The Government should fund quit smoking groups, but not lobby groups

April 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The national target of being smokefree by 2025 will not be met without a massive shakeup of funding for anti-tobacco groups, the Ministry of Health now concedes.

About 12,500 people successfully quit smoking each year, but this needs to more than triple to reach the 2025 target. At the 2013 census, 13.7 per cent of the adult population said they smoked.

The Government committed three years ago to stamping out smoking by 2025, but a slew of reports have warned that the target is looking shaky.

Ministry documents,  prepared for a meeting with quit smoking providers and advocacy groups last month,  said a “business as usual approach” to encouraging people to quit would no longer work. A greater focus was needed on risky groups, such as pregnant women and the mentally ill, and groups that still had stubbornly high smoking rates, such as Maori and Pacific people. 

“More needs to be done … to achieve that 2025 goal,” the documents say.

Dozens of quit smoking and anti-tobacco advocacy groups could be under threat as the ministry puts millions of dollars worth of services up for tender in the open market as part of the ministry’s  “tobacco realignment”.

Groups such as Quitline which actually provide services to help people quit should be funded.

But groups which are primarily lobby groups should not be funded. It is constitutionally repugnant to have Government departments and agencies fund lobby groups to then lobby Ministers and Parliament.

Lobby groups should be funded by members and supporters – not by taxpayers.

Ash director Stephanie Erick said it was true the shakeup could mean the end of her organisation, but it was more important that the smokefree goal was reached.

An excellent view. I agree.


Are the parents wrong?

April 21st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Figures from the Ministry of Education show the number of enrolments in privately owned early childhood education (ECE) operations has doubled in the past decade, with 90,000 kids now in private centres. In contrast enrolments fell in kindergartens by 22 per cent to 25,000.

So the sector that parents are not choosing is lashing out at the sector that parents are choosing.

Academics, unions, teachers and opposition MPs believe there are quality issues in early childhood education which can be linked to the rise of for-profit centres.

They point to figures that show community-based kindergartens get the best ERO reviews.

I find it frustrating when an article alludes to some data, but neither gives you the data, or even better links to it.


Delay delay delay

April 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One of those sought for extradition alongside Kim Dotcom has turned up at a key hearing without a lawyer and the court told an application for legal aid has been made.

The old I no longer have a lawyer, so the hearing must be delayed trick.

At the High Court hearing, lawyers acting for three of the men including Dotcom said more time was needed to prepare for the extradition hearing currently listed to take place in June.

Grant Illingworth, QC, told the court the complex nature of the case required the extradition hearing to be put off again.

He said another factor was the lack of legal representation of Mr. Batato.

“Mr Batato is waiting on a legal aid application. He has no lawyer and won’t have one unless legal aid is granted.”

The charges were laid 40 months ago!!

Yes, 40 months.

More than enough time to get a lawyer, and prepare your legal arguments.

Dotcom has tried everything possible to delay the extradition hearing. There are at least 33 judicial decisions involving him. 23 in the High Court, seven at the Court of Appeal and three in the Supreme Court. has anyone in our legal history even had so many opportunities to litigate their case? There will also be some District Court cases on top of the 33 in the higher courts.


Much ado about nothing

April 21st, 2015 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Not all children will receive free GP visits as promised by the Government, according to documents revealed by the Greens.

That’s because they have never promised it. It is impossible to promise it as GPs do not work for the Government and the Government can not set their fees for them – unless you nationalise the entire primary healthcare sector.

ACC Minister Nikki Kaye has set the funding level at a rate that will only cover an estimated 90 per cent of doctors’ visits for children who are injured, Radio NZ has reported.

At last year’s election the Government campaigned on making doctors’ visits and prescriptions free for all children under 13 from July this year.

However the Green Party has called out Kaye for deciding 90 per cent coverage was close enough.

This shows a misunderstanding (either deliberate or not) of how the funding level is set.

GPs around NZ will currently charge a wide variety of fees for under 13s. For example some may charge $10 and some may charge $30. Each GP practice can be different to reflect their costs – rent, salaries etc. These are different in Epsom and in Rotorua, for example.

The Government set the funding at the level at which 90% of GPs are currently charging. Now this doesn’t mean that 10% of GPs will still charge a fee. If for example the subsidy is $30 and your charge was  $32, you may well decide that it is not worth the hassle, or the bad publicity, to charge a $2 part fee.

Over time more and more GPs will not charge a part fee, because if they do it is bad publicity, and patients may move.

Coleman and Kaye point out:

“We expect levels of uptake by general practices of the free under 13s scheme to be similar to uptake of the under 6s scheme,” says Dr Coleman.

“Currently 98 per cent of general practices offer free doctors’ visits for under 6s. Initial uptake was 70 per cent in January 2008, and it has steadily increased to current levels. There are only around twelve general practices in New Zealand that are not offering free under 6s doctor visits.”

So the fact the funding is set slightly below the level at which the 10% most expensive GPs charge, doesn’t mean you don’t get close to universal coverage.

But less us look at what the Greens are actually arguing for, and you will see that they are actually arguing for an incredibly appalling waste of scarce health dollars.

They are saying that the level of subsidy should be set at the level above which 100% of GPs currently charge.

Now think about that. The Greens are saying that the subsidy to GPs should be based on what the most expensive GP in NZ charges.

This would result in a massive wealth transfer to GPs. 99% of GPs would get a higher subsidy from the Government, than they were previously getting from patients. This would cost tens of millions of dollars.

And what would be the benefits to families? Well possibly it could result in no part-charges to the families who live in the areas with the most expensive GPs. These are generally the very wealthy suburbs such as Epsom, Wadestown etc. So the richest families in NZ would be the ones who benefit by not having a small part-charge.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but a ballpark estimate is that the cost per additional family subsidised to taxpayers and levypayers would be over $1,000!

You would be spending tens of millions more to eliminate part-charges for a handful of the wealthiest families.

The losers would be every family in NZ who pays tax and ACC.

The winners would be every GP in NZ, and the families who live in the wealthiest areas.

A huge transfer of wealth from middle income and low income NZ to the wealthiest. What the Greens call income inequality – and they are demanding it.

So I’m glad the Greens aren’t in Government, and that the subsidies are set at a sensible point such as the 90% level, rather than having the most expensive doctor in NZ determine the subsidies for the entire country.

Tags: , ,

Do we benefit from Five Eyes?

April 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Fisher writes in the NZ Herald:

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Beyond doubt the US (and UK, Australia and Canada) benefit from NZ being in Five Eyes. We get them intelligence they could not easily get elsewhere.

But by the same basis, New Zealand I am sure benefits greatly by being able to access intelligence gathered by the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

This is why countries agree to co-operate on things – when it benefits both sides. And I’d say with this agreement, we gain a hell of a lot more than we give.

We present internationally as a proud, South Pacific country which is forging its own principled path through history. In our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Prime Minister John Key said: “New Zealand has an independent foreign policy outlook that listens to and respects the views of other countries.” Our branding for the bid carried the words: “Integrity, independence, innovation.”

It appears, from the Snowden documents, our “independent foreign policy” is supported by a dependence on the Five Eyes intelligence network of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States.

This argument is made a lot, often by people from the left. But I think it is a nonsense argument to suggest being in Five Eyes is incompatible with having an independent foreign policy.

First I would note empirically that we got elected to the Security Council despite our involvement in Five Eyes known to all UN members. And I am sure those countries no exactly what that means – as they do much the same when they can.

But more to the point an intelligence sharing arrangement is a fairly minor part of overall foreign policy. People judge our foreign policy on numerous things – what conflicts we get involved in, how we vote at the UN, what we say, how we deal with their countries, who we trade with etc etc.

Being independent is not the same as being non-aligned.

Successive Prime Ministers have said New Zealand gets a great deal more our of the relationship than we contribute.

I’d say a huge amount more.

Former Prime Minister David Lange carved a path for an independent foreign policy on nuclear weapons. He said in the famous Oxford debate “we have been told by some officials in the United States administration that our decision (to be nuclear-free) is not, as they put it, to be cost-free; that we are in fact to be made to pay for our action”.

It was a threat made, said Lange, “not by our enemies, but by our friends”.

If we tap the Chinese data link ourselves – assuming we are capable and it is worth the effort – and don’t pass on information, do our Five Eyes partners refuse to tell us of terror plots in our backyard?

That’s being silly, even stupid. Security agencies swap information almost daily to help prevent terror plots. Even unfriendly countries such as China, Russia and the US will share information to help prevent terror plots.

Five Eyes is a formal agreement to share all foreign (not domestic) intelligence information with each other, and (this is important) not to spy on each other. It means we don’t have to ask the US on a case by case basis to access their foreign intelligence, and vice-versa.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

The nation knows about Five Eyes. It will not be a bad thing to debate generally our security arrangements.

But there is a difference between publicising the agreement, and publicising details of specific interception activities. Doing the latter benefits countries other than NZ – the exact thing that it is being suggested the Five Eyes agreement does.

Tags: , ,

NZ leads anti fossil fuels subsidy coalition

April 21st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tim Groser announced:

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser today led a coalition of governments calling for the phase-out of subsidies to fossil fuels in the lead-up to a major climate conference in Paris.
New Zealand, along with Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland today endorsed a statement to be delivered to the Paris conference that supports the elimination of inefficient subsidies to fossil fuels on environmental, economic and social grounds. The first countries to endorse the initiative were the United States and France which joined New Zealand in Washington to launch the statement.

This is something most people should agree on. I’m generally against most subsidies, and definitely against fossil fuel subsidies.

So how much of an impact do fossil fuel subsidies have?

“New Zealand is leading efforts to urge countries to reform, as this is the missing piece in the climate change jigsaw. More than one third of global carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010 are estimated to have been driven by subsidies for fossil fuels,” said Mr Groser.


Many of the “solutions” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are very unpalatable. The Greens want to shoot or get rid of one fifth of the national dairy herd, for example. But this is a solution that should have widespread support.

“Transparency is an essential first step, and that’s why New Zealand was one of the first countries to undertake APEC peer review of our policies. The international review panel has already given its preliminary conclusions, confirming it did not identify any inefficient subsidies.  


The communique notes:

The majority of fossil-fuel subsidies are also socially regressive, with benefits disproportionately skewed toward middle- and upper-middle income households.

Another reason to get rid of them.


Not very common sense

April 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An alternate budget that slashes the Christchurch City Council’s work programme and avoids the need for strategic asset sales is being touted as the answer to the city’s financial woes.

The Common Sense Plan for Christchurch was released at the weekend by the six Labour-aligned People’s Choice councillors and is aimed at circumventing the need for the council to sell shares in Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Orion and Enable.

Its release comes less than 10 days out from the closure of public submissions on the Christchurch City Council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) which includes provision to sell up to $750 million in assets in order to plug the council’s $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

The People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Phil Clearwater, Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Pauline Cotter and Jimmy Chen – voted against including asset sales in the draft LTP and have been desperate to find another way to balance the books. 

They propose cutting $700 million, or 15 per cent, from the council’s $4.6 billion 10-year capital works programme outlined in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP) by deferring all non-urgent work, including construction of the city’s planned new rugby stadium.

They also propose asking the Government to use the $37m it has allocated for the new stadium on road repairs and propose asking for another $180m in Government funding for the horizontal infrastructure repair programme.

I’m all for cutting spending. That part of the proposal is good.

However their balanced budget is dependent on waving a magical wand and the Government handing over $217 million. That’s not common sense. That is wishful thinking. The Government has a signed and sealed agreement with the CCC as to how much it will contribute.

Alternative budgets are a good thing if they genuinely propose alternatives such as deferred spending, or different revenue streams – so long as they are revenue streams that the Council can actually use.

This is not an alternative budget. It is a plea for a Government bailout.


Blogs can have an impact

April 21st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I don’t think many need convincing that blogs have an impact. But a good recent example.

Last Thursday the Government announced a working group to try and stop people using offshore betting websites.

It got reported at the time in uncritical terms. Then nothing for four days.

Yesterday I blogged attacking the announcement.

A few hours later it was a topic on talkback radio, and ACT attacked the announcement also.

And today the Herald has a critical editorial also.

Not a big issue, but it is a good sign that if you do take a view on an issue and make a good argument, then others will see it and if they agree with it, pick it up also.

Tags: ,

Quote of the week

April 21st, 2015 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases; If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if is stops moving, subsidize it.”

- Ronald Reagan

The is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

Tags: ,

General Debate 21 April 2015

April 21st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Thank goodness they were rumbled

April 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Security will be stepped up at Anzac Day services around Australia on Saturday after security forces foiled an alleged terror plot to attack police and the public with knives and swords at a commemorative event in Melbourne.

Victorian police yesterday continued to question an 18-year-old male, one of five teenagers arrested in co-ordinated pre-dawn raids by more than 200 heavily armed state and federal officers on homes in southeastern Melbourne early on Saturday.

Sevdet Besim, 18, has already been charged with conspiring to commit Isis-inspired terrorist acts. All five men, aged 18 and 19, were associates of Abdul Numan Haider, the Melbourne teenager shot dead by police last September after he stabbed two officers outside a police station.

Security forces believe they were planning to use “edged weapons” to attack people at a Melbourne Anzac Day event. The acting Victorian Police Commissioner, Tim Cartwight, said multiple knives and swords were seized in the raids, executed across three suburbs at 3.30am.

Hopefully ANZAC Day passes without terrorism and killings.

Worth reflecting that these arrests no doubt happened because Police and/or security agencies were able to intercept their communications.


When people ask what is political correctness, this is

April 20th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Pundit Press blogs:

Stevenson College, part of the University of California, Santa Cruz, is apologizing to its students for serving Mexican food during “Intergalactic” night.

In a letter sent out to students, the college apologized for having “a Mexican food buffet,” while also featuring spaceships and aliens. The college received complaints saying the combination was racist because of the association between Mexicans and illegal immigrants.

Oh my God.

“We would never want to make a connection between individuals of Latino heritage or undocumented students and “aliens” and I am so sorry that our College Night appeared to do exactly that,” wrote Carolyn Golz who had taken this picture of the activities before the complaints:

After receiving complaints, Dr. Golz said that the event “demonstrated a cultural insensitivity on the part of the program planners and, though it was an unintentional mistake, I recognize that this incident caused harm within our community and negatively impacted students.”

As a result, Dr. Golz “will require cultural competence training for Programs staff, in addition to implementing mechanisms for future program planning that will ensure college programs are culturally sensitive and inclusive.”

I guess this means you also can’t serve Mexican food at a Superman movie showing, as Superman is also an undocumented alien.


The Abbott skull

April 20th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When Tony Abbott walked into Sydney’s Royal Oak Hotel on Saturday night and downed that beer, he didn’t just put an end to all those jokes about his shandy drinking.

He sculled himself into Australia’s national consciousness.

It took less than ten seconds, but with those gulps, Abbott has joined Bob Hawke who has been impressing Australians with his ability to scull a beer for decades. 

Hawkie famously set a world record for beer drinking at Oxford in the 50s. He has since observed that this more than anything else he did in his long career “was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians”.

The former Australian prime minister is not the only one to use a drink to connect with voters.

Last year Coalition MP Andrew Laming turned up at a constituent’s Australia Day party and sculled a beer upside down while doing a handstand. As a partygoer later posted online: “I seriously hate Liberal [sic], but … he found a loophole to my heart!”

I think that would get my vote also. Upside down is very hard.

Even away from the tricky stunts, we feel reassured when we see politicians with a beer in their hands. It’s what convinces us they’re real people, right? Hence all the concern when Abbott ordered a shandy with (oh my god) light beer on the campaign trail in 2010.

But now, Abbott has achieved the sort of publicity that you can’t plan for or buy.

Maybe Andrew Little should try one!

Tags: ,

Inflation now 0.1%

April 20th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

With two quarterly falls in prices, annual inflation is now just 0.1%. That’s great for families and consumers.

But we need to look at the difference between the various components. There are some areas with pressure on prices, and others where there is not.

  • Prices in the tradables sector have fallen 2.8% while non-tradables are up 2.3%. So we still have inflation in the areas where there is no foreign competition.

The main components have different levels of annual price increases. In order they are:

  1. Alcohol/Tobacco 4.2%
  2. Education 4.0%
  3. Housing 3.0%
  4. Health 1.8%
  5. Food 1.2%
  6. Misc 0.8%
  7. Household contents -0.9%
  8. Clothing -1.1%
  9. Recreation/Culture -1.2%
  10. Communications -4.5%
  11. Transport -6.4%

Of interest, if the tax had not gone up on tobacco, we would have had deflation of 0.2% over the year.


No money for Team NZ

April 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The future of Team New Zealand is looking grim after the announcement today that there will be no America’s Cup pre-regatta for Auckland. …

“I think we’re at the end of the road really,” the Prime Minister said.

“Of course Steven Joyce will continue to have discussions with Grant Dalton, but the government’s position has been pretty clear.

“With the event being held 100 percent in Bermuda, that becomes a really challenging issue to go beyond the $5 million we’ve already put in.”

I’m glad there will be no further taxpayer money. I hope Team NZ get enough private sponsors to continue, but I don’t think there was a case for more Government funding.


Have they not heard of Maori TV or Radio NZ?

April 20th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A lobby group pushing for public broadcasting in New Zealand says the government is denying viewers the right to watch decent public service programming.

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting said they want an alternative network to cater for more serious news and current affairs, in light of uncertainty about Campbell Live’s future.

There is an alternative network – Maori TV. Also Radio NZ. Plus broadcasting is a fading medium. There is no absence of news and current affairs reporting across the media as a whole. But even within broadcasting, there are 20 news and current affairs shows on television – not including the 7 pm shows.

Coalition chief executive and TV director Myles Thomas criticised Prime Minister John Key for his comments on Thursday questioning whether enough people would watch publicly funded broadcast TV

The answer was yes, he said.

So how many people watch Maori TV? How many watch Native Affairs which is on prime time? It is a great current affairs show.

He said New Zealand had one of the lowest government contributions to public broadcasting and a publicly funded TV network was desperately needed.

What Myles means is that taxpayers should be forced to fund a TV station that would spend its entire day and night pushing causes he approves of.

Taxpayers currently put just over $210 million a year into public broadcasting. In 2011 this was:

  • NZ on Air $82 million
  • Maori TV $58 million
  • Radio NZ $36 million
  • Other TV/Radio $34 million

Australia spends around $1.4 billion on public broadcasting (ABC $1.1b and SBS $0.3b).

In US$ this is $161m for NZ and $1,088 for Aus.

The IMF has Australian’s economy at US$1.44t and NZ economy at US$181b.

So our spend as a percentage of GDP is around 0.089% for NZ and 0.076% for Australia. This is a ballpark calculation but shows we are not under-investing for our size.

The Canadian Government contribution to the CBC is around 0.050% of GDP. Again below NZ.

There are thousand of lobby groups who call for more funding for their pet hobby horse or industry. If the Government gave into all of them, we’d be in the same position as Greece.

I’m not against there being a combined public service TV and radio broadcaster. But they would have to operate on the current combined funding for NZ on Air, Maori TV and Radio NZ.

The other thing they would have to do is to be truly politically neutral – something the Australian, UK and Canadian public broadcasters all fail at.


Banks gets an urgent hearing

April 20th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Court of Appeal has ordered an urgent hearing after new evidence has emerged  in the John Banks donations case.

The court has ordered the hearing before the end of the month to decide if Banks should face a retrial over his declaration concerning donations from internet mogul Kim Dotcom to his failed 2010 mayoral campaign. 

The new evidence is that a Crown lawyer interviewed Dotcom before Banks’ appeal was heard last year, the interview raised questions about the date of the lunch at the centre of the allegations, and that information was not passed to Banks legal team.

Not disclosing relevant information to the defence is a big no no.

While the Court has yet to hear the substantive case, the fact they have agreed to an urgent hearing suggests there is some merit to the recall application.

Banks’ lawyer David Jones, QC, filed an application to the Court of Appeal saying he had received fresh material from the Crown about the contentious lunch at Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in rural West Auckland.

The application says that before the Court of Appeal hearing last year, a lawyer acting on instructions of the Crown, had interviewed Kim Dotcom about the affidavits from the US businessmen.provided by Amanda Banks. But a memo about that interview was not disclosed to Banks’ legal team.

The memo raised new issues about when the lunch actually took place.- June 5 or June 9 – and whether there was one lunch or two, and if there were two, who was present at each lunch.

According to the Banks team, the memo fundamentally changes the Crown case. 

The outcome of the hearing will be most interesting. If Banks wins, then there will be significant scrutiny around the actions of Crown Law.

If Banks does not get the retrial scrapped, then there will of course be a new trial. But the Crown case will have to decide how weight to be given to the ever changing evidence from Dotcom.

Tags: ,

Welfare changes over last five years

April 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

MSD has published the latest benefit data, with comparisons for the last five years. Some changes

  • A 12.5% drop of people on the main welfare benefits, being 40,554 fewer
  • A 16.9% drop of people on job seeker benefits, being 23,809 fewer
  • A 19.1% drop of people on sole parent benefits, being 16,574 fewer
  • A 4.7% drop of Maori on main welfare benefits, being 4,851 fewer
  • A 19.0% drop of Pasifkia on main welfare benefits, being 5,202 fewer
  • A 21.2% drop of Under 25s on main welfare benefits, being 12,726 fewer
  • A 6.8% drop of people on main welfare benefits for over a year, being 15,475 fewer

I think the most important change is the 21.2% drop of under 25s being on welfare.Reducing the number of people who go onto welfare very young, and never leave is essential.

The drops will be a combination of a growing economy, and the welfare reforms.


Why does the TAB have a sports monopoly?

April 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nathan Guy has announced:

A working group has been appointed to shed some light on the growth of New Zealanders engaging in offshore online racing and sports betting, Racing Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

I suspect “shed light” means trying to ban.

“The TAB is operated by the New Zealand Racing Board and has a national monopoly on all racing and sports betting.


Wouldn’t it be nice if National stood up for a belief in competition and choice and allowed any reputable provider who met accreditation standards to offer sports betting?

The Racing Board is required by law to distribute all profits from this betting back to the racing industry, which relies on these distributions to survive. National Sporting Organisations also receive a percentage of sports betting turnover,” says Mr Guy.

Again one could require all betting operators to give a percentage of betting turnover to respective sporting bodies, but allow competition.

“When New Zealanders place their sports and racing bets with overseas betting operators online, they operate outside of our regulatory framework. This means that offshore organisations make money on New Zealand racing and sports without paying their fair share of tax, or making contributions back to the racing industry or sporting organisations that make the betting possible in the first place.

“These New Zealanders are also operating outside the safety net of gambling harm mitigation that we have here,” says Mr Guy.

This sounds very nanny state like. If New Zealanders are choosing to use overseas betting sites, then that shows the monopoly held by the TAB is not satisfying New Zealanders. The solution is to allow choice and competition within NZ.

The working group will commence this month and is due to report back with recommendations for the Minister later this year.

The group will chaired by former Minister, Chris Tremain. Other members are: New Zealand Racing Board Chief Executive, John Allen; the Chair of Sport New Zealand, Sir Paul Collins; breeder, racehorse owner and the NZRB’s Thoroughbred representative, Greg McCarthy; and two Internal Affairs officials.

Chris Tremain is a good guy, but a group dominated by the racing industry is going to look at what is best for the racing industry, not what is best for the public good.

There is no chance they’re going to say the way to reduce NZers using overseas betting sites, is to allow more choice within NZ. They will probably try to criminalise NZers using overseas sites, or even worse demand the Internet be censored to try and prevent access to them.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pessimistic about where this may go.

Tags: ,

General Debate 20 April 2015

April 20th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Those who opposed the Crafar farm sale should apologise

April 20th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Remember all those politicians in Labour, Greens and NZ First who spent over a year demonising the sale of the Crafar farms, because it was to those nasty foreigners.

Well read this story at Stuff:

Pengxin has bankrolled the Collins Rd farm resurrection for $1.72 million and counting.

Colebourn and his five staff have supplied the brains and brawn to turn what was by all accounts a train wreck into an operation which this season will produce 365,000kg milksolids and is  turning a profit for its owner.

So now profitable.

The Crafar farms sale to a Chinese company was controversial with public campaigns and court challenges to try to keep the properties in New Zealand hands. But Pengxin took on challenges many Kiwis may have quailed at, even if their pockets could have withstood the punishment.

Take Collins Rd for example. The 393 hectare (354ha effective) farm is 5.4km long and 1.2km wide.  The dairy shed is at one end, which means cows can walk up to 10km a day. Colebourn estimates each cow sheds 1.5kg to 2kg dry matter daily. (A second dairy is on the cards).

Most of the property is peat.  The property was once part of the former Lands and Survey’s huge Rukuhia Swamp.  Extensive drainage work in the district in the past 20 years means farms now dry out in summer.  Peat depth ranges from two feet deep to 80 feet in places.

Many paddocks needed urgent attention. Olsen fertility levels had sunk to 6 and 7 in some sample areas. The soil was very acid with the ph level down to 4.95 in places.

Pengxin has had all paddocks soil tested and the fertiliser programme has seen up to 15 tonne of lime applied to some paddocks.  Soil has now been cultivated on 65 per cent of the farm to a depth of 350mm.

Grasses are base tetraploid and “prospect”, a perennial ryegrass brand.
“Rock star grasses don’t last on peat,” he says. Total grass production has climbed from 9000kg dry matter/ha to 12,000kg dry matter/ha.

One of the company’s first jobs was to put in a $270,000 new effluent pond.  

Pengxin has taken on all animal health costs, Colebourn says. 

The property’s history was “a mass of gorse and nodding thistles with a huge number of carcasses”, he says.

Out of 184 paddocks, only seven had power.  The water system was a nightmare, he says.

“A herd at the back of the property didn’t get water until late in the day. The water was disgusting – bright orange and it tasted metallic, the high manganese content. The cows couldn’t drink it.”

Three bores have been reduced to one, 182 new water troughs have been installed, and a new filtration system treats the iron and manganese in the water. New pumps have been installed.


The farms used to be an environmental disaster with huge amounts of animal suffering. They’re now modern decent places, because the new owners were allowed to invest in them – an investment the opposition parties spent months demanding be blocked.

By the end of the year 6000 native plants have been introduced at Collins Rd, along with a smart office building and another 32km of fencing. 

Pengxin has signed an agreement with Waikato Regional Council to plant out and re-fence 900m of the Mangakotukutuku Stream, a waterway on the farm. Pengxin will contribute $25,850 to the project and the council $11,500.

Colebourn says the Collins Rd operation first showed a profit last season, with earnings before interest and tax this financial year of $542,500. Return on assets was 3.9 per cent. The goal is for a return of more than 5 per cent next year

So the waterways are better, native trees being planted, the farm is profitable, the environment is improved.

The lesson here is that decisions on land purchases should be made on the merits of each case (as was done here), rather than have a total ban which Labour, Greens and NZ First say should be the case,

Tags: ,

Latest poll

April 19th, 2015 at 7:35 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at Curiablog the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll. It has National remaining at 49%.

For a couple of weeks now sections of the print media have been doing regular columns on how the Government is in crisis, has to regain control, running on empty, needs a circuit breaker to get past the malaise, MPs are so worried they’re having sleepless nights etc.

You’d think the Government was trailing the opposition, rather than being 18% ahead of Labour.

In fact half way through their seventh year, National is polling 4% higher than the 45% they entered office with in 2008. That is an exceptional result.

If we compare to the last Government, in May 2006 the Labour Government was at 38% and National opposition at 47%. So they were 9% behind, while the Government today is 18% ahead (or 9% ahead if you include Greens).

It would be interesting to look at news stories from May 2006 and see if they were describing the then Labour Government in as negative terms, as National has been described in the last few weeks.

Now this does not mean the Government is going to win the next election. Normally I’d say a party has no better than a 20% chance of getting a fourth term. However National’s current chances are a bit better than 50/50 I’d say. Far far from certain, but in a strong position.

Hopefully some of the commentary of the last few weeks may become more reality based – the reality being that what matters to most New Zealanders is very different to what excites the “beltway”. Once again, it is about the economy, jobs, incomes, schools, leadership, hospitals etc.

Tonight’s poll basically has no change in the party vote from February. The one area where there was significant change was Preferred PM. Andrew Little went down 1% to 11% and Winston went up 3% to 10%. So the main impact of the by-election has been Andrew Little coming close to ceding the title of opposition leader to Winston Peters.  Labour may want to reflect on the difference between a strategic decision and a tactical one.


Education, not bans and taxes

April 19th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

As a government programme aimed at honing the waistlines of chubby children kicks off, leading health experts are questioning whether it will be enough to stem the rising tide of obesity and related illnesses.

The programme under the Government’s Healthy Families NZ initiative is to be launched on Friday , with a consortium of eight iwi in Gisborne the first to lead a charge to steer families into making healthier choices.

It does not target individuals, but focuses on a community approach to healthy eating.

Healthy Families NZ is based on a similar programme much vaunted in Victoria, Australia. Children in Colac, southwest of Melbourne, who had been on the programme, were on average 1kg lighter than those in neighbouring towns. Their waists were on average 3cm smaller and they could also run faster and had lower body mass index scores.

This sounds worthwhile. There are other things Government and local government can do to help, such as making cities more friendly for walking and cycling.

University of Auckland nutrition and global health professor Boyd Swinburn said the programme showed “real promise” but it was not enough on its own. 

“I think it’ll be very valuable for some communities and the evidence that we collected in Australia seems to show it will be effective in European klds. 

“But also, it needs to work for Maori and Pacific kids and I think there’s no question in my mind they’re going to need other policies like restrictions on junk-food marketing to kids, healthy food policies in schools, taxes on sugary beverages, to be able to get sufficient traction to improve obesity in those groups.” 

You would have thought the absolute failure of Denmark’s fax tax would cause the advocates here to stop pushing failed solutions. But, no.  We have a culture among public health activists in NZ that policies must be about attacking corporates, and removing choice, and taxing things more (and they want the taxes to be used to fund their own activities).

But the Government has emphatically ruled out such levies on fizzy drink, saying they didn’t work and placed unnecessary financial burden on the most vulnerable.




Patent trolls getting worse

April 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The same week that Alex Haro and Chris Hulls raised $50 million for their mobile app, Life360, the business partners got a letter.

It said they had three days to pay licensing fees to a company they had never heard of because their app violated its patented technology.

Haro and Hulls traced the company, Advanced Ground Information Systems, to a coastal home in Jupiter, Florida, with a phone number that initially went to an anonymous voicemail.

They couldn’t find any employees on LinkedIn.

To Haro, it was “a punch in the gut,” he said.

On the other side of that letter was Malcolm “Cap” Beyer, Jr., a 76-year-old who had filed patents a decade ago on cellphone mapping.

He said his attorney told him that he had a strong case against the start-up, even though the general technology had been widely used for years.

Beyer insists the mobile app’s $50 million in fundraising had nothing to do with it.

In the end, a jury sided with Life360 on all counts – but not before Haro and Hulls shelled out nearly $1.5 million in legal fees.

Winning can still be losing. They will probably never get their costs back. This is what patent trolls rely on – that it is cheaper to pay them some money, than fight them in court.

The bill has become a top lobbying priority this year for the tech industry, which says it repeatedly fends off frivolous lawsuits because of poorly written software patents and laws that favour patent holders.

NZ has intelligently removed software from being patentable. It can be copyrighted, but not patented. Patents and intellectual property laws are very important, but if the laws are unbalanced, they can cause more harm than good.

“Patent trolls” generally refer to businesses that buy up patents, particularly in technical areas like computer chips, cloud computing and wireless routers, with the sole intention of filing lawsuits or demanding licensing fees from tech companies, particularly start-ups around the time of their public offering.

Not wanting to pay for a protracted legal fight, the defendants almost always settle even if they think they’d win.

Kramer calls it a vicious cycle – the more companies settle, the more lawsuits are filed.

“It’s like a legal version of a mob protection racket,” said Noah Theran, a spokesman for the Internet Association, a coalition of web-based companies.

Patents are meant to protect and foster innovation, but with patent trolls they actually stifle innovation.

Last year, the House passed the “Innovation Act” by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

The bill would toughen requirements when filing patent challenges in court, such as limiting the amount of documentation that can be demanded before a judge makes an initial ruling.

The bill also opens the door to a requirement that plaintiffs pay legal bills of the defendants if they lose.

Supporters said they suspect trial lawyers with close ties to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., helped scuttle the bill.

Reid is now minority leader with plans to retire next year.

Likely to replace him as the Senate’s top Democrat is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – an advocate of patent reform.

President Barack Obama has said he supports patent reform.

So it might happen with Harry Reid out of the way.


We spy on China and China on us

April 19th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Our spies and America’s top government hackers cooked up a plan to crack into a data link between Chinese Government buildings in Auckland, new Edward Snowden documents reveal.

The project appeared aimed at tapping data flowing between the Chinese consulate and its passport office in Great South Rd — and using the link to access China’s computer systems.

The revelation is the most explosive of the information about New Zealand revealed in the Snowden documents — and has sparked a firm Chinese diplomatic response giving rise to concerns our security relationship with the United States is impacting our trade relationship with China.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman told the Herald on Sunday: “China is concerned about relevant report. We attach great importance to the cybersecurity issue.

“We will firmly safeguard our security interests and continue to guarantee our cyber and information security with concrete measures.”

Everyone who travels to China knows they will be spied on. The Chinese Government spies on every official they can of other Governments, and of course we try to spy on them. While we have a positive relationship with China, their interests are very different to ours, and the job of the GCSB is to gather foreign intelligence.

The difference is that if someone in China published details of the Chinese Government’s programme for spying on NZ and the US, they would be regarded as a traitor and executed.

I’m glad we live in NZ where media can publish what they want, without sanction from the state. However I do wish they would consider whose interests are served by publishing such details.

Tags: ,