Simon Bridges and all the money

INTERVIEWER: Welcome back. A recent leak of opposition leader Simon Bridges’ travel expenses has expanded into full-blown forensic inquiry to discover the source of the Newshub story by Tova O’Brien. Joining me now to talk about his expenses and the inquiry is National Party leader Simon Bridges. Good morning Mr Bridges.

SIMON BRIDGES: Morning.

INTERVIEWER: You were pretty angry when your expenses were leaked?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I was very angry. I’ve been working incredibly hard going around New Zealand talking to New Zealanders about New Zealanding.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have to travel in a Crown limousine? Surely there are cheaper ways of getting around than using your free ride?

BRIDGES: Look… I don’t think so. I think New Zealanders want to see their politicians turning up to cake stalls and charity baton relays rested and relaxed after a long journey. It’s very hard to cut a ribbon or successfully cradle a baby if you’re all stressed out from riding in a Jazz or, god forbid, a Prius.

INTERVIEWER: I do understand that, but don’t you think it looks a bit flashy, a bit over the top to be spending $900 per day when you could get something much, much cheaper.

BRIDGES: Well… it could be worse. I could have included the Thai foot masseuse for an extra $250 a day, but I didn’t include her except on a couple of dozen of the trips.

INTERVIEWER: So you were pretty outraged when your expenses were leaked to the Newshub political editor?

BRIDGES: Absolutely outraged.

INTERVIEWER: Disgusted.

BRIDGES: Totally disgusted.

INTERVIEWER: So you’re absolutely outraged and totally disgusted by someone releasing your travel expenses…

BRIDGES: Completely.

INTERVIEWER: …just a couple of days before they were going to be made public anyway?

BRIDGES: Yes. It is outrageous that the National Party only had 20 minutes or so to come up with our lines for the media. I’ve been working extremely hard, travelling the country talking to New Zealanders. I mean, face it, that line isn’t very exciting, but it’s all we could come up with after we were ambushed by Tova.

INTERVIEWER: So then, what’s your plan? What are you wanting to happen from here?

BRIDGES: I think the most sensible thing that has happened during this whole time is the Speaker of the House announcing his forensic inquiry into the leak. We need to get to the bottom of whoever has undertaken this threat to New Zealand’s democracy.

INTERVIEWER: Do you ever wonder to yourself if you’d just said, “yeah, we spent that money talking to New Zealanders,” and left it at that, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now and the New Zealand taxpayer wouldn’t be spending several hundred thousand dollars trawling through National Party emails to try to find the person who wants your job?

BRIDGES: (extremely long pause) Um… (another long pause) …um… ahh… (more pauses) I…. ahh… I don’t know…?

INTERVIEWER: Mr Bridges… thanks very much…

BRIDGES: Hang on… is that it?

INTERVIEWER: We’ve run out of time.

BRIDGES: But… I… that interview makes me look terrible.

INTERVIEWER: I think this whole debacle makes you look terrible.

BRIDGES: Hey! Aren’t you meant to be an impartial journalist?

INTERVIEWER: No. I’m a fake entity on a satirical blog post. I can be anything I want. Thanks very much for your time Mr Bridges.

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MyThinks on the government’s response to the strike

Greetings.

After what could only be described as a celebration of the profession yesterday, today was definitely a plummet earthwards in comparison.

What annoyed me the most this morning was listening to the last couple of minutes of the Morning Report interview with Chris Hipkins. Our Minister of Education, long thought of as a wonderful juxtaposition to the Hekia years when a new language developed where one could speak for minutes, using a multitude of extraneous vocabularies to, ultimately say nothing, Hipkins has begun to speak in political tongues. Listen for yourself:

https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/remote-player?id=2018658315

Hipkins says we teachers are being offered more and he’s, “acknowledging our frustrations” but ultimately he said he would prefer we accept the offer and not propose more industrial action. I got the feeling he thought we are being unreasonable.

The government has begun to tell us, tell everyone, to be patient. So many different groups are asking for similar settlements. Unfortunately for Labour, a decade or so of National-led education policy based on nothing other than the thoughts of a couple of bloggers and an MP given a free ride in a safe blue seat, now have to clean up the mess.

The clean up will run into the billions. When the “sound fiscal managers” in the National Party wreck something, they really clog all the works with a plethora of spanners. We now have a system where teachers are dropping like flies and young people are seeing this and saying, “bugger that for a game of skittles,” and heading off into less stressful occupations like forestry, accountancy, baking etc.

Addressing the marching teachers outside parliament, Jacinda Adern said that revolution takes time. I suppose the Rome wasn’t built-in a day argument makes sense because it took National a decade to destroy education. However, doing nothing and promising everything isn’t good enough. Perhaps, perhaps if the Labour-led coalition offered us some kind of timeline clearly showing how they intend to fix our profession, then maybe we’d go along with it.

Telling us to be patient and then not giving us a timeframe doesn’t wash.

When the next vote comes to my inbox, I’ll be voting for two more days of action.

Because if they don’t fix education now, then that’s it. We’ll lose it all and end up like those third-world public education systems in England and the United States.

Mr B

Post Script: Here’s a link to the coverage of the South Canterbury action.

Strike!

Last evening I made the fatal mistake of telling my son that, “tomorrow we’re sleeping in.” This turned out to be taken as a reverse challenge, so I have been awake since five. Eventually my puku instructed me to get up and get organised around six o’clock. Breakfast and a bit of a tidy up later and it was time to head into Timaru for our protest.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but some highlights include:

  1. My son leading the chant and, on several occasions, getting it going again after it had petered out.
  2. The hundreds who turned out to the rally.
  3. The number of non-teachers (parents, school support staff, principals, and others) who tuned out with us in solidarity.
  4. The overwhelming support from the motorists who drove past the march, or who we held up at the lights while our group continued to cross long after the green man had packed his bags and headed off.

Although there was wonderful support from the people of Timaru as we headed down the main road to the local MP’s office, there was a moment that highlighted the battle we are having with a certain sector of society. While we stood together on our street corner chanting an elderly gentleman turned the corner and gave us the fingers.

Apart from delivering his withering hand gesture straight out of 1973, this silver-haired chap is a prime example if the type person we really need to convince. I have no doubt he believes we are complete slackers skiving on a street corner corrupting our children into the union. He’ll argue teachers don’t deserve any more money because they are already very well remunerated and they get 12 weeks holiday a year.

I’m not going to dismantle this aged villain here other than to wonder whether he takes his full pension or whether, out of principle, he has forgone it because he doesn’t need the money…

Today I marched for the profession. We are in crisis because young people don’t want to join our profession or the manage to make it through their degree or diploma only to give it away after a few years. For too long we have been denegrated by this sector of society (One wonders whether the denegration would have happened to a profession where the majority of workers were men. Just saying…).

It will be interesting to see what the government come back to us with. I don’t care about the money. I just want more time to teach and be a dad.

I’ll leave the last word to my son: “I thought this was going to be a bit boring, but it was heaps of fun!”

Mahi pai e tama. Kua tae te wā.

Why am I striking?

Imagine, if you will, a small class of, shall we say fifteen to eighteen pupils. Perhaps this class is in a small and well-resourced school. Maybe the class has one-to-one devices. In all likelihood this school is a charter school. Or a private school. Or a well-resourced school in an affluent area. This school is not most schools.

Most schools have class sizes of around 30 pupils. Most teachers are working to cater to the needs of 30 or so kids. It takes a vast array of talent and skill cater for the vast range of needs within New Zealand classrooms. In order to service these needs, the education system must have been spending the last decade and a half aiming for the stars and fill the teaching profession with the most highly skilled teachers. Um… no.

Led by the privatised dreams of the ACT Party, and garnished with large doses of teacher-bashing by far right troll blogs and Mouth Hosking, the National Party did very little to promote teaching as a vocation worthy of consideration. Whether it was David Seymour massaging the figures released by charter schools, Hekia Parata’s patronising tone whenever she opened her mouth, Hosking launching into another 3-hour long “Mike’s Minute” on ZB, or National inviting most of South East Asia to attend polytech in Auckland without the necessary infrastructure planning and spend, it’s little wonder we now find ourselves in our current position.

People just aren’t that keen on being teachers. If you are coming to the end of your secondary schooling and you’re on the hunt for a profession, you might briefly consider teaching. However, if you lived in Auckland and realised the average cost of a house is 20 times your starting salary, would that be enticing a career option? Sure, we could all do what those far-right trolls want us to do and live somewhere on the outskirts of Auckland and travel an hour and a half to work each day. If people wanted to spend that much time in cars they would hook into some of that sweet Uber meat, surely?

I trained during the last Labour government. We were all dismayed (actually, we were DISMAYED) when John Key’s government won and started to dismantle our public education system. Had I waited just a couple of years, maybe I wouldn’t be a teacher. Maybe I’d have stuck with the comedy / acting thing. Or maybe I’d be miserable in an office somewhere. Who knows?

What I do know is today primary teachers and principals are striking for the first time in 24 years. That strike is over pay parity with secondary teachers. The reasons for our current strike are many and varied. After a wide consultation with teachers, the New Zealand Educational Institute submitted their claim to the government. You can read it here, but here is the gist:

These are all pretty technical sounding things in there about our pay scales. Ultimately it comes down to this: more money, more release time out of the classroom for studies and other (required) work, smaller class sizes and reduced workloads, and making teaching a more enticing option as a career.

I am not striking for the money. I am striking so I don’t have to work at the weekend. So I don’t have to say “no” when my son asks me to do something with him. I am striking so I can be a better father and a better teacher. If my workload reduces because I’m allowed to have more release time from classroom duties to study or observe other teachers or just catch up on a shit-load of work on my to-do list, then that will make me a better teacher. Having more time to do the job that is required of me during the usual hours of work means I am going to be a better father. It really is that simple.

Anyone who still maintains teachers are somehow lazy or get plenty of “holidays” each year are being disingenuous at best. To the unordained, “holidays” as they are often referred to, are actually used by teachers to catch up on a lot of stuff we can’t get done during term time. More often than not, however (and this happened to three of my team during the last “holidays,” myself included), our bodies collapse and we spend the first week sick after our bodies collapse.

If any of the kiwiblog/hosking fanboys have got this far without closing their window in disgust at my sound arguments will probably be telling me to harden up. “Life is hard. You need to suck it up Boon and get on with it. You’ve been hired to do a job, so just do it. Enjoy your 12 weeks holiday a year you lazy teacher.”

My response? It doesn’t have to be that way. Teaching, indeed life, doesn’t have to be hard. Having spent a decade in the clutches of the research-ignoring ideologues from NACTional, the New Zealand education system could do with a decade of evidence-based policy and decision-making.

I truly hope this strike will bring about that change in direction and put be on the path to being a better dad and teacher.

Simon Bridges: Look at me!!! I’m being interviewed again!

Interviewer: The National Party are, once again, critical of the Labour-led government over their self-imposed spending limits. Joining me now on the show is National leader Simon Bridges. Good morning.

Simon Bridges: Good morning.

Interviewer: So you are critical of the Labour Party…

Simon Bridges: Yes.

Interviewer: … let me finish… You are critical of the Labour Party and their fiscal responsibility rules?

Simon Bridges: Absolutely.

Interviewer: So you don’t agree with the government being fiscally responsible?

Simon Bridges: No… I mean yes… I mean… what do you mean?

Interviewer: Well the National Party are meant to be the party of sound fiscal management. Are you disagreeing with Labour because you no longer agree with the concept of fiscal responsibility?

Simon Bridges: What? Oh good lord no. The National Party are still completely in favour of there being limits on government spending. Absolutely.

Interviewer: Ok… so you’re in favour of the Labour Party’s fiscal responsibility rules then?

Simon Bridges: Yes… no… what??

Interviewer: You’re against their rules of fiscal responsibility so you must be in favour of the government spending more money then? Are you saying they should increase spending on schools and fixing up hospitals… maybe helping the homeless into new homes?

Simon Bridges: No. No. No…. Oh my god no. The government needs to keep their spending under control. Absolutely under control. There’s no doubt about that.

Interviewer: So.. sorry. I’m very confused. You’re complaining that Labour is doing exactly what you would be doing if you were in government.

Simon Bridges: Look. I know that sounds really dumb when you say it like that, but since we won the election last year National have thought long and hard about how we might bring this government down. We know that this government is useless at everything that they do so our plan consists of us being really critical of everything they do in the hope that some of the stardust will blow away and New Zealand will see the Labour Party for what they really are.

Interviewer: Sound fiscal managers?

Simon Bridges: Yes. What? No. No. Labour are not sound fiscal managers.

Interviewer: Simon Bridges. Thank you for your time.

Simon Bridges: What? No. I’m not done yet.

Interviewer: But we’re out of time. Thanks Mr Bridges.

Simon Bridges: But that whole interview made me sound like a complete dick.

Interviewer: Thanks Mr Dick.