Consistency hasn't been a strong point for the New Zealand Coalition
recently. For example they have announced that it is now no longer
illegal to import cars with wound back odometers as we do not have the
ability to consistently and easily detect it - it is now simply a matter
of 'buyer beware'. In the same week they announced that we do have the
technology to track all vehicles on the roading system with the purpose
of charging according to use.
Clearly our computer and satellite technology has outstripped our
mechanical capability - or is this just an indication of the Government's
priorities? Yeah, don't worry about protecting the consumers, just make sure we can
get more money out of them. In the wake of this decision it has been
suggested that other problematic areas for policing such as burglary
also be made 'not illegal' - a case of 'homeowner beware' perhaps.
The distinction apparently is that the clocking is occurring overseas
before the cars reach New Zealand. You could apply that logic to the
importation of faulty or dangerous goods - buyer beware. Given that the
Government is hell bent on opening our market to international
competition by dropping tariffs and encouraging imports, we could end up
with a lot of foreign produced useless rubbish being sold cheaply to
people on benefits who formerly worked in such industries as footwear
and vehicle manufacture (more on this later). Something is wrong with
The main news in the recent Budget (May 14) was that beneficiaries will
be expected to do community work for twenty hours a week in exchange for
their payment, retitled the community wage. Basically the Government
wants to decrease the numbers of people dependent on a benefit, with the
basic premise that if people really want work they'll be able to find
it. The reality is that the economic policies pursued by successive
Governments over the last decade have created a large pool of unemployed
that grows faster than the number of jobs available.
You'd think then that as part of this drive to get beneficiaries working
they'd be creating new jobs. In fact it's been estimated that for every
four people on a community wage one real job will be lost. Well, excuse
me, but doesn't that seem to be a backwards step? The reality is that
unemployment is at its highest for four years and while in that time
8000 new jobs have been created, the working age population has grown by
59,200 (The Press May 16).
How ironical it is too that in the same budget the Government removed
tariffs on new imported vehicles, resulting in 1500 car assembly plant
workers losing their jobs. I'm sure however that the price reduction of
$2000 on a $30,000 car is of great comfort to the unemployed and low
The work-for-your-benefit rule was also extended to those on the DPB,
forcing those with children over five into part-time work and over thirteen into
full-time work. Conceivably this leaves the over thirteens to their own
devices after school until their solo parent gets home from work. Yet in
the Government's Code of Social Responsibility, parents are expected to
be responsible for their children's behavior at all times.
Consider too the possibility that a woman on the DPB whose career is in
care-giving, may be forced to work giving care to other people's children
while using her earnings to pay for another care-giver to look after her
In another big move recently the Fire Service Commission announced a
plan to sack all full-time firemen on July the first after which they
could all reapply for a reduced number of jobs. They plan to reduce the
minimum number of firemen per appliance from four to three. However the
firemen claim that without the fourth person there they will be unable
to rescue anyone as the other three will be occupied with essential
duties, and will have to wait for the arrival of a second appliance
which no longer has an enforced arrival timeframe.
The International standard is for a minimum of four fire personnel per
chairman of the Fire Service Commission, Roger Estall, thinks he knows
better and said that by reducing the numbers of firemen there will be
"fewer fires, fewer deaths and less property damage". In that case why
not sack them all, rehire none and then there will be no fires at all.
Perhaps by reducing the number of police we can also reduce crime. It'll
be no surprise then that Roger Estall is involved in the Police review
which recommends cutting staff, as revealed in a leaked memo from the
Police Minister Jack Elder to Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. This is in
spite of the Coalition agreement locking them into an increase of five
hundred police during this term of office. Mrs Shipley was most concerned...
that the memo had been leaked.
With their other hand, however, come Budget day, the Government announced
an increase of 114 police officers. Does this mean that the police force
will be both increased and decreased and end up where it started?
The Budget also announced a surplus of $2.8b. Now I'm no economist but
I can't see what's so great about that. What is the point of a
Government running at a profit? It's not as if there's a shareholder
payout. The fact is it's a surplus created out of choking funding to
essential services such as Health, Police and the Fire Service to name a
few. Aren't they always telling us we've got a huge national debt?
what do they do with that surplus? Surely if they actually use it for
something it is no longer a surplus. Someone please enlighten me. It
seems to me that they could be a lot prouder of adequately funding
essential services and running at a zero balance.
Check out Part 2...