Greek delusions

January 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


Interesting research from Pew. It shows how deluded the Greeks are. They think they are the most hardworking country in Europe when people in most other countries think they are the laziest.

A first hand experience of Greece comes from Rachael, a Kiwi who travelled there:

I first encounter this laziness when I visit the Archeology Museum primarily to see the Greek vase collection which takes up the entire first floor.

I’m ridiculously excited (nerdy I know) but ever since I studied them at high school I’ve been a little obsessed.

But when I get there I discover the collection is closed.

When I ask I’m told – “just because.”

So I ask someone else and they helpfully inform me that they didn’t feel like putting on enough staff to cover it today, even though it’s the weekend. …

Back to Greeks being lazy… they have a equal CBF attitude when it comes to showcasing their most prized possession – the Acropolis. 

Most days it closes at 3pm but somedays earlier – it just depends on how they feel. …

It’s one thing to be lazy. But to be lazy and deluded is dangerous. Which is why they’ve just voted a Government in that thinks the rest of the world has a duty to pay their bills without conditions.


Migration to Australia falls again

January 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar


The latest monthly data sees the gap close further in terms of migration with Australia. Just 3,400 net people moved to Australia in 2014 – compared to almost 40,000 in 2012.


Life imprisonment sentences

January 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A bit over a year ago myself and Graeme Edgeler did an OIA to Corrections about life sentences. I’ve had the reply sitting in a folder for a year or so, and realised I hadn’t blogged the info, which is quite interesting. The data is as of late 2013.

  1. 780 offenders given a life sentence since 1985
  2. 276 of the 780 have been granted parole at least once
  3. The mean period until parole (for those who got it) is 11 years six months and the median is 11 years
  4. The mean period between eligibility and parole (for those who got it) is 2 years one month and the median is 1 year and 8 months
  5. Of those not yet given parole the mean period since eligibility is 5 years and 5 months and the median period is 4 years and 8 months
  6. Of the 276 granted parole, only 11 have been charged with breaching parole conditions. However more will have had breaches but not been charged
  7. Of the 276 granted parole, 151 had applications to the Parole Board to recall them to prison, and 118 were granted. This suggests that over half of those released on parole offend to a degree that Corrections tries to recall them
  8. 72 of the 276 granted parole have been reconvicted of a serious offence while in the community

The OIA is here – Graeme Edgeler – 21 October 2013 – Life Sentences

My overall impression is that the reoffending rate is high enough that parole is being granted too often for those on life sentences.


Lusk on choosing a party

January 30th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Lusk has published the second chapter of his book on campaigning. It is available on Amazon.

He says he is happy to help candidates for parties he disagrees with, with the exception of the Greens. He labels them as the most unsuccessful minor party in NZ – not in terms of votes, but achievements.

He points to the significant policy wins that NZ First, the Alliance, ACT and the Maori Party have managed, and contrasts that to the Greens who have almost nothing to show for 15 years in Parliament.

The future is not much brighter. They refuse to work with National, and if Labour can win in 2017, they will be dependent on NZ First who will again block the Greens from Government.

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Mike Sabin resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

Northland MP Mike Sabin has resigned as MP for Northland for personal reasons. There have been media reports that he has been under Police investigation over an assault complaint or complaints, so it seems a logical deduction that he is resigning to be able to focus on the allegations.

Always sad for an MP to resign over something like this. I think he has made the right decision to resign. It would be very difficult to remain an MP in such circumstances.

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The EU was made in the UK?

January 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Michael Leigh writes:

Britain is in the grip of a prolonged political crisis concerning its own constitutional order and its membership in the European Union, exacerbated by acrimonious and misleading arguments over immigration. As in other European countries, a demagogic anti-EU, anti-immigration movement has driven the established parties into a defensive posture. The current prime minister, David Cameron, felt compelled to promise an “in/out” referendum on Britain’s EU membership if his Conservative Party returns to power after the May 2015 general election. As a further gesture to the populists, he is now hinting at advancing the date of this referendum.

But such efforts at appeasement have proved futile, provoking ever-increasing demands. At the same time, British leaders have upset natural allies within the EU and missed an opportunity to become the leading European voice advocating forward-looking policies such as completing the single market, strengthening Europe’s global competitiveness, and building an energy union. The government has also failed to explain to voters that the EU today bears strong signs of British design and as such serves Britain’s interests well. …

Margaret Thatcher joined forces with Commission president Jacques Delors in the late 1980s, in order to eliminate restrictions on the free circulation of goods, services, capital, and workers — the original goal of the common market. The Commissioner in charge at the time, Arthur Cockfield, as well as the then-Secretary-General, David Williamson, were both British. For decades, the single EU market has favored British exports of goods and services, especially financial services. Since 2010, the most senior EU official in charge of the single market and services has been British. Jonathan Hill, the Commissioner appointed in 2014 to regulate the single market, is also British. The Danish and Swedish Commissioners for competition policy and trade, who took office last November, support a liberal agenda in line with British thinking. Today, they are engaged in challenging negotiations with the United States for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The EU is at its best when it liberalises trade and services, and allows Europe to be one economy. It is at its worse when it goes beyond the economic focus and is seen as interfering in domestic affairs of countries.

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NZ remains 1st equal for freedom

January 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The World Freedom Index 2015 is out and nz remains first equal with top scores of 1 for political rights and civil liberties.

Globally a number of countries significantly declined in their freedom rating 2014 was not a good year.

The 12 worst countries with a 7 for each are:

  • Central African Republic
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • North Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Tibet
  • Western Sahara
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Russel Norman resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News has just tweeted that the 11 am press conference of the Greens is the resignation of Russel Norman.

UPDATE: Andrea Vance has said he is leaving in May. Staying on as an MP for now, but resigning as co-leader.

He has been male co-leader for eight years and apart from any personal reasons, I guess he realises that his chances of ever becoming a Minister are dim. Even if the left wins in 2017, Winston is likely to block them from becoming Ministers.

Kevin Hague is the obvious choice to replace him as male co-leader. Well respected by MPs in all parties. If the resignation was in 2016 or later, then James Shaw would be a good contender, but might be too early for him as a new MP. Having said that, Norman become male co-leader before he was an MP.

Norman cites wanting to spend more time with his family as a factor. being a (co) leader is very time consuming and hard on family life.  He’s had eight years in the (co) top job, so the decision is quite understandable. By coincidence just last week I was talking to someone about whether Norman and Turei would contest the next election as co-leaders, and who might be their successors.

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US job growth is Texas job growth

January 30th, 2015 at 10:01 am by David Farrar


This graph from TPNN shows how all the employment growth in the US has occurred in the state of Texas.

No tag for this post.

Dollar at four year low

January 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The New Zealand dollar dropped, touching a four-year low, after the Reserve Bank abandoned its bias for raising interest rates and said a rate cut was a possibility.

The kiwi fell to 73.27 US cents at 5pm in Wellington and earlier fell as low as 73.18 cents, from 74.52 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index declined to 75.83 from 76.79.

Not that long ago some politicians were demanding that the Government intervene and presumably spend billions trying to move the currency level. This is a good reminder how variable the exchange rate can be, and that calls for the Government to intervene are silly and potentially very costly.


Think how much money you can lose by trying to manipulate the exchange rate to get it to the level some politician thinks it should be.


General Debate 30 January 2015

January 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Mana’s conspiracy theory

January 30th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


Mana News (appears to be published by Hone and Minto) have produced this little tinfoil graphic showing how the National Party controls the media in New Zealand. They call it the NZ media dictatorship.

The funniest line is when the lament:

It is unnatural for the press gallery to be uncritical of a seven year old government.

If they think the gallery isn’t critical of the Government, then they really are in a different dimension. Since the election the coverage has been way way more negative than positive of the Government.

The wingnuts also believe that the fact National ran advertisements on the Herald’s website before the election means the Herald is part of National’s media team.


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RIP Colleen McCullough

January 29th, 2015 at 9:52 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Colleen McCullough, the internationally famous Australian author, has died in hospital on Norfolk Island. She was 77.

McCullough worked as a neuroscientist in the United States before turning to writing full-time. The Thorn Birds, a romantic Australian saga published in 1977, became a worldwide bestseller and a popular mini-series in 1983.

I’ve read The Thorn Birds half a dozen times. McCullough writes with such detail and vividness that it is engrossing. The link to NZ perhaps helped a bit, but it is more her ability to tell such a captivating story where you get so caught up in what happens the characters – especially Ralph and Meggie.

The mini-series version was worthy of the book. Richard Chamberlain was perfect as Father Ralph. Such a good story of love vs ambition.

Her 25 novels included a deeply researched series set in Ancient Rome, which won her the admiration of readers including former NSW Premier Bob Carr and Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Her seven part Masters of Rome series is directly responsible for my interest in classics and Rome. She brought Rome’s life, culture, politics and wars to life in an incredible way. Since I read them, I have gone on to read probably three dozen biographies of Caesar, Sulla, Augustus etc plus several classical texts and scores of other historical fiction set in Rome.

Her historical fiction in Rome was so accurate she was granted an honorary PhD from Macquarie University for it. While she got me onto other Roman historical fiction such as Conn Iggulden, I found most other books set in that era inadequate as it did not have McCullough’s near perfect historical accuracy.  Robert Harris is very good also.

I can’t think of an author who has had as much impact on my life in terms of what I read.

McCullough was born in Wellington, but moved to Australia as a child NSW, and her mother was a Kiwi. Her passing is a great loss to literature.

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A great crowdfunder

January 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington brewer Yeastie Boys successfully tapped into $500,000 last night, less than 30 minutes after its equity crowdfunding campaign launched.

In December, the craft brewer said it expected to double turnover to about $1.5 million if it managed to raise the moneyon the PledgeMe platform.

Creative director Stu McKinlay said at the time the capital raised would be used to develop the company’s production in Britain and sales across Europe.

Last night, McKinlay rang the bell for the opening of the capital raising, and within half an hour the $500,000 mark had been reached.

“It’s great to be able to immediately refocus on making beer and getting it to the people who love it,” McKinlay said.

“It’s why we’re here and why our crowd supported us.”

The company sold a 12.5 per cent stake at a dollar a share, valuing it at about $4m.

I love how the Internet has made it so easy for companies and good causes to attract capital, and that individuals can now easily pledge support to initiatives they support and think will be successful.


NCEA achievement increasing

January 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Hekia Parata announced:

The provisional results, released by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), show the achievement rate for NCEA Level 2 increased from 85.7 percent in 2013 to 86.8 percent in 2014. Since 2010, Year 12 achievement rates have risen by 7 percentage points.

The same data shows that the 2014 Level 1 rate is up by a hefty 7.6 percentage points since 2010 and the Level 3 rate is up 4.4 percentage points over the same period

So Level 1 achievement rates are up 7.6%, Level 2 7% and Level 3 4.4%. Good to see them all heading in the right direction.

Level 2 is regarded as the minimum necessary for school leavers so having that almost hit 87% is welcome. The more we can do to reduce the under-achieving the tail, the better.

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Givealittle’s year

January 29th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m a big fan of Give A Little, often using it to make donations and support good causes. Their year in review video shows some of the great stuff done through the site such as the $12 million donated through them, including several fundraisers of over $200,000 to help fund medical treatments and the like.

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NZ 3rd for economic freedom

January 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom as NZ again in 3rd place, but with a slightly higher score. The top 10 are:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. NZ
  4. Australia
  5. Switzerland
  6. Canada
  7. Chile
  8. Estonia
  9. Ireland
  10. Mauritius

Read more about New Zealand Economy.
See more from the 2015 Index.

NZ does well in most areas. The bottom countries are:

  1. North Korea
  2. Cuba
  3. Venezuela
  4. Zimbabwe
  5. Eritrea

Our individual rankings are:

  • Rule of Law 1st
  • Government Size – spending 146th
  • Regulatory Efficiency – between 3rd and 7th
  • Trade Freedom – 42nd
  • Investment Freedom 23rd
  • Financial Freedom 3rd

So the biggest weakness is the large size of Government spending.

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Seymour on inequality stats

January 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Seymour makes a good point:

We can congratulate Mr Little on focusing on the need for wealth creation, but not for his use of entirely bogus statistics from Oxfam on global wealth distribution, suggesting that the richest 1% will soon exceed the bottom 99%. The Oxfam data shows that China has zero people in the lowest decile of world income, while the US has 7.5% of their population in that bracket. Why? A modern financial system. Because these statistics don’t count human capital, every student borrowing to get an education has negative net worth, which puts them below all those people in China and India with zero net worth. The same applies to every entrepreneur, and many small businesses which are borrowing and investing to build up a business. If Labour is going to embrace small business, they should start by understanding it.

A good example of how flawed the data can be.

The rhetoric included the usual bogus statistics on the incomes of the top 10% versus the bottom 10% in New Zealand. But we know that, as with wealth data, these aggregate statistics mainly show age distribution. Most of us over the life cycle go from negative net worth and very low incomes, to a peak in income in late middle age, a gradual decline until retirement, with net worth peaking around retirement age. That is largely what these statistics are measuring.

Yep. Those who argue incomes must be more equal are saying the 16 year old must be paid almost the same as the 45 year old with two decades of work experience.

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Arrested for no cycle helmet!

January 29th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Plymouth police have apologised to a couple after their 11-year-old daughter was left stranded on the Coastal Walkway when her father was arrested.

On Monday afternoon Ashley Hoeta was going for a bike ride with his daughter, when he was stopped by a police officer for not wearing a helmet.

Police are cracking down on cyclists who are not wearing helmets.

The officer told Hoeta he would give him a 14-day ticket, which meant if Hoeta could prove he had a helmet he would be let off.

The two exchanged words, Hoeta said.

“I was a bit peeved. There were two people who had just passed me with no helmets and he stopped me.”

He asked the officer if he had anything better to do, Hoeta said.

“I said: ‘If you were in India you could arrest 8 people on one bicycle’.”

Hoeta told the officer to write the ticket and he would check on his daughter, who was wearing a helmet, and had stopped a few metres away.

That’s when the problems started, Hoeta said.

A police car arrived, with two officers and they said they were taking him to the station.

Hoeta was worried about his daughter, but they weren’t interested, he said.

“I got taken away and she got left on walkway. I gave her my phone, said ring Mum.”

In the car the officers asked why Hoeta hadn’t just told their colleague his name and address.

“He hadn’t asked,” Hoeta said.

So he was hauled down to the police station because he didn’t have a cycle helmet. And was forced to abandon his 11 year old daughter.

Every week there seem to be more and more stories of the Police getting out of control.  The scrapping of the speeding tolerance, the targeting of Uber, the squashing of a local Police initiative to test if people are over the drink drive limit, and now dragging someone to the Police station because he had no cycle helmet. It seems like they have lost their sense of priorities.


Should there be a stand down?

January 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mike Sabin, the MP under police investigation for assault, is set to grill senior cops as part of an annual review.

Sabin is chairman of Parliament’s law and order select committee. His boss, Prime Minister John Key indicated this week he was “happy” for the Northland MP to remain in the job. He is refusing to confirm Sabin is under investigation or comment on the second-term MP’s future.

So little is know about the alleged investigation, that it is hard to be categorical about what should happen. Generally I think it is best to play it safe and do a stand down. When there were allegations against Darren Hughes, I think Labour erred by not standing him down immediately.

But it is unknown if these allegations are anywhere of the same seriousness, and whether the complainant is credible. I recall a parent at an Auckland school make an assault allegation against Alfred Ngaro, and it was very obvious from the outset he was doing it just as part of his campaign against the school generally.Standing Alfred down would have been inappropriate.

Whether the allegations against Sabin are serious and credible enough to warrant a stand down, is not yet publicly known. But as he is Chair of the Law & Order Select Committee, I would have thought it is best to err on the side of caution.


Dear Eleanor

January 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

First of all congratulations for winning the Man Booker prize last year. It’s a tremendous achievement, and as you point out on Live Mint, it was your individual achievement, not New Zealand’s achievement.

Like many others I have purchased a copy of The Luminaries. That  makes me a customer and a fan I guess.

You made the point:

So many people have talked in the media and me directly in ways of 2013 being the year that New Zealand won the Man Booker Prize. It betrays an attitude towards individual achievement which is very, uncomfortable. It has to belong to everybody or the country really doesn’t want to know about it.

I’m a big believer in individual achievement, and sympathise with you on that. Ironically your party of choice tends to be more a believer in achievements being a collective responsibility, not an individual one, but let’s put that to one side.

But I think you misunderstand the NZ habit of trying to own achievements by New Zealanders. I see it is as a mark of tribute and reverence, not lack of respect.  When I trekked the Himalayas, so many locals associated us with Sir Edmund Hillary, as if his achievements were NZ’s.  When the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, we celebrated as a country – and didn’t just see it is a victory for 15 players. And last year when yourself, Lorde and Lydia Ko all dominated the world in your respective fields, yes we appropriated your achievements as NZ achievements. But that is because we’re so damn proud of you. As a small country, we do get very proud when one of our citizens wins global fame. Call it small country syndrome.

You also said:

I feel that in the last year I’ve really struggled with my identity as a New Zealand writer. I feel uncomfortable being an ambassador for my country when my country is not doing as much as it could, especially for the intellectual world. It’s sort of a complicated position to be in.

You’ve got every right to express your views on such an issue, and it is ridiculous Sean Plunket has called you a traitor. However could I gently suggest your timing and location is a bit churlish.

We don’t tend to mind criticism at home, but we do get worked up, when people knock their country overseas. Again call it small country syndrome.  I don’t think you would have got much of a negative reaction if you had made your comments domestically.

At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, (I dominated by) these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.

You campaigned for the Green Party at the last election, so your comments are no surprise. Good on you for having political beliefs and advocating them. You did the right thing by appearing at the Green Party campaign launch and advocating a vote for them.

But again your choice of forum to talk politics is perhaps not the best. A campaign launch is an excellent choice to talk politics. A global literary festival seems rather inappropriate for you to rage against the so called neo-liberal agenda in New Zealand. Also I would make the point that the moment anyone starts ranting about neo-liberalism, I regard that as a sad victory of sloganeering over substance.

So my unsolicited advice to you is not to stop saying what you believe. Far from it. But to perhaps reflect on what speech is most appropriate for what occasion.  If an All Black in 2008 had got up at an international test match and devoted his after match comments to how much he hated the nanny state policies of the then Labour Government, well they would have been criticised greatly also. To quote Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Also I noted last year you said you would be happy to taxed at 40% to help young Kiwis. You may be unaware of this, but you can voluntarily pay more tax than you are obliged to. Just calculate the extra 7% on your income and send it to The Treasury, 1 The Terrace, Wellington and I am sure they will send you a receipt.

PS – I look forward to your next book.


General Debate 29 January 2015

January 29th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

The benefit cap in the UK

January 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Express reports:

MORE than 50,000 workless families have had their benefits cut because they were getting more from the state than the average worker brings home, official figures revealed yesterday.

And to prove that the Government’s radical reforms are working some 12,000 of them have been spurred into finding jobs. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it showed the “staggering” positive impact of the decision to cap benefits for most unemployed households. 

Some 51,200 non-pensioner families have had benefits reduced since April 2013 because they were getting more than £500 a week from the state for couples and lone parents or £350 for single adults, the Work and Pensions Department report revealed.

Nearly half of those affected by having their Housing Benefit cut to bring their total benefits below £26,000 were in London, thanks to high rents in the capital attracting state subsidy.

The NZ Government should look at a cap also, so that people in work are NOT getting less than those on welfare.

But a few saw their benefits reduced by as much as £600 a week – which meant they had been getting £57,000 a year from the state which a worker would need a salary of £74,000 to bring home after tax.

That’s a staggering amount.

The UK Government has said that if they get re-elected, they will reduce the cap from £26,000 to £23,000.


Google’s translation software goes homophobic

January 28th, 2015 at 8:44 pm by Lindsay Addie

Many internet users will have used Google’s translator from inside their web browser. It seems that Google have been forced to apologise after being inundated with complaints about how the software has been translating the word ‘gay’.

The reason the complaint was made is as follows.

LGBT equality group All Out said in a statement yesterday: “Imagine learning English and being taught to say hateful insults instead of neutral language for ‘gay’. Google Translate – used by over 500 million people every month – was suggesting slurs as synonyms for the word ‘gay’.”

As the graphic shows the software for whatever reason starting spitting some unwanted terms for gays.



Over 50,000 people signed the petition complaining to Google.

Google’s official response.

As soon as we were informed that some of our translations for certain terms were serving inappropriate results, we immediately began working to fix the issue. We apologise for any offence this has caused people.

Our systems produce translations automatically based on existing translations on the web, so we appreciate when users point out issues such as this.

All this is rather odd to say the least. I’m not sure whether or not the translator went ‘homophobic’ on its own or there was malicious intent from one of the programmers. I suppose people have the right to be offended but there is that old saying about “sticks and stones will break my bones etc……”

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Swney pleads guilty

January 28th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZb reports:

Former Auckland Heart of the City boss Alex Swney has today admitted to tax evasion charges.

The 57 year old was fighting the accusations he had $1.8 million worth of unpaid taxes …. but he’s now abandoned the chance of a judge-alone trial and will be sentenced in April.

NZME court reporter Rob Kidd says the turn of events was a surprise.

“The IRD condensed the 39 charges that he originally faced to four representative charges that he eventually pleaded guilty to.”

The Heart of the City’s board also has launched civil proceedings against Swney, after an independent investigation.

This type of offending must be punished with a custodial sentence. This was deliberate fraud over the best part of a decade.

The fact Swney headed up a business lobby group makes it worse.