Yesterday Labour leader David Cunliffe delivered his first big policy announcement of the year – $60 a week for parents of new-borns. On Sunday the Greens announced their plans for “school hubs” where social services are coordinated through schools. Maybe Labour’s policy targets too many of those households earning over $100,000, but both policies are fresh and redefine the gap between a progressive left and the same-old same-old we’ve been swallowing since I was at high school.
What was very telling, however, was the overwhelmingly rabid reaction of the right-wingers I follow on twitter. The sputtering death gurgle of the neoliberal beast may very well be upon us.
Here’s just a sample of the quality dialogue we will be getting in the lead up to the election.
Steven Joyce (@stevenljoyce) tweeted at 2:21 PM on Mon, Jan 27, 2014:
Labour advises their spend-a-thon would resume immediately. Labour & Greens already an extra 3/4 a billion a year & it’s not even end of Jan
David Farrar (@dpfdpf) tweeted at 1:49 PM on Mon, Jan 27, 2014:
So this policy will pay $60 a week to any Labour MP (except Ldrs, Whips) who has a baby. That’s really targeting to those most in need.
Whaleoil (@Whaleoil) tweeted at 2:29 PM on Mon, Jan 27, 2014:
@CactusKate2 the feral underclass who already vote Labour will be ecstatic they get $60 extra a week for fags, booze and lotto
There are a number of things to consider. Firstly, these people are all successful, intelligent people. I don’t for on second think they actually believe New Zealanders are going to charge straight off to bed and start creating new humans on the promise of sixty bucks a week. Labelling the poor as useless, drug-dependent, booze-fueled baby factories suits their narrative just fine.
Secondly, the sheer repugnance of some of the bleating suggests those on the right are utterly terrified the narrative is changing from “me” back to “us.” Cunliffe and the left are offering New Zealanders something different to trickle up and they don’t like it one bit.
Thirdly, the reactions suggest there’s just a little bit of “this money’s mine. I made it. You can’t have it.” Which is just a little bit rich since they’ve been supporting policies that fleece low income earners for years.
Any way you look at it, this is now a battle of the mouths. Communication is paramount. If Labour and the Greens can project a positive vision onto the electorate they may send them packing.
Then we will hear some real whining.
PS: this looks a bit off formatting-wise because I wrote it on my phone.
Hot on the heels of announcement from her own party and the Green Party of Aotearoa, Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced a radical new plan that is set to save the country billions and give the Finance Minister plenty of wriggle room when it comes to budget time in May.
Dubbed “No More Schools” the visionary programme, announced today during a frenetic twitter-based exchange of policy ideas with Whaleoil, David Farrar and CactusKate, would see the closure of every single school across New Zealand.
“Currently the government spends over $13 billion on education annually,” said Parata, “if we can get that figure down to two or three-hundred thousand then I think we will be able to see some real progress in the areas of subsidies to those very needy groups in society such as farmers or multi-national oil, film or mining companies.”
Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons called it a “wonderful initiative”.
“It’s super, what a game changer, what a tremendous thing. This policy is quite simply the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I was in Berlin in 1989 when the wall started coming down; I was in South Africa the day Nelson Mandela was released from jail; I was there in the stables when Jesus was born. None of these events compare with Parata’s plan for schools. She is just amazing. Totally amazing. I want to kiss her feet. And John Key’s feet. I want to kiss both of their feets. At the same time. I love their feet. They have the best feet, and the best education policies for all New Zealanders.”
Former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide, a well-known expert in a wide-ranging number of fields including education, welfare, climate change and business, welcomed the government announcement.
“It’s about time parents faced up to their responsibilities,” said Hide to a packed audience outside the house where he stays with his mum, “If they can’t provide then it shouldn’t be up to us to pick up the pieces of their poor parenting and educate, clothe, feed and nurture their children. We’re not the bloody government.”
Both the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz welcomed the plan printing word-for-word all government press releases and asking no questions at all.
PS: Inspired by a tweet from @jofromgreylynn
Of course, Hekia could stuff up the Greens plans by closing all the schools. #takethatyoupeskyGreens
— jo (@jofromgreylynn) January 26, 2014
My predictions for 2014.
- New charter school permission slips will be handed out. Expect at least one of them to go to a massive corporate charter provider from the United States (Kipp or one of the other big chains). If Labour have any cojones at all they will reiterate Green Party plans to “renationalise” all charter schools when they become the government.
- This election will be full of lies. Lies from John Key, Steven Joyce and other National Party stalwarts (Whaleoil & David Farrar). Unfortunately, politicians being like they are, expect lies from David Cunliffe and Labour as well. Promises will be made by everybody (including this week’s education announcement) that will be reneged on after the election because of “coalition negotiations” or something.
- Labour will only win the election (i.e. be largest part in parliament) if they can re-energise the missing vote from last election. They will only do this with vision and policies that show this disenfranchised group they matter and are worth voting for. As I tweeted the other night, Labour might want to take a leaf out of their UK counterpart’s book and announce a policy to decrease the voting age to 16. This would be genius because a) it would probably give them more votes than National and b) National wouldn’t be able to criticise it too vehemently for fear of being labelled anti-democratic (oh… hang on… Canterbury Regional Council…).
- If National are the biggest party after the election, but fail to form a government because all their buddies have been slaughtered by a coordinated phalanx of left-wing electoral tea-pottery, expect the right-wing bloggers and the mainstream media to literally implode with disgust. Those of us left in the wake of this enormous right-astrophe could possibly be sucked into their black hole of doom so we should all be very careful.
- Lorde will win at least one Grammy.
- All teachers across New Zealand, whether they agree with government policy to privatise education or not, will continue to deliver high quality learning experiences to the children in their charge. Because that’s what we do.
- Any and/or all of these predictions will be completely wrong because I have absolutely no idea what will happen. I don’t have a time machine and I haven’t travelled forward in time to December. Anyone making predictions for the year ahead is in the same boat. Nothing ever happens until it happens. Remember that when you are reading the latest round of nonsense from John Armstrong, Audrey Young, Fran O’Sullivan, Vernon Small, and especially Paddy Gower. All of these people think they know what’s going on but their view of the world is so skewed by being constantly lied to by the very politicians they report on they have absolutely no perspective. They are not prepared to ask the hard questions because if they do, as Morning Report and Campbell Live have found out, politicians just refuse to speak to them. And if that happens in the pretty lights of government-sponsored Media land there is no job for you. All political reporters are so compromised as to make them eunuchs of punditry.
Good luck with your 2014. I’m sure it will continue on normally because you, like most of the country, realise how utterly detached politicians – especially those with millions of dollars – are from the regular populous.
PS: I have not included Whaleoil or David Farrar’s Kiwiblog in the punditocrisy because, let’s face it, tied as they are by umbilical chords of payola to the ruling elite, what they say has to be taken with a grain of salt the size of all the salt in the world.
As the curtain comes down on 2013 I have just a few questions:
- If it took a new school in Wellington a year to set up (principal and teachers working behind the scenes for 12 months before a student set foot in the place – heard them speak at a conference), how can the 5 new charter schools the government issued licences to just a few months back be ready for the 2014 school year with a school that will successfully deliver education to kiwi learners?
- Why won’t the government accept that the under-achieving 20% tail they keep talking about is actually the same 20% of kiwi kids living in poverty (according to the report by the Children’s Commissioner that figure is now 25%)?
- How can the government reconcile its continued calls for improved teacher quality with the regulation allowing charter schools to hire unregistered, unqualified staff to teach in their classrooms?
- Will the New Zealand public drop their love-affair with the bafoonering of John Key and vote in a Labour/Green government this time next year?
Here are the (my) answers:
- The current crop of charter schools will probably struggle in their first year. With only six months to set up all the systems required to run a school I doubt they will be able to deliver. Of course, the government will not allow them to fail as the UK government has just down with a free school in Crawley. They will either, a) throw money at them, or b) increase funding, or c) increase deliveries of brown paper bags filled with non-sequential $5 notes.
- It’s a lot easier for the government to vilify teachers and teacher unions for under-achievement. It’s far harder for them accept the socio-economic factors that even the OECD accept play a huge part in any under-achievement. If they accepted socio-economic influences on educational performance then they’d have do something like transferring the money they spend on universal superannuation for people who have saved for their retirement (and have extra houses, baches and cars and/or motorbikes and other houses) to making all rental homes healthy and dry. Or what about providing school meals or putting social workers and health nurses into every school under a certain decile to deal with the multitude of problems associated with (sometimes very extreme) poverty?
- The government can’t reconcile its call for improved teacher quality when it will allow any old Thomas, Richard and Harold to turn up off the street to teach in one of its flagship “partnership” schools. It is one of the many nonsense contradictions that permeates the hypocrisy of modern politics.
- You would hope that the 800,000 people who have been marginalised by said modern politics will turn out to vote next November. If David Cunliffe and the Labour machine can get out there and door knock and enthuse people about their vision for New Zealand, then people will be motivated to get off their chuffs and vote. I don’t know a single person who endorses John Key and his brand of uncoordinated triple-handshakes to disguise his government’s far right agenda using the decomposing carcass of ACT to sell the policies too unpalatable for the electorate.
Anyway you look at it, this government is a dog that needs to be euthanased.
On a brighter note, I only have one day left at school until my Christmas break. We are doing IVF (again) in the holidays so my time will be taken up preparing for that, preparing for the 2014 school year and, very hopefully, doting on a newly pregnant wife.
Of course, I’ll be attacked for having a thousand weeks holiday a year and only working 2 hours a day (see comments section of this post).
Child poverty report applauded: NZ Herald, Monday December 9 2013.
Speech to the Iwi Leaders forum: Hekia Parata, 28 November 2013.
Free school with ‘no workable plan to improve’ is first to be closed by DfE: The Guardian, 13 December 2013.
PISA 2012 Results: Excellence Through Equity: Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed (Volume II)[Preliminary Version]: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, December 2013.
Utter nonsense spouted by idiots who know nothing about education: Whale Oil, 2 July, 2013.
Sometimes we look back on our school days with a sense of fondness. I am no exception to that. Not because the majority of those schooling times were in the late 70s and early 80 (a time when hair, both facial and otherwise, was groomed and flambeed within an inch of its natural life). Meatloaf topped the charts with one of the greatest selling albums of all time and I was in love with the blonde one from ABBA.
During the 80s (insert Billy Idol and/or Joel reference here), a significant portion of my high school years were spent at an unnamed all-boys school in Gisborne. At the time my family were living on the East Cape in a small hamlet called Tokomaru Bay where my father was principal. Because of this I was required to spend my weeks and many of my weekends in the boarding hostel.
High school is that wonderful bridge between primary school and university whose job it was to completely deplete any confidence built up during those pre-form 2 years (Gen-Ys will need to look up “form 2” on the Google).
If you think back to all that confidence-sapping bullying that occurred during your secondary years there were generally two or three major ring-leaders. Usually a fat one (self-confidence issues), a sport one (God’s gift) and if you were unlucky enough to attend a co-educational institute (our hostel was such), there was the girl one (usually the most evil).
Last week I watched the Len Brown affair with interest. The Ngati Whatua dalliances of this high-profile public servant were by-the-by. What has been most interesting is the main-stream media, usually unquestioning and accepting of the contents of any press release, who have taken to digging and delving into this story to find (SHOCK! HORROR!) that the release of the information was politically driven by Len’s opponent and his team.
Of course, Palino and many, many, many National Party insiders have “distanced” themselves from the story. Is this about the parliamentary wing trying to look normal and reasonable.
The story was broken by those insightful minds behind the Whale Oil blog. Cam Slater and Stephen Cook.
Cam has been all over the media this week attempting to justify himself and his decision. His story changes more often than my son’s underpants (that is a reference to our current toilet-training regime if you missed it).
Although he sounds so reasonable when he’s interviewed, however you only have to read his blog and the associated comments to realise how damaged he and his followers. What comes out of his mouth is vastly different to what comes out of his fingers. I appear to be turning him into Gandalf and I don’t mean to.
When it all comes down to it, he has been a party to the bullying of a young supporter of the same party he was born into. Others in the same party have decided to bully and harass someone into revealing something they didn’t really want to. He writes very aggressively and I can only imagine what he was like at school. Since his daddy is a past president of the National Party, I suspect he did not attend Papatoetoe High.
But aggressive, or at least passive aggressive is how the National Party work.
Fail in your bid to sell an energy company to people who already own it? Blame the Labour / Greens rather than the fact the market having no appetite for the sale. How did they do this? Minister of the Whole World Steven Joyce called them socialists and communists.
Name calling – the first port of call of the hardened bully. Wait until election year when they start texting abuse to Russell Norman in the middle of the night.
I expect to now be on the black list.