My values are Labour values.

I want to help build a stronger, more caring society. I am passionate about Dunedin, and I bring considerable energy and wide experience to the task of representing this electorate.

My diverse work background has given me an understanding of the economic and social levers that can be pulled to achieve meaningful change.

Please read some of the discussions included here. I welcome your comments.

- David Clark

Cutting the cake

Campbell Jones writes about the growing gap between rich and poor.  He asks the right questions in this Dominion Post opinion piece

Innovative, hard-working Kiwis can be very successful in New Zealand.  Government can set the right conditions, but many will succeed regardless.  Some will become wealthy. 

But, does the reverse logic hold?  Is wealth in New Zealand necessarily an indication of innovation and success?  Not always.

Jones writes:

…those concerned about these increasingly unequal distributions of wealth, income, power and privilege have been dismissed as “tall poppy bashers” or as being motivated by “envy”.

Central to such dismissal is the idea that whoever has wealth has created it by and for themselves. This sounds like meritocracy, that is, the idea that whoever puts in an effort merits reward. But this is meritocracy on its head. It assumes that just because someone is rewarded, they deserve that reward. This false meritocracy need not look at what anyone actually does. It reads reality backwards, imagining that those who have wealth are by definition the ones who have created it.

This ideology exhibits a remarkable forgetfulness of history. It forgets, for instance, that the European aristocracies were overthrown because the wealth they claimed as their own was shown to be the result of arbitrary privilege. It is also blind to the present, failing to see that when people are constantly told to shop but do not have the means to do so, they will at times reject conventional understandings about property and ownership.

Above all, it fails to recognise that the allocation of wealth is a matter of judgment, a collective decision about what kind of society people want to live in.   …

If we choose to keep growing the gap between rich and poor, we create a class society, where accident of birth dictates your opportunity set.  Wealth begets wealth, and poverty begets poverty.  This kills the dream of a society where the way to get ahead involves innovation and hard work.  It attacks our sense of fairness.  And it’s not good for us socially or economically.

Jones’ whole article is well worth a read.


Local Energy Solutions

Dunedin has more than its fair share of innovative people.  Partly this is due to the influence of the University, and partly it is due to its attractiveness as a place to live, and partly it’s just the way it’s always been.  Dunedin is a harbour town with countryside close by.  But it also sustains an active arts scene, good coffee-houses, and pockets of alternative life-stylers.  Smart people choose to live here.

One sector that is particularly well-serviced locally – with innovative and progressive folk – is the energy sector.  Some at the University make careers out of researching possibilities and trends, such as those teaching in the energy studies programme.  

A highly practical example of local folk putting their shoulders to the sustainability wheel is Blueskin Power – the Waitati energy project.  

Local entrepreneur Bill Currie has developed New Zealand’s first domestic-use wind turbine.

One group I met with recently is the Solar Action Network.  Their website and regular bulletins are well worth exploring.  Much like a coffee-table house and garden type magazine, but a little more informative – and free to download.  The most recent edition focuses on home insulation innovations, projects and costs. 

Another great local initiative.


Nice one Bro! You got game

My Brother Ben is standing for Labour on Auckland’s North Shore

Ultimately, Ben’s got an uphill battle for Labour in what is a National Party stronghold.  But he has strong local credentials. New opponent Maggie Barry has just breezed in after rejection by National in other Auckland seats.  This hasn’t gone unnoticed.

To highlight the very real dangers of Asset Sales, Ben has put his computer programming skills to good use. 

He’s designed a free online gameTry it!

In the game, John Key is throwing SOE share certificates in the air (much like he hopes to do in real life). You are ‘mum and dad investor’.  And armed with a dust-buster, you suck up the shares. But you’re competing against powerful overseas interests, armed with commercial hoovers. If you’re skillful, you can become individually wealthy. But the lesson in the game is, of course, that New Zealand as a whole is worse off as a result of the sales.  Give me Labour’s fairer tax system over Asset Sales any day – then we’ll ALL be better off.

Despite the seriousness of the issues, it’s good to see Ben having some fun with the campaign.  Nice one Bro! 


Student choice and student voice


Late Wednesday night, Act and National put aside the proper progress of legislation to fast-track the passing of anti-student legislation before the election.  The private member’s bill drafted by Act MP, Heather Roy, can only pass with National’s support.

In an unusual move, National put other legislation aside so that they could support the misnamed Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill.

The real agenda of this bill is to destroy students’ associations. If passed, the legislation will reduce student choice and student participation in determining their own affairs. I’ve written about this in the ODT.

Under the bill students no longer get to choose whether their representative association is voluntary or compulsory.

The bill’s effect, far from promoting freedom, is to remove student choice, to reduce the range and quality of student services and to silence the voice of students’ associations on behalf of their members.

Act’s bill will erode the funding base of students’ associations. Without a small contribution from a large number of students, the rich offerings of university life are no longer affordable.

Choice dies, and along with it, vital aspects of the Otago scarfie experience and services that benefit the health and welfare of students.

When last put to the vote, University of Otago students chose to keep the status quo. They recognised the benefit of all students making a small contribution towards facilities for the whole student body.

Unlike Act and National, I believe how students organise their own affairs should be their own choice. I trust students to run their own organisations and make their own decisions.

Now an ideological push from a ‘we know best’ Act-National coalition is forcing its skewed world-view on the student community.

In Wednesday’s debate, former OUSA President and Labour MP for Wellington Central, Grant Robertson, revealed that progress was being made on an enduring solution. Those discussions were thwarted after Heather Roy was dumped from Cabinet and Act whipped National into ideological line.

Labour’s proposal would have provided students with an opportunity to make an informed choice about student association membership. Students would have received information about students’ associations, what they provide and what they cost.

Surely it is better to preserve choice and opportunity for students, than to rob them in the name of a blinkered and draconian ideological monomania.

Students are up in arms.  They’re planning a protest today when John Key visits the University. Information about the protest is on facebook.


Dunedin cuts – CYF spindoctors stretch truth

My previous posts about the cuts to frontline child protection services in Dunedin have attracted a response.  Unfortunately the response is clearly the work of CYF’s spindoctors. 

I am saddened to see CYF dodge questions regarding front line job-cuts in Dunedin. [Otago Daily Times, 21/07/11].  The CYF spokesperson describes Otago and Southland as having “more social workers per caseload” than other areas, and talks about deciding whether vacated positions will be filled – according to workload in the region. 

This is classic doublespeak.  As positions are vacated in Otago and Southland, they are not being replaced; a straight shooter would call this job-cuts.  Frontline positions are being axed. Vulnerable children are at risk.

Tragically, need for CYF services is in high demand.  Our stagnant economy has put increased pressure on Dunedin families.  Can CYF confirm they have as many front line staff in Dunedin now as they had a year ago?  Or better still, provide credible evidence that our most vulnerable children are no longer at risk?  Of course they can’t.  This makes me angry.  Under National’s direction, CYF are spending money on spindoctors.  That money should be spent on staff at the coal-face.


You can't beat Dunedin on a good day V

The past 7 days have been action packed.  Alongside a busy-time in my regular day-job, my role as Labour candidate for Dunedin North has been all go. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, I enjoyed a flying visit from Phil Goff.  During his stay, he announced Labour’s procurement policy, met with Hillside workers, had a beer with local supporters, and heard the challenges facing many of Dunedin’s social service providers.

Thursday my ODT opinion piece on VSM was published.  I spoke to a church group during their midwinter lunch at Sawyers’ Bay.

Friday lunchtime, I spoke to a politics class on campus.  The previous Friday at the same time I’d attended the debate on the anti-student VSM bill.  Channel 9 broadcast a summary of the debate.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Dunedin cultural concert. Hosted by the Otago University Students Association, it featured fabulous colour, energy and talent. 

And I’ve had a few adventures in the snow. 

You can’t beat Dunedin on a good day.


Cuts to CYF big risk for Dunedin's most vulnerable

Today I’ve released information in two blogs on Red Alert about cuts to front line Child, Youth and Family (CYF) services in Dunedin.  These cuts, and cuts around the country make a lie to National’s promise not to cut front line services. 

Now I’m waiting to see what spin the Government is going to put on the cuts.  Expect a story about voluntary redundancies.  Expect a story about ‘reprioritising-resources’ further north.  Let’s see if they’re brave enough to say that there will be more full time front line staff in Dunedin next month than there were in the first half of the year.

Child, Youth and Family do remarkable work on behalf of the whole community to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to give families the support they need to care for their children. They provide safe, loving homes for children who need that care and they work with young people to turn their lives around.

The timing of these cuts could not be worse, as the cost of living and unemployment increases. There is growing pressure on families. These cuts are an abdication of our collective responsibility to care and protect our most vulnerable citizens, to help those who cannot speak for themselves.

The Government must reverse this appalling decision.


Anniversary #1

Today marks one year since my first post on this weblog. 

I’m enjoying blogging.  I know a lot more folks read my posts on Red Alert, or at The Standard eg here, here and here, than read the posts on this site.  Nevertheless, in its first year this site has had over 6000 visits from people wanting to find out why I’m standing for Parliament. 

The website is a repository of much information in one place.  First time readers take in a lot before departing the site.  Repeat offenders will just spend a minute or two taking in the latest blog before click away. 

Features were added once I was selected as Pete Hodgson’s replacement.  I started a campaign Facebook page six months ago. I’ve joined Twitter.  You can now sign up for an e-newsletter on the side bar to the right –>

I’m interested in some feedback.  I’d welcome suggestions (comment below) about what you like and don’t like about my blog.  Tell me what you would like to see more of, and I’ll tell you if I’m willing to oblige.


Own our future

Labour has announced its detailed taxation policy and economic vision.  And it’s been leading the news. 

Yesterday on the University campus with three MPs contesting the upcoming election, I got to debate the issue for the first time.   I felt I had a clear advantage before we started; the capital gains tax Labour is proposing is all about fairness.  And Kiwis like fairness.  The Government candidates I was up against tried to defend the indefensible.  I think they know the current tax system is unfair.  New Zealand is one of only three countries in the OECD without a capital gains tax.  Australia has had one for 20 years.

Not only does our policy have fairness on its side, but it also will mean most people are better off as a result.  Taxing just 15% of the profits when people sell their second or third property won’t affect many people, but it will mean that other policies become affordable.  So Labour will be able to make the first $5000 earned tax free – for everyone. 

The capital gains tax encourages investment in productive enterprises, solves our debt problem and makes a whole lot more sense than the alternative.  National’s alternative to solving our debt problems is their ‘plan’ to sell our state assets (each paying off only a few months worth of debt) then further cut services, and then what?  Hope they get lucky?  Everyone knows selling our revenue-generating power companies is crazy; if you’re in a hole, you don’t sell the ladder.

With this announcement, Labour has shown it will be bold and make the tough decisions that need to be made to take our country forward. Our economic plan will allow us to protect our assets, pay off debt and help rebuild the devastated Canterbury region.

The website Own Our Future has all you need to know about Labour’s plan.


VSM cuts – Facebook fightback

The first high-profile casualty of voluntary student membership is broadcasting ambient noise in protest. 

It looks likely that long-standing student radio station – Radio One – is for the chop.  There’s a Facebook fightback going on as proactive supporters get their message across: a ‘Save Radio One’ page.  When I signed soon after launch yesterday there were over 600 ‘likes’ already.  Tonight there’s over 2100. 

Radio One has served, not only students, but a wider artistic community in Dunedin for 27 years. It has spawned many successful media careers, providing an opportunity for aspiring journalists and DJs to hone their skills.

The voluntary student membership bill (VSM), promoted by Act and supported by National, proposes to make membership of students associations ‘opt-in’ rather than ‘opt-out’.    When last put to the vote, Otago students (through their students’ association – OUSA) chose to keep the status quo.  They recognised the benefit of all students paying a small amount to generate accessible and affordable facilities for the whole student body.  Now an ideological push from a ‘government knows best’ National-Act coalition is forcing its world-view on the student community. 

The Government may not believe students know how to run their own organisations, but most of us in the general public do.

Radio One is being lined up to be chopped first.  In the face of the VSM threat, OUSA is being forced to make hard choices.  If VSM succeeds, expect other student services to go as well.  Media that expresses student opinion, clubs and societies, student-run gym services, and independent advocacy services will all come under the spotlight.  It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Join the movement.  Let the Government know VSM is not ok.