Biden Surge On Super Tuesday Spells Trouble For Democrats

Are we about to witness 2016 all over again?

Going on the current trend, you certainly can’t rule that out. So here I am, a New Zealander with no sway on the US election, and I’m here to tell you that the surge of Joe Biden in Super Tuesday spells big trouble for the Democrats.

I like Joe Biden, he reminds me of my poppa actually. Astute, polite, knowledgeable and capable of getting the job done. But like my poppa, he’s old, when you listen to him speak you know what he’s going to say and while you can’t help but agree with a lot of it, you’ve heard it all before.

That about sums up Super Tuesday in a nutshell so far. It feels like what we are watching, we’ve watched not only before, but time and time again. It’s the safe bet, but arguably, not a winning one.

It’s all still going down and the votes continue to come in, but as I saw in a tweet just prior to writing this, it appears that the DNC are getting the man they want leading the ballot.

On current trend, Sanders might just have to sit back and watch the DNC rally around another candidate, not himself.

First it was Virginia, then it was North Carolina. Those were the first two warning signs that this was going to be a tough run for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Joe Biden has owned Super Tuesday, so far at least.

The word ‘momentum’ has been used a lot today to explain the success Biden is having. Clearly, the prevailing opinion seems to be that the tide has turned for the former Vice President on the back of winning South Carolina and the subsequent endorsements from Peter Buttigieg and then Amy Klobuchar when they dropped out.

Bernie, in direct contrast, appears to be out in the cold on this Super Tuesday and will be in an unwinnable position (you’d guess) if he can’t catch up somehow. Everyone says that Bernie will take California, and he must, but maybe the bigger question here surrounds the young voters, are they going to turn out in droves or just drabs?

If it’s the latter, it will just speak to the wider issue of politics, not just in the US but also here in New Zealand, the young voters just don’t engage in the numbers that you’d hope. It has serious political consequences, and if Biden does indeed go through come the Democratic Convention, Sanders can look back at this portion of voters and ask himself why they didn’t come out in support.

Texas is too close to call right now, but Sanders has just won Colorado, that leaves Boston as one of the other major targets the socialist must win.

I’m no political expert, just an interested bystander. Frankly, I’ve found the last three years to be nothing short of remarkable, but in all the worst ways. Politics in the US has become a reality TV show, voters have become so divided it’s almost tribal.

No matter what happens in November, Super Tuesday has just shown a major warning sign that 2016 is threatening to repeat itself all over again.

Choosing a candidate like Biden reminds you of Obama, who in turn reminds you of Clinton (Hilary, that is). That very formula and the distrust that the American voters have in the establishment has all the chances in the world of handing another three years to Donald Trump.

It’s only a few hours into the voting counts, but so far, Super Tuesday signals that Biden, not Sanders, is going to challenge later on in the year.

Saving & Sustaining Disability Supports In 2020

Buckle in and get ready folks, 2020 should be a year like no other as it pertains to saving and sustaining the disability support system. 

Before we can look forward, we must, as always, take a look back. By any reasonable measure; 2019 was a year of positive stories that should’ve aided optimism heading into what many believe will be a make or break decade for a sector all to often forgotten by the establishment.

In fact, 2019 was pretty great, really.

There was free, yes free, public transport for disabled people in the Waikato, something that was pushed over the line by local advocates. There was the emergence of The Cookie Project as a way to increase disabled employment that appears to be working and, to top it all off, Robert Martin was recognized for his services to the disability community with a knighthood on the New Year honours list.

Indeed, it was a year of highlights if you were willing to look past some of the negative headlines that were shining a light on funding challenges facing existing support systems and the viability of new ones.

And here we are, fresh into a new decade which kicks off with an election year, meaning it is the year of promises. Oh, can’t you feel the sense of optimism?

MP’s Must Show They Care About Disabled People

There will be all the usual discussion of voting and how disabled people make 24% of the population, which means every effort should be made to make the voting process as accessible as possible to the forgotten “voice”. Familiar? Yes.

There will be discussion, perhaps even a few throwing their hat into the ring, surrounding “actual disabled people” being involved in the political establishment, locally and nationally. Familiar? Yes.

Then there are the actual promises themselves, by way of policy and the visions behind such. In other words; there are the actual roadmaps, explanations and commitments behind all the meetings that will take place. Familiar? Yes.

Nothing in 2020 will be new, at least from the spoken word, but it’s the action part where the guts of whatever direction is taken will or won’t be found.

The various MP’s responsible for such matters on both sides of the house have had ample opportunity to engage with disabled people and their families about the issues impacting them, but like usual, the next eleven months prior to the polls will be when most discussions are had.

Make no mistake, there is a difference between politicians hearing and seeing the stories from their own eyes versus hearing it through reports sent by advocacy groups, representational orgs and the ministries implementing systems.

One could argue that the Ministry of Health (MoH), in particular, is coming into 2020 facing the most distrust from the disability community that it’s ever endured. How to turn that, distrust at one level and uncertainty at the core, will be no easy task.

In order to win voters, Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for Disability Issues, and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter, need to front the criticisms that came in 2019 head-on and actually discuss them.

Just how did the MoH come so close to making such radical cuts? How can disabled people, many of which make up eligible voters, trust that there is actually a sustainable system in place to ensure it doesn’t become a possibility again? How much further investment is needed, not just to cover all basis, but assume sustainability?

All key questions need to be asked because what happened in April 2019, and the lead up to it, wasn’t the MoH just deciding to be bad people and take care away from disabled people. Quite the opposite, in fact, it was something which the powers that be determined was a requirement in order to be cost-effective.

The only way to ensure such an occurrence doesn’t happen is to invest. Either that, or finally admit that the system may not be as inclusive as many would have you believe.

In their hard-hitting report towards the end of 2019, NZDSN (New Zealand Disability Support Network), advocating on behalf of providers, said that there needs to be a national discussion about what a “reasonable and necessary” taxpayer contribution towards Enabling Good Lives and what its sustainability is.

The question then becomes, if it turns out that the new system isn’t sustainable, then what?

That’s why, whichever way you lean politically, 2020’s election will likely see policies that promise a significant uptake in investment towards the Disability Support System (DSS). There will be an announcement as to the future of Enabling Good Lives, and this could potentially include a timeframe for when the “new system” rolls out nationally.

It’s hard to see what else either Labour or National can do in order to make a splash, and by any sense of scale, this is an area where a fresh coat of paint is needed. Whilst Enabling Lives may represent the great new frontier, behind how the principles are being implemented reeks of the old ways of doing business.

It all becomes about how much either party and their responsible ministers truly care about doing something in this area.

The absolute worst result would be a middling, half-baked and long-term vision that is light on detail. You’ll likely get “over three years” type of talk from politicians, but if there is no substance behind whatever is said, alarm bells should rightly ring come November.

Also, let’s not forget how political the End of Life Choice bill and Legalization of Cannabis will become in terms of the disability space if they haven’t already. These two conversations have the potential to overshadow some of the crucial questions that need to be asked surrounding how support for disabled people is delivered and sustained in New Zealand.

Be very wary of that, every effort must be taken to ensure that all voices are heard and that there are actual answers to what those voices will ask.

Does Online Voting Really Fix The Local Elections Turnout Problem?

Another important local body election is close to being done, and another mediocre voter turnout suggests a big divide between interest and effort.

Amazingly enough, votes in Hamilton managed to surpass the totals achieved in the last three local body elections. Such an outcome looked unlikely earlier in the week with many commentators slamming the low turnout, not just in Hamilton, but around the country.

Before you go celebrating, however, consider putting the wine back on the shelf for another occasion. Voter turnout in local body elections has a big problem, and it’s not easily solved.

You’d suspect that the same people who don’t bother to go to the polls this week will be the same that wouldn’t have a great answer if you were to ask about the pressing matters in the local political scene.

Key case in point, do they simply not care about what’s going on locally? Or, at the very least, do they think that it’s somehow less important than what’s happening nationally?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assume that both outcomes are likely in play. It could also be a case of pure and utter laziness, and if that is the case, candidates deserve a hell of a lot better.

What’s inherently striking is that the line-up of candidates for both council and mayor this year has been diverse; arguably more diverse than ever before. However, striking that it may be, this was to be expected given how accessible entry into politics has become via the ability to reach large masses of people through social media.

Take young-gun Louise Hutt in her candidacy for Mayor of Hamilton as a great example, I sat up and took notice when she implemented a bot via messenger on her official campaign page. Such a thing might seem simple and unimportant but it provides a level of interactivity, utilizing modern technology, that many senior politicians would never consider nor have the technical know-how to integrate into a campaign.

Speaking of diversity and the modern-minded politician; how about Tim Young and his fight for a seat on council? Not only is Young passionate about climate change and how society needs to keep the pace with technology, but he also gives a political presence to Hamilton’s not so small disabled community, something he appears to embrace yet not have it front and centre.

These are just two of the names that appealed to me and not the least of which was because of how they were attempting to engage in that online social space, building on top of an already solid local effort in the Waikato.

Yet, it all feels like a fleeting success at best, with a serious discussion needing to be had quickly in the aftermath.

Voter turnout in 2019, whilst it ended up being more compared to last time, remains at a level that suggests many local voters don’t place the same importance on the various issues being campaigned for.

Or, you might counter, it could be simply a matter of the basically un-informed and ignorant believing that local politics doesn’t mean enough to go out and make the effort. Take that at face value, because it’s likely true at this moment in time, and then tell that to them when they have to pay their rates bill each year.

What goes on locally actually does have an impact, and a significant one at that.

Yet many of those same would-be local voters will be quick to line-up and cast their decision in 2020, when New Zealand chooses whether to legalize cannabis or not (just one example) and decide whether Labour continues its reign or National takes back over.

Yes, we are talking about Central Government in this instance, but it’s an important footnote because that’s where far more attention seems to be placed. Having online voting ability (or not having it) won’t cause the outcome in 2020 to swing one way over another, all it will likely do is further increase the gap between local government voters and central government voters.

For that I say, yes, we need to implement the ability for New Zealanders to cast their vote online.

Start by doing it in 2020 for the big one, and then try again in 2022 when the next local elections occur. Let’s see if the number of voters in the local body elections increases or not.

If we get that higher voter turnout, then great, but to what next if we don’t? Nobody wants the divide to increase, but it’s time for a serious discussion as to why it’s become the case.

Who’s Really Representing Disability in Parliament?

Ministers responsible for representing disability rights are having a tough go of it down in Parliament. Why aren’t more disabled people leading the conversation? 

The question of representation at a political level has long been a talking point amongst the disability sector, often one of frustration. There is a very strong belief that in order to achieve more politically, more people who actually have a disability need to be the ones doing it.

Many national organisations and community groups have disabled people in key decision-making roles already. The United Nations also have disabled-people in charge of the conversation for that specific area.

It just makes sense right, surely that lived experience and first-hand learning counts for something? It’s not just about being able to identify as someone with a disability, either. One of the biggest gripes advocates have is how the issues impacting people in the community are so often spoken for by the non-disabled, without any understanding of the real-world impacts of what is involved.

Comments by the Associate Minister of Health in response to yet more reports of funding freezes for Disability Support Services are a good example.

As concerns over continued funding cuts are raised, to hear Julie Anne Genter basically palm them off as nothing more than operational matters would do doubt have insulted many disabled people and families being impacted by what the Ministry of Health is doing.

Ok, ensuring gender pay equity and meeting demand may be seen as simple operating matters, but surely Genter can’t be convinced that adding an additional $72m for these areas alone equals results that deliver greater choice and control for how disabled people get the supports they require to simply live life?

If so, then who is giving her such advice? The non-disabled? Remember, we are talking about 24% of New Zealand’s total population.

That’s no small amount of people, imagine what the number could be had more disabled people been able to participate in the census. Imagine what the results would be had a more regular disability survey been initiated by the Government. What about the extra un-accounted extra 25% of people requiring disability support suddenly coming out of the woodwork?

Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for Disability Issues and Social Development, gets the best grade rating from those inside Parliament. Her comments on a recent podcast where she said adding more value to the disability workforce shouldn’t, in anyway, undermine disabled people’s right to accessing quality services weren’t only obvious, but one of the more real things a minister has said about this sector in some time.

Meanwhile on the education front, Tracey Martin admitted back in April that despite significant funding boosts, early intervention for disabled learners in education had fallen short.

Who’s Really Representing Disability in Parliament?

The general school of thought hasn’t changed much over the years when it comes to who is ultimately responsible for making the changes needed to better the participation, rights, and lives of disabled people in New Zealand.

The buck stops with Government and it’s their responsibility to make it happen and stop discriminating, right?

This is just as much an awareness issue as it is one of the Ministers involved having the ability to pull the right levers at the right time to get a result that is halfway decent.

Those Ministers aren’t only not disabled, but they grew up in a society that didn’t place emphasis on those forgotten in marginalized communities.

The point being is that shifting attitudes in society goes well beyond what the Ministers are doing in Parliament, but they can be, in a big way, very effective leaders of that conversation. That current track record goes to show that there is a lot of room for doing things differently, starting with a more deliberate and frequent conversation about disability matters.

Like how Government targeted mental illness with the wellbeing budget of 2019, how do they get disability issues to be a big talking point in 2020? It is an election year so the community should expect a bit more and will do doubt get something to talk about from ministers.

Just what exactly? Well, it may just time in with evaluations and decisions on the future of Mana Whaikaha (Enabling Good Lives) quite nicely with an eye toward announcements in early 2021. That’s not exactly a vote-shifter though.

But nevertheless, go to any disability gathering of note that seeks to ask the hard questions of Government officials, usually it’s those very officials dictating the terms of conversation.

That’s what needs to change, pronto.

ACT Party Dismiss 24% Of New Zealand Population With Policy No Show

The ACT Party have a policy for just about everything ahead of the 2017 General Election – except for one on the rights of disabled New Zealanders. 

ACT Party disability issues spokesman Joshua Perry confirmed on Monday that no disability policy would be released until after the election. Citing “a process to go through”, Perry said that the policy is still in draft stage and yet to be completed.

Perry’s position is difficult, but as one of only a handful of disabled candidates in this election, he was in a great position to create a unique policy. Recently, Perry fronted a Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) debate and has promised to send documents through to The Real Michael Pulman which show his plans for an eventual disability policy.

Whereas the National Party, Labour, Greens, and all other major parties have all released policy directly related to disabled people.

ACT Party Going Against The UN Convention

What the ACT Party seem to be forgetting is that New Zealand are under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To have no policy, or even mention of disability, is a major blunder so close to the election.

The question has to be asked – why is there no policy and why hasn’t the ACT Party done some work in this area well in advance of the election?

To only have a policy in draft stage is inexcusable so close to the election, because disabled people make up 24% of New Zealand’s total population.

ACT also declined to work with the newly formed Access Alliance, a group that are asking Government to agree to mandatory legislation for accessibility. After being invited to a candidates debate hosted by My Voice Matters, ACT was a no show at the recent disability-centric event.

The Real Michael Pulman is in ongoing discussions with Joshua Perry and has requested an interview with party leader David Seymour.

Don’t Dare Criticise Metiria Turei or Run the Risk of Being Labelled

The Green Party has entered an unprecedented level of chaos, and all the blame can fall upon their leader Metiria Turei. 

Supporters of Turei, while well-meaning, are frankly in a state of denial right now. Some of them have gone on the attack and chosen to label critics as having a double standard and a bias towards the more privileged in New Zealand society. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and if anyone has a double standard here, it’s Turei.

This is the single worst week in the history of The Green Party and it also comes at a time when their friends at the Labour Party are in a state of rebuild.

After admitting to several counts of benefit fraud – Turei (an experienced MP who should know better) dug her heels in and refused to stand down from her position as leader of the Greens.

Since then, what has followed can be described as nothing more than chaos.

Two MP’s have decided to remove themselves from the situation, another has attacked the media for what she calls “media coverage that is completely  disproportionate” to the actions of the Party’s leader, and New Zealanders have divided themselves over the question of if Turei is a victim in this situation.

With threats of the news finally being leaked to the media prior to the 2017 election, Turei admitted to her actions, and the whole fiasco has flipped into overdrive since.

There is no denying that the benefit system in New Zealand needs some fixing, and fast. But, don’t limit this to a conversation that shifts focus away from the actions of Turei. She’s known of her actions for several years, and with her experience in Parliament, she also knows exactly how the system works.

Would Turei have come out and made this admission if she wasn’t aware leaks were coming? Arguably not. But her defenders will overlook that reality and remain in staunch denial, and much like Turei herself, it’s a denial that will ultimately cost the election.

 

In defence of Nicky Wagner and those comments on Twitter

A tweet sent out by the Minister for Disability issues was taken way out of context – purely because of the word disability.

Nicky Wagner has apologised for her comments on Twitter where she implied that spending a day on the Auckland Harbour would be preferable to meetings with representatives of people with disabilities.

The reaction was immediate – and it was the opportunity that the disabled community needed to once again remind Wagner (and the National Party) of the importance of saying the right things and not leaving anything open to interpretation.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

To be completely fair to Wagner – her tweet wasn’t disrespectful at all. People saying that it was need to stop being so precious and grow up. Who wouldn’t want to be out enjoying the sun on what was a beautiful winters day?

The mistake Wagner actually made was using the word disability in her comments. But let’s get to the bigger issue.

Just because Wagner is the Minister for Disability Issues and she happened to be doing work in that area is besides the point here. Is the disabled community going to take itself so seriously that it can use a simple statement made on social media and turn it into a political issue?

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Its a great reminder for everyone about how easily words can be misinterpreted. Because the term disability was used, critics turned her tweet into an example of her disrespect and lack of interest in the disabled community – how they came to that conclusion is beyond my comprehension.

Calls for Wagner to resign are not a direct result of the tweet, more so, its due to the failings of a Government that continues to give people with disabilities a mediocre service.

The timing of Wagner’s tweet is bad, given her recent fallout with IDEA Services and the quick push through of a complete system transformation for Disability Support Services.

Just where to now? Who knows… but Wagner needs to tread ultra carefully now.

Shut down of Cannabis Party may have a positive outcome

The impending shut down of New Zealand’s only political party in full favor of legalising cannabis is a sad sight to see – but the future implications could turn out to be positive.

Abe Gray, the President of the Cannabis Party, is stepping aside from his role and will join The Opportunities Party. Gray has a long history with the Cannabis Party but says that despite 10,000 votes in the last three elections – the party has no future.

According to Gray – the sole reason for the Cannabis Party having an existence in the first place was because nobody had the courage to speak up about legalising the use of cannabis at a political level, at least during that time.

Since then the Green Party and ACT have had some serious discussions about the issue.

While the new Opportunities Party may have some sway politically – it has to get over the five percent threshold to officially enter Parliament.

There is no denying that full legalisation of cannabis would have positive consequences for the New Zealand economy. That’s never been the issue, the mindset around it has.

The Green Party has argued that ‘overseas evidence’ shows that similar models would be beneficial for New Zealand.

However, both National and Labour would argue that the economy is in a ‘strong enough’ position and simply overlook any notion of committing to legalising cannabis.

While it should be legalised – some discussions around tax need to be had. The Opportunities Party say that the tax would be determined by the level of THC potency. Revenue for sales of cannabis would be used on education, after school projects for youth (presumably in a bid to keep crime rate down), and towards treatment for drug addiction.

What’s more – the estimated revenue is estimated to be at around $150million.

Ngapuhi elder apologises as Committee set to get the axe

As many in New Zealand continue to back Bill English, an elder at Ngapuhi has apologised for comments where he called the Prime Minister “a spoiled child”.

Kingi Taurua says he is ashamed of how his iwi have treated Bill English, and he has vowed to take it all back. The Ngapuhi elder now has egg on his face, but the damage is done. English is still in Europe on PM duties,

Letters that leaked yesterday reveal that English was told that the only way he could speak at Waitangi was if a Maori Representative did so on his behalf.  In a tent outside the Marae, political discussions would’ve been able to take place, and English was only allowed to speak freely there.

What was laughingly referred to as protocol, has now led to an apology from Taurua. The committee at Ngapuhi are likely to be stripped of their roles as many New Zealanders support English, and Taurua even went as far as saying that some supporters are “against the National Party”.

No other political party has been told they can’t speak at the powhiri, but did the media keep their knowledge of the letters between the two parties hidden? Some argue that Taurua wouldn’t have made such comments if was aware of the letters, but all along, the committee itself also knew of the discussions in the letters.

Ngapuhi will meet on Thursday and go into damage control.

Lee Vandervis stands by ideology towards disabled candidate

The degree of Joshua Perry’s disability simply isn’t a factor in his ability to do well as a member of council.

In a series of powerful and shocking statements today, Lee Vandervis has made no apology for his belief that Perry, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, doesn’t have a place in local politics.

Vandervis, a long time council member and mayoral candidate, says he felt sympathy for Perry prior to approaching him while he was sitting alone in his wheelchair after a public event. That is where this story begins and ends, by the comments made by an elderly man.  Continue reading Lee Vandervis stands by ideology towards disabled candidate