Dunedin Election Blog
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
May Day – the international day for working people – is being celebrated in Dunedin with a couple of events kindly organized by the local branch of the International Socialists.
A social event is being held on Saturday 30 April 7.30pm onwards at Mojo cafe in Leith Street with entertainment and a small entry koha/donation.
A rally will be held on May Day Sunday 1 May at 12 noon in the Octagon with speakers including myself for the Alliance, Meteria Turei of the Greens, and Brian Roper of the International Socialists.
International Workers Memorial Day
The International Workers Memorial Day is to "honour the dead and fight for the living."
Too many people are killed or injured on the job. Casualized work and lack of health and safety are a big part of the problem. Working people are seen as production units rather than human beings.
The Dunedin trade unions are having a memorial service on Thursday 28 April 11.30am at the Market Reserve to commemorate the occasion and also to raise awareness of the issue.
Support from Port Chalmers
The campaign had a good morning today. I spoke to the Port Chalmers branch of the Maritime Union who were holding their regular stopwork meeting and the meeting unanimously voted to sponsor my candidate deposit of $300.
This will help the local campaign and help get the message of secure jobs and good working conditions out there.
My thanks to the Port Chalmers waterfront workers and maritime workers for their support. The local Maritime Union members are generous supporters of the local port community.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Wealth and health in a class society
The last two decades of hard line capitalism in New Zealand have divided our society.
The free market fans have always claimed the key to a better life is through 'growing the economic cake.' However, the hard facts show that life for the rich is getting better while those with less money are being left behind – especially in areas such as health.
A major study into the health of New Zealanders has found that growing inequality between rich and poor has confirmed the widening divisions in our society.
One of the authors of the study Associate Professor Tony Blakely says: "Money can buy you better health by the ability to afford a healthier diet, live in a nicer neighbourhood, relieve stress by going on holidays, and so on. Therefore, it seems an inescapable conclusion that some of the increasing inequalities in health during the 1980s and 1990s were a result of increasing income gaps between the rich and poor."
He adds "Looking to the future, then, if the gaps in income between the rich and poor are closed, we should reduce (or at least slow down the increase in) health inequalities. Moreover, as differences in health exist right across the range of incomes (not just for the poor compared to the rich), the majority of the population stands to benefit in health terms."
The full study can be found at the University of Otago.
The overall policies of the Alliance Party address the problems of distribution of wealth, as well as ensuring that good quality health services are available to all. This is both a more humane solution, and one that in the long term will mean a healthier and more productive society.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Vege crisis symptom of a sick system
I always amazed at how New Zealand has been sucked into the free trade myth.
Government seems to work hand in hand with powerful private corporations to sell the idea that we should sign up to free trade deals which will provide endless riches for everyone.
The reality is international trade deals serve the interests of big business. They take away our power as citizens of a democracy and replace the sovereignty of the people with "rules" dreamt up by bureaucrats.
The idea of access to markets like China has long been a kind of holy grail promoted by the free market fans. Apparently it will be one of those win win situations they teach you about in Business School.
We get cheap products made by workers who aren't allowed a free vote, freedom of speech or independent trade unions. They get our farm produce.
But across the Tasman, farmers have realized that this fantastic system is not working. Vegetable growers are under pressure from imports grown in countries where there are lax environmental regulations and where labour exploitation is rife.
Ausveg chairman Michael Badcock said 900 of Australia's 4300 growers would be forced out of the industry if a free trade deal was signed with China, and about 5000 of the 23,000 processing jobs would disappear.
The Alliance supports fair trade – where trade serves the needs of all communities and their need for security, not where the short-term motivations of corporate profits are the goal. The current system is environmentally and socially wrong. There are better alternatives.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Alliance voice needed in Parliament
The Alliance will be the only socialist party on the ballot paper in this year’s General Election and while the Greens will be strong competitors for the left vote, that does not necessarily mean they are a “Left” party, Alliance members say.
The Alliance is gearing up for its election campaign after a series of regional list conferences held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin last Saturday.
Party members ranked their top regional candidates in bands of three and elected two co-leaders, Jill Ovens and Paul Piesse, both trade union organisers.
Mr Piesse, from Christchurch, says the Alliance is running a campaign to win List votes, but is also standing 12 candidates in working class electorates in each of the main centres, as well as Otaki where clothing workers have been hard hit by the removal of tariffs.
“There needs to be a left-wing party representing working people in New Zealand. In the 2005 election, this will be the Alliance Party,” Mr Piesse says.
He says Party members are mindful that some who have voted Alliance in the past may be thinking of voting for the Greens or the Maori Party because the Alliance has dropped from the media radar.
“The Alliance Party still has the only comprehensive democratic socialist policies and voice. We need to be offering an alternative vision for all New Zealanders,” Mr Piesse says.
Tom Dowie, the Alliance candidate for Wigram, told members at the Christchurch list conference he was “not into a utopian view of a green planet while the poor, sick and elderly suffered from a lack of affordable electricity”.
He said he supported the Maori Party’s struggle, but was concerned about reported statements of Maori Party leader Tariana Turia that the Party would consult its people for advice on potential coalitions and that it remained open-minded about possible partners.
”I am not interested in gambling my vote in the hope that they will go left. I would feel like a right Wally if they drifted right instead. While others might consider my vote for the Alliance a wasted vote, I see it as voting for the type of society that I wish to see. That is why the vote was developed in the first place.”
Members at the regional list conferences selected representatives for the Party’s List Committee which will meet May 7/8 to rank the candidates.
Those on the Alliance List are:
Robert van Ruyssevelt
Sunday, April 17, 2005
A Critic-al view of the Alliance
The following article appears in the latest edition of Critic, the student newspaper at Otago University.
Whatever happened to the Alliance?
Posted: 2005-04-15 11:09:09
Remember the Alliance? The small left-wing party that went from being in government with Labour to polling less than the Outdoor Recreation Party in 2002? John Campbell voted for them. So did quite a few people I know. But apparently they were the only ones. Following their implosion and election drubbing three years ago, very little has been heard of the Alliance, but they still exist and are contesting this year’s general election. To kick off Critic’s wide and varied election year coverage, Editor Holly Walker talked to the Alliance’s Dunedin North candidate, local musician and 1995 Critic Editor, Victor Billot, about the future of his embattled party.
Billot was a founding member of Jim Anderton’s New Labour party; he joined in 1989 while he was still at high school. In that time he has certainly witnessed plenty of change within his party, which became the Alliance (incorporating the Greens and Mana Motuhake) in 1991, was the Labour government’s first coalition partner in 1999 before falling victim to the apparent curse of coalition (obscurity) and finally collapsing due to internal factionalism and disagreement over the party’s stance on Iraq in 2002. This culminated in the departure of figurehead Anderton to form the Progressive Coalition and the poll defeat of the remaining Alliance, led by political poster girl Laila Harre. Harre, once hailed as a promising junior MP with the potential to rival Helen Clark, has since taken up the position of New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation spokeswoman and will not be contesting this year’s election.
According to Billot, the Alliance’s drubbing in 2002 was disappointing but not surprising. Many thought the party would disband, but, while Billot admits there “were a number of suggestions about the best structure to continue with”, it was decided that the party had a distinct identity and clear policies that made it worth continuing. He says the party did some serious soul searching, though. “The main lesson I think we have learnt is that it is important for a left-wing party to base itself on good policies and grassroots activism, rather than relying on high profile media personalities”, he says. Here, Billot is referring not only to Anderton, but to former party President Matt McCarten, who took over the leadership from Harre but left to become a strategist for the Maori Party last year, only to be asked to leave that position earlier this year because of his simultaneous involvement with another new political party, the as yet un-launched Aotearoa New Zealand Party. Billot won’t be drawn on feelings within the party towards Anderton and McCarten, whose rivalry was the catalyst for the implosion of the party, other than to say, rather cryptically, “Whenever I get annoyed with individuals I just remind myself that in my lifetime we will see massive environmental and social upheaval”.
I put it to Billot that despite bad experiences in the past, having a charismatic and well known figurehead may be the Alliance’s best chance of regaining Parliamentary representation (it works for New Zealand first and worked for Act under Prebble, after all), but he firmly rejects this suggestion. “We need to build support for an idea, not a cult of personality. We want independent minded, politically aware members, not a bunch of sheep”. While the Alliance’s party list has not yet been finalised, a visit to the website reveals few familiar faces and a distinct lack of former Alliance MPs in key spokesperson roles. “The Alliance Party has changed a lot in the last few years”, says Billot. “One problem we don’t have is opportunists looking for an easy ride into Parliament”. As an interesting aside, students of political studies will be interested to know that well-known POLS 101 lecturer and general academic guru Jim Flynn is the Alliance’s Finance Spokesperson.
In light of the desire to avoid personality politics, the party has decided not to appoint a leader in the traditional sense this time around. Instead, leadership of the party will probably be shared by the top two candidates on the party list, in a manner not dissimilar to the Greens, whose co-leaders are Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Rod Donald. The comparison with the Greens is telling on other levels, as on most issues the two parties’ left wing manifestos are very similar. On the student front, both advocate free tertiary education, the abolition of the student loan scheme, and universal student allowances. Economically, socially and environmentally, their policies are also very similar. Since the 2002 election, which the Greens contested on primarily environmental grounds, the absence of the Alliance in Parliament has allowed the Greens to place more emphasis on leftist economic and social policies that previously had been championed by the Alliance. With so much policy cross-over, it’s somewhat surprising that the Alliance has not merged with the Greens since 2002, (funny, given that the Greens once existed under the Alliance umbrella). Yet this does not appear to be on the cards in the foreseeable future. “These days with MMP I don’t see why there is any reason we can’t have Alliance and Green MPs in Parliament”, Billot says. “In countries like Germany that have an MMP style system, you have socialist parties and Greens all in parliament”. But why would a lefter-than-labour voter want to vote Alliance when the Greens have similar policies and a far, far greater chance of Parliamentary representation? “I think the Greens are a party that appeals to a certain alternative lifestyle, liberal middle class element in the community”, Billot says. “They have a very strong environmental policy … The Alliance seeks to be a party of the working people of New Zealand. Our prime focus is on poverty, and on how working people are getting it in the neck”.
It seems highly unlikely, to state it mildly, that the Alliance will gain Parliamentary representation in the election later this year. Their leaflet, which has been sitting on my desk all week, has been noticed and commented on by a number of people, all with the same reaction: “The Alliance? Do they still exist? Ha”. The party faces an uphill battle to dislodge this perception, which has no doubt taken root in the minds of most New Zealand voters. Billot says, “lots of people believe in what we do. We just need to show them that we are still here”, and doing that will prove no mean feat. Billot is pragmatic in accepting that they won’t be in Parliament any time soon, but says their goal at the moment is simply to re-establish the Alliance as a voice in the political scene. He is also adamant, however, that the Alliance will be back in the House at some point in the future, “because there is a space for [us] in New Zealand”. “At the moment the sun is shining because the international economy has treated New Zealand well in the last few years. As soon as the inevitable crunch comes, a lot of people are going to be badly burned. Young people are trapped in debt, student debt, mortgage debt, credit cards, low paid jobs, high living costs. They will be looking for answers. The Alliance is going to represent those people. We are not going away”.
By Holly Walker
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Supporting aged care staff
At lunchtime today I joined a demo in the Octagon where members of the Service and Food Workers Union and the Nurses Organization were building awareness of their "Fair Share for Aged Care" campaign.
Workers in the aged care sector in New Zealand are not getting a good deal. It's wrong that the workers who do this vital job of looking after our older people get paid crummy wages. It's a reflection of the society we live after years of right-wing economic policies which do not have the best interest of working people at heart.
You can read about and support the campaign at their website Fair Share for Aged Care
The Alliance has strong policies to boost the minimum wage and protect workers from contracting out and casualization when these are being used to attack wages and conditions.
Poverty and debt in Dunedin
Many people in New Zealand are having a hard time. The church based organization Presbyterian Support Otago published a report in 2002 about poverty in Dunedin which makes disturbing reading, but comes as little surprise.
An update they put out in October 2003 confirms the impact that debt is having on low income people. The report says that debt and managing debt remains a major factor in family stress for New Zealand families. "In a period of low inflation New Zealanders are using high cost credit at an increasing rate . . . high cost credit also features large as a way of trying to manage very low incomes."
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Alliance at Otago University
Tomorrow Wednesday I'll be at the Radio One market day over lunchtime at Otago University, we have a group of volunteers running this stall in the morning and afternoon. Pop up and say hi. The big fundraising earners at the moment seem to be homemade woolly hats and garden plants.
Also we have our Alliance Party University Branch meeting at the University of Otago on Thursday 14 April, 12 noon, at Room 6 at the Clubs and Socs Building on Albany Street. All interested welcome.
New Zealand is dependant on maritime trade. Yet National and Labour don't want to do anything about the serious problems in this area. In the 1990's, the National Government opened up the coastal shipping trade to international shipping companies. New Zealand shipping is now barely in existence. In the 1980's, Labour legislated to protect international sea freight from competition law. The idea behind these so-called reforms was always to reduce the cost to business.
Of course, in reality, it means that New Zealand is being ripped off by multinational shipping operators who are all working hand in glove with each other.
A recent report in the Sunday Star Times showed how even big business is getting upset about the greed of the shipping companies.
The Alliance wants to see the return of cabotage, where priority is given to New Zealand shipping companies employing New Zealand seafarers on decent wages and conditions.
I am also personally going to be pushing the idea that we need to have a public owned shipping company to ensure that transport rates are kept down, and the rights of foreign seafarers in New Zealand waters are protected as well.
Monday, April 11, 2005
The debt elephant
I've been spending some time over the last week down at Otago University. The Alliance has always had good support from students here, as well as working class suburbs such as North east Valley and Port Chalmers. The student population are one factor that makes Dunedin North a unique and interesting electorate.
It's also a factor as to why Labour and National politicians should be afraid. The student debt monster has grown and grown. A lot of students just take the plunge and take out the loan. It's only a few years down the track when they realize the effect this debt has on them, when combined with mortgages, other loans incurred while studying, and those nasty pieces of plastic called credit cards. Debt is one issue that I think is having an enormous and little understood effect on the lives of working people, and especially the new generation who are getting hit with it.
Over the next week or two, I am going to bring up the issue of debt, and how our younger generation are being sold out to the interests of an anti-social and self-interested financial system.
I like the idea of the Victoria University Students Association who say:
"This year, students intend to make it very clear to the Labour Government that it will not win votes from debt - laden students and their families. Students are in debt to the tune of $7 Billion, and still rising. In the last five years Student debt has more than doubled."
It's like trying to hide an elephant under a rug. It's the issue that the establishment parties don't want to mention. It's too big, too ugly, and they brought it into the world. Why thank National and Labour with your vote at this election? The Alliance stands for free education funded by progressive taxation.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Charity Health comes to New Zealand
Alliance health spokesperson Tom Dowie put out the following statement today. I agree completely with his comments and am pleased to say Tom is going to be one of our Alliance candidates this year.
CHARITY HEALTH SAD DAY FOR NEW ZEALAND
“It is a sad day for New Zealand health when the government is so derelict in
its duty that charity groups have to set up their own mobile surgery units for
the poor,” said Tom Dowie, Alliance Party Health Spokesperson today.
”Christchurch is about to get its first such unit - a bus. Volunteers from
the health sector are set to begin providing free surgery in a bus for
patients who cannot access the public health system,” said Tom Dowie
“To quote from the charity groups spokesperson: "Future[charity] hospital
patients could be those with hernias not considered serious enough to be
treated under the public system, but which left them unable to do their jobs".
When the government decides that disabling hernias are no longer serious
enough for funding, then the public should be very worried about what is
happening to our public health system.”
Tom Dowie said that Alliance policy is to fully fund the public health system
and not have regions competing for funding as under the failing 'Population
Based Funding' scheme operating at present.
“Given the charity hospital proposals – which are to extend beyond
Christchurch to other New Zealand centres – Kiwis need to be more than careful
where they place their ticks in the up-coming election,” said Tom Dowie.
For more information: Tom Dowie (Alliance Party Health Spokesperson)
03 960 6169
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Labour's Tamihere given a weeks taxpayer funded holiday for being a bigot
It was interesting to see the reaction to John Tamihere's recent interview with the trashy Investigate magazine when he revealed his true colours by ripping into women, unions and gays - as well as the rest of his colleagues.
The Prime Minister gave him a week's leave. How nice.
Any other working person who bad-mouthed their employers in the media would be down the road. But that just goes to show you that the elite live to a different set of rules to the rest of the human race.
The other interesting thing is how the media have been prattling about how Tamihere is somehow speaking out for the embattled kiwi male. What garbage.
Actually, Tamihere, like others of his ilk, represent a long and ugly history in this country: the ignorant, snarling, would-be tough guy who likes to keep the women in their place, sneer at minorities, and attack those who refuse to sit down and shut up like good little serfs, such as unionists.
Tamihere's comments read like the rantings of a would be tinpot dictator. If there was any evidence that the Labour Party has well and truly strayed from its once proud history as a progressive party of the working class then this is it. The fact that this yahoo has been given a week's holiday is a disgrace.
Any one considering voting Labour at this election should remember they are helping the career of a politician who said (in the one interview):
"They don't deserve to have that level of influence [in Labour]. I'm going to lead a charge against that very shortly because the party has to be updated to reflect where our societies and communities are, as opposed to where they were."
ON HOMOSEXUALS, LESBIANS
"I've got a right to think that sex with another male is unhealthy and violating."
ON MEN'S HEALTH
"Men's problems are traditionally dealt with by the criminal justice system. Women, on the other hand, get a bloody Cartwright inquiry and get millions of dollars thrown at their breasts and cervixes."
ON NATIONAL'S FINANCE SPOKESMAN, JOHN KEY
"He's going to be very good. I've got the greatest regard for John. One more term, he's a formidable character. He's the one that scares the s ... t out of me the most out of the whole bunch. I could go to bed comfortable at night knowing that he was in charge - fair dinkum, not a problem."
The Alliance Party has a different approach. We want to see unions build and grow as the democratic organizations of working people.
We support the positive changes in our society that have seen women and men become more equal, but we are still concerned that many women are disadvantaged by low-paid, casual jobs and other economic injustices.
We are also concerned about making sure men have access to health care.
We are against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.
And we will not go to bed comfortable at night knowing that the National Party is in charge.
The Alliance has a very different vision of the future than Mr Tamihere of the "Labour" Party.
The Yes Men
I've just been watching some shorts on The Yes Men website. Recommended viewing for 2005.
Talking about the World Trade Organization, I recall that former Labour Party Prime Minister Mike Moore served as head of that organization. I remember Mike visiting Dunedin in 1990 to campaign amongst the students. I got up and gave him a bit of a heckle and he told me the Labour Government had done great things for the economy, the sharemarket was going well etc. Not the best thing to tell a bunch of students without major sharemarket equity, and experiencing that innovative scheme introduced by the Labour Party and helped along by the Nats - student fees.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The people have spoken: no more asset sales
A report in the Sunday Star Times on 3 April 2005 quotes a specially commissioned poll that shows that nearly 80% of New Zealanders are opposed to any Government selling state owned enterprises or shareholdings in other companies – including 71% of National voters.
This is more conclusive proof of the vast gap that exists between the free market ideas of the establishment parties, and the voting public.
Why have the Labour and National parties been such enthusiastic privatizers over the last two decades? They have consistently put the interests of the elite ahead of the public – the people who would benefit from publicly owned assets working for the public benefit rather than private profit.
It was disturbing to read Labour Party President Mike Williams say that people opposed privatization because it had been a "cock up." How wrong can you get - the privatization that Labour and National Government's carried out went exactly to plan - corporate predators moved in and cleaned up, while any risk or bungles were paid for by the public. It went exactly to plan.
Mind you, this is the same Labour Party that accepts big fat sponsorship from the corporates that benefit from their free market policies. So I suppose Mr Williams would say that.
Of course the Alliance goes one better – we intend to put all major infrastructure back in public hands, such as power, telecommunications and the national airline. For the public benefit - a concept that the right wing National and Labour politicians can't stand.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
A Government of callous, greedy, power-mad women
Recently one of our Alliance members in Oamaru, a retired lady, received a letter from the Labour Party seeking her vote.
The Otago electorate where our Alliance member lives does not have an Alliance candidate this election – although of course all voters have the opportunity to vote for the Alliance party list, and voters in Dunedin (and many other areas) can vote for Alliance electorate candidates.
I thought her letter in reply to the Labour Party summed up things very well and I have reproduced a slightly shortened version of it here, with her permission:
"Thank you for your letter. Yes, I intend to vote for David Parker in the forthcoming elections, only because I don't want the strong local candidate for National, Jacqui Dean, to represent this constituency.
I respect Mr Parker as a person, but I see the present "Labour" Government as the direct successor to the monetarist policies of Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble etc.
Since Helen Clark, who was a member of that team, came to power, the social fabric of New Zealand has deteriorated and continues to do so.
1. There is a widening gap between rich and poor
2. Health, education, aged care, policing have all worsened in quality, thanks to Government penny pinching
3. In spite of high levels of employment, there is a desperate shortage of skilled tradesmen
4. Young people who should be setting up home and raising families are debt slaves to the Government, which charges them interest on the cost of their training
5. Employment conditions for uneducated people on low wages are often harsh and stressful, obliging them to do shift work, long hours, no weekends or public holidays to be with friends and families (viz the Australian owned goldmine at McRaes Flat)
6. Cheap foreign goods are allowed to flood into New Zealand, wrecking local industries eg clothing, shoes, houseware, ceramics, whiteware, car assembly etc.
7. The rail transport system run down and inadequate
8. Foreign competition undermining fishing and coastal shipping
9. Fresh food taxed at 12.5%, milk dearer than harmful coloured and sugared bottled drinks, no provision for school milk or healthy lunches
10. A ruthless disregard for human rights when it suits them (eg the Sri Lankan teenager forcibly deported February 2004, and Ahmed Zaoui.)
All in all a Government of callous, greedy, power-mad women.
Which is why I am a member of the Alliance Party.
Well done, Jenefer, I think you have summed up why we need the Alliance!
Friday, April 01, 2005
List Conference in Dunedin
The Otago/Southland Alliance regional list conference is from 11am till 3pm, Saturday, April 16, Brian Arnold Room, Community House, Cnr Moray Pl and Great King St, Dunedin.
All members are welcome to come along and have their say on the Alliance Party list for this years General Election.
The Alliance Party is holding a meeting at the University of Otago on Thursday 14 April, 12 noon, at Room 6 at the Clubs and Socs Building on Albany Street.
All interested welcome and i'll see you there.
Just had a good interview on local station Radio One.
On before me was Willie Jackson, former Alliance MP, who said he thought it was a good thing that the Maori Party didn't have too many policies as having lots of policies hadn't helped the Alliance.
Well, if you don't have policies, you are left with two things: personalities and good vibes. Neither of which are enough to run a political movement on in the long term.
The Alliance has lots of policies - take your pick.