Archive for September, 2010

Norquist on US Politics

September 30th, 2010 at 6:16 pm by David Farrar

When Americans for Tax Reform asked me if I would like to catch up with their President, Grover Norquist, in Sydney for half an hour to talk about US politics, I didn’t hesitate to say “hell yes”. Grover is one of the most influential and connected people on the right of politics in the US, and arguably the most powerful lobbyist in the “vast right wing conspiracy”.

We ended up actually chatting for an hour and a half, and I got some fascinating insights into how things are being positioned there. The chat was on the record, so I can blog some of the insights. I’ll try and categorise them:

US House

This is the key target for the 2010 mid terms. Not the Senate, not the Governorships but retaking the House. With that you get the Speakership and the ability to influence (downwards) spending and tax plans. Many of the House candidates have signed a no tax hikes pledge.

They need 39 seats to take the majority. Currently the number of net pick ups could be in the 50s, so it is looking relatively probable.

US Senate

The Republicans have 41 seats at the moment. There are around five seats they are highly likely to pick up, and another five that they could pick up. Gaining 51 would get the majority and control of the agenda.

However as 60 votes are needed for a cloture motion, gaining the majority is not as important as in the House.

The big challenge at the moment is that with only 41 seats, the Republicans have to hold all 41 Senators to prevent something going to the vote. That makes life very hard for the Senators in more liberal states such as Maine.

If the Republicans get to even 46 seats, that gives them a lot more flexibility to allow Senators in marginal states to vote more in line with their state’s wishes, enhancing their chances of re-election.

Now 51 would be nice to get, but that is not the real target. The target is 61 seats by 2014. Is this impossible? Not at all – look at the makeup of the seats coming up.

In 2010 around 40 seats are up for election – around 20 held by Republicans and 20 by Democrats. This means in 2012 and 2014there will be approx 30 seats up for election each time – and 20/30 will be Democrat holds and only 10/30 Republican holds.

Also remember that 2006 was the swing against Bush mid terms, when previously Republican states went Democrat. They will all be up in 2012.

So they are planning a long-term game, where they can end up not only in the majority, but with a super-majority that can force votes.

Governorships

They are looking to pick up quite a few states. Around 25 states have implemented their proposal to list basically all Government expenditure in an online searchable database. Several candidates who are leading in the polls have pledged to do this also, so eventually they hope it will cover almost all states and then the federal government.

I’d like to see such a policy back home – for central and local government. Have all payments over say $1,000 listed on the Internet and let a nation of armchair auditors get to work scrutinizing what their taxes are spent on.

Sarah Palin

Grover shares my view that she will probably not stand for President in 2012. She is making more money and doing very well in her current role as a commentator and power figure.

We talked about whether she has become a de facto leader of the Tea Party. The best way to describe it is that she is not a leader in an organizational sense but she is the endorser-in-chief. If she endorses a candidate in a race, then it focuses massive attention and potential energy and activists on that candidate.  Now it doesn’t mean they automatically go on to win their primary – some of her endorsements have lost. What it comes down to is whether the endorsed candidate is ready and capable of using her endorsement to gain activists and supporters.

The Tea Party

This is still very much a grassroots movement. There is no national hierarchy or structure. In fact Norquist said it is better to think of it as a brand – such as Reagan Republicans or Goldwater Conservatives. What they represent is in fact the fifth wave of “entrants” into the Republican party – others were the Goldwater conseratives, the Pat Robertson religious right etc etc. These are the fiscal conservatives.

Also worth noting that many Tea Party people are not registered republicans, but independents.

So thinking of the Tea Party as a symbol of identification or brand, rather than a formal party or organisation is a good thing to remember.

We talked about the tension between whether one should go for the more moderate electable candidates, or the more “fiscally pure” candidates who may end up not winning the seat in the general election.

ATR do their own endorsements and they do not always match those of the “tea party”. In several seats unreliable incumbents have lost to challengers, and the challenger is looking likely to win the seat in November. So that has been very successful. Delaware stands out as the obvious example where the Republicans are now very unlikely to win the race, after Mike Castle was defeated for the nomination.

Norquist said that Castle lost because he was unwilling to modify any of his positions, to reassure activists he was worth electing. If he had been willing to do that, he would have won easily. He compares it to McCain. McCain beat off a challenger because he moved more towards the Republican base on issues such as cap and trade.

2012

The challenge for the Republicans is that a generic Republican candidate would beat Obama according to the polls, but once you start naming names Obama leads. Norquist says though that the primary campaign season can and will change this, as candidates become more nationally known.

Romney is the front runner for now. As I said previously Palin not expected to run. Huckabee may stand again also.

Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is a solid contender. He was McCain’s choice for VP before they went for Palin. Texas Governor Rick Perry has solid conservative backing also.

Newt Gingrich would like to be President and would like to run, but may struggle for some support as having led the Republican to victory in 1994, he failed to reduce government spending much. Grover made the point that it is useful to Newt’s broadcasting career to remain a presidential contender, and he won’t pull out early if he does.

Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is very popular and would be very acceptable. He is young so his time may be in the future but Norquist says having him on the ticket as Vice-President would be a smart move.

Haley Barbour of Mississipi is another “acceptable” candidate. He is a former RNC Chair and lobbyist, so may struggle for public appeal outside his state. Norquist said that he would be an ideal Chief of Staff to the President, which is an interesting possibility. Barbour, incidentally, is good mates with former National Party President John Slater, through their shared involvement with the IDU. So we might have a useful link to the White House of Barbour ended up in that role.

Another potential contender is Meg Whitman, if she wins the California Governorship. If you start with 10% of the electoral vote in your rocket, you have to be a contender.

Chris Christie is another possibility. A very popular Governor.

A Whitman/Jindal ticket could be very electorally popular. Far too early to speculate really, but it could happen.

Talking US politics,  Obama has just had Chief of Staff resign, to stand for Mayor of Chicago. I’m not sure many people would go from running the US Government to running Chicago, but I guess the perks are better in Chicago :-)

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McCarten triple flips

September 30th, 2010 at 5:36 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports:

Left wing union leader Matt McCarten has performed a triple flip flop over endorsing a candidate for Auckland Council’s Albany ward.

McCarten formed the website supercitypicks.co.nz to help voters select a left-leaning Auckland Council in the upcoming local body elections. …

But yesterday McCarten withdrew his support for Williams entirely.

“Originally I thought progressives should support Andrew Williams. But my leftist and even centrist mates gave me a biff on two fronts,” McCarten wrote.

“That he’s made his city a laughing stock and  he’s totally self absorbed and even his own allies have deserted him. The other reason is that he knows he had no chance to win as mayor and is deliberately drawing votes away from the only other candidate Len Brown who can beat John Banks.

“Privately he claims to support Brown, yet is helping Banks by not telling voters his real position. On that basis he’s a fraud and shouldn’t be supported by progressives.”

McCarten said Slater was “the only other candidate I know in that ward with any chance of winning”. He said the blogger was right of politics but “has a social conscience, does volunteer work and has a good brain”.

Yep that’s right, Matt McCarten did endorse Whale Oil for Council. And he called Andrew Williams a fraud.

One can only imagine the howls of outrage and anguish on the left. Matt’s own UNITE staff probably threatened to picket him. And so he flipped again:

However less than 24 hours later McCarten had withdrawn his support for Slater and replaced it with a new endorsement. “My progressive advisors tell me I should be supporting John Kirikiri as the best of the rest”.

Position No 3.

But, when Stuff called McCarten today to ask why he was making constant changes to his Albany ward endorsements he said he would be removing his tick for Kirikiri and reinstating Williams as the preferred contender.

“I hadn’t done my homework but I have now read all of the candidates’ policies and have decided Williams is the man for the job.”

He said Williams had been “an embarrassment with his behaviour” but had the best policies “and policies are how we should judge the candidates”.

I disagree with Matt. Policies are important. But so is judgement, temperment, and rationality.

Following his removal from McCarten’s endorsement list Williams let rip on Facebook about the well-known union leader.

“He should know better than to make such irresponsible statements about me a sitting mayor. I don’t even know the man, have never had a conversation with him, so it’s extraordinary that he would comment like that. But very telling that he initially endorsed that disturbed psycho nutter Cameron Slater then withdrew it.”

When Williams does rants like that, the term “disturbed psycho nutter” seems like a form of projection.

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Quinn talking up Mana

September 30th, 2010 at 4:02 pm by David Farrar

Phil Quinn blogs on why he thinks National will win Mana. On this occasion I can’t agree with him, as he overlook some key facts – and history. His arguments are:

  1. Given the absence of Winnie Laban on the ballot, the party vote from the last election is the best indication of the respective standings of Labour and National in Mana;
  2. And that the party vote margin favours Labour by only 2,500 votes or so;
  3. And that the National Party candidate is a Mana-based list MP who carries an element of incumbency;
  4. And that the PM is riding a wave of popularity, buoyed by a post-quake glow;
  5. And that the turnout in a by-election will be lower than a General Election by many thousands;
  6. And that low turnout is traditionally very bad news for Labour…

In effect he makes three arguments – that Mana without Laban is a marginal seat, that Hekia and the PM will attract votes, and that the turnout for theby-election will be low and bad for Labour.

Let’s take these one by one. Mana without Laban is not a marginal seat. This seat has never ever been held by National. It has been Labour since at least World War II.

Winnie is a nice competent MP who certainly did not lose Labour any votes. But she was not one of those “star” local MPs who attracts massive cross-party support like Nick Smith does, and Harry Duynhoven did. Her results are not much greater than Graeme Kelly achieved. In 1999 Kelly won the seat by 5,475 for example. In 2008 Laban only got 8.6% of National voters.

Yes Hekia is a strong candidate, and has profile as a List MP. However she is a List MP, and no List MP has won a by-election. People don’t like the thought that if they vote for the List MP, then it results in someone else (the next candidate on the party list) entering Parliament.

Yes the PM is popular. But this is a seat never lost by Labour, and there is no way they will evict Labour just because the PM handled the Christchurch earthquake well.

Finally turnout is normally lower, but this tends to work against the Government. Their supporters are not motivated to vote just so the Govt gets one more seat they don’t need. But Oppositions are highly motivated to retain a seat or bloody the Government.

Finally you should remember this – in scores and scores of by-elections held in the last 80 years, not once has a Government won a seat in a by-election off an Opposition. Not once.

The combination of it being a seat that Labur has never not held, and no Government in history having ever won any seat off an Opposition, I feel very safe in my conclusion that the seat is not marginal, or even much of a contest.

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OIA Reform

September 30th, 2010 at 10:49 am by David Farrar

Yet to read the full discussion paper, but on the basis of the Herald report, the direction looks promising:

The paper strongly supported greater use of proactively releasing information, an idea that is gaining traction in the Open Labour NZ debate on a more transparent Government.

I have been pushing this issue for well over a year, and delighted to see the Law Commission of a similar view. The Internet age makes it practical and desirable for information to be released, even in the absence of a specific request. The problem with the status quo, is people often don’t know that a document exists, so they can’t request it.

Talking of Open Labour, they have now distilled 63 suggested actions for open government from their consultation. You can vote on them here.

I’d urge readers to vote, and vote in good faith, on what they would like to see as policy. You do need to register to vote, so if you get permission denied, go to the top right and register.

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MEAA union demands are illegal

September 30th, 2010 at 9:52 am by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday that the demands being made by the Australian MEAA are illegal. Russell Brown covers this issue and a lot more at Public Address.

Today the Herald reports that Crown Law has also advised that the MEAA demands are illegal.

So consider this – we face an international boycott which may destroy the NZ film industry, and the demands are illegal. Isn’t there a name for that?

Yesterday, Mr Finlayson said in a letter to the studios – which was also copied to Sir Peter and Ward-Lealand – that legal advice from the Crown Law Office confirmed the Commerce Act prevented The Hobbit’s producers “from entering into a union-negotiated agreement with performers who are independent contractors”. Section 30 of the act, which deals with price fixing, “effectively prohibits” such arrangements, he said.

I don’t think this is about wages and conditions – they can be negotiated. This is about trying to increase MEAA membership.

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The war is over – WWI that is

September 30th, 2010 at 9:40 am by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The First World War will officially end on Sunday, 92 years after the guns fell silent, when Germany pays off the last chunk of reparations imposed on it by the Allies.

The final payment of £59.5 million, writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

I wonder if there were provisions for interest in late payments?

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General Debate 30 September 2010

September 30th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Parker in the lead

September 29th, 2010 at 5:11 pm by David Farrar

UMR have just released a poll on the Christchurch Mayoralty.

  • Bob Parker 55% (+27%)
  • Jim Anderton 41% (-19%)
  • 88% say Parker has handled earthquake well
  • 55% have positive impression of Parker (+20%)
  • 44% have positive impression of Anderton (-19%)

What I find interesting is not that Bob Parker has gone up, but that Anderton has had a 19% drop in his favourability. That should be unaffected.

I think two things have contributed to it. The first is his statement that he could do Mayor and MP standing on his head came back to haunt him. And the second is his snide comments about Parker. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything genuinely nice about the job Parker did, so he did a veiled insult – “Bob is very good at appearing on television” type statements. It looked (and was) cheap.

The only bad thing about the poll is it means we probably keep Jim as an MP for another year!

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Editorials on Labour’s GST exemption

September 29th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dominion Post is unimpressed:

Labour’s promise to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables reeks of desperation.

With his party languishing at 32 per cent in the latest Colmar Brunton poll – a formidable 22 points behind National – Labour leader Phil Goff’s desire for a circuit breaker is entirely understandable. However, that does not make his choice any less wrong-headed.

And the inconsistencies:

Mr Goff and his senior colleagues are experienced enough to know that to open the door for exemptions is to also open a can of worms.

They will be asked why those who buy their peas fresh should be favoured over those who buy them frozen – there is little, if any, difference in the health benefits they deliver.

They will be asked why the exemption should apply only to fruit and vegetables, and not to other elements of a healthy diet, such as fish and lean meat.

They will be asked why they do not provide for other exemptions to promote other activities that benefit society – removing GST from bicycles or solar panels, for example.

Most of all, they must pledge to also remove GST from condoms. Does Labour not care about herpes? Are they unconcerned over AIDs? Do they want to be responsible for tens of thousands of abortions, because they have not removed GST off condoms?

And The Press:

After spending more than two decades assiduously defending the integrity of the GST system it originally introduced, Labour has back-pedalled with its promise to scrap the tax on fresh fruit and vegetables. …

Despite Labour claims to the contrary, retailers have rightly warned that making fresh fruit and vegetables exempt would still compromise the simplicity of the system, which was one of its greatest virtues. This will inevitably lead to added compliance costs for many businesses and, in terms of monitoring or administering the GST change, for the government as well.

The benefit accruing to families, which Labour puts at $6 a week and National at just $1 a week, must be offset against the hidden compliance costs and the lost tax revenue of around $250 million a year. …

Rather than increase the costs to retailers, the Government focus, especially in post-quake Canterbury where employment losses are likely, should be on providing an economic environment which fosters job and income growth. This is a preferable way to ensure that fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are affordable.

Exactly.

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10/10

September 29th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Quiz is here. Beat 21 seconds.

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Labour’s Te Atatu challenge

September 29th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Martin Kay writes:

Labour has yet to set a date to hear disciplinary charges against rebel MP Chris Carter as time runs out before nominations for his Te Atatu seat close.

Labour president Andrew Little said the party was in talks with Mr Carter’s lawyers to arrange a meeting of the ruling council to hear charges that could result in the MP’s expulsion from the party.

Labour wants the matter dealt with before nominations for the party’s Te Atatu candidacy close on October 8 to avoid having to reopen the race if he is expelled.

Mr Carter said yesterday he was still the only nomination and had not withdrawn his candidacy.

Carter is obviously not going to agree to be available until after the 8th of October.

Unless Labour delay the deadline for the close of nominations, then it is possible Carter will be the only nomination. That would be hugely embarrassing for the leadership.

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Why the three strikes law is needed

September 29th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The career criminal who killed Kapiti man Raymond Piper has 175 prior convictions, including for serious violent offences. …

Last year Anderson was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. …

Anderson has 175 previous convictions since 1977, many for serious assaults and for threatening to kill, assaulting police, dishonesty and drug convictions.

I’m pretty sure at least three of those 175 convictions would be for serious offences which now carry a strike. If after his third serious offence, Piper had been sent away, I dare say there would be scores less victims and Raymond Piper would probably be alive.

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Not a lawyer?

September 29th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In the Herald’s story on the Wilson decision, they report:

Sir David is a lay person, not a lawyer, but during his inquiries into the complaint he had the assistance of a former Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson.

Not a lawyer? Well Sir David Gascoigne has a Master of Laws degree. Perhaps he never practised? But as he was Chairman of Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, I guess he is a lawyer after all.

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A win for Justice Wilson

September 29th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Carruthers, on behalf of Justice Wilson, has had a partial victory with the judicial review of of the decision of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s recommendation that a Judicial Conduct Panel be established.

Dean Knight blogs on what it means:

First, it’s very much a technical decision about how the Commissioner should have framed and referred the complaints for consideration for the Panel.  In a nut-shell, the Commissioner was wrong to refer the whole bundle of complaints.  He should have formed a view on each and every complaint and specified with some particularity which conduct warranted inquiry by the Panel.  As a consequence, some complaints which were trifling were wrongly added into the mix; the main complaint – while sufficient for further investigation – was not framed carefully enough when it was referred; and complaints about the judge’s conduct between the two Supreme Court decision were referred without an opinion being specifically reached on whether they justified further investigation for the Panel.

This seems fair and reasonable. It means that the JCC must be very specific with which actions of Justice Wilson are thought to have been misconduct, rather than just refer the entire saga.

Secondly, on the marquee complaint that the Commissioner relied on to recommend a Panel be convened, the High Court is clear that the Commissioner’s vetting process was proper and consistent with the Act.  The Commissioner properly appreciated the standard of conduct that, as a matter of constitutional law, justified removal of a judge from office and justified further investigation. The Commissioner also properly applied this standard when reviewing the factual allegations made. The Court said (at [91]):

“The important point is that the Commissioner considered that deliberate non-disclosure was a sufficiently plausible possibility to warrant further inquiry being made.  We agree with the Commissioner’s conclusion that conduct of that type, if established, might warrant consideration of the removal of the Judge.  We also accept Mr Goddard’s submission that in reaching that view the Commissioner formed the opinion that s 15(1) required of him.”

Justice Wilson did not win on this point, but it is worth stressing that the finding is that deliberate non-disclosure was a sufficiently plausible possibility to warrant removal. That does not mean that the panel will necessarily find it is – just that it could be.

Finally, this decision is undoubtedly not going to halt the process.

Presumably the JCC will now frame more specific “complaints” for the panel to consider.

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General Debate 29 September 2010

September 29th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Why not ban pedestrians listening to music?

September 29th, 2010 at 7:48 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

iPod users are being warned by police to be vigilant on the roads after the death of a young woman who was hit by a car while listening to music.

It is believed to be the third case in the past year in which a pedestrian or cyclist listening to an iPod has been distracted and killed.

Well that has killed more people than drivers aged over 25 with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08.

Clearly the Government needs to ban pedestrians and cyclists from walking/cycling with an iPod.

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Oh dear

September 28th, 2010 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Without any attempt at double entendre, it could only be described as a slip of the tongue. The former French justice minister, Rachida Dati, 44, has become an overnight internet sensation after accidentally using the word “fellation” instead of “inflation” in a television interview.

A clip of her mistake has become one of the most viewed items on the French-language internet. The former minister, now a Euro MP, was talking about job losses at Lejaby, a foreign-owned French company which specialises in lingerie.

“These foreign investment funds are only interested in excessive profits,” she said. “When I see some of them demand a return of 20 or 25 per cent, when fellation is almost non-existent… I say they are just trying to destroy businesses.”

Oh this is a superb gaffe. Almost as good as John’s Carters “cunning stunt” a few years back.

To make it worse for the MP she is rather attractive, which makes her comments more noticeable.

Did I say rather attractive? Maybe a bit more than that!

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How long until it all falls over?

September 28th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

ACC is poised to take legal action to liquidate the Wellington Phoenix football club, saying it is owed more than $260,000 in unpaid player levies.

The club, owned by Terry Serepisos, had repeatedly “promised” to pay the levies and had failed to honour agreed payment plans, the Accident Compensation Corporation confirmed to The Dominion Post.

ACC plans to go to court today to liquidate Century City Football, whose sole director is Mr Serepisos.

He said last night that he was “shocked” by the legal threat. The matter would not go to court because “we have made arrangements to pay” today, he said.

Terry, Terry, Terry. I don’t think they want an arrangement to pay. I think they want a cheque.

ACC acting chief executive Keith McLea confirmed the legal action earlier yesterday. “Century City Football owes more than $260,000 in unpaid levies to ACC, some of it dating back several years.

“They have promised to pay many times but not done so. We have even agreed payment plans with them but these have not been honoured.

I can’t recall ACC ever liquidating someone before. IRD do it heaps. Maybe ACC do also, but are lower profile about it.

Mr Serepisos said he and his lawyer had agreed on a plan with ACC on Friday to pay the levies and “they have not even advised me of this [the move to liquidate].”

The amount of levies was “in dispute”, he said, and he would fight any legal action.

The claim the amount of levies is in dispute is a red herring. I actually worked in credit control for Wellington Newspapers once. You get very good at knowing the difference between those with a genuine dispute and those disputing as an excuse not to pay on time.

Those with a genuine dispute always agree to pay the undisputed part of the account, and only with-hold the (often quite small) aspect under dispute.

Those who can not or will not pay, refuse to pay anything due to the “dispute”. They are the ones you cut off further credit to, or refer to the debt collector/court.

Hopefully for the sake of the Phoenix, Terry Serepisos can actually pay, so the team is not liquidated.

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Am I the only one who finds this sort of funny?

September 28th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

AP report:

A wealthy British businessman who owns the company that makes the two-wheeled Segway people transporter has been found dead in a river in northern England after apparently falling off a cliff on one of the vehicles, police said.

I now it is not funny to his family, but I’m sorry the owner of Segways going off a cliff on one!!

If it was an accident, he must have been at maximum speed on a very slippery road!

If it was suicide, then why not just jump off? What statement was he making by riding a Segway off a cliff?

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The commies are right

September 28th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council candidates are split almost equally over whether the new council should play a bigger role in providing social housing for low-income people.

Mayoral candidate Len Brown and 17 other candidates have told a survey by the Waitakere Housing Call to Action group that the council should maintain or expand the pensioner units it will inherit from existing councils, and work with the Government and community groups to provide more social housing. …

Mr Brown told a social issues forum in Otahuhu yesterday that he wanted to double the existing number of units.

He advocated putting “1000 new units of affordable housing, both personally owned and rented”, into Housing NZ urban renewal projects at Tamaki, Clendon and Papakura.

No no no. Local Government isn’t there to find schools, hospitals and provide housing. That is the role of central Government, Len Brown wants to spend over $1 billion of ratepayers money on housing – money that could either lower rates, or be far better spent on public transport, roads, parks etc.

Not everyone thank God wants to spend $1 billion on housing. No I dodn’t mean John Banks, but the two communist (Annalucia is standing for the Communist League, and Penny – well if it sounds like a duck, walks like a duck ….) candidates:

The candidate survey found some unexpected bedfellows. Far-left mayoral candidates Penny Bright and Annalucia Vermunt both urged expansion of social housing – but by the state, not the new council.

And Penny and Alllucia are right. This is the role of central Government – through Housing NZ. What next from Len – have the Council start its own welfare department?

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Death threats if Labour candidate not left alone

September 28th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

This is very serious. The Herald reports (offline):

Police are investigating a death threat against a political organiser in relation to a possible Super City voting scam in South Auckland.

Citizens & Ratepayers campaign organiser Jim Stephens received a letter mentioning a “hit list” and “shooters” if the right-leaning ticket did not desist from maligning “our winning candidate Daljit [Singh]”.

It was purportedly signed by “Daljit Singh supporters”.

Last night, Daljit Singh, one of two Labour Party candidates in the Papatoetoe subdivision of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board, was “100 per cent sure” none of his supporters had sent the letter.

I hope the Police test the letter for fingerprints and handwriting samples etc. Totally unacceptable to make not very veiled threats like this.

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End the reign of King Gerry I

September 28th, 2010 at 12:44 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis blogs a letter from 27 legal scholars expressing concern over the powers granted to the Executive under the Canterbury Response and Recovery Earthquake Act.

The authors are:

Professor Stuart Anderson, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
Mark Bennett, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Malcom Birdling, Keble College, University of Oxford.
Joel Colon-Rios, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Richard Cornes, School of Law, University of Essex.
Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, Faculty of Law, University of Waikato.
Professor John Dawson, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
Richard Ekins, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
Associate Prof. Andrew Geddis, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
Claudia Geiringer, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Kris Gledhill, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
Professor Bruce Harris, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
Professor Mark Henaghan, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
Dr John Hopkins, Law School, University of Canterbury.
John Ip, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
Carwyn Jones, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Dean Knight, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Prof. Elizabeth McLeay, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Steven Price, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Vernon Rive, Law School, Auckland University of Technology.
Mary-Rose Russell, Law School, Auckland University of Technology.
Katherine Sanders, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.
Dr Rayner Thwaites, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Professor Jeremy Waldron, New York University School of Law.
Ceri Warnock, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
Nicola Wheen, Faculty of Law, Univerity of Otago.
Hanna Wilberg, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland.

Maxim Institute has also endorsed the letter.

My view is that it is desirable for Parliament to amend the Act in say two or three months time. By then it should be clear which acts may need to be amended by order-in-council, and the CERR Act can be changed so that it only applies to a small number of specified acts, rather than to every act (bar five) in New Zealand.

The list of signatories is impressive, with no less than seven law professors. I would make the point that it would perhaps carry more weight if they had also obtained signatures from lawyers outside the universities. A few senior partners from the big law firms would make it harder to dismiss as just “academics”, as would the senior officers of the Law Society?

Doesn’t the Law Society have a rule of law committee? I’d like to hear their view on the law. People should debate this issue – not because there is a risk that King Gerry I is going to declare martial law, but because of the precedent it does set for future disasters.

I think the One News poll had 89% approval (a staggering figure) of the Government’s response to the earthquake. This shows that the public like the fact the Government has put such emphasis on the earthquake recovery. But that doesn’t mean it would still not be a good idea to narrow the scope of the CERR Act in the not so distant future.

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Goff’s hypocrisy on foreign land sales

September 28th, 2010 at 12:25 pm by David Farrar

What did Phil Goff say yesterday about National’s changes to policy on foreign ownership of land:

Labour leader Phil Goff said it was a half-hearted effort that did practically nothing.

“It will do nothing to discourage the increasing foreign ownership of New Zealand land.”

Now I wonder how much actual land has been sold under National. According to Maurice Williamson it is 31,000 hectares or 310 square kms. That is an average of around 20,000 hectares a year.

And how much land was sold under Labour to foreign owners?

Over nine years, you would expect it be 180,000 hectares, if at the same rate.  In fact it was a massive 650,000 hectares!!!

Now personally I think it is a good thing Labour allowed NZ land owners to sell their land to the highest bidder, rather than be forced to accept lower bids.

But the hypocrisy is just staggering.

In a profile on new UK Labour Leader Ed Milliband, The Independent said:

He is soft, cuddly and panders to every oppositional instinct in the party. There has been no position taken by the Labour Government of which he was a member that he was not prepared to trash if he thought Labour members would like it.

Is that not a perfect description of Phil Goff?

  • One of the architects of GST campaigning against it
  • One of the architects of our inflation focused monetary policy campaigning against it
  • One of the Ministers who reaped $3b in profits from state power companies at a time of massive surpluses, now campaigning for them to be lower despite the record deficits
  • One of the Ministers who refused time after time to reduce the blood alcohol limit, not campaigning for it to lower
  • One of the Ministers who sold 650,000 hectares of land to foreigners, campaigning against 30,000 hectares of sales.

Someone should compile a fuller list of these. Feel free to add others to the comments.

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Herald on Foreign Investment

September 28th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

According to the Finance Minister, overseas investment regulations to be introduced in December will “provide extra clarity and certainty for potential investors”. More likely it will produce doubt and confusion.

The only thing more certain, is that Ministers are more likely to interfere if the political heat gets too much.

The regulations are an invitation for pressure groups to create as much fuss as possible to get the ministerial thumbs-down for what may well be desirable bids in terms of efficiency and economic benefit. Some opposition may be driven by xenophobia; others may not wish land sold to any overseas interests, whether they are Canadian or Chinese. Clearly, there will now be added uncertainty. Overseas investment policy, rather than being based on a clear set of principles that are applied without fear or favour and that recognise the limits on foreign control, will be hostage to the ministerial pen. …

Overseas investment, like immigration, has always been a key driver of the New Zealand economy. It also is far too important to be hostage to ad hoc politicking.

What people always forget, is that when you ban land owners from selling to the highest bidder, you are reducing their net wealth – and reducing the amount of money they may have to invest in other ventures.

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Super City staff costs $91m a year lower

September 28th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Super City will open for business on November 1 with 1223 fewer staff than the existing councils and their business units, leading to a $66.5 million cut in the annual wage bill.

The agency designing the Super City has trimmed staff numbers from 9430 staff a year ago to 8207. …

The agency said staff numbers would drop by another 300 when people employed to bed down the Super City completed their work by July 2012.

This would lead to a $91 million overall reduction in the wages bill to $513 million by mid-2012.

This is good news for Auckland ratepayers. Obviously not great for those losing their jobs, but reducing costs on ratepayers will lead to greater economic growth and more jobs in the private sector.

The chances of cost savings from fewer staff leading to lower rates appear remote.

None of the main Super City mayoral candidates or political tickets are promising lower rates from the savings and efficiencies expected from the reforms.

As well, setting up the Super City has cost $200 million, which will be borne by ratepayers.

Which is around the first three years of lower staff costs only. After that rates should be lower than what they would have been under eight different Councils.

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