Editorials 5 May 2010

The Herald calls on NZ to back Obama in Afghanistan:

No compliment was more apt than the one that came from the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal: “The forces that New Zealand provides are extraordinarily professional, as you know, and they are key members of the coalition.”

He had special praise for the work done in Bamiyan, which he said needed to be reproduced around the country.

“That’s really where we are building the foundation of Afghanistan.”

No doubt such compliments are sincere, but they come with a significant fish hook.

General McChrystal made no bones about the fact that he would like the New Zealanders to stay on and not just because they are doing good work. …

Before he left Afghanistan, Mr Key was giving some pretty broad hints himself. The PRT was likely to stay for another year, he said.

He was less forthcoming about the SAS but said that its role would also be looked at, with the possibility of a smaller contingent staying for longer. Indeed, he said this was the preference of the SAS itself.

It would be no bad thing if its wish was granted. Of course no one would want to see us bogged down. But the Obama strategy needs to be given a chance to work and New Zealand should stay with it for the long haul.

It must be noted that the Labour Government supported the Bush strategy in Afghanistan three times, sending the SAS in. However they oppose the Obama strategy.

The Press looks at airline alliances:

The last time Air New Zealand sought to forge a trans-Tasman strategic alliance it was with the biggest Australian carrier, Qantas.

That proposal was knocked back by the regulators, which was not surprising as the alliance between the two would have cornered about 80 per cent of the trans-Tasman aviation market. …

Ultimately the key question must be whether the benefits for consumers, as claimed by the proposal’s backers in terms of cost and convenience, outweigh the reality that the alliance would lead to a reduction in competition. It is this issue which should determine whether this alliance will fly.

I know I’d be pissed off to book Air New Zealand and end up on Pacific Blue.

The Dom Post calls for reality from teachers:

There has long been a suspicion that reality stops at the door to the teachers’ staffroom.

The Post Primary Teachers Association’s ludicrous claim for a 4 per cent pay rise for secondary school teachers lends credence to the theory.

The world is just emerging from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Government is effectively borrowing $200 million a week to maintain existing levels of services, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands have received little, if any, pay rise for the past two years.

I think one could do a science experiment on whether there is a connection between the PPTA and reality.

The majority reluctantly accept that is the price they must pay for job security. At a time of crisis, everybody – employers and employees – has to tighten their belts.

For the PPTA to demand a big pay increase at such a time is to show gross insensitivity to those who pay teacher salaries through their taxes. For it to demand the increase after its members received 4 per cent pay increases in each of the past three years is to show secondary teachers, or their union at least, are completely out of touch with the real world.

As the editorial noted, we are borrowing over $200 million a week.

Yet the present pay structure does not allow schools to differentiate between the performance of good, indifferent and bad teachers. They are all paid on the basis of their years of service and the responsibilities they hold.

If teacher unions are as serious as they say they are about wanting to keep good teachers in schools, they should work with the Education Ministry to devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers what they are worth and send a message to poor teachers that they should review their career options.

I agree there should be performance pay of course. But not even to a formula. Principals should have the ability to pay teachers as much as they think they are worth, within an overall budget. The top teachers should be on over $100,000 in my opinion. However the lousy teachers should be on $35,000 so they have the incentive to change professions or improve their teaching skills.

The ODT talks about John Key’s visit to Afghanistan:

There really was no choice: Prime Minister John Key’s trip to Afghanistan had to have been a “secret”.

Indeed it is standard operating procedure for all high-profile politicians and personalities who visit the volatile and dangerous region. …

To the many popular faces of Mr Key has been added that of a leader not prepared to send New Zealand troops “to a destination I am not prepared to come [to] myself”.

And further confirmation of a prime minister who likes to “see for himself” – to gather information or insight first-hand to enable better quality decision-making.

He told accompanying reporters that he wanted to make his own assessment of the work of the 70-plus SAS team on active duty in the country, and of the 140 troops in Bamiyan involved in reconstruction activities.

He would also have been wanting to get a feel for how the Nato mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is faring. …

But whether the occupation and the work of the ISAF is headed anywhere but towards a stalemate – and thus whether New Zealand should recommit troops towards its mission – is the burning question.

Mr Key is right, at this point, to remain non-committal.

Personally I don’t think the PM’s visit to Afghanistan was anything remarkable. It is inevitable a NZ PM will visit troops serving overseas, as conditions allow.

What has been amusing is the howls of anguish from those media organisations who were not invited along. The reality is of course one can’t travel with a full press corps into war zones.

It could be worth considering some sort of formal roster or random selection system for future trips, so that it doesn’t look like hand picked media. One could have a policy of one rep each from print, radio and television. The trouble is these trips are so infrequent, it might not be worth the bother.

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