methamphetamine makes Terry sick.

    While a seedy underbelly of drugs and money in New Zealand can seem unbelievable, the devastation is real. Broken families and violent crimes aside, chances are that your flatscreen TV or jewellery was burgled to feed someone’s P habit.

    Terry says the drug has ruined his life and shares the personal cost of this one-man crusade which has consumed him.

    “Jason was killed because of this. I made a promise to him. And I’m determined to finish what I started.

    “New Zealand is a small place, but the methamphetamine business is huge. Everyone is linked together but Asian syndicates control it. They are ruthless and the public need to wake up because this is real.”

    In one sense having Asian’s here corrupting this country with P is an ironic historic payback for the English opium trade in China centuries ago. But if there is one thing I’m totally illiberal about it’s hard drugs.

    That our Police are under pressure and vulnerable to being perverted by this vile trade is bad enough; that our governing Party is ‘relaxed’ about taking Chinese money in such circumstances sets an appalling low standard, muddying waters with their own abysmal example.

    Well the Chinese only solved their hard drug problem when they threw the English out. We face the same brutal choice, allow Chinese to remain in this country or be consumed by the consequences. Racist, discriminatory and totally illiberal … yes. Guilty as charged.

    But this is not something I even want to start being ‘reasonable’ about.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      We really need to clamp down on the gangs/organised crime and most definitely be throwing the trash back to where it came from.

      • loota 6.1.1

        Organised crime has a mission to derail young people into a life of living and dealing out horrors while sucking $$$ out of communities for no good ends.

        Put the boot in, smartly and hard.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    @ Garth George

    redolent of the Marxist definition of workers as “economic units’

    Except that Marx himself made note and spoke out against the fact that the new industrialisation and commercialisation of society was turning the worker from a human into a machine.

  8. B 8

    I did a double take at Garth George’s column as well. I’m not sure how he reconciles these kinds of views with his usual tough talk about welfare bludgers etc…. very odd.

  9. WOOF 9

    Hopefully it’s out to the dog house for him in 2011.

  10. Jum 10

    I can’t believe it about Garth George either; maybe he had a brain transplant or maybe just a brain implanted.

    “What a mean bunch of fuckers these rich boy Nats are.” Well guess what; there’s a place in Austria these fxxxers can go:

  11. Deborah Kean 11

    Right on Garth George! (I no longer read the Herald, but when I used to, I noticed that Garth George very often talks far more sense than might be assunmed from his general viewpoint.)
    Also, gotta agree about the media vultures harassing the survivors from the Oyang 70. No public interest lies in mobbing these poor traumatised people!

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