Goff’s $150,000 foreign donation

The Herald reported:

A book, two bottles of wine and a $5 note were the star lots at a Chinese dinner that raised $250,000 for Labour MP Phil Goff’s mayoral campaign on Saturday night.

About 350 people attended the fundraising dinner at the Imperial Palace restaurant in Ellerslie where bidding on a book, The Governance of China, written and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, started at $5000 and sold to a phone bidder from China for $150,000.

There are no issues around having successful fundraisers and auctions.

But I am surprised that there has been no comment on the $150,000 donation from a Chinese resident (not a Chinese New Zealander).

Such a donation is not illegal under the Local Electoral Act but if Goff was standing for Parliament, it would be illegal. The maximum donation from a non-resident or citizen is $1,500 for parliamentary elections.

If Goff was a centre-right candidate who received a $150,000 donation from a Chinese resident, I suspect the left would condemn it as corruption and call for it to be refunded. They’d claim Goff was the tool of Chinese house buyers.

But as usual a double standard applies. Goff’s $150,000 donation from a foreigner doesn’t even get a comment.

19 speeding tickets over 3.5 million kms

Stuff reports:

Crown limousines have clocked more than enough kilometres to drive from Wellington to Auckland 5618 times in the past five years. 

Information released under the Official Information Act reveals that the Government’s 34 chauffeur-driven cars clocked up 3.5 million kilometres during the past five years.

Drivers were also nabbed 19 times for speeding tickets. While individual drivers seemingly picked up the speeding fines, the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed all operating costs for crown limos were paid for by taxpayers.

So on average that is one speeding ticket every 185,000 kms. Remarkably low I would say.

CEO rankings of MPs

As usual the Herald Mood of the Boardroom has asked CEOs to rank the performance of Ministers and senior Opposition figures. The combined ratings (out of five) are:

  1. Bill English 4.51
  2. John Key 4.04
  3. Steven Joyce 3.51
  4. Amy Adams 3.47
  5. Jacinda Ardern 3.37
  6. Nikki Kaye 3.36
  7. Paula Bennett 3.24
  8. Chris FInlayson 3.23
  9. James Shaw 3.21
  10. Jonathan Coleman 3.17
  11. Simon Bridges 3.12
  12. Annette King 3.10
  13. Anne Tolley 3.09
  14. Michael Woodhouse 3.06
  15. Phil Twyford 2.93 
  16. Nathan Guy 2.91
  17. Todd McClay 2.90
  18. Winston Peters 2.90
  19. Grant Robertson 2.86
  20. Judith Collins 2.85
  21. Hekia Parata 2.85
  22. Murray McCully 2.77
  23. David Shearer 2.72
  24. Gerry Brownlee 2.66
  25. David Parker 2.55
  26. Nick Smith 2.52
  27. Chris Hipkins 2.46
  28. Julie-Anne Genter 2.42
  29. Metiria Turei 2.37
  30. David Clark 2.35
  31. Maggie Barry 2.34
  32. Andrew Little 2.22
  33. Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga 2.15
  34. Ron Mark 2.13

A few interesting things to note:

  • Andrew Little has a disastrous rating. He is seen as the least impressive Labour front bencher.
  • James Shaw is well regarded by CEOs. There has been some amusing exchanges on Twitter as Shaw has complained that this aspect has not been highlighted, and others have suggested it may not endear him to their base.
  • Ardern and King the only Labour MPs rated above a three
  • English and Key only MPs rated four or higher
  • National’s average rating is 3.03, Labour is 2.73

UPDATE: Ministers not in the online edition now included

1st Presidential Debate Open Thread

Open thread for live commenting on the 1st Trump vs Clinton presidential debate.

UPDATE:

The first 20 to 30 minutes were quite even, and I’d even say advantage to Trump. He connected better on the economy and has specifics compared to Clinton. And he killed Clinton on TPP. It was depressing however to see him advocate a tariff on basically every import into the United States – a protectionist agenda to the left of most Democrats and also in breach of WTO rules.

But the last hour was not even, and not even close to even. I may be wrong, but thought Clinton overwhelmed him (unlike the first half hour which I thought favoured him). A few stand outs:

  • Clinton was expert at baiting Trump and getting him to bite. She’d bring up his business dealings and he’d then talk in detail about them, rather than about his policies or plans for the US. Who cares about what he did in the 70s.
  • He was tone deaf often. When she said many years he paid no income tax at all, and he responded along the lines that is because he was smart is one example.
  • On the birtherism issue, he was awful
  • Clinton dominated at NATO and foreign policy generally.

Unsure whether undecided voters will shift by this, but my expectation is a lift for Clinton in the polls. We’ll see.

WCC Candidates’ Survey – Southern ward

There are five candidates seeking two positions. Three candidates have kindly completed the Kiwiblog candidates’ survey. The candidates are:

What is the maximum average annual rates increase, if any, you would vote for over the next three years?

  • David Lee – 30 cents a day per household, based on a RV of $500,000.
  • Brendon Bonner – Given circumstances where nothing like the CHCH earthquake occurred, then I would like the maximum average annual rates increase to be no more than 3%. Clearly ratepayers are unhappy with the 4.9% rise this year. Normally I would like to see it around the Local Government Cost index figure, this year 1.9%. However I would like to at least try to get it even lower. In these hard times aiming for a 0% rise would at least show citizens that WCC is listening – this may only be possible with a reduction in services as a quid pro quo and people would need to understand that.
  • Brent Pierson – 3%

DPF comment: Lee’s 30c a day is $110 a year. a house with an RV of $500,000. WCC says the WCC rates on that value is $2,374. So that is around a maximum 4.6% increase. Bonner and Pierson are around 3%.

Do you support the proposed runway extension for Wellington Airport?

  • David Lee – No.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes.
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment – Lee against and Bonner and Pierson in favour

What is the maximum contribution ($ or %) from toward the runway extension you would vote for?

  • David Lee – It a private company, so no public money should be used for private infrastructure.
  • Brendon Bonner – Given that WCC owns 33% of the airport company then that seem like the percentage WCC should pay as it’s share of the runway extension. However given that there is a case to be made that the possible benefits would flow more to the country and the region rather than just the airport owner then WCC should vigorously pursue ‘contributions’ from other local governments as well as central government.
  • Brent Pierson – 90 million

DPF comment – Lee against any contribution, Bonner favours in line with shareholding and Pierson a $90 million contribution.

Can example of current WCC spending that you would vote against in future?

  • David Lee – The indoor arena. We already have such venues and facilities.
  • Brendon Bonner – The Island Bay cycleway
  • Brent Pierson – Not answered

Do you support four laning (through additional tunnels) the Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels at an estimated cost of $250 million?

  • David Lee – Only a Mt Vic tunnel, with the proviso of walking and cycling infrastructure.
  • Brendon Bonner – No. I believe that if public transport was made better and cheaper, then hopefully that would remove a lot of cars from the road as people were economically incentivised (saving $) to use the bus. Folks would use their car only when necessary. The rest of the time, any road trips would be a lot easier because many commuters are off the road happily sitting in their clean, green bus. That would lessen demand on the roading system – and the demand for more roads! I suspect we’d still need to do the 2nd Mt Vic tunnel and ‘cut and cover’ around the Basin. This will probably be forced on us by Wellington’s ever increasing population. However the 2nd Terrace Tunnel proposal needs a lot more scrutiny and the $250 million for both sounds like a builder’s estimate rather than a quote!
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment: Pierson supports both tunnels expanding, Lee one of them and Bonner neither

Do you support a change to the structure of local government in the Wellington Region, and if so to what?

  • David Lee – No – any change must be by way of a referendum.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes. The control of the public transport of Wellington city needs to be returned to the public of Wellington city. We know best how to spend our tax dollars on the public transport of Wellington. It is unacceptable that currently this vital piece of Wellington city’s infrastructure is controlled by a committee of the Greater Wellington Regional Council and that this committee is headed by someone from Upper Hutt. It seems to be be a system set up to fail the public of Wellington – and it is.
  • Brent Pierson – No

Do you support the current closing times for CBD bars of 4am. If not, what time would you prefer?

  • David Lee – No! I support 3am, the social and economic costs of longer hrs outweigh the benefits to the bars and establishments.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes.
  • Brent Pierson – 4 am is okay.

DPF comment: Lee supports 3 am. Bonner and Pierson 4 am,

Do you think WCC should make it a condition for any business tendering for a contract with WCC to pay their staff at least $20 an hour?

  • David Lee – No! But, it should be an evaluation criteria ie. are you a living wage employer?
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes – to me it is simply the right and fair thing to do given the cost of living in NZ today. The business tendering for the contract must be the one actually doing the work – they are not to win a tender and then sub-contract it on to a ‘cheaper’ firm and pocket any difference.
  • Brent Pierson – Yes, the “Living wage”

DPF comment: Bonner and Pierson support the living wage for contractors. Lee thinks it should be a criteria but not a requirement.

Should fluoridation of the Wellington city water supply continue?

  • David Lee – Yes! What next… do away with chlorination, like Havelock Nth.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment: All candidates in favour of fluoridation.

If Council had an additional 10% revenue, or $40 million, what would be your priority spending areas?

  • David Lee – $20m for earthquake strengthening fund. $10m as seed money to help startups and business activation. $10m to partner up with business to fund graduate programmes, scholarships, apprenticeship, internships
  • Brendon Bonner – Housing
  • Brent Pierson – Help homeless, beggars and community housing

Vegemite or Marmite?

  • David Lee – Marmite
  • Brendon Bonner – Marmite.
  • Brent Pierson – Marmite

DPF comment: Vegemite not wanted in the Southern Ward.

southern

The table above is a simple scoring system of responses against my own personal views of low rates, no subsidy for the runway, four lanes on SH1, 4 am closing, no living wage requirement and pro-fluoridation.

Not a big difference between the three candidates.

The scores on policy are not the only factor in deciding how I will vote. Ability to work with others, communicate, work hard etc all factor in also.

Note Paul Eagle did not respond to the survey but from what I know of him he is a sensible and effective Councillor so would vote for him (despite his Labour candidacy).

The tobacco black market

A good story in Stuff on the black market in tobacco:

For smokers, the habit is getting increasingly expensive as the Government ups its tax to discourage smoking and recoup some of the health costs.

A pack of 20 cigarettes is expected to cost about $30 by 2020. A 50g packet of premium loose tobacco, used in roll-your-owns, currently costs about $78.

That is big money for hard-up smokers who are turning to the black market to buy stolen cigarettes and illicit loose tobacco.

Customs estimates the market for illegally manufactured or smuggled tobacco represents 2 to 4 per cent of consumption and is “not a significant problem”. Its figures are based on a 2013 report by Action Smoking and Health (Ash), which excludes stolen tobacco products. 

Police believe the black market is fuelling armed robberies and burglaries, with criminals targeting dairies and stealing tobacco products for resale rather than for personal use. 

This is the policy challenge. It is clear increasing the tax on tobacco is an effective tool to reduce smoking rates. But the higher the cost becomes, the more enticing the black market becomes. This is the same reason prohibition of alcohol failed in the 1930s – if you have demand, and no legal affordable supply, then the black market flourishes – and crimes become more profitable.

As an example, Stuff  visited an Aranui home and bought 80g of loose tobacco for $80 from 21-year-old Jasmine Lasseter, who was advertising on Facebook.

Lasseter claimed the tobacco was “factory seconds”, sourced from a local business owned by her friend’s father. She got a kilogram at a time so she never ran out.

Initially acknowledging she avoided paying tax on the tobacco, when confronted later she changed her story.

Lasseter’s Facebook page indicates her sales amount to at least 1kg of tobacco each week. She offers discounts for regulars.

Surprisingly sellers like Lasseter appear to be operating unhindered by Customs, which is responsible for collecting the duty on tobacco.

A Customs spokeswoman said the agency would look into reports or information “provided to us” and “enforce any offences discovered in relation to illegal tobacco”.

Customs did not ask for details of Stuff’s sting although those were supplied later.

So Customs is not at all proactive in this area, and even when informed, they don’t even ask for details.

BAT spokesman Saul Derber estimates the size of the black market has at least doubled since the 2013 Ash report.

“I would say 1 to 2 million 30g pouches (worth about $45 each) are being sold on the streets of New Zealand without any tax being paid, without any health warnings applied and no concerns about what age group they’re selling to. Sales are rife of chop chop (illicit tobacco).”

The tobacco giant acknowledges a vested interest — illegal sellers are eating into their profits.

It believes the Government, which collects more than $1 billion in tobacco tax annually, should be more interested in tackling the issue.

Again this is the policy challenge. The more you tax and regulate the legal product, the more the illegal product flourishes which has no age limits for selling, no effective regulation and no tax.

This is not an argument against taxing tobacco and regulating it. But it is an argument that you should always look at the unforeseen consequences and how to mitigate them.

Well intentioned but harmful

The Herald reports:

Maori Party co-founder Dame Tariana Turia has blasted the Government for “institutional racism” in its proposed reform of child protection laws.

She said a proposal to abolish a principle requiring child protection staff to consider the effects of decisions on whanau and iwi, as well as on the child’s well-being, was “a big step backwards”.

“I am going to speak to MPs, and I am going to speak to various iwi around the country to get them to understand what institutional racism really is, which is what we are experiencing yet again,” she said.

Cabinet papers released by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley last weekrevealed that the Government plans to axe a provision that gives priority to placing abused children with foster parents from the same extended family or tribe.

A new law, which will create a new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamakiri, would require that any child who was removed from its family and cannot be returned to immediate family “must be placed with a safe, stable and loving family at the earliest opportunity”.

The change would remove a provision in the 1989 Children, Young Persons and their Families Act that gave priority to placing a child with “a person who is a member of the child’s or young person’s hapu or iwi [with preference being given to hapu members], or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the child”.

The current law is well intentioned but has been a failure. The Government is being brave in confronting this.

If everything else is equal, of course you would want a child to go into extended family rather than strangers. But this ignores the reality of many families. If a mother and/or father are so dysfunctional that they abuse or neglect their child, then often the wider family has significant issues also. Bad parents do not get created out of nothing. So placing a child with an aunt or a grandparent or a cousin often leads to the child continuing to live in unsafe environments.

Instead, the first principle in the new arrangements for children removed from their parents is that “decisions should be centred around the child or young person’s best interests and understanding the views and needs of the child”.

That is the correct focus. If the best interests of the child is with extended family, then that is great. But there should not be a legislative priority to extended family, when our sad history is this is often from the frying pan to the fire.

Turia’s target is another proposed change axing a principle in the 1989 law that “consideration must always be given to how a decision affecting a child or young person will affect (i) the welfare of that child or young person; and (ii) the stability of that child’s or young person’s family, whanau, hapu, iwi, and family group”.

The Cabinet paper proposes replacing this with a single focus on the child’s well-being, proposing a first principle that “a child or young person have a safe, stable and loving home”.

If we didn’t have 30 years of history and evidence, I’d agree with Turia. But the reality is the current law has failed to make children safe, and the focus must overwhelming be on the safety of the child, not the welfare of the wider family, whanau, hapu or iwi.

Turia said a child’s well-being depended on having a good relationship with its family.

Not when they are the problem.

“The principle is that the well-being of the child primarily lies within the whanau,” she said.

If the parents were not coping, she said the law should continue to prioritise finding foster parents within the wider whanau and iwi.

“I’ll use my own [Whanganui] iwi as an example,” she said. “You can’t tell me that within 8000 people connected by our river, you cannot find someone to care for a child.”

Wrong question. You probably can, but will they be the best person for the child?

In some cases, even many cases they may be. But not in all cases. The welfare of the child must come first, second and third.

Current Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox declined to comment on the proposed changes last week. But after Turia issued her statement today, the other co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell, said children “should be placed with whanau”.

Sadly whanau are often the problem, including the extended family. Listen to the evidence.

$8 million and no paperwork

Hamish Rutherford reports at Stuff:

A decision to subsidise Singapore Airlines new Wellington flights for the next decade saw virtually nothing put in writing.

Documents released by the Wellington City Council show that apart from a presentation made to councillors after the decision was made, the council generated a single two page document, which refers to the subsidy only in passing.

Decision by powerpoint!

In January it was revealed that Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery had approved a subsidy for a new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington route from the Destination Wellington fund. The route launched on September 21. 

The council has never disclosed the maximum Singapore Airlines, one of Asia’s largest airlines, could be paid, but documents suggest it could be $800,000 a year for 10 years.

So $8 million of taxpayer money given to Singapore Air on no paperwork. I’d expect a very detailed economic impact report and business case as a minimum.

The Ombudsman, the authority appointed to monitor the official information disclosures of government agencies, has investigated the council on the information it released, and concluded that no other written documents exist.

The release suggests Lavery neither sent nor received a single piece of correspondence on the request, commissioned no analysis on Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines’ claims about the route, or had any written contact with Singapore Airlines on the payment whatsoever.

On Monday Lavery and the council refused to comment on the subsidy or the decision making process behind it.

Justin Lester, who as deputy mayor was involved in the negotiations to bring Singapore Airlines to Wellington, defended the process, saying the spending was within Lavery’s authority.

That’s not the issue. Lester is defending $8 million of secret corporate welfare that even worse has no written justification for it. This is outrageous behaviour and there needs to be accountability for it.

Clark still near bottom

The 5th straw poll has seen Clark slip further going from 6-2-7 to 6-0-9. As I said previously I don’t see any credible path to victory.

The net support for each candidate in the 5th straw poll was:

  1. Guterres +10 (12-2)
  2. Jeremic +2 (8-6)
  3. Lajcak +1 (8-7)
  4. Malcorra 0 (7-7)
  5. Turk 0 (7-7)
  6. Bokova -1 (6-7)
  7. Kerim -3 (6-9)
  8. Clark -3 (6-9)
  9. Gherman -8 (3-11)

So only one candidate is below Clark.

Clark’s score’s each round has been

  1. +3 (8-5)
  2. -2 (6-8)
  3. -2 (6-8)
  4. -1 (6-7)
  5. -3 (6-9)

This suggests that the neutrals have now decided her candidacy is untenable and are giving her the signal to exit.

Gould has the solution for Labour – go even harder left!

Please please please please will Labour listen to the advice of Bryan Gould.

This may be where Labour is falling short. It has perhaps failed to grasp that what it is really up against is a hegemonic force – a neo-liberal revolution – that has shaped political attitudes in western democracies across the globe for more than a generation and that now represents a norm so powerful that it is not even recognised as such by those who might be expected to oppose it.

This hegemony cannot be changed or challenged just by nibbling at the edges – by attacking short-term policy failures on specific issues, or by sharpening up campaigning techniques. What is needed is a fundamental statement of what the Labour Party stands for, and a persuasive account of why it will produce a better and more successful society than has been delivered by the current neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Many of those who might consider voting Labour do so precisely because they are looking for a different set of values than those demonstrated by our current Government and than are reflected in today’s New Zealand.

This is the approach taken by the UK Labour Party with electing Jeremy Corbyn – reject basically the last 35 years and try to turn the clock back to the 1970s. And that is working so well for UK Labour isn’t it.

In the same article Michael Cox responds and notes:

You have to give it to Bryan Gould. He is persistent in his claims that the politics of envy and socialism are the only saviours for the people of New Zealand.

As a British Labour MP he failed to convince his own parliamentary colleagues that he should be their leader way back in the 1990’s. Even they rejected his hard left philosophies.

Recently we have seen another socialist government fail dismally. Under President Dilma Rousseff’s Brazilian Workers Party government for the past 13, the once wealthy Brazil has gone down the fiscal tubes.

She led her country into its worst ever recession. The people she hurt the most with her socialist policies were those she tried hardest to protect. One in nine workers is jobless, up a third in the past year and inflation is close to 10 per cent. The economy has shrunk by 3.8 per cent.

This is just another modern day example of how socialism, as proposed by the likes of Professor Gould, doesn’t work.

Just as the Prof was making his bid for the leadership of the British Labour Party, the painful 60 years of Russian Socialism was beginning to crumble and his opponents for the leadership, John Smith and Tony Blair, sensibly moved into the centre ground, leaving Bryan floundering on the left; and he still is.

Just because socialism has failed in every other country that has adopted it, is no reason to stop pushing it eh!

Hide on the left

Rodney Hide writes:

What ails the left? They lack puff and policy.

They were once vibrant, challenging and full of ideas. The right were the dreary, backward-looking ones.

The left now suffer from closed minds and moral smugness. They are moribund and backward-looking.

They run from ideas. Opposing philosophies distress them.

They pillory dissenters as stupid or immoral and often both. There’s no debating or explaining, just abuse for those who step outside received wisdom.

The left have taken to social media with gusto. It only takes 140 characters to abuse and attack.

They fill Twitter and blogs with their righteousness and smugness, puffed up by their own perceived moral and intellectual superiority.

This is of course not true of all on the left. But it is true of a significant proportion.

There’s no allowance that a person with a differing view might offer an opportunity to learn and to strengthen your ideas and perhaps, just perhaps, to change them.

That’s never allowed as a possibility.

Their minds are closed and they gasp and take offence at any idea or opinion different to their own.

Indeed, ganging up against dissenters on social media is what binds them. Their attacks on others proves to them their correctness and superiority.

Social media has provided some with the ability to live in an echo chamber.

The left view their political failure as the fault of voters who must be hoodwinked, stupid, selfish, or suffering some other ethical or intellectual shortcoming. Why else would they not be supporting the left when they are so good and true?

I think the term used by one leftist is “sleepy hobbits”. A belief the voters are stupid and hoodwinked.

NZ Herald interview with Key

A quite fascinating interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some interesting aspects:

Would you count Helen Clark as a friend now?

Yeah. I don’t think she wants to have barbecues with me but I trust her and my view has been there is such a small group of people that have fundamentally been prime minister, who understand what you go through. And in most mature places in the world – not in some countries where they lock up their former [leaders] – there is a system for saying why wouldn’t we use their expertise for the greater good. You see that in the US system where they’ll be rolling Jimmy Carter out or they’ll be rolling Obama out in years to come. I’ve always just taken the view: why can’t we be a bit more grown-up about it? I’m not competing with Helen for anything. Last time I looked, she’s not coming back to be leader of the Labour Party. I just think New Zealanders would expect me to be a bit more mature about it.

A good way to look at it.

[Bill Clinton] He is the greatest story-teller on the planet. Him and Obama are the two great orators of the world but for completely different reasons. Obama delivers a prepared speech – I can’t think of anyone in the world that does it better. But Clinton never uses notes. He just tells human stories. You feel hopelessly inadequate when you listen to that guy speak. From South Sudan to the Congo, he has been involved. It is incredible.

Clinton off the cuff is quite amazing.

When Clinton was talking yesterday, he was obviously making a reflection on what was happening in the election, he said in life when there are zero sum games, I win and you lose.

That is not the way the world should be and the world should be where there are not zero sum games, where we both can win. His sense at the moment is a lot of Americans think it is zero sum game and they are the person losing. You can go on all you like about the ugliness of the campaigns but there is something happening when, on both sides of the political spectrum, the Bernie Sanders supporters and the Trump supporters feel as though they have been so left out.

Yeah that is very much so. I was chatting to someone from Fonterra about this. Too many people see reducing trade barriers as good for a country only when other countries do it also, when in fact  country gains from reduced protectionism even if other countries don’t reduce barriers. Trade is not a zero sum game where winning is exporting more and losing is importing more.

Are you missing home? You’ve been away a lot.

It’s great when Bronagh’s with me because it’s far more fun travelling with her when I’m away for weeks on end because even when I’m away, then I’m straight back into Wellington, and so I’m away from home. That’s the bit I don’t like. But the kids are so much more grown up. Anyway, we’re the sort of family where we send each other pictures all the time. We send them every five minutes. We got one of the cat eating before.

Eating what?

Its dinner. I really didn’t need that. It’s pretty mundane I’ve got to say.

If it was a rat I’d understand.

No no, it was just its Jellimeat or whatever.

Heh.

You do know half of houses are below the median?

Stuff reports:

Nearly 80 per cent of renters across New Zealand lack the resources for a home deposit, according to new figures which Labour says shows many Kiwis are locked out of the market.

However, Housing Minister Nick Smith says the numbers are “no surprise”, and have not significantly worsened in recent years.

Labour has compiled new data from Statistics New Zealand, saying the figures show the inadequacy of subsidies for Kiwis in search of their first home.

According to the data, 78 per cent of renters or 458,000 households had a net worth of $120,000 or less, meaning they would be unable to afford the 20 per cent deposit for an average house valued at $612,000.

This is a silly and almost meaningless stat.

By definition half of the homes sell for under $612,000. Just because you can’t afford to buy a house at the average (median) value doesn’t mean you are locked out.

In fact almost everyone I know buys a relatively cheap house initially and trades up later.

I’m in no way saying house prices are not too expensive. They are. I’m just saying this particular analysis is a bit meaningless.

Antarctica good for our economy

Stuff reports:

A new report estimates Antarctic-related activities pump $178 million into the New Zealand economy with Canterbury the major beneficiary.

National Antarctic programmes run by New Zealand, the US, Italy and the Republic of Korea contribute $167m annually, buying goods and services from more than 900 firms.

The report said the multiplier effect of downstream and household spending meant the full economic impact for the country was $432m, and almost 7000 jobs – more than half of them in Canterbury – were based on Antarctic-related activities. 

As always be sceptical of multiplier effects, but even without that it is a very useful contribution. Being a major gateway to Antarctica for other countries is good for us.

Chief executive of Antarctica New Zealand Peter Beggs said about 4000 people heading for Antarctica to work passed through Christchurch each season. 

Many of the 3500 internationals stayed on to travel around New Zealand when their stint on the ice ended, and some brought friends and family here to join them.

The report noted future opportunities for Christchurch included the US$300m rebuilding of McMurdo station by the US Antarctic programme, and the Chinese government’s plan to build a research facility in the Ross Sea area. 

Scott Base also needed a major upgrade, estimated to cost $150m, to extend its life and support quality research.

Beggs said they had put a business case for Scott Base to Treasury and hoped to get some funding in next year’s budget.

If the Chinese opted to use Christchurch as their base for the building of their research facility, that had huge economic potential because the stocking and refuelling of just one ship could run to $1m, he said.

Would be great to support a Chinese base also.

Uber unionist complaining bad drivers get dumped

Radio NZ reports:

Association chair Ben Wilson said if the challenge was successful, the group was considering further action over the way Uber handles the dismissal of drivers.

Drivers were being cut off from using the app unilaterally without being given any explanation, he said.

Some drivers had reported they were being deactivated without warning, when their ratings from customers using the service went down.

The rating system is based on the average rating out of five that drivers have received from riders, over their last 500 trips. 

If a driver’s rating fell below an arbitrary number – which the association did not know, but believed to be somewhere below 4.6 – then they faced the chance of losing their jobs, Mr Wilson said.

“Essentially they have no recourse – it’s just, ‘Sorry you’re out, good-bye.'”

So this union thinks drivers who continually get bad ratings should be allowed to continue? I love the fact that Uber drops drivers whose average ratings falls below a certain level. It gives a great incentive for me to stay a customer and for drivers to give excellent service.

Had a driver this week who is a software developer – has set up his own company. He’s driving Uber in his spare time so he has an income stream while the product is developed. Great to see Uber providing the flexibility for someone like him to be an entrepreneur.

“Drivers should be compliant, they should be safe, and driving should be profitable. That’s what we are trying to get to happen,” Mr Wilson said.

The rating system is a great way to ensure safe and compliant drivers. Yet Wilson seems to want to not have low ratings lead to dismissal. And if driving for Uber is not profitable – then don’t. It isn’t compulsory.

An Uber spokesman said the company had a publicly available deactivation policy, “which provides a comprehensive explanation of the policy for drivers”.

“In all situations where an account is at risk of deactivation, driver-partners will be either be warned so they can take appropriate steps to improve their service, or have the opportunity to present their version of events should an allegation be made against them,” the spokesman said.

The deactivation policy stated that each city had a minimum average rating.

“We will alert you if your rating is approaching this limit, and we will share information about third-party quality improvement courses that may help you improve your rating,” the policy said.

“If your average rating is below the city minimum after multiple notifications, your Uber partner account will be deactivated.”

Sounds very fair.

Wellington confidence booming

Stuff reports:

After years in the doldrums, Wellington has emerged as the most optimistic part of the country.

The latest Westpac McDermott Miller regional economic confidence survey saw the capital unseat Bay of Plenty as New Zealand’s most upbeat region, with a net 39 per cent of residents expecting good economic times in the year ahead ahead. …

Westpac industry economist David Norman said Wellington was now at its most optimistic in nine years.

“Wellington’s regional economic confidence has been inexplicably weak in recent times, but it appears that residents are beginning to acknowledge the strength in the local economy, with expectations that the region will be better off in a year,” Norman said.

“The population is growing, house prices are surging, and the region enjoys some of the highest incomes in the country.”

There is a good vibe about at the moment.

Mandatory helmet laws

Stuff reports:

The largest review yet of bike helmet use by 64,000 injured cyclists worldwide has found helmets reduce the chances of a serious head injury by nearly 70 per cent.

Claims that bike helmets damaged the neck and caused serious brain injury (diffuse axonal injury) were also found to be wrong in the study by University of NSW statistician Dr Jake Olivier who presented on Tuesday to the international injury prevention conference Safety 2016 in Finland.

Advocates of mandatory helmet laws – which only exist in a small number of jurisdictions including New Zealand and Australia – hope the Australian research will debunk “junk science” often cited by helmet opponents in the ongoing and heated debate.

I am sure that cycle helmets do reduce head injuries in crashes. This is very good research dispelling the myth that they cause harm if worn in a crash.

However that does not mean that there should be a law making them compulsory, and that such laws increase the overall health of the population.

There have been numerous studies and reports concluding that mandatory helmet laws reduce overall health benefits. This is because that while they absolutely do reduce the severity of a crash on a cyclist, they result in far fewer people cycling. And cycling is healthy and reduces obesity and increases life expectancy.

Also some evidence mandatory laws increase risky behaviour.

I don’t think they should be compulsory in New Zealand. They should be a matter of education.

Little rejects Clark’s advice to gain ground in the centre

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has rejected a suggestion by his predecessor Helen Clark that parties on the left must “command the centre ground” to win elections, describing the suggestion as “a pretty hollow view”.

Yeah what would that Clark know. It’s not as if she has ever led a political party, let alone won an election.

Little says he instead is focused on building “a coalition of constituencies” as he prepares for next year’s election.

Sounds like the old strategy of the missing million voters!

“The truth is that the modern politics in democratic societies has become a bit like a consumer exercise. You try something; you try something else.”

However, they had to ensure they had the support of voters in the centre in order to succeed, she said.

“It’s possible and it’s necessary, because to win an election in New Zealand or probably any Western society, you must command the centre ground.

“You have your strong core of supporters, but you must get the centre ground voters, and I think I was successful in that for quite a lot of years.”

So Clark who won three elections say the key is to get centre ground voters.

But Little said he didn’t think an analysis about the centre is at all helpful – “it’s meaningless”.

But the massively successful Little dismisses the advice of only NZ Labour leader in history to win three elections.

It is hard to say how delighted I am Little is dismissing the advice of Helen Clark as meaningless.

Old people vote more

Stats NZ reports:

Almost 95 percent of women and men aged 65+ years said they voted in the 2011 general election, compared with just over half of those aged 18 to 24. …

However, 87 percent of all those aged 65+ said they’d voted in local elections in a 2012 survey, compared with just 28 percent of people aged 18 to 24.

If you want to win, you need the support of older New Zealanders – they actually bother to vote.

Croaking Cassandra on the airport runway

Michael Reddell blogs:

At about 3pm, the first Singapore Airlines flight to Wellington, via Canberra of all places, lands at Wellington Airport.  Wellington-boosters, well represented on the Council and the Chamber of Commerce, talk up the first “long-haul” flight to and from Wellington.  All of which would be more impressive if it were not for the ratepayers’ money being (secretly – no information on the amounts or terms of these sweetheart deals, no robust cost-benefit analysis etc) used to make it all possible.    Were the flights financially self-supporting that would be the best evidence of them being “a good thing”.  But they aren’t.  That means (a) a presumption against them being “a good thing”, and (b) a likelihood that they won’t survive for long, at least without some permanent subsidy from the long-suffering ratepayers of Wellington. It probably isn’t a subsidy to the giant Singapore Airlines –  they’ll probably just manage a normal return on capital –  but by quite which canons of social justice ratepayers should be subsidizing government departments (probably the main purchasers of tickets on the Wellington-Canberra leg, and one of the larger sources of international passengers from Wellington) is beyond me.

So ratepayers may be subsidising government departments!

There are plenty of people around –  including commenters here on previous airport posts –  who will attack Infratil.  I’m not one of them.  Infratil is a private sector business, no doubt pursuing (as it should) the best interests of its shareholders. 

And good on them for doing so. A smart company.

Reddell quotes airport chairman Tim Brown:

The Airport extension is forecast to cost $300m. If airport users who get no value from it (people on smaller aircraft, people buying coffee, parking cars, etc) don’t pay anything towards it, then the estimated present value to the airport company from those who do benefit from the extension and do help pay for it may be about $100m. So on purely commercial grounds and avoiding cross subsidies the shareholders are expected to contribute that sum.

So can the extra $200 million be justified on wider economic grounds? Reddell continues:

If some branch(es) of government in fact do stump up hundreds of millions of dollars beyond what is commercially justifiable, some of it will certainly benefit some local businesses, but most of it will simply be money down the drain; spent on real resources to build an extension that simply has almost no economic value.  Other than the exercise commissioned by the airport company itself –  funded by the Council –  no one who has taken a hard look at the numbers regards the claims of large scale economic benefits as stacking up.  Of course, there are plenty of “boosters”, and others who think of (real) long-haul flights from Wellington as a nice idea, but the numbers simply don’t stack up.

I agree. I think you can argue there is some (relatively modest) benefit to Wellington, but I can’t see a case for a taxpayer contribution on the grounds of a benefit to New Zealand. You would have to believe that a longer runway for Wellington would mean people deciding to fly to New Zealand who otherwise wouldn’t have.

Somewhat encouragingly, of the eight mayoral candidates not one is now unambiguously in support of spending lots of ratepayers’ money on the runway extension.

Yes, there has been a significant change in opinion.

I’m not usually a single issue voter –  and the debacle of the Island Bay cycleway still concentrates the mind in other directions at times –  but this time I am.  There is simply too much money at stake, to allow boosters with the public cheque book to pursue their field of dreams vision for Wellington airport.

Yep.

Dentist cautioned

The Herald reports:

A group claiming a dentist misled the public and disrespected other health professionals over fluoridation has publicly released a letter from the Dental Council saying the dentist has been “cautioned”.

Anti-fluoride lobby group Fluoride Free NZ published the letter from the council’s legal adviser, which said Dr Rob Beaglehole was cautioned over comments made on TV show Paul Henry earlier this year.

On the show, which aired in April, Beaglehole – who is a spokesman for the New Zealand Dental Association and chief dental officer at the Nelson District Health Board – said all health authorities around the world urgently recommended water fluoridation.

“There’s not one reputable health organisation anywhere on the globe that will say water fluoridation causes problems that some of the anti-fluoridationists are highlighting,” Beaglehole said on the show.

Fluoride Free NZ complained to the council, and Beaglehole responded that it was imprecise to use the word “all” when referring to health authorities around the world.

The evidence is strong for the benefits of fluoridation but Beaglehole did go too far in claiming on TV every health authority in the world recommended fluoridating water.

The council recommended Beaglehole seek media training and said he was cautioned about expressing his views in public on the subject of community water fluoridation.

Views are fine so long as they do not mislead.

Maybe we shouldn’t admit people who believe in witchcraft?

The Herald reports:

Two parents who abused their teenage daughter by forcing her to take freezing baths, hitting her and cutting her hair because they thought she was a witch have been jailed.

The Congolese refugees were both found guilty by a jury in Auckland yesterday of several charges relating to almost four years of abuse.

After being convicted, the duo told court workers they were innocent because they were performing witchcraft on the then 15-year-old girl because they believed she was possessed.

You know I would be okay if we asked people wanting to live in New Zealand if they believe in witchcraft and saying no if they do.

Corbyn wins, Conservatives set to rule until 2025

Stuff reports:

Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party on Saturday, ending a “coup” attempt by more moderate lawmakers who say his left-wing agenda can never deliver victory at the polls.

The veteran campaigner’s triumph, by 313,209 to 193,229 votes, cements his authority over the deeply divided party and will fuel his drive to turn Labour further to the left – a move many of his colleagues say will see them out of power and allow the ruling Conservatives free rein to set Britain’s divorce from the EU. 

This is excellent news. Theresa May will govern as Prime Minister until at least 2025 I would say/