How’s this for a welfare policy?

July 7th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Lindsay Mitchell blogs:

It is interesting then, that our government – for the first time –  has been exploring multi-benefit household statistics. If a benefit cap was on the cards here the first thing needed would be data. And there it was in the last Benefit System Performance Report.

126,126 main benefit clients (or 40% of main benefit clients) live in a household with two or more people receiving main benefits. 30% of the 126,126 are partners on related benefits. While some correlation between employment prospects or health status of people in the same household is expected, the extent to which there are multi-beneficiary households seems high. 35,150 main benefit clients (or 11%) live in a household with three or more people receiving benefits.

And what have they done in the UK:

The government introduced a cap on the total amount of benefit that working-age households can get so that, broadly, households on out-of-work benefits will no longer get more in welfare payments than the average weekly wage for working households.

That sounds like a good policy – capping the total benefits you can pay in welfare to a family to that of the average weekly wage for the average working household.

I wonder how many families get more in welfare that this level currently?

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Dom Post on TPP

July 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

US President Barack Obama has thrown the last of his political capital behind the deal, to the consternation of his own party. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suggested he’s willing to kick against the agricultural interests that have long kept in place big farming subsidies in his country.

And trade ministers from all the other countries are delighted; “it’s show time”, our own Tim Groser said.

He should hold the razzle-dazzle and make it clear that New Zealand will only sign up to the deal if it’s plainly a good one. That means meaningful access to new markets where New Zealand exports are likely to succeed. It means serious wins like those that came with the free-trade deal with China, or, much further back, the one with Australia.

I agree. We don’t want a deal like the Australian-US FTA which had little actual trade access benefits.

I don’t mind if there are long or even very long transition times for the lifting of tariffs and quotas. What is important is the end goal – which must be far far fewer tariffs and quotas.

A leaked TPP chapter from May shows the US pushing as hard as ever for new rights for pharmaceutical companies. Pharmac, New Zealand’s economical drug-buying agency, is a special target. Doctors without Borders calls the TPP “the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicines”.

The Government says it won’t let Pharmac be gutted. It must hold to that – or drop the TPP. No plausible tariff cuts that would make up for it.

The US pushes for a lot. They, like everyone, has to compromise. I would be very surprised if TPP has a significant impact on Pharmac.

Equally worrying are the TPP’s “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanisms. These give big companies an opaque new forum to sue governments that pass laws they don’t like. They were invented to protect companies operating in countries with dodgy records on the rule of law, but they are spreading all over the world. They have no place in New Zealand – and deserve to be dropped from the TPP.

This is where I disagree. ISDS mechanisms are extremely common in trade agreements, and protect NZ companies also. More to the point half a dozen trade agreements signed by Labour had them in. This is not some new mechanism – they have been included on trade agreements for decades. The devil is in the detail. Our negotiators have been very skilled at getting wording that allows us to pass laws and regulations on public policy grounds, without triggering claims under such clauses.

Trade is a positive force that has helped raise living standards and lift millions out of poverty around the world. Many trade deals have been huge positives for New Zealand, even if painful for particular sectors.

Good to see recognition of this.

Yet the TPP seems to be as much about stomping on valid local regulations as it does about stripping away trade protections. New Zealand has to be clear about the difference.

My ideal trade agreement is one which says:

Country A can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B, and Country B can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B.

Sadly we’ll never get that. But hopefully TPP will have significant trade access. Without it, it won’t be worth it.

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Hosking on NZ First

July 7th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking writes:

It appears Mr Mark’s move is aimed at forestalling any bid to recruit former Labour MP Shane Jones in to the party and to be installed as Mr Peters’ successor.

This has long been rumoured and on the surface it makes sense. Mr Jones and Mr Peters are known to be close: both are Northlanders by origin, and now Mr Peters holds the Northland seat Mr Jones is in a good position to take it if and when Mr Peters stands down.

Mr Peters himself is 70 and visibly flags at times in Parliament. The blokey, big personality of Mr Jones fits the New Zealand First brand rather well, and having left Labour because he no longer fitted within that rather shrunken, politically correct organisation, will be looking for a new vehicle.

So the received wisdom goes.

The trouble is, this could only work if New Zealand First MPs were prepared to behave like dumb cattle.

They might be known as “hillbillies” around Parliament but New Zealand First MPs are not beasts of burden at the beck and call of Winston Peters. They are, after all, politicians. They have politicians’ egos.

The ‘received wisdom’ that the whole thing would be neatly done by shipping Mr Jones in over the heads of the caucus always looked like the kind of idea cooked up in some room in Wellington and which involved the human beings involved behaving, well, not like human beings.

It was never going to work – at least, not without a major and highly destructive fight.

All this assumes, of course, Mr Jones actually wants the job.

But does he? 

Leading a small political party is a huge job. Taking over someone else’s small political party, when most of the caucus members of that party do not want you there?

It doesn’t sounds like a job with a future. 

Rob is right, and wrong.

He is right that Shane Jones can not just be foisted on a caucus that doesn’t want him.

He is also right that Jones may not want the job – especially if pushed onto colleagues who don’t want him. He had enough of that in Labour!

But where Rob may be wrong is the assumption that the caucus would not want him. Sure half of them probably think they could be leader, but deep down they will be worried that without Winston they won’t make 5% or hold Northland, and then all of them are unemployed.

I also understand that Mark and Jones get on quite well.

So I wouldn’t write off yet the possibility of Jones.

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Krupp on Uber

July 7th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jason Krupp writes:

Rapid technological change is more often than not a painful thing, littered with the bodies of those firms and industries that failed to adapt – just ask Kodak, Betamax and former mobile phone giant Nokia.

That painful change is brewing again, this time in the form of next generation of transport technologies, such as the Uber. For those unfamiliar with the firm, it effectively lets anyone become a taxi driver using their own car through a proprietary mobile payment and passenger matching system.

It is a disruptive change that threatens taxi industries across the globe, and has been greeted by protests and anger from the incumbents. French taxi unions and drivers, for example, recently brought Paris and much of France to a standstill to demonstrate against Uber by blocking roads, tipping cars and burning tires.

To some degree, the rage is understandable when you consider that the protestors have made significant investments in taxi medallions, vehicles and businesses in the belief that the revenue model is stable and they could earn a profit. Readers might also feel inclined to topple cars in the streets of Paris if they had paid NZ$385,000 for a taxi licence only to have their lunch stolen by some uppity tech firm from California.

But equally understandable is the rage of customers, who have had to bear the brunt of ever rising taxi fares. New Zealand is not exception, and has the unenviable distinction of being the most expensive place in the world to catch a taxi, despite being deregulated in 1989. Indeed, Christchurch, Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland all rank in the top 10 for least affordable fares. These fares compare poorly with ridesharing according to an admittedly limited comparative test by Consumer NZ, which showed Uber rides in Wellington were significantly cheaper than taxis.


I’d say 25% or more cheaper.

The price differential is explained to some degree by over-regulation, such as the one introduced by then-Transport Minister Steven Joyce that taxis must have a camera installed to prevent crime. Another is the requirement that metered taxi operators have 24-hours dispatches. The effect of both these rule and others has been to limit competition by tipping the market in favour of large well-capitalised taxi operators, and against smaller incumbents to the detriment of passengers.

This safety issue is an important one, because the industry is likely to argue it vociferously as the New Zealand Taxi Federation has done with the use of smart phones as a metering device. (Under New Zealand law, Uber has to offer a fixed price for a trip). Industry groups are likely to push the case that if taxis need to install cameras by law, then Uber drivers must do so too.

Remember these cameras were not put in to protect passengers, but to protect drivers. Now if taxi companies thought they needed to protect their drivers better, they could have just done so by choosing to install them. But they lobbied the Government to make it compulsory, and now are using it to argue Uber drivers should be forced to have cameras also.

Yet this line of attack fails to consider the nature of the Uber service. Passengers have to pre-register to make use of the service, as do drivers since Uber is the financial intermediary between the two.

Yet this line of attack fails to consider the nature of the Uber service. Passengers have to pre-register to make use of the service, as do drivers since Uber is the financial intermediary between the two.

Exactly. Uber does not do casual pick ups. You can not hail an Uber down in town. You have to pre-register and order one through the app. So it is ridiculous to claim Uber drivers should be forced to install cameras.

The Cato Institute recently published a paper that looked into whether ridesharing apps like Uber and competitor Lyft are safe in the US. The paper found that while there were legitimate safety concerns for passengers, they applied to the industry as a whole, and the vetting procedures used by Uber and Lyft were superior to those of the taxi firms. Likewise, Uber and Lyft drivers enjoyed significant advantages over their taxi compatriots as far as crime was concerned because they operated on a cashless-basis.

In NZ, all drivers get rated on a one to five star scale. A driver who averages below 4.5 stars will get dropped. And if you give a rating of just three stars (or less), they will personally contact you to investigate. That makes me feel incredibly safe – 10 times more than a camera in a car.

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Oamaru Hospital

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

The Herald reports:

An estimated 2500 people showed up to protest proposed funding cuts to Oamaru hospital today.

Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher said he was very pleased at the community’s support.

Marchers ranged from families to the elderly, which Mr Kircher said sent a message about the community’s attitude to the local health service.He said they were very passionate about the primary level hospital, and even though it was a basic service, the community did not want any further cuts.

Mr Kircher said expecting residents to go to Dunedin for specialist care due to funding cuts was unacceptable.

The article is not clear about what is regarded as specialist care, but as a general point I’d note that it is unrealistic to expect a town of 14,000 to have much in the way of specialist care. They should have a hospital, but you are just never going to be able to have the same quality and breath of service as in a city such as Dunedin.

Oamaru has around the same population as Tokoroa and Feilding.

Now it seems the march is specifically about the SDHB proposing a 5% funding cut,  and it is legitimate to have concerns about that. But a sweeping statement that one shouldn’t have to go to Dunedin for specialist care is silly.

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A religious decision masquerading as damage concern

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

The Herald reports:

Epsom MP David Seymour says the authority which is planning to ban cars from the summit of Mt Eden has no evidence to support one of its central claims that vehicles are contributing to erosion at the tourist spot.

Mr Seymour also said the Maunga Authority which oversees Auckland’s volcanic cones did not appear to have consulted with the public before extending a ban on heavy vehicles to all cars, which was likely to be enforced by the end of the year.

The Maunga Authority has cited several reasons for the imminent ban, including pedestrian safety, congestion, damage to the mountain, and the preservation of a sacred site.

The first three reasons cited are red herrings for which there is no evidence, to hide the real reason – a religious belief that the spirit of the mountain will be offended by vehicles on it.

Mr Seymour, whose electorate includes Mt Eden, questioned some of the reasons for the ban. The Act Party leader asked the authority under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for any reports on measurements or estimates of damage caused by vehicles.

The authority’s lead officer, Justine Smith, responded by saying unrestricted access had “raised concerns” about damage to the mountain.

As evidence, she cited a Mt Eden management plan from 2007, which said erosion was “apparent in observations of slips, soil creep, and the filling and shortening of terraces”.

But it did not link this damage to vehicles, instead attributing it to “natural processes”, pedestrians, excavation for utilities, earthworks, and grazing stock. Stock are already banned from the summit.

Mr Seymour said: “Clearly, car-induced erosion is either not occurring or is not a factor in the authority’s move to ban cars – a fact that contradicts the erosion-focused narrative.”

They’re using it as a red herring to hide their real reason.


Quote of the week

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

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

– John E. Sununu

The is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

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General Debate 7 July 2015

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

Driver merit points

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

The Herald editorial:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeats on Thursday at 2pm.

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

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

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


Better Public Services

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

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

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

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

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

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


EQc reforms

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Profile of two NZ First MPs

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

The Herald profiles Clayton Mitchell and Fletcher Tabuteau.

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

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

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


Beware the spin

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

Stuff reports:

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

Really? From one video?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Doing more for organ donors

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brand loyalty

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Still fighting over a dead party

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hooper and the Ashburton deaths

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


General Debate 6 July 2015

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

Greece votes No

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why not ban normal watches also?

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Yes it can.

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

It can be having a drink of water.

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

It can be tuning the radio.

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

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

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



A dodgy teacher

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

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

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

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

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


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An English Parliament?

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

No Right Turn blogs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Venture Philanthropy

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

The Washington Post reports:

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

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

So what happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A great mixture of capitalism and philanthropy.

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

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

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

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



General Debate 5 July 2015

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