Anything not everything


Mine was probably the last generation of girls who grew up thinking we’d get married and have children – and in that order.

We were encourage to have jobs or even careers, but the expectation for most of us was that, sooner rather than later, family would come first.

Younger women have grown up with different expectations, many based on the exhortation that girls can do anything.

The trouble with that line is that it’s taken to mean they can do, and have,  everything – career, relationship, family . . .

But as Deborah Coddington says in commenting on Holly Walker’s Memoir The Whole Intimate Mess:

Walker admits she saw it as a chance to show women could have it all. Isn’t it about time someone, somewhere, blazed across the sky: if you choose to do one thing you are, ipso facto, forgoing something else? . . 

Coddington has been criticised on Twitter for her view, but she’s right.

Anyone might be able to do anything, but that is very different from being able to do everything, or at the very least being able to do it all at once:

Undoubtedly changes could be made to the system in the behemoth, but raising a baby is one of the most important things a mum or dad can do. Should it be slotted between points of order, supplementary questions, constituency meetings, select committees? Certainly not when a woman ends up badly mentally and physically hurt, no matter who is inflicting the abuse.

Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned. I had my first child five days after I turned 22, 42 years ago, and I loved raising babies. But at the same time I watched with envy as my journalism colleagues soared up the career ladder while I felt abandoned in Wairarapa teaching a little one to talk, garden and cook playdough. But when my four children were at school I could claw my way back up to the top in journalism, full time, then look at those same colleagues, now in their late 30s, early 40s, struggle with IVF, difficult pregnancies and exhaustion as they juggled early childcare and jobs.

My point is you actually can have everything; but maybe not at the same time.

Definitely not at the same time, and not always when you want it.

By the time young couples have completed their education, travel, and are well on their way up the career ladder, conception might not come easily, if at all.

As a friend commented during a discussion on infertility,  Our parents worried we’d have babies too soon, our generation worries our children are leaving it too late.

A point Amanda Gillies made on the AM Show:

“I say to girls, particularly young girls, have your children early if you can. I waited, I shouldn’t have, and so I say to them: Career you can always come back to it – children you can’t,” Gillies said.

“So do it early, it’s so much easier. I’m now 40, it’s probably not a happening thing and it’s a heartbreaking thing because as a woman you do feel like a failure.” . . 

If these busy career people do manage to have children, the idea that life can go on as it did pre-parenthood seriously underestimates the demands even the healthiest and happiest of babies make, ignores the almost certainty that no baby is 100% happy and healthy, and shows little if any appreciation of the time, energy and commitment it takes to bring up children.

In most young families today, men play a much more active parenting role than their fathers did and women are much more likely to be in paid work than their mothers were.

Parents sharing the caregiving and wage-earning can be better for them and their children.

But the message that girls – and boys – can do anything needs to be tempered with the caution that if they try to do everything at once something will give and if having children comes later on the to-do list, they might find it’s too late.


No need to censor happy thoughts


This excerpt from Holly Walker’s memoir is a very sad reflection on the madness of modern life:

One Friday morning, about three months after my return to work, I held a drop-in clinic for constituents in Petone. Parliament was not sitting. When the clinic was over, I met Dave and Esther, fed her, and took her for a walk around our local park while she slept. It was a beautiful day, and I felt a rare sense of ease and wellbeing, so I took a picture and tweeted it, saying something like “What a perfect Petone day.”

A few days later, one of the Green Party’s press secretaries rang me up. A press gallery journalist, herself a working mother with young children, had seen my tweet and thoughtfully passed on that, to parents with children in daycare who would like nothing more than to be out walking with them on a sunny Friday afternoon, an MP posting a tweet like this was not a good look. The press secretary gently suggested that I might like to be sensitive to this. I took the feedback meekly, thanking her and agreeing to be more judicious in future. I could see how a mother with her own kids in daycare could look askance at that. . . 

When did it become wrong to share a little moment of joy?

There are times when your own troubles make it difficult to appreciate another’s simple pleasures.

There are times when it would be insensitive to share your happy times with someone directly.

But those are times when you’re speaking or writing to someone personally.

Tweets go to the world, with a maximum of 140 characters which provide only a snapshot. They aren’t personal communications and should not be taken personally.

Parenthood is tough. Throwing work – paid or voluntary – into the mix makes it tougher. But if someone is so ground down they can’t  let someone they don’t know delight in the good times with their baby, it is they, not the sharer who has the problem.

If anyone, public figure or not, has to censor their happy thoughts, then the world really has gone mad.


A wee bit too clever?


Politics is hard on families and I respect Holly Walker’s decision to put her family first by deciding to resign.

Her decision to remain as the candidate for Hutt South is somewhat less laudable.

Since Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel, the Green party hasn’t even pretended to be interested in winning electorates.

I’ve heard their candidates tell meetings to not vote for them, vote for the Labour man or woman, they’re only interested in the party vote.

Like it or not, that’s what MMP allows.

But to have an MP who has stated she will resign from parliament at the end of the term still stand as a candidate in a seat is a new twist of the system.

It’s not unusual to have people stand in seats they can’t win.

Plenty stand in seats for the sake of the party knowing they won’t win nor can they expect to get in on the list. They are taking one for the team in the hope of increasing the party vote.

But this is the first time a list MP who has announced she won’t be in the next parliament still plans to campaign in a seat with the deliberate intent of neither winning it nor returning to parliament.

There are obvious advantages for the party – they have a candidate with profile and the ability to get publicity in a way open to MPs but not so much to a candidate, and who is being paid by the taxpayer.

But what’s in it for the people of Hutt South?

Nothing but another example of MMP’s faults.

The Green Party engineered the early entry of Russel Norman into parliament when he first became co-leader so he could campaign as an MP with the benefits and pay that carried.

That was manipulating the system but at least he was fully intending to be an MP after the next election.

This smells worse than that.

Walker would be paid until the end of the parliamentary term without being a candidate and even if she wasn’t standing in a seat she could still campaign for the party until the election.

So it’s not that there’s any extra cost involved.

It’s more an extra dose of duplicity.

Not trying to win because it’s the party vote that counts is one thing, standing without wanting to win is another.

In the normal course of events a candidate who didn’t expect tow in would be delighted is s/he did but obviously Walker wouldn’t be.

The chances might be slim, and if the good folk of Hutt South catch on to what’s going on, they’ll be even slimmer.

And that’s where she and the party might be being a wee bit too clever.

They might not like the smell of this and decide to give their party votes to a party which stands candidates who genuinely want to be in parliament.

Holly Walker resigns


Green Party MP Holly Walker is resigning.


TV3 reports that although she is withdrawing from the party  list she will continue as the Green candidate in Hutt South.

Can’t count, don’t count


Labour ditched a staff member seconded from Treasury and one of their MPs is already showing she’s in desperate need of someone with some financial literacy:

Jacinda Ardern has yet again shown why New Zealanders do not trust the Labour Party even to read a Budget correctly, let alone write one, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson said today.

Ms Ardern has made numerous incorrect statements about arts funding in Budget 2014, despite these errors being repeatedly pointed out in Parliament and online.

“The supposed ‘cut’ to public broadcasting claimed by Ms Ardern reflects the fact that last year $4.5 million was spent on the Going Digital project, helping the switch over to digital television,” Mr Finlayson said. “That spending is not in the budget this year, because, well, we have Gone Digital.”

“We have in fact allocated extra funding within public broadcasting on new projects, including the maintenance of the TVNZ archives.”

“There is no reduction in heritage spending, as she has claimed. What may have confused Ms Ardern is that heritage now appears in two appropriations, one of which is earmarked for World War One centenary commemorations, a key heritage project. The total is slightly higher than last year.”

“In future, perhaps she should read further down the page before firing off indignant press releases.”

“Funding for regional museums has been maintained throughout the two terms of this government, and remains at its baseline funding of $6.67 million per year,” Mr Finlayson said. “However, last year the appropriation was higher because unspent funds from the previous year had been carried over. This is spelled out in the Supplementary Estimates of Appropriations.”

“This government has revitalised the screen industry, a point she obscures. We saved the production of the Hobbit trilogy in New Zealand from the unions, and have ensured that not only will three Avatar sequels be filmed here but that the production will employ New Zealanders in key roles.”

“This is quite aside from the important recent structural reform of the Arts Council and Heritage New Zealand (formerly the Historic Places Trust), which were ignored by the previous government.”

“National politics is not high school,” Mr Finlayson said. “Jacinda Ardern shouldn’t think professing to care about the arts means she can opt out of  maths.”

 Doing the numbers and getting them right is a basic requirement for analysing policy – her own and those she opposes.

Lots of Labour policies don’t add up and that will only get worse if the party doesn’t have someone capable of doing the numbers.

However, Labour isn’t the only party to have failed to understand the Budget numbers, Green MP Holly Walker made the same mistake Ardern did:

If opposition MPs keep showing they can’t count they’ll make it easier for voters to show they don’t count in the election.

The H word


Speaker Lockwood Smith has undone decades of tradition by allowing the h word to be used in parliament.

This is good timing as it coincides with the outing of hypocrisy from the Green Party.

Just a few years ago Green co-leader Metiria Turei was denouncing US democracy being bought and sold.

This week the party explained away using child poverty to attract donations for itself as adopting fundraising techniques used by the likes of United States President Barack Obama .

The h word might also apply to a campaign against any sort of poverty from a party which opposes many of the developments which could foster economic growth.

The Green Party is usually very good at getting publicity but most of that publicity in the last couple of weeks hasn’t been good.

The Lobbying Transparency Bill promoted by Holly Walker has been roundly criticised by numerous submitters including Clerk of the House, the Law Commission, Human Rights Commission, Newspaper Publishers Association, Tainui, Ngai Tahu, Association of Universities, Association of NGOs, and the Auditor General.

The party’s promotion of quantitative easing has been widely panned and got more criticism yesterday when new reserve bank Governor Graeme Wheeler said there was little evidence it had lifted growth overseas.

“New Zealand does not require quantitative easing: the economy is growing at an annual rate of about 2 per cent, and the Reserve Bank has scope to lower interest rates if needed.”

The Green Party recently suggested the Reserve Bank print money to bring down the value of the dollar to help hard-pressed exporters.

But Wheeler effectively slammed the idea, pointing out that since the start of the global financial crisis, the United States Federal Reserve had expanded its balance sheet by 13 per cent of GDP, the European Central Bank by 16 per cent, Bank of Japan by 10 per cent and the Bank of England by about 20 per cent.

“In all four cases the official cash rate is 0.75 per cent or less. In all four cases there is little evidence of any appreciable impact on economic growth,” he said. . .

He said the answer to the high dollar is not printing more money but an increase in savings and investment and a decrease in foreign borrowing.

Apropos of the h word, the most memorable line on quantitative easing was in Seven Days last week when one of the panel pointed out the hypocrisy of the promotion of printing more money coming from the party which also wants to save the trees.

Lobbying Disclosure Bill goes too far


The intent of Green MP Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill is good but it goes far too far.

Jordan Williams argues it will do the opposite of what is intended, distancing people from MPs and creating a lobbying industry:

 The bill makes lobbying activity a criminal offence for all but those preregistered with the auditor-general.  It requires all communications, even informal conversations, to be publicly disclosed with the client’s identity and interests detailed. 

    The bill is badly drafted.  For example it defines “lobbying activity” so widely that it covers any business writing to an MP. 

    Further, it covers even the most modest or ancillary advocacy.  An accountant emailing an MP about a tax policy on behalf of a client will be committing a criminal offence unless the accountant is a registered lobbyist.  A fine of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies can be imposed.  Even a local farm manager complaining to the local MP at the supermarket about emissions policy would be covered. 

    The bill doesn’t just cover businesses.  The inclusion of voluntary organisations mean a single email sent by a manager on behalf of a local RSA is illegal unless the manager is also registered as a “lobbyist”. The problem the bill tries to resolve doesn’t exist. . .

Instead of improving transparency this Bill will put barriers in the way of ordinary people who wish to communicate with MPs.

Our MPs are accessible in a way that those in most other countries aren’t.

The few who like to keep a distance from the public might like the protection this Bill will give them but most will regard it as an impediment to open and frank communication.

It is being driven by the Green Party paranoia about big business and will get in the way of ordinary people and their elected representatives.

Kiwiblog would like the Bill to be amended but doubts if it is possible to do so without the unintended consequences.

Holly responded to Jordan’s post here.

He offered to help improve the Bill but writes on Facebook:

The Green Party appear to have deleted my comment on their blog site, responding to Holly Walker‘s post regarding my opinion piece in today’s DomPost (posted earlier).  Specifically she implies that unlike others I have not offered suggestions to improve to Bill.  That is not true.  I will post the response here:

“Hi Holly, yes the Bill does have a good intention, I don’t deny that, but its effects will damage our culture of easily accessible MPs. Laws need to be assessed by what they say and what they do, not what they are intended to do.

I take issue with your remark that I have not offered to improve the Bill, indeed I personally emailed you on 17 April offering my firm’s time (free of charge) to suggest improvements to the Bill that would avoid the very criticisms I make of it.

He then gave an update saying his comment was up but she had “removed the offending sentence.”

In-work payments for those in work


The Green Party don’t appear to understand the reason that in-work tax credits go only to people in work for a very good reason although Finance Minister Bill English gave a good explanation yesterday:

. . . But the first part of the question, I think, demonstrates the difference in views about how to deal with poverty. The Government is focusing on mobility—that, in fact, a lot of families who at some times and in some periods experience low incomes actually get out of that situation. The in-work tax credit is designed to encourage people from benefits into work, and reward them for making the choice of going into work, because that is the best decision they can make to improve the incomes of their household and their children.

Holly Walker: What if a parent cannot find work? Do their children still have the same basic needs for food, shelter, warmth, and clothing that they would have if their parents were working?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, their children do have basic needs that ought to be met, and that is why the Government has throughout the last 4 years, since the beginning of the recession in 2008, protected the real value of the incomes of all our low-income households. But I would repeat for the member that those levels of income are part of the story. The other part of the story is to maintain the ability of families and individuals to move on to higher incomes. The analysis of New Zealanders’ time on low incomes shows that a relatively small number stay on low incomes for a long time, and even of those who are on low incomes only a proportion of those suffer the symptoms of persistent deprivation, which is the worst aspect of poverty. . .

. . . Holly Walker: Since children have the same basic needs regardless of the income status of their parents, will he support the Green Party bill to replace the in-work tax credit with a payment for all children who need it, and eliminate a blatant discrimination against some of our poorest children?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, we will not. In fact, on the issue of discrimination, this case has been to every tribunal it can go to and no one has found that the difference in payment is discriminatory. We will stick by the policy that has been in place for some time, put in place by the previous Labour Government—that is, maintaining the in-work tax credit.

What is it the left do not understand about the danger of snaring people in the welfare trap?

Some people will need a permanent benefit. But most will be in temporary need of assistance and the sooner they are helped to move from a benefit to work the better for them, their family  and society.

Keeping people on benefits when they could be working isn’t good for them and it isn’t fair on those who pay the taxes to support them.

This view isn’t the preserve of the right wing. Labour MP Trevor Mallard made this point on Facebook yesterday.

The post has now disappeared but Keeping Stock took the precaution of taking a screen shot.

In-work tax credits provide an incentive to work by ensuring people who earn a living are better off than those on benefits.

If people can get a similar income on a benefit than they can from working too many wouldn’t bother to work.

The solution to poverty is not to make life on a benefit more comfortable but to help those who could work to work.

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