|No.167||14 June 2002||Essential Information on an Essential Issue|
of key events over the last few weeks.
ENDING CHILD POVERTY
CALL TO ADJUST FAMILY TAX CREDITS
GREENS WANT THE GOVT TO GO FURTHER
ALLIANCE YOUTH POLICIES
MAYORS AND THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH
OZ CRACKDOWN ON "CRUISERS"
FORESTRY TRAINING CHALLENGE
FRUIT AND VEGE LABOUR SHORTAGES
MORE PHARMACISTS NEEDED
COUNTRY DOCTORS THREATEN TO QUIT
AT THE CROSSROADS
by Jane Kelsey
Download this issue
as a PDF file
Index to Features
16 May 2002
Craig Heatley, one of NZs wealthiest people, says he will put the $7 million from the liquidation of one of his companies into a trust to support charities for children.
17 May 2002
A Hollywood film to be shot in NZ, will be based in Taranaki. Filming of The Last Samurai will begin in January 2003 and is expected to benefit the local economy through set construction, local casting, accommodation, transport, and food and beverage suppliers.
Fonterra, NZ’s largest company, has adopted a staff ranking system employed by corporations likes Microsoft, General Electric and Enron. Staff assessed to be performing in the bottom 5% of the company will be given six months to reach agreed goals, or to “move on”. Fonterra has 9,000 NZ staff and another 11,000 worldwide.
At $US.46, the NZ dollar is at a two year high. Deutsche Bank economist Ulf Schoefisch says that even if the dollar went as high as $US.50 it was still “quite cheap” and would not undermine NZ exporters. Statistics NZ says that NZ workers are working 4.8% more hours this year than they were last year.
18 May 2002
Job prospects have diminished in the IT and telecommunications industries. The Dominion reports that the Hewlett-Packard buyout of Compaq may result in 100 job losses and TelstraClear has dropped 650 people since December.
19 May 2002
The creative sector of the economy grew 8.7% per year for the last four years — more than double the rate of growth of the overall economy, according to a report by the NZ Institute of Economic Research. The creative sector employs about 50,000 people in computer software and services, publishing, television and radio, film and video, architecture, design, fashion, music and performing arts, and visual arts.
20 May 2002
An Inland Revenue Department initiative aims to bring tradespeople doing cash jobs out of the unreported or “black” economy. The IRD has signed the first of what it intends to be many partnership agreements with trades associations that will focus on educating members about their tax obligations. IRD commission David Butler says the department also wants to discover and remove obstacles to contractors complying with tax law.
Of the NZ residents who were born outside the country, the greatest number were born in England. After that, the most foreign born NZ residents were born in Australia, Samoa, China, Scotland, South Africa, Fiji, the Netherlands, India, and Tonga.
21 May 2002
Deputy PM Jim Anderton says he expects to be part of the next Cabinet even if the Labour Party wins an outright majority and does not require a coalition partner.
22 May 2002
All Green Party MPs walk out of parliament as a protest against the law introducing a two-year moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms. The Greens warn they will not support a government that lifts the moratorium when it ends in October 2003.
Prime Minister Helen Clark says that the Labour Party will attempt to govern alone rather than go into coalition with the Greens. Clark says the Greens non-negotiable stance on the release of GM organisms was the kind of thing that brings small parties into disrepute. Clark: “It’s ridiculous to hold governments to ransom over single issues and it will simply redouble my determination to campaign for two ticks for Labour.”
Independent Newspapers Ltd has redesigned and is relaunching its JobStuff website INL’s Richard Wyles says the goal is to see the website grow beyond its IT industry roots.
24 May 2002
Alliance MP Willie Jackson says the government is failing Maori with the Reducing Inequalities scheme. Jackson says the health and education of Maori has not been assisted at all by the millions of dollars channelled through mainstream agencies to Maori.
25 May 2002
The percentage of NZ’ers who own their own homes has been dropping significantly and is now as low as it was in the mid 1950s. The number of households has increased by 14.3% over the last ten years but there has been a mere 1.9% increase in home ownership.
28 May 2002
National Party leader Bill English promises 500 extra police if his party becomes the next government.
Loyalty payments and bonds could be used to retain junior doctors according to the government’s health workforce advisory committee. Chairperson Andrew Horn will release a report in July that identifies ways of tackling the “crippling” shortage of health professionals in NZ.
Air NZ says it will drop 200 staff by natural attrition over the next three months as it becomes a low-priced domestic airline. Funding cuts for crown research institutes of $5 million will see as many as 40 scientific and technology jobs disappear. Scientists say that cuts to research not perceived to have any immediate commercial payback is short sighted.
29 May 2002
100 jobs disappear as women’s clothing retail chain Amie goes into receivership. All Amie stores are expected to close by the end of June. Hamilton’s Riverside Casino, due to open in September, will employ 220 people. Jan Christiansen from the Waikato Winz office says she has been working with the company to try to place as many local people in these jobs as possible.
As the Gisborne District Council negotiates the sale of its port, the Minister of Regional Development Jim Anderton reaffirms that upgrading the port is essential to job creation on the East Coast. Anderton says 800 jobs could be created if the trees harvested were processed locally rather than selling them off as raw logs. He warns that commercial investment in timber processing on the East Coast will not go ahead if the port infrastructure is not forthcoming.
National Party MP Roger Sowry says a National government would provide money for district health boards to use for financial incentives to recruit doctors to work in rural areas.
The decision by Air NZ to eliminate business class services and meals on domestic flights may result in the loss of 600 airline catering jobs.
30 May 2002
The TSB Bank has, in contrast to banking industry trends, increased staff numbers by 3% every year for the past five years as well increasing profits. The TSB Bank only operates branch offices in Taranaki but offers home loan lending, phone and e-banking outside the region.
31 May 2002
106 staff at Accenture will lose their jobs as the company withdraws from NZ this year. Wellington-based Accenture consults with governments and companies regarding the ways they use the Internet to provide services.
There was a 6% increase in the number of NZ’ers with a disability in the 2001 census over the previous census. Statistics NZ says the percentage bears a close relationship to the increasing number of elderly people in the population.
More than 50,000 Year-11 (Form 5) students are likely to have incomplete academic records as Post Primary Teacher Association members threaten to withhold marks from moderators of the new National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA).
The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall tells a group of Nelson business people that businesses that focus solely on producing profits for shareholders while neglecting their stakeholders (customers, staff, and the community) do not achieve significant, long-lasting growth.
2 June 2002
The Green Party conference supports its MPs to vote against any government that lifts the current moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms.
3 June 2002
A Dutch study comparing secondary school teaching conditions finds that NZ teachers receive significantly less pay per hour of instruction than their counterparts in Australia, the US and the EU.
The average age of an NZ secondary school teacher has risen from 38yrs to 48yrs over the last decade.
While IBM has made no public announcement, ex-employees monitoring the company say it has laid-off 5,000 employees over the last two weeks.
4 June 2002
The NZ dollar is valued at $US.49, a three year high and 18% above its value at this time last year.
5 June 2002
A shortage of grape vine pruners in Marlborough has contractors attempting to bring in workers from Tonga to get the work done. Wine industry contractor Cliff Pilcher says the industry requires about 400 pruners for the four months starting in June and most contractors only have about half the staff they require.
30 jobs are lost at the Taranaki Base Hospital laundry as the Whanganui, Mid-Central and Taranaki District Health Boards announce their intention to consolidate their laundry operations at a mega laundry site in Palmerston North.
Many low-income sole-parent families do not have enough money to live on according to a survey done by the Council of Christian Social Services. Spokesperson Campbell Roberts says that after paying rent, the average sole-parent family using a foodbank does not have enough money to cover all the costs of food, power, transportation, school and medical bills.
In 1999, 4% of NZ-born residents in Australia were unemployed, compared to 6% unemployed in the general Australian population. 90% of NZ-born men and 67% of NZ-born women were in the Australian workforce, compared to the overall Australian labour force participation rate of 72% of men and 54% of women.
6 June 2002
Wellington regional PPTA chairperson Trevor Hook says that teachers could not bear the workload involved with assessing the new NCEA. Medical students have an average debt of $60,000 and 62.4% of them plan to go overseas within two years according to a nationwide survey by the Christchurch School of Medicine. Cindy Towns of the NZ Medical Students Association says the situation is untenable and calls on the government to act to retain the new doctors.
At 6.3%, the Australian unemployment rate was unchanged last month as more people entering the workforce offset the increased number of people getting full-time work. Australian consumer confidence is high and a building boom is in progress. The economy grew 4.2% over the last year.
7 June 2002
Just half of NZ law graduates work as lawyers. NZ has one of the highest lawyer to population ratios in the world and the University of Auckland manager of careers and employment Tony Crane says law graduates should consider career options other than practicing law. Crane says there are many careers that utilise the skills graduates gained while studying for their law degree.
9 June 2002
A Herald-DigiPol survey indicates a surge in popularity (to 7.7%) for the Green Party after it issued its ultimatum on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms.
Housing NZ proposes to develop 63ha of “prime” real estate of the former Hobsonville Air Base into a mix of state housing and affordable private housing. Last year the Minister of Economic Development Jim Anderton fast-tracked the release of 4ha of the site to Sovereign Yachts to build a marine industry cluster. By law, government land that becomes surplus, that does not have Treaty claims on it, is offered to other government departments before being considered for sale into private hands.
10 June 2002
The Far North District Development Trust looks set to become a central player in a new wireless broadband telecommunications company that will compete with Telecom in the region. The council-based trust is teaming up with a consortium of companies including Broadcast Communications Ltd who already covers Northland as far as Whangarei with its digital microwave network.
NZ and Greece are adopting a one-year bi-lateral working holiday scheme. NZ has one-year working holiday schemes with Japan, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Korea, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Chili, Sweden and Denmark, a two-year scheme with Britain, and six month scheme with Malaysia.
Thousands of protestors march through Rome demanding that the world leaders attending the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation food summit in Rome change tactics in their “war on hunger”. UNFAO head Jacques Diouf says that the current policies of developed nations are the causes of world poverty and hunger.
11 June 2002
Prime Minister Helen Clark calls for an early national election to be held on 27th of July.
ENDING CHILD POVERTY
Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says that if Labour wins a second term, then ending child poverty will be its top social priority. He says that if New Zealand is to again be a great place for children, we need to change.
Maharey: "The Agenda for Children will focus government ministers and agencies on the policies and services needed to support children's healthy development. With an election less than two months away, the Agenda is also a timely wake-up call for all parties to be clear with voters on how they intend to deliver positive changes for New Zealand children and their families..."
During the consultation process, "child poverty" was the most frequently mentioned negative aspect about New Zealand as a place for children to live. People were particularly concerned about income disparities between different groups of New Zealanders, and about long-term unemployment. Others were concerned about the negative effects of market-driven policies and of poor quality, overcrowded housing. Many children also raised concerns relating to money and families not having enough money for the basics.
The Agenda says: " The strength of these responses from New Zealanders has reinforced the Government's aim to end child poverty. The Government is committed to investing in ways to eliminate child poverty and improve life for individuals, families and communities, both economically and socially. This means investing in economic and social development, as a growing economy is important in ensuring social security and sustainable employment."
The Agenda outlines what the government is already doing to reduce child poverty, and announces that it is "establishing a robust research base for future policy developments". The report does not, however, announce any major new programmes or initiatives that will further "flesh out" this new social priority. A section entitled "Possible future developments and directions" (see box) simply outlines a list of concerns that still need to be addressed.
Sources _ New Zealand's Agenda for Children making life better for children (Action Area 3 An End to Child Poverty) Published June 2002 by Ministry of Social Development, PO Box 12-136, Wellington, New Zealand. ISBN 0-478-25122-X; New Zealand Herald 8 June 2002 "Labour government pledges to eliminate child poverty" by Tim Watkin; Press Release NZ Government (Steve Maharey) "Children put at the centre of government policy"
CALL TO ADJUST FAMILY TAX CREDITS
Janfrie Wakim of CPAG welcomes the Agenda for Children as an acknowledgement that child poverty is a serious issue ... but she says it is unfortunate that there are few concrete proposals in the report and no timeframe for the elimination of poverty.
Wakim is critical that the report does not acknowledge the failure by governments to adjust family tax credits for inflation: "The iniquitous child tax credit that few really low-income children get is not mentioned. Over the past decade, billions of dollars have been saved by refusing to adjust these tax credits for inflation, and by refusing to extend the child tax credit to all low income families. The price has been families who cannot adequately feed their children and growing demands on food banks and hospital services and schools for extra assistance."
" This report has taken two years to produce and yet all it signals is that more research is still needed "to provide evidence based advice" before there can be action. In the meantime, food prices continue to rise. Every year the tax credits remain unadjusted, families have a cut in their real incomes ..."
Source Press Release Child Poverty Action Group 13 June 2002 "The Agenda for Children"
GREENS WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO GO FURTHER
Bradford: "The Greens will be campaigning hard on doing much better for our children ... a strong Green presence in the next government will substantially strengthen Labour's policies in this area. While we support the thrust of Labour's policy we are concerned about the lack of detail. Labour are saying they want to do more research into child poverty. The Greens want to see more money in the pockets of New Zealand families and we have strong and detailed policies to do this..."
immediate introduction of a universal child benefit at $15 for the first child and $10 for every following child
review and reform of family assistance policies to ensure that payments keep pace with the cost of living
review targeting provisions and adjust abatement rates to reduce poverty traps
remove discriminatory policies to ensure families in and out of work are treated equitably
extend paid parental leave to 14 weeks for all mothers in the workforce
end compulsory work testing for single parents on the Domestic Purposes benefit
introduce a tax-free threshold at the bottom of the income tax scale
support a full and wide-ranging debate on Universal Basic Income
Source Press Release Green Party 13 June 2002 "Greens aim to push Labour further on children" (Sue Bradford); and Green Party Children's Policy at www.votegreen.org.nz/searchdocs/policy5341.html
ALLIANCE YOUTH POLICIES
The Alliance also wants to see the restoration of the training benefit for 16 and 17-yr olds. Harré: "Young people can leave school at the age of 16. The Alliance believes that if 16 and 17 year olds are not in work they should be supported to gain qualifications and further training. It only costs $12 million. We believe its better to have young people receiving an income to train than sitting at home bored ..."
Source Press Release 13 June 2002 Alliance Party "Alliance Youth Policy"
VOICES: ON ENDING CHILD POVERTY
MAYORS AND THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH
The Jobs Letter editor Vivian Hutchinson, who is also Community Adviser to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, gave a keynote speech to the conference. A paper based on this speech has been published by the Jobs Research Trust, and is available on the internet at www.jobsletter.org.nz/vivian/spirit02.htm.
Workshops were also held on employment initiatives that have been backed by the Mayors and also the Employment Catalyst Fund. These included: the Employment Scholarship programme which places young people into work within an office environment such as legal or accounting firms; Te Araroa walkway being built between Ahipara to Kerikeri in Northland; the Taranaki Youthworks which provides paid jobs and training opportunities in the not-for-profit sector; and also the Destinations and Tracking Project which is researching what is happening to young people after they leave school.
$55.2 million for a "new, more active" case-management system under which widows and DPB beneficiaries will be required to submit annual plans for returning to the workforce.
$4.9 million for a new single abatement regime for widows and DPB beneficiaries, to make moving into work more worthwhile
$36.6 million to improve out-of-school care and recreation providers looking after the children of working parents
$22 million to help long-term beneficiaries meet the initial costs of taking up work
$10.2 million for a new payment for seasonal workers who lose income because of bad weather
$2 million for pilot programmes providing job assistance to beneficiaries
Sources Budget 2002 documents from the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen and Treasury Budget website at www.treasury.govt.nz/budget2002 ;and Budget coverage in New Zealand Herald 24 May 2002, The Dominion 24 May 2002, National Business Review 24 May 2002, The Independent 29 May 2002
OZ CRACKDOWN ON "CRUISERS"
Fueling the debate over these measures, Australian Employment Services Minister Mal Brough has released the results of a survey which shows that 100,000 or more unemployed people are "cruisers" who like the lifestyle and have no intention of seriously looking for work. Government researchers have found that as many as one in six job seekers believe that work could have a negative impact on their quality of life and free time.
Brough says that the study is the first research in Australia which confirms anecdotal evidence of "cruisers" who are relaxed about unemployment and do not want to work full-time, despite topping up the dole with occasional part-time jobs. Brough: "If these so-called cruisers think the Howard government is going to allow them to take advantage of the generosity of the Australian taxpayer to fund their lifestyle choice, they have another think coming ..."
Source New Zealand Herald 21 May 2002 "Canberra rounds on `cruisers, dole bludgers" by Greg Ansley
THE FORESTRY TRAINING CHALLENGE
The government has recognised this with the recent announcement by Jim Anderton that Industry NZ will invest $2 million in a national centre of wood-processing excellence, in Rotorua. The new centre will focus on education and training and work to overcome the shortage of skilled workers.
John Blakey, chief executive of Forestry Industries Training, told the New Zealand Herald that support for training in this sector has increased dramatically in the past few years and he can now see a strong connection between business success and those companies that have a real training strategy. Blakey says there is a real need to inform school-leavers of the vast variety of opportunities that forestry offers: "Whatever job you want to do, whether its an accountant or a lawyer, a chemist, an environmental engineer or mechanical engineer, marketer or whatever ... all these opportunities exist in forestry. It's national and its global there are good prospects."
Sources New Zealand Herald 29 April 2002 "Sector's focus on education" by Chris Daniels; New Zealand Herald 13 May 2002 "Logjam warning as trees mature" by Chris Daniels; The Dominion 24 April 2002 "Forestry needs more trainees" The Dominion 10 May 2002 "$2m to boost wood-processing" by Craig Howie
FRUIT AND VEGE SHORTAGES
Source New Zealand Herald 27 May 2002 "Fruit and vege industry told it needs more young blood" by NZPA
MORE PHARMACISTS NEEDED
Pharmaceutical Society chief executive Joan Baas says the shortages exist in dispensaries in hospitals and in small communities. Many chemists were also having difficulty finding locum cover in order to take time off. New Zealand's shortages reflect a global trend also being experienced in the United States, Britain and Australia. Baas comments that the situation in New Zealand appears to be compounded by the low rates of pay that pharmacists receive compared to overseas. Newly registered pharmacists here are paid about $25 an hour. In Britain they can receive more than $90 an hour.
A recent study, according to The Dominion, has found that more than 80% of those surveyed say work pressures are interfering significantly with their family and social lives, and nearly half of the pharmacists have considered quitting.
Source The Dominion 22 May 2002 "Skill shortages hit pharmacies" by Glen Scanlon
COUNTRY DOCTORS THREATEN TO QUIT
Elizabeth Binning of the New Zealand Herald reports that, in parts of the South Island, residents are without any medical care at all, and doctors in the Waikato and the upper North Island are working more than 60 hours a week and without leave. Dr Tim Malloy of the NZ Rural GP Network says that some of these doctors are threatening to resign if the government does not provide funding for more rural doctors by July 1st the date that funding is allocated for the government's primary healthcare strategy.
Source New Zealand Herald 20 May 2002 "Country doctors threaten to quit" by Elizabeth Binning; New Zealand Herald 28 May 2002 "Shortage of Doctors: Crisis in Emergency" by Marianne Betts