The Mapp Report: Where Is The Wealth?
The Mapp Report: Where Is The Wealth?
With the announcement yesterday that New Zealand has the lowest unemployment level in the OECD, serious questions need to be asked about the nature of New Zealand employment.
Of particular concern is the way wage rises have outstripped productivity gains. With wages continuing to rise it would be expected that New Zealand's overall productivity levels would also increase. However, this is not the case and wage rises without improved productivity can only led to greater costs for businesses and reduced competitiveness.
It is a particular problem in the public service, with wage increases of 15 per cent for top officials being made without consideration for performance reviews. The public service bill is now growing by over $600 million a year and is drawing in skilled workers from the private sector. This in turn leads to a skills shortage in the private sector, and a slowing down of the economy.
Put simply, public servants do not generate wealth in the economy - they consume it. With New Zealand's unemployment now sitting at 3.4 per cent, the job market is tighter than it has ever been. But as interest rates, fuel costs and a competitive import market continuing to rise, business confidence is beginning to wane. This will force small business and those in industries reliant on high consumer spending to cut jobs, resulting in higher unemployment. Pressure by Unions to further increase wages is only adding to the burden on New Zealand businesses.
What is needed in New Zealand is a different focus on productivity than envisaged by Labour. Wage increases cannot continue if productivity does not increase. Labour's plans do not get to the core issues of high compliance costs and restrictive labour market laws. These must change if we are to have any hope of closing the gap with Australia.
Written for the Christchurch Press, 8 November 2005
In recent years, New Zealand's public institutions have become consumed with political correctness to the detriment of the vast majority of New Zealanders who are, all too often, left walking on eggshells. My role in dealing with political correctness is to expose the political correctness in these institutions and insure they are representative of the taxpayers that keep them afloat.
The politically correct are disconnected from the real world and they aren't fooling anyone. In primary school sport, scores are no longer kept to 'protect' the children from the stress and humiliation of defeat. But children can count - they keep score anyway. One youngster I know proudly told her father that, while there was no score, her team had won by three goals. By wrapping our children up in cotton wool we are preventing them from learning one of life's most valuable lessons - there will always be winners and losers. This same cotton wool approach has been taken on our school examination system.
This is the kind of political correctness that people are fed up with. It is an ideological attempt to change New Zealand so that mediocrity reigns and people are closeted from achievement.
I don't know anyone who thinks that's for the best.
Political correctness occurs when zealots capture public institutions, using their powers to require people to act in a certain way. This is not what our public institutions are for and it's not what we expect from our tax dollar.
Like the vast majority of New Zealanders, National has had enough. That's why National has created this position to deal with political correctness. Most of us can recognise political correctness when we see it. There is usually an element of the farcical present. But this is not always the case. Often there is an element of political indoctrination.
The Chief Executive of the AIDS Foundation has to accept that the Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi is the only valid text of the Treaty. How will that help the Chief Executive deal with the very real issues associated with AIDS? Does it mean that the only people who agree with their interpretation of the Treaty can apply?
Examples of political correctness are everywhere, from the Human Rights Commission declaring a golf tournament for married couples as illegal discrimination (against the non-married), to an airline requiring unaccompanied boy travellers to be seated next to a woman rather than a man because of the perceived 'risk'.
Our schools are particularly rife with political correctness ranging from having no score in school games, to having dishonest marking systems that do not tell parents whether their children are passing or failing and where they sit relative to their classmates. The PPTA was so concerned that Helen Clark's Government had dropped Georgina Beyer's bill on Transgender Sexuality that they issued a special press release on it. I think most parents would rather see the PPTA focus on the educational needs of their children.
Such huge fees have been demanded of a charity-operated model railway that it will have to close after 30-years of hassle free operation. There is talk of banning the sausage sizzles and cake stalls that fund school trips and sports teams for health and safety reasons. Lolly scrambles have been banned in some areas for fear of child injury. The same has occurred with children's jungle gyms.
However, simply railing against political correctness does not effectively deal with it. What is required is a more systematic approach. First we have to identify what it is; second, why it is harmful; and, third, what we can do about it.
It's National's goal to bring commonsense back into those parts of government that are particularly vulnerable to the allure of political correctness. Over the coming months I will be talking with a wide range of people and organisations. It is not my intention that this project becomes a reactionary attack on any particular minority group.
Instead, I will focus on those areas where the actions of the bureaucracy verge on the ridiculous or unreasonable, or where freedom of speech is threatened. In some cases, exposure will be enough to create change.
In others, change to the law may be necessary, especially in the case of the Human Rights Commission, with its unholy mix of advocacy and prosecution powers, and OSH and Transit New Zealand which both have excessive power that should not be part of their brief.
I want a New Zealand for New Zealanders, where our teachers teach reading, writing and maths, where parents can measure their children's performance both in the classroom and on the sports field and where the rights of minority groups are acknowledged and respected, but not at the expense of others.