Thursday, February 26, 2009

Only If Convenient

Our National government is teaching us new things every day, it seems, and one of the latest is: gender equality is only for good economic times. Yes, you read that right; Tony Ryall announced this week that pay equity investigations in two departments would be cancelled because they would lead to pay demands which the government couldn't afford to meet. He is blatantly admitting that women are being paid less and deserve more, but denying them on the grounds of the economy. Labour instituted these pay equity inquiries, and we at Young Labour Christchurch believe that there is never a bad time for equality to be promoted, or for anyone to be paid a fair wage. We encourage everyone reading this to email Tony Ryall and tell him why he's wrong at, or to participate in the faxathon protest being organised by the fabulous ladies at The Hand Mirror. We assure you that we all will be!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Zealand's Housing Problems

During the support negotiations of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) the Green party was able to secure a $1b fund to insulate homes around the country. During the election campaign National announced that they would scrap this fund citing lack of money in the budget to do so. I would argue that this is something that they can't afford not to do. Having lived in a cold damp flat last year I have experienced firsthand how your home can affect your health. I thought that I would share my story as an example but I am confident that my experience is not unique and I consider myself lucky to have had the option of shifting house.

I have always had mild asthma symptoms which have come and gone over the years but it has never been a major issue for me, until last year. As soon as I moved into the flat I began coughing at night and wheezing a lot during the day. This was largely controllable by inhalers until early in the winter when I got the flu which was going around Christchurch at the time. Every night for nearly two months I struggled to sleep because I couldn't stop coughing at night and I coughed during much of the day as well. It was only when I went to stay at my parents that I got a decent night's sleep. It took me nearly four months to fully recover from it. In the meantime it took its toll on me physically and mentally. I was tired and run down all the time and I struggled to keep up with assignments at uni.

It is no coincidence that when I moved into my flat my asthma symptoms flared up or that I coughed every night. The house that made me sick had no insulation and no heating and what was worse was that when I moved out and pulled the bed right out I found mould growing along the wall - it was that damp in my bedroom. It is because of my experience that I feel so strongly about this issue. It is also an issue that affects the population disproportionately, creating distinct inequalities between groups of people. The people that are forced to live in houses such as this are unable to afford an alternative. There are also many children suffering ill health as a result of poor quality housing. Is it any wonder that New Zealand has one of the highest child asthma rates in the world?

Insulating and heating homes are such simple solutions to a whole range of health issues. It also makes life that little bit better for people if they know that they are going home to a warm house that isn't going to make them sick. National's proposal to bring forward their $15million spending project just doesn't go far enough and will barely scratch the surface of the housing issues we have in New Zealand.

Barack Obama

I was one of many New Zealanders who got up early Wednesday morning to watch Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. To me Obama's inauguration speech can be compared to Martin Luther King Jr.'s I have a dream speech. While many journalists have analysed what his speech means in terms of policy, I thought a good idea would be to get everyone to leave a comment on what Obama's election means to them. To get the ball rolling I have included a paragraph on my thoughts on Obama's speech.

Firstly what his speech signalled was the end of an era and a new beginning. We all know what the US has been in the past, but I can't see how it can possibly carry on down that path, and fortunately this was a key theme of Obama's speech. I was impressed by his commitments to the environment, reforming the education system, and of course making progress towards a universal health care system. These of course are policies that America has long needed but what excited me the most was his commitment to being a responsible world leader by dealing with poverty issues in the world, and also his wish for peace in the Middle East. I'm excited about Obama's election and I can't wait to see what his next move is and how he will go about achieving these amazing goals.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pharmac Undermined

National is setting a dangerous precedent by forcing Pharmac to fund 12 months of Herceptin, rather than the three months that Pharmac currently funds. The reason Pharmac was set up as an independent body (by National itself!) was to ensure that funding for pharmaceuticals would be done in the fairest way possible. Pharmac is not made up of elective representatives and is therefore able to consider the science and the best way in which funding can be allocated to give the most benefit to New Zealand. Thus placing drug funding considerations in the hands of a body of experts rather than Joe politician with no medical training. Under this model every drug gets equal consideration but the precedent that National is setting shows that the person or people that shout the loudest get the drugs they want. 

Cartoon Comment from today's Press.


90 Days No Rights

It was with no surprise that National placed the 90 Day Bill on its agenda during the election. What has been surprising though is the speed at which they are planning to push this piece of legislation through parliament. John Key has announced that this Bill will be in place by Christmas, which is only three weeks away. This rush through parliament leaves no time for the bill to be debated properly or for the public to be given the opportunity to make submissions on the bill.

This bill has huge implications for people looking for employment as it strips workers in small businesses of their rights as an employee. For many students this is for their entire summer employment. It places students in a rather difficult position as it can be hard to find work for short periods of time. It is easy to see how many students may not feel comfortable speaking up about unsafe work practices, work place harassment or other incidents at work for fear of being fired.

It now seems that the National Government are making noises about extending this bill to not only those in small work places but to all workers. This was not part of their election campaign and it is worrying to see them introducing a highly controversial piece of legislation in a watered down form and then eventually extending it. Maybe they are hoping that if they only make small changes at a time we won't notice what they are doing.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things To Be Worried About

The dust has settled, the coalition has been formed, the results are in, and this morning our new National/ACT/Maori Party/United Future (and isn't that a five-headed monster if you ever heard of one?) is being sworn in to Parliament. We at YL Christchurch are not happy with this, for obvious reasons. While we do believe in giving people a chance to prove themselves, some very worrying signs about this government are already emerging. In no particular order, here's a few things we're already worried about:

1) The National/ACT agreement
For a party which got fewer votes than New Zealand First, ACT sure seems to think they've got some kind of mandate from the people to do, well, whatever the hell they want. What they are going to do is drag National even further to the right. Their coalition agreement, among other things, includes provisions for a committee formed from the private sector to go through government spending. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of putting together *more* bureaucracy (and private sector consultants won't come cheap!) in order to cut it, this demonstrates a very worrying attitude to government: that less is always better, no matter what the government is doing. Labour's results over the last nine years speak for themselves, and they didn't achieve that by firing people in the name of ideology.

2) The Minister of Local Government
In keeping with this theme, we're not that happy about Rodney Hide getting Local Government (however preferable it might be to that rumour doing the rounds last week that he was asking for Education.) Think about all the services your council provides for you. And now think about what's going to happen to those services if the council is forced to sell them all off because Hide believes in privatisation. Or about what's going to happen if rates are capped - we're ratepayers too, and we enjoy rate rises about as much as you do, but that doesn't mean that councils will be able to provide the same services on the same amount of money forever. Worried yet?

In this same vein, the party which touts freedom for business now has hold of the Consumer Affairs portfolio (Heather Roy). Contrary to ACT's core beliefs, the free market can and does screw consumers over. Not precisely the people we'd like fighting for our rights in this area.

3) Stephen Joyce
You haven't heard of him? Us either, until he vaulted straight into a major ministerial post before even being sworn in for the first time as an MP. Described in the media as a "self-made millionaire", there's every chance he'll be competent - but he's also a totally unknown quantity, who was barely seen during the election campaign. And National's much-vaunted broadband roll-out is now in his hands. Running radio stations may translate in Key's mind to expertise in information technology, but we're waiting to be convinced.

4) The Old Guard
As much as the media is touting Key as having chosen a new and fresh Cabinet, quite a few faces from the nineties are visible on the front bench - including English, Ryall, McCully, and Nick Smith. (Just think: Murray McCully is now going to represent us overseas.) They presided over some fairly horrific outcomes for a great number of people, and they haven't shown many signs of changing.

5) Climate Change
We'll give John Key credit for getting with the program on the reality of anthropogenic global warming (no point arguing if you never convince anyone) but we're going to have to take it away again for agreeing to have a select committee to hear evidence on its reality and - get this - "assess the quality and impartiality of official advice". That's right; politicians are going to be passing judgement on scientific advice provided by scientists. In the interests of fairness, we're hoping that the committee to assess the reality of continental drift will be announced any day now.

- Lucy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Enter, Stage Left

Kia ora koutou katoa, and welcome to the community blog for Young Labour Christchurch. This is where members of our branch of Young Labour will be posting about what we're up to around Christchurch and what we're thinking abour current issues. As should probably be obvious from the timing, this isn't just a campaign blog - it's intended to be an ongoing source of information and discussion.

A quick disclaimer also: this blog represents the views of the individual Young Labour members who post here. Posts do not represent the official views of the entire Young Labour Christchurch branch, Young Labour in general, the Labour Party, or the (current, and we hope future!) Government in any way.

That's all for now, but we're hoping to get some more stuff up before Saturday!

- Lucy