Archive for December, 2007

Bloody Telecom

December 31st, 2007 at 5:01 pm by David Farrar

Okay this is a near unique reason to be peeved at Telecom.  Nothing to do with phone service.

Auckland Girl and I decided to go for a little jog, and I suggested we go to Shelly Bay, go up the path to Massey Memorial and then climb the track to the top of the hill, by the prion rugby league field.  Then after that you go over the hill a bit more and then go down a track by the pine forest, which eventually comes out on Fort Dorest Road next to the Telecom satellite there.  From there you go down onto Massey Road and it’s just 2 or so kms back to the start point along the coast.


The (Google) map above  gives a general idea of where we we planning to go from and to.

I’ve been over the trail many times, but not for over a year.  Anyway we took off at 1 pm and headed up.  Eventually got to the top, and then a faster pace going down the track.  It is always a bit overgrown so you can’t go too fast, and it was rather swampy also.  Auckland Girl was less than pleased with her now stinky shoes.

Then I could see the Telecom satellite dish just 50 metres away and we were just about down to Fort Dorset Road.  And what the hell is at the end of the track?  A fucking great big barbed wire fence, stretching as far as one could see in each direction.

Now the satellite dish itself has of course always been protected, by both an electric fence and barbed wire.  But this is a totally new fence which blocked off all access to the road from the trail. Grrrr.

Couldn’t they have put a sign up at the start of the track saying it is now a dead end! So we had to turn about and head back through the swampy trail again back up to the pine forest.  We then decided that rather than go all the way back the way we came, we’d cut into the pine forest and try and get down to the road from there.  Not necessarily the safest thing we have done as the slope in places is oh 70 degrees or so. But we did find a reasonably safe route which got us down around 1 km from the start, so we could at least finish it with some flat road.

For some reason Auckland Girl is now not so keen for me to choose the next route.

Have actually been getting to do some nice routes over the last week.  On Friday  finally went and visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and did a 2 hour loop track there.  They also have a track up to the Brooklyn wind turbine which I am keen to try out.

Saturday I explored some of the more obscure tracks on Tinakori Hill, going up from the top of the Park Street stairs, up until it joined the Northern Walkway and then north along that until you come out in Wilton.  It’s wonderful having such superb bush walks and tracks just a few minutes from the CBD. The town belt is a wonderful treasure.

Anyway NYE Party tonight, so best go off and get ready for that.  See everyone in 2008!

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Dom Post reviews the year

December 31st, 2007 at 12:03 pm by David Farrar

The final Dom Post editorial for 2007:

In politics, the Labour-led minority Government maintained the support of enough parties to keep a parliamentary majority, but it appears to be suffering from a severe case of third term-itis.

Former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field was charged with bribery, corruption and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope lost his ministerial post after misleading Parliament and Prime Minister Helen Clark about the part he played in an Environment Ministry staffer losing her job. Colleague Trevor Mallard was charged with assault – the result of a private prosecution – after punching National opposite Tau Henare in Parliament’s lobbies.

And Labour and its allies used their numbers to ram through Parliament law changes limiting third party advocacy in election years and allowing MPs to subsidise their re-election campaigns with parliamentary funds, a practice previously found to be unlawful by Auditor-General Kevin Brady.

Sums it up.

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Andrew Sullivan’s 2007 Awards

December 31st, 2007 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

I enjoy Andrew Sullivan’s Awards.  he has awardrd four of them in 2007 and I’ll cover three of them:

The Malkin Award – named after blogger, Michelle Malkin – is for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric. Ann Coulter is ineligible – to give others a chance.

Winner: Michael Savage for this:

“You know, the Gore-leone crime family is now the number one crime family in the world, when you think about it. He’s about to pull off the biggest scam in the history of the world. It’s bigger than any bank heist, bigger than any drug deal. It’s bigger than any counterfeiting scheme, and he’s doing it all nice and natural with a little help from the socialist perverts in Norway, who gave him a Nobel Prize. Why do I call them socialist perverts? Answer: because they are. By and large, 90 percent of the people on the Nobel Committee are into child pornography and molestation, according to the latest scientific studies.”

Yes, he really did claim 90% of the Nobel Committee are into child porn.  Now hell I think selecting Gore a few days after a UK Judge pointed out all the inaccuracies in his film was a bad call, but this is just nuts.

The Moore Award – named after film-maker, Michael Moore – is for divisive, bitter and intemperate left-wing rhetoric.

Winner: Keith Olbermann for this:

“Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda — worse for our society. It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was.”

Really, what can one say.  And Olbermann is on MSNBC for an hour every day!
The Yglesias Award is for writers, politicians, columnists or pundits who actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.

Winner: Peggy Noonan for this:

“Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter. They care about the religious faith of their leaders, and their interest is legitimate. Faith is a shaping force. Lincoln got grilled on it. But there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary. But they are not, and cannot be. They are central. Things seem to be getting out of kilter, with the emphasis shifting too far.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Have always liked what Peggy Noonan says.

Would be fun to have such awards in NZ but we don’t tend to get quite so many insane rants.

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Full Honours List

December 31st, 2007 at 11:12 am by David Farrar

The full official list is online here.

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Cash for Honours

December 31st, 2007 at 11:04 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports on the awarding on a gong (ONZM) to Owen Glenn which makes you wonder if NZ Labour have not just copied the pledge card off UK Labour, they have also now resorted to cash for honours, despite the fact their sister party in the UK is in deep trouble for the same thing.

Now Owen Glenn was born in the UK, spent his childhood here and has not lived in NZ since 1966. His company does not pay tax in NZ (in fact it pays little tax full stop). He has given at least $500,000 to Labour – their biggest donor by a magnitude.

And one also has to look at what Labour have just done with the Electoral Finance Act, specifically Section 32(1). They had a proposed clause which would ban donations from anyone not living in NZ who is not on the NZ electoral roll. And as detailed in Parliament (and here also), Labour suddenly realised this would stop Owen Glenn from continuing to donate and they quickly recessed the Committee to “consult” and after the break then change the clause so expats such as Owen Glenn can still donate unlimited amounts even though he is ineligible to enrol or vote, not having lived here since 1966.

Now Owen Glenn has been a generous donor to Auckland University. He has donated $8 million, and funded 10% of their new business school building, which they named after him.

So since leaving here in 1996, he has done two significant things.  Donate 10% of the cost of a business school to Auckland University and pay for over 25% of Labour’s 2005 campaign. I somehow doubt the weighting given by the Cabinet Honours Committee for those two donations were in that order 100%/0%.

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Scoring the Dom Post’s 2007 predictions

December 31st, 2007 at 10:35 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post has reviewed their 2007 predictions scored themselves out of 10 for each.  Now firstly kudos to them for having the balls to make predictions, and for actually returning to them at the end of the year.

Their predictions and scores are below.  I’m going to insert my own scores in though, just as even NCEA doesn’t let allow self-marking 🙂

1. “A by-election in Mangere. Irrespective of how harsh the final police report is on Phillip Field’s dealings with Thai migrants, he has in effect been abandoned by the Labour Party, which is already casting around for a replacement.”

2/10 The wheels of justice move slowly and Mr Field’s heels were dug in further than we thought. Right on the Labour Party and a replacement, though.

Agree 2/10.  Could argue zero but may be more when not if.

2. “Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard will have to wait a little longer for his promotion to finance minister. In fact he may not get it this term . . . there is a growing expectation Dr Cullen will stand again at the next election.”

10/10 Talk about on the money!

I think we can say he will probably now never get it.  Agree 10/10.

3. “For the first time since 1999 National will go a whole year without leadership speculation.”

10/10 A bit cheeky really, given Mr Key had just started and looked to have the right stuff, but correct nevertheless.

Also 10/10.  Labour should take note their efforts to manufacture talk of problems is not taken seriously by anyone but partisan wing-nuts.

4. “British American Tobacco’s corporate box will be a politician-free zone — or at the very least there will be none puffing cigars — after National MP Jonathan Coleman’s spot of bother there in 2006.”

Another 10/10 shoo-in? We think we are worth only 5/10 for a punt that cannot be verified.

Actually I have reason to believe MPs have still enjoyed corporate hospitality there.  I’d give 3/10 for no more cigars!

5. “Helen Clark will succeed in getting cross-party support for sweeping reform of campaign funding that will end the legacy of the pledge card, the Exclusive Brethren campaign and National’s secret donations.”

6/10 Well . . . she got cross- party support, and it may end (some) of the secret donations and Brethren-type actions but . . .

Big disagree.  She had cross party support and stuffed it up badly making it the most partisan issue of the year.  And it legalises the pledge card, and does not get rid of secret donations.  2/10 max.

6. “Rodney Hide will find more money in the ACT party coffers after the resignation of Don Brash, but few if any extra votes.”

6/10 Right on the votes, but not sure there was that much more money coming Rodney’s way, after National soared in the polls.

5/10 for no extra votes (according to polls).  I’m also not that sure about the money.

7. “Jeanette Fitzsimons will decide to stay on as Green co- leader till after the 2008 election.”

10/10 Safe as a totara in a gale that one. Full marks.

Easy 10/10

8. “The Government will announce tax cuts phased in over several years that will amount to much more than the $10 a week on average that Dr Cullen has so far signalled.”

Still waiting for precise details, but we think we deserve at least 8/10. Might recycle that one.

I’m only giving it a six out of ten.  The only figure to date is $15 a week and not phased in. Also they actually cancelled a scheduled tax cut this year.

9. “NZ First MPs will start to get wobbly over their low poll rating, and speculation about their leader Winston Peters’ long-term future will start in earnest. The party will position itself closer to National.”

1/10 The odd wobble but mostly remarkable stable. Speculation about Mr Peters’ future has yet to reach white-hot intensity, while hostility to National continues.

Agree 1/10.  Very hostile to National.

10. “National will stay ahead of Labour in the polls.”

10/10 John Key and his team stayed way in front.

A perfect 10 🙂

11. “The Maori Party will celebrate the creation of another Maori constituency seat, which it can target in 2008, increasing its influence.”

3/10 There was an extra seat, but it was in a general electorate after stronger than expected growth in the South Island and Auckland.

Sorry but that is a 0/10.  This is a binary choice.

12. “National will move on from its ‘Labour lite’ repositioning and talk tough on health, tax, and law and order.”

7/10 On the right track. The talking tough came unstuck on health, though.

Not sure it has moved on that much.  6/10. 2008 I suspect will see more distance.

13. “United Future will struggle to find a high-profile policy once the business tax cut package is in place.”

9/10 Gordon Copeland’s spectacular exit was not the sort of profile they were looking for, wethinks.

 How about “We voted for the Electoral Finance Bill before we voted against it” as their policy highlight?” 🙂

9/10 indeed.

14. “Jim Anderton’s Progressives will not hold an annual party conference — because there is not really a party left to confer with.”

10/10 For a tongue-in-cheek joke!

7/10 – they did have conferences but referred to them as “meetings with members”

15. “Rakaia MP Brian Connell will work out that, even when he is on his best behaviour, there is no welcome mat at the caucus door — and then who knows what he will do . . .”

10/10 The Political Life of Brian came to its predicted end with an announcement he would not seek a seat, after Mr Key refused to reinstate him to caucus.

A good call for a 10/10.

16. “A senior Cabinet minister will surprise everyone by announcing his or her retirement before 2008.”

10/10 The judges have Steve Maharey to thank for that perfect score.

Also a sound call for a 10.

17. “Miss Clark will reshuffle her ministry toward the end of the year, promoting finance and expenditure committee chairman Shane Jones.”

10/10 Timing bang on, as was the tip of promotion for the wonder-boy from the north.

An easy 10.

18. “Immigration Minister David Cunliffe’s competence will be rewarded with more responsibilities in the Cabinet reshuffle.”

10/10 Mr C did not put a foot wrong and got his promotion.

Also a fairly easy 10.

19. “The minor parties will step up their cooperation, and demand a stronger voice on statutory bodies and in parliamentary processes than the old two-party club allows.”

8/10 They certainly worked together on a lot of issues, especially with the code of conduct, but not a great deal of reward yet.

6/10 only.  They worked together on some issues but no real unified call on statutory bodies or processes.

20. “All the parties will set aside personal attacks and concentrate on policy. It will be wall-to- wall sweetness and light all year.”

Not marked due to excessive sarcasm.


We gave ourselves 145/190 — oddly, up from 142 after an “independent” audit by a rival office. Now all we have to do is pick next year’s election result . . .

 I am a more miserly 127/190. But that is still 67% which isn’t bad – a solid B- 🙂

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Herald on Shadbolt

December 31st, 2007 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a story on the ads runing today by Tim Shadbolt, plus a wee bit on the Free Speech Coalition.

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December 30th, 2007 at 5:12 pm by David Farrar

Been clearing through old e-mails and just found one from a blog reader who gave me an Amazon gift voucher for my birthday. I’d overlooked it. Anyway as they expire within 18 months have just headed to Amazon to put to good use!  Thanks Andrew!

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Shadbolt’s new ad

December 30th, 2007 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

There was a variety of views on whether the ads run earlier in December by Tim Shadbolt would be caught by the Electoral Finance Act if run in 2008.

Well Tim has on his website an ad he is running tomorrow.  There can be no debate at all that such an ad would be illegal under the Electoral Finance Act once the cost of them has exceeded $12,000.  An extract:

Invercargill’s Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is facing devastating, destructive, funding cuts of between $6.2 and 8 million.

This Government has ignored our pleas for mercy and therefore I believe I should have the right to advocate a change of Government.

I honestly believe that the National Party would be far more sensitive and encouraging towards successful, trade-based technical institutions that are providing quality education in this country.

Ironically, I have always been pro-Labour and won two elections as a Labour Party candidate for the Auckland Regional Authority.

However, in these elections I would urge my fellow New Zealanders not
to vote for the Labour Party.

Now Tim is running them on 31 December, not 1 January.  It will be interesting to see what he does run next year.  He says on the ad he refuses to register as a third party, so either he can only spend $12,000, has to run ads which don’t get caught by the law, or he has to shut up.  I’m not picking the third option.

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Beauty does count

December 30th, 2007 at 4:22 pm by David Farrar

A reader sent me an interesting academic article from the European Journal of Political Research. It is a study of whether physical attractiveness affects the electoral success of candidates, using the North Rhine-Westphalia state election of 2005 as the test.

There were 512 candidates and around 1,000 people rated their official photos for attractiveness (not being told they were candidates) on a scale from 1 to 7 (heh should have been 1 to 10).

They found that variations in candidate attractiveness thus can cause a change of up to 4% in the vote.

They also found having more attractive candidates increases turnout. For every grade higher on the 1 – 7 attractiveness scale, the turnout increases by 1.15%, meaning attractive candidates can lead to an increased turnout of up to 6.9%.

Applying the study to the election result, they found that in the 128 constituencies, from 6 to 17 constituencies could have changed hands if the losing party had a more attractive candidate. So for 13% of electorates, candidate attractiveness can make a difference.

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The US markets

December 30th, 2007 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

I’ve covered the polls for the US nominations quite a bit, and a reader has suggested I look at the markets also.  A good idea.  So let us look at the activity on the Iowa Electronic Markets. Note this is about who will be the nominee, but who will win Iowa.


There really is no front runner. Rudy has dropped behind Romney. McCain is starting to attract some serious dollars. RROF means Republican Rest of Field.  Thompson has really faded away.


The money for the Dems is very much on Hillary.

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General Debate 30 December 2007

December 30th, 2007 at 11:41 am by David Farrar
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McCarten on 2008 election

December 30th, 2007 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten makes the point the largest party will not necessarily get to govern (even though this has been the case to date).

Despite the polls, no strategist believes that National can win a majority of votes in its own right at the next election. Third parties always rise at the expense of the big ones during the campaign proper.

While Matt is right to say that few, if any, think National can win a majority of votes, I will take issue with his statement that third parties always rise at the expense of the big ones.

Back in August I explored this commonly held view. The emperical evidence was not that strong:

So the assertion that minor parties pick up support in the campaign period from major parties is far from a rule.  It has only conclusively been true once in 2002.  It was partly true in 1999 but false in 1996 and 2005.

So remember to challenge such assertions when made.

As I said, I don’t disagree that National gettingover 50% of the votes in the election is unlikely.  However also worth remembering that with wasted votes, 47% or more might be enough to give you over 50% of the seats!

As I have consistently said all year, the key party in all of this is the Maori Party. Essentially, they are an electorate party and their nationwide party list polling is irrelevant. They currently hold four seats and, quite likely, will win five if not all seven Maori seats at the next election.

It has been interesting to observe the attitudes of many within National to potential coalition partners.  Up until six months ago the strong consensus was that ACT and United Future would be very desirable partners, and then say NZ First and then Maori Party.

There is palpable anger at United Future’s stance over the Electoral Finance Act (despite the last second vote change) and I hear more and more members saying that if National had a choice between doing a deal with the Maori Party or United Future, they should choose the Maori Party.

Of course the result might be that National needs both United Future and the Maori Party, and pragmatism is a strong force.  Interestingly Chris Trotter had a column a few days ago on how Hone Harawira’s speech on the Electoral Finance Bill seemed to indicate to him that the chance of Maori Party supporting a 4th term for Labour was fairly remote.

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Did Scott Watson do it?

December 30th, 2007 at 11:01 am by David Farrar

Two views in the papers today.

Author Keith Hunter is in the HOS claiming more flaws in the case.

The SST article focuses more on the QC who prosecuted rubbishing the claims. A key part for me is:

Davison said it was significant that Watson himself never described seeing a ketch despite his boat being moored almost exactly where Wallace said he dropped the trio.

Montages made of photographs taken that day show no ketch in the area identified by Wallace, but do show Watson’s sloop.

When combined with the evidence of Watson’s sexually aggressive behaviour on the night, his earlier statements that he wanted to kill, and his subsequent actions in cleaning and changing the appearance of his boat, the case was compelling, he said.

The fact that the “mystery ketch” doesn’t exist in a single photograph undermines the ketch theory in my opinion.

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General Debate 29 December 2007

December 29th, 2007 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

For James S and D4J to carry on their private flame-war, plus anything else.

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The blog time-line

December 29th, 2007 at 1:37 pm by David Farrar

NPR has an interesting feature on the evolution of blogs.  They hold Gaius Julius Caesar up as a historical precursor to the military blog.  Certainly it was an near unprecedented thing to have detailed war diaries published back in Rome, and it was part of why he became so popular with the Roman people, outside the Senate.

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December 29th, 2007 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

Borat and Ali G have been killed off.

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20 Dominion Post political predictions

December 29th, 2007 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post gallery team have also made some predictions for 2008, and they look somewhat more likely than Fran’s! Here they are:

  1. 1. Most litigious election year ever as letter and the spirit of the contentious Electoral Finance Act is dragged through the courts.
  2. Margaret Wilson will announce her exit from politics
  3. Tim Barnett, will opt not to go on the party list and will leave Parliament.
  4. Labour will announce tax cuts worth about $25 a week to most taxpayers, but National will go several steps further by unveiling a programme of tax cuts.
  5. Jeanette Fitzsimons will wait till after the election to announce her retirement date.
  6. Labour will hold just two Maori seats after the 2008 election.
  7. Clem Simich, Richard Worth and Eric Roy will fight it out for the Speaker’s job if National wins office, but might miss out to Peter Dunne if National needs his vote.
  8. Another senior Cabinet minister will announce their retirement at the next election and it won’t come as much of a surprise. [DPF: King? Horomia? Cullen?]
  9. For the second year in a row, National will go the whole year without any leadership speculation.
  10. NZ First MP Brian Donnelly will finally announce his departure for a posting as high commissioner in the Cook Islands.
  11. Winston Peters, will fail to win back his old Tauranga seat but his party scrapes past the 5 per cent threshold.
  12. Peters will get another term as foreign affairs minister whichever party forms the next government.
  13. A scandal bubbling below the surface will be made public in 2008. [DPF: More than one I suspect]
  14. The economy will be the major theme of the election
  15. National will stand Richard Worth in Epsom again
  16. Michael Cullen will deliver a boring Budget that outlines tax cuts but the big bang and big bucks will be saved for the election campaign.
  17. Outgoing Labour MP Steve Maharey will stay on till very close to the election because Clark won’t want to risk governing with one vote fewer.
  18. Labour will revive its 2005 “don’t put it all at risk” campaign theme for John Key, but s unlikely to have the same bite as against Don Brash.
  19. The Green Party and the Maori Party will get increasingly cosy as they see the benefits of pooling their votes for more negotiating muscle.
  20. We can confidently predict that National will win the most votes on election night. But the vagaries of MMP (see 11 and 19 above) mean it may be weeks after the election before we know whether that will be enough for National to form a government.

They won’t get 100% right, but they should easily get at least half, probably more. Someone remind me in a year’s time to review how they did 🙂

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Bad journalism

December 29th, 2007 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

Something the media do all too often is take two things together and pronounce their combined increase to make something not bad sound bad.

For example if murders increased by 2% and assaults increased by 30%, you sometimes get a headline saying “murders and assaults up 29%”, and the average person will think murders have gone up 29%.

We see this in The Press, where it is stated:

Canterbury is heading for its highest road toll in eight years, with cellphone use and a failure to wear seatbelts blamed for nearly one-third of the deaths.

Now you read that and think oh My God cellphones are increasing the road toll massively.

Then we get the numbers.  Of 55 deaths, 15 are blamed on no seatbelts and two on cellphone use.  So in fact cellphone use is responsible for 3.6% of  the fatalities and seatbelts for 27%.

But how many people will go on and work out cellphone use is less than 4%?  People will just remember the sub-headline that “seatbelts and cellphones have increased deaths by a third”

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McLeod on hardship

December 29th, 2007 at 9:49 am by David Farrar

A worthwhile piece by Rob McLeod on how best to help people out of povety:

Recently I heard a successful businessman, nearing the end of his career, pondering what he would do if he had his time over again.

“I wish I’d given something back.” he lamented. “When I look at the poverty and suffering in the world today, I feel I could have made a difference to some other people’s lives if I hadn’t focused so much on my business.”

I reflected that his sentiment was admirable but his logic faulty. He had not taken anything from the community which he had a duty to give back.

On the contrary, he had produced goods and services that customers valued, created jobs, made money for investors and paid taxes.

Yes, being sucessful in business does not mean you have “taken” anything.  It (generally) means you have provided jobs, made customers happy and generated tax for the Government to spend.

Philanthropy should spring from other motives. The impulses and values that drive it are the same as those that operate within a family or small community: love, a sense of responsibility, an urge to see our children do well, neighbourliness and altruism. At its best, voluntary collective activity works well, so it’s no wonder people turn to that model in trying to solve the world’s problems.

Again, I agree.  It is not a sense of obligation that drives philanthropy for most people.  It is that mixture of altruism and responsibility.

… simply giving money to individuals or countries, whether it be by individuals or governments, does not address the causes of poverty.

And McLeod, as I read it, is not arguing against doing this.  Just saying donations alone alleviate but do not solve poverty.

Thirdly, governments cannot create wealth; they can only take it through taxation and redistribute it. There is ample evidence that redistribution can do harm as well as good, through creating welfarist attitudes and because it often breeds corruption.

Africa is a prime example of this, sadly.  The Pacific is far from exempt also.  And again I don’t read this as a call not to donate to these countries, but to realise there are downsides as well as benefits by what we do.

Consider the power of wealth creation compared to wealth redistribution in a New Zealand context – Treaty of Waitangi settlements. While important as a matter of justice, their economic significance has been exaggerated.

For example, there are about 633,000 Maori, and treaty settlements to date total around $743 million. This represents a one-off sum of almost $1200 per Maori which, at an after-tax rate of 4 per cent, represents an annual income of just $48 per recipient. The message is clear: governments, let alone treaty settlements, cannot be a source of material wealth for Maori.

This is a point Don Brash made some years ago.  It is absolutely important to settle the historical grievances, and the settlements can certainly provide a good base for further development, but when you divide it down to a per capita amount the impact is very very modest.

Maori have to generate wealth by participating in the market. A Maori school-leaver who starts work at 16 on $12 an hour, plateauing at just $20 per hour at age 25, would by 65 have earned a lump sum equivalent of $646,000. The equivalent tertiary qualified Maori starting at age 25 on an income of $42,000 that continued to increase each year at an average rate could expect to accumulate a lump sum of around $1.7 million by 65.

An extra million over the working life due to education and employment certainly beats $48 a year.

The work we do and how well we do it is in the end the key to our productivity. Improving it through better worker knowledge and training, better technology or more capital to work with, improving incentives through lowering taxes and eliminating stifling regulation, promoting competition to force businesses to perform better, ensuring as a nation we do what we do best and trade for the rest is the key determinant of our standard of living and the single most important contributor to reducing poverty.

Now people might say hey that guy McLeod is the Business Roundtable Chair, so let us ignore his message and attack the messenger.  I’ll just make the point that people should look at what Australian Labor PM Kevin Rudd is saying, and see if they can find much difference.

So in thinking about our New Year’s resolutions this year, for sure, let’s all commit to giving generously to our chosen charities. But let’s also remember the best thing we can do for New Zealand’s less fortunate citizens: promote the changes needed to improve productivity and create the rising tide that lifts all boats.

It is very unsexy but lifting productivity is what it is about.

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Fran’s Top 10 stories for 2008

December 29th, 2007 at 9:23 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan lists her top ten stories for 2008.  How many will happen? They are:

  1. Helen Clark is rolled
  2. NZ explodes in civil disobedience (over  Electoral Finance Act)
  3. Climate change science consensus breaks
  4. Key and English cut a secret succession deal
  5. May budget unleashes election bribe season
  6. Supreme Court tells Solicitor-General to take a running jump
  7. President Hillary Clinton institutes minimum age of 70 for white house interns
  8. All the minor parties except Maori Party get thrown out
  9. Mark Prebble resigns
  10. Alan Bollard drops interest rates

I’mnot sure more than one or two of these will occur, but will be a fun year if they do!

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John Corboy

December 28th, 2007 at 3:57 pm by David Farrar

One of my old friends, John Corboy, from Otago University, and Carrington Hall, passed away (leukamia related) a few days ago and his funeral was in Auckland today.  Sadly I couldn’t make it up for the service or the wake.

I think John is the first of my friends to die of natural causes. All too many from accidents and a couple of heart breaking suicides, but the first “natural” one.

John had a superb sense of humour, and the memory I will always have is the correspondence between us after he was co-editor of the hostel magazine one year.

In the magazine they did a full page sketch of me, taking the mickey out of some of my habits, and labelling various parts of me, including pockets full of money “embezzled from CHSA”.  It was all in good humour and I laughed louder than anyone.

However I can never resist the urge to play mind games with my friends.  There were around five co-editors of the magazine, so in December of that year, a 20 year old DPF drew up some impressive looking (but fake) legal papers suing the five co-editors for defamation, and posted them out from a fake lawyer I invented.

Three of the five editors figured I was taking the piss, but phoned up just in case to check I wasn’t really suing them.  A fourth had the misfortune to be overseas for three months and when she got home she found her parents, who of course has been handling her mail, had already hired lawyers to defend the lawsuit.  She immediately worked out it was me taking the piss, and thought it hilarious.  Her parents were less happy with the costs they had incurred!

John though had the best response.   He responded to my fake lawsuit from the fake lawyer with a claim of temporary insanity supported by an impressive report from a fake psychiatrist.  His fake psychiatrist and my fake lawyer exchanged a few more letters until we got bored 🙂

I wish I had had more friends like John – we must have spent hours doing our fake letters just for the thought of the amusement it would cause when received by the other person.  Farewell and rest in peace.

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A reforming PM

December 28th, 2007 at 12:47 pm by David Farrar

Kevin Rudd said this a few weeks ago:

Well, I mean that the best functioning governments are where you have the two central agencies, Prime Ministries and Treasury working together and that means taking all the best advice out of the Treasury and mixing it with the Prime Minister’s Department to frame the best agenda for the future. I think Treasury by instinct, this goes back to the earlier Labor period, is a reforming department. It actually has a whole bunch of people within it who want to advance the cause of micro-economic reform. I think that reform agenda has not had any political impetus for a long, long time during the latter period of the Howard government and I think there is a lot of enthusiasm there for us embracing a reform agenda because if you cease reforming this economy, you start to strangle long-term productivity growth. We don’t intend to do that.

My God, could you imagine Cullen ever saying such stuff? This is why Rudd may be a very good PM – he is very very serious about lifting Australia’s productivity and growth.

This is one of the reasons why Australia is much richer than NZ, as detailed in NBR by Phil Rennie.

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General Debate 28 December 2007

December 28th, 2007 at 11:07 am by David Farrar
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The impact of interest free loans

December 28th, 2007 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Norman LaRocque from the Education Forum has just published some stats from the latest annual student loans report. Key points are:

  • Despite a fall in government-funded students, the amount of money borrowed in 2006 was up 12% over 2005
  • The uptake rate for full-time students rose from 76% to 82%.  In 2000 it was 60%.
  • Voluntary repayments  have dropped from $239 million in 04/05 to $142 million in 06/07.

Also looking at the source data, I note:

  • New borrowers increased 17% in 2006, after falling for the last three years
  • The number of borrowers aged over 65% has increased 56% in the last year to 2,196 (are interest free loans for retired people really the best way to spend education dollars?  Would more money for early childhood education be better?)
  • The over 65s are borrowing the most per capita – $9,440 compared to an average of $6,610.
  • Total loan balance increased by $1.7 billion from June 05 to June 07, despite the interest writeoffs!!  Went from $6.67 billion to $8.40 billion – a 26% increase in two years
  • the number of loans fully repaid in a year dropped from 25,294 in 2005 to 15,059 in 2007 – a 40% drop as there is of course a negative incentive against paying the loan back early now

So the summary is that despite fewer eligible students studying, more students are borrowing more money, and repaying it slower so hence overall student debt is up $1.7 billion.

The most expensive bribe since Muldoon on superannuation in 1975.

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