What would Pope Francis do?

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I am a product of the Catholic schooling system although have not been a part of the Catholic Church since I was 16 and have not considered myself a Catholic since then. I am proud of my association with my old schools (St Peters College Years 7 to 9 and Sacred Heart College, Years 9 – 13) and have nothing but good memories from them especially whilst boarding at SHC.

I have never wanted to associate myself with the Catholic Church once leaving school, not for any particular reason other than I found it boring,  not very relevant to my life and lacking in inspiration. However recently I have found myself drawn to the new Pope and am excited about the direction he seems to be taking the Catholic Church in and whilst I am not fully ‘on board’ with everything he says, it’s obvious to me that the direction he intends to take the Church in is less regressive than previous Popes.

One of my greatest joys in recent times was hearing Pope Francis talk about the dangers of capitalism, the need for the wealthy to look after the poor and the concern for what he calls the “idolatry of money.”

It is with the knowledge that the Pope has significant and public concern about how the poor are treated, and the obvious links he is making to money and how it should be distributed, that I was extremely disappointed at receiving an email from SHC this week asking, among other things, for donations towards a $70,000 Grand Piano for their new music department.piano

Now looking around $70,000 might be a very good price for a top end Grand Piano, I spoke to someone today who sold them as was told that they can range between $150,000 and $350,000 so I am not saying this is not a “good deal” I am challenging SHC on whether it is important at all.

I found a Grand Piano online for under $12,000 and I am sure the best upright piano, that many music departments would drool over would be far less than $70,000. What would Pope Francis do?

I don’t want this to turn into a ‘smash the Catholic Church’ conversation, it’s not my intention to give them a black eye, but as someone with 17 years ‘behind the pew’ I think I can gently tap you on the shoulder and say, “have you really thought this one through?”

SHC is in the suburb of Glen Innes which is one of the poorer suburbs in Auckland. If you look at the make up of the community you will see that the only demographic it is ahead in compared to the Auckland and National averages is “people earning under $20,000” and that nearly 60% of the homes there are not owned by those dwelling in them. This is a struggling suburb.

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On top of all that with there being a lot in the news at the moment about people sleeping in cars I have to wonder how a school, who claims as a part of their Special Character that their culture “is centred on the person of Jesus Christ” can bring themselves to be comfortable with spending $70,000 on a single musical instrument.

Many will also ask about the wealth that the school is literally sitting on. SHC is situation at 250 West Tamaki Road, Glen Innes. The records show that this property has a Ratings Valuation of $65,500,000 of which the land alone is worth over $40,000,000. Again I understand the idea of being ‘asset rich’, but your property is likely worth over $100,000,000 on an open market. At what point do you stop and at the very least ask a question about liquidizing some of your assets to better your amenities?

I also do not want to suggest that being charitable, and giving to whatever cause you deem important, is not a good thing and I understand how much not-for-profit groups, schools, charities etc…rely on donations. All I am asking is that if Pope Francis had that $70,000…what would he do?

Here is an idea SHC, and I’m not being a curmudgeon here and saying “Don’t do it” to your Grand Piano. How about you raise the $70,000, purchase the one I found for $12,000 and then cure over 130 people from leprosy?

At the moment you can donate $432 to the Leprosy Mission which cures one person from leprosy. The cure includes locating them, caring for them, curing them and then supporting them into positions where they can support themselves. What would Pope Francis do?

If you don’t like the Leprosy Mission, how about World Vision, what about Rainbow Youth, do you like Tearfund? There are a myriad of opportunities out there that, in my opinion, would be grateful for the help to help others, all whilst the students of SHC can still sit at a $12,000 piano that 99% of New Zealanders would never be able to afford and 99.99% of New Zealanders wouldn’t hear a difference between.

And if the question “What would Pope Francis do?” is a bit existential, then what about “What would Jesus do?” maybe that’s a little easier to figure out.

America is the greatest country in the world…really?

Watching the CNN debate yesterday I heard several occasions again one of the Republican Presidential Candidates citing some version of the phrase “America is the greatest country in the world!” I just really want someone to inform me how is America the greatest country in the world. Seriously, can someone please educate me as to the rationale behind that statement, because if it is the greatest country in the world I will happily support the statement.

It would seem that the citizens of America don’t think it’s the greatest, and the younger the age of the person surveyed, the less likely it is that they believe that the US is #1.

I ask this question genuinely looking for people to tell educate me as I want to understand how so many Americans continue to tell us that they are the best in the world. A quick scan of the internet makes it difficult to see how anyone can read any international standards that rank them at #1 in anything other than incarceration rates of their own population.

Now I want to make it clear, I am not suggesting they are the worst country in the world, I am also not suggesting that it isn’t a ‘great’ country, what I am wanting to know is is it the greatest? Show me the markers and I’ll accept them.

There is a very famous scene from The Newsroom’s very first episode of the very first series where this question gets asked.

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Now this is fictional, but fact checking his information at the time the episode was filmed…he seems to be basically accurate in the statistics he is giving out although there is a little wriggle room depending on the research you cite.

Please, educate me, is America the greatest country in the world? Why, or why not?

Labour and their ‘Chinese Surnames’

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So here we go again, an idea thought up in the upper offices of Labour with merit, executed like those making the decisions are in their first day of politics.

I say ‘merit’ because I think many people are in agreement with the idea of foreign money (from whatever country) flooding into our housing market will indeed put pressure on locals (of any ethnicity)  when it comes to buying houses. A register of international buyers is not an idea that any political party opposes and in fact National will eventually bring in and then take the kudos for doing so.

However good ideas every day, whether their good business ideas, good relationship ideas, good political ideas or any kind of ideas, fall over due to those trying to impose them. Usually with political ideas it’s the execution that fails that party and this is a classic example of that. There is also the consideration of those opposing Labour and their ability to change the narrative of the issue which National has done perfectly, but not without help.

My sources inform me that Labour gave the policy to the New Zealand Herald several days before they released it, embargoed, to fact check and prepare themselves to write about it once Labour made the issue known publicly and I am reliably informed that the Herald then leaked the information to National. What this did is give National the ability to get ahead of what Labour was doing and formulate a strategy to combat what Labour was trying to say. For future reference National poll everything, they research and get public opinion on everything which usually takes two days. If in the future National comes out with a cast iron position on a major Labour or Greens policy that is not yet in the public domain then it’s a pretty safe bet they have been leaked the information and have already tested it.

In saying all of that the way Labour has handled this information is sloppy and amateurish and even though National got ahead of the release, it still only too Lisa Owen on The Nation 8 minutes to accuse Phil Twyford and Labour of playing the race card all without the polling that National did, she came to the same conclusion.

The conversation about international money influencing our housing market is valid…very valid…but what Labour has done is basically give a green light to every red-neck, right wing, talkback calling bigot fodder to continue to treat the Asian community like second class citizens. If you don’t believe me just have a read of, Masterton native, Raybon Kan’s article from Wednesday.

And now we have groups like HouGarden.com, one of NZs biggest websites for Chinese immigrants to find property in NZ, stating that Chinese buying in NZ are looking for better education opportunities for their children, not investments as there are much better investments elsewhere. Their evidence for this is that when people are on their site some of the most searched words were “school zone, double grammar zone, Maclean, Westlake, Rangitoto and Auckland Grammar.” This again is a terrible news item for Labour but not quite as bad as the leaker of the information from Barfoots now losing his job…wonder how that will sit with the core Union member Labour supporter.

Finally, I am also dismayed that no one yet has actually offered a solution to the housing bubble in Auckland. So Labour is promising to ban international speculators, fair enough, but my question, as always, is “then what?” The average house price in Auckland is approaching $800,000 (see why we moved to Dunedin) and if this move ends up ‘correcting the market,  then what about all those people who have bought in this market and just had $200,000** wiped off their equity…what about them? Or if the prices of houses still remain near $800,000 on average how are first time home buyers going to afford that?

An idea with merit that at it’s core most would support, executed poorly: Labour 2015

PS – Got $800,000…come to Dunedin

Better yet…got $400,000ish…come to Dunedin

Or how about, just for fun, $200,000ish

** arbitrary figure

Please can we stop talking up ‘election bribes’

Key and Cunliffe handing out the presents at election time

So today Labour has promised to eliminate school donations by giving “an annual grant of $100 per student for schools in lieu of voluntary donations” to finally make primary education free in New Zealand. I like this policy, I applaud this policy, I endorse this policy however, as you well know, I fight for politicians to be consistent.

Just 2 days ago, or “aggggges ago” as it is seen in the world of politics, both Russel Norman and David Cunliffe were deriding John Key for offering election bribes in the form of roading projects.

Can we please settle this once and for all and can I ask you politicians to stop looking like idiots, they are either all ‘bribes’ or none of them are. You decide and move forward accordingly.

John Key you cannot go on Larry Williams or Duncan Garner this afternoon and call ‘free education’ a bribe unless you accept that your roading projects are as well, and Mr. Cunliffe you must acknowledge your offer of $100 per student to families is a bribe or Nationals focus on two lane bridges are not.

Simple ah?

If not racist, it’s certainly xenophobic

One quarter of all foreign sales of real estate in New Zealand are to ‘Chinese’ buyers. The reason I wrote the word Chinese as a parenthetical phrase is to most red blooded necked true New Zealanders (i.e. white) the classification of ‘Chinese’ would mean anyone of Asian ancestry.

So let’s look at those numbers.

Firstly, if 25% of real estate sales to foreign nationals are to the ‘Chinese’ then 75% are to other nationalities. They are mostly made up of Australian, English and American…but of course most of them are white so they don’t stand out as much at an auction, still where are our politicians rallying against those ethnicities and banning them thar white foreigners from buying?

Marry all this up against the idea that only 6% of all sales are to foreign nationals then we have a true picture. The ‘Chinese’ make up one quarter, or 6% of all sales. That means the red invasion of our real estate industry purchases a total of 1.5% of all the properties on the market.

Some are now saying that the ‘Chinese’ should only be able to buy newly built houses, well lets look at that. That is what they do in Australia and now Chinese (no parenthesise) buy 20% of the new housing market which is now causing the same headlines over there as people are ‘being shut out of the new housing market.’ It also means that the new house prices are spiking as there is a cashed up group of people fighting for them leaving many now unable to purchase either a new build or new-to-them house.

When I go to sell property I want as many people there who can purchase the property, I’d happily sell my property to an Asian, Australian, American, Angolan or anyone who had the right to buy it, and had the ability to do so.

I am sure you’ll see and hear people like Winston Peters on the telly and radio airwaves talking up the yellow peril this week, but please lets keep this conversation in the realm I like to call ‘reality’…which is ‘Chinese’ buyers make up 1.5% of all purchases and any kind of spin on that other than calling it ‘hardly any sales’, well if it ‘aint racist, it’s certainly xenophobic.

“Yes to Colin…and mmmaybe to Winston” says Mr. Key

John Key will signal in a speech in few minutes that if the people of NZ want to continue with the status quo he’s happy to oblige. Mr Key will say that “given the right electoral circumstances, his preference would be to continue working with the current three partners to the Government, which are ACT, the Māori Party and United Future.”

Mr. Key also sees a scenario where the Conservatives could be an option even though he’ll acknowledge that they have “policy differences” it doesn’t mean they also couldn’t find some common ground.

Unsurprisingly the Prime Minister will rule out Labour, The Greens and Mana as potential coalition partners however with regards to NZ First there is the hint of a slight softening. Mr Key will say that a “relationship was very unlikely” but ultimately he will not rule out the possibility entirely prior to the election.

See the full speech from JohnKey.co.nz below

Prime Minister John Key today set out his decision on which parties National will consider working with following this year’s General Election.

“MMP makes it likely that every election will be a tight contest,” Mr Key says.

“That means it’s also likely that following the election we will need to work collaboratively with other parties to form a stable Government.

“First and foremost, National will be campaigning hard for every party vote it can win, because that puts us in the best position to continue the positive policy direction New Zealand is on.

“Put simply, the higher National’s party vote, the more options we have.

“I know that post the 2014 election, National will almost certainly need to work constructively with other political parties to form a stable Government.

“Since November 2008, we have shown that we can lead a stable Government with other political parties involved, even when those parties have different outlooks and policies.

“Looking ahead, it is most likely that the nature of these working relationships will be via Confidence and Supply Agreements, as these have worked well in the past two Parliamentary terms.

“In the end it is the public who largely determine the make-up of the Government by voting in parties to Parliament,” says Mr Key.

Mr Key says that given the right electoral circumstances, his preference would be to continue working with the current three partners to the Government, which are ACT, the Māori Party and United Future.

“I believe there is also a scenario where it would be possible to add the Conservative Party to this group.

“While National has of course had differences with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future, together our four parties have formed a stable and successful Government since late 2008,” Mr Key says.

“We also have policy differences with the Conservative Party, however it is likely that there would be enough common ground to work with them in Government.”

In terms of other parliamentary parties, Mr Key ruled out working with Labour, the Greens and Mana on the basis that there is insufficient common ground to achieve a stable and successful working relationship.

“These parties represent a far left wing agenda that we do not believe is good for New Zealand,” says Mr Key.

With regard to New Zealand First, Mr Key said that he believed a post-election working relationship was very unlikely; however he would not rule the possibility out ahead of the election.

“In 2008 we ruled them out because we were unable to reconcile some of their statements on the Glenn donation matter. Six years has passed and, should New Zealand First be returned to Parliament, we would not rule out a discussion after the election.”

Colin Craig ready to jump into bed with John Key…who’s ‘too gay’ now?

12 months ago the Conservative party sent a newsletter out to residents of John Key’s Helensville electorate citing a local’s opinion that John Key was ‘too gay for Helensville’.

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The political posturing around the Conservatives and National at the moment is interesting but it seems that while Mr. Craig may endorse the view that Mr. Key to too gay for Helensville, it’s now obvious that Craig is just gay enough to jump in bed with the Prime Minister.

We all know how MMP works and if the Nats ‘get into bed’ with the Conservatives it’s the start of a new era of ‘any partner for power’.

John Key has described himself as ‘fiscally conservative and socially liberal’ in an interview I did with him a few years ago and went on to say that if you keep the purse strings tight you can then spend in areas of social need. Whilst I think his record is not quite as ‘generous’ as that you have to say that in the areas that National has been socially liberal like the ‘anti-smacking’ law and marriage equality there is deep division with the Conservatives.

Whilst this would not normally be a problem between parties who focus is things like the economy and ‘jobs for New Zealanders’ this is not the case with the Conservatives. Turning over the anti-smacking law is Colin Craig’s number one objective in politics. Opposing marriage equality is also right up there so whilst there is a lot of generous spirit at the moment and acknowledging that ‘we need to work together’ you have to remember that for the Conservatives it comes back to a couple of big social policies, that they disagree with National on, and those policies are what the Conservatives are built on…they are their core beliefs.

I was at Conservatives HQ in the last few months and suggested to Colin Craig’s press secretary that he’d have much more a chance at the next election is he moved publicly away from these kinds of conversations, there was a wide eyed look of shock to that suggestion and I was told in no uncertain terms ‘but that’s Colin’s passion‘.’Okay, but who is here to counter Colin’s passion for political balance or even just another perspective, for example who is on the board who supported Sue Bradford’s law reform?‘ The answer was ‘No one‘.

I have no issues with people who oppose either of those social policies, that’s your right as a citizen and voter, however when they are ‘your passion’ and you are being touted as the person who will hold up the next politically right Government it is likely a concern to some.

The one other issue about the Conservatives is that should Mr. Craig get elected to a seat in Auckland I wonder if the question will be asked, “is this the first parliamentary seat that has been purchased outright in NZ politics?”

Colin Craig is a wealthy businessman which I congratulate him on, his success in the world of business is admirable, the success has given him access to vast sums of money. He has spent millions of his own money on his campaigns and protest marches to this point. The only reason there is a Conservative Party is Craig’s own personal $1.6 million donation at the last election…then there is the ‘March for Democracy’ ($400,000) and his Mayoralty campaign. If it wasn’t for Colin Craig’s personal wealth, there would be no Conservative Party, no TV interviews, no chance of winning a seat. I wonder how many will be uncomfortable with the idea that should he be elected, Craig’s wealth has been the main reason he is now in politics as without the wealth, no one would have had the chance to vote for him.

If we are potentially in a new era of ‘any political partner so long as we stay in power’ I wonder what the voter will do? Will the voter support that view and just to keep their party in charge they will open the door to anybody else to make up the numbers, or will the vote decide that it’s safer not to allow these one policy ponies in with unknown consequences.

Winston Peters pointing the bone…again

Winston Peters has been pointing the bone at the National Government over the Aratere Ferry in a tweet this morning that follows several months of blaming National for the poor performance of this marine vessel

Winston Tweets

Winston Peter was in Government alongside the National Party in 1998 when the Aratere was purchased from Spain, in fact at the time of purchase he was the treasurer (December 1996 to August 1998).

I wonder if Winston is using this to score points when from 1999 this ship has been labelled ‘El Lemon’ by the crew. If it was that bad in 1999, surely he, as a part of Government and the treasurer when purchased, should hold some responsibility for buying this piece of junk.

I have to say we are used to Winston using the elderly, or immigrants, or anybody to further his political narrative, but he’s now using a ferry to score points. Wow!

A new yardstick please?

Okay so there have been several times and several posts when I have answered questions about my ‘christianity’ and how some in the church question my thoughts or opinions or acceptance of certain things that perhaps they question. The other conversation that I (and I think we all) come up against is those outside the church world looking in and making sweeping statements about what a Christian is.

According to the book unChristian, which is a research document where 16-29 year olds were asked their thoughts on many issues inside the church, 85%-95% of this group thinks that the words ‘homophobic’, ‘judgemental’ and ‘hypocrite’ can be interchanged with the word ‘Christian’. So if you class yourself as a ‘Christian’ then nine in ten Gen Y-ers think that you are a homophobic, judgemental hypocrite and I have to say the Church hasn’t done much to disprove those accusations in the last 60 years…in fact in the last 1,000 years to be honest.

So when I see the Chaplin for the Senate of the United States of America offering this prayer to Senators I wonder if it is time for a new yardstick both for those inside the church and outside.

The words of Chaplain Barry C. Black are as follows

Let us pray

Have mercy upon us oh God

And save us from the madness

We acknowledge our transgressions

Our shortcomings

Our smugness

Our selfishness

And our pride

Create in us clean hearts oh God

And renew a right spirit within us

Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable, while being unreasonable

Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this Government shut down

Transforming negatives in positives

As you work for the good of those who love you

We pray in Your merciful name

Amen

I only hope his prayer was to a full Senate chamber.

So from now on people inside the church, or people of faith, AND people outside the church, how about we use these idea as our yardstick for what a ‘Christian is supposed to be’ as I am happy to stand alongside these biblically based ideas.

Flexi-Super ‘aint quite there

I personally like the idea of Peter Dunne’s Flexi-Super…but something is not quite sitting right with the concept.

I get the impression we are hearing a collective sigh of relief that all of a sudden, someone has finally addressed the ‘issue’ with Super that everyone has been talking about for the past few years. Problem is, this doesn’t address it.

The major issue has been that the economy cannot afford Super with our aging population, and as we are being told that this is fiscally neutral, it does nothing to address that. That being said, Dr. Don Brash said on Radiolive this morning that he wasn’t so sure if it would be neutral, but unless the Government, via Mr. Dunne, is trying to slip a reduction in costs past the country, then this doesn’t ‘fix’ the issue of cost.

The other thing about it is that I think the majority of people will take this at 60, not wait. Can we please see some projections about that?

My rationale is this.

If my wife and I take Super at 60 we get $403 a week, if we wait until 70 we get $885 a week and there is a sliding scale for the decade in between. If we take $403 a week we have received nearly $210,000 before we reach 70 and take a cent. This would then take us another four and a half years to catch up to before we are then better off. So we wouldn’t see a benefit of taking Super at 70, until we are close to 75 and with the average life expectancy being 80 in NZ at the moment, who would be willing to take that financial risk.

I like the idea of giving people the choice and I like the idea that people groups who have shorter life expectancies could get Super earlier but I have major concerns that New Zealanders are going to think the ‘problem’ with Super is solved, and it’s far from it.