The Greens climate plan

September 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party have released their policy on how they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40% below 1990 levels.

This Green Party discussion paper shows that we can reduce New Zealand’s net annual greenhouse gas emissions to no more than 40 Mt of CO2-equivalent by 2030, even if there was a five year transition period for the farming industry. This is an emissions reduction of at least 40 percent below the 1990 gross emissions level and would put us broadly on a straight-line path to being climate neutral (zero net emissions) by 2050.

Now in 2013, our greenhouse gas emissions were 81 Mt, so this is a 50% reduction in just 15 years. I’m not sure there is a country on Earth that has managed that. But let’s look at the details of how they say it can be done.

greencc

Firstly they seem to be comparing apples and oranges, which is very misleading. They are talking a net 40 Mt in 2030 compared to a gross 67 in 1990. The net in 1990 was 38,000 according to our official inventory.

So how do they say they will reduce 28 Mt. The break down is:

  • Agriculture 2.2
  • Industrial Processes 2.1
  • Other fossil fuel burning 3.7
  • Waste 3.6
  • Transport 7.7
  • Electricity 4.8
  • Forestry 4.0

Let’s look at each in turn:

  • Agriculture – 2.2 reduction out of 31.7 – 7% decrease
  • Industrial Processes – 2.1 reduction out of 5.1 – 41% decrease
  • Waste – 3.6 out of 5.1 – 71% decrease
  • Electricity – 4.8 out of 5.0 – 96% decrease
  • Transport – 7.7 out of 12.7 – 61% decrease
  • Forestry – 4.0 more on top of 26.7 – 15% increase

I don’t think we can or ever should be 100% renewable as that threatens security of supply. We’re 80% renewable and could see us getting to 95% or so.

The transport scenario is pie in the sky. It is based on 100% of new cars sold by 2030 being electric cars. I’m a fan of electric cars but no sensible Government would ever make a commitment that they will basically ban new non-electric cars within 15 years.

Also not very realistic is saying we’ll save 2.8 Mt a year from biofuels. for the transport sector. The last time biofuels were subsidised to promote them, it led to mass starvation as arable land was converted to biofuels.

The agricultural policy is based on 2,400 farms reducing their dairy herd by 75 cows each or a 15% reduction.

The forestry increase would require 50,000 to 100,000 hectares of land to have pine forest planted on them – every year. This would mean a reduction in farming of that many hectares every year. Wouldn’t want to be a farmer as the Government takes your land off you to plant pine trees on!

Credit to the Greens for having a reasonably detailed plan, and they have shown how we could have a more ambitious target than the current one. However while some aspects of their plan are practical, other aspects are ludicrous – such as the assumption there will be no new petrol cars within 15 years.

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Will Bill Gates help fund a charter school?

September 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Land is close to being secured for a proposed charter school project between Ngai Tahu and a wealthy American businessman.

Marc Holtzman planned to lean on acquaintances, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to raise $10 million to $15 million for a new charter school.

The development comes as the Maori Party took a swipe at Labour over its unsuccessful attempt to stop two of its Maori MPs attending a charter school fundraiser.

Kelvin Davis, also Labour’s associate education (Maori education) spokesman, and Peeni Henare both represent Maori electorates.

Labour leader Andrew Little dismissed that criticism and, after calling the MPs to his office, said the party would carry out a wide-ranging programme on raising Maori educational success.

He said that would not include charter schools – which Labour strongly opposes – but how to raise achievement for all Maori students, most of whom “were not getting the benefit of five times funding per student that the charter schools get”.

 

The normal lie. Charter schools get the same, or slightly less funding, as public schools of the same size, decile and age.

If I was the Maori Party, I’d use charter schools as a wedge issue to win Maori seats back off Labour at the next election. Labour Maori seat MPs obviously do support charter schools, but if their party insists on a platform of closing them down, the Maori Party can highlight how they put their party ahead of their people.

Mr Little added: “Ultimately, the issue is Maori educational underachievement, and that’s not changing under this Government. And the Maori Party is not doing anything about it.”

Wrong. Most charter schools are getting some huge improvements with Maori students, and overall Maori achievement rates have been increasing.

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Masonry targeted

September 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith has announced:

A new category of priority buildings, covering parts of unreinforced masonry like parapets and facades, is to be included in the Building Act requirements for upgrading earthquake-prone buildings following strong submissions to select committee including from Canterbury earthquake survivor and Lincoln University lecturer Ann Brower, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today. 

“We need to heed every possible lesson from the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch in rewriting the building laws to minimise future fatalities. Falling parts of unreinforced masonry like parapets and facades killed 35 people that tragic day, including every passenger on the Red Bus except Ann Brower.

God, how awful.

The significant change is adding a new category of priority buildings to cover those parts of an unreinforced masonry building like a parapet or veranda which could fall into a public road, footpath or other thoroughfare that has been identified by a council as having sufficient vehicle or pedestrian traffic to warrant prioritisation. It is estimated that some 2000 buildings nationwide will fall into this new category.

The effect of being a priority building is that the times for assessment and upgrade requirements are halved. In a high risk area, this means the assessments will need to be completed in two and a half years, instead of five, and upgraded within seven and a half years rather than 15. In a medium risk area, the assessments would need to occur in five years instead of 10, and the repairs within 12 and a half years, rather than 25. 

This seems a sensible priority.

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Hoaxes can do harm

September 3rd, 2015 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The video marketer behind the hoax of the “pregnant” French tourist looking for her baby’s father says he doesn’t regret pretending she was distressed and suicidal.

A video of “Natalie Amyot”, whose real name is Alizee Michel, gained publicity around the world as she pleaded for help to find the Sunshine Coast man described as 180cm tall with blue eyes, blond hair and a tan.

Local social media marketer Andy Sellar was revealed as the mastermind behind the hoax on Wednesday, but not before the video had 870,000 YouTube views.

On Tuesday night, a Facebook page for Natalie Amyot included posts where she claimed to be crying and distressed. In one post she said she was suicidal.

It led to a torrent of responses from Facebook users, with a mixture of concern and abuse being dished out before the page was taken down.

Sellars confirmed it was him, and not Michel, who was controlling the account.

There are very clever hoaxes, and there are ones which are not. This is the latter.

Putting aside the wisdom of the hoax in the first place, this one was pretty appalling because Sellars lied constantly. As people queried the story on Facebook, he lashed out at them for not being sympathetic.

Most human beings are good natured and do respond well to people in distress. But when idiots like Sellars play on that empathy, for a hoax, then it does do harm. When someone really is in trouble, others will be more sceptical in future.

A fake suicidal pregnant girl is not a suitable hoax. He should be ashamed of himself, and his client should sack him.

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ACT on paid parental leave

September 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

ACT’s newsletter comments:

Paid Parental Leave
David Seymour debated Sue Moroney on Q + A this weekend.  Moroney favours extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks, then 52 weeks, then…. who knows?  It is classic Labour playbook, more tax and dependency.  Seymour is negotiating with the National Party for premature babies, multiple births, and babies with special needs.

Social Insurance
Prem, multiple, and special needs babies are perfect candidates for the taxpayer to give something extra to.  Why?  There’s no moral hazard, unlike many state benefits (think claims to ACC for a ‘bad back’)  there is no way to deliberately take advantage of the scheme.  It is easy to tell if the event has happened (count the weeks, count the babies, diagnose the condition).  The event is unexpected so difficult to plan for.

Vote Buying
The opposite of social insurance is showering an ever increasing amount of money on a particular cause or group.  Labour introduced PPL in 2002 (an election year) then extended it in 2004 when National’s polling recovered.  Jacinda Ardern claims it was fiscally responsible to do so because the Government of the day was in surplus, but Sue Moroney introduced her bill for 26 weeks PPL when the government was $9 billion in deficit.  There is no fiscal responsibility or principle behind Labour’s demands, but they know that it’s a feel good measure that will win votes.

Greatly Exaggerated Importance
60,000 children are born in New Zealand every year but only 26,000 parents take paid parental leave so it is not even close to universal. Even if it was, having kids is now a 20 year proposition and an extra four weeks of $500 payments does not address the main challenges faced by would-be parents. 

I thought that last piece was worth highlighting. I think it is an extra eight weeks being proposed, but the argument is the same.

The impact on a family of 26 weeks PPL instead of 18 weeks is quite minor. It is expensive to the taxpayer but minor in terms of the long-term cost of affording children. Politicians like to do stuff such as extend PPL because it is taking money away from some people to give to others, so they look caring.

But other stuff has a far far bigger impact on families, and their ability to afford children – the level of interest rates, the cost of living, the level of jobs available, what wages are etc.

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More on rural broadband

September 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday an e-mail from a friend frustrated with her experience trying to get decent broadband in Tamahere.

On the issue of speeds available, a staffer at Spark has said:

If you look at her article, she states on a number of occasions she “should be getting at least 5Mbps”, including referring to the Chorus website.

however, our understanding is that her property is unfortunately in a ‘dead spot’ on the Chorus broadband network – it is right at the end of a road, which makes it a long distance from the exchange, and according to the Chorus maps there is no guarantee of ANY broadband coverage, let alone at 5+ Mbps.  She also refers to broadband infrastructure improvements with the RBI scheme … but again she is unfortunately just OUTSIDE the scope of these improvements.   

 

We are doing some more internal checking on this customer’s situation, but from the information we have to date it appears that she is one of those unfortunate customers who is outside the current UFB and RBI schemes, and is located at the very outer limits of the old copper broadband network.  As you know, none of these (UFB, RBI, and Chorus footprint) are within Spark’s control and we (as with any other service provider) can only provide services based on the infrastructure available.   There are a lot of consumers out there in this situation, which is one of the reasons why the Government is pushing ahead with UFB 2.0 and RBI 2.0.

Interestingly Chorus has said they think she should be within the RBI scheme, but that the build there may not be completed by Vodafone until mid 2016.  This has I think been one of the frustrations – the difficulty in finding out what the situation is.

Also Jason Paris, Spark Home, Mobile and Business CEO commented on the original thread:

Thanks for sharing this David. It is a well written story, but I definitely didn’t find it amusing as it is not the experience we want any of our customers to have. I have asked my team to look further into what happened and I will make sure we sort things out for this customer – I would like to apologise for what has obviously been a very frustrating week.

While I don’t know all the details of what happened in this case, I acknowledge the hold times in our call centre queues at the moment are not acceptable, and there are cases where we are not calling customers back in the timeframes they (rightfully) expect. The reason for this is a huge increase in the number and complexity of calls to our customer service teams over the past month – driven by huge demand for and subsequent complexity in delivery of Fibre. The Fibre install process is an industry problem that needs to be addressed with urgency as it not only overloads our fibre team but customers flow across all channels looking for answers – overloading these too. To give you an idea, in a normal month our agents work a total of 11,000 hours per week. In the month of August they did 15,000 hours per week.

These aren’t excuses – just some rationale as to why customer service is my number one priority. We have employed another 90 agents recently, and are recruiting for 100 more. We are putting the microscope on our processes, so when a customer calls us we can solve the problem in that first call wherever possible – so they don’t have to worry about a call-back. We’re also making sure it’s easy for customers to do things online to save them having to call us. It will take us time to sort everything – but the customer service team are doing an incredible job under huge load and we are acting as fast as we can to help give them even more support.

When it comes to broadband speeds, if you are on the copper network one of the most important things influencing your speed is how far your house is from the exchange – it is possible this is the problem for your friend. As Spark does not own the fixed line network, this is unfortunately not something we control, but we can look into and explain the problem to our customers – and this is where we definitely should have done better in the story above.

I understand from Chorus the house is around 5 kms from the nearest exchange, which does mean ADSL speeds will be crap. This is one of the real limitations of copper broadband – the speeds drop massively as you get distance from an exchange or cabinet. That is why the Government has subsidised fibre rollout to 80% of NZ. For those outside the 80%, the rural broadband initiative should help get semi decent speeds, but it is not fully rolled out yet.

A smaller broadband provider has also been in touch, so we’ll see if the situation improves.

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The flag conspiracy theories

September 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Henry Cooke at Stuff reports:

THEORY ONE: THE FLAG HAS ALREADY BEEN DECIDED, JUST LOOK AT THIS TV SCREEN

This theory is probably the most fun. A Facebook photo – incontrovertibly from September of 2013 – shows Kyle Lockwood’s red and blue silver fern design on a TV at a Vietnamese hotel, set up for a photo with two New Zealand guests. There’s a clearer version here.

Even if it was Photoshopped, which it doesn’t at all look like it was, how on Earth did they upload it back in time? Seems like the decision was already been made back then, huh.

Does this prove that the whole democratic process is an illusion? Not quite.

A campaign for the silver fern flag has existed for many years, as has this specific design. Kyle Lockwood’s Facebook page for a redesign goes back to 2009.

It seems likely that the picture is not in fact Photoshopped or faked, but that instead, the hotel staff searched “New Zealand flag” in Google Images and found one they liked.

Heh, just like the time that an athelete from Kazakhstan won a medal at a sporting competition, and the national anthem they played was not the official one, but one they found on the Internet. It was from the movie Borat, and highly offensive!

THEORY TWO: REMOVING THE UNION JACK GIVES JOHN KEY UNPARALLELED POWER

This theory is a touch more hardcore than the photo one, as it requires a fair bit of reading to really understand.

It posits that removing the Union Jack from the flag removes the “due authority” of the Crown in government matters, as the Union Jack represents the monarchy.

Of course, theorist Ben Vidgen knows that most of us aren’t exactly royalists, and that royal assent is more a rubber stamp than a check on the executive, so he links the change to the power of the courts in ruling against the Government. Smart.

“A change of flag means not only that we have taken a major step to removing the DUE AUTHORITY of the crown. It also means we take away the very power which enforces both the 1990 Bill of Rights Act (the closest thing NZ has to an entrenched Constitution) and the founding plank upon which the Treaty of Waitangi has meaning.”

This one falls into the lunatic conspiracy theory space.

THEORY THREE: THIS IS ALL A SMOKESCREEN FOR THE TPPA

You’ll see this one in pretty much any comment section open on a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) story.

While all this flag talk is going on, a trade deal which could drastically change New Zealand is being negotiated.

The details are secret yet we’re all sitting around discussing a symbol, laughing at laser kiwis and complaining about the $27m price tag. Seems a little convenient, hmm?

There is no doubt that the Government is happy to talk about almost anything that isn’t the TPPA.

No politician likes talking about secret international negotiations all that much.

But do you really think our politicians are competent enough to pull a proper smokescreen off? Did they intentionally stall TPPA talks, which were supposed to wrap up in 2012, then again in July this year, just to line up the timelines perfectly?

The TPP negotiations have been underway since Phil Goff started them in 2008. One could claim anything in the last seven years is a distraction from the TPP.

Also Bryce Edwards has had his own fun little conspiracy theory:

Bryce was just having fun, but it has led some to saying it must be some sort of conspiracy that I knew what the panel would decide.

I’ve been supporting a new flag since before John Key was even an MP. And over the years I’ve blogged quite a few alternative designs people have sent me.

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Battling to save a school with two pupils?

September 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Only two students are set to be enrolled at Richmond’s Salisbury School next year.

The school has had a dropping roll, with nine girls enrolled currently, down from 15 in July last year and 22 in 2013. There were 80 pupils in 2012.

The school had a lengthy battle with the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2012 as it threatened to close it, which board member Julia O’Connor does not want to see a repeat of.

Looks like parents have voted with their feet though.

O’Connor, the immediate former chair of the school board, was unsure about what was happening with the school and unable to speculate on its future.

“All the people up the system are saying there is no intention to close it,” she said.

She hoped the school would not have another legal battle to stay open.

Surely the question has to be why has the school gone from 80 pupils to possibly just two pupils in three to four years? A former board chair should be focused on that, not insisting a school no one wants to attend, stays open.

Funding for seven of the school’s current nine pupils would have ended by the start of next year, which could mean only two pupils at Salisbury, with eight teaching staff.

It’s like the episode of Yes Minister with the hospital that had no patients!

There were about 300 students from across the country currently being supported by the IWS.

“More and more parents with children with complex needs are choosing to have their children supported at home. Although substantially fewer in number than boys, proportionally more girls who apply are prioritised to receive the IWS service.”

She said the selection process for all placements for wraparound support – and potentially a place at a residential school – had been independently assessed by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research as fair to all students.

Casey added about one in four parents of students prioritised for IWS request a residential placement for their child, and in the last two years no parent of a student prioritised for IWS who has requested a placement for their child in a residential special school has been refused a place.

Of those requesting a residential place, increasingly more are indicating they’d prefer a place at a co-educational environment which Halswell School in Christchurch provided, she said.

It’s not the fault of the Government, if parents choose a different school.

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General Debate 3 September 2015

September 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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A cycling passing law?

September 3rd, 2015 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is considering a law that would require overtaking drivers to give cyclists up to 1.5 metres of space. 

Associate transport minister Craig Foss has asked officials to look at enforcing a buffer zone. They’ll also examine whether trucks should have “side-under run” devices, which prevent pedestrians and cyclists from slipping under wheels.

The proposals were recommended late last year by the Cycling Safety Panel. A dozen cyclists were killed on New Zealand roads in the past two years.

Ten experts on the panel, including Olympic cycling gold medallist Sarah Ulmer suggested a minimum passing distance of 1-metre where speed limits are 60kmh, and 1.5 metres on faster roads.

This is already law – with fines of up to NZ$400 – in Queensland, Australia.

This sounds pretty sensible to me.

The one area where it could be challenging is some of the steep roads around Wellington, where there simply isn’t room to have 1.5 metres space to pass. Most motorists don’t mind slowing down to cyclist speed until it is safe to pass, when the cyclist speed is 25 km/hr. But when the cyclist speed is 5 km/hr, then you can get some large buildups of traffic behind them.

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A defiant county clerk

September 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

Defying the Supreme Court, a county clerk says she was acting under “God’s authority” Tuesday while continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, whose lawyers asked a federal judge to hold her in contempt of court.

The Supreme Court refused Monday to allow Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office to deny the licenses because of her religious beliefs. However, on Tuesday morning, she turned away at least four couples.

“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said in a statement on the website of her lawyers, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me, it is a decision of obedience.”

Yet Ms Davis herself is on her fourth marriage!

But her detractors mock her moral stand, noting that Davis was married and divorced three times before marrying her fourth husband.

Pretty sure God says divorce is wrong also.

Davis won her $80,000-a-year office in November, running as a Democrat, and succeeded her mother who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to The Morehead News.

County Clerks don’t get to decide which laws they obey.  Her job is to implement the law, not to place herself above it.

Later in the morning, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union filed two motions in U.S. District Court to hold Davis in contempt of court and compel her to start issuing marriage licenses again to those who apply. They want her to be severely fined, not jailed.

Maybe an $80,000 fine to match the $80,000 salary she is paid.

Regardless of your view on same sex marriage, it is the job of public officials to uphold the law.

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Brighter money

September 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Reserve Bank has brightened up our bank notes.

$5r

 

 

This is the reverse of the $5 note. Great scenery.

$100

This is my least favorite note aesthetically, but favourite monetarily!

$50

 

I’ve noticed that ATMs now issues 50s not 20s.

$20

Off memory the most common note.

$10

Was this the inspiration for Princess Leia?

$5

My favourite bank note.

 

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The difficult decisions of rare disorder treatment

September 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Masterton woman who has flown almost 400,000 kilometres to get life-saving treatment for a rare disease is angry that New Zealand is now the only developed country that does not fund treatment for it.

Mother of three Allyson Lock has Pompe disease, a rare degenerative disorder that can be fatal if left untreated.

As of Tuesday, Australia has begun spending A$40 million ($43.8m) over the next five years on funding treatment for the disease – leaving New Zealand “dragging the chain”, Lock said.

“When you’re on treatment you can plan a life, you can plan things. But when you’re not, all you can plan is your funeral.”

A medication called Myozyme is available for Locke and 10 other known Kiwi Pompe sufferers, but it costs about $500,000 a year and is deemed too expensive by the government drug-buying agency, Pharmac. 

Unless you believe money grows on trees, there is a limited health budget. On a compassionate level I think most of us want people with treatable disorders to get that treatment, and are happy to pay taxes for it.

However there obviously has to be some threshold at which the opportunity cost is too high – that the money you spend on one individual, means dozens of others don’t get their treatment funded.

I’m not sure what the threshold is. I’m glad Pharmac has to make those calls, not me. And it’s awful for those who can’t get their treatment funded.

But if 40 years of treatment will cost taxpayers $20 million, is that affordable? It is for one person, but then does that mean every treatment for every person must get funded? And what if the $20 million only expands life expectancy by five years?

As I say very hard decisions.

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The Ashley Madison bots

September 2nd, 2015 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Gizmodo has looked even closer at the data from Ashley Madison, and it turns out that not only were they very few women, many of them were bots.

In a summary they have found:

  • 70,000 female bots would take over accounts created by staff, and “chat” to men
  • The bots sent 20,269,675 messages to men and 1,492 to women
  • There were 70,529 female bots and 43 male ones
  • Around two thirds of male users were messaged by a bot and one third chatted up by one
  • At first the bots tried chatting up gay men and had to be programmed to ignore them!
  • There were special bots who would chat to those who paid $250 for a “guaranteed affair”. Once they paid, they were passed to an “affiliate”, probably an escort.
  • Engineers actually looked at a system where women would get paid a commission for getting men to buy credits to talk to them
  • The bots could speak 31 different languages

So really the website was a giant fraud. While the data hack was despicable in that it revealed individual’s data, it has exposed that the website was basically a scam. Not media gave the company masses amount of free publicity, based on the company’s own claims. Perhaps there is a lesson that media should never just promote a company that claims they are successful, without verifying it.

It will be interesting to see if the executives are prosecuted for fraud. There would seem to be a pretty good case for it.

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Gower on Labour and charter schools

September 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

The next time you hear Labour hate on charter schools, don’t believe them.

Because the truth is a wedge of Labour actually thinks charter schools are all good. And this group is led by none other than its associate education spokesman Kelvin Davis.

The attendance of Davis and fellow MP Peeni Henare at a fundraiser for a Whangarei charter school is about much more than them defying the orders of Andrew Little.

It shows a major policy divide within Labour.

One side, led by education spokesman Chris Hipkins and the teacher unions have a pathological hatred for the privately run schools.

The other side, led by Davis, see that the schools can work particularly in Maori education.

Davis is not captured by the unions.

Charter schools are hated by the teacher unions because they are privately run and don’t have to use registered teachers or conform to the rules like other schools.

But this kind of independent schooling is not new to Maori – Kura Kaupapa schools have been a different model with different outcomes.

If you view charter schools with a Maori focus as an extension of this then it is not so controversial.

 

Indeed.

It is no surprise that the most progressive iwi, Ngai Tahu, is looking at setting up a charter school. So is Tuhoe, the most independent iwi.

Instead of listening to the unions, it seems Davis is listening to his people when it comes to charter schools.

And don’t forget that Davis is a former Northland principal with a deep understanding of the educational issues out there.

If Little was ballsy, he’d make Davis the Education Spokesperson.

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Scandinavia not such a socialist paradise

September 2nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

In her final column for the New Zealand Herald, Dita De Boni lamented that New Zealand is becoming an uncaring nation whose compassion compares badly to the world’s “best-run countries”.  She didn’t specify which countries these were in the column but, acting on a hunch, I queried whether she was referring to the “Nordic countries” (being Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland).

She was.

So Liam looks at Sweden:

Sweden, in particular, is often held out as an exemplar of social democratic excellence.  The radical British journalist Polly Toynbee once declared the country to be “the most successful society the world has ever known”.

These hosannas to Nordic virtues are often made as a reproach to those countries that are considered to have a more “neoliberal” disposition. This sometimes includes countries like New Zealand and Britain which have moved from largely state-directed to free enterprise economies. More commonly, however, the example of countries like Sweden is held out as standing rebuke to the supposedly corporate-dominated, compassionless and backwards United States.

But the reality:

It’s certainly true that Sweden pays for its generous welfare state through stiff levels of taxation. The burden of these taxes, however, does not fall on the wealthy to anything like the extent Left-wingers normally like to see.

According to 2014 figures, Sweden only has the 25th most progressive income tax in the OECD. New Zealand is not far behind at 26th. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the supposedly plutocratic US actually has the eighth most progressive income tax in the developed world. So in spite of the prevailing media framing of things, high-earning Americans contribute a much higher proportion of their country’s tax revenues than high-earning Swedes do.

What about corporate profits? We are constantly told that the American government is in the pocket of big business. If that is true to the extent that the media makes out, then it’s hard to see why the US government taxes corporate profits at a rate of 40 per cent, the highest such rate in the free world (and much of the un-free world to boot). New Zealand’s rate is 28 per cent. Sweden’s in 22 per cent.

Defenders of the one-size-fits-all model of education often attack the introduction of “American-style” charter schools in New Zealand. It is true that the charter school movement has attracted a lot of support from politicians across the political spectrum in the US and that this has played a large part in putting the issue on the political radar. However, it is also true that charter schools are very common in Sweden and that the country was an important pioneer in their development as an alternative to more bureaucratic, traditional forms of schooling. In fact, a cursory review of the Swedish education system shows that it offers levels of choice and consumer freedom that the ACT Party can only dream about.

Not quite the socialist paradise.

Finally, we come to issues of racial politics. New Zealanders like to roll their eyes and snigger at the rise of Donald Trump as a potential nominee for next year’s presidential election on the back of strident, anti-immigration media statements. This is taken to be proof of the notion that Americans are a uniquely bigoted and prejudiced people.

But did you know that an anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, was the top-polling political party in Sweden this month?

Yep, in one poll they got 25.2%, beating the Social Democrats and Moderates. Their policies are:

  • cultural assimilation rather than integaration
  • Pay immigrants to leave Sweden
  • Lower tax rates for the elderly
  • Against special privileges for the Sami ethnic minority

The point Liam makes is that people like Dita write columns about how awful life is in NZ, because they don’t like the Government or neo-liberalism. But if you look around the world, there are not a lot of countries that have wonderful socialist societies where people want to live.

In the supposedly racist US, for example, the unemployment rate is about the same for immigrants and the native born. New Zealand does slightly worse than America on that score. In Sweden, however, immigrants are almost three times as likely to be unemployed than the native born adults. The only OECD country that does worse is Norway.

I could go on to talk about things like the Swedish penchant for privatisation, its lack of a national minimum wage and its slashing of public spending in years gone by. By now, however, the point should be well made. There might be many things the Left finds attractive about the Nordic model, but it is not the socialist utopia of their imaginings.

Indeed.

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Quin on Labour

September 2nd, 2015 at 10:19 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Herald:

Despite a considerable souring of economic sentiment, Labour, under Andrew Little, has barely moved in the polls since last year’s historic drubbing. His personal popularity lags behind predecessors David Cunliffe and David Shearer – and Little is more than 20 points adrift of where John Key stood at a comparable juncture in Helen Clark’s third term.

Nine years ago in September 2006, National as opposition were at 44% and Labour at 39%. And that wasn’t Key – that was Brash.

So in Labour’s third term they trailed the major opposition party by 5%, while in National’s third term the Government leads by 22%.

On the TPPA, Little’s Labour has adopted an unapologetically protectionist stance. On the substance, Jane Kelsey may be right that you could drive a bus through the party’s much-touted five preconditions to supporting the deal, but there’s no mistaking Labour’s desire to appear hostile. Why else would the frontbench feature so prominently at anti-TPPA rallies, or Labour press secretaries go out of their way to chastise journalists who fail to adequately emphasise Labour’s opposition? The sound bites alone have been fierce; Health Spokesperson and deputy leader, Annette King, speculated that the impact of the TPPA on Pharmac will cost lives – inflammatory language that echoes Sarah Palin’s warning of “death panels” under Obamacare.

It is no small matter for Labour to abandon decades of enthusiastic support for trade liberalisation, long seen by politicians across the spectrum as a key to New Zealand’s current and future prosperity.

if the China FTA had been negotiated by National, not Labour, I suspect today’s Labour would oppose it.

Labour’s release of leaked Auckland housing data in order to highlight the prevalence of Chinese-sounding surnames is perhaps the singular event of Andrew Little’s tenure to date (full disclosure: I resigned from the party over the issue).

It was an audacious and high-risk gambit. Little himself conceded he knew it would attract accusations of racism – but public polls suggest it has fallen well short of being the game-changer Labour had hoped. Now, having alienated an important and growing minority, not to mention causing consternation among diehard supporters like myself, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion Labour has sacrificed considerable moral authority for a measly return.

It was no Orewa.

Perhaps nothing showcases Labour’s defensive crouch better than its decision to oppose the referendum on the New Zealand flag. Of course, ditching the Union Jack in favour of a more indigenous, authentically Kiwi national standard is a symbolic act. It won’t improve our schools or get young graduates into better paying jobs. But symbolism matters in politics, just as it did when Norman Kirk, in defiance of the French, sent a Cabinet Minster into the Mururoa nuclear test zone in 1973, or when David Lange donned a tuxedo to defend the country’s nuclear-free stance at the Oxford Union.

Labour’s historic mission is to forge a proudly independent national identity for New Zealand. It’s depressing to see Labour cede this turf to John Key for negligible political gain.

Labour have let their obsession with Key blind them.

By playing up fears about the perils of globalisation or an impending Chinese invasion, Labour will encounter furious and vocal agreement. This shouldn’t be mistaken for a groundswell. Voters don’t reward parties who merely echo and reinforce feelings of despondency without offering real solutions.

Labour, in particular, thrives when it approaches the future with gusto, not trepidation. Merchants of doom and gloom might fill the airwaves, but they rarely win elections.

Key won in 2008 by being optimistic and saying NZ can do better, but not saying NZ has is facing doom or crisis every month.

 

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Childhood workers and corrections officers – really?

September 2nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The country’s biggest education union is following midwives in to court with legal action in the pipeline for largely female education support workers over unequal pay. 

“We welcome the initiative by the country’s midwives to file for court action over pay discrimination.  And we’ve also been watching developments in the case of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett who last year won in the Supreme Court against her employers over pay discrimination,” New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) national secretary Paul Goulter said. …

In 2008 a Pay Equity Commission job evaluation report compared the wages of 600 education support workers employed by the Ministry of Education who had roughly equivalent emotional and physical demands and skills and responsibilities as male-dominated corrections officers and found they were paid as much as $8 an hour less.

“It’s a crime that these workers are not paid as much as the comparative group. There’s a terrible ongoing failure when you’re dealing with people in support roles,” Goulter said. 

Really, they compared education support workers to corrections officers? That’s effing barmy.

The is entire notion of comparing one industry to another to claim what the pay level should be is old fashioned socialism.

Jobs pay what employers are willing to pay, and employees are willing to work for.

The days of doing the one job or one industry for 40 years are long gone – that thinking is a relic of the 1970s.

If you don’t like the pay in your job or industry, then move to a different one.

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General Debate 2 September 2015

September 2nd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Petrol margins sky rocketing

September 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

petrolmargins

This data comes from MBIE.  Margins are well over double what they were a few years ago.

There is obviously not sufficient competition between retailers in NZ. You shouldn’t see that sort of margin increase when there is. This may be because people don’t tend to shop around enough, and just fill up at the local.

But regardless the Government should be looking to see what it can to get better competition, so margins reduce to their normal levels.

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Yay – taxpayers to be saved

September 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

There are no immediate plans for New Zealand to host its fourth Commonwealth Games, the country’s Olympic Committee secretary general Kereyn Smith says.

Good.

The best way to have a Government lose hundreds of millions of dollars, or billions of dollars is to host a Football World Cup, then an Olympics Games and then a Commonwealth Games.

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Consents up

September 1st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

There were 2,824 new dwellings consented nationally in July 2015, up 24 percent compared with July 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“This was the highest number of new dwellings consented in a month since March 2005,” business indicators manager Neil Kelly said. “It was boosted by apartments and townhouses, flats, and units.”

New dwellings consented in July 2015, compared with July 2014:

  • nationally, up 542 (24 percent) to 2,824
  • Auckland, up 267 (31 percent) to 1,116
  • Waikato, up 85 (40 percent) to 296.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number was up 20 percent from June 2015.

It’s good to see the growth in consents, as that is a pre-requisite to increasing the supply of houses and apartments, and reducing pressure on prices.

I always prefer annual data to monthly. Here’s what the annualised data looks like.

consents

So consents fell pretty consistently from 2004 to 2009. They were then level at around 25,000 for around three years, and in the last two and a half years have increased by 75% or so.

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The final four

September 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Four-promo

The Flag Consideration Panel has announced the four designs that will be voted on in the first referendum. Their job is now mainly done, and time for New Zealanders to vote which ones they prefer, for the second referendum.

I like them all. I’m not sure what order I’ll rank them in. At the moment my order of preference would be No 2 (left to right), No 1, No 4 and No 3. But I my change my mind. No 3 is growing on me. However at the end of the day i think the silver fern is our national symbol, and has been for over 100 years. It’s what kiwis around the world use and regard as representing New Zealand, and I would like it on our flag. However as I said, I like all the design above.

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Could the NZ Third XV win the World Cup?

September 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Kevin Norquay writes at Stuff:

Here’s a New Zealand team that could win the Rugby World Cup, all made up of leftovers from the All Blacks.

Do I hear you say “that’s mental?” You are so right, it is mental and that’s why this team could win the title.

For a start, they would not be scarred by the pressure of defending the cup – something that’s never been done.

This team would have a point to prove – left out of the All Blacks, they would be out to claim rugby scalps.

So who would be in the left overs team?

  • 15. Israel Dagg
  • 14. Cory Jane
  • 13. George Moala
  • 12. Ryan Crotty
  • 11. Charles Piutau
  • 10. Lima Sopoaga
  • 9. Andy Ellis
  • 8. Brad Shields
  • 7. Ardie Savea
  • 6. Matt Todd
  • 5. Jeremy Thrush
  • 4. James Broadhurst
  • 3. Nepo Laulala
  • 2. Hika Elliott
  • 1. Joe Moody

That would be a pretty damn good team.

I remember in Dunedin the club leagues often had a University A and University B team compete in them, and the final would often be between them. Wouldn’t it be fun if a second NZ team could compete in the World Cup,  and the final was the All Blacks vs New Zealand B :-)

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Well done Sky City and Unite

September 1st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s SkyCity casino has become the latest employer to abandon zero-hours contracts.

The company, New Zealand’s biggest single-site hospitality employer with almost 3500 staff on its Auckland site, has agreed to give its 800 part-time and on-call staff guaranteed hours of at least eight, 16, 20 or 32 hours a week, at their choice.

Good to see. Note it was done by negotiation.

“In the past it’s been a much more confrontational relationship between the unions and the casino,” he said.

“They genuinely took a constructive approach to us this time around. I think we managed to make a bit of progress on things that we wouldn’t have done previously.

“What’s going on in the background in the public arena is, of course, the zero-hours campaign. Also there was just an acknowledgement that they wanted to do what’s best by their employees… I think it’s just a realisation that part-time and zero-hours contracts are quite costly when you allow for engagement and training costs.”

He said the company still employed some genuinely casual staff as well, but had agreed on mechanisms by which they could become permanent part-time workers.

It’s important not to confuse casual staff with zero hours contracts.

Casual employment agreements are vital flexibility for both employer and employees. There is no obligation of the employee to work any particular hours, and no obligation on an employer to guarantee any hours.

Zero hour contracts are where it is one sided, where the employee must make themselves available to work as the employer demands, but in return has no guarantee of any minimum hours.

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