Tag Archives: National Party

Election debate: the finance edition

MyThinks has been delving deep into many, many election issues. From Steven Joyce’s lying to the lying of Steven Joyce, we’ve really worked hard to cover everything. Today in our Auckland studio we are hosting a debate between Finance Minister Joyce and his Labour Party counterpart Grant Robertson. 

Host: Good morning gentlemen.

Joyce: Good morning.

Robertson: Good morning Mr Host.

Host: This is shaping up to be a tight election race. National and Labour are neck and neck at the moment. I’ll start with you first Mr Joyce. What is your party offering that is going to make a difference to New Zealanders?

Joyce: That’s a great question. National has a strong record of helping ourselves during the global financial crisis. We have worked hard to ensure that everyone has a fair go…

Robertson: (coughing) Bhu-ll-sht!

Joyce: …that everyone has a fair go and are able to get the jobs and the opportunities they want.

Host: You don’t agree Grant Robertson?

Robertson: No I don’t. National has had nine years, nine long years to improve things, and what have we got? People living in cars, polluted rivers, homeless people dying on church steps, massive waiting lists… I could go on.

Joyce: Please don’t.

Robertson: You’ve had every opportunity and you’ve failed. Your government is not delivering for New Zealanders. It’s just delivering for…

Joyce: That’s a load of rubbish and you know it. National have a proven track record…

Robertson: Prove it.

Joyce: …I just did by saying it. National has a proven track record of delivering jobs and growth. And I wouldn’t be too quick to cast aspersions Grant. Your party is up to some pretty dodgy stuff.

Host: What do you mean?

Joyce: Well… there’s the tax thing. They are going to raise all sorts of taxes and hard-working New Zealanders are going to end up paying a lot more.

Robertson: No we are not. That’s a lie. We are holding a working group to look at whether our tax system is fair.

Joyce: And you’re going to raise income tax on our most vulnerable people.

Robertson: No we are not. We haven’t said we will.

Joyce: It’s clear from your denials that you are totally going to do that. National deny all sorts of stuff we end up doing or are found guilt of. You are totally going to raise taxes and force the poor to sell their babies.

Robertson: What?

Host: What??

Joyce: It’s obvious. You have totally denied you are going to lift income tax but you have never said that you are not going to force the poor to sell their children. How do we know that’s not your policy?

Robertson: Because we aren’t ACT.

Joyce: Don’t dodge the question. How can New Zealanders be sure that the Labour Party aren’t going to force the hard-working poor of New Zealand to sell their children in order to pay for food and housing?

Robertson: You’re adding stuff to that!

Joyce: Damn right. You’ve never said you aren’t just going to ship all the old people living in rest homes off to the Auckland Islands because it’s just too expensive to pay for their care.

Robertson: I don’t believe what I’m hearing.

Joyce: I don’t either. I don’t think any New Zealander will stand by and let you harvest their organs to sell on the dark web. I certainly won’t.

Host: Where are you getting this information?

Joyce: From a hole. It’s a very big hole. But it’s there. All this information waiting to come out. I’ve run many, many campaigns for the National Party over the years and never, never have I been in charge of one which is up against a party that hasn’t denied they are going to remove all non-New Zealanders from the country via a lunar rocket.

Robertson: We will not do any of those things.

Joyce: But how do we know that if you aren’t denying them?

Host: I think he just did.

Joyce: No he didn’t Mr Host. He said he was, “totally not going to do any of those things.” But what things? What specific things is he not going to do. I haven’t heard him name one since we’ve been sitting here.

(long pause)

Robertson: What are you not going to do?

Joyce: Pardon?

Robertson: Well… what are you and the National Party not going to do?

Joyce: Oh… I see what you are trying to do there… You’re trying to catch me out. Well I’ll tell you this right here and now. Everything. We are planning not to do everything.

Robertson: So… you’re going to do nothing?

Joyce: What?

Host: I think he asked if you were going to do nothing. That is, are you planning not to do anything?

Joyce: Um… sorry… what do you mean?

Host: You’re accusing Labour of doing everything so is the National Party planning on doing nothing to deal with all of our problems?

Joyce: Wha.. um… but… the… I’m… Roads! Roads and irrigation!! And tax cuts!!!!!!! Shut up.

Robertson: Hahaahaa! Classic.

Joyce: Shut up. I’m not playing anymore.

Host: Thanks for joining us today gentlemen. I’ve been talking to Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Labour Party finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.

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Inside scoop on the National Party election strategy

MyThinks have been lucky enough this election to get exclusive access to some high level strategy meetings at National Party HQ. Led by New Zealand’s arch-nemesis Steven “I have the perfect face for radio” Joyce, this crack team of elite heavy-hitters have been working around the clock as they work to ensure National get another term in parliament. Our correspondent has been embedded with the party since early August and filed this report. 

Reporter: The National Party has long thought of themselves as the ruling party of New Zealand. After years of tyrannical rule under Keith Holyoake and later Robert Muldoon, and then more years under cuddly farmer Jim Bolger and busybody fishwife Jenny Shipley, National have spent the last nine years in power following the rise of the “King of Meh” Sir John Key. This year they face an uphill battle to remain in charge of the country following Key’s resignation and promotion to the top job of dour grumblepants Bill English. We are here today at a key strategy meeting for the National Party election committee.

Joyce: Hello everyone. It’s been a tough week…

Reporter: That’s National campaign manager Steven Joyce.

Joyce: …Labour have risen 10 points in the polls and people are beginning to realise we are a bunch of uncaring wankers. I’ve tried my best to say that Grant Robertson is an idiot, not in so many words, but I’ve tried. Nothing seems to be working. We are falling in the polls and they are rising. What should we do next? Where should we go? Where are we heading?

Reporter: Many of the white, middle-aged men around the table scratch their balding heads. There are quite a few “ums” and some long sighs. It’s almost as if they’ve resigned themselves to the fact that someone who looks better and less tired than them might just take this election out.

Joyce: We have released billions of dollars worth of spending on roads to try to get people to vote for us but we need something else…. something a bit more visionary….

Reporter: At the front of the room we are sitting in is a large whiteboard. On the left of the whiteboard is a picture of former PM Helen Clark with a crudely drawn bullseye over her face. Joyce pulls out a dry-erase marker and takes off the lid. He stands there in front of the board waiting. It’s like he is wanting to look like he’s doing something but he just doesn’t know what to do.

Joyce: Come on boys! What can we do??!?

Reporter: Several of the pale old men excuse themselves from the table claiming prostate issues leaving just Joyce and a couple of others. He points at them with a wizened finger and demands results.

Joyce: I’m demanding results! We are paying you lot thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars per hour. You need to be coming up with something. Now!

Reporter: One of the old men suggests they bring back the dancing cossacks ad from the 1970s remembering back to a brighter past when the National Party could be openly racist and still increase their share of the vote. Joyce dismisses this idea but then suddenly his eyes light up. He puts the lid back on the whiteboard marker and throws it down.

Joyce: Oh… my… god… I’ve got it!

Reporter: The remaining aged men in the room snap awake and some spend a few moments wiping the dribble from their wrinkled chins.

Joyce: So Labour have all these policies which are going to deal with all the shit we’ve created with things like housing, health, rivers, education, immigration, health, rivers, education, health, housing and housing….

Reporter: Sitting at the back of the room it is clear that Joyce is about to launch into something amazing. He is buzzed about whatever is rattling around inside his skull.

Joyce: …so hear me out on this. You might not like it, but… why don’t we just… lie?

Reporter: Some of the ancient relics at the table gasp. It’s unclear whether this is because they are outraged at Joyce’s suggestion or because their oxygen cylinders have run out. He continues.

Joyce: Look. Hear me out. Labour say they aren’t going to raise income taxes. Why don’t we just lie? Why don’t we say they are? Look everyone… if we lie and tell everyone that Labour are going to raise their taxes, then by the time the dust settles and the media start asking questions of us rather than Labour, nobody will care. The damage will be done. Voters are stupid and they’ll just think, “that’s typical Labour trying to take my money” rather than, “typical National lying about everything to try to cling to power.”

Reporter: Some of the pasty octogenarians nod, perhaps because they are in agreement, or perhaps because they are falling asleep. Either way, the room is buzzing and Joyce is on fire. The campaign manager triumphantly attempts a high-five accidentally snapping the wrist of the unsuspecting committee member he’s assaulted. It’s clear that National have their new strategy and Joyce is going for gold. Unnamed Reporter, at the National Party headquarters, MyThinks News.

Steven Joyce: I have a vision for our future

In our first in-depth look at policy, MyThinks interviews Minister of Finance Steven Joyce about the National Party’s vision for New Zealand post-election – if they are elected into power. 

Thinks: Mr Joyce. Thanks for joining us.

Joyce: Thanks for having me.

Thinks: Now… you have been saying a lot this election cycle about Labour’s plans to increase taxes…

Joyce: Yes. They’re planning to tax everything.

Thinks: …let me finish…

Joyce: You will be finished if Labour gets in. Do you know they plan to put a tax on people listening to progressive rock? It’s appalling. People should be able to listen to Genesis or Yes and not have to worry that the Labour Party is breathing down their neck with a collection bag.

Thinks: Um… OK. This wasn’t the plan for this interview, but…. where have you got this information from. How do you know, for example, that Labour are going to introduce this prog rock tax?

Joyce: Well they haven’t not said they won’t, have they?

Thinks: Pardon… I mean… what?

Joyce: Well… have you heard the Labour Party specifically say they are not going to introduce a progressive rock tax this election cycle.

Thinks: No, but….

Joyce: Exactly! This proves they are definitely planning to tax your progressive rock listening habits.

Thinks: I’m not sure I’m following you…

Joyce: You don’t have to follow me. All you have to do is listen to me say the words, “Labour is introducing a new tax” and everything else will follow.

Thinks: I see. But Labour have said they are having a tax working group to review the tax system.

Joyce: Exactly correct.

Thinks: And they’ve said the working group will be focused on making the tax system fairer.

Joyce: Yes. Correct.

Thinks: And they don’t want to pre-empt the findings of this working group by saying what taxes they will look at so they working group may have the freedom to investigate any tax which they might deem to be unfair.

Joyce: Correct again.

Thinks: And before the 2008 election you said you were going to set up a tax working group, which you did end up doing.

Joyce: Correct.

Thinks: And you ended up putting up GST even though you hadn’t mentioned this tax rise before that 2008 election.

Joyce: That is also correct.

Thinks: So Labour is being truthful with the public now by telling them what their vision for a fairer tax system might be by, say, taxing income on investment housing.

Joyce: Yup. Correct.

Thinks: And the National Party were being economical with the truth before the 2008 election by leaving out any mention of possible in the future tax increases.

Joyce: That is correct too.

Thinks: So why are you trying to get away with lying to the New Zealand public previously and also lying about the Labour Party’s plans for a fairer tax system?

Joyce: Oh… now I see where you’re going… No. That’s not true. National always tells the truth. We always have. Especially when we are talking words out of our mouths.

Thinks: Is any of that last sentence true?

Joyce: Are we on the record?

Thinks: Yes.

Joyce: Then yes.

Thinks: Well then Mr Joyce… what’s your plan? What is your vision? How will you deal with the housing crisis, the crisis in mental health, the chronic under-funding in our hospitals and schools and the threat of climate change?

Joyce: Oh… that’s easy. We’re going to spend billions of dollars on roads and irrigation.

Thinks: Okay… thanks for joining us today Mr Joyce.

Joyce: But Labour. Tax.

Thinks: Thank you Mr Joyce.

Joyce: LABOURTAX!!!

Guest post: TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAMN TAXES!

MyThinks likes to delve into the pits of hell for some of its content. Today is no exception. Here with his views on Labour Party taxation policy is our resident right-wing pundit Dr Edward Pharctähd.

I’m fuming. As a right wing pundit and a New Zealander I am absolutely livid. I haven’t been this apoplectic since someone told me the Orewa speech was racist. But here we are.

Last evening I was enjoying a nice night at home in front of the telly for the leaders debate. Usually I watch Michael Hosking because he’s got good ideas about life and how we should be living it. 

Then on comes this young woman talking about lifting children out of poverty as well as health and education. On and on she went hardly letting the men get their words out.

Then she starts talking about tax. She says she wants to set up a working group to look into the fairness of the tax system yet she won’t tell us: a) what taxes she’s going to look at and, b) what taxes she might change because she doesn’t want to “pre-determine” the outcome of the review. 

This is preposterous. I want to know the outcome of this review this very minute. Right now. Before they’ve been appointed. Before they’ve been sworn. Before they’ve done any work at all.

This uncertainty will destroy the sound fiscal stewardship National has given the country over the past nine years. I’ll tell you this much – National certainly know how to run the economy. And apart from the 18 new taxes they’ve introduced, they’ve introduced no new taxes. 

We need to know right now from Jacinda Ardern how much she is going to raise the taxes of hard working New Zealanders so I know exactly how much tax I need to avoid.

Dr Edward Pharctähd, BTlkRdo

Long Read: Education Policy in 2017

You’ve probably heard of The Law of Unintended Consequences. An unintended consequence is an outcome or event which happens as a result of another, often unrelated, happening. In the movie based on their book Freakonomics, journalist Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt, there is a section on the unintended consequences on crime of the Roe vs Wade abortion ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1971. You can watch the clip from the movie below, but very briefly, there was a massive drop in crime in the US in the 1990s. Dubner and Levitt discovered this was not the result of law and order policies similar to the Broken Windows one used in New York City. Instead they were the result of a reduction in the births of “potentially unwanted children” into possibly harmful home situations who would then go on to commit crimes.

This morning Q and A held their education debate ahead of the election (part one here, part 2 here). On the side of National was new(ish) Education Minister Nikki Kaye and attending for the opposition Labour spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

Minister Kaye continued the National Party’s obsession with national standards, which, it turns out, they are planning to supersize. With what? A sweet little app which parents can follow their child’s progress on their phone or tablet. Now apart from the potential data security issues of looking at assessment data on a mobile device might entail, some parents might think this is a good idea. After all, we are in a digital age now and when my phone beeps / chirps / buzzes, I must check it.

Before I begin to dismantle the National Party education policy, let me just say this: We should definitely be measuring a child’s progress, not where they stand against some arbitrary standard set by some boffin in Wellington. All children are different. No child is going to progress against any standard in the same way as any of their classmates, schoolmates or peer group across the country. Sometimes progress is very fast; sometimes it can be painfully slow. Just ask any teacher.

National standards have an in-built language of failure. There are four measurements: above, at, below and well below. Three of those ooze with the putrid juice of defeat. Parents get their reports every six months, and if their child is below or well below, then that’s failure isn’t it? “My child isn’t doing as well as all the other children.” I would also argue children who are assessed as “at” the standard may also be considered average by their parents. They are neither above or below the standard, they are just “at,” which could be construed as very, very average. As well as this, National are never in their wildest educational successes, going to get 100% of students at or above the standard. It would never happen. At some point New Zealand students are going to come to some kind of standstill. You could spend billions of dollars and you would still not shift achievement levels.

When I was given my report back in the 1970s, I rushed home to give it to my parents, not because I wanted them to read it, but because I wanted to read it and I couldn’t do that until they had. Every child I know wants to read their report to find out exactly what their teacher is thinking about them and their learning (or, in my case, behaviour!). With national standards the child will also now have a measurement that could include “well below.” I know schools try to douse the flames of failure with phrases such as “progressing towards” and so on, however if every six months a child seeing their report say they are a failure, what is the unintended consequence of that going to be?

Despite my many, many “could try harder” report comments, I did make it to university in 1989. Eventually I discovered psychology and media studies which turned out to be an interesting mix. Learned helplessness is one of the things we were taught during second year. Often this happens in situations of extreme abuse where a child or animal has learned that no many how much they struggle or try to escape, there is no escape from the abuse. In the end they give up trying to escape because there is no use. I have seen this in students, but rather in relation to severe abuse, they have learned helplessness in relation to their learning. They have discovered that it does not matter how much they struggle to try to achieve in the school setting, nothing seems to work so they have given up even trying.

Question: how does labelling a child “well below” or a failure for their entire school life lead to the unintended consequence of learned helplessness? How much has the National Party and their bureaucrats researched this phenomenon? Based on my experiences in the classroom I suspect learned helplessness has increased over the last decade – particularly since national standards were introduced. Report comments filled with well below or below will undoubtedly have an impact on a child’s self-worth. “I am always well below so what’s the point?” That’s just at primary school. How does that attitude to self play out later in life as the student heads through secondary and, perhaps, tertiary education?

I was having a conversation at work the other day about early childhood education. My wife is currently retraining as an ECE teacher and we are, much to the annoyance of my son, having plenty of in-depth dinner table conversations about learning styles and pedagogical theories. I was saying to my colleague how it is very rare for you to see a child in any early childhood setting sitting there in his or her kindy or preschool, not doing anything. Unable or unwilling to take a risk to try something that is new or dangerous or out of their comfort zone. Yet, by the time they get to my level (mid-primary), students may often sit there and do nothing. Afraid to even put pen to paper in case they do the wrong thing. What has changed in the time they were in early childhood education to the time they get to me?

It is because these days the pressure is on from day one. New Zealand children mostly start their primary school on their fifth birthday. From the first day at school it is about sitting up straight on the mat, learning numbers and letters, maths, reading and writing. This pressure can come from whānau, but mostly it comes from the system. When we should be celebrating and welcoming a child to a learning environment and allowing them time to bed themselves in to this new and daunting system, teachers are ever mindful of what is coming down the track. At some point soon this child will need to be measured against national standards. If we don’t get things moving as soon as possible then the progress line of that child is always going to be behind the national standards line.

This is a massive problem for all those students who aren’t ready to read or write (or even sit for long periods with their arms and legs folded – why is that important to a modern society when you can whip around Google HQ on a scooter?). There is something to be said for the holistic nature of Steiner schools which recognises every child moves through developmental stages. These stages are linked to the child, not some booklet sitting on the shelf in my classroom. Every child is different and they will move through those stages when their development allows.

Learning becomes much more than the acquisition of vast amounts of information; rather, learning becomes an engaging voyage of discovery, both of the world and of oneself.

One of my friends went to a Steiner school growing up in Northern Ireland and he wasn’t reading until he was 7. He turned out fine.

National standards and the one-size-fits-all education system that has developed over the past century really doesn’t cater for this developmental progress. Pressures from the top down mean we teachers feel we have to fit our students into this system, despite them not being ready for it. If we extended the use of the early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki into the early years of primary, I firmly believe we would reduce the problem of learned helplessness as children move up the primary school. Even though this is something I’ve been thinking about following my wifely discussions this year, it turns out it is also Labour Party policy.

I have previously blogged about The Economist’s survey into what skills modern employers are looking for from their employers. During the debate Nikki Kaye herself said we needed to prepare our students for a future where vast swathes of jobs that currently exist have disappeared. From a report titled, Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future, part one asks what skills we will need in the future. Their lead graph is the one on the right. Clearly employers see literacy and numeracy are important but not as important as problem solving, team working, communication, critical thinking, creativity and leadership. None of those top six are in the standards. Neither can they be measured. All of them, though, are depended on a good level of self-confidence. You are not going to be taking risks with your thinking or learning if you have some level of learned helplessness. You are not going to offer up a solution to a group if you aren’t confident your solutions, or anything you do, is worthy to the group, to school, or to life. Why would you put yourself out there?

I feel I might be preaching to my echo chamber with this post. Every teacher worth their salt knows in their hearts that national standards does absolutely shit-all for lifting student achievement. They create a huge amount of work and extra pressure on teachers and school communities as they try to improve their national standards performance. Of course, the media don’t help. During the debate Corin Dann suggested that parents love national standards. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are vast numbers of parents, including I, who care little about where their child measures up against a standard set by the National Party. Stuff.co.nz love to rank schools and regions every year when national standards data is released. How does that help to lift student achievement?

Pressure can also lead to unintended consequences. The education system in the United States has been going down the path of the common core for many years. George W Bush had the No Child Left Behind policy which, ironically, lead to more children being left behind than ever before. In the US, school funding is linked to student performance against the standards. As you can imagine this leads to pressure. Pressure on teachers and schools to have high test scores. Where does that lead? I’ll let the Freakonomics guys tell you.

New Zealand doesn’t have to go down this path. Despite National’s best efforts over the past decade, the New Zealand education system is amazing. It is filled to overflowing with brilliant teachers all working their hardest for the 25 or so students in their care. Anyone who says teachers are lazy or only interested in lining their own pockets is a liar or a trouble maker or both. I do wish to insert other words here, but for the sake of decorum, I will not. I only have 12 or so years experience as a teacher. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the greatest educational questions of our time, but I do know those answers aren’t “national standards” and “David Seymour having a say in education policy.”

School needs to be a place where self-motivated students want to come and achieve at the very highest level. Schools need to celebrate success, give students every chance to practise all those skills employers are demanding – not just numeracy and literacy.

If our goal is to create life-long learners, we’re not going to do that by turning some of them into learners who have an aversion to learning.