Archive for June, 2009

Heather Roy on VSM

June 30th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Heather Roy notes the latest ($175,000 stolen from CPSA) in a long line of thefts of student money and summarises recent cases:

December 1999 – Brendan McQuillan, president of Nelson Polytechnic Student Association, admitted stealing $8,004. November 2003 – Florence bailey, office manager of Massey Students Association, jailed for two years and three months after stealing $203,000. November 2005 – Victoria University Maori Student Association treasurer Wi Nepia jailed for stealing $161,000. 2005 – Otago University’s Te Roopu Maori, the Maori students’ association collapsed amid allegations of financial impropriety. Estimated fraud $21,000. April 2007 – Clelia Opie, officer of Victoria University Students’ Association, spends $6,000 on phone calls.’

Now there are not that many student associations in NZ. The fraud rate for them is hence staggeringly high. Heather notes:

The fact is that compulsory student association membership creates a pool of money and a lack of accountability on how that money is managed. Misuse of funds in a voluntary organisation would result in a loss of confidence by members in the executive. But in student organisations, despite frequent fraud and theft, students are still forced to pay union fees whether they want to or not. Student associations are also often plagued by accusations of advocating only the views of their executives rather than those of their wider memberships.

It’s a disgrace that National continues to force most students to belong to a students’ association.

More on Education and OIA

June 30th, 2009 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

Mr Mallard today suggested a change could be made to the Education Amendment Bill currently before a select committee , or a separate bill could be drafted.

“I see it as a really good way of unblocking a problem that we’ve got,” Mr Mallard said this morning.

Quality information was important, he said, but it did not all need to be made public.

He did not think individual school information needed to be published.

“At the moment privacy reasons means that individual children or individual teachers information can’t be made public but school information could be.

“I think if we restricted that that would mean only national information was published so that we could test the system.”

The school information would be available for the Education Ministry and Education Review Office.

“So if there were major anomalies of schools going off the rails educationally that information would be easily available.”

This is such a wonderful idea by Trevor, I think we should take it further. We spend $6 billion in schools yet the rationale is that only the Education Ministry and ERA need to be able to access information on individual schools.

So lets extend this to the entire Government. It is unfair that the media sometimes publish unhelpful stories about a Government agency based on information released under the OIA. This can lead to undermining confidence in that agency.

So using Labour’s logic, I propose that only national information for the entire Government be published in future. Only Treasury and Ministers need to know individual agencies information.

So if you ask under the OIA how many staff at your agency earn over $100,000 – then the only response will be “The Government in total employs 7,201 staff who earn over $100,000” rather than listing it for each agency.

There is no need for us, according to Labour’s logic, to know the details of each agency. We can trust Treasury and the Government to take action if there is a problem.

There are other ways Labour’s new principle can be implemented. It is unfair that death rates in hospitals can be compared. This is unfair to larger hospitals that take on the more critical cases. So in future it will be illegal to publish information about deaths in individual hospitals. The Ministry of Health will collect this data and they will act on it if any hospital goes off the rails.

It also seems to me it is unfair that people can compare the levels of rates between different local authorities. A simplistic comparison is bad as different Councils provide different facilities. So again taking Labour’s principle forward, Councils will no longer reveal what their level of rates are. The Department of Internal Affairs will monitor Councils and let us know fi any go off the rails.

There are so many examples. It is also unfair to prison guards at a particular prison that their escape rate can be compared to other prisons. After all it does not take into account different security classifications.  To prevent the public from making an ill informed comparison on a league table, we will not publish individual prison escape levels.

Readers might like to post in the comments more examples of what should be removed from the OIA under Labour’s new principle that the publci are too stupid to know and compare, and that the important thing is the Government Departments have the information for their use.

UPDATE: Someone has emailed me a copy of Labour’s OIA Bill. It only allows schools to share information with the Ministry of Education and the ERO. This means that schools would not be able to give NCEA information to the NZQA!

Also Labour’s bill bans schools from voluntarily releasing their overall achievement data. It is a giant Orwellian step backwards and reminds us all that Labour is concerned about the teachers unions, and not parents or students. The bill says:

Despite any other provision of this Act, organisations including, but not limited to schools, the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office, must not publicly release school level assessment information.

This makes school level assessment information more secretive than security information held by the SIS. You see the SIS are allowed to decide what information they release. Labour’s bill would see the Government and schools lose any discretion over publishing assessment information.

National should run full page advertisements in every newspaper with copies of Labour’s bill, explaining how Labour wants to ban the publishing of school assessment information. I’m seriously – they should hit some donors up for $100K and it will knock Labour down a good 5% or so. I suppose there is no need when they are 20% ahead, but this is a huge blunder by Labour.

A justified coup?

June 30th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m not sure any coup is ever justified (Fiji is an example of the problems you get when you set a precedent) but the situation in Honduras is fascinating.

The (former) President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed from office yesterday when the Armed Forces seized him and threw him on a flight to Costa Rica.

Now normally one would condemn this absolutely. And indeed the UN, US, EU and other countries have all condemned it.

But maybe in this case the Armed Forces were not totally wrong. You see Zelaya has been acting unconstitutionally and it seems there was nolegal way to impeach him.

Zelaya has been elected to a four year term that ended at the end of 2009. The Constitution of Honduras makes it very clear you can not stand for a second term – ever. Article 239 says once you have been President you can never be President (or VP) again.

The constitution is so adamant about the one term limit, it says that if you promote a change to that clause, you lose your public office immediately and can not hold office again for ten years.

And Article 42 goes further and says anyone promoting the President staying in office beyond on term loses their Honduras citizenship. So I think we can conclude they don’t want their politicians to do what Chavez did in Venezuela and use his thugs to initimidate the population into changing the law to allow him to become President forever.

Now Zelaya was organising a non-binding referndum to start on the day he was deposed. The referendum was to on whether to call a National Assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Now the referendum has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and oppossed by Congress, the attorney general, and the top electoral body. Despite this President Zelaya asked the military to conduct the referendum. The General in charge refused as the referendum had been declared illegal and unconstitutional. The President then sacked the General. The Supreme Court reinstated him.

Zelaya then led a citizen march to take possession of the referendum materials. Some stage after that the military deposed him from office. The Supreme Court has come out and said they ordered the army to do so, and the Congress (which is controlled) by Zelaya’s own party unamiously voted to remove him from office (even though they do not have this power).

Now it is possible the Army’s action will prove detrimental in the long term. Already they have imposed censorship, and mishandled some diplomats. But from all accounts Zelaya all but forced them to act – and they may have stopped him from doing a Chavez.

The lession for nation states might be to always have clear impeachment procedures in your constitution.

Arrogant French

June 30th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The French embassy refuses to apologise for damage to Wellington’s reputation from Mathieu Bastareaud’s false assault allegations, despite a scathing article penned by its ambassador.

You can read the Ambassadors’ article for yourself here. He said:

More serious is the assault against a French rugby player in the street, on the grounds that he is French and identified as one of the best French player. At least, this is how the local press reports the event. We thought rugby was safe from such behaviour which, alas, plagues other sports. Supporters’ passion cannot fully explain this incident. Maybe the assailants took literally an article entitled “Ten reasons to hate the French”.

Is one of those reasons their arrogance and inability to say sorry?

The Dom Post editorial also makes some good points about the cover-up:

The players who entered the hotel with him and the team doctor who stitched him up almost certainly know the real cause of his injury, and so probably do coach Marc Lievremont and manager Jo Maso. Why else delay for 48 hours before telling the world?

New Zealand and France have a long and rich history on and off the rugby field. On the field it is a relationship marked by equal parts brilliance and skulduggery – both admired qualities in rugby circles. But, off the field, the skulduggery should stop.

Bastareaud has apologised to the New Zealand Rugby Union and Wellington for his lies. The French rugby union and team management should do the same to try to repair the damage done to Wellington’s name by their complicity in the Bastareaud Affair.

The lies told were not that of a sole player. Management approved the lie and attempted cover up and the French Rugby Union should discipline those responsible and apologise. If a NZ team did what the French did, the senior management would be sacked.

Sky online

June 30th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Pay television giant Sky is planning to hit the pause button on its Sky Online site, saying the service does not make sense in the current New Zealand broadband market.

Fellet said: “We did this to make subscribers feel better about our service but it has not been a great viewer experience.”

Viewers were using up their broadband capacity and then becoming unhappy with Sky when they passed data limits and their internet service provider (ISP) dropped them back to dial-up speeds.

I agree such a service will be greatly limited by data caps. But assuming Sky hosts its content locally, and hosts it in a site that peers with the major ISPs, I would have hoped that such local traffic could be excluded from data caps. It is the international bandwidth that is the big problem.

TVNZ was the first broadcaster in Australasia to launch a full online catch-up service and nearly all of of its prime-time shows are available through this service. Each week nearly 250,000 New Zealanders stream 1.5 million shows to their homes, Paris says.

Some TVNZ traffic has been through a relationship with the state-owned ISP Orcon, which has allowed its subscribers to access the TVNZ ondemand website without affecting data caps.

Orcon executive Scott Bartlett said data caps remained an impediment partly because there was only one “pipeline” from New Zealand allowing internet traffic from the United States – the source of a lot of internet traffic.

He said there were also issues over Telecom charges for data transfers.

This is why peering locally is so important. People should be able to download locally without it affecting their data cap.

Iran to probe Neda’s death

June 30th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters report:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for a judicial probe into the “suspicious” death of a young Iranian woman who has become an icon of opposition protests against a disputed election which he officially won.

Ahmadinejad sent a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi requesting a serious investigation to help identify “the elements” behind this month’s killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, the official IRNA news agency said.

Oh God – this will be hilarious. Will they blame it on Mossad or the CIA? Maybe MI5 as the Brits are the current targets. We’d better be careful – you can’t rule out they will conclude the NZ SAS was disguised in the crord and killed her.

The one thing I think we can rule out is that the investigation will conclude she was shot by Iranian state security forces.

Maybe they’ll blame it on a meteor fragment?

For those who have not seen the video, here’s a You Tube of it. It is only because so many people saw it through You Tube etc that the Iranian Government hasn’t been able to deny it happened.

The public can’t be trusted syndrome

June 30th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’m appalled at the attitude from the principals’ union that they may not report results from national standard tests, because shock horror they might be made public.

Even worse Labour is advocating a law change, so that the public can be blocked from being able to obtain this information under the Oficial Information Act.

We (the taxpaying public) spend almost $6 billion a year on the school system. They are meant to be accountable to parents and the community/public. And instead they are demanding a law change to hide what their performance might be, backed by Labour.

I don’t care much one way or another about league tables.  Certainly the Government has better things to do than publish such things.

But there is a massive difference between whether or not the Government should publish something, and whether or not it should prevent members of the public from obtaining information on a school and publishing it in any form they like.

It is appalling arrogance to demand that such information be suppressed because you can’t trust the public to interpret it properly. That is the start of the slippery slope to an Orwellian country.

If someone wants to go to the trouble, they should be able to publish “league tables” on schools on as many criteria as they want.

One organisation could do a league table based on drug offences at school. Another could do a league table based on the level of “voluntary” fees. Another could do a league table based on suspensions for misconduct. And another could do a league table based on the average number of years experience of teachers. And shock horror someone might do a league table based on exam results. And hey someone else might do one based on exam results, but adjusted to take into account socio-economic factors in their home zone. And yet someone else might do a league table based on sporting success.

The answer is not less information, but more. If you don’t like a league table compiled by an organisation, then criticise it, or do your own one. If you think the media’s reporting of local results is sub-standard then blog about it.

But whatever you do, don’t support Labour’s plan to exempt schools from the Official Information Act to keep the teacher unions happy.

UPDATE: No Right Turn has already blogged on this also, and pleased to say he agrees that what Labour is proposing is wrong.

An even better option

June 30th, 2009 at 8:03 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald says:

Thus there may be a case for compensating a household when one of the earners becomes unemployed in the current recession. Two Auckland economists have called for a relaxation of the rule that refuses the dole to a person whose partner is earning even a modest income. They point out that this is inconsistent with the taxation system which treats couples as separate income earners.

They have not drawn the obvious conclusion, though, that a better solution might lie in changing the tax system. If couples could combine their incomes for a tax assessment, and each be taxed for half of it, the loss of one income would reduce the tax on the other, delivering an appreciable benefit to the household. …

This proposal, known as “income splitting”, deserves consideration for reasons wider than unemployment. If it was adopted as a permanent feature of income tax it would be fairer than the present system for couples in which one partner chose not to be in paid employment.

So the Herald says a better option that allowing people to go on the dole if their partners are working, is income splitting.

I’m not a big fan of income splitting as it will lead to all sorts of “false couples” in order to income split, but I have an even better option that achieves the same end without the perverse incentives.

A flat tax rate. Then there is no need to income split. And you just have a guaranteed minimum family income for low income earners.

Ministerial spouses paying their own way

June 30th, 2009 at 7:37 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour ministers had often travelled with their spouse – allowed if the Cabinet approves of the travel.

However, Mr Key has told his colleagues that things are different because of the tough economic times. …

“I made it clear to my ministers I didn’t expect them to take their spouse and, to the best of my knowledge, they haven’t. If they have, they’ve paid for it.”

He said there were possibly some exceptions on trips to Australia.

“In every other instance, I’ve told them if they want to take their partner, they can do it, but they pay for it. When I went to China, it’s well documented I took Bronagh and I paid for her.”

That’s definitely a change of policy.

While one can only applaud restraint in a recession, I would caution against a blanket ban on spouses travelling with Ministers (unless they pay their own way). It can be difficult enough keeping a marriage together when you don’t spend the week together – and certain Ministers such as Foreign and Trade travel so much, they would never see their spouse if they din’t sometimes accompany them.

Now as it happens in the Key Minstry both those Ministers are not currently married, so not so much of an issue. But as I said a blanket ban on spousal travel could be unfair.

From what I read though, it is not quite a blanket ban – more a expectation with permission needed for exceptions.

Madoff gets 150 years

June 30th, 2009 at 7:27 am by David Farrar

The defence wanted 12 years, the federal probation services suggested 50 years, but Bernie Madoff got the maximum 150 years. He’ll be 221 when he’s released!

His fraud included fabricated gains of US$65 billion (close to the NZ GDP) and he literally destroyed thousands of lives.

Up until 1991 he operated legitimately, but from then on he never made any legitimate investments – he just ran all money through his business bank account and used new investors to pay out on existing ones. How he survived 17 years of audits I don’t know. Even some basis confirmation with claimed investments would have picked this up.

Madoff has refused to co-operate with authorities, and it may never be known how much, if anything, the rest of his family knew.

General Debate 30 June 2009

June 30th, 2009 at 7:10 am by David Farrar

Treasury on BERL report

June 29th, 2009 at 4:13 pm by David Farrar

I covered a while back the evisceration of a BERL report into the social costs of alcohol. This report inflated the cost by around 3000% (or $4.6b), and was being cited by the Law Commission as rationale for all sorts of law changes.

NBR reported at the end of last week that Treasury has now expressed concern about thre reliance being placed on reports such as this (which costs the taxpayer $135,000). NBR quotes Treasury Deputy Secretary Peter Bushnell:

The Berl report into the social costs of alcohol being used by the Law Commission is work that doesn’t look like it meets the “normal standards you would expect”, according to Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Dr Peter Bushnell.

There were numerous problems cited in the report by its academic reviewers, including:

“I think the points they’re making are sound about adding the costs of production into the cost of it, and not counting any benefits. In a market if you’re selling something that people are prepared to pay for, then they’ve at least got that much benefit, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought the stuff. So if you exclude the benefits then you’re clearly only looking at one side of the story.”

And as I have said previously,far too many Government reports look at costs only, and not benefits.

However, the mere fact Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer is seeking out economic advice is positive, “because in the past lawyers often assumed that economics had nothing to do with it.”

That said, the onus should be on the Law Commission to be rigorous Dr Bushnell said.

“Sir Geoffrey’s reputation is reduced [if] he’s putting weight on something that actually doesn’t stack up. So the Law Commission ought to … build in processes that give adequate QA and so on.

“What we’re saying is it’s your reputation that’s at risk here. It doesn’t reflect well on the Law Commission if it … backs [work], that doesn’t have a sound basis.”

That is a pretty undiplomatic serve. Basically saying if you use shoddy reports you’ll get a shoddy reputation.

I’m actually a fan of much of the work the Law Commission does (I like the fact they are pro-active not just reactive) but Ministers will not be as inclined to listen to them if they don’t make sure any reports they use as justification hold up to scrutiny.

Editorials on State House Policy

June 29th, 2009 at 2:15 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post last week said:

During last year’s election campaign, the National Party promised, if it won, to put the Kiwi dream of home ownership back within reach.

Part of its plan was to allow some state house tenants to buy the homes they lived in, while maintaining the state housing stock by reinvesting the money in replacement homes. It has since also committed to building another 1550 state homes over four years.

In February, it announced it would fast-track $124.5 million worth of investment in state housing by upgrading 10,000 homes and adding 520 others before July. This week, it went further.

From September, tenants can approach Housing New Zealand to discuss their purchase options, which might include their also benefiting from the state’s so-called Welcome Home mortgage guarantee scheme, which applies to low-income earners buying their first homes. …

But perhaps the most notable aspect of this policy is its stark difference from that which the last National administration implemented. Then, state houses were sold to tenants and not replaced, and Housing Corporation mortgages were on-sold to financial institutions. The state plainly wanted to get out of housing.

The motivation this time seems different. The Government of Prime Minister John Key, who began his life in a Christchurch state house, seems to be saying that state involvement must be a hand-up only to home ownership, and that those who can afford to move on should do so. It is to be hoped they take the hint.

And today’s Herald:

Tenants of state houses will shortly be given an opportunity to buy them. Housing Minister Phil Heatley has announced that houses will be offered to tenants at market valuations from September and Housing New Zealand will use the money to build new houses.

This news has been greeted with predictable disapproval from Labour, the Green Party and various advocacy groups who claim to be concerned for people in urgent need of a state house. Their preferred solution seems to be to spend whatever it takes to house everyone who cannot afford to buy a home. But since that would be an open-ended liability it is plainly impractical. So what else would the opponents of state house sales suggest?

Their policy on this issue is probbably the same as their policy on every issue – borrow and spend.

But historically, Governments of all stripes in this country have baulked at forcing comfortable state tenants to forsake their homes. These people are often elderly and settled and it would be cruel to uproot them. Since Labour and the Greens agree with the Government about that, why do they not support the gentler course of enabling these people to own their homes?

Well Phil Goff used to.

This perhaps hints at the critics’ real concern. As the Greens’ Sue Bradford put it, “Houses which are sold can be back on the market quickly, with investors and developers reaping profits. This happened in the 1990s,” she said, “and I’m sure it will happen again now.”

The Left does not like the idea of any property becoming a source of private profit, and Ms Bradford has the gall to accuse the Government of “ideology”.

Amusing if it wasn’t so sad.

The policy looks to be good for the tenants, good for their neighbourhood, good for those waiting for a state house, good for the taxpayer, the building industry and the economy. Good for everyone, in fact, except those who live on constituencies of state dependence.

Take a bow Labour and the Greens.

Stephen Cook vs Herald on Sunday

June 29th, 2009 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

I got this e-mailed to me:


The controversial and much-rumored-about court case between award winning journalist Stephen Cook and his former employer the Herald on Sunday – where he was employed as assistant editor until earlier this year – has been assigned a hearing date

This week’s hearing will be open to the public.

Date: 2 July, 2009

Time: 9.00am

Location: Employment Relations Authority, Level 10, The 280 Centre280 Queen Street, Auckland central.

Counsel for Stephen Cook – Chris Comeskey

Counsel for the Herald on Sunday – Champan Tripp

Cook is the former Assistant Editor of the HoS. His last articles appeared in late September 2008. Ironically he won a 2009 Qantas Award for feature writing for an article on the pain of parole.

He attracted some controversy in when he pressured Debbie Gerbich (who had complained about Brad Shipton) into giving an interview, amidst revelation that she was advertising for bondage partners. Gerbich later commited suicide.

There has been some interesting speculation on the nature of the parting of the ways, and the court case sounds most interesting.

Dole rules

June 29th, 2009 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Two economists are calling for a fundamental rewrite of New Zealand’s welfare system because of the numbers of people being made redundant who can’t get the dole because their partners are still working.

When I read this, I thought to myself that I bet one of the economists is Susan St John.

Dr Susan St John of Auckland University and Keith Rankin of Unitec say the system is based on “outmoded social concepts” such as assuming that everyone lives in single-income families where dad goes out to work and mum stays home with the children.

I don’t think the system is based on those assumptions. I think a change with what Dr St John proposes would be both unaffordable and inefficient – it would be more middle class welfare and tax churning.

Going from two to one incomes is not nice, and many families struggle I am sure. But that can’t be compared to a zero income family. The unemployment benefit is for families where neither partner is (significantly) working.

The Government already has massive deficits and debt. This is the silliest time to be proposing making it worse – in my opinion. Any extra welfare payments have to be borrowed and eventually paid back by future taxpayers.

General Debate 29 June 2009

June 29th, 2009 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

Espiner on Mallard vs Lockwood

June 29th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs on Mallard vs Lockwood:

Initially Mallard seemed to be suggesting taking a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker, but later said on his blog that Labour would “wait for a better case”.

I think he and his colleagues need to draw a deep breath and wait for a considerably better case.

Lockwood Smith is the best thing to happen to Opposition parties since Question Time was invented. He is easily the most fair, unbiased, and straightforward Speaker Parliament has had in years.

High praise.

In sports parlance, he’s a ref who plays advantage and isn’t always on the whistle. When Mallard took a frankly pathetic point of order yesterday to complain that Key wasn’t addressing the chair when he was speaking, but had his back to him, Smith shut him down quick-smart, saying he was more interested in what the Prime Minister was saying than how he was standing.

That’s what I like about Lockwood Smith. He doesn’t suffer foolish or pedantic points of order. He’s all but stamped out the tabling of press releases. He requires ministers to answer, not just address the question. And he doesn’t yell “order” every five seconds for some minor transgression.

For years people have used the ability to seek leave to table a document as a method of scoring an additional point. You would say something like “I seek leave to table the Minister’s press release of xx in which he says how poor people should move house”. Lockwood has no power to refuse to seek leave on behalf of a member, but often reminds the MP seaking leave to table such a document that the Standing Orders Committee has noted this is an abuse of standing orders as you should only seek leave to table a document MPs do not alreay have access to.

This has massively reduced such frivolous tablings, which means more time for actual questions and law making.

Overall, Labour should thank its lucky stars Lockwood Smith is the Speaker and quit moaning.

As a result, I think Parliament is a much more smooth-running and frankly democratic place.

Smith has thrown out far fewer MPs so far than his predecessor Margaret Wilson, and it was always odds-on that Mallard would be the one to finally go.

Colin is assuming that the Labour Opposition are glad to have a Speaker that has made Ministers more accountable and increased the public regard for Parliament.

I am not so sure that is a wise assumption. I would go further and suggest many in Labour hate the fact Lockwood is regarded so well by the gallery and those in the public who follow Parliament. Don’t think that Labour welcomed the changes Lockwood introduced. It was not only National Ministers who protested them. Senior Labour MPs on several occasions asked Lockwood to reconsider his new interpretation that Ministers must answer the question if it is a clear primary question with a potential factual response.

Hunt and Wilson were amongst the most partisan and well connected Labour MPs. They were tribal Labour. Imagine how galling it must be to senior Labour MPs to have even some of their own supporters talking about how great Lockwood is doing and by comparison how bad Wilson and Hunt were?

Those senior Labour MPs will also know that Lockwood’s forcing Ministers to answer questions will (ironically) actually help the Government as the sight of arrogant Ministers being asked “How many unemployed people are there” and refusing to actually give an answer is part of what creates the impression of time to go.

Finally the fact it is Lockwood that has proven so popular as Speaker will also chafe some in Labour. They opposed his nomination, and he has always been a target for certain Labour MPs.

So I think Labour are going to actively look for opportunities to try and attack Lockwood, and possible even no confidence him. They, I suspect, would be more than happy to go back to the old days, if they can.

Great viewing

June 29th, 2009 at 5:48 am by David Farrar

As people will know Labour has attacked National’s decision to let state house tenants buy the homes they live in. Well some clever sod at National found a report from 19986 when the then Labour Minister of Housing proudly announced exactly the same policy, and raved on about how wonderful it will be.

Who was the Minister of Housing then? Our own Phil Goff. So enjoy the video of Phil Heatley having fun with Goff in the House.

It does reinforce the point I made last week about Goff being an enigma. I’d like to know what he really thinks about allowing state house tenants to buy their own homes. Does he really think what he announced in 1986 was a mistake?

MacDoctor on Labour and Health

June 28th, 2009 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

MacDoctor nails it here:

If you were wondering why Labour spent so much extra money on Health without actually improving the health of New Zealanders, nor their access to services, puzzle no longer. Ruth Dyson reveals all. She is complaining that some of the health promotions that were dear to Labour’s heart have been cut or seriously curtained. Things like cancer “control”, heart promotions and the diabetes “get checked” programme. …

No, Ruth, these are NOT frontline services. They never were and they never will be. These are all Labour’s attempts at preventative health promotion and, as such, provide no health service at all. This is not to say that preventative health is necessarily useless, just that they are not frontline services. They are not delivering medicine, they are delivering social change. At least, they might be delivering this.

That is a great line – they are not delivering medicine, they are delivering social change.

That does not mean all public health activies are not worthwhile, but they are not the same thing as actually giving someone an operation, a prescription etc.

The biggest problem with all of these preventative health schemes is that no one appears to have bothered to examine whether they are making any difference. Labour’s attempt to monitor results of these campaigns (now removed from the health reporting list by National) were so wishy-washy and soft, that it was impossible to tell from the data whether they were successful. That does not seem like a good use of taxpayer dollars to me.

Take the diabetes programme “get checked”, for example. This programme, unlike most, actually has links to hard data like blood results, blood pressure readings and hospital admission rates for diabetes and diabetic complications. All the hard evidence shows that the programme has made virtually no difference to the quality of diabetic control.

Huge amounts have been spent on programmes that *might* improve health outcomes. But what data there is, is patchy.

Diabetics who normally don’t attend their regular check-ups don’t abscond because they can’t afford it, they don’t come in because they can’t be bothered. Diabetes is one of those diseases that kill you slowly, like high blood pressure (only worse). People don’t like to see the doctor unless they are sick. So they don’t. All that “get checked” does is make it cheaper for the people who would have regularly attended their doctors for diabetic monitoring. It is a subsidy for diabetics. Nothing more, nothing less.

More middle class welfare.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is just not something you want to fund at the expense of real frontline services like outpatient visits and elective surgery.

Which is what Tony Ryall is sensibly targeting.

Labour’s singular failure in health is their constant focus on what would be nice at the expense of focussing on what is truly needed.

Dead on target here.

Nobody is saying that heart prevention programmes are invariably a waste of time. We may demonstrate that they may be very useful indeed at reducing long-term heart disease. But it is not right that a dozen people should die because they can’t get heart surgery in time in order to fund a social intervention. Particularly one that does not have demonstrable benefits.

This is how Labour managed to double health spending but almost make no impact on waiting lists etc.

2009 Freedom Forum

June 28th, 2009 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

From Thursday to Saturday, DC time, I have been at the 2009 Freedom Forum – an annual event put on by the International Young Democrat Union.

Today we heard from Manda Zand-Ervin who heads up the Alliance of Iranian Women. They work with women inside Iran helping them to establish the foundation of a civil society and trying to publicise to media the plight of the women and children of Iran.

Women actually had equal rights in early Iran until around 623 AD when it become Islamic. Before the 1970s Islamic takeover women again had managed equal rights but now count as one-half of a man. Women do not get the custody of their children, do not have the choice in their clothing, residence, leaving the house, working, education or travelling without the permission of their husband.

Girls are “allowed” to marry is nine. Men can divorce the women at any time they wish and can marry several wives in addition to them. Girls inherit one-half of that which boys do.

One area of non discrimination though is hanging – around 200 women were hanged in 2008. And Iran sits on the Human Rights Commission dealing with women’s rights.

We also had a speaker from Cuba – a relatively young guy who left only a few months ago. He had been a pro-democracy activist so hadd been arrested and beaten up by the state on numerous occassions. Finally it got so bad he got out.

Chatting to anouther Cuban, I found out there is actually a law in Cuba which translated basically is for “pre-criminal social dangerousness”. Yes they actually convict you for pre-crimes – just like in minority report!

We do not realise how fortunate we are in the freedoms we take for granted – but the price for them is vigilance.

Loving DC

June 28th, 2009 at 5:45 am by David Farrar

This is my third visit to DC and as always, I am loving it. Not because of the politics – but the city itself. Unlike many major US cities, DC is a delight to be in. There are no massively tall buildings blocking the view (due to the 1899 Heights of Buildings Act that stops buildings being taller than the Capitol or the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet).

You can walk around much of DC, or use the Metro. I’ve found the taxi service variable but a lot cheaper than NZ – the maximum fare for anywhere within DC is $18!

Also so many good bars and cafes. I am staying with a friend near 18th Street in Morgan-Adams which has lots of bars and cafes.

But most of all I love the parks and the monuments. So much heritage here.


A state of FDR and his dog. I am very amused that I just tried to Google the name of his dog and the filter at the Heritage Foundation (a conservative thinktank where I am today) blocked it as a banned term!! 🙂

I have got around that and discovered it was Fala. His name was used as an identification question during the Battle of the Bulge!


Also part of the memorial which was established just a decade ago in 1997.


Most people should recognise Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.


This is the view of the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial at the south end of it. The US Capitol is at the far end.


The Korean War Memorial.


A very apt saying – one we forget too often.


The WWII Memorial is in the middle of the National Mall and is even more recent than the FDR memorial – established only in 2004.


And everyone should know 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Political Spectrum Quiz

June 28th, 2009 at 5:06 am by David Farrar

My Political Views
I am a right social libertarian
Right: 6.91, Libertarian: 6.37

Political Spectrum Quiz

Just done the quiz here.

You can see results from other NZ bloggers here.

General Debate 28 June 2009

June 28th, 2009 at 2:52 am by David Farrar

Wrong wrong wrong

June 27th, 2009 at 2:12 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter repeats one of the great myths of the Labour left as he makes excuses for Labour legislating away the rights of Maori to go to court:

But, of course, your enemy’s enemy can just as easily be your enemy too – and in the case of the foreshore and seabed debacle this was especially true. Labour’s erstwhile deputy-leader, Michael Cullen, was telling no more than the truth when he pointed out that his government had no room to manoeuvre over the Foreshore & Seabed Bill.

From the moment the Court of Appeal’s decision was announced, Labour’s pollsters began to register a rising level of anti-Maori feeling in the Pakeha population. Clearly, it would require a strong, bi-partisan effort to withstand such political pressure. Of course, National’s pollsters were picking up the same racist vibes as Labour, but, rather than stand against them, the strategists surrounding National’s new leader, Don Brash, opted to exploit them.

The Orewa Speech delivered by Brash in January 2004, and the extraordinary shift in political allegiance from Labour to National that it accomplished, destroyed any hope of a bi-partisan approach to resolving the issues raised by the Court of Appeal.

I’ve seen Labour push this version of events often, and am disappointed that Chris has fallen for it. Quite simply it is a lie, and the dates prove it.

  1. Thursday 19 June 2003 – Court of Appeal announces decision
  2. Monday 23 June 2003 – Clark and Wilson announce they will legislate to prevent any applications for title

Yes Labour announced the legislation just four days (or two working days) after the court of appeal decision. I’m sick of the fucking lies about Labour backing down under a nasty Don Brash led campaign that finally forced Labour to legislate.

Labour announced legislation as their first reaction – not their last. They panicked – totally. Thursday they hear the decision, and within 24 – 48 hours they would have resolved to recommend to Cabinet they legislate.

Even more stupid is the attempts of the left to portray Labour’s decision as being linked to Brash’s leadership and his Orewa speech. The dates for those are:

  1. Brash becomes Leader on 28 October 2003 – 127 days after Labour announced they would legislate.
  2. Brash’s Orewa speech was on 27 January 2004 – 218 days after Labour announced they would legislate.

General Debate 27 June 2009

June 27th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar