marsden_online: (write)
These evening I posted a lengthy comment on a Stuff.co.nz opinion piece titled Andy Towers: New Zealand doesn't have a culture of youth drinking, my words stewing overnight and this morning after the first wave of commenters apparently failed to read and comprehend even the first two paragraphs. I'm happy to say some more intelligent voices had arisen in the meantime.

Quoting substantial chunks of the piece because I don't expect the above link to last forever...
I'm tired of headlines in recent years declaring New Zealand has a "youth drinking culture".

I'm tired because this claim is a lie. Not the part about youth drinking; that definitely happens. The lie is that we have a youth drinking culture. Drinking is not a 'youth culture' issue; it's a New Zealand culture issue.

A potted history of New Zealand shows we've always had an alcohol problem...
...
In 2012 we had an opportunity to change. The Law Commission had reviewed our history of drinking and it recommended substantial law changes to reduce alcohol-related harm. These recommendations were wholeheartedly supported by much of the general public, many community groups, and almost all health professionals and the police.

What happened? The politicians we voted for decided against change. All of the evidence-based recommendations for change were ignored, including those that would reduce harmful outcomes in youth.

At no time have any of today's youth voted on legislation that has given rise to our current binge drinking culture...
...
Is there any light at the end of this tunnel? Yes. Recent statistics show youth appear to be changing our country's drinking culture by themselves. Ministry of Health statistics show the proportion of past year drinkers among those aged 15-24 dropped from 84 per cent in 2006 to 76 per cent last year, with the most substantial drop among those aged 15-17 (from 75 per cent down to 57 per cent).
...
Youth drinking culture should not be something we complain about anymore. We should instead complain about New Zealand's drinking culture. We are responsible for the drinking culture that our youth are navigating but they at least appear to be contemplating change.

Should current trends continue, youth in the 2020s might well be correct to complain about the appalling drinking culture of middle-aged and older New Zealanders.

My comment:

No one denies we have a problem with young people unable or unwilling to match their drinking to their limits, and the strain this puts on our health services and communities. But to blame them for following in the footsteps of older relatives, to somehow "know better" despite their constant exposure to this being the way things are done when you reach a certain age is to deny our own responsibility. It is to pass it off with a genial, perhaps nostalgia tinted "well that what I was like at that age" instead of standing up responsibly and saying to the next generations "I did these things and they were /stupid/ things, please be better."

To draw parallels with another article* I read very recently (on another site) it is like blaming tenants for the state of the countries cold, damp housing stock when it is ...
- landlords and
- a succession of governments who put the least-well-off in our society last, backed up by
- a cultural belief that living in an icy or mould-infested flat is a rite of passage that happens to everyone when they go out on their own so people just need to harden up
... which keep it in that state.

[* link was not included in original comment to improve the chances of making it through moderation but I will put it here The Spinoff: The other housing crisis]

Preloading has been mentioned ... this is known to have increased alongside tighter regulation about who can be served and the growing expense of bar drinks compared to buying from the supermarkets or bottle stores. Without addressing the /reason/ people are drinking (I suggest because it is one of the few socially accepted/sanctioned ways to be seen to rebel) making it harder for them to drink in what should be safe spaces simply moves the activity elsewhere. Much like passing a law forbidding the homeless to take shelter in a particular area does nothing to address the actual social ills which have left them not even looked after by our so-called social welfare system, simply lets people feel that something has been done. The problem still exists, it has just been moved "out of sight, out of mind".

Until we (and that umbrella is going to be pretty much include everyone reading this article) stop implicitly or explicitly allowing intoxication to be used as a social get-out-of-jail-free card to excuse abusive (self or other) behaviour, *whatever the age group* young people are going to continue going through their growing years immersed in the idea that it's OK to drink heavily and do stupid shit once you hit a certain age, and the problem is not going to go away.

Fortunately as the author of the piece notes the generations coming through now may be on the way to changing that culture for their kids, who may be our grandkids ang great-grandkids. Will you help or hinder them?
marsden_online: (elf)
If I am honest I have been procrastinating starting this post. But I have also been rolling bits of it around and around in my head.

To start go and read the comic No 'I' in Sex from Toby Morris's PencilSword, if you haven't seen it already. The rest of this post will wait :)
continued )
marsden_online: (write)
Today I added my body to a Women's March here in Christchurch, a sister and supporting event to one focused on Washington, DC. Because,
- as their manifesto says, Women's Rights are Human Rights and I support that. Both in the specific and in the general sense that improving women's rights will by extension improve the lot of (at least) every other marginalised group containing women
- and I feel it is important for progress that men are seen to be supporting that, because sadly many men are still more likely to listen only to other men
- but also on another level because I feel it's also important for the well-being of men that women are seen and treated as equal.

Here I just want to pull together a few threads from around the internet on why I think there is still a long way to go in western, particularly New Zealand society.

1. From an early age boys have been told to "don't be a girl", teased for being "girly" or put down for "hitting like a girl" in response to failure, asking for help, or expressing any "negative" emotion except anger. As well as indoctrinating the idea that women are somehow less than men in both boys and girls from an early age this negative approach to dealing with emotions also contributes to New Zealand having one of the highest rates of youth suicide (especially among young men) in the developed world.

Things are getting better on this front (I believe) but there are generations of us still alive who need to challenge those ideas within ourselves and strive to do and teach better.

2. If a little boy pulls a little girl's hair "it means he likes you". Not only is the reverse not held to be true, this normalises attack (physical or emotional) as a form of showing affection. Follow the chain and you get coercion seen as a valid form of obtaining affection in the form of sex, women criticised for not responding positively to catcalls or unwanted advances, and "he only hits me because he cares".

Again, NZ has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world.

3. There's this thing about queer/gay being used as a slur. Why is it that being romantically/sexually attracted to men is percieved as a bad thing by other men?. I'm theorising here, but coming back to my first point could it be that being attracted to men is something women do, so it is another accusation of girliness? Or could it be, as beautifully laid out here that a lot of men are afraid that a man attracted to them will subject them to the same form of unwanted attention they know they give the "objects" (women) of their affection (or even passing interest)?

I believe that in our hearts we men (most of us anyway) know that this behaviour is wrong because we become uneasy at the idea of it being turned on us. Knowing that it is our responsibility to try and
- firstly face up to the discomfort and accept when we are called out on it, then try and do better.
- secondly publicly represent and model for that better behaviour
- the hardest of all (and I fail at this often myself; pick your battles): call our friends and family out on it and support others - whatever their gender, orientation or colour - when they call others out on it in our presence.

If men can step up and do this instead of passively supporting the status quo, then fairness for women (and intermediate/null genders) will come a lot faster than if they have to keep wading through us every step of the way.

~~~
With all that off my chest, here is the gallery from todays march.

Victoria Square to Cathedral Square
The leading banner
marsden_online: (write)
There's a bit of a zeitgeist going around at least in my echo chamber about 2016 and the deaths of a number of celebrities who were of great influence on my cohort in their formative years. I have been mostly an observer in all this as I have never really attached to a real-world role model in this way. Partly because growing up I never had exposure to the same mass-media which made them household names elsewhere, but as I read more about what each of these people meant and represented to people only a click away through social media it becomes clear that it is also greatly because as a cishet white male on an easy course through life I never needed that role-model to aspire to. (Which isn't to say that I wouldn't have been the better for some more varied role models in my life.)

This was particularly well summed up in what I think was a retweet I saw a couple of days ago but have been unable to find to quote exactly, thanking "Prince, David Bowie, George Michael for showing me there was more than one way to express masculinity". Searching has however shown that this is a very common sentiment.

Today it is Carrie Fisher (among others, to be sure) we are mourning; and I do mean we because although I do not have the same strong personal connection I am not so emotionally stunted that I can not respect and and share in the grief for a woman who stood for - and spoke out for - so much to so many.

But to quote one angry man we "lost" in 2015
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...”

These people and many others both past and still with us are the butterflies which create storms on the other side of the world with a flap of their wings. But they did (and do) it not by flexing their own but by inspiring others to do the same, until the beat of a million wings upon wings creates a force which can not be ignored.

With their passing the storms which are their legacy still rage and they will not be forgotten as long as those they inspired, and those whom are in turn inspired, over and over ... as long as we continue to beat our wings, sing their/our songs, carry their light*.

* I don't believe Princess Leia ever used a light sabre. But I believe wasn't entirely unrelated that that she was dressed in light/white, and Carrie stepped up to be a beacon in the real world.

~~~
It's particularly poignant for me that I write this today as I remember a friend of my own.
marsden_online: (loved)
This is something I wrote to someone who is finding everything too much at the moment. I have been asked to make it more widely available - if you feel it would help someone please feel free to share it. If that is the post, please use the Dreamwidth version. Link at bottom if you are reading this on LiveJournal.

~~~
I don't know you very well, we've maybe spoken a couple of times at parties and other than that only what I see on FB. But I'd like to share something I've learnt in times like these - we're /taught/ that it's a bad thing to be a "burden" but that's a lie. People will happily carry something (or someone) they see value in. Additionally the context always seems to consider the weight as if it all has to be borne by /one/ person. This is also false.

Sometimes we just have to accept little bits of ourselves being carried by different people as, when and how they can. And life is a complicated beast so sometimes individual people have to set down the responsibility or they (and we) have to let it pass to a different person.

And yes sometimes it feels that we are the only one left to carry our own weight with no hope of respite, and that can be a terrible, crushing, soul destroying feeling. But it is never, ever true. Sometimes we do drop pieces of ourselves along the trail, or cannibalise our ability to care about something to make it through another day. There is always hope. There is always another day. Someone will smile at us, even a stranger in the street, or comment on something we post and the weight will lift a little.

We all become a burden at some point in our lives. I believe it is just part of the human learning experience. When we come out the other side - granted not all do and every one of those is a loss worth grieving - we are better prepared and equipped to carry not only ourselves forward but others as well, strength permitting.

The comments on this post show you have a lot of people who see value in you, even if you don't, can't believe it right now. I certainly do even if all I have to offer are my words. They are willing to lift and carry you for a while. Trust them. Lie back and ride the crowd. Rest. Be well.
~~~

As a bonus here is a something else hopefully uplifting another of my friends shared.

marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
---
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/
---

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (write)
Submissions to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) close tomorrow (March 11) barely two months after the treaty was signed and text made available. About 3am on Monday morning my brain decided it was time to write something, but Ithen got distracted by actually reading MFATs National Interest Analysis (NIA) (the better to make an informed submission. It of course paints a far rosier picture of the expected outcomes.

This post has three parts:
1. Useful links
2. The text of my submission (done through the online form)
3. Other rant triggered by reading the NIA (this was going to be rants but I have run out of time :( )

~~~
Online submission form (very limited life expectancy) (you will need to complete the verification at the bottom of the page and then click the "Make an online submission" button below to actually get to the form)
The NIA (pdf)
MFAT TPPA subsite

~~~
I felt it best to make a measured submission just highlighting a few points of concern.
As a member of the public who has been following the no TPPA actions but has also found the time to read the NIA (but not the earlier published fact sheets) I would still like to express some some concerns about the process and implementation of this treaty.

1. I understand that there is always an element of confidentiality required in trade negotiations but the secrecy surrounding this one - and indeed continuing for years after ratification seems to have be unprecedented. Combined with the very short amount of time allowed for public, expert, and opposition party representative examination of the text and consultation I find it difficult to have confidence in the benefit to New Zealand of any legislative changes which may be required.

2. Speaking of benefits it is not at all clear from the NIA /how/ the people of NZ generally benefit from the signing of this treaty. "Economic growth" and a forecast boost to GDP are presented as as self-explanatory benefits without justification; but this would only be the case if the wealth generated flows to those who are less-well off.

As it stands this treaty would appear to deliver the most benefit to
- those who are /already/ established enough to partake in international trade and
- a small minority of future SMEs producing exportable goods/services who manage to become established against the now-increased competition from our trading partners.

In short this treaty seems to offer no great benefit for the majority of NZ citizens and business while exposing them to economic attack by better-resourced established competitors from abroad.

3. Following on from that if the NIA is accurate the ISDS clauses have been well ring-fenced to protect "public-good" issues but it still seems to be a risk that if a local company were to come up with a disruptive technology or process which could challenge established players but would require tweaks to our - or our treaty partners - legislation to implement effectively (a recent examples from the news might be the taxi service Uber) the established players would be able to use the ISDS or the threat thereof to hinder implementation in an anti-competitive fashion.

I am hopeful that the government of the day would have the fortitude to support our business and accept the costs required to set an example which would prevent this happening a second time; if nothing else this would quantify "the actual costs of responding are unknown" (NIA p55)

~~~
Nevertheless as it seems that the implementation of the legislative changes required is a foregone conclusion I

- would strongly support a clause which only brings the changes into /effect/ at the point the treaty comes into force in a form substantively like it's current form, rather than incurring the front-loaded costs and "giving away the farm" the having nothing to negotiate with should other parties decide /not/ to pass it through their respective legislatory procedures in it's current form.

- look forward to the strengthening of NZ's environmental protection, labour protection and transparency legislations to bring them in line with the treaty obligations as explained in the NIA.


~~~
Rant time.

The NIA is very bullish about the amount of consultation carried out

9.2 Public consultation process
The consultation process for TPP has been among the most extensive a New Zealand Government has undertaken for any trade negotiation. Throughout the negotiation process the MFAT, together with other government agencies, has been active in engaging with a wide spectrum of stakeholders on TPP.
...
Throughout the negotiation there were two public calls for submissions. MFAT invited initial public
submissions in October 2008 on entering into negotiations with the US to expand the P4 agreement.
A second invitation for public comment was made in 2011 following the expressions of interest from other countries to join the TPP negotiations (Canada, Japan and Mexico) to better understand the views and interests of New Zealanders with regards to these three economies.
MFAT received 65 responses to the initial invitation for submissions, which expressed a diverse
range of views on the TPP
...
Following the second invitation for public comment in 2011, MFAT received fifteen responses. Thirteen were from business (including business councils) and industry organisations. Two were from other governments - Canada and Mexico.
...
Extensive public outreach and consultation took place throughout the negotiation of TPP, using printed, emailed and website information, supported by extensive briefings, discussions and correspondence with key stakeholders on New Zealand’s negotiating objectives and process.

A primary portal of information on the negotiations was the MFAT website, and dedicated internet column, “TPP Talk”. TPP Talk was regularly updated with the status of negotiations. Both the website and column
encouraged feedback on TPP from the public. In seeking views on TPP, the Government sought to encourage debate on the issues, including links to groups holding a range of views on the MFAT website.
...
Hundreds of meetings took place, including with business groups, iwi, local councils, health sector
representatives, unions, NGOs, Members of Parliament and individuals to seek input on the TPP and
to help ensure a high quality outcome that reflects stakeholders’ interests.
...
In a new initiative that reflected the level of public interest in TPP, MFAT also made provision for
stakeholder engagement with regard to the two TPP negotiating rounds held in New Zealand. With
regard to the round of negotiations held in Auckland in December 2012, the Ministry organised a
stakeholder programme attended by 72 New Zealand participants as well as other stakeholders from overseas.

... and so on.

Strangely I do not recall /any/ of the relevant ministers or officials saying in response to the noTPPA movement and media coverage "Hey, here is where you can go to get more information and to have your say." Apparently the broader public of New Zealand (or other parties) are not considered "stakeholders" in our international treaties.

We know who other treaty partners considered stakeholders from the mega-companies and lobbyists who got to peek at the proceedings and drafts. I wonder who in NZ our government actually considered important enough to be a stakeholder?

I'm going to be generous and assume whoever produced this analysis is so blinkered that they actually believe this number of submissions is a reasonable outcome rather than a failure to communicate.

Moreover I believe that an organisation believing in or proactive about public consultation would have opened another round more recently than five years ago, given the increased public profile of opposition to the matter under consideration.
marsden_online: (write)
Many years ago someone defined me as "an information junkie". There is a particular type of information that draws me in more than any other though and that is details of other peoples lived experiences. This is the drive that sees me abandoning an evening into the small hours reading the comments on a post like [potential trigger warnings on all these]
- Scalzi's classics on being poor (the first I remember)
- more recently a metafilter thread on emotional labour
- a reddit thread about moments which led people to change the way they think
- a strong article on why women smile at men who harass them [short version: it's a proven survival tactic for continuing to maintain some control in a dangerous situation]

Articles on what it is like to be struggling with poverty or mental health or generaaly being someone other than a middle-aged comfortably well off white male make up a significant amount of the links I share through my FB feed, which I am well aware is mostly read by other people much like me.

Why do I feel this is so important? In short, "There but for the grace of ghod, go I". In a word awareness, but lets dig onto it a little deeper.

Fairness )
Compassion and courtesy )
Preparedness )
Understanding )
marsden_online: (write)
After all I am one of the lucky ones; not only did I not lose anyone directly in the quakes I even benefited materially from the "repairs" to my home*. My life and work were mostly unaffected and since have continued on a generally upwards trajectory.

*( Like many the assessment was questionable, the workmanship left something to be desired in places and the scope was "tightened" several times between assessment and implementation meaning some things which probably should have been done rather than others were not. But my claim was acted on (un)fairly quickly and my home was still in better condition when they finished than before the quakes.)

If I only paid attention to my own situation or that of people like myself that might leave me content. But my social circles contain many who were not so fortunate. Their homes, lives, families, studies, health ... have been massively disrupted and I do not choose to disregard their experiences and those I read of from further afield. For so many people the past five years have been one battle after another; not all quake related but certainly quake-exacerbated, and so much of it seems to have been unnecessary.

~~~
In some ways the February 14th aftershock this year was beneficial. Some people might have been in danger of believing the platitudes which will have been spouted today about how well we are all doing; how well the rebuild is progressing. Instead as PTSD kicked in and "old" responses rose sharply to the surface there was an up-swell of awareness that no, everything is not all right; yes, we still need help.

In the last five years we have seen proof (if there had been any doubt) that the insurance industry is more interested in holding on to its money than in meeting it's contracted obligations. We've seen the one locally owned insurance company which was by nature overexposed to the risk "bailed out" by the government then promptly chopped up; the "good" bit sold off to one of the same overseas re/insurance companies which fights determinedly to not return the money they have taken from other insurees in premiums over the years (IAG) and the "bad" bit put into limbo (Southern Response, which can only progress so far without the goverment actually stumping up some money to cover the work that needs doing).

We have seen that we have a government who are more interested in bottom lines and doing deals with those same insurance companies than in standing up for the rights of the people they purport to represent. More interested in a magical accounting "surplus" than in the wellbeing not only of Christchurch but of the entire country. Only interested frankly, to all intents and purposes to improve the lot of "people like them" no matter the cost to anyone else. Quick to promise financial relief but very slow to spend any money which would not already have been spent.

We have learnt that our EQC disaster recovery fund had already been plundered by the government (through simply directing it to put the money into government-issued bonds), and there is no indication this government has any plan to rebuild it against future need.

We have seen control of "Christchurch's Recovery" taken away from Christchurch from the word "help". Hijacked by people who are more interested in vanity projects (which they then turn around and demand the people of Christchurch make ourselves responsible for paying for) than in the places people live. More interested in cutting costs and corners than in the human cost or actual repair. More interested in being "in charge" than in delivering what a broken city needs.

Today, the 22nd, is a day for reflecting on what we have lost in and around Christchurch. Not just people and buildings but well-being, dignity and agency. So much of which has not been taken by the quakes themselves but by the deliberate actions and inactions of those who claimed the people of Christchurch would be "looked after".

For those outside Christchurch it might be worth thinking about, "if a major disaster struck where you are, what would you lose?"

Emma summed up neatly why in her earthquake anniversary post so I am going to borrow her words to finish. "Because this isn’t about the past, five years on. Things are still happening."
marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a business......no one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Marsden
Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Marsden
Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really correct....it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to think...business income can be as unpredictable as any job....in addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be payable....by contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate you....as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost..it is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business


Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

~~~
Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
- It "wasn't a problem in your day" aka "the youth of today" argument

- it wasn't happening /despite/ your obliviousness

- you have any right to disregard/diminish/dismiss other peoples lived experiences because they don't match your narrative

- you are in any way excused from trying to pull your weight in addressing the issue now that you /are/ aware of it.

Ref: Fix up, young men & subsequent comments thread
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
An acquaintance asked for suggestions on "worthy" investments in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. My reply became long enough to do double duty as a blog post :)
~~~
Advice no. Opinions and a little experience.

Rule 0. Don't invest (lend) anything you can't afford to lose.

1. A lot depends on what you want to get out of your investment, usually defined as income (periodic dumps of money into your daily account) or growth (it just sits there getting bigger - hopefully).
1a. There's a third approach, since you use the descriptor "worthy", and that is assessing your "return" based not on dollars but on social good. See below.

2. (NZ specific) if you aren't in / making that minimum ~$1050 into Kiwisaver each year, top that up first. The government 50% match is hands-down the best return available.
2a. (aside) as a young person if you are in a 'default', conservative Kiwisaver scheme get yourself moved into a growth scheme ASAP.

3. If you think you will need to free up that money in the short to medium term just put it in a term deposit, (lightly) managed/index fund or maybe Bonus Bonds.
3a. (Bonus Bonds) the anecdotal consensus seems to be that you need ~$5000 in Bonus Bonds before it becomes worth it. Initially I was getting about net 4.8% which is significantly better than current term deposit options, but that has dropped back recently so I may just have had a few lucky months.

4. If you want to go directly into the share market - probably don't unless you have the time to spend schooling yourself on how it works and on the companies you are looking at investing in, and the discipline to stick with an investment strategy during the down periods.
4a. (I have nothing but the family silver (energy company) shares that the National govt was giving away the past couple of years; every few months that has resulted in $30-$60 worth of dividends; past performance is no indicator of future performance etc.)

*Higher risk options*
5. If you can afford to lose the money or are more interested in outcomes than returns the place to look for "worthy" investments right now are the equity crowdfunding sites. Examples of projects I have funds committed to are Carbonscape (a cleantech company with technology capable of converting waste biomass into Green Coke and other valuable products) and Breathe Easy (developing an inhaled medicine for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis)(both through Snowball Effect) and Powerhouse Wind (developing a single-blade turbine)(through PledgeMe)
5a. These generally require a minimum of ~$1000 per project.
5b. I haven't had the spare funds to personally experiment with this yet (it's on the list), but Harmoney does NZ peer-to-peer lending.

6. There's always the direct option if someone you trust is trying to get a business going. The model I suggest for this is to agree on a total amount to be repaid (capital plus some) and then they repay it at a rate of $x per sale or $% of each sale. That generally means you recover at least some of your money in short order and they can factor the repayments into their prices as an overhead rather than stressing about finding the money to repay you if they have a quiet month.

YMMV, IANAP, etc etc
~~~
@todo as part of the conversation I have become aware of http://smartshares.co.nz/ which I will need to investigate closer next time I am looking into managed funds.
marsden_online: (write)
Last week the Government released "The first in a series of government discussion documents looking
towards a better tax administration system for New Zealanders".
NZ Herald article
The Government is floating the idea of businesses paying their tax on a pay-as-you-go (PAYE) basis, like individual taxpayers, in the biggest proposed shake-up of one of the building blocks of the income tax system since its introduction in 1957.

Revenue Minister Todd McClay announced the proposal to introduce a form of "business PAYE" among a raft of other possible reforms contained in a green paper seeking public submissions by May 29 ahead of a rolling maul of public consultation documents he plans to publish over the next three years to modernise and simplify the tax system, while improving the rate and accuracy of tax collection.

snip )

I've made comments in a few other places too (all pending moderation).
marsden_online: (write)
Environment Canterbury is currently seeking submissions on their Long Term Plan for 2015 - 2025. Locals may have found a print version in their mailbox over the past week or two. You can download the document and make submissions online at the Ecan Website

This is my first time being motivated enough to make such a submission. It may be a little wordy but I felt it important to convey a little of my personal perspective and background rather than a relatively context-less set of bullet points (which I couldn't have arrive at without writing all this out anyway).

long )
marsden_online: (write)
Stuff today had an article on some of the down-and-out here in Christchurch. Christchurch sex workers: Life on Manchester St"
An early commenter asked "I wonder though, what would it take to help them off the street?"

Now I have no direct experience helping people up from that low, but I have read a lot of their stories over the past few years and there are some strong common threads, and as the comments overall haven't deteriorated too much but felt confident enough to post a reply to that. Pending moderation but I don;t see any reason it shouldn't make it through.
~~~
What does it take?

- *Security* so they don't have to spend all their energy on accounting for the next meal or substitute high.
- *Time* for their minds and bodies to recover from constantly living in "survival mode" and start to live for a future.
- *Patience* as they learn to trust again; break the habits/reflexes and modes of thinking that living day-to-day instills; and gain the confidence in themselves and their support network to move forward.
- *Opportunity* to catch up on the things they missed as children - not only academically but also in exploring and developing interests and talents - and explore the paths open to them.
- *Acceptance and respect* that they have their own individual life stories; that they will probably carry scars and exhibit behaviours for the rest of thier lives from the traumas they have experienced; that the first path or paths they initially choose to explore not be the ones they ultimately settle on or stick to; and that this does not make them /in any way/ lesser people than anyone else.
- *Confidence* (or faith if you prefer) that they are worth the investment in all of the above.
- As any individual or organisation can only do so much (and they do), and so often have to focus on a few worst cases, it will take *raising our voices* as a caring society to *demand* of our representatives to whom we have delegated responsibility of our social welfare that they /direct the resources/ to not only pick up those who have already fallen through the cracks but to /close those cracks/ (many of which are well known).

~~~
I wish I had more resources to bring to bear.

No Way TPPA

Mar. 9th, 2015 09:19 pm
marsden_online: (write)
This past Saturday I attended the local portion of an ongoing series of protest marches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While the current NZ government has done many things I consider #notinmyname this is the one that should it go ahead, as I fear it will for I have no faith the the major Opposition party will not equally roll over for it, is the one I feel that will do the most lasting damage to New Zealand. This is because it impacts not only on our economy and international trade but directly on our sovereignty and right to make our own laws as a country.

Now it is the way of properly negotiated international treaties that one or more signatories generally accepts some limits on what they as a sovereign state may do, by way of passing laws and such, in exchange for some perceived benefit. There are two things about the TPPA which I consider to be particularly dangerous; far outweighing any possible benefits.

The first is the near-total secrecy under which it is no only being negotiated but will apparently be brought before our "house of representatives" - with even those worthies (and I use the term loosely) except for a few privileged members of the ruling party being forbidden knowledge of the terms of the treaty. Let me spell that out a bit more - our representatives, whom we rely on to protect our interests, our democracy, will be being told (if this current government retains a majority) to accept this treaty with no opportunity to actually debate its worth to the country, no idea of what we may be giving away or getting in return, and no opportunity to bring it to us, the people and ask what we would have them do.

This turn of events would make an absolute mockery of what it is supposed to mean to live in a democracy. It is the first and most blatant attack on our sovereignty represented by the TPPA.

The second danger is the proliferation of clauses (leaked) enabling international corporations - not even Governments, corporations with no mandate to represent anything but their profit margin - to challenge laws passed by our government in international courts. Now for countries like Australia and NZ that might simply tie up public money which would be much better spent elsewhere, but smaller nations could be forced into "toeing the line" of their/our new corporate masters by the simple likelihood of bankruptcy if faced by these sort of proceedings*.

I don't personally have a great issue with NZ officially becoming a "client state", be it of America as we are currently or some international conglomerate. But that is a decision that should absolutely be discussed and reached publicly, not reached behind closed doors and presented as a coup accompli.

[tangent]
* For an example of this sort of thing already happening see Philip Morris Vs Uruguay and vs Australia, which reportedly (linked article) already has caused our NZ government to about-face on plain packaging for cigarettes. The closest I can find within NZ is this 2013 release from the Ministry of Health which contains the money quote
“To manage this, Cabinet has decided that the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.

“The Ministry of Health will now begin developing the detailed policy which will include the size and content of health warnings. I intend to introduce the legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

The legislation was in fact introduced and judging from this late 2014 release is due for it's second reading. Promising quote
“A key finding from the committee came from their visit to Australia as part of an exchange programme. The data highlighted that daily smoking rates amongst those aged 14 and older have declined from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013, the lowest rate recorded to date. This is very impressive evidence received since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia.”

I do support this governments passage of this legislation, both the bill itself and the due process it appears to have followed.
[/tangent]

My photos from the march
Attacks basic freedoms
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

~~~
Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

~~~
Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (Default)
Maybe take time to ponder not only workers rights, and their erosion over the past few decades.

But also the rights of the "non-worker" in an age where many of the jobs that existed during Samuel Parnell's time and the decades thereafter have been supplanted by technology without technology necessarily creating similar or greater numbers of other jobs in their place.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/labour-day
marsden_online: (write)
Over the weekend I was asked (paraphrasing) what I thought the point of a party leader was, if not to make elections all about them and take a fall when the party doesn't do well.

The answer is not simple. Fundamentally I don't believe "leaders" as the term is generally used are necessary in a properly functioning representative democracy. If all our votes are supposed to carry the same weight, all our representatives functionally have to be equal and work together as equals.

That said sometimes you need someone to be a casting vote, and once you have sorted out the division of labour (portfolios) you need someone who is responsible for the overview, for the task of speaking for the whole and being able to explain how it is all working together so others are not needlessly distracted from their tasks. A representative of representatives, a minister of ministers, maybe a first-among-equals. You could call this person a "Leader" but that is something of a misnomer. It is not actually their job to "lead" as such.

I have written before quite strongly about my feelings that our representatives are elected to serve not to rule.

The other way I see you might legitimately have a leader in politics or in the broader case is when someone stands up and says "this is what I stand for and this is what I am trying to achieve" and a group of other people stand up and say "we agree with this person and we are going to follow him and support him (wrt these issues)". I see no problem with similarly-minded representatives forming "blocks" like this and electing someone to convey their vision.

In this case if what the leader is trying to achieve ultimately proves unpopular, then clearly they will lose that position. And practically the group should then fragment into groups (including individuals- groups of size 1) which are clear on the differences but also on the similarities.

Unfortunately this sort of leadership only works on a relatively small scale over fairly well defined issues, because after a certain point some people who support the leader in principle will actually have a sufficiently different vision that friction and fractures will start to occur and then other people will start trying to pressure people to "toe the party line" and it's all downhill from there. This is how we end up with entire parties of representatives who do not personally actually represent us but at the end of the day vote the way they are told to by a powerful few.

In New Zealand, and particularly in the Labour Party at present, we traditionally have neither of these. In fact the opposite. We have had a series of leaders unpopular with some significant number of their supposed supporters, who manipulate and scheme to have them them replaced and in doing so have them take the fall for those "supporters" own inadequacies and cock-ups. There is no common purpose for these leaders to espouse because the party is not, can not work together to common purpose. That is why I don't believe Cunliffe should be forced to resign for Labour "losing" the election because that will not resolve the issues. It is simply not his fault that the party is so fucked up internally and making it "his fault" will not solve anything. Any replacement is simply going to be another talking head being set up to be cut off.

The same sort of fractures simmer beneath the surface of National as well but National is currently led, by a small group who have a very clear idea of what they want and how they are going to get it and sufficient force of ... personality ... to keep their underlings in line and on message. And New Zealanders love a strong leader (bully), especially if they personally are not the ones being told what to do. We're all for someone who "gets on and does things" and who brandishes the traditional kiwi measures of success - nice car, box seat at the footy, bach, ability to jaunt of overseas for a holiday ... without looking too closely at how they got there or how they are staying there.

We're so shallow.

If a real leader is to emerge within Labour it will be someone who leads their followers away from Labour. Maybe what is left will be able to sort themselves out and find someone they can agree to stand behind. Then when the dust settles after National has its next bloodletting maybe we will have a spectrum of minor parties who can all work together and NZ as a whole might see that there is nothing to fear from a government consisting of multiple parties none of which is a clear "winner". And if we can make that shift as a society we'll be the better for it.

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