Labour: a make-up artist, or a more competent swineherd?

Labour has shown they have significant problems managing Government. They seemed like they were significantly under-prepared for the job, they seem to have very loose management, and some ministers are having ongoing problems delivering on policies and promises.

So what is Labour trying to do? Polish the surface, when more fundamental management and improvements in competence seem to be required.

Stuff: Labour brings in “gender intelligence” consultants

The Labour Party is polishing its image once again, with what it is calling a “brand check-up”.

The party has brought in Double Denim – a Wellington-based consultancy that claims it “can turn online buzz into real-world results” to shake up its image.

The company was behind the Green party’s election marketing strategy – “Great Greens” – which had to be dumped after the resignation of Metiria Turei.

Not a great sign.

And it also worked on the campaign to elect Wellington mayor Justin Lester.

That was successful in 2016. I’m not sure it is still working very well.

The firm markets itself as a “gender intelligence” consultancy. “Understanding, celebrating and engaging women sits at the core of our skill and motivation,” its website tells potential customers.

Which makes this claim see odd:

A Labour insider said the overhaul had nothing to do with boosting the female vote. Instead, the party wants to revamp its internal communications, which are inconsistent. Newsletters, internal email and correspondence often came in odd fonts, with squashed logos and as clumsy attachments.

The party wants to make those “crisper” as part of a drive to get more casual volunteers to sign-up as paying members. And it wants to “better articulate its values – such as belief in equality – to those members.

I’m not sure that a “gender intelligence” consultancy is the best equipped to revamp their basic internal management and get some consistency with their PR.

MPs and key staff have already participated in workshops run by Double Denim. The insider said the cost of the refresh was “pretty inexpensive.”

Double Denim claims it “can turn online buzz into real-world results” to shake up its image.

That doesn’t sound like changing fonts and logos. And Labour need something more fundamental than an image shake up. They could do with a competence overhaul.

I think that Labour are more in need of a competent swineherd rather than a make-up artist.

Pike River re-entry costs escalate

A ‘concept plan’ for re-entry into the Pike River mine to recover miners’ bodies has been presented to their families by the Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little (actually three alternative options), but with that is a bigger than previously estimated cost.

RNZ: Pike River re-entry: ‘Concept plan’ presented to families

A plan for re-entering the drift of the Pike River Mine has been presented to victims’ familes in Greymouth this morning.

The plan is being described as a “concept plan” with more detailed planning to follow if it is approved.

Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn have been talking to the relatives of the 29 men killed in the mine in 2010.

Mr Little said the families were now discussing the plan and he hoped to give it the go-ahead on Monday.

However, he said he expected they would approve the concept plan.

“My sense is the families are really happy with the level of work that has been done, the quality of ther work. They seem pretty satisfied with it … They’re keen for the project to continue to make progress, so that we re-enter the drift and recover as much as we can.”

RNZ:  Pike River Mine re-entry narrowed to three options

The planned re-entry to the Pike River mine has been narrowed to three options.

Mining specialists, Pike River Recovery Agency staff and family members of the 29 men killed in the 2010 blast were on the West Coast for a second workshop aimed at coming up with a plan for manned re-entry of the mine drift.

A panel of technical experts will now shift the focus to three scenarios which are now being developed further.

The scenarios include:

  • building a new two by two-metre tunnel around 200m long;
  • drilling a large diameter borehole;
  • re-entering the main drift as it is with no second means of egress (exit).

The aim is to try and find out what happened in order to prevent any further tragedies, to give the families closure and where possible, retrieve any remains found in the drift, the agency said.

Dinghy Pattinson, the recovery agency’s chief operating officer, said he was confident they would get back in.

“Any mining activity has dangers or risks involved, so it’s a matter of just identifying those risks throughout the whole process and having your controls in place,” Mr Pattinson said.

“If there was any real danger then that would be a show-stopper, so at this stage all the risks identified – I feel confident we can manage them.”

Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn said they had made bigger steps during this workshop.

“We still anticipate entering the mine before the end of the year, and we still think that’s achievable. This workshop is only step number two in a number yet to take,” Mr Gawn said.

He said among the steps was a detailed risk analysis of the preferred options.

It sounds like they are still far from certain how to get back into the mine, how risky it would be – and how much it would cost, even they they don’t yet know how they will do it.

Stuff: Pike River re-entry could cost $12m more than $23m budget, minister says

The plan to re-enter the Pike River mine could cost up to $12 milllion more than the $23 million budget, Stuff understands.

The Government had budgeted $7.6 million a year for three years, totalling up to $23m, for the Pike River Recovery Agency and re-entry to the mine.

When asked if he had told Cabinet the agency would need up to $12m more, Little said one of the options could cost up to that amount, but others would be less than that.

“We won’t know exactly what the figures are until more detailed work has been done.

While there remains a lot of doubt about how a re-entry would be achieved the expected cost seems to keep escalating.

I understand that some families really want the bodies of some miners recovered (some families don’t see the need).

What if the option chosen is the more expensive one – $35 million – and they get into the mine and they can’t find or can’t recover all of the bodies? What if bodies unrecovered are from families that most want them recovered? What then? Keep spending until they find and recover them all?

What if they can’t find out the cause of the explosions?

 

Is WFF corporate welfare? Would a UBI solve it?

Working For Families has long been referred to as ‘corporate welfare’. This month payments were increased, further entrenching it as a means of supporting lower paid workers with children (and also quite well paid workers with children).

I don’t think ‘corporate welfare’ is an accurate description. Corporations are generally seen as large companies, often international companies, but WFF takes wage paying pressure off many small businesses, perhaps more so than for larger companies.

Bryce Edwards is in the Working for Families is corporate welfare club.

As of last week, the Government is pouring $370 million more this year into Working for Families (WFF), further entrenching a system which has many critics across the political spectrum.

On the political right, the criticism has always been that the scheme is creating a nation of welfare beneficiaries. After all, it’s regarded as extraordinary that families earning around $100,000 qualify for WFF payments. However, these are effectively tax credits for people with children (which is very common among the OECD nations).

It is even more problematic at the lower income end, where full-time workers not only will often pay no tax, but effectively receive additional tax credits – welfare by any other name. So, state income assistance is being given to those that are fully engaged in the workforce – which, by historical standards, seems contradictory.

The criticism from the left has often been that the very existence of WFF indicates that many working families are not able to support themselves without quite large taxpayer assistance.

It isn’t necessarily the case that working families couldn’t support themselves. Things were economically tough for many families. That’s nothing new, lower paid workers have struggled financially for centuries. WFF has made it easier for them, but has also virtually entrenched them in a system of uneven government assistance that favours them over workers who don’t support children.

The accusation is that employers of low-paid workers are effectively being subsidised by WFF.

This has parallels with other modern welfare initiatives – such as the accommodation supplement, which is a subsidy paid by the state to private landlords of those tenants on low incomes. The left blames such payments for contributing to the rapid increases in rentals, because it effectively allows landlords to increase rents for low-income tenants beyond what they can actually pay.

WFF and accommodation supplements can certainly distort markets.

Alternatives to Working for Families

What’s the alternative to welfare that subsidises the corporates? Ideally, wages simply need to increase, so that workers have enough to live on. To some extent, the new Government is pursuing this objective with its commitment to increase the minimum wage for those at the bottom – with it going up by $4.25 by 2021.

“Ideally, wages simply need to increase” – that may sound like a good ideal but it is far from simple. Artificially forcing up labour costs can force up prices, leaving those who don’t qualify for increasing assistance like WFF worse off and more financially disadvantaged.

And if small business employers who are forced to increase wages don’t qualify for Government handouts they will find things tougher – to the extent that some will reduce the number of employees through scaling down or moving more towards automation.

Of course, this will cost the Government itself, as it will have to lift the wages of many of its own employees receiving the minimum wage. Yet overall, the increase in the minimum wage is going to lead to a saving for the Government, as the wage increases will result in a reduction in tax credit payments made through WFF – because, generally, the more an individual earns, the less they receive in WFF payments.

Only partially offset. This should have been factored into the amount of increase and the costings.

All these years later, it’s become much clearer as to who benefits from the scheme. John Key famously called it “communism by stealth” when he was Leader of the Opposition, and then adopted the policy for himself. But in 2018, perhaps it can finally be more credibly labelled as “corporate welfare by stealth”.

Calling it ‘corporate welfare’ makes it sound like a subsidy for rich big business owners, promoting a ‘them versus us’ division, but it probably affects smaller and less well off employers more.

If costs for corporations get too high they can just down scale, or they can afford to automate, or they move production off shore, or they just shut up in New Zealand and move their business to lower waged countries.

Small business owners have their livelihoods at stake, especially if the don’t qualify for family subsidies.

Nonetheless, we clearly need to a have a debate about whether a family whose income is derived from wages and salary should be able to pay its own way without other tax payers subsidising them.

That is an ideal that we keep moving further away from as worker benefits keep increasing.

This was debated on Reddit – Bryce Edwards: Working for Families is corporate welfare – a subsidy scheme for employers who can’t, or won’t, pay adequate wages – where a solution was proposed.

“Yep both working for families and the accommodation supplement are corporate and landlord welfare. The only problem is how do you replace it without fucking everything up?”

“The only way to replace it is if employers paid them better. If they did that, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The only way forward is for the government to make sure they get the money but tax business owners accordingly.”

Higher taxes for business owners is far from simple, and will probably impact most on small and medium business owners – and their employees.

The reason they exist (were implemented in the first place) is because of a wealth inequality gap. People on the lower end of that gap were getting pushed in to shittier and shittier conditions by people at the higher end of the gap (not in a malicious way, but just the nature of economics.). And so subsidies for those people in need were introduced.

I agree with the article that they amount to corporate welfare but we can’t get rid of them until we tackle overall wealth inequality. Tackling that would be a mix of things I think; capital gains tax or other disincentive for amassing property.

My own personal pie-in-the-sky law would be regarding the pay difference between the lowest and highest paid individual in a company, maybe a max of 10-15 times the lowest yearly wages for the CEO or something.

Artificial rules on high end remuneration may be liked in theory as a rich prick limitation, but I don’t think that is a practical solution.

A Universal Basic Income is often suggestedf, as it is here.

Remove all current welfare programs and replace them with a decent UBI ?

  • Those who don’t want to work don’t have to (or look for it), but would likely need to live in the provinces due to housing costs.

  • No need for a bunch of welfare requirements, therefore no need for a welfare department or ministry.

Remove GST (and possibly income tax?) and replace with a non-refundable universal transaction tax, implemented through the EFTPOS / banking system.

  • Removing the refund system should make highly processed goods more expensive; basic products (think fruit and vegetables) should be cheaper due to less processing.

  • Effectively produces a tax on (all) house sales / purchases.

  • Captures companies (Apple, Facebook, Google, etc) off-shoring income as avoidance, by taxing both the product sale and the subsequent off-shoring transaction.

  • Taxes consumption rather than production.

  • Possibly less administrative than GST.

That’s a bunch of ideas that would be quite a radical change if implemented, but there are no costs, nor any consideration of flow on effects.

‘Those who don’t want to work don’t have to (or look for it)’ is one of the more contentious suggestions. I and I suspect many others would live to have the choice of a reasonable ‘income’ – level of Government welfare – for no work. It risks hugely increasing the cost of welfare, and severely impacting on overall production.

The size of a UBI would have to be at least as much as National Super so older people weren’t disadvantaged, and at least as much as current non-worker and worker subsidies and welfare. It would have to top everyone up to the best paid beneficiaries, and this sounds very costly.

For example, WFF is already very expensive now. If a UBI was going to be universal then people who don’t support children would have to be paid as much as those who support children – greatly widening and boosting welfare.

Or, if this was avoided by having children also qualify for a UBI, this would also greatly increase the cost to the Government (that is, to taxpayers if there are any left).

While in theory a UBI sounds very fair I think it would be far too costly, both in the expense of it to Government and as a disincentive to work and production.

The more the Government hands out money the harder it gets to change the system without a revolutionary overhaul that would be either result in many people being worse off, or it would be be unsustainably expensive. Or both.

We have an increasingly complex and expensive welfare system, which get’s increasingly difficult to fix.

And there is no sign of any interest in making major changes. The current Labour led government is having a tax review but that is so limited – there are many things it can’t change – that it is likely to little more than tinker a bit more.

We look like being stuck with WFF and accommodation supplements and National Super and other forms of widespread welfare.

Media watch – Sunday

15 July 2018

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Sunday

15 July 2018

Forum

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site may be limited.

World view – Sunday

Saturday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

 

Urging Government to borrow more to pay nurses and teachers more

Both nursing and teacher groups are on a roll. They have already been offered pay raises significantly more than average pay raises – they say it is necessary to catch up ‘after nine years of neglect’ and to attain pay parity.

They say for the good of children and their sectors the Government must borrow more to pay them.

What they don’t say is what a likely flow on effect would be if they get pay increases well over 10%.

Newshub Nation had a decent panel discussion on this today (their panel discussions are often brief and rushed).

From #MeToo to #WhatNext?

The #MeToo campaign has done well to raise the profile of the insidious history of sexual abuse, but Jacinda Ardern has made a good point – how to translate the initial impetus into ongoing action in New Zealand,

The Spinoff: ‘We need to say, OK, what next?’ Jacinda Ardern on the impact of #MeToo

The New Zealand prime minister has called for the energy of the #MeToo movement to be translated into action. Speaking to the Spinoff as part of a new podcast series in collaboration with the Auckland Museum, Jacinda Ardern said that the sharing of stories risk equating “to nothing in real terms” if there is no resulting change.

“What we need to do is then say, OK, well what next?” Ardern told Noelle McCarthy in the first of the podcast series Venus Envy. “You don’t want a movement, really, of women continually feeling like they need to tell stories that then equate to nothing in real terms. And so that’s the question that I’m interested in asking: what next?”

The challenge was to change the view around what was acceptable behaviour, she said.

“That to me comes back to that respect question, of how we treat one another, of conversations around consent and healthy relationships.”

These were “things we should be talking about in our schools, in safe places, where we learn and kind of our social norms, before people are entering into the workplace”.

The solutions to the issues raised in recent months needed to have both a cultural and policy dimension, she said.

“When you’ve got a country where you have such high rates of violence against women, you want to remove every barrier so a woman can make a choice, have a choice about her future. And, so long as we have women over-represented in low-paid work, or unsupported as carers, the choice is removed.”

Ardern is diverting onto a largely separate issue there.

There continues to be alarming levels of abuse and violence against women, but that’s not all. It is also a major problem for children, and men also victims, both directly and indirectly.

The anti-violence, anti-abuse and anti-discrimination  messages need to be repeated over and over if New Zealand society is to become a decent society for most citizens. At the moment we are falling well short of a decent society.

And this decency needs to also become far more apparent in our discussions and debates, in Parliament, in the mainstream media and in social media.

This is not a political issue apart from needing more politicians to speak up and act. It is largely a social issue, which means all of our society should be acknowledging the problems and contributing to finding better ways of interacting and better ways of behaving towards each other.

12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign

The US Justice department has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for alleged hacking of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.

Fox News:  12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign, DNC emails

The Justice Department announced charges Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein held a news conference earlier in the day to discuss the charges, which stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Aspen Daily News: White House sees vindication in indictment

The White House is stressing that the new indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers contains no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the Trump campaign or that the hacking the Russians are accused of conducting affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters adds in her statement that “this is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

It is nothing like vindication, it just means that Trump or his campaign are not implicated in this indictment. In fact it trashes a Trump conspiracy theory – see below.

Rosenstein said the investigation is continuing.

There could be more to come. And that may or may not drag the Trump campaign into the legal actions.

The Kremlin is reaffirming its denial of meddling in the U.S. election.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov reaffirmed that “the Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in U.S. elections.”

Ushakov spoke Friday, just hours before the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking into Democratic accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He said the Kremlin believes there are “no objective reasons” for the current tensions, and that Moscow and Washington must join efforts to tackle global challenges such as international terrorism.

Putin and President Donald Trump are meeting Monday in Helsinki.

This latest legal move could add tension to that meeting (on top of Trump blasting Germany for dealing with Russia.

NY Times: Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller officially rebuke a major Trump conspiracy theory

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Friday announced the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials on charges stemming from the hacking of Democrats during the 2016 election.

And with that, yet another President Trump conspiracy theory is thoroughly rebuked by the Russia investigation.

Trump has regularly cast doubt upon the idea that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians — and that it was hacked at all. At one point he even reportedly dispatched a conspiracy theorist to meet with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (Pompeo is now secretary of state.)

“This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate,” Trump said in a statement after the DNC hack was revealed in the summer of 2016. “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.”

So Trump’s claims of ‘no collusion’ have to be viewed with scepticism, given his growing record of making false claims.

PBS: Read Mueller’s full indictment against 12 Russian officers for election interference