Gareth Morgan on why a flat tax is fairer

November 26th, 2014 at 4:22 pm by David Farrar

The video is from Gareth Morgan, but a colleague of his presents it.

A lot I disagree with him on, but not this issue.

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Are Robertson’s leadership ambitions over?

November 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Half a century ago, Richard Nixon addressed the media after narrowly losing election for governor of California.

The defeat was all the more bitter for Nixon since, just two years earlier, he had missed out in one of the closest presidential elections in history.

Dejected, he assured reporters that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around any more” as he declared the end of his public career.

In just six years, however, Nixon was elected president.

Not sure Grant sees that as a good precedent though!

We should keep this in mind as we consider Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson’s latest disavowal of ambitions to lead the Labour Party.

Having been beaten twice in his quest for the leadership, Robertson says his aspirations are over and that he intends to give the new leader his full support.

We should take Robertson at his word. He has put his name forward to lead Labour twice now – and has lost both times. That would demoralise anyone.

I’m sure Grant is committed to his new role.

Robertson retains a following within the Labour caucus, the permanent bureaucracy and the media. He has been accused of using that platform to destabilise at least the last two leaders. By any measure, he will be a natural rallying point for dissent.

The conventional wisdom is that Little should appease Robertson’s loyalists by allowing him to retain a large degree of independence and influence within caucus.

This would be the path of least resistance. In the short term, it would also bring plaudits as a unifying gesture.

However, it could also prove to be Little’s undoing. Such a settlement would hold while things were going well.

Once things got rough, however, the peace could quickly fall apart.

What happens if Labour’s prospects still look bleak by 2016?

What if Little has a period of rough polling, poor media performances and strained caucus relations? Does Robertson just forget the leadership?

In the end the party’s performance will determine how united they stay.

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Dotcom claims he is broke

November 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom says he is officially broke.

The German entrepreneur and failed politician has revealed this week that his three-year, $10 million legal fight against extradition to the US to face trial on an alleged conspiracy to commit the biggest-ever breach of copyright has seen him run out of cash.

I can only speak for myself, but if I was running out of cash, I wouldn’t spend $4.5 million on a pet political party.


Lusk: A Campaign Professional’s Guide to Winning New Zealand Campaigns

November 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Lusk has written A Campaign Professional’s Guide to Winning New Zealand Campaigns. He’s releasing it a chapter at a time on Amazon.

The first chapter is on the need to start with a good candidate. His first point is a good candidate should be friendly and outgoing. He suggests the following tests:

  • Can they walk into a room of strangers and enjoy it?
  • Do they have charisma?
  • Do they have a prodigious work ethic?
  • Are they are a fighter?
  • Avoid “risk takers” and “sinners”
  • Are they realistic about their chances and career prospects?

This is more a guide for campaign managers than candidates, but prospective candidates would find much of it useful also.



Guest Post: Kuala Lumpur

November 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by John Bishop. His eat drink travel blog is here:

It’s hard to imagine government buildings being interesting but Malaysia’s administrative centre at Putrajaya about 30 minutes outside Kuala Lumpur certainly is proof to the contrary.

Putrajaya is a planned city and government shifted there in 1999 after downtown KL became too crowded. However Kuala Lumpur is still Malaysia’s capital. It is home to the King and Parliament, as well as being the country’s commercial and financial centre.

In Putrajaya every government agency makes a solid statement with its own building with its own style. No expense has been spared in this strenuous assertion of Malaysian prosperity and prestige as a nation. In Sanskrit, “putra” means “prince” or “male child”, and “jaya” means “success” or “victory”.

The architectural parallels with foreign capitals are unmistakeable.

The centrepiece is the seven kilometre boulevard leading to the palace like structure entirely devoted to the offices of the Prime Minister.


PM's office0008

At the other end of the boulevard is the convention centre designed to look like a space ship where the government hosts large international delegations.

convention centre0003

The grandeur of the architecture recalls Paris and Washington, with the broad sweeping tree lined boulevard suggesting the Champs Elysée.

The area is clean, planned, and orderly and not a shop or a hoarding in sight. This is about government. It is a statement that Malaysia is a regional power, economically if not militarily, confident, prosperous, and not to be taken for granted.

The city is within the ‘Cyberjaya’ the government’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). The government plans to make Malaysia into a thoroughly modern state by 2020, partly through a knowledge based societal framework, and the multimedia super corridor is a vital component of that strategy.

lake 20006

The Australians journalists I was travelling with were impressed. Looking at the lake from the bridge along the boulevard, one commented that it certainly put Canberra in the shade.


Of course Wellington has nothing even remotely like this, plans for a lavish government centre around the Molesworth Street area having been shelved long ago.

Actually I was in KL as a guest of Malaysia Airlines who want to promote KL as a stopover from travellers from New Zealand and Australia going either to north Asia or Europe.  A group of writers were shown through MAS’s operation where the satay makers work every day turning out thousands of Malaysia’s signature dish.

satays still assembled by hand0010

satays 20009

After the concerns over safety and security crew training is important and all crew do regular refreshers on resuscitation and other emergencies including evacuations down the big slides.

Airline slide0001

MAS is about to delist from the Malaysian Stock Exchange after the minority shareholders voted to accept a buyout offer from the government owned investment company.

Malaysian taxpayers have already put in a total of $7B into the company since 2001, and after the loss of two aircraft and the decline in traffic, the company is forecast to lose $1.2B – $1.8B this financial year. Without remedial action, MAS was scheduled to run out of cash entirely in 2015.

Under the 12 point recovery plan now being implemented there’ll be a further capital injection of $2.6B and jobs will also be reduced from 20 000 to 14 000.  Service will be modernised, new aircraft may be purchased but little change is expected to routes. Already commentators in KL are talking of a return to profitability and a relisting of the company in three years’ time.


The Press on SIS report

November 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Gwyn found, however, that Tucker, in defending himself, had provided an account of the briefing that was “objectively” misleading, by omissions and failure to provide context. The Prime Minister was also misled by the information Tucker provided. When public discussion about the matter blew up, Tucker failed to correct the situation.

Tucker’s errors were undoubtedly serious. He was not as measured and objective as he was required to be. These failures compromised the service’s obligation to appear politically neutral and the service has formally apologised for them, both to Goff and to the Prime Minister.

But contrary to much of the public debate on the matter, Gwyn found no partisan political motive on the part of the SIS or its director. Tucker’s faults were errors of judgment, no more. She also found that no SIS member had improperly leaked information to the blogger Cameron Slater or colluded with him.

Most importantly for the Prime Minister, Gwyn emphatically rejected any allegation of political collusion or direction of the SIS in its disclosure of information. The so-called “Dirty Politics” conspiracy did not exist.


She did find that information was provided by an employee in the Prime Minister’s Office to Slater for political purposes, but that employee was a political one who was not expected to be politically neutral and the information was not classified.

Political staff have political discussions with bloggers. How surprising.

On an issue of most concern to media, Gwyn found that differential treatment of requests for information from mainstream outlets, compared with one received from Slater, arose not from political partisanship but rather poor process, inadequate resources and lack of political awareness. The picture she paints is of a department unused to dealing with Official Information Act requests and under pressure for a quick response, rather than one seeking to act as part of any conspiracy.

Incompetence rather than malice. As is often the case.

The Herald editorial disagrees and says it is all John Key’s fault.

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The rioting in Ferguson Missouri

November 26th, 2014 at 9:24 am by Lindsay Addie

As expected rioting and looting broke out after the Grand Jury decision on the Michael Brown shooting was announced.

The Washington Post has posted a series of  graphics that according to them is the correct sequence of events that led to Brown being fatally shot.

The grand jury documents are here.

Juan Williams from Fox News has written an opinion piece in which he asks.

Where is the black leadership now that a grand jury has decided not to indict the police officer that killed Michael Brown?

Where is Al Sharpton? He advertises himself as a spokesman for the best interests of black America. But he is absent.

Where is Jesse Jackson, another popular media personality who says he speaks for black America? He’s missing in action, too.

Perhaps its cynical to think it but I’m not sure that Sharpton is a voice of reason. Williams goes on to comment on how Brown’s family have handled themselves post the Grand Jury announcement.

Incredibly, the best leadership on the scene has come from the family of the murdered teen.

Michael Brown’s family issued a statement right after the prosecutor announced that the grand jury was not going to indict the officer. They said they are “profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.”

They then spoke about the need for “positive change…[the] need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.” They specifically called for requiring the police to wear body cameras and then they added “please keep your protests peaceful.”

“Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction – Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference,” their statement read.

[CORRECTION] At least the family are acting with dignity  This isn’t accurate as although a statement as cited was released Michael Brown’s stepfather was recorded on video inciting the crowd to “burn this bitch down”.

As for the looters and rioters it looks like some level of pre-planning has gone into their actions. It doesn’t look like one of those ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ that we sometimes hear about.

[Update] Here is the video footage of Michael Brown robbing the convenience store prior to the altercation with the police officer.


Just a big cat

November 26th, 2014 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

A lioness greets the man who raised her since birth.


General Debate 26 November 2014

November 26th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Latin American logistics

November 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A few people have asked about who we used for our Latin American trip, and what the itinerary was. For those now planning to go there, here’s the basic details.

  1. 2 nights in Santiago, Chile
  2. 5 nights/6 days around the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  3. 3 nights in Quito, or surrounding area, Ecuador
  4. 3 nights in La Paz, Bolivia
  5. 3 nights in Amazon Rainforest, Bolivia
  6. 2 nights around Lake Titicaca
  7. 4 nights in Cusco
  8. 3 nights on Inca Trail
  9. 1 night in Cusco

The NZ company we used was Harbour City Travel, through Trish Brennan. HCT worked with Viva.

In each country there was a local company that would pick us up, do all the transfers, and give us the vouchers and details for the activities in each country.

In Chile the local company was CTS Turismo. They were good. No problems, and did a vineyard tour, a city tour and walked around some parks. Around all you want to do there.

In Ecuador it was Galacruises Expeditions. The cruise we went on was the Grand Odyssey which was superb. Highly recommended. The Quito tours were very good and we had the same guide for four days which was helpful. Recommended.

In Bolivia it was Transturin. For the first part of our stay they were very good, with the city tour and transfers. However I would not use them for the Lake Titicaca experience as they constantly ran late, and their pick up and drop offs point were not well thought out. From others we spoke to, they said it is better to do Lake Titicaca if going from Peru to Bolivia rather than vice-versa. For the Amazon we stayed in the Chalalan Eco-Lodge and that was very good – good guides, good food, and great location. Facilities very basic though.

In Peru it was Coltur and for the Inca Trail it was Pachamama Explorers. Pachamama Explorers were first class on the Inca Trail and guiding us around Machu Picchu. William was our guide- ask for him. Coltur started well, but did not cope with some changes needed due to illness, and we didn’t get consistent information from them.

All up we were away for 31 days. If doing it again I’d do it in the reverse order (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador) as ending with Galpagos would be great and Lake Titicaca works better that way. We had to do it in that order as the Inca Trail was all booked up earlier in our trip. Was pretty exhausted at the end of it (now need a holiday to recover from the holiday) so with hindsight would have a couple more do nothing days. We only had one of those in 31 days (which became a large shopping day!). I’d also have a policy in future to make sure all hotel stays are for at least two nights as getting to a place late at night and leaving the next morning is not so much fun.

But overall an amazing trip, and a great way to see some of the highlights of Latin America.

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The Collins report

November 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The report by Justice Chisholm into Judith Collins and the SFO Director is here. The key conclusion is:

There is no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley. The implication that she was so involved is untenable.

I always thought this would be the case.

The report is a fascinating read. If you have the time, read it.  It is very comprehensive. Judith Collins allowed a contractor on behalf of the inquiry to search through all her electronic records over many years.

I am pleased for Judith that she has been cleared. They were very serious allegations.

The inevitable question is whether she becomes a Minister again. As the PM has said, there is no vacancy at the moment. But inevitable there will be reshuffles during the term, and I think her record of achievements in various portfolios speaks for itself and she should return to the ministry when there is a vacancy.

A couple of media have focused on Cathy Odgers not being required to give evidence in person. Well she would have if required, but she sent in an extensive 7,500 or so brief of evidence that the Commission found satisfactory. Also slanted media attacks by journalists trying to defend their own involvement were probably prejudicial against her. It is worth people recalling that the inquiry did find that journalists at the Herald were sharing information with Whale Oil, specifically so he could attack Feeley – so I don’t think they have a moral high ground on this.

Also of interest in the report is how much of the attacks on Feeley were coming from his own staff or ex-staff, resentful at his restructuring. This was very unprofessional of them – and one of them was even prosecuted for forging a purported e-mail from Feeley.

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Guest Post: Maui’s Dolphins

November 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Keith Mawson of Egmont Seafoods:

Scientists telling fibs about Maui’s dolphins

In 2003 the government banned fishing in the Maui’s dolphin habitat off Auckland and Waikato.  No Maui’s have been recorded as harmed by fishing since then.

Yet this is not what the experts in the International Whaling Commission were told as they voted against New Zealand at the IWC meeting in Slovenia.

The IWC relied on a paper presented to its Scientific Committee in 2013 which stated there was a yearly documented death rate of the endangered Maui’s from fishing.

It was written by Dr Barbara Maas, who works in London for NABU International, a conservation organisation. 

She reported to the IWC that there was not only a recorded Maui’s death rate from fishing, but that in 2008 it increased.

Since the 2008 protection measures were introduced, the number of stranded and reported bycatch cases has increased slightly (Slooten 2013). Between 1970 and 2008 an average of 1.00 entangled Maui’s dolphin was recorded per year. This figure increased marginally to 1.33 dolphin deaths per annum between 2009 and 2012.

Maui’s are clearly threatened subspecies of dolphin. Though the well-known number of 55 Maui’s adults is an estimate, the real population total is probably not too far off this.

Were Maas’ figures to be true, (though she states the figures come from Otago academic Liz Slooten but Maas provided no footnote reference) there would have been eight dead Maui’s dolphins from fishing since 2008, and nearly another 40 back to 1970.

If fishing was killing them at the stated rate, and expanded into a theoretical and often cited multiplier total of 4.97 per year, then something would need to be done.

But the figures, though worked out to the seemingly scientific second decimal point, are bogus.  A Slooten paper which is the probable source, states the numbers are taken from a DOC database. 

But the DOC database has no such information.  The IWC has been misled.

The information DOC holds is that in four cases, between 1921 and 2002, fishing may have killed a Maui’s.  Two were ‘possible’, one ‘probable’ and one ‘known’.

There is no yearly rate at all.  There are only four instances of fishing possibly killing Maui’s since records were first taken 93 years ago.  It is actually the confirmed reason in only one of these four cases.

Even more significantly, the most recent fishing implicated case was in 2002.  In 2003, the government imposed set net and trawl restrictions in the known Maui’s range – encompassing the areas where these four mortalities had occurred. 

So set net fishing had at most a questioned and minor impact on Maui’s before 2003, but no effect at all has been evident since.

There is no record of any Maui’s ever being caught in a trawl net either.

It is well known where most of the Maui’s live. They frequent shallow waters 30 kilometers north and south of the mouth of Waikato River, with some as far north as the Kaipara.

The occasional migration of Hector’s dolphins from the South Island confuses this picture. Both belong to the species Cephalorhynchus. They look exactly the same.

When Maui’s were categorised as a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins in 2002, the scientists believed the population had been separate since the end of the last ice age thousands of years ago.

Imagine the surprise when in 2010 sampling of DNA found a couple of Hector’s alive right in the core of the Maui’s habitat.  Theoretically they should not be there.  But they are.

Since physical separation of Maui’s and Hector’s no longer applies, genetic distinctions and old fashioned physical measurements are the remaining criteria for distinction.  It’s a weak case, since there is no more genetic difference discovered between Maui’s and Hector’s than there is between at least 26 subsets of Hector’s themselves.

The latest government commissioned survey information of Hector’s is that there are more than 9,000  off the East Coast of the South Island, with other populations off the West Coast and Southland, making a total population of about 14,500.  They are not at risk of extinction.

Dolphin campaigners will not accept this figure and still insist the total Hector’s population off the South Island is not much more than 7,000. 

This much lower number is used in the recent Economists at Large analysis of the Maui’s and Hector’s, which was commissioned by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organisation.  The report did not mention that the figure is at best a contested estimate.

The Economists at Large document includes a map of where they think Maui’s and Hector’s live and which the authors want for a dolphin sanctuary.   The map depicts three ostensible migration routes of Maui’s going to the South Island.

The map is a Pixar Animation level of imagination.  There is not a shred of evidence any Maui’s dolphins have ever crossed to the South Island, let alone that such migrations are studied and frequent enough to justify a number of detailed route maps.

There is no evidence either that the Maui’s and Hector’s breed with each other, so the demand for a huge no-fishing ‘breeding corridor’ between North and South Islands is another fantasy.

But back to the facts.  Five Hector’s DNA samples have been collected along the Wellington coast to Taranaki since 1967.  No Maui’s DNA has been found south of Kawhia, well up into Waikato, since 1989.

In November 2011 there was a Hector’s sighting in Wellington Harbour.  Over that summer there were sightings up to Taranaki and Hawkes Bay.  There were two sightings between Hawera and Whanganui – the only ones ever recorded.  A beach-cast DNA confirmed Hector’s was found at Opunake in April 2012.

Crucially a dolphin was captured and killed in a fishing net in January 2012.  The regulations prevented any samples being taken and it was returned to the sea.  We will never know whether it was a Hector’s or a Maui’s.  DOC thinks it was a Maui’s. The Ministry for Primary Industries thinks the chances of it being a Maui’s or Hector’s are even.

But in the popular mind it was a Maui’s.  Advocate scientists successfully had more fishing restrictions imposed later in 2012 and then more again the following year.

As a result of these unjustified restrictions the fishing industry along this coast has contracted.  Workers have been laid off.

A risk assessment panel in 2012, with handpicked dolphin advocates, declared there to be Maui’s populations, not just off Taranaki, but as far south as Whanganui which needed protection from fishing effort.

The evidence though is increasingly that in some, but by no means all, summers there is something which drives or lures a very small number of Hector’s from the South Island to the North Island, to Wellington, along the Kapiti coast and then sometimes further north again. 

Off Taranaki, more than 1,000 MPI observer days have been spent on fishing vessels looking for Maui’s in the past two years.  A similar time has been spent by independent observers on oil exploration vessels.  DOC has used boats and aircraft to find Maui’s or Hector’s in the region.

They have seen none of either.  If the expert panel in 2012 had been anywhere near correct in its population estimates then there would have been at least dozens of Maui’s sightings.

Undeterred, the experts keep on supplying their opinions to the IWC. This year the Scientific Committee was informed that the number of Maui’s killed by fishing between Hawera and Whanganui could exceed one per year. 

Based on established ratios of population to capture from the Hector’s in South Island waters this death rate would mean a population of some hundreds of Maui’s would need to exist between Hawera and Whanganui.

No scientists have seen a Cephalorhynchus (Hector’s type) here.  There have only been two public sightings ever.  Both were following Hector’s presence along the coast to the north and south in the 2011-2012 summer.

The panel has been proven quite wrong in another respect as well.  It concluded that the rate of deaths in Maui’s due to disease was less than one every 100 years, so certain was it that fishing, both set net and trawl, was the culprit of population decline.

The panel did not consider three post-mortems which were being conducted on three Maui’s at Massey University.  The cause of death for two of them was established as Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan disease originating from land animals, with cats playing a critical role in the disease life cycle.

The diagnosis resulted in the expert panel’s allocation of disease blame to be used up for the next two centuries and beyond.

Hector’s dolphins dissected at the same time were also riddled with toxoplasma. The species has shown to be more vulnerable to this disease than other types of dolphin.

Unlike the many petitions which have been raised to call on the government to multiply the sea area closed to fishing, none are circulating wanting the government to fund research on Toxoplasmosis.

There is no research programme for Toxoplasmosis, which has been proven to kill Maui’s, yet many calls for more restrictions on fishing, for which there is no evidence that it is causing Maui’s any harm at all.

The conclusion must be that either it’s easier to run a blame-game campaign on human activity, than it is to target disease infection from land animals.

More specifically, is that the campaign to save the Maui’s is more generated by antipathy towards people earning a living from the sea, than it is to actually saving the Maui’s.

Over the past few months Maui’s campaigners have refocused their targeting on the petroleum industry off Taranaki.  There is no evidence that oil exploration or extraction has harmed a single Maui’s in half a century of activity in the region.

But it is interesting to note how the argument on where the Maui’s are supposed to be living, is manufactured to suit the activity being cited to cause the threat.

When fishing is targeted, the Maui’s population is described as being up to three-quarters of the way round the North Island and even off the South Island.  That is, where there is fishing.

But now, when the target is the petrochemical industry off Taranaki, the Maui’s population spread has been totally reinvented.  The new claims are that ‘their entire population [is] residing in a small sanctuary established in 2008 off the west coast of the North Island’.

We all want to see the Maui’s population flourish.  We do not want it to become extinct.  This will mean boring science stuff, such as investigating how the Maui’s get diseases from the land, or how their reproduction might be helped.  None of this is being done.

Instead, ideological targeting masquerading as scientific objectivity will not help them.

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The SIS report

November 25th, 2014 at 1:26 pm by David Farrar

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has reported:

The inquiry found the NZSIS released incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to Mr Slater’s request, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“These errors resulted in misplaced criticism of the then Leader of the Opposition, Hon Phil Goff MP. Mr Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service,” said Ms Gwyn.

Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

 “Having released inaccurate information that was predictably misinterpreted, the then Director of the Service had a responsibility to take positive steps to correct the interpretation. He failed to do so,” said Ms Gwyn.
Warren Tucker was obviously greatly annoyed at Goff denying he had been briefed on the Israelis, when he had been, but the Inspector-General has found his response was not satisfactory. Basically he felt his integrity had been impugned, so supplied information to back him up, rather than to give a full record. Also the SIS have little experience with the OIA and didn’t do stuff they should have, such as giving Goff an advance copy of their proposed response.
That is very disappointing from any state sector head, but especially the SIS. It will add to the task Rebecca Kitteridge has to maintain and grow confidence in the professionalism of the SIS.

Ms Gwyn said she had also investigated allegations, made before and during the course of the inquiry, that NZSIS officers had acted in collusion with Mr Slater or under direction from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office. Ms Gwyn said that these allegations were particularly serious and that she had made full use of her statutory powers to investigate them.

“From that thorough investigation, I do not believe that any NZSIS staff member contacted Mr Slater to instigate his OIA request. Nor have I found any collusion or direction between the NZSIS and the Prime Minister or his Office.”

Not Watergate, despite what Russel Norman claims.

Ms Gwyn went to on comment that she had, however, established that a staff member of the Prime Minister’s office had provided unclassified NZSIS information to Mr Slater. However, that information was understood by the Prime Minister’s Office to have been provided for media purposes and there was no breach of confidence towards NZSIS in that disclosure.

“That disclosure did not breach any confidentiality or security obligations owed by those staff to the NZSIS. No classified information was disclosed to Mr Slater.” Said Ms Gwyn.

Basically Jason Ede tipped Cameron Slater off that there was some information worth applying for under the OIA. I’d say parliamentary staff have been tipping people off as to things to apply for since probably the day after the OIA was passed.

It is far to say though that when it comes to material involving a security agency, even if unclassified material, it is not a good look. It would be better for the Government to have just decided themselves to release the material, rather than rely on the OIA.

Also important to stress that while I don’t have a problem with people being advised to apply for things under the OIA (and many in the media may receive such tips also), it is important that all OIA requests are treated equally under the law regardless of who applies.  It seems the SIS did not correctly respond to media requests, as they did not regard them as OIA requests. But this is clearly wrong, as you do not have to cite the OIA for a request for information to be treated as an OIA request.

The full report is here.

I should pay tribute to Cheryl Gwyn for the robust nature of her report. It is very thorough and pull no punches. From time to time government institutions do make wrong calls, and what is important is we have a system that can deal with them.  I said at the time that I thought her appointment was a good one, and this reports shows it was.

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110 km/hr makes sense

November 25th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is warming to the idea of a 110kmh speed limit on the best roads – and has confirmed it is under serious consideration for several new motorways, including Transmission Gully.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he would be open to discussions about raising the present 100kmh limit if the New Zealand Transport Agency felt there was a good case for it.

Ernst Zollner, the agency’s road safety director, confirmed yesterday it had been “mulling the idea for a good year at a strategic level”, after research from Monash University in Melbourne suggested it could be done without increasing the risk to motorists.

A 110kmh limit was being considered for motorways built as part of the Government’s roads of national significance programme, provided they were flat, straight, had two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space.

Candidates included the Transmission Gully motorway and Kapiti Expressway in the Wellington region, the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link and the Northern Gateway toll road north of Auckland, Zollner said.


If we have good enough roads, such as the ones above, then 110 km/hr is a more sensible limit.

Australia and Canada have motorway limits of 110kmh, while Britain’s is 70mph, or about 113kmh.

And speed limits in the US are as high as 130 km/hr in some states. France is up to 130 km/hr, Germany has no limit.


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Bike sharing for Christchurch

November 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A group of Cantabrians are trying to set up a bike share system in Christchurch. They’re trying to crowd source the $45,000 cost.

It’s a great idea, especially for such a flat city. The bike share system in London is hugely popular and useful. Hopefully they’ll get enough support.


Little and NZUSA

November 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my 2009 profile of Andrew Little for NBR I said:

I first met Andrew Little when he was President of the New Zealand University Students Association in the late 1980s.

The organisation was in crisis and at risk of dying. Andrew helped save it, and a reform package was implemented that reduced a staff from 14 (a president, six vice-presidents and seven staff) to a staff of around four (two co-presidents and a couple of staff). The new leaner meaner NZUSA stopped campaigning for Nicaragua, and started focusing on student education and welfare and has been a much more effective beast since.

A former NZUSA insider corrects my memory. He e-mails:

First, the reform of the New Zealand University Students’ Association was in 1986 (Simon Johnson was VUWSA President and Bidge Smith was NZUSA President). I think that Andrew was Sports Officer at VUWSA and was a delegate to NZUSA Councils that year.. 

You are correct there was one president and six vice-presidents and an additional two researchers and a “typing pool”. They described themselves as the Typist Liberation Front (TLR) – i am not making this up.

The reform happened at the 2006 August Council and NZUSA had one President and one vice-president – not the two co-presidents as you stated. 

Although Andrew was involved sort-of in the reform of NZUSA but it was acutally as VUWSA President in 1987 and therefore on the Federation Executive and then as 1988 and 1989 NZUSA President that Andrew was critical in making a full success of the NZUSA reforms that you highlight in your article.

I’m grateful for the clarification. A 28 year old memory can be faulty.

Coincidentally Grant Robertson’s thesis for his honours degree was on the 1986 restructuring. He labeled them a step to the right!

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A 20 year low for migration with Australia

November 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


Stats NZ reported:

Migrant arrivals (107,200) reached a new high in the October 2014 year. The annual increase was led by more student arrivals, particularly from India, and more New Zealand citizens arriving from Australia.

The fall in migrant departures was primarily due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia (down 13,300), compared with the October 2013 year. The net loss of 5,300 people to Australia in the October 2014 year was the smallest since the October 1994 year (5,300).

Net migration to Australia in 2008 was almost 36,000 people so it has fallen by around 85%.


General Debate 25 November 2014

November 25th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

An awful idea

November 25th, 2014 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has taken his fight for Maori representation a step further, calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Maori.

Judd, already fighting critics over his council’s plans to create a Maori ward, believes there should be more Maori representation across the country to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi. 

“The reasonable interpretation of the Treaty is that you would have fifty-fifty representation around the table,” Judd said. 

Fiji has just ended an electoral system that divided people up on the basis of their bloodline, but Mr Judd wants to extend and entrench such a system here.

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US political cartoons of the week

November 24th, 2014 at 10:15 pm by Lindsay Addie

In the interests of being bi-partisan there is one that makes fun of Obama, the other the GOP.

Obama’s immigration policy and its legality under the US constitution.


Nick Anderson (Houston Chronicle)


This one makes fun of the GOP’s chronic indecision.


Michael Ramirez (

Cartoons were found here at Real Clear Politics.



Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

fb demos

MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.


Both are close to one third female.


Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.


For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.


Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.


There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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The 2014 New Zealand Post-Election Conference

November 24th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been to every post-election conference put on by Vic Uni since, well as far as I can recall.

They are the one form where all the campaign managers come together and talk about what they did wrong and right, and take questions about the election. You also get some interesting academic contributions on issues ranging from polling to media coverage.

The 2014 conference is on Wed 3 December. Speakers include:

  • John Key
  • David Carter
  • Steven Joyce
  • Te Ururoa Flavell
  • Peter Dunne
  • David Seymour
  • Russel Norman
  • Winston Peters
  • Nicola Kean
  • Corin Higgs
  • Jane Clifton
  • Kate McMillan
  • Colin James
  • Stephen Mills
  • Matthew Beveridge
  • Rob Salmond
  • Morgan Godfery
  • Stephen Church
  • Therese Arseneau
  • Nigel Roberts

Amusingly Labour have been unable to name the poor sucker who will front for them, to speak about their campaign :-)

If you’re a student of politics and elections, its a fascinating day. Only $65 to attend, or $30 for students.

UPDATE: Andrew Little is now fronting for Labour. Updated programme is here – Conference Programme (Nov)

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Heading back home

November 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Brazilian court has ordered the deportation of convicted murderer and paedophile Phillip John Smith within 10 days.

Brazilian freelance journalist Alexandre Tortoriello said the court noted New Zealand had offered a police escort and to pay for Smith’s deportation, Radio NZ reported.

Maybe the cost could be charged to Smith out of the $10,000 he has.

Tony Ellis, who has represented Smith in New Zealand, has been trying to arrange a Brazilian lawyer to visit him in jail in Rio de Janeiro. But they all want payment upfront.

Smart lawyers.

Tortoriello said Smith had the opportunity to find a Brazilian lawyer and appeal, but this had to be done before he was deported, which could happen at any moment.

I suspect sooner rather than later.


Maybe The Standard should charge commissions?

November 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale quotes the SST:

Police are investigating an entity that funded Auckland mayor Len Brown’s 2010 and 2013 election campaigns.

More then $750,000 in backing for Brown’s two successful campaigns was paid by a trust that kept donors’ identities secret. Since February police have been investigating whether the trust breached the Local Electoral Act.

The Sunday Star-Times has confirmation from Brown’s former campaign team that Greg Presland was involved in the donor trust. He was also the main trustee of the trust that paid almost $20,000 in anonymous donations to former Labour leader David Cunliffe during Labour’s 2013 leadership contest.

Greg is of course one of the main authors at The Standard which of course campaigns vigorously against the use of secret trusts in politics!

Maybe they could help fund their blog if Greg put in the trust deeds that 1% of all donations go to The Standard :-)

As to whether there is a breach of the law, my initial response was there isn’t, as secret trusts were legal for local government elections in 2010 and 2013.

However the issue raised by the complainant is that a person must be listed as a donor and a trust is not a person. A company is and an incorporated society is, but a trust is generally regarded as not being a legal person, but something on behalf of the trustees (lawyers will correct me if I have this not quite right). So the complainant has said that as the trust is not a person, then the trustees should be named. That seems a not unreasonable thing to do. So it will be interesting what the Police decide – my pick is as usual, nothing.


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