Government Announces Changes to Blogger Registration

The government has announced a range of sweeping changes aimed at cleaning up the blogosphere.

A review released today has recommended widespread changes and the setting up of a body that would issue practicing certificates and registration for bloggers.

The review committee made several recommendation including the setting up of a Bloggers Council to oversee the registration of bloggers who are noted for speaking their mind, often on issues they know very little, if anything, about.

Last year Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman called for a review following the release of a report on a well-known blogger who’d published thousands of unsubstantiated rumours about political opponents on his website.

Currently bloggers are not required by any statute to prove the legitimacy of their qualifications, areas of expertise, previous work experience or their appropriateness to comment on any issue currently being discussed in the public domain.

The review committee has suggested some kind of name would be important for the fledgling body.

“A new body with the purpose of creating a stronger and more vibrant profession needs a name to encapsulate its importance. The name should reflect the membership and the vision of enhanced status and professionalism of blogging and leadership in on-line commentary.”

Suggestions are Council of New Zealand Bloggers, Blogging Council of New Zealand and Aotearoa Bloggers and Commentators.

Coleman has said the changes are necessary because, “as the review found, to improve outcomes for all RSS readers and to address equity issues, New Zealand must have a flexible, skilled and culturally intelligent and well-led blogforce.”


My Pledge to All of You

Thank you to each and every one of the schools, parents, teachers and learners who contributed during the recent consultation process.

I understand change is hard. I appreciate that any community that has been through so much must feel the amount of change to be too big, too great, too changey.

Once again, thank you to the people of Christchurch.

All of you have accepted the challenge. All of you have turned up to meetings across the city to listen to my heart-felt explanation as to why this government feels the need to fix things that aren’t broken. All of you have left the meetings wishing you had brought a UN translator so you could understand me. I understand that. Sometimes when I’m giving myself a pep-talk in the morning I find it hard to understand what I’m talking about. It’s important that we accept what people tell us as the truth, even when we know in our hearts that we have no idea what they are on about.

Thank you again the people of Christchurch.

Your city has been through a lot in recent years. The Ministry recognises this because some of our people live in Christchurch and were living there at the time the earthquakes were shaking. Some of them lost possessions. Some of them even live in the red zone and will lose their houses. None of them live in the zone of a school that is closing.

But despite all this hardship, the people at the Ministry have continued to answer your questions. They have continued to look ahead to the future of education in Canterbury. A future where schools can open without fear of students being swallowed up in a long-jump pit of liquefaction. A future where schools can exist without hairline cracking in their asphalt netball courts. A future where anyone, with or without qualifications or police checking can be employed as an “educational facilitator” for our most vulnerable. That’s the future we see for education.

Again to the people of Christchurch, I thank you.

I understand this is tough. But change is tough. Did you know that all of the students who have moved out of Christchurch since the September earthquakes now go to school in Gisborne. That’s nearly 10,000 students. There are only 7 students left in Christchurch. That’s tough.

Again to Christchurch I thank people you.

Now we have a chance to build a better education system for the city. We are spending $1 billion rebuilding the sector over the next 10 years. That’s almost no extra funding than we’d already planned for anyway. That means change is hard for us too.

Christchurch again people you thank.

We want to get this right. With all the submissions now on my desk, I’m leaving my office for the summer break. My door is open and I’ve had my security men shift my desk near the window I’ve left open in the hope that a gentle Wellington gale-force nor’wester will cleanse the feng shui of my office while I’m away. When I get back I will personally read every single submission that remains on my desk.

People again Christchurch you thank.

We are creating a modern 19th century education system that supports the best outcomes for working children across New Zealand.

Again thank church you Christpeople.

I wish you all the best for 2013 and I sincerely hope that the upcoming Mayan apocalypse prophesy doesn’t put a fly in our reform ointment.

Messy Christmas.


My $2 Shop Can Opener

Hello all. The sore throat is back today. I have no voice so my class has to miss out. Today my fingers can be my voice…

I want to tell you about my can opener – the can opener I bought from the $2 Shop near our house. It used to be a great can opener. We would use it to open baked beans, spaghetti, tins of fruit, tins of tuna, pasta sauce – the list goes on and on. I remember the day we got it. I brought it home and put it on the edge of the tin and it sliced clean through, then after a few turns the tin was open and I was shovelling cold baked beans into my mouth.

After a short time things started to go wrong. The cutty bit didn’t slice into the tin as cleanly. The handle became stiff and hard to use. The teeth of the two cogs became worn and ended up not meeting. Ultimately the can opener ended up being a bottle opener thanks to the addition of a bottle opener on the end. In the end it failed in its single task of opening cans. Eventually I had to go to Mitre 10 Mega in Mount Wellington and spend $10 on a new and sturdier can opener.

You can probably guess where this metaphor is heading… straight to the Talent2 Dollar Shop.

I was lying in bed last night trying to will my sore throat away so I could get some rest and things began to trouble me. Mostly my thoughts centred around it was the inability of some public servants and ministers to effectively spend OUR money when purchasing “brand new IT solutions for the 21st century.”

I believe there’s two things in play here. Firstly, the current National-led “coalition” (Nats+5) has a main reason for being: slashing government spending. When a government is slashing spending, and they are choosing to spend money on new things – like rail carriages or IT things – those purchasing the new stuff will go for the $2 Shop option every time. Bill English will tell you that any savings is good savings. Saving money will get us back to surplus. So the government decided to choose Talent2 as tenders for the Novopay system. Because it was the cheapest. It was the $2 Shop option.

The problem with stuff that is cheap – generally it breaks quicker. Like my can opener. If I’d gone for the more expensive option at the start then I wouldn’t have wasted months of consternation trying to get a rusting piece of junk to open my tinned fruit salad. Ultimately I ended up having to buy two tin openers, ending up with the more expensive option anyway. My original decision was financially based, it was flawed and I now accept that. I’ve moved on and I’ve tendered out my tin opening to a more robust brand. I should have just gone for the dearer one in the first place.

The other problem the government and the public sector have is the lack of expertise when it comes to matters of IT. I doubt whether the decision to accept the Talent2 tender would have been made by someone who was able to look at their programming thoroughly. I’m sure Lesley Longstone is a very capable manager, but I doubt she spends her time writing software or analysing software. She, and others in her ministry, have to rely on the expertise of others. Consultants. $1500 an hour consultants. Mind you, even after being told that a trial was needed, Craig “I Know What I’m Doing” Foss ticked off on the system to go full steam ahead. Without a trial.

Why can’t the government have a dedicated team of IT people on retainer. People who can go around the various ministries and government departments advising them and making sure they don’t accept, for example, public kiosks that are an open book to the lives of all our beneficiaries?

The Novopay debacle will end up costing the government far more money than they originally planned to save by going to the Talent2 Dollar Shop. Guaranteed. If they’d just gone to the Mitre 10 of payroll operators in the first place, none of this would be happening.

Again I hope you all get paid properly in the lead up to Christmas. Be thankful that all the banks are offering everyone free Novodrafts to deal with any fees that incur because of this ongoing nonsense.

Mr B


Hello and welcome…

It would be remiss of me not to do what everyone else in the world is doing over the course of this week so here goes…

A lot of people must be looking back at 2009 and thinking, like I am, where the hell did that go. This year seems to have flown by much quicker than usual. Or is it the fact that I’m getting old? Does time pass quicker the older you get? If I think back to my childhood the years seemed to go on forever, weeks and months melding into each other like one long hot summer. Anyway, that’s enough of the Stand by Me crap. On with what I was going to say.

It’s good to see that the capitalists of this world still think the sun shines out of their arses despite the complete and abject failure of their way of doing things.

Oooo, ooo, Mr. Obama… Mr. Obama… I’ve got a good idea!! Me, me! Look I know that in the last couple of years that things haven’t been going quite right. In fact, technically speaking, when you crunch the numbers, they’ve been going quite wrong by quite a lot – mainly because I’ve been trying to make ridiculous amounts of money by effectively gambling on things I didn’t really understand but pretended I did.. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you give me MORE money, and when I say give I mean lend, if you lend me more money I can do some more guessing and gambling and I can make it all better. And once it’s all better, then I can pay you back. Good ay?

6 months later….

Oh, yeah, hi Mr. Obama… look I know that we made some number of billions profit this year despite having to ask you for some readies to tide us over but we really can’t afford to pay you back just yet. But I am good for it, I really am. It’s just that we need that money to do a bit more guessing and gambling. See, we’ve made $60 billion in the last six months, but if you let us keep going with the loan, if we can keep doing what we are doing – and remember we are the experts in the field, we know what we are doing – if we can keep going then that $60 billion could turn into $63 billion or maybe even $65 billion. That would be like an extra $5 billion that you didn’t have before man. Where did it come from? Well… um… I don’t really know. I just checked the balance at the end of the day and it had gone up a bit. No, it’s not like actual money you can hold in your hand, like a $2 note or anything. No no, this is an on-line bank balance. Well, yes, I suppose it could go back down just like it’s been going up, but I doubt that very much. After all, we play the markets like this all the time so we have experience and know how that allow us to be extremely confident in ourselves and what we are doing. No, I don’t have any qualifications other than a diploma I got from a technical college in Halifax. No, that diploma isn’t in finance – it’s in something called book labelling… it’s like book-keeping but instead of accounting for the ebb and flow of cash through the books, I’m am qualified for making sure all the books are correctly named. How did I get into the finance industry? I knew a guy in college who told me I was quite good on computers and adding up and he suggested I become a day trader. The rest is history.

Of course, that’s not to say that ALL of those people still involved in the financial institution that nearly bought the world to its knees (but thanks to some quick cash from those people who actually pay taxes, they can continue on their merry way) have no idea what they are doing. Indeed, I’m sure that most people who take huge daily risks with money that doesn’t belong to them in situations they can barely understand, know completely what they are doing.

I am being incredibly sarcastic here. I doubt whether anyone on Wall Street really fully understands anything about the institution they’ve created. All they really care about is making money – and lots of it. And before you go all funny and start suggesting I’m a communist, or, God forbid, ‘against us’, think of it this way… where does the money come from? If I’ve clicked my mouse to complete a trade, then later that day I sell making money, the only thing changing is a number on a computer screen. Where is the cold, hard cash – the tangible thing that I can hold in my hand that shows I’ve actually done something useful.

If I go out to a market and buy a carrot for 9 cents and later that day sell it for 10 cents, I’ve made a penny. I also have a 10 cent piece in my hand that I can show people and say – look at me, I’m worth 10 cents. Yesterday I was worth only 9.

The thing that really sticks in my mind from this year is the amount of profit these US companies made in the months following their bailout by Obama. For example, AIG made $1.82 billion in the second quarter of 09. This after getting nearly $200 billion in loans. I suppose, technically speaking, these loans have to be paid back by AIG, but all they’re doing is shuffling things around and selling them off to do this. They’re not really changing the root cause of all the financial market malarkey that has occurred in the last couple of years (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on).

People are driven by wanting to make as much money as they possibly can with little regard to whose money it is that’s actually helping them do this. When human nature is involved, you can’t have a totally unregulated situation in the marketplace, no matter how many times they tell you to let the market provide. Look what it provided last year (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on) – complete meltdown because those in charge of the money-go-round all got off at the same time. Dicks.

Oh well… I’m sure they’ll do better next time (I’m picking it to be around 2018).

Happy new year!!

Boon x

Marching Myself

Last week I went on about people marching for democracy. Anybody who read that blog and marched would have probably been telling me to shut my big mouth – and fair enough too. If I believed in something and someone was telling me I was wrong I would have a few choice words of the Queen’s vernacular to deliver in their general direction.

Take this as a kind of apology – qualified if you will. I perhaps should have said this last time: you are quite welcome to have views of any description, but at the same time be prepared to feel the wrath of my words rallying against your view. My point last week was that the group organising the march were talking about wandering up Queen Street for ‘democracy’ rather than their actual reason for marching which was to be allowed to hit their children and claim a defence of reasonable force if they were taken to court. That’s what they had voted for in the referendum and the government said ‘no’ to making the referendum binding, so they marched.

So to this week… it’s my turn to march.

Currently, and for the next two weeks and two days, I am a teacher. I have my own class of wonderful Year 5 & 6s. To give you an idea of numbers there are 28 of them. As any teacher knows, it really does depend on the make up of your class as to how independent they are as learners. Sometimes your class can be filled with kids who require very little assistance with their learning, whereas other times you may have a lot of kids lumped under the ‘special needs’ banner.

Special needs is an umbrella term that includes a vast range of things – I call these things ‘things’ because you can’t really lump them together even though they quite often are. You can have kids on the autistic spectrum (in itself this is a capacious grouping), children who’ve moved to New Zealand from other parts of the world and have English as their second language, kids with specific learning needs in one or more of the core curriculum areas, those kids who are now dubbed ‘differently abled’ by the PC brigade (again a huge range of different things there, from cerebral palsy to spina bifida, blindness and any other affliction in between), kids with nut allergies who, if they touch a nut, go into anaphylactic shock and need an injection of adrenalin or they will die.

These are the children I can think of while typing. I’m sure I’ve missed loads out and I apologise to those kids.

In New Zealand we have something called free education. It is available to all children from the age of 5 until they leave secondary school. When I say all children I mean ALL children. If you are 5 years old and were born in New Zealand you can go to a public school here. You can read all about it right at the start of the Education Act 1989.

So, all kiwi kids can go to any government-funded school. This is great! In so many countries around the world this is not the case. We are truly lucky.

With class sizes of around 30 teachers have to cater for a massive range of different educational needs, including, possibly, some of those children mentioned above. If you are a very lucky teacher you can occasionally get a little bit of help delivering specific learning programmes (I suppose you could say teaching!) to these kids with the help of a teaching assistant. Sometimes they are assigned to specific children and work in the class with the teacher, other times they may take groups of children with similar needs from around the school and teach them together. Either way, these learning support staff are integral to the running of any school.

You must be thinking at this point, “if these staff are so integral to delivering learning to the children in the schools most in need, then they must be getting rewarded for their amazing work.” You could think this, but you’d be wrong. Due to a variety of reasons, most notably in education (and nursing for that matter), because the vast majority of the workforce is made up of wonderful female women who are so altruistic with their caring, a multitude of governments over the past 30 – 40 years have used this to their advantage and because of this some of the lowest paid educators in this country are paid less than the people who clean their rooms at the end of the day.

WHAT???? you all say in disbelief, but this is completely correct and I’ll repeat it just to cement my point. In some schools, the cleaners are paid more than those with finely honed educational skills responsible for teaching those most in need.

Is this fair? In short, no, and so today I am marching in support of my colleagues. My wonderful and amazing colleagues who have given so much over the years and receive so little in return – sometimes, depending on their qualifications, minimum wage. It’s just not fair.

So far I’ve talked about a specific group of support staff, but there are so many more. In my school, for example, there are the learning support staff responsible for teaching those kids under the ‘special needs’ umbrella, but there are many, many others. Our ICT person responsible for making sure the school computers, network, internet and communications are cranking along in the correct manner is part of the support staff (this person would be worth tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands working a similar job in the private sector). Our librarian who runs things in that part of the school. Our art guru who produces the most amazing displays for school, resources for the classroom teachers and enters the wearable art awards each year. The list goes on and on and on (and I apologise if I’ve missed you out – you can hit me at school on Monday).

If you think not getting paid enough is unfair then think about this. Support staff are not on full contracts either. Their contract ends at the end of the school year so technically in two weeks or so all the support staff in New Zealand are out of a job and don’t get paid for 6 weeks. Schools do keep these people on year by year, but in the private sector if you’re on a fixed term contract when your contract comes to an end you are out of work. So every time there is a change at the top these people must be concerned for their positions. Who’s to say a new boss isn’t going to look at things when they come in and say, “we don’t need all these people, surely” and just not renew contracts come the end of the year. Fixed term contracts end and uncertainty every Christmas isn’t good for the psyche.

And so my call goes out – support the support staff in your local school. Go in on Monday, find them and thank them. They are the teachers in your school you are getting from minimum wage up to around $20 an hour (depending on qualifications).

My final point is this: support staff at our school are paid not from the wages and salaries budget, but from the same budget we purchase our toilet paper with.

Actually I have another final point: John Key, our venerial venerable leader said if support staff wanted a pay rise then perhaps teachers would be willing to take a pay cut.

Both of those final points show exactly how much the current (and previous) government value not only support staff, but education workers as a whole. What do you expect from National – after all, they did choose an Minister of Education whose sum total of previous experience in education was going to school.


Kindest regards,

Boon x