No one wants to be US House Speaker!

October 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

The doubts haunted Kevin McCarthy.

Publicly, he projected an air of confidence, the appearance of the man who would be the next speaker of the House. But in private, his allies told him the pursuit for power was changing him and he wasn’t himself. Some said that even if he won, he couldn’t govern.

“We need somebody to get us 247,” McCarthy said in an extensive interview with POLITICO Thursday, referring to the total number of House Republicans. “And I was never going to be able to get 247.”

The majority leader’s longtime allies — the people he recruited and helped get elected to Congress — told him they were getting hammered back home, and that it would be difficult to back him on the House floor.

Other friends said McCarthy’s pursuit of the speaker’s gavel had become a staggering weight on his shoulders and was already starting to change him.

Conservatives — namely members of the House Freedom Caucus — were making demands he believed he simply couldn’t deliver on.


The job of Speaker of the House is the second most powerful in the United States, after the President. They basically solely decide what bills and issues get voted on in the House. In the absence of a President, they are the de facto leader of their party.

Yet the Republican civil war has made the job an awful one. Some Republican representatives have demands so unreasonable, that no Speaker can meet them, and hence no Speaker can govern – unless they rely on Democrats.

So we have not only seen Boehner resign as Speaker, but his No 2 drop out of the race to replace him.

The Republicans have the House and Senate, and Clinton is looking beatable if she is the Democratic nominee. If they had unity, they could win the presidency next year, but if they don’t they will lose, and possibly lose the Senate also. That would be bad as a further Democratic administration could see major changes in the Supreme Court, which would give the liberal wing a majority.


Not compulsory to live in Australia

October 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

MALCOLM Turnbull says anyone who cannot abide by the core Australian value of mutual respect should leave the country.

In a passionate speech in the wake of a terror attack in Sydney in which a 15-year-old shot dead a police worker, the Prime Minister said violent extremism needed to be tackled head on.

He said those who could not practice harmony should leave the country.

“It is not compulsory to live in Australia. If you find Australian values, you know, unpalatable, then there’s a big wide world out there and people have got freedom of movement,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The success of our society is founded on mutual respect and we have to recognise that people who preach hatred, preach extremism, are undermining the success of this extraordinary country and this extraordinary project.”

Good speech.

If you have the West and western values, then don’t live here.

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Would the left support this in NZ?

October 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

IMAGINE a world where you are given a “citizen rating” based on your lifestyle, shopping habits, social behaviour and morals.

China is moving quickly towards just such a system, in a Big Brother-style plan that will see everyone given a grade between 350 and 950.

If you buy nappies or recycle, you get extra points for showing you are responsible. If you play video games and spend too much on clothes, you lose points. …

Harnessing our data from banks, retailers and social media, it’s the kind of all-encompassing surveillance system that would terrify us in the West. But the Chinese government’s State Council said in a plan released in June 2014 that the system was key to “building a harmonious Socialist society … strengthening the sincerity consciousness of the members of society, forging a desirable credit environment, raising the overall competitiveness of the country [and] stimulating the development of society and the progress of civilisation.”

By 2020, people with scores above a certain level will receive rewards, such as credit to start a business, while those with lower ratings could face ominous-sounding punishments.

I could see some left groups wanting this here.

If you use plastic bags, bang you get some demerits.

Buy your kids a soft drink, and there’s another black mark, and another if they ever have a pie from a dairy.

Fail to put out recycling, and there’s another black mark.

Be seen at a bar after 2 am, and further demerits.

This is the ultimate nanny state tool!


NZ 47 Tonga 9

October 10th, 2015 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

Now that was a great game.

Before it began I said I wanted All Blacks to get four tries, and not concede any.

They scored seven.

And Tonga played really well – best performance I have seen from them. The first 50 minutes saw them very competitive and they came damn close to scoring.

This is just what we needed. A performance that showed our quarter final opponents how formidable we could be, and no injuries (well maybe one). A bit undisciplined at times, but overall a very good performance.

Now all eyes on France vs Ireland to see who we play in the quarter-final. I hope it is France as I’d rather face them earlier on.

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General Debate 10 October 2015

October 10th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Government’s organ review

October 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A national review of deceased organ donation procedures will look at whether cultural and religious factors are contributing to New Zealand’s low rates of organ donation. …

Among the topics the review would likely consider was “ethical, cultural, religious, and demographic factors within the New Zealand context”. 

Organs that are able to be donated are rare, with potential donors having to have died in specific circumstances.

The pool of available organs can be reduced further if a deceased person who has identified themselves as a donor on their drivers license, is overruled by their family for cultural, religious or ethical reasons.

The previous decision of the deceased should be paramount, and not subject to the wishes of others.


The Roseneath fence row

October 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Get ready for another round of fencegate.

The saga surrounding a four-metre high fence that blocked the million-dollar views of a Wellington couple living next door is heading to the High Court.

Wellington City Council’s manager of city planning and design Warren Ulusele confirmed that fence builder David Walmsley was appealing the decision to have it torn down.

Walmsley built the 11-metre long structure on his Maida Vale Rd property in the suburb of Roseneath, which was listed as a children’s fort in order to get resource consent.

It left his neighbours, Peter and Sylvia Aitchison, staring at timber rather than the breathtaking views of Wellington Harbour they used to enjoy. They claim the fence has wiped $900,000 off the value of their $1.6 million home.

It seems apparent Walmsley has built the fence purely to screw over the neighbours. It is hard to think of a more antagonistic move.

My view is that he should be allowed the fence if he compensates the neighbours for their loss in value.

No tag for this post.

Hooton on Labour and TPP

October 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes:

John Key must be sorely tempted to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to a formal ratification vote in parliament. If the prime minister did so, he would split the ridiculous rabble that sits across from him.

Two former Labour leaders, Phil Goff and David Shearer, would cross the floor to back the deal, along with Napier MP Stuart Nash, Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis and Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare, party insiders say. They alone would inherit Peter Fraser, Norman Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark’s liberal-internationalist mantle.

There is no vote on ratification, but there will be a vote on legislation to implement parts of it.

For 20 years, New Zealand’s number one foreign policy goal has been a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the world’s largest economy, the US. If the TPP is ratified – which remains a big if – that NZ-US FTA has now been achieved, and FTAs with the world’s third and 11th largest economies, Japan and Canada, both hitherto highly protectionist, have been thrown into the bargain.

That’s three of the G7.

As a first tentative step in the long-term strategy, Dr Smith and Mrs Shipley launched negotiations in September 1999 for an FTA with Singapore, an agreement without economic significance but designed as a template for a wider 21st century deal.

The greatest share of political credit, though, lies with Ms Clark and her trade ministers Jim Sutton and Mr Goff.

It was the Clark government that concluded the Singapore deal, launched and completed the initial TPP with Singapore, Chile and Brunei and then drew in the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam in 2008, following Ms Clark’s successful 2007 meeting with George W Bush.

The New Zealand origins of the deal are why Wellington had the diplomatic honour of being the depository and administrator of the treaty.

Worth remembering that. This is not a deal that the US approach NZ with. This was part of a 20 year strategy by both National and Labour Governments to get an FTA with the US.

To take one somewhat ironic example of the deal’s effects, given the music industry’s usual politics, the TPP’s copyright provisions mean the likes of Lorde, Tiki Taane, and SIX60 have ended up bigger winners from the TPP than Fonterra – which is surely fair enough given they actually bother to add value to their raw material and market it creatively offshore.

I don’t support the extension of the term of copyright to life plus 70 years, but did note on Twitter today that Lorde’s great grand children will be happy they can get money from her music in the year 2167!

The TPP also includes rules demanding higher labour and environmental standards, which are enforceable through ISDS, a first for a trade deal of this nature. Pharmac is left alone. Tobacco companies are excluded from being able to benefit from the deal. The Treaty of Waitangi is protected. So are marine mammals and even sharks.

If Labour vote against, they will be voting against an agreement that no member can weaken their environmental or labour laws and must introduce a minimum wage.

The union bosses, student politicians and former Alliance activists who now control Labour will have none of this.

Under Labour’s new rules that further empower its more fanatical grass-root members, the party has fallen under the spell of UK Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, unwavering anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey, Marxist twitter addicts and extreme-left bloggers at The Standard and The Daily Blog.

The party’s antics over the TPP this week suggest its missing-in-action leader, Mr Little, and its woeful finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, have never moved on from their time leading student rabble as presidents of the New Zealand University Students’ Association.

The student politicians have taken over the party!

Mr Little’s chief of staff is Matt McCarten, the former Alliance president who broke with Jim Anderton because the then deputy prime minister believed New Zealand should support the US in retaliating against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for the September 11 attacks.

Insiders say that when Labour’s senior MPs and staff discuss policy and political positioning, the likely reaction of the left-wing Twitterati and blogsophere is given greater weight than that of any union, environmental group or social-policy advocates, let alone any industry association or business.

Surely this is not true?

The party’s hierarchy is now seriously considering actively campaigning against the TPP and making a manifesto commitment to activate the agreement’s withdrawal procedures should it become government.

It would be good for National if they do, but bad for NZ to have Labour go further left.

You read that right: today’s Labour hierarchy is seriously considering promising to withdraw from a trade deal with 40% of the world’s economy, including the US, Japan and Canada, for which Ms Clark, its greatest prime minister for a generation and its first ever to win three elections, deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

Have nothing to do with these people. Do not give them money. Do not help them with their policy development. Do not let them visit your business for cute photo-ops designed to suggest today’s Labour is interested in listening to mainstream people. For all the current government’s usual purposelessness and drift, the lunatics now running Labour’s asylum must never be let near power.


UPDATE: Labour is denying an internal rift on TPP, which means of course there is one!

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Would the last honest man at FIFA turn the lights out?

October 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, the man who had been favored to take over as FIFA leader, were both suspended for 90 days late on Thursday, plunging football’s governing body deeper into crisis.

So that’s the President, and the likely next President.

Another presidential hopeful, Chung Mong-joon, was suspended for six years in a separate case and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was banned for 90 days.

And the top administrator, and a further presidential candidate.

Issa Hayatou, the longtime head of the African football confederation who was reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee in a FIFA kickbacks scandal, will take over as acting president.

The Acting President does not have a clean record.

The interim leader of UEFA will be Spanish federation head Angel Maria Villar, who remains at risk of being sanctioned from the FIFA ethics committee in its investigation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

And the acting European Head is under investigation!


ECE satisfaction has been increasing not decreasing

October 9th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

New Zealand’s early childhood education system came under friendly fire this week as a survey found up to a quarter of teachers in the sector would not enrol their own children in it.

One hundred and fifty three teachers out of 601 surveyed said they would not be happy for their child to attend the centre where they worked. Soundbites included analogies to “factory farming” and “crowd management”.

The survey provides no breakdown of reasons, just some inflammatory soundbites. We don’t know how many said they would not send their children to ECE because they would prefer to look after them themselves.

Now, the quality versus quantity debate appears to be at an impasse. New Zealand’s 1:5 teacher-child ratio is one of the best in the world, although Australia and many European countries have 1:4. At that level, small differences matter.

One survey respondent put it bluntly: “When one goes to change nappies, the other teacher is left with nine babies. One day I was feeding a baby and the other teacher was changing a nappy. Another child started crying while two babies were hitting each other with toys. How can you handle this kind of situation?”

With more teachers. Three adults across 12 children completely changes that dynamic. It’s hard to argue that two extra percentage points on a participation rate already comfortably in the 90s would trump that.

The editorial ignores the cost of increasing the number of teachers by 25% – it would be over $250 million a year. And the reality is parents are actually far happier with ECE services than in the past.

Here’s the satisfaction scores from the SSC Kiwis Count survey on early childhood education:

  • 2007: 73%
  • 2009: 76%
  • 2012: 77%
  • 2013: 79%
  • 2014: 81%

It is no surprise a survey done by a group whose members include ECE centres who would benefit from more money, finds a quote or two to get headlines. But the SSC survey of actual parents shows satisfaction is high and steadily increasing.


Shelly Bay open for housing

October 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sausalito here we come.

Wellington City councillors have voted to remove much of the red tape that could have held up efforts to reshape Shelly Bay into the capital’s version of San Francisco’s seaside town of Sausalito.

But not everyone on the council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee was thrilled about the plans, with some upset by the prospect of sacrificing Shelly Bay’s green space to residential developers.

Committee members voted by a majority of nine to six on Thursday to add a larger chunk of the prime waterfront site on Miramar Peninsula to the Wellington Housing Accord.

Doing so means a 2.8 hectare slice of Shelly Bay – including the former air force and naval buildings and the slopes overlooking the harbour – will become a special housing area, which allows for fast-tracked consents, no public notification and limited appeal rights.

Great to see some action after two decades of decay.

Shelly Bay could become some of the most desirable property in Wellington. Stunning views.

It is good news for property developer Ian Cassels and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust who have been vocal about their plans to model Shelly Bay on Sausalito – an artistic enclave that is a short ferry ride from San Francisco.

They have not revealed the specifics of their plans. But art galleries, restaurants, boutique shops, a craft brewery, a cable car and a regular ferry service from Wellington’s CBD are all in the mix.

Will be so good to replace the crumbling buildings currently there.

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Dotcom’s poverty claims

October 9th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Kim Dotcom sold shares in his new companies for about $20 million in 2013 to pay for his defence team and provide for his family, he has told a court.

Most people would love to have even $200,000 to pay for their defence team!

He told the court about setting up Mega Ltd with Ortmann and van der Kolk and music company Baboom in 2013, shares in which he sold for about $20 million.

Dotcom said the ventures were “born out of necessity” to pay for the drawn-out extradition battle and also to secure his family’s future with contributions to the family trust, the Trust Me Trust.

So he chose to put much of that money into a family trust, and now is claiming he has no money for his defence.

His ill-fated involvement in the Internet Party was also discussed.

Dotcom said he donated up to $4.8 million during its brief existence and Mr Ruffin asked why he had not put some of that money aside to pay for US legal experts he now claimed were vital to defending his case.

“If I had a crystal ball and I could see the future, in hindsight I could have done that,” Dotcom said.

“But at the time, for me, there was no reason to believe there wasn’t more unrestrained funds coming from my business ventures.”

He spent $5 million trying to buy the next Government, and again now says he can’t get a fair trial because he never thought the money taps would end.

Mr Ruffin also asked the defendant why he had not used money from living costs to pay for the experts he claimed he needed.

“If I wanted to be homeless and sack all my staff and kick my kids out of school I could’ve done that, yes,” Dotcom said.

His (lesased) home is worth $30 million and is one of the most expensive in NZ. Does he still have his 10 cars worth $3.2 million?

He gets $170,000 a month to cover his living expenses. Most people could manage on 10% of that. Then he could cover the $500,000 in just three months.

And most people don’t have domestic staff!


Quin on King vs Ardern

October 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Herald:

When he installed Annette King as his interim deputy, Andrew Little said he would revisit the decision around this point in his tenure. It’s a promise he would be wise to break. The advantages of a generational swap between King and Jacinda Ardern, the widely touted alternative, are fewer than they initially appear, and the risks are greater.

Annette King is not a leadership rival to Andrew Little, nor is she likely to become one. The same cannot be said of Ardern. That’s the first, and most crucial, box ticked. Unfulfilled ambition is the characteristic a leader least wants to see in a deputy.

That’s true. Having a deputy who wants your job rarely works out well.

Combined with an absence of unrealised ambition, King’s standing in caucus uniquely enables her to play hardball when called for, giving Little room to establish goodwill and build trust among colleagues.

It is hard to imagine an MP less temperamentally suited to inheriting “bad cop” duties than Jacinda Ardern. In fact, a change in deputy would demand a recalibration of responsibilities, forcing Little to take a greater role in managing (read: disciplining) caucus. He doesn’t need that: it’s not among his strengths, and it shouldn’t be his focus.

A good deputy will manage much of the caucus relations for the leader, and to a degree help manage the office also.

Ardern certainly appears to be well liked by the public, and has the backing of many inside the Labour Party, as well as a sizeable bloc of MPs, in particular those aligned with Grant Robertson with whom she ran on a joint ticket as deputy in last year’s leadership election. These are put forward as arguments in favour of promoting her, but they leave me cold.

For one thing, personal popularity is neither here nor there in a successful deputy. None of the most successful second-in-commanders of the recent era – Geoffrey Palmer, Don McKinnon or Michael Cullen – were beloved by the wider public. What they each offered were complementary skillsets, along with personal attributes, that made their leaders stronger.

This is true, but Ardern does have the ability to grow the vote for Labour if she is in a leadership role. The problem is she may over-shadow Little, but they need to lift their vote in Auckland and neither Little nor King can really do that.

It may be that Annette King wants to retire – and who could blame her after 28 years in Parliament? This would bolster the case for Jacinda Ardern without making it a slam dunk. Breakfast telly affability – undeniably useful in a senior politician – is not what Andrew Little wants in a deputy. He needs a compelling or charismatic figure far less than someone who provides the space necessary for him to become effective and popular in his own right.

I think he needs someone who can lift their party vote in Auckland.

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The evil of ISIL

October 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Vian Dakhil writes at Politico:

Last week I arrived back home to Iraqi Kurdistan, exhausted but proud of a small but real triumph over the Islamic State. Three women and two toddlers came back with me—five human beings just rescued from enslavement by ISIL. For over a year, they were abused, raped and traded fighter to fighter because of one reason: our Yazid religion. I am determined to save every last one of the more than 2,000 Yazidi women and girls still waiting to be freed

Yazidis are a Kurdish religious community. They are not Muslims or Christians but are monotheists.

They thought they were abandoned. Their ISIL captors told them that no one wanted them, in their shame and defilement, and that no one was looking for them. But I insist on reaching out to them through pleas on Arabic radio and TV. I give them my phone number, and tell them that we love them and we want them back. Some brave women hear these messages and contact us, and a rescue mission commences. I answer the phone every time, determined to do all that I can, but it is little, and it is not enough. I know there will always be another call, another Yazidi who is terrified and broken and in need of hope, as the world looks the other way.

One of the women, clutching her 2-year-old child, was so distraught. The child kept asking for her 7-year-old sister, who had been taken away from her mother and enrolled in a religious institution where she would be forced to convert to Islam. Her mother had had no choice but to escape without her, and she told me she feared the girl would be raped at the hands of the militants. We have evidence of the militants raping our girls as young as age 8.

I believe future generations will regard Islamic State as our equivalent of the Nazis. They do not have the same capacity as the Nazis, but their inhumanity is on a par.

Thousands of people—primarily women and children are still in captivity in Islamic State territory. I have spoken to women who have made it out who said they had been sold five or six times, in each case being raped by as many as five men at a time before being sold to another fighter. The militants force the young ones to convert, teach them how to pray and train them to be child soldiers—telling them all the while that their families won’t take them back because they have converted to Islam. Some girls told me that they had lost all hope. We just gave up and decided this is the life that we should live, they told me, because we don’t have another life. We can’t go back to our home.

But they can go home; their families—our families—are waiting for them. And, slowly but surely, I and a determined group of people are getting Yazidi prisoners out of this nightmare. There are some volunteers willing to go into ISIL-controlled areas to save those girls and help them all get back safely to Iraqi Kurdistan. With no help from any government, we’ve been able to rescue 2,150 of the 5,840 Yazidi men, women and children who were taken prisoner—800 of them young girls.


Amazing. That is God’s work.

The author is a member of the Iraqi Parliament.



General Debate 9 October 2015

October 9th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Auckland Councillors waste hours debating TPP!

October 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland councillors have today spent two and a half hours debating the Trans Pacific Partnership at a reported cost of $50,000 to ratepayers.

Albany councillor Wayne Walker put forward a notice of motion, including clarification from Trade Minister Tim Groser on how the recommendations from eight Local Boards were being addressed in current negotiations.

After a long discussion on the trade agreement, several councillors vented their frustration on social media.

Councillor Denise Krum said: ” A very long morning! Best use of our time? I think not.”

Councillor Linda Cooper said at a cost for council committee meetings of $20,000 an hour, the debate had cost $50,000.

“That much money to a local community development organisation would employ a community broker. Actual work on the ground for people,” she said.

And councillor Sharon Stewart: “We need to stick to our core business.”

The debate took up most of the morning session at the regional strategy and policy committee.

Yes they do need to stick to core business.

What next – spent a morning debating Syria and ISIS?

If Councillors can waste time debating this, then there are too many of them, and not enough real work!

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Corbyn dodges the Queen

October 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Jeremy Corbyn has snubbed the Queen by refusing to be sworn into Britain’s Privy Council, as it emerged he could use a loophole to join the advisory body without ever meeting Her Majesty.

The UK Labour leader, a lifelong republican, is known to have reservations about kneeling in front of the Queen and kissing her hand as he swears an oath of allegiance to her, which is the normal process when a new Privy Councillor is sworn in.

And having refused to sing the National Anthem at a Battle of Britain 75th anniversary service last month, Mr Corbyn tried to dodge the issue by saying he could not attend tomorrow’s meeting due to unspecified “prior engagements”.

The Telegraph has learnt that Mr Corbyn could choose to avoid meeting the Queen altogether, using a mechanism called an Order in Council, by which the Privy Council, including the monarch, agrees to appoint a new member without them being present.

For that to happen Mr Corbyn, who has never met the Queen, would still have to confirm that he had taken the oath, but would avoid kneeling before the sovereign.

If he does so, it is understood he would be the first Leader of the Opposition to refuse to be sworn in the presence of the monarch. Orders in Council are usually used only for Privy Council members who are based abroad, such as prime ministers of Commonwealth realms.

He’s been an MP for over 30 years and has managed to avoid ever meeting the Queen, and still won’t meet her as Opposition Leader. Does he not realise the PM usually meets the Queen every week?

Can you really imagine him as the UK Prime Minister? It would be like John Minto being made Leader of the Labour Party, and winning an election!


I support a comparison

October 8th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Concerns were raised about an evaluation of charter schools by the head of the Government-appointed board overseeing the model and former Act Party president Catherine Isaac, documents show.

Ms Isaac, a strong supporter of the controversial schooling model, wrote to Education Minister Hekia Parata to say that the authorisation board had concerns about an external evaluation of the model by consultancy MartinJenkins.

The recently released report is the first evaluation of the model as a whole, but it did not compare the achievement of students in charter schools with how they would have been expected to perform had they stayed in public schools.

That level of evaluation had been called for by both the PPTA – bitterly opposed to charter schools – and David Seymour, leader of the Act Party.

I think there should be a comparison. Arguably you may want to wait a year or two until the schools are more settled in, but I think a comparison would be very interesting. I suspect most charter schools would welcome it also.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said that intervention was bizarre and showed Ms Parata was scared of what a proper evaluation would reveal.

“Why would she not want them to carry out that evaluation if the Government was confident that charter schools are going to deliver better results that state schools, why would they be afraid of that sort of analysis?

Nice to see Chris supporting a comparison. I wonder though why he is so against comparisons for all other schools?

Mr Seymour, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said that, despite his initial request for MartinJenkins to re-scope its first evaluation, he was now happy with a decision for more quantitative comparison of partnership students with comparable students in state schools to be carried out in future reviews by the consultancy firm.

“I believe and I think the Minister believes that we want to do a quantitative comparison that answers the question – looking back several years as it is too early to say now – has the partnership school model led to gains for kids that they might not have made without the model?

Sounds like it will happen, just not yet.


The battle for the IP chapter

October 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This will be a long blog post, but an important one. It is about the TPP, the IP chapter, and how a group of NZ organisations actually managed to help beat back the US Government and the corporates they were fighting for.

First I want to talk about critics of the TPP, and how you can divide them into three categories. They are:

1 – Opponents of all trade deals

There are some people who are opposed to all trade deals. They have a honest belief that either trade deals are bad, or trade is bad. A couple of examples are Jane Kelsey and the Greens.

Jane Kelsey has opposed (as far as I can tell) every trade deal NZ has ever signed up to. It doesn’t matter what the details are, she has campaigned against it. She has a world view that is basically protectionism is economically good, and no amount of evidence will sway her views.

Kelsey has every right to her views (though I do grumble that she seems to spend a large proportion of her time as a taxpayer funded academic running campaigns), but the reality is that Kelsey will never influence the details of a trade detail, because people know that nothing they agree to will ever stop her being a critic. She can make a deal more unpopular with voters, but no one in Government ever asks the question “Will this satisfy the demands of Jane Kelsey”.

I’m not trying to personalise it on Professor Kelsey. There are many others like her, who are against petty much all trade deals.

The Greens have voted against against (I think) every trade agreement. Their opposition seems to be more because of their belief that trade harms the environment, and we should grow and produce everything we need locally. So again, no one ever asks what is needed to get the Greens do support a trade deal – it is basically impossible.

2 – Opponents because of who the Government is

This is basically the Labour Party, and some of their supporters. If Labour were in Government I have no doubt the TPP would look very similar to what was announced this week, and they would be signing up to it. They are not opposed to the TPP (well not most of their caucus), but because National is in Government they just see it as a weapon to attack with. Just like the flag referendum.

I don’t mind oppositions attacking Governments for things which they honestly disagree on – for example labour laws and the like. But it does get tiring when you know their opposition is only because they are not in Government themselves. It is worth remembering the TPP started under Labour. They also did a great trade deal with China, which has been hugely beneficial. If it was National that had done the trade deal with China, I suspect Labour would be condemning it.

So in the end these opponents do not get much traction either, because their opposition is more about who the Government is, than what is in the TPP. That doesn’t mean their criticism do not have validity, just that their motivations are more about bashing the Government.

3 – Opponents of some proposed details

The last category is what I want to focus on. It is individual and groups who have been critical of what might be in the TPP, because they think certain aspects would be bad for their area of interest if included.

These opponents are not against the TPP regardless of what is in it. They’re not for it either. They’re people saying “We don’t want X in there” but if X is not there, then we don’t have a view on it.

That might be a health group on keeping the Pharmac model, or ICT groups on the details of the e-commerce and intellectual property chapters. The latter is what I want to focus on, and tell a story about the battle here.

The US wish list on intellectual property

The first post I can find I did on the TPP was about how despite being a big supporter of free trade, I was concerned about the US wishlist in TPP. I quoted Rick Shera on how it could affect us:

  • Rights holders would be allowed to prevent parallel imports
  • Massive extension of terms, from life of author plus 50 years, to 70 years
  • Circumventing a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) will to be a criminal offence even if the work it protects is in the public domain or you want to exercise fair dealing rights like educational use or current affairs reporting
  • The return of guilt upon accusation three strikes Internet termination laws
  • Forcing us to reverse the decision recently taken to exclude software from being patentable
  • Introducing statutory damages (which give rights holders windfall damages up to 3 times their actual losses)
  •  ISP policing of IP rights including a requirement for ISPs to give up their customers’ identities when they receive a mere allegation from a rights holder
  • Criminal liability even where the infringement has no commercial value at all
  • Pushing Courts to impose imprisonment as the default sentence for infringement even where no monetary benefit is obtained

These provisions would have been truly horrible, if they had been agreed to. The good thing is that with the exception of the extension of the term (which is more a copyright than Internet issue) the US got beaten back on pretty much all of this. I’m not saying the IP chapter is great (there are still a couple of areas of concern which we need to see the detail on) but this truly horrible stuff is not in there – software is not patentable still, parallel importing remains legal, you can circumvent TPMs for legal purposes, ISPs don’t face extra liability, no changes to our three strikes law for filesharing infringing (which rights holders don’t like).

So why did the US not get its way on much in this chapter? Is it because it was an unimportant chapter? No, far from it. For several years it has been said that the IP chapter will be one of the most difficult. Many in the media thought the big battle was Pharmac, but in reality that was never at great risk. The PM and others had often said that the IP chapter was one of the big challenges.

This was a concern, as those of us against the US demands, were worried that the IP chapter would be traded at the lost moment with the US, in order to gain a better deal elsewhere. We wanted to stop that happening, and make the price of compromising on the IP chapter too high, so what did we do.

By we I mean groups such as InternetNZ, IITP, TUANZ and NZ Rise. I don’t speak for any of them, this is just my views as someone who was involved.

Set the tone right

It was important that we were not seen as just against TPP regardless. We were against an IP chapter that was bad for NZ. While we would work with other critics such as Jane Kelsey (and inform them of our concerns), it was vital not to be seen as anti-TPP regardless. You lose influence if you do that.

We also tried to have it about ICT and Internet industries being important for NZ’s future and don’t trade away their interests for those of commodity industries.

Be specific

Another key was not just to rant about secret negotiations (even though criticism of the process was made), selling out sovereignty, attacking Hollywood corporations. It was to be specific as to what measures were opposed, the impact on NZ of them, and putting up alternative provisions.

Meet NZ negotiators

Many meetings were arranged with negotiators with MFAT and MBIE. And they were extremely professional, and useful. The negotiators do not set policy (Ministers do), but they will tell you what their position is, listen to your concerns, and make sure they understand them.

They would also share information on the negotiations. They are not allowed to sit down with you and show you a copy of the proposed texts (unless every negotiating country agreed). But they could tell you in some detail what the issues are, and what the NZG position currently was. And thanks to texts being leaked on Wikileaks, we actually got verified that the NZ negotiators were advocating exactly what they told us they were, and resisting the US demands.

They also were useful in giving us some idea of which countries were with us on these issues, and which were not, and which were yet to take a position. Again, not in exact detail which would breach confidentiality, but some useful steers.

The key here is that while the exact negotiating texts were secret, stakeholders could gain information on proceedings by engaging with the process – and not just corporates, but civil society groups also. Engaging with the process works, rather than just shouting slogans.

Also at least one meeting was held (possibly more) with the Trade Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser. I did not attend, but understand he was very up to speed with the issues around the IP chapter. Meetings were also held with the ICT Minister, so she could be a voice for the industry if Cabinet discussed details.

It also became apparent to me that other Ministers, up to and including the PM, were aware of the issues around the Internet and the IP chapter. In fact as I said earlier, the PM said fairly early on that the IP chapter might be the toughest.

Meet TPP supporters

We met supporters of the TPP such as NZ International Business Forum (Stephen Jacobi). We explained that our potential opposition was issues based. If certain provisions were in the TPP, we would be opposing and criticising it. But if they were not there, then mostly we would have no view.

We know that most business groups would support the TPP, regardless of the IP chapter. What we wanted to get across, was that if they could use their influence to get an IP chapter that was more palatable to us, then there would be less domestic opposition.

The meetings were cordial, and useful.

I can’t recall exactly other meetings we had, but off memory there was some dialogue also with the US Embassy and Federated Farmers.

Attend the Negotiations

Staff were sent to some of the international negotiations rounds. Why, if you are not allowed in the negotiating room? Well, a lot happens in the side events and public forums. You can set up stands handing out information on your views, you can chat to NZ negotiators, you can get to meet the negotiators from other countries, and also develop links with other third party groups who share your concerns.

The staffer who attended some of these for the NZ group did an excellent job in building networks, organising events and getting our message across. It was an excellent investment in sending her.

Build a coalition locally

A local coalition was set up – called the Fair Deal coalition. It was set up to critique and oppose the US demands, but also to put pressure on the NZ Government to stick to its position. We wanted to make any backing down politically painful. A quote from the site is:

The US wants copyright standards that would force change to New Zealand’s copyright laws. We want you to know more about what’s at stake so that you can have a say now, before the deal is done.

The good news is that we know – from another leaked document – that the NZ copyright team went into TPP talks looking for fair copyright (and other intellectual property) standards. Now is the time to stand behind our team and  support a Fair Deal for New Zealand.

NZ members were InternetNZ, NZ Rise, Creative Freedom Foundation, Blind Foundation, TUANZ, Consumer, IITP, Trade Me, NZ Open Source Society, LIANZA, Tech Liberty and Scoop.

The tone wasn’t to attack the Government, but to pressure the Government to stand firm.

Build a coalition globally

At the beginning of the negotiations, NZ was quite exposed. The US was pushing hard for their wishlist, NZ was the most staunch against, and we had few allies. Many were not focused on it much, and Australia even seemed to be backing the US.

The NZ negotiators made it pretty clear that if we are alone there, then we need to compromise more. So we went about building a wider coalition.

Through attendance at the actual meetings, links were made to other groups in the countries negotiating the TPP. An alliance was formed with Public Citizen, Open Media, Australian Digital Alliance, Consumers International, EFF etc. Gradually more and more countries came to siding with the NZ position.

Note I am not suggesting this is solely or even mainly due to the work of the alliance, but I do believe it did have an impact.

Also crucially, we tried to soften the US position. Their position was reflecting the demands of Hollywood associated creative industries. In fact many of the staff in the IP area of the Trade team, had worked for lobby groups there. But then big US IT companies started lobbying, saying they did not support some of the US position. This helped weaken the US stance, as it was no longer unambiguous what Us businesses wanted.

Host the negotiations

Auckland hosted the 15th round of negotiations in December 2012. This was great as it gave us a great opportunity to interact. There were a number of initiatives as part of that, but the most significant was we hosted a lunch for all the IP negotiators from all the countries. I think they all had someone attend, and most importantly the US did.

Over the lunch a few of us spoke, on various aspects and outlined what our issues and concerns were. My role was to talk about the politics, and explain how NZ had just had several big fights on IP law – the blackout campaign, ACTA, patent law, a new copyright act – and I doubted any Government would want to be explaining why the hard fought compromise that had been achieved was now going to be upended. I also talked on Dotcom and how he is alleging Key and Obama did a deal with Hollywood to lock him up, in exhchange for the TPP – and while that may be nonsense, could they imagine a NZ PM standing up and saying “We’ve decided to change our copyright and IP laws to please Hollywood”. The point was that if you demand something a Government is simply politically unable to deliver, then you won’t get an agreement (like Canada on dairy – political cost too high).

And this is partly why the only major change appears to be length of copyright, rather than stuff more directly affecting the Internet. And don’t get me wrong – I am against the extension, but from my point of view it is less harmful than what else the US was demanding, and if we had to compromise on something – that is the lesser evil from an Internet point of view.

Constructive opposition does make a difference

The point of all this, is that constructive engagement, criticism and even at times opposition can make a difference. When you work with the Government and negotiators in good faith, you can have influence and get better outcomes (even if still sub-optimal) than without your involvement. You do a mixture of loud noisy activism (postcard campaigns, petitions, public meetings) and behind the scenes diplomacy – but always with a consistent principled message that we are not anti TPP (or pro TPP), just anti these provisions.

I’m actually very proud that the NZ ICT industry and civil society managed to run a very effective and principled campaign, that was overall remarkably successful – especially against the power of the US Government, and very wealthy and powerful firms in the US. One can be cynical about aspects of politics (such as the secrecy), but one can also celebrate that spending time and money on sticking up for your beliefs can work, and logical well reasoned arguments can beat vested interests.

Again do not take any of this to suggest the ICT industry now thinks the TPP is great. I don’t speak for them, and from what I have observed views are as diverse within it, as elsewhere. Some still think it is the worst thing ever and the end of democracy, and others think it is a great deal. I personally think it is an overall positive deal, and actually pleasantly surprised that we managed to get a deal, with most (not all) of the nasty IP provisions defanged.

But there is a lesson here for other groups, and individuals. Constructive opposition and criticism can achieve far far more, than just blanket negativity and attack.

The groups involved in the Far Deal coalition, both locally and globally, should be proud of what they managed to achieve, against formidable odds.  Also I give credit to the professional negotiators from MFAT and MBIE who I think did a very good job of holding the line.


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Cairns looks screwed

October 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former cricket star Chris Cairns was involved in match-fixing for some time before claiming under oath that he had never cheated, a London court has been told.

A Skype call between Andrew Fitch-Holland, legal adviser to Cairns, and former Black Cap Lou Vincent would give “concrete evidence of match fixing”, Southwark Crown Court was told on Thursday (New Zealand time).

The Skype call is the smoking gun.

I will be very surprised if Cairns is found not guilty.


Bipartisan support in US for saner sentences

October 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NYT editorial:

The sentencing reform bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday falls far short of what is needed, but it is a crucial first step on the long path toward unwinding the federal government’s decades-long reliance on prisons as the answer to every ill.

For starters, it is worth noting the bipartisan nature of this legislation. In a Senate that can’t agree on the time of day, top Republican and Democratic senators — most notably Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as a longtime supporter of harsh sentencing laws — negotiated for months to produce a concrete set of fixes.

Among the most significant are those that would reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for many drug crimes. These sentences are jaw-droppingly long — from five years for a first offense up to life without parole for a third. The new bill would cut the life sentence to a 25-year minimum, and would cut the 20-year sentence for a second offense to 15 years.

A minimum five year sentence for a first strike drug crime is just nuts. Yes you need sanctions, but this is a very expensive policy which has not reduced drug sales or use, and has people in prison for decades.

Half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug crimes. In NZ the comparative figure is 10%.

No tag for this post.

An animal sadist gets four and a half years

October 8th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A dairy worker has been handed what is believed to be New Zealand’s longest-ever prison sentence for animal cruelty, after cows were beaten, had their tails broken and were shot in the kneecaps on a farm he managed.

Michael James Whitelock was sentenced in the Greymouth District Court on Wednesday to four and a half years jail and banned from owning animals for 10 years.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including ill treatment of animals, unlawful possession of firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Good to see a decent sentence.

Whitelock was the dairy manager on a Landcorp farm near Westport from July 2012 until his suspension in September 2013. MPI began investigating that month after a Landcorp manager arranged for a vet to examine the herd.

Of the 1100 animals, 152 cows and 57 heifers had broken tails.

People who torture animals often go on to do bad things to humans.

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Listener profile of Tim Groser

October 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner did a profile of Tim Groser in February 2014 for The Listener. Is rather topical, and an interesting read.

Tim Groser would make an abominable electorate MP. He’s pedantic and a little pompous. He’s impatient and a little patronising. He’s a great talker, but not a great listener. There’s no way in hell you’d ask him for help in a fight with your neighbour over a cross-lease or a tax dispute with Inland Revenue.

But Groser is very good at being Trade Minister and that is one of the very good things about MMP. Having spent much of his life in foreign affairs and trade, he was perfect for the job. Thanks to MMP, National parachuted him in on the list, so he sits in Cabinet, a politician who doesn’t like to play politics, an MP who wouldn’t dream of taking on the wearisome burden of trying to win an electorate.

Tim is not alone there.

And now he is quitting politics, or at least planning his exit. “I definitely won’t stand in the 2017 election – I mean definitely.” Why not? “Because I want to learn the piano,” he says. He’s not joking. Groser comes from a family of actors and musicians. He inherited a grand piano on the death of his grandmother, a concert pianist. “I was a reasonably serious guitarist – not really good, but not bad,” he says reflecting on his time touring with forgotten pub bands. “I have one unfulfilled ambition in life: to become a competent jazz pianist and I cannot leave it too long.”

From minister to musician – I like it. I suspect Ambassador in between.

After three years as a negotiator on the CER agreement, he was appointed foreign affairs adviser to Rob Muldoon, in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. “The idea of being foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Muldoon was a joke – especially if you were 32. But I ended up writing his key speeches.”

He describes Muldoon as “the most terrifying man I have ever met”, and says later in his career, he’d travel the world telling people he wasn’t frightened of anyone. “People would say, that’s just bluffing. I’d say, ‘No, no, no, it’s not bluffing, mate. I have worked with a man who is much scarier.”

So say us all.

The Labour Government of the day wasn’t impressed that such a senior and respected official was jumping ship for Don Brash’s National Party. Helen Clark made no secret of her displeasure. “She still knew my past, she thought I was one of theirs,” Groser says. “I had started off on the left, inspired by the 1960s politics: Vietnam and the anti-apartheid movement and Hart and all that stuff. If you weren’t responsive to that as an 18-year-old in New Zealand – sorry, you were a very different person to me.”

He moved to the right – or towards the centre, as he prefers it. It wasn’t a gradual shift but a rapid one based on two things: “One was studying economics and the other, paradoxically, was visiting China in 1972 and the combination of the two, in about a year, made me rethink entirely my then strong commitment to far-left-wing solutions.”

A number of politicians on the right started off on the hard left. They saw the light!



Crime down 30%

October 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Ministry of Justice has just published the latest crime and safety survey, and it has found the incidence of crime dropped 30% from 2008 to 2013, or from 2.7 million incidents to 1.9 million.

This is not based on whether crime is reported to the Police. It is a scientifically robust survey of around 7,000 New Zealanders and hence is unaffected by whether the Police target particular crimes or not.

The report is here.

Some highlights:

  • Incidents down by 787,000 over the last five years (dropped 201,000 the previous three years)
  • Household incidents down 40% and personal incidents down 25%
  • Assaults down 232,000
  • Robberies down 32,000
  • Incidence rate per 100 households dropped from 52 to 29
  • Incidence rate per 100 persons dropped from 53 to 38
  • Number of adult victims of crime dropped from 1,260,000 to 865,000

So these are great trends. As I said, this survey is far more robust than Police stats which can be affected by stuff such as policing priority decisions. The incidence rate of crime has dropped quite massively since 2008, and that is a good thing.

Also of interest is some of the data on domestic violence and sexual offending

  • 6% of women and 4% of men were victims of violence from an intimate partner during the year
  • 2% of women and 0.5% of men were victims of sexual offending from an intimate partner during the year
  • 26% of women and 14% of men have had partner violence at least once in their lifetime
  • 22% of women have had distressing sexual touching, 11% attempted rape and 11% rape

That’s distressingly high levels of rape.

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General Debate 8 October 2015

October 8th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel