Here at My Thinks we’ve been running a very irregular column profiling a range of political leaders from across the spectrum. As we come in to a heated 20 weeks of campaign rhetoric, we thought it was important to send our intrepid reporter out into the field to interview some more of the movers and shakers.
This week we speak to Bill English. This Finance Minister and Deputy Interim Prime Minister when John Key’s away and Stephen Joyce isn’t looking, English rose to prominence during the Ruth Richardson-led government of Jim Bolger. A quiet achiever, he led from the back staging a daring reverse coup in 2003 against his successor Don Brash following a brief meeting with some Freemasons and most of the Exclusive Brethren at the Silverstream RSA.
We caught up with him at his subsidised state house in central Wellington.
My Thinks: Mr English. So good of you to give up your time to speak to us this afternoon.
Bill English: No problems at all.
MT: You’ve been Finance Minister for many years now…
MT: Six. We see you there in parliament day in, day out, attacking the opposition on a range of fronts…
BE: …housing, being fiscally liberal, drug testing on hippies, Cunliffe’s grandfather’s brother’s war medals. It’s all there in Hansard.
MT: Yes. You’re a very exciting kettle of fish. How do you find the time to do what you do and still keep this small 7 bedroom million-dollar villa in central Wellington so tidy.
BE: Well my wife and I have taken it upon ourselves to become employers. We employ several staff – on close to, if not almost exactly on the minimum wage – to take care of the day-to-day cleanliness of this small abode.
MT: Does it worry you that these people might not working several jobs – that paying them a little bit extra might mean they could spend more time with their families?
BE: Oh… god… you’re right… you’re… *sound of choking*
MT: Are you ok? Are you choking?
BE: No. That was a laugh. I was laughing. At my joke.
MT: (realises) Oh… um… ha etc. Let’s move on to other things. You’re about to release your latest budget. Are you excited?
BE: Look at this face. Can’t you tell?
MT: Your face looks the same as it did before.
BE: How about now?
MT: No. Still the same.
BE: Well… I’m incredibly excited. This is my excited face. Look, we’ve got all sorts of extra spending in there this year. Fiscally things are freeing up and we’re able to loosen our vice-like grip on the economy. There’s extra money for the alcohol industry, our friends in mining and oil, our other friends in aluminium, and my wife and her friends. We’ve even managed to move, as we always promised, into surplus.
MT: Yes. The surplus. You must be very proud of achieving something that’s eluded you since you came to power.
BE: Yes we are. Very proud.
MT: And how big is the surplus.
BE: At this stage we’re forecasting a surplus of thirty-eight cents. That may rise to thirty-nine cents if all our beneficiaries line up in a row. We are very, very happy.
MT: Would you be happier if you’re surpluses were as big as Labour’s? I mean they had…
BE: (interrupts) …No.
MT: …many, many surp…
BE: (interrupts) …No.
MT: … paid down deb…
BE: (interrupts) …I. Said. No.
MT: Um… will you be using your surplus to pay down debt?
BE: Don’t be stupid. It’s thirty-eight cents. You can’t even make that now. We don’t even have the right type of coins. We’ll have to get it through EFTPOS or something.
MT: So what does the future hold for you?
BE: Well… this afternoon I’m having lunch with Stephen Joyce and John Key. I’m never allowed to say anything. They just nut a whole bunch of things out, write them down on bits of paper, hand some of the bits to me and send the rest over the Cam Slater in the dungeon.
MT: No… I mean a year from now. Ten years from now? Where do you see Bill English in the future?
BE: Well… if National win this election I’ll stay right where I am and if they don’t I expect to be knighted fairly sharply in installed in the embassy in Washington. Unless John wants that one, then I might have to go to France. Eww…
MT: Thanks for speaking to us this afternoon.
BE: My pleasure. Say… how many tax accountants does it take to change a lightbulb?
MT: I don’t know…
BE: Seven. One to leave the old bulb in the socket and the rest to hide the new bulb in the Cayman Islands. *choking*
Greetings and salutations to all of you.
I am writing these words because of the recent events surrounding a renegade band of misinformed hoodlums who are threatening to tear apart the high-quality public education system I and my fellow reformist visionaries are currently embarking upon in Aotearoa New Zealand.
I’m not talking about the Black Power or Mongrel Mob. I’m not talking about war criminals or genocide merchants. No. What I’m talking about is far, far worse than all of those things put together.
I’m talking about the Quality Public Education Coalition.
This outrageous group of destruction merchants have, this week, been holding what they call a “forum” where they have been discussing a “range” of “factors.”
Well, as the current minister (who has the full confidence of the Prime Minister, which is more than I can say for these hippies1), I feel it is my duty, nay, calling to highlight the many deficiencies in the ideas this ragtag group of has-been revolutionaries2 are promoting.
First of all, they suggest that the government department known as Treasury is in charge of developing education policy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, of course, Treasury are responsible for developing many different areas of government policy they should have little, if any, say in. Their ideas, however, have been very welcome in areas such as social housing, monetary policy, government subsidies for multinational companies, tax policy for incredibly rich people who don’t pay tax, and learning developments for kiwi children (which, if you read those words, quite obviously has nothing to do with education).
They’re also talking about Christchurch schools. Are they part of an experiment? Which school will they close next? How many children can they possibly fit on one 7 acre campus? All those answers and more will be available after budget day when Treasury plans for the disestablishment of everything in the Garden City – including social housing, education and roading – will be made a lot clearer. Of course, these plans have nothing to do with Treasury.
I’m not even going to talk about chartnership schools. There’s nothing to talk about. There are five. There are going to be some more. Some will do very well; others not so well. It’s a proven strategy that’s been proven in a number of proven jurisdictions worldwide – many of which have done incredibly well in the triennial PISA rankings, especially if you don’t include any other of the participants in the triennial PISA rankings.
When it all comes down to it, the National Party of New Zealand has built it’s reputation on the back of blaming Labour for everything that’s wrong with New Zealand except the things that Labour did really well, in which case we take the credit.
You can bet your third house on the fact that we will work super hard to continue to develop education policies that reflect the diverse needs of
kiwi children American billionaires.
Hekia Parata, Minister of and for Education.
1courtesy of WhaleOil via Judith Collins at lunch yesterday.
2courtesy of various right-wing Newstalk ZB punditry.
I was ruminating yesterday while I was planning for the upcoming term. Earlier in the year I suggested to the class they might want to learn about World War 1 – the Great War – and they agreed, so I’ve been planning a number of different projects based on this nation-defining epoch.
Yesterday, as commemorations of the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings took place, and as we near the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, I began thinking…
If those young men were alive today, what would they think about the current state of the nation they had fought so hard to protect?
What would they think about the increasing gap between rich and poor that sees the top 10% of income earners in New Zealand earn so very much more than the bottom 50%?
What would they think of New Zealanders supporting this very same government to the tune of (up to) 50% – depending on which political poll from the mainstream media you look at?
Our soldiers fought for freedom. They fought for four years in appalling conditions to protect those freedoms. Freedom of movement. Freedom of association. Freedom of belief. Freedom from tyranny.
Are you free if you have to work two jobs to pay rent and electricity so you can live in Auckland (where most of the jobs are)?
Are you free if you are injured, can no longer work, yet are forced by bureaucrats to go out and look for work to satisfy a work test?
Are you free if you have every part of your life monitored so the government are satisfied you meet the criteria to receive an unemployment benefit.
Are you free if you have nothing in a world where owning everything is considered success?
But then, this government doesn’t want you to be free. They don’t want you thinking freely and questioning their authori-tigh.
No. This government would rather you struggle along focused on making things better for your family because if you stopped to think for just a nanosecond about how little the Western political elite actually care about you and your family you would rise up and take back your life.
But then capitalism was never about freedom anyway.
Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers: Paula Bennett press release, April 3rd, 2014
Henare apologises for comments about cleaner: NZ Herald, Sept 27, 2013
Why are teachers used as targets?: Allan Alach (The Daily Blog), December 18, 2013
WORKING FOR THE FEW – Political capture and economic inequality: Oxfam NZ, Jan 20th, 2014
Quality public education for all! It begins here.
It will be a great chance to hear the latest experts such as John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Warwick Elley, and the chance to discuss your own concerns at the Teacher Forum – and all for FREE.
The Teacher Forum is focusing on Investing in Success (IES) and, to my mind, is not to be missed. Many well informed people are attending, including Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, who will discuss how a group of principals have joined forces to form the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP because of serious concerns around IES plans.
You can attend any or all of the forum, so do feel free to drop in even if you have only one speaker you really want to hear. (But truly, you should stay for more than one session – it’s not often you get to hear from all of these…
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Fight, fight, FIGHT!
A number of school principals have recently been invited by NZCER to take part in national PaCT tool reading and writing trials.
Last year, NZEI and other sector groups successfully fought Government plans to make the PaCT tool mandatory from 2015, as part of the drive to embed National Standards into schooling.
After NZEI Te Riu Roa, NZ Principals’ Federation, the NZ Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, and the Catholic Principals Association called on schools to cease any involvement in the further development of PaCT, the Minister back-tracked on her decision to make PaCT mandatory.
However, we have become aware that schools have again been approached to take part in a further round of trials beginning in June.
We strongly encourage you not to take part in these trials. The PaCT is an attempt to give credibility to dodgy National Standards and to create a “value added”…
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