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Deeply Superficial

Entry 727, on 2008-03-27 at 20:06:33 (Rating 4, News)

Today I spotted several interesting issues being discussed in the New Zealand news and I thought I might like to make a brief comment on each of them here.

First, a university lecturer has been awarded $65,000 after the Employment Relations Authority ruled he was unjustifiably dismissed (Herald article here). The problem related to an email he sent to a United Arab Emirates student who had requested an extension for an essay because her father had died in Dubai. He said: "I say this reluctantly but not subtly: you are not suitable for a graduate degree. It does not matter if your father died or if you have a medical certificate. You are close to failing in any event, so these sort of excuses - culturally driven and preying on some sort of Western liberal guilt - are simply lame."

The authority thought that he was wrong to send the message but he shouldn't have been dismissed as a result. Its difficult to say what the background to this story might be but it seems that political correctness must have played a large part in the University's over-reaction. The email certainly seems somewhat unwise but who knows, maybe he was quite right. There might be good reason to believe this is just an excuse, but if the student's father really had died I would have thought that a certain amount of sensitivity might have been more appropriate.

Second, a female police officer is likely to receive a commendation after "hurling herself at a Greenpeace boat to quell a protest" which was causing problems at one of New Zealand's ports (Herald article here). The accompanying photo seems to show her clumsily stepping onto a boat full of fairly well controlled protestors, so it seems that this is a lot of fuss over nothing, presumably in an attempt to gain the upper hand in terms of propaganda.

The New Zealand police have been involved with so many incidents recently where it has been alleged that they over-reacted to various situations that maybe they are taking the first step in the propaganda war. I support some (but certainly not all) of Greenpeace's activities and I don't know the details of this protest but it seems that the facts are irrelevant anyway.

A major issue for the election we will hold here in New Zealand near the end of this year is tax cuts. Well what a surprise. Aren't tax cuts always an issue? And even if they aren't a real issue the right wing parties will make sure they turn them into one. Everyone wants to pay less tax and its an easy issue to capture people's attention with but are the public really fooled?

According to a Herald poll (one where I have detected a right wing bias in the past) where readers were asked to rate whether less taxes or better services were more important the issue wasn't that clear. Over 40% said they thought better services were important which seems to indicate the old tax cut trick might not be as effective as we all presumed.

Maybe people are a bit smarter than politicians think. All the parties are now offering tax cuts but it seems that if services can't be maintained then a significant percentage of voters might say "no thanks". Tax cuts usually benefit the rich anyway because the cuts to services which often result are generally used by the poor. They might get a bit more because they pay less tax, but then need to spend it all - and more - to access health, education, etc.

Politically incorrect emails, police heroes (not), and dodgy election promises. Its all rather depressing really. I often say we live in a deeply superficial world and these headlines certainly seem to prove that!


Comment 1 (1353) by SBFL on 2008-03-31 at 00:38:39: (view recent only)

On the first matter: It was well publicized when he was fired. As always with the ERA (Employment Relations Authority) it is not about the email to the student but the process taken by the University in order to fire him.. The process as outlined in Labour's Employment Relations Act (2000) requires the employer to follow a set process in their disciplinary actions. This is to ensure that the employee has a fair say, and it means that even if the employer is right, they cannot dismiss unless all is done in a fair way. Therefore whether the lecturer was right or not is irrelevant. If he is to be fired, he must be fired fairly.

On the policewoman's actions, I agree it hardly stacks up for a commendation. Perhaps your left-wing friends in govt have given preference for female 'achievements' for the sake of achieving balance. However, why the hell were Greenpeace blocking the path of a coal ship? Was it to do with the snails in Happy Valley? I hope these Greenpeace activist nutters get tried in court. Society has no time for their immature antics that result in confrontation - that in turn could result in violence.

Tax cuts are an issue in the media because the current Finance Minister has avoided dispersing the massive govt surplus back to the people who provided it in the first place, all while it is is becoming increasingly difficult to buy a home. The current govt are simply taking money off hard-working NZers when they don't need it!!!

Now it is important to have a tax system that fits with the environment and it appears that the left and the right in Australia have sorted this out. Not so in NZ because it is the arrogance of the current govt that keeps the populace paying tax into a govt kitty. The govt harp on about services and accuse National of cutting services should they cut taxes. Not so. Certainly the growing bureaucratic numbers will be cut but with good reason! Hey, who is for more bureaucracy? John Key has made it clear that the numbers of doctors, nurses, teachers and police will not be reduced but why pay (or even hold) all these hangers-on who stifle action and progress? Of course, the numbers in the bureaucracy is well publicized and their value has yet to be defended, let alone proven. So why not put tax into front-line staff, and return the rest into our own pockets to create further economic growth? What is wrong with that?


Comment 2 (1355) by SBFL on 2008-03-31 at 01:12:07:

On another note, I notice you quote the NZ Herald 3 times here. A bit surprising for someone from deep within the ODT/Fairfax territory - would have thought Stuff.co.nz would be your main source... in credit though, good to see you are not to localized with your sources!

Also interesting to see you accuse the NZ Herald as being right-leaning...when the right accuse the NZ Herald as being left-leaning! Oh the irony. Generally speaking though, the MSM as seen to be on the left, but the current govt (left or right) always gets it in the neck as they are the ones in power afterall.

I do get frustrated with the right in blogosphere though who are currently accusing the current Labour-led govt of dble-standard with regards to Tibet - human rights vs FTA. Yeah as if a National led govt would react any differently!!


Comment 3 (1356) by OJB on 2008-03-31 at 15:50:32:

I thought the ODT was still independent? It hasn't been assimilated by Fairfax yet, has it? I use the Herald because its less provincial but mainly because I like the web site. Last time I used the ODT's it was a mess and unusable. I do get the paper version of the ODT delivered each day and I do use material from it in blog entries on occasions.

Yes, I recognise that everyone accuses the media of being contrary to their particular viewpoint. I think the Herald has demonstrated its anti-government stance on several occasions recently. Maybe that's not truly "right leaning" although, but since the government is center-left it could be seen that way. In fact, I accused the participants in reader polls as being right wing, not the paper itself.

I know several people who support the right and they just won't even admit when the government does something they agree with. They usually come up with something lame like: they stole that idea from National!


Comment 4 (1358) by OJB on 2008-03-31 at 18:14:12:

I forgot to reply to your first comment: Yes, I knew the case was about procedural matters (which is fair enough - there should be rules relating to those things) but I was more interested in the political and cultural issues.

Yes, you could be right regarding the politically correct motives for the commendation. Don't know if its the government who make the decision though. Wouldn't it be the police management? And I don't think we should be too critical of Greenpeace without knowing what the protest was about. I think extreme protest action is OK if the issues are sufficiently important and other, less extreme tactics, have failed. Criticising Greenpeace as "nutters" without knowing all the facts isn't fair.

I would be happy to have every bureaucrat in New Zealand fired (or preferably face a firing squad) tomorrow! The problem is what is a bureaucrat and what is a useful middle manager? (in my opinion "useful manager" is an oxymoron but let's not go there). My problem is: can we trust National to implement sensible, centre-right policies or will they be influenced by the crazy far right elements? Policies and promises mean nothing, its actions after they are voted in that really matter.


Comment 5 (1370) by SBFL on 2008-04-01 at 21:22:04:

I stand corrected on the ODT. You are right, it isn't part of Fairfax. Yeah I think the NZ Herald website is better than Stuff, despite the overhauls.

Re Herald - yes, like I said the incumbent govt always gets the most scrutiny.

Yes, the narrow minded are always so boring.

Probably police mgmt, but the current govt seem to have a policy of planting its supporters in govt department positions. It is the govt that sets the culture of an organisation (when it is a govt department). Yeah well I was on a bit of a rant about Greenpeace, but I did ask what their motives were. What frustrates me is that while Greenpeace may have honourable intentions, they seem to often resort to silly student-esque tactics which in turn damage their own credibility. Their stye leaves a lot to be desired sometimes.

Heh. Well no need to get rid of them all, certainly genuine middle or line managers are as necessary as the front line staff (but don't bother telling Joe Public that!) These managers form part of the core operational line of the business, but it's all the hangers on - consultants & advisers for all sorts of non-core areas whether cultural, communications, report writers etc etc. I believe National will implement sensible centre-right policies and John Key has made it clear that centre-right is where he wants to see National positioned. Can we trust them? Well can you trust a politician? I genuinely can't see far-right elements having any influence on a National-led govt while John Key is there. NZ is in a much better position than when it was in 1990 so I don't see then need for austere reform. From what I have read about Key before he got into politics, he is very good with people and he does well to reach across divides. I think NZ under Key will be quite an exciting prospect.


Comment 6 (1380) by OJB on 2008-04-02 at 11:48:18:

So we seem to agree fairly well on those first few issues. I also disagree with some of GreenPeace's beliefs and actions but I find it annoying that many people automatically criticise them without examining the details first. Oddly, I also agree about National. I don't think it would do any harm if they win the election (and they very likely will) even though I usually vote more to the left. I probably wouldn't go as far as to suggest it might be an exciting prospect though!


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