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Future Lefts - "Rank-incompetence"

09/07/2001

Contents

Editorial
Budget Bouquets and Brickbats
Press Release, Murderers Loose in Washington DC
The Boring tax Review, a Brief Summary
Top Ten Theme Songs for the 2002 ACT Campaign
All Over the World. To change it. IUSY Campaigns
The Torysaurs - The Creechapod
News - Big on Ideas, Small on Space
Website of the week

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Editorial: Thank you Ms Dyson!

Welcome to the mid-year holiday bumber edition of Future Lefts. We've got a fairly big edition for you, ranging from a few funnies, to some interesting topical pieces. Firstly though, we'll take a look at that bloody court case...

Christine Rankin has had her much vaunted day in Court, along with half of the present Cabinet. The skirts have been short, the mouths have been mealy, and the issues have been avoided - until yesterday that was. Finally then, someone testifying actually got to the heart of the case. Responding to the diversionary questioning of Christine Rankin's lawyer, in which he once again pushed a barrow suggesting that the central issue of the case is institutional sexism, Ruth Dyson put the case firmly in perspective.

In response to his highly patronising line of questioning, which invariably began with "as a woman, Ms Dyson, doesn't in concern you that…", the Associate Minister made it very clear that she wasn't interested in participating in such irrelevance, and that further, the only issue that decided Ms Rankin's fate was her competence, or lack thereof. She then went on to detail Ms Rankin's inability to often answer questions relating to the management of her own department, and utter lack of professionalism in presenting Ministers with reports riddled with spelling mistakes. Clearly, such behaviour is not going to inspire the confidence of Government Ministers, something that is quite vital to the smooth formation and implementation of policy.

So there is that - a lack of intellectual rigour and simple competence (especially in the light of numerous WINZ balls-ups over the past couple of years) to count against Rankin. Perhaps more fundamentally though, there is the nature of the contract that she has served under to consider. The contract was short term, and specified that the State Services Commissioner was under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to re-appoint her. The compensation for this perhaps slightly precarious arrangement is a very substantial six-figure salary, with bonuses for Africa available (these bonuses themselves had the potential to rival the average New Zealander's salary).

This is a fairly standard commercial arrangement - a high-risk, short-term, high-financial reward position. The rights and wrongs of such a system operating in the public service in the place of utterly neutral career civil servants aside, it would seem that Ms Rankin's major bone of contention is that she can't have her cake and eat it too. She wants the big money, and the political and celebrity profile of her commercial contract, plus the protections and tenure that characterised the public service that her type have destroyed. That isn't the way it works.

If you're in Auckland over the next little while, make sure to take a look at the excellent exhibition on the 1951 Waterfront Dispute, which is being presented by The Film Archive and the Trade Union History Project. Details follow:

When: 14 June - 25 August Cost: Free admission Where: School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) University of Auckland 74 Shortland St Central City Auckland

On an administrative note, Future Lefts will soon be changing from the Listbot delivery system to Yahoogroups. You will be e-mailed further information as to what to do when we make that change.

Take Care, Editor

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Budget Bouquets and Brickbats 101

It is just over a month since the first seismic shock in New Zealand politics since 1991.

You may have thought that Labour winning an election for the first time in 12 years was a shock. You may have thought the restoration of ACC into the public sector was a shock. You may have thought increasing taxes was a shock.... and you'd probably be right.

On the other hand, nothing comes close to comparing to the shock delivered to the Opposition and the public in the 2001 Budget. With a total new spending allowance of just over $600m, the Budget was the most fiscally conservative since about 1992. The wind was removed from National's sails. Mrs. Shipley was reduced to a finger-wagging speech which gyrated between accusing the Government of blowing its budget, and screeching that Labour and the Alliance were letting people down by not spending enough.

The wider reaction to the Budget was very positive, as shown in the wide gap opened up in opinion polls following it. Business applauded fiscal stringency; important improvements were made in some key social services; health and education received added funds on top of the extremely large increases budgeted for last year. Money began to be set aside for the Super fund - and on and on it goes.

All this puts the Opposition in a very difficult position. National has no credibility when it comes to social service spending, and people will not soon forget their continual erosion of benefits (including cuts to welfare and super in 1991 and 1998 respectively). National's trump card has always been that "we can manage the economy, and Labour can't." Yet, we see the lowest unemployment since Labour was last in Government - lower than it ever was over the entirity of National's term. We see a Government recognising that we cannot succeed on the sheep's back, and talking and doing things about economic transformation. We see a continued effort to improve access in overseas markets for New Zealand goods.

Yes, it is fair to say that a lot of the current economic upswing is due to the low dollar, good weather, and so on. This isn't to say that what Labour and the Alliance are doing is not important. New Zealand can either float on under free-market ideologues, at the whim of low dollars, or good sunshine. We've been doing that since about 1984, and I cannot stress enough that it has not worked. If we continued under that model, we will end up a third world country at the end of the world. Concrete programmes to bring about a higher value trading economy are the only way forward.

Over the coming 16 months or so, National will do all it can to try and pretend it cares about this country's economic development. They will mouth the rhetoric of economic transformation, and they will do their damndest to persuade the public that they'll do it better than Labour and the Alliance.

National should be ignored, for two reasons. They can only govern in coalition with Mad Dog Prebble and his bunch of steely ideologues, and that bunch will never permit the kinds of policies this country needs. Secondly, they had ten years to work on this country's economy, and they blew it. Our growth has been consistently behind that of our trading partners ever since the "free market" revolution began. More of the same will lead to... yes... more of the same. And the same isn't good enough.

So you can see the rug pulled from the right with this budget. With no trust on social issues, and no plan for the economic future of the nation, things are looking good for the Alliance and Labour in 2002.

Jordan Carter

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Murderers Loose in Washington DC

Appalled by yet more judicially ordained killing in the United States, the Princes St (Auckland University) Branch of the Labour Party recently put out this statement to express its utter contempt for regimes that allow Capital punishment. It includes a number of interesting figures that horribly illustrate the waste of human lives that Capital Punishment is responsible for in the United States alone. For more information, see the Amnesty International Website on this topic at: http://www.amnesty-usa.org/abolish/

"We totally condemn the United States government for the recent execution of Timothy McVeigh" said Michael Wood, Chairperson of the Princes St (Auckland University) Branch of the New Zealand Labour Party.

"The issue here has nothing to do with the hideous crime that McVeigh committed. It was a criminal act that no reasonable person would expect to go unpunished. Instead, the pertinent issue is whether the state, under any circumstances should have the right to forcibly extinguish the most precious right that any of us have, that being the right to life. We contest that no individual, court, or state ought to have the authority to deprive any citizen of this most fundamental of rights" said Wood.

"Yet last year alone, the US government killed eighty-five of its own people. What's more, three thousand seven hundred more people are presently waiting on death row in the 'land of free'. Even if they could put up a morally defensible argument for the death penalty, would pro-execution leaders such as President Bush be prepared to personally guarantee that every single one of these people is one hundred percent guilty of the crime they are accused of? Surely, the prospect of even one innocent person, one Arthur Allan-Thomas, dying at the hands of the state should be too much for hard-liners such as Mr. Bush to defend. " says Simon Randall, Vice-Chairperson of the Branch

"You would at least think that such a drastic punishment would exist for some good reason - but it doesn't. Studies commissioned by the United Nations show that there is no evidence that capital punishment discourages violent crime.* Frankly, the death penalty is just an easy way to satisfy people's immediate desire for vengeance, without having to look at the real causes of violent crime. The USA's rampant culture of violence, perpetuated in particular by the easy availability of fire arms, are issues that should be tackled before more lives, including those of fourteen school aged kids since 1990, are taken by the State in the name of justice" says Wood.

"The USA likes to think of itself as a world leader in human rights. Until they join the majority of countries who have outlawed capital punishment, that claim is an international joke. It is particularly galling that leaders such as President Bush think that taxes are an infringement on individual freedom, but have no qualms about taking away the individuals right to life." says Randall

"When Phil Goff recently went to China, many New Zealanders were very keen that he raise the issue of human rights abuses with their government. Capital Punishment is a human rights violation according to the UN's Optional Protocol to the ICCPR (International Covenant for Civil and Political rights), and is abhorrent to many New Zealanders. That given, we strongly urge the government to raise the issue of capital punishment with the USA at diplomatic level" says Wood.

*1996 UN study, reference: Roger Hood, The Death Penalty: A World-wide Perspective, Oxford, Clarendon Press, revised edition, 1996, p. 238, paragraph 328

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The Boring Tax Review, a Brief Summary

Yes that's right, boring. Not only in terms of what it said, but in terms of the inaccessible way that the information was presented to the public.

Do you even know what I am talking about? Possibly not. Upon coming to Office, the Government set up a Commission to look at our tax structure. It recently produced a fairly thorough report for public comment. This can be looked at on the Commission's website at: http://www.taxreview2001.govt.nz/

It is long, and as tax reviews often are, terminally dull. However, it is extremely important. Basically, the Commission has produced an extremely conservative report that pays a lot of lip service to progressivity, but more or less directs us towards a low, flat, neo-liberal model tax system. Just one example of this inconsistency is the Commissions out and out attack on excise taxes as regressive, while at the same time suggesting that GST would be the most appropriate tax, if any, to increase.

In any case, I would encourage you to have a look at the report, and if you can, make a submission. The final report of the Commission (due out next year) will be a potentially influential document in the formation of Party tax policies leading up to the General Election. Submissions are due quite soon (August 1st). If you are the sort of person however, who comes out in a rash at the sight of long-winded documents about tax that use words like "redomiciled", then a very brief, and slightly opinionated summary of the major points of the review follows:

Income tax

The Commission acknowledges the value of progressivity, but proposes nothing more.

Capital Gains tax

It is noted that other regimes only tax capital gains when the gain is realised - at point of sale. This: "encourages people to hold or sell ownership to avoid tax, and ties assets up unproductively." SO… this is rejected. But…

House tax

Notes that if you invest in shares, the bank etc, then you are taxed - but not if you invest in a house. Considers this an anomaly that distorts the market Apparently a house tax is recommended by the OECD (along with capital gains). Report recommends this tax

Wealth taxes

"There is no need for a general wealth tax. Estate duty is not required to fill any gap in the income tax base. The Review is not convinced New Zealand could operate an effective estate duty even if it was desirable. Elderly New Zealanders would avoid the tax if they redomiciled in Australia, for example, which has no estate duty." So, no, this is rejected

Cash flow tax

"The CFT tax base is simply cash inflows minus cash outflows" then highlights inefficiencies of this system before rejecting it.

Expenditure, Transactions Taxes

"Expenditure and transaction taxes include GST, excises, customs duty, road user charges, motor vehicle fees, stamp and cheque duties and energy resource levies. They comprised 35% of total tax revenue and 11.7% of GDP in the 2000/01 year."

GST

The Commission has wet dreams about this: "GST is a broad-based, low-rate, fair and efficient tax." "GST is roughly proportional to income for more than 80% of households. Using multiple rates or exemptions to remedy concerns about regressivity would create other costs and anomalies likely to have worse impacts."… Then says that no GST changes are proposed, but later goes on to say that: ""We therefore think that, if the government needs to increase taxes in the future, it should turn first to GST. If it is able to reduce them, it should turn first to income tax."

Gift Duty + Stamp & Cheque duties

"Gift duty raises only $1.6m a year" plus it is apparently quite inefficient, so they want it abolished.

Financial Transactions Tax

It is Alliance policy to replace GST with this. The Commission heartily rejects such an approach. They say that it distorts prices, and cascades through the production process, meaning disproportionately higher prices for consumers.

Tobin tax

"Tobin tax is a low-rate tax on all foreign exchange transactions aimed at dampening currency speculation and stabilising exchange rates." The Commission says that this is too easy to avoid, and would limit ability of exporters and importers to hedge. So it's rejected.

Excise taxes

The Commission doesn't really like them, saying that they are too regressive.

Eco-Taxes

"The Review considers that an eco-tax is appropriate only when the following three conditions are broadly satisfied: · The environmental damage of each unit of emissions is the same across the geographic area to which the tax applies; · The volume of emissions is measurable; and · The marginal net damage of emissions is measurable. At a national level, we consider only greenhouse gases satisfy these conditions."

Carbon tax

The Commission is a bit unconvinced on this, but opens the door by saying that more research is needed. We need to wait for Kyoto Accord developments too apparently.

Personal Tax Rates

"Personal income tax is used to generate revenue for government, and reduce income inequality. The number of personal rates has been reduced from 33 ranging from 15-60% in 1967 to four now, ranging from 15-39%. At the same time the tax base has been broadened. The top rate has halved but proportion of tax collected from the top bracket remains roughly the same." The Commission doesn't really want any changes here. It rejects a zero tax bracket as too burdensome on other tax groups. They sound a bit snarly about the top tax rate, and proceeds to wank on about how higher progressive tax rates tax the only people in NZ who save… Further suggestions are made about generally lower taxes, and a simplified two step system (we currently have 4), with top rate of 34% at the very most.

Targeting Vs Universality

"Universal benefits are payments made at the same rate to everyone, regardless of income. They do not change effective marginal tax rates as income rises. But they are so costly that only limited assistance is provided to low-income groups, while an equal gain is passed to middle and high-income people." Prefers targeting to Universality, and rejects Universal Basic Income.

Corporate Tax

The Commission wants this to be same as top tax bracket for efficiency and tax-avoidance reasons. Bad Labour.

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Top Ten Theme Songs for the 2002 ACT Campaign

Spotted in the most recent edition of the Staunch Alliance (their equivalent of Young Labour) newsletter:

1. It's The End Of The World As We Know It - REM 2. Money for Nothing - Dire Straits 3. The Man Who Sold the World - Nirvana 4. Cruel to Be Kind - Letters to Cleo 5. Richard, It's Business As Usual - The Beach Soundtrack 6. Sink Like A Stone - The Exponents 7. Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles 8. Stuff and Nonsense - Split Enz 9. Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage 10. Taking Care Of Business - Bachman Turner Overdrive

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All Over the World. To Change it - IUSY Campaigns.

In this edition's profile of IUSY, the International Union of Socialist Youth, of which Young Labour is New Zealand's member, we look at the various worldwide campaigns that IUSY is fighting. These include campaigns on:

- stopping violence against women - abolishing the death penalty - fighting poverty in Africa - cancelling the debt of the worlds poorest countries - a campaign for peace and justice in the Middle East - and a little more narrowly, a campaign for democracy in Belarus

There're whole resource kits on these issues, available in PDF format on the IUSY site at: http://www.iusy.org/english/

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The Torysaurs

Long long ago, in an age that few remember, and fewer want to, there lived a breed of creatures so privilged, so conceited, and so haughty that they managed to fool all others to bow before them.

In time however, a combination of poor genetic variation, caused by excessive in-breeding, and preposterously small brains, led to their demise, and replacement by an evolutionarily superior, and generally more attractive breed.

So let's take a walk my friends back through the annals of history to those dim dark ages when the Torysaurs ruled the earth.

Today we profile:

This week: The Creechapod Genus: Limpdickus

The Creechapod flourished during the brief Jennacaceous period. As a small, unintelligent, and generally hopeless species, this evolutionary dead-end had to rely upon being able to scavenge on the prey of its larger cousins such as the Spudasaur and the Bigshipadocus.

The one notable characteristic of the Creechapod, and pretty much its only method of defence, was an odious "screeching noise". Extensive studies of the fossil record reveal that when accosted, the Creechapod, after running in one direction, and then doing a complete u-turn in the hope of avoiding a potentially messy situation, would emit a horrible high-pitched noise. Although this noise is generally believed to have been totally unintelligible, it was distressing enough to the ear, that many predators would simply leave the Creechapod to its business, which was never much.

With the decline of the Torysaurs, the Creechapod slipped into historical obscurity. With limited abilities, and at best an ability to defend itself in an annoying fashion, this species is one of the most utterly forgettable of the Torysaurs

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News - Big on Ideas, Small on Space

Another pointless UN Conference is to be convened in New York this month. This one is designed to stop the sale of illicit arms around the world. Apparently, if you get shot by an illicitly obtained AK-47, it's worse than being shot by one of the millions circulating around the world that have been 'legitimately' sold by Western countries such as the USA, Britain, and France. New Zealand's NGO representative at the Conference will be pace-nik, sandal wearing, commie, sandal wearing, lentil eating anti-gun activist Phillip Alpers. Good bloody job.

Finally, there looks to be some movement on solving Auckland's transport woes. The Region's local authorities have come up with a plan that will develop a mix of light rail, heavy rail, and bus lanes. The Government, and surprisingly enough, the fickle Greens, have endorsed the plan. The National "nine recent years in power" Party managed to whine about it, saying that the process is taking too long.

The Government is taking long overdue steps to tighten up on the obligations that landlords have to provide good accommodation for their tenants. Unfortunately, at the very same time, Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia has been hauled up as the executor of a house lived in by a relative, which isn't up to scratch. Refreshingly, he wasted no time owning up to the problem, and has pledged to take responsibility for repairing the house.

An ANZ employment ad survey just out shows a record number of ads in our countriy's newspapers. This suggests strongly that the governments strongly pro-active approach to combating unemployment, which has already seen the unemployment rate fall to its lowest in thirteen years, is making further progress.

The Justice Minister has just announced a compensation package for the wrongly convicted David Dougherty. He has received around $868000 in cash compensation, and a formal apology from Phil Goff on behalf of the Governement. Dougherty spent three years in prison for a rape that it was later proven he could not have committed. Years of lobbying the National government brought Dougherty no joy.

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Website of the Week

http://www.honourablemember.co.uk/

Well, this is a bit embarrassing, but this week's 'website of the week' is taken from the 'website of the week' of the Young National's publication "The New Right".

Really though, this is good fun. It's one of a number of internet games that came out at the time of the recent British elections. This one's called "Honourable Member". You are a budding MP who must decide on policies, hire and fire staff, make alliances, and take any number of other decisions - dodgy or upstanding, left of right, liberal or conservative?

Ultimately, your aim is to become the Prime Minister. Not that we're encouraging rampant careerism or anything…

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All submissions should be to the editor, Michael Wood, at michael@semrits.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the content is entirely the responsibility of the editor and the views expressed here don't constitute any official position of Young Labour. All contents copyright (c) 2001. Subscribe at http://www.younglabour.org.nz.


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