What are the Gulf states doing to help the refugees?

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

The Washington Post reports:

The world has been transfixed in recent weeks by the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe, an influx of migrants unprecedented since World War II. Their plight was chillingly highlighted on Wednesday in the image of a drowned Syrian toddler, his lifeless body lying alone on a Turkish beach.

A fair amount of attention has fallen on the failure of many Western governments to adequately address the burden on Syria’s neighboring countries, which are struggling to host the brunt of the roughly 4 million Syrians forced out of the country by its civil war.

Including whether New Zealand can do more to help – and I think we can.

Less ire, though, has been directed at another set of stakeholders who almost certainly should be doing more: Saudi Arabia and the wealthy Arab states along the Persian Gulf.

As Amnesty International recently pointed out, the “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These are very wealthy countries.

That’s a shocking figure, given these countries’ relative proximity to Syria, as well as the incredible resources at their disposal. As Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, a Dubai-based political commentator, observes, these countries include some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets, its highest standards of living, as well as a lengthy history — especially in the case of the United Arab Emirates — of welcoming immigrants from other Arab nations and turning them into citizens.

So why won’t they help?

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The huge benefits of the asset sales

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

Brian Gaynor writes:

Another issue is the partial privatisation of Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy and Mighty River Power and whether taxpayers have had a positive outcome from this strategy.

One of the major arguments against the sharemarket listing of these electricity generators was that the Crown would lose 49 per cent of its dividend income if it sold 49 per cent of these companies.

The figures in the accompanying table tell a different story.

The Crown will receive total dividends of $440 million from the three electricity generators for the year to June, when they are all 51 per cent owned by the Government, compared with $485.8 million two years ago when they were all 100 per cent tax-payer-owned.

Thus the Crown has received $4308 million from the partial sale of these companies yet its dividend income has fallen by only $45.8 million. This is a remarkably positive outcome for taxpayers.

 

That’s an amazing success story. This is what Labour fought so hard to stop!

The reason for this is that companies usually lift their performance after an IPO, mainly because they are subjected to far more scrutiny. It is somewhat similar to a football team performing much better in front of 50,000 fans compared with at a training run with only a few coaches.

For example, Genesis Energy has gone from one shareholder to more than 55,000 shareholders, Meridian Energy from one to nearly 49,000 and Mighty River Power from one shareholder to in excess of 100,000.

Shareholders matter.

In addition, all 24 directors of these three companies are shareholders, as are a large number of senior management.

Allowing directors and employees a stake in a company is a great way to improve productivity and profitability.

It is patently clear that a sharemarket listing and 51 per cent Crown ownership has been a win-win situation for taxpayers and investors in Air New Zealand, as well as the three electricity generators.

Taxpayers have done really well from this.

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Trapped in Nauru

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

The Herald reports:

How do you explain to the children that Daddy can’t find his way home?

“Initially, I told them that he had some important work that Nauru needed him to do and we weren’t sure how long it was going to take,” said Katy Le Roy.

But the children said, “Oh, we need him more!”

Eventually, Le Roy’s husband, Roland Kun, told his children on the phone from Nauru that his passport had been cancelled and he had to try to get another one.

That shouldn’t take long? It is 81 days and counting since Kun was removed from a plane as he was about to depart Nauru for New Zealand.

The children, Rosa, Yoshi and Hana, are 20 months, 5 and 7 years. The older two understand that their father is trapped.

Le Roy: “They are very upset and they miss him a lot. They know he desperately wants to be back home but that he can’t travel until he gets a passport.”

Kun is a native of Nauru, an MP who appears to be being punished for criticising a government that marches to nothing other than its own tune.

Stopping someone from going overseas is what you expect from the former Soviet Union countries, not Pacific countries.

And in January 2014 its judiciary was dispatched in a coup because, it is claimed, Nauru’s leaders didn’t like its decisions.

When Kun and several other opposition MPs complained about what had happened to the judiciary, they were suspended without pay in May last year. Kun became trapped in June this year. There was no warning and no charge has been laid against him. He is in limbo, living with Nauruan relatives and free to drive around the 21sq km island but not to leave.

Absolutely appalling. No rule of law.

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General Debate 5 September 2015

September 5th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Dame Margaret Bazley

September 5th, 2015 at 7:14 am by David Farrar

A fascinating profile of Dame Margaret Bazley in The Press. Some extracts:

But she remained conscious of the accusation that her appointment had been tokenism, so when “a bloke’s job” came up, she applied for it and got it. That was Secretary of Transport, in which a workforce of 4500 was boiled down to just 50, she says. I had to be sure I heard that right. Fifty? You can understand why some called her the government’s hatchet woman. 

“You’re not there to do soft things. You’re there to do what’s right and proper. Often that doesn’t please people.” 

Popularity and correctness are not the same thing.

Nor is there is any room for doubt. You have to be convinced that it’s right and proper. But what happens if you feel it is not? 

“You have the opportunity to persuade ministers. I’ve always known that if I can’t support the government of the day, be loyal and serve that government, then I have the other option, which is to resign.” 

She has never approved of those who stay and pursue their own agenda.

Which is what the county clerk in the US is doing – refusing to do her job.

“I remember when Louise Nicholas started talking, I thought: this is going to end up with an inquiry. They will need a woman to do that and they will have difficulty finding someone. The thought crossed my mind that I would have been one of the few women that had ever managed blokes. Since I took over the male side of Sunnyside in my 20s, I learnt how to manage men. It’s quite different to managing women or integrated men and women.

“I’m very pleased I did the police inquiry. I think Louise Nicholas has changed the way the police operate. My report has kept the police challenged right up to the present day. They have made colossal change.”

Of course, there was resistance. Police hierarchy tried to block parts of Bazley’s inquiry and the three men at the centre of the rape allegations reportedly hired a private investigator to dig into her past.

I did not know that. Appalling.

Although, as noted earlier, retirement has been a relative concept. ECan still occupies Wednesday to Friday. Thursdays are for meetings of the commissioners. Fridays are for visits.

“I love going out to meet the farmers. They really are lovely people to work with. It’s one of the perks of the job.”

What a great idea – actually meeting people affected by your decisions, rather than just sitting in an office.

Bazley talks of broken relationships that have been repaired, and not just with farmers but with Ngai Tahu and the Canterbury mayors, who have signed up to a Canterbury Economic Development Strategy that directs them towards different work programmes. Timaru Mayor Damon Odey works on broadband, Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers works on work skills for school leavers, and so on. 

So working as a team.

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Public Polls August 2015

September 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

pollsaug15

Curia’s monthly newsletter is out. The summary is:

There were two political voting polls in August – a Roy Morgan and a NZ Herald DigiPoll

 The average of the public polls has National 22% ahead of Labour in August, up 8% from July. The current seat projection is centre-right 64 seats, centre-left 48 which would see National able to govern alone.

A new section shows the current New Zealand poll averages for party vote, country direction and preferred PM compared to three months ago, a year ago, three years ago and nine years ago. This allows easy comparisons between terms and Governments.

In the United States Donald Trump is polling at almost three times the level of the next highest polling contender in the Republican field. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s net favourability rating has dropped 7% in one month.

In the UK the refugee crisis in Europe appears to be impacting support for the UK staying within the EU. Net support for remaining has dropped from +20% to +7%. Jeremy Corbyn leads in the polls to become the next UK Leader.

In Australia Abbott’s approval ratings have plummeted this month and the Liberals and Labor are tied in polls for the Canning by-election despite the Liberals willing it by 24% in 2013.

In Canada the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy hurts Stephen Harper, as testimony about an alleged bribe from Harper’s former chief of staff is aired. The NDP continue to lead in the polls.

We also carry details of polls on the NZ Flag, future party leaders, private prisons, foreign house buyers, TPP plus the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues, please go to http://curia.us10.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e9168e04adbaaaf75e062779e&id=8507431512 to subscribe yourself.

The new section is also below:

 

9 years ago 3 years ago 1 year ago 3 months ago Last month This month
National 43% 44% 49% 50% 46% 51%
Labour 41% 32% 26% 29% 32% 29%
Greens 6% 14% 13% 11% 13% 10%
NZ First 4% 5% 5% 7% 8% 8%
Nat over Labour +2% +12% +23% +21% +14% +22%
Nat over Lab/Gre -4% -2% +10% +10% +2% +12%
Right Direction 50% 64% 63% 51% 54%
Wrong Direction 35% 25% 27% 33% 34%
Net Direction +15% +39% +36% +18% +20%
Preferred PM
National Leader 15% 45% 47% 44% 40% 40%
Labour Leader 37% 13% 12% 9% 8% 8%
NZ First Leader 4% 4% 5% 9% 7% 7%

Party Vote

National’s party vote is around the same as three months ago and a year ago. It is significantly higher than three years ago and 10% higher than Labour were at in Government nine years ago.

Labour’s party vote is up from a year ago and the same as three months ago. It is lower though than where they were at three years ago and 12% lower than where National were at in Opposition nine years ago.

The Green’s party vote is lower than it was a year ago and three years ago.

NZ First party vote is much the same as three months ago, but higher than a year ago and three years ago.

Country Direction

The net direction is greatly lower than three months ago and a year ago, but still positive. It is higher than the same time three years ago.

Preferred PM

Key’s Preferred PM rating is 3% higher than Helen Clark’s of nine years ago. It is lower though than where he was a year ago and three years ago.

Little’s Preferred PM rating of 8% is much the same as three months ago. It is however lower than David Cunliffe a year ago, and David Shearer 3 years ago. Comparing to National in Opposition nine years ago, it is around half the level Don Brash was at.

Peters’ Preferred PM rating is higher than a year ago, and three years ago.

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Would you rather be clamped or towed?

September 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Wheel clamping in New Zealand is set to become a thing of the past with a new code of conduct that aims to almost eliminate the practice.

An industry working group is preparing to release the new code, which places clamping at the end of options for private companies working in parking enforcement.

This is good.

The key element to the new code was a “hierarchy of enforcement options”, led by a “breach notice” – what most people would call a “ticket”, he said.

“The breach notice should be the main enforcement tool for most parking operators. It’s the most effective tool while also balancing the need to provide a fair enforcement penalty for motorists.” Fairness in cost was a critical factor and “no one can justify $200” – the maximum clamping penalty, he said.

“It’s vastly more expensive [than a breach notice] and it doesn’t free up a parking space.”

Under the next option, companies would call in a tow truck, which would free up parking spaces in congested areas.

“You would only use a wheel clamp for repeat offenders where they are not causing an obstruction. That is going to be a change in the way some companies operate because their approach is to use a wheel clamp only.”

 

The hierarchy makes sense – especially that just a breach notice or ticket should be the standard response.

If it is a choice between being clamped or towed, I’d rather be clamped. However if you are causing an obstruction, then towing is the appropriate response.

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The new flat earthers?

September 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A top doctor speaking at a national immunisation conference in Hamilton has likened parents who refuse to vaccinate their children to flat earth advocates.

The stark message from Dr Noni MacDonald, a Canadian leader in paediatric infectious diseases comes as medics discussed ‘vaccine hesitancy’, including the example of a Waikato family during the recent measles outbreak who thought they would be safe from the disease if they ate the right foods.

Yes if you eat two Big Macs a day you won’t get cervical cancer if you’re a boy.

MacDonald, who has done work for the World Health Organisation, said the only way to protect against infectious diseases was by getting immunised and those who contended otherwise  “are the people that think the world is flat, not round”.

“Measles is probably our most infectious virus and people just don’t get it,” she said.

“You’re nuts if you don’t immunise, it’s like denying children the right to grow up and grow old.”

Basically, yes.

Before we got modern medicine, around three out of ten children would die before they were five years old. Thanks to modern medicine, it is now less than 1 in 100.

In NZ the change has been, for Maori, post WWII. It was a mortality rate of 12% in 1949 and today is 0.8%.

Not all of that is due to vaccinations, but some of it is.

 

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SST vs Petricevic

September 4th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is seeking a judicial review of the decision to release former Bridgecorp boss Rod Petricevic on parole.

The fraudster will walk free from prison on Monday, having served half of his six year and 10 month sentence.

Sensible Sentencing Trust said the group had filed proceedings in the High Court at Wellington to try and overturn the decision.

Trust founder Garth McVicar said white collar criminals like Petricevic were in some respects worse than the likes of  criminals who held up dairies.

“Many of those offenders have truly had terrible backgrounds, which might just provide an explanation for their offending, if not an excuse,” he said.

Those like Petricevic came from privileged backgrounds, and had the benefit of good educations, McVicar said.

“To then go and rip off the life savings of trusting elderly people, as Petricevic has done, is utterly disgraceful conduct,” he said.

McVicar said elderly people who were victims of white collar criminals often died unexpectedly early, traumatised and broken.

“White collar criminals take note: You are in our sights, right beside the aggravated robbers and the bashers,” he said.

Good on the SST. Having Petricevic out after barely three years will rankle many.

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Should tries be five or six points?

September 4th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The trial of six point tries in Welsh rugby has the backing of rugby greats Buck Shelford and Stu Wilson, but both former All Black captains say even bigger overhauls are needed to improve the game.

The Welsh Rugby Union has given the go ahead for trialling the new point system, which also includes reducing penalties and drop goals from three points to two.

Their aim is to make the game more open and attacking.

I can remember when tries were worth only four points!

I think an increase to six is a good idea. People watch rugby to see tries scored, not to see penalties kicked. You need penalties to be worth enough to discourage illegal play, but a ratio of 3:5 is too high. They are proposing 2:6.

You can of course award a penalty try for certain illegal behaviour, and they are also proposing a penalty try be worth eight points – an automatic conversion.

Shelford agreed World Rugby should give the trial the green light, but said more changes were needed to achieve the Wales Rugby Union’s goal of creating a more open and attacking game.

“We’ve got to have more incentive on the tries … and so the kicking in the game goes to drop kicks, so there’s no place kicking,” he said.

“I reckon we should actually have a five point try, a four point try and a three point try.”
Shelford said zones past the try line should be made where the further the ball was carried, the more the try would be worth.

That could be interesting.

He also said he would take Welsh proposal to lower the points for penalties and drop goals further, reducing them to one point each.

“We should have one point conversion and one point penalty and everything else is free kicks.

“There’s far too much kicking [and] too many penalties at goal. The only penalty should be for foul play,” he said.

“I’d rather use the bin a lot more or send somebody off.”

Got a point, but I think one point is not enough.

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Aid for Nauru suspended

September 4th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The New Zealand government has put aid money for Nauru’s justice sector on hold for what Foreign Minister Murray McCully said was Nauru’s failure to address concerns over the rule of law.

Mr McCully said the $1.2 million annual funding for Nauru’s justice department was due to roll over at the end of August but that had been put on hold.

The funding was put under review in July after international concerns about civil rights abuses in Nauru following a change of Government in 2013 including the expulsion of key members of the judiciary, suspension of Opposition MPs and arrests of those who took part in a protest.

This is good. The Nauru Government is acting in an appalling way, and we should not be helping fund their justice sector, when the Government is abusing it.

Mr McCully said he was assured by Nauru’s Justice Minister David Adeang last year that the government would work to restore confidence in the justice system but that had not happened.

“To put the funding on hold for any justice sector support is something we do very reluctantly but we are in a position where we think that support is going to be viewed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution if we allow things to go forward without any shift in approach.”

If they make changes, then the funding may resume.

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Six months for Winston to open an office

September 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Northern Advocate reports:

The 2017 election campaign appears to be off to an early start in Kerikeri with the National Party opening an out-of-Parliament office today – one day before Northland MP Winston Peters opens his first electorate office since winning the March byelection.

So Northland residents have not had an office for their local MP for six months. That’s show how committed Winston is to the seat.

Winston receives $350,000 a year of taxpayer money to be the MP for Northland. That is meant to be used for electorate offices, staff etc. But in six months he’s had no office or staff in Northland electorate.

Why? I doubt there is a lack of office space to be found.

Mr Peters had originally planned to open four offices around the electorate. A Dargaville office is planned and possibly also one in Wellsford.

So he promised four offices, and after six months has delivered one.

Mr Peters’ office hours have yet to be decided.

Will it be open at all, or just be an expensive billboard to promote Winston?

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Not all of these are the same

September 4th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The ministry’s reputation has been in tatters in recent years after a series of botch ups including problems with Novopay, the implementation of national standards, closure of Christchurch schools and the introduction of charter schools.

That is not a list of botch ups.

Two of them are botch ups – the closure of Christchurch schools and Novopay. They were deservedly black marks on the Ministry of Education.

But the implementation of national standards and introduction of charter schools are not botch ups. They are policy decisions that the unions and Labour don’t like, but there has been no botch ups in their introduction.

Just listing everything that is controversial and labelling it as a botch up, is shabby framing.

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General Debate 4 September 2015

September 4th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The Williamson furore

September 4th, 2015 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

National MP Maurice Williamson has unreservedly apologised for causing offence during a speech in which he showed pictures of nearly-naked women and made references to sex acts.

The high-profile backbencher and former minister was “so offensive” in his recent presentation at SkyCity, attendees walked out of the awards dinner where he was the MC last Tuesday. 

The theme of the Esri Users dinner was superheroes and supervillains, and Williamson attended dressed as “The Greatest American Hero”.

He displayed pictures of scantily-clad women, and ended his presentation with an audio clip that offended many.

The fake advertisement features references to sex acts which some in the audience said was degrading to women and gay men.

On Wednesday afternoon Williamson issued a statement saying he was asked “to be as entertaining and as funny as I possibly could” when he was MC for the event.

Williamson said it was never his intention to upset any delegates, but he accepted he overstepped the line on the night and caused offence. 

“For that I unreservedly apologise,” he said. 

Almost all humour is offensive to someone. However it is important to calibrate the humour to the event. I’ve said some incredibly offensive things at a comedy debate in a pub, which I wouldn’t use when chairing a light hearted debate between MPs at the National Party conference.

The speech was not “the threshold for leaving Parliament”, and Williamson would not be the first MP who had “said a few things he would probably regret,” Key said.

Are people really saying that you should resign as an MP, because of some jokes you made while MCing an event?

But Labour’s spokeswoman for women Sue Moroney said that was not good enough, and called for Key to stop dismissing Williamson’s “completely unacceptable” behaviour and publicly reprimand him.

“This is not the first time Maurice Williamson has used highly offensive humour and he should have learnt by now. 

“Instead of dismissing his MP as ‘flamboyant’ John Key should condemn his toxic comments and demand a full public apology,” Moroney said. 

Williamson has apologised. But maybe there should be a public flogging also?

E-Spatial business relationship manager Melissa West was at the event, and said it was “what I would expect from a stag do”.

Williamson would say something like “my staff went out to look for costumes for me”, then put up a picture that West said “to me, looked like a porn star wearing a Spiderman costume or a Superman costume – or lack of, as the case may be.”

“It was at the point where there were people at our table who were very, very uncomfortable – this is both sexes.”

Others were so offended they got up from their table and walked out, West said.

But not all attendees were offended by Williamson – Lauren Sperry said she enjoyed the speech, and was “quite shocked about the fuss everybody is making about it”.

Sperry thought Williamson was both funny and entertaining, but acknowledged his comments were sexist.

“The comments that he made were definitely sexist but, hey, we’re big girls now – I didn’t think there was anything extremely offensive, it was just a bit of fun and a bit of ribbing, really.”

Those that were offended should “get a job in a knitting circle” and stop spoiling her fun.

“I think that we’ve got to grow up and stop being so politically correct about everything – it was just a laugh and, yeah, get over it, basically.”

As I said earlier, almost all humour is offensive to someone. However if the event is a dinner as part of a conference, then it is a different forum to saying a roast at a comedy festival. In the latter people have made a deliberate choice to go to an event that may have edgy or offensive humour. But a conference dinner is something people attend as part of being at the conference. They may want entertainment as part of it, but you should be far more careful with your jokes, and Maurice obviously showed bad judgement on this.

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The Greens climate plan

September 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party have released their policy on how they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40% below 1990 levels.

This Green Party discussion paper shows that we can reduce New Zealand’s net annual greenhouse gas emissions to no more than 40 Mt of CO2-equivalent by 2030, even if there was a five year transition period for the farming industry. This is an emissions reduction of at least 40 percent below the 1990 gross emissions level and would put us broadly on a straight-line path to being climate neutral (zero net emissions) by 2050.

Now in 2013, our greenhouse gas emissions were 81 Mt, so this is a 50% reduction in just 15 years. I’m not sure there is a country on Earth that has managed that. But let’s look at the details of how they say it can be done.

greencc

Firstly they seem to be comparing apples and oranges, which is very misleading. They are talking a net 40 Mt in 2030 compared to a gross 67 in 1990. The net in 1990 was 38,000 according to our official inventory.

So how do they say they will reduce 28 Mt. The break down is:

  • Agriculture 2.2
  • Industrial Processes 2.1
  • Other fossil fuel burning 3.7
  • Waste 3.6
  • Transport 7.7
  • Electricity 4.8
  • Forestry 4.0

Let’s look at each in turn:

  • Agriculture – 2.2 reduction out of 31.7 – 7% decrease
  • Industrial Processes – 2.1 reduction out of 5.1 – 41% decrease
  • Waste – 3.6 out of 5.1 – 71% decrease
  • Electricity – 4.8 out of 5.0 – 96% decrease
  • Transport – 7.7 out of 12.7 – 61% decrease
  • Forestry – 4.0 more on top of 26.7 – 15% increase

I don’t think we can or ever should be 100% renewable as that threatens security of supply. We’re 80% renewable and could see us getting to 95% or so.

The transport scenario is pie in the sky. It is based on 100% of new cars sold by 2030 being electric cars. I’m a fan of electric cars but no sensible Government would ever make a commitment that they will basically ban new non-electric cars within 15 years.

Also not very realistic is saying we’ll save 2.8 Mt a year from biofuels. for the transport sector. The last time biofuels were subsidised to promote them, it led to mass starvation as arable land was converted to biofuels.

The agricultural policy is based on 2,400 farms reducing their dairy herd by 75 cows each or a 15% reduction.

The forestry increase would require 50,000 to 100,000 hectares of land to have pine forest planted on them – every year. This would mean a reduction in farming of that many hectares every year. Wouldn’t want to be a farmer as the Government takes your land off you to plant pine trees on!

Credit to the Greens for having a reasonably detailed plan, and they have shown how we could have a more ambitious target than the current one. However while some aspects of their plan are practical, other aspects are ludicrous – such as the assumption there will be no new petrol cars within 15 years.

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Will Bill Gates help fund a charter school?

September 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Land is close to being secured for a proposed charter school project between Ngai Tahu and a wealthy American businessman.

Marc Holtzman planned to lean on acquaintances, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to raise $10 million to $15 million for a new charter school.

The development comes as the Maori Party took a swipe at Labour over its unsuccessful attempt to stop two of its Maori MPs attending a charter school fundraiser.

Kelvin Davis, also Labour’s associate education (Maori education) spokesman, and Peeni Henare both represent Maori electorates.

Labour leader Andrew Little dismissed that criticism and, after calling the MPs to his office, said the party would carry out a wide-ranging programme on raising Maori educational success.

He said that would not include charter schools – which Labour strongly opposes – but how to raise achievement for all Maori students, most of whom “were not getting the benefit of five times funding per student that the charter schools get”.

 

The normal lie. Charter schools get the same, or slightly less funding, as public schools of the same size, decile and age.

If I was the Maori Party, I’d use charter schools as a wedge issue to win Maori seats back off Labour at the next election. Labour Maori seat MPs obviously do support charter schools, but if their party insists on a platform of closing them down, the Maori Party can highlight how they put their party ahead of their people.

Mr Little added: “Ultimately, the issue is Maori educational underachievement, and that’s not changing under this Government. And the Maori Party is not doing anything about it.”

Wrong. Most charter schools are getting some huge improvements with Maori students, and overall Maori achievement rates have been increasing.

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Masonry targeted

September 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith has announced:

A new category of priority buildings, covering parts of unreinforced masonry like parapets and facades, is to be included in the Building Act requirements for upgrading earthquake-prone buildings following strong submissions to select committee including from Canterbury earthquake survivor and Lincoln University lecturer Ann Brower, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today. 

“We need to heed every possible lesson from the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch in rewriting the building laws to minimise future fatalities. Falling parts of unreinforced masonry like parapets and facades killed 35 people that tragic day, including every passenger on the Red Bus except Ann Brower.

God, how awful.

The significant change is adding a new category of priority buildings to cover those parts of an unreinforced masonry building like a parapet or veranda which could fall into a public road, footpath or other thoroughfare that has been identified by a council as having sufficient vehicle or pedestrian traffic to warrant prioritisation. It is estimated that some 2000 buildings nationwide will fall into this new category.

The effect of being a priority building is that the times for assessment and upgrade requirements are halved. In a high risk area, this means the assessments will need to be completed in two and a half years, instead of five, and upgraded within seven and a half years rather than 15. In a medium risk area, the assessments would need to occur in five years instead of 10, and the repairs within 12 and a half years, rather than 25. 

This seems a sensible priority.

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Hoaxes can do harm

September 3rd, 2015 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The video marketer behind the hoax of the “pregnant” French tourist looking for her baby’s father says he doesn’t regret pretending she was distressed and suicidal.

A video of “Natalie Amyot”, whose real name is Alizee Michel, gained publicity around the world as she pleaded for help to find the Sunshine Coast man described as 180cm tall with blue eyes, blond hair and a tan.

Local social media marketer Andy Sellar was revealed as the mastermind behind the hoax on Wednesday, but not before the video had 870,000 YouTube views.

On Tuesday night, a Facebook page for Natalie Amyot included posts where she claimed to be crying and distressed. In one post she said she was suicidal.

It led to a torrent of responses from Facebook users, with a mixture of concern and abuse being dished out before the page was taken down.

Sellars confirmed it was him, and not Michel, who was controlling the account.

There are very clever hoaxes, and there are ones which are not. This is the latter.

Putting aside the wisdom of the hoax in the first place, this one was pretty appalling because Sellars lied constantly. As people queried the story on Facebook, he lashed out at them for not being sympathetic.

Most human beings are good natured and do respond well to people in distress. But when idiots like Sellars play on that empathy, for a hoax, then it does do harm. When someone really is in trouble, others will be more sceptical in future.

A fake suicidal pregnant girl is not a suitable hoax. He should be ashamed of himself, and his client should sack him.

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ACT on paid parental leave

September 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

ACT’s newsletter comments:

Paid Parental Leave
David Seymour debated Sue Moroney on Q + A this weekend.  Moroney favours extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks, then 52 weeks, then…. who knows?  It is classic Labour playbook, more tax and dependency.  Seymour is negotiating with the National Party for premature babies, multiple births, and babies with special needs.

Social Insurance
Prem, multiple, and special needs babies are perfect candidates for the taxpayer to give something extra to.  Why?  There’s no moral hazard, unlike many state benefits (think claims to ACC for a ‘bad back’)  there is no way to deliberately take advantage of the scheme.  It is easy to tell if the event has happened (count the weeks, count the babies, diagnose the condition).  The event is unexpected so difficult to plan for.

Vote Buying
The opposite of social insurance is showering an ever increasing amount of money on a particular cause or group.  Labour introduced PPL in 2002 (an election year) then extended it in 2004 when National’s polling recovered.  Jacinda Ardern claims it was fiscally responsible to do so because the Government of the day was in surplus, but Sue Moroney introduced her bill for 26 weeks PPL when the government was $9 billion in deficit.  There is no fiscal responsibility or principle behind Labour’s demands, but they know that it’s a feel good measure that will win votes.

Greatly Exaggerated Importance
60,000 children are born in New Zealand every year but only 26,000 parents take paid parental leave so it is not even close to universal. Even if it was, having kids is now a 20 year proposition and an extra four weeks of $500 payments does not address the main challenges faced by would-be parents. 

I thought that last piece was worth highlighting. I think it is an extra eight weeks being proposed, but the argument is the same.

The impact on a family of 26 weeks PPL instead of 18 weeks is quite minor. It is expensive to the taxpayer but minor in terms of the long-term cost of affording children. Politicians like to do stuff such as extend PPL because it is taking money away from some people to give to others, so they look caring.

But other stuff has a far far bigger impact on families, and their ability to afford children – the level of interest rates, the cost of living, the level of jobs available, what wages are etc.

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More on rural broadband

September 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday an e-mail from a friend frustrated with her experience trying to get decent broadband in Tamahere.

On the issue of speeds available, a staffer at Spark has said:

If you look at her article, she states on a number of occasions she “should be getting at least 5Mbps”, including referring to the Chorus website.

however, our understanding is that her property is unfortunately in a ‘dead spot’ on the Chorus broadband network – it is right at the end of a road, which makes it a long distance from the exchange, and according to the Chorus maps there is no guarantee of ANY broadband coverage, let alone at 5+ Mbps.  She also refers to broadband infrastructure improvements with the RBI scheme … but again she is unfortunately just OUTSIDE the scope of these improvements.   

 

We are doing some more internal checking on this customer’s situation, but from the information we have to date it appears that she is one of those unfortunate customers who is outside the current UFB and RBI schemes, and is located at the very outer limits of the old copper broadband network.  As you know, none of these (UFB, RBI, and Chorus footprint) are within Spark’s control and we (as with any other service provider) can only provide services based on the infrastructure available.   There are a lot of consumers out there in this situation, which is one of the reasons why the Government is pushing ahead with UFB 2.0 and RBI 2.0.

Interestingly Chorus has said they think she should be within the RBI scheme, but that the build there may not be completed by Vodafone until mid 2016.  This has I think been one of the frustrations – the difficulty in finding out what the situation is.

Also Jason Paris, Spark Home, Mobile and Business CEO commented on the original thread:

Thanks for sharing this David. It is a well written story, but I definitely didn’t find it amusing as it is not the experience we want any of our customers to have. I have asked my team to look further into what happened and I will make sure we sort things out for this customer – I would like to apologise for what has obviously been a very frustrating week.

While I don’t know all the details of what happened in this case, I acknowledge the hold times in our call centre queues at the moment are not acceptable, and there are cases where we are not calling customers back in the timeframes they (rightfully) expect. The reason for this is a huge increase in the number and complexity of calls to our customer service teams over the past month – driven by huge demand for and subsequent complexity in delivery of Fibre. The Fibre install process is an industry problem that needs to be addressed with urgency as it not only overloads our fibre team but customers flow across all channels looking for answers – overloading these too. To give you an idea, in a normal month our agents work a total of 11,000 hours per week. In the month of August they did 15,000 hours per week.

These aren’t excuses – just some rationale as to why customer service is my number one priority. We have employed another 90 agents recently, and are recruiting for 100 more. We are putting the microscope on our processes, so when a customer calls us we can solve the problem in that first call wherever possible – so they don’t have to worry about a call-back. We’re also making sure it’s easy for customers to do things online to save them having to call us. It will take us time to sort everything – but the customer service team are doing an incredible job under huge load and we are acting as fast as we can to help give them even more support.

When it comes to broadband speeds, if you are on the copper network one of the most important things influencing your speed is how far your house is from the exchange – it is possible this is the problem for your friend. As Spark does not own the fixed line network, this is unfortunately not something we control, but we can look into and explain the problem to our customers – and this is where we definitely should have done better in the story above.

I understand from Chorus the house is around 5 kms from the nearest exchange, which does mean ADSL speeds will be crap. This is one of the real limitations of copper broadband – the speeds drop massively as you get distance from an exchange or cabinet. That is why the Government has subsidised fibre rollout to 80% of NZ. For those outside the 80%, the rural broadband initiative should help get semi decent speeds, but it is not fully rolled out yet.

A smaller broadband provider has also been in touch, so we’ll see if the situation improves.

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The flag conspiracy theories

September 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Henry Cooke at Stuff reports:

THEORY ONE: THE FLAG HAS ALREADY BEEN DECIDED, JUST LOOK AT THIS TV SCREEN

This theory is probably the most fun. A Facebook photo – incontrovertibly from September of 2013 – shows Kyle Lockwood’s red and blue silver fern design on a TV at a Vietnamese hotel, set up for a photo with two New Zealand guests. There’s a clearer version here.

Even if it was Photoshopped, which it doesn’t at all look like it was, how on Earth did they upload it back in time? Seems like the decision was already been made back then, huh.

Does this prove that the whole democratic process is an illusion? Not quite.

A campaign for the silver fern flag has existed for many years, as has this specific design. Kyle Lockwood’s Facebook page for a redesign goes back to 2009.

It seems likely that the picture is not in fact Photoshopped or faked, but that instead, the hotel staff searched “New Zealand flag” in Google Images and found one they liked.

Heh, just like the time that an athelete from Kazakhstan won a medal at a sporting competition, and the national anthem they played was not the official one, but one they found on the Internet. It was from the movie Borat, and highly offensive!

THEORY TWO: REMOVING THE UNION JACK GIVES JOHN KEY UNPARALLELED POWER

This theory is a touch more hardcore than the photo one, as it requires a fair bit of reading to really understand.

It posits that removing the Union Jack from the flag removes the “due authority” of the Crown in government matters, as the Union Jack represents the monarchy.

Of course, theorist Ben Vidgen knows that most of us aren’t exactly royalists, and that royal assent is more a rubber stamp than a check on the executive, so he links the change to the power of the courts in ruling against the Government. Smart.

“A change of flag means not only that we have taken a major step to removing the DUE AUTHORITY of the crown. It also means we take away the very power which enforces both the 1990 Bill of Rights Act (the closest thing NZ has to an entrenched Constitution) and the founding plank upon which the Treaty of Waitangi has meaning.”

This one falls into the lunatic conspiracy theory space.

THEORY THREE: THIS IS ALL A SMOKESCREEN FOR THE TPPA

You’ll see this one in pretty much any comment section open on a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) story.

While all this flag talk is going on, a trade deal which could drastically change New Zealand is being negotiated.

The details are secret yet we’re all sitting around discussing a symbol, laughing at laser kiwis and complaining about the $27m price tag. Seems a little convenient, hmm?

There is no doubt that the Government is happy to talk about almost anything that isn’t the TPPA.

No politician likes talking about secret international negotiations all that much.

But do you really think our politicians are competent enough to pull a proper smokescreen off? Did they intentionally stall TPPA talks, which were supposed to wrap up in 2012, then again in July this year, just to line up the timelines perfectly?

The TPP negotiations have been underway since Phil Goff started them in 2008. One could claim anything in the last seven years is a distraction from the TPP.

Also Bryce Edwards has had his own fun little conspiracy theory:

Bryce was just having fun, but it has led some to saying it must be some sort of conspiracy that I knew what the panel would decide.

I’ve been supporting a new flag since before John Key was even an MP. And over the years I’ve blogged quite a few alternative designs people have sent me.

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Battling to save a school with two pupils?

September 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Only two students are set to be enrolled at Richmond’s Salisbury School next year.

The school has had a dropping roll, with nine girls enrolled currently, down from 15 in July last year and 22 in 2013. There were 80 pupils in 2012.

The school had a lengthy battle with the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2012 as it threatened to close it, which board member Julia O’Connor does not want to see a repeat of.

Looks like parents have voted with their feet though.

O’Connor, the immediate former chair of the school board, was unsure about what was happening with the school and unable to speculate on its future.

“All the people up the system are saying there is no intention to close it,” she said.

She hoped the school would not have another legal battle to stay open.

Surely the question has to be why has the school gone from 80 pupils to possibly just two pupils in three to four years? A former board chair should be focused on that, not insisting a school no one wants to attend, stays open.

Funding for seven of the school’s current nine pupils would have ended by the start of next year, which could mean only two pupils at Salisbury, with eight teaching staff.

It’s like the episode of Yes Minister with the hospital that had no patients!

There were about 300 students from across the country currently being supported by the IWS.

“More and more parents with children with complex needs are choosing to have their children supported at home. Although substantially fewer in number than boys, proportionally more girls who apply are prioritised to receive the IWS service.”

She said the selection process for all placements for wraparound support – and potentially a place at a residential school – had been independently assessed by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research as fair to all students.

Casey added about one in four parents of students prioritised for IWS request a residential placement for their child, and in the last two years no parent of a student prioritised for IWS who has requested a placement for their child in a residential special school has been refused a place.

Of those requesting a residential place, increasingly more are indicating they’d prefer a place at a co-educational environment which Halswell School in Christchurch provided, she said.

It’s not the fault of the Government, if parents choose a different school.

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General Debate 3 September 2015

September 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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A cycling passing law?

September 3rd, 2015 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is considering a law that would require overtaking drivers to give cyclists up to 1.5 metres of space. 

Associate transport minister Craig Foss has asked officials to look at enforcing a buffer zone. They’ll also examine whether trucks should have “side-under run” devices, which prevent pedestrians and cyclists from slipping under wheels.

The proposals were recommended late last year by the Cycling Safety Panel. A dozen cyclists were killed on New Zealand roads in the past two years.

Ten experts on the panel, including Olympic cycling gold medallist Sarah Ulmer suggested a minimum passing distance of 1-metre where speed limits are 60kmh, and 1.5 metres on faster roads.

This is already law – with fines of up to NZ$400 – in Queensland, Australia.

This sounds pretty sensible to me.

The one area where it could be challenging is some of the steep roads around Wellington, where there simply isn’t room to have 1.5 metres space to pass. Most motorists don’t mind slowing down to cyclist speed until it is safe to pass, when the cyclist speed is 25 km/hr. But when the cyclist speed is 5 km/hr, then you can get some large buildups of traffic behind them.

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