Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

June public polls

July 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From Curia’s monthly newsletter:

Curia’s Polling Newsletter – Issue 86, June 2015

There was one political voting poll in June – a Roy Morgan.

The average of the public polls has National 24% ahead of Labour in June, up 3% from May. The current seat projection is centre-right 63 seats, centre-left 48 which would see a National-led Government.

In the United States Donald Trump has shot to 2nd place in the Republican field. Clinton’s approval rating continues to decline, and Obama’s foreign policy approval is also declining.

In the UK David Cameron has positive approval at the start of his second term. Current views on the EU are 51% want the UK to remain, 31% leave and 17% undecided.

In Australia a large fall in approval ratings for Bill Shorten, so he now lags behind Tony Abbott.

In Canada with less than four months to go until the federal election, the NDP have taken a dramatic lead in the polls, and could end up forming the government for the first time since they formed in 1961.

The normal three tables are provided comparing the country direction sentiment, head of government approval and opposition leader approval sentiment for the five countries.

We also carry details of polls on trust in occupations plus the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues, please go to to subscribe yourself.


The poll average for the last three years is below.


Bit of a trend for Labour.


Herald on UN Security Council

July 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealand campaigned long and hard for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Now that our turn has come to chair the council for a month, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says we will put at the top of our agenda an attempt to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Nobody can accuse him of picking the easy ones.

Indeed. It will be amazing if we can make a breakthrough – but worth trying.

But our diplomats will be under no illusions of how difficult it will be to interest Israel in a UN initiative. The UN is regarded with resentment and contempt among conservative Israelis who seem to be the majority these days.

Not just conservative Israelis. The UN is incredibly biased against Israel.

As things stand in the Middle East, Israel has the upper hand and is enjoying relative calm while Islamist terror wracks the surrounding states. Attention is off the West Bank settlements and conditions in Gaza. Israelis who now believe permanent siege is their only possible security are content with the status quo. It will be hard to convince them to try yet again for genuine peace.

It’s not the Israelis you need to convince of peace. They’d like nothing more. It is the Palestinians that have rejected pretty much every peace proposal over 40 years. They’ve been offered territory equal to the 1967 boundaries, and even part of Jerusalem. They’ve been offered their own state.  But they insist on a “right of return” to Israel which would mean the effective destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

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Greece votes No

July 6th, 2015 at 6:48 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Greeks have voted overwhelmingly “No” in a historic bailout referendum, partial results show, defying warnings from across Europe that rejecting new austerity terms for fresh financial aid would set their country on a path out of the euro.

With nearly a fifth of the votes counted, official figures showed 60.4 per cent of Greeks on course to reject a bailout offer from creditors that was the official issue of the ballot.

The figures showed the Yes vote drew 40.1 per cent. An official projection of the final result is expected this morning (NZT).

This is the right result. Greece needs to effectively declare bankruptcy, default on its debts, and start again with new lesser value currency.

Officials from the Greek government, which had argued that a “no” vote would strengthen its hand to secure a better deal from international creditors after months of wrangling, immediately said they would try to restart talks with European partners.

“The negotiations which will start must be concluded very soon, even within 48 hours,” Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greek television.” We will undertake every effort to seal it soon.”

Euclid Tsakalotos, the Government’s chief negotiator said talks could restart as early as Sunday evening.

They’re dreaming or lying. There is no path forward now with the creditors.

Just as Greece has every right to declare the terms on which more money was offered to them to be unacceptable, other countries have every right to stop lending them money. Borrowing money is a privilege, not a right, for countries.


An English Parliament?

July 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The UK has developed a distressing habit of making significant constitutional changes for partisan political reasons. Last term it was the Tories’ attempt to equalise the size of electorates – a move which would have improved their electoral system but was driven purely by an effort to shaft the Labour party. That was defeated – the LibDems decided it wasn’t in their partisan political interest for UKanians to have an equal voice in Parliament

Parties tend to promote electoral change that benefits them – hence Labour wanting to get rid of the one seat threshold in Parliament now, but not when it helped them (and National not wanting to).

Hence the best way to assess change is not on whether it benefits the part promoting it (fine to point out their motives) but whether it makes things fairer.

The current UK boundaries are effectively gerrymandered – they are vastly different sizes, so some seats have far more electors than others.

The UK boundaries should be like the NZ boundaries – required to be the same size within a small tolerance.

this term we have “English Votes for English Laws” aka “preventing Scottish MPs from voting on things”.

As with equal sized electorates, there’s a reasonable argument underlying it: the UK has devolved a lot of policy to the Scottish Parliament, so why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on matters which only affect England?

The simple answer is they shouldn’t. Scotland can’t have it both ways with only Scottish MPs deciding matters on the Scottish NHS yet Scottish MPs also voting on the English NHS.

But the real driver is the desire of the Conservative party – which dominates in England – to lock Labour out of power forever, combined with some pretty toxic English supremacism. Because what EVEL actually means is that in order to govern in practice – that is, enact its policies – a party would not to win not only the confidence of parliament as a whole, but also of English members – basically, an “English veto” on government, forever. England uber alles!

Not really. If a Government had a majority of all MPs, but not a majority of English MPs, they could still pass their Budget, run all the ministries, and pass laws relating to the UK as a whole. They would only not be able to pass laws (without gaining votes from the opposition) that relate to England only. And that is as it should be.

The core problem here is that, for historical reasons, Westminster effectively does double duty as both the UK and English Parliament. But the solution to this isn’t self-serving changes to standing orders to diminish the role of Scottish MPs and make it clear that they are a subject people, but a fully devolved English Parliament with powers equal to the Scottish one.

Here I agree – this is the logical solution. Have a federal system with four devolved Parliaments, and a UK Parliament (and Government).

As for the solution, the SNP is threatening a legal challenge, which will of course fail due to Parliamentary Privilege. Which leaves them with the other option: walk. If the Tories want England, let them have it. At least Scotland can be free.

Many (not most) Tories would like Scotland to walk.

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Greece should vote no and leave the Euro

July 4th, 2015 at 11:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands of Greeks staged rival rallies on Friday (Saturday NZ time) ahead of a weekend referendum that may decide the country’s future in Europe’s single currency, with polls showing voters almost evenly split.

At least 20,000 people turned out at each rally, at the end of a week of high drama following the government’s rejection of an aid deal with international creditors and the closure of banks.

With Greeks asked to decide whether to accept or reject the tough terms of the bailout, three opinion polls had the ‘Yes’ vote narrowly ahead; a fourth put the ‘No’ camp 0.5 percent in front, but all were well within the margin of error.

Will the polls be right?

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras exhorted Greeks to reject the deal, dismissing warnings from Greece’s European partners that to do so may see the country leave the euro zone, with unforeseeable consequences for Greece, Europe and the global economy.

In a televised address, Tsipras said a report by the International Monetary Fund which argued that Greece’s massive public debt could not be sustained without significant writedowns vindicated his advice to reject the lenders’ terms.

Repeating his assault on European partners he accused of blackmailing and issuing ultimatums to Greece, the leftist leader called for calm ahead of Sunday’s ballot.

“On Sunday what is at stake is not Greece’s membership of Europe, what is at stake is whether blackmail will lead us to accept the continuation of a policy which the lenders themselves recognise is a dead end,” he said.

“On Sunday what is at stake is whether we will give our consent to the slow death of the economy.”

Tsipras is lying. If Greece votes no, they will leave the Euro and possibly the EU.

But they should leave the Euro. Monetary union only really works if you have fiscal union also. If they accept the bailout terms, they will get some debt written off, but they will be struggling for decades to come. Sometimes it is better to go bankrupt, and start new.

So they shouldn’t vote No so they get better terms from the IMF and others. They won’t. They should vote No to go bankrupt, and start afresh with a new currency.


The food police

July 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

In a move that has fired up parents, teachers in the UK have won the right to inspect pupils’ lunchboxes and confiscate unhealthy snacks.

“Schools have common law powers to search pupils, with their consent, for items,” Schools Minister Lord Nash said.

“There is nothing to prevent schools from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their school food policies.

“A member of staff may confiscate, keep or destroy such items found as a result of the search if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances.”

But not everyone agreed.

Iain Austin, a Labour member of the Commons education committee, said: “With Britain tumbling down the international league tables and with a generation entering the work force with less literacy and numeracy than the generation retiring, you would have thought that teachers might have better things to do than rummage through children’s crisps and fruit.”

The row over packed lunches erupted after Cherry Tree Primary in Colchester banned junk food.

Outraged parents said this was unfair because the school’s menu offered “unhealthy” food including high sugar desserts like pancakes, cookies and mousse.

Vikki Laws, 28, said her daughter – six-year-old Tori – was not allowed to eat her sausage snack. It was confiscated and returned at the end of the day with a note from teachers. She said another parent was warned not to give her child Scotch eggs.

For f**k’s sake. The food gestapo inspecting your children’s lunch boxes to see if they personally approve of what you have given your kids to eat. Why stop there – send the teachers into their homes, to approve their dinners and breakfasts also.


RIP Sir Nicholas Winton

July 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Time Magazine reports:

“Britain’s Schindler” stepped up to save children while the world was burning

What if the only way you can be good is to be great? There are moments in history when people are confronted by moral choices so stark that they either have to take risks or turn away. In 1938 it became clear that the Jewish children of Europe were marked for extinction. All across the world, people came to know this shocking truth. And all across the world, people did what we all do—they turned the page of the paper, took another sip of coffee, shook their heads at the tragedy of it all.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who died Wednesday at the age of 106, realized the threat while traveling through Czechoslovakia. Great turning points in human history do not take place in public but in a secret chamber in the hearts of human beings. The heart must be awake before the dramatic action. Winton, a Jew by descent who had been raised as a Christian, decided that he could not simply shake his head and drink his coffee and know that these children would die. His heart woke; he decided to be good by being great.

Winton arranged trains to carry children from Nazi-occupied Prague to Britain. He became the “one-man children’s section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.” His plans were ambitious: He drew up lists of thousands of children and persuaded families to accept these refugee children.

So many people today are alive thanks to him.  But remarkably he told no one about it.

Winton kept quiet about his work, and the truth of his heroism did not come to light for decades. For almost 50 years he was silent until his wife found documents in the attic, and his story was told.

He didn;’t even tell his wife he saved 669 children from extinction. He saw his actions as ordinary.

He will not be forgotten.

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July 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A very good open letter to Murray McCully by 28 NZ legal academics about the situation in Nauru. Some extracts:

As you know, in May and June 2014, five members of the Nauruan parliamentary opposition were suspended indefinitely from Parliament. For more than a year, five out of seven opposition MPs (in a 19 member Parliament) have received no funding or resources and have been unable to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

That’s almost the entire opposition nobbled.

During the course of 2014 and 2015, there have been a number of other significant incursions into the free speech of Nauruan citizens, including a 2014 direction from government to local media not to speak to members of the opposition, a May 2015 government directive to Nauru’s only internet service provider to block Nauruan citizens’ access to Facebook, and a May 2015 amendment to Nauru’s Criminal Code introducing a vaguely worded offence that punishes speech which has the “intent to stir up … political hatred”.

This is banana republic stuff. Stirring up political hatred is code for criticising the Government. And no Government should tell ISPs what to block, let alone Facebook.

The dismantling of an effective judicature together with the silencing of the media, opposition and even ordinary citizens on Facebook means that the government of Nauru is now virtually immune from scrutiny of its actions.


The five suspended MPs have also had their passports cancelled so that they cannot travel outside of Nauru – a denial of the right to freedom of movement recognised at international law.


Over the past 18 months, you have expressed publicly on several occasions your concern about these developments and have undertaken to raise various issues with the Nauruan government. Nothing has come of this “softly softly” approach and the time for a more forceful approach has arrived. As you have previously acknowledged in relation to Nauru, there is a close connection between democracy and the rule of law, and the effective operation of the justice system. It is not tenable for New Zealand to continue in its role of principal funder of Nauru’s justice sector while democracy and the rule of law are in such disarray and while so many basic human rights are being denied. As well, given our historical ties to Nauru and our position as a Pacific neighbour, New Zealand owes it to the citizens of Nauru to do everything it can to encourage its government to restore democracy and the rule of law.

And it is in our sphere of influence.

1.    Make urgent representations to the government of Nauru in respect of its persistent breaches of human rights and its disregard for the rule of law and parliamentary democracy;

2.    Persuade the government of Nauru to:

  • revoke its decision to cancel the passports of opposition MPs;
  • lift the suspension of opposition MPs;
  • restore freedom of expression and other civil and political rights;
  • and refrain from further interferences with the operation of the justice system;

3.    If Nauru does not move swiftly to take remedial action, withdraw New Zealand funding from Nauru’s Department of Justice and Border Control.

The time for talk is past. Give them three months otherwise the funding stops. We should not prop up authoritarian governments.

UPDATE: McCully is seeking a meeting with the Nauru Government. Good, but we need more than a meeting.


The other defaulting countries

July 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Greece has defaulted on it IMF payments. So have three other countries. Know which they are?

Zimbabwe (2001), Somalia (1987) and Sudan (1984).

For an OECD member and fully developed economy to be in the company of those three countries say a lot about how monumentally badly their country has been managed.


Left has won only one out of the last 13 European elections

July 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

These are challenging times for Europe’s centre-left parties.

Since last year’s European parliament elections, where the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) emerged as the largest bloc, there have been 13 parliamentary and presidential elections in the EU. Of these, the centre-left has won only one – in Sweden.

Following the ousting of Denmark’s centre-left government last Thursday, only a third of the EU’s population of 503 million is now led by a centre-left head of government or state. Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Malta, Slovakia and Sweden are the only EU members that are on the centre-left.

France won’t be for long. Hollande is toast.



Textor on restating centre-right beliefs

July 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Mark Textor writes in the AFR:

Even outside of partisan party politics, enhanced by media megaphones, a shouting match is going on between a very few. Like many fights, most decent people are silently walking away to avoid it.

Most want the false and divisive constructs of politics to go away: Christian versus non-Christian, middle class versus others, country versus city, indigenous versus non-indigenous, bosses versus workers.

Promoting these suit the shock jocks on the right and outrage merchants on the left looking for micro audience-based sales. I find that this is leading many decent-minded conservative centrists to question their beliefs.

A modern alternative affirmation of conservatism is needed for those who have walked away from the shouting. Here’s a new one for them:

Textor’s statements are:

  1. We respect the continuity, strength and certainty that the rule of law and our constitution brings.
  2.  Conservatism is about resisting gratuitous change, but not resistance for its own sake.
  3. Our economy must be managed according to the principles of a fair, competitive and open market, but the end point is not the economy itself but a better life.
  4. If you are a citizen of this country, you have equal rights and, yes, equal responsibilities to other citizens and the country.
  5. We will not tolerate the intolerant.
  6. Those who obtain the privilege of leadership; be parental in nature: respectful and aware of true needs of those under your care, but be clear and consistent in your actions.
  7. Work and enterprise brings dignity and the opportunity and vibrancy.
  8. Conservatives conserve important things.

Not a bad list.


Nothing to see here

July 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadists have beheaded two women in Syria for sorcery, an extension of the punishment which is normally reserved for men.

Well I guess that is a form of gender equality!

Many refugees say Isil’s strict rule was welcomed initially as a counter-measure to widespread corruption and banditry as Syria fell apart, but that it is increasingly resented.

A number of people, including teenage boys, have been “crucified” – suspended by their wrists in public but not to death – for failing to observe the Ramadan fast, which began earlier in June.

They really are not into this concept of separation of church and state are they.


If you think it is all the fault of the IMF, then crowd fund Greece!

July 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

A crowdfunding campaign attempting to save troubled Greece from bankruptcy has raised more than €130,000 in just one day – although it still has a long way to go to reach the €1.6bn needed.

The ‘Greek bailout fund’ campaign was started by 29-year-old London-based Thom Feeney, who says Greece would be better letting “the people” decide its fate rather than European ministers.

It has attracted funds from almost 8,000 investors – and is rising by the minute.

“The European Union is home to 503 million people, if we all just chip in a few Euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy,” he writes on crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

“It might seem like a lot but it’s only just over €3 from each European. That’s about the same as half a pint in London. Or everyone in the EU just having a Feta and Olive salad for lunch.”

That’s a great idea. If you think Greece needs to liberated from the IMF and European creditors, bail them out yourself.


Hockey wins vs Fairfax

July 1st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar reports:

TREASURER Joe Hockey has won $200,000 in a defamation case against Fairfax Media.

The Federal Court today decided Fairfax had defamed Mr Hockey with a newsstand poster and two tweets relating to a story it published on May 5, 2014, with the headline ‘Treasurer for Sale’.

They will need to pay Mr Hockey $120,000 in damages for the poster and $80,000 for the tweets.

I’m glad Hockey won. I thought that way Fairfax framed their story was reprehensible.

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Why are taxpayer funded Maori TV journalists on a flotilla?

June 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two New Zealanders have reportedly been detained by the Israeli military after the ship they were on attempted to break a blockade on Gaza.

Maori Television reporter Ruwani Perera and cameraman Jacob Bryant were aboard one of the ships in the Freedom Flotilla III, when it was boarded by Israeli forces, One News reported.

It’s understood the ships are carrying solar panels, medical supplies and other aid items.

The flotilla was trying to breach Israel’s exclusion zone on Gaza, and take supplies to residents on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade has been in force since 2007. 

What has this got to do with Maori TV? Shouldn’t they be spending their money on shows like Native Affairs, not being activists in the Middle East?

Maori TV is funded by the taxpayer. They risk a backlash if they spend their funding on stunts like this.

A reader has sent me a summary of what no less a person that Sir Geoffrey Palmer found over the Gaza blockade:

The UN-commissioned ‘[Sir Geoffrey] Palmer Report’ regarding the Gaza Flotilla Incident of 2010 deemed the naval blockade by Israel to be a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and to protect the Israeli population. The report stated that “people may, of course, freely express their views by peaceful protest. But to deliberately seek to breach a blockade in a convoy with a large number of passengers is in the view of the Panel a dangerous and reckless act. It involves exposing a large number of individuals to the risk that force will be used to stop the blockade and people will be hurt.”

 The Palmer Report goes on to recommend that “Attempts to breach a lawfully imposed naval blockade place the vessel and those on board at risk. Where a State becomes aware that its citizens or flag vessels intend to breach a naval blockade, it has a responsibility to take pro-active steps compatible with democratic rights and freedoms to warn them of the risks involved and to endeavour to dissuade them from doing so.”

So a state owned television station is sending its staff into a highly dangerous situation.

Some issues for Maori TV:

  1. Māori TV has put its staff’s lives in imminent danger. Māori TV staff are on-board the Marianne av Göteborg on official Māori TV business. Deliberate attempts to breach a lawful blockade represent dangerous and reckless acts that could result in people being hurt. A previous attempt to breach the naval blockade of Gaza resulted in nine deaths;

  2. Māori TV’s participation in the flotilla likely breaches its obligations under both the current Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the proposed Health & Safety Reform Bill exposing its directors and the company to unnecessary risk and exposure;

  3. Māori TV’s participation in the flotilla is inconsistent with Māori TV’s stated purpose. There is no clear link between the flotilla and Māori language or culture.

  4. Māori TV staff risk breaking international law through its willing participation in an illegal act. The United Nations has declared the naval blockade of Gaza as being legal and legitimate. Under international law, violation of a lawful blockade constitutes unlawful activity.

I’be long been a supporter of Maori TV and their funding. If they keep doing stuff like this, I’ll be joining the ranks calling for their funding to be diverted elsewhere for public broadcasting.

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Grexit almost here

June 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In many ways, Tsipras’ administration is caught in a bind of its own making. He swept to power after elections in January on the strength of campaign promises that many critics warned were irreconcilable.

“They’ve developed a narrative of ‘We can have our cake and eat it. We can be in the Eurozone and end austerity,’ ” said Kevin Featherstone, an expert on Greece at the London School of Economics.

They put power ahead of their country. They knew they couldn’t deliver.

They also know that expulsion of Greece from the Eurozone would call into question the whole idea of the EU. The euro is intended to serve as perhaps the most potent symbol of European amity and unity after a century of war and division; indeed, nations wishing to join the EU must commit to adopting the currency. Eurozone membership is supposed to be irreversible.

A Greek exit from the euro would explode that idea, and could start unravelling the project of greater European integration.

And investors would have grounds to fear that other, larger countries could also abandon the euro in tough times. Trust in the common currency could evaporate.

The lesson here is monetary policy and fiscal policy have to work together. You can have common currency, if you have a common fiscal policy. But you can not have a common monetary policy, if countries such as Greece just continually spend more than they earn.

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All Popes are anti-capitalist

June 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter is excited that Pope Benedict has attack capitalism:

Pope Francis, like his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, is challenging the powerful to see the world through new eyes. The question, now, is whether the powerful will embrace this radical pope, or destroy him?

The fate of St Francis would have been grim, had the then occupant of the papal throne, Innocent III, not recognised in his charismatic power a force of huge potential benefit to the Catholic Church.

By extending his protection to Francis and his followers, Innocent allowed them to open a new pathway for the faithful. Pope Francis, in his first encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise Be), presents global capitalism with a similar choice. Either, brand this radical pope a heretic and destroy him, or, embrace his radical Christian ecologism as a uniquely effective way of re-presenting capitalism to an increasingly hostile world.

Almost every senior religious figure is anti-capitalism. That is why they are in religion, not business.

While Popes have differed in their views on social issues, on economic issues they have all denounced unfettered capitalism regularly.

Pope John Paul II spoke of capitalism having viruses of consumerism and materalism.

The arch conservative Pope Benedict spoke of the failures of capitalism.

So basically a Pope attacking capitalism is about as news worthy as a public health activist promoting a new tax. Not much.

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An Australian union ad

June 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m told this is not a parody, but a serious ad by an Australian Trade Union that doesn’t think it should give up control of the Labor Party.


Global inequality dropping

June 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Noah Smith writes:

Tomas Hellbrandt of the Bank of England and Paolo Mauro of the International Monetary Fund show in a new working paper that global inequality is falling, as poor countries power ahead. The global Gini coefficient – a standard measure of income inequality – is falling fast. In 2003 the coefficient was 69 (with 0 being perfect equality and 100 being perfect inequality). In 2013 it was down to 65. If current trends continue, it is on course to reach 61 by 2035.

So inequality may be increasing within some countries, but over humanity as a whole, the gap between rich and poor is closing.

The reason for this is what free trade and capitalism have done to countries like China and India, with hundreds of millions rising out of poverty.

So around the world, a rising tide is lifting all boats, and it’s lifting the boats at the bottom faster than the boats at the top. This is really an extremely good, successful outcome (though it would have been nice to see this happen without the increase in inequality within some countries).

A nice break from the gloom and doom.

It’s important to realise is that this is a recent phenomenon. For a long time, the opposite was happening. In 1988, for example, economic historian Brad DeLong showed that the poor countries of the world had mostly failed to catch up to the rich countries since 1870. The former colonial powers of Western Europe, the US and Japan were zooming ahead, with the former colonies either being left in the dust or struggling just to keep pace.

So we may be seeing something like a global Kuznets Curve. In the early stages of global growth, rich countries – and the rich people in them – zoom ahead of the pack, but eventually the masses catch up. If the forces that move inequality really are global in nature, then it means that capitalism and trade really are a force for good. It means that we don’t really face a tradeoff between wealth and inequality in the long run. And it implies that once the poor countries have done some more catching up, inequality will begin to fall within countries, too.

The new data, and the global Kuznets narrative, also destroy the idea that the wealth of rich countries is based on the exploitation of poor countries. Capitalism is not colonialism after all. Most of our global wealth is created by trade and industriousness, not plundered or extracted by force. The world isn’t a zero-sum game.

That is the most vital thing to remember.


Abbott vs the ABC

June 25th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

TONY Abbott has continued to apply pressure on the ABC this morning, as the furore over its decision to allow a former terrorism suspect on Q&A shows no signs of dying down.

During an interview on Today, the Prime Minister was unrelenting in his criticism of the ABC, which yesterday said it “made an error in judgement” for allowing Zaky Mallah to confront federal MPs on Q&A without any security checks.

That admission does not seem to have satisfied the ABC’s critics. According to The Australian, Mr Abbott has told the Liberal partyroom he will consider a government-wide boycott of Q&A.

“We all know that Q&A is a lefty lynch mob and we will be looking at this and we will bring something back when we return,” he reportedly told angry MPs.

The Australian Q&A is extremely biased, and good to see MPs calling it out.

Mallah was charged in 2003 of planning a suicide attack. He basically got off on a technicality but was convicted of threatening officials. He has been in Syria, and has published guides on how Australians can help the war in Syria. There has been a huge backlash to them having him in the audience for Q&A, in which he said because of the Liberal Govt, people should go and join ISIL.

When asked about the report on Today this morning, Mr Abbott repeated his concerns that the broadcaster had given a national platform, and even a global platform, to Mallah.

He said it was interesting that when Mallah was sentenced in 2005, the judge was critical of the platform the media had given to him.

“Now of course our supposed national broadcaster is giving a platform to someone who hates us, who hates our way of life, supports the terrorists that would do us harm,” he said.

“The issue for the ABC, our national broadcaster, is whose side are you on?

“Because all too often the ABC seems to be on everyone’s side but Australia’s.”

The fact taxpayers are forced to fund the ABC is galling for many Australians.

As a contrast read this account from Tim Blair:

A couple of years ago the Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine was invited to be a particular week’s token conservative on the ABC’s Q & A program.

Concerned she would face the usual anti-conservative hostility from the show’s live audience and fellow guests, Miranda called to ask if I might join the audience to offer some support.

Naturally, I agreed. As did another friend, Caroline Overington, then working for The Australian. So Miranda contacted Q & A‘s producers to tell them she had a couple of mates coming along, and asked if tickets could be provided.

That’s when the trouble began.

Q & A insisted Overington and I could only watch the show from the secure confines of the ABC’s backstage green room, where we would presumably be monitored for any signs of rebellion. Apparently the show was worried that if we were left unattended in the crowd, we might cause an insurgency.

It took several assurances from Miranda that we wouldn’t provoke an uprising before the ABC relented and allowed us to quietly view the program among other Q & A audience members.

Of course, as we now know, the entire issue could have been avoided if instead of being dangerous conservatives we had previously pleaded guilty to threatening to kill ASIO officials, supported an Islamic caliphate and believed in martyrdom for the Muslim cause.

Such double standards.


Abortion and Downs

June 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Renate Lindeman writes at Stuff:

Upon delivering my first child 11 years ago, I heard the words “Down syndrome”, and my world collapsed. Visions of children sitting passively in a corner watching life go by, not participating, kept me awake those first nights as a mum.

It didn’t take me long, though, to figure out that my ideas were based on negative, outdated information that had nothing to do with the reality of life with Down syndrome today.

My daughter April is an active, outgoing girl. She’s my nature child, wildly passionate about anything with four legs. Although April uses few words, she’s a master communicator. Through her, I’ve learned that Down syndrome is not the scary, terrible condition it’s made out to be.

But while governments (rightly) ban gender selection, selective abortion continues to be encouraged for children with Down syndrome. In the United States and abroad, screenings are a routine part of healthcare programmes, and the result is the near-elimination of these children.

When pregnant with my daughter Hazel, tests showed she, too, would be born with Down syndrome. I was shocked when an acquaintance asked me why I did not choose abortion – as if she were a mistake that could be easily erased.

Although my personal prejudices have radically changed since the birth of my first daughter with Down syndrome, I realised that negative attitudes about the condition remain deeply rooted.

To many, my children and their cohort are examples of avoidable human suffering, as well as a financial burden. Knowing that individuals look at my daughters this way hurts, but seeing governments and medical professionals worldwide reinforce these prejudices by promoting selection is horrendous.

I think it is entirely a good thing if parents know in advance if the foetus, once born, will have Down syndrome. It allows them to make an informed decision.

That decision would be a very difficult and torturous one. I wouldn’t judge any people in this situation who have to make such a decision.

The unspoken but obvious message is that Down syndrome is something so unworthy that we would not want to wish it for our children or society.

I don’t read it like that. It is one of many conditions that can make life very very difficult for both the future child, and parents. Just like if you knew someone would be born with no limbs.

A 2013 study reports that parents are 2.5 times more likely to have a negative experience on receiving the initial Down syndrome diagnosis than to have a positive one.

Umm, would anyone have a positive experience?

The irony is that for a baby with Down syndrome born today, the outlook has never been better. Medical and social advances have radically changed what it means to live with Down syndrome.

Most people with Down syndrome are included in schools and communities. They live healthier, longer lives, and many adults live independently, have jobs and enjoy a rich social life. In 2013 a young woman with Down syndrome became Spain’s first councillor.

One study showed that the majority of people with Down syndrome report being happy and fulfilled, regardless of their functional skills.

This is why Downpride is calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to stop systematic screening for Down syndrome as part of public-health programmes and to regulate the introduction of prenatal genetic testing – testing should be used to enhance health and human wellbeing instead of discriminating against people based on their genetic predisposition.


I disagree respectfully.  I think an informed choice is a useful thing.


More debunking of The Spirit Level

June 23rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Christopher Snowdon blogs:

Five years ago, in May 2010, I published The Spirit Level Delusion in response to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level which was being widely read at the time. Using similar scatter-plots to those used in The Spirit Level, I showed that most of the statistical associations between inequality and social problems that were reported by the authors were the result of selection bias. This was certainly true of the key assertion that income inequality causes poor health and shorter life expectancies (leading to the claim that “inequality kills”).

As shown in The Spirit Level, this is the relationship between income inequality and life expectancy. There is a modest (r2=0.20) correlation, with the less equal countries appearing to have shorter life expectancies.

But …

But, as I said in my rebuttal, the data used by Wilkinson and Pickett for this graph were peculiarly old. Indeed, I got my first hint that all was not as it seemed in The Spirit Level when I turned to the references and noticed that the authors used life expectancy figures from a 2006 report for one graph but used figures from a 2004 report for the graph shown above. Using the more recent figures weakens an already weak relationship, but a more fundamental problem was the exclusion of several countries from their analysis. Wilkinson and Pickett provide a justification for only studying rich countries in The Spirit Level, but there are a number of rich countries that are needlessly excluded. When those countries are added and the data from the 2006 report used, a rather different picture emerges, as the graph below shows:

This them shows a correlation in the opposite direction with r2=0.26. So the authors cherry picked their countries to get the result they wanted. However what if you use up to date data with their original cherry picked countries:

Since it’s been five years since my rebuttal was published, I decided to look at the most recent life expectancy statsand see how The Spirit Level was holding up. The results are interesting. Even if you limit the analysis to The Spirit Level’s questionable group of countries, the association with inequality has completely disappeared (r2=0.02). This remains true if you include the countries added above and if you use different measures of inequality.

That is coefficient of determination very close to zero.

Will the authors publish a revised edition?

It seems that the relationship between inequality and life expectancy only holds when we use data from early in the last decade and arbitrarily exclude a number of countries. It fails the basic scientific test of reproducibility. A law that only works under certain circumstances and in certain years is no law at all.

The fact that a correlation no longer exists even when we confine the analysis to the countries that were specially selected in The Spirit Level does not leave much wriggle room for the book’s authors. It is difficult to exaggerate to importance of the supposed link between life expectancy and inequality to The Spirit Level’s argument.


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SMH calls on Shorten to go

June 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The SMH editorial:

The position of Bill Shorten as federal Labor leader is becoming untenable. The latest revelations of his union past published by Fairfax Media on Wednesday afternoon raise further doubts and questions about his suitability as alternative prime minister.

Mr Shorten should respond to the questions immediately, in full, rather than wait until he fronts the royal commission into trade union corruption in late August.

The Opposition Leader should also reflect on the damage his continued leadership is doing to Labor, and as such to the interests of the people he claims to represent.

As long as the Australian Workers Union stain lingers and/or grows, Labor cannot hope to win an election next September, let alone a snap poll that Prime Minister Tony Abbott may well call to capitalise on the Shorten malaise.

Last week Fairfax Media identified tens of thousands of dollars of largely unexplained employer payments to the AWU’s Victorian branch from January 2004 to late 2007. Mr Shorten was state secretary from 1998 and federal secretary from 2001 to 2007.

The evidence is that the AWU made deals that were good for the AWU bank balance, rather than good for the workers it claimed to represent.

The fine print in documents lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission and AWU bank records show the giant builder Thiess John Holland paid Mr Shorten’s union nearly $300,000 after he struck a landmark workplace deal that saved the company as much as $100 million on the Melbourne Eastlink tollway project.

The deal was hugely favourable to the employer, just like other deals struck by the AWU during Mr Shorten’s reign. Some deals involved payments to the AWU, or the payment of member’s dues. The AWU struck agreements with companies when it suited the union’s political purpose, which was to bolster membership. This allowed the AWU to assert its dominance over rival unions and bolster the power of its leaders in the Labor party’s corrupted, undemocratic structure.

Neither unions nor companies should get a vote in political parties. Political parties should be for individuals. Having unions decide who your leader is, incentivises such behaviour.

Despite his claims to have zero tolerance of corruption in Labor, Mr Shorten has done too little to reform the party structure, which delivers unions like the AWU disproportionate influence and operates on dirty factional deals.

Mr Shorten could shrug some of this off if voters had warmed to him. While the Labor leader in person is a smart and charismatic man with good ideas, he remains approved by only 41 per cent of voters, the Fairfax-Ipsos poll says. The latest revelations over his AWU past also came a day after he had been caught out playing bad politics, as the Greens and the government compromised on pension reform.

The coming days will determine whether Mr Shorten, the ultimate political operative, can find the numbers to survive. The damage being done in the meantime is a big price for voters and Labor to pay.

Earlier this year Abbott looked terminal. Now Shorten is the one facing extinction.

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This will make Boris even more popular

June 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

He’s the mayor of London – but he has a mouth like a sailor.

Boris Johnson told a cabbie who was heckling him to “f– off and die” in a late-night tirade caught on camera.

The mayor, wearing a distinctive yellow cycling helmet, stopped his bike to give as good as he got with the cabbie. 

“You’re one of them mate, that’s what you are, one of them,” the cabbie tells the mayor.

“Why don’t you f— off and die, why don’t you f— off and die – and not in that order,” the Johnson shoots back.

As the cabbie drives off he yells, “Yeah bollocks, I hope you die – screaming!”

Classic Boris. This is why people love him.

The row may have been sparked because the passing driver felt Johnson wasn’t doing enough to protect city’s famous black cab industry from competition from Uber, the Sun reported.

The job of politicians should be to promote competition, not to try and protect industries from it.


Australian Labor defending welfare for millionaires

June 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald Sun reports:

LABOR has been left the lone champion of millionaire welfare recipients after a landmark deal was stuck last night between government and the Greens to redirect pensions to the poor.

More than 170,000 of Australia’s poorest pensioners will have their pension increased by $30 a fortnight in the wake of the decision.

So Labor was against giving poor pensioners more and rich pensioners less!

The government will cut the eligibility threshold for the part pension from $1.15 million in assets, on top of the family home, to $823,000.

More than 90,000 part pensioners, with assets more than $823,000 on top of the family home, would lose the part pension while 236,000 would have it reduced.

The pension rises have been achieved by the current taper rate of $1.50 per $1000 reverting back to $3, which had been in force for 15 years until the Howard government changed it in 2007.

Labor wanted to keep millionaire retirees on the part pension rather than direct savings to the poor.

The party of the working class!

Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said Labor had gone from being the “workers party” to the “welfare party”.

What a great line.