Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Youth Employment, Training and Education - NZ First Private Members' Bill Series Part 3

As I may have remarked several times before on this blog, one of my favourite MPs from NZ First's 2014 intake is Darroch Ball. There's good reason for this. The relevant Minister (Anne Tolley) is afraid of him; he's not afraid to call a ground-breaking instrument a spade when it comes to issues in his portfolio; but most important of all, he's an 'ideas man' - and puts his demonstrable intelligence to work coming up with actual, practicable legislative solutions to our issues as a Nation.

The latest piece of evidence for this is contained in Darroch's most recent Private Member's Bill, the 'Youth Employment, Training and Education' bill.

This is a revolutionary concept which proposes to help some of the 71,000 young people presently not engaged in any form of education, employment or training (or NEETs, for short), by providing an alternative pathway into these fields for youths aged 15-17 through the New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Social Development.

What the scheme will do is allow kids in that age-range to transfer straight from school into an Army/MSD-run program that will teach the youths in question a trade and some skills, instill discipline through living in a controlled environment, provide a ready and skilled labour force for community improvement by local governments, and also pay the kids a training wage - the majority of which will be paid out upon their 'graduation' from the program (potentially allowing them to fund an OE, a car and the bond for a flat, or even perhaps contribute to the down-payment on a mortgage for a house). At the end of the scheme, they'll be helped into employment (if they wish) thanks to the Government providing a twelve month subsidy incentive to employers to hire them.

In short, it's about providing an alternative to the upper years of high school for many of the young people who're demonstrably not being engaged by the education system at present, without letting their potential go to waste. And, in so doing, set them up for a productive, prosperous future rather than leaving them to languish as we evidently do now.

The scheme is not entirely novel in its execution, either. The NZDF-run Limited Service Volunteer program which Darroch's bill is partially inspired by has an enviable success rate itself - more than 85% of enlistees graduate the program, of which 60% then find work or other engagement. There's also interesting information showing that LSV graduates then stay off the benefit more than any other comparable group for some years after completing the program. Those are the positive numbers deliverable after a mere six weeks of work with at-risk youth. Now imagine how much of an impressive change a full three-year program with a comprehensive suite of trades and employable-skills training will make for a kid.

This will literally turn lives around for thousands, and get them off to a great start with adulthood.

And while those of us without children might view the prospective merits of this proposed solution as being somewhat academic, consider this:

A 2013 study by AUT economists pegged the costs to both the public purse and the wider economy of young people not presently engaged in education, training or employment - i.e. the group this scheme is designed to help - at around $27,000 a year per head. [1] There's 71,000 of them.

That represents combined total costs to all of us of around 2.4 billion dollars: $1.39 billion in terms of lost productivity and wages, and more than a billion dollars of taxpayer money in the form of benefit money and forgone tax revenue. [2]

We can do something to stem this tide. We can recover some of this lost potential human promise.

We can support Darroch's bill.

During my previous career as an educator working in low-decile schools, I lost count of the number of young people I encountered who would have benefited hugely from a scheme like this. There's so many high school students out there who find that the academic environment of high school - with its often seemingly teleological if not outright myopic focus upon preparing kids for university entrance - ill-fitting for them.

As it stands at the moment at high school, these kids find themselves drifting through if not dropping out thanks to disengagement - and going on from there to lives of unemployment, crime or idleness. It's sad, but the conventional strictures of the Education Act (specifically, s20 thereof) do not, at present, allow us to do terribly much to help them. By the time they hit their late teens (the minimum age at which they can opt out of school), it is in many cases too late for an easy - and life-changing - intervention. Former students face the choice between looking for qualificationless entry-level jobs that often simply aren't there, or embracing long term unemployment and all that goes with it.

When it passes, Darroch's bill will create an alternative pathway - using the transformative power of the state to establish an alternative for these young people, which will be available for them before that time-critical point of arguable no return in their late teens. The fact that they'll effectively be employed (and paid) while also being trained, educated, and providing a solid service to their local community is key.

In a month that's seen much discussion about the legacy-projects of vainglorious politicians, I'm genuinely excited that this bill presents tangible evidence that there's at least one MP out there actually thinking about how he can make an enduring difference on into the future for our people and nation.

There are some caveats, of course. Recruits for the Youth Employment, Training and Education scheme are not soldiers - nor will they be treated as such. While subject to military discipline, they shall obviously not be used in a combat capacity, deployed overseas, given weapons training, or allowed to handle live ammunition. In addition to their trades or vocational training, recruits will also be required to attain a minimum of NCEA Level 2 Literacy and Numeracy qualifications - thus setting them up for prospective entry into further education should they so wish.

So all in all, even though - or perhaps especially because - this bill carries a heavy weight of detail and economic analysis in its reasoning ... I am a thorough convert. It is no exaggeration to state that I find this to be one of the best Private Members' Bills yet produced by any MP in this Parliament.

I do not state that because I know Darroch personally, nor because I am some form of NZ First uber-hack. Instead, I say it as someone who spent the best part of a decade proximate to the individuals this bill is designed to help, and who has grown up in and around the educational environment.

With that in mind, I look forward to watching this blessed "YETE" lope off into the sunset of a better tomorrow for literally tens of thousands of our young people.

[1] Pacheco, G. & Dye, J.. (2013). Estimating The Cost Of Youth Disengagement In New Zealand (Department of Economics Working Paper Series). Auckland: AUT University.
[2] Pacheco, G. & Dye, J.. (2013). Estimating The Cost Of Youth Disengagement In Auckland (New Zealand Work Research Institute). Auckland: AUT University.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Unpopular Opinion: The Flag Debate Hasn't Been A Huge Defeat For Key

There's an engorged sense of triumphalism on the Left, which insists upon seeing even minor setbacks for the ruling party's agenda as huge and dramatic victories in the ongoing war against neoliberalism.

Perhaps it's because we're so starved of wins elsewhere (particularly electorally). Maybe it's because the Opposition are natural optimists (and going up against a National-led government that looks set to enter its fourth term, you presumably have to be in order to keep fighting).

Whyever it happens, various opponents of the present Government spent quite some time seizing upon lackluster polling results in support of flag-change as tacit evidence that Key's Reign of Error was soon to be over.

In speech after speech, Winston and an array of others soared in rhetorical flights of fancy about how Key's ill-conceived and quite literally ill-starred flag-change "vanity project" was sure sign that Key was out of touch, out of luck, possibly out of his mind, and soon to be out of office.

I'm not going to deny that some of these things are arguably true, but with a margin of victory for the Old Flag against the Lockwood design narrow enough that a mere 6% swing would have won it ... if Key's out of touch with the Electorate on these sorts of issues, it's by mere meters rather than miles.

The numbers, as they stand, are 1,200,003 voters - 56.6% - in support of the Old Flag, versus 915,008 - 43.2% - for the Lockwood. Turnout was 67.3% - slightly more than ten percentage points lower than that of the 2014 General Election.

This low turnout will inarguably have helped the Prime Minister's preferred option. Particularly in postal ballots, the people who care more about an issue are the ones who are likely to turn out. The rest of the 'quiet majority' who didn't bother to vote may potentially disproportionately support the 'status quo' of keeping the flag; but even factoring that in, it's difficult to reconcile the polling and prognostications of political leaders and pundits (including this Newshub/Reid Research poll cited yesterday showing the Old Flag ahead of the Lockwood by a whopping thirty percentage points) with the comparatively close margin of victory enjoyed by the Old Flag in the actual referendum itself.

It's also difficult to square the referendum's result with Winston's claim upon hearing the numbers that this represented a "rout" for the Prime Minister.

This isn't a full-scale, disorganized withdrawal for National. And certainly not a 'white flag'. Instead, in tactical terms at any rate, at best it represents a "retreat in good order". Key's personal popularity may potentially take a hit - but partially due to National's own effectively divided internal stance on the issue, it's certainly conceivable that National's brand overall will suffer relatively little harm.

Instead, "flag debate", "vandalize our [flapping] heritage", "tried to get rid of the flag", and "vanity project" will be destined to become the sort of also-ran Leftist barely rallying-cries that "Sold our Assets!" and "Stripmined our Environment!" became after the 2011 Election. That is to say, words "full of sound and fury", but ultimately "signifying nothing" for the many thousands of otherwise swing-voters who continue to support National.

We aren't going to be getting rid of Key due to this flag-debate or its result.

That said, in strategic terms, there may potentially be some more serious repercussions for National. Though they won't necessarily say it openly, for many rural and conservative types, the attempted flag-change will likely form yet another nail in the coffin for their ongoing support for the Government. The lid's not firmly hammered down yet, but the trajectory which started with things like the PM's support for equality of marriage and continued with gambling-funded convention centers and a signing away of our sovereignty through the TPPA, may potentially lead to a noticeable acceleration in the steady stream of former-Nats who've been gradually making their way over to NZ First of late.

The lingering disquiet that will surely settle in about fiscal priorities now that the much-quoted $26 million which has evidently been wasted on a failed referendum, will also further chip into National's popularity and fiscal credibility. Coupled with recent funding cuts for the Police in tandem with a spate of larghessious renovations for Ministerial premises ... a decidedly disquieting pattern in National's funding decisions begins to reveal itself: symbols (whether MoBIE statues, "Cinderella-Stairs", or flags) are prioritized over actual instruments of change.

Anyway, back to the flag results. With that tight of a margin between the Old Flag and the Lockwood, I feel safe in saying that had there been a better option on offer for replacing the flag with, New Zealanders may very well have chosen to go with that instead.

As one of my associates put it, the flag referendum result "resembles the Republic vote in Australia [in 1999], where they had the bad alternative of Parliament voting for the President". The end result of that referendum was defeat for a Republic, even though people might have supported the establishment of one in principle, because of the manifest defectiveness of the proffered option for reform.

The same thing may very well have happened here.

Or, perhaps the closeness of the vote is instead reflective of the sheer level of time, energy, money, men, materials, and "celebrity endorsements" which National has been pouring in to this debate on its side.

Either way, three things are certain:

National is still in government; John Key is still the Prime Minister (albeit with perhaps a bit of his shiny rubbing off); and the Old Flag is still, for now at least, The Flag.

There are also serious and real issues facing New Zealand at present. They haven't gone away, even if we have all found ourselves oft-distracted by this annoying, messy sideshow.

Now that that's gone away, the Opposition have no choice but to try to make real change with real issues.

I wish us the very best of luck.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Winston Peters, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump

As noted by Toby Manhire last week, "an informal search has begun to find "New Zealand's Donald Trump".

The list of contenders include, in no particular order of relevance, Chris Bishop (National), Phil Twyford (Labour), Chris Finlayson (National), Bob Jones (Curmudgeon), John Key (National), Gareth Morgan (Cat-Waller), and Peter Dunne (Also-National, Sort-of).

All of these have features which are, undeniably, at least vaguely Trump-esque - ranging from the fact that several of them are very wealthy through to the inarguable contention that one of them has awesome, comment-worthy hair.

But one name stands astride the fray like a colossus, and seemingly perches itself upon everybody's lips the moment the phrases "Donald Trump" and "New Zealand Politics" smash like a train-wreck into one another.

That name, of course, is Winston Peters.

In pretty much every article put out making direct or oblique comparison between the US Presidential Primaries and our own (inestimably superior/saner) Parliamentary politics, you'll find authors not-so-subtly suggesting that Winston is our local-Trump-equivalent. WhaleOil even presaged the trend by spending several years scurrilously alleging that Winston's hair was, in fact, a toupee - exactly the same sort of irrelevant attack about allegedly fake hair that people often used to lodge at Trump.

But whereas there are some obvious surface similarities between The Win and The Don - such as their rampant if not outrightly bellicose public style, disdain for journalists, and penchant for saying the word "China" - there's also some pretty important differences, too.

Trump is able to pour millions, if not billions of dollars (largely of his own money) into the campaign. Winston, by contrast, while I've seen him dig into his pocket to fund NZ First activities on numerous occasions ... is pretty much the antithesis of a big-money, big-media candidate. When we experienced our meteoric re-entry into Parliament in 2011, we did it not by thunderously hammering our opponents with cheque-book missiles or dominating the air-waves. We did so by mobilizing hundreds of little old ladies to run cake-stalls, and getting thousands of marginalized and downtrodden Kiwi voters to pack out community halls for meetings. We did that because we didn't have a deep-pockets financial backer - and because the only way to get around the seeming media blackout we endured for much of the campaign, was through the decidedly old-fashioned ways of word of mouth and speaking to packed crowds.

Now hold on a minute ... media blackout, packed speaking venues, and running a shoe-string campaign financed by the generous (if small-scale) donations of ordinary people.

That doesn't sound like Donald Trump.

Gosh! In fact, that sounds like Bernie Sanders!

But it isn't just a matter of some serious overlap in the way their campaigns work, or the fact that for each of Bernie and Winston, the phrase "insurgent appeal" means less "well-publicized surge" and more "steadily-growing, under-the-radar" and decidedly anti-establishmentarian appeal.

There's considerable coterminity to be had in the platforms they run on, too. Both are from what you might term the economic left of the political spectrum - furiously opposing "financial derivatives trading wide-boys" and "Wall St Bankers", while promising a resurrected and strengthened role for the state in the economy (in Winston's case, through straight-up nationalizations) ... and even both making a big deal out of restoring the dream of accessible tertiary education by making it free. They're not fans of big business, big banks, or the extant neoliberal consensus which has economically disenfranchised so efficiently so many.

As I put it in my previous piece on this issue:

"They’re both physically aging figures who yet manage to move with the levity and rhetorical grace of youth. They run things around Establishment and big-money opponents who’re often men and women closer to being half their age. They represent the fight-back and strike-back of a democratic and state-lead economic politics of the sort commonly practiced throughout the Western World for much of the latter half of the 20th Century (before we ditched it all and traded in our functioning social state for the hill of magic beans wrapped up in a Pandora’s Package promised by Neoliberalist reform).

They stands for the ordinary, common man – his hopes, his dreams, his aspirations."

Interestingly, when it comes to the issue of immigration and the economic impacts of importing foreign labour on a host economy's workers and labour force - the area in which the Trump-Winston comparisons seem to draw much of their head of steam from - Sanders and Peters don't appear to be reading off especially different song-sheets. 

Bernie Sanders has long maintained that the effects of an unchecked flow of migrants upon the American workforce would not be a positive one. As he himself said in 2007: "If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive waged down even lower than they are now."

That's rhetoric which, if one altered the demonyms in play, would sound entirely at home coming out of Winston's mouth at an NZ First campaign rally.

In terms of political bona-fides, as well, Peters & Sanders resemble each other far more closely than does Peters & Trump. Both men are hoary political veterans, who've held public office for decades and have grimoires of war-stories, famed skirmishes and campaign exploits almost as long as they are in the tooth.

This stands in marked contrast to Trump, of course, whose previous idea of putting himself into "public office", was broadcasting his business-meetings to our television screens in reality-tv format. And whose prior experience at wielding political power was done with the stroke of a pen on his chequebook rather than in drafting or enacting legislation or executive orders.

But this is not to say that New Zealand lacks its very own Donald Trump expy. In fact, quite the contrary.

It's just that it's someone whom the scrabbling press, pundits and politicians haven't thought to name yet in their tumble for an opportune sniping point.

Consider this: who's an excessively rich property developer who's attempted to buy his way into politics, having never held public office before and running on what some might term an extremist (whilst certainly anti-certain-parts-of-the-(political)-Establishment) platform, whose potentially broader appeal is somewhat hampered by his occasionally bizarre pronouncements? Pronouncements of self-aggrandizement which, I note, have involved speaking about himself positively in the third person...

Why, it's Colin Craig, of course. Who else.

I'm genuinely surprised that none of our established commentariat appear to have come out with such a direct, and easily applicable analogy. Perhaps it's because they feel there's no political value for their own agendas to be had in making the comparison. Or maybe we've simply forgotten about Craig and his multi-million dollar political eccentricities entirely.

So let's be clear about this, going forward. Pretty much every "X IS DONALD TRUMP!" comparison you hear going forward is going to be little more than a petty political barb wrapped up in current affairs like takeaway fish and chips. The only substance involved in many of them is hairspray.

If we look at the actual evidence before us, those scurrilous attacks of this nature - such as that launched by Rodney Hide in yesterday's Herald on Sunday - are quickly revealed for the baseless, politically motivated charges that they are.

And yet in this game, words have power - and persuasion has force altogether beyond the rhetorical.

Trump knows this. And so too do all the people, the politicians and the pundits out there attempting to influence your domestic political support and enthusiasm for Winston by comparing him to Trump.

Don't let them win. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Is Labour Trying To Be NZ First-Lite?

Due perhaps to an ongoing lack of vision on the part of our theoretically 'lead' Opposition party, we're quite used to thinking of Labour as being a watered down version of the beliefs of others.

Throughout much of the last ten years, this has meant perceiving much of Labour's economic policy as fairly transparent attempts to be "National-lite". The reasons for this were obvious: Labour wanted to reach out and appeal to middle-of-the-road "centrist" (and centre-right) voters in order to prise them off National and so form the basis for the next Government.

At the time, this made a certain sort of tactical sense. National rode high in the polls, while Labour's vote continued to spiral downwards, and the twin enfant-terrible titans-in-waiting of The Greens and New Zealand First grew their own votes by eating into Labour's left-wing and angry-protesty-vote flanks.

Unfortunately, the strategy resoundingly failed to bear fruit. Labour didn't manage to pull National-leaning voters in by attempting to ape the monkey-business of our nation's leading party. "Why have the inferior model when you can go straight for the source?" seemed to be the thinking.

Worse than that, Labour's curious (for a nominally left-wing party) strategy of attempting to secure votes by delivering a budget surplus through sacrificing funding for social programs, and pleading for the "fiscally sensible" option of raising the retirement age ... only seemed to drive its previous sources of support further away to other parties, without producing any meaningful electoral dividend. Its more recent lukewarm opposition to the TPPA is in a similar boat.

The Labour Party's response to what's pretty much its worst drubbing in living memory was predictable. First, it turned inward and attempted to marshal its creativity and nanny-state-approving social-justice-warriorness into developing authentic endogenous policy solutions that would enable it to gain some form - any form - of traction out there in the electorate.

This didn't work out perhaps as well as they had hoped (because really - 'coercion' about the sugar-content of foods is hardly election-winning policy), leading them to start looking to other Parties' manifestos and ethoi for points of inspiration.

It was in that spirit that they announced a watered-down version of a key element from NZ First's Tertiary Education Policy earlier this year as a Labour flagship initiative. This did rather well ... so they kept on going.

The end result of this is that we now have a Labour Party who, despite their own record in office, makes militant-sounding noises about protecting the ownership of Kiwi farmland, getting the ruinous influence of predominantly Chinese speculators and foreign buyers out of the Auckland housing market, defending Kiwi economic sovereignty, and a seemingly novel enthusiasm for putting a cap on immigration numbers.

The reasoning for this gradual volte-face should be clear: Labour recognizes what it must do if it wishes to reverse its seemingly inexorable decline in time for the 2017 - or, more realistically, probably the 2020 - General Election:

Adopt policy and a philosophy which *actually* resonates with voters. In this case, New Zealand First's.

Because if there's one Party out there who's consistently growing - in fact, arguably the *only* Party that has continued to grow year in and year out since Labour was last in Government - it's New Zealand First.

Small wonder, then, that Labour's public branding has come to so closely - if inexpertly, and arguably somewhat inauthentically - mirror our own.

So while Labour's previous comments about Chinese-surnamed buyers of Auckland housing seemed to be roundly pilloried in the media, and Little's statements about Indian chefs were walked back live on-air a little less than 48 hours after he first made them ... we should nevertheless gear up solidly for a year and a half worth of Labour increasingly attempting to sing from the same song-sheet as New Zealand First going into the next Election. Even if they appear to possess a regrettable penchant for doing so in a frequently somewhat off-key if not outright tone-deaf manner.

Perhaps this is why National insisted upon comparing Labour to Rob Muldoon this week, rather than the more contemporary point-of-similarity, Winston Peters. Because they know if they said the latter, they'd run the risk of increasing Labour's popularity.

Friday, March 11, 2016

NZ First Shouldn't Flag Hindi-Language Voters

This flag debate continues to throw up sad and sorry surprises. Fresh from evidence that pro-change campaigners are pilfering ballots in a literal attempt to steal the referendum result coming to light ... we have bold allegations from NZ First MP Mahesh Bindra that the Government has deliberately mistranslated the voting instructions in order to attempt to con Hindi-language voters into supporting flag-change.

Despite what the Electoral Commission might say, the charge appears to have merit. My knowledge of Hindi is limited to what I've managed to pick up from attempting (haltingly) to master ecclesiastical Sanskrit, but even I know that "Naya" (the highlighted word in the image of the voting instructions below) means "new".

While it could be queried just how much of an influence or impact one additional word might have on prospective voters' decision-making, the fact remains that consistency is a core and integral value to our democratic process.

However you choose to slice it, there does appear to be a bit of an issue here - and one which the Government is willfully seeking to obfuscate.

But something which has caused me additional concern is New Zealand First's proposed solution to this issue: disallowing the ballots of "Hindi speaking voters".

This seems somewhat extreme.

I might be missing something here, but I'm not entirely sure how NZF proposes to single out "Hindi-speaking voters" who've used the deficient voting instructions (rather than, say, the perfectly clear English ones - which most of them will also understand) in order to make their decision.

Unless I'm mistaken, voting papers have not gone out in a multitude of languages - just the voting instructions pamphlet which accompanies them. Short of the sort of highly dubious racial profiling Labour used to identify the ethnicities of Auckland house buyers last year, it would seem pretty difficult to isolate and identify which voters - and therefore which ballot papers - we're talking about here.

New Zealand First has done some serious hard work in recent years to reach out to Indian voters. It is a mark of genuine pride that when I go into a Mandir, people almost invariably know who Mahesh is and have respect for him. That strong and burgeoning relationship is, no doubt, why members of the Indian community came to Mahesh with the information he used to support the allegation in the first place. Because they trust him - as do I.

It would be an inordinate shame if the message the Indian community took away from this particular imbroglio was that New Zealand First didn't want them to vote.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Crystal Crusher Collins' Meth-Attack Is Strung-Out Scare Politics

Meth use and addiction is a serious issue. And, as with all serious issues, it remains disappointing to see it trivialized by a pavonine politician in pursuit of a self-aggrandizing headline.

Given her previous modus operandi with law and order issues, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the Minister for Grandstanding who's attempting to make political bank out of jumbling scary sounding words together this time ... is Judith Collins.

She's clearly set her sights on restoring her reputation as an MP and a member of Cabinet by scaring Middle New Zealand into finding her relatively reassuringly appealing.

So let's take a look at her latest outburst.

Collins is breathlessly claiming that there's some sort of organized cabal-conspiracy of the most famous gangs in the country, who've geared up in order to bring bags of premium-priced pseudoephidrine-derived crystal to "middle class kids" at some of the "best schools" in Auckland.

Considering this seems to be a response to a recent report about the costs to the taxpayer of gang members and their own children ... you'd perhaps be forgiven for expecting a little more emphasis upon *those* kids, rather than the children of predominantly wealthy, National-voting families able to afford to send their scions to "the best schools".

But instead, we get sweeping statements studded with salacious hooks for middle class paranoia.

Let's get one thing straight. Meth in Auckland's well-heeled suburbs is absolutely nothing new. In fact, for a good decent whack of the early-mid 2000s, it was the go-to party drug for the Remuera rich-kids set of the day. One of my associates has rather vivid memories of smoking it out of champagne glasses at some scene-kid's dad's mansion, for instance. Further citations for the phenomenon are not exactly difficult to come by:

"For our generation, it wasn't the drug but the lifestyle that went with it. The majority were middle class, upper class kids with money to throw around. It was that Remuera crowd. The town was filled with (methamphetamine). It was living life through a music video. It was all about having fun."

Further, it's not as if the meth many an upper class precocious P-consumer was actually coming from terribly further afield. There's been a litany of P-lab and P-dealer busts in Remuera over the last few years. To pretend that meth is therefore a new thing to the children of National's (sub)urban Auckland heartland electorates - and that it's now only a thing due to predominantly brown gang members from South and West Auckland - smacks of the worst kind of reality-obfuscating sensationalism.

But there's something else that's been troubling me about Collins' recent outburst, and it's summed up beautifully by none other than Police Association President Greg O'Connor. You know ... one of the most senior public servants within Collins' own portfolio area of Police.

"The last time this happened was at the turn of the century when the gang-backed methamphetamine epidemic started claiming victims in the nicer parts of town.

Until the family members of the middle classes started turning up with meth habits and shady friends, the problem was ignored by those who matter [...]

In the case of the dead prisoner, the fact he represents a social group that middle New Zealand can relate to will mean the issue will not go away – a little like the meth habits of the Remuera teenagers.

O'Connor's talking about the issue of prisoner abuse occurring elsewhere in Collins' Corrections portfolio, but the point equally applies here to Collins' headline-grabbing meth-outburst.

These problems are not new. Gangs have been peddling drugs - and drugs have been turning up in schools - across Auckland (and particularly out South and out West) for years.

Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that Collins' statement is an attention-seeking full-frontal Amygdala-hijack to the brains of urban-core National supporters.

What she's actually saying, if you look at it, is that these problems only began to really matter once they started (in her limited view) to happen to the kids of the upper-class elite.

You couldn't ask for a clearer picture of National's - and Judith's - perspectives and priorities if you tried.