Stemming the surge in superannuation costs

The cost of providing universal superannuation has been contentious for decades. As the 65+ population grows, so does the already considerable costs.

Attempts have been made in the past to make changes.

UnitedFuture tried to nudge National towards ‘flexi-super’ where people could choose the age they started to get super (with varying rates) a couple of terms ago. National fobbed this off by allowing an investigation that was always going to achieve nothing under John Key’s leadership.

In 2013 Labour proposed an increase in the age of eligibility to 67 but got hammered by the left so dropped their proposal. With NZ First holding the balance of power there seems no way that the age will be increased this term.

But a NZ First MP has proposed a change that will cut the costs.

ODT: Cutting cost of superannuation

Last month, a New Zealand First private members’ Bill in the name of MP Mark Patterson, who is based in Clutha-Southland, was put forward. It proposes increasing the minimum residency requirement from 10 to 20 years after the age of 20, so a childhood in New Zealand would not count. The current 10-year law only stipulates five of those must be after the age of 50.

Given the last National-led government proposed an increase to 20 years, there should be sufficient support for a Bill to pass. Mr Patterson cites Berl research which says the change to 20 years could save $4.4 billion over 10 years.

That will only reduce the ongoing costs slightly.

And it’s fair to ask why NZ First staunchly defend the age of eligibility for non-immigrants while they want to toughen things up for immigrants.

But is even 20 years enough? The 2016 policy review by retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell recommended 25 years, noting an average in the OECD of 26. Any change would not apply to those living in New Zealand now. She calls for action now in part because of the time lag. Superannuation cost $30 million a day and that would rise to $98 million in 20 years’ time, she said.

The 10-year rule goes back to 1972. Most migrants were from Britain and the UK state pension could be taken off NZ Super. But these days many come from the likes of China where there is no state pension. There is a clear monetary incentive for Chinese residents to try to bring out their parents under family reunification. After only 10 years they can be receiving this country’s state pension, as well as public healthcare.

It may look racist trying to double the residency requirement now there are proportionally a lot more Asian immigrants, but a lot of other things have changed since the 1970s. The age of eligibility was increased from 60 to 65 in the 1990s.

Twenty years is still a long time. To be eligible for super at 65 you would have to be resident in New Zealand by age 45.

How else can the increasing cost of superannuation be limited? Or should it?

Melania Trump – ‘just a jacket’

Melania Trump has increased the controversy over the treatment of children separated from their parents and effectively incarcerated after trying to cross the Mexico-US border (there are claims some arrived at the border without their parents).

Boarding a plane on her way to visit migrant kids in Texas Melania was snapped wearing a jacket with ‘I don’t really care, do u?’ emblazoned on the back.

Image:

Regardless of the reason for wearing this it was a public relations disaster waiting to happen, and so it transpired.

MSN: Social media cared about what Melania Trump wore on her way to visit migrant kids

The first lady was first photographed in the jacket — which the Daily Mail identified as a $39 jacket from fast fashion retailer Zara, though it appears to have previously sold out — boarding a plane in Maryland earlier Thursday. She was on her way to visit a shelter for migrant children, amid outrage over the Trump administration’s decision to separate thousands of children from their parents at the border. The practice was ended on Wednesday, but thousands of children have yet to be reunited with their parents.

Melania’s PR tried to play it down.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s director of communications, sought to calm the furor and blamed the media for stirring it up.

“It’s just a jacket. There’s no message. I hope we can talk about her important visit with children today rather than her wardrobe choice,” Grisham said, earning suspicion from some quarters that the wardrobe choice was purposefully designed to bait the media.

If it was designed to bait the media it worked, but not very well for the already widely criticised Trumps. Melania had been seen as the sensitive one with some social conscience, but that image has taken a hit.

It’s debatable whether it’s “just a jacket”. Grisham and the Trumps will be well aware of media interest in what Melania might wear.

Arriving back in Maryland, Mrs. Trump was captured on camera again. The jacket was back.

That suggests it may have been a deliberate attempt at media diversion. And the Donald added to the media attention.

That’s a lame response, even by his standards.

I really don’t care if Trump tries to blame reporting on the media. Do you?

This was very insensitive, and  if it was deliberately provocative it was a a very stupid situation to be doing it in.

This later tweet doesn’t help.

An immigrant’s story

There are a lot of immigrant stories in New Zealand – about a quarter of the population were not born here so most will be immigrants, that’s over a million of us.

Last week Duncan Garner stirred up the immigrant issue with a column for Stuff.

In response one immigrant, Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, who has lived here most of her life (since she was 4) has written her own column:  ‘They speak English and have good lamb’: a Kiwi immigrant’s story

My parents moved here from Iran for simple but horrid reasons. They had just lived through a massive revolution, which brought in a new autocratic regime which implemented archaic laws oppressing the masses and completely overturning the nation. On top of that, there was a bloody war where the city they lived in was bombed on a daily basis by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Interestingly enough, the straw that broke the (culturally appropriate) camel’s back was being arrested one night after a party where the sexes were mingling (not allowed) and some hipster had brought their homemade vodka for all to enjoy (definitely not allowed). I know this because I was there and so became the youngest in my family to be arrested. As a four year old. To be honest though, I was lucky. Some of the other partygoers got public lashings as punishment. I just developed mild claustrophobia for the rest of my life.

She seems to have also developed a determination to confront immigrant-bashing.

1987 in New Zealand was an odd time. It was an old time. It was a time when everything shut on a Sunday and ‘immigration’ was some strange term that seemed straight from colonial days. Except as modern immigrants, you were expected to assimilate. And fast. It was the first time in my life that I learned the power of language. When I arrived I only knew three words in English: “One, two, three”. Ironically, maths has never been my strong point.

At primary school I had the ghastly Mrs. M as my teacher. She resented me because I couldn’t understand English. One time, I drew her a darling picture of she and me and a tree – standard kid drawing stuff. She yelled and yelled at me until I cried. This wasn’t the homework we were meant to do.

One of the cool boys felt sorry for me so helped me instead. His name was Ben. If you are reading this Ben, know that I love you and hope to swipe right on you on Tinder some day.

Vowing never to be that embarrassed again, I set about reading as much as I could. I read anything I could find – to myself, to my parents, to anyone who would listen. And so I suddenly began to learn the language. My reading and writing comprehension went up so much that I got put up a year. Take that Mrs. M, you dream crusher.

Having dreams crushed at school isn’t confined to immigrants but must make it very hard for them. Parents of immigrant children seem to be good at encouraging them to succeed despite hardships they encounter, something quite a few born here Kiwis could do with learning.

Why I can’t trace my lineage to Scotland/Ireland/England like everyone else in my class? “We’re just Persian,” my mum tried to explain. “But that can’t be it!” I replied desperately. “Yes – it’s one of the oldest civilisations in the world.” Not good enough, I thought. It wasn’t until my late teens when I threw myself into writing and drama that I learned to accept my differences. It helped that I hung out with other marginalised friends who got it. They were immigrants too, or in the arts, or redheads who couldn’t sit in the sun for too long either. Or just accepting.

I was lucky I was able to feel like I did fit in, despite the redheadedness.

Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. It not only altered or destroyed the lives of those people whose lives were directly affected, but it changed the way the world looked at so many of us.

…I was also treated to heavy-handed racist diatribes whenever some mentally unstable gunman with a beard terrorised innocent victims in the West. “We need to bomb them all. Fuck the Middle East.”

It’s disheartening to hear this from people who have never even seen a bomb, let alone lived through a war.

It is sad to see intolerant people promoting violence, especially on a large scale.

I’m sure military veterans and other victims of war would agree when I say – no, you have no idea, you fucking sadist. War should not be the answer. Ever.

Ever. But that requires many people to openly oppose violence.

One of my favourite incidents was in my twenties. I got accosted by a man in a Hugo Boss suit on the bus who kept yelling at me about how there are too many of “us” in NZ. “There should be a bomb to get rid of all you immigrants, a nuclear bomb to get rid of all this rubbish like you!” Everyone on the bus just stared at me and I refused to engage.

Sad that no one spoke up against this extreme bullying.

Instead, I wrote about it and won an award. I put it into my work. I used that anger and hatred as fuel for something better. If you are reading this Mr. Suit Man, know that you are being immortalised in a film soon. I hope you see your monstrous self reflected back and think about it.

There are a few people that would benefit from seeing themselves as they are, or as they appear to others.

I know I am speaking from a privileged position. Even as an immigrant there is an obvious pyramid of hierarchy. I am privileged in that coming here as a child allowed me to develop a typical Kiwi accent. I am privileged that my parents had skills to allow them decently paid work. I am privileged that I am not usually subject to the racist vitriol directed so often at my fellow immigrants from the Asian continent.

No one in New Zealand should feel privileged that they avoid being on the receiving end of racist vitriol, but sadly it happens far too much.

That’s abbreviated, it’s worth reading the whole thing: ‘They speak English and have good lamb’: a Kiwi immigrant’s story

Many Kiwis are tolerant and peaceful, but need to do more to make it clear that intolerant and violent behaviour should not be the Kiwi way.

Labour lost in Auckland

Labour performed relatively poorly in parts of Auckland, and there are suggestions that is due to the ethnic/immigrant vote. The ‘Chinese sounding surnames’ misstep as well as their immigration policies will have played a part.

Labour recovered from what looked like a slide to oblivion to a creditable result in the circumstances, about 36% – although it should be noted that in mid 2013 before and just after David Shearer resigned as leader, they were consistently polling in the mid thirties and as high as 37%.

This election labour recovered the least in parts of Auckland. Greg Presland has done a quick analysis in Where did Labour gain its extra votes?

I then tallied the figures across geographical regions.  I treated the Maori electorates separately as clearly something happened there.

Basically the figures suggest the increase in the vote in South and West Auckland was disturbingly small, Wellington was good, Christchurch really good, provincial areas were good especially in the South Island, the University electorates all showed significant improvement in party votes and the Maori electorates performed out of their skin.

Here is the table:

Auckland South 3.70%
Auckland West 7.40%
Waikato 9.50%
Auckland Istmus 9.90%
Auckland North 10.30%
Central North Island 10.50%
Wellington 11.30%
Canterbury rural 11.80%
Northland 12.20%
South Island rural 12.30%
Christchurch 13.70%
Dunedin 15.20%
Maori 18.50%

A few comments:

  1. The South Auckland electorates barely moved.  Perhaps the Labour vote has been maxed out and there is going to be no more persuasion occurring.  Turnout clearly should be the strategy and voting levels are not great.
  2. The West Auckland results are disappointing.  If it was not for a healthy boost from Helensville (11.9%) the result would have been very mediocre…

…As for reasons for Auckland’s relatively poor performance I suspect that elevated real estate prices has made too many of us closet tories.  But organisationally it needs more dedicated resource.  If Labour wants to win in 2020 then it needs to make sure that Auckland is organised and ready to go.

Ex Labour MP Chris Carter commented in response:

Jacinta did extraordinarily well and Labour’s vote gain outside Auckland was impressive. It seems obvious to me as someone who campaigned in West Auckland for Labour for over 20 years that the failure to connect with “ethnic voters” was a key factor in those West and East Auckland electorates failing to lift Labour’s final result.

I spent 7 years as Labour’s Ethnic Affairs Minister and many other years as Labour’s Ethnic Affairs Spokesperson. There is no substitute for personal relationships and close engagement in building support in the Chinese, Indian, Korean and the dozens of other ethnic communities that make up a big slice of Auckland’s population.

To my successors as West Auckland MPs and to the current Labour leadership l urge you to attend every ethnic cultural event you are invited too, not just once but always.

I never had a free weekend in the whole time l was an MP because attending ethnic events was so critical. Indeed the job of Ethnic Affairs Minister was the least popular choice in Cabinet jobs because of Helen’s recognition that those migrant votes were so important and could not be ignored. We just had to out perform the Nats in building those critical personal connections.

I would like to think that my work in that area helped. Connecting in a very personal way with the 184 ethnic groups that help make up the greater Auckland area is even more critical now than it was in 1999.

How much has Labour dropped the ethnic ball? They put a lot of effort into Auckland, setting up an Auckland office and giving Matt McCarten free reign until the intern scheme turned to custard.

But their main target seems to have been young voters, a demographic notoriously difficult to get out to vote.

Labour promoted their disproportionately large Maori representation, and succeeded in getting an increased Maori vote and picking up all Maori seats.

But it looks like they have some work to do addressing the immigrant and ethnic population in Auckland.

‘Buy American’ and ‘Hire American’ Directives

The Trump administration is proceeding with more election promises, in this case to toughen up on immigrant workers and on imports.

Trump claims wide support, more jobs available and higher wages for Americans are sure to be popular, but support for higher prices that are likely to result has not been polled.

At this stage it only involves reviews to look at measures that could be taken.

Wall Street Journal: Trump Expected to Bolster ‘Buy American’ and ‘Hire American’ Directives

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order in Wisconsin on Tuesday directing a government-wide review aimed at putting new teeth back into decades-old “Buy American” and “Hire American” directives.

The 220-day review process, which could lead to additional executive orders and possibly legislation, will focus on preventing foreign workers with H-1B visas from, as one senior administration official put it, “undercutting American labor at less cost,” which the official labeled as “an abuse” of the current system.

“This is a clear statement from the president of the United States to shore up some of these abuses,” the official continued. The goal, the official said, is ensuring that “everyone can have a realistic path to economic success and full employment.”

The order will call for a review by federal agencies aimed at stricter enforcement of immigration and other laws governing the entry of workers into the U.S.

Cheap immigrant labour has benefited US employers and business, but has impacted on American unemployment.

In addition to the visa program, federal agencies will be asked to review and minimize the use of waivers and exceptions to Buy American policies as well as assess the degree to which waivers included in free-trade agreements have hurt American workers.

If those waivers, which are part of trade agreements with nearly 60 countries, are deemed to have put the U.S. at a disadvantage, as administration officials believe to be the case, those deals are likely to be renegotiated, the official said.

That could take quite a while to do, and re-negotiations may work both ways, not all in favour of the US.

The White House touted broad public support for the directives, pointing to a November 2016 poll by the Mellman Group showing 74% of respondents supporting the use of American workers and materials in publicly financed products.

That’s not a surprise, but I don’t know if people were also polled on whether they supported higher prices for goods or higher taxes to pay for more expensive public projects.

The order also will demand the use of American-made steel in publicly financed infrastructure and other construction projects. It clarifies that steel slab imported from and primarily constructed in foreign countries but finished in the U.S. won’t meet that directive.

Publicly funded projects only, so Trump companies could still build hotels with imported steel? See HOW DONALD TRUMP DITCHED U.S. STEEL WORKERS IN FAVOR OF CHINA:

Newsweek investigation has found that in at least two of Trump’s last three construction projects, Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has maintained that some controversial decisions for his companies amounted to nothing more than taking actions that were good for business, and were therefore reflections of his financial acumen. But, with the exception of one business that collapsed into multiple bankruptcies, Trump does not operate a public company; he has no fiduciary obligation to shareholders to obtain the highest returns he can. His decisions to turn away from American producers were not driven by legal obligations to investors, but simply resulted in higher profits for himself and his family.

Another case with Trump saying ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

 

Rioting in Sweden

There are reports of rioting in Sweden in an immigrant area in Stockholm.

The Telegraph: Swedish police investigate riot in predominantly immigrant Stockholm suburb

Swedish police on Tuesday were investigating a riot that broke out overnight in a predominantly immigrant suburb in Stockholm after officers arrested a suspect on drug charges.

The clashes started late Monday when a police car arrested a suspect and people started throwing stones at them in Rinkeby, north of Stockholm. Unidentified people, including some wearing masks, also set cars on fire and looted shops.

One officer was slightly injured when a rock hit his arm and one person was arrested for throwing rocks, police spokesman Lars Bystrom said Tuesday.

Police were investigating three cases of violent rioting, assaulting a police officer, two assaults, vandalism and aggravated thefts, he said.

“This kind of situation doesn’t happen that often but it is always regrettable when it happens,” Bystrom said.

He declined to give further details, saying the episode would be investigated.

No indication of who started the rioting and who became involved, nor of their ethnicity.

The incident comes after US president Donald Trump was widely ridiculed for comments suggesting some kind of attack had occurred in Sweden on Saturday night.

It may be that this sort of thing is common in Sweden.

If not, this is suspiciously coincidental to the Trump claims.  Is this some opportunist stirring?

More details and facts are needed before jumping to conclusions.

Immigrant order trumped by court

Donald Trump’s executive order that put an immediate stop to immigrants and others entering the country even though they were already in transit caused an uproar, then a judge put a temporary halt to it.

Fox News: Federal judge grants stay to allow those with visas to remain, 10 still detained at JFK

A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York issued an emergency stay Saturday night that temporarily blocks the U.S. government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at a U.S. airport with valid visas.

The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application. The Department of Homeland Security said that more than 170 people were denied entry to the U.S. as of Saturday night, according to Reuters.

The ruling by Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Courtfor the Eastern District of New York came during a hearing called after President Donald Trump issued an executive order blocking people from seven Muslim-majority from entering the United States and putting a temporary halt to refugee admissions

Twelve refugees were detained at JFK Airport within hours of Trump’s order restricting immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations — but two were released later in the day — as hundreds of protesters continued to amass at the busy airport throughout the day and into the evening.

Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Army interpreter in Iraq, had been stopped as he traveled with his wife and three kids when agents pulled him aside, according to the New York Times.

Earlier from Politico: GOP splits on Trump immigration order

Congressional Republicans splintered Saturday over President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, with several GOP lawmakers chastising it as overly broad even as Speaker Paul Ryan and committee leaders defended it as a necessary measure for national security.

Yet most Republicans, especially those on Capitol Hill, have kept silent, declining to publicly comment on a hugely controversial move based on a concept from Trump that many party leaders had harshly criticized when he first raised it during the presidential campaign.

Sounds messy but not surprising given the haste the Trump administration has pushed this and other orders through and their apparent lack of adequate consultation.

 

Hostility to immigrants in NZ

has written an awful account of hostility and abuse experienced as a child of immigrants to New Zealand.

The Spinoff: ‘I fear for the future of my family’: A mother of mixed-raced children on why she’s worried about raising them in New Zealand

What is it like to raise your children in a country where people are openly hostile to you because of your race? Natasha Johnson looks back on her own childhood experiences of racism and speaks directly to people of colour living in Aotearoa.

I’m sure this will be uncomfortable reading for some, but Natasha’s words will likely resonate with many, many people. And there’s the issue. We need to look at racism in New Zealand with eyes wide open. Not just for us now, but for our children. What kind of New Zealand will they grow up in? – Emily Writes, Spinoff Parents editor.

This is shameful for a country that at times makes claims to be a tolerant society built on immigration.

Natasha happens to have come from India, but similar insidious attacks happen to immigrants from a wide range of countries, including Pacific Islands, African countries and European countries.

I would love to say we arrived in New Zealand and felt at home after a period of adjustment and settling in. I would love to say we were welcomed into a community with open arms. I would love to say that although there was an initial culture shock, my family and I were soon to be part of an amazing country where we found a great many new opportunities that perhaps we would not have had back home. I truly would love to say that the first 10 years here were awesome – peppered with few struggles, but overall amazing, I really would.

Sadly, I cannot say those things.

I have never really told the unvarnished truth about this, as when I begin to tell my story I am usually met with comments suggesting I need a thicker skin. Or I’m told this hell I went through made me stronger. Most of all, I’m told people were just joking, that they didn’t really mean it.

To this day, almost every day, I still hear all the time: That’s not racist. It’s just a joke. You gotta get a sense of humour.

So I did. I got me that sense of humour. And that sense of humour got me through my 20s.

Natasha gives examples of racism particular to her Indian ethnicity but it isn’t confined to ethnicity. I know someone from a country in Europe who was often needled and harassed due to where they came from, even though they had lived in New Zealand for thirty years.

I had to laugh, because if I didn’t start laughing, at least on the outside, I would be crying.

I just had to show that I was thick skinned and able to laugh at these situations. What was the point of trying to educate people and tell them how it made me feel if they couldn’t see for themselves that it was indeed offensive, hurtful and ignorant?

What does it take for those who attack immigrants to realise how offensive, hurtful or ignorant what they say can be?

We were called names and made fun of for being us.

I don’t mean the odd instance of name calling here and there. I mean:

Every.
Single.
Day.

Every single day I encountered racist “jokes”, remarks, questions and comments. At primary school, at high school and at university.

That’s disgraceful from people who may have immigrated themselves or at least will almost certainly have recent immigrant family history.

I have now been here for 22 years. It has taken nearly all that time to finally, somewhat, almost, maybe feel like this is home.

I married the most wonderful white man and his white family could not be further from what I had been exposed to. They are unique and I always tell them that. I was never ever scared of being myself around them – and that was huge. They accepted me and my family as if they saw no difference between us. But even more importantly, any difference they did see, they loved unconditionally.

But to have children with this wonderful man means another journey that I have to take, a journey of having mixed race children.

I fear for them.

I fear for our future as a family.

That’s very sad. Racism and immigrant bashing is particularly damaging and unfair for children.

What might my children go through, being mixed race in this country?

Can you imagine what that’s like? To have gone through what I still go through and then imagine my children experiencing the same thing?

My husband and I hope that they never have to deal with the hurt and pain of racism, but if they ever do so I hope I can guide them through it.

I hope I can be seen as an example of someone who has triumphed over racism.

I hope they will see me as a light that will guide them through the turmoil of living in a racist country.

And to you, if you’re reading, if you have dealt with anything like this while living here in New Zealand, know that you are not alone.

You don’t need a thicker skin.

You don’t need to laugh racism away.

It has taken me 22 years, but New Zealand almost feels like home. We still need to make it a home for all of the children who were once like me.

Whether our personal immigrant history goes back a few years or a few generations, I hope fellow Kiwi can become much better than we have been.

Everyone who has made New Zealand a home deserves to be treated with respect and decency, no matter what their country of birth, their ethnic background, their colour or race or religion may be.

We should reflect on what Natasha has written, and strive to be better to each other as individuals, and better as a country.

How immigrant am I?

Picking up on comments made yesterday…

I grew up very Kiwi, or at least a variety of one. I was born and grew up in rural South island, not far from a small town. My view of the world was enclosed by mountain ranges with occasional glimpses beyond, but mostly not far beyond. I saw the wider world via books and Movietone News (that dude had a very strange accent).

I was born in New Zealand so I’m 0% immigrant.

My parents were born in New Zealand (Dunedin and Queenstown) so I’m 0% immigrant.

Three of my grandparents came from the other side of the world in the 1920s so I’m 75% immigrant.

Seven of my great grandparents came from the other side of the world so I’m 87.5% immigrant.

100% of my 16 great great grandparents were immigrants – one of my great great grandmothers immigrated to Canterbury when she was 13 with her parents in 1852.

New Zealand as it is today is based on immigrants. The immigrants over the past 200 years have also to a significant degree integrated and merged with the indigenous immigrants.

There are a wide variety of cultural practices in New Zealand.

Accents have changed significantly in my lifetime. Newer immigrants may be more noticeable, but each generation of immigrants has brought changes on the various Kiwi accents in use today.

I’m 100% Kiwi/New Zealander and I’m 100% immigrant, merged into an ever evolving mix of cultures.

Are lazy journalists drug addled?

There seems to be a divide between what Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Prime Minister John Key have said about New Zealand workers, and what media and critics are saying. This was highlighted on Q & A yesterday.

What Michael Woodhouse said a week earlier on Q & A.

I think what you’ve done is presuppose that money is the only barrier to people moving to work. Now, what we know and what we’ve said and listened to employers about is that that is one of many barriers.

Geography is definitely one. Skills, attitude, recreational drug and alcohol all prevents some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work.

Woodhouse has cited five reasons preventing “some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work“.

Key has since been heavily criticised for I have had a listen to the RNZ item and Guyon Espiner introduced it with:

The Prime Minister admits high immigration is putting strains on the country’s infrastructure but John Key says the Government will continue to bring in a large number to fill in jobs. He says this partly because many employers can’t get New Zealanders to do the work due to problems with drugs or work ethic, or that they can’t move to where the jobs are.

After some discussion Key said:

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on. So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work.”

Espiner responded:

Isn’t that a major failing for New Zealand, if what you are saying is right, that these people are too drug addled, or frankly, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but basically too lazy is what you’re saying, they can’t get their act together.

Key:

Well what I’m saying to you is that, just go and ask an employer because I ask employers all the time, and we transition lots of people off Work and Income into work, but when you ask the question about why is there this group versus this demand, even in some reasonably low skilled jobs, it’s often they’re not in the right location, so they’re living in Northland and we need the work somewhere else, and that’s genuine, you can understand that, or they don’t have the skills, or there are these other wider issues, they’ll turn up for a while and then they won’t last there.

Key said that “lot’s of people” transition to work, and he cited location, skills and “these other wider issues”.

“Drug addled” and “too lazy” where Espiner’s words, not Key’s.

Jessica Mutch introduced yesterday’s coverage of Are some young NZers too lazy to do the work migrants will do? saying that what Woodhouse had said “sparked some debate” and that Woodhouse had made some “interesting remarks”. Woodhouse was quoted.

Mutch then said:

Prime Minister John Key followed up the next day saying the Government had to bring in migrants to fill the jobs because many young New Zealanders had a poor work ethic or a drug problem.

I haven’t seen any evidence of Key saying it like that.

Q & A then showed some street interviews in Wellington and showed a variety of responses, including:

Interviewer: We hear people saying that people, especially young people, don’t have a good work ethic, too lazy to work, drug problems…

Young person 1: Oh I’d love a job.

Young person 2: Some people don’t want to hire us because we’ve got criminal convictions.

Young person 1: I’ve got no one to watch my dog, that’s why I don’t, I’ve got no job.

Then three people were interviewed.

  • Hew Dalrymple, farmer and vice chairman of Federated Farmers Maize and Forage
  • Tony Stevens, one of three co-conveners of Stand-up, the young wing of the CTU
  • Calvin Fisher from the Amalgamated Workers Union

Dalrymple:

My experience has been, especially through the squash industry and harvesting squash, the comparison between the different crews that work behind the harvesting machines is dramatically different.

And probably, I’ll be honest, the biggest problem with the, what I’d describe as perhaps the people that don’t want to come to work is the lack of attendance. So the foreign work crews will be probably fifty and up to a hundred percent more productive. They earn very good money.

And that money is equally available to anybody that’s doing this manual labour.

He says that the best earn over $1000 in the hand per week, and $800-1000 in the hand is common.

The local crews you might end up with ten behind the squash harvester one day, five the next day. We can’t  operate our businesses like that.

Mutch:

Basically what you’re saying is that Kiwi pickers just aren’t reliable, they don’t turn up and they’re not as respectful.

Dalrymple:

No, some are, so I generalised with that, of course there’s exceptions to the rule, but unfortunately the system that’s in place at the moment is putting people out in that type of work that don’t want to be there in my opinion.

That sounds like an issue that deserves examination but it was not on the Q & A agenda.

Mutch switched to Fisher…

Calvin I want to bring you in on this as well, you’ve put Kiwi workers to some of these farmers, what’s been your experience? What have many of the farmers you’ve spoken to prefer, do they prefer the foreign workers or are they happy to employ New Zealanders.

Fisher: Well it really is a mixed bag…

…and he went on the say that the nature of agricultural work had changed markedly with bigger gangs now required.

Then Mutch switched to Stevens with the issue she was determined to pursue:

Tony I’ll bring you in on this, the Government coming out this week  saying Kiwis are drugged up and too lazy to work…

No, that is what media has said, not the Government.

…what’s you’re experience, what’s your reaction to those comments?

Stevens: Hugely concerned by those comments. You’ve got to think about how we as young people and young workers are receiving that message from out highest office.

Actually it’s a message from media who appear to be misrepresenting what the Government has said.

This is our Prime Minister and Employment Minister basically describing entire generations as being hopeless and on drugs.

That overstates and generalises even more than media.

You know it’s already hard enough to try and enter the labour market as a young worker without having these you know these negative almost ingrained stereotypes so we go in to a job interview and employers already have this perception of us. It makes it very difficult.

I largely think it’s untrue, there are pockets of young workers that may be like that, but um I think that to really make blanket statements about entire generations really doesn’t give us a lot of hope in our Government.

There are plenty of valid criticisms and complaints that can be levelled at the Government.

But I have major concerns if someone representing young workers misrepresents what was actually said so much.

Fisher came in:

I want to pick up on Tony’s comments, I think the generalisation from the Minister was just disgraceful.

Back to Stevens:

Mutch: Tony at the end of the day they have to turn up for work consistently, they have to be drug free, for these examples here are they creating a bad impression for everyone else?

Stevens: Um, yeah, possibly, um but I think it’s still again an over generalisation of an entire workforce.

Stevens then went on to generalise about exploitation of immigrant workers.

Unless I’m missing something said by Woodhouse or Key or the Government it appears to me that some journalists have cherry picked and embellished comments made and have created a week long story out of it.

This has been carried on by Q & A, and interpretations claims made by Stevens in particular have been repeated and not questioned.

This is poor from the media and poor representation of young workers by Stevens if he misrepresents what has been said by Government ministers so much.

I don’t think journalists like Espiner and Mutch are lazy or drug addled, but they appear to me to be misrepresenting what politicians have said, seemingly determined to make stories that are inaccurate and unjustified.

There are important issues around work ethics, immigrant workers, exploitation of workers and unemployment. These have been poorly served by this coverage.

Q & A: