Archive for January, 2008

National promises incentive to make voluntary loan repayments

January 31st, 2008 at 4:46 pm by David Farrar

National has announced two major policies today on the student loans scheme. They are:

  1. No repeal of interest free loans
  2. To provide an incentive for voluntary repayments, with a 10% bonus on any repayment over $500

These are linked because I am pretty sure you would not do (2) if it wasn’t for (1). Let’s take them in turn.

The interest free loans policy announced by Labour is a bad policy. If you wanted to spend a few hundred million on helping tertiary students it would have been far better to have spent it on student allowances or lowering tertiary fees. The policy is a bad one because it provides bad incentives – specifically the incentive to borrow money unnecessairly (as one can profit from it at taxpayers expense) and the incentive never to make voluntary repayments (as it is zero interest).

But there is a world of difference between introducing a policy, and not repealing something already in place. National has judged that campaigning on a policy of reintroducing interest on student loans would be electoral poison. Also as John Key points out people have made decisions on taking out loans based on the policy.

This does not mean they are endorsing the original policy. If you employ that logic, then you have to claim Labour endorses the 1991 benefit cuts because they have never reversed them. The reality in politics is relatively few policies get reversed with a change of government. Expecting National to reverse the interest free loans policy would be like expecting Labour in 1999 to reverse the 1997 tax cuts.

So you have National having to agree not to reverse the policy. But you still have the problem of the bad incentives it provides. That is when the voluntary repayment rebate comes in. Sure you can’t reverse the policy, but by providing the voluntary repayment rebate, you provide an incentive for people to pay off their debt quicker. And have no doubt many graduates can pay it off quicker – the level of repayments has dropped massively in the last couple of years.

Now it isn’t all good incentives though. While National’s policy does help correct the repayment incentive, it may make worse the incentive to borrow unnecessarily. Because sure as hell if I was a student I would borrow the maximum, and then repay it the next year and bang I am 10% better off. But this is not a new problem. Zero interest already provides the incentive for people to borrow money they don’t need and invest it. But it does exacerbate the problem somewhat.

So the policy gets a tick on the repayment incentive but a cross on the borrowing incentive. It also gets a tick I suspect on the vote for us incentive!

UPDATE: Colin Espiner has a good piece on the policy change. I like this part:

In all honesty, National couldn’t enter an election campaign promising to raise interest rates on student loans. That would have gone down like an empty keg at a student union orientation.

A nice comparison.

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Violent crimes by youth

January 31st, 2008 at 1:51 pm by David Farrar

There’s been a few claims and counterclaims about violent offending by young people so I thought I would check the data out.  First of all we have the the publication by the Ministry of Justice called Youth Justice Statistics 1992 to 2006.  Sounds authoritative.

It deals mainly with 14 to 16 year olds.  Why? Because at 17 you are deemed an adult to be tried in an adult court, and below 14 you can’t be charged except for extremely serious crimes such as murder. On page 35 we get the population figures for 14 to 16 year olds.

Then on page 43, a table gives up the Police apprehension figures for 14 – 16 year olds for violent offences.  We see in 1995 it was 2,690. In 1999 it had risen only 0.7% to 2,708.  And by 2006 it had gone up 38% to 3,743.

If one takes the population growth into account on page 44, then the rate per 10,000 population was 167 in 1995.  By 1999 it had declined slightly to 166.  And in 2006 it had increased by 18% to 196.

Incidentially the number of homicides by young people was 22 for the seven years up to 1999, and 36 for the seven years from 2000 onwards.

But back to youth violent crime apprehensions. The graph below shows the trend nicely:

youthcrime.JPG

Now this doesn’t mean it is literally the fault of Government.  Helen Clark isn’t going around leading teenage gangs on a rampage.  But what it does show is the youth violent crime level was steady, and has increased in the last few years, and that this is why new policies and new approaches are a desirable thing.

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Annette King blames the moon and the sun

January 31st, 2008 at 12:31 pm by David Farrar

Good God, Annette King seems to be determined to destroy her formerly excellent reputation.  I doubt even George Hawkins would be as insensitive as to blame the tide of murders in January on the “full moon” and “hot summer”.

Even worse it appears she made her comments at the scene of a shoot-out in South Auckland.  She actually stood at the very point teenagers and gang members were trying to gun each other down, and talked about the moon, the sun and the stresses of Christmas.

Simon Power says he is lost for words, but in fact is thanking Annette for a late Christmas present. He helpfully points out some more likely factors:

  • The Justice Ministry says their youth offending team system is a shambles of confusion.
  • The Reducing Youth Offending Programme, run with CYF and Corrections, collapsed after offending rates had not reduced after three years.
  • Labour’s Ministers Group on the Youth Offending Strategy did not meet for three years.
  • We are still waiting for the national truancy register they promised in 1999 and 2002.

A smart Minister can refer to stuff such as seasonal variations, but not as an excuse.  To say

They are not easy to address issues unless we ban Christmas and January

is ridicolous and insensitive.  I really do not think the full moon is why there was a gang shootout at a tinny house.

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Moore calls for Electoral Finance Act repeal

January 31st, 2008 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

Former Labour Party Prime Minister Mike Moore calls for the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act – some extracts:

Dissent is the lifeblood and oxygen of progressive politics. It always has been.

We social democrats trace our history of dissent back through the centuries as we wrung concessions out of the powerful and privileged.

Years after I was elected to Parliament, I read an interview with my mother who told the story of delivering leaflets supporting the workers at night with me in a pram covered with illegal leaflets. As a boy, I delivered ‘No Maoris, No Tour’ leaflets. More recently we saw splendid dissent during the anti-Vietnam War, anti-nuclear and the anti-apartheid struggle. One current minister was ejected physically from the parliamentary gallery for protesting against the extension of the powers of the Security Intelligence Service.

This short history of democratic Labour and dissent is to remind people of Labour’s traditions. Why and how we stand on the shoulders of others in our historic commitment to human rights; freedom at home and abroad.

Why then this historic blunder of the Electoral Finance Act, which contradicts this fine tradition?

Is it all a cock-up or a conspiracy that we have enacted such a repressive, unworkable, flawed law to cover election year activists?

Why should you have to register with the state if you want to oppose or support a political party, or promote public policy? Lawyers have suggested that cartoonists who seek to persuade readers could be covered, even theatre.

Even MPs who voted for the legislation can’t work out how to spend their own electorate allowances.

People are going to test this law, perhaps get a terminally-ill person in a hospice to be an agent. A heroic defence was suggested, that is the law of common sense. Unique in world jurisprudence – tell that to the judge or electoral commissioner who closed down an anti-Government webpage. The blogger wouldn’t give his address because he lived at home and might upset mom. Is this silly or sinister? Both.

My plea to the party I love is to just repeal the act. Accept it’s wrong in substance and principle before it hurts us further and does the exact opposite of what’s intended by encouraging big money to circumvent this law. J’Accuse.

I expect the usual suspects will attack Mike Moore, rather than listen to his message.

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Editorials go 3-0 to Key

January 31st, 2008 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial today:

When the Prime Minister heard her National counterpart’s “state of the nation” speech on Tuesday she suggested it had been revised over the previous few days. Laden as it was with programmes to tackle youth crime, it could have been a rapid response to public concern and laudable for that. But in fact Mr Key’s proposals were accompanied by extensive referencing and policy research. It was the Prime Minister’s address yesterday that seemed to have been spiced at the last minute.

Parliamentary staff often come in for criticism.  When a party falters, the leader’s advisors are often first to be blamed.  On this occasion it is appropriate to acknowledge the fine effort put in by the parliamentary staff – the “extensive referencing and policy research” was useful and reassuring.  The challenge will be to keep that standard up for future announcements.

It featured a proposal to require every child to remain in formal education or training courses until the age of 18. This sounds like a drastic increase in the age of compulsory schooling and seems to mean that 16- and 17-year-olds could no longer leave for fulltime work. But Helen Clark says it is not a simple lifting of the leaving age and young people would still be able to start work from age 16 so long as they were enrolled in some sort of “structured learning”. Enrolment sounded more important than terms of attendance.

Under questioning yesterday she seemed not very sure of several implications and concedes that it is an idea that still needs refinement. In other words it is a long way short of a workable policy worth putting to the electorate.

Indeed, there were no details at all. I presume the usual suspects will do OIA requests to find out what level of analysis had been done before the announcement was made.

Policy makers must not elevate the most worthy economic aims above the interests of the individual. While education overall serves the greater good, its primary responsibility is to serve the individual, allowing every person to reach their potential. Compulsory education is for children. The age at which they can begin taking responsibility for their own development may be open to debate, but 16 seems reasonable.

Helen Clark talks of offering them a range of training “paths” that would satisfy the requirement to be enrolled in education to 18 and she envisages employers, polytechs and private training centres helping in some way. But the proposal is vague, the purpose dubious and the implications disturbing. Give the young incentives to learn, not compulsion.

As I said yesterday, there is a consensus that the status quo is unacceptable.  Both Labour and National have proposed different ways of dealing with the problem, allowing people to weigh up the competing proposals.

The Press also looks at the policies in an editorial and concludes:

National’s youth education policy is the more flexible and more likely to ensure that greater numbers of teenagers improve their skill. In difficult areas of social policy, this sort of balanced carrot and stick approach is more likely to succeed than quick-fix solutions, such as raising the leaving age or introducing boot camps.

And making it 3-0, the Dom Post says:

…Miss Clark’s attempt to crash Mr Key’s party by delivering her own “state-of-the-nation” speech a day after his has failed. It is National that looks to be the party of ideas, Labour the party playing catch-up.

Mr Key’s promise to get tough on youth crime while beefing up government and community-based initiatives to turn around troubled young lives is a practical and thoughtful response to an issue that is top of the public mind. It is also one that suggests the party is putting more effort into policy development than it has for some years, and that it has taken the trouble to go and ask those on the front line what works best.

By contrast, Miss Clark’s speech – a recitation of historical economic data and a promise to boost teenage participation in formal education – sounded like something cooked up around the Cabinet table to spike National’s guns.

I suspect there is a happy mood in Rotorua today.

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Carter considering list only

January 31st, 2008 at 9:13 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports that David Carter may not stand for the new Selwyn seat as he wants a candidate who can unite the electorate.  Carter had been selected as the candidate, but in an unusual move nominations were re-opened after complaints about the selection process.

Selwyn is a very safe seat for National, so whoever gains the nomination will almost certainly become an MP. David Carter is pretty much guaranteed a high winnable list spot also.

According to the article, there are 12 candidates likely to seek the nomination.  If that is the case a pre-selection committee will reduce that number to five (at which time the names can be made public) and then a full selection meeting of local delegates.

This isn’t a comment on Selwyn specifically, but I always regard it as a healthy thing when a National held seat with no incumbent re-standing has a vigorous selection contest with at least five candidates. And from what I can tell, even the safe Labour seats are attracting enough interest to have selection contests – again a healthy sign.

All but a handful of National’s electorate candidates would become MPs on current public polls (as National rules allow only five list only candidates), so it is important that National has quality candidates in even the strongest Labour seats.

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Island Bay

January 31st, 2008 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

I grew up in Island Bay, and I still go to Island Bay Medical Centre, so on Tuesday popped over to get a Hepatitis A shot.

ib1.JPG

This is the main road, The Parade, and the main shopping centre.  Island Bay is a fairly long yet skinny suburb.  The Parade runs from one end of it to the other for 2 – 3 kms. But almost all of Island Bay is within a few 100 metres of The Parade.

It’s got a good local school, and very good regular buses into town.  If I ever settle down and do the family thing, I could well move back to Island Bay.   It was a great place to grow up with lots of parks (well one less after a school was built on on one of them) and the beach.

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Unlimited Potential Predictions

January 31st, 2008 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Unlimited Potential had their now annual New Year predictions function last night, and it was lots of fun. It was held at the Chamber of Commerce on the 28th floor of the Majestic Centre. The views from there are quite stunning – a lot better than a normal 14th floor or so view because you literally have nothing blocking the view of the city.up1.JPG

My five predictions for 2008 were:

  1. The new National/Maori Party Government will announce a nationwide FTTM programme – Fibre To The Marae
  2. Telstra will sell Telstra-Clear to Vodafone
  3. The “in” gadget will be those with broadband, mapping, GPS and messaging type capability
  4. Facebook will overtake Bebo as NZ’s preferred social networking site
  5. We will have our first ever prosecution under the anti-spam act

The predictions are of course not 100% serious. Philip Fierlinger won the most support with his prediction of robots taking over the earth :-)

Mauricio is still predicting the Queen will abdicate.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that she believes she has a divine duty to reign, and would never abdicate!

The event, as usual, was good fun with the normal drinks and Hell Pizza.  A full crowd of around 120.

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Armstrong on Clark Speech

January 30th, 2008 at 5:27 pm by David Farrar

A pretty fair summary from John Armstrong:

There can be no quibbling. The Prime Minister has delivered. No question. Today’s speech announcing that every teenager will have to stay in school or some other form of education or training until they are 18 will prove to be a quantum leap in terms of upskilling the workforce.

Helen Clark had to come up with something big as a riposte to John Key’s rival state of the nation address yesterday. She has shown Labour is still capable of coming up with the “big ideas” that she sees as an essential component in the party’s re-election campaign.

Clark will be happy with that, and it is indeed fair to say it is a new big idea (well now for this Govt).  Armstrong then compares the two speeches:

Whether the Prime Minister has trumped Key is another matter entirely.

Clark clearly envisaged the content of her first major speech of the year would prove to be a victory for substance over style when placed alongside the populist line Key was expected to pursue in his.

So there must have been a sharp intake of breath in the Beehive when Labour read Key’s speech and discovered he was canvassing the very same subject matter and floating a similar-sounding policy.

Key seemed to have gazumped Clark, neutralising the major thrust of her speech before focussing on youth crime as the major strand of his.

As I said, it is a good thing both parties are laying out different policy visions.

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No Right Turn decides to smear

January 30th, 2008 at 5:21 pm by David Farrar

You know last year I always gave No Right Turn out as an example of a superb blog.  A clear left wing view point but principled, and focused on policy not personal attacks etc.

Maybe it is having done away with comments (which he is entitled to do so) but his tone and style have changed in the last year and moved far more to name calling and slogans over analysis.  It’s a pity because as I said I always held it up as a model for a effective respected political blog.

I’m not going to catalog the various stuff over the last few months, but I can’t ignore today’s example where he labels the idiots who have again attacked Helen Clark’s electorate office with a brick as “the kiwiblog right”.

That is an outrageous smear.  It would be like me labelling Tim Selwyn’s attack on the same office as the work of the “No Right Turn left” because both Tim and Idiot/Savant opposed the Foreshore and Seabed Act which his brick throwing was about.

It is a matter of record that I condemned the first attack when it happened.  I even got attacked by People Power (who did it) for my condemnation.

I/S is free to adopt whatever style he wants on his blog, and I am sure my approval doesn’t count for a lot.  But when he deliberately tries to smear me with something I have never supported and explicitly condemned in the past – well that’s reflects far more on him than me.

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McCain wins Florida

January 30th, 2008 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

John McCain has won Florida by around 4% over Mitt Romney.  It was a close race for a key state.  Florida was a rare winner take all state so McCain got all 57 delegates and now leads the delegate count. It was also a closed primary so it showed he can win without the votes of Independents.

Rudy was a distant third on 15% and his campaign is over before it really started.  A bit of a pity as I like the fact he was a Republican who was liberal on religious and moral type issues. But he should withdraw now and endorse McCain.

McCain is the only Republican candidate with a chance of beating Clinton or Obama. I hope he gets the nomination. Looking at the polls he is ahead by around 9% in both California with 173 delegates and New York with 101.  But Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Arizona have 308 delegates between them and little polling there. New York is winner takes all so very impt.  McCain is on 32%, Rudy 22% and Romney 14% so if Rudy withdraws McCain should win easily.

I think we still have Maine to go before Super Duper Tuesday.

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The first score

January 30th, 2008 at 3:55 pm by David Farrar

Of course partisans from both sides will argue their camp, but Martin Kay of the Dom Post gives the score as:

Is that it?

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s response to National leader John Key’s state of the nation speech was hardly the torpedo she had been expected to loose off in the opening engagement of the election.

Instead of sinking Key with a headline grabbing-announcement of her own, Clark has invited voters to compare what’s on offer from the two main parties. And Labour is likely to come off second best….

In the opening salvo, then, it is John Key 1, Helen Clark, 0.

A vigorous debate in the comments section.  I recognise many of the names (waves to Tony (congrats on the wedding) and Conor).

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A new political party

January 30th, 2008 at 2:43 pm by David Farrar

A new political party is being formed.  It already has 100 members and should reach 500 easily.  It doesn’t have a name yet, but does have a process for choosing a name:

It was decided that we should auction off the right to name the Party on Trademe. Although if this is not successful it is most likely we will go with Aotearoa Nautical Alliance of Laughter, Peoples’ Independent Movement Party or Democratic Aotearoa Freedom Troop.

My personal favourite is the Aotearoa Nautical Alliance of Laughter as it gets across the core elements of NZ identity, our grand oceans as we are an island country and the NZ sense of humour.

There are three key policies so far.  The first is the zero income tax, with the state gaining revenue by nationalising all vice:

The Yet to be Named Silly Party of New Zealand, is dedicated to bringing about a tax situation where you as a consumer would pay NO personal tax. We would go about doing this by creating State Owned Enterprises and Quangos that would have a monopoly on vice. We would have state pornography websites, brothels, drugs, strip joints, poker dens, we would even bring back BZP.

The Greens always say we should tax bad things instead of good things like income.  Well this goes one step further.  Don’t just tax bad things – take all the money from them.

Then a promise to repeal the anti-smacking law:

Another keystone of our policy will be introducing the Anti Anti Smacking Bill into Parliament. This would allow you to discipline your children if you have an NCEA, unit standard, or tertiary qualification in spanking.

I predict NCEA standards in smacking will be keenly sought after.

Finally the tourism policy:

One of the main Policies was turning the West Coast of the South Island into a homosexual holiday Mecca. We would shut down all mines, cease all logging and build massive gay spas, bars and amusement parts. This interlocks with our foreign policy of promoting homosexuality internationally to prevent further explosions in population. With more homosexuals in the world, and with Westport becoming a haven for homos, NZ will rake in the tourist dollars. CHA CHING!

The Porter Report in the early 1990s said the key to development was identifying and developing key clusters around your natural strengths. This policy fits in with that ideally.

Other minor policies include all legal cases being settled by reference to Wikipedia, 18 years paid maternity leave and outlawing the Dewey Decimal System.

I think this will be a very successful party with modern innovative polices for the 21st century.

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My hotel burnt down!

January 30th, 2008 at 2:24 pm by David Farrar

Just had an e-mail to tell me that the hotel I am booked into in India next month has had a major fire!

My travel agent is trying to find me a replacement.  I should at least be glad it didn’t happen when I was there.

On a different issue, can Lee C contact me on an e-mail which works.

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Clark announces school leaving age to 18

January 30th, 2008 at 1:52 pm by David Farrar

In a remarkable coincidence, Helen Clark has announced a policy in a similiar area and similiar to, part of what John Key announced yesterday.

She has announced an increase in the school leaving age to 18.

What is good is both National and Labour are saying that the status quo is unacceptable, and that no young person (under 18) should just be unemployed or on a benefit.  There is now consensus every person under 18 should be in work, study or training.

Clark also announced a roll-out of a youth apprenticeship scheme, after a pilot in 10 schools.

I’m not sure trying to do all sorts of training through schools will be the best model.  Are schools set up to train hairdressers etc if a 17 year old wants to train as a hairdresser instead of doing bursary physics, Latin and maths which they would fail at?

Letting 16 and 17 year olds choose the best provider rather than try and have everything done through their local school, would seem to be a better model for me.  But, maybe the model described by Clark will have more flexibility than first apparent. It looks like a 17 year old could still leave school to go undertake say a hairdressing course at polytechnic.  But presumably they would have to pay the $4,000 or so cost, while if I understand Key’s proposal correctly they would get that for free.

Sadly there are no details of the policy on the Beehive website, apart from the press release. Scoop has the full speech. One key quote:

Around half our current workforce does not have the education and skills needed to function fully in a knowledge economy.

Now some will use that to attack Clark as she has been PM for the last eight years.  But it is good the Government can admit to areas where they are failing, or if that is too harsh where different policies are needed.

Ironically a political historian tells me that a lot of the Clark proposal is taken from National’s 1993 Education for the 21st century proposal.  I don’t have a copy myself but it does ring some bells.

Anyway a good start to the year for voters.  We are getting offered different policy visions, so people can make an informed choice about which proposals they prefer – that’s what democracy is all about.

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Ear “flicking” Dad prosecuted for assault

January 30th, 2008 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

Most will recall how six police officers turned up when Jimmy Mason flicked his son’s ear for not acting safely on his bike.

Police have now announced he is being charged with two counts of assault.

Now we don’t know exactly what did happen.  Was it just a flick on the ear or something more serious?  What do the witnesses say happened? Was there bruising or bleeding?

This case will be closely watched.  If Mason did just flick his son’s ears, then the anti-smacking law will be vilified.  If on the other hand he seriously assaulted his son advocates of the law will claim this proves the need for the law.  It may of course come down to a he said vs they said.

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Do the Right Thing on Ellis case

January 30th, 2008 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Some issues are beyond politics.  The Peter Ellis case and convictions are one of them.

I totally endorse the call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ellis case.  One needs the latitude a full commission of inquiry has, to deal with the public’s deep scepticism over this case.

It should be in the interest of all politicians for there to be confidence in the justice system.  The Ellis case corrosively undermines that confidence.  While convictions are not a public popularity contest, I know of almost no-one who thinks the Ellis convictions are safe.  And this is based on a massive amount of published research on the case.

Annette King is the Minister of Justice. It is a pity she will not consider the merits of the case herself (she cites conflict as she is also Police Minister) as I have considerable regard for her judgement and ability. I think she could and would see the bigger picture (it is not just about Ellis who is now free – it is about the wider justice system). Lianne Dalziel can not be delegated the case, so it will fall to Clayton Cosgrove or Rick Barker.

The Minister who deals with this needs to be able to consider the issues carefully using their own judgement. They should not merely ask officials for a report and rubber-stamp it. I can tell you now that of course the Ministry of Justice will oppose a Royal Commission  into the Ellis case.

I know many (not all) National MPs have a deep concern over the Ellis case. Katherine Rich and Don Brash helped lead the charge a few years ago for such a Commission. While I can in no way speak for them, I am sure National would in no way criticise the Government if it did hold a Royal Commission.  And I think all the minor parties would be supportive.

There will be a lot of partisan behaviour this year in the NZ blogosphere.  What would be great though is to have as many blogs as possible join a campaign for an Ellis Royal Commission.  We have one of the true experts on the case with Poneke, and could keep the case in profile by doing stuff ranging from all displaying a prominent graphic calling for the Royal Commission, to pledging to blog or link to a blog on the issue at least a fortnight or something. I am sure Poneke could generate enough material for us to link to or summarise.

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Bauble Watching

January 30th, 2008 at 8:18 am by David Farrar

The Press keeps up the excellent bauble watch tradition for the Minister of baubles.

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Praise from all sides

January 30th, 2008 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

The “Fresh Start” programme proposed by John Key for young offenders has been endorsed by both the conservative Sensible Sentencing Trust and the liberal Prison Fellowship. First the SST:

I think what John Key is putting out there is the first time I have seen a political party offer some constructive policy which I believe will turn this around.

And then Kim Workman from the PF:

Fresh Start, on the other hand, promises to use the most advanced expertise in youth offending that New Zealand has to offer, and describes an environment which provides a mix of accountability and support.

Graeme Dingle also is supportive:

Mr Key’s plan would let Youth Courts order young offenders on to mentoring programmes such as those run by Project K and Big Buddy.

Project K co-founder Graeme Dingle said this was “absolutely common sense”

And so is the NZ Herald editorial:

Those are the sorts of solutions the country needs to hear. The problem has become too serious for punitive measures that merely serve political postures. National has given evidence of solid research and settled on some practical steps.

Today the Prime Minister needs to do more than recite what her Government has done to deal with crime. Clearly it has not done enough.

That balance of both carrot and stick is what has made the package so palatable I believe.  There is a lesson there for other policy areas.

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Poneke on John Minto

January 29th, 2008 at 10:35 pm by David Farrar

Poneke has an insightful post on John Minto.  I’ll quote much of it:

John Minto was one of the heroes of my formative years. 

At the time, I thought Minto was driven by the same kind of repugnance of the racist apartheid system that motivated the opposition of many other New Zealanders. Apartheid was a stain on humanity.

In 1995, Mandela visited New Zealand for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting being held in Auckland. He was mobbed in the streets everywhere he went. He was a hero of almost everyone of my generation and of almost everyone who had marched against the Springboks 14 years before. The one anti-tour protester to whom he was not a hero was a profound surprise. I went to a meeting Mandela attended at the St Matthews in the City church in Auckland. To my astonishment, and dismay, John Minto, who was there, hectored the great man for not kicking private enterprise and transnational companies out of South Africa after apartheid ended. A bewildered Mandela asked Minto how he expected people to find work if their employers were banished. It was at that moment I realised Minto was not driven by opposition to racism but by opposition to the entire capitalist system.

Indeed.

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OOXML

January 29th, 2008 at 10:26 pm by David Farrar

Colin Jackson blogs on the OOXML debate, as he is off to Geneva as one of three people representing NZ at a meeting of the International Standards Organisation. The standards issue has become a bit of a proxy for the wider Microsoft vs open source debate.

Incidentially at the network operations meeting in Dunedin last week, myself and Keith from InternetNZ presented on current policy issues, including OOXML. I quipped that I thought OOXML was my t-shirt size!

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Reaction to Key Speech

January 29th, 2008 at 3:09 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has a story on the speech. The part that struck me was this:

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft was quick to back Mr Key’s comments saying that, while it was not the job of a judge to commentate on political party policies, Mr Key’s comments were “measured and thoughtful” and comparable to what was being introduced in the Western world.

John Armstrong has a thumbs up:

Advantage Key. Whatever the Prime Minister has kept up her sleeve for her landmark speech tomorrow, it is going to have to be something pretty darned special to better John Key’s effort today.

As a piece of politics, the state of the nation address delivered by National’s leader comes as close to hitting the bull’s eye as you can probably get.

Not only does the speech meet the requirement that National start talking policy. It is overflowing with policy ideas.

It cannot be attacked for lacking substance. The speech shows National is much more serious about policy than it was at the last election. It successfully conveys the impression of a Government-in-waiting.

The speech’s big strength is that it is constructive rather than merely critical. Key lets the policy ideas do the talking rather than relying on overblown rhetoric to carry the attack to Labour.

However, Labour’s failings are the undercurrent driving the speech.

Be it youth crime or the economy or whatever, Key’s overarching theme for election year is that New Zealand can do better than it has under Labour’s rule. Today’s speech is the first in a long line of policy releases with which National will seek to answer the obvious question of how.

Vernon Small at the Dom Post is more guarded but says:

The message is not as punitive as some might have expected from National, but this is KeyNat not BrashNat.

And the timing couldn’t be better after a rash of recent headlines about teenage crime, including a 16 year old who allegedly killed a 22 year old in a dairy on Friday and the recent series of brutal bashings by a teenage gang on the North Shore.

Meanwhile Key has managed to keep most of his policy powder dry for the campaign proper, especially on tax and the economy.

Clever.

It will be interesting if what Clark talks about tomorrow will be a policy announcement which has been worked on and developed over time (as this one clearly was) or whether it will be a kneejerk announcement.

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A great call

January 29th, 2008 at 2:49 pm by David Farrar

I was dropping off a data projector into Parliament this morning.  And as is often the case it was in one of those large metal suitcases which weigh half a ton and look like a bomb wouldn’t dent them (in fact they are just so they survive Air NZ cargo handling!).

As I’m about to walk in the main door, I hear (Labour Minister) Darren Hughes yell out from across the forecourt, “Is that the speech you’ve got in there”.   That was a bloody funny call I have to say. Especially if you could have seen the suitcase which does look a bit like a portable safe.

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National’s Youth Plan

January 29th, 2008 at 12:54 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced more details in his speech of National’s Youth Plan to get all young people in education, training or work – and to reduce youth crime. It includes:

  • A universal education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds which will include non-school courses at a polytechnic, wananga, or private training establishment. This is to target the 8,400 16 and 17 year olds not in work, education or training.
  • Teenage parents will be able to do programmes incorporating childcare and parenting advice
  • give the Youth Court instead of the Fanily Court the power to deal with 12- and 13-year-olds accused of serious offences such as aggravated robbery and home invasions..
  • give the Youth Court the power to impose parenting orders (on parents of course), mentoring programmes (such as Project K) and drug & alcohol rehabilitation programmes (80% of youth offenders have drug or alcohol problems)
  • Extend maximum residential sentences for serious crimes committed by youth from three to six months (Government has said will do also, but not yet implemented)
  • Introduce a 12 month intensive “fresh start” programme which includes three months residential, building on the Limited Service Volunteers scheme whose numbers have reduced from, despite 70% going onto FT employment.
  • Allow electronic monitoring through ankle braclets for youth criminals who do not comply with orders

There’s a lot of detailed references and citations in the notes accompanying the policy. The Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, is referenced as estimating there is a group of about 1,000 young persistent offenders.  Key notes that for many the current youth justice system is working well, but he wants to tackle the really hard case, or in other words the “under-class”.

I like several things about this policy:

  1. It is not trying to pretend there is a silver bullet which will cure youth crime.  It takes a serious approach acknowledging one has to make lots of changes to real make headway with those hard cases
  2. It uses a mixture in “stick” and “carrot”. It is rare for one to work without the other.  Basically it is saying do as much as possible to help the at risk youth who can be helped, but also have more powers available to deal with the real hard-core.
  3. It’s a worthwhile investment.  The cost is estimated at $100 million a year.  That is a lot of money. But while there are many things I do not want my taxes spent on (giving money to people who earn $130,000 just because they have a few kids), I am very happy to have taxes spend on making sure no one under 18 is not in work, training or education.  And if it can reduce the number and severity of youth criminal offending, that will have very real benefits down the track.
  4. It isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but seems to be based on a lot of consultation and research with groups working in this area. That does not mean it will be universally popular or praised, but does suggest the issues for and against a particular policy have been well considered.

So it’s a good forward looking policy, aiming to make NZ better.  The election should be about a contest of policy primarily, so good to see National make a good first offering for the year.

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Anti-Kiwiblog Demonstration

January 29th, 2008 at 11:12 am by David Farrar

I’ve linked to Net Disasters before, but this demonstration feature is great when placed on your own site, as I have done for Kiwiblog.

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