Archive for November, 2010

Whale v Frank

November 30th, 2010 at 9:35 pm by David Farrar

Whale has blogged about the Get Frank site, and use of bloggers material.

A number of bloggers back in 2007 gave permission for Get Frank to to use some of their posts on their site. At least one blogger was told:

as our adver­tis­ing grows we will be offer­ing all con­trib­u­tors the chance to take 50% of all adver­tis­ing rev­enue from their page(s) on a CPM basis.

I was one of those bloggers who gave permission. I can’t recall whether or not my e-mail made any mention of revenue sharing. I suspect I said yes on the grounds of liking to help a new site.

But Get Frank has gone on to be commercially successful, and the Bloggers Union (which is compulsory – like student associations) has been saying that those who provide the content should be getting a share of the revenue, which has been declined. So Whale has gone to war in his normal subtle way.

By coincidence, I had noticed around six months ago that Get Frank were still using my content and I made a mental note to myself to email them at some stage and say I think it is time to stop using my content, especially as I do get advertising revenue on my own site. But it was not a priority so I had not got around to it.

This flare up has been the catalyst for me to do so, and hence the permission has been terminated.

Cactus Kate has blogged on this also.

I blog primarily because I enjoy having a say. I do make some “pocket money” from advertising but on an hourly rate it would come to less than the minimum wage. So my motivation is not commercial. But I’d rather increase the money I made from my content, than have others do so, and receive nothing at all myself.

If Get Frank (or anyone) are interested in a commercial relationship in the future, my door is open.

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Leaker sought in Auckland

November 30th, 2010 at 5:19 pm by David Farrar

No we are not talking about Andrew Williams. Len Brown doesn’t want the public to know who is recommended for CCO Board appointments according to the NZ Herald:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has ordered an investigation into a councillor suspected of leaking the names of council-controlled organisation (CCO) board appointments.

A source close to Mr Brown said the mayor had “lost faith in a member of the committee and is asking the chief executive to conduct a full investigation into the leak of information”.

This followed online reports at the weekend that two people with close links to Mr Brown – former Manukau City Council chief executive Leigh Auton and former Manukau deputy mayor Gary Troup – would be appointed to CCO boards on Thursday.

That is the same Leigh Auton who refused the Ombudsman’s request for information before the election.

The mayoral source refused to name the member of the CCO strategy and appointments subcommittee suspected of leaking the information.

Asked if it was Jami-Lee Ross, the Citizens & Ratepayers co-leader who issued a press release at the weekend criticising CCO appointments based on “long-standing friendships and political campaign connections”, the source said “no comment”.

Yesterday, Mr Ross categorically denied leaking information to the Sunday Star-Times reporter who named Mr Auton and Mr Troup.

Mr Ross said he had been clear that he could not comment on who was being proposed for the CCO appointments but felt the item should not be conducted behind closed doors.

Jami-Lee’s sin was to propose that the appointments be done in public session.

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Yes Minister was a documentary

November 30th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve often said that Yes Minister was a documentary. Do you recall the episode of the hospital with no patients? Well read this Dom Post story:

A tiny rural school that has not had any pupils for three months is still open nearly every day, overseen by a “very busy” principal.

I’m sure the school runs much more effectively, without any pupils getting in the way.

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NZ wins apples war

November 30th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

Trade minister Tim Groser has welcomed a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that says Australia’s 90-year-old restrictions on New Zealand apples are unscientific and break international rules.

Australia imposed the restrictions in 1921 to protect local apple trees from fireblight, a pest that also affects pear trees and rose bushes.

New Zealand has been pushing for access to the Australian market since 1986, and after “exhaustive efforts” took the dispute to the WTO.

The organisation’s Appellate Body found in favour of New Zealand in August, but Australia appealed the decision.

In a new decision released overnight, the body upheld its original findings that all 16 of Australia’a quarantine measures were inconsistent with its legal obligations.

The victory should allow New Zealand to resume apple exports to Australia and clear the way for sales to other markets where the fruit is also banned.

At long long last. This should be the end of the track.

If Australia refused to abide by the WTO decision, it would be a massive undermining of its credibility on trade issues. And they would actually be liable for trade sanctions.

The smart people in the Australian Government will be pleased with the outcome. By going all the way to a WTO appeal, they can say to their apple producers they have done everything possible, but they have to obey international law. And it allows them to remove this stain on their free trade credentials.

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ACT cleaning house

November 30th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The ACT Board has spent the last few months quietly cleaning house, to prevent a recurrence of the infighting which damaged them earlier this year. They understand that open warfare puts people off voting for you.

We see the results of the house cleaning in the Herald today:

Peter Tashkoff is crying foul over his expulsion from the Act Party because party leader Rodney Hide attended the meeting at which his fate was decided and voted against him. …

The vote was not unanimous, but party president Chris Simmons said a majority of 75 per cent support – at least nine out of 12 votes – for removing Mr Tashkoff was “comfortably” met.

ACT can now focus on two key things:

  1. Retaining Epsom
  2. Gaining enough party vote to remain relevant
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Armstrong on National barbarians

November 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes in the NZ Herald:

For most Wellingtonians, Pukerua Bay is notable only for a couple of kilometres-long stretch of State Highway One where the speed limit briefly but annoyingly drops from 100km/h to 50 km/h and creates another bottle-neck on the slow trip north.

Not for me. My grandmother lived in Pukerua Bay and I would often train up there as a kid to spend weekends and holidays there. I have an intimate knowledge of all the playgrounds in Pukerua Bay :-)

It is here that a major shift in voter behaviour was noticeable in last Saturday’s extraordinary outcome of the Mana byelection. …

In Pukerua Bay, where a large proportion of people designate themselves as “professional” for Census purposes, National’s Hekia Parata won by 249 votes to 217. Go back to the 2002 and 2005 elections and you find Labour winning the booth on the party vote – the fairer measure as the candidate vote was distorted by the huge personal appeal of Winnie Laban, whose retirement prompted the byelection.

Pukerua Bay went narrowly in National’s favour in 2008 – an indication that Clark’s cross-over appeal was on the wane.

But the trend was replicated elsewhere in outlying settlements of Porirua City, such as Plimmerton and Pauatahanui. National’s share of the vote even increased in less well-off Titahi Bay.

There are still wealthy pockets of Mana, such as Paekakariki and Raumati South, where Labour’s support remains staunch. These settlements may have saved the blushes of Labour candidate and now MP, Kris Fa’afoi. But with the Key machine carving out more territory in middle New Zealand for occupation by National, Fa’afoi should not be relying on them remaining faithful next year.

Labour’s stranglehold on Wellington is under threat; the National barbarians are storming the city’s northern gates.

I’m going to be watching Mana with interest in the 2011 election.

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The 2010 Transtasman Ratings

November 30th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for our 122 MPs. As usual, I do some analysis. The overall average rating is 4.5

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 5.7 ((+0.5 from 2009)
  2. United Future 5.5 (+1.5)
  3. National 5.2 (+0.1)
  4. ACT 4.4 (-0.2)
  5. Labour 4.3 (+0.4)
  6. Green 4.1 (+0.6)
  7. Progressive 2.0 (-1.0)

The overall average rating increased from 4.5 to 4.7.

Top MPs

  1. Simon Power 9.0 (+0.5)
  2. John Key 9.0 (nc)
  3. Tony Ryall 8.5 (+0.5)
  4. Bill English 8.5 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. Chris Carter 1.0 (-2.5)
  2. Paul Quinn 1.0 (-1.0)
  3. Ashraf Choudary 1.5 (+0.5)

Top Labour MPs

  1. Annette King 6.5 (nc)
  2. David Parker 6.5 (+0.5)
  3. Darren Hughes 6.5 (+0.5)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Tariana Turia – 7.5 (+0.5)
  2. Peter Dunne – 5.5 (+1.5)
  3. Sue Kedgley – 5.5 (+1.5)
  4. John Boscawen – 5.0 (+0.5)
  5. Jim Anderton – 2.0 (-1.0)

Top 2008 intake MPs

  1. Steven Joyce 7.5 (nc)
  2. Rahui Katene 6.0 (nc)
  3. Simon Bridges 6.0 (+2.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. Lindsay Tisch, Simon Bridges, Sue Moroney and Hone Harawira all +2 from 2009

Biggest Decreases

  1. Pansy Wong -3.0
  2. Chris Carter -2.5

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.6 (+0.4)
  2. Cabinet 7.1 (+0.4)
  3. National frontbench 7.9 (+0.2)
  4. Labour frontbench 5.0 (+0.5)
  5. National 2008 intake 4.2 (nc)
  6. Labour 2008 intake 4.1 (+0.4)
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General Debate 30 November 2010

November 30th, 2010 at 8:33 am by David Farrar
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WA police no longer allowed to refer to race

November 30th, 2010 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

Unbelievable. news.com.au reports:

WA POLICE have defended their policy of banning ethnic or religious words to describe offenders after it was attacked by the Police Union as ‘political correctness gone mad’.

The policy, a direct order from Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan, means officers can no longer use details such as a suspect’s nationality, race or religion when seeking public help.

Instead, they have been told to say if the person is light or dark skinned.

Are they allowed to still describe the gender?

WA Police are standing by their policy, saying many people don’t actually know what people of different nationalities look like.

“More general descriptors limit the chances for people to make error,” WA Police Media spokesman Samuel Dinnison says.

“People have different terms of reference and if we narrow investigations down to specific race, the person may have gotten it wrong and that may limit an investigation. Narrowing it down too much can be detrimental to an investigation.”

Yes some witnesses may not get the ethnicity right. But some may. Surely the sensible thing to do is use specific ethnicities when the witnesses are certain, and use more general terms when they are not.

Also from what I can tell, even if CCTV footage showed the offenders, the Police would still refuse to refer to their ethnicity. Incredible stupidity.

WA Police Union president Russell Armstrong wants the rule overturned, arguing that using “scant descriptions” makes it harder to catch criminals. …

One police insider said the policy had prevented the capture of suspects.

“These rules don’t give a true indication of who police are looking for,” the source said.

“There is a big difference between a dark-skinned person being Aboriginal or African. And if we are looking for an Asian person-of-interest it’s a bit narrow to describe them as simply having fair skin and dark hair.”

Exactly. One might not be sure if they are Korean or Chinese (for example), but would be sure they are Asian.

Other states, such as Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory use the nationally agreed ANZPAA policy which limits the description categories to broad groups including Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, Asian, Middle-Eastern or Caucasian appearance unless there has been a positive identification of the nationality of a person described.

That seems far more sensible.

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Justice Panckhurst to chair Royal Commission

November 29th, 2010 at 1:56 pm by David Farrar

The Government has selected Justice Panckhurst to chair the Royal Commission.

He is the second longest serving High Court Judge, having been a Judge since 1996. He also spent seven years as the Crown Solicitor covering Canterbury and the West Coast, which is useful.

Justice Panckhurst was a sole barrister and QC prior to his appointment to the High Court. He also seemed to have become a partner in a law firm, four years after graduating.

Interest will now focus on who the other two members will be.

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Nothing to hide Air New Zealand?

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

There are few bigger fans of Air New Zealand than me – both of their actual travel, and of their marketing.

However Lance Wiggs blogs that AirNZ are now introducing a credit card charge, if you pay online with one. As 99% of individuals do exactly that, it will be felt. It ranges from $4 to $20 for return fares.

I think this is a very ill considered move from Air New Zealand.

They have spent millions of dollars on a brand of having nothing to hide – of how when they quote a price, there are no hidden extras. And it is one of the things people do like about them.

And then they go and do something which is directly contrary to their brand – a fee that you won’t know about until you get to the pay now section.

Now when I see their ad about nothing to hide, I’ll think “yeah except for your credit card fee”.

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A national art gallery

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

Kate Newton at the Dom Post reports:

Te Papa’s new chairman has thrown his weight behind building a $100 million art gallery to house the museum’s formidable – but rarely seen – collection.

Sir Wira Gardiner, appointed to the top job a fortnight ago, says a standalone gallery is high on his personal agenda as the museum does not do the collection justice.

Te Papa has been criticised by the art community, politicians and the public since it opened in 1998 for not displaying more of the 15,000 artworks in its collection.

Sir Wira said yesterday that he supported Te Papa board member Chris Parkin, who told The Dominion Post he “would really like to leave Wellington with a new national art gallery”.

Mr Parkin said he wanted to see the national collection housed in the proposed “transition building” next to Te Papa. The building was designed for Wellington City Council by Amsterdam-based UNStudios in 2005 but the council has said it is unlikely to go ahead until at least 2014.

Mr Parkin estimated the cost of a new building at $100 million, which he believed could partly be raised from private benefactors.

It is true the art works are almost hidden away at Te Papa, and not enough of them get displayed. It would be nice to have a dedicated gallery for them.

But this is the worst possible time to be proposing it. With a huge fiscal deficit, the Government can not even think about extra funding.

Once we are running a large enough surplus to be reducing debt, then maybe we can discuss it. But that is at least five, possible ten years away.

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Herald on CBD Rail Loop

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

The Herald editorial:

A “business case” for a central Auckland rail loop has been endorsed from left and right of the new Auckland Council. Mayor Len Brown found it “compelling”, Christine Fletcher, co-leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers minority, said there was a consensus for it.

It is not known how many members of the council are accustomed to assessing business cases for big investments. Transport Minister Steven Joyce seems to know what to look for: figures based on guesswork for wider economic benefits (webs). This report, said Mr Joyce, has “webs on steroids”.

A smart man, Mr Joyce. And often these assessments are little more than guesswork.

It is an exciting project. The loop could be the revival of the CBD, bringing all corners of it within a 500m walk to a station. The ridges around the inner city would be more easily accessible. The line from the western suburbs could come straight into the city, rather than joining the southern line at Newmarket. Most important, many more trains could run once Britomart became a through-station.

I think it is the most sensible of the proposed rail projects for Auckland. Of course I do not live there, so my view is one of a frequent visitor.

As it stands, it seems unlikely to persuade the new Auckland Transport agency where city and national representatives need to agree on projects to be jointly financed. If the council and its representatives on the agency are confident of their project, they must first convince Aucklanders to pay the lion’s share of it.

Exactly.

History has shown that when Aucklanders really want a transport link, when they know they will use it, they are prepared to pay for it. Before Mr Brown, Mrs Fletcher and the rest try to convince Mr Joyce of the merits of this proposal, they should put it to Auckland – with an honest price on it.

Then, if ratepayers are as excited as they are by the case for an inner city rail circuit, they could have a proposition the Government would find hard to refuse.

Let’s assume ratepayers will pay 3/4. Work out how much that is, and consult Aucklanders on whether they are happy with that investment. Then you can talk to the Government about its contribution.

As it is, it sounds like business as usual – Auckland’s voice whining like a demanding child expecting a treat from the taxpayers.

There may be other options. I don’t have a problem with the Auckland Council being given the power to have its own regional petrol tax. I do have a problem with people from Oamaru, Napier and Dunedin being the major funders of an Auckland CBD rail loop.

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General Debate 29 November 2010

November 29th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Some common sense emerging from Labour

November 29th, 2010 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

On Friday, Labour released a speech David Cunliffe gave on Thursday. It gave me hope for a more rational Labour Party. First:

Crucially in a capital constrained fiscal environment, we will better leverage the Crown’s balance sheet in new and innovative ways.

We can expand public-private partnerships for new transport infrastructure.  The project scale must be right and the PPP benefits must outweigh any increase in cost of capital, but that leaves plenty of scope for win-wins .

Yay. PPPs should be on the table as an option in pretty much all circumstances. Decisions on whether to have a PPP should be made on the merits of an individual case. Great to see Labour starting to take steps away from ideology and towards rationality.

We can unleash State Owned Enterprises to create and grow new subsidiaries with private partners and shareholders, without diluting the taxpayer’s equity, or wholly or partially privatizing the SOE.

Again this is a good step in the right direction. While still a very modest step, it at least means that Labour are no longer saying the private sector has no role in assets owned by the state. And trying to argue that a partial stake in an asset owned by an SOE is good but a partial stake in an SOE is evil, will test the finest debaters.

Now Labour have pointed out that their policy is intended to apply to new subsidiaries only, but that is frankly illogical. Take Kordia for example. A while back they purchased Orcon. This means the taxpayer now owns an ISP. Labour seems to be saying that Kordia is not allowed to sell Orcon.

This is the bizarre outcomes you get from blanket bans. Private sector investment in any state asset should be considered on a case by case basis. There is a pretty strong argument to own Transpower, and there was a very weak argument to own a chain of competitive vehicle testing stations.

In the legal area, National has in fact nationalised certain aspects (crown defence service) and allowed private sector into others (build and manage a prison). That is because decision are being made on the basis of what will achieve the best outcomes.

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No Crewe inquiry

November 29th, 2010 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

James Ihaka at the Herald reports:

Justice Minister Simon Power has turned down calls for an independent inquiry into a 40-year-old murder mystery. …

William Rowe, a spokesman for Arthur Allan Thomas, the man wrongly accused of murdering Jeanette and Harvey Crewe, wrote to the minister’s office supporting calls for an independent inquiry.

In the email he wanted to know who, on the balance of probabilities, murdered the Crewes.

He also asked if there was evidence to bring charges against anyone involved in the investigation for the wrongful arrest and convictions of Mr Thomas based on the Thomas Royal Commission findings in 1980.

“I plead with you to do the right thing and order an inquiry,” said Mr Rowe in the email.

“Justice is the most important thing in the world and every New Zealander has the right to have faith in the system, because it belongs to them, not the police.”

In response, Mr Power said he understood the interest in seeking closure, but his hands were tied. …

“Neither I nor my ministerial colleagues can direct the police to reopen the case.”

If the request has been made 30 years ago, or even 20 years ago, then I’d say go for it. BuSt I can’t imagine in 2010, an inquiry could come to any useful conclusions. Finding out who, on the balance of probabilities, murdered the Crewes, would have been possible when key people were alive, but at least two of the suspects are dead.

So on this issue, I think the Minister has made the right decision, in fact almost the only decision possible.

The case that I do think should have had a full Commission of Inquiry is the Peter Ellis case.

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Pike River Day X

November 28th, 2010 at 5:28 pm by David Farrar

Two significant things today.

We had explosion no 4. So on average an explosion every second day or so.

John Key has announced on Q+A that the Commission of Inquiry will be a Royal Commission. There is no real difference in powers (the legislation does not distinguish) and the “official” guidelines are that Royal Commissions in recent times have been for social policy inquiries. But the nice thing about being Prime Minister is you can decide to ignore things such as guidelines.

I suspect he was motivated by the fact Erebus was a Royal Commission, and not wanting this to be seen as inferior.

All eyes will be on the name of the Judge selected to chair it.

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The Pansy investigation

November 28th, 2010 at 12:31 pm by David Farrar

Jonathan Marshall reports in the SST:

EMBATTLED MP Pansy Wong has been “interrogated” by officials over allegations of travel perk misuse.

The National MP and former minister is under investigation by Parliamentary Services after admitting travelling to China with her husband using a travel perk that entitled her to a 90% discount. Rules state the perk can only be used for private travel but her husband, Sammy, conducted business while there.

All of Wong’s travel, including 10 trips taken while a minister in the current administration, are under review.

Last week Wong was hauled into an “interrogation” by investigators, a source close to the inquiry said.

“Pansy was spoken to and it is expected the results will be ready within a few days,” the source said.

Good. Decisions should be made on the basis of a thorough investigation and the facts as they are revealed.

There are generally seven outcomes from MP “misbehaviour”. In rough order they are:

  1. No action taken at all
  2. Money is repaid, but no other action – various Ministers and former Ministers who had minor inappropriate spending
  3. A formal reprimand or warning – Phil Heatley
  4. A demotion but no loss of pay – Chris Carter, demoted from front bench to second bench over his perks
  5. Sacking/forced resignation from a role which results in loss of pay – sacked from Cabinet, or as Deputy Speaker etc
  6. Suspended or expelled from Caucus
  7. Criminal charges laid

No 5 has already happened. What we don’t know is whether the facts support No 6 or No 7 occuring. No 7 will not be a decision for the Government, it will ultimately be a matter for the Police of the SFO.

No 6 will be a matter for the party caucus. It is generally used over issues of party loyalty – Chris Carter for example was not suspended over his use of perks – he was suspended for his letter to the press gallery. Even Taito Philip Field was not suspended for his corrupt behaviour – he was suspended/expelled for saying he might stand against Labour.

It is possible No 6 could happen if Caucus felt that the report is so damning that Pansy should resign immediately from Parliament. However the view might be that having a by-election in election year is a waste of money, if (for example) Pansy indicates she will be retiring at the election anyway.

It is good the report is likely to be complete soon, as that will then allow judgement and decisions to be made.

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McCarten on Mana

November 28th, 2010 at 11:59 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten looks back on Mana:

These days you wouldn’t know what the differences were between the two main parties. Listening to Labour’s Kris Faafoi and National’s Hekia Parata at candidate meetings over the campaign, I’m still unsure if there’s any difference.

The only point where they disagreed was over Labour’s disingenuous promise to take GST off fresh fruit and veges to help “struggling families”.

However, at the same time, Labour said it would keep GST at 15 per cent. That means the weekly family groceries would still be more expensive than they were before the GST increase.

That is pathetic, really. But Faafoi insisted that, wherever he went, his supporters were enthusiastic with the extra scraps thrown their way.

I’m not sure the founders of the Labour Party would have bothered sacrificing their blood, sweat and tears for a socialist paradise if they had known their difference a century later to the capitalist class was GST off stuff they grew in their gardens.

Indeed not exactly bold and visionary.

Despite that, I always assumed Labour would retain Mana but I was amazed how close the final result was. At the beginning of the campaign I said that if I couldn’t get a close third or second place in the last week, then any support I had would slip to Labour.

We had identified about 2000 supporters but, in the last few days, Labour’s message that I was splitting the vote resonated andit would have been a loss – most of those people moved to Labour to keep Parata out.

They were right, too. If I had retained my earlier support, Labour certainly would have lost. Retaining the seat by just over 1000 votes is a wake-up call for Labour.

I understand around 1 in five people in Cannons Creek etc were initially saying they would vote for McCarten. If that had happened, but the Labour vote machine is quite formidable.

This brings me to whether there’s a space for a new party if Labour continues to drift. This idea was surprisingly raised on the Labour Party-aligned Standard Blog during the Mana by-election. It suggested I’d been in cahoots with Hone Harawira and Sue Bradford in planning such a project.

That is nonsense. I’ve never had any conversations about such a thing with either Harawira or Bradford. However, I do have enormous respect for both and, if such a coming together of people like them did happen, I wouldn’t stay away.

Shock horror, they made it up.

I believe in a strong progressive force within the Labour Party but my experience as the president of the New Labour Party and its successor, the Alliance, is that it’s also necessary to have a strong force outside that party.

Without such a presence outside, Labour tends to swing to the right to compete with National for the so-called centre vote. Labour’s been doing that for the past two and a half decades and trying to be National-lite won’t get Phil Goff into government next year.

So here’s my advice to Labour. If you don’t look after your left flank then it may well create an opportunity for another progressive party to appeal to people who were once reliably in your camp.

In the Mana campaign I promoted traditional Labour policies to working class people who loved them. Fortunately for you, enough of them went back to you last Saturday to save your party from humiliation.

Next year they may not. That’s the real lesson of the Mana by-election.

I can’t wait to see the reaction when Matt realises Labour policy is now to allow part-privatisations of SOE subsidiaries!

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Return to Orewa

November 28th, 2010 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

Don Brash’s speech to the Orewa National Party last night was titled “Return to Orewa”. He covers all the good stuff the Government has done, but also his deep worries. First the good stuff:

  • The New Zealand economy is out of recession and is growing.
  • At 6.4% of the workforce, unemployment is lower than in most other developed countries.
  • Personal income tax rates have been cut significantly.
  • The Government has moved to allow employers and employees to agree a 90 day probationary period in employment contracts, bringing us broadly into line with all other developed countries.
  • Steps have been taken to streamline the process of approving building consents for multiple dwellings.
  • A start has been made on reforming the Resource Management Act.
  • The Government has ended the moratorium which has prevented the establishment of new aquaculture areas for the last decade.
  • And to cap it all off, the Government, and the Prime Minister personally, stand high in the polls!

And one can add some more around cutting bureaucracy, better use of the health dollar, tertiary education changes and national standards.

The last bullet point is also rather important. If you lose the goodwill of the people, then you lose the next election. And the problem isn’t that some MPs lose their job, but that all the good policy changes you have made, get reversed and worse by a change of Government.

I worry that, despite knowing that the Labour Government’s abolition of the youth minimum wage has very substantially increased youth unemployment – by 12,000 according to Canterbury University economics professor Eric Crampton – we have taken no action (indeed, we voted against Roger Douglas’s Bill to reinstate the youth minimum wage), so that thousands and thousands of young people leave school or training and quickly become demoralized, deprived of the opportunity to support themselves, with all the social and personal harm that that does.

This is a topic I have blogged on often, and do agree with Don on. The abolition of the youth minimum wage has been devastating to the employment prospects of young people.

I know the Government doesn’t want to be seen to be “cutting wages”, but what disappoints me is they have not even attempted to have a discussion with the voting public on this issue. And there are compromise options such as freezing the current youth rate in place, and allowing the adult rate to increase over time, so there will be enough of a difference for employers to have an incentive to give that 17 year old their first job.

I worry that, despite telling New Zealanders before the electito on that we should be fast followers and not leaders in the race to reduce carbon emissions, we have introduced an all-sectors Emissions Trading Scheme in a situation where none of our three largest trading partners – Australia, China, and the United States – has yet done so, nor in two of those cases seems likely to do so.

This one I am okay with. Firstly the 2008 manifesto said National supported an all sectors all gases scheme. Secondly I think the scheduled review in 2011 will take pragmatic steps such as agriculture not entering, if there is no sign of a global post-Kyoto agreement.

I worry that, despite being a party which believes in allowing people the maximum freedom to make choices for themselves, we have to date done nothing to allow more freedom for parents to choose the school their children attend.

I’d love to see National campaign in 2011 on school choice, full funding of schools (incl salaries) and performance pay. But that was not the 2008 policy, or indeed the 2005 policy if I recall it.

First, it is absolutely imperative that Government gets its fiscal deficit under control quickly. Bill English knows this of course, and has started the process by putting a much tighter limit in place for new government spending. He’s also doing his best to condition opinion by warning that restraint on government spending will be needed for years ahead.

The Government is trying to get rid of the deficit by restricting future spending increases, rather than cutting existing spending. It is pretty finely balanced as to whether they will pull it off. Those with larger deficits like the UK and Ireland have had to actually cut spending. It isn’t popular but it is necessary in those countries.

If National had known in mid 2008 what would happen with the global recession, I don’t think it would have promised to leave Working for Families and interest free student loans untouched. I am not someone who advocates they should break their word on those policies. But what I do advocate is that National should seriously consider whether they should signal changes in the 2011 election manifesto. I do believe the public understand that you can not spend money you do not have. In the UK, polls have shown that a majority of people support spending cuts to reduce the deficit.

As the 2025 Taskforce argued in its recent report, the argument for privatisation is different today than it was in the eighties. No longer are government trading operations grossly inefficient; nor is our government debt yet at dangerous levels. Rather, the argument for privatisation today is that, by selling SOEs into the private sector, we empower them to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future in a way which is impossible while they remain in state ownership. Nokia is today one of the world’s foremost producers of mobile phones, but it began life as a company producing lumber and electricity. If it had been in government ownership, it would still be producing lumber and electricity.

Interestingly, even Labour have started to edge away from their previous zealotry on this issue. I will do a separate blog on this, but Labour have talked about private ownership stakes in subsidiaries of SOEs. That is progress.

As a Party, we need to be at the forefront of challenging why the state should be:
• The biggest owner of dairy farms in New Zealand;
• The biggest fund managers in New Zealand;
• The 50% owner of a large chain of petrol stations;
• By far the biggest owner of rental properties;
• The dominant generator of electricity;
• The dominant owner of our trains and planes;
• The owner of our most aggressively growing bank.

What frustrates me is when parties freeze the status quo, and have blanket bans on any sales at all. Decisions on ownership should be taken on a case by case basis.

One of the problems in any democratic society is that when left-of-centre parties are in power they tax heavily the high-income minority to win votes from the majority. For at least a time, they can be almost guaranteed of winning if they take $1,000 off one voter and give $200 to each of five voters (after clipping the ticket on the way through of course!). Right-of-centre governments feel obliged to continue that policy, even where it violates their constitution and destroys the country’s future. The problem is that, unless those policies are reversed from time to time, we get a steady increase in the size of government, and a steady increase in the tax burden carried by the most productive members of our community. It takes courage, vision and moral purpose to reverse that trend.

I agree, and this must become a goal of the Government – to have a minority, not a majority, dependent on the state for income. When you add up all those on welfare, all those who receive Working for Families, those on national super, and those directly employed by the state, you end up with a lot of people whose personal interests are bettered by having a larger state, even if over time it inevitably means a smaller economy as a whole.

I’ve embedded Don’s speech below, so people can read it in its entirety, rather than just the few quotes that the media take from it. I don’t agree with all of it (as one would expect) and think it is important for National to be seen as keeping their word, but the issues Don raises are ones the Government needs to keep at top of mind when they start putting together their 2011 manifesto.

Return to Orewa (Final)

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I’m unhappy again

November 28th, 2010 at 11:08 am by David Farrar

This seems to be my week for being very unhappy with the Government. This story actually offends me even more than the electoral finance changes. the electoral finance changes were at least made for the right reasons – to get bipartisan agreement on electoral law.

But this story in the HoS by David Fisher makes my blood boil, if it accurately reflects the situation.

Readers may recall that earlier this year the Government banned certain methods of killing animals, which included shechita - the traditional Jewish method, which is necessary to have food as “kosher”.

I’d not commented on the issue previously as I felt a bit conflicted. I don’t believe in religious beliefs trumping laws, but I do think it is desirable to try and allow communities to practice traditional beliefs – within limits.

If it was purely an issue of animal welfare. I was content to leave it to the  Government to find that balance between animal welfare and traditional practice. I’m not an expert on either.

But the article reveals:

A farming company part-owned by a Cabinet minister was able to give him a briefing about how the Government could protect its lucrative trade with Muslim countries by banning Jewish slaughtering.

This is where my blood boils. That it appears it was not animal welfare, but appeasing foreign Governments, that was part of the motivation for the law change. Now the Minister can’t control what people who lobby him say in their submissions to him, but what is disappointing is that he then referred to those concerns in documents to other Ministers.

Carter was being sued by the Auckland Hebrew Congregation for changing the law in May to make traditional Jewish slaughter of animals illegal. The case was set to begin in the High Court at Wellington tomorrow – until an embarrassing backdown by Carter who on Friday overturned the ban he asked Cabinet to support.

The practice of shechita on poultry was declared no longer illegal while the Government also agreed to negotiate the ban on sheep. New Zealand Jews will still have to import beef from Australia, where shechita is allowed.

Good to see a compromise. But my concern is not whether there is a ban or not, but about what was driving the ban.

Carter did not respond to requests for an interview.

In a statement he said: “Claims that business interests determined my decision on the Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare are totally baseless. Animal welfare was the primary consideration in making this decision and I have said many times that animal welfare is a priority of mine.”

There is considerable wriggle room between trade interests “determining my decision” and “animal welfare was the primary consideration”. That does not rule out that trade interests were a strong secondary factor which influenced the decision, even if not determining it.

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Victoria State Election

November 28th, 2010 at 10:41 am by David Farrar

Victoria went to the polls yesterday. It has had Labor rule for 11 years and earlier this year were looking likely to be re-elected.

At this stage it looks like the Coalition (and it was the first election since 1999 when they were together as a Coalition) has won power with 45 out of 88 seats. Labor has 37 seats and is likely to end up with 43. It is still very possible there is a hung Parliament at 44 each.

The Coalition got 44.8% of the primary vote and Labor 36.9%. Greens did well at 10.6% but not as well as expected, and failed to win a seat. Labor attacked the Greens aggressively.

This may be the third election in a row where there has been a hung Parliament – Tasmania had one also, as did the Federal election.

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General Debate 28 November 2010

November 28th, 2010 at 7:57 am by David Farrar
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22 minutes

November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

Amused to read in the Dom Post that John Key has revealed more of his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, sitting next to him at the APEC dinner.

Medvedev told the PM it would take 15 minutes for a missile from Moscow to reach Washington DC. The PM couldn’t contain his curiousity and asked how long it would take to reach NZ.

Medvedev consulted the person standing behind him and replied “22 minutes, but I’ll ring you beforehand” :-)

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Dom Post rates the first two years

November 27th, 2010 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

In today’s Dominion Post, Vernon Small and John Hartevelt rate the high achievers and the casualties of the first tow years of the Government.Note the comments below are my extracts of what Vernon and John said – they are not my personal views.

Top of the Class

  1. John Key 8.5/10
  2. Simon Power 8.0/10 – they suggest he moves to Education
  3. Steven Joyce 7.5/10 – possible Finance Minister in the future
  4. Gerry Brownlee – has risen from defeat to become one of Govt’s best assets – they say he may be in line for deputy PM
  5. Tim Groser – 6.5/10 – a good example of why you have List MPs, doing an excellent job in trade

Casualties

  • Richard Worth
  • Bill English over his housing allowance
  • Melissa Lee over Mt Albert
  • Aaron Gilmore over his CV
  • Pansy Wong over her travel

Struggling

  • Anne Tolley 4.5/10 – valiantly trying against the powerful education unions
  • Rodney Hide – 4.0/10 – his imploding caucus
  • Georgina te Hehheu – 2.5/10 – what does she do?
  • Pansy Wong – 2.0/10 – even before she quit, they say she had sunk without trace

Rising Backbenchers

  • Craig Foss – favoured to narrowly beat his Hawke’s Bay colleague into Cabinet
  • Hekia Parata – a strong showing in Mana, and in her previous career
  • Chester Borrows – a solid Chairman of Justice & Electoral Committee
  • Amy Adams – has shone in the House

The Success Stories

  • The tax switch
  • A stable Government
  • Law & Order

Disasters and Pressure Points

  • The economy
  • The environment
  • Natural disasters

Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree, any additions you would make, and where?

The most obvious omission to me is Tony Ryall in the top of the class. I doubt a single MP would say he is not up there.

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