Would the last honest man at FIFA turn the lights out?

October 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, the man who had been favored to take over as FIFA leader, were both suspended for 90 days late on Thursday, plunging football’s governing body deeper into crisis.

So that’s the President, and the likely next President.

Another presidential hopeful, Chung Mong-joon, was suspended for six years in a separate case and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was banned for 90 days.

And the top administrator, and a further presidential candidate.

Issa Hayatou, the longtime head of the African football confederation who was reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee in a FIFA kickbacks scandal, will take over as acting president.

The Acting President does not have a clean record.

The interim leader of UEFA will be Spanish federation head Angel Maria Villar, who remains at risk of being sanctioned from the FIFA ethics committee in its investigation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

And the acting European Head is under investigation!


ECE satisfaction has been increasing not decreasing

October 9th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

New Zealand’s early childhood education system came under friendly fire this week as a survey found up to a quarter of teachers in the sector would not enrol their own children in it.

One hundred and fifty three teachers out of 601 surveyed said they would not be happy for their child to attend the centre where they worked. Soundbites included analogies to “factory farming” and “crowd management”.

The survey provides no breakdown of reasons, just some inflammatory soundbites. We don’t know how many said they would not send their children to ECE because they would prefer to look after them themselves.

Now, the quality versus quantity debate appears to be at an impasse. New Zealand’s 1:5 teacher-child ratio is one of the best in the world, although Australia and many European countries have 1:4. At that level, small differences matter.

One survey respondent put it bluntly: “When one goes to change nappies, the other teacher is left with nine babies. One day I was feeding a baby and the other teacher was changing a nappy. Another child started crying while two babies were hitting each other with toys. How can you handle this kind of situation?”

With more teachers. Three adults across 12 children completely changes that dynamic. It’s hard to argue that two extra percentage points on a participation rate already comfortably in the 90s would trump that.

The editorial ignores the cost of increasing the number of teachers by 25% – it would be over $250 million a year. And the reality is parents are actually far happier with ECE services than in the past.

Here’s the satisfaction scores from the SSC Kiwis Count survey on early childhood education:

  • 2007: 73%
  • 2009: 76%
  • 2012: 77%
  • 2013: 79%
  • 2014: 81%

It is no surprise a survey done by a group whose members include ECE centres who would benefit from more money, finds a quote or two to get headlines. But the SSC survey of actual parents shows satisfaction is high and steadily increasing.


Shelly Bay open for housing

October 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sausalito here we come.

Wellington City councillors have voted to remove much of the red tape that could have held up efforts to reshape Shelly Bay into the capital’s version of San Francisco’s seaside town of Sausalito.

But not everyone on the council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee was thrilled about the plans, with some upset by the prospect of sacrificing Shelly Bay’s green space to residential developers.

Committee members voted by a majority of nine to six on Thursday to add a larger chunk of the prime waterfront site on Miramar Peninsula to the Wellington Housing Accord.

Doing so means a 2.8 hectare slice of Shelly Bay – including the former air force and naval buildings and the slopes overlooking the harbour – will become a special housing area, which allows for fast-tracked consents, no public notification and limited appeal rights.

Great to see some action after two decades of decay.

Shelly Bay could become some of the most desirable property in Wellington. Stunning views.

It is good news for property developer Ian Cassels and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust who have been vocal about their plans to model Shelly Bay on Sausalito – an artistic enclave that is a short ferry ride from San Francisco.

They have not revealed the specifics of their plans. But art galleries, restaurants, boutique shops, a craft brewery, a cable car and a regular ferry service from Wellington’s CBD are all in the mix.

Will be so good to replace the crumbling buildings currently there.

Tags: ,

Dotcom’s poverty claims

October 9th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Kim Dotcom sold shares in his new companies for about $20 million in 2013 to pay for his defence team and provide for his family, he has told a court.

Most people would love to have even $200,000 to pay for their defence team!

He told the court about setting up Mega Ltd with Ortmann and van der Kolk and music company Baboom in 2013, shares in which he sold for about $20 million.

Dotcom said the ventures were “born out of necessity” to pay for the drawn-out extradition battle and also to secure his family’s future with contributions to the family trust, the Trust Me Trust.

So he chose to put much of that money into a family trust, and now is claiming he has no money for his defence.

His ill-fated involvement in the Internet Party was also discussed.

Dotcom said he donated up to $4.8 million during its brief existence and Mr Ruffin asked why he had not put some of that money aside to pay for US legal experts he now claimed were vital to defending his case.

“If I had a crystal ball and I could see the future, in hindsight I could have done that,” Dotcom said.

“But at the time, for me, there was no reason to believe there wasn’t more unrestrained funds coming from my business ventures.”

He spent $5 million trying to buy the next Government, and again now says he can’t get a fair trial because he never thought the money taps would end.

Mr Ruffin also asked the defendant why he had not used money from living costs to pay for the experts he claimed he needed.

“If I wanted to be homeless and sack all my staff and kick my kids out of school I could’ve done that, yes,” Dotcom said.

His (lesased) home is worth $30 million and is one of the most expensive in NZ. Does he still have his 10 cars worth $3.2 million?

He gets $170,000 a month to cover his living expenses. Most people could manage on 10% of that. Then he could cover the $500,000 in just three months.

And most people don’t have domestic staff!


Quin on King vs Ardern

October 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Herald:

When he installed Annette King as his interim deputy, Andrew Little said he would revisit the decision around this point in his tenure. It’s a promise he would be wise to break. The advantages of a generational swap between King and Jacinda Ardern, the widely touted alternative, are fewer than they initially appear, and the risks are greater.

Annette King is not a leadership rival to Andrew Little, nor is she likely to become one. The same cannot be said of Ardern. That’s the first, and most crucial, box ticked. Unfulfilled ambition is the characteristic a leader least wants to see in a deputy.

That’s true. Having a deputy who wants your job rarely works out well.

Combined with an absence of unrealised ambition, King’s standing in caucus uniquely enables her to play hardball when called for, giving Little room to establish goodwill and build trust among colleagues.

It is hard to imagine an MP less temperamentally suited to inheriting “bad cop” duties than Jacinda Ardern. In fact, a change in deputy would demand a recalibration of responsibilities, forcing Little to take a greater role in managing (read: disciplining) caucus. He doesn’t need that: it’s not among his strengths, and it shouldn’t be his focus.

A good deputy will manage much of the caucus relations for the leader, and to a degree help manage the office also.

Ardern certainly appears to be well liked by the public, and has the backing of many inside the Labour Party, as well as a sizeable bloc of MPs, in particular those aligned with Grant Robertson with whom she ran on a joint ticket as deputy in last year’s leadership election. These are put forward as arguments in favour of promoting her, but they leave me cold.

For one thing, personal popularity is neither here nor there in a successful deputy. None of the most successful second-in-commanders of the recent era – Geoffrey Palmer, Don McKinnon or Michael Cullen – were beloved by the wider public. What they each offered were complementary skillsets, along with personal attributes, that made their leaders stronger.

This is true, but Ardern does have the ability to grow the vote for Labour if she is in a leadership role. The problem is she may over-shadow Little, but they need to lift their vote in Auckland and neither Little nor King can really do that.

It may be that Annette King wants to retire – and who could blame her after 28 years in Parliament? This would bolster the case for Jacinda Ardern without making it a slam dunk. Breakfast telly affability – undeniably useful in a senior politician – is not what Andrew Little wants in a deputy. He needs a compelling or charismatic figure far less than someone who provides the space necessary for him to become effective and popular in his own right.

I think he needs someone who can lift their party vote in Auckland.

Tags: , , , ,

The evil of ISIL

October 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Vian Dakhil writes at Politico:

Last week I arrived back home to Iraqi Kurdistan, exhausted but proud of a small but real triumph over the Islamic State. Three women and two toddlers came back with me—five human beings just rescued from enslavement by ISIL. For over a year, they were abused, raped and traded fighter to fighter because of one reason: our Yazid religion. I am determined to save every last one of the more than 2,000 Yazidi women and girls still waiting to be freed

Yazidis are a Kurdish religious community. They are not Muslims or Christians but are monotheists.

They thought they were abandoned. Their ISIL captors told them that no one wanted them, in their shame and defilement, and that no one was looking for them. But I insist on reaching out to them through pleas on Arabic radio and TV. I give them my phone number, and tell them that we love them and we want them back. Some brave women hear these messages and contact us, and a rescue mission commences. I answer the phone every time, determined to do all that I can, but it is little, and it is not enough. I know there will always be another call, another Yazidi who is terrified and broken and in need of hope, as the world looks the other way.

One of the women, clutching her 2-year-old child, was so distraught. The child kept asking for her 7-year-old sister, who had been taken away from her mother and enrolled in a religious institution where she would be forced to convert to Islam. Her mother had had no choice but to escape without her, and she told me she feared the girl would be raped at the hands of the militants. We have evidence of the militants raping our girls as young as age 8.

I believe future generations will regard Islamic State as our equivalent of the Nazis. They do not have the same capacity as the Nazis, but their inhumanity is on a par.

Thousands of people—primarily women and children are still in captivity in Islamic State territory. I have spoken to women who have made it out who said they had been sold five or six times, in each case being raped by as many as five men at a time before being sold to another fighter. The militants force the young ones to convert, teach them how to pray and train them to be child soldiers—telling them all the while that their families won’t take them back because they have converted to Islam. Some girls told me that they had lost all hope. We just gave up and decided this is the life that we should live, they told me, because we don’t have another life. We can’t go back to our home.

But they can go home; their families—our families—are waiting for them. And, slowly but surely, I and a determined group of people are getting Yazidi prisoners out of this nightmare. There are some volunteers willing to go into ISIL-controlled areas to save those girls and help them all get back safely to Iraqi Kurdistan. With no help from any government, we’ve been able to rescue 2,150 of the 5,840 Yazidi men, women and children who were taken prisoner—800 of them young girls.


Amazing. That is God’s work.

The author is a member of the Iraqi Parliament.



General Debate 9 October 2015

October 9th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Auckland Councillors waste hours debating TPP!

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

The Herald reports:

Auckland councillors have today spent two and a half hours debating the Trans Pacific Partnership at a reported cost of $50,000 to ratepayers.

Albany councillor Wayne Walker put forward a notice of motion, including clarification from Trade Minister Tim Groser on how the recommendations from eight Local Boards were being addressed in current negotiations.

After a long discussion on the trade agreement, several councillors vented their frustration on social media.

Councillor Denise Krum said: ” A very long morning! Best use of our time? I think not.”

Councillor Linda Cooper said at a cost for council committee meetings of $20,000 an hour, the debate had cost $50,000.

“That much money to a local community development organisation would employ a community broker. Actual work on the ground for people,” she said.

And councillor Sharon Stewart: “We need to stick to our core business.”

The debate took up most of the morning session at the regional strategy and policy committee.

Yes they do need to stick to core business.

What next – spent a morning debating Syria and ISIS?

If Councillors can waste time debating this, then there are too many of them, and not enough real work!

Tags: ,

Corbyn dodges the Queen

October 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Jeremy Corbyn has snubbed the Queen by refusing to be sworn into Britain’s Privy Council, as it emerged he could use a loophole to join the advisory body without ever meeting Her Majesty.

The UK Labour leader, a lifelong republican, is known to have reservations about kneeling in front of the Queen and kissing her hand as he swears an oath of allegiance to her, which is the normal process when a new Privy Councillor is sworn in.

And having refused to sing the National Anthem at a Battle of Britain 75th anniversary service last month, Mr Corbyn tried to dodge the issue by saying he could not attend tomorrow’s meeting due to unspecified “prior engagements”.

The Telegraph has learnt that Mr Corbyn could choose to avoid meeting the Queen altogether, using a mechanism called an Order in Council, by which the Privy Council, including the monarch, agrees to appoint a new member without them being present.

For that to happen Mr Corbyn, who has never met the Queen, would still have to confirm that he had taken the oath, but would avoid kneeling before the sovereign.

If he does so, it is understood he would be the first Leader of the Opposition to refuse to be sworn in the presence of the monarch. Orders in Council are usually used only for Privy Council members who are based abroad, such as prime ministers of Commonwealth realms.

He’s been an MP for over 30 years and has managed to avoid ever meeting the Queen, and still won’t meet her as Opposition Leader. Does he not realise the PM usually meets the Queen every week?

Can you really imagine him as the UK Prime Minister? It would be like John Minto being made Leader of the Labour Party, and winning an election!


I support a comparison

October 8th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Concerns were raised about an evaluation of charter schools by the head of the Government-appointed board overseeing the model and former Act Party president Catherine Isaac, documents show.

Ms Isaac, a strong supporter of the controversial schooling model, wrote to Education Minister Hekia Parata to say that the authorisation board had concerns about an external evaluation of the model by consultancy MartinJenkins.

The recently released report is the first evaluation of the model as a whole, but it did not compare the achievement of students in charter schools with how they would have been expected to perform had they stayed in public schools.

That level of evaluation had been called for by both the PPTA – bitterly opposed to charter schools – and David Seymour, leader of the Act Party.

I think there should be a comparison. Arguably you may want to wait a year or two until the schools are more settled in, but I think a comparison would be very interesting. I suspect most charter schools would welcome it also.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said that intervention was bizarre and showed Ms Parata was scared of what a proper evaluation would reveal.

“Why would she not want them to carry out that evaluation if the Government was confident that charter schools are going to deliver better results that state schools, why would they be afraid of that sort of analysis?

Nice to see Chris supporting a comparison. I wonder though why he is so against comparisons for all other schools?

Mr Seymour, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said that, despite his initial request for MartinJenkins to re-scope its first evaluation, he was now happy with a decision for more quantitative comparison of partnership students with comparable students in state schools to be carried out in future reviews by the consultancy firm.

“I believe and I think the Minister believes that we want to do a quantitative comparison that answers the question – looking back several years as it is too early to say now – has the partnership school model led to gains for kids that they might not have made without the model?

Sounds like it will happen, just not yet.


The battle for the IP chapter

October 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This will be a long blog post, but an important one. It is about the TPP, the IP chapter, and how a group of NZ organisations actually managed to help beat back the US Government and the corporates they were fighting for.

First I want to talk about critics of the TPP, and how you can divide them into three categories. They are:

1 – Opponents of all trade deals

There are some people who are opposed to all trade deals. They have a honest belief that either trade deals are bad, or trade is bad. A couple of examples are Jane Kelsey and the Greens.

Jane Kelsey has opposed (as far as I can tell) every trade deal NZ has ever signed up to. It doesn’t matter what the details are, she has campaigned against it. She has a world view that is basically protectionism is economically good, and no amount of evidence will sway her views.

Kelsey has every right to her views (though I do grumble that she seems to spend a large proportion of her time as a taxpayer funded academic running campaigns), but the reality is that Kelsey will never influence the details of a trade detail, because people know that nothing they agree to will ever stop her being a critic. She can make a deal more unpopular with voters, but no one in Government ever asks the question “Will this satisfy the demands of Jane Kelsey”.

I’m not trying to personalise it on Professor Kelsey. There are many others like her, who are against petty much all trade deals.

The Greens have voted against against (I think) every trade agreement. Their opposition seems to be more because of their belief that trade harms the environment, and we should grow and produce everything we need locally. So again, no one ever asks what is needed to get the Greens do support a trade deal – it is basically impossible.

2 – Opponents because of who the Government is

This is basically the Labour Party, and some of their supporters. If Labour were in Government I have no doubt the TPP would look very similar to what was announced this week, and they would be signing up to it. They are not opposed to the TPP (well not most of their caucus), but because National is in Government they just see it as a weapon to attack with. Just like the flag referendum.

I don’t mind oppositions attacking Governments for things which they honestly disagree on – for example labour laws and the like. But it does get tiring when you know their opposition is only because they are not in Government themselves. It is worth remembering the TPP started under Labour. They also did a great trade deal with China, which has been hugely beneficial. If it was National that had done the trade deal with China, I suspect Labour would be condemning it.

So in the end these opponents do not get much traction either, because their opposition is more about who the Government is, than what is in the TPP. That doesn’t mean their criticism do not have validity, just that their motivations are more about bashing the Government.

3 – Opponents of some proposed details

The last category is what I want to focus on. It is individual and groups who have been critical of what might be in the TPP, because they think certain aspects would be bad for their area of interest if included.

These opponents are not against the TPP regardless of what is in it. They’re not for it either. They’re people saying “We don’t want X in there” but if X is not there, then we don’t have a view on it.

That might be a health group on keeping the Pharmac model, or ICT groups on the details of the e-commerce and intellectual property chapters. The latter is what I want to focus on, and tell a story about the battle here.

The US wish list on intellectual property

The first post I can find I did on the TPP was about how despite being a big supporter of free trade, I was concerned about the US wishlist in TPP. I quoted Rick Shera on how it could affect us:

  • Rights holders would be allowed to prevent parallel imports
  • Massive extension of terms, from life of author plus 50 years, to 70 years
  • Circumventing a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) will to be a criminal offence even if the work it protects is in the public domain or you want to exercise fair dealing rights like educational use or current affairs reporting
  • The return of guilt upon accusation three strikes Internet termination laws
  • Forcing us to reverse the decision recently taken to exclude software from being patentable
  • Introducing statutory damages (which give rights holders windfall damages up to 3 times their actual losses)
  •  ISP policing of IP rights including a requirement for ISPs to give up their customers’ identities when they receive a mere allegation from a rights holder
  • Criminal liability even where the infringement has no commercial value at all
  • Pushing Courts to impose imprisonment as the default sentence for infringement even where no monetary benefit is obtained

These provisions would have been truly horrible, if they had been agreed to. The good thing is that with the exception of the extension of the term (which is more a copyright than Internet issue) the US got beaten back on pretty much all of this. I’m not saying the IP chapter is great (there are still a couple of areas of concern which we need to see the detail on) but this truly horrible stuff is not in there – software is not patentable still, parallel importing remains legal, you can circumvent TPMs for legal purposes, ISPs don’t face extra liability, no changes to our three strikes law for filesharing infringing (which rights holders don’t like).

So why did the US not get its way on much in this chapter? Is it because it was an unimportant chapter? No, far from it. For several years it has been said that the IP chapter will be one of the most difficult. Many in the media thought the big battle was Pharmac, but in reality that was never at great risk. The PM and others had often said that the IP chapter was one of the big challenges.

This was a concern, as those of us against the US demands, were worried that the IP chapter would be traded at the lost moment with the US, in order to gain a better deal elsewhere. We wanted to stop that happening, and make the price of compromising on the IP chapter too high, so what did we do.

By we I mean groups such as InternetNZ, IITP, TUANZ and NZ Rise. I don’t speak for any of them, this is just my views as someone who was involved.

Set the tone right

It was important that we were not seen as just against TPP regardless. We were against an IP chapter that was bad for NZ. While we would work with other critics such as Jane Kelsey (and inform them of our concerns), it was vital not to be seen as anti-TPP regardless. You lose influence if you do that.

We also tried to have it about ICT and Internet industries being important for NZ’s future and don’t trade away their interests for those of commodity industries.

Be specific

Another key was not just to rant about secret negotiations (even though criticism of the process was made), selling out sovereignty, attacking Hollywood corporations. It was to be specific as to what measures were opposed, the impact on NZ of them, and putting up alternative provisions.

Meet NZ negotiators

Many meetings were arranged with negotiators with MFAT and MBIE. And they were extremely professional, and useful. The negotiators do not set policy (Ministers do), but they will tell you what their position is, listen to your concerns, and make sure they understand them.

They would also share information on the negotiations. They are not allowed to sit down with you and show you a copy of the proposed texts (unless every negotiating country agreed). But they could tell you in some detail what the issues are, and what the NZG position currently was. And thanks to texts being leaked on Wikileaks, we actually got verified that the NZ negotiators were advocating exactly what they told us they were, and resisting the US demands.

They also were useful in giving us some idea of which countries were with us on these issues, and which were not, and which were yet to take a position. Again, not in exact detail which would breach confidentiality, but some useful steers.

The key here is that while the exact negotiating texts were secret, stakeholders could gain information on proceedings by engaging with the process – and not just corporates, but civil society groups also. Engaging with the process works, rather than just shouting slogans.

Also at least one meeting was held (possibly more) with the Trade Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser. I did not attend, but understand he was very up to speed with the issues around the IP chapter. Meetings were also held with the ICT Minister, so she could be a voice for the industry if Cabinet discussed details.

It also became apparent to me that other Ministers, up to and including the PM, were aware of the issues around the Internet and the IP chapter. In fact as I said earlier, the PM said fairly early on that the IP chapter might be the toughest.

Meet TPP supporters

We met supporters of the TPP such as NZ International Business Forum (Stephen Jacobi). We explained that our potential opposition was issues based. If certain provisions were in the TPP, we would be opposing and criticising it. But if they were not there, then mostly we would have no view.

We know that most business groups would support the TPP, regardless of the IP chapter. What we wanted to get across, was that if they could use their influence to get an IP chapter that was more palatable to us, then there would be less domestic opposition.

The meetings were cordial, and useful.

I can’t recall exactly other meetings we had, but off memory there was some dialogue also with the US Embassy and Federated Farmers.

Attend the Negotiations

Staff were sent to some of the international negotiations rounds. Why, if you are not allowed in the negotiating room? Well, a lot happens in the side events and public forums. You can set up stands handing out information on your views, you can chat to NZ negotiators, you can get to meet the negotiators from other countries, and also develop links with other third party groups who share your concerns.

The staffer who attended some of these for the NZ group did an excellent job in building networks, organising events and getting our message across. It was an excellent investment in sending her.

Build a coalition locally

A local coalition was set up – called the Fair Deal coalition. It was set up to critique and oppose the US demands, but also to put pressure on the NZ Government to stick to its position. We wanted to make any backing down politically painful. A quote from the site is:

The US wants copyright standards that would force change to New Zealand’s copyright laws. We want you to know more about what’s at stake so that you can have a say now, before the deal is done.

The good news is that we know – from another leaked document – that the NZ copyright team went into TPP talks looking for fair copyright (and other intellectual property) standards. Now is the time to stand behind our team and  support a Fair Deal for New Zealand.

NZ members were InternetNZ, NZ Rise, Creative Freedom Foundation, Blind Foundation, TUANZ, Consumer, IITP, Trade Me, NZ Open Source Society, LIANZA, Tech Liberty and Scoop.

The tone wasn’t to attack the Government, but to pressure the Government to stand firm.

Build a coalition globally

At the beginning of the negotiations, NZ was quite exposed. The US was pushing hard for their wishlist, NZ was the most staunch against, and we had few allies. Many were not focused on it much, and Australia even seemed to be backing the US.

The NZ negotiators made it pretty clear that if we are alone there, then we need to compromise more. So we went about building a wider coalition.

Through attendance at the actual meetings, links were made to other groups in the countries negotiating the TPP. An alliance was formed with Public Citizen, Open Media, Australian Digital Alliance, Consumers International, EFF etc. Gradually more and more countries came to siding with the NZ position.

Note I am not suggesting this is solely or even mainly due to the work of the alliance, but I do believe it did have an impact.

Also crucially, we tried to soften the US position. Their position was reflecting the demands of Hollywood associated creative industries. In fact many of the staff in the IP area of the Trade team, had worked for lobby groups there. But then big US IT companies started lobbying, saying they did not support some of the US position. This helped weaken the US stance, as it was no longer unambiguous what Us businesses wanted.

Host the negotiations

Auckland hosted the 15th round of negotiations in December 2012. This was great as it gave us a great opportunity to interact. There were a number of initiatives as part of that, but the most significant was we hosted a lunch for all the IP negotiators from all the countries. I think they all had someone attend, and most importantly the US did.

Over the lunch a few of us spoke, on various aspects and outlined what our issues and concerns were. My role was to talk about the politics, and explain how NZ had just had several big fights on IP law – the blackout campaign, ACTA, patent law, a new copyright act – and I doubted any Government would want to be explaining why the hard fought compromise that had been achieved was now going to be upended. I also talked on Dotcom and how he is alleging Key and Obama did a deal with Hollywood to lock him up, in exhchange for the TPP – and while that may be nonsense, could they imagine a NZ PM standing up and saying “We’ve decided to change our copyright and IP laws to please Hollywood”. The point was that if you demand something a Government is simply politically unable to deliver, then you won’t get an agreement (like Canada on dairy – political cost too high).

And this is partly why the only major change appears to be length of copyright, rather than stuff more directly affecting the Internet. And don’t get me wrong – I am against the extension, but from my point of view it is less harmful than what else the US was demanding, and if we had to compromise on something – that is the lesser evil from an Internet point of view.

Constructive opposition does make a difference

The point of all this, is that constructive engagement, criticism and even at times opposition can make a difference. When you work with the Government and negotiators in good faith, you can have influence and get better outcomes (even if still sub-optimal) than without your involvement. You do a mixture of loud noisy activism (postcard campaigns, petitions, public meetings) and behind the scenes diplomacy – but always with a consistent principled message that we are not anti TPP (or pro TPP), just anti these provisions.

I’m actually very proud that the NZ ICT industry and civil society managed to run a very effective and principled campaign, that was overall remarkably successful – especially against the power of the US Government, and very wealthy and powerful firms in the US. One can be cynical about aspects of politics (such as the secrecy), but one can also celebrate that spending time and money on sticking up for your beliefs can work, and logical well reasoned arguments can beat vested interests.

Again do not take any of this to suggest the ICT industry now thinks the TPP is great. I don’t speak for them, and from what I have observed views are as diverse within it, as elsewhere. Some still think it is the worst thing ever and the end of democracy, and others think it is a great deal. I personally think it is an overall positive deal, and actually pleasantly surprised that we managed to get a deal, with most (not all) of the nasty IP provisions defanged.

But there is a lesson here for other groups, and individuals. Constructive opposition and criticism can achieve far far more, than just blanket negativity and attack.

The groups involved in the Far Deal coalition, both locally and globally, should be proud of what they managed to achieve, against formidable odds.  Also I give credit to the professional negotiators from MFAT and MBIE who I think did a very good job of holding the line.


Tags: ,

Cairns looks screwed

October 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former cricket star Chris Cairns was involved in match-fixing for some time before claiming under oath that he had never cheated, a London court has been told.

A Skype call between Andrew Fitch-Holland, legal adviser to Cairns, and former Black Cap Lou Vincent would give “concrete evidence of match fixing”, Southwark Crown Court was told on Thursday (New Zealand time).

The Skype call is the smoking gun.

I will be very surprised if Cairns is found not guilty.


Bipartisan support in US for saner sentences

October 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NYT editorial:

The sentencing reform bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday falls far short of what is needed, but it is a crucial first step on the long path toward unwinding the federal government’s decades-long reliance on prisons as the answer to every ill.

For starters, it is worth noting the bipartisan nature of this legislation. In a Senate that can’t agree on the time of day, top Republican and Democratic senators — most notably Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as well as a longtime supporter of harsh sentencing laws — negotiated for months to produce a concrete set of fixes.

Among the most significant are those that would reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for many drug crimes. These sentences are jaw-droppingly long — from five years for a first offense up to life without parole for a third. The new bill would cut the life sentence to a 25-year minimum, and would cut the 20-year sentence for a second offense to 15 years.

A minimum five year sentence for a first strike drug crime is just nuts. Yes you need sanctions, but this is a very expensive policy which has not reduced drug sales or use, and has people in prison for decades.

Half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug crimes. In NZ the comparative figure is 10%.

No tag for this post.

An animal sadist gets four and a half years

October 8th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A dairy worker has been handed what is believed to be New Zealand’s longest-ever prison sentence for animal cruelty, after cows were beaten, had their tails broken and were shot in the kneecaps on a farm he managed.

Michael James Whitelock was sentenced in the Greymouth District Court on Wednesday to four and a half years jail and banned from owning animals for 10 years.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including ill treatment of animals, unlawful possession of firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Good to see a decent sentence.

Whitelock was the dairy manager on a Landcorp farm near Westport from July 2012 until his suspension in September 2013. MPI began investigating that month after a Landcorp manager arranged for a vet to examine the herd.

Of the 1100 animals, 152 cows and 57 heifers had broken tails.

People who torture animals often go on to do bad things to humans.

Tags: ,

Listener profile of Tim Groser

October 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner did a profile of Tim Groser in February 2014 for The Listener. Is rather topical, and an interesting read.

Tim Groser would make an abominable electorate MP. He’s pedantic and a little pompous. He’s impatient and a little patronising. He’s a great talker, but not a great listener. There’s no way in hell you’d ask him for help in a fight with your neighbour over a cross-lease or a tax dispute with Inland Revenue.

But Groser is very good at being Trade Minister and that is one of the very good things about MMP. Having spent much of his life in foreign affairs and trade, he was perfect for the job. Thanks to MMP, National parachuted him in on the list, so he sits in Cabinet, a politician who doesn’t like to play politics, an MP who wouldn’t dream of taking on the wearisome burden of trying to win an electorate.

Tim is not alone there.

And now he is quitting politics, or at least planning his exit. “I definitely won’t stand in the 2017 election – I mean definitely.” Why not? “Because I want to learn the piano,” he says. He’s not joking. Groser comes from a family of actors and musicians. He inherited a grand piano on the death of his grandmother, a concert pianist. “I was a reasonably serious guitarist – not really good, but not bad,” he says reflecting on his time touring with forgotten pub bands. “I have one unfulfilled ambition in life: to become a competent jazz pianist and I cannot leave it too long.”

From minister to musician – I like it. I suspect Ambassador in between.

After three years as a negotiator on the CER agreement, he was appointed foreign affairs adviser to Rob Muldoon, in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. “The idea of being foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Muldoon was a joke – especially if you were 32. But I ended up writing his key speeches.”

He describes Muldoon as “the most terrifying man I have ever met”, and says later in his career, he’d travel the world telling people he wasn’t frightened of anyone. “People would say, that’s just bluffing. I’d say, ‘No, no, no, it’s not bluffing, mate. I have worked with a man who is much scarier.”

So say us all.

The Labour Government of the day wasn’t impressed that such a senior and respected official was jumping ship for Don Brash’s National Party. Helen Clark made no secret of her displeasure. “She still knew my past, she thought I was one of theirs,” Groser says. “I had started off on the left, inspired by the 1960s politics: Vietnam and the anti-apartheid movement and Hart and all that stuff. If you weren’t responsive to that as an 18-year-old in New Zealand – sorry, you were a very different person to me.”

He moved to the right – or towards the centre, as he prefers it. It wasn’t a gradual shift but a rapid one based on two things: “One was studying economics and the other, paradoxically, was visiting China in 1972 and the combination of the two, in about a year, made me rethink entirely my then strong commitment to far-left-wing solutions.”

A number of politicians on the right started off on the hard left. They saw the light!



Crime down 30%

October 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Ministry of Justice has just published the latest crime and safety survey, and it has found the incidence of crime dropped 30% from 2008 to 2013, or from 2.7 million incidents to 1.9 million.

This is not based on whether crime is reported to the Police. It is a scientifically robust survey of around 7,000 New Zealanders and hence is unaffected by whether the Police target particular crimes or not.

The report is here.

Some highlights:

  • Incidents down by 787,000 over the last five years (dropped 201,000 the previous three years)
  • Household incidents down 40% and personal incidents down 25%
  • Assaults down 232,000
  • Robberies down 32,000
  • Incidence rate per 100 households dropped from 52 to 29
  • Incidence rate per 100 persons dropped from 53 to 38
  • Number of adult victims of crime dropped from 1,260,000 to 865,000

So these are great trends. As I said, this survey is far more robust than Police stats which can be affected by stuff such as policing priority decisions. The incidence rate of crime has dropped quite massively since 2008, and that is a good thing.

Also of interest is some of the data on domestic violence and sexual offending

  • 6% of women and 4% of men were victims of violence from an intimate partner during the year
  • 2% of women and 0.5% of men were victims of sexual offending from an intimate partner during the year
  • 26% of women and 14% of men have had partner violence at least once in their lifetime
  • 22% of women have had distressing sexual touching, 11% attempted rape and 11% rape

That’s distressingly high levels of rape.

Tags: ,

General Debate 8 October 2015

October 8th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Watkins on Iraq

October 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

John Key’s trip to Iraq asked and answered the question about whether our troops are making a difference.

It only took a day watching the Kiwi trainers and their students in action at Camp Taji in Iraq to know they are making a real difference and it is more than just a drop in the ocean. 

A first hand observation from someone who has just been there.

And they are doing it under hellish conditions that beggar belief – stranded in a desert miles from anywhere and surrounded by pockets of one of the most brutal enemies in modern time, the Islamic State.

Our soldiers there are serving hard.

They passionately believe that the six weeks they get to train up Iraqi soldiers for the fight against IS – or Daesh as they prefer to call the enemy – has and will save Iraqi lives.

Six weeks may not be long compared with the years that Kiwi recruits get on the training ground. But the soldiers who leave them will still have a better chance of defeating IS than when they came in.

Many of them are veterans of the battle field and they have lost not only fellow soldiers but friends and family to IS.

But they have been fighting with one arm behind their back, lacking equipment and experience.

Part of what the Kiwis do is demystify the enemy to Iraqi soldiers, demoralised by the slick mind games of an enemy that has mastered social media to spread chilling propaganda.

Among the myths that have taken root are that IS has millions of soldiers and snipers who can shoot them from 6km away.

Along with teaching the Iraqi troops medical skills and combat tactics like door-to-door fighting and the use of explosives, the Kiwis have been debunking the myths and boosting the confidence of their students that IS is an enemy that can be beaten.

And they are doing it in a typically Kiwi fashion that has earned them the respect of the Iraqi soldiers.

It may not be a huge contribution, but it is important to be doing our bit. Abandoning the Iraqis to the terror of the Islamic State is not a great idea.

But it is not a one way street; the Kiwis know the men they are training will be returning to the front line where the lessons they learn could literally make the difference between life and death.

You won’t hear many of them agreeing with NZ First MP Ron Mark’s description of the Iraqi soldiers as cowards.

Maybe Ron could go over and share his views in person!

Tags: ,

If you’re reading this, they were wrong

October 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

This might just be one of the last articles you ever read because Doomsday is coming, a Christian group has warned.

So if you’re worried about being charged 5p for plastic bags for the rest of your life, then worry no more.

Just a few weeks after Nasa dismissed warnings of a blood moon apocalyptic meteor strike, the threat of another world-ending event has appeared on the horizon.

Chris McCann, leader of the eBible fellowship and all-round God expert, believes the world will be engulfed and destroyed by a great fire on October 7.

If you’re seeing this blog post, then I guess he was wrong.

No tag for this post.

Maybe the answer is to give all schools the flexibility charter schools have?

October 7th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Small class sizes have been hailed as one of the key conditions to charter school success in a first report into how the controversial education model is working.

The report, by consultancy Martin Jenkins on behalf of the Ministry of Education, found early evidence the schools are developing innovative solutions for their communities, with schools enjoying the flexibility of the funding model.

This is key. The funding model is flexible – basically in bulk.

State schools have formulas for almost everything – their number of staff, their buildings grants, their operations, their ICT.  They generally do not have the flexibility to take money from one pool and spend it in another.

I’d see it as a good thing if state schools could sign up to the charter school model – still owned by the state, but with the flexible funding charter schools get. They don’t get more money, they just have full discretion on how to spend it.


The hysteria from the ban soft drinks brigade

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

Stuff reports:

Sugar needs to be looked at in the same way as alcohol and tobacco if our health system is to cope in the future, health researchers say.

These researchers want sugary drinks banned, so presumably they also want alcohol banned. Won’t NZ be a fun place when they are in charge!

He said it might seem odd now to say sugar was on par with alcohol or tobacco but in 10 years’ time, there would need to be government legislation in place or the health system wouldn’t be able to cope with the rising obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Cue the hysterical claim that the health system will fail if we don’t do what they say.

The symposium is being held by Fizz, a group of researchers and public health doctors who want an end to the sale of sugary drinks

Which tells you all you need to know about them.

Once they’ve got soft drinks banned, will easter eggs be next?


Pistorius family should be grateful not complaining

October 7th, 2015 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Oscar Pistorius’ family criticised South African authorities on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) for delays in deciding whether he should be released from jail and moved to house arrest, saying his rights were being “undermined” because of the publicity surrounding his case. …

Pistorius was approved to be released on August 21 after serving 10 months of his five-year manslaughter sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

It is an outrage that he is may get out after 10 months, for slaughtering his girlfriend. His family really should STFU and be grateful he isn’t being locked up for 25 years as he deserves.


Great targets for rural broadband

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

Amy Adams announced:

Recognising the ever-increasing demand for high-speed broadband across New Zealand, and its importance to regional growth, the Government has today announced a bold new connectivity target for areas outside the UFB footprint.

Under this target virtually all New Zealanders, regardless of where they live or work, will be able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2025, Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced. …

By 2025, the Government’s vision would see:

  • 99 per cent of New Zealanders able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps (up from 97.8 per cent getting at least 5 Mbps under RBI)

  • The remaining 1 per cent able to access to 10 Mbps (up from dial up or non-existent speeds).

This will be greatly welcomed by those outside the areas where fibre is being laid. Let’s look forward to the death of the last dial up account!


ANZ on the TPP

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

Some interesting analysis from the ANZ Bank newsletter on the TPP. They make the point:

FTAs aren’t solely about tariff elimination. They are also about the ability to trade with as few impediments as possible. In this respect, TPP looks comprehensive at first glance, with the promise to breakdown compliance and non-tariff barriers across the Pacific Rim. These benefits are significant, especially for smaller economies and companies.


Closer connectivity with the major players on the trade and investment scene adds another string to our bow. The likes of the United States, Japan and Canada have some of the highest incomes and thus purchasing power of all countries. New Zealand isn’t the lowest cost producer in many sectors anymore and needs access better market access to wealthy consumers to capture margin, and to deliver on the “value-add” strategies that many sectors are pursuing.

But what I found interesting was their analysis of estimated tariff savings as a proportion of current earnings per industry. They are:

  1. Meat 3.1%
  2. Dairy 2.2%
  3. Fruit & Vegetables 2.2%
  4. Fish & Fish products 1.4%
  5. Wine 1.2%
  6. Other agricultural goods 1.1%
  7. Forestry 0.6%
  8. Wool, leather and textiles 0.6%
  9. Manufactured goods 0.1%

So when people say dairy was such a bad deal, actually the dairy sector gets the second largest savings as a proportion of current earnings. The dairy deal was a lot less than what full tariff removal would have been, but the savings are actually higher than most other sectors.

ANZ make the point again it is not just about the tariff reductions:

  1. We can create new markets where tariff levels have previously been prohibitive to trade;
  2. Gain parity with competitors who have already obtained free-trade concessions;
  3. Increase competitiveness through reducing or eliminating tariff costs, compliance and other non-tariff costs. The elimination of non-tariff barriers and streamlining of compliance requirements is particularly beneficial for many of New Zealand’s smaller exporting companies;
  4. Increase access through harmonising or eliminating technical standards; and
  5. Increase confidence in New Zealand products as a result of closer economic cooperation. Indeed, one of the key noted features is a platform for regional integration, with the potential to add additional countries in the future.

And finally:

There is a raft of empirical evidence suggests trade liberalisation benefits overall welfare and lifts nationwide GDP, particularly for open trade dependent economies like New Zealand. Studies by the Peterson Institute suggested that the gains to New Zealand from TPP would cumulate to around 2% of GDP by 2025. Some of the numbers being bandied around by Government officials look a little on the high side, but considering the surge in two-way trade between New Zealand and China following the signing of the FTA less than a decade ago it leaves little doubt as to benefits on overall trade (and GDP) from increasing trade liberalisation.

Also NZIER have done an analysis here. Their conclusion:

Our negotiators have delivered a good deal, given the hand they have been playing. Their skill and the way they have clearly respected the fundamental interests of the community, while gaining real returns, is now evident. The end result is that, outside of some dairy products and beef into Japan, all of New Zealand’s goods’ exports to all TPP countries will see tariffs completely removed over time.2 New Zealand’s exports of fruit, vegetables, wine, seafood, forestry products, wool and manufactured goods, which account for around 65% of our $20 billion of goods exports to TPP countries, will all enjoy tariff-free access to TPP markets over time.



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

The Veteran blogs at No Minister:

Over the last little while I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from the veteran community (and beyond) asking me if I was aware of the canard being promoted with the Waitangi Tribunal agreeing to hear the claim Wai 2500 the ‘Military Veterans kaupapa inquiry’.  

I was not  … I am now; the ‘claim’ has to be outed for the canard it is and the nonsense stopped.

Wai 2500 morphed out of the initial claim by the late Primate of New Zealand, the Most Rev Wakahuihui Vercoe, himself a Vietnam veteran, that the Maori Vietnam veteran community had outstanding grievances that needed to be addressed.    Wai 2500 extends that to cover all Maori veterans and argues that the NZ Government has failed to meet it’s Treaty obligations by not recognising the unique nature of the service rendered by Maori as Maori.   At least one of the claimants is seeking an across the board payment of $30,000 to each and every Maori ex-serviceman and and ex-servicewoman as compensation.    This is wrong.

I have accessed a number of the documents relating to the claim.    They are full of myths and legend and, like many war stories told and retold over a pint of beer, they have grown with every telling.

Take for example the statement in the original claim that two thirds of those who served in Vietnam were Maori. Total myth.   To the best of my knowledge the NZDF did not at that time categorize servicemen/women by race (they may to now, nothing surprises me).   But a cursory look at the ‘Flinkenburg List’ (the nominal roll of those who served in Vietnam) would suggest the figure is wrong and this is born out when I look at my own command.    It comprised a mix of Pakeha, Maori, Aussies and Poms.   Two out of my seven NCOs were Maori as were three of my private soldiers.   That works out at 15%.     Some commands would have had a higher percentage of Maori and some lower but two thirds, never … and, in the final analysis, so what?   We served as soldiers.   We shared the same danger, we ate the same food, were exposed to the same Agent Orange, we laughed together, we cried together, our blood shed was was not Maori or Pakeha blood … it was A pos or O neg or whatever.

The claims continue.   The fact that a Maori family could not conceive is hardly the fault of government.   It happens to both Maori and Pakeha regardless of whether they served or not.    The list goes on.   The assertions continue.   They do not stand objective analysis.   It’s as if every misfortune that has ever visited on the claimants can be directly attributed to their military service.

The Veteran has a long and distinguished record of advocating for veterans and getting them a better treatment from the Government.

He knows how harmful it is to have a claim that would see Maori veterans treated differently to other veterans.

But my real concern is twofold.    The first is that it drives a wedge between Pakeha and Maori veterans.     For better or worse we are a family.    In the Vietnam veteran community we look after each other.    Help is given on the basis of service and not on the colour of skin.   

And also:

But more importantly, the claim gives false hope (of the John Frum Cargo Cult variety) to our more vulnerable veterans that ‘manna’ is about to tumble down from above.   The reality is that no matter the Waitangi Tribunal ‘recommendation’ (and I accept the Tribunal is capable of anything), no Government is going to accept a recommendation that gives Maori veterans additional support over and above that available to their non-Maori colleagues.  To do so would be electoral suicide.   Hopes will be dashed, tears will be shed and our vulnerable veterans will be the losers per courtesy of a Tribunal that has exceeded its mandate.

I think the Waitangi Tribunal has played a useful role in researching and reporting on historic treaty claims. As these are close to concluding, the question is do we need the Waitangi Tribunal going forward?

I think we do need a body that can hear contemporary claims, and judge if something the Government is doing is in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. Without such a body, there is no way to adjudicate the merit of claims and it would encourage shall we say more direct action.

But I’m not convinced it should be the Waitangi Tribunal. Their acceptance of such dubious and even harmful claims makes me wonder if they are just creating work for themselves and the legion of lawyers who appear before them.

What I would do is abolish the Waitangi Tribunal, once the last historical claim is settled, and instead give the High Court the power to hear cases alleging a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. Like the Waitangi Tribunal, they would not have powers of enforcement – they could just make declaratory judgments (like with the Bill of Rights), which would have moral pressure on the Government and Parliament..

I’d trust the rigor of the High Court more than I do the Waitangi Tribunal, as it entertains claims such as this.  I suspect the Government would also. A finding of a treaty breach by the High Court would be more politically powerful than a finding by the Waitangi Tribunal, which has become almost embarrassing in recent times.