|Dame Dorothy Fraser Lecture will celebrate achievements of women in politics|
|Posted 11th Jul 2017|
Filed under: Other
|Today the sixth annual Dame Dorothy Fraser Lecture will continue the strong tradition of honouring the late Dame Dorothy Fraser by highlighting the achievements of New Zealand women, and remembering their contributions.|
Hon. Annette King will deliver a lecture titled Parliament and Politics: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Annette is a stalwart of New Zealand politics who has more than 30 years of experience in Parliament. She has been Minister of Health, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, and an MP in three different electorates. She will have some fascinating insights and stories to share with the audience, and will continue a strong tradition of speakers which includes renowned historian Professor Barbara Brookes, campaigner Louise Nicholas ONZM, former National Party MP Marilyn Waring, former CTU President Helen Kelly and former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Dame Dorothy Fraser was the youngest person to join the New Zealand Labour Party and was a well-known community figure who gave so much back to the Dunedin South community. She spent 29 years on the Otago Hospital Board, was a Dunedin City Councillor, an Otago University councillor, Otago High School board of governors member, and chairwoman of Montecillo Trust Board. The Dame Dorothy Fraser Lecture, now in its sixth year, honours her accomplishments and celebrates the achievements of other women.
Annette will be introduced by Hon. Marian Hobbs, former Labour MP.
|Speech in the House: Bill English shows lack of leadership|
|Posted 22nd Mar 2017|
Filed under: Other
|Today in the house I spoke about the lack of leadership from Bill English on housing, health and jobs. |
Being Prime Minister means more than making observations such as the loss of Cadbury jobs being "a huge thing for workers, who may prove to be more resilient than expected". More than a "whatever" approach to people who are frightened about being kicked out of their state house and not being able to afford a market rental.
It means understanding that our health system is fundamentally cracked when an 89 year old has been prepped four days in a row for an operation with no food until late at night.
Being a leader isn't easy. But Bill English isn't filling the shoes.
You can see a video of my speech at the link below:
|Local communities critical to Civil Defence|
|Posted 2nd Sep 2014|
Filed under: Other
|Labour will focus on empowering New Zealand communities to be resilient in Civil Defence disasters, says Labour’s Civil Defence spokesperson Clare Curran.|
Announcing Labour’s Civil Defence policy, she says that Labour will work with schools, voluntary agencies and community groups to make sure they are ready to act effectively as the Student Army did in Christchurch. In the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, volunteer networks emerged to tackle the huge recovery task.
“However there are issues that need to be resolved about the sustainability of these volunteer networks.
“A Labour Government will develop the sustainability of that volunteer base and also the capacity of communities to undertake the response and recovery in a crisis.
“New Zealand needs to be prepared for the next emergency before it happens. Labour will make sure that recovery planning is embedded in our planning and training.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our families and communities safe. Labour will use the heightened awareness after Christchurch to ensure all New Zealand is prepared,” Clare Curran says.
Full details of Labour's Civil Defence policy can be found here: https://www.labour.org.nz/sites/default/files/issues/civil_defence.pdf
|Dame Dorothy Fraser Lecture by Helen Kelly - readable version|
|Posted 27th Nov 2013|
Filed under: Other
|Protecting our democracy: Stemming inequality and why workplace laws are so important|
Kia ora koutou
It is a great honour to be able to give this lecture and thank you for coming. I have been reading up on Dorothy with much admiration. Getting on with the things that need to be done. Good values and practical work – nothing like it to make a difference to peoples lives and speaking in a lecture in your honour Dorothy is a great privilege – thank you.
I also want to thank Clare Curran for setting up this sort of event. New Zealanders need to talk more about work and what is happening to it and it is great Clare that your electorate has given me this chance.
I have been asked to speak about Protecting our democracy: Stemming inequality and why workplace laws are so important – not a small topic is it!
For people who rely on income for their economic security, work and democracy – are interlinked. Poor working conditions, lack of collective power, long hours and employment insecurity all reduce the ability for workers to participate in the community and restrict their ability to express a political view without risk of repercussions. The constant resistance and undermining of workers getting together in collectives is deliberate in order to maintain that imbalance of power by those to whom the balance tilts.
For 70% of NZ households the main or only source of income is from work. For many this income is now insufficient to live a secure existence - and not just the marginalised few – 50% of kiwis now say they worry week to week about paying the bills and figures released last week show 46% of kiwis got no pay increase at all last year with those that did getting on average only half the rate of inflation.
The reality is that for many workers the deal around work is not being met. If the deal is that you go to work, work hard for a reasonable week and then have sufficient resources to pay your bills, take some recreation, send your kids on school camp and take the odd holiday - then the deal is broken.
Over 300,000 people are earning on or near the minimum wage in NZ, 30% and up to 50% of kiwis are in jobs which are insecure including 17,000 on casual employment agreements. In this country, for many, work has become something of a nightmare – long hours, insecurity and dangerous. It is not possible for us to have a decent democratic society with indecent work.
First two stories:
Charles is the most recent of the forestry workers that have died this year working in a New Zealand forest.
Charles got home at 6pm the night before he died and was up again at 3am in the morning the next day for his regular 4am start. He was dead before 5.30 that morning. Dead in the middle of the winter, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the country on a freezing, unlit worksite.
Charles, after 27 years as a bushman was earning just $16 per hour. To make a living he regularly had to work 11.5 hour days 6 days per week not including driving time and he was not paid if work was called off in bad weather.
He leaves behind in Tokoroa, 9 year old beautiful twin girls and a 21 year old boy, with their mum left on his ACC at 80% of $16.
Forestry announced its record profits just last week with the price of A grade logs increasing by 40% and overall profit up by 20% on the back of last years best year ever.
This is not right. There have been 8 deaths this year alone and 90 serious harm injuries. Over 1000 forest workers have been on ACC for more than a year. This is a workforce of 6,500. One airlifted out last week with brain injuries, two the week before – legs and back. It goes on and on.
Two weeks ago in Rotorua we met the families of five dead forestry workers – all killed in the last two years in the Bay of Plenty. All earning wages like Charles, all telling stories of how the men and boys they loved and lost, worked in horror conditions – bad freezing weather with plastic bags stuffed down their boots to keep their feet dry, some untrained for the work, working on dark unlit sites, under unsustainable productivity pressures with long hours and no say – no democracy – over health and safety.
We (the union movement) are helping these workers and others to have a voice – joining them together, representing them at coroners hearings, listening to them. But they are scared of speaking out, and there is huge resistance from the forest owners and the Government to these workers organising. And these workers know they are at risk from joining together to form a union, even though many tell us this is just what they need to do in this industry to get improvements including in safety.
This was well illustrated in a recent newspaper article on the issue of safety – in the article the spokespeople for the forest owners were able to speak freely and be named, giving their perspective on the issues, but in regards the workers the journalist said “The one thing the workers had in common is that no one wants to be identified or pass on information that can lead to being identified. Everyone is absolutely sure there would be consequences.”
This is not what democracy looks like is it.
Lets look at another story
Pike River – read the recent book by Rebecca McFee, Tragedy at Pike River Mine – it is one of the most important books written in this country and debunks the myths of Pike. You know the myth that everyone knew it was dangerous but no–one said anything and other excuses that have been thrown about.
The book tells how the workers at Pike screamed for support over their concerns. Two of them scrawled that the mine would blow up on their mining exam papers marked by Harry Bell the ex mine inspector who then rang the CEO Peter Whittal to express his concern, the deliberately non- union health and safety committee wrote to the Board of Directors to express their concerns., there were 200 filed notification forms of near miss incidences and safety issues all ignored, the book has a photo of one where the worker shouts in capital letters that if the issues weren’t sorted he would go to the inspectorate.
But that would not have made any difference because as the book also shows, the “inspectorate” did not exist. Its one inspector, was too busy organising press events for Ministers to put on mining lamps and promote the mine as the safest, modern, best investment anyone could make in this country, too inexperienced, deferential and overworked to support the workers in their call for help.
I need to read you a bit from the Inquiry into Pike. It describes the scene at Pike better than I could and it is a promise I have made – to read it. The Pike River explosion didn’t kill all the men in the mine. Two escaped – an often forgotten fact – it could have been 31.
36. Nearing 3:45pm Daniel Rockhouse was in the drift en route to stub 2 to uplift the gravel required for road repairs at the ABM worksite. He stopped at the diesel bay at pit bottom in stone to fill his loader with diesel and water. The loader was parked with the engine running. While he was turning on a water valve there was a bright white flash
and he felt an extreme pressure blast. Felled by the explosion, Daniel Rockhouse hit his head and ended up lying on his back. His first impression was that the loader had blown up, but he then realised that the engine was still running, although spluttering. He turned it off. Small amounts of debris fell from the roof and the ribs, although
there was no cave-in. Within seconds a pungent strong smell, and dense smoke, reached the area. The atmosphere was warm and breathing became difficult.
37. To escape the effects, Daniel Rockhouse went inbye towards the crushing station. It was clearer, but there was no place of refuge. He donned and activated his self-rescuer and moved back out to the main drift. The self-rescuer did not seem to be working properly so he discarded it. In the drift, next to his loader, he was overcome
and fell to the ground again. He shouted for help, but there was no response. His eyes watered, his body tingled and he thought he was ‘shutting down’. He lapsed into unconsciousness.
38. After some time he revived and sensed that feeling had returned to his fingers and toes. He was shivering with cold from lying in the mud. He tried to roll onto his stomach and push himself up, but he had no strength. Eventually he managed to stand, fell again and then was able to reach compressed air and water lines that ran along the rib. He
turned on an outlet valve on the air line. There was only limited pressure, but enough flow to clear the smoke from around him. The fresh air was ‘like gold’.
39. After a minute or two breathing the fresh air and relieving the stinging of his eyes, Daniel Rockhouse looked for a telephone. Just inbye of his loader he located telephone 353 and rang the emergency number, 555. The telephone rang, but no one answered before the call was diverted to an answering service. He then dialled 410, the control
room number. Mr Duggan answered the phone. Daniel Rockhouse said he was not injured, but that he could not see or breathe. At this point Mr White took the telephone, was told that the air seemed to be clearing and instructed Daniel Rockhouse to ‘stay low’, get to the FAB about 500m outbye and make contact from there.
40. There is no record of the telephone call, or of its timing. However, it is apparent that Daniel Rockhouse made the call at approximately 4:40pm
41. It follows that Daniel Rockhouse was unconscious for a significant period, perhaps 50 minutes or so, after the explosion at 3:45pm until he made the phone call about 4:40pm.
42. After the phone call Daniel Rockhouse followed the compressed air and water lines along the rib and proceeded outbye. As he found outlet valves he opened them and breathed in fresh air. He left the valves open, thinking this would improve the atmosphere. About 300m outbye he encountered a vehicle stationary in the drift. A few metres beyond it, he found Russell Smith lying semi-conscious on the ground, with his eyes open, but rolling back in his head. He could hardly speak. He was not wearing a helmet and light. Daniel Rockhouse removed Mr Smith’s self rescuer from his belt, opened it and tried to insert the mouthpiece into the other man’s mouth. He could not do so. Daniel Rockhouse discarded the self-rescuer, lifted Mr Smith from behind and dragged him outbye towards the FAB.
43. Mr Smith was also in C crew. He had missed the bus to the mine and was late for the 1:00pm start of the shift. He was driving into the mine when the explosion struck. Minutes before he had passed the McConnell Dowell driftrunner heading outbye. He received no warning before there was a flash of bright light and a deafening noise,
followed by a shock wave. The pressure was unrelenting. In an attempt to escape it, Mr Smith lowered himself to gain protection within the cabin of the vehicle. As breathing became difficult he attempted to remove a self-rescuer from his belt, but he was in an awkward position and could not do so.
44. Mr Smith could remember nothing after this. He had no recollection of his rescue by Daniel Rockhouse. He came to in an ambulance en route to Greymouth Hospital. Subsequently, he realised he had minor pitted abrasions to his face and back. His speech was affected in the short term, as was his respiratory system.
45. On reaching the FAB, Daniel Rockhouse propped Mr Smith up in a sitting position against the rib and said, ‘I’ll be back in a sec.’ The FAB was a shipping container converted to include a two-door sealable entrance. Daniel Rockhouse thought it would provide a fresh air source, a telephone and spare self-rescuers. In fact, he found it had
46. After venting his anger, Daniel Rockhouse returned to Mr Smith, got him to his feet and continued to drag him in an outbye direction. After a time he paused and asked Mr Smith whether he could walk. He tried, managed a few steps, but then fell. Daniel Rockhouse lifted him up again, and found that, if he supported Mr Smith, they could walk in tandem, with Daniel Rockhouse holding the rail of the conveyor belt to his left side for support. Periodically the pair stopped and looked inbye, hoping to see other lights coming down the drift. There were none. Daniel Rockhouse continued to open air valves as they went. To motivate Mr Smith, he told him to think of his family and to keep his legs moving for them.
Two miners walk out of the portal
47. As they progressed outbye, the atmosphere became clearer and it was easier to breathe. Natural ventilation provided a fresh air flow inbye from the portal. At 5:26pm the two men completed the 1500m walk from the FAB to the portal. From the time of the phone call at 4:40pm it had taken them 46 minutes to walk out of the mine. No
one was there to meet them. Daniel Rockhouse used the DAC to call the control room for help. Vehicles arrived at the portal within minutes. Mr Smith was incoherent and Daniel Rockhouse broke down. Paramedics gave both men oxygen and they were taken by ambulance to Greymouth Hospital.
So where am I going with this.
New Zealand work rights are a disaster. They do not afford easy access for workers to safely form or join collective organisations to represent them, but possibly worse they contend that they do.
Our laws are designed to feign a model for unions to operate, while in every real way, supported by an antagonistic media and state (government and regulator), they ensure that true worker voice is stifled. And to an extent the sympathy of NZers has been tacitly moulded to supports this state of affairs.
We want nice unions – those that sign our charter, speak at our conference, sit on all our committees but not those that actually organise workers in an effective way.
It is my view that New Zealand has a problem with deference. We have been conditioned to think confrontation is bad and when after holding our breath for a time, we do confront something, we are so het up, we do it badly. We accept rules that silence people who may otherwise say important things at crucial times, but don’t, for fear of being accused of inappropriateness.
There have been a few recent small examples of this:
David Cunliffe on Pike – Last week on the 3rd anniversary of the explosion, David announced Labour, when in Government, would pay the court ordered compensation to the Pike River families following the Governments decision not to. The only response the Government felt confident might get them over the line for its own totally callous and inappropriate response on this issue, was to say that that on this day – the memorial day – it was somehow inappropriate and political for Labour to make this announcement.
Oh yeah it was political – a political choice that when the State makes the errors that it did at Pike, it needs to do all it can to make amends – vs the other a political choice – do nothing and desert these working families. David acknowledged that those workers would not have died down that mine if the State had undertaken its role, and despite the fact the company should also have not been let off the hook as it has, he would not let that failure also sit on the shoulders of these families. But somehow the Government felt confident to say HE was inappropriate.
In reality David Cunliffes only political act was to expose the different priorities of the two parties – one races to the companies side when the mine blows up and invites the CEO to speak at the state funeral to tell the country, even after the blast. that miners were attracted to Pike for its safety culture, and the other, seeing that these families had suffered too much already stepped up to the tackle the issue head on. The Government tried to use the ‘inappropriate’ card to stop this stark contrast being made.
It was not of course political to have the CEO speak just weeks after the explosion at the funeral – but it was three years later when it needs to be put right. 5 weeks after the explosion Mr Whittall was nominated for NZer of the year in the Herald newspaper that also noted he was “god inspired”. That is deference
There are plenty of other examples – beware of those that accuse people of political point scoring, of scaremongering, of playing politics, warning caution – they probably are uncomfortable with the substance of what is being said.
Silencing dissent is dangerous – those that ask genuine reasonable questions are shot down with accusations of rude or antisocial behaviour and it is designed by the powerful to set the parameters of the debate.
Now imagine if you are a worker in an industry like forestry and you want to ask a question. Maybe a question about the arrangements for working when the weather is so bad, the work is dangerous. Or maybe asking for a pay increase so that you might not work such long hours and given the industry is so profitable. It is unrealistic to think individuals can do this safely.
I am obsessed with Forestry – partly because I worry about it every day, but also because it is a perfect case study for the topic of this speech – huge, profitable, labour intensive etc etc.
It has its own magazine! I only just discovered this. The last 5 issues at least have been giving workers in the industry a very clear message about not getting involved with a union – an organisation, as the logging mag says, that is calling for improved wages and conditions in the industry. So bold are they that people actually want “nice unions” or no union at all they feel confident to pitch this as a negative! This is code for, unions will cause conflict and that is bad, even though it is blatantly obvious to anyone who discusses this with me that what these workers need is to join together in a union and demand change.
The magazines go on to warn that the union might exploit workers in the industry! This industry – suggesting that workers gathering together in collectives to discuss health and safety, wages and conditions, hours of work etc would be a form of exploitation. Only in such an emblazoned narrative that unions are evil would an industry with this sort of record of exploitation, be so bold.
There is a war on unions and it is to the detriment of working people and work. The idea that workers join together to increase their security and ability to influence their work – issues like wages, safety, conditions, restructuring etc is not too hard to fathom. In fact there are international conventions that agree national laws and regulations should encourage just that. If we didn’t exist you would make us up!
But unions are demonised. The language “union bosses”, the presumption that we are the problem – the exploiters – all of this – the dominant narrative about work – is designed to allow the powerful to have their way and to take advantage of that deference.
The Narrative being sold is that business are the benefactors in this economy – they are really operating charities, providing jobs to the beneficiaries who are the workers. Unions are an interloper and workers should just consider themselves lucky to have a job, not bite the hand that feeds them and not be ungrateful for the charity provided to them. And it is powerful.
It is my view that the Government really does see business as the most and really the only important economic players to whose interest the economy should serve. So confident is it that it is changing the employment law again in these conditions.
As I said earlier, going through the Parliament now is an extremely serious piece of legislation to remove workers rights to breaks, security and collective bargaining. The Minister, who has now gone to ground on this law, starting fronting it by boldly declaring that workers have too many rights under the current law and it needed a rebalance. The treasury papers released just this week confirm it certainly gives employers much more power and the MBIE papers note the changes will drive wages down.
The 5 big changes include:
The first is the removal of the right to a tea and lunch break – workers that don’t have this guaranteed in their collective will not have an entitlement anymore.
The second is the removal of the protection from cleaning and catering staff of their security of employment when the contractor they work for is replaced – currently any new contractor is required to transfer the current workers over – but it is proposed that if the new contractor employs less than 20 staff they can dump them. We had a hospital cleaner talk about this from my hospital, in Wellington, at one of our rallies. About the hardship of being contracted anyway but then of knowing that at any minute you can be tossed out if the contractor changes. She has cleaned the hospital for over 20 years and is very proud of her work. Barely a day off, strict standards of work to help stop infections etc. The message to her from this law change is that all that commitment is it counts for nothing! If we can get someone cheaper then we will. She is being made a fool of for her commitment and the message she will receive from this Government is that her dedication is worthless to them.
Three core changes to collective bargaining will reduce wages – the Governments own papers say they will. Firstly employers will no longer have to agree a collective agreement in bargaining –, leaving the employer free to reject collectives in favour of individual agreements as a legitimate lawful preference. New workers will not have to be offered the collective for the first 30 days of employment as per the current law, allowing employers to unilaterally offer reduced or changed terms to new workers to undermine the collective agreement. And the 3rd change gives the employer a free run to destroy the bargaining unit in a workplace. If the employer refuses to settle a collective, as they will be able to do, they can seek an order from the court that the bargaining is finished. If this is granted the collective in place will come to an end putting all workers instantly on individual agreements. The Government is then granting a 60 day period to employers where all union bargaining rights will be removed – the right to bargain and the right to strike – leaving the employer free to offer individuals agreements to workers to undermine the collective.
They are serious – and the Government is right – they will drive wages down. It is not right that workers have too many rights now and the consequences of these changes will be more misery and inequality.
Collective bargaining is a means of achieving justice in the workplace between the conflicting interests of the workers and the employer. Without it the outcome of bargaining reflects the inequality of bargaining power, which for the majority of workers results in inadequate wages and conditions. It is as simple as that and collective voices also encourage democracy. They make it safe for workers to have a say in what is going on in the country and at work.
The CTU and its affiliates are pushing back on this narrative and these changes. Through the work we are doing on health and safety which exposes the issues of work in the starkest terms but also in our campaign for better collective bargaining rights including through the Living Wage campaign.
We have a bold new law proposal that will reinstate collective agreements at an industry level as the predominant form of wages distribution in this country. We know from overseas experience that a good wage distribution system is the only way workers will get a fair income relative to the country’s wealth. NZ workers share of income has fallen dramatically over the last two decades and is now one of the lowest in the OECD with only workers in Mexico, Turkey and the Slovak republic getting less of a share. In Forestry in the 1970s workers received 70% of the income and this has now fallen to 30% and continues to fall. And the pressure is forever downwards. We have political support from Labour and the Greens for the new approach.
We will get all sorts of resistance to it from some business who do not want to share either power or profits even if the economic theory shows it is good for the economy to have a fairer better wage system overall. But it is essential to turn around the current situation and restore decency to the lives of working people and to safeguard healthy communities.
A few months ago in at the Elderslea rest home in Upper Hutt, 120 workers were told that the management want to remove permanent rosters and roster them casually according to occupancy. For these women on very low wages, unless they were available anytime, they would no longer get sufficient income to be able to stay in the job.
Elderslea management maintains that the changes would make the rest home more efficient and workers would not lose many hours if they were flexible about when they work. Workers cried when they were told and one worker who had worked there for 10 years described how it would damage her. It is not true that a rest home of this size cannot offer decent stable jobs with regular hours. Its unilateral determination not to do so was a symbol of its power over these workers. It reminded its staff of their value to it and its dominance of their lives including their social and economic wellbeing. It made a fool of those women and damaged their spirits and their souls and made them weep. It has also inflicted economic damage on the communities of these workers and it is unnecessary.
Our proposed law and campaigns are in contrast to this. We will tell these stories to counter the rhetoric that better laws will cost jobs and cause economic ruin – how much worse can it get. The proposal at Elderslea was that these workers effectively lose their jobs even when their work was continuing. It needs countering.
The CTU is campaigning hard on all these issues we have a four stream campaign strategy underway. The forests and other health and safety issues. The Living wage – to push back against the degradation of work. A strong campaign against insecure work, rolling out now, calling for the elimination of employment arrangements that make work insecure simply to maintain control, and the campaign for better employment laws and against the changes going through.
Each of these is coated in the real life stories of the reality of work and engage with communities and workers including many outside the traditional union membership. We won’t apologise for what we do and what we stand for. We won’t be marginalised on the counter intuitive basis that we are the exploiters of labour and that workers are somehow separate from the organisations they have established and we won’t apologise for calling out the dominant narrative simply created to stifle democracy and increase inequality.
|Government takes disability rights backwards|
|Posted 3rd Dec 2012|
Filed under: Other
|The restructuring of the Human Rights Commission provides more evidence that the National-led Government is simply paying lip-service to the needs of disabled New Zealanders, Labour’s spokesperson for Disability Issues, Clare Curran, says. |
“As the world acknowledges International Day for People with Disabilities today there is a growing body of evidence that our government is winding back desperately needed legislative changes and services that would allow the one in five New Zealanders with a disability to more fully participate in society.
“One example of that backward movement is the newly introduced Human Rights Amendment Bill. It has set off alarm bells within the sector with its proposal that the functions of specialist commissioners - such as the disability issues commissioner - be absorbed into the Commission.
“There is also concern that the roles will be downgraded and that the Bill will limit the scope of what the disability commissioner can comment on.
“This follows a damning report by the Convention Coalition, which showed that thousands of New Zealanders with disabilities face insurmountable barriers to getting paid work despite their eagerness for employment.
“Barriers outlined include a lack of accessible transport, inadequate policy that hinders communication and interaction; a lack of access to interpreters, a lack of easy-to-read and braille documents and a lack of accessible electronic texts.
“Today offers an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of people who live with disabilities every day - often described as ‘the world’s largest minority’ - as well as promote and initiate conversation about how all of us can do better to support them.
“I hope Tariana Turia, as Minister, will see it as a chance to engage with the sector and work constructively towards furthering our commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
|Local Government changes ignore needs of provincial New Zealand|
|Posted 30th Nov 2012|
Filed under: Other
|Changes to the Local Government Act passed through Parliament this week ignore the concerns and criticisms of provincial Mayors and councils says Labour MP Dr David Clark.|
"The message from provincial leaders was that the changes in this Bill undermine the very viability of effective local government in provincial New Zealand.
“The select committee was told in no uncertain terms that the National Government's "one size fits all" approach will not deliver for the unique and diverse needs of the provinces.
Dunedin South Labour MP, Clare Curran concurs “That message has been ignored by Government.
“It is provincial and rural Councils that most need the flexibility that the existing law provided to respond to the special needs of small or isolated communities. For example the Ashburton District Council runs medical clinics in Rakaia and Methven – without the Council doing this those communities would have no access to health services,” she said.
"The National government claims that the changes, which include the removal of the social, cultural, environmental and economic “wellbeings” are needed to rein in out of control spending and debt amongst local authorities. However the figures they used as the basis for these claims were so dodgy that the Ministry had to remove them from its website,”
"Likewise claims that Local Government activities have expanded dramatically and driven up rates since Labour introduced the four well-beings are not borne out by the evidence.” Says Dr Clark
“The four well-beings have allowed each local authority to decide for themselves what the priorities are for their communities rather than have priorities dictated from Wellington.”
Clare Curran adds "The removal of the four well beings also threatens effective initiatives such as the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs which has done more to address rising youth unemployment than anything the Government has managed over the last four years.”
“Rates increases have been due to infrastructure demands on councils and requirements imposed on local government by central government without the associated funding attached.
"If the National Government are really concerned about rates increases then they should restore the funding for local roads that they sucked out of provincial New Zealand to pay for their uneconomic 'Roads of National Significance'.
We know local Government is not broken in New Zealand. The Government has rushed through changes that will gut local government, threaten local democracy, undermine investment in infrastructure, and do absolutely nothing to reduce rates. Once again the National Government is ignoring the needs of provincial New Zealand.
|National is failing disabled New Zealanders|
|Posted 24th Oct 2012|
Filed under: Other
|A report released today shows that thousands of New Zealanders with disabilities face insurmountable barriers to getting paid work despite their eagerness for employment, says Labour’s spokesperson for Disability Issues Clare Curran.|
The Convention Coalition, representing the New Zealand Disability sector, today released its second independent monitoring report on disability rights in New Zealand.
The creation and funding of the Convention Coalition was one of the obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons signed by the Labour Government in 2007 and ratified in 2008.
“The report is further evidence that the National-led Government is simply paying lip-service to the needs of disabled New Zealanders.
“It shows that while 30% of working age people are unemployed, for those with a disability, a staggering 56% are unemployed,” Clare Curran said.
The report covered private business, utility companies, local bodies and state services.
“Barriers outlined include a lack of accessible transport, inadequate policy that hinders communication and interaction; a lack of access to interpreters, a lack of easy-read and braille documents and a lack of accessible electronic texts.
“Disabled New Zealanders reported an unwillingness by state servants to work with them and a general lack of disability awareness and responsiveness.
“This is simply unacceptable. Not only does it show that this Government is not fulfilling its responsibilities, but it is effectively blocking a group of people with a willingness to work from being able to.
“National’s freeze on funding to the Mainstream Employment Program will only exacerbate the situation.
“Today’s report identifies six priority initiatives out of a total of 23 specific recommendations. A previous report from 2010 identified social inclusion as the greatest issue facing those with disabilities. In 2012 we see how little progress has been made by the Government in many of the areas previously identified.
“The disabilities sector has been open about the challenges it faces. I hope the Minister will take heed of this report and work to correct the issues identified,” Clare Curran said.
|Speech to NZ Association of Blind Citizens|
|Posted 9th Oct 2012|
Filed under: Other
|The New Zealand Labour Party has a proud history of engaging with and empowering the disability community and people with disabilities. The fifth Labour Government in partnership with disabled people and their representative organisations developed the New Zealand Disability Strategy which was launched in 2000 with the vision of a society that values people with disabilities and continually enhances full and equal participation. This was followed with the then Labour Government signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2007 and ratifying it a year later. Many believe that with these two documents the hard work in ensuring equal rights for those who live with disabilities was done.|
However recent events such as the debate about funding for Green MP Mojo Mathers to do her elected duties in parliament, the recent threat to funding for Auckland Disability Law and the proposed closer of Residential Schools for students with Special Needs show that the hard work is just beginning.
Increasing difficulties in accessing the health system, ACC and entitlements through sickness, invalids benefits and disability allowances are creating increasing issues for many people in our communities, particularly those with disabilities. As is finding work and assistance into work.
The New Zealand Labour Party continues to be committed to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and while we may be in opposition, we hold the current National led-Government accountable to this very important document. I have recently worked closely with Auckland Disability Law and the wider disability community to ensure that disabled persons continue to have access to justice as per Article 13.
I have been asked today to comment on how the Labour Party will give effect to the Convention and resource Disabled Peoples Organisations. Labour is currently in the process of drafting its’ policy platform for the 2014 election and is using the Convention as a guiding document to ensure that our polices maintain the hard won gains made in getting disability rights recognised and strengthen these rights as well as taking active steps to further fulfilling our obligations under the Convention. To this end the Labour Party is committed to the philosophy of “Nothing about us without us” and actively engages with representatives from the disability community and organisations. Within the party structure disabled persons are given a voice via the Kirk Sector which is a special interest Sector based on disability issues. As the Spokesperson for Disability Issues I work closely with this sector to keep informed on issues within the wider disability community and representatives from the sector sit on various policy committees including health, social development and local government so are actively consulted and engaged in the decision making process.
I am aware that the Convention Coalition is releasing their monitoring report on the Governments progress on implementing the Convention from the perspective of people with disabilities and disabled persons organisations very soon. After the monitoring report is released I intend to meet with the Convention Coalition to discuss their findings, listen to their recommendations and hear suggestions on how Labour can work alongside them and other disabled persons organisations to further implement the Convention and ensure that as much as possible Labours policies reflect these findings.
Labour is committed to engaging with and consulting the disability sector on areas where current policies fall short of the obligations and commitments enshrined in the Convention as well as ensuring that disabled persons and their various representatives are adequately resourced to allow them to partake in the decision-making process at all levels from community level right through to central government.
The current rebuild of Christchurch not only allows the redevelopment of the city to be more accessible but allows for greater consultation with the disability sector to create a city that allows for those that live with disabilities to be included in the community and partake in cultural life, recreation and sport. Labour will continue to listen to, work with and consult the disability community as we work towards rebuilding a city that is not only accessible by all but can be held up as an example for others to follow.
One of the big policy areas currently in development is the funding of informal careers following on from the Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Ministry of Health and Atkins and others. Labour is committed to reviewing the policies of the various government agencies that provide funding for carers and implementing policy that is in line with the Court of Appeals findings and gives effect to the general principles of the Convention covered in Article 3 which includes the freedom to make ones’ own choice in carer. Labour will work in conjunction with the individuals with disabilities, their family and whanau as well as funding providers so this is done in a timely manner but also in a way that funding for this is sustainable in the long-term. We have called on, to no avail, the National Government to engage in a bi partisan process on this. We believe this is essential to achieving a long term solution to this issue.
Last year the Government reported back to the United Nations on its progress in implementing the Convention and meeting its’ obligations, it noted that while some progress has been made people with disabilities were still being disadvantaged and continued to have poor outcomes in areas such as health, education and employment. It is interesting to note that these areas of an individual’s life tie in closely with the theme of this conference; your health is your life and education and employment empowers you and opens doors for your future. As an electorate MP I often have constituents come to me with issues regarding access to education for their children with special needs and I am acutely aware of the limited funding for teacher aids. Labour is committed to working with the parents, education providers and other stake holders to ensure the right to education is upheld. This will require a collaborative approach as disability issues touch on many portfolios and I am working closely with my colleagues as well as stakeholders as we work towards ensuring the right to education as covered by article 24.
In order for disabled persons organisations to continue to stand up for the rights of their members and the wider disability community and work in partnership with the state towards an equal society they need to be sufficiently resourced to do so. The current economic climate means that budgets are being tightened while the demand for services and support continues to increase. Currently one in five New Zealanders live with some form of disability and this is likely to increase over the coming years as New Zealand has an ageing population which will mean an increase in age related disabilities including vision impairments. From a policy perspective Labour needs to start planning now how it is going to financially resource the wider disability sector as well as maintain and strengthen the framework established to promote and monitor the Convention.
The obligation that the state has in terms of resourcing disabled peoples organisations is not just limited to financial resources but also to ensuring that the organisations are adequately staffed and that the staff have the skills and knowledge necessary to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are maintained and protected. One of the things I have noted while interacting with the disability community is that they want to train and they want to work. Labour is a firm believer in Adult and Community Education as it provides access to opportunities for learning and training and allows more individuals a chance to expand their personal knowledge and skill base. The Adult and Community Education programme provides access to courses and opportunities that people with disabilities may have missed out on in the past due to earlier attitudes towards this sector of society and as such Labour remains committed to the programme. We will restore funding to ACE and ensure that second chance learning is once more available to our communities.
The disability community is an invaluable resource that has a lot of very skilled, knowledgeable and passionate people who want to work and also want to use their personal skills and experiences to further advance the rights of others. Labour’s current disability policy platform provides a commitment to the Providing Access to Health Solutions (PATHS) programme and partnering those who are currently on a benefit due to their disability and face barriers to employment but are itching to work with potential employers as well as providing in work support as the transition is made.
There continue to be gaps and shortfalls in the resources available to various sectors within the wider disability community and I have been working to highlight some of these. Our Paralympic team did New Zealand proud at the Paralympics not only coming home with 17 medals but five world records and one Paralympic record. My colleague and sports spokesperson Louisa Wall and I released media statements around the lack of coverage of the Paralympic Games which prevented us from participating in and celebrating the achievements of the inspiring individuals. The lack of coverage also did not allow us to recognise the skills and abilities of these individuals as well as challenge stereotypes and attitudes that still exist about people with disabilities. I have since met with the Paralympics Organisation and have assured them that a Labour Government would not allow such a debacle to happen again in the future. There needed to be coordination between the Sports, Disability and Broadcasting Ministers and expectations on the broadcasters properly laid out and planned for.
This is just the tip of the ice-berg; my office is currently looking into the provision of and funding for audio captioning as well as audio descriptors which will enable a sector of the disability community to further participate in cultural life and leisure as well as increase their access to information. I have also met with representatives from the vision-impaired community; due to the way that funding is provided to different organisations in the blind community approximately 90,000 vision impaired persons are unrepresented as they are not classified as legally blind. Labour is committed to working with individuals and representatives involving them in the decision making process as we address the gaps and short falls that continue to exist.
The Digital Switch Over provides a real opportunity for the state and commercial operators to further fulfil our obligations under the Convention in particular around access to adaptive technology to allow those who are deaf or blind to be able to partake in culture and leisure provided by a range of programmes on TV and by extending the right to be informed about current events. Earlier this year the Captioning Working Group stated that New Zealand has the lowest level of captioning in the world. TVNZ Ltd in their Statement of Intent to the 3 years ending 30 June 2014 has allocated $1,950,000 for captioning per year yet only $500,000 for audio descriptions. I have written to Craig Foss as the Minister of Broadcasting to ask why there is such a difference in funding which creates an inequality for those that are visually impaired and blind. I will happily share with you his response.
Another inequality that I am aware of is with regards to the Targeted Assistance Package attached to the Digital Switch Over. Those on the Invalids Benefit can access financial assistance in the months leading to the switch over in their region to purchase and install the set-top box required to receive Freeview.
However, those who are on the Sickness Benefit are ineligible for the Targeted Assistance Package which may mean that when the Digital Switch Over occurs in their region they may be left behind and this is a matter I have also raised with the Minister.
As mentioned above the Digital Switch Over allows a huge opportunity to use adaptive technology to reduce inequalities, some of the Freeview boxes available come with inbuilt captioning and audio descriptive technology however these set-top boxes are more expensive then the basic ones which can be accessed through the Targeted Assistance Package and this creates yet another barrier to full inclusion and participation in society.
Another issue that I am aware of that is important to the visually impaired and blind community is the right afforded to everyone to cast a secret ballot. However many in this community currently rely on others to assist with casting their vote on polling day and are not afforded this basic right. Accessible Voting is a matter that my colleague and Associate Justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel and I have been talking about and we are drafting a letter to the Electoral Commissioner asking what action has been taken in the piloting and implementing of e-voting strategies as identified in the 2007 Long Term Strategy for Voting Technology.
There is a lot of cross over in my role as Labour’s Spokesperson for Communications and IT, broadcasting and my role as Spokesperson for Disability Issues. Another issue that I have become aware of around inequalities and barriers that the disability community, and in particular those with vision impairments or are blind face, is accessing websites. I am aware that not only are a number of Government websites not disability friendly or compatible with text to speak programmes but that a number of sites that New Zealanders use every day are inaccessible.
Currently there are guidelines around Government websites but they are only guidelines. There are no requirements on the private sector to provide accessible websites. Labour is committed to improving access to websites to allow people with disabilities to be able to partake in the online community as well as use websites which will assist them to access services. I am aware of the W3C initiative and if required Labour will consider passing regulations to ensure that disabled persons can access the internet.
In the 2011 health policy platform Labour made reference to research by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket; in their book; The Spirit Level. Their research increased the understanding that equal societies do better not only socially but economically. People with disabilities have historically faced a number of inequalities and even the Governments 2011 monitoring report states that those who live with disabilities continue to face inequalities and until these are addressed through a partnership between the state, disabled persons organisations and people living with disabilities and New Zealand as a whole, then these inequalities will continue to remain.
Labour is committed to empowering you and other disabled persons organisations to take charge of your lives and your future.
|Costs need to be sorted minus the scaremongering|
|Posted 20th Sep 2012|
Filed under: Other
|Tony Ryall is scaremongering as a ruse to avoid addressing how the Government will provide payments to family caregivers of disabled adults, Labour’s Disability Issues spokesperson Clare Curran says.|
In a landmark decision earlier this year the Appeal Court ruled that excluding family members from payment for the provision of disability support services was discrimination.
“At that time Mr Ryall said a new policy should be in place at the beginning of 2013, and carers could then apply to the Ministry of Health to be assessed for the number of hours they are entitled to be paid.
“He also warned that current entitlements could change to help pay for the new policy.
“Four weeks ago I wrote to Mr Ryall saying that Labour understood the difficulties inherent in resolving the issue and that we were happy to discuss co-operative and long-term solutions to it.
“However, Mr Ryall is back on his bandwagon today, using dodgy figures to scare the public into thinking paying family caregivers will cost too much.
“He quotes $400 million, whereas other estimates have put the cost at anything between $17 million and $64 million.
“Tony Ryall needs to get his figures sorted out and stop scaremongering.
“All these carers want is a fair go, recognition of their rights and reasonable recompense. These are families who need help and it’s high time they received it,” said Clare Curran.
|Paralympians prove their prowess|
|Posted 11th Sep 2012|
Filed under: Other
|New Zealand’s triumphant 17 medal haul at the Paralympic Games reflects the great effort being made to dismantle stereotypes about disabled people and elite sport, Labour’s Disability Issues spokesperson Clare Curran says.|
“Our Paralympians are powerful role models for the almost one-in-five New Zealanders with a disability. But their triumphs and commitment to sporting excellence have inspired all New Zealanders.
“But it’s a shame, however, that those triumphs couldn’t be watched in real time because commercial broadcasters were unwilling to feature extended coverage. At the next games
I hope we have a public television broadcaster that will give these athletes and their supporters the airtime they deserve,” Clare Curran said.
This year’s Paralympic team was the smallest New Zealand has sent to the games, but the group had energy to burn, bringing home the most medals since the Sydney games in 2000.
“The team ranged in age from 13- 61 showing an enormous spectrum of talent,” Labour’s Sport and Recreation spokesperson Louisa Wall said.
The team won six gold, seven silver and four bronze medals, breaking one Paralympic and four world records- an outstanding achievement.
“The swim team should be particularly proud of its achievements, winning 12 of New Zealand’s 17 medals, while the remaining medals came in the cycling and shooting events.
“With this year’s games a great success, many of our athletes will have their sights set on Rio in 2016,” Louisa Wall said.
“Our athletes will get a hero’s welcome tomorrow, and I hope their success will motivate other aspiring athletes with disabilities to participate in elite sports too,” Clare Curran said.
|Cross-party cooperation on carers funding needed|
|Posted 13th Jun 2012|
Filed under: Other
|Cross-party cooperation is needed if New Zealand is to have long term, sustainable solutions to provide funding for family caregivers of disabled adults, says Labour’s spokesperson for Disability Issues, Clare Curran.|
“It’s an enormous relief that the government has come to its senses and will not be appealing the Court of Appeal decision in the Ministry of Health vs Atkinson case.
“Labour acknowledges it has been an incredibly tough time for all the families involved. Hopefully they can now look forward to the next stage of their lives, which will provide recompense for the extremely important role they play in caring for disabled family members,” Clare Curran said.|
“Now that Tony Ryall has committed to addressing the discrimination current Ministry policy inflicts, we need to find a solution that provides security and support for these families now and into the future.
“However, these families cannot wait six months for a Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing.
“It is unclear from the Minister’s statement today as to whether his government will seriously consider actual payments to the caregivers for disabled family members.
“The Budget allocation in 2012 for disabilities does not cover such payments and it would be disappointing if Tony Ryall attempted to dupe the public into believing his government had fulfilled its obligations to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
"Labour knows that resolving this issue in the current financial circumstances is difficult which is why we encourage Tony Ryall to commit to working with other parties, including Labour, to achieve a long-term funding solution that reassures these families that any change to the system will be maintained under future governments.
“I congratulate the plaintiffs for their determination and perseverance. The additional stress of the legal battle, on top of their daily struggles, makes their fight all the more admirable.
“I am pleased by today’s outcome and look forward to the opportunity to work with these families as they look forward to a new future,” Clare Curran said.
|New funding for disabilities isn’t ‘new’|
|Posted 15th May 2012|
Filed under: Other
|Giving the disabilities sector the largest slice of the Health Budget will be welcomed, but without details as to where this ‘new’ funding is coming from we can’t be sure others aren’t missing out, Labour’s Disabilities spokesperson Clare Curran said today.|
The Government has pledged $132.7 million in new investment and $11.0 million in savings for the disabilities sector.
“This looks good on paper, but with Tony Ryall warning New Zealanders to expect a zero Budget, you have to wonder where the money is coming from.
“If the Government is making cuts in other areas it should be transparent, rather than simply dressing it up as ‘new’ money,” Clare Curran said.
The main areas targeted are home and community support services, one-off funding for additional cochlear implants and follow-up services for adults and children in 2012/13, help with supports like hearing aids, hoists and wheelchair access and residential support services.
“Increased funding for cochlear implants is great. But the $1.3million is unlikely to satisfy the 7,500 people who petitioned Parliament on the issue,” Clare Curran said.
“If the Government has learnt one lesson after cutting home help for older New Zealanders, it is that it can’t do the same in the disabilities sector.
“Yesterday’s landmark Court of Appeal ruling around the discriminatory practice of failing to recognise relatives who care for their disabled family members, made this plain.
“Tony Ryall can talk up his ‘generous’ spend in this sector all he wants, but the fact remains- if National had a comprehensive growth plan, this ‘new’ funding might actually be ‘new’,” Clare Curran said.
|Government should drop legal action and support carers|
|Posted 14th May 2012|
Filed under: Other
|Today’s Court of Appeal ruling that parents caring for disabled children are being unreasonably discriminated against should embarrass the Government into dropping any further proceedings, says Labour’s Disabilities spokesperson Clare Curran.|
“The success of this case is a real tribute to those families involved. They have persevered over many years to have their work recognised.
“The time for legal action on this issue has past. The Government now needs to get the parties together and work out a practical solution,” Clare Curran said.
“Labour argued for a review into paying close relatives as carers to address anomalies which saw non-family members receive remuneration.
“The Court has found there is discrimination. The options for the Government now are to either accept it or legislate against it.
“New Zealand has been recognised for leadership on disability issues internationally, culminating with the receipt in 2007 of the Franklin D Roosevelt award. This is an opportunity to honour that legacy.
“The Court room is no place to sort out our human rights obligations.
“All carers want is a fair go, recognition of their rights and reasonable recompense. These are families who need help and it’s high time they received it,” Clare Curran said.
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