It's now make or break

OUT OF LEFT FIELD

ROSS HENDERSON
Last updated 09:05 16/02/2013

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I know it may sound paradoxical but it still surprises me how a mindless and prejudiced rant by a largely unknown MP can be given so much media attention.

It's not as if we don't have some serious issues on our plate that need urgent attention: The growing pace of job losses, the failure of our third largest construction company Mainzeal and the problems in manufacturing, to name a few.

Don't get me wrong about Richard Prosser, the hamfisted NZ First MP who called for all young Muslim men to be banned from airlines around the world and generally made insulting remarks about all Muslims. His sort of prejudice is just plain ignorance and stupidity.

It's worse when it comes from a Member of Parliament. Our lawmakers are the ones who pass laws prohibiting racism and discrimination. The least we can do is expect them to abide by the laws they pass for the rest of us. He's tried to defend himself on the grounds he was acting like a shock jock. But he's not a shock jock; he sits in the House of Representatives and his job is to represent everyone in the community, not just those he thinks are worthy.

Maybe Prosser did not know that probably the most famous Muslim in New Zealand is Sonny Bill Williams.

Now I wish Sonny Bill would do a lot of things, such as deciding which code he is going to play and stick with, and in which country, but he poses no more threat to the general public, with the possible exception of TAB punters, than anyone else. And I bet he doesn't fit Prosser's stereotype of a Muslim.

The problem with Prosser's actions is that they attract predictable media attention, right around the world in this case, and distract us from real problems affecting real people.

Look what's happened to jobs this week. Half the Mainzeal workforce lost their jobs.

A hundred workers have gone from Contact Energy, one of the most profitable power companies in New Zealand. And now a printing firm in Petone has cut more than 100 jobs.

This is not just about technology change. And even if it was, that is no excuse for the Government not to have a genuine plan for stimulating the economy to encourage more jobs.

The manufacturing sector is hurting more than most. Already we've seen Summit Woolspinners in Oamaru closing down at the cost of 200 jobs. Like many manufacturers, this firm said the high New Zealand dollar had made it impossible to earn a profit.

The Government says there is nothing that can be done, and that nothing should be done. That the high dollar shows the rest of the world has confidence in the New Zealand economy.

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We know this isn't true, and that the real reason our dollar is so high is because it is traded for speculative reasons.

It is nothing to do with the goods and services we produce, which is what should decide the value of the dollar.

You would expect me, as someone who deals with the manufacturing sector daily, to want to protect the sector. And I'm not going to disappoint.

The reason the manufacturing sector is important is because it is a user of high- grade technology, it demands skilled workers, it creates more downstream activity and jobs, and it achieves a high level of productivity. In a nutshell, it is better at generating wealth than many other sectors.

This is not to say that any old manufacturing will do. We should focus on the manufacturing that is surviving well in this climate, and that is at the high-quality, hi-tech end of the product market.

Things such as tax credits for research and development are tried and true measures to encourage manufacturing, as well as help with training, whether it's production skills or health and safety.

I'm no longer prepared to accept the message of hopelessness we've been getting for far too long, that the global financial crisis means there's nothing we can do.

Damn right we can.

What's not acceptable is more than 150,000 good people who want to work not being able to.

That's a failure in anyone's book. And if the private sector can't do anything about it, the Government has a moral obligation to do something.

The Mainzeal collapse shows how willing we are to just accept corporate disasters happen and we can't do anything about them.

There is something very fishy when a large company restructures its business by creating a whole lot of new subsidiary companies, then the directors resign, then it goes into receivership.

The upshot is hundreds of subcontractors, mainly one-man or small business tradies, have put in thousands of hours of work for which they will either wait ages for payment or not be paid at all. They shouldn't be in that position.

The Government should look at some way to protect their payments.

There's plenty for our politicians to get stuck into. And this doesn't include dumb generalisations about good people.

- Taranaki Daily News

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