Bad behaviour from Air NZ

May 5th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Air New Zealand refused to let a woman board her flight to Tonga because the aircraft had reached its upper weight limit.

Auckland woman Alex Catchpole-Ozpınar was supposed to board her 9.30am flight to Tonga on Monday for a five day holiday but was turned away at the Air NZ check-in counter because her aircraft had reached its weight limit.

Catchpole-Ozpınar said she was told by a manager that if an aircraft weighed too much they kicked off the person who was last to book online.

The flight was not fully booked, Air New Zealand said.

Catchpole-Ozpınar said she booked her airfare in February. She tried to check in two-and-a-half hours before her departure time.

“This is such a screw-up. I expected way better from Air New Zealand,” she said in a post on the airline’s Facebook page.

Her mother, Leanne Catchpole, was already in Tonga waiting for Catchpole-Ozpınar to arrive.

She said the airline had only saved about 70kg by excluding her daughter and her carry-on bag from the flight.

“They didn’t try to contact her either to let her know not to bother to make the trip out to the airport,” she said.

Air NZ responded to the Facebook post with a link to its conditions of carriage which outline that it may refuse to carry any item for safety or operational reasons.

Catchpole-Ozpınar’s five day holiday in Tonga was shortened due to the disruption and her accommodation was non-refundable.

“I was hoping for a positive experience but I feel discouraged to fly with you to the Pacific again.”

She was rebooked on a Tuesday flight but Air NZ said she would need to contact her travel insurance provider regarding accommodation expenses.

This is really bad customer service from Air NZ.

Sometimes flights may be overbooked or be at weight capacity.

But what a good airline should do (and is common in the US) is offer rewards (such as free upgrades or airpoint dollars) to passengers willing to delay their flight. Not just destroy’s someone’s travel plans who has done nothing wrong.

In the US I’ve happily accepted a flight delay in exchange for an upgrade and/or free accommodation.

I’d be ropable if an airline ever simply refused to let me board a plane I had a paid ticket for, simply because they have over booked or are at weight capacity. You should pay people to volunteer to delay in those circumstances.

Is John Key looking for a new job?

May 5th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Key has joined Linked In.

People normally do this as a way to get their CV out there to future employers. So if the PM looking for a new job as he is going to retire at the end of the year? Maybe beating Labour for a 4th time is not longer challenging enough!

An obvious abuse of power

May 5th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Newshub reports:

The woman who shut National MP Parmjeet Parmar out of a citizenship ceremony says the “political pillow talk” attack on her and her husband is “offensive”

Julie Fairey, who is married to Labour’s likely Mount Roskill candidate Michael Wood, described Dr Parmar’s allegation she was blocked from the ceremony to give him a political advantage as “sad”.

“As a woman in politics, I identify as a feminist, I’ve been involved in women’s issues for a long time and I find it pretty frustrating to be reduced to basically an appendage of my husband and it happens more than you think in this day and age,” Ms Fairey said.

Dr Parmar put out a press statement saying she was stopped from going because of “political pillow talk” and has laid an official complaint with Auckland Council.

Ms Fairey is the Puketapapa local board chair and decides who can attend the ceremonies.

The row has blown up because Mr Wood and Dr Parmar are likely to face off in a Mt Roskill by-election later this year if Phil Goff wins the Auckland Mayoralty. 

Ms Fairey said she was within the rules as only locally elected MPs were allowed to come — and Dr Parmar was a list MP. 

Mr Wood is allowed to go because he is also an elected member of the Puketepapa local board.

I’m sorry but this is fairly outrageous behaviour.

Sure only Electorate MPs have a right to attend, but many many Councils invite or allow any local MPs. I know Chris Bishop in the Hutt Valley has attended ceremonies as a List MP.

The question to Ms Fairey has to be what harm is done by allowing other local MPs to attend. Does she think aspiring citizens want fewer MPs at their ceremonies? Is Ms Fairey acting in the interests of the aaaspiring citizens by refusing a local MP to attend?

The fact her husband is the likely Labour Party candidate against Dr Parmar is of course relevant. Nothing to do with being sexist. If it was Ms Fairey standing for Labour and Mr Wood the local Chair blocking Dr Parmar, the behaviour would be just as objectionable.

Citizenship ceremonies should not be partisan affairs. Any MP should be welcome. So should any Councillor. The aspiring citizens certainly would want more representatives there, not less.

Auckland Council says it is bound by the Local Government Act and can’t change the rules. 

There is no rule that says only certain people are allowed. In fact the Citizenship Regulations 2002 says:

The oath of allegiance set out in Schedule 1 of the Act, or an affirmation to the same effect, may be taken—

  • (a)in New Zealand, before—

    • (i)a District Court Judge; or

    • (ii)a solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand; or

    • (iii)a Justice of the Peace; or

    • (iv)a member of Parliament; or

    • (v)the mayor or deputy mayor of a territorial authority; or

    • (vi)the chairperson or deputy chairperson of a regional council; or

    • (vii)the chairperson of a local board of the Auckland Council; or

    • (viii)the Secretary; or

    • (ix)an officer of the Armed Forces who holds a rank not below that of lieutenant-commander in the Navy, major in the Army, or squadron leader in the Air Force, in the case of a person who is a member of the regular forces, reserve forces, or territorial forces (as those terms are defined insection 2(1) of the Defence Act 1990):

Note it refers to a Member of Parliament, not just Electorate Members of Parliament. So if all MPs are eligible to actually perform a citizenship ceremony, doesn’t it look very petty to ban one from attending?

UPDATE: Also the sensible think for Ms Fairey to do would have been to recuse herself from decision making on the attendance of Dr Parmar, on the basis she is the likely opponent to her husband.

Rates Rebate (Retirement Village Residents) Amendment Bill

May 5th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Ruth Dysons’ Rates Rebate (Retirement Village Residents) Amendment Bill got drawn from the ballot.

The purpose is:

The rates rebate scheme was introduced in 1973 to allow ratepayers of residential properties who are on low incomes to receive a rebate on their rates. This was before the expansion of retirement villages and occupation right agreements (ORAs). Residents of retirement villages with ORAs pay rates but, in most circumstances, pay indirectly (i.e. to the retirement village owner) rather than directly to the local authority. Under the Rates Rebate Act 1973, these residents are not entitled to a rates rebate. It is this anomaly that this Bill addresses.

Some local authorities have changed their rating practice so that individual residents with ORAs are billed directly for their rates. In these instances, the residents are entitled to apply for a rates rebate. This amendment would ensure that, regardless of the billing practice of the local authority, residents are recognised as paying rates, and are therefore entitled to apply for a rates rebate.

Looks like a sensible bill, and at first glance can’t see any reason why all MPs shouldn’t support it.

Parliament 5 May 2016

May 5th, 2016 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. RON MARK to the Minister for Land Information: Why is her Government planning to hike Overseas Investment Office application fees?
  2. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to deliver Better Public Services to support New Zealand families?
  3. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: Will core Crown health expenditure in 2016/17 meet all health demographic and inflationary cost pressures; if not, why not?
  4. JAMES SHAW to the Minister of Revenue: How many times did the Minister meet with representatives from the foreign trust industry between 27 November 2014 and 14 May 2015, and what other stakeholders did he meet with during that time period to discuss foreign trusts?
  5. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Does he have confidence in Housing New Zealand’s handling of procurement and conflict of interest issues in light of the Auditor-General’s report into the contracting of Andrew Body Ltd to advise on the sale of state housing?
  6. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister for Building and Housing:What does the latest data show about the growth in residential construction in Auckland?
  7. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with Hon Bill English that a lot of Kiwis are “pretty damned hopeless” and “they can’t read and write properly”; if so, does she accept any responsibility as Minister of Education?
  8. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will he, or a Cabinet Minister on his behalf, meet with senior church leader and human rights defender Reverend Socratez Yoman from West Papua next week at Parliament when he visits; if not, why not?
  9. MELISSA LEE to the Minister of Immigration: What recent announcements has he made to help attract entrepreneurs to New Zealand?
  10. RON MARK to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  11. JONATHAN YOUNG to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What announcements has she made on funding for regional cultural facilities?
  12. JENNY SALESA to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Is he confident in his oversight of the tertiary education sector, given that over the next five years there is estimated to be a 58 percent shortfall in the number of plumbers required in Auckland alone?

National: Four questions on better public services, Auckland housing, immigration and Arts & Culture

Labour: Four questions on health spending, Housing NZ, education x 2

Greens: Two questions on foreign trusts and West Papua

NZ First: Two questions on the OIO and PM standing by is statements

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm

New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Southern DHB) Elections Bill – first reading

This bill exempts the Southern District Health Board from the 2016 triennial general election as it will be governed by a commissioner until the 2019 triennial general election.

  • Introduced: December 2015
  • 1st reading: December 2015, passed 95 to 26 with Greens and NZ First opposed
  • SC report: April 2016, supported without amendment and without dissent

The second reading is a debate of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each so a maximum debate of two hours

Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill – third reading

This bill provide governance arrangements for the Canterbury Regional Council to operate during the 2016 to 2019 local authority election-cycle period”, being seven elected Councillors and six appointed Counillors.

  • Introduced August 2015
  • 1st reading: October 2015, passed 62 to 59 with Labour, Greens, NZ First and United Future against
  • SC report: February 2016, supported with amendments by majority with Labour and Greens dissenting
  • 2nd reading: March 2016, passed 62 to 59 with Labour, Greens, NZ First and United Future against
  • Committee of the whole House: passed 63 to 58 with Labour, Greens and NZ First opposed

The second reading is a debate of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each so a maximum debate of two hours

 

Spain doing well with no Government

May 5th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Spectator reports:

On 26 October last year, the Spanish government shut up shop in preparation for a general election. This duly took place in December but then a strange thing happened: after all the build-up, the arguments, the posters and the television coverage, the result was… nothing. The various parties were so balanced, so mutually distrustful and ill-assorted that no government could be formed. Since last October, therefore, there has been no government in Spain.

One can imagine that the average political correspondent would think this a terrible problem, maybe even a crisis. The Financial Times has referred to Spain ‘enduring’ months of ‘political uncertainty’. This is assumed to be a matter requiring furrowed brows and grave tones. But the economy seems to be taking a different view of the matter. It is bowling along more breezily than in a long time. The growth rate during the final quarter of last year was an annualised 2.9 per cent, which, in these days of dismal Euro-growth, is a star performance — easily beating the pants off Italy, France and even Germany.

I think Belgium once went an entire year with no Government, and did quite well also.

Switzerland probably has the weakest central government in all Europe. It is so puny that it does not even have a minister of education. Yet Switzerland is the most successful of all the European economies if one leaves out small tax havens and oil-rich Norway. Its GDP per capita is £52,000 compared with Britain’s modest £28,000.

Governments generally do not create economic growth, they just inhibit it to varying degrees. Sure they do some good stuff with their tax revenue, but they don’t create the economic growth. Private firms do.

If governments were boyfriends, you would call them control freaks. The controls and regulations are always ostensibly for the good of the people. But the unintended damage is extraordinary and vastly underrated.

Great line.

The driverless truck

May 5th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tech Crunch reports:

A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. No technology will automate away more jobs — or drive more economic efficiency — than the driverless truck.

Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks.

Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.

And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster.

So better for the environment also. Sad for truck drivers, but fairly inevitable. Arguably will be safer also as computers don’t get tired.

Coughlan says any WCC contribution to runway extension should not be a donation

May 5th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jo Coughlan announced:

Mayoral Candidate Jo Coughlan today said when it came to the airport runway extension, she would be weighing up Wellington’s long-term interest not the short-term interests of airlines. And if the city did invest, it would need to be reflected in its ownership stake in the airport, not a donation.  

“I am concerned about Wellington’s long term interest, not the short-term perspective of existing airlines. We need more long-term thinking. And we need to ensure that any investment made by the city is reflected in the city’s shareholding in the airport. It should not be a donation to the airport,“ Ms Coughlan said today.    …

“I am yet to see the business case, but on the face of it, extending the airport has merit. Of course how it gets paid for matters as well. 

In a significant policy announcement Ms Coughlan said: “In my view additional investment put into the airport extension by the city should be reflected in some way in the city’s ownership stake.  There are many ways this could potentially be achieved and I would be open to considering how the city’s investment is not seen merely as a donation,” Coughlan concluded. 

Pleased to see a Mayoral candidate saying any WCC contribution should not just be a donation. If there is to be a contribution beyond the current shareholding, then maybe it can be way of purchase of extra shares, which gives the Council a greater ownership stake.

Coughlan is also saying she wishes to double tunnel the Mt Victoria and The Terrace Tunnels. Both badly needed. We need four lanes from the airport to Levin. Having less than four lanes at any one point, means the entire network will be slowed to that point.

 

 

General Debate 5 May 2016

May 5th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Webb seeks Christchurch Central

May 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lawyer Duncan Webb is seeking to stand for the Labour Party in Christchurch Central after representing many Canterbury homeowners struggling with earthquake claims.

Webb, a long-time Labour Party member and insurance expert, has announced his intention to stand for Christchurch Central, after nominations closed last week.

National’s Nicky Wagner won the traditional Labour stronghold by only 47 votes in 2011, ousting former journalist Brendon Burns.

The associate Christchurch regeneration minister retained the seat in 2014 against Labour candidate Tony Milne and increased her majority.

Wagner increased it to 2,320 last time. Hopefully it will increase even more in 2017.

In 2014 Labour only got 26.3% of the party vote in Christchurch Central.

Christchurch Central should “never be a National seat”, he said.

“It’s full of ordinary, working people with small businesses and [the electorate] isn’t well served by a Government looking simply at running a surplus.”

If it is full of working people with small businesses, then why would they vote Labour who are looking at paying everyone not to work, and wish to abolish the right of small businesses to have 90 day grievance free trials for new staff.

The Australian Budget

May 4th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Major aspects are:

  • threshold for 37% tax rate moves from $80,000 to $87,000
  • a “temporary” 2% tax hike on income over $180,000 to end in 2017
  • company tax rate to reduce to 25%
  • $594 million for a rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne
  • $2 billion for water infrastructure
  • Cigarette excise up 12.5% a year for four years
  • Deficits to continue until at least 2020 with A$37b this year

If I was in Australia I’d be fairly unimpressed with another five or more years of deficits and a take hike on top income earners.

Expect to see the flow to NZ continue.

Huge labour force growth

May 4th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

The unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent in the March 2016 quarter (from a revised 5.4 percent), while the labour force grew 1.5 percent, Statistics New Zealand said today. This was the largest increase in New Zealand’s labour force since December 2004.

“The total labour force increased by 38,000 people in the March 2016 quarter,” labour market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said. “This resulted in more New Zealanders in unemployment and employment than three months ago.”

The growth in people employed (1.2 percent) exceeded the growth in the working-age population (0.8 percent) this quarter. This resulted in the employment rate going up to 65.1 percent (from 64.9 percent). Employment increased for men and women this quarter, including for women going into full-time employment (10,600 people). Compared with a year ago, 47,000 more people were employed (2.0 percent).

47,000 more people working is not bad.

The increase in the unemployment rate was expected as the previous quarter had dropped 0.7%, and to some degree this is probably a correction (the HLFS has sampling margin of error like any poll).

From a year ago:

  • Employment up 2.0%
  • Unemployment down 0.3%
  • Unemployment rate down 0.1%
  • Average ordinary time hourly earnings up 2.4%

Government signs .nz MOU with InternetNZ

May 4th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Amy Adams has announced:

Communications Minister Amy Adams has welcomed today’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between InternetNZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) on the management of the .nz domain name.

“The agreement will help ensure this important resource continues to be managed in a transparent way that supports the interests of the local internet community and end users of digital services,” says Ms Adams.

The Memorandum of Understanding sets expectations for how InternetNZ will operate the domain name in the interests of New Zealand internet users, and sets out a process for dealing with any concerns between parties.

It provides a clear statement of how the relationship between InternetNZ and MBIE should operate.

“A stable, reliable, and responsive domain name system is a key part of a modern communications infrastructure.

“The success of the .nz domain name lies in consulting with, and being accountable to, New Zealand internet users,” says Ms Adams.

That accountability is key, and I think it is great to have this agreement. In many countries Governments run the country code top level domain or have passed laws dictating how it should be run. In New Zealand, we have an open multi stakeholder approach to Internet policy.

The MOU is here. It is almost unique in the world to have a Government sign an agreement recognising that the country code top level domain should be run in accordance with RFC1591. They have also recognised the seven principles for top level domains that InternetNZ is guided by:

  1. Domain name markets should be competitive.
  2. Choice for registrants should be maintained and expanded.
  3. Domain registrations should be first come, first served.
  4. Parties to domain registrations should be on a level playing field.
  5. Registrant data should be public.
  6. Registry / Registrar operations within a TLD should be split.
  7. TLD policy should be determined by open multi-stakeholder processes

The agreement also increases accountability for InternetNZ by setting out a process any complaints can be heard, and also requiring InternetNZ to regularly test the views of the Internet community on key issues.

It’s really pleasing to be in a country where the Government has such good policies towards the Internet.

  • NB – I am Chair of the .nz Domain Name Commission but wasn’t involved in negotiating the MOU – however I was one of those consulted on its details

Trump wins – Cruz drops out

May 4th, 2016 at 12:40 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

Ted Cruz is quitting the presidential race, according to campaign manager Jeff Roe, ending one of the best-organized campaigns of 2016 after a series of stinging defeats left Donald Trump as the only candidate capable of clinching the nomination outright.

Cruz had appeared likely to go all the way to the Republican convention, but a string of massive losses in the Northeast, and his subsequent defeat in Indiana, appear to have convinced him there’s no way forward.

Trump has done it. He has won the nomination despite Kasich still being in the race.

Almost every pundit got it wrong. We all wrote Trump off as a joke, yet he has just become the de facto Republican nominee.

Can he beat Clinton. She is at $1.33 to win and he is $3.50. I doubt it, but he has proven people wrong before.

What will be interesting is if there is a third party candidate campaiging as a true conservative?

Parliament 4 May 2016

May 4th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. BRETT HUDSON to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the New Zealand economy?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  3. JAMES SHAW to the Prime Minister: Will he follow the lead of the Australian Government and introduce new measures in the upcoming Budget to ensure multinational corporations pay their fair share of tax?
  4. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: How many times has he met with the Minister of Finance, if any, over the past two months, for the purpose of discussing Vote Health funding for Budget 2016?
  5. SIMON O’CONNOR to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that the Government is providing more New Zealanders with access to new medicines?
  6. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister for Building and Housing:Does he stand by his statement, “If you look at the Massey University Housing Affordability Index, independently produced by that university, actually housing affordability in Auckland and every other market in New Zealand is actually more affordable now than when National came to Government”; if so, what would the Massey University Housing Affordability Index rating be if interest rates returned to the same level as they were in 2008?
  7. DAVID BENNETT to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received that celebrate exceptional NCEA achievement?
  8. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he stand by his reported statement that the housing crisis is a media beat-up?
  9. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister for Primary Industries: How does increasing the amount of irrigated land by 400,000 ha in the next 15 years, as the Ministry for Primary Industries is considering, fit with the Ministry’s goal of “sustainable resource use”, when irrigation and agricultural intensification cause declining water quality?
  10. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement that “schools have never been more well-funded than under this Government”; if so, why is the cost of primary and secondary education rising at almost 10 times the rate of inflation?
  11. TRACEY MARTIN to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Does he have confidence in the tertiary education sector?
  12. MAUREEN PUGH to the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector: What recent announcements has she made regarding support for social enterprise and community leadership groups?

National: Four questions on the economy, Pharmac funding, NCEA and community leadership

Labour: Four questions on PM standing by his statements, health funding, housing and school expenses

Greens: Two questions on multinational tax and water

NZ First: One question on tertiary education

ACT: One question on housing affordability

General Debate 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

12 speeches of five minutes each for a maximum of one hour.

Local Bills 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm

Wellington Town Belt Bill – committee stage

 

Weldon resigns

May 4th, 2016 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Newshub reports:

Today the MediaWorks Board has announced that Mark Weldon has resigned from his position as CEO.

The Board has accepted Mark’s resignation and respects his decision.  

Mark Weldon commented: “I wish to share the news that, last night, I notified the MediaWorks Board of my resignation from my role as CEO.

 

This is not a huge surprise. There was such obvious internal discontent that it seemed obvious either Weldon would go, or more staff would leave.

Mediaworks staff may find a different CEO won’t result in better outcomes for them. Television and media companies face a very challenging environment and declining revenue.

Big food companies are saying eat less

May 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

After spending years trying to convince consumers to buy more of their famous-name products, now some of the biggest players in the food industry are trying to get people to eat less of them.

Burgers are shrinking, cookies are becoming thinner and package sizes are getting smaller.

In at least one case, a company is telling customers to cut back on its more indulgent foods. Mars, maker of M&Ms and Uncle Ben’s rice, said earlier this month that it would start labeling some of its products to indicate that they should only be eaten occasionally, due to being higher in sugar, salt or fat.

Mars is the latest company to take this seemingly counterintuitive approach. A look at grocery aisles and restaurant menus shows how prevalent the trend has become toward products with leaner messaging.

Responding to consumer pressure.

Other changes nudge customers to make healthier choices on their own, such as posting calorie counts on menu boards. The Subway sandwich chain became the largest restaurant chain to start posting the health information earlier this month.

Information is better than taxes or regulation. Having calorie counts on menus and boards is probably one of the most effective things you can do to help people make informed choices.

Guest Post: I’d make a great left winger!

May 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Mike Wilkinson:

I’d make a great left winger!

I reckon I’d make a great left winger.  You see, I believe there are lots of issues our Government could do more to help people with.  If only left wingers and their political parties were better at recognising them.  In New Zealand, is the Labour Party bogged down in forever fighting the battles of yesteryear?  Will it be the Green Party that’s the first to embrace a new approach to the issues it fights for?

For parties on the left, there is much to distract them.  Their remaining supporters keep demanding they take more and more extreme positions.  And parties on the right keep eating their lunch: witness National significantly raising benefits for the first time since 1970s or ACT playing to environmental concerns.  

How do left wing parties recover their mojo?  Be more appealing to Kiwi voters is the obvious answer.  However, doing so looks to require a new approach.  Parties of the left wing might need to embrace reforms once derided as neoliberal.  And they might need to think carefully about the policies right wing parties will find it hard to support.

Being on the left

What would it mean for me to say I’m a left-winger?  The term left wing has its roots in the French Revolution.  It referred to the seating in the assembly, the Estates-General: those on the left generally opposed the monarchy and supported the revolution, while those on the right supported the traditional institutions of the French state.  At its simplest, this suggests left wingers want to change the way things are run and right wingers to keep them the same.

So left wingers want change; but why exactly do they want it?  Arnold Kling offers one way of thinking about that with his model, the three “languages” of politics.  These are the three ways people often talk about politics and government, frameworks by which they measure what’s good and what’s bad.  According to Kling, progressives typically express opinions along an axis of “oppressed-oppressor” – things that help the oppressed are good and the oppressor bad.  Conservatives generally use an axis of “civilisation-barbarism”.  He introduces a third axis for libertarians: “freedom-coercion”.

Kling uses this model to suggest that people are drawn to those who use the same axis as themselves for discussing their opinions – a group will be stronger the more who are comfortable with the way it makes its arguments.  Left wingers are regularly seen as being against things like capitalism and free trade.  Am I gonna feel comfortable when left wingers argue the TPPA is somehow oppressing the unemployed?  Hardly.  Yet a simplistic history of left wingers suggests fewer and fewer of them will say such things.

Left wingers in recent history – Organised labour and ‘neoliberal’ reform

The world has changed much since the time of the French Revolution. In the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, organised labour became involved in politics in many countries, doing such things as promoting socialism as an alternative to capitalism.  It gradually established itself as an important focus for left wingers, helped by things like the Great Depression and a moderating of its views to promote a mixed model economy, rather than full socialism.

In the 1970s and 80s, governments around the world started responding to concerns about their excessive size and role in the economy.  Many began extended periods of economic reform, reform by governments on both the left and right wings.  Still, the anti-capitalist roots of some left wingers made it understandable they’d resist market-orientated reform, including things like free trade.  The dislike of such reform was so intense that some left wingers invented a code word to describe it – ‘neoliberalism’.

Yet, is there a future for left wingers who resist reform? In a world of increasing globalisation where nimbleness becomes ever more important, it’s hard to see one.  And the success of New Labour in the UK suggests other routes are available to left wingers.  With the New Zealand Labour Party bogged down and going nowhere, will it be the Green Party that first starts to embrace reforms that were once derided as neoliberal?

What might become of Labour and the role of organised labour in politics?  I’m certainly not brave enough to predict the end of either.  However, with Labour’s Future of Work Commission generating little more than a proposal for a universal benefit, it’s easy to feel doubtful about their future.  When it comes to guiding principles, there might not be much left in the bank.   

Who ya gonna call?  Right wing busters!

Yet, there are already issues affecting NZers that our Government could do more to help.  Can’t find a job in your region, yet can’t move to Auckland because NIMBYs have made housing there too expensive – could there be a more obvious case of oppressors holding back the oppressed?  And don’t get me started on the inequality caused by a substandard public education system.  Although government handouts won’t fix these things. left wingers should be all over them.  I hope they one day will.

So it might gradually become less controversial for me to call myself a left winger.  But why would I choose to do so?  Well, since it currently derives much support from conservatives, people who dislike change, at some point the current Government is going to stop changing.  Following the last election, John Key warned his party about losing touch and becoming arrogant – we can tell it’s only a matter of time, though.  If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?  Right wing busters!

I acknowledge this guest post is very simplistic.  I’m hardly an expert on left wingers and have no doubt ignored factors very important to their way of thinking.  Also, change happens only slowly, especially when it involves people’s opinions – you don’t suddenly ignore a century of resisting capitalism.  Still, I am by nature an optimist.  Do readers agree with my case for the rejuvenation of left wingers?

Another incompetently drafted bill by Labour

May 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nick Smith released:

Labour’s so-called Healthy Homes Bill is lacking in detail, slow in timing and unworkable in practise, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The surprising flaw in Mr Little’s Bill is that it has a timetable four years slower for insulating rental properties than the Government’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill. Mr Little’s Bill provides for 12 months before it comes into effect, six months for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to develop an insulating standard and then five years for compliance.

“Assuming the Bill went through a normal select committee process of six months, this works out at July 2023. The Government requires compliance by July 2019.”

“Mr Little’s Bill is little on detail. It simply requires MBIE to develop an insulation standard but is silent on whether it applies to walls, ceiling or underfloor or to what standard. It is dishonest for Labour to claim it provides a higher insulation standard when no insulation standard is specified in the Bill.

Labour seem to specialise in these cheap shoddy badly drafted bills. They had one bill on adoption that merely said the Law Commission should write the law for them and have the Government introduce it. This bill is barely better, saying MBIE should decide on an insulation standard.

Why with all their taxpayer funded staff members, are they unable to write a coherent bill that actually sets out the specific actions they want, so it can be considered on its merits.

Having just had a house insulated, I know first hand the big difference between ceiling, walls and underfloor. In some places you can’t do all of them.

“This Bill is unworkable in requiring a landlord to maintain all rental property at a specified minimum indoor temperature – although it does not actually state what the temperature is. The temperature in a home is affected not just by design but by how tenants use a property, including using heating devices, pulling curtains and managing ventilation. In attempting to specify indoor temperatures in rental property, Labour is showing it has learnt nothing from its excessive nanny state policies in government.”

That is just nuts. Stating a set temperature by law is a bit like King Canute. We have central heating, but even with that sometimes we can’t get the temperature up to the desired temperature because it is just too damn cold outside.

“This Bill is unworkable in requiring a landlord to maintain all rental property at a specified minimum indoor temperature – although it does not actually state what the temperature is. The temperature in a home is affected not just by design but by how tenants use a property, including using heating devices, pulling curtains and managing ventilation. In attempting to specify indoor temperatures in rental property, Labour is showing it has learnt nothing from its excessive nanny state policies in government.”

As I said, Labour often do this, with bills that are more about platitudes than actual workable policies.

General Debate 4 May 2016

May 4th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Keys signals lift in refugee quota

May 4th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has signalled New Zealand’s annual refugee quota will be lifted from the current levels of 750.

Speaking at a NZ Institute of International Affairs conference, Mr Key said the three yearly review of the quota was currently underway. That has been at 750 since 1987.

“You ask a fair question, is it enough? We have had that number for a very long period of time. It is quite obvious the world need for host countries of refugees has been accelerated quite rapidly in recent times.”

He said he had not seen any of the work of the review. “But it’s far from impossible New Zealand will lift its annual quota.”

Mr Key said on the basis New Zealand could offer the same or a better level of re-settlement service to those refugees it would be “realistic” to argue for an increase in the quota.

It comes as Labour leader Andrew Little reignited his calls for the quota to be doubled to 1500 a year following his visit to a refugee camp in Jordan.

Labour were in Government for nine years and didn’t lift the annual quota by a single person. Then in the comfort of opposition when they don’t need to actually decide anything, they declare it should be doubled.

However, Mr Key issued two sounds of warning, saying any change would have to leave some leeway for New Zealand to offer one-off emergency intakes, such as last September’s decision to accept 750 Syrian refugees over three years. Of those, 600 were part of an emergency intake outside the quota. The extra intake was expected to cost an extra $49 million over three years in resettlement costs, on top of the $58 million spent on refugee resettlement annually.

Mr Key said it was also important New Zealand had the capacity to properly re-settle those refugees if the quota was lifted.

What I would do is move the quota to what it would be if it had increased by population growth since 1987. That would take it to around 1,100.Further I would peg it to our overall population so every 1% increase in our population sees the quota automatically increase by 1%.

As important as quantity, is quality. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in the UNHCR system. We should choose refugees who have the best chances of integrating into New Zealand – as most refugees already do.

ERO on charter schools

May 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Three new charter schools have made a good start, according to the Education Review Office.

The reports covered two of the publicly-funded private schools in Auckland, Te Kura Māori o Waatea and Pacific Advance Senior School, and one in Whangarei, Te Kāpehu Whetū -Teina.

The report for Pacific Advance Senior School said it had 105 students in Years 11 and 12 at the start of this year and the school had done a good job of engaging them in their learning.

It said many students started at the school well below achievement expectations for their age level and to get students confident and able to complete Level 1 NCEA qualification was a significant success for the school.

It said 36 students were awarded Level 1 NCEA, which was 57 percent of the student body.

“Most of these students had been out of school for at least half a year prior to coming here. The ongoing challenge for staff is to accelerate formal student achievement.”

Many students at charter schools were failing in other schools, or had failed. Charter schools are not for everyone, but they are doing a good job helping some of the most educationally disadvantaged who are failing in mainstream schools.

Yet Labour and Greens want to close down every charter school and force these students back into the schools where they were failing.

2% or 10% – Auckland’s choice

May 3rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council has moved on from the politics of the past, say three right-leaning councillors whose voting with Mayor Len Brown has come into question.

Councillors Bill Cashmore, Calum Penrose and Linda Cooper say the council is not the old Auckland City Council of pre-2010, where power was tightly controlled by the majority ticket. …

Mr Cashmore, Mr Penrose and Ms Cooper have consistently voted for the policy platform of Mr Brown, including a 9.9 per cent rates rise this financial year. …

Mr Penrose said if he decides to stand again for council he will stand as an independent. He did not believe signing up to a fiscal envelope.

Aucklanders will have a clear choice.

They can vote for Councillors who have promised not to vote for any rates increase of greater than 2%, or they can vote for Councillors who increased rates by 9.9% last year and if re-elected will no doubt continue to vote for massive increases.

I hope Aucklanders vote for Councillors who are committed to cutting wasteful spending, not increasing it.

Permissionless Innovation

May 3rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Adam Thierer writes:

Permissionless Innovation

Experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted by default. Unless a compelling case can be made that a new invention will bring serious harm to society, innovation should be allowed to continue unabated, and problems, if they develop at all, can be addressed later.

Precautionary Principle

This is the belief that innovations should be curtailed or disallowed until their developers can demonstrate that they will not cause any harms to individuals, groups, specific entities, cultural norms, or various existing laws, norms, or traditions. The tension between these approaches dominates almost all modern technology policy debates.

The NZ I want is one that allows innovation without permission.

A good 10 point checklist is provided for policy makers:

  1. Articulate and defend permissionless innovation as the general policy default.
  2. Identify and remove barriers to entry and innovation.
  3. Protect freedom of speech and expression.
  4. Retain and expand immunities for intermediaries from liability associated with third-party uses.
  5. Rely on existing legal solutions and the common law to solve problems.
  6. Wait for insurance markets and competitive responses to develop.
  7. Push for industry self-regulation and best practices.
  8. Promote education and empowerment solutions, and be patient as social norms evolve to solve challenges.
  9. Adopt targeted, limited legal measures for truly hard problems.
  10. Evaluate and reevaluate policy decisions to ensure they pass a strict benefit-cost analysis.

Let’s have the Productivity Commission evaluate our current laws and policies against this checklist.

The only way as a country we get richer is with innovation.

Parliament 3 May 2016

May 3rd, 2016 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. JAMES SHAW to the Prime Minister: On what dates did he discuss with the Minister of Revenue his conversation with Ken Whitney on foreign trusts, and what specifically did he say to the Minister?
  2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement on 11 November 2015 regarding Silver Fern Farms, “The parties to the deal have every incentive to ensure that it is a good deal, and actually, every incentive to ensure that it is lawful”?
  3. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Why, on 13 April, when he told reporters that he had been approached by someone in the foreign trusts industry who was concerned that the rules for trusts were about to be tightened, did he not reveal that person was his personal lawyer?
  4. SCOTT SIMPSON to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received indicating continuing economic growth in 2016, low inflation for New Zealand households, and increased business activity?
  5. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that we are “on the cusp of something special” given the median Auckland house price has risen by $100,000 since January?
  6. Dr JIAN YANG to the Minister for Primary Industries: What reports has he received on growth in horticulture exports?
  7. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Revenue: Why was the review of foreign trusts proposed by IRD in 2014 not undertaken?
  8. DENIS O’ROURKE to the Minister of Transport: Is the Government committed in the long term to a sustainable railway network for New Zealand?
  9. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR to the Minister of Transport: What steps has the Government made on strengthening New Zealand’s air links with India?
  10. GARETH HUGHES to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does he stand by his statement that Genesis Energy’s decision to stop burning coal at Huntly is “a sign of the times and reflects the growth of New Zealand’s world-leading renewable energy industry”?
  11. JACQUI DEAN to the Minister of Justice: What recent announcements has she made on the social investment approach to Justice?
  12. JACINDA ARDERN to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Building and Housing in light of the Commissioner for Children’s criticism that the Government’s Bill on rental standards “will do little for children living in cold, damp, mouldy housing”?

National: Four questions on the economy, horticulture, air linsk with India and social investment

Labour: Four questions on foreign trusts x 2, Auckland house prices, and rental properties

Greens: Two questions on foreign trusts and coal

NZ First: Two questions on Silver Fern Farms and rail

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Appropriation (2014/15 Confirmation and Validation) Bill – committee stage

This bill confirms and validates unappropriated expenses and capital expenditure incurred for the 2014/15 financial year.

  • Introduced: December 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2016, passed 63 to 58 with Labour, Greens and NZ First opposed
  • 2nd reading: March 2016, passed 63 to 58 with Labour, Greens and NZ First opposed

This bill has a 10 hour debate consisting of up to two hours on the Government’s financial statements for 2014/15 and the remainder of the time on 10 sector debates. There are four and a half hours remaining.

Taxation (Residential Land Withholding Tax, GST on Online Services, and Student Loans) Bill – third reading

This bill allows sharing of information between the Inland Revenue Department and the Australian Taxation Office in relation to New Zealand student loan borrowers residing in Australia; proposes a new residential land withholding tax to act as a collection mechanism for the bright-line test; and provides for the collection of GST on cross-border services and intangibles, including internet downloads and online services.

  • Introduced: November 2015
  • 1st reading: December 2015, passed 109 to 12, NZ First opposed
  • SC report: March 2016, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: March 2016, passed 108 to 12 with NZ First opposed
  • Committee of the whole House: March 2016,

The third reading consist of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each, for a maximum debate of two hours.

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill – third reading continued

The bill proposes amendments to the Building Act 2004 to improve the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings.

  • Introduced: December 2013
  • 1st reading: March 2014, passed 106 to 14 with Greens opposed
  • Select Committee report: September 2015, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: March 2016, passed 120 to 1 with ACT opposed

The third reading consist of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each, for a maximum debate of two hours. There are 11 speeches remaining.