The Jackal: June 2017

24 Jun 2017

National penalising Kiwi homebuyers

The National led government appears to not give a damn that the levels of home ownership in New Zealand are continuing to decline.

After much public and media concern about housing, the government through the Reserve Bank changed lending criteria in 2013. However this has simply penalised many Kiwi’s who’re trying to purchase their first home.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, the crackdown on lending to first home buyer’s in New Zealand has meant overseas buyers now have an advantage over Kiwi's… and because of Trump and mainland Chinese wanting to get their capital out of China, they’ve been snapping up our houses like nobodies business.

Today, The NZ Herald reported:

First-time house buyers worst hit as house sales fall by 30% 
"Investors who need a loan have been shut out of the market but cash investors have picked up their share of sales - not first-home buyers or movers," said QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush.

"Cash buyers purchasing property in New Zealand from overseas or new migrants moving with cash reserves often have the advantage over New Zealanders of higher foreign currency exchange and they are not impacted by the lending restrictions."

Rush said because the Government does not accurately measure the number of residential sales to foreign buyers or new migrants there was no way of knowing what share of sales were going to those offshore.

The topic is obviously an election issue, and rightly so. Younger New Zealander’s need to understand that if National continues to govern for the baby boomers and foreign interests alone, many of them will never be able to afford a house.

That’s not only bad for the many generations shut out of home ownership; it’s bad for society in general.

Nick Smith lied about combustible panels in NZ

The Grenfell Tower fire, which has caused many more deaths than the 79 currently confirmed, was thought to have started because of a faulty refrigerator. However the cause of the fire spreading so quickly has been identified as substandard combustible cladding, an insulation that has also been identified on some buildings in New Zealand.

Yesterday, Radio NZ reported:

Two Auckland high-rises found to have combustible cladding

The Auckland Council has found two high-rise buildings clad with combustible panels similar to those implicated in London's Grenfell Tower disaster.

The council has not said which buildings are affected, but says they are privately-owned and the material is being replaced with fire-proof cladding.

I very much doubt that the PE cladding that gives off cyanide gas when burnt is already being replaced on those buildings. But without the Auckland Council actually naming what buildings have used it, there’s no way to really tell.

Surely the inhabitants of those buildings have a right to know if they’re living in a potential fire hazard. Of course the Council's and current government won’t tell them, because they will want to protect rich people’s interests.

Despite this, Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith last week told Morning Report his officials were "reasonably confident" the combustible panels "have not been used in high-rise structures" in New Zealand.

Smith obviously made that false statement without first checking the facts. It's not the first time he's gone off half cocked and lied to the public about an important life threatening issue either.

The deluded Minister for Building and Housing and Minister for the Environment was obviously trying to cover for the dodgy architects, contractors and owners of the buildings where the dangerous cladding has been installed.

As usual the National party’s only concern is for the wealthy and not those who could be harmed by an inferior and dangerous product. But I guess that's just free-market capitalism for you.

Christie’s law based on court incompetency

The killing of Christie Marceau was a very terrible thing, not least of all because it could have been prevented if the court system wasn't incompetent. Amongst other things, that’s one of the findings the inquest into her murder should conclude.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Christie Marceau inquest: the trail to tragedy

Stace was the duty prosecutor on the day of Chand's bail hearing and was tasked with advocating the police position.

The opposition to bail form filed on the day of his first appearance still stood - but more information was given to her before the October 5 hearing.

That information included a map showing the proximity of Chand's house where he wanted to be bailed to, and the Marceau house.

The properties are within a kilometre of each other and Christie could see her attacker's home from her deck.

Detective Aaron Iremonger also supplied Stace with a transcript of Chand's preliminary police interview which had "full admissions" of his offending against Christie.

In the interview Chand spoke about revenge, and Iremonger felt it showed he still posed a huge risk to Christie.
Emails went back and forward from Iremonger and Pell, the original prosecutor who was not working the day of the hearing, and Stace.

The men told her that it was "imperative" Chand not get bail and they wanted her to push hard and present the new information.

When Stace arrived in court she tried to hand the new information to the judge through the registrar, but was told if she was to rely on it, she could bring it up in the hearing.

Unbelievable! A court registrar is duty bound to provide the judge with all relevant evidence when it’s presented by the Police to the court.

If this claim by duty prosecutor Rhona Stace is true it means that the registrar is in breach of their duty to assist the judge, and should be sacked.

When the hearing began, she did not present it.

She said the opposition to bail form had already covered the salient points police wanted to make, and coupled with Christie's letter, was strong enough and adequate.

When the hearing started, Stace said it was "immediately apparent" Judge McNaughton was "not interested" in hearing further information from police.

Disgraceful! If the Judge didn’t allow new evidence to be presented and appeared to be biased in favour of the killer, that would be grounds for that Judge to be dismissed.

Unfortunately it's unlikely that the courts will look at changing their procedures to ensure such an unfortunate evidential travesty of justice doesn't occur again.

"Instead, His Honour was now focused on Mr Chand's treatment and the ability of mental health services to manage him at home on strict bail conditions."

Stace defended herself at the inquest, saying she did her job on the day and it would not have been appropriate to push the judge further.

In fact, it would have been a suggestion of "incompetence".

Clearly somebody within the justice system was incompetent. Either the Judge, the registrar or the duty prosecutor through procedural bungling or disabling conflicts of interest utterly failed to protect Christie Marceau.

"It was absolutely crystal clear to the court what our concerns were," she told the inquest.

"The court... was well aware of the grounds for the opposition... it (the map and transcript) simply wasn't relevant.

I have to totally disagree there. The new evidence was relevant because it clearly showed that there was an immediate threat to Christie if Akshay Chand was released on bail. That’s why Detective Aaron Iremonger and senior prosecutor Adam Pell were adamant that the new evidence must be presented.

The fact that Sergeant Rhona Stace thinks the evidence wasn’t relevant makes it appear that it was her decision not to present it to the Judge, and not the courts decision to essentially decline it being accepted.

There’s no question in my mind that if the Judge received and properly considered that new evidence a different outcome would have been achieved… an outcome that would have likely saved Christie Marceau’s life.

That makes the claims by people with vested interests like Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust that it was a failure of our bail laws and not a failure of the duty prosecutor, the registrar or the Judge on the day, completely incorrect.

Clearly the only thing the bail laws are to blame for in New Zealand is contributing to our already overcrowded jail cells. Inconsistency from the parole board is also a concern when considering ways to reduce incarceration and increase rehabilitation rates, which is something the National led government has utterly failed to achieve.

Obviously reducing the ability of non-violent offenders to achieve bail isn’t going to bring Christie back or save any other young lives. It will however increase the already huge burden on society from an ever-increasing prison population and mean many more families are destroyed by a system solely focused on never ending cycles of punishment.

23 Jun 2017

No comparison in substandard housing

The hypocrisy of the right wing concerning substandard accommodation couldn’t be more apparent this week. Happy to try and take the focus off of their Todd Barclay problem, the right wing propagandists are clearly overreacting to Labour’s voluntary overseas student's controversy.

Take the ever-deluded David Farrar for instance. Remaining silent about the Nation story last Saturday concerning the terrible rat infested dumps Kiwi’s are being charged the earth to live in, Farrar still has the gall to get on his high horse and have a go at Labour about substandard accommodation.

Yesterday, David Farrar wrote:

Labour’s foreign campaign workers put up in sub-standard accommodation

So Labour has turned into a landlord putting people up in crowded and unsanitary conditions at the same time they demand all other landlords meet a WOF standard and camoaign against over-crowded accomodation.

Today, Radio NZ reported the marae's response:

Awataha Marae rejects 'substandard' housings claim

The marae housing Labour's international interns is not substandard, Trust bosses say, while local Māori say they have been fighting for access to the marae for years.

About 90 interns were invited to New Zealand to work on voter enrolment, and were based at Awataha marae on the North Shore where they were staying for free.

Awataha Marae is pretty new and although the accomodation is basic, it isn't substandard. When you look at the conditions of some boarding houses with those at the marae, there is obviously no comparison.

Here is a photo of the apparently “crowded and unsanitary conditions” at Awataha Marae:

... And here's a couple of photos of a boarding house that the National led government through their austerity and the Auckland City Council through their mismanagement has allowed to let fester:

Just goes to show how biased and conceited the right wing really are.

Bill English must resign

The Todd Barclay debacle highlights just how dishonest many right wing politicians really are. For over a year Bill English and the National party maintained a lie, even reselecting Barclay knowing that he had committed a potential crime.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

'He's got to go': Winston Peters calls for Prime Minister to resign

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has ramped up criticism of Prime Minister Bill English over the Todd Barclay affair - saying English should resign.

"He's got to go, Mr English. He's got to stand down, just like Barclay. He misled the media, he misled the House in every respect he is in serious breach of his responsibilities and duties," Peters said to media before entering question time that saw further questions about English's actions.

Asked if English had lied, Peters said there was no other possible conclusion.

The public is being expected to believe that English just forgot what he said in a police statement on the matter only a year previously. In the statement, English clearly outlines that it was Barclay who told him about the illegal recordings.

Despite that fact, English was happy to perpetuate the bully Barclay’s lies in what is obviously a cover-up designed to maintain National’s governance.

Clearly the excuse of hiding Barclay’s bullying and corruption because National wanted to maintain control isn’t a valid justification. Neither is Barclay remaining in the house because National wants to pass their destructive neoliberal legislation a good reason for him to receive another $80,000 of taxpayer’s money.

It’s not an issue that looks like it’s going away either, despite some diversionary tactics.

He said he had laid two privileges complaints against English, claiming he misled Parliament about whether he knew about the allegations against Barclay. In question time, Peters challenged English to release his phone records to prove he hadn't been involved in the dispute than already disclosed.

Anybody who believes that the public has simply moved on from and forgotten this issue needs their heads read. Although not scientific, over 80% of responders to a RadioLive poll think English should resign… and the RadioLive audience isn’t known to be National party detractors either. That ultimately means the government will be losing public support over this issue.

After the text was published on Tuesday by the Newsroom website, English said he couldn't recall who told him the recordings existed, but less than four hours later confirmed it was Barclay and released his police statement.

Speaking to media in Auckland today, English again rubbished cover-up claims by the Opposition, and said he had acted appropriately by informing Davie and making his statement to police. He confirmed he did so after being contacted by both parties.

English lied to reporters about who had told him of the recordings. He also misled Parliament about the allegations against Barclay. English again lied when he claimed that it was him who approached the Police about the issue.

Today, English is claiming that nobody knew what Barclay did was a crime. After the teapot tape scandal, where Police raided a number of premises over a recording of John Key and John Banks laughing about old people dying, the deluded Prime Minister’s claims are entirely preposterous!

National knew what Barclay did was a crime because they sent in Glenda Hughes, a National Party board member and former Police Detective to pressure the victim, Glenys Dickson, into keeping quiet. Under current law, that act can only be considered an obstruction of justice.

If that’s not an attempted cover-up by the National party, I don’t know what is.

Can you imagine how the MSM would react if this was a left-wing controversy. We would have months and months of calls for the Prime Minister’s head, just like they did with Helen Clark when she signed a painting for charity.

22 Jun 2017

Groser and GCSB damage international reputation

We all know that Tim Groser is a complete tool and wasn’t suitable to head the World Trade Organisation. It was in fact his own bloated ego that promoted him for the job, a job that he thankfully failed to attain.

Groser’s futile attempt at the WTO position had little international support, support he tried and failed to attain by spending lots of taxpayer dollars. In three months Groser spent around $260,000 travelling the world trying to gain votes for his foolish bid.

Now we’ve learnt that Groser also used New Zealand’s intelligence services to spy on other candidates vying to lead the WTO. There was an investigation by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, which came to an obviously forgone conclusion.

On Tuesday, Radio New Zealand reported:

GCSB lawful in supporting Groser's WTO bid

Ms Gwyn would not comment on whether it was appropriate for the spy agency to be supporting the campaign, but said it was lawful.

She has made three recommendations, including creating a standard plan for receiving and assessing requests for foreign intelligence assistance.

Here’s the actual Report into Government Communications Security Bureau’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity (PDF).

Today, The Dominion Post reported:

Editorial: Spies should not help a politician's bid for a job at the WTO 
Under traditional notions of "security", the spies could only be used if, say, rivals to Groser stood a strong chance of winning and then doing harm to New Zealand's economic well-being. This would be stretching a bow to breaking point. Groser's rivals were the usual run of respectable trade officials and politicians, and the eventual winner, Roberto Azevedo, was Brazil's ambassador to the WTO.

The "advancing economic security" clause is also loose enough to allow spies to snoop on opponents of the current free-trade orthodoxy, and perhaps has already done so. It extends the rights of spies at the expense of citizens' right to oppose.

What's more, the spies failed: Groser didn't get the job. Hardly a triumph for the security services and their obliging legislation.

But was the GCSB really allowed to spy on WTO candidates from other countries under New Zealand law?

The Intelligence and Security Act 2017 states:

9 Objectives of intelligence and security agencies

The principal objectives of the intelligence and security agencies are to contribute to—
(a) the protection of New Zealand’s national security; and
(b) the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
(c) the economic well-being of New Zealand.

The Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 states the exact same thing.

Let’s assume that Cheryl Gwyn doesn’t understand how an Act of New Zealand works and her misquote in her report of the relevant sections of the GCSB and Intelligence and Security Act was a simple mistake.

Firstly, a single sentence shouldn’t be taken out of context. That means the spy agencies cannot act without considering New Zealand’s international relations. Secondly, items are listed in order of priority.

If Groser’s objectives were to humiliate New Zealand on the world stage and destroy some of our international relations by secretly spying on officials from other countries, then the GCSB has achieved them.

How exactly does that advance the economic well-being of New Zealand? Clearly it doesn’t, and therefore there’s no moral or legal justification for Groser’s terrible abuse of power.

21 Jun 2017

Barclay's dishonesty must be stubbed out

There’s no question that the tobacco lobbyist turned politician, Todd Barclay, lied to reporter's yesterday about his secret recording of a long-term National party staffer, Glenys Dickson. She had to subsequently resign because of Barclay, who is reported to be a bully.

Amazingly Barclay was able to tell his multiple lies yesterday very convincingly, which is something that usually takes special training. Most backbenchers don't go through such training, which is reserved for MPs who're more often in the public eye like Cabinet Ministers, so it appears that Barclay is a natural right wing politician.

But if getting caught out telling bold faced lies wasn’t bad enough, it was also reported that National tried to hide the fact that they'd used taxpayer funds from the Prime Minister's leadership office to pay Dickson an undisclosed "severance package" to keep things quiet. Taxpayer funded hush money in other words.

Clearly Barclay’s continued lies landed Bill English in politically scorching hot water. It was somewhat unfortunate to see a Prime Minister of New Zealand floundering for answers while attempting a John Key style dismissal of the claims. The awkward English utterly failed to pull it off.

It was highly embarrassing to watch the PM trying to mislead reporters about his knowledge of the secret recordings and then only four hours later own up to making a police statement on the matter, something that English would have obviously remembered doing.

Considering the fact that he'd been covering for Barclay for over a year, you can see why English attempted to maintain the lie. He was basically damned if he did and damned if he didn't. At the end of the day National's idiot advisors got things really badly wrong!

English's confession that Barclay had made a secret recording and told him about it dropped the tobacco lobbyist right in it. Reporters expected that Barclay would resign... instead there was one of the strangest media conferences in New Zealand's political history.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

National MP Todd Barclay admits he informed PM Bill English about secret recordings

Reading from a prepared statement, Barclay said it was important he clarify his earlier statements to media.

"I'm sorry if any of the answers I gave this morning were misleading," Barclay said, before walking away before answering any questions, including why he lied.

They weren’t just misleading statements; they were blatant lies about a potential crime. If Barclay is allowed to just walk away from this and remain an MP it will show just how weak and pathetic National’s stand in Prime Minister really is. It will show that the word integrity isn’t within English’s vocabulary.

Not only does it appear that Barclay conducted an illegal act, as outlined in this post by Andrew Geddis over on Pundit, he has also brought the House of Representatives into disrepute through his continued dishonesty, which is another sackable offence.

If the National led government is to retain any credibility it must stand Barclay down and launch a full inquiry into his misconduct. Barclay must be made to answer the hard questions about his dishonesty and about his alleged bullying. Of course English could just cut to the chase and fire Barclay the bastard forthwith!

In light of the evidence the Police must reopen the investigation into Barclay’s illegal activity… because if they don’t then it points to their complicity in National’s attempted cover-up.

Compare the Police's inaction over Barclay when there is ample evidence that shows a crime has been committed to how they unlawfully raided Nicky Hager’s house and harassed his family. It certainly looks like the Police are playing political favouritism here and only a proper investigation into Barclay will alleviate the appearance that they aren't operating independently of the National party.

20 Jun 2017

Taxpayer's funding used as hush money

It should come as no surprise that the National party has once again used taxpayer's money improperly. They actually do it all the time. But there are a few differences with the latest revelation of misappropriation that make it stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Today, Newshub reported:

PM knew about hush money for bugged worker – investigation

Taxpayer money was used to make a dispute with a Government worker disappear, a Newsroom investigation shows.

Glenys Dickson, a former staffer at National Gore MP Todd Barclay's office, was paid out over bugging allegations.

Text messages from Prime Minister Bill English, who was deputy Prime Minister at the time, show he knew of the issue and the settlement was large "because of the privacy breach".

Todd Barclay is obviously a born to rule elitist and corrupt MP who doesn’t deserve to be in the House of Representatives. He should be fired immediately!

The fact that Bill English, now the Prime Minister of New Zealand, knew all about the misappropriation of the leaders fund to clean up Barclay's stinking mess makes this so much worse. The National party has essentially stolen taxpayer’s money.

How is the public meant to have confidence in the government and the Police when no search warrants were ever executed into Barclay's corruption and no prosecution was conducted?

Political editor Patrick Gower told The AM Show a firestorm is brewing over where the money came from.

"The payout came out of the leader's budget. That's a special taxpayers fund - a slush fund, essentially - held by the National Party leader."

"The question for the National Party today is why, when you have some sort of breakdown in your office, do you go out and literally take money off the taxpayer and use it to sort out your own problems? "

People wonder why National still has a lot of support. One of the reasons is that they use taxpayer’s money to purchase votes through various schemes that reward their supporters.

It's no secret that the National party funds the companies and people it’s associated with by using their political power, which is at the detriment of New Zealand.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told TVNZ, "This matter has already been well covered in the media. It's pretty clear there was a breakdown in the employment relationship. Given it is an employment matter, it would be inappropriate to discuss the details."

If Bill English had any integrity, he would be requiring Todd Barclay to resign. I mean what type of politician refuses to cooperate with a police investigation? Clearly one that had something to hide.

How many more long-serving National employees are they going to lose just because Todd Barclay can smile like John Key?

18 Jun 2017

Sarah Thomson - Hero of the Week

People living in coastal areas throughout New Zealand know it, even farmers experiencing unprecedented flooding and droughts each year know it… so why isn’t the government taking climate change seriously?

The signs that Mother Nature isn’t happy with our current levels of pollution are clearly evident for all to see. But despite the increasing severe weather events, the National party is dragging its heels when it comes to implementing any type of adequate climate change policy.

That’s why it’s great to see concerned citizens like Sarah Thomson take the initiative and challenge the government on its woeful environmental track record.

On Friday, the Spinoff reported:

Why I’m taking the NZ government to court

I realised that politicians can’t always be trusted to act in the best interests of the people or the planet, and felt compelled by an irresistible force to do something, writes Sarah Thomson, ahead of a date at the High Court in Wellington this month

The day it really hit home was when I listened to James Hansen – the man who warned the world about climate change in the 1980s and whom NASA tried to silence – give a talk comparing climate change to an asteroid speeding towards Earth. The longer we delay taking action, the harder it will become to divert.

Fantastic! Here’s a James Hansen TED talk speech on climate change:

That’s some pretty sobering facts there. I can see why Sarah was inspired to take on the National led government on its climate change inaction and support of fossil fuel industries.

Most of us feel that the only power we have to change the laws that govern our lives and the world around us is the piece of paper we put in the ballot box every three years. But there is one last line of defence where ordinary people can use the laws already in place to create change: the courts.

I wish I shared Sarah’s confidence in the court process. The trick here will be to show that the government’s climate change policy is all hot air. National have in fact done nothing to build resiliency or curb our CO2 emissions in New Zealand. After nine long hard years, we still have one of the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world.

In November 2015, inspired by climate change litigation overseas including a case in the Netherlands where 900 Dutch citizens filed as plaintiffs, and in the US where 21 kids are taking a lawsuit against the Federal Government, I filed a legal action challenging the New Zealand government’s inadequate response to climate change. The case was the first of its kind here.

I was a student at the time, still in the midst of preparing for university exams, and with no experience in litigation. But I found a team of lawyers who shared my concern and who were ready to fight a battle all the way to the highest court. I was fortunate to also receive support from leading climate change experts, including New Zealand Professor James Renwick, and the very man who opened my eyes to climate change: James Hansen.

This is going to make for a very interesting court battle. It will also serve to keep the most important topic of our generation, climate change, in the media spotlight.

Only through public pressure can we hope to make governments favour clean energy production over polluting industries. It’s an incredibly important issue, being that our survival as a species depends on the powers that be changing their polluting ways.

That’s why Sarah wins this week’s Hero award. She is undoubtedly a fine upstanding Kiwi.

16 Jun 2017

National’s $38 million budget blunder

If you were to believe right wing pundits like David Farrar and Cameron Slater you would think that the National party was a studious financial manager that never got anything wrong. Of course they’re full of shit and National couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.

Today, Stuff reported:

'This can never happen again': Health minister furious at $38m Budget blunder

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has lambasted his officials and Director General of Health Chai Chuah, over a major budget blunder that saw 14 DHBs given too much money and six shortchanged in the Government budget.

Coleman should be furious at himself for being so damn incompetent. After all it was him who signed off on the incorrect payments to the DHBs. As the Minister in charge it’s ultimately up to him to ensure the correct calculations were made before giving the go ahead.

The fact that Coleman didn’t do his job properly and is now trying to lay blame solely on the Ministry he’s in charge of is simply pathetic!

Cash-strapped District Health Boards are being made to hand back some of their funding, after a Ministry of Health blunder saw some given too much money in the Budget.

A total of 14 DHBs were over funded, and would have to relinquish some of their funding allocations to balance out six DHBs who were not given enough money according to a complex formula.

DHBs were awarded $439m in the budget - that total figure would not change, but up to $38m of those funds was doled out incorrectly.

It’s been nearly a month since the 2017 budget, so you’ve also got to wonder why it’s taken so long to find and own up to the $38 million dollar mistake?

But if that confusion wasn’t bad enough, Coleman seems to have his wires crossed concerning what the DHBs have been told.

It was still unclear how DHBs would be individually affected, but Waikato DHB spokesperson Lydia Aydon said the health board was yet to be told whether it would lose or gain funding due to the ministry's blunder. She expected the board to be informed by Tuesday.

"DHBs were told they were getting a certain amount and they're having to make adjustments. And of course, people need to have total confidence in not only the figures, but the integrity of the population based funding formula," Coleman said.

So according to Jonathan bloody Coleman the DHBs have been informed about the funding change already, while the DHBs are expecting to learn of the exact amounts in the claw-back on Tuesday.

Could this Minister and the National party be anymore inept? After the Nova pay debacle, the astronomical increase in government debt and last years paid parental leave opposition based on incorrect calculations just to mention a few National party fuck ups, voters really shouldn’t have any confidence in their financial ability at all.

Perhaps the current government is trying to unseat Piggy Muldoon and his think big projects or Douglas and his Rogernomics as the worst financial blunderers this country has ever seen.

New Zealand still going backwards

It should come as no surprise to those who follow politics that the right wing government’s austerity measures in New Zealand have caused a marked decrease in people’s quality of life, especially for the young and already impoverished.

Over the last nine years nearly every statistical measurement has worsened, particularly those that have a direct negative impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

Yesterday, the Newsroom reported:

NZ’s appalling child welfare record

New Zealand may be surging forward economically, but in the shadows, many of our children are hungry, sick, and struggling for a quality education. A new report from UNICEF is grim reading about our children’s plight.

A common boast from New Zealanders is that it’s a great place to raise a family.

Lots of open space, great schooling, and safety are often examples given about why the country is a fantastic place for children.

But that theory may be misleading.

A new global report card from UNICEF has ranked New Zealand near the bottom of its peers, describing the country’s performance as poor.

Building of the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries was prepared by Innocenti, UNICEF’s research office.

It placed New Zealand 34th out of 41 EU/OECD countries, assessing data about how countries perform in relation to the 10 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) agreed on by the international community in 2015 as most important for child well-being.

Clearly John Key’s promise of trickle-down economics making everyone wealthy hasn't come to fruition. Nor will it. Instead, young people are earning less while having to pay even more for the basic necessities of life.

This negative dynamic is putting huge stress on young people and consequently their families, which has a direct negative impact on our society in general.

Looking at children’s health and wellbeing, New Zealand ranked a lowly 38th.

The country’s teen pregnancy, neonatal mortality, adolescent suicide, and child homicide rates all contributed to the poor ranking.

Of particular concern is the suicide rate amongst 15-19-year-olds, which is the highest in the world and more than twice the global average.

It is so bad that New Zealand’s rate alone raised the entire global average by 0.26 percent per 100,000.

What this report doesn’t tell you is New Zealand's suicide rate wasn't the worst in the world before National got into power. In 2008 it was in fact similar to the OECD median.

It's therefore pretty clear that the National led government's damaging policies have increased societal pressures, especially for young people, which has in turn led to an overall increase in New Zealand's suicide rate.

While teen pregnancy rates have reduced, New Zealand’s is still fifth highest while the child homicide rate is the seventh highest in the world.

We're middle-of-the-road when it comes to hunger, New Zealand ranking 18th with one in 10 children under 15 “food insecure”, while we are 15th in education.

When considering economic growth and work, New Zealand ranked near the bottom at 34th.

Our rate of children living in jobless households was almost twice the global average, while 7.1 percent of 15-19-year-olds were not in any education, employment, or training.

The man in charge of advocating for New Zealand children, Judge Andrew Becroft, said he found the report’s results “appalling”.

“Sadly, there aren’t any surprises here for us at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

“This is a long-standing problem that is not well understood in society, and we want to see all children lifted up to the same level.”

The Government had committed to the SDG goals and Becroft was supportive of their efforts, but the report was a reminder of the progress still needed.

“I don’t think New Zealanders know the full story, that’s what saddens me.”

With the National party still relatively high in the polls, many New Zealander’s obviously don’t know the full story. They for some reason don’t see the correlation between the increased social dysfunction and the government’s archaic policy direction.

New Zealand was one of only four countries, alongside Chile, South Korea, and Turkey, to not be included in the SDG as they only reported on one of the three indicators used in the report.

The Ministry of Social Development classifies “material hardship” as being deprived of seven or more key indicators such as nutrition, clothing, or education, while Innocenti measures “multidimensional poverty” as being deprived of only two or more similar indicators.

There was also no data on how many children are lifted out of welfare and New Zealand was also not measured on the SDG gender equality and several indicators including child obesity and the number of women sexually assaulted as a child.

Stone said these gaps were alarming and it was unacceptable that New Zealand was not providing the appropriate data.

The National led government should feel ashamed of their destructive record and perhaps them trying to hide the increased rate of child poverty is an admission of that shame.

Despite a 2015 UNICEF request for a specific measurement, the government doesn’t want to collate and provide proper data on child poverty because it will likely show that we’re the worst in the developed world once again.

Those who're getting rich off of people's suffering would prefer that such information never becomes common knowledge, because it shows that the right wing’s neoliberal experiment in New Zealand has utterly failed the people our economy ultimately relies on.

If the mainstream media highlighted and reported on the government’s failure and administrative bungling more often, the egalitarian minded people of New Zealand would vote the proponent’s of austerity, the National party, out.

15 Jun 2017

Taika Waititi speaks out against racism

Director Taika Waititi has starred in a video telling New Zealand, "racism needs your help".

"You don't have to be a full-on racist, just being a tiny bit racist is enough," he says.

Marlborough's water woes

You would expect New Zealand, with its unparalleled natural resources, to have some of the best water supplied to households in the developed world.

However because of bad planning, a lack of development, lacklustre testing and infrastructure that is seldom properly maintained, our tap water throughout the country is often too contaminated to drink.

That appears to be the case in Seddon, where they’ve even managed to cultivate a new type of super algae.

Yesterday, the Marlborough Express reported:

New algae in Seddon stream survives without sunlight

The algae clouding Seddon's water has never before been found in the stream where the town sources its drinking supply.

Small, brown bits of algae have plagued the town's water for the past month, and Marlborough District Council scientists say the algae strain is a new discovery in the Black Birch Stream.

The outbreak is the first of its kind to affect the town's water, and has been clogging up pipes and blocking water filters.

This might seem like a small issue, but a new strain of algae that can survive where others previously haven’t has huge implications for New Zealand, especially if it migrates to other waterways.

The supply did not provide clean filtration for households, and a boil water notice was in place for the township.

The chemical composition of the stream had changed since the November earthquake, with a rise in alkalinity noted by council scientists.

"That change may be encouraging or making the water more favourable for this type of algae," Rooney said.

It remained to be seen how the algae strain was introduced to the stream, Rooney said.

The council maintained there were no health concerns with the algae.

There are no health concerns but there’s a boil water notice? This contradiction is ridiculous and just goes to show how inept most council’s are at dealing with polluted water supplies.

So what exactly is the Marlborough District Council doing to contain this new algae strain?

The algae was an inconvenience to people and the council was working to remove the organism from the water supply, Rooney said.

Machinery to deepen the stream's intake pipe would be at the site within the next fortnight. It was hoped this would prevent the algae from entering the water, Rooney said.

Hope isn’t a word I like to see when it comes to construction techniques to try and eradicate biological invasions.

The council really should be looking at other sources of contamination for this type of problem… because without knowing the exact cause, the Marlborough District Council cannot really hope to fully eradicate the new type of algae.

When pipi beds, mussel and ouster farms are having to close all over New Zealand because of similar water contamination and parasite problems, you would expect authorities to be doing something substantial to ensure these industries survived. Unfortunately that doesn't appear to be the case.

Perhaps the National led government just doesn't give a damn about our waterways and the industries that rely on them?

13 Jun 2017

Judge has no compassion for blind 5-year-old child

New Zealand has always prided itself with being a fair and equal society that looks after people when they’re injured or sick. Unfortunately with a right wing National government in power that's no longer the case.

On Saturday, the NZ Herald reported:

Blind 5-year-old, described as a 'burden' on NZ health system, to be deported to South Africa

A blind, disabled child's family is "devastated" that she will be deported back to South Africa despite her family's legal efforts to allow her to stay in New Zealand.

In a High Court judgment released this week, Justice Gerald Nation ruled in favour of Immigration New Zealand's decision to deport 5-year-old Caitlyn Davies after the girl's family appealed the move.

Immigration NZ had argued it would not be "unjust or unduly harsh" for Caitlyn to be sent back to South Africa and her medical conditions would prove a burden on New Zealand's health system.

This is despite agreeing Caitlyn's "life chances generally would be far better if she were able to remain in New Zealand".

This seems completely unfair. After all the family is contributing to New Zealand's health system through their taxes, which I’m sure would be more than the cost of helping to look after Caitlyn.

Justice Gerald Nation even acknowledges that his decision could shorten Caitlyn’s life, so you’ve really got to wonder how he became a High Court judge?

But what makes this story even worse is that a decision has been made that could ultimately split this family up.

The terrible burden placed on them by Immigration NZ, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal and now an ignorant High Court Judge simply because the family of five have a dependent child with disabilities is completely unacceptable!

The tribunal said the family were "not destitute before coming to New Zealand" and had not proven they would become so if they returned to South Africa.

It also considered the separation of the Davies family, with the possibility Jonathan might remain in New Zealand to earn a higher wage for his family.

The issue here isn’t only one of whether the family would be adversely affected if they moved back to South Africa… it’s whether Immigration NZ is treating a child with disabilities differently to a child without disabilities.

That would amount to discrimination under the Human Rights Act, which should apply to Immigration NZ decisions no matter what country the child is from. Besides, the cost to look after one disabled child is not a factor Immigration NZ should be considering. The cost to look after injured or disabled people is factored into our economic system. One child isn't going to make a difference if we're considering the entire immigration and health systems.

Of course the majority of financial cost would be on the family and only be excessive in the long run if medical professionals failed to do their jobs properly. Obviously our health system isn’t going to entice people with disabled kids to flock to New Zealand. After all it's not even looking after Kiwi’s properly.

While Caitlyn did not meet "exceptional humanitarian circumstances" she did, due to her disabilities, face "huge challenges".

The tribunal concluded it maintained its position to deport Caitlyn "to maintain the integrity of the New Zealand immigration system".

How cruel and inhumane is that?

When idiots are justifying the huge amounts of immigration into New Zealand because apparently there aren’t enough Kiwi’s to stack shop shelves and children are being discriminated against and deported because of their disabilities, do we really have any integrity in the New Zealand immigration system left?

At a time when immigration is the hot topic it seems rather convenient for Immigration NZ to be in the media getting all nasty about letting a disabled child live with her family in god’s own. With the lines of separation between the state and judiciary so blurred at the moment this could be just another political decision made by a corrupted minister and High Court judge.

Clearly Justice Gerald Nation’s potentially life ending and family-destroying decision solely based on the almighty dollar shows that we don’t have a system with integrity. We instead have a cold and callous mechanism governed by old men blinded by dollar signs.

8 Jun 2017

New Zealand 30 years nuclear-free

In this Oxford Union Debate from 1985, then Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange proves without a doubt that Nuclear Weapons are in deed Morally Indefensible:

Rex Tillerson - Asshole of the Week

It’s been great to see the frosty response to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his quick visit to New Zealand this week. The oil baron will leave without any doubt that Kiwi’s like most of the world don’t accept the Trump administration’s climate change denial and huge leap backwards into potential climate chaos.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

US Secretary of State defends Trump on trade, climate change

Tillerson got a hostile reception from the locals, a reminder of our disagreements on issues like climate change from Prime Minister Bill English, and had to defend the US presence commitment to the region in the wake of isolationist policies enacted by the Trump administration.

But Tillerson's message for Kiwis was clear - the US is not retreating. On climate change, and trade, Tillerson defended the Trump administration's record.

Yeah! The Trump administration’s record… That’s a good one.

Not only did the former head of oil giant ExxonMobil, a company responsible for disasters like the Exxon Valdez, make excuses for why the US pulled out of the Paris Agreement, he also tried to justify Trump changing policy that will undoubtedly increase harmful CO2 emissions.

"I don't think anyone should interpret the US has stepped away from these issues, or is seeking to isolate itself. Indeed one of the reasons I'm in the region, one of the reasons Vice President [Mike] Pence has already been in the region, [defence secretary Jim]  Mattis has been in the region, is to reaffirm to everyone that the US views this region in the world as extremely important to our national security interests and our own economic and prosperity interests. And I think you can expect see an elevated level of engagement to that which you saw in the past eight years.

What a load of waffle! I mean what exactly does Tillerson think will happen when the United States expands its oil production? Things like Trump allowing seismic testing and drilling for oil in the Atlantic Ocean is only going to result in more greenhouse gas emissions.

Not only will such environmentally irresponsible drilling be potentially disastrous, it will also mean more money for people like Rex bloody Tillerson that will be used to fund various Republican groups to try to keep Trump in power. Political corruption in other words.

Make no mistake, the Trump administration is working for the oil industry because it basically is the oil industry. The only value they see in New Zealand is our military strategic location and the potential to gain access to our resources for cents on the dollar.

On Tuesday, the NZ Herald reported:

Fact or fiction: Tillerson on the United States' 'unparalleled' climate change record

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his country's record on climate change during a whistle-stop visit to Wellington today.

At a press conference following bilateral talks, Tillerson was challenged on the US decision to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change.

What he said:

"The United States has an extraordinary record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, possibly unparalleled by anyone else.

"Our greenhouse gas emissions are at levels that were last seen in the 1990s.

Obviously Barack Obama’s environmental legacy shouldn’t give Trump and his oily cronies a free pass to now increase oil production and pollution. That’s about the dumbest excuse for increasing CO2 emissions I’ve heard so far.

So for putting future generations at risk, multiple crimes against nature and being in charge of a company that actively funded climate change deniers for 27 years, Rex Tillerson wins this week’s Asshole Award. Let's hope the US listens to the world and votes these bastards out.

7 Jun 2017

Children sicken under National

Nine years of a National led government hasn't been good for New Zealand. As well as more homelessness, incarceration and suicides in Aotearoa, the right wing's neoliberal agenda has caused Kiwi kids to become sicker, both physically and mentally.

Today, the NZ Herald (not online yet) reported:

Depressed kids: 15,000 on meds

The number of children and teenagers on Prozac-style antidepressants has soared 98 per cent in the past 10 years to a total of nearly 15,000 young people last year.

It's a similar article to this 2013 one, when Stuff reported:

Number of 'anxious' kids skyrockets

The rate of children diagnosed by a doctor with mental health conditions has almost doubled over the past five years.

Wow! That’s a huge increased in a very short time. I wonder what’s causing it?

A suicide prevention advocate has slammed the results as bad science and says the definition of a "normal child" has narrowed too far.

However, child psychology experts say the increasing rate could be a symptom of a more anxiety-driven society and improvements in the diagnosis of youngsters.

About 25,000 children have been diagnosed with behavioural and emotional problems, with anxiety the fastest growing condition, according to the Ministry of Health's latest children's health report.

Anxiety, ADHD and depression are the three most common disorders in children, and boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in this article is the effects of a bad diet. When finances are stretched it’s often people’s diets that suffer and with more people becoming indebted and struggling to pay the bills, people are cutting back on buying healthy foods.

The effect of a bad diet on the nervous and mental system should not be underestimated. Here's an excerpt from a study done by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry:

Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses

The most common mental disorders that are currently prevalent in numerous countries are depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The dietary intake pattern of the general population in many Asian and American countries reflects that they are often deficient in many nutrients, especially essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. A notable feature of the diets of patients suffering from mental disorders is the severity of deficiency in these nutrients. Studies have indicated that daily supplements of vital nutrients are often effective in reducing patients' symptoms.

Most doctors in New Zealand will treat mental health issues as solely emotional or biochemical. They often don’t treat their patients holistically nor recommend particular nutrients or refer patients onto dieticians.

The other main issue is that healthy food costs more. If you’re on a fixed budget and have some bills to pay, a well balanced diet becomes a luxury that many Kiwi's cannot afford.

The government should therefore change this negative dynamic by taking GST of fruit and vegetables so that young Kiwi’s are more likely to get the nutrition they require. 

6 Jun 2017

P policy should be based on science

With the meth epidemic in New Zealand at an all time high, you would expect the government would be launching some new initiatives to get people off this harmful illicit drug and reduce the associated crime and social harm it causes.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Home buying and the meth mine-field 
Buying a home these days is fraught. First you have to find one you can afford (tricky in Auckland's market), and then - more often than you might think - ensure it is not contaminated by methamphetamine.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of meth usage in the world (a 2015 world survey found us fourth just behind El Salvador, Philippines and Australia).

Meth (also referred to as P) can be made out of readily available household products plus one more ingredient, ephedrine.

So what exactly is the government going to do about it?

Dr Leo Schep, a toxicologist at the National Poisons Centre, at the University of Otago, is one.

He believes that when addressing problems associated with contaminated houses, there are two separate issues - "a house where someone smoked methamphetamine, or a house that was used to manufacture methamphetamine".

In a post on the science media website, he says that "people living in a laboratory environment risk suffering adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects following the exposure to organic solvents, acids, alkalis and other chemicals.

However, people living in a house where previous tenants had smoked methamphetamine, and there is some evidence of low concentrations on surfaces, have minimal risks of toxicity."

The standards were reviewed last October by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

That resulted in a recommendation to increase the level of meth needed to warrant a clean-up by up to four times the previous guidelines. But that hasn't solved the issue.

To date the Standards New Zealand (now MBIE) process has not resulted in an outcome - one is expected later this month - but the presence of guidelines endorsed by MOH mean that players in the property market must pay attention to them.

Oh dear! It appears that because there are too many houses testing above the threshold and it’s very hard to prove toxicity in people, the government is likely to just triple the threshold so that more houses are deemed safe and can therefore be sold without any proper warning?

Just like National's wadeable rivers fiasco, this is pure madness!

National couldn’t be more unscientific and blinded by free market idealism if they tried. What Bill English et al needs to understand is that science doesn’t just conform because the government changes their god damn policy.

Keeping the housing bubble artificially inflated by selling off P contaminated houses without due process is clearly not a good idea. It will simply put more families at risk and put more people into hospitals.

I wonder what else this so-called meth expert recommends the government do?

Indeed Kim, in a 2016 paper, compares the traces of meth found on banknotes to those found in houses where the drug has been smoked.

"Internationally, detection of drug residues including methamphetamine on banknotes has not been interpreted as a direct cause for public health alarm, and there is no prospect of any jurisdiction requiring that banknotes be decontaminated between users.

"In a hierarchy of relative health hazards and risks, contaminated banknotes and houses where methamphetamine has been smoked would be at the low end of any scale."

I get the feeling Kim is busy downplaying the adverse effects of P contamination for a reason. Clearly comparing banknotes to houses is plain stupid! It’s not a scientific way to analyse the level of safety for a poison. You don’t prepare meals or eat off a bloody banknote for instance.

Of course there does need to be an actual standard, but even 0.50 micrograms is a very high level to be deemed unsafe. Most poisonous substances are deemed unsafe at levels well below that. 1.50 is going to ensure P contaminated houses adversely affect more Kiwi’s without them knowing about it.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but when your neighbour's cat is probably sucking on the pipe, trying to change science with a short-sited policy at the behest of people with vested interests simply isn’t going to cut it.

We need a real solution from the government to get people off P… we need safe affordable housing in New Zealand and like most things in this fine country; only a change in government is going to provide it.

3 Jun 2017

Honest Government Advert - Corporate Welfare

The Australian Government just released this advert about its $1b handout to Adani for his reef-killing, water-guzzling, climate-changing, ancestral land-desecrating mega coal mine - and it's surprisingly honest and informative.

2 Jun 2017

National’s neoliberal experiment has failed

Just in case you needed anymore proof, have a look at the ever increasing numbers of homeless people in New Zealand to see that National’s neoliberal experiment has utterly failed.

Yesterday, Radio NZ reported:

Urgent housing need 'big concern going into winter'

The number of people registered as urgently needing housing has doubled in the past two years.

The Ministry of Social Development's Housing Register shows people in the at-risk category with severe and persistent housing needs have risen from a low of 1641 in June 2015 to a new high of 3422 in March this year, the latest available figure.

A further 1433 on the Priority B list have serious housing needs.

Emergency housing providers and support groups say government measures to tackle the problem have fallen short.

While the government can claim they’re putting more dollars into the health sector, all they’re really doing is wasting that money by putting more Kiwi’s into hospitals because they’re sick from living in cars or cold and damp houses.

'I think it's got worse'

The Council of Christian Social Services' Paul Barber said the people on the Priority A list were only a small fraction of those in severe housing deprivation.

"Their housing situation's regarded as unsafe or secure and unhealthy."

Some may be on the street, others were often in emergency housing, living in garages or severely overcrowded housing, Mr Barber said.

Clearly the National led government is just going to muddle along stealing a few policies here and there while the rental stock continues to decline and more Kiwi’s become homeless.

Thanks to a lack of proper policy and a government with their heads firmly buried in the sand we can expect increased social decay that will translate directly into a prison system that’s bursting at the seems. That's a good indication of a failing system that needs to change.

Despite the reality that there simply aren’t enough houses to go around, Bill English isn’t going to do anything about slowing immigration numbers either... mainly because National is relying on a false economy that has forgotten its moral values.

At what point will the people of this great country say enough is enough?