Archive for January, 2006

Drinks tonight

January 31st, 2006 at 5:12 pm by David Farrar

Reminder that the blog drinks are tonight, starting 5.30 pm at the Backbencher on Molesworth Street.

These are not exclusive. Both bloggers and blog readers are welcome. And in true bi-partisan spirit they are co-hosted by Jordan Carter. Co-host does not mean we pay for your drinks though. In fact I have no idea what it means.

Due to my new found control over time and space, this post should stay at the top of the blog all day.

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Religions and Free Speech

January 31st, 2006 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

It is interesting to contrast how different religions handle publications that they consider are derogatory or offensive of their beliefs.

With the Catholic Church we have the fine example of the South Park Episode which features a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding out her behind and the Pope eventually investigating and declaring it is no miracle as in fact the bleeding is from elsewhere and quite ordinary. Now I have viewed this episode. It is truly offensive. It is especially offensive to Catholics who revere the Virgin Mary.

Luckily for me I enjoy offensive comedies so found the episode hilarious.

Now various Catholic groups have lobbied for that episode to not be aired. They have signed a letter to C4 asking it not to be shown. An appropriate action. C4 hopefully will of course show it anyway. And that result will be accepted.

Now over in Denmark a newspaper ran some cartoons that satirically ridiculed the prophet Mohammed. The reaction to this newspaper from many representatives of Islam has been amazing. This is a private newspaper not owned by the state.

However Libya has closed its embassy, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador, religious leaders have called for boycotts of all Danish products, Danish aid workers in the middle east have been threatened, protests have burnt the Danish flag etc etc.

All this over one private newspaper running some cartoons. Islamic Governments around the world declaring the Denmark must kill off a free press and stop a repeat.

I hate to think what would happen if South Park ever satirised Islam in the way it does the Catholic Church.

And meanwhile in the UK Rowan Atkinson is continuing his fight against a bill which basically will make it illegal to insult religions.

Personally I think that just as it is important for people to choose a religion freely, people should be able to criticise and satirise religions freely.

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A pledge Clinton would never make

January 31st, 2006 at 12:41 pm by David Farrar

Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy has promised not to have sex until after the general election on April 9.

Having seen the wives of the new Canadian Prime Minister and UK Tory Leader, I am fairly confident in predicting there won’t be a lot of leaders making similiar pledges.

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Upside of Hamas victory

January 31st, 2006 at 12:29 pm by David Farrar

Scott Adams points to an upside of the Hamas victory.

He compares it to what would a dog do if it actually caught the car it was chasing. And certainly Hamas may not have wanted to become the Government, just to gain some political power.

Adams states:

I have to think it will be difficult for Hamas to reconcile the whole

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Owen Glenn

January 31st, 2006 at 12:17 pm by David Farrar

Spirit of 76 blogs about Investigate’s feature on Owen Glenn, the ex-pat billionairre who donated $500,000 to Labour.

I haven’t read the article but I’m not sure there is anything too new in it. Basically the sum total is:

* Glenn’s company ships tobacco for BAT
* He was fined $1.5 million by the US Government in 1999
* Some of his colleagues are dubious
* He would benefit from a free trade deal with China
* His company pays almost no tax

I don’t see any smoking gun here. The business of the fine was covered by me back in May. It is useful to republicise it, but it isn’t anything brand new.

What is the bigger issue for me is the outraegous allegations by Mallard about mythical National Party donors in the US and the fact that if Glenn was a National Party donor there would have been months and months of stories about him.

If he had been a National Party donor, I suggested in May the headlines would have been:

“There has been wide-spread condemnation of the revelation that a billionaire who has not lived in NZ for 40 years has been funding the National Party with the largest donation in electoral history. Mr Glenn, who was prosecuted by US authorities and paid $800,000 in a settlement, had previously made secret donations, but they now stand revealed. In the US people can not donate more than $2,000 to a party, and donations from foreigners are banned. The donation scandal has led to calls for similar restrictions in NZ …… “

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Nandor on IT

January 31st, 2006 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a good interview with Nandor on IT issues. I did have to laugh at his battles with The Parliamentary Service to get Firefox installed on his PC. PS are very risk averse to any non standard software going on the system. Of course Firefox should be standard!

When I worked there somehow I ended up with a user profile which gave me administrator rights to local PCs. This made me very popular with my colleagues as I could install MSN Messenger for them, despite the best attempts of PS to ban it.

On more important matters, good to see Nandor focusing on local loop issues. Very much in agreement there. Not so keen on a hardware levy though.

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Clarkson seeking costs

January 31st, 2006 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

Bob Clarkson is seeking $80,000 in costs from Winston Peters over his failed electoral petition. I will be surprised if Peters does not have to pay some costs, but am unsure how much are likely. There hasn’t been an unsucessful electoral petition for a while so I am not sure what proportion the last petitioner had to pay.

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Travelling Light

January 30th, 2006 at 1:57 pm by David Farrar

At Wellington Airport about to fly to Christchurch for a meeting this evening. Back tomorrow morning.

As usual for very short-term trips I have just one small carry on knapsack which takes both my laptop and spare clothes.

One of my travelling companions has not one, not two, not three but four bags with her! Yes and this is for spending 18 hours away from Wellington.

What’s that book called again – men are from Mars and women are from Venus – so true! :-)

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Act on Campus

January 30th, 2006 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

When up in Auckland on Thursday night I caught up with a few of the ACT on Campus people for a drink. Ironically if I was in Wellington I would have been at the NZUSA Conference!

What was meant to be a quiet drink or two turned into a very fun sociable night and I didn’t get home until well after 1 am.

aoc.JPG

The photo shows us outside the Grand Central in Ponsonby. On the far left is a random patron who joined the photo. Next is AUSA legend Graham Watson who needs little introduction. The scary thing is Graham and I first met 20 years ago at an NZUSA meeting!

Auckland AOC President David Seymour is third from left and then Blair Mulholland, the Whig. First time I have met Blair despite several conversations about umm mutual interests! Then Willie Seabrooke who manages to fit the term “property rights” into almost any conversation and finally Helen Simpson who was recently elected national president of Act on Campus.

Was a fun night. Alcohol and politics are always a good mix!

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Employment Dismissal Process

January 30th, 2006 at 9:27 am by David Farrar

One of the biggest criticisms of the current employment law environment is that minor process flaws can make it impossible to sack someone, even if you catch them stealing.

This is shown in this report in the Dominion Post.

Firstly I should comment that process is important. The basic notion that an employee should have the chance to defend themselves is very important. There may be factors unknown to the employer.

However in the case linked above the employee, caught on film taking company property, has won $19,000 because of what I have to say is a very minor procedural point.

Basically the employer showed him the film of him removing company property and asked him to comment. Realising he had been caught, he refused to explain. Now the flaw the employer had was not stating the obvious “We believe this video shows you stealing from us”.

I’m appalled that such a minor procedural breach gets the sacked employee walking away with six months salary or so. If they had not confronted him with the video evidence at all that would be a different matter, but come on when your employer shows you a video of you removing company goods, you know what it is about.

The pity with this ruling is it lumps in the genuinely good employers who try their best to be fair, with the genuinely bad employers who do ignore employee rights.

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Who said this?

January 30th, 2006 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press — in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years

No cheating with Google. Guesses below.

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NZ Herald supports tolls

January 30th, 2006 at 8:39 am by David Farrar

To balance up all the critics of Hubbard’s plan to toll existing roads, the NZ Herald editorial today praises the plan and says road tolling takes political courage.

Again this of course reminds me of the old Yes Minister episodes when telling the Minister that such a decision or policy is courageuous, is guaranteed to have the Minister do a 180 degree u-turn.

The NZ Herald talks of its support for tolls generally but doesn’t distinguish between tolls on existing roads and tolls on new roads. There is a difference and reading the editorial one would have no idea that the Hubbard plan is about existing roads as well as new roads.

I personally believe the future will involve electronic tolls on major roads and that this will over time replace petrol tax as the primary source of funds for new roads. User pays basically. What I want to avoid is where you are paying both petrol tax and tolls for the same road.

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Maori Party declares war on dependency culture

January 30th, 2006 at 8:28 am by David Farrar

Pita Sharples has said there is too much dependency on welfare in Maoridom – and Labour have failed to address this.

They seem to be playing a smart hand in positioning themselves as willing to work with any party to advance Maori interests. Of special interest is their plans to run seminars for National MPs on the foreshore & seabed issue.

It will also be interesting if Labour support their attempts to entrench the Maori seats. Mind you even if Labour do support them, they will fall short of the super-majority needed.

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Electoral Suicide

January 29th, 2006 at 11:13 am by David Farrar

Dick Hubbard seems determined to be the third one-term Mayor of Auckland in a row. He has written a column in favour of his plan to toll existing roads by saying Oliver Cromwell, Dick Turpin and Robin Hood all tolled roads also.

So Aucklanders your Mayor is basing his policies on those of a traitor, a robber and a mythical character.

Not only are the AA against the plan to charge people for roads they have already paid for, but his former cheer-leader Brian Rudman labels it a kamikaze mission.

Matt McCarten calls Hubbard’s plan “electoral suicide”.

I think this guarantees the ‘left’ in Auckland will now put up their own Mayoral candidate.

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Google doing evil

January 29th, 2006 at 10:39 am by David Farrar

Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin has blogged a defence of Google’s decision to set up a Google China service which will censor out terms unacceptable to the Chinese Government.

Russell Brown has also said he feels somewhat sorry for Google as other companies are already doing this. As Russell points out though when your company motto is “Don’t Be Evil” then you can’t complain if people criticise you for being evil.

To put it more bluntly I totally expect Microsoft to censor information in return for market share in China. Google though has built up its brand and profile as supporting freedom of information everywhere and this week is for me the week they have jumped the shark and I go from being a passionate fan to merely a customer.

McLaughlin defends Google’s decision by saying that Chinese users were unable to access many of their existing international services such as Google News and that setting up a local service will provide more information to them. This is duplicitous as it misses the point that Google is not responsible for China blocking access to some of its services but is responsible for agreeing to suppress information on its own servers.

The defence of respecting local laws and comparing it to very minor restrictions in Germany on Nazi memorabilia is also flawed. Germany does not block its citizens from using the international Google. A better comparison would be to ask whether Google would now agree to set up an Iranian version which blocks all articles relating to the Holocaust.

I regard suppressing of a citizen’s right to access public information as a heinous crime. It is more important to me than the right to vote. If I had to choose between losing the right to vote and losing the right to freely access news and information, I would choose the former.

Google had a chance of being a beacon of free speech and information by refusing to censor on behalf of the Chinese Government. Yes Chinese users would have remained unable to access many of their services but by doing so it would have encouraged more people in China to support a change in their political culture so they could access Google freely.

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Offline Content

January 28th, 2006 at 9:49 pm by David Farrar

Gonzo notes that Russell Brown’s Listener column is no longer available online and wonders if this is inspired by the Herald’s premium content strategy?

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Crown Expenditure

January 28th, 2006 at 9:46 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn disagrees with John Key that the Government has massively expanded government spending since 1999 and claims that core crown expenditure has decreased from 35.1% of GDP to 30.6% of GDP and hence no massive increase.

Now this is an excellent case of using the wrong statistic. You see John Key was talking about the role of government expenditure in fuelling inflation and a comparison to GDP is almost meaningless in that context.

In fact the entire notion that if the economy grows by 5% then the Government should be inventing new things to spend money on to keep its percentage up is bizarre. During times of good economic growth one will in fact have considerably less core expenditure as there are less people on welfare. Hence the increases we have seen are all the more remarkable.

Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP is a useful statistic for overseas comparisons, but using it to argue that expenditure is not increasing is silly. One will find that almost every country in the developed world has its expenditure as a percentage of GDP decreasing during times of economic growth. In fact if your crown expenditure does increase faster than your economy as a whole you are heading into trouble.

Now let’s look at crown expenditure from 2000 (the last financial year of a National budget) to 2005 and beyond.

In 2000 total government expenditure (incl SOEs) was $40.1b and in just five years it is 50% higher at $60.9b. This is an increase even as a % of GDP from 36.5% to 40.3%. And it is projected to keep increasing. So the state is growing as a proportion of the economy.

Now even if one takes only core crown expenditure then in 2000 it was $34.5b and in 2005 it was $46.2b. This year it is budgeted to be $50.7b. Now yes as a % of GDP it has shrunk from 31.4% of GDP to 30.6% but see comments above about the inappropriateness of this measure when talking about effects in inflation. Also even if one persists with that measure well by 2008 it is projected to be back up to 32.6%.

Talking of inflation, even adjusting into real 2005 dollars, we have seen core expenditure increase by $7.2 billion beyond inflation in just five years.

Going back to the argument that somehow crown expenditure should increase to keep pace with GDP. Well I’d then ask NRT if that means it should be cut if there is a recession, and if so does that mean he agrees it was right to cut benefits in 1991?

All historical figures quoted above come from an old parliamentary library spreadsheet which tracks crown expenditure. 2005 figures from Treasury.

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From Doctor to Pimp

January 28th, 2006 at 9:42 am by David Farrar

So what do you do when the Government makes it too hard for you to carry on as a general practitioner?

You turn your surgery into a brothel!

I suspect one will no longer be able to claim the visits off ACC!

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The billion dollar a month surplus

January 27th, 2006 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

Good God. We are so over taxed that the current Government surplus is now greater than $1 billion a month. So far we have chalked up $6 billion in just five months.

On a per family basis, this level of over-taxation is getting close to $1,000 a month. Think what a difference even half of that would make to the average family. It would be a massive boost to living standards.

Cullen is going to have to work very hard to blow all of the surplus by 2008.

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Stadium Kissing

January 27th, 2006 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Tony Milne has an e-mail from Westpac Stadium CEO David Gray clarifying that there is no problems with kissing at the stadium. We can sleep easy again :-)

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National MPs read this

January 27th, 2006 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

I recommend that all National MPs browse this post by Jordan Carter on Labour’s plans for a fourth term.

Jordan points out that four major factors in voter dis-satisfaction in 2005 will probably not be there in 2008:

*a very large budget surplus
* simmering angst on Treaty issues
* a “moral backlash” of a sort due to e.g. civil unions, prostitution law reforms, etc
* poor government attempts to engage the public in our issues

I suspect item 4 will still be there but agree the huge budget surplus will be much reduced, the Treaty deadlines bill will reduce the simmer and the moral issues will fade.

What this means is that it will be fatal for National to think hey we got within 2% last time and they are a third term Government, so lets just cruise as we can’t lose.

The major issues of 2005 will be diminished in 2008. Thus National needs to create and gain credibility on a new set of issues if they want to not be spending twelve years in opposition. And one can’t do this at the last minute. To some degree the outcome of 2008 will be decided in 2006.

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Outsourcing jobs

January 27th, 2006 at 9:28 am by David Farrar

Jacqueline Passey takes the normal protectionist complaints about free trade to complain that the US outsourcing of torture is “not fair to American torturers that they now have to compete with torturers in other countries who will work for lower wages, fewer benefits, and in worse working conditions”.

Heh.

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Hamas

January 27th, 2006 at 9:21 am by David Farrar

The election of a majority Hamas Government by the Palestinians provides remarkable, but regrettable, clarity.

Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It does not want a return to the UN borders, it wants to wipe Israel out. So lets have no more moral equivalence between the Palestinians and Israel. Israel has been unilaterally withdrawing from territory, while the Palestians have elected an administration whose goal is destroying Israel, and practises what it preaches on a regular basis.

No Right Turn has simplistically portrayed Israel’s react as a choice between respecting the results of the election or vetoing it with tanks and guns.

Israel should not of course ‘veto’ the results. But it has a vital duty to protect its citizens. So until there is a Palestinian Government that is not trying to kill every last Jew in Israel, Israel needs to close the borders. Double the height of the wall, stop all co-operation, stop all financial assistance and do not give back one further square centimetre of land.

It is now very clear that even if Israel tomorrow gave back all the occupied territories, they would remain under attack. The more territory they give back the more of their citizens and houses which would be open to attack.

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UK PM’s Question Time

January 27th, 2006 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

Heh. I like this quote from UK PM’s questions in Parliament.

The old fogies in the UK are all up in arms because BBC Radio 2 have changed their theme song/noise. Naturally someone got up in Parliament and asked the PM what he would do about it.

Blair’s response was a classic: “My influence with the BBC is legendary.”

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The death of the West

January 26th, 2006 at 7:28 am by David Farrar

Been meaning to link to this for a few days. Mark Steyn basically predicts the death of most of the West, and it’s all due to birth rates. This is a long article, but worth reading in full.

The replacement fertility rate is 2.1 babies per woman. Less than that and your countries are going to lose population or you will need significant immigration to replace them.

The US is above the replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76, Canada 1.5, Germany and Austria are at 1.3, Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That

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