Joe Hendren

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

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Drinking Liberally Auckland and Auckervegas

"Like politics? Like drinking? If you answered yes to both these questions then join us for Drinking Liberally, a monthly event aimed at building ties among left-leaning people."

Drinking Liberally is a worldwide progressive network and is being launched in Auckland early next month. Two or three events have already been held in Wellington.

WHAT: Drinking Liberally Auckland City LAUNCH!
WHEN: 7.30pm, Wed 2nd July
WHERE: London Bar, cnr Wellesley & Queen Sts (opposite Civic)
SPEAKER : David Slack, of Public Address, National Radio, and several books

If you are in Wellington, Drinking Liberally meets on the first and third Thursday of the month at the Southern Cross on Abel Smith Street.

Lynn from the Standard made up a great graphic to help promote Drinking Liberally Auckland. I hope he will forgive me, but I could not help but wonder what the following would look like..

Not that I am a drunken litterbug - its only a thought crime citizen!

Is anybody else a little concerned that a key symbol of Auckland is a casino that looks like a hypodermic needle? In saying this I am not critiquing Lynn's choice of graphic at all - its more of a reflection on the symbols chosen to represent New Zealand's largest city. A choice, I might add, of an elite. With the addition of the bottle, the sky tower can now represent gambling, drugs and grog, all in one package.

And a short walk from a park named after a wealthy beer baron.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Obama should put Hillary on the Supreme Court

Listening to National Radio early this morning I did enjoy the suggestion made by Jon Johansson that a President Obama should appoint Hilary Clinton to the Supreme Court. As Johansson points out this would mean all of Hilary's conservative detractors would have to put up with Hillary for as long as she lives!

Looking into this idea a little further, I found the American Family News Network made a compelling case for Hillary, even if they might not have meant to. A so-called "pro-family legal expert", Mat Staver hopes the the potential legacy of Clinton is something conservative voters will consider.

"That legacy will likely be whether or not we have abortion for the rest of our lives or whether we restore the sanctity of human life," he explains. "Whether we continue to have [traditional] marriage ... [w]hat kind of security, what kind of family values and religious freedom are we going to have in the next couple of generations," lists the attorney.

The American Taliban have spoken. Many people reading the above will take it as an ringing endorsement of a Clinton candidacy.

While Clinton does not have any judicial experience (she is a lawyer), non judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court before. In 1952 California Governor Earl Warren entered the court. He later became one of the highest regarded Chief Justices, playing a key role in the Brown vs Board of Education case in 1954 that ordered an end to school segregation.

Of course Obama can't simply appoint her - he needs to become President and a Justice needs to die. Perhaps he could appoint her Attorney General (or a similar role) in the meantime, which would give a clear hint of where she might be heading, and avoid any perceptions of the Clintons running the Obama White House.

Given a Republican majority on the Supreme Court voted on party lines to appoint George W Bush to the Presidency in 2000, the Republicans can not credibly complain about politicisation of the Supreme Court. In fact, Hillary would bring welcome balance to the currently conservative bench.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Go Go Go Child Povery Action Group, Boo Labour

There was some good news on the box tonight. The Human Rights Review Tribunal has begun to hear the case bought against the Government by the Child Poverty Action Group that the Working for Families programme discriminates against the children of beneficiaries.

The case centres around the the In-Work tax credit, worth around $60 a week. The Labour-led Government excluded beneficiaries from being eligible for this payment. CPAG say this is illegal discrimination because it is Government assistance given only to a select group. 220,000 children from beneficiary families currently miss out.

The Working for Families policy assumes that parents use the money to help with the costs of raising families. How can it be fair that children of beneficiaries are denied $60 a week on the basis of the source of their parents income? Are the Labour party seeking to encourage a new pester power, as in Mummy why don't you get a job? How can it be fair that families lose the $60 a week when a parent has the misfortune to be made redundant?

Prime Minister Helen Clark attempts to defend Labour's policy by claiming Working for Families has lifted 130 thousand families out of poverty. Even though Working for Families has improved the lives of many families, New Zealand's child poverty figures would suggest Clark's claim is somewhat of an exaggeration. Particularly when the Working for Families policy deliberately excluded the very poorest - beneficiary families. Clark also claims "[s]ince the in-work payment came in for the first time we've got the numbers on domestic purposes benefit going down, thats a great thing because it means we have more children seeing their parents going to work everyday to earn a living." Now Helen, can you please tell me how this is the fault of the children?

This and other comments made at the time by of the introduction of Working for Families make it clear that a key policy objective of Working for Families was to increase the difference between the incomes of those on a benefit and those in (low) paid work. The same policy principle underlay Ruth Richardson's 'Mother of All Budgets' in 1991, where Ruth Richardson slashed benefits. Despite making many complaints about these cuts in opposition, Labour have never made any real effort to restore benefit levels in 9 years of Government. Labour ensured beneficiaries did not get any benefit from the tax cuts announced in the Budget, which will only make the situation worse.

The Government's own Ministry of Social Development now say beneficiaries are now worse off now than they were under National in the 1990s. With such a record Labour do not deserve the support of beneficiaries, but neither do National as they have said they are happy with benefit levels as they are now. In contrast, the Greens have given consistent support to beneficiaries in Parliament, despite a great many beneficiaries continuing to support Labour out of habit.

In her recent speech on the 2008 Budget Green MP Sue Bradford said
"..,Dr Cullen certainly has a different understanding of labour history in this country than I do. I had thought that the first Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage swept to power in 1935 as a result of the mass unemployment and poverty suffered through six years of the Great Depression. It was unemployed workers together with their comrades still in work who helped create and drive the great things Labour did in those early days, including taking the first steps towards getting a decent welfare system into place, and I see this generation of Labour’s approach to beneficiaries as a real betrayal of that proud history."

By excluding beneficiaries, Working for Families becomes an effective subsidy to underpaying employers. While many on the right such as Labour and National promote the virtues of a free market economy, they want to ensure the right of employers to offer underpaid jobs as a forced sale. If workers want higher wages, they should support CPAG's case against the Government, as giving low paid workers the choice to tell underpaying employers to go to hell is one way to ensure wages in New Zealand are lifted for all.

PS: It is an irony that my very first post on this blog, now four years and a few days ago, I criticised Labour for making cynical use of the Bill of Rights Act to justify a cut in student allowances, at the same time they were defending the continued discrimination of parental income tests on the basis of age on the grounds it would cost them too much money to do otherwise.

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