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Red in Roskill



Michael's blog about life in Mt Roskill, Labour Party activism, and progressive Christianity.



Updated: 2015-09-17T08:07:16.623+12:00

 



Distraction

2007-09-09T18:19:05.776+12:00

The reason for the lack of posting on this site in recent months hasn't been a lack of interest in politics, but a diversion of activity to the local government elections in Auckland City.

To read more go to:

www.cityvision.org.nz
http://cityvisionblog.blogspot.com

Normal transmission will resume from about mid-October.



Budget Bites the Bullet

2007-05-17T17:21:35.121+12:00

This was a bolder budget than anticipated by anyone, and bites the bullet on several important long-term issues for New Zealand.

Saving – Partial compulsion

My feeling for quite a long time has been that as good an idea as Kiwisaver was, it was simply too light. It was a purely optional scheme and offered a maximum $5000 subsidy for any participating individual. A useful scheme to make it easier and more attractive to save, but not really significant enough to tackle our low savings record head on.

Today’s budget testosterone injection means that Kiwisaver will sit alongside the Cullen Fund as a centerpiece of a national savings strategy, The Cullen Fund ensures that the state will be in a position to fund NZ Super over the long run, while Kiwisaver will provide the vast majority of New Zealanders with a genuine opportunity to supplement NZ Super with retirement savings of their own.

People contributing to the scheme will receive a matching government tax credit of up to $20 per week to supplement their own savings (around $1000 per year), while critically, employers are being required to contribute (1% next year rising to 4% by 2001/12), after twenty years of on the whole shunning their responsibilities in this area.

There will no doubt be much carping about this from business lobby groups, but it is fundamentally a question of whether business wants to consider itself a part of society or not. Faced with long-term economic imbalances in our economy, all sectors of society have a duty (and in fact a self-interest) in resolving the problem by building our national savings.

Cullen’s move in this area has been bold and impressive. Budgets are best when they plan for long-term prosperity and cohesion. By biting the bullet on savings, Cullen is acting to ensure that our economy is on a more stable footing for the next couple of generations.

Transport

The announcement of $500m in capital funding for rail electrification in Auckland and other major transport initiatives is also about our long term economic and social health. This spending is non-inflationary as it actually builds economic infrastructure that will raise productivity, and it targets money to exactly where it is needed – critical projects that will make Auckland in particular a more livable city.

There is of course a lot more, which I will write on soon.






Lessons for Labour

2007-05-07T22:45:50.001+12:00

Elections in Scotland, Wales, and for local government in England over the weekend proved pretty inconclusive for anyone looking for decisive trends (Labour weak, but the Tories unable to forecefully take command), but confirmed the gut feelings of many observers that UK Labour does have some serious (if not insurmountable) challenges to overcome in order to win a fourth term of government. There are lessons in this for NZ Labour.

The Labour vote of has come in at what many consider to be the absolute base for the Party, while the Conservatives picked up 41% of the vote across England. So while New Labour is clearly unpopular, the Tories are simply performing credibly. They failed to significantly cut into Northern strongholds like Manchester and Birmingham, took fewer Councils of the Liberal Democrats than expected, and narrowly avoiding becoming the fourth party in Scotland.

All this to me is suggestive of a public that don't want a return to conservative rule, but are disallusioned by politics as practiced by New Labour. The rhetoric of choice that masks creeping privatisation of the health system, the banal infatuation with wealth and celebrity, increased costs in the tertiary education sector, and of course the utter folly of Iraq have all eroded support for a Party and an idea that most moderates and progressives in the UK still want to govern.

Fundamentally, New Labour has in its style and policies just departed to0 far from the core beliefs of the coalition that elected it to office so overwhelmingly in 1997.

NZ Labour must understand this if we are to win a fourth term, and I am convinced that in this regard, we are on the correct side of the ledger. On all of those core principles that have been backed by a solid 40% of the population for close to a decade, NZ Labour has largely steered a straight course. The privatisation agenda has been stopped in its tracks, the investment in core public services and capacity has been significant, the labour market has been actively intervened in to promote greater equality and fairness, and we have stayed true to our internationalist roots by wisely keeping out of the quagmire in Iraq.

Political management issues aside, this government has basically stayed faithful to the people that put it in place. So while also facing an invigorated Opposition, my feeling is very much that NZ Labour is in a far stronger position to hold on to a base of support large enough to make centre-left government possible in the medium to long run.



One down!

2007-05-03T23:43:04.812+12:00

Jacqui Dean's Easter Trading ammendment Bill has suffered a deserved defeat, going down 84 votes to 37. Media coverage of the issue and vote has been predictably limp, with this TV3 report all I could find. It's sort of as if we've now had our big parliamentary conscience vote show-down for the year, and reporting on the issues around another significant decision would just be too much of a stretch.

As the more hardline of the two Bills, it was reasonably likely that Dean's effort would go down in a ball of flames, leaving the door open for the more moderate Chadwick Bill to pick up wider support from MP's sensitive to the finely tuned whinging of some in the retail sector. So, the fight goes on.

With the Child Discipline Bill tidied up with such astonishing speed, the legislative agenda has actually started chugging along again, and I think that debate on the Chadwick Bill is imminent.

Nonetheless, it's never a bad time to sign a petition for a good cause, so anyone out there who wants to oppose the Bill just contact me for an e-mailed copy.



Kill the Bills

2007-04-30T21:37:21.470+12:00

The brouhaha over Sue Bradford’s child discipline Bill has overshadowed another looming conscience vote of great significance. National MP Jacqui Dean and Labour MP Steve Chadwick have each produced Bills that seek to dismember Easter trading restrictions. Both Bills, having been delayed by the Bradford Bill , are coming up for Second Readings in the House. For an outline of the legislative process to date (and a little commentary to boot), read Sue Bradford's speech to the House here.The two Bills are each slightly different. Essentially Dean’s Bill allows for all shops to trade on Easter Friday and Sunday. Steve Chadwick’s Bill, tailored more for tourist towns like her own Rotorua, allows for Territorial Authorities to decide whether trading on these days will be permissible. While Chadwick’s Bill is the lesser of two evils, both are obnoxious pieces of legislation that ought to be rejected.There are currently just 3.5 days per year on which trading is restricted (Easter Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac morning, and Christmas Day). These 3.5 days represent small islands of quality time away from the pressures of work and consumerism. New Zealanders currently work some of the longest hours in the OECD, and with an increasing trend towards unpredictable casual and rotational work, and longer opening hours, many hundreds of thousands of New Zealand workers, particularly in retail, are truly starved of time with family and friends.These remaining protected days allow our communities to come together to do the things that help knit us together – to commune around a BBQ, to attend Church (if that’s your thing), to enjoy a long weekend away from home, or simply for everyone to be together at home with no pressure to work and no pressure to buy.The Anglican Archbishops have issued a thoughtful statement against the Bills in which they identify an absolutist market philosophy as being at the heart of the Bills, and question “Are we simply consumers, running like hamsters on a wheel in a marketplace, or is there more to us than this?"I believe that this issue is one of conflicting rights. Is the unfettered right to buy goods and make money more important that the right of New Zealanders to spend quality time together in our communities? Both Bill’s, shamefully, support the first proposition. There should also be no mistake about the intentions of those in industry who have driven the Bill. Once the principle is established that trading on Easter Friday and Sunday is OK, then why would Anzac morning and Christmas Day be any different?However, all is not lost! For an Anglican trade unionist such as myself, the Bills have provoked a dream coalition of Churches and Unions to come together to protect the Easter Holidays. Labour MP’s Darien Fenton and Mark Gosche are involved, as is United Future’s Gordon Copeland. Both the Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the Anglican Social Justice Commission have swung in behind, while the NDU, as the union for retail workers, has been campaigning hard on the issue for months.One of the key initiatives of this coalition of Churches and Unions is a nationwide petition. Slightly frustratingly, it is as yet unavailable online, although this is being worked on. For those of us with an interest in the ability for the Progressive Christian community to engage and organise with the broader progressive community, this joint campaign could serve as a real model for future co-operation on social justice issues.Anyone who wants petitions should feel free to contact me. You can also send an e-mail direct to targetted MP’s from the NDU website.[...]



Really Busy

2007-03-05T21:36:17.455+13:00

Not much time for blogging at the moment due to everything happening at once at work. Likely to be a bit like this through most of March.



Bugger the Billboards

2007-02-19T23:03:09.492+13:00

Auckland City’s attempt to control advertising signs and billboards around the city deserves a cheer. There aren’t too many bouquet’s for the move in the media, with the political right working itself into a self-righteous slather in defence of the right of the advertising industry to invade our public space, and the Herald running one of its small-minded campaigns in defence of those noble nation builders of the outdoor advertising industry.

The Councillors who have proposed the by-law changes have primarily justified the move on the basis of improving visual amenity in the city. Quaint Edwardian facades clearly lose something of their gentle charm with Dan Carter’s crotch competing for attention next door. While there is definitely some merit to this argument, my main reason for supporting the by-law has more to do with the right of citizens to go about their business in public space, without the constant and aggressive mental intrusion of advertising.

The purpose of advertising (as distinct from store signage that identifies where a shop is and promotes it generally) is to influence your mental processes and convince you to buy something, that presumably you would otherwise not. We are driven (in part) by this advertising to believe that consuming more and more will make us happier, when in fact the evidence continues to mount that mindless commodity fetishism is a self-perpetuating cycle by which we become disappointed by the failure of new products to truly satisfy us, yet convinced that the only solution is to buy more (think – “140 000 troops won’t do it, I’ll try 20 000 more").

I object thoroughly to the advertising industry’s role in this cycle, and am increasingly sickened by the quasi-scientific approach taken by professional marketers to scientifically target messages to certain people in an attempt to create a pavlovian impulse to buy.

Sickened as I am, I can live with it in spaces that we have some control over. We can chose to change the channel when the ads come on (or not turn the TV on at all), we can decide not to buy 250 page glossy magazines that devote 165 pages to advertising, pop up settings can be changed on our browsers, and spam filters installed.

However, when the advertising industry moves into our public spaces such as streetscapes as billboards and signage increasingly have (and semi-public spaces like buses), we lose that control. Every person has an equal right to be in these spaces, and in my view to be there without being mentally pestered at every turn. I have no doubt that the constant pressure to buy created by the advertising industry at every juncture of the day is a contributor to feelings of stress, anxiety, and inadequacy in our society.

Why should we tolerate this in our public spaces? Pestering people to buy more crap is not a fundamental human right.

Brian Rudman also very helpfully points out that the by-law is unlikely to actually affect the business of genuine local traders.

My hope is that the hearings process will result in a by-law that remains firm on the key tenets of the proposal, while allowing some sensible compromise and refinement on the rules governing store signage. You can join me in submitting here.



Progressive Christian Resources

2007-02-11T09:11:06.537+13:00

I've added a new menu down the right hand side that lists Progressive Christian resources on the blogosphere/web that I find interesting or go to from time to time.

If anyone else has any sites or blogs they would recommend then just let me know.



Helen Duncan

2008-12-13T11:11:14.410+13:00

(image)
Some sad news came through yesterday with the death of former Labour MP Helen Duncan. Helen had been battling cancer for quite a few years.

I didn’t have a huge amount to do with Helen, but met her and Alan on a number of occasions at Labour and union events. Helen was warm and engaging, and extremely down to earth – despite her status as a government MP, she had no aires or graces about her.

In particular I recall her kindness when as a rookie candidate in 2002, I was at some kind of large scale business/ethnic sector event. One of those ones where you don’t know anybody, and apart from engaging in some banal small talk there is little for the Labour candidate for Pakuranga to do. For whatever reason Helen and Alan were there, and Helen no-doubt recognising the signs of a bewildered and slightly at sea candidate, proceeded to very diplomatically take me under her wing as we moved around the room. A small but telling kindness.

A good story, dear to my heart also emerged from the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee, of which Helen was a member, that heard the Employment Relations Bill 2000. The then Head of Westpac Employee Relations (the people who deal with the union) was submitting, and commented that Westpac had over 6000 employees and that changes to employment law had significant consequences for them. I’m paraphrasing here, but Helen said something like “6000 people to negotiate with, wow, that’s a huge commitment in time, people and resources”. “Yes” said the ER Head, “With 6000 employees, running the negotiating process is a huge commitment”. “Well” said Helen, “having more of them come under one Collective Agreement as this Bill promotes will save you a lot of time and money then won’t it?”. “Ummm, well, if you look at it like that, I, ummm, suppose so” continued the beaten bank lobbyist. Touche Helen!

Helen’s background was with NZEI where she was President between 1993 and 1995 and played a major part in some key union battles at that time. She was at the forefront of the fight to keep the primary sector collectivised in the early 1990s as the ECA began to bite, fought against the introduction of bulk funding, and was President at the time NZEI won the historic right to pay parity with secondary teachers.

My thoughts are with Alan and the rest of Helen’s family.



The Maori Party and Maori Political Power

2007-02-07T18:05:03.902+13:00

Since the formation of the Maori Party, its relationship with National has been a topic of media speculation, and a cause of much angst on the left. The debate was sparked again last week with twin kicks in the guts for the MP from John Key who confirmed National’s policy to abolish the Maori seats, and to not support the first reading of the MP’s bill to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act.The media analysis of this issue tends to be shallow and transitory. Instead of focusing on the talks that National and the MP are having talks this week about issue x, we should instead look at why it is that the MP is behaving the way it is in the Parliament, and where the MP will position itself in the long-term:Maori PowerWhile the catalyst for the formation of the MP was the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, the networks, ideas, and activists that are brought together in the Party did not spring up wholly formed at that time. Rather, Maori have been organising, and growing their political power over a number of decades.Activism and protest, particularly through the 1970s and 1980s gave Maori a voice in the body politic and brought Maori political issues to the forefront of public consciousness. Most importantly, this activism and protest delivered results. The establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal, key legal victories that secured Maori rights, the Treaty Settlement process, and just as importantly thriving Maori cultural, NGO, and business sectors, all stemmed from the activism and protest of the 1970s and 1980s. Through this, Maori won a degree of political power.The Limits of ActivismAs the organised labour movement of the early Twentieth Century found however, activism and protest have their limits. The New Zealand Labour Party was formed against the backdrop of crushing defeats for the labour movement such as the Waihi Miners strike, which led union leaders such as Savage and Fraser to realise that the labour movement needed to win power through the democratic process in order to fulfill their political ambitions.The Foreshore and Seabed Bill and the associated hikoi was a case in point. Sure, 20 000 people took to the streets of Wellington to vent their anger and apply pressure, but ultimately the Bill had the numbers and got through. Defeating the Bill actually required a parliamentary presence that could organise 61 ‘no’ votes (I incidentally support the Act as a pragmatic balancing of interests).Transition to political power – contradictions and compromisesIn winning four of the Maori seats and taking seats in Parliament, the Maori Party has moved to establish this political power to compliment the powerbase of Maori across marae, iwi organisations, NGO’s, and businesses across New Zealand, and sometimes seen on the streets. It is in this context that the Maori Party’s behaviour needs to be considered.Parliamentary representation brings with it a range of contradictions and the need for compromise. For instance, how does the Maori Party reconcile the fact that it was born out of opposition to a Labour Party Bill, with the fact that Labour’s programme has delivered huge tangible gains for Maori? On all of the key indicators – unemployment, income levels, access to healthcare etc, Maori have moved ahead under this government at a faster rate than the general population.Well, in the Maori Party’s case you basically ignore it. Instead you focus on issues of culture and sovereignty that provide a contrast to Labour’s position. The MP has had precious little to say on macro-economic policy or (more surprisingly) even on economic development. Naturally this is frustrating for a Labour government that has invested hugely in the economic and social development of Maori, but it is simply a natural consequence of the MP finding a political voi[...]



Progressive Christianity

2007-02-01T23:28:31.635+13:00

One of the intentions of this blog is to generate some discussion about Progressive Christianity. There is a significant gap in our public discourse for people of Christian faith who believe that the Christian message is one of social and economic justice, tolerance, and compassion. While there has been a long history of Christian Social Justice campaigning (think about Michael Joseph Savage’s “Applied Christianity” of the Hikoi of Hope), the loudest Christian voices in public debate across the Western world tend to belong to those who want to exclude and judge anyone different, and ignore the poor.Because Progressive Christians, in stark contrast to conservative Christians, have on the whole been ineffective at publicly enunciating what we stand for, I think that most people outside of the Church would struggle to identify just what Progressive Christianity is. If pushed I imagine that the term conjures up a fairly wishy-washy version of Christianity – nice accepting folk, living and dressing for the late 70s, and not really believing in much aside from being pleasant to one another.This is unfortunate because there are clear and powerful principles underlying Progressive Christianity that have huge relevance for today's public discourse. What follows is not a manifesto, but a summary of some of the key points Progressive Christian principles that motivate me:Moral Rights and WrongsThe religious right like to contrast their unambiguous beliefs about a range of ‘moral’ issues with the more tolerant views of others, claiming essentially that this is evidence that they believe in clear moral rights and wrongs, and that contrarily, the rest of us are coasting on some post-modern acid trip on which anything goes.Nothing could be further from the truth. Progressive Christianity is in fact all about the fact that we live in a world in which there are clear moral rights and wrongs, and choices to be made. We just disagree (sometimes) on what the rights and wrongs are. Brian Tamaki holds that two consenting men having sex is a moral wrong that Christians should mobilise against. I hold that 21% of our children living below the poverty line is a moral wrong, condemned by scripture repeatedly, and something upon which we must act.Progressive Christians in my view actually need to drop some of the more namby-pamby rhetoric, and in the spirit of the great Christian social justice campaigners of the Nineteenth Century label some of the great injustices of our world for the moral crimes that they are – and then act to change things.The Centrality of ScriptureWhile Progressive Christianity is accepting of the right of other faiths to draw inspiration from their traditions, this does not mean that we forget about our own traditions, and the centrality of the Bible in that tradition.Jim Wallis is a Progressive Christian leader from the USA, who comes from the evangelical movement, and has a long history in the civil rights and social justice movements. In books such as Gods Politics – why the American right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it, he repeatedly returns to scripture as a source of inspiration, to uncover truths about the human condition and God, and to search for solutions to our problems.He rightly points out that the biblical imperative to act to end poverty and bring about social justice is overwhelming. Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the disciples raged about injustice, and our obligation to act. The Bible remains as central to the the faith for Progressive Christians as it does for other Christians.Inclusive not ExclusiveThere is an interesting passage in John 21-28 in which Jesus initially refuses to deal with a woman because she is a Canaanite and not a Jew. He compares her to a dog – nice. Wha[...]



Radio New Zealand National...

2007-01-31T20:12:16.660+13:00

...sounds like patronising branding bullshit.

Hold on, I'm already listening to you. You don't need to sell me on the "product" or create "brand awareness". Save the money on the marketing hack who came up with this nonsense and hire another reporter.



Dead Possums and Nice Views

2008-12-13T11:11:14.624+13:00

(image)
One of the fantastic things about the Roskill area is the interesting and varied natural environment. Not many people know it, but snaking along the Manukau Harbour foreshore is the largest area of native bush on the Auckland Isthmus.

This bushy strip starts out where SH20 winds down towards Onehunga, continues along the coast around Hillsborough, nestles around a number of bays and beaches at Waikowhai (my local patch) and Blockhouse Bay, before continuing on towards Green Bay and beyond. There is an impressive array of native bush, historic tracks and buildings, and native birdlife within the area.

In amongst the Punga, Puriri, and Pohutakawa, are signs of the areas colonial heritage. A cobbled road that once carried log laden wagons from the Waitakere’s can still be spotted at some points, and there is an old abandoned stone building in the Waikowhai reserve that presumably serviced this trade.

This urban oasis is however under threat from filthy, dim-witted, aggressive, venereal disease infected Australian ex-pats. Possums (along with assorted other pests of the rodent-kind), loads of the buggers, make their syphilitic homes high in the trees along the foreshore where they alternate between breeding and gorging on the native flora. Once the trees and berries are stripped by possums, there is precious little room or food for our unique (but pretty helpless) native birdlife.

This is where Auckland City’s volunteer programme comes into play. The programme is co-ordinated by a Council Officer who organises groups of local people to run pest control programmes, plant trees, maintain tracks, clear rubbish from waterways, and a range of other activities at some of the major parklands across Auckland. The programme at Waikowhai has been running since 2004, and has focussed on pest eradication – this being the first step needed to create a wild-life sanctuary right on the Auckland isthmus that could potentially be fenced off as a predator-free zone for the introduction of a wider variety of native birds.

I became involved in the programme in 2005, and have over recent months gone out a couple of times per week to check and clear traps. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get some exercise, enjoy the local scenery, and contribute something locally. Anyone in Auckland interested in volunteering in a similar way should just follow the link above.

I’ve attached a few photos of the reserve from around Lynfield where I have been active recently. If anyone wants any more information about the various tracks along the Manukau, then feel free to e-mail me.

* Photo's aren't uploading at the moment but I'll add these later.



New Blogger

2007-01-25T08:04:51.322+13:00

Have a look at single malt social democrat

Carl is a friend of mine, with a tinder dry sense of humour whose blog will be well worth watching. I think he is going to blog on a combination of political issues and book reviews.



McMillan - Out (again)

2007-01-25T07:54:08.186+13:00

A fourth obsession of mine is cricket, so for those of you who don't appreciate the great summer game, perhaps skip to the next post.

Cactus Kate has started a campaign of persecution against New Zealand batsman Craig McMillan. As far as campaigns of persecution go, this one is relatively justified.

McMillan’s stats simply don’t stack up. His average, and conversion rate to match winning 50s and 100s are just too low, even when put alongside the rest of the under-performing New Zealand top order.

Most critically in my view, McMillan has failed to develop as a player. Although the available records don’t allow for this, I am quite sure that a season by season analysis would show that his figures have not significantly improved, if at all, over the decade he has spent in the national team.

McMillan consistently plays with the same reckless abandon that is guaranteed to get him out for an insignificant score 7 times out of ten. With a decade of top flight coaching and experience he has failed to apply himself and remedy basic errors in his game such as his inability to leave good balls just outside the off-stump. Time and time again he is dismissed mindlessly wafting at balls that a more focused player would recognise as hard to play, and leave.

This happened repeatedly in his innings of 89 last week, and it was only a matter of luck that he was not given out caught behind while still in single figures. This lack of self-assessment and willingness to apply himself to improving his game is in my view the main reason he should not continue to be selected. It’s a pity because McMillan has some real batting talent, and when in form he sees the ball like a watermelon.

For several years now, my view has been that the logical replacement for McMillan in the team is Scott Styris. While is batting average is far from stellar yet, he shows signs of application and improvement. Critically too, in his shorter international career, he has been far more effective at turning starts into match winning hundreds – something the New Zealand team (a scratchy win over England notwithstanding) desperately needs.



Updating Blog

2007-01-22T22:05:54.069+13:00

Quite a few of the details on this blog - website links, the blogroll, etc, have become pretty out of date since I was last regularly blogging in mid 2005.

I'm slowly updating all of these, so apologies for any dead links, and the lack of new links. If you have a blog or site that you would like added please just leave a comment here.

Cheers,
Michael.



Labour in 07: Investment

2007-01-22T21:29:19.942+13:00

The PM has given some clear indications about the government’s policy priorities for the year, and fairly typically the mainstream media has failed to provide much analysis or comment on this. The media focus is very much on the issue of caucus and cabinet renewal, but it is a mistake to think that renewal is just about different bums on parliamentary seats – it is not. A renewal of ideas, policies, and thinking is just as critical.Think about the National administrations of 1990 – 1999. In terms of the personnel, there was actually significant turnover, particularly of those at cabinet level. Jim Bolger, Max Bradford, John Banks, Philip Burdon, Paul East, John Falloon, Peter Gresham, Doug Kidd, and Denis Marshall are just some of the Ministers who turned over between 1993 and 1999. National’s Leader, Deputy, and Finance spokespeople all turned over within the three terms. Yet by 1999, the National government (crippled admittedly by a series of dodgy coalition arrangements) was seen as tired and out of ideas.So the vigour and vitality of a government is about far more than simply how new the MP’s and Ministers are. While it is clear that some new blood in the Labour lineup is needed over the next year or so, renewal is about far more than this. The PM’s recent comments have been positive in this regard. She has highlighted the following issues as key areas for work over 2007:EducationEducation has been highlighted as “the area (where) the initiatives need to go”. This is an excellent move. There is a clear need for increased investment, particularly in the compulsory sector where the case for increased operational funding is strongly made - and doing so will highlight the emptiness of John Key’s “aspirational” rhetoric. We will need to contrast increased investment in our schools with National’s default setting in this area – attacking teachers, whinging about NCEA without providing any solutions, and banging on about bulk funding as if it actually does anything to improve the delivery of education to children.The same should happen in regards to the implementation of the 20 hours per week free early childhood education policy. Getting every single three and four year old into early childhood education is one of the best things we can do to ensure that literacy, numeracy, and social cohesion improve – particularly in our poorer communities. This is an expensive policy and the implementation is difficult (the intransigence and greed of many private providers being a significant obstacle), but it is happening, and Key needs to be made to front up on whether a future National government would continue the investment, or spend the hundreds of millions on tax-cuts for mates in the Parnell millionaires club.If by the end of 2007 we have seen a significant increase to Operations funding for schools, fulfillment of the 20 hours free policy, and progress on the election pledge of reducing class sizes to fifteen for five year olds, then Labour will be able to head into election year with a clear record of using our national resources to invest in the core public services that matter to most people.Climate ChangeWith several policy papers out for public consultation, the government has succeeded in starting a national conversation about the issue. While it is clear that there are no quick and easy fixes, and that a strategy needs to be rolled out over a number of years to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it will be important that some policy work is concluded in 2007. Some tangibles need to be implemented by late this year or early next.There i[...]



As the Bishop said to the Editor

2007-01-19T22:39:27.929+13:00

The debate sparked by Bishop Richard Randerson’s recent comments in the Herald about the nature of God is significant for two reasons – the very fact that such a debate has taken place in the mainstream media, and the public intolerance displayed by some conservative Christians in response.For several surprising days this week, the dialogue and letters pages of the national paper have been dominated by responses to the Bishop’s acknowledgment that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God, and his belief in God as something other than a guy with a beard “up there”. Letter writers, guest columnists, Herald writers, and other clergy all chimed into the debate. There was conservative outrage at this “heresy”, plenty of liberal letters making great use of the word “inclusive”, and a strident band of atheists maintaining that every calamity and genocide in history was the fault of the previous two groups.But there it was – a discussion about the nature of God laid out bare for all to see and think about. As the earlier heretic Lloyd Geering pointed out in the 1960s, this discussion is not new. Debate about the nature of God has gone on across all faiths, and within the Judeo-Christian tradition, since Adam was a boy – somewhere between six thousand and two million years ago. Biblical texts such as Song of Solomon, or Mark’s contributions to the New Testament strikingly talk about a God more along the lines of Bishop Randerson’s “God as life-giving spirit flowing through all creation”, than of a thunder bolt wielding chap in robes.Geering points out that across the Christian Church, clergy have been actively having this debate for at least a hundred years, and congregations have not been far behind. My feeling is however that most outside the Church are not aware of these strands of belief. Rather, it is the traditional image of God (with all that this implies – something I will write on more later) that most agnostics or atheists think of if asked to identify who/what ‘God’means. For most, it is a concept that in our post-enlightenment age simply doesn’t compute.For this reason, the opening up of the debate publicly can only be a good thing for the Church.Or at least it would be if the debate is conducted with respect and tolerance. Randerson’s comments were notable for this. Nowhere in them is any denigration of the traditional view of God, or criticism of traditional Christians for their genuinely held beliefs in this regard.Contrarily, the conservative reaction dripped with bile. Randerson was a “heretic”, he shouldn’t be a priest let alone a Bishop, the decline of the Church is down to people like him, he roasts tabby kittens in tubs of baby lard etc… It was a sadly predictable reaction, reflective of people with a siege mentality, and ignorant of the diverse strands of belief that have shaped Christianity over two thousand years.A traditional view of God is still relevant for many Christians, and will continue to be so. Equally, there is an alternative paradigm that views God and faith in a different that has many followers. Both groups need to work together in a spirit of irenicism to build a Church that stops looking inwards, and instead goes out into the community to seek justice for the kind of people that Jesus spent his time with – the poor, the sick, the dispossessed, and desperate.These people probably wouldn’t have even read the Herald this week.[...]



New Blog

2007-01-19T00:22:06.370+13:00

The last proper entry on this site contains graphical analysis of the electoral swing across non-Labour held seats in Auckland.

I sincerely promise to attempt to think a bit more creatively about content on this new incarnation - at least until Election 08.

This blog will focus on 3 big things in my life - Labour, life in Roskill, and Progressive Christianity. I also have some other things in my life, so I'll probably be posting 1-2 times per week.

Feel free to comment, even if you're a vindictive, embittered right winger who views the world through the prism of money.

Cheers,
Michael.



Under re-construction

2006-09-10T19:45:37.458+12:00

Restarting again soon hopefully.



Just Dozing

2006-02-06T16:37:24.630+13:00

Given that this was a campaign blog, you will notice that posts ceased after the September 2005 election.

With NZ politico's of varying affiliation clogging up the blogosphere with contributions that vary from incisive to inane, I haven't seen too much point in carrying on with another standard-type blog.

Currently thinking about some different options and plan to have something up and running on this site in early March 2006.

Michael.



Polarisation: The Stats tell the story

2005-09-22T22:48:16.913+12:00

Labour Vote Trend: Labour Held v. Non Labour Held Some extremely interesting trends emerge on analysis of the Election night results.The primary trend is of increased political polarisation. Simply put, National areas moved to National in proportionately higher numbers than elsewhere, and Labour areas moved away from Labour in proportionately lower numbers than elsewhere.The overall result saw Labour fall marginally from 41.26% in 2002, to 40.74% on Election night this year, a small swing away from Labour of 1.26%. The polarisation trend can be observed by looking at the Labour vote across Auckland electorates and seeing how this trend was distributed.The graph above shows three things:- The flat yellow line in the middle represents the 1.26% fall in the Labour vote across the country.- The pink line represents Party vote results in Labour-held Auckland seats.- The blue line represents Party vote results in non-Labour held Auckland seats.The picture is simple, in all non Labour-held seats, where the Labour vote was weaker to begin with, the swing against Labour has been bigger than the nationwide average. The percentage decrease in the Labour vote in these seats varied between 5.8% (North Shore) and 15.15% (Rodney). Pakuranga was 6.84%.However, in most Labour held seats, the picture is reversed. In all but two of these seats, the Labour vote held up better than the nationwide average. In four (Mangere, Auckland Central, Manurewa, and Mt Albert) the Labour Party vote actually increased.The stark differences in Party vote increase/decrease between Labour-held and non Labour-held seats in Auckland confirms the theory of increased political polarisation that has been bandied around in reference to the rural/urban divide.The trend is also evident within the Pakuranga results.Our overall Party vote decrease was 6.84%. For administrative purposes the Returning Officer breaks down the booths in the electorate into the geographic sub-groups of Bucklands Beach (worst for Labour historically), Howick (middling), and Pakuranga (best for Labour historically). When the results are broken down into these groups we see:- Labour vote in Howick down by 14.39%- Labour vote in Bucklands Beach down by 8.41%- Labour vote in Pakuranga down by just .79%If the Pakuranga segment is broken down further to remove the Farm Cove and Sunnyhill booths which are very strong for National, we are left with what we call 'Pakuranga South', the area that has had far and away the strongest Labour vote historically. In this area our vote actually climbed by .91% compared to the nationwide dip of 1.26%. The strongest Labour booths such as Anchorage Park (+2.6%), Elm Park (+4.88%), Pakuranga Heights (+6.02%), and Riverhills (+11.56%) saw good Labour gains.So internally, the pattern matches the picture across Auckland - National areas solidifying for National, Labour areas solidifying for Labour. Polarisation.And here's an example of what won this tightest of tight elections for Labour:Turnout Increase in Pakuranga:Bucklands Beach (7143-7617) - 6.64%Howick (7304-7645) - 4.67%Pakuranga (12649-14110) - 11.55%Hard graft and on the ground organisation to get out the Labour vote, that's what won it. Despite the Presidential style campaign, flash billboards, blogs, and multi-media gimmicks, it was on the ground campaigning in the end.[...]



Campaign Highs and Lows

2005-09-20T20:43:38.660+12:00

There's a pile of campaign analysis out there in the blogosphere, and I'll have some on the Pakuranga campaign tomorrow once I've finished the number crunching (some very interesting trends emerging already).

In the meantime, the good bits, and not so good bits from an extremely long, tough campaign in Pakuranga:

Lows

- The poll blues. Whatever anyone says, and whatever you know about long-term trends, margins of errror and the time frames involved, candidates still live and die from poll to poll. Given this, one's mental health took on something of a schitzophrenic quality over this camapign.
- Long days and nights away from home.
- Absolute exhaustion in the last couple of weeks. Literally falling asleep in the middle of phone calls is a good sign that you need a bit more rest.
- The odd socially disfunctional jerk who insists on turning any political discussion into a personal slanging match.
- War wounds. Campaign helpers torn to bits by dogs, strange and horrific blood blisters after hoarding expeditions gone wrong...


Highs

- The door-knocking campaign. Almost universally well-received, and worth the effort when we align the areas we intensively canvassed, with our results.
- Campaign Committee meetings. I had what every good campaign needs - a tight, focussed campaign committee that put together and implemented a sound plan. Thanks Angela, Jeff, Patrick, and John.
- This Blog. Proved to be a good campaign tool, and created more local interest than I had envisaged.
- The debates. The first was an out and out butting of heads with Judith Collins, and I was very happy with the outcome. The second was a lower key, quite fun affair that also went well.
- Assisting local residents. Campaigning brings you into contact with local residents who sometimes need a hand dealing with Council/Govt dept etc... I enjoyed the opportunity to help out in these kinds of cases.
- Campaign blitz days. Hitting targetted parts of the electorate with a group of activists. The best day was when we convereged on the Ennis Ave area in late June, and leafletted and doorknocked the place to within an inch of it's life. We got our best vote increase at the local booth.
- The final burst. That final two week burst of campaigning was exhilirating. We knew that the election could go either way, and that everything we did counted. Alot of coffee and Berocca kept me going.
- The people who spontaneously came out of the woodwork to help. Folk like Louise who helped scrutineer on the day, and Christine whose female presence while giving out education policy information outside schools, ensured that I didn't look like a paedophile.
- The night. What an absolute spectacle. I knew we were going to win when we pulled even, and then the next set of electorate graphics showed Labour strongholds Mangere, Manukau East, and Manurewa with 60-70% of votes still to count.

Tomorrow... the local numbers!



Every Vote Counts

2005-09-16T00:08:46.176+12:00

This will be my last post before Election Day, and if if can communicate just one thing, I hope it is that every vote counts on Saturday.

It is absolutely clear that this is the tightest election race in a generation, and that the choices are very stark.

On Saturday New Zealanders can choose the short-term silver bullet of tax cuts, or we can choose to invest in our shared future.

Over the past six years we have worked hard to build a strong economy that serves all New Zealanders, not just the wealthy few. We have strong growth, low unemployment, decreasing child poverty, and we have implemented a range of positive measures such as the re-establishment of apprenticeships that put us in a good position to prosper in the future.

We have also developed into a proud, confident nation. I have never been so proud to be a Kiwi or a member of the NZ Labour Party as I was when the US & UK illegally and immorally invaded Iraq, and we stood firm on our principles and refused to participate.

This Labour government has not been perfect, but I genuinely believe that we have honoured the commitments we made in 1999 and 2002, and that we have a positive plan for the future. Policies such as interest-free student loans, more modern apprentices, smaller class sizes for 5 year olds, and the expanded rates rebate scheme represent a comprehensive programme to invest in our future, and to share the benefits of our national wealth.

On the local front I have enjoyed the Pakuranga campaign immensely. I can honestly say that I have never worked so hard in my life. We have done everything that we could have to connect with the voters of the electorate, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many local residents face to face.

For the assistance and support offered by my wonderful campaign team of Patrick, Angela, Jeff, and John, I am incredibely grateful. For my wife's forbearance, patience, and support over the past 9 months of campaigning I am also indebted.

On Saturday I simply ask that Pakuranga voters think carefully about the sort of country we want to build, and look closely at the policies on offer. Any local residents who may find it difficult to reach a polling booth on the day are welcome to contact me for assistance.

Best of luck everyone. See you on the other side!