Q + A August 5 Panel Discussions
Q + A August 5,
Hosted by CORIN DANN
In response to CATHERINE ISAAC and IAN LECKIE interview
CORIN Welcome to this week’s panel: Dr Raymond Miller from Auckland University; John Tamihere, head of the Waipareira Trust – and of course someone who wants a charter school, I should add, John Tamihere – and Matt McCarten too, head of the Unite Union.
MATT MCCARTEN – Unite Union
Can I have one too?
CORIN Do you want a charter school as well, Matt?
MATT A socialist school.
CORIN You want a socialist school?
MATT A communist sort of revolutionary school. How about that?
CORIN They all have to wear berets, do they, with Mao on the front?
MATT And sing.
CORIN Oh, very good. Listen, this is an interesting debate. This is a major change in our education policy, and there was an interesting point just raised at the end of that interview that this – ACT got it in through a deal with National, and they’ve got this policy. It’s quite a major change on the basis of that. Dr Raymond Miller?
RAYMOND MILLER – Political Scientist
Yes, well, of course of lot of people still feel sour that National gifted Epsom to ACT, thereby giving them representation in Parliament. But one of the things that we know about MMP is of course that 1% parties, if they’re represented, are going to play a role in government. They have to be listened to. They have to have some policies. And that’s why it’s very important, if you only get one or two policies of any substance, that you’re out there advocating on their behalf. And this is where I think John Banks has fallen down very severely.
CORIN I mean, I didn’t want to put Catherine Isaacs in a terrible position this morning, but she is the next logical person in the party. She must be disappointed.
MATT Well, you know, it’s a scandal. I mean, Banksie won’t front. But it’s also the fact that this is not his policy. Right, this is Isaac’s policies. As anyone who follows politics knew, the deal was Banks gets a seat, Brash goes and Isaac takes over as the leader of the party. The charter school is her idea.
CORIN Well, he believes in it, though.
MATT Oh, yeah, but he’ll say that he believes in Dotcom too, but here’s the thing, here’s the motivation about it, apart from the ideology – it’s not partnership schools; they’re for-profit schools. That’s why ACT is pushing it. It is a back way in to the privatisation of education in the country, and they’re using—
CORIN But if it makes profits, so what? John Tamihere. If it works and it makes profit, does it matter?
JOHN TAMIHERE – WAIPAREIRA TRUST CHIEF
I come at this from a totally different perspective. We’ve got major problems on the street in decile-5 and under schools in terms of performance, and we’ve got half of Maori children not coming out with NCEA 2. The present system is not working, so don’t blame poor low-skilled parents and solo mummies and all that. That’s just too trite and too easy. So we’ve got to look at a whole range of options that might be available to lift the performance of this big brown wave that is coming out and peaking in 2016. So if you don’t sort our schooling system out and lift the performance of these kids, you then build more jails and a bigger criminal-justice system.
CORIN But are you comfortable with those kids going into a Destiny school, learning intelligent design?
JOHN Well, no, my kids go to Catholic schools and so... (LAUGHS)
MATT Well, that’s worse.
JOHN So that’s my choice. But the proposition I’ve got is if the Destiny followers want to have that, what Destiny and everybody else is looking for is a funding model. We are too. We’re not looking for a profit, because we, more than likely, will have to subsidise a bunch of things as we build it out. But we’re looking for outcomes over time. Now, this is an intergenerational programme if it gets off the ground. Here’s the problem with it right now – every time you see the chief salesman standing up, the opprobrium around him actually takes the wind out of the sales because the messages get all confused. They also get confused by the privatisation argument. There's no doubt there's some legitimacy in that, right? But you shouldn’t beat us up in terms of the third-sector – whether they’re Pacific Island, Maori or other. They told us that Kohanga Reo would fail us and they told us that Kura Kaupapa would fail us. So we just had to embark on these journeys to win the justice viability of them. So I think if we continue to concentrate on lifting performance and what tools might be required in doing that, we’ll have a far more even conversation.
CORIN Raymond Miller, do you see any political risks with this? Because this issue of unregistered teachers is one that could resonate with parents. They won’t like the sound of that, even though they might not know the full details. There's some risks there, isn’t there, for the government?
RAYMOND Well, there's always risks when you bring in a new policy like this. I mean, there are always going to be risks, particularly, as John has pointed out, when you have a party that’s really not advocating on behalf of the very policy that’s at the heart of what it’s trying to do. You know, we have a history of experimentation in education in New Zealand, as we do in many other countries, and there are all sorts of different experiments that have been conducted in terms of alternatives to the state system. The state system is going to continue to have a tremendous monopoly in education in New Zealand. These schools are being set up to help failing kids. They’re not there to pick the best students and to take them away from the state system. I don’t quite know what all the excitement is about this. It is an experiment. Most of the schools, we’re told, are not going to be for profit. Some will be. We should be concerned about that, particularly if they’re paying low-wage teachers and they’re siphoning off resources to make a profit. That would be bad, but on the other hand I think we’re talking about something that’s very limited and people shouldn’t be concerned about it.
CORIN Raymond makes a good point there. They have to take all the students. We’re not talking about them cherry-picking off students here so they can bodgy up the numbers here. They’re taking all the students; they’re going to be closely monitored. It’s worth having a crack for those students that are being failed.
MATT What, the same way as all the contracts in the government gets monitored? I mean, everyone knows that government’s supervision of contractors is very lax. But there's—
CORIN Well, but put in national standards. They either meet them or they don’t.
MATT Yeah, right. Sort of like right now. Look, the education model – what JT said – it fails a certain part of the community, right? And that’s true, you know. Overall, New Zealand is one of the best in the world, right. And it’s sort of like there’s two strands. There’s an ideological position of privatisation – an agenda, which I think is ACT’s role. They use an illegitimate thing, if it’s not working, and how best to do it. The for-profit model, which I think is driving it, is about teachers will reduce in income, because they’re not increasing the budget. They’re using the same budgets and saying, “Now, you go and do it.” What will happen is quality of teachers will go down, then parents will also be asked to start paying. That’s the model. What JT has raised I think is legitimate, and that should be the issue which is addressed.
CORIN OK, this is a good point. What are Labour doing about it? What is the left doing to help those kids that are failing? Because if we just stay with the status quo and don’t have charter schools, no one’s going to help them.
MATT I agree, and I think that JT’s sort of argument about the Kohanga Reo – it’s the same resistance, and they proved to be correct. I think that proper funding of it— I think that what the teachers are doing is preserving their position of their members and their standards, and I think, though, equally aside you’ve got to say is, well, the delivery to a certain amount of students isn’t working. The right has been able to capture that agenda and turn it around on the left.
CORIN Well, the pressure’s on Labour. We’ll have to leave it there for now, gentlemen. Thank you very much.
Q + A August 5, 2012
Hosted by CORIN DANN
In response to FRED PEARCE interview
CORIN OK, the land-grabbers. Matt McCarten, should we be worried that New Zealand is in the firing line here for big tranches of land being sold up?
MATT Well, we should be, and I noticed Mr Pearce was mentioning it was 1% or 2%. It’s actually 7% of the arable land. I think it’s come into mind when the Chinese company was buying the Crafar farms, but actually the Chinese are about the eighth-biggest buyer in New Zealand. Australia’s the first and then it’s Britain, I think, and then it’s the US and Germany. See, they’re all white countries, so it’s OK. But I don’t think it’s about saying that foreigners shouldn’t buy land. I think it’s quite right. The mature approach is what are they bringing? Are they actually going to help employment in this country? Are they going to put more development in, not just buy the land and sit on it?
CORIN But if we look at the Shanghai Pengxin bid, they have had huge restrictions placed on them, Raymond Miller. They can’t just come here and just leave it, can they?
RAYMOND No, and we’ve been very sensitive. Public opinion in New Zealand has been very sensitive on this issue of foreign investment now – since the late 1980s, in fact – the privatisation programme. No governments are prepared to move too far on this issue, simply because the public just won’t tolerate it. And we saw on the Crafar farms issue, for instance, how public opinion swung very heavily against foreign investment. You know, it was interesting looking at the National Business Review Rich List – the wealthiest New Zealander is in fact not a New Zealander at all but a Russian steel magnate. And they went down through the list of people who are investing in New Zealand. Most are investing in things like tourism, in wineries and so on. There isn’t the kind of land-grab going on in New Zealand. I think the difference with, say, countries in Africa is that many of these deals have been done with corrupt, undemocratic regimes who benefit financially from the deals that are being made. In New Zealand, we have a democratically elected government, and they can’t step too far away from public opinion.
CORIN Nevertheless, dozens and dozens of New Zealand companies and food companies are being targeted and are regularly bought up by Australians, Chinese, whatever, and that is a risk to our sovereignty, isn’t it?
JOHN Yeah, look, the problem that Pearce and others are raising is quite clearly this – the last 30 years has seen the fastest transfer of wealth to the smallest group of hands in the history of humankind. So what we’ve got now is that there's these small minorities who have no love for New Zealanders, who have no love for our land, but understand clipping tickets on a global scale. I worry about that. And so the conversation is that the last 30 years of economics has actually developed some of the most perverse results. We really need to talk about that. This land-grabbing is merely a perverse view of one strand of an adverse outcome of that economics. So what we’ve got to do in New Zealand is say our freehold is very important. It banked us. It banked Australia and Canada. We now have to start, if we’re going to divest, is to have a look at leaseholds. Now, leaseholds are big in the States, big in England. Why can’t we transition to it?
CORIN That’s a good point. John, we have to leave it there.
+ A August 5,
Hosted by CORIN DANN
In response to ONE NEWS POLL
CORIN We have a ONE News poll out tonight. The details, of course, will be on at 6, but I can say that just looking at one little snippet of that, David Shearer has fallen slightly in our poll back to 13. Let’s have a look at the graphic, if we can, on this one.
(Graphic reads: David Shearer as Preferred Prime Minster: April – 11%; May – 14%; July 13%)
CORIN He’s sort of bouncing around a little bit, but should he be doing better, given the time he’s now had in the job – a good nine months or so? Matt McCarten?
MATT Well, yes, of course. But you’ve got to keep in perspective that his 13 is a lot more than what Phil Goff had, and he was a more experienced politician. And most of Helen Clark’s time – the first 10 years of her government, she never got those sorts of numbers. I mean, when she was leader of the Opposition. So, Shearer, yes, but two months ago, he was actually four points behind what he is now, so it’s a gradual— Drop back a point, but I think—
CORIN Nothing too serious?
RAYMOND Opposition leaders always suffer from this in polls. You know, “most preferred prime minister” – if they’ve never been prime minister before, it is very hard for people to actually understand how well they might do. And Matt’s right—
JOHN And Key is popular.
RAYMOND Yeah, and I get the sense too that Shearer is beginning to grow into the job. It’s slow, but he’s beginning to grow into it.
CORIN He’s definitely getting better at handling the press conferences and those sort of things.
RAYMOND And Labour is very tolerant of its leaders, actually. The last time they rolled a leader was Mike Moore in 1993, and that was after two election defeats.
CORIN But given there’s so many issues running at the moment – they’ve got the Banks saga, they’ve got the water rights saga – is Labour being proactive enough? Are they getting enough cut-through on issues?
JOHN Look, Shearer’s problem is he also has a front bench that is not firing, so they’re not— But he can’t do everything. He can’t be across everything. So his front bench really has to start up. Secondly, they’re restructuring the whole party. Thirdly, he’s succeeded after 19 years of Clark and co. And fourthly, you’ve got a prime minister that is over a whole range of breaking issues, and they’ve just finished the national conference, a whole bunch of other things, so I wouldn’t be—
CORIN Not too worried?
JOHN ...running for the knives now.
CORIN OK, John, we’ll leave it there, thank you.