Right to die or right to kill?

September 27, 2013

MP Maryan Street has withdrawn her End of Life Choice Bill from the members’ ballot.

The Bill was promoting voluntary euthanasia which is often called the right to die.

It would also give the right to kill.

It would give people, including doctors, the right to offer, provide and ultimately administer fatal medication.

I have twice given doctors permission to not resuscitate a child.

Tom was just 20 weeks old, Dan five years, both had degenerative brain disorders and both had stopped breathing when I was asked if I wanted treatment to continue.

That isn’t what this Bill is about.

Nor is it about pain relief as part of palliative care.

There might be a grey area now about pain relief which gets to the level where it could be fatal but there is a huge gulf between alleviating pain and deliberately killing someone.

If we ever consider our own mortality most of us would choose to die without pain and with all our faculties intact.

Life and death aren’t always that tidy and palliative care isn’t always optimal.

That is a very strong argument for better palliative care, not an argument for euthanasia.

Our lives are our own but the right to kill is a big and very serious step on from the right to die.

Macdoctor has several posts on the issue.


Keeping it in perspective

August 8, 2013

A lot of the media have been referring to the contaminated whey scandal.

On Monday’s Farming Show, Jim Hopkins pointed out that it was a scare not a scandal and Macdoctor adds some more perspective to the issue:

With everyone all abuzz about the latest Fonterra debacle, the MacDoctor thought it may be helpful to inject a little perspective into the situation by comparing it with the SanLu scandal.

SanLu Fonterra
Contaminant: Melamine C. Botulinus
Introduced by: Deliberate, For profit Accidental
Discovered by: Investigation after death of children Routine Investigation
Time taken to public announcement: 5 weeks from confirmation 3 days from confirmation
Number injured 300 000 0
Number hospitalised 54 000 0

Last night’s media release makes the contrast even greater – there was almost no time wasted in making a public announcement.

Contrary to earlier reports, Fonterra didn’t confirm tests until Friday and immediately notified the Ministry of Primary Industries and the public notices followed within hours.

That the company’s inept public relations was responsible for earlier information doesn’t reflect well on it.

Thankfully its food safety standards are considerably better than its initial communication led us to fear.

And for a completely different perspective The Civilian says Chinese media says problem with New Zealand economy is that New Zealand isn’t a ruthless dictatorship:

Chinese media have lashed out at New Zealand this week following the potential contamination of thousands of tins of baby formula by dairy giant Fonterra, saying that it was only able to happen because the country’s economy was not governed by a ruthless authoritarian state willing to terrify its citizens and companies into compliance.

Writing in the China Daily, columnist Huan Bai blamed the recent contamination scare on New Zealand’s “individualist philosophy” which “puts emphasis on personal freedoms ahead of efficiency,” and a laissez-faire economic system that allowed human beings to make choices for themselves, pursue their dreams and be content in their own fallibility without living in continual fear of execution if something goes wrong. . .


Pills aren’t power

April 23, 2013

Macdoctor makes a welcome return to blogging with a post entitled power drugs which explains the differences between Pharmac and the LabourGreen plan for NZ Power.

Pills aren’t power.

Who’d want people who can’t understand the difference running the country?

 


Unions for unions or workers?

January 11, 2012

Unions are supposed to be to advocate for and support workers.

As the series of strikes by the MUNZ in its dispute with Ports of Auckland continues at considerable cost to the company, its customers and the workers, it looks like this union is working in its own interests rather than those of its members.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross  reckons MUNZ is biting the hand that feeds it:

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

Macdoctor reckons the dispute isn’t about money, it’s about control:

Is PoAL controlled by the shareholders and the board, or is it controlled by the union? That is what the fight is about. The lives of the stevedores involved are a secondary consideration, as are the customers and the business of the port. Even less of a consideration are the ratepayers who will wind up all paying higher rates should PoAL be permanently damaged by this squabble.

Whaleoil and Keeping Stock both have posts quote POAL communications manager Catherine Etheredge who says:

I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.

Catherine Etheredge
Ports of Auckland

It’s very difficult to understand the union’s position in the face of these numbers.

Report on SOEs tells only part of the story

January 6, 2012

The Ernst and Young report on the performance of SOEs shows they make healthy “economic profits”.

But that is only part of the story.

Dene Mackenzie showed that returns from the SOEs which are likely to be sold are lacklustre:

While some of the state-owned enterprises provide a large dividend payment to the Government in dollar value, the dividend yield is well below the industry average. 

Macdoctor has come to a similar conclusion:

. . .  I tend to look only at the cash figures involved. . . . The first is the amount of actual cash paid to the government in the fiscal year – not the capital gains or retained earnings – just the cash. That figure is $95 million. 49% of that is $46.5 million. That is how much money the government loses each year by selling MRP.

The second figure is how much it would cost to keep. The independent valuation for MRP is $3,631 million. 49% of that is $1,779 million. Assuming the government could borrow at a mere 5% . . . the interest on borrowing this amount is $89 million. This figure is bigger than 46.5 million, so it is worth selling Mighty River Power.

But it’s not just the money:

National want to sell down these assets because they (correctly in my opinion) see no reason why a government should be dabbling in electricity generation. Labour hate the sales because they think government should be the be-all-and-end-all of everything. They like to call these assets “strategic”. This is code for “we don’t trust the market”.

I’d rather trust the market than politicians and I’d rather sell a minority share in a few SOEs than borrow more which is the alternative if we are to ocntinue to invest in necessary infrastructure.

 

 


Tax not the answer

December 28, 2011

Quote of the day:

Now, when you can explain to me how a packet of Pringles in a child’s lunchbox is somehow better than a packet of nuts and raisins, I will agree that a tax on sugar is a good thing.

Macdoctor in sugar sickness.

He was responding to a column from Tony Falkenstein who suggested a sugar tax was the best way to fight obesity.


Did you see the one about . . .

January 30, 2011

My cricket World Cup squad – Imperator Fish mixes politics and sport.

Just one day – Liberty Scott reminds us what we must remember on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Macdoctor compares state of the nation addresses  –  and shows a picture really is worth 1,000 words. He also does the numbers on asset sales in Sell Down.

Crime scene cooking and bags of milk – Around the World on cultural differences of the culinary kind.

Don’t believe the lies – Kiwiblog figures what’s wrong with what Labour’s saying. He also gives a plug for WordCamp NZ.

Let us not march – Dim Post has word clouds from this week’s state of the nation speeches.

Two year Review – Pablo at Kiwipolitico looks back on two years of blogging.

Phil Goff – the beehive – Whaleoil shows how one silly idea could lead to another.


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