Rachel Stewart on Jordan Peterson and free speech

I really done care much about Jordan Peterson, but free speech issues that he ignites are important.

Peterson has a lot of supporters (almost cult like), seems to do good for some people, but also says some crappy things, either because he has crappy ideas (in my opinion) or is being deliberately provocative. Much of the publicity he gets is thanks to people trying to shut him up.

Media might see it as click bait fodder, but at kleast they are promoting understanding and discussion.

Peterson obliged with some provocative stuff:

Jordan Peterson, the Canadian celebrity psychologist and author currently on tour in New Zealand, has a thing for shock pronouncements. “The idea that men have been preferentially treated as a group across history is an absurd idea,” he told me in a half-hour interview this morning.

“Diversity, inclusivity, equity, all of those things together make up a very toxic brew.”
And: feminists have an “unconscious wish for brutal male domination”.

He’s said several times it’s wrong to believe the victim in rape cases. I asked him if he accepts the need to treat rape victims in a way that avoids revictimising them. As the video clip, taken from the full interview, reveals, he doesn’t think we need to do that.

In his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,, Peterson argues that the problem with the world is we have fallen prey to Chaos, so we need to restore Order. Order, by the way, is masculine and Chaos is feminine.

Surprisingly:

Simon Wilson’s full video interview with Jordan Peterson will appear on the NZ Herald website on Saturday, February 23. His feature article on the interview and Peterson’s town hall speaking tour will appear in the newspaper and online the same day.

Why hold it back until Saturday?

I don’t understand why so many people flock after Peterson, and especially pay to hear him talk when he is easy to find online. NZ tickets are $140-170 a pop. Youtube is free.

I understand why some people take offence at some of what he says – I think that some of what he says is offensive.

But jumping up and down and trying to shut him down is doing the opposite, giving him the publicity and revenue he seeks.

 

Freedom to speak versus safe to speak

‘Free speech’ is an ideal in a free and open, democratic society. But it can be a tricky thing. Some see free speech as a freedom to attack and abuse. Others want it to be a protection to speak without being attacked or abused. Both of these concepts can be abused.

Simon Wilson (NZH): The free speech debate with Don Brash (regurgitated from August).

“Free speech” isn’t so easy. In Athens, in the cradle of democracy, parrhesia meant the licence to say whatever you like, when, how and to whom. But there was another word, isegoria, which meant the equal right of citizens to participate in public debate in the democratic assembly. Both translate as freedom of speech.

When our new friend, the Canadian narcissist Lauren Southern, says “free speech”, she means parrhesia: a licence to say what you want. She is opposed to isegoria, because she is opposed to citizens, in general, having the rights you and I want for ourselves. That she wants for herself.

But for those who would like a break from the abuse, the threats, and oppression that come with unbridled parrhesia, there is isegoria. Ensuring everyone feels safe to speak.

There’s value in this. People who were previously silenced can be heard. Society becomes inclusive, not exclusive. We grow as a civilisation, not through constant reinforcing of the values of an elite – those who dominate the discourse already – but with an interchange of ideas and values among everyone.

In general it’s better of forums for speech are free of abuse and shouting others down and out. The more civil the debate, the more inclusive it will be for a wide range of views.

But claiming a need for ‘safety’ in order to speak can be misused and abused – it can be used (and is used) to try to shut down different opinions and criticisms that can be essential parts of speech.

Free speech does not and should not enforce  sanitised discussions where no feelings are at risk of being hurt.

In this country, let’s agree: when we’re talking free speech, we’re not talking vile, like Alex Jones at InfoWars saying parents of Sandy Hook massacre victims are fake. We’re not talking dangerous, like incitements to violence or shouting fire in a cinema. And we’re not talking defamatory. We proscribe all those without fearing an end to free speech.

But, while we’re on definitions, why are the brave heroes of the free-speech campaign here so selective? Did you know some of them want RNZ to stop using te reo?

Te reo at RNZ is another tricky thing. General use of te reo can be a good thing – but by being inclusive of those who want more use of Maori language, it can exclude those who don’t understand te reo.

I don’t particularly care about use of te reo on RNZ, but I find it distracting. I listen to RNZ to hear about news and current affairs, and I don’t want to hear some long winded spiel about a reporter after they have reported, whether I can understand the spiel or not.

I wonder if te reo is a requirement for RNZ reporters, or optional. Some are more long winded than others.

What about the free-speech rights of Nicky Hager, when the police illegally went after him for the publication of his book Dirty Politics? Where was the Free Speech Coalition then?

The Free Speech Coalition hadn’t been formed then, but the actions of the police were widely criticised and condemned.

What about the freedom to speak in private without communications being secretly recorded or hacked?

The inequality between Pākehā and Māori is, to my mind, the biggest issue facing this country. Not political correctness. That’s a distraction, the bacon you throw to Homer Simpson.

The reason we’re even debating this largely fictitious issue is because of how upset some people get when the public discourse is organised to promote isegoria. The equal right of citizens to participate.

With isegoria, ideas bubble up about inequality and fairness and perhaps a bit of reorganising of the prevailing power relations. Women want equal pay. Māori want not to be structured into educational failure. Workers want a living wage. Poor people, even those who are not poor, want a decent roof over their heads and they especially want that for their kids.

And we develop new ideas, too, about how to speak to each other so everyone can be heard.

Those who say society was better the way it used to be fear those changes are happening at their expense. Which might be true, but it doesn’t have to be.

Arguing that we’re losing the right of free speech turns attention away from real deprivation. And that enables you to insist those other hardships aren’t so important or are just misunderstood, or possibly don’t exist at all.

Ah, this is a dumb argument. I think as a society we are capable of debating different issues at the same time. Saying ‘don’t talk about other things because I want everyone focussed on what I see as most important’.

It’s form of trying to shut down discussions.

What is it they’re so scared of? It’s this. So-called “PC culture”, a culture that invites wide participation, says we should not assume the way we define and regulate society is governed by neutrality. The rules of middle-class white men may not serve the interests of everyone equally.

I’m not aware of any ‘rules of middle-class white men’. I’m aware of attempts to trump up generalised criticisms to diminish the speech of certain demographics, like ‘middle-class white men’.

Being “blind” to difference doesn’t eliminate its negative impacts, it reinforces them.

So, when it comes to defining free speech, and who gets to use it for what, we agree we have to draw some lines – around incitements to violence, for example. But the critical word is “we”.

Who’s we? Who gets to decide who can speak, and say what? Many of the objections to “political correctness”, at heart, boil down to a fear that it will be a very inclusive “we”.

What else are they scared of? A culture of inclusiveness says being “different” through accident of birth or upbringing should not open you to discrimination. It says choosing to be different should not do that either.

It’s a culture that asks for a little humility. It suggests: if you hold all the privileges, try not to lecture other people on what’s good for them.

This is targeted crap. Who holds ‘all the privileges”? No one.

Trying to shout/shut down anything perceived as ‘PC’ is a problem for free speech – but trying to shout /shut down anything perceived or alleged as ‘privileged’ is as big a problem for free speech.

This is not about the martyrdom of Don Brash. No one exercises their freedom to speak more than Don Brash. Martyrdom is a narcissist’s fantasy.

And free speech, in social democracies, isn’t on the endangered list. The world is awash with free speech. We’ve never had so much talk.

And we’ve probably never had so much talk designed to cause offence – or claims of being offended, whether justified or not.

The truth is, in the age of social media and the internet, you can’t limit it. That’s not entirely a good thing, but it’s the truth.

That doesn’t stop attempts to limit it.

My team strongly supports the motion that PC culture has gone too far to the point of limiting freedom of speech.

Indeed, this is so obviously true that I almost feel sorry for our opponents trying to argue the negative of this motion.

Let me immediately make it clear that we are not arguing that there should be absolutely no limits on free speech.

It has been long recognised that it cannot be acceptable to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre.

It cannot be acceptable to incite violence against person or property.

Our Bill of Rights Act appears to provide a strong guarantee of freedom of speech, not unlike the protection afforded by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

But the Human Rights Act passed in 1993 contradicts that guarantee, by making it an offence to “publish or distribute … matter which is threatening, abusive or insulting”, and it appears to be that legislation which those who want to shut down free speech implicitly use.

So a large number of people have now become aware of just how far the PC culture which permeates much of our society has gone to shut down discussion on issues regarded as in some way “beyond the pale”.

These issues relate to religion, to sexual orientation, to family structure, to the rights of different racial groups, to climate change — you name it. There are some issues which are regarded as just too sensitive to discuss.

Recently, the Human Rights Commission sought to ban disharmonious comments that are “targeted at the religion and beliefs of ethnic minority communities” in New Zealand — which being interpreted means you are free to insult Christians and Christianity but not Muslims and Islam.

And that surely is political correctness gone mad. I want to be free to say, and to say loudly, that people who believe that gays should be executed, and that people who want to abandon the religion of their childhood should similarly face a death sentence, have no place in New Zealand.

At the moment, the politically correct amongst us would stop me from saying that.

Salman Rushdie once said: “There is no such thing as a right not to be offended.” And he was right.

That is an important point.

Truths can be uncomfortable for some people. Different opinions can be difficult to accept. But free speech principles mean that they should not be restricted.

 

Brash up-platformed in university debate tonight

Massey University received almost universal criticism and derision after they cancelled a political society meeting that Don Brash was scheduled to speak at. It was widely seen as an attack on free speech, with some saying it was proof of a slippery slope for free speech.

Brash got far more publicity than he would received at Massey, and he gets a chance to be in the spotlight at Auckland University tonight. He was booked to participate in a debate long before the Molynuex & Southern and Massey furores arose.

Coincidentally and ironically, tonight’s debate is on “Has PC culture gone too far to the point of limiting freedom of speech?”

Freedom of Speech Public Debate

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Freedom of speech is a value which is fundamental to New Zealand society. But at what point should we prevent speech which is offensive, bigoted, hurtful or that we disagree with? Has PC culture gone too far to the point where it is limiting freedom of speech?

The University of Auckland Debating Society is proud to present the inaugural Think Big Debate – a debate series which will explore the big issues in New Zealand Society. The inaugural Think Big Debate is going to examine whether PC culture has gone too far and is limiting freedom of speech.

Don Brash (of the Free Speech coalition) and Elliot Ikilei (Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party) will affirm the motion and Fran O’Sullivan (Head of Business at the New Zealand Herald) and Simon Wilson (Senior Writer at the New Zealand Herald) will negate the motion.

They will each be joined by two of the university’s top debaters. With Freedom of Speech in the headlines both in New Zealand and overseas you won’t want to miss this event.

Absolutely everyone is welcome at this public debate. Check out the Facebook event for more information.

 

‘De-platformed’ is a new word for me. In this case it has backfired and turned into upping Brash’s platform.

Stuff: Don Brash free speech debate in Auckland booms on back of Massey’s ban

Massey University’s ban on Don Brash making a speech on its Palmerston North campus has proved a boon for rival Auckland University.

Double the number of people expected to attend Brash’s Auckland appearance have now registered since Massey axed Brash and ignited another free speech debate.

The controversy has been a marketing gift for the otherwise low key Auckland function organised by the university’s debate society.

There is planned protest: Students and Staff to protest Don Brash speaking at University of Auckland

A New University has organised a public protest opposing the inclusion of Don Brash in a University of Auckland Debating Society event to be held on campus on Thursday 9th August at 6.00pm in the Owen G Glenn building.

“Brash’s haste to come to the defense of far-right ideologues Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux shows his commitment to the right to spread hate speech with no consideration of the consequences for those targeted by racial abuse and discrimination.

“Universities are legislatively bound to act as the ‘critic and conscience of society’. Condemning any platform for hate speech is a rare opportunity for the University community to fulfil this crucial role.

“The University of Auckland equity policy acknowledges the distinct status of Māori as tangata whenua and is committed to partnerships that acknowledge the principles of the Treaty. Hosting Brash directly contravenes equity principles and the protection of students and staff from discrimination.

“A New University calls on University of Auckland management to follow through on its equity policy and strategic plan emphasis on promoting Māori presence and participation in all aspects of University life.

“A New University joins the struggle of those at Massey University in refusing to accommodate hatred, bigotry and racism in their institutions. Universities must uphold the principles of Te Tiriti and ensure the safety of students and staff on campus.

There does not seem to be an obvious Maori participant in the debate, but that may be addressed froom four of “the university’s top debaters” who are as yet unnamed.

UPDATE:

Up-platformed and live.

Government claims wrong, Wilson concedes that fuel tax is regressive

Increasing fuel taxes impact more on people on lower incomes who rely on a car for transport.

On Thursday in the Herald Simon Wilson wrote what looked like virtual Government media release- $5.77: The extra amount Aucklanders will pay for fuel every week, according to Transport Minister Phil Twyford

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will join Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter this afternoon in Auckland to reveal the details of the new excise levies on fuel.

But it looked like they had already revealed the details to Wilson.

By late 2020, new fuel taxes will mean Aucklanders are paying an average $5.77 more a week for petrol, according to figures to be released by Government ministers today.

And in a startling revelation, the ministers claim that the wealthier a household is, the more it is likely to pay for petrol. They say the wealthiest 10 per cent of households will pay $7.71 per week more for petrol. Those with the lowest incomes will pay $3.64 a week more.

That is a quite misleading use of averages. A much bigger proportion of lower income people don’t use cars, for example many students. This distorts the averages.

This is a complete reversal of the most common complaint about fuel taxes, which is that they are “regressive”. That means, the critics say, they affect poor people more than wealthy people.

Opponents of the new fuel taxes, including several councillors and the National Party Opposition in Parliament, have argued that low-income people rely more on their cars than wealthy people. They also say those on low incomes have less access to public transport and drive cars that are larger and less fuel-efficient.

But the Government’s figures starkly reject that view.

But this view was strongly debunked in social media.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: Not a startling revelation

The data is not a reversal of the complaint about the fuel tax. In fact it proves the complaint.  Let’s look at the definition of regressive:

(of a tax) taking a proportionally greater amount from those on lower incomes.

Now let’s look at the average incomes for each decile

  • Decile 1 – under $23,900
  • Decile 5 – $64,400 to $80,199
  • Decile 10 – over $188,900

So the extra fuel tax as a percentage of income is:

  • Decile 1: 0.52%
  • Decile 5: 0.27%
  • Decile 10: 0.14%

So the article proves the exact opposite of what it claims – that the increase in fuel tax is regressive as it hits lower income households more.

It was also covered by @Economissive on Twitter:

I have some other work I must get done today, but once that’s out of the way I am going to do what Simon Wilson never does and that’s fact check this appallingly bad analysis by the Ministry of Transport and proudly supported by the Minister.

Here’s the big thing the , and have missed: many low-income people don’t own cars.

Students are low income. How many of them own cars? What proportion as compared to say rich professionals? Students generally live near uni and work. They walk or bike or take the bus.

What matters is how much households with cars pay! And the Ministry, Minister and Wilson haven’t provided that data!

THE POOR PAY MORE FOR EACH KILOMETRE. I can’t say this more clearly enough. And have said so for months and months. It is a regressive charge.

Wilson copped a lot of flak on Twitter for his claims (and his acting as an uninquiring repeater for the Government). Last night he conceded:

Hi does  say so today at the hHerald, but it is buried in another Government friendly article – The fuss about fuel taxes and the next big transport debate

He starts by quoting a councillor. Then he rephrases his ‘wealthy people pay more for fuel than poor people’ averages spiel.

What will wealthier people pay? On average per household, they drive more, and as the pump prices suggest, they probably pay more for their petrol too. The wealthiest third of households will face an average fuel price rise at least double that of the poorest.

That might come as a surprise to anyone used to hearing that “fuel taxes hurt the poorest more”, but it shouldn’t. Wealthy people spend more on almost everything.

He follows that with an admission rising fuel taxes will hit poorer people more.

Despite that, however, it is true that these fuel taxes will hurt low-income households more. Low-income households spend a bigger proportion of their money on essentials, including transport costs. So every price rise eats into their disposable income, assuming they even have any.

Wealthier people might not notice having to spend $5 or more a week of something. But many others have to count every penny.

Another factor: people in poorer households are more likely to use public transport, thus not paying for petrol at all. Those who do drive may be travelling further than many wealthier people, and in less fuel-efficient cars too.

And what often happens to the cost of public transport when the cost of fuel rises?

Then Wilson’s brief regression concession.

I wrote earlier this week that the fuel price rises are not regressive. That was wrong. Wealthier people will pay more overall but this will impact them less. The fuel taxes are flat taxes: we all pay the same per litre. And all flat taxes are regressive, for the reasons just outlined.

He then seemed to switch back to promoting Government PR:

On Thursday, finance minister Grant Robertson put the fuel price rises in the context of other changes the Government is making to household incomes. The minimum wage is rising. The Families Package includes a winter energy payment for the elderly and some others on benefits, a means-tested payment for babies and changes to lower-income family tax credits. All of these changes come into effect from July 1, the same day as the council’s regional fuel tax.

Robertson said hundreds of thousands of families would be $75 a week better off, on average, by 2020/21 when the Working for Families measures have been fully implemented. That’s far more cash in hand than the fuel taxes will take away.

But this time Wilson questioned it.

That’s true, but those measures also compensate for many costs facing lower-income families, especially as the Government is not introducing the tax cuts promised by the previous Government.

What he and Robertson didn’t mention is that, while people with families will get more money again from the Government, people without dependant children don’t get Working for Families. And many low income workers have been getting low wage increases for years, and that looks unlikely to change markedly for many.

All income earners are slowly paying higher rates of income tax – the last Government belatedly addressed this by lowering tax rates, but the Labour led Government quickly scrapped them.

I won’t get anything from the above mentioned financial benefits, and neither will many people. Fortunately for me I won’t get the fuel price increase that is being introduced in Auckland, just the smaller country-wide excise tax increase.

And I am an average earner so that won’t impact much. Thinks will get tougher for low income workers in Auckland who don’t have dependent children but who rely on a car for transport, especially if it’s an older less efficient car. Transport owner operators will also have to contend with rising fuel expenses.

Wilson:

All of which points to a hidden issue in all this: what public transport improvements will really make a difference? Should buses and trains be cheaper or more frequent? And why can’t we have both? Lets argue about that.

That’s a bit of a diversion from his repeating for the Government. Perhaps he could look at another hidden issue, the growing divide between workers with families and workers with no dependant children.

What is happening, and it has been for some time, is that workers without children are gradually getting worse off, and there is no sign of that changing.

Wilson: ‘Tasks for Labour’

I don’t know whether Simon Wilson is wanting a press job with Labour, or wants to stand for Labour, or just wants to help Labour win this year’s election, but he has given them a lot of advice in his series of posts over the last week.

He closes with THE TASKS FOR LABOUR which strongly promotes Jacinda Ardern for deputy leader, seems to show Andrew little the door – “If she doesn’t, Andrew Little himself should look to his future” – and seems to be promoting Grant Robertson via a Robertson with Ardern photo “AT THE LAUNCH OF HIS LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP BID IN OCTOBER 2014”.

Summarising my posts over the last six days, and a few things I never got round to mentioning, in no particular order…

1. Choose a charisma army of candidates

Labour and the Greens are both short of top-quality MPs. This election they have to introduce a new front bench in the making with many candidates for future leader. Labour must ensure it includes good people from throughout the broad church of the party.

Labour have already chosen a number of candidates, but have a few to go.

How does Labour “introduce a new front bench in the making”? Even if some charismatic new candidates get elected they won’t feature as Labour’s front bench in the campaign. Is Wilson looking ahead to 2020?

Labour must ensure it includes good people from throughout the broad church of the party.

I think they think they are on to this already. They need to have good people who want to stand, preferably women to meet their gender targets.

2. Refresh the front bench now

What, Annette King is still deputy? Why? That should be Jacinda Ardern’s job…

It’s odd to see Wilson promoting his favoured option. He includes a photo of Robertson with Ardern so I assume he fancies them as leaders (they were rejected by the party in 2014).

(The number formatting in his post seems to be stuffed up so the there’s a gap).

4. The underlying concepts to guide the central campaign promises:

  • Tackle child poverty.
  • Grow a high-wage economy.
  • Align the economy with climate-change goals.
  • Make the cities work.

Vague and uninspiring. Selling magazines is quite different to selling a campaign to voters and it shows.

5. Policies that connect to self-declared ordinary people integrated with policies that arouse the activist base.

Then he should review his point 3.

6. Messages of hope, good ideas and shame

Be the party the country has been waiting for. Be the party for the common good.

Forget the shame aim, negative campaigning has failed for Labour for the last decade.

Messages of hope and good ideas? Labour has to do far more than hope some good ideas repeated over and over will win them the election.

The country is waiting for a strong and positive alternate leader, not an airy fairy message monger.

All parties are ‘for the common good’, they just have different ideas on how to achieve it.

7. Andrew Little

Turn him into a liked, admired and trusted leader.

Little doesn’t seem to have transformed himself over the break, time is running out to remodel him.

Can Labour recruit Rumpelstiltskin? The Fairy Godmother of politics?

8. That Blinglish

Call him Caretaker Bill. Treat him like he won’t be there for long.

Name calling and negativity has worked so well against John Key this is sure to work against English.

At the same time Labour (and Wilson) have to stop treating Little as though he won’t be there for long.

9. And oh yes: have some fun. It’s infectious.

In politics fun is winning. Labour seems to be infected by a losing virus. Wilson doesn’t appear to be an antidote.

National’s ‘index of shame’

In Simon Wilson’s latest article in a series that mainly focusses on what Labour needs to do to turn around their failing strategies lists what he calls THE SHAME INDEX in  National’s Index of Shame, and the other issues the left needs to focus on this election.

Shame on them. Shame. On. Them. And disgust on them, because there’s an awful lot for Labour and the Greens to shame the government with. This is an incomplete list.

Wilson makes no attempt to disguise where his political preferences lie.

1. Child poverty

Combatting child poverty is a mindset. When you declare it, and mean it, you’re saying you’re putting children first, you’re going to work systematically and comprehensively and you’re going to prioritise this work. And it’s a terrifically valuable Trojan Horse: you can’t combat child poverty without doing education, health, housing, domestic violence…

That’s a lot of things to sort out – of course everyone wants less ‘child poverty’ and domestic violence, and better education, health and housing, but to be able to afford to spend more money on them you need a sound economy, sufficient tax revenue, and an appreciation of the challenges of making meaningful differences on all of these things. And the time it would require – waving a political wand is not going to cut it.

2. Filthy rivers

It’s about cows. Not just cows, but mainly cows.

There’s no doubt that water quality is a major issue of concern. And that the dairy boom is a significant factor. So do we force the number of dairy cows down significantly? Later in the article Wilson wants exports increased, and dairy is one of our biggest  exports.

Improvements are already happening, for example Fonterra requires waterways to be fenced off on farms supplying them with milk. Fixing the problems takes time – can dirty waterways be cleaned up more quickly?

3. Domestic violence

I put this up in a previous post, but where’s the comprehensive All Blacks-led campaign to remake the idea of what masculinity is?

Domestic violence (and violence in general) is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society. The current government, and past governments, have tried to address it with some successful changes but nowhere near enough. It will take more than an All Black led campaign to fix it. And the All Blacks are not under the control of Government – why not an MP campaign?

4. Tax evasion

We already accept the principle of equality in our elections, with MMP. We accept it with GST: everybody pays. So why doesn’t the same principle apply to tax on all income?

Governments, through IRD, have worked to reduce tax evasion – it’s illegal so if it can be proven it is prosecuted.

It’s not clear what Wilson suggests here, but I doubt he really means a flat tax on ‘all income’, he doesn’t define income, and I don’t know if he understands what he is proposing or is just  pushing a populist anti-tax evasion  line without really knowing how to deal with it.

5. Farm worker deaths

Since 2013 there’s been a concerted safety campaign in forestry and it seems to be working. But the industry with the biggest number of workplace deaths (nearly five times more than forestry over the last five years) is agriculture. The government refuses to act.

It is certainly a serious problem, but to compare deaths in different industries the number of workers should also be compared. There is in fact about four times as many agriculture deaths per year than forestry deaths – see Workplace fatalities by industry – and the rate of both has dropped since 2013-14.

I would be surprised if the government “refuses to act”. In fact a government agency is trying to do something: “WorkSafe is partnering with farmers and their families, rural community, and sector organisations on a comprehensive information and education campaign starting from February 2015 to tackle the high number of deaths and serious injuries on farms.”

6. Underfunded mental health services

How is this not a major scandal?

Certainly a good case could be made to fund mental health, and all health services, better. How much of an increase in the total health budget would be enough? And where would that money come from?

7. The surging wealth inequality gap

Did you know the salaries of CEOs in our big companies jumped 10 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent last year?

The escalation in higher incomes does seem obscene, but what is the solution? Impose income limits on private companies?

Should we care about high incomes? Shouldn’t the focus be on raising low incomes and increasing employment levels and productivity?

8. The housing crisis

Because the government has not wanted to unsettle homeowners or mess with their ability to buy more property, we have a housing crisis that is crippling the country’s major city and fast spreading to other centres too.

That’s an extremely simplistic view on the surge in property prices that is occurring in many countries around the world as well as New Zealand. It

Housing is a big issue but Wilson’s simplistic view is aimed at the effects rather than the causes, which are complex, are difficult to turn around, involves local bodies at least as much as central government, and appears to be more of a political hit than based on facts or reality.

9. The Emissions Trading Scheme

The government’s principal vehicle for meeting international commitments to fight the causes of climate change is ridiculously weak and misguided, partly because it excludes agriculture (46 per cent of our emissions) but also because it does not work as an effective tool for reducing the emissions it does measure.

The NZ ETS was initiated by the last Labour government and was tweaked by National and is ineffective. What is not stated nor probably known is what could be effective in it’s place.

One way of reducing agricultural emissions is to reduce animals numbers, which will impact on the exports that Wilson wants to increase.

10. Pike River

This one is pretty simple, really. Promises were made and human decency should prevail.

This is highly contentious but not as simple as Wilson suggests. If body recovery costs more lives who will be blamed? Some Pike River families think it’s a decent decision to leave the bodies where they are.

What is indecent is the level of politicisation of the issue by some. Labour have made noises but haven’t promised to recover the bodies.

11. The Saudi sheep deal

The auditor-general decided there was no evidence Murray McCully had been corrupt in putting this deal together, but she did identify “significant shortcomings”. This shabby affair set a new low for government integrity.

Yes.

12. Housing the homeless

The shortage of emergency and short-term housing for the homeless is appalling in itself, but the added levels of bureaucratic absurdity just beggar belief.

To a large extent yes. Housing  and rental costs are a real and growing problem – but so is housing people who are difficult to house, especially those involved in using or producing drugs.

13. Healthy food in schools

Seriously, what would it cost to get serious about healthy eating in schools?

Wilson takes an odd shot here at a former National MP and links it to Dirty Politics. Is he playing dirty?

Should nutrition guidelines be enforced in school cafeterias?  And all food outlets close to schools controlled? Should more be done to provide ‘free’ (taxpayer funded) breakfasts and lunches to kids at school? No suggestions on any of this from Wilson.

14. Underfunded homecare services for the elderly

What nonsense – and, surely, how easy it would be to fix.

If it was easy and cost effective to fix I think that it would have been done. Does Wilson think that uneconomic underfunding is deliberate? More money will help, but where does that money come from? Taxes from dairy exports?

15. The neglect of Northland

The province of such beauty and such destitution. Northland’s not the only neglected part of the country but it’s one of the most obvious.

No suggestions on how to fix the regions including Northland. I would like to see more done to help regions but writing an online article isn’t a solution, it’s a vague diss.

16. Abuse of children in state care

This is historic but should be addressed better now. Are resources more effective in another inquiry, or in doing something practical?

17. Deep-sea oil drilling

It’s nothing short of perverse for the government to maintain its commitment to deep-sea oil exploration. Not only is it nuts to imagine there is any useful place in the future of this country for a growth in carbon fuels, but the companies themselves are no longer interested.

The Government isn’t spending money on deep sea drilling, they are allowing companies to explore of they choose. If they choose not to what’s the problem? Seems like a gripe without an actual problem.

18. Blaming Helen Clark

Seriously, they’re still doing it, in their ninth year in office.

Clark’s Government did commit the next government to some fairly hefty ongoing costs such as interest free student loans and Work For Families, both of which would be quite difficult to undo, but it does look pathetic to keep blaming Labour (rather than Clark).

This is a mostly vague populist political hit list from Wilson. It’s hard to see it making a significant impact on poliutical change.

I wonder if he balances it with an index of government achievements?

Simon Wilson’s Labour series

Simon Wilson, who left as editor of Metro Mag in October, has written a series of articles at The Spinoff over the last few days that almost appear to be the beginnings of some sort of an election campaign.

His main focus is on what the National led government is doing wrong and what Labour in particular needs to do to take over. His political leanings are fairly obvious. In one article he says he would have voted for David Shearer and Helen Kelly.

But there is quite a bit of interesting and thought provoking content – particularly for Labour if they are willing to concede that their current strategies are failing and they need to lift their game substantially.

The articles up until yesterday:

Welcome to election year in NZ. Here’s how the Labour Party can make it a real race

Does Andrew Little stand a chance of leading a centre-left government into Christmas 2017? Ahead of Labour’s caucus retreat this weekend, Simon Wilson has been pondering their task.

The Andy Plan: A 3-step programme to make Labour’s Little an electable prime minister

If Andrew Little hopes to lead the centre-left to victory in the election later this year, he’s got a lot of work to do. In the second of a six-part series, Simon Wilson sets out the task.

The identity politics debate has become cancerous for the centre-left. One Labour MP showed how to join the dots

Is identity politics destroying the Labour Party or is that just the catchcry of a bunch of old white guys trying to get their own way again? Is Labour really a broad church party? Here’s the third part of Simon Wilson’s analysis of Labour in 2017.

Social investment: the two uninspiring words upon which the entire election could hang

If the National Party gets its policy of “social investment” right it could stay in power for another generation. So what will Labour and the Greens do about it? Here’s part four of Simon Wilson’s analysis of Labour in 2017.

Hear us out: There are lessons for Labour in Trump’s win

What on earth can the left learn from Donald Trump? Quite a lot, as it happens, as Simon Wilson explains in part five of his week-long analysis of Labour in 2017.

I don’t know whether Wilson is angling for a press job with Labour for election year, or is offering up his advice because that’s where his interest lies (or perhaps he may be planning a similar series on National (who he generally blasts in this series), Greens, NZ First and other parties contesting the election.

Wilson’s latest article will be addressed in my next posts – see National’s ‘index of shame’.

Mt Roskill poll v. political claims

There seems to have been a non-public poll done for the Mt Roskill by-election for Labour, but there are mixed messages.

A week ago in NZ’s feeblest John Key parrot is on the brink of a shellacking in Mt Roskill  Simon Wilson wrote:

Labour has a poll that puts their candidate, Michael Wood, 30 points ahead, at 58 to 28. That’s a spectacular fail in an electorate where National won the party vote in 2014 by 2000.

That would be a spectacular result, but without any details about the poll, when it was taken, what the questions were, and what the sample size and method were, it’s worth being very wary – especially when a party with a vested interest promotes the results.

This came up again today, started by a tweet from Labour MP Phil Twyford.

@PhilTwyford
Never mind Key’s spin, the Herald has the numbers on why Roskill is no slam dunk for Michael Wood

@BenThomasNZ
Even post-Trump, NZ spin is parties vying to claim that they will in fact suffer the most humiliating defeat

@PhilTwyford
Unlike Key we are not predicting defeat, just that Roskill may be close run and that we have to work hard for it.

@robhosking
Thought your internal polling was supposed to be putting you 30 points ahead?

‏@PhilTwyford
Don’t believe every bit of unsourced speculation you hear.

@robhosking
I didn’t say I believed it. But @simonbwilson was on NatRad this morning saying Labour had told him this. So either Simon’s bullshitting (which I very much doubt) or someone’s bullshitting Simon.

@simonbwilson
No reason to doubt my sources. Plural. Both parties have reason to argue it’s close. Both bullshitting? Oh dear, agony for another 28 hours!

@robhosking
Theoretically, that poll *should* be accurate [safe seat; 3rd term Nat govt, etc]. But things are weird right now.

@simonbwilson  Strong Lab cand + strong campaign. Weak Nat cand. Greens X. 3rd party votes off Parmar. By-elect. Crime. House $. Key says nah.

Most things point to a comfortable win to Labour’s Wood, but it may close up, that poll is over a week old.

But why did Twyford emphasise “Roskill is no slam dunk” and “Roskill may be close run”?

Ika: Labour WTF?

I missed the start but I have been watching Labour WTF for a while now.

Labour, WTF? – Live from Ika Seafood Bar & Grill in Auckland, New Zealand, Simon Wilson leads a panel discussion about the state of the Labour Party.

With Nigel Haworth (Labour President), Andrew Campbell (former Green Party Chief of Staff), Dr Deborah Russell (tax expert), Chloe Swarbrick (former mayoral candidate).

Nigel Haworth comes across as a woolly waffler, maybe he runs a tight dynamic ship for Labour but he doesn’t exude confidence.

Deborah Russell is little more than a Labour cheerleader. She sunk to a custard comment about Key’s ‘moral fibre’. She is clearly positioning herself for a political future with Labour.

Chloe Swarbrick is worth having in the discussion. Having considered views of a young woman is great to have in the mix.

Andrew Campbell is the most interesting and forthright about the reality of Labour’s shaky position.

Chloe thinks Jacinda should be Labour leader.

Deborah was asked who outside Labour who would make a good leader, she sidesteps it and promotes a few Labour people ‘coming through’, like Michael Wood who is standing in Mt Roskill.

Andrew names Grant Robertson as ‘an amazing contrast’ to John key as leader and Jacinda as well would be the future leadership for Labour.

Nigel is asked about whether Labour should change their selection rules and he deferred to the members.

Andrew says he agrees with much of what Simon wrote in Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

Deborah refers to Labour as a ‘broad church’. Perhaps it was in the past. It has narrowed alarmingly. And then she refers to Justin Trudeau as Mr Yummy when asked about trustworthiness in Labour.

Then she rejects charisma, saying trust is all important.

Nigel is asked if he thinks the Memorandum of Understanding is important and says it didn’t come entirely from the Greens, but has avoided the question – should it become a coalition agreement. He is wedded to a strong alliance.

Asked about the Maori Party he says it is difficult to see their ‘type of behaviour’ as incompatible with Labour.

A questioner says he has seen no evidence of policy solidarity based on the MoU. Nigel says that it is far to early in the election cycle to come out with substantial policy. He is worried about National moving in on their policies. He says Labour has to time their policy announcements very well. But there remains a vacuum, for how long?

Andrew says there would be a major benefit in Labour and Greens having separate tax policies so Labour+Greens can’t be described as a tax/economics bogey man.

To a question on fundraising Chloe says that money isn’t so important, getting a message across needs to be clear, there needs to be a vision.

Nigel says that money is important. Labour missed an opportunity on public funding of campaigns.

He says Labour has established an ‘extraordinary digital periphery’ – I guess he is talking about their email harvesting.

Someone questions the MoU, saying that it looks like Labour has given up recovery, in contrast to National’s recovery after their 2002 disaster. All Labour has done is ‘cuddle up to the greens’.

Andrew emphasises that the New Zealand electorate hates instability.

Someone says that she wants to be a Labour supporter but she isn’t enthused by Andrew Little and unless they can bring threw people like Chloe they will lose the next election.

Deborah launches into another promotion of Labour/Little. She says Labour has the leader they need.

She then squashes Chloe’s enthusiasm saying that pragmatism matters.

Is Chloe Swarbrick the future of the Labour Party?

Nigel says he would be delighted to have her and over time he wants the party to be attractive to people like ‘Chloe’. They don’t have a lot of time.

Chloe says she represents engagement. She stood as a protest candidate because she was pissed off with the system that doesn’t stand for the people.

She doesn’t see a revolt happening any time soon.

She has a lot of problems with media not holding politicians accountable.

Deborah avoids the question ‘is Andrew Little the future of the Labour Party?’

Andrew says “there is a malaise in the Labour caucus” and refers to National’s ability to turn of MPs compared to Labour’s stagnate bunch.

Chloe says Labour can win when they can empathise and communicate.

Simon says they can win when they have”a leader we can admire and trust and we want to be the Prime Minister”. He talks of the need for charisma.

The discussion comes to a close.

The title remains unresolved – Labour WTF.

Andrew and Chloe should start a new party.

Is Labour sliding towards oblivion?

This question is being asked tonight when Simon Wilson chairs a Spinoff debate at Ika Seafood Restaurant about the future of the Labour Party.

Wilson writes Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

What is the point of Labour? Is it a twentieth century phenomenon sliding into oblivion in the twenty-first?

If you’re an urban progressive, the Greens look like a more natural home. If you’re worried about modernity in any or all its forms, New Zealand First is ready and waiting. If you’re a Māori activist, you can choose from the Māori Party and the Mana Party.

If you’re working class? Any of the above, isn’t it?

In reality, Labour gets votes from all those groups. That’s a good thing: major parties need broad appeal. But Labour doesn’t always treat it as a good thing. They let the inevitable contradictions of being a broad church undermine them – this is expressed through absurdly frequent leadership battles – rather than becoming a source of strength.

Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.

If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.

In New Zealand, it’s generally accepted that Labour’s main job right now, working with the Greens, is to win the next election.

But it’s not obvious this view is shared throughout the Labour Party, where many people clearly prefer to have a leader they agree with, or feel is “one of us”, rather than a leader with great electoral appeal.

And that, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of the Labour Party. They don’t understand the importance of personality. They don’t have a leader capable of charm and because they changed the voting rules to get rid of the last one they did have, David Shearer, they don’t have the ready means to get another one. It’s not that they can’t win, but they have made it a lot harder for themselves.

It’s fashionable to say charisma shouldn’t matter, that personality politics is a scourge. That’s such nonsense. There’s a good reason voters want to feel we can like and trust our leaders: our trust commits us to the political process, commits politicians to us and helps give legitimacy to lawmaking.

So, what are the prospects for Labour heading into election year? Andrew Little will remain leader so they have to double down on becoming the voice of the future. That’s about policy and articulating a vision. Becoming the champion of the compact city in all its forms – from decent affordable housing to creating a cycling city – is a heaven-sent opportunity.

Will they grasp it? What’s their future if they don’t? On the positive side, there’s only one John Key. When he retires, National will lose its charm advantage. On the negative side, it’s only a matter of time before the Greens find an immensely charismatic leader of their own. When that happens, if Labour hasn’t done the same, they really could be annihilated.

There’s no sign of a charisma threat from Greens at the moment, nor does charisma seem to be lurking in their ranks.  So the left in general seem to have a problem, but Labour has been suffering the most.

Tonight’s debate should be interesting.

Tonight at Ika: Labour WTF? – why, what and how is Labour as it turns 100? Simon Wilson chairs a discussion with Labour president Nigel Haworth, former Greens chief of staff Andrew Campbell, commentator and Labour candidate Dr Deborah Russell and third placed Auckland Mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick. The Spinoff will livestream the event via ye olde Facebook page from 7.30pm

That’s a distinctly left wing panel, but it’s their problem so it’s up to them to show they recognise the challenges they face, if they do.

Chloe Swarbrick seems to be the in person in politics these days, she has been picked up by media and pushed. But it will be a while until she can lead whatever party she may eventually join, if she does.