Quote of the week

July 7th, 2015 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“The constant need for special waivers is symptomatic of poorly written public policy. It’s a signal that the cost of compliance is unreasonably high; the benefits are hard to measure; and either legislators or regulators have failed to do their homework.”

– John E. Sununu

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.

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General Debate 7 July 2015

July 7th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Driver merit points

July 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Nothing annoys generally well-behaved drivers quite so much as having the traffic rulebook thrown at them for a minor transgression. It offends their notion of fairness and, in the process, erodes their support for the police. The police, for their part, have little option but to issue tickets. Successive governments’ emphasis on lowering the road toll has dictated a low-tolerance approach. It is welcome, therefore, that a way around this unsatisfactory state of affairs may soon surface in the shape of merit points.

The concept will be studied in research about to be initiated by the Transport Agency. It will be part of an analysis of the impact of demerit points since their introduction 22 years ago. The research will ask if they have achieved better driver compliance, whether a merit-based system would be more effective, or whether the two should operate in tandem. Merit points would be gained for the time a motorist has been driving without receiving a ticket. Or they may operate as in Victoria, where tickets can be waived if a driver’s good record is deemed to warrant just a warning.

I think it would be a good thing if Police were once again allowed to use discretion when it comes to ticketing.


8 July 2015 – Prime TV’s “Back Benches”:

July 6th, 2015 at 8:15 pm by Kokila Patel

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN:  We don’t think Pebbles Hooper will be singing this Edith Piaf classic this week after saying “natural selection” was at work after a woman and her three children died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Ashburton last week. Though, her comments were thoughtless and hurtful, she is hardly the first to put her foot in it on social media. Should there be repercussions for what you say on social media? Is public shaming enough? And should it be possible for you lose your job for what you say in your private life? And should the tradition of being able to speak freely under Parliamentary privilege be reviewed?

A SPORTING CHANCE:  Getting your hands on Super Rugby tickets over the weekend or All Blacks vs Samoa game, you’d have to be lucky or rich. Hucksters flogging $35 tickets on trade me for hundreds of dollars. Although music fans have been bemoaning ticket scalpers for years, is it time for the Government to get involved? Should we put restrictions on scalpers? Or should the market determine what we should bear?

ARE TEACHERS LAZY?:  15-year-old Napier Girls’ High Student Anela Pritchard thinks so.  The teen’s speech, while no Gettysburg Address, has certainly raised hackles, earned criticism and garnered praise with phrases such as, “Teachers are PAID to TEACH us.. not paid to hand out a piece of paper with words on it and sit around and do nothing!!!!!!!” and “They most likely, if anything really, just do it for the pay check. I’m not saying all teachers do, but the majority of them appear to be that way.” Does she have a point? Are the majority of teachers there just for the pay check?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 8th of July at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:40pm!

Repeats on Thursday at 2pm.


Plus, Follow us on Facebook & YouTube (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Green Party MP Denise Roche, Labour MP Phil Twyford, and National MP Paul Foster-Bell.

“It’s like a rock gig with everyone waiting for the band to start,” -Grant Smithies, Sunday Star Times (14 June 2015)


Better Public Services

July 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government has done a quarterly update on the BPS targets:

  • participation in Early Childhood Education has increased from 94.7 per cent to 96.1 per cent
  • the proportion of immunised 8-month olds has increased from 84 per cent to 92.9 per cent
  • there has been a 14 per cent decrease in people being hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever
  • the trend in the number of children and young people experiencing substantiated physical abuse has flattened, after previously being on an upward trajectory
  • the proportion of 18-year olds who achieve a NCEA Level 2 qualification has increased from 74.3 per cent to about 81.1 per cent
  • the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds with a qualification at Level 4 or above has increased from 51.4 per cent to 54.2 per cent
  • total crime, violent crime and youth crime have dropped 17.6 per cent, 9.1 per cent and 37.3 per cent respectively
  • the rate of reoffending has dropped 9.6 per cent
  • there has been a net reduction of 16 percent in business effort when dealing with government agencies
  • 45.8 per cent of government service transactions are now completed digitally, up from 30.4 per cent in 2012.

Good to see most of these heading in the right directions.

BPS targets were a bit of a revolution for Government, as they focused on outcomes, not outputs or incomes. Anyone can say we’ll spend this much money, but it is a lot braver to commit to an actual change in outcomes.

Heading into the next election, what I’d like to see from parties is not just a list of policies, but their own set of say 10 BPS targets which they are willing to be judged against.


EQc reforms

July 6th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Government has outlined the changes it wants to make to insurance cover after natural disasters, including a doubling of the cap on building cover to $200,000.

The Earthquake Commission Act is being reformed, and a discussion paper on the proposed changes has been released today.

Earthquake Commission Minister Gerry Brownlee said the reforms would ensure the EQC remained focused on rebuilding homes and would resolve the difficulties experienced in Christchurch with regard to land and building cover.

The changes would also better integrate EQC and private insurers’ claim handling processes and ensure the natural disaster insurance scheme remained sustainable.

Among the key proposals was increasing the cap on EQC building cover from $100,000 to $200,000.

At present, the EQC is responsible for up to $100,000 of damage to residential properties from a single event. Anything above that threshold becomes the responsibility of private insurers.

The cap has caused significant friction and uncertainty for homeowners affected by the Christchurch quakes.

Raising the threshold would massively reduce the interaction between EQC and private insurers, and was expected to lead to lower premiums being charged by insure companies.

Ministers proposed that EQC should not provide land cover after a natural disaster unless it was impossible to rebuild on the site.

That meant EQC would no longer cover land damage that had not affected the house itself.

It was also proposed that EQC would no longer provide contents insurance. Ministers said leaving contents insurance to private providers would enable the commission to focus on insuring homes and would eliminate uncertainty regarding contents claims.

Other proposals included a requirement for homeowners to lodge all EQC claims with their private insurer first.

These look like steps in the right directions. Having to deal with both EQC and private insurers has been a major factor in why so many claims are still not settled.

I think that EQC’s role should be moving towards being more of a reinsurer for private insurers, rather than directly dealing with the public. These changes seem to be moving that way somewhat.



Profile of two NZ First MPs

July 6th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald profiles Clayton Mitchell and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Before entering politics, Mitchell made local headlines in December 2009 when his Hamilton bar, the Bahama Hut, was forced to close for a week because of two promotions – Funtastic Fridays and Super Saturdays – that gave punters unlimited drinks for a six-hour period for as little as $39.

There was also some controversy over leprechaun-curling competitions at another of his pubs, the Mount Mellick, where a vegetable oil-covered dwarf would be propelled along a 6m polythene sheet.

My first thought was that it is hard to see Mitchell serving in a Cabinet with Green Party MPs, considering their likely views on dwarf throwing or sliding. But they may forgive him as he coated the dwarves in natural vegetable oil.


Beware the spin

July 6th, 2015 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A cheesy aerobics video has helped Inland Revenue hand out $427 million in tax refunds – an increase of $50m over last year.

Really? From one video?

The department has hailed the three versions of the  2015 Tax Refund Workout video a success, despite Revenue Minister Todd McClay admitting it “wasn’t necessarily to my taste” 

Inland Revenue marketing and communications manager Andrew Stott said the refunds campaign, which cost a total of $418,000, had been criticised for “being flash”, but it had been successful.

So that’s the first piece of hard data. $418,000.

It attracted 147,000 more visitors to the campaign web page than in 2014, and resulted in a surge of tax refunds from the 2014 total of $378m. 

And 147,000 more visitors, so that is a cost almost $3 per visit. Now on average the cost per click for online advertising is around 92 cents, so that is a campaign that costs three times as much as the average campaign per visitor.

Now we have the claim of a $50 million increase in tax refunds being due to that campaign. But is it? Are those refunds only from people who visit that campaign site? I bet not. I claim a tax refund every year (as I have income protection insurance) and I’ve never been to that site.

How could we find out if these campaigns actually lead to more people claiming tax refunds? A couple of ideas.

  • One year have no campaign, and see if there is any difference in the trend for refunds
  • Have the campaign targeted at say the North Island only, and see if there is any difference in the refund trends in the North as opposed to the South Island

It is possible the campaigns are effective, but no way to know on the evidence provided.



Doing more for organ donors

July 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Three weeks ago, Elsie Howarth sacrificed a kidney to spare her father 10 hours of dialysis every second day.

In doing so, she also saved the taxpayer about $3000 a week.

But since the operation she has been in too much pain to return to work – and has yet to receive a cent in benefits.

Her experience has left the 24-year-old from Titahi Bay unsurprised New Zealand has such low donor rates. About 40 kidney transplants are made in Wellington every year.

“You just feel like you’ve been let down by the whole system,” she said. “It’s a massive slap in the face.”

Father Robin Howarth, 53, said: “The way they treat these heroes, no wonder people don’t donate in this country.”

The family were warned that Elsie could take some time to recover from surgery, but he said it was heartbreaking to see her in pain while his own health had blossomed since the transplant.

“She walks around like a 90-year-old. I’m walking around like a spring chicken. It’s absolutely shocking, to be honest, that she’s treated so badly.”

Elsie donated a kidney to her father on June 22. Since then, she has suffered nausea, swelling, pain and fatigue and is unlikely to return to work at Tawa BP for six more weeks.

Financial assistance is available to organ donors for up to 12 weeks after surgery. Elsie is eligible for a maximum weekly payment of $175.10 a week for a single person aged 20 to 24. If she was a year older, it would be $210.13.

So if you are an organ donor you may have to go off work for 12 weeks, and will get just $200 a week while you do!

The pair are championing a new member’s bill being brought to parliament by Lower Hutt-based MP Chris Bishop, which would vastly increase payments to kidney and liver donors.

Bishop’s Financial Assistance For Live Organ Donors Bill was drawn from the ballot on June 25, and had broad informal support in the House, Bishop said. It would pay donors 80 per cent of their income for 12 weeks, matching the ACC model. Childcare assistance would also be provided.

I’m a strong supporter of this – both on economic and humanitarian grounds.

He could not estimate the cost of the proposed changes, but said it was likely to save the Government money.

“Live kidney donation is the least expensive form of treatment for end-stage renal failure, and significantly improves life expectancy. 

Bishop’s bill is at No 8 on the order paper. They get debated only every second Wednesday when the House is sitting, so it should come up for first reading in the last quarter of 2015.

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Brand loyalty

July 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown supermarkets, is trying to win back shopper loyalty.

Fed a diet of “specials” for decades, shoppers have learnt to shop around for the best prices, and now display a clear lack of loyalty to any one of the big supermarket brands.

Our promiscuity is such that just less than one in ten of us do our grocery shopping exclusively at Countdown supermarkets. …

Instead, most of us go where we think the bargains are.

The majority of us split our shops between different supermarkets, and quite a few of us also pop into the speciality stores like The Mad Butcher, or FruitWorld for some items.

If the stuff we want is not on special at the supermarket we visit, we are likely to head off to a rival store, where we hope it will be.

“Price, price, price is the number one thing that New Zealanders expect when shopping.” says Bridget Lamont, Countdown’s general manager for marketting. “We are among the most price conscious shoppers in the world.”

Foodstuffs’ spokeswoman, Antoinette Laird, said New Zealanders were the world’s most “specials” driven grocery shoppers.

Around 60 per cent of grocery purchases are made on special-priced items, begging the question whether the special price couldn’t now more properly be described as the usual price.

In Australia the figure is around 40 per cent. In the UK it is around 30 per cent.

The lack of brand loyalty is interesting. I think the Internet is partly to blame/credit. One can check online for the best prices, and even order online now for so much stuff.

Also a fair few people will use services such as Consumer to work out the best purchase, rather than just go with the usual brand.

The article got me thinking about how much brand loyalty I have in various areas. Off hand it is:

  • Petrol – almost none. Tend to use Z Energy as closest
  • Supermarkets – moderate preference for New World, as especially like New World Thorndon and know layout. However shopped online at Countdown before New World offered the same.
  • Building stuff – moderate preference for Bunnings
  • Flights – very strong preference for Air New Zealand, due to excellent service and staff plus loyalty scheme
  • Car – no strong brand preference, price key feature. There are brands I want (such as BMW), but can’t yet afford
  • Electricity – strong preference for Powershop as I like their purchasing model
  • Running Shoes – strong preference for Asics
  • Laptops – moderate preference for Sony as have found their Vaios good
  • Phones – Will cry if it is not an iPhone
  • Whiteware – no brand preference, will be guided by Consumer ratings and availability at Cherrytree
  • Hotels – have some brands I will avoid, but beyond that little preference – guided by TripAdvisor
  • Rental Cars – moderate preference for Hertz based on usually moderately priced and good quality cars.

So interesting to reflect which areas you do develop a brand preference, and which ones you don’t.


Still fighting over a dead party

July 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The public stoush between former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and board member John Stringer has taken a new twist, with Stringer resigning and calling for Craig to start his own party.

Stringer confirmed on Sunday that he had thrown in the towel after formally resigning to party secretary Nathaniel Heslop on Thursday. …

“I think the best outcome is that Colin goes and sets up his own Colin Craig Conservative party and he takes whatever Conservative Party members want to go with him,” Stringer said.

“The more sensible, moderate conservatives who have got political acumen will continue with the Conservative Party and rebuild it.”

Craig wasn’t ruling out a return as leader but said any role he had would be possible only if Stringer was out of the picture.

“I can’t see a possibility where he and I are involved in the leadership of the party together. The actions of Mr Stringer have made that an impossibility.”

The future of the leadership and board was now a matter for the party membership, of which Craig said he was still a part.

“I will be part of the process of electing the new board, just like any other party member.”

He said Stringer’s resignation was a good move and meant the party could get on with the process of electing a new board and leader without any clouds hanging over them.

Stringer said Craig had been an “impediment” to some people joining the party and, if all ties were cut with the former leader completely, then new members and donors would arise.

He said senior leaders in the party had asked him to step up as leader and he had not ruled out doing so.

“I haven’t publicly endorsed that, but I haven’t ruled it out either. It’s never been my motivation.

“I want to only consider the leadership options, of which there are several, once we’re outside the Colin Craig nonsense …”

Stringer wouldn’t confirm who had backed him for the leadership, or who the other “prominent New Zealanders” were that were being considered.

So both Stringer and Craig want to be leader. I don’t think they realise how much damage the fight has caused to the Conservatve brand. Before this happened, I would have given them a reasonable chance of making 5% next time. Now I think they would struggle to get even 2%.

The real victor from this is Winston and NZ First, who compete in much the same ideological space.

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Hooper and the Ashburton deaths

July 6th, 2015 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Socialite Pebbles Hooper has backtracked and apologised for her comments that an Ashburton family’s deaths were “natural selection”. …

In a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday, Hooper said her intentions were not to cause outrage or anguish to those involved with the Ashburton deaths.

“I deeply regret any distress caused to the family. I apologise for my wording and take responsibility for upsetting those involved, and I was careless in my actions,” she wrote.

“The issue I regrettably tried to raise was about parental negligence and the precautions needed to ensure the safety of those who are unable to care for themselves.

“I never aimed to target or isolate this issue to one family. Again, for my actions and have the family in my thoughts.” …

It appears Hooper expected a backlash, having prefaced her message with the words: “I’ll get major slack for this, but leaving a car running inside a closed garage while you’re kids are in the house is natural selection”.

While the tweet was quickly deleted, Hooper responded to other Twitter users by saying “those kids died under completely preventable circumstances”.

She claimed she was not deliberately seeking attention but was “just stating her opinion”.

“I’m not looking to be controversial or outrageous, simply stating the fact that those kids deserved to be safe,” she tweeted.

The way Hooper expressed her thoughts was wrong for two main reasons:

  1. Three kids died through no fault of their own
  2. Talking of natural selection has a tone of “we’re better off without them”

However the underlying point of their death being completely preventable – it wasn’t bad luck, bad intentions or anything – just death from I guess ignorance, is valid. Now there’s a time and a place to have such a discussion, and a way you can have that discussion. Hooper failed on those fronts. But there is a point that we shouldn’t let our entirely natural sympathy for the family and friends of the deceased over-ride concern and even some anger that they died in such a preventable way.

If you comment on this issue, please do so with some empathy for those who have lost loved ones.


General Debate 6 July 2015

July 6th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Greece votes No

July 6th, 2015 at 6:48 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Greeks have voted overwhelmingly “No” in a historic bailout referendum, partial results show, defying warnings from across Europe that rejecting new austerity terms for fresh financial aid would set their country on a path out of the euro.

With nearly a fifth of the votes counted, official figures showed 60.4 per cent of Greeks on course to reject a bailout offer from creditors that was the official issue of the ballot.

The figures showed the Yes vote drew 40.1 per cent. An official projection of the final result is expected this morning (NZT).

This is the right result. Greece needs to effectively declare bankruptcy, default on its debts, and start again with new lesser value currency.

Officials from the Greek government, which had argued that a “no” vote would strengthen its hand to secure a better deal from international creditors after months of wrangling, immediately said they would try to restart talks with European partners.

“The negotiations which will start must be concluded very soon, even within 48 hours,” Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greek television.” We will undertake every effort to seal it soon.”

Euclid Tsakalotos, the Government’s chief negotiator said talks could restart as early as Sunday evening.

They’re dreaming or lying. There is no path forward now with the creditors.

Just as Greece has every right to declare the terms on which more money was offered to them to be unacceptable, other countries have every right to stop lending them money. Borrowing money is a privilege, not a right, for countries.


Why not ban normal watches also?

July 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Road safety campaigners are calling for a ban on the use of wearable technology, including smartwatches, by drivers.

Smartwatches from high-tech giants Samsung, Sony, Motorola and LG – which can be used for calls, texts and calendar notifications – are for sale in New Zealand. Apple is releasing its Apple Watch here later this year.

Laws banning drivers’ use of phones – with an $80 fine and 20 demerit points – do not cover the use of wearable technology.

Caroline Perry, of road safety charity Brake, said the law should be widened, stating motorists using smart technology on their watches while driving should face the same sanctions.

“A second’s inattention at the wheel can result in tragedy,” she said.

Yes it can.

And that second can be looking at the time on a normal watch.

It can be having a drink of water.

It can be checking your makeup in the rear view mirror.

It can be tuning the radio.

So stop advocating for things to be banned while driving, and focus on a general law about distractions.

A New Zealand Police spokesman confirmed the use of wearable technology was not captured by current mobile phone laws.

There were no plans to alter legislation to include the new gadgets, but motorists could potentially be charged with careless driving if they were distracted by using a smartwatch.



A dodgy teacher

July 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Toon has been named as the masturbating teacher. Nothing wrong with that, except he did it at school – which is totally inappropriate.

His poor judgement (and worse) goes back many years. The summary is:

  • 1991 – accused of rape, not charged, by a woman with multiple injuries to the face, nose, jaw,neck and teeth
  • 2000 – leaves Kings after downloading porn on another teacher’s computer. Also accused of two year campaign of sexual harassment against her
  • 2013 – masturbating in a classroom

One has to be weary of the incidents where nothing was proven, but nevertheless the overall picture if of someone who shouldn’t be a teacher. And a bad reflection on Auckland Grammar that they knew of the earlier case at Kings, but did nothing.


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An English Parliament?

July 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The UK has developed a distressing habit of making significant constitutional changes for partisan political reasons. Last term it was the Tories’ attempt to equalise the size of electorates – a move which would have improved their electoral system but was driven purely by an effort to shaft the Labour party. That was defeated – the LibDems decided it wasn’t in their partisan political interest for UKanians to have an equal voice in Parliament

Parties tend to promote electoral change that benefits them – hence Labour wanting to get rid of the one seat threshold in Parliament now, but not when it helped them (and National not wanting to).

Hence the best way to assess change is not on whether it benefits the part promoting it (fine to point out their motives) but whether it makes things fairer.

The current UK boundaries are effectively gerrymandered – they are vastly different sizes, so some seats have far more electors than others.

The UK boundaries should be like the NZ boundaries – required to be the same size within a small tolerance.

this term we have “English Votes for English Laws” aka “preventing Scottish MPs from voting on things”.

As with equal sized electorates, there’s a reasonable argument underlying it: the UK has devolved a lot of policy to the Scottish Parliament, so why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on matters which only affect England?

The simple answer is they shouldn’t. Scotland can’t have it both ways with only Scottish MPs deciding matters on the Scottish NHS yet Scottish MPs also voting on the English NHS.

But the real driver is the desire of the Conservative party – which dominates in England – to lock Labour out of power forever, combined with some pretty toxic English supremacism. Because what EVEL actually means is that in order to govern in practice – that is, enact its policies – a party would not to win not only the confidence of parliament as a whole, but also of English members – basically, an “English veto” on government, forever. England uber alles!

Not really. If a Government had a majority of all MPs, but not a majority of English MPs, they could still pass their Budget, run all the ministries, and pass laws relating to the UK as a whole. They would only not be able to pass laws (without gaining votes from the opposition) that relate to England only. And that is as it should be.

The core problem here is that, for historical reasons, Westminster effectively does double duty as both the UK and English Parliament. But the solution to this isn’t self-serving changes to standing orders to diminish the role of Scottish MPs and make it clear that they are a subject people, but a fully devolved English Parliament with powers equal to the Scottish one.

Here I agree – this is the logical solution. Have a federal system with four devolved Parliaments, and a UK Parliament (and Government).

As for the solution, the SNP is threatening a legal challenge, which will of course fail due to Parliamentary Privilege. Which leaves them with the other option: walk. If the Tories want England, let them have it. At least Scotland can be free.

Many (not most) Tories would like Scotland to walk.

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Venture Philanthropy

July 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

By the late 1990s, the Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had spent decades searching for ways to alter the course of the deadly lung disease. Researchers had identified the genetic cause of the condition a decade earlier, and incremental improvements in care meant that many patients were living into their 30s.

But frustrated that no game-changing treatments were in sight, the group’s leaders in 1999 placed what many considered a risky bet, deciding to invest millions of dollars in a small California biotech firm. Robert J. Beall, the foundation’s president, believed that putting money into drug companies directly, rather than merely making grants to academic investigators, might persuade the industry to focus on the disease and turn existing research into real-world treatments.

So what happened?

That initial risk, which over time grew into a $150 million investment, has paid off in a big way. It led to the approval in 2012 of a breakthrough drug — the first that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis rather than the symptoms, in a small subset of patients. On Thursday came another big win: The Food and Drug Administration approved a second drug the group also helped fund, which eventually could aid roughly half of the 30,000 patients in the United States.

So by investing in a drug company, and targeting that investment into the area they were interested in, they achieved a major benefit for their cause.

And last fall, the CF Foundation sold its rights to future royalties of the drugs for a jaw-dropping $3.3 billion, the largest windfall of its kind for a charitable organization.

And they got a 2000% return on their investment, meaning they can spend 20 times as much now on helping cystic fibrosis sufferers, or funding more research. A win-win.

The pioneering success of Beall and the CF Foundation in the practice of “venture philanthropy” is prompting a growing number of nonprofit groups to explore whether they, too, might be able to benefit their patients, and bottom lines, by investing in similar ways.

Dozens of organizations, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, have embraced the approach over the past decade.

A great mixture of capitalism and philanthropy.

“There’s a reason why corporate America exists, and there’s a reason why philanthropic organizations exist,” said David Cornfield, a professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford University. “When that distinction becomes invisible, it becomes very difficult to know where philanthropy ends and venture capital begins.”

Proponents counter that venture philanthropy has helped to fill a persistent gap that exists between basic academic research funded largely by the government and later-stage clinical trials typically funded by large pharmaceutical companies — a gap known as the “valley of death.”

 “It’s where great ideas, unfortunately, go to die,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who as a researcher at the University of Michigan helped identify the gene for cystic fibrosis in 1989. “If foundations can pitch in there, that’s great. … We need as many models to get there as possible.”

One size doesn’t fit all. But for some charities, it looks like a really good thing to do.



General Debate 5 July 2015

July 5th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Private prosecution dismissed

July 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A top principal has had assault charges against him dropped after a judge ruled he’d been the victim of efforts by his ex-wife to “destroy” him. 

Peter Clague, formerly Auckland Kristin School’s executive principal, was the subject of a private prosecution brought by his ex-wife relating to two alleged assaults in 2010. 

Jeanne Denham alleged two months after the pair married in 2010 he pushed her to the ground, causing significant bruising to her tailbone after shaking her with force, telling her to “shut the f— up”.

She didn’t lay a formal complaint until 2014 and took a private prosecution against Clague through Queens Counsel Marie Dyhrberg. 

Clague’s jury trial began in the Auckland District Court on Monday and on Friday Judge David McNaughton said he was taking the “rare” step of dismissing the charges, following an application from Clague. 

His lawyer Mike Lloyd argued there had been an abuse of the court’s process and on Friday afternoon Judge McNaughton told the jury he agreed after an “anxious” night pondering the application. 

“This whole prosecution is motivated by an intention on the part of Ms Denham to effectively destroy Mr Clague’s reputation and ruin his career, and to consequently damage Kristin School and possibly also to bring pressure to bear on him in relation to a property claim in the Family Court,” Judge McNaughton said. 

He said no properly directed jury would be able to convict Clague. 

“No useful purpose would be served to continue prosecuting that charge for what was essentially a non injury assault made five years ago, and complained about two years ago. He’s suffered enough. I’m bringing this to an end now.” 

I hadn’t followed this case closely but what I had read alarmed me. The Police are pretty good at laying charges for domestic violence, and the fact they had refused to suggested the evidence wasn’t there. Combine that with waiting for years to complain.

It is very rare for a Judge to stop a trial, but the Judge I think got it right in saying this was about utu and trying to destroy the ex.


Hayley Holt Green MP?

July 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Well, she’s back at the University of Auckland (part-time) and is seriously stoked with the 96 per cent she got for an essay on Karl Marx. Politics is her latest thing and let’s just say the Green Party might do well to have a chat, even if they’ve already made the same mistake as many others.

“She gets under-estimated an awful lot,” says Ric Salizzo, the self-described High Commander of Prime’s The Crowd Goes Wild.

“People see the pretty girl on television and judge her straight away – well, more fool them because there’s a lot going on.”

And it does happen a lot: people see the model features and hair, then one plus one equals bimbo, or, as the women’s mags alliteratively put it, “bubbly blonde”.

I’ve met Hayley. She’s definitely no bimbo. A very genuine fun person. Her politics were pretty Green back then, so no surprise she’d be thinking Green Party. I suspect sadly her essay on Karl Marx wasn’t about how he was wrong on everything.

If Holt did stand for the Greens, she’d potentially attract considerable support for them.

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This is not evidence a sugar tax works

July 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Dita De Boni writes:

For a start, a sugar tax is out. Dr Coleman says there’s no evidence it works.

That’s wrong.

Really? Dita’s proof:

It’s well documented that countries serious about obesity have embraced sugar taxes, and those taxes have reaped rewards (and raised revenue). In Mexico, in just one year, the population of the world’s biggest soft drink consumers bought 12 per cent less fizzy.

That’s not proof it is leading to less obese Mexicans. The aim presumably is to reduce obesity, not reduce soft drink sales. Well actually for some I think it is the latter.

Many other beverages such as orange juice, beer and milk are also high calories. A reduction in sales for one sources of calories may have absolutely no impact on obesity.

It also made the Mexican Government more than US$1 billion ($1.49 billion) in tax to put towards further obesity work.

If your aim is to increase the amount of tax people pay, then yes a sugar tax works. But that is not proof that it reduces obesity.

One in six Mexican adults have diabetes. Has the soda tax reduced that proportion? Has it reduced obesity? That is evidence it works, not the fact it decreases sales and increases tax.


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Greece should vote no and leave the Euro

July 4th, 2015 at 11:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands of Greeks staged rival rallies on Friday (Saturday NZ time) ahead of a weekend referendum that may decide the country’s future in Europe’s single currency, with polls showing voters almost evenly split.

At least 20,000 people turned out at each rally, at the end of a week of high drama following the government’s rejection of an aid deal with international creditors and the closure of banks.

With Greeks asked to decide whether to accept or reject the tough terms of the bailout, three opinion polls had the ‘Yes’ vote narrowly ahead; a fourth put the ‘No’ camp 0.5 percent in front, but all were well within the margin of error.

Will the polls be right?

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras exhorted Greeks to reject the deal, dismissing warnings from Greece’s European partners that to do so may see the country leave the euro zone, with unforeseeable consequences for Greece, Europe and the global economy.

In a televised address, Tsipras said a report by the International Monetary Fund which argued that Greece’s massive public debt could not be sustained without significant writedowns vindicated his advice to reject the lenders’ terms.

Repeating his assault on European partners he accused of blackmailing and issuing ultimatums to Greece, the leftist leader called for calm ahead of Sunday’s ballot.

“On Sunday what is at stake is not Greece’s membership of Europe, what is at stake is whether blackmail will lead us to accept the continuation of a policy which the lenders themselves recognise is a dead end,” he said.

“On Sunday what is at stake is whether we will give our consent to the slow death of the economy.”

Tsipras is lying. If Greece votes no, they will leave the Euro and possibly the EU.

But they should leave the Euro. Monetary union only really works if you have fiscal union also. If they accept the bailout terms, they will get some debt written off, but they will be struggling for decades to come. Sometimes it is better to go bankrupt, and start new.

So they shouldn’t vote No so they get better terms from the IMF and others. They won’t. They should vote No to go bankrupt, and start afresh with a new currency.


Press Council rules against NZ Herald

July 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

When Amanda Bailey complained that her interview with the NZ herald was obtained under false pretences, I said this was something that should be complained about to the Press Council. A number of people did so, and the Press Council has upheld the complaints – which is good.

Some key quotes:

33. By the time the interview had been concluded, all parties should have been quite clear about the nature of the article that was to be written. They certainly had concerns about the likely content, resulting in a departure from usual journalistic practice in the agreement to submit quotes to them for checking for accuracy. There is an element of subterfuge in Ms Glucina’s failure to ensure that they all knew she proposed to write an exclusive article for the NZ Herald.

34. While Ms Bailey was apparently willing to allow her employers to arrange the interview, there is no evidence that she either agreed or accepted that they should represent her in all dealings with Ms Glucina, the NZ Herald, or the media generally. It is significant that the only time she took the initiative and made an approach to the NZ Herald, it was through Mr Bradbury and not through her employers.

35. It is irrelevant that the photographer was introduced, or introduced himself as a NZ Herald photographer – in the light of the confusion about Ms Glucina’s status it was quite likely that the parties assumed that, as they probably believed to be the case with Ms Glucina, he did work for the NZ Herald but not exclusively. It is accepted that he said he worked for the NZ Herald as a staff photographer, but to a person unfamiliar with media practice, this would not rule out the possibility that he did other work as well.

36. It seems that by early evening Mr Currie had spoken to the café owners (or one of them) and had explained the situation. However he did not speak to Ms Bailey, nor is there any evidence that he attempted to obtain contact details for her. Once again, clarification of the basis on which the story was to be published was not a task that could be delegated, or at least not without direct authority from Ms Bailey.

And their finding:

The Press Council upholds the complaints. It finds there were elements of subterfuge in the NZ Herald’s dealings with Ms Bailey along with a failure to act fairly towards her, but more importantly it notes that it is not exclusively concerned with determining whether there has been a breach of specific principles. It may consider other ethical grounds for complaint, especially in the context of its objective of maintaining the press in accordance with the highest professional standards. In this case, it is of the view that the NZ Herald has generally fallen far short of those standards in its handling of a sensitive issue and its failure to respect the interests of a vulnerable person.

A good decision.

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General Debate 4 July 2015

July 4th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel