Free Press, 6 August 2018


 

Conference this Sunday

If you haven’t registered for a bumper ACT conference this weekend, please do so as soon as possible. You can view the program and register online here.

 

Where was Devoy?

There has been lots of ink spilled over two Canadian speakers who wanted to speak in Auckland this past week. We won’t spill any more here, but Free Press has noticed one glaring absence: Where, o where, was Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy? Normally she would be boots ‘n’ all making a fool of herself with sanctimonious statements but thankfully she retired before this latest round of public debate. Nobody noticed, so let’s save our taxes and scrap the position of Race Relations Commissioner.

 

A Battle for Reason

ACT worries teenagers may not immediately grasp everything Western civilisation has discovered over two thousand years, so we think teachers should teach them. Sadly that is not the reality under NCEA, where all knowledge is equally valid. Few people realise you can now graduate high school without sitting a single national exam. We support the Principal’s NCEA Coalition fight for academic standards in NCEA against a Government that wants to scrap NCEA Level 1 replacing it with a ‘project’ of the students’ choosing.

 

Another Reason to Come to Conference

Leading the ‘knowledge’ side of the debate is Briar Lipson. Briar says: “Between 2002 and 2004, NCEA replaced the traditional qualifications. NCEA puts course choices from nuclear physics to nail technology into the hands of teachers, parents and students. Then in 2007 the new New Zealand Curriculum was introduced. A high-level document, it leaves much of the selection of curriculum content to its teachers… It is hard to imagine a system more likely to accentuate the gap between our ‘haves’ and our ‘have nots.” You can register here to hear her full argument at our conference on Sunday.

 

Why Reason Matters

You can’t have a democracy without reasoned debate. If you have NBR paywall access, this article will make you laugh or cry. Oliver Hartwich explains what it’s like to debate someone who thinks there’s no truth and all arguments are equally valid. “My fellow discussants were luckier than me. They were not bound by any conventional wisdom or economic logic. They could say whatever made them feel better. Or whatever they thought the audience wanted to hear. And so one of my fellow panellists, an architect, started off with the assertion that there was a three-word explanation for the housing crisis: ‘free market capitalism.’”

 

One Way of Raising Teacher Pay

There are 2,557 schools in New Zealand, where teachers at the top of the scale receive $78,000 and an average of $62,000. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education employs 2,632 Full Time Equivalent Staff on an average of $82,000. If we sacked half the bureaucrats there would still be one for every two schools, and every teacher could have three-and-a-half per cent pay rise straight away. Free Press predicts that, like the race relations commissioner, nobody would notice. Perhaps it would be good. As one teacher recently told Free Press ‘all they do is piss us off anyway.’

 

Bittersweet Irony

At the same time as the Government is forcing Partnership Schools to use union contracts (was their opposition ever about anything else?), it is facing the first teacher union strike in 24 years. It would have happened earlier but teachers know strikes get more sympathy if they wait a few weeks after school holidays. Free Press predicts that Partnership Schools will be immune to the strikes.

 

If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry

The Government publishes extensive statistics about how much different groups get paid by the civil service. Insomniacs can download their own copy here. If you are into this groupology, you’ll find that the gender pay gap is about 12 per cent and shrinking. Shrinking it is a major Government occupation. Read on and you’ll see that the Maori, Pacific, and Asian pay gaps are either the same or larger, and growing.

 

Maori to Back of Bus Again

What is with the Maori Caucus in this Government? They won their own seats but will not stand up for Maori. Where is the major campaign for Maori Pay equity? What about Pacific people’s and Asians? Where is the Minister for Ethnic Affairs in all this? We don’t really care but it does show how silly all this identity politics is. There will always be more identities, and the only way to avoid complaints is to pay everyone the same.

 

A Serious Problem

For all our complaints, we have to admit New Zealand has a pretty good public service compared with the rest of the world. Promotion based on merit is a cornerstone of our public service, but it is now being put at risk as managers have to factor in promotion based on identity too.