Archive for February, 2010

Collusion and Criminal Sanctions

February 28th, 2010 at 10:41 pm by David Farrar

If you are in Wellington you may be interested in a seminar on Monday evening by the Law & Economics Association of New Zealand (LEANZ)
and Bell Gully on

The efficiency of collusion and criminal sanctions in New Zealand

Speakers are Professor Lewis Evans, Victoria University of Wellington abd Victoria Heine, Partner, Chapman Tripp.

It is at Bell Gully, HP Tower, 171 Featherston Street, Wellington, 5.30 pm for 6.00 pm start, followed by refreshments.

Your can RSVP:

Topic background: On January 27 the Justice Minister released a discussion document proposing to criminalise cartel activities such as price fixing and bid rigging. In this seminar, Professor Evans will consider efficiency aspects of the Minister’s proposal, in particular the efficiencies which can arise when competing business co-operate, and the difficulties officials can have in separating beneficial and harmful co-operation. Commenter for this one hour session will be Victoria Heine, Partner at Chapman Tripp.

Blunt on Heatley

February 28th, 2010 at 7:35 pm by David Farrar

A punishment fitting the crime

February 28th, 2010 at 11:30 am by David Farrar reports:

THE owner of a goat allegedly raped is demanding the two accused make traditional wedding arrangements.

State media also said the two young men accused of having sex with a goat in central Mozambique faced criminal charges.

The young men, whose names and ages were not released, were caught in the act by police and arrested outside the rural town of Mbucuta in central Mozambique, the website of the state broadcaster said.

“One of the young men was naked and holding the goat’s head, and the other was having sex with the animal,” witness Mario Creva told Radio Mozambique.

District prosecutor Leonides Mapasse said the two would face trial for simple larceny.

The goat’s owner may also file a civil suit against them, he said.

The owner was demanding the young men pay him damages and initiate a traditional wedding ceremony by paying “lobolo,” a dowry, a family member told Radio Mozambique.

Well how’s that for restorative justice, and making the punishment fit the crime? I’m glad that someone is thinking of that goat.

McCarten on Israel

February 28th, 2010 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes:

It seems we can’t get over the myth we’ve created of the little plucky nation of Israel defending itself against the Islamic hordes intent on destroying them.

The fact is Israel has the fourth largest military machine in the world and is the only nuclear power in the region.

Is Israel a little nation? Well it is around 20,000 square kilometres in size. That’s a bit smaller than Vermont – one of the smallest states in the US.

And Israel’s four neighbours have a land area of 1,290,000 square kilometres. That is around 60 to 65 times the size.

Are there Islamic hordes intent on destroying them? Yes. Not all Islamic countries and definitely not all Islamic people, but a fair few of each. It is probably the only cpuntry on Earth that

Does Israel have the 4th largest military machine in the world? No. For number of active personnel they are ranked 34th. And even if you include reserves they are still only the 20th largest.

They are the only nuclear power, but sadly not for long I suspect.

It is a pity the three strikes law will not be retrospective

February 28th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

The country’s youngest convicted killer is the subject of a new police complaint, accused of indecently assaulting two female journalists.

He is fresh from a one-month prison sentence after admitting wilfully damaging a television camera – the latest in a string of offences including assault.

Bailey Junior Kurariki was released from prison in May 2008 after being convicted of the manslaughter of pizza delivery man Michael Choy in 2002.

He was set strict conditions by the Parole Board after being released four months early, but police and the Department of Corrections have not been able to stop his repeated offending.

The new indecent assault claims follow a visit by two female Herald on Sunday journalists to Bailey Junior Kurariki’s Auckland home on Thursday.

The employees, who the newspaper has chosen not to name, said the 20-year-old behaved in an erratic and distressing manner during the interview.

Statements record Kurariki exposed himself to the women, masturbated in front of them and groped them before they could escape the house.

In hindsight it is a pity he was only convicted of manslaughter, not murder, as a life sentence would mean his parole can be revoked at any time.

I guess we are just going to have to wait until he has killed, raped or bashed enough people, to lock him up for good.

The Chile tsunami

February 28th, 2010 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

The earthquake in Chile was an 8.8 – the 7th = strongest earthquake ever recorded. It was 500 times the strength of the Haiti quake, which shows how vital strong buildings are in mitigating effects – so far only 140 dead.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive text messages from Civil Defence alerting me to the tsunami advisories. I got them by e-mail also, but text messaging is far more effective as you tend to check a text immediately.

Civil Defence also now have a Twitter account, and Twitter is a very good medium for such announcements as people can retweet them quickly. Well worth people with Twitter subscribing.

The website has the latest advisory. The only area facing possible evacuation was Banks Peninsula.

General Debate 28 February 2010

February 28th, 2010 at 8:47 am by David Farrar

China and climate change

February 27th, 2010 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar

Stephen Franks blogs:

Take a look at this NCPA collection of sobering figures (drawn from the work of a physics professor at UCAL Berkeley) for an explanation.

  • China’s emissions intensity (CO2 per dollar of GDP) is five times greater than that of the United States.

President Hu Jintao plans to reduce China’s CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 4 percent per year for 5 years. If carried on it would reduce China’s CO2 emissions intensity 70 percent by 2040. But even if it works:

  • If China cuts its emissions intensity 45% it will still surpass the U.S. in per capita annual CO2 emissions by 2025.
  • Indeed, every 10% cut in U.S. emissions would be negated by one year of China’s growth.
  • Because China’s economy is growing by 10% p.a. a 4% cut in intensity is actually a 6% annual increase in emissions.
  • CO2 emissions are increasing similarly in India and other developing countries – far surpassing rich countries’ output.
  • Even if China and India’s goals are met – and other developing countries make similar cuts- total atmospheric CO2 would rise from 385 parts per million currently to 700 parts per million by 2080

The leaders of China and India can not risk constraining their growth, even if they were persuaded that they should give higher priority to CO2 emissions.

I did my own calculations a few weeks ago:

China said it will “endeavour” to cut the amount of carbon produced per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005. The “carbon intensity” goal would let emissions keep rising, but more slowly than economic growth.

Now even putting aside the fact China won’t agree to any verification of their emissions (ie they can simply make up their figures), what does their pledge mean.

Let us assume that their business as usual case is that emissions will increase in line with economic growth.

Now their GDP in 2005 was US$2.24 trillion. In 2020 it is estimated to be around US14.6 trillion. That is a 640% increase in GDP.

Now if their emissions intensity is 40% less, then the increase in emissions will be 385%.

So China’s pledge is they will only increase emissions by 385% by 2020.

Now their level of emissions in 2006 was 6,103 million tons. So China’s projected increase in emissions is around 23,000 million tons. …

In fact China’s pledge to reduce intensity by 40% means their total level of emissions in 2020 could be as high as 33,000 million tons.

And you know what. That is more than the rest of the world produces today. The world, excluding China, produces 22,000 million tons. With China it is 28 million tons

So the entire world could go carbon neutral, and China would still push world emissions up 20% from 2006.

This is the reality the world faces. It does not matter what the USA does, what the EU does, even what India does. Global emissions are going to increase significantly, just from China alone.

A reply

February 27th, 2010 at 11:58 am by David Farrar

From Stuff:

OPINION: Mohsen al Attar responds to criticism by Chris Trotter of his Auckland University law course.

Last week, Chris Trotter dedicated his column to assailing an advanced international law course – Colonialism to Globalisation: International Law and the Making of the Third World – I teach at the University of Auckland law faculty.

Trotter was springboarding off a recent blogpost on the same topic.

That would be me!

Anyway good to see a response.

I conclude with a word of thanks. As the debate about my course (and my person) has gone viral, so too has enrolment. At this stage, I am pleased to report we have doubled our numbers from last year – and, at this rate, may even reach maximum enrolment by week’s end – meaning that far more students will be exposed to a Third World perspective on the relationship between colonialism and international law.

I should get a share of the capitalist profits from the course!

Q+A this week

February 27th, 2010 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

Q+A is tomorrow at 9 am on One.

  • Rodney Hide is the main interview on the ACT conference, their agenda, their future and relationship with National
  • Paul Reynolds is interviewed by Paul Homes on the XT outages and 111 problems
  • Panel this week is Michelle Boag, Mike Williams and Therese Arseneau

ACT Conference

February 27th, 2010 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

I’m attending the ACT conference as media. First speaker this morning is Alan Gibbs.

Gibbs, like many on the right, started life as a dedicated socialist, and was active in Wolfgang Rosenberg’s New Left Club. He saw the light after visits to Yugoslavia and East Germany.

Gibbs talked about how the liberal market solution is often counter-intuitive. That instinctively people want to block Chinese imports to protect New Zealand manufacturers, even though almost everyone knows logically free trade is better.

He whacked at National for refusing to sell Kiwirail, and indeed refusing to sell any state assets at all. That got more resonance than his next statement about how the assets that most need to be sold are the public hospitals.

Overall a very interesting, if some what disjointed, speech about liberalism, markets and democracy. Gibbs also made a plus for more direct rather than representative democracy, through Internet voting on bills proposed by MPs.

In an aside Gibbs also said he thinks countries should go back to the gold standard. Hopefully someone will ask Don Brash what he thinks of that.

Vodafone moves in

February 27th, 2010 at 8:35 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Vodafone will today announce a fresh offensive to capitalise on Telecom’s ongoing woes.

Paul Brislen, Vodafone spokesman, said the company would refund any Telecom customers penalised for switching mobile phone providers.

Under the deal to be announced this morning, angry Telecom customers can change to Vodafone and keep the same phone number – and be credited the amount they are charged for breaking their contract.

That amount varies but in one case, Mr Brislen said, a customer had to pay $1500 to leave Telecom.

The aggressive attempt to snatch business and consumer customers comes as Telecom faced more problems yesterday.

The cost of these outages to Telecom must be well into the tens of millions of dollars when you consider the compensation, the lost customers, the scaring off of future customers, the damage to Telecom’s reputation which may affect stuff such as the fibre to the home rollout etc etc.

I speculated on radio yesterday that while the focus for now is on fixing the faults, and not finger pointing, there must be a reasonable chance in the future of a law suit between Telecom and Alcatel-Lucent. Obviously it all depends on the contractual arrangements, but when companies lose so much money due to technical failures, there tend to be fallout.

How big could any lawsuit be? I don’t think one could rule out $100 million or so.

Student Loans access

February 27th, 2010 at 8:11 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tertiary students who fail more than half their courses may lose their student loans as the Government moves to crack down on abuse.

Only 50 per cent of domestic students who started studying for bachelor’s degrees in New Zealand in 2004 finished their degrees within five years – suggesting that up to half of the country’s 145,000 bachelor’s students will fail or drop out.

Student allowances are chopped if students failed more than half of their courses in the previous year, but there is no requirement to pass courses to keep getting student loans.

I can see this changing very soon. However I think one will want some ability to access loans if say a student drops out, enters the workforce, but a few years later wants to return to finish their degree.

Mr Joyce pointed to research showing 41.5 per cent of New Zealand’s tertiary education budget went into student loans and allowances, compared with an OECD average of only 17.6 per cent.

He told the Weekend Herald he wanted to shift funding to pay for more tuition places. “I’d like to see more money going into actually training EFTSs (equivalent fulltime students) and I’m looking around for opportunities to deliver that in 2011,” he said.

The budget will be interesting.

General Debate 27 February 2010

February 27th, 2010 at 7:54 am by David Farrar

Polls and Prediction Markets

February 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I attended on Wednesday night the launch of “Key to Victory” which is the normal post election campaign review book edited by Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts.

I find these books so fascinating, I was even reading it during the speeches!

Bryce Edwards has reviewed (h/t iPredict Blog) a chapter by Shaun McGirr and Rob Salmond on what sources of information best predicted the election outcome. Was it an individual poll, the iPredict markets or the polls of polls.

The amount invested in iPredict was considerable:

  • $64,500 was traded over the likely nature of ‘the Maori Party’s post-election relationship with National’
  • $25,800 was traded over the Wellington Central battle between Grant Robertson and Stephen Franks
  • $132,100 was traded over whether ‘there will be a National prime minister after the 2008 election’
  • $413,000 in total was invested in election-related predictions

And how did iPredict do”

So, how accurate was iPredict in 2008? McGirr and Salmond conclude that although iPredict overestimated the eventual support for both Labour and National, it was more accurate any individual polling company.

And the individual polls:

In reality in 2008, McGirr and Salmond found this to be the case – with Colmar Brunton and DigiPoll exaggerating public support for National, and Roy Morgan exaggerating support for Labour (p.264).

So which polling companies were most accurate and inaccurate? McGirr and Salmond say that TV3’s TNS poll was the best (as it was in 2005 as well), and Fairfax’s Neilson pool was the poorest.

The TV3 poll is the one that currently shows a 27% gap! Mind you they are now with Reid Research, so there may be a different methodology used now.

Then they look at the polls of polls published by three outlets – NZPA, Rob (at 08 Wire) and myself (at curiablog).

In addition to the five opinion polls, some observers attempted to average out the idiosyncratic errors of the individual polls by aggregating them into a “poll-of-polls” using different methods. The New Zealand Press Association simply took the average of the estimates of the six most recent polls, while The New Zealand Herald took the average of the last four polls. Two blog-based polls-of-polls – one run by David Farrar of New Zealand’s premier political blog Kiwiblog, and one hosted at a smaller blog [run by author Rob Salmond] called 08wire – weighted more recent polls with larger sample sizes more heavily (p.257).

And how did the poll of polls do?

McGirr and Salmond say that ‘Poll-of-polls consistently performed well during the 2008 campaign, outperforming most of the opinion polls and the prediction markets’ (p.270). They therefore advocate that both the media and public should pay much more attention to this highly accurate source of political information.

Tis has prompted me to update the poll of polls widget, which is below.

Salmond ranks the different outlets for their accuracy to the final result. In order they were:

  1. NZ Herald poll of polls 6.1 (error from result)
  2. NZPA poll of polls 6.8
  3. Curiablog poll of polls 8.1
  4. TV3/TNS poll 9.6
  5. 08 wire poll of polls 13.6
  6. iPredict 15.7
  7. TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll 16.8
  8. NZ Herald/Digipoll poll 19.8
  9. Roy Morgan poll 20.8
  10. Fairfax/Neilsen poll 29.6
  11. NZ Political Stockmarket 109.5

The NZ Political Stockmarket used virtual money, so it shows what a difference real money can make.

The authors conclude that media outlets should not just report the individual poll results when they commission a poll, but also publish regular info on a poll of polls and on iPredict.

Incidentally I will probably review and tweak the curiablog methodology a bit when I have some spare time.

VIP Transport

February 26th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Labour leader Phil Goff will cut back his use of chauffeur-driven Crown cars in favour of much cheaper taxis after he ran up a $70,000 bill in three months.

But he is questioning the cost of the ministerial BMW limousines.

Mr Goff, who as Opposition leader has the use of the cars, said he would write to Prime Minister John Key and Internal Affairs, which runs the VIP Transport Service, challenging the service’s fees, which rose significantly last year.

The latest publication of MPs’ expenses shows Mr Goff spent $69,657 for the cars in the last three months of last year, although almost all of it was incurred in July, August and September. It showed up in the returns for the last quarter of 2009 because of a delay in Internal Affairs billing the Parliamentary Service, which pays MPs’ travel and accommodation expenses.

Having access to VIP Transport is a bit of a mixed blessing with these expense disclosures.

Ministers (and others like Phil Goff) get charged a per hour rate of $90 and a  per km rate of $1.25 by VIP Transport, as a book-keeping exercise. The charge covers the capital costs of the fleet of cars and score of drivers.

Now the actual marginal cost of using VIP Transport is very small – almost just petrol. It would cost the taxpayer more if a Minister takes a taxi (which results in an external charge) than using VIP Transport (where the driver is on full salary regardless of whether or not they are driving at that moment in time).

If a Minister (or other person entitled) said they will never ever use VIP Transport, then they would be able to reduce their fleet size and number of drivers. But just using taxis some of the time will reduce the cost apportioned to a Minister internally, but probably not reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.

It is a bit unfair on Phil Goff that he gets shown to have such a large expense against his name. For the reality is that his use of VIP Transport doesn’t really cost the taxpayer the amount shown. Most of those costs would be incurred regardless of how frequently he uses them, as their costs are mainly fixed, rather than marginal.

Greens fail IQ test also

February 26th, 2010 at 12:38 pm by David Farrar

At 11.14 am the Greens put out a press release saying:

This was going to lifting mining protection from half a billion hectares of land with high conservation value, but would now only propose lifting protection from around 7,000 hectares.

Radio NZ made the initial error between 7 am and 8 am. NZPA picked it at 8.24 but made a correction within around half an hour. I blogged on it at 9.24 a.m. Yes despite that the Greens don’t even stop to think that half a billion hectares is around 20 times larger than the total land area of New Zealand.

Does no one at the Greens know how big a hectare is and that there is no way we have half a billion of them?

That was quick

February 26th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A unemployed man trying to stop Manners Mall from becoming a bus-only road says his dole has been cut after he admitted he had no intention of getting a job.

Activist Benjamin Easton, 49, also revealed he had not had a job interview since he went on the dole nearly three years ago.

He met Work and Income for a work test yesterday after telling The Dominion Post he was on the benefit deliberately so he could bring the “people’s challenge to the courts” and that he was “perfectly capable of earning”.

Mr Easton said last night he had received a letter from Work and Income telling him he did not meet eligibility criteria and his benefit had been stopped as of yesterday.

One hopes this is an isolated case, but who knows. The vast majority of people on the dole are looking for work, and would much rather be working. However what we don’t know if how big is that minority who see it as a lifestyle.

Mr Easton said losing the dole would force him to move out of his $135-a-week Wellington City Council flat. “If they knock me off [the benefit] I will go back to living on the street.”

No he is not being forced to live on the street. He is choosing to, because he has chosen not to make himself available for work.

The activist has taken cases on a range of issues including an Environment Court appeal against the council’s $11.1 million Manners Mall bus route project.

“If I don’t do this then there isn’t anybody else to do it. I am the only person who knows what it is I am talking about.”

Now that is quite possible!

I’d go for the embarrassment

February 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

AP report:

A US teen convicted of using Facebook to blackmail dozens of male classmates into sex has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Nineteen-year-old Anthony Stancl of New Berlin showed no emotion as the sentence was handed down on Wednesday.

Stancl pleaded no contest in December to two felonies, including repeated sexual assault of a child.

He apologised during sentencing, saying he has learned to understand what his victims went through.

He had faced a maximum 30-year sentence.

Stancl is accused of posing as a girl on Facebook and tricking more than 30 male classmates into sending him naked photos of themselves, then using the photos to blackmail them for sex.

You know if I was 16 and  a guy gave me a choice of him releasing a naked photo of me, or having sex with him, it would not be a difficult decision. I’d choose the embarrassing photo over well, coerced sex.

It seems he coerced 7 out of 31 classmates into sex over having the photos released. Amazing.

Editorials 26 February 2010

February 26th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

First the Herald on Heatley:

There is absolutely no question that Phil Heatley had to resign from his ministerial posts. The Prime Minister’s suggestion that the Whangarei MP was being too hard on himself was wide of the mark.

The Dom Post is not so harsh:

The shock at Parliament was palpable yesterday following Phil Heatley’s resignation as minister of housing and fisheries.

Not that a minister had resigned, but that a minister had given up his ministerial home, car and $243,700 salary over such a trifling matter as two bottles of wine. …

Only the stonehearted would not feel a measure of sympathy. There are few who could lay their hands on their hearts and honestly say they have not, at some point, titivated their expenses – which may explain why Labour, despite its blustering, passed up the opportunity to grill Mr Heatley during question time on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Mr Heatley has done the right thing. …

Mr Heatley is not the first minister to confuse personal and public expenditure. He is just the first to be caught for a while.

He has belatedly shown himself to be an honourable member. Fellow politicians thinking “there but for a paper trail go I” would be wise to open the system to public scrutiny before another of their number falls victim to it.

And the Press says Heatley had to go:

Key discovered that the expenses claim for the wine listed the purchase as “dinner” and that the credit card receipt was notated as “food and beverage”. These were incorrect as there was no food involved.

This inconsistency might seem like a technicality or an inadvertent error, rather than a reason for resigning. But whenever ministers spend public money they must be scrupulous about how they account for it and Heatley had little choice but to tender his resignation.

The ODT focuses on the Euro:

Greece entered the EU in the early 1980s and joined the euro in 2000.

Riding on a wave of national pride and new-found prosperity, capped by the ambitious and hugely expensive 2004 Olympic Games, the Greek people and their government alike went on credit-based spending sprees – living beyond their means. …

For now, the euro-honeymoon for Greece is well and truly over – and other European leaders will be regarding with anxiety the potential for a domino effect in the similarly indebted and stalled economies of Portugal, Italy and Spain.

For observers on this side of the world, the lessons are clear: reduce budget deficits (New Zealand’s tends to run at a high 8-9% of GDP), close tax loopholes, and keep a lid on public sector spending now – or face the prospect of more radical action further down the track.

Labour and the unions should take note.


February 26th, 2010 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

NZPA at 8.14 am reported:

Wellington, Feb 26 NZPA – A report prepared for the Government proposes opening 500 million hectares of conservation land to mining, it was reported today.

Now the land area of all of New Zealand is 268,000 square kms. That is 26.8 million hectares.

Australia is around 760 million hectares so NZPA have exposed that Gerry Brownlee’s cunning plan is to invade and take over Australia, and turn the entire country, except for New South Wales, into New Zealand mines.

A further NZPA report at 8.52 am reports:

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) today reported that 7 percent of schedule four land was recommended to have protection removed to allow mining.

However it understood the Government thought that was too extreme and had scaled back the area, in a proposal to be considered by Cabinet on Monday, to 7000ha.

Mr Brownlee would not confirm the details when asked by RNZ.

I’m not sure what the correct figure is, but I guess it will be closer to 7,000 hectares than to 500 million!

Now 7,000 hectares is less than 1% of the additional land Labour put into Section 4 in 2008. So Labour reclassified around 800,000 (off memory) hectares of land as Section 4, and according to Radio NZ National is looking at reversing less than 1% of that.

The total conservation estate is 30% of all of NZ, which means it is around 8.04 million hectares.

That means that, if the Radio NZ report is correct, the proposal is for 0.087% of the conservation estate to be reclassified from Section 4 to non Section 4.

How did the yacht get paid for?

February 26th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Former chief nurse Mark Jones will be asked to pay back $1250 after he chartered a yacht with Health Ministry money without approval.

Mr Jones resigned suddenly before Christmas after an investigation into his personal expenses.

The ministry will now investigate all expenditure against his budget after The Dominion Post revealed yesterday that spending may have included chartering a yacht during a meeting with Australian nurse executives in the Bay of Islands in December 2008.

Ministry deputy director-general Margie Apa confirmed those spending details yesterday.

“The ministry was concerned to learn … that a yacht may have been chartered using Health Ministry funds. Upon further investigation, it appears a yacht was chartered by former chief nurse Dr Mark Jones and paid for by the ministry.

“No prior approval was sought, or given by me or any other authorised person for this expenditure.”

The ministry would seek reimbursement of the $1250 charter fee, she said.

It is good that the chartering of the yacht by the Health Ministry was not authorised, but that does get me wondering how the bill got paid? Presumably Jones was authorised to approve expenditure up to a certain level, but you would think such an unusual item would be checked out and referred to someone higher up.

General Debate 26 February 2010

February 26th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

A snide aside

February 26th, 2010 at 7:30 am by David Farrar

Many people liked Jeanette Fitzsimons because she rarely did snide attacks on other MPs. The Greens boast about how they don’t do personal attacks. However Russel Norman can’t resist a small amount of putting the boot in:

An interesting aside to the Phil Heatley saga.

I have been calling on central govt to consider sewerage systems as important infrastructure and financially support communities like Whangarei to upgrade them. There were 45 raw sewerage discharges last year in Whangarei, many of them in the Harbour. Yuk.

Phil Heatley, the local member, dismissed my suggestion that central government should help Whangarei clean up its harbour with the comment that:

“Russel Norman’s got plenty of reasons to spend other people’s money” (Whangarei Leader 16-2-10).

It turns out that Phil too has plenty of reasons to spend other people’s money. But it seems we have different priorities.

People in glasshouses should not throw stones. Maybe someone should remind Russel about how two of his MPs were illegally both claiming an accommodation allowance for the same house – which happened to be owned by the Greens Super Fund.

Let alone how the whole system of having the Greens Super Fund own the Houses that taxpayers paid for, was designed to maximise their entitlements to the accommodation allowance.

All about Heatley

February 26th, 2010 at 6:28 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

It isn’t the amount of money that is at issue; it is that the declaration was inaccurate. Its inaccuracy raises questions of honesty and trust that should never have to be asked of a Cabinet minister.

Rather than immediately sacking him, the Prime Minister intended temporarily standing Heatley down from his portfolio responsibilities. This was a compromise position which made allowances for human fallibility on Heatley’s part, while at the same time calling in the Audit Office to run a fine tooth-comb through all the expenses he had claimed in the 15 months or so that he was a minister.

But John Key was seemingly gazumped by Heatley’s desire to resign altogether. That is the unusual feature of this resignation. Usually the minister is pleading with the Prime Minister to stay in the job.

Key urged Heatley to “sleep on it” before handing in his ministerial warrant. Significantly, that gesture did not extend to refusing to accept Heatley’s resignation. That is telling. It suggests although the Prime Minister is not ruling out Heatley’s return to the Cabinet, there is not much optimism that the Audit Office probe will not reveal further shortcomings with the ex-minister’s expenses.

Heatley’s route back to the Cabinet will require that everything is squeaky clean. It also presumes he wants his job back. Heatley’s statement about needing to spend a long time on National’s backbenches suggests he realises that is not going to happen.

I have commented at NBR along similiar lines;

For Heatley to return to Cabinet after resigning, he would need to have the Auditor-General provide an unqualified report with no finding of any fault at all. It is difficult to believe that the public sector watchdog will find that it is okay to describe a purchase of alcohol only, as a food or a meal.

Claire Trevett observes:

So it is that National finds the full truth of the maxim that “wine and women bring misery”.

Former minister Richard Worth resigned over rumours about women. Now Phil Heatley resigns over two bottles of wine. It was not a pretty sight. …

Small and Watkins in the Dom Post reveal:

But documents issued yesterday show Mr Heatley was warned on several occasions about providing all the paperwork needed.

In July and September, Mr Heatley was told by a Ministerial Services manager: “Due to the scrutiny that credit cards attract we would like to remind you that all records are open to review and should comply with the five expenditure principles … of the Ministerial Office handbook.”

While this was not about the two bottles of wine, it should have still served as a warning to the Minister and his staff, that one had to be very careful in this area.

Colin Espiner blogs:

I don’t think Heatley deliberately tried to mislead anyone, for the record. I think he genuinely didn’t understand the rules, or the political consequences of breaking them. But that’s still his responsibility, and proffering his resignation was the right course of action.

Key will be annoyed and embarrassed by this, but not overly concerned. Heatley was by all accounts a competent and hard-working minister, but there are others in National’s ranks who will do an equally competent job.

My money’s on Chris Tremain, the hard-working and capable Napier MP and chief whip to replace Heatley and take his housing portfolio. I’d leave fisheries with David Carter, since it’s a good fit with agriculture.

The issue of who will be the new Minister is an interesting one. It is possible no appointments will be for a while, but there are three possible courses of actions:

  1. No new Minister is appointed, and portfolios just reallocated. Carter is an obvious choice for fisheries. Housing is a tougher fit, as it is a quite time intensive portfolio.
  2. A Minister outside Cabinet is promoted to Cabinet (almost certainly Nathan Guy) and an MP is promoted to be a Minister outside Cabinet. If this happens, it is possible Guy could pick up Housing (so it is represented within Cabinet) and the new Minister picks up Internal Affairs.
  3. A backbench MP is promoted directly into Cabinet, possibly taking both of Heatley’s portfolios.

It is possible Key will use the vacancy to do a minor reallocation of portfolios also. The main interest however will be on which backbench MP gets made a Minister.

The consensus is it will be one of the two Hawke’s Bay MPs – Napier’s Chris Tremain and Tukituki’s Craig Foss. I think that is quite correct. They both hold one of the twp jobs which almost inevitably leads to becoming a Minister – Chief Government Whip and Chairman of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

There isn’t anything much between the two MPs, and friends. And whichever one doesn’t make it this time, is pretty certain to be the next one through the time after. They are both judged to be “Minister ready”.

If iPredict does a stock on who it will be, I’d probably put a small bit of money on Foss, purely because Tremain’s role as Chief Whip is quite integral to the smooth running of the Government, and his promotion means you need a new Chief Whip, and if Jo Goodhew moves into that role then you need a new Junior Whip, and if they are a Select Committee Chair, a new Select Committee Chair.

A promotion for Foss is less disruptive. The Deputy Chair of the F&E Select Committee is Amy Adams, and she would be more than capable of steping up to be Chair, with Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga a likely replacement Deputy Chair.

As I said though, it could easily be either one of them.