Just wondering

03/09/2020

Just wondering:

Why did James Shaw decide the Taranaki Green School was of sufficient merit to prompt him to issue an ultimatum?

. . .Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office and it included a stark ultimatum.

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

“Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

“Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he’ll sign everything this afternoon,” the email said. . . 

Just wondering:

After all the dead rats he and his party have had to swallow in contravention of their policy in the last three years, why on earth would he make such a strong stand over  this?

Just wondering:

Who leaked the email, and why?

Just wondering:

Why did the other Ministers give in to the greenmail?

Just wondering:

What does it say about a party leader who didn’t remember his party’s policy against all state funding of private schools and what else has he forgotten about his party policy?

Just wondering:

If he’ll read this from the Villa Education Trust:

There are more reasons for dismay than immediately strike home with the Green School $11.7million debacle.

Plenty has already been said about the “greenmailing” of James Shaw over signing off on the rest of the $3 billion. The hypocrisy of the move. The passing the buck by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Education. Etc. We then had Chris Hipkins – Minister of Health, Education, State Services and Leader of the House – reverting to nonsense around Charter Schools and stating that at least the Green School kids won’t be learning in shipping containers.

The first missed point of despair is that the entire response to this spend from the perspective of other schools has been around property. One question you can always ask the Boards of dilapidated schools is how have managed their maintenance budget over the last 12 years. If they are honest you will get a range of answers. The second point is that our genuine crisis in education is student achievement and it is not highly correlated to the buildings they learn in (within reason of course). We have gone educationally insane of we think that flash buildings with close the MASSIVE U.E. gaps for Maori and Pasifika (compared to Asian and European) and reverse the decline against international measures. The NCEA results have already started to slide after 2 years under Labour. With the amount of absenteeism currently happening and the level of online engagement for many this year’s results could be a massive disaster for marginalised groups. However – educators are prepared to make a spectacle of themselves for spouting and a dab of paint.

What’s more important, flash buildings or student achievement?

The injustice our Villa Education Trust feels is around a second hidden effect. In the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-2025, Minister Hipkins acknowledged “one in five children and young people need some kind of extra support for their learning. This might be because of disability, learning difficulties, disadvantage, physical or mental health or behaviour issues” and “New Zealanders want an education system where all children and young people can take part in education and can learn and achieve, whatever their needs.”

In the Plan, Minister Hipkins goes on to say “This Government has a vision for an inclusive education system where every child feels a sense of belonging, is present, makes progress, where their wellbeing is safeguarded and promoted, where learning is a lifelong journey, and where children and young people with learning support needs get the right support at the right time.”

During 2019 we took the Minister at his word – as we are – according to all external reviews (e.g. “In summary we find and conclude that in both schools, the management and staff are actively involved in continuous development, and the delivery, of a unique programme of teaching and learning which is based on a comprehensive ‘local’ curriculum that is aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum, and which provides for the personalised needs of priority learners ‘many of whom have been failed by the current education system” Cognition Education) Hence we proposed to close our small private school and open a non-zoned, 240 student State Designated Character School, near a transport hub for a wide range of Auckland families to access. The Prime Minister had told the country she wanted more options like this and the “work was being done.”

Our school community has been exceptionally poorly treated by Ministry through a process that, so far, resulted on July 7th with Hipkins saying “no” with him blaming his officials and his officials blaming him.

So – while 25 students benefit by $11.7 million at The Green School … 240 students per year with diverse needs will miss out. To rub salt in Minister Hipkins publicly mocked our efforts in the House yesterday. Class, kindness and compassion.

This whole debacle illustrates the problem with politician’s making individual funding decisions:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for the abandonment of grant decision making by politicians and Cabinet committees, and a return to the tradition of these being made by officials using objective and transparent criteria.

The following can be attributed to Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union:

“The spectacle of politicians horse-trading individual funding decisions is something we expect to see in smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, not a modern day New Zealand with a reputation of being corruption-free.”

“The Provincial Growth Find, and now the COVID ‘shovel ready’ fund, are normalising a process of decision making that rewards companies which are politically connected. It is a dangerous path.”

“Steven Joyce reintroduced the sort of corporate welfare largess not seen in New Zealand since the Muldoon Government. But instead of fixing the problem, the current Government has doubled down and we have now returned to politicians making funding decisions for individual projects and pet causes.”

“Enough is enough. Now we are seeing the warts and all flaws in the process, New Zealand should return to a transparent process of the politician’s job being limited to setting criteria and objectives, and leaving it to officials to make the individual grant decisions.”

There is a case for Ministers to have a role when decisions are finely balanced.

This wasn’t.

Treasury opposed the grant:

The Treasury advice to Shaw and the others ministers who signed off on hundreds of projects for infrastructure investment says the Green School does not have “full private school registration” and would be unlikely to get that until mid 2021.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals,” the advice says.

Furthermore, it says even if it had the “necessary” approvals, “we do not recommend funding for this school”.

Treasury also objected to the project being overseen by the Provincial Development Unit saying it was not the “appropriate agency for this school”. . . 

Shaw has accepted responsibility for the debacle but whoever gave into his greenmail is just as culpable.

This isn’t just a waste of money, it’s also a poor reflection on the whole government  its processes and priorities:

The murky brinksmanship revealed in the decisions to fund the Green School suggest the $3 billion shovel ready fund is operating like a slush fund by the Government, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Grant Robertson needs to come clean about the deals being done between Ministers. How is it that one Minister could hold up shovel ready projects unless the Green School was signed off?

“It’s clear the Government doesn’t have its priorities in order. These projects are supposed to be about investing in infrastructure to create jobs and grow our economy.

“But the impression left is that the shovel ready fund is operating as yet another $3 billion slush fund with different projects carved out by Government parties for their political wins.

“No matter how hard he tries, Grant Robertson cannot wipe his hands of this decision. He is the Minister of Finance, it is his job to make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. Instead he signed off on a private school receiving millions of taxpayer dollars.

“With the scale of debt-fuelled Government spending right now, it is more important than ever that the Government demonstrates to New Zealanders that decisions are made on the basis of need and effectiveness rather than ‘wins’ for different Government parties.

“The whole episode makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s claim there is no politics in Covid.

“The Government can’t claim ignorance, Treasury told it not to give any funding to the Green School because it didn’t have the full education approvals needed for a private school.

“Grant Robertson needs to front up and explain exactly what happened and why he’s allowing himself to be held to ransom by his own Associate Minister of Finance.”

Just wondering:

Does Grant Robertson need reminding of his own words: that every dollar the government pays out is being borrowed?

Just wondering:

What were the merits of the ‘shovel ready’ projects that were put forward for grants and missed out?

It would be difficult to believe that at least some didn’t have a much better cost-benefit ratio than this one.


Borrowing every dollar

31/08/2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson justified not extending the wage subsidy to cover the longer period at alert level 3 by saying: we are borrowing every single dollar that we are paying out.

Did Cabinet take that into account when it signed off the $11.7 million paid to the Green School which has raised the ire of  principals, teacher unions, the Opposition and Green Party members?

Green co-leader James Shaw has copped most of the criticism and warrants it for the hypocrisy in backing the payment when his party policy opposes private schools.

But the decision must have been signed off by Cabinet.

Labour is no doubt enjoying watching Shaw squirm. But it is just as guilty of hypocrisy for agreeing to fund this small, private school with fees of up to $43,000 a year after scrapping the partnership schools which did so much for disadvantaged pupils failed by the conventional education system.

New Zealand First has been uncharacteristically quiet about this but it is in no position to criticise when so many of the projects it has funded with taxpayers’ money would not have passed the cost-benefit test.

That was bad enough when the government books were in surplus.

It is far worse now that every dollar that is spent is borrowed, accruing interest and will have to be repaid.

Robertson reminded us of that in defending his decision to not extend the wage subsidy.

If he, and his government,  took that approach to all other spending the Green School would not have been funded and the country wouldn’t be facing such a mountain of debt.


How are going to get out of this mess?

03/08/2020

Sir Bill English is warning businesses to prepare for a W-shaped downturn:

Former prime minister Sir Bill English has issued a bleak warning to businesses to prepare for the worst case scenario as “cracks” created by the economic earthquake of Covid-19 become more apparent.

Just like the damage caused to Wellington’s buildings by the Kaikoura earthquake, the true damage to the economy might not emerge immediately, he said.

Wage subsidies had “bought time for thousands of businesses” and there was a sense just from the amount of traffic on the streets of there being a “bounce”, he said.

But the return in consumer confidence would not last and businesses are “reluctant to deal with the fact” that the economy might drop back again, he told a webinar hosted by accounting firm BDO. . . 

Businesses might find by the middle of next year that they had 20 per cent less revenue as a “W”-shaped downturn took shape, and needed to ask if they could survive on that, English said.

“This is going to be marathon not a sprint. It could be really tough.” . . 

Job losses are already piling up:

Today’s troubling revelation that another 1500 Kiwis lost their jobs this week highlights the need for a sound economic plan to get us through the current jobs crisis, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is now up to 212,000 – an increase of 67,000 since New Zealand went into lockdown.

This week alone, 1500 more people went on the dole. Another 450,000 Kiwis are also in the precarious position of relying on the wage subsidy scheme that will run out on September 1.

“New Zealand is facing its worst economic downturn in 160 years,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“This incompetent Government’s big idea is simply to increase government spending, which will just lump the country with more debt for future generations to repay through higher taxes. . . 

The government’s response so far is not going to help the economy:

Massive debt-fuelled spending and keeping the border tight are necessary but insufficient to restore our economy and create jobs, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

Mr Goldsmith was reacting to Grant Robertson’s “Q & A” interview this morning, where the Minister played down projected job-losses when the wage subsidy ends and emphasised more government spending and tight border as the government’s primary economic response.

“The reality is that the spending has not always been well targeted or effective and the so-called tight border of Labour has been shown to have holes.

“The missing piece in the job creation story – the third trick – is bold moves to enable private sector investment,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“The government can buy temporary jobs, such as it is with its $1.1 billion programme to hunt possums and plant flax bushes, but it is the free enterprise economy that creates the most sustainable jobs.

“We need to be making it easier for firms to hire workers and expand their business.

“As well as its JobStart and BusinessStart programmes, which help businesses hire additional workers and redundant workers start a business, National has announced substantial tax changes to encourage businesses to invest. Firms will be able to write off $150,000 per new asset immediately.

“National would also extend 90 day trials to all firms – making it easier for companies to take a chance on new employees, and reverse recent further restrictions on inward investment.

“The government, meantime, is still in the mind-set of adding costs and regulations to business, such as last week’s higher waste levy charges,” Mr Goldsmith says.

Debt will increase whichever parties are in government after next month’s election.

A responsible one needs a plan to minimise  the borrowing and to pay it back.

Without that, Damien Grant says, the Government’s Covid-19 spending will be an economic albatross for decades:

 The true extent of the intergenerational crime that is being committed is becoming clear.

Today’s young are being robbed of opportunities and may be the first generation in our nation’s history to be significantly poorer than their parents.

Let’s start with the easy part: government debt. We spent $12 billion on the wage subsidy, the vast majority going to boomer-owned businesses to ensure they did not have to pay the full cost of their firms being shuttered.

Think about this for a moment. Almost every firm that got the money would have survived. This was a freebie to the capital-owning class; paid for with borrowed money that will not be re-paid by them, as their tax-paying days are coming to a close in the next decade. . . 

Whether or not most firms would have survived is debatable, as is the question of whether they were in trouble before the lockdown.

Wellington has decided, with overwhelming community support, to smash our economy in order to temporarily eliminate what has proved to be a virus with a far lower level of mortality than first advertised.

Fine. This isn’t something that I support, but OK. Let’s do this. However, if you are going to destroy tourism, damage hospitality and cripple construction, we need to be honest with ourselves; we are going to have to get by with less.

But we don’t want to do that. There is a collective refusal to accept that we are considerably poorer today than we were in January. There is an illusion of economic normality being created by enough ink to re-hydrate the Red Sea. . . 

National Party finance spokesman and putative post-election leader Paul Goldsmith estimates the projected $140b of future borrowings is equal to $80,000 per household.

Yet, no one seems to care. We’re in a panic over the fairness of charging people $3000 to cover the costs of an enforced stay in a quarantine hotel and the antics of school kids playing at being Nazis, but were heading off the edge of a fiscal cliff and … nothing.

The cost of borrowing will be paid for in two ways. Not only will this money need to be paid back; either through higher taxes, reduced government services or by the pernicious and economically destructive hidden tax of inflation, there is the opportunity cost of lost growth.

When you borrow to maintain consumption you are stripping resources from the economy that could have been deployed elsewhere for more productive activity; investment, primarily.

People wanting to borrow find they cannot get access to capital because the state is sucking up all available cash.

It isn’t just the cash available for lending either. It is the physical and human resources that entrepreneurs require to trade that are being diverted by the states’ uncontrolled spending. . . 

This government thinks it’s better at spending our money than we are and it’s spending is making it more difficult for private enterprise to flourish.

The lockdown produced a very good health response but the government response to the economic crisis will make it worse.

The problem isn’t just that sooner or later the debt will have to be repaid. It’s that every cent needed to repay it is a cent not available for essential services and infrastructure unless the economy starts growing, and growing well, again and there is no sign of anything from the government that will help us get out of this mess.


Planning to fail

03/07/2020

Ensuring Covid-19 doesn’t get past the border has widespread support, but it’s time for a plan that keeps it there and lets more people in:

The Prime Minister needs to stop misrepresenting the border issue and tell New Zealanders what her strategy is to protect the economy long-term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Government’s clumsy and incompetent management of our quarantine procedures means it is impossible for New Zealand’s border to open tomorrow, next week or even next month.

“That simply would not be safe.

“However, New Zealanders also need to know how and when the border will progressively be reopened, because not doing that is untenable.

“New Zealanders deserve the highest standards to protect them from getting Covid-19, both at the border and when it comes to tracking and tracing in the event of cases in the community.

“We need to know when those standards will be in place so that New Zealanders have confidence to progressively and safely open the border and grow the economy.

“Locking down what’s left of the economy and waiting for a vaccine isn’t an option.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response ignores the issue:

 . . .”It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19.

“In some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they are not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month,” Ardern said.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous.” . . .

No-one is asking for the borders to open at this point.

A lot of people, businesses and organisations are asking for information on the plan for when and how the borders will open at some point in the future.

Farmers and contractors need experienced workers, principals facing teacher shortages are looking for staff, secondary schools and tertiary institutions want to be able to host foreign students again . . .

None of these is asking for anything that would risk Covid-19 getting past the border, but all want to know the government’s plan for safe entry of more than returning New Zealanders and the heavily restricted number and categories of people deemed essential workers so they can plan.

Any half competent government would have had people planning ahead months ago.

The omnishambles at the border that required the military and another minister to take over running it, shows that wasn’t done.

The current situation needs a strong focus but the inability for someone in government to look further ahead while others deal with immediate priorities reinforces Todd Muller’s observation there are three or four competent ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs in Cabinet.

Had there been anyone with more ability in any of those chairs, perhaps one of the three deputy Health Ministers for example, Chris Hipkins who already had a very heavy workload wouldn’t have been the only one capable of taking over as Health Minister yesterday after David Clark resigned.

That appointment highlights the shallowness of the Cabinet pond and explains why Muller’s request for details of the strategy for opening the border is being ignored.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the government with the time and ability to plan that far ahead which is a very serious problem because as the adage says, if you fail to plan then you’ll plan to fail.


Let people with skin in game take over

25/06/2020

Schools and tertiary institutions have lost a lot of income from foreign students locked out of the country by Covid-19.

They have an opportunity to recoup some of that by attracting northern hemisphere students for the second semester.

That would require strict isolation and quarantine for two weeks.

Given the omnishambles at the border and the bottle neck with returning citizens and residents, there’s no hope of that being done at facilities being run by the government.

Why not let the the host institutions run their own isolation and quarantine places?

They would have a lot of skin in the game – money to be made if successful and the knowledge that they’d not only make significant financial losses, their reputations would also  be at risk if they failed.

Providing all the costs of isolation, quarantine and any treatment of people who had Covid-19 were met by the students directly, or through the institutions, the taxpayer would not have to pay.

If they were coming to southern institutions students could fly in to Queenstown or Dunedin so they wouldn’t add to the congestion in Auckland.

Schools, polytechs and universities would earn some much-needed income for themselves and foreign exchange for the country.

Students, and their families, would have to trust that the private sector would do better than the public one has but proving that shouldn’t be hard.

People, and organisations, with skin in the game will almost always do better than those, like bureaucrats and public providers, whose income isn’t hurt by their incompetence and they would have to ensure they had the right systems and procedures from the start.

They have the very real incentive of so much to gain from getting it right and too much to lose from failing to risk getting it wrong.

The only sticking point is the government which has shown it can’t trust its own agencies and probably won’t risk trusting private institutions.


Not essential not safe

20/04/2020

Last week the Prime Minister announced schools and early childhood centres would be open for anyone from year 10 down if we move from level 4 to level 3.

That was a confusing message given that schools haven’t been considered essential and opening them like that wouldn’t be safe.

An uproar from schools caused a swift back track and now the message is that only children who cannot stay at home should come to school.

Who is going to police that and just how teachers will juggle pupils in classes and online; and how they and pre schools will manage the social distancing is unclear.

Keith Woodford voices his concern:

. . .We need to think carefully about this. Young children are not particularly at risk themselves from the effects of COVID-19 but they have great capacity to be either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmitters of COVID-19. Also, the idea that they can be in their own school bubble isolated from other bubbles, and with social distancing, is greatly flawed. School and home bubbles will overlap and that provides a big transmission pathway.

If we get it wrong, and there is a new outbreak of COVID-19, then there is likely to be no way back. With our current outbreak, we knew where it was coming from. In contrast, if there is a second wave then it will come at us from within the community and we will have no point of attack. . . 

While seemingly signaling too lax a regime for schools and pre-schools, the government has been too hard on other activities, including hunting:

The Game Animal Council is recommending to government that further consideration is given to allow deerstalking and other large game animal hunting to take place under COVID-19 Alert Level 3.

The Game Animal Council has requested that consideration be given to allow easy one-day hunts under the following conditions:

  • Hunters must stay within their region.
  • Experienced hunters may undertake day hunts close to home and in areas they are familiar with. This is not the time to be learning how to hunt or embarking on overnight hunts.
  • People may only hunt with others in their bubble.
  • Firearms safety must be paramount.
  • Hunters must create a safety plan including location, estimated return time and keep a log of who they come into contact with.

We believe these conditions meet the requirements set out for other forms of recreation currently allowed under Level 3 and allows for compliance with COVID-19 safe practice,” says Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale.

“As we know hunting has many social and community benefits especially when it comes to mental health and wellbeing as well as being an important food source for many people.”

“There are a number of questions we are also asking regarding the inequities when it comes to the recreation activities allowed and those that are not allowed under current Level 3 rules,” says Gale.  . . .

Inequities and contradictions are rife.

A friend lives in Invercargill about 100 meters from a liquor store and a butchery. The former is able to operate, the latter is not.

An email from Dunedin’s University Bookshop told me that I could buy text books and any books for children, but not novels for adults.

My scanner has died. I tried to order one online but found it’s not considered essential, although a printer is.

This stupidity is caused by the government’s mistaken insistence on being guided by what it considers essential rather than what is safe when deciding what can operate and what can’t.

We are paying a very high price for the loss of liberty in an attempt to eliminate Covid-19. Whether or not the attempt is successful, we’ll be facing the costs of the shutdown for decades.

Those costs will include business failures, job losses, high unemployment and the health and social consequences of all that.

The sooner those businesses which could operate safely are permitted to do so, the greater the chance of their survival and the more secure their futures will be.

Cabinet is meeting this morning to decide if we can more out of level 4 this week.

Regardless of what it decides on that, it must change its insistence on allowing only businesses it regards as essential to operate and free up all which can operate safely.

 


Too late, too soft, too slow

26/03/2020

Parliament featured a rare show of unity yesterday after the government declared a state of emergency.

This gives it extraordinary powers which are deemed an acceptable response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cross party support doesn’t mean the government is above criticism.

The rapidly increasing number of people with the disease, following the trend of other countries which were ahead of us and with which we are fast catching up,  gives credence to the view that the government’s escalation of alerts came too late.

A six-day delay in results of tests for the disease means testing is too slow. The only way to shorten the period of lockdown is more tracing.

And the tougher border controls are still too soft.

. . . Ardern said the Government would further tighten its already stringent border restrictions, including mandatory screening for the limited numbers of people who are legally still allowed to enter.

Anybody who displayed symptoms of Covid-19, could not demonstrate a clear plan for self-isolation, or could not travel to their usual residence while maintaining physical distancing, would be put into “approved facilities” for a period of quarantine. . .

This is a definite improvement on what has been happening, but it is still not going hard enough.

Everyone who comes into the country must be quarantined.

That is the only way to be as sure as we can be that  no-one coming here could spread the disease to others.

The country-wide lock down is unprecedented.

It gives the government and its agencies sweeping and draconian powers that severely curtail our ability to work, move, socialise, and travel.

It will come at a huge economic and social cost.

Jobs have already been lost, more will be. Businesses will fail. Charities will be over-stretched and some of them will fail too. Education is being disrupted. Liberty has been curtailed.

Domestic violence will increase. Children who depend on school for food will go hungry.

The only justification for this is that the disease chain is broken and dies out in the shortest possible time.

Four weeks lockdown will be hard. Any extension because links in the disease chain are still connected will be harder still.

The only way to be sure all links are cut is to be strict about the lockdown that has been imposed and just as strict at the border to ensure that everyone who could have, or be carrying, the disease, is quarantined.


Planting seeds

04/03/2020

Film showing Inspiring the Future ‘What’s my Line’ made by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission/Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua, the Government’s Crown Agency which provides career services from education to employment across NZ.


What are the parents doing?

21/02/2020

A scheme that will eventually provide lunches in 120 low decile schools has been launched.

School principal Robyn Isaacson said the programme, only recently introduced in Flaxmere, had helped the key aim of raising student achievement.

Isaacson said the programme meant children were able “to open a lunch box, to never actually complain about what’s in it, to know that it is nutritious and is able to fill their pukus so they can learn in the afternoon”. . . 

In his autobiography, *The Good Doctor, Lance O’Sullivan said if children were fed and had any health problems treated at school the chances of them learning and breaking the cycle of poverty were greatly increased.

I can’t argue with that but it begs the question: what are the children’s parents or caregivers doing?

Some will be doing all they can to provide for their children but finding that despite their best efforts the money coming into the household falls short of the costs of providing for their families.

Some will be trying to manage but lack the skills to do so.

And some won’t even be trying.

There is no easy answer to dealing with this but the National-led government was making headway with its social investment initiative. That took some of the money that would be spent on the long term costs for people on benefits and was spending it up front in equipping beneficiaries for life and work.

Not all the people who can’t, or won’t, feed their children will be beneficiaries but they are the ones who get public money to provide for their families. If they can’t, or won’t, look after their children, they ought to be getting whatever is needed to ensure they do.

And if they still don’t or won’t? There’s no easy answer to that question but we must find one, and it must be one that doesn’t put the children at risk.

*The Good Doctor by Lance O’Sullivan, published by Penguin.


Producing pliant political clones

31/01/2020

Barry Brill asks why is the government brainwashing our children?:

The exploitation of children for political ends is perhaps the worst recent example of how ‘noble cause corruption’ can work.

Every right-thinking person abhors the very idea of state-generated propaganda being employed to manipulate and fashion immature minds, so as to produce a cadre of pliant political clones.

Such malign techniques are firmly associated in our minds with the evil dictatorships of the 20th century, such as the Leninist Komsomol and Hitler Youth. We were nauseated when the details of those depraved processes became known – and swore we would never let them happen again.  

But modern political campaigners have revived an older code : the end can justify the means. The cause is so sacred and so urgent that even child abuse can be tolerated. We must be prepared to censor our collective conscience and stifle our scruples for the ultimate good of the planet! . . 

Even if the prescription they promote is not based on science, would have high social and financial costs, and do little environmental good at best.

In denouncing the claim that agriculture accounts for 48.1% of New Zealand’s emissions, Robin Grieve sees this curriculum as “lying to children”. There is no mention of the now-accepted science that reducing methane emissions will make no difference to peak global temperatures.

While the material also avoids mention of scientific unknowns, it puts forward countless spurious predictions for the future as if they were known facts.

I personally began a list of these factoids for the purpose of comparing them with the official  projections set out in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was all a futile exercise. Almost every future ‘scientific fact’ in this material is either flat-out wrong or highly tendentious.

The entire document is couched in the language of climate campaigners rather than that of scientists. It is a trashy and hopelessly unbalanced catechism of all the fashionable pseudoscience. It is pure propaganda, in the very best Goebbels tradition. . .

The authors of the teaching resource acknowledge it might endanger children’s mental health.

The Education Ministry has accordingly  issued an accompanying 15-page “wellbeing guide” for teachers of the new material. This truly brutal document cold-bloodedly predicts that:

“Children may respond to the climate change scientific material in a number of ways. They may experience a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief, and confusion. When discussing the material, teachers may encounter students who cope through avoidance, denial, diversionary tactics, wishful thinking and a range of other coping mechanisms. Children may need help with understanding, communicating, and coping with, the difficult feelings that arise in relation to the material…”

There would be far, far less risk of mental ill-health if the resource was designed to help teach not preach, if it was based on science not emotion and if it encouraged children to look for practical solutions through technology and innovation rather than inciting them to activism.

 


Preaching damnation without salvation

20/01/2020

Beef + Lamb NZ has responded to the emotion and misinformation in the teaching resource on climate change with facts and reason:

. . . Fiona Windle, Head of Nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand said: “We support providing our children with information on climate change. The basis of this resource is founded on good intention and constructive discussion; however, we are concerned about the simplistic approach that has been taken and sweeping recommendations provided without context. While ‘reduce meat and dairy’ is a popular soundbite to roll out, the implications on our youngest and most impressionable in society could be far reaching and detrimental.”

“The recommendation to reduce meat and dairy consumption comes with no framework as to what represents a healthy diet. We ask the Ministry of Education; what should our children reduce their meat consumption to and what is the actual impact of doing so? There is no reference to the Ministry of Health eating guidelines which recommends consumption of both meat and dairy and no caveat as to the nutritional benefits animal-based foods offer. We know that a third of young girls here in Aotearoa – whose nutrient needs change during puberty – don’t achieve their daily iron intake requirements, a mineral vital for learning and cognition, yet there is a blanket statement suggesting they should just ‘reduce’ their meat consumption.”

It’s putting the health of the planet before health of people without even knowing how much meat and dairy children are eating and how much they need for good health.

Another puzzling recommendation in Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow is to go to ohmyveggies.com for meat-free recipe ideas. Beef + Lamb New Zealand fully supports increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, but questions why children are directed to a USA-based vegetarian website rather than using Kiwi organisations like 5+ A Day or vegetables.co.nz that could provide local, seasonal advice to New Zealanders.

Fiona Windle added: “It was very difficult to determine ohmyveggies.com’s nutrition credentials. The only ‘Tip & Hint’ listed on their website is to encourage people to drink apple cider vinegar for weight loss! This would never be recommended by a registered nutritionist or dietitian as an suitable method to manage weight loss and it’s not appropriate for school-aged children to be directed to this unvetted information.”

Jeremy Baker, Chief Insights Officer for Beef + Lamb New Zealand added: “The sector would welcome an opportunity to discuss the carbon footprint considerations lying behind the advice to reduce meat consumption. Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and beef have reduced by 30 percent since 1990. It is one of the only sectors to have met the country’s Paris Commitments. Given methane is a short-lived gas, the magnitude of this kind of reduction means our sector has not been contributing to additional warming for a number of decades and significantly alters our carbon footprint profile.

The exhortation to reduce dairy and meat consumption is based on the misguided comparisons of emissions as if they are all equal when they are not. If nutritional value was taken into the equation dairy and meat would be far better than many alternative food sources, for example almond juice.

He continued: “In addition, there is 1.4 million hectares of native forest on sheep and beef farms which is offsetting much of the remaining warming. We all need to be taking steps to address climate change. What we are seeking is better context and understanding provided so that the right decisions can be made about the changes that people can make.”

The teaching resource is a disgrace.

Any scientific merit in the contents is more than cancelled out by the simplistic approach it takes to a very complex subject. Some of the content, as Beef + Lamb explains is wrong, some is encouraging activsim rather than educating and some of it is preaching not teaching.

Worse still, like the worst hell-fire evangelists it is preaching damnation without any hope of salvation because it totally ignores innovation and technology.

Federated Farmers has launched a petition seeking to have the resource withdrawn until it has been reviewed and amended to ensure completeness, accuracy, and relevance to the NZ context.

You can sign the petition here 


Living in the temple of knowledge

19/01/2020

Ronald Clark’s father was custodian of a branch of the New York Public Library at a time when caretakers, along with their families, lived in the buildings. With his daughter, Jamilah, Ronald remembers literally growing up in a library, creeping down to the stacks in the middle of the night when curiosity gripped him. A story for anyone who’s ever dreamt of having unrestricted access to books.


Sowell says

18/01/2020


Petition against preaching

17/01/2020

Federated Farmers has launched a petition seeking to have the government’s climate change teaching resource withdrawn until it’s corrected:

The Ministry of Education has made a new Climate Change resource available to teachers on the Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) website. This is not compulsory but is a ready-made unit of work designed to be picked up and taught by teachers. The “Climate Change: Prepare today, live well tomorrow” unit has significant information missing which would provide important context about New Zealand’s emissions, it makes food choice recommendations that are not supported from a health perspective, it refers to overly simplistic and inaccurate messaging, it refers students and teachers to websites that are not intended for primary school age students and/or are not appropriate for the NZ context, and it encourages activism. In its current form it is not appropriate for use by teachers in classrooms.

Some of the content is scientific but some is inappropriate, simplistic and/or simply wrong.

The resource is also incomplete. It covers the risks with nothing about the remedies that could be available through innovation and technology.

It’s not unlike telling children they will all get diabetes without giving them reliable nutritional information and informing them about insulin.

Sign this petition to demand that the “Climate Change: Prepare today, live well tomorrow” is removed from the TKI website (and any other distribution forms) until such as time as it has been reviewed and amended to ensure completeness, accuracy, and relevance to the NZ context. In particular:
1. Provide information about the short-lived nature of methane in the atmosphere, and the difference between emissions and warming
2. Provide context around NZs agriculture emissions which are largely methane based
3. Encourage critical assessment of “food miles” and “buy local” messaging which is often simplistic and inaccurate
4. Remove suggestions around food choices, beyond “avoid waste”
5. Remove teaching of activism
6. Ensure all material is age appropriate and relevant for the NZ context

Education should be encouraging children to think not stirring up feelings of hopelessness.

Teachers should be encouraging pupils to investigate, question and problem solve, not inciting them to activism.

And schools should be teaching not preaching.


Old religion opt in, new one compulsory

14/01/2020

The government is planning to make religious instruction in schools opt-in:

Parents will be required to give explicit permission in writing for their children to receive religious instruction at state schools under a planned law change.

It may be the beginning of the end of primary schools offering religious instruction.

Education Minister Chris Hikpkins told the Herald he believes in secular education and does not believe schools should be offering religious instruction.

“But we need a bit more of a national conversation about that before we get into that,” he said. . . 

Although the religion isn’t specified, in most schools it’s Christian, the one which has shaped our laws and ethics.

Meanwhile, the new religion will be part of the compulsory curriculum:

The Government’s new climate change educational material for year 7 and 8 students skirts close to taxpayer-funded propaganda, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The new taxpayer-funded curriculum promotes the campaigns of Greta Thunberg, School Strike for Climate, and even Greenpeace. Students are encouraged to reduce their feelings of climate guilt by participating in this kind of political activism.”
 
“Left-wing campaign groups would be spewing if the national curriculum ever promoted the Taxpayers’ Union vision of a prosperous low-tax New Zealand. The national curriculum should not be used to promote particular political groups or agendas.”
 
“A sensible climate change policy would focus on the science and policy options. But even on these points, the course is weak: it promotes a tax on carbon while failing to mention that we already have an Emissions Trading Scheme.”
 
“A major portion of the material is fluffy, condescending rubbish. Students will have to sit through five different sessions focused on their feelings about climate change, with activities including a ‘feelings splash’ and a ‘feelings thermometer’.”

The teacher resources even include a 15-page ‘wellbeing guide’ for teachers and parents, which warns: Children may respond to the climate change scientific material in a number of ways. They may experience a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief, and confusion. When discussing the material, teachers may encounter students who cope through avoidance, denial, diversionary tactics, wishful thinking and a range of other coping mechanisms.
 
“This isn’t teaching kids how to think – it’s telling them how to feel.”

I don’t have strong feelings on the change to opt-in for religious instruction although there is a place for teaching ethics and also the knowledge of Christianity, and other religions, that is required to understand our culture, history and literature.

I do have strong feelings about this evangelical approach to climate change which has a lot less to do with science and reason and more to do with indoctrination and belief.

Schools should be teaching not preaching. Any instruction on climate change should be about science, not religious fervour and emotion.


What they’re doing badly

19/12/2019

Yesterday I posted on the government’s failure to deliver.

That isn’t the only problem.

Another one is what they’ve done or are doing badly.

Kiwibuild is one.

It was a less than half-baked policy with no hope of succeeding.

The fee-free policy is another wrong policy:

. . .According to the data, fees-free appears to have boosted the proportion of decile 6 to 10 students going to university, while the proportion of students from declie 1 to 5 schools attending non-university tertiary study fell.

Excluding students where the decile was unknown, decile 6 to 10 students made up 68 per cent of fees-free students, up from 62 per cent from the 2017 group. . . 

 55 per cent of fees-free students went to university in 2018, while 28.5 per cent went to Institutes of Technology or Polytechnics (ITPs), 16 per cent to private training establishments (PTEs), and less than half a per cent to wānanga.

• In the 2017 group, 45.5 per cent of comparable students went to university, while one third went to ITPs, 20 per cent to PTEs, and 1.7 per cent to wānanga. . . 

Not only did it the policy help more from wealthier homes, a third of students getting their feeds paid failed or withdrew from their courses.

There are lots of better ways that money could have been spend including improving the quality of teaching, putting more into pre-school education to help children get school-ready and putting more into helping pupils at school and failing.

I hope National has the courage to say that if in government they won’t be continuing this policy and will redirect the money to areas where the needs are more pressing and the benefits will be greater.

 


Labour pains, National delivers

18/12/2019

National promised eight policy papers this year and they’ve delivered.

The government promised this year would be their year of delivery and they haven’t.

You’ll find National discussion documents here.

You’ll find the government’s broken promises here.

They include: child poverty heading in the wrong direction, the level of homelessness is appalling, elective surgery numbers have dropped, economic growth has dropped from 4% under National to 2.1%; job growth has fallen from 10,000 a month under National to just 3,000 under Labour; per capita growth is only 0.5 per cent a year compared with average of 1.7% a year during the last five years under National; the number of people on the dole is up by 22,000, the number of New Zealanders heading overseas has increased by 10,000 a year, the billion trees promise isn’t being delivered and won’t be, not a single cent of the the $100 million Green Investment Fund that was supposed to kick-start $1 billion of investment in ‘low carbon’ industries has been invested, the  commitment this year to making the entire Government fleet emissions-free by mid-2025 was dropped, the government hasn’t been able to find a credible way to introduce a royalty on bottled water exports without trampling all over trade and other agreements with countries New Zealand does business with, yet another working group was set up to address waste minimisation but hasn’t come up with anything yet, the bold goals for housing have been dropped, The 4000 new apprentices target has been quietly dropped. Only 417 have started the Mana in Mahi programme and 32% of them dropped out . . .

Rodney Hide sums it up saying the year of delivery got lost in the post:

This was supposed to be the turnaround year. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared 2019 her Year of Delivery. Nothing has been delivered. Her promise has proved, like her government, empty and meaningless. 

The tragedy is that we accept it. It’s enough that politicians feel and emote; there’s no need to do or achieve anything. We should perhaps rename the country New Feel-Land. . . 

That’s the Year of Delivery done and dusted.

But there’s always next year. The prime minister has plastics again in her sights. She says it’s what children write to her about most. There are news reports she’s planning on banning plastic stickers on fruit.

I scoffed when we had government by focus group. We now have government by school project. . . 

Garrick Tremain sums it up:

What’s all that hot air doing to our emissions profile?

Reducing those is another failure, in spite of the commitment to reducing them being the PM’s nuclear-free moment, they’re increasing and will continue to for the next five years.

A new government ill-prepared for the role might have been excused a first year finding its feet but there’s no excuse for failing so badly to deliver in on its promises in what was supposed to be its year of delivery.


Cash spray BAU

02/12/2019

What does it say about a party when a keynote speech on infrastructure offers nothing more than funding for school maintenance?

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson have cancelled billions of dollars of infrastructure projects whilst dressing up business as usual school maintenance grants as infrastructure investment, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Kiwis deserve the roads, transport and education infrastructure that National was delivering, not spin from a weak and wasteful government that’s failing to deliver on its promises.

“Today’s education announcement is less than it’s wasted on 300 plus government working groups and committees.   

“This Labour-led Government’s poor economic policies have slowed New Zealand down and on its watch, New Zealand’s infrastructure plans are in disarray.

“Labour inherited a strong economy with GDP growth around four per cent. Latest ANZ and ASB forecasts predict a drop to two per cent at a cost of $1.7 billion in lost revenue each year.

“At the same time this Government has wasted billions on failing policies and isn’t delivering on the things that matter to hardworking Kiwi families.

“Our economy is slowing because of Labour’s failure to deliver. A complete stall in infrastructure spend and $400 million of business as usual school repairs and maintenance just won’t cut it.”

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams describes the announcement as  a lazy attempt to buy votes, rather than better educations:

“This announcement appears more targeted at parents’ votes, than fixing run down schools, and you only need look at which schools get what to figure that out.”

“What a lazy and pathetic policy. A brand new school gets the same dollop of cash as a school with buildings from the 1950s.  No school gets more than $400,000, but none less than $50,000. Ultimately that approach means those schools which desperately need redevelopment get less.”

“Instead of asking officials which schools need what, the Labour Party has cooked up an ‘every school gets cash’ policy for the PM’s big speech. This is the sort of stuff you’d expect from an unorganised opposition, not a Party in Government.”

It is because Labour was disorganised in opposition it delivers this sort of stuff in government.

“If this is indicative of Labour’s big spending plans, spraying taxpayer cash, instead of micro targeting so taxpayer money goes to where it is most needed, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars are going to go down the drain.”

If a government that inherited a very healthy economy has to borrow to fund maintenance it has its spending priorities wrong.

Borrowing for infrastructure investment when interest rates are so low isn’t wrong per se, but if the government is borrowing to spend on infrastructure it ought to be investing in new projects not on-going maintenance.

Maintenance is business as usual (BAU), it’s shouldn’t be the recipient of a cash spray, but then spraying cash is BAU for this government.


Do politics and English mix?

22/11/2019

Do politics and English mix?

I haven’t seen the question in question but on the basis of the text, am questioning the content.


Two years and what have we got?

28/10/2019

The Labour, NZ First, Green government has just passed its second anniversary in power and what have we got?

  • Fee-free tertiary education which hasn’t had a positive impact on participation, and a third of those who got the help failed or withdrew.
  • KiwiBuild turned into KiwiFlop.
  • Higher fuel taxes for all to pay for public transport in Auckland which includes the stalled project of rail to airport about which officials can’t get direction from the Minister.
  • Two Ministers resigned/sacked.
  • Thousands of hectares of productive land converted to forestry.
  • Subsidies that incentivise forestry over farming.
  • Foreign ownership of productive land encouraged by much less rigorous requirements than for purchase for farming, horticulture or viticulture.
  • Business confidence in the doldrums.
  • Interest rates heading towards zero and below.
  • DHB deficits growing.
  • Polytechs that are working well to be sacrificed for those that aren’t.
  • Virtue-signaling environmental policies that come at a high economic and social cost here and add to environmental cost elsewhere.
  • Policy at the mercy of the minor coalition partner’s leader’s whim.
  • The waka-jumping legislation.
  • The Provincial Growth Shane Jones Promotion/NZ First re-election Fund.
  • Policy announcement after policy announcement that is high on feel-good but low on planning.

It was easy to come up with those negatives, and it wouldn’t be hard to add more.

But what of the positives?

The only one that comes to mind is a Prime Minister who  gets a lot of focus and high praise internationally.

But how much is that worth when there are so many problems that aren’t being solved at home?

A new government needs some time to get up to speed, but more than two-thirds through its term is too long on training wheels.


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