No changes to GST threshold for now

July 2nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government wants to lower the threshold on online purchases which qualify for GST from mid-2018, but says more work is needed and there will be no change without public consultation.

Currently, online purchases don’t qualify for GST and tariff duty unless the total tax owed is $60 or more – meaning a purchase price of about $400. But goods such as clothes, accessories, and shoes attract both duty and GST, meaning charges may be payable when the purchase price exceeds $225, according to the New Zealand Customs Service.

The $60 duty threshold, referred to as the de minimis, is the point at which more would be spent on the administration and collection than would be collected in revenue.

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner today said she is continuing to look at different ways to collect tax effectively, and the government acknowledges a lower threshold “would help to level the playing field, but there’s no quick or easy solution”.

“Customs needs to look into more detail around what some of the collection mechanism options could look like and what the border transaction fees might be,” Wagner said.

“Once Customs has a better understanding of the best ways to collect tax for low-value imports, we will look to lower the threshold, potentially from the 2018/19 financial year.”

I’m glad the Government is not rushing into this. If they get it wrong they will suffer a massive backlash if almost every item people order over the Internet from overseas is detained at the border.  It isn’t about the cost, but about people being able to get the goods they ordered easily.

There may be room for a modest decrease in the de minimis level if it will bring in more revenue than it costs. But I suspect any decrease would face significant extra costs.

A state funded convention centre

July 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Christchurch’s proposed Convention Centre has been a thorn in the city’s side for years, and even the man behind the contentious project, Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee, admits there’s been a lot of public angst about the whole situation.

After years of negotiations, news that Crown-owned organisation Otakaro Limited will take up the mantel for the anchor project has been heralded by many as a step forward, with progress finally set to get underway.

Others are not so easily convinced.

Labour’s Canterbury spokesperson Megan Woods says the Government’s deal has fallen through with private company Plenary Conventions New Zealand, leaving the tax-payer to pick up the million-dollar bill again.

A state funded convention centre – what could go wrong!

NZ 4th for adult literacy

July 2nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Adult Kiwis are among the most literate in the OECD, according to a new report.

The survey of adult skills, released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday, showed New Zealand has steadily improved adult literacy over two decades.

It was ranked fourth of the 33 countries surveyed, behind Japan, Finland and the Netherlands. In the same survey in 1996, New Zealand was ranked 12th. 

Adult Kiwis also ranked fifth in problem-solving using technology and 13th in numeracy. They were above the OECD average in all three categories.

Pretty pleasing results. But we have always tended to do quite well overall. The challenge is in our tail – the bottom 15% or so who do significantly worse than tails in other countries.

107 Nobel laureates blast Greenpeace

July 2nd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.

“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular,” the letter states.

Better to let the kids go blind and due, than allow GMOs according to Greenpeace it seems.

GMOs have now been around for 20 to 30 years and there hasn’t been a single negative incident. And many many benefits. Why does Greenpeace (and the Green Party) continue to ignore the science in favour of their near-religious belief that genetic modification is wrong.

Roberts said he endorses many other activities of Greenpeace, and said he hopes the group, after reading the letter, would “admit that this is an issue that they got wrong and focus on the stuff that they do well.”

Greenpeace has not yet responded to requests for comment on the letter. It is hardly the only group that opposes GMOs, but it has a robust global presence, and the laureates in their letter contend that Greenpeace has led the effort to block Golden Rice.

The list of signatories had risen to 107 names by Wednesday morning. Roberts said that, by his count, there are 296 living laureates.

So that is a huge proportion of the living nobel laureates.

Nobel laureate Randy Schekman, a cell biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Post, “I find it surprising that groups that are very supportive of science when it comes to global climate change, or even, for the most part, in the appreciation of the value of vaccination in preventing human disease, yet can be so dismissive of the general views of scientists when it comes to something as important as the world’s agricultural future.”

Greenpeace and the Greens only support science when it concurs with their beliefs.

Five Key Takeaways from Brexit

July 2nd, 2016 at 8:30 am by kiwi in america

1 – The Brits take their sovereignty seriously
One of the most powerful messages of the Leave campaign was the assertion that British sovereignty was being usurped by the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats of the EU Commission. Despite the presence of an EU Parliament with elected MEPs from member states, in reality this institution is merely a rubber stamp for the myriad of regulations issued by the European Commission controlled by 5 unelected Commissioners. These regulations are binding on EU member states and their growth and proliferation in recent years sees 60% of the legislative load of the UK Parliament devoted to the implementation of EU mandates. The increasing power of the European Court of Justice over ever widening categories of issues sees British courts more and more subject to review and veto by EU courts. Whilst Britain stayed out of the Euro, EU member states still must keep corporate and value added taxes (GST equivalent) and debt to GDP ratios within narrow bands to ensure EU wide conformity thus constraining some of the possible fiscal decisions by a Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance equivalent).

This gradual surrender of the sovereignty of Britain’s courts and its Parliament had reached a tipping point. It must be remembered that Britain’s history differs markedly from the experiences of the other continental EU member states. Britain’s isolation as an island state and its military prowess over many centuries has meant it has not been subjected to a successful invasion in almost 1,000 years (since the Norman conquest of 1066). Britain (or England before Union in 1707) has gone it alone against the odds on a number of occasions: Henry V’s 6,000 soldiers defeating over 30,000 French knights at the Battle of Agincourt in 1416, the small English navy’s defeat of the massive Spanish Armada in 1588 at a time when Spain was the world’s only super power, victory in the Dutch wars of the late 1600’s, the battles that ended the expansionist conquering of Napoleon (Trafalgar in 1805 and Waterloo in 1815) and of course more recently defeating Nazi Germany in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

England pioneered many of the foundational institutions that now underpin all successful first world democratic nations. The power of the English crown was constrained as early as 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta (the right to a fair trial, to face your accusers in court, to compensation for confiscated property and the need for the crown to consult before arbitrary taxation). The English Civil War wrested the power to tax from the Crown to an elected Parliament in the 1640’s. Through the centuries since the Middle Ages, the rule of law, the ability of courts to enforce contacts, to protect and legally transfer real and intellectual property and the establishment of an incorruptible, neutral and professional civil service that rose above partisan politics fueled the rapid rise of British driven international trade. This in turn brought great wealth sufficient to build the world’s largest navy to facilitate and protect the massive explosion of British global trade and it enabled Britain to lead the industrial revolution. These institutions and features, now taken for granted in any modern democratic capitalist economy, began in England and became part of the DNA of British life sometimes centuries before her rival powers did the same. For these reasons, the gradual abridgment of British sovereignty brought on by the growth in size and scope of the EU, has resonated more powerfully with the British voting public and led, more than any other single issue, to a vote to end this insidious trend so as to enable Britain’s Parliament (and the people who elect it) to chart their own destiny free from foreign interference in line with centuries of tradition. These are powerful and emotional almost visceral matters that transcend even the provable financial advantages cited by the Remain campaign.

2 – Elite opinion is mattering less
The unanimity of elite opinion in favour of Remain was staggering. British voters were told to vote Remain by:
• Most of the mainstream media (except a few of the tabloid newspapers);
• PM David Cameron (who staked his Premiership on the vote), half of the Tory Party, most of the Labour Party and all the Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalists Parties;
• Almost all economists and economic commentators;
• The IMF, the Bank of England Governor, the European Bank and if course the European Commission;
• A plethora of major British business leaders abetted by a number of big global financial institutions such as HSBC, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan (all heavily represented in the City of London);
• A host of luminaries in academia, journalism, think tanks and former politicians such has former PMs Blair and Major;
• A large parade of media celebrities; and
• Various world leaders comprising Britain’s major trading partners including US President Obama, French President Hollande, German Chancellor Merkel, Canadian PM Trudeau, all the EU Premiers and even our own PM John Key.

The Leave campaign featured Nigel Farage, the demonised UKIP MEP, Tory MP and former mayor of London Boris Johnson and Tory Cabinet front bencher Michael Gove, a handful of centre right media such as the Daily Mail and Breitbart UK, a small minority of economists and little else. And yet despite the wall to wall clamouring of opinion leaders in politics, industry and entertainment and robust debates with claim and counterclaim, over 17 million people ignored the chattering classes who lectured and hectored, talked down to them and painted endless doomsday scenarios and voted with their hearts to leave.

A feature of the Brexit vote was the startling results from the Labour heartland in the Midlands and the North. The disconnect between elite, London based opinion and the fears of the working and middle classes in the heartland is most vividly demonstrated by this clip compiled by Guardian journalist John Harris. The Guardian is a mainstream leftist newspaper that favours the Labour Party and its causes and so gave prominence to the efforts of many senior Labour MPs on behalf of the Remain campaign. Watching this clip and the responses given to the earnest pleadings of the Stoke-on-Trent Labour MPs in an area that Remain needed to win, convinced me that Brexit was going to happen.

3 – Leftist social media aggression is not working
The progressive left uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to push their agenda – often very aggressively. Brexit supporters before the vote were routinely shouted down in the public square and told they were thick, racist and xenophobic. But middle of the road voters, anxious over the matters covered in my first point, just ignored the abuse and, as the abuse and volume of noise in favour of Remain grew, you got the feeling that the resolve of people in favour of Brexit increased to quietly exercise their democratic right as a way to silence the hectoring and smug preaching. Parties on the left have yet to learn that people who post on Twitter are not representative of, and are vastly outnumbered by, people not on Twitter who get out and vote.

This aggression can be no more plainly highlighted than the disgraceful efforts by some to tie the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox to the Leave campaign and then the petulant sulking of various high profile proponents of Remain since the results came in. Talk of Brexiters’ supposed remorse, the signing of petitions to have a redo, talk of depriving the middle aged and elderly of their vote because they turned out in higher numbers to bolster Leave than the younger Remain voters, support for Scottish MPs to attempt a veto, pathetic attempts to de-legitimise the vote by claiming the result was based on the lies in the campaign and the widespread inability to accept defeat with any degree of graciousness, has reinforced median voter disdain for the antics of social justice warriors and their belief only in democratic outcomes that favour their agenda.

4 – Immigration is dominating median voter sentiment
In 2012 my brother and I visited the home in the East end of London where our grandfather lived in the 1930’s. We pulled up to the home and got out to take photos to be met with stony hostile stares from the many Muslim men in the street. As we drove through the East End and then to the city, we came to realise that, apart from perhaps the odd postman, courier driver or copper, that we were likely the only white European men to enter that part of the city that day such was the proliferation of Muslims, Africans and Eastern Europeans. It had been 18 years since I had been to England and the change to the cultural landscape to Britain in those decades has been profound to the point where whole swathes of English cities are now unrecognisable from their cultural composition for the centuries preceding the 21st century.

One of the foundation principles of any sovereign nation is the right and ability to control their own border. Most people in modern first world nations are in favour of some immigration. Only a most xenophobic and racist minority oppose all immigration. But what has happened to Britain is that they have gradually lost control of their ability to regulate this in-migration. Before the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht ushered in the free movement of people within the so-called Schengen Zone, successive British governments gave preference to the nationals of former colonies such as India, Pakistan and Caribbean nations and so manageable waves of migrants from these regions began in the 60’s and 70’s. The Blair/Brown Labour Government opened the floodgates and embraced the free movement of people in the EU opening the way for migrants from impoverished Eastern European countries and new waves of Poles, Lithuanians, Albanians and Romanians joined a growing wave of migrants from Arab nations. Over the last 20 years, these waves of new migrants have changed the face of Britain in a way that has left increasing numbers of Brits nervous and resentful. When you add in the pervasive political correctness that turns a blind eye to the antics of Muslim extremist preachers, violent east Asian gangs and the rise of Sharia courts and pillories as racist and Islamaphobic anyone who expresses concern about these trends, it only takes a few key incidents such as the 7/7 bombing in London to tip sentiment away from seeming untrammeled immigration.

There were two major immigration tipping points that proved the concerns voiced by the Leave campaign. The first was the massive wave of migrants that swept into Europe in 2015 from Syria, the Middle East then northern Africa via Greece and the Balkans. The one million new migrants that made their way to Germany through 2015 and 2016 and hundreds of thousands more to Austria, France and Sweden and the explosion of illegal migrants camping at Calais in France making increasingly violent attempts to make it to England on trucks has left a deep and lasting impression on British voters. With free movement inside the EU, even with a small winnowing out of fake refugees and the belated attempts by nations on the refugee’s chosen eastern European path to Germany (and even backtracking by Germany and others) to slow the flood, British voters knew that such migrants, once given residency in the county they ended up in, could LEGALLY enter Britain under the free movement provisions of the EU.

David Cameron sealed his fate three weeks out from the referendum when final immigration figures for 2015 were released. Cameron’s pitch in trying to stave off the threat of Brexit (inherent in his decision to hold the June referendum) was that he could negotiate a better deal for Britain if it stayed with the hope of enabling a British government to better regulate the flow of migrants. Cameron said his renegotiated deal would achieve this outcome and he gave the figure of 100,000 as his preferred ceiling of annual migrants. When the ACTUAL numbers for 2015 were revealed, it showed a true net in-migration flow of 333,000 or more than triple the limit Cameron told voters he was striving for when he sought re-election in 2015. His discomfort on immigration was compounded on the referendum campaign trail when confronted with voter questions on the subject of his (and any subsequent) government’s ability to curb this number if voters opted to remain. Neither Cameron nor any prominent Remain campaigner could give any assurance that Britain could curtail immigration if they remained in the EU. Charismatic and popular Labour MP Hilary Benn said as much when pressed by eminent BBC interviewer Andrew Neil saying that part of the package of being in the EU is the free movement of people effectively making the case for Leave that indeed, if Britain stayed in the EU, it could not effectively curb immigration
Faced with the seemingly irrevocable change in the cultural face of the country, with competition for work and the erosion of wages from the army of under-the-counter eastern European workers and with little prospect of being able to reverse this trend, is it any wonder the Brits said enough is enough and voted to Leave? Whilst immigration was not the only reason for the Brexit vote, it was a potent symbol of the loss of sovereignty inherent in the EU project.

5 – The polls were wrong … again
6 out of the 8 major polls picked a Remain result on the eve of the vote and the 2 that picked Leave had Leave only just winning versus the 4% eventual lead. Cameron’s own pollster picked a Remain victory. David covered the failure of Britain’s pollsters to pick the Brexit result.

This failure comes on the back of the similar failure to predict the Conservative absolute majority in the 2015 election. In that election, we saw the re-emergence of the so-called shy Tory and this same dynamic was at play in the referendum. Such was the ubiquity of elite opinion and such was the opprobrium and vitriol directed at Brexit supporters on social media and in the public square, poll respondents yet again told pollsters the politically correct answer but in the privacy of the voting booth, where no one could criticise, they voted how they REALLY felt.

Another dynamic at play here was the skewering of the turnout based on age. The young responded to polls but didn’t vote or at least not in the numbers that the 45-year-old + voters did. We see this same dynamic at play in New Zealand with the persistent under-performing of the Greens in various elections. The Greens win actual votes on average 1.5% lower than their pre-election polling for precisely the same reason – younger voters say they’ll vote Green to pollsters but fewer show up at the polls.

What type of Brexit will be eventually negotiated?
A Norwegian or Swiss model retaining free movement of people or a complete break? The Leave campaign never specified. There are a huge number of unanswered questions and complex variables at play. Who will lead the Conservative government after Cameron’s resignation? Remainer Teresa May or Brexiter Michael Gove? What deals will be cut to win over the Tory caucus that might water down the outcome given a majority of even Tory MPs voted Remain? Labour is in disarray so who will be its Leader? UK Labour’s rules give the power to the unions and the membership so, despite Corbyn’s huge unpopularity in his own caucus, he could yet again dominate a new leadership vote buoyed by the harder left activist base. If he wins again, does Labour split? Would a new Conservative PM hold an election and what would be said on the hustings with respect to the shape of Brexit that might further define how it would look? Exactly how will the EU Commission and the major players such as Germany and France react to the formal invoking of Article 50? Will they seek to punish Britain by ruling out any favourable trade deal to discourage others from leaving? How quickly can Britain negotiate bi-lateral Free Trade Agreements with say the US, China, Korea and even New Zealand? Britain was once the greatest trading nation on the planet and less than a century ago fully 50% of the global merchant shipping fleet was English owned. How soon can and will Scotland press for another independence referendum? Will Remain voting Northern Island seek a referendum severing its ties to the UK and uniting with the EU and euro zone Republic of Ireland? How will the crucial financial sector passporting issue be handled and if the EU plays hardball, how many jobs will be lost to the City of London due to Britain no longer offering automatic banking registration to the EU to the many global financial institutions that are based in London? Will other EU countries manage to get exit referendums on ballots and follow Britain? The answers to each one of these questions will influence the precise nature of how Britain’s momentous decision will be implemented.

General Debate 2 July 2016

July 2nd, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

538 has Clinton at 80% to win

July 2nd, 2016 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

538 has launched their general election forecast and has Clinton at 80% to win.

Their poll of polls has Clinton at 49%, Trump 42% and Johnson 8%.

On the electoral college they project Clinton 354 and Trump 183. In the swing states they have Clinton winning Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa and Florida. Trump to win Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Indiana, Texas and Utah.

The 183 projected for Trump (and it is only a projection) would be the worst result for the Republicans since 1996 when they got 159.

Barton Deakin on the Australian election

July 1st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Jenna Raeburn of Barton Deakin looks at the Australian election:

Who will win?

The polls have been 50/50 or 51/49 through the entire campaign. However, on a marginal seats analysis, it’s difficult to see how Labor will pick up enough seats – they need to win a net 21 for a majority.

Shorten started out strong but the long campaign has proven to be the right tactical move as Turnbull has gradually pulled ahead. The betting markets have Labor at around $7-8 to win and the Coalition around $1.10. Virtually nobody is saying Labor will win anymore.


How many seats are needed to win?

The Coalition nominally holds 90 seats but as boundaries have been redistributed, they really only hold 88. The ALP nominally holds 53, up to 55 after redistribution.

As 76 seats are needed to govern, the Coalition needs to lose 13 seats to lose government. This is very unlikely. Even more unlikely is Labor picking up 21 seats to win a majority. The only (virtually impossible) path to Labor victory would be to cobble together a coalition of minor parties and independents.

What does a Turnbull win mean for the leadership of both parties?

Shorten has run a strong campaign and will pick up some seats from the Coalition. This is likely to be enough to cement him as the leader for now.

For Turnbull, the issue is not just winning, but winning well. If he loses too many seats to the ALP he will be in trouble. It will also make life difficult for the Coalition if they do not have enough seats in a joint Parliament across both the House of Representatives and the Senate (more on this below).

Importantly, there is a possibility that Turnbull wins the election but loses the popular vote. So while winning marginal seats is all that matters for the election outcome, it’s important for his mandate and leadership to win the popular vote as well. With the polls at 50/50 on a two party preferred basis, this is impossible to call. 

Which seats will swing?

There could be a few random results. 21 members of the lower House are retiring, many of whom are long serving. This leaves some previously “safe” seats wide open as they may have been safe on the basis of personal popularity rather than party preference.

Queensland – there is a bit of swing but not enough to change much. You could even see the Libs holding everything, which seemed impossible eight weeks ago. They will lose between 0 and 3.

WA – significant Labor swing here. However, a 10% swing would only bring in about four seats. For comparison, a 10% swing in Queensland would bring in about 12.

Vic – no swing.

New South Wales – enough for a net 1-2 seats to change; but there is also a strong, popular LNP state government. The LNP is even looking pretty good in marginal seats like Robertson and Dobell. Labor might pick up a couple in Western Sydney.

Tasmania – anything could happen. Three government seats are held very marginally.

South Australia – is the one to watch. The Nick Xenophon factor makes this the most unpredictable state by far. Xenophon is a popular and clever politician who has gone from an independent Senator, to leading a party (the Nick Xenophon Team or NXT party) which may well pick up two seats in the lower House and 3-4 in the Senate. If NXT is able to come second, the preferences of the third party (whether LNP or Labor) will flow to them. Labor seems to have collapsed in SA. One seat could even come to the Coalition.

How many seats will the Government drop?

This is the big question for Turnbull. He not only needs to be returned, but returned without a significantly reduced number of MPs. A few weeks ago it looked like they could lose between eight and 15. Now, a net loss of five or fewer is optimistic but not unachievable.

So what seats should I watch?

Pay attention to the Brisbane seats (Brisbane, Lilley, Griffith, Petrie, Forde), south west Sydney (Banks, Macarthur, Lindsay, Grayndler), and South Australia (Mayo, Barker, and even Adelaide in contention for NXT).

Also watch out for the Greens in Batman and Grayndler (Albanese’s seat) where they have put up a good fight.

Seats to watch

What are the big issues in the campaign?

Leadership  – The defining issue for the Liberal campaign is Turnbull’s leadership and the importance of stability. He was shaky at the start of the campaign but increasingly looks and sounds like a leader – especially compared to Shorten.

Stability – The message from the LNP is essentially that a vote for anyone else is a vote for chaos. This is similar to recent MMP campaigns in New Zealand – “a vote for Labor is not just a vote for Labor, but for Labor, the Greens, and a bunch of independents”.

The economy – For Turnbull, the campaign has focused on economic management and “jobs and growth” (repeated ad nauseam). Good on him for sticking to his guns on the economy as these messages are paying off, particularly in the wake of Brexit (more below).

Health – The big issue Labor is running is essentially a scare campaign around Medicare with claims that the Government will privatise or undermine the health system somehow. Though Turnbull has flatly denied this, the ALP seems to think that as long as they are talking about Medicare, they will be on top of the narrative as it is traditionally strong ground for them.

Same sex marriage – the ALP is also making hay out of same sex marriage – not because it wins them votes in middle Australia, but because it exposes divisions within the Coalition and exposes Turnbull for not championing an issue he is supposed to be passionate about.

Debt – Labor’s biggest problem is long term spending, though the Libs don’t balance spending either. Australia is eight years behind New Zealand here – we are finally back in surplus, while they are just starting to think about addressing debt.

Impact of Brexit

There is no doubt that Brexit has helped to cement Turnbull’s position in the final week. Voters are more worried about instability – so Turnbull’s messages around stability, leadership, consistency and the economy are paying off.

The Abbott factor

If Abbott was the leader we would have seen a very different campaign issues-wise, and we probably wouldn’t have seen the same impact from the Brexit vote. 

Abbott has been well behaved for most of the campaign until the last week or so. He and other elements in the party have been clearly agitating for the election to focus on border security and immigration issues, but Turnbull has stuck to his guns on the economy, and good on him for doing so.

The Senate

There is no doubt that calling for a double dissolution was a massive strategic error. It’s hard to work out why Turnbull did this in the first place – the former makeup of the Senate was intolerable, but it’s hard to see how this would have improved in any scenario. The post-election Senate will be a mess with no party holding a majority.

The double dissolution was called because the Senate refused to pass the ABCC Bill. A feature of a double dissolution election is that there will be a joint sitting of Parliament to consider this Bill immediately following the election. This makes it important for Turnbull to not just hold enough seats in the lower House, but to hold a majority in the combined Parliament (i.e. a majority across the combined 150 seats + 76 Senate seats). He should achieve this as long as they don’t drop too many seats in the lower House.


This will be a very interesting election to watch – not so much for the overall result, but for the movements in individual seats and the impact on Turnbull’s leadership.

A complete guide for seats to watch, as well as campaign policy updates, are available here:

Edwards on Little

July 1st, 2016 at 3:56 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he saidy’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

A very harsh assessment from a long-term Labour supporter and senior adviser.

Standing trial for a joke

July 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Paul Gascoigne is to stand trial accused of making a racist joke at a comedy show.

The former England international pleaded not guilty to a racially aggravated offence when he appeared before Dudley magistrates court on Wednesday morning.

The ex-footballer allegedly made the remarks during an evening billed An Audience With Paul Gascoigne at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton on 30 November last year.

He is alleged to have made a joke about a black security guard whom he spotted in a darkened corner of the stage, saying he could not tell “if he is smiling or not”.

And he is standing trial for that? Hopefully if Boris becomes PM he can repeal the laws that makes that possible.

UPDATE: Yes this was written and timed before Boris pulled out. Which means sadly probably no change.

Will UK Labour recover?

July 1st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Harris writes in The Guardian:

For all his commendable policy positions Jeremy Corbyn has been a pretty awful leader. But in all its fundamentals, the state of his party is hardly his fault. To blame him is to fall for the same delusion whereby a supposed challenger – Angela Eagle, Tom Watson, Dan Jarvis – can put the party on the road to recovery. The truth, unpalatable to some but which is surely obvious, is that Labour is in the midst of a longstanding and possibly terminal malaise, and now finds itself facing two equally unviable options.

Should wages be the same in Nelson as Auckland?

July 1st, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Foodstuffs pays its South Island supermarket staff $2 less an hour solely because they are in the South Island, the FIRST union alleges. 

An ongoing dispute over wages for Foodstuffs’ staff will head to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) next week as contract negotiations remain gridlocked.

New World Nelson, Pak ‘n Save Richmond and Pak ‘n Save Invercargill’s local owners rejected the FIRST union’s attempt to bargain for pay rises in collective agreements, FIRST’s Nelson organiser Rachel Boyack said. …

Boyack said employees at Foodstuffs’ South Island stores were paid about $2 less an hour than North Island staff without explanation.

“[Foodstuffs] have said that they’re paid less because it’s the South Island.

“The jaw drops on our side of the table. I have never heard an employer say that South Island staff should be paid less.”

I don’t see why wages should be the same in every city. Wage rates are a factor of supply and demand, and this varies by area. It costs more to live in Auckland so wages tend to be higher in Auckland.

Stats NZ changes definition of unemployed

July 1st, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With the stroke of a pen, the number of people unemployed dropped by 12,000, while the number in the workforce has also dropped.

But the changes are purely statistical, with not a single job being created or lost in the changes. 

On Wednesday Statistics New Zealand released a report outlining revisions to labour market research, designed to better identify job seekers and to bring the official figures in line with international standards.

It is the first major change to the calculations since the household labour force survey was introduced in 1985.

As a result of the changes, there have been substantial revisions to household labour force estimates, dating all the way back to 2007, to give accurate comparisons to future reports.

According to the new reports, the unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent in the March 2016, compared to 5.7 per cent in the original report, with the number considered unemployed dropping by 12,000 to 132,000.

Meanwhile the labour force participation rate dropped by 0.3 percentage points to 68.7 per cent.

The figures have been recalculated for every quarterly household labour force survey back to the start 2005.

This will get conspiracies going that the Government has changed the definition to make the data look better, but Stats NZ decides this independently, and it is about having the same definition as other countries.

The change is pretty simple to understand. You are only regarded as unemployed if you are out of work and actually seeking a job. And previously if you indicated you browsed job advertisements on the Internet, you are deemed to be seeking work.

The new definition regards merely reading advertisements, but not actually applying for any jobs, as not seeking work and hence not in the labour force.

NZ offers trade negotiators to UK

July 1st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand has offered its top trade negotiators to the United Kingdom, relieving the British civil service as it prepares for the strain of seeking new deals with countries across the globe.

The Telegraph reported New Zealand has made an offer to loan staff to the UK in a diplomatic cable sent to the British civil service, which has few trade negotiators of its own.

Wellington’s olive branch came alongside an offer to discuss a trade agreement with the UK, which would help Britain get out of the starting blocks and begin replacing the trade access lost as a result of the Brexit vote.

Experts say that drafting negotiators will be crucial for forging new agreements between the UK and Brussels, as well as with more than 50 other markets with which EU members currently enjoy trade agreements.

Lord Price, the minister for trade and investment, has said that the British Government has around 40 trade negotiators, compared with the 550 employed by the EU.

Whitehall has outsourced trade powers to Brussels for 43 years, meaning that the number of negotiators employed by Government has dwindled.

Looks like the UK has fewer trade negotiators than NZ. Out negotiators are regarded as some of the best in the world, so offering some secondments to the UK is a very good idea to help out a very good friend.

Also if we try and negotiate a NZ-UK FTA, well having NZ negotiators on both sides can only speed things up 🙂

UPDATE: Looks like the original story over-stated things and we have offered general assistance, but not negotiators. Seems they are all busy with our own negotiations.

Can we crowd fund for the Police?

July 1st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The family of a man fatally shot by police 16-years-ago are appealing to the public for help raising money to take the Crown to court over his death.

Steven Wallace was shot by Senior Constable Keith Abbott in the main street of Waitara in 2000 and died from the wounds.

Mr Wallace, 23, had smashed windows and a police car with a baseball bat and a golf club and threatened to hit Mr Abbott before he was shot.

After lengthy legal battles that saw Mr Abbott acquitted of murder and the police cleared of all blame, Steven’s family have been granted permission to proceed with a new civil case.

They are arguing that the man was deprived the right to life.

High Court Judge Brendan Brown said the case can proceed on the condition the family can raise the $20,000 needed for security to cover the costs of a two week trial.

I’d donate to a crowd funded appeal for Constable Abbott.

Abbott has been cleared by the Police, the IPCA, the Coroner and a High Court jury. The reason Steven Wallace is dead is because of Steven Wallace – no one else. Abbott is just the poor guy who was forced to shoot him or die himself.

Gove goes for it

July 1st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Gove has announced:

I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be Prime Minister.

That has always been my view. But events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me. I respect and admire all the candidates running for the leadership.

In particular, I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.

But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership.

This really heats things up.

The Conservative Party rules are their caucus votes first and the top two candidates then go to a ballot of party members.

It is possible Theresa May and Michael Gove could get the most votes from MPs, meaning Boris won’t even be on the ballot for the members – where he has the most support.

So far the declared (or about to declare) contenders are:

  • Stephen Crabb (Welfare Secretary)
  • Liam Fox (former Defence Secretary)
  • Michael Gove (Justice Secretary)
  • Boris Johnson (former Mayor of London)
  • Theresa May (Home Secretary)

UPDATE: Boris has decided not to stand. Wow UK politics is exciting at the moment!

General Debate 1 July 2016

July 1st, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Previewing the Australian election

July 1st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Crikey’s Poll Bludger is forecasting:

  • Coalition 42%
  • Labor 34%
  • Greens 11%
  • Xenophon Team 4%
  • Palmer United 0%

On a two party preferred basis that is:

  • Coalition 51%
  • Labor 49%

The seat projections is:

  • Coalition 80 (-10)
  • Labor 66 (+11)
  • Others 4 (-1)

The betting markets have the Coalition paying just $1.11 and Labor $8.00 so a Labor win would be a huge upset. A hung Parliament is at $5.50.

The Senate is far more difficult to forecast with the voting preferences but Crikey says most likely is:

  • Queensland – Coalition 5, Labor 4, Greens 1, Others 2 (Katter, One Nation)
  • Victoria – Coalition 5, Labor 4, Greens 2, Others 1 (Sex Party)
  • NSW – Coalition 5, Labor 4, Greens 2, Others 1 (LDP)
  • WA – Coalition 5, Labor 4, Greens 2, Others 1 (LDP)
  • SA – Coalition 4, Labor 3, Greens 1, Xenophon 4
  • Tasmania – Coalition 5, Labor 4, Greens 2, Others 1 (Lambie)
  • ACT – Coalition 1, Labor 1
  • NT – Coalition 1, Labor 1

So in total this would be Coalition 31, Labor 25, Greens 10, Xenophon 4, LDP 2, Others 4. You need 39 votes to pass in the Senate so the small parties will hold the balance of power on this forecast.

What about the joint setting to pass the laws that triggered the double dissolution. You have a combined 226 MPs voting so need 114 to pass a law in a joint setting.

80 plus 31 is 111. So they again will need Independents or another party. With LDP they get close at 113.

But this is all forecasts. We’ll see tomorrow how it ends up. With a non-proportional system, results can vary much more greatly than under MMP etc.

Venezuela crumbles

June 30th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The fight for food has begun in Venezuela. On any day, in cities across this increasingly desperate nation, crowds form to sack supermarkets. Protesters take to the streets to decry the sky-rocketing prices and dwindling supplies of basic goods. The wealthy improvise, some shopping online for food that arrives from Miami. Middle-class families make do with less: coffee without milk, sardines instead of beef, two daily meals instead of three. The poor are stripping mangos off the trees and struggling to survive.

That socialism is working well then. Haven’t managed stuff like this since the old USSR.

The political stakes are mounting. Exhausted by government-imposed power blackouts, spiralling crime, endless food lines, shortages of medicine and waves of looting and protest, citizens are mobilising against their leaders. In recent days, Venezuelans lined up to add their names to a recall petition that aims to bring down the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, and put an end to the socialist-inspired “revolution” ignited 17 years ago by Hugo Chavez.

A pity he isn’t around to see how successful his revolution is.

Under Chavez, the government established a network of government-run supermarkets that sold basic foods at subsidised prices. But inflation has put even these bargains out of reach for many people. A single kilogram of yucca – about two pounds – now costs about one-third of the weekly minimum wage.

I await Labour to launch this as policy and call it Kiwimarkets!

Venezuela’s ability to produce food and other goods has dwindled over the years as the government has expropriated private companies, expanded price controls, and otherwise discouraged private production. Corn, rice and other foods once grown domestically now have to be imported.

But they have less income inequality now as they got rid of the private companies!

“There is no humanitarian crisis,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told an Organisation of American States meeting last week.

We have always been at war with Eurasia.

Herald owners agree to pay $36 million of tax they dodged

June 30th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reported:

Australian publisher APN News & Media has reached a binding heads of agreement with the Inland Revenue Department to settle its alleged tax avoidance case and other disputed tax issues for $36.3 million.

Isn’t this curious.

The NZ Herald spends a lot of time and space highlighting how certain companies (which happen to compete with them) don’t pay much tax. Those companies have never ever been found to have illegally avoided or evaded tax.

However the Herald’s owners have admitted to underpaying their tax by $36 million, and now have to pay it back. Yet how much publicity does this get in the Herald?

New evidence needed to try Rewa

June 30th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Bush said police also backed Hansen’s finding that Rewa committed the rape and murder by himself.

However, they had received legal advice that the report confirming Pora’s innocence did not constitute the “exceptional circumstances” required to lift the stay of proceedings against Rewa.

“If we could revisit that again we would, but as you know there’s a stay in terms of that prosecution and we have no new evidence in order to put that before the court again.

“I can tell you that we have made efforts and at this stage, that’s the end of that matter.”

Hopefully the evidence can be found, but I suspect Rewa will never get parole anyway so the matter is somewhat academic. But if new evidence can be located, it would be good to try Rewa again for the murder.

Rates up 5.4% for Wellington households

June 30th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Rates bills across Wellington will increase by an average of 3.6 per cent, after the city council set its budget in stone for the next financial year.

Councillors signed off on the city’s 2016-17 Annual Plan on Wednesday, striking an average rates increase of 5.4 per cent for residential ratepayers and an average 2.7 per cent increase for commercial ratepayers – equating to a hike of 3.6 per cent across the city.

Inflation is at 0.4% so the overall rates hike is nine times the level of inflation and for households the increase is 13 times the level of inflation.

My wish is for all Mayoral and Council candidates to state a maximum level of rates increase they will vote for. I think 2% (the midpoint of the inflation target) is a suitable maximum.

When Australian Labor last delivered a surplus!

June 30th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The last time a Labor Government in Australia delivered a surplus was in 1989, and this video reminds us of how different the world was back then/. Very effective.

Whale takes a break

June 30th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Controversial blogger Cameron Slater is taking a sabbatical from his Whale Oil site.

Comparing the move to what conservative US political blogger Andrew Sullivan “regularly did,” Mr Slater says he will be taking time out from managing the blog “for at least a month, and probably two months.”

The sabbatical starts on July 4; standing in for Mr Slater in his absence will be Pete Belt, who has been working on the site “for several years now.”

According to Mr Slater, his decision to take a break has been prompted by two things: “a couple of other projects that need some attention” and his “need [for] a rest after an intense couple of years.”

Of the latter, he says, “Having blogged constantly for 11 years this will actually be my first real break.

“So my first priority will be to get in some good hunting in what remains of the game bird season, and knock over a few deer, pigs and goats as well.”

A sabbatical sounds a great way to recharge the batteries. I hope Cam enjoys the break.

Gower says Little should apologise to Shewan

June 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

Andrew Little should apologise to tax expert John Shewan for treating him with utter contempt and total disrespect.

Mr Little has been caught out big time — and it serves him right.

Mr Little got things wrong about Mr Shewan and has to put them right.

So Mr Little issued a retraction — at 5:17pm on Saturday, June 18 — two hours and 18 minutes before kick-off of the Wellington Test.

This is so cynical it is sad. Everybody knows that is the absolutely dead time in a media cycle when it would get the least attention. It is cunning and awful and rude and Mr Little’s actions show why people distrust politicians.

Now things have bounced back on Mr Little and his own credibility is being called into question — and it serves him right.

A lot of this is arcane and complex but it is important because Mr Little is auditioning to be Prime Minister. His actions and his words are important.

Mr Little yesterday repeatedly said that Mr Shewan did not ask him for an apology about incorrect statements made about him.

So then Mr Shewan pulled out a letter to Mr Little that said: “I now request the statement I sent to you yesterday be issued with the following additions: ‘I apologise to Mr Shewan for any embarrassment I have caused him through my statements’.”

Sadly for Mr Little, it doesn’t get much clearer than that. Contrary to his public claims, Mr Shewan asked for an apology.


Mr Shewan has produced an excellent report,. Labour has been quoting it in Parliament and saying it is good. But previously Little was accusing Shewan of being involved in helping the Bahamas stay a tax haven. He admits he was totally wrong on this, but won’t apologise to Shewan for the smear of his reputation.