It’s Macron vs Le Pen

The polls were right – the top two candidates for French President were centrist Emmanuel Macron and National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

From a policy point of view my preferred President would be Francois Fillon but he deservedly got punished for having his wife on the state payroll for over a decade, despite her not doing any actual work.

The top five candidates were:

  1. Macron 23.7%
  2. Le Pen 21.7%
  3. Fillon 19.5%
  4. Melenchon (far left) 19.5%
  5. Harmon (socialist) 6.2%

The Socialist Party has been one of the two main parties in France. The current President is from that party. To come 5th and only get 6.2% is humiliating.

The polls indicate Macron should beat Le Pen with 60% to 65% of the vote so he will be the first modern President not from either of the two main parties.

Benefit numbers at 20 year low

Anne Tolley announced:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the number of people receiving a main benefit has continued to fall, with the proportion of the population on a main benefit (9.6 per cent) the lowest it’s been in a March quarter since 1997.

“At the end of the quarter there were 278,236 people on a main benefit, a decrease of 1,655 (0.6 per cent) compared to last year,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Those receiving Sole Parent Support had the largest drop in the last 12 months, falling by 4,175 (6.3 per cent).

“Budget 2015 increased the amount of places for work-focused case management meaning we now have nearly 50,000 sole parents receiving extra advice and guidance. It’s great to see this targeted support is helping more families into independence.

This is excellent news and shows the benefits of welfare reforms.

Over the last six years there are now 53,000 fewer people on a main benefit. That is a drop of 16%.

Those on jobseeker benefits have dropped by 25,000 or 17%.

The huge drop is a 30% reduction in sole parent benefits, by 27,000. We have a wealth of data that children brought up for sustained periods in welfare dependent households have much much more challenging lives.

The level of supported living benefits has only dropped by 1.1% but as that tends to cover people with permanent incapacity, no surprise.

Also pleasing is the number of under 25s on welfare dropped by 28%. Again data shows us that if someone spends time on welfare very young, they are more likely to stay on there for an extended period. Probably or that reason the numbers on welfare for greater than a year has dropped 16% in the last year.

Considering these drops have happened against a rising population, makes then even better news.

 

Guilty of having conservative views

Stuff reports:

A district councillor has come under fire for questionable remarks made on Facebook – barely two months after apologising for his last “racist” rant.

Six formal complaints about councillor Murray Chong have been made to the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) following a post made to his personal Facebook account on Sunday.

His critical commentary saw him ask who else was tired of “Natori and Labori” giving into “so called” Maori rights.

This is just more pathetic political correctness. Murray Chong is absolutely entitled to have views that are in opposition to what National and Labour have done in the area of Treaty rights.

Those who file formal complaints with the Council are effectively saying they they don’t want anyone to express conservative views on Treaty issues and they will try and get them sanctioned for doing so if they hold public office.

It is quite legitimate to take his views into account when deciding whether to vote for him. It is illegitimate to try and muzzle him through a Council complaints process.

The Basin

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s mayor is steaming in off a long run-up, and his target is the Basin Reserve’s historic Museum Stand.

The heritage-listed stand, which once contained the players’ tea room, was opened on New Year’s Day 1925, but has not been open to spectators since 2012 because it is earthquake-prone.

Strengthening it could cost up to $8 million, but knocking it down is estimated to cost about $800,000.

After years of debate on its future, Wellington City Council is aiming to make a decision by August. And it is now clear what mayor Justin Lester and his deputy Paul Eagle prefer.

“It’s going to be a very expensive option to have it strengthened and restored, and I’m not sure that can be achieved,” Lester said last week.

I tend to agree, but the same applies to the Town Hall which they are going to spend $100 million on!

The current closure of the Museum Stand deprives the ground of about 1000 seats, and the masterplan recommends demolishing it and creating a new grassed bank for spectators.

That seems sensible. If you want to watch cricket from a stand, we have the Stadium. The Basin is where you go to from cricket from the grass banks.

Toynbee on Corbyn

Left writer Polly Toynbee despairs:

Was ever there a more crassly inept politician than Jeremy Corbyn, whose every impulse is to make the wrong call on everything? It’s not excitingly flamboyant red radicalism that has done for Labour, but his sluggish incompetence at the absolute basics of leadership.

How rarely he has had the chance to wield any power, but on Wednesday he had the very real authority to stop certain calamity for his party and call out Theresa May’s game-playing chicanery. The mother of all bombs is about to drop on Labour, but what does he do? He says: “I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.” What?

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was designed to stop prime ministers dashing opportunistically to the polls when momentarily at the peak of their popularity. May can only gain two-thirds majority in the Commons if Labour agrees to its own annihilation – which he welcomes. Will this be the last disastrous disservice he does to his party?

And May got the votes, helped by Corbyn.

Who knows what other clumsy damage he may inflict during the campaign. And afterwards, he might not go. Remember Tony Benn celebrating the millions of votes for “socialism” under Michael Foot’s 1983 political suicide manifesto, though Labour had crashed to epic defeat? Fantasy politics reign again when Momentum responds to May’s announcement by tweeting about the “path to victory for Labour”.

Among a few of the three-quarters of Labour MPs – 172 – who voted no confidence in Corbyn last year, I hear strange sounds. Thank God! This will put them out of their misery, as if shooting the sick dog Labour party would put it out of its misery. This election could purge the party’s mortal disease, like a toxic dose of mercury. Never mind if the cure is worse than the illness, at least it ends this time of total paralysis. But that’s another kind of fantasy politics.

This is from the leading leftish journalist in the UK!

A values test

Stuff reports:

Would-be Australians will face tough new hurdles – including a new English language and “Australian values” test – and have to wait several more years before being eligible for citizenship, under a major shake-up of the migration programme.

Migrants could be asked whether they support female genital mutilation and forced marriages, or whether it’s acceptable to strike a spouse at home, under proposed values-based citizenship test questions to be put to the public for feedback.

Applicants will also have to demonstrate they have attempted to integrate into Australian society, providing evidence of a job, the enrolment of their children in school, and even membership of community organisations.

An excellent idea. We should do that here.

In NZ there is little incentive to become a citizen as permanent residents have almost all the rights of citizens. I would place a value and premium on citizenship by only having citizens eligible to vote (but grandfathering in all permanent residents as of the date the change is made).

Becoming a citizen should be more than just saying this is the place I want to reside in. It should be about saying “I wish to be a New Zealander”.

Hone attacks Labour for foreign help

The Herald reports:

Labour is shipping in foreign support for its election campaign with dozens of United States’ Democrats signalling an interesting in helping with the campaign.

Excellent. The more people who helped on Clinton’s campaign the better!

The move was uncovered by Te Tai Tokerau contender Hone Harawira, who says it’s “really dumb” of Labour to enlist foreign support “to tell Maori people how to vote”.

But it’s been seized on by Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis as an example of Harawira’s “desperate” attempts to win the seat. …

The Herald asked Harawira if the link up with Dotcom had provided any lessons when it comes to accepting help from foreigners.

He had a one-word response: “Don’t.”

Harawira said his community networks let him know the US support for Labour was on its way after a marae was sounded out to be used for accommodation.

“From what I understand it is to target voter areas where Labour is struggling to get attention.”

Harawira said that was likely to be the Maori vote and it showed “Andrew Little doesn’t think he’s got the Maori volunteer base to get the job done”.

“To bring Americans in seems weird, disconnected and surreal. To do what? Tell Maori how to vote?”

Davis – who wasn’t involved in arranging off-shore support and was unaware of it – said Harawira had hooked up with Dotcom last election in a deal which allowed access to the tycoon’s wealth to fund a joint campaign.

“If he’s going to get millions from a foreigner and he’s complaining about people coming to help, that’s just total hypocrisy.”

This reminds me of Dotcom’s Moment of Truth where a German, a Brit, an American and an Aussie spent a couple of hours lecturing NZers on how they must throw out the evil National Government.

Bolger’s views

Stuff reports:

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so.

But to hear it from a former National Prime Minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over.

He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”

This interview comes as no surprise to me at all. I’ve heard Jim Bolger speak many times since he left office, and he seems to get more left wing in his views everytime. The last time was middle of last year and I commented to a colleague that he now seemed to be to the left of Helen Clark.

This evolution of views is not unique to Jim Bolger. Malcolm Fraser has done similar in Australia.

Falloon selected for Rangitata

Stuff reports:

The new National candidate for Rangitata is Andrew Falloon. 

Falloon, born and raised in the region, said it was a “great honour being chosen by local National members to run for Parliament in my home electorate”.

“Rangitata, or Mid and South Canterbury, is deeply a part of who I am and my family’s history. I know our communities well – their aspirations, and the challenges they face.”

He said he would work hard to earn the trust of local communities to “represent them in a National team that will build on the successes of the last few years”.

After studying political science at the University of Canterbury, Falloon has had several researcher or advisory roles in Parliament. He currently works as an Associate Director at the New Zealand Bankers Association.

Falloon will replace current Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew, who has held the seat since 2005. Goodhew was stripped of her ministerial roles during a cabinet reshuffle in December, and announced soon after that she would not seek re-election. 

Falloon said Goodhew had been a “fierce advocate for our area and regional New Zealand”. 

I know Andrew well. He is a great guy who will be a good MP if he retains the seat.

While the seat has a huge majority of 14,107 I think it could be a closer contest than last time. The Labour candidate in 2014 was disowned by the party leadership for his anti-semitic comments about John Key. The new Labour candidate Jo Luxton seems to be one of the better Labour candidates, and of course the retirement of the incumbent MP.

Bye bye PSTN

The Herald reports:

Spark is doing away with the public telephone network and replacing it with a next-generation IP-based network, it was announced today.

The telco said the new network, to be progressively rolled out in the next five years, would bring together all voice communications: landline, mobile, video or data-based.

The Converged Communications Network (CCN), as it will be known, will require significantly less infrastructure than the old network, and Spark said today that it would be doing away with some 1300 tonnes of equipment.

This is pretty significant, even thought not surprising. The main phone network is moving to over the Internet.

I can recall when the Internet was something you accessed over the phone network – soon it will be vice-versa.

Who remembers the beeping of the old modems?

Now that is a hate crime

USA Today reports:

A man shot and killed three people on the streets of downtown Fresno on Tuesday, shouting “God is great” in Arabic during at least one of the slayings and later telling police that he hates white people, authorities said.

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, was arrested shortly after the rampage, whose victims were all white, police said. He also was wanted in connection with another killing days earlier, in which a security guard was gunned down at a Fresno motel after responding to a disturbance.

Now that is what you call a hate crime. Criticising religious teachings is not a hate crime. Killing someone because you hate their skin colour is.

Greens far far less crazy power policy

Stuff reports:

More than half a million houses will have their winter power bills partially paid for under a new Green Party policy to slash bills by up to $300 a year. 

Rather ironic as making something cheaper means people use more of it, and so the Greens will be increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The policy has noticeably scrapped the platform Labour and the Greens stood on during the 2014 election campaign – to establish a national “Pharmac style” purchaser, to buy all electricity generation on behalf of the country. 

That was a terrible terrible policy. It was a de facto nationalisation of the entire generating industry, and government imposed price controls.

Their new policy is miles miles better than their old policy.

Business NZ manager for energy, environment and infrastructure John Carnegie said the policy was a “thoughtful reassessment of the NZ Power proposal”.

“They’ve been working with us and the rest of the sector, to get their views on board. So we think it’s a steady solid, return.” 

There were parts of the policy that “pushed the edges”. 

“The proposal to ban new thermal power stations in an effort to get to 100 per cent renewable energy – but other than that, we’re pretty happy.”

A Labour/Green Government in 2014 would have been a disaster. In 2017 far less so with a commitment to keep spending to under 30% of GDP and abandoning policies such as destroying the energy generation market. I still think their policies aren’t great overall, but they are far far more benign than in 2014.

Greenpeace says lobbying law doesn’t apply to them

The Guardian reports:

Greenpeace has become the first organisation to be fined under the government’s Lobbying Act which critics warned would silence legitimate campaign groups.

Ministers said the legislation, dubbed the “gagging law” by charities, would hold corporate lobbyists to account when it was introduced in 2014.

But the act has faced intense criticism from civil society groups which have repeatedly warned that the restrictions it imposes on spending during an election would hamper the activities of legitimate groups.

Greenpeace says those fears have been borne out after the charity revealed it had been fined £30,000 for refusing to register as a “third-party campaigning organisation” in the run-up to the 2015 election.

The position of Greenpeace is that the law should only apply to organisations that disagree with them, not to them.

I actually agree the UK law is overly broad, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the law.

Labour wants to pay school support staff for when schools are closed!

Stuff reports:

The funding freeze on schools has drawn in Green MP Marama Davidson and Manurewa MP Louisa Wall to get behind support staff who have been hit by it.

Support staff from various south Auckland schools have voiced their concern over the financial issue. Many fear hours being cut or even worse losing their jobs.

The staff appealing are members of teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa.

Joining teachers and support staff in Manurewa, Davidson visited Homai primary and Wall was at Rowandale school.

The staff at Rowandale school gathered signatures from parents on a petition calling on the Ministry of Education to improve the pay of support staff in schools.

“I think support staff are core staff. They are critical to our ability to meet the needs of our students,” Wall says.

“Their wages should be paid for in the same way teachers are – by the state – not from the Operations Grant which is for the day to day running of the school. They also deserve to be paid for the full year as teachers are.”

Another crazy expensive Labour policy made up on the hoof which they could never afford if they are serious about keeping spending under 30% of GDP.

Teachers get paid for a full year as when classes are not on, they are marking homework, working on lessons, doing professional development etc etc.

But Labour is demanding that for example secretaries and receptionists must be paid, even though there is no work to do and the school is closed. That cleaners must get paid to clean a school that is closed.

I can only assume Labour’s new policy is based on this Yes Minister episode.

Has Abbott become the Kevin Rudd of the right?

News.com.au reports:

DESPITE calls from some of his Coalition colleagues to keep quiet or quit, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he’ll continuing voicing his critical opinion whenever he likes.

Appearing on Jones and Co on Sky News on Tuesday night, Mr Abbott told the show’s host Alan Jones that it was his “absolute right” to speak out.

There has been continuing backlash to Mr Abbott’s running commentary on Malcolm Turnbull, government policy and consistent polling that shows an electoral defeat is likely.

Abbott seems to be turning into the Liberal version of Kevin Rudd. Very sad.

A medical student wants to become NZMA President

NZ Doctor reports:

NZMA president Pippa MacKay says the lobby group’s future will be imperilled if a medical student becomes chair of the association.

But Elizabeth Berryman, a sixth-year medical student who is one of three candidates for the position, says the organisation needs a change.

Voting in NZMA elections opened on 29 March, and members have until 24 April to have their say.

Dr MacKay says the fact a medical student is running for chair is unprecedented and poses a risk to the future of the organisation.

“I’m concerned someone who is not yet a doctor could represent me and other senior doctors,” says Dr MacKay, a Christchurch GP.

She says medical students make up a significant proportion of the NZMA’s membership, because they can join for free, and a student block vote could see Ms Berryman elected.

Berryman may only be a medical student but she is 29, not 22. Good on her for shaking things up by standing.

Having said that I agree it would damage the credibility of NZMA to have a President who isn’t even a registered doctor. What if she failed her final exams?

But if NZMA is silly enough to give away free voting membership to medical students and not have any eligibility clause for officers saying you must be a registered doctor, then they are partly the author of their own troubles.

Can’t be good if both Lianne and Gerry are worried

Stuff reports:

Lianne Dalziel and Gerry Brownlee have written to the agency fixing Christchurch’s red zone to express a lack of confidence in its work programme.

The March letter, obtained by Stuff under the Official Information Act, shows both the mayor and Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister have concerns about Regenerate Christchurch’s work programme, which outlines its work in the city. 

The joint Crown-Christchurch City Council agency is tasked with developing plans for the residential red zone, New Brighton and the central city, but can also develop plans for other parts of the city.

Brownlee and Dalziel said it was “concerning to us, that to date, it appears there is no troubleshooting capacity in your work programme to address regeneration opportunities outside those we have set in the letter of expectations”

i’m not over the details of this but if you have both the Minister and the Mayor expressing concern, that suggests things are probably quite astray.

The stench of desperation

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has vowed to slash immigration by “tens of thousands” of new arrivals but won’t be more specific about exact numbers.

Speaking to Focus after the Government announced a tightening of immigration rules, Little said Labour would go much further in order to give the country a “breather”.

“The commitment I am making is we have to be serious about it, we have to cut immigration. It has got to be in the order of tens of thousands,” Little said.

“And it has got to be immigration that meets the genuine shortage of skills that we’ve got, not just the open slather policy we’ve got right now.”

Asked by how much would Labour cut immigration, Little said he did not have an exact number and flexibility was needed from year to year in order to match the right migrants with skill shortages.

This is the stench of desperation as Labour searches for traction, so Little is trying to emulate Peters without success.

What Little hopes no one notices is his pretend policy is basically impossible because so much of the gain in net migration is from Kiwis staying and Aussies moving here.

The level of residency visas (for people not from Australia) in 2008 was 15,607 and in 2016 was 16,535.

The rest of the increase is student and work visas. And while there are areas of tightening, you simply could not knock off tens of thousands without a massive hit to the economy.

If Little was at all serious, rather than a desperate soundbite, he’d detail an actual policy change. Instead he sounds like a wannabee Winston.

Lloyd Burr at Newshub looks at Little’s numbers and finds they don’t add up. Little has said he wants 50,000 fewer immigrants which is more than even the total number of work visas. And he points out some problems there:

Andrew Little cannot abolish the essential skills visa category, unless he comes up with a way to rapidly train thousands of Kiwis to work in areas where there are skill shortages.

If he abolishes the Working Holiday Scheme, then our friend nations will likely retaliate and prevent Kiwis from having working holidays too.

The Family/Spouse visa could be culled, but he’d be breaking hearts across the globe, and if he abolishes the study-to-work scheme, that would have a serious impact on the number of international students coming to New Zealand universities and polytechnics.

The seasonal working visas are only five percent of the work category, and are a vital part of our role as a responsible Pacific neighbour.

Then there’s the ‘other’ category which is so complex, there cannot be a blanket abolition without breaching free trade deals, or regional agreements.

We should demand Little details exactly which categories he will abolish or change. As Burr says any change to working holiday visas will see young Kiwis overseas retaliated against.

Poor UK Labour MPs voting for an early election

The Guardian reports:

Dozens of Labour MPs are on course to lose their seats if the election result reflects the current polling for Labour, prompting some to challenge Corbyn’s decision to support May’s push for a contest in seven weeks’ time.

John Woodcock, a persistent critic of Corbyn, said he would seek to stand but did not endorse his party leader.

Woodcock, the Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness, said he would be seeking re-election as his party’s candidate but he “will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”.

So you have Labour MPs openly saying their leader is not up to being Prime Minister. Hard to see them convincing the British people of something their own caucus doesn’t believe.

RIP Bernie

Photo: Catherine Cattanach

Stuff reports:

Oriental Bay’s famous shop dog Bernie has died following a terminal illness.

The 10-year-old bernese mountain dog had been a fixture outside Wellington’s Freyberg Pool on Oriental Parade and was the namesake and logo of Bernie’s on the Bay cafe.

Cafe owner Nick Ryan said Bernie was put down on Tuesday night but had had a good innings as the breed usually only lives between six and eight years. His illness had never been fully diagnosed.

Such a lovely dog Bernie was, and he was indeed an institution. I run around the waterfront a lot and would always be happy if Bernie was there outside the pool.

We’ll miss you Bernie