Archive for April, 2008

Edwards on Political Finance

April 28th, 2008 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

Otago University Lecturer Bryce Edwards had an article on Political Finance published in the latest NZ Law Journal. Once can read a pdf of the article here.

He makes a number of interesting findings:

  1. The US political finance system is one of the most regulated in the world
  2. NZ has been shifting more towards a US style system
  3. Countries where political finance is relatively unregulated tend to have relatively low levels of campaign spending
  4. Greater regulation leads to greater loopholes, leading to even greater regulation and inevitably great complexity
  5. In the US companies and trade unions are banned from donating to candidates and individuals can not donate more than $2,200, yet enormous “soft money” goes to political action committees instead.
  6. In NZ a political party could set up a business unit which provides advice to businesses or unions, and could charge $1 million for such advice, and that would not be counted as a donation to be disclosed.
  7. That rhetoric in NZ that only people with legitimate issues should be free to advocate is highly dangerous as the state gets to decide what and who is legitimate – a flashback to Muldoon in 1979 who mooted banning the Socialist Unity Party
  8. The lesson from the US is clear – political finance regulation stifles political competion and favours the wealthy.
  9. Poor people are deterred from participation in politics when the compliance costs get high.
  10. Voters have a healthy scepticism against parties and candidates trying to “buy” their way into office and this can be the most effective safeguard.
  11. Political finance regulations are always designed to benefit one party over another – it is very hard to get “neutral” regulations.
  12. Democracy is enhanced by parties having sovereignty over their own affairs, and voters making the final decision on whether they approve of how a party conducts its affairs.

It is ironic that Labour, NZ First and the Greens were so insistent at foisting on NZ an American style political finance system.

Two new blog features

April 28th, 2008 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

Firstly one can now “Scoopit” each post.

If you like a particular post, you can click on the Scoopit button at the bottom right of each post, and it will place it on Scoop’s Scoopits page, which will bring it to the attention of Scoop readers. It’s sort of similiar to the karma for comments, in that the mroe people who click on scoopit for a post, the higher up it goes in Scoops’ ratings.

Secondly the blog now displays after your name, the number of comments you have made. Some of you are prolific!

Gibbs donates $100,000 to ACT

April 28th, 2008 at 10:52 am by David Farrar

ACT have announced today that they have received a $100,000 donation from Alan Gibbs.

This is one of the few laudable aspects of the Electoral Finance Act, that significant donors are identified. It helps removes the suspicion around political financing. Transparency is a good thing.

However it is worth remembering this is not why the Electoral Finance Bill was introduced to Parliament. Helen Clark stripped the draft bill of almost any provisions changing the law around donations. It was only after there was a public outcry that such provisions were put in, and even then the law was written to protect Labour’s anonymous donors by still allowing $240,000 of anonymous donations per election.

I was one of those who submitted to Parliament in favour of not allowing anonymous donations over $10,000. Labour’s law still allow anonymous donations of $36,000 at a time and a combination of anonymous and undisclosed donations allows someone to donate $66,000 in an electoral cycle and not be identified publicly.

So it is good to see some greater transparency due to the EFA, but that is despite Labour not because of them. They had no such provisions if the EFB which Cabinet signed off on.

The extent of the migration from New Zealand

April 28th, 2008 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

Last weeks Stats NZ released their latest monthly migration statistics, and the permanent and long-term departures for the last 12 months were up 11.9% from a year ago.

This issue is only getting bigger with the Fairfax page one stories on their poll results showing 10% of Kiwis are considering moving to Australia within the next 12 months.

The Standard is trying to do a King Canute and convince everyone there is not a problem, and you are all wrong. I think this is a classic example of why the Government has failed so badly in the last couple of years – it ignores the issues concerning average NZers and even worse lectures them on why they are wrong. Anyone who doesn’t live in a cocoon would know that the gap with Australia is a major concern, and that more and more families are getting divided up as people leave. Just talk to anyone not in politics as a day job, and they will bring it up as an issue.

But you do have to congratulate The Standard for the audacity of putting on the same graph axis the proportion of people staying and leaving, so they both look like flat lines.

They also keep pointing to net permanent and long-term migration, to claim there is no problem at all, but in doing so they confuse two semi-separate issues.

The level of inwards migration is effectively set by the Government. Yes there are factors such as NZers returning home (and that has also been dropping) but the Govt can and does adjust the requirements for migration with the points system, language requirements etc etc.

If the Govt wanted to, it could have 150,000 or even 200,000 migrants a year coming here. As a non third world country there is almost no limit to how many people would move here if they could.

So while the net migration figure is of some importance (if one does not have positive net migration then the population probably shrinks) the outwards migration figure is much more important.

As an example there is a big difference between say losing 40,000 people a year, and having 44,000 people migrate here and between losing say 200,000 people a year and having 204,000 people a year move here. There are also economic costs to losing people who have embedded in the local economy as opposed to having new workers from overseas. That is not an argument against immigration – I am a fan of it, but that simply replacing someone in NZ, with someone else is not the same as retaining them in the first place. A bit like an employer would rather keep staff longer than have say 30% staff turnover annually.

So while net PLT migration is a useful indicator for some things, it is one which can change dramatically by govt policy as there is near infinite demand from people to live here. And even if policy does not change, it is better to retain people than replace them.

So what has actually been happening with all the different stats. Let’s look at them one by one. First external migration:

Departures from NZ declined in the early 1990s and stayed fairly flat until 1995. From 1995 until 2001 there was a steady increase. September 11 reversed that trend as NZ looked so safe and secure, and for two years it dropped away. But from July 2003 it started increasing again and has just about reached an all time high for a 12 month period – the record is 79,328 in the 12 months to May 2001.

Now adjusting for population growth shows a slightly better picture, but the trend of the last few years is still marked.

Next let us look at PLT departures and arrivals for New Zealand citizens. As I mentioned above arrivials of non citizens is simply a function of how liberal or conservative your immigration policy is. But with NZ citizens it is appropriate to look at how many return home. So below are the numbers of NZ “nationals” who leave or arrive permanently or long-term.

The net PLT migration for NZ nationals has gone from 10,000 in 2003 to over 30,000 in recent months. As one can see the number of NZers leaving is increasing, while the number of NZers returning home has in fact been falling – has dropped 5,000 in the last few years. And considering the massive number of NZers now living overseas, you would expect the number returning to be growing.

Finally we look at migration with Australia, as that is where so much of the focus is. The level of people coming from Australia to NZ has dropped a bit since 2003, and increased from 1999 to 2003.

The big mover has been people going from NZ to Australia. It has almost doubled in the last four years, and net migration has more than tripled.

Now you can say, like Labour and allies do, is there a problem? Hey we are only losing 20 people per thousand residents per year? Well look at the implications over a generation of say 30 years. Over one generation 60% of the population will have left NZ. And it looks like only one in three nationals would return. Now that is a massive degree of economic and social dislocation.

Is it all the fault of the Government of the day? No, of course not. But should the Government be exhibiting a determined focus to implement policies that will lift NZ’s overall national income, that will make people want to stay or at least return to NZ? Hell, yes. And have the current Government’s policies been working? Hell, no.

For those who want to check the data. The population figures are from Stats NZ de facto population series until 1999 and estimated resident population from 1999 onwards. The migration figures are from Stats NZ also – series S2FEAUZ, S1GEAUZ, S2EETZ, S2EETA and S1EETA.

Mike Moore on food

April 28th, 2008 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

Mike Moore writes in the Herald on the food crisis:

What has been the most successful 50 years of alleviating poverty in human history is threatened. What’s happening, what’s new?

Nothing is more important than food. In 12 months, corn and rice prices have doubled, wheat price tripled, soy beans up by 87 per cent, and global food reserves are at their lowest levels ever.

They are staggering increases for just one year.

The rush to biofuels is also impacting cruelly in agriculture, where massive subsidies and high oil prices are encouraging agricultural production away from basic foods. Tragically, rich countries are subsidising bio-fuel production, raising prices. Filling a Range Rover with subsidised ethanol takes as much “grain” as would feed an African family for a year. Rich countries’ fuel substitution programmes often consume more energy to produce than they save. It’s a populist Green response to global warming that does the opposite of what was intended.

People should reflect that Federated Farmers have warned that if the price of carbon reaches $50 then the Emissions Trading Scheme would stop basically all food production in NZ – profits are projected to drop 123%. Now before everyone accuses them of scaremongering – what would have been your reaction if say ten years ago someone predicted biofuels would help push 100 million people into poverty and contribute to a doubling of world food prices?

But how can you encourage poor countries to grow food when subsidies from rich countries can drop similar products into their local market, sometimes at a third of local prices?

The medium- and long-term solution is the Doha Development Trade round, which is now at a critical stage. Unless the players at the WTO can get closer in the next few weeks, the deal will not be cut this year.

I could not agree more. Countries at the WTO who do not stop subsidising their food, are a big part of the problem.

If the rich countries cannot find the political courage to front their subsidised farmers when food prices are so high and will remain high, when can they summon up the willpower to save themselves? Subsidies in rich countries are a direct cash transfer from the poorest consumers to the richest of producers.

Indeed. Yet strangely it is so called left wing politicians like Obama and (H) Clinton who rail against free trade,

Do not remove GST on Food

April 28th, 2008 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

There could be few greater acts of economic vandalism than removing GST on food. It is the wrong answer to the problem of increasing food prices.

It is no surprise, as the Herald reports, that people outside supermarkets will sign a petition calling for GST to be removed from food. And if you stood outside medical centres with a petition for no GST on doctor’s fees, people would sign that also.

So why should one not remove GST on food. Here’s a few:

  1. It would impose significant compliance costs on retailers. Instead of just dividing their sales by nine, they would have to be able to track every single item sold, and whether or not that is food. If you go to the corner dairy and buy a pie and a newspaper then the pie has no GST on it and the newspaper does. So the poor corner diary would be forced out of business as they can’t afford a supermarket type electronic scanning system where every item sold is tracked.
  2. It would start a trend of removing GST on more and more items, and the future political scene will be a series of debates about what GST should be one. If one removes GST on food, then some would argue GST should be removed on gym memberships as a public health initiative. Then GST should be removed books as a literacy initiative. Seriously – there would be almost no end.
  3. As Dr Cullen says this is a one-off change that can never be repeated, and any benefits from it could well be swallowed up by further changes in international food prices.
  4. It would mean direct taxes would be $2.4 billion higher than they need to be, to compensate for the GST loss.

Herald on Broadband

April 28th, 2008 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial is supportive:

That is capable of delivering only what comparable countries now have, not reaping the benefits of a truly high-speed network. The latter point is important. New Zealand is competing to not only attract but to retain businesses, especially exporters seeking a cost-effective global presence. Matching overseas cities’ infrastructure is pivotal to success. That would not be achieved, in terms of broadband speed or pace of implementation, under Telecom’s present “next generation” network programme. Going straight to fibre seems logical.

Fibre to the cabinet is a good intermediate step but there is no doubt that fibre to the premises is teh inevitable future, and the investment is not about making something happen which never would have happened, but making it happen more quickly, so that we get more benefits from it. Global competition is all about comparative advantage. Being last with communications infrastructure is not an advantage.

National’s advantage over the Labour Party in this area is likely to be shortlived. Given the work done by the Government, it seems certain to announce something similar, probably in the Budget. Nonetheless, National leader John Key has produced a proposal that adds substance to his frequent talk of Government leadership to lift economic performance and productivity.

I hope Labour do set a similar target.

Review of Absolute Power

April 28th, 2008 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

Ian Llewellyn of NZPA has done a review of the Helen Clark biography “Absolute Power” by Ian Wishart. It’s a fair and balanced review in my opinion. I am not sure which papers will carry the review, but here are some extracts:

The book, released last week, is a collection of articles which attempt to prove Wishart’s thesis that the current Government is corrupt and Prime Minister Helen Clark entered Parliament under false pretences to push a hidden agenda.

The book is similar in many ways to Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, and they share many of the same strengths as well as flaws.

They also both reveal as much as about the author’s world view as they do about their subjects.

Both gathered exhaustive (and in places exhausting) material and did meticulous research, but the impression is the evidence has been gathered and presented to reach a pre-determined position.

I think that is a very fair call. Ian Wishart didn’t just form a view as he started to put his book together that Helen Clark was no good – he has been of that view for some time.

In Hager’s case it was that National was controlled and driven by dark forces ranging from big business, the religious right and foreign interests.

Wishart aims at the other end of the political spectrum and sees Miss Clark as someone who would do anything to get into power and do anything to hold on to it, all in order to push a hidden feminist, socialist agenda on an unsuspecting New Zealand.

It is unclear whether political blindness or naivety colours both authors’ views as they often see quite ordinary political processes as something far more sinister.

In Hager’s case, the lobbying of big business and internal caucus power struggles were proof of conspiracy. …

The fact that people join or lobby political parties to push a view that they believe is a better way for the world seems to be lost upon both authors.

I can’t agree too strongly here. Hager would have you believe that every business donor and supporter is motivated by self interest and greed, rather than a genuine belief in their views and policies being best for NZ. Likewise Wishart does fall down when he reads too much into fairly predictable stuff such as the PMs Office not being very helpful too him.

This is not to say that Wishart’s compilation of all the scandals under Clark is not valuable. People have become so used to them, they hardly register now, and the one thing they all have in common is that in almost every case Clark or her coterie lied and covered up – from paintergate to corngate to speedgate (yes I know all those gates sound lame but they make for easy reference) to doongate.

Much of the book is spent on Wishart’s arguments over whether it is ethical to get into the personal lives of politicians.

He concludes that it is necessary to expose hypocrisy.

Some of the material is an interesting take on political events, such as the downfall of former police commissioner Peter Doone and similar events.

It also documents the habit of many politicians to say one thing in opposition and another in government.

Wishart believes his book portrays a pattern of behaviour that makes Labour and Miss Clark unfit to hold office.

For his followers and those who dislike the current administration, the book will be a gospel.

Miss Clark’s supporters will dismiss it as the ravings of an obsessed individual.

The vast majority of the population will simply not care either way as they accept things are not black and white; instead there are many shades of grey.

Most people accept that others are prone to make mistakes and get things wrong, as much as they get things right.

In the end Absolute Power is not Absolute Gospel, but neither is it entirely Absolute Nonsense.

NZPA should be congratulated for doing a review of the book, rather than just ignore it. I suspect those on the left will not like the comparisons to Hager’s book (which is treated like the Koran by some Labour Ministers as they refer to it daily), but likewise some on the right will not like the dismissal of much of the book as reading too much into everyday politics.

When you have upset people equally on both sides, then you are often spot on 🙂

Saudi blogger released

April 27th, 2008 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

Associated Press reports that the Saudi blogger jailed without charges has finally been released:

Fouad al-Farhan was jailed for (ironically) writing about political prisoners.

It would be nice to say NZ had a hand in getting him released, but we bravely “monitored the situation” without even once saying to the Saud Government that sending people to jail merely for criticising the Government is a bad thing.

Going off Obama big time

April 27th, 2008 at 12:50 pm by David Farrar

I have followed Barack Obama’s career since around a year before he got elected to the Senate in 2004, as even back then people were saying he might be the first Black President of the United States.

He gave a great speech to the 2004 Convention, and I have hoped he would do well enough to one day be elected President, because I do think it should be a great day when an African-American is elected President of the United States. That of course is not reason enough alone to support them, but recognising their legacy of slavery and segregation which didn’t even centuries ago but just in the last generation.

I always thought he should not stand until 2012 or even 2016, when he would have more experience than not even a full term as a backbench Senator. But the opportunity to stand in 2008 became real, and he went for it – and will probably be the Democratic candidate.

I started off as a fairly strong supporter of Clinton over Obama for the Democratic nomination, mainly due to said inexperience. But over the months I started to be far more favourable towards Obama. His speeches were amazing, Clinton was over-exaggerating her own experience and Bill Clinton was starting to over-shadow his own wife and make it look like she was running for a third term for him, not for herself.

I thought a McCain vs Obama contest would be a good outcome, as both men were not creatures of their parties, but their own man.

But I have to say I have gone off Obama in a major major way. Yes he gives good speeches, but his policies are crap, his inexperience keeps showing, and I really don’t know what the guy thinks or will do if in office. I may not like Hillary Clinton, but at least you know what she is.

Mort Kondracke, the Executive Editor of Roll Call, notes:

He’s also now revealed as the most liberal Member of the U.S. Senate — and one who has never, ever departed from party orthodoxy to form the kind of bipartisan coalition he says — correctly — that it will take to solve America’s problems.

Unlike McCain, who has voted against his party often, Obama has never done any major deals with politicians from across the aisle.

Karl Rove (yes I know he is the Prince of Darkness, but he knows his subjects) writes in the Wall Street Journal:

His inspiring rhetoric is a potent tool for energizing college students and previously uninvolved African-American voters. But his appeals are based on two aspirational pledges he is increasingly less credible in making.

Mr. Obama’s call for postpartisanship looks unconvincing, when he is unable to point to a single important instance in his Senate career when he demonstrated bipartisanship. And his repeated calls to remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s “fierce urgency of now” in tackling big issues falls flat as voters discover that he has not provided leadership on any major legislative battle.

Mr. Obama has not been a leader on big causes in Congress. He has been manifestly unwilling to expend his political capital on urgent issues. He has been only an observer, watching the action from a distance, thinking wry and sardonic and cynical thoughts to himself about his colleagues, mildly amused at their to-ing and fro-ing. He has held his energy and talent in reserve for the more important task of advancing his own political career, which means running for president.

John Judis at the New Republic looks at his electability:

Even though he campaigned extensively among white working class Pennsylvanians, he still couldn’t crack this constituency. He lost every white working class county in the state. He lost greater Pittsburgh area by 61 to 39 percent. He did poorly among Catholics–losing them 71 to 29 percent. A Democrat can’t win Pennsylvania in the fall without these voters. And those who didn’t vote in the primary but will vote in the general election are likely to be even less amenable to Obama. …

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s vote in Pennsylvania, you begin to see the outlines of the old George McGovern coalition that haunted the Democrats during the ’70s and ’80s, led by college students and minorities. In Pennsylvania, Obama did best in college towns (60 to 40 percent in Penn State’s Centre County) and in heavily black areas like Philadelphia.

Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as “very liberal.” In Pennsylvania, he defeated Clinton among “very liberal” voters by 55 to 45 percent, but lost “somewhat conservative” voters by 53 to 47 percent and moderates by 60 to 40 percent. In Wisconsin and Virginia, by contrast, he had done best against Clinton among voters who saw themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.

As mentioned earlier, Obama’s position on every issue is pure “liberal”. His voting record is now the most leftwing in the Senate.

The Washington Post looks at the cost of pledges made by Obama (and Clinton). He has pledged US$333 billion of extra annual spending.

When you add on other pledges Obama is looking to impose extra annual costs of half a trillion dollars, and this is compared to an existign federal budget if $2.9 trillion. So that is an increase which wuld give even Michael Cullen the horrors.

And Obama is a protectionist, as identified by The Independent:

The most extraordinary thing is that Obama has actually been pandering to the “bitterness” he identified – the “anti-trade sentiment”. In the rust belts of Ohio and Pennsylvania the Senator from Illinois has lost no opportunity to blame America’s economic woes on the free-trade treaty with Canada and Mexico (Nafta) – which had been enacted by President Clinton.

Obama is one of three Congressional sponsors of “The Patriot Employer Act”, which seeks to give preferential tax status to American companies that choose not to invest overseas. His anti-globalisation rhetoric goes far beyond criticism of free-trade deals such as Nafta. Obama told voters in New Hampshire:”I would stop the import of all toys from China”. China supplies 80 per cent of the toys sold in the US, so that’s one heck of a pile of embargoed fluffy bunnies.

Why stop at banning the import of toys from China. Just ban everything.

Capill up for parole

April 27th, 2008 at 11:38 am by David Farrar

In 2002 Labour changed the laws so even violent offenders and rapists could become eligible for parole after one third of their sentence.

The Criminal Justice Act 1985 did not allow a prisoner to be released from prison before two thirds of their sentence, if they had been convicted of any of the following crimes:

  1. Sexual Violation (includes rape)
  2. Manslaughter
  3. Attempted Murder
  4. Wounding on injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and wounding/injuring with intent to injure
  5. Using a firearm against law enforcement officer
  6. Commission of crime with firearm
  7. Robbery and aggravated robbery

But the Parole Act 2002 changed that, and lets all the rapists and other thugs become eligible after one third of their sentence. Labour only finally backed down on this in the last parliamentary term.

So in July of this year, Graham Capill will become eligible for parole, despite having served only three years of his nine year sentence.

Blog Bits

April 27th, 2008 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

Aaron Bhatnagar had Judith Tizard bail him up and tell him he was a disgusting individual. What did he do? Speculated ten years ago (yes ten years ago) to her niece about Judith and Mat Rata. Good God – that is holding a grudge.

Conservator Occidentalis notes that Grant Robertson may be breaching the Electoral Finance Act. How? His website is authorised by him, not by his financial agent. Now a candidate is his or her own financial agent until he or she appoints one, but Grant appears to now have one, as their details have appeared on other material.

Guido Fawkes has the wonderful screen shot of senior Labour Minister Harriet Harman appearing to back Boris Johnson for Mayor of London.

So how did this happen?

username : harriet
password : harman

Yes that was the username and password for her blog. Someone should be shot. Guido notes the Government is looking to make it a criminal offence to be reckless resulting in loss of data!

EPMU wants higher wages and lower taxes

April 27th, 2008 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little is warning of a desire for wage rises of around 5%. This is understandable with inflation so high, but risks a vicious cycle where inflation continues to get higher and higher and our wage levels relative to Australia drop. Closing the gap with Australia needs wage rises which reflect improved productivity – not wage rises which are just to compensate for prices rises. That is not to say people should not have wage increases to stop their incomes falling in real terms – just that it won’t close the trans-Tasman gap.

Little also calls for clarity over tax cuts:

He also hit out at the government’s “dithering” over tax cuts. One week the government was saying the cuts would take place this year, and then the next week it was suggesting they would be next year. “People are looking for some sort of relief now. People need it, and the government should understand that very clearly.”


Ralston on broadband

April 27th, 2008 at 8:44 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HOS:

Communications Minister David Cunliffe had an instant knee-jerk lame response to Key, claiming the plan lacked detail and credibility and “smacks of opportunism”. As most politicians are opportunists (and Cunliffe is certainly no exception) his cries that the scheme would reinforce Telecom’s monopoly position lacked credibility.

I am one of those who regard Cunliffe as generally having done a very good job in the portfolio. But his response to the plan has almost universally been seen as unwise, and making it harder for Labour to come out with its own response.

Quite how he arrived at the conclusion Telecom would be the big beneficiary of the plan is beyond me as Key had said in the speech that one of the principles guiding his government’s investment would be that there would be open access to the fibre network and none of the current players would be able to line their pockets at the public’s expense.

Indeed, they were critical principles.

New Zealand First blindly followed the anti-Telecom line and Act retreated into some doctrinal babble about how governments should not spend money.

Peter Dunne justifiably spat the dummy at the critics’ “Think Small” approach, saying “Surely the point is that widespread, superfast broadband is a good thing for the New Zealand economy and the only question is how do we get there?”

He went on to wish, without much hope: “It’d be excellent if politicians spent more time working out the answer to that question and not simply whacking each other over the head and feeling they’ve accomplished something”. Fat chance.

It is election year. One party could announce it had found a cure for cancer and the rest of the parties would argue against it.

Oh yes, John Key would then be accused of ignoring AIDS 🙂

A new method of broadcast complaints

April 27th, 2008 at 8:34 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports on a novel new method of complaining about a broadcaster. After she was cut off on talkback, a woman called Margaret turned up to see John Tamihere and WIllie Jackson, along with a “dangerous looking dog”.

Now imagine what fun radio it would have made if she had managed to get inside the broadcast booth with said dog. You’d hear barking, running, growling (probably from Willie!), screams (from JT), and general mayhem. It would be a wonderful boost to ratings. And eventually people would hear the sirens as the Police turn up to shoot the dog, and the ambulance turns up to patch up the hosts.

Gordon catching up to Helen

April 26th, 2008 at 5:47 pm by David Farrar

Gordon Brown has been criticised in the UK Press for hiring his eighth spin doctor.

Yet it passes without comment back in NZ that Helen Clark, for a country 1/20th the size, has nine media and communications staff members (as of Dec 2007).

Helen has a Chief Press Secretary, two Press Secretaries, a Communications Manager, four Communications Advisors and a Communications Assistant.

Poor Mike

April 26th, 2008 at 12:27 pm by David Farrar

Mike Williams denies being a rich prick in the Hewitson interview:

He made, by the way, a lot of money from his direct marketing company and so is surely, I said, “a rich prick” like John Key. “Not any more,” he said, “I’ve been working for the Labour Party for 10 years.” He gets $25,000 a year and gives it all back one way or another. He buys a lot of raffle tickets.

Mike forgot to mention he is a DIrector of seven companies, appointed by his mates in Government:

  1. Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited
  2. Genesis Power Limited
  3. Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA)
  4. Transit New Zealand
  5. Waitakere Enterprise
  6. New Zealand Railways Corporation (Ontrack)
  7. North West Auckland Airport Limited

And what does Mike get as a Director for each:

  1. GNS – $21,000
    1. Genesis – $333,000/9 = $37,000 approx (maybe more as now Deputy Chair)
    2. ARTA – $35,000
    3. Transit – $25,000
    4. Waitakere Enterprise – $65,110/5 = $13,000 approx
    5. Ontrack – $26,000
    6. NW Airport – fees unknown

    So that is $157,000 from government (central and local) board appointments. Now I dont begrudge Mike Williams his fees if he is doing a good job as a Director. But how in touch are you as Labour Party President when your income is over $180,000 a year and you deny you are rich?

    Dom Post: Phone is off the hook

    April 26th, 2008 at 11:20 am by David Farrar

    The Dom Post Editorial comments on the latest Fairfax Poll:

    Today’s Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll showing Labour 18 percentage points behind National confirms what other polls have been suggesting. The electorate has stopped listening to an arrogant government.

    It is not a government that has torn itself apart like the last Labour government or been irreparably damaged by its association with unprincipled party-hoppers as Jenny Shipley’s government was in 1999.

    In a testament to the political skills of Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen, Labour MPs have kept their differences to themselves and presented a united front to the public.

    But Labour’s preoccupations – income redistribution, what’s on sale at school tuckshops, smacking and electoral laws – are not the concerns of tradespeople weighing the benefits of a higher income in Australia against the loss of access to New Zealand’s family-friendly environment, young couples who can see nothing but a lifetime of debt ahead of them when they contemplate the dream of home ownership, and patients who can’t have operations because of a shortage of specialists or because junior doctors and hospitals are acting out a ridiculous pantomime.

    And we will see this in the budget next month. Taxpayers will be legislated to fund a few extra weeks paid parental leave. Now is having paid parental leave extend from say 12 to 16 weeks really the biggest problem we face? Wouldn’t a focus on creating more income instead of spending it be somewhat more helpful?

    Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the time and effort Labour has wasted on the Electoral Finance Act. It has turned an easily solvable problem, the Exclusive Brethren’s underhand attempt to secretly help National during the last campaign, into a never-ending saga by trying to use the Brethren campaign as an excuse to stymie other critics and to increase the advantage of incumbency by allowing sitting MPs to spend parliamentary funds on their campaigns. But it has done such a bad job that no one, not even the minister in charge of the legislation, now knows what MPs can legally do.

    I think the EFA may go down as their biggest mistake. of this term. Cancelling the promised tax cuts and not agreeing to a compromise on the anti-smacking law until the last second would all be contenders also.

    And as the Dom Post says, the EFA was nothing but naked self interest – an attempt to protect the incumbent Government and MPs.

    And, in the meantime, the party is losing ground every time one of its ministers bridles at a legitimate question, every time its president fudges the truth and every time it allows its antipathy toward those who hold a different world view to show.

    We see this last point in Helen Clark’s reply to a question on The Standard from a former Labour Party member who expressed concern over erosion of freedoms in recent times. Her response was:

    I know of no erosions of freedoms which have occurred on our watch. Any such assertion is sheer spin from the National Party and its friends.

    This sums up what the Dom Post is talking about perfectly. Anyone who disagrees with Labour is an enemy.

    The editorial concludes:

    Labour has been the beneficiary of an extraordinary economic summer that has stretched almost nine years. It has used the bounty to improve the lot of low-income families, but done little to convince talented young New Zealanders their future is here rather than overseas. If it wants voters to put the phone back on the hook it needs to show some humility and it needs to focus on voters’ concerns rather than its own.

    The Dom Post is being generous. It suggests there is an ability to see a difference between what is good for Labour and what is good for New Zealand.

    Four dead and only 150 hours community service

    April 26th, 2008 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

    Emily Watt in the Dominion Post reports on the coroner’s report into the car crash which killed Peter Dengate Thrush’s wife, brother and father (and father’s friend). I blogged on this at the time.

    The intersection between Wairere Road and SH2 is a notorious one, and if you pull out into it you do need to do so quickly as it hard to see in times cars which have pulled out. So the driver was only charged with drink driving, not drink driving causing death and Charles Goodson got only 150 hours community work.

    However the coroner’s report found:

    • His blood alcohol level was a massive three times the adult legal limit
    • He was driving at 118 km/hr to 128 km/hr
    • He failed to brake or take any evasive action
    • It was heavily raining with poor visibility

    Now if you are not pissed, you would not be speeding when it is heavily raining with poor visibility. Sure SH2 can be relatively safe at 120 km/hr when it is daylight and sunny but most of us would never ever drive at those speeds in such poor conditions.

    The Police are refusing to lay additional charges, despite the additional evidence found by the Coroner, because they say their decisions were made on the best evidence available at the time. Umm, well isn’t the whole point of new evidence being you reconsider previous decisions based on old evidence???

    Wider Immigration probe

    April 26th, 2008 at 10:15 am by David Farrar

    Ever since the “lie in unison” scandal it has been apparent not all has been well with the NZ Immigration Service. As more is revealed over the preferential treatment given to family members of the NZIS Head, the need for a full inquiry into NZIS grows.

    Immigration staff were ordered by a senior official to override normal policies to process late residency applications by Kiribati family members of top immigration official Mary-Anne Thompson. …

    In the report, former justice secretary David Oughton said he was concerned about a more widespread problem, saying staff told him the order to breach policy was “not an isolated case”.

    Mr Oughton said that when staff were ordered to make decisions they felt breached policy, they wrote “as instructed by” to indicate they had not made the decision themselves.

    And even worse:

    “The report shows an official had the practice of going round the office until they found someone prepared to take the direction. The fact that staff said this was a reasonably common practice is very serious.”

    That is amazing. How can Ministers not think such a culture is an issue?

    Colin James on Key and Broadband

    April 26th, 2008 at 10:04 am by David Farrar

    A typically thoughtful column from Colin James:

    So Key wants voters, especially those under 45, to contrast big plans for broadband against buying back the trains. There is a century-and-a-half between the two inventions. …

    But that misses the electoral purpose. That is, as one party notable put it, “to establish the character” of Key as bold and imaginative – investing in infrastructure for an unimaginable future – and to contrast that with a business-as-usual Clark. …

    Over time, however, National’s general policy thrust presumes Labour has reached a high tide with its redistribution of the fruits of strong economic growth – that there is not much more to do – and that from here on, once the economy gets back to 3 per cent growth after the current slowdown, the fruits should go to tax cuts and investment in innovation and education to lift productivity.

    So Key’s tax focus will not just be on cuts but on a bold restructuring of the system. …

    This week Key stole a march, and he will now bang away on that drum for the next six months, counting on hard times generating eager and hopeful buyers for his promise – and for the meat in the policy.

    Clark and Co will try to get the electoral contest down from Key’s atmospherics to the earthbound realities of experience and knowledge where they claim the advantage as dusk draws in on the economic boom.

    For now, however, the window shoppers are quite taken with Key. This week he started the hard sell: come and feel the goods, was the invitation in his big bang.

    More “confusion” from Williams?

    April 26th, 2008 at 9:58 am by David Farrar

    Michele Hewitson interviews Mike Williams in the Weekend Herald. He agreed to it before he got told to stop giving interviews.

    He says that of course some good ideas came out of the congress but that it’s a big party and there are always going to be some dumb ones. “You cannot stop people coming up with idiotic ideas and if I’d heard what he’d said I would have said, ‘That’s a bloody stupid idea’.” At the time he said this he didn’t know that “he” was Ruth Dyson’s husband.

    Didn’t he? I understand that he did refer to him by first name. It would be extraordinary not to recognise someone who has been a long-time member of the ruling NZ Council.

    They also discuss the song, which he thinks was “quite good”:

    I am fixated on another amazingly silly moment from the congress: the god-awful sing-song by four lady Labour MPs.

    “Well, I thought it was quite good.”

    He must, I say, be lying through his teeth.

    “Well, I thought the words were quite good. I thought the singers were vocally challenged.”

    That is one way of putting it, although I was too engaged in snorting into my coffee to put it that way.

    He says, “For God’s sake, we’ve got to chill out a bit. You’ve got to have a bit of fun. I thought it was funny.”

    “It wasn’t funny. It was appalling,” I say. “The only thing that could have been a worse look would have been morris dancing.”

    Michelle – he wasn’t lying through his teeth, he was merely confused through his teeth!

    Humourless Bastards

    April 26th, 2008 at 9:50 am by David Farrar

    One of the reasons I never intend to stand for Parliament is because you have to put up with humourless bastards, as Stephen Franks has found out with someone e-mailing the Herald complaining about the video I linked to yesterday.

    Almost all humour will offend someone, somewhere. It’s inevitable. And I’m not sure I would call the comments here yesterday a “heated debate”, when it was mainly one person getting hysterical, and having the crap beaten out of him by everyone else.

    Food Prices skyrocketing

    April 26th, 2008 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

    The Weekend Herald finds supermarket food prices for an “average” trolley have gone up 29% in the last year.

    Now this is more than the official food price index, which is weighted to what people actually buy, but both the official and the unofficial surveys show that food inflation is strong and growing.

    Car Caption Contest

    April 25th, 2008 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

    Captions welcome. The person who sent it to me suggested it represented NZ’s direction under Labour 🙂