Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

The US and China agreement on carbon emissions

November 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve often said that any progress on greenhouse gas emissions has to include the ten largest emitters, and especially China and the US who are responsible for 40% of global emissions.

Hence the recent agreement between Obama and Xi is significant. Obama has said the US will reduce its 2025 emissions to 28% below its 2005 level. Xi has said China will peak its emissions by 2030.

The agreement is not legally binding, and Obama has only two years left in office. But it provides an opportunity for a global agreement, which will include all the major emitters.

However setting a date for China to peak is not the same as setting a level at which they may peak. The US has agreed to a cut of 2 gigatons by 2025, while China is forecast to increase by 8 gigatons. And China’s per capita emissions are already higher than the EU.


Miliband least popular UK leader in a generation

November 14th, 2014 at 8:49 am by David Farrar


This polling graphic from the Daily Mail shows how unpopular Ed Miliband is compared to other leaders just before an election.

The Conservatives should lose the election, as they trail in the polls. But there is a widespread belief that Miliband is unelectable.

Of interest is that the UK Labour Party use much the same method to elect their leader as the NZ Labour Party. Miliband has little support from his caucus, but won the union vote.


Differences between New Zealand and US politics

November 9th, 2014 at 10:57 am by kiwi in america

With David still gone and travelling and with the US elections fresh, I am posting a comparison between the US and New Zealand political systems that answer many of the questions I get from puzzled kiwis about the marvelously complex American political system

Head of State


The President is the Head of State.

New Zealand

The nominal Head of State is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd of the United Kingdom [EDIT – I have disrespected the Queen by not giving her her full title – Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith – thanks Lindsay]  who administers her official duties through Her appointed representative in NZ known as the Governor General. The Governor General’s post is an appointed position for a set term usually of five years and the appointment is made by the Prime Minister of the day. The office of GG is a largely ceremonial as is the Queen’s modern role. The Head of State in the Westminster Parliamentary system officially opens Parliament, reads the Speech from the Throne (given to him or her by the PM) and signs all Acts of Parliament into law (known as the Royal Assent).


The Executive is the Government or those individuals who collectively are called the Cabinet and who head the key government departments. The most senior leader of the Government and thus the leader of the country is the Prime Minister or the President.

New Zealand

The Cabinet in NZ comes out of the Legislature or Parliament. They are the senior members of the party that has sufficient members in the Parliament to form a government. In National Party governments, the Cabinet members are chosen by the Prime Minister whilst Labour governments their Cabinets are elected by the caucus and the portfolios are allocated by the PM. The Prime Minister is the leader of the governing party in Parliament – in National’s case elected by the caucus and in Labour’s case elected by a combining votes from the caucus (40%), the party membership (40%) and the affiliated trade unions (20%). NZ Cabinet Ministers are located in one building known as the Beehive and meet regularly as a Cabinet on Monday mornings.


The Executive in the US is entirely separate from the Legislature. The President is elected by the popular vote of the people at Presidential elections via the Electoral College. The composition of the Electoral College comprises of electors from each state representing the total number Congressmen and Senators from that State. In almost all cases, the candidate for President that wins a simple plurality of votes from that State garners the Electors from that State (exceptions are Nebraska and Maine who allocate electoral votes proportionately). Once elected the President appoints his or her Cabinet but each appointment must be confirmed by the Senate. Cabinet appointees tend to be current or former senior politicians from the President’s own party or prominent people from business, academia or other areas of public service. US Cabinet members offices are in their respective Departmental head office buildings and meetings of the President’s full Cabinet are rare; the President usually preferring one on one briefings with each Cabinet member who are known by the title Secretary (the Foreign Minister equivalent is called the Secretary of State).



The US operates a bi-cameral legislature comprising of the lower house called the House of Representatives and the upper house called the Senate. Up until 1913, the size of the House of Representatives grew based on the population growth of each 10 year (decennial) US census. Since 1913 the size of the House of Representatives was capped at 435 members and has not grown in size since. However the relative strengths of each state’s congressional delegation is adjusted after each Census based on what percentage of the overall population that state comprises thus high growth states in the south and west will be allocated new Congressional districts at the expense of states mostly in the east and mid-west whose population is either stagnant or shrinking and they lose Congressional Districts. The Districts are numbered such as Illinois 5th and the representatives are called Congressmen or women. The Senate is comprised of two Senate seats per state regardless of the size of the state so 100 seats.

New Zealand

NZ has a unicameral legislature comprising of just the House of Representatives. Our Upper House (the Legislative Council) was abolished in 1951. Representatives are called Members of Parliament or MPs and comprise of those elected from districts called electorates and those chosen from party lists. The total size of Parliament is determined by the relevant section of the Electoral Act as is currently set at 120 total MPs. The mix between electorate and list MPs is determined by calculating the number of electorates after each 5 yearly census by taking the population of the South Island and dividing it by 16 to determine the new electorate quota. This quota is them applied to the North Island to determine if population growth warrants new electorates. If a census adds 2 new electorates then the number of MPs elected directly from electorates increases by 2 and the number elected from party lists declines by 2. NZ uses a proportional voting system called MMP or Mixed Member Proportional. Voters have two votes: a Party vote to determine who they want to be the government and an Electorate vote to determine who they want as their local MP. The party lists are used to top from MPs elected from electorates to ensure that a particular party’s total number of MPs reflects the percentage of the Party vote that party got. A party must garner 5% of the total Party vote to get members elected unless they managed to win a single electorate seat in which case no threshold applies. If however a party wins more electorate seats than its Party vote percentage would allocate, then those MPs will be added to the total of 120 MPs. This is called an overhang and has happened in a few elections with the Maori Party.


New Zealand

Judges in New Zealand are appointed by the Minister of Justice on recommendation from the Solicitor-General [EDIT – by the Governor General on the advice of the Attorney-General hat tip AG]. Generally speaking District and High Court judge appointments are for no set term and for the judge’s usual working life. NZ judges interpret laws passed by Parliament but cannot make policy. Whilst Parliament is the supreme lawmaking body of the land as it has the sole right to pass legislation, it cannot interfere with any court’s decision unless it chooses to pass legislation on the matter. Judges are never subject to a popular vote.


All Judges for the 11 Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal and the US Supreme Court are appointed by the President but must be confirmed by a majority of Senators but subject to filibuster or an attempt to stall proceedings unless it can be broken by a vote of 60 opposing Senator although part way through the most recent Congress, the Democrat majority changed the Senate rules suspending the filibuster for judicial appointments. Supreme Court appointments are for an unlimited term with resignation at the discretion of the appointed judge or upon their death in office. All State, County and City level judges are appointed by the Governor of the state and are subject to the popular vote each election cycle and a judge that might have a reputation for being too soft on criminals in a conservative area may find him or herself removed from office.

Checks and balances


The US Constitutions created the three arms of government as separate but equal each with the power to check the other. The President checks the Legislature via the ability to veto bills passed by Congress. The Legislature checks the Executive through being the only arm that can initiate legislation, the Senate confirmation process of the Presidential appointments and through the ability with a 2/3rds majority in both Houses to override the veto. Presidential checks on the Judiciary lie in his/her ability to change the ideological composition of the court by appointments. The Judiciary checks the power of both the Executive and the Legislature with its ability to declare legislation or executive orders unconstitutional. The Legislature checks the Judiciary through the confirmation process of judges. Other crucial roles are separated – the President is the Commander in Chief of the military but only Congress has the power to declare war. The President can negotiate international treaties and accords but they must be ratified by the Senate.

New Zealand

NZ has fewer formal checks built into the system and does not have a Constitution that separates the powers of the government in any formal sense and because the Executive comes out of the Legislature. The Legislature exerts limited checks on the power of the Executive. The biggest check is public opinion and the caucus of the governing party who can initiate a vote against the party leader (although in the case of Labour it would be subject to their wider party leader election process). The Judiciary has the power strike down legislation passed by Parliament although such instances tend to be more about interpretation of laws. Because Parliament is sovereign in its law making ability, it can pass laws to clarify matters that the Courts may have ruled on.

The Bureaucracy

New Zealand

NZ has an independent and non-political civil service. Civil servants at all levels are required to be politically neutral and serve the government of the day. Permanent heads of government departments, whilst reporting to their relevant Minister, are appointed by the State Services Commission in a process that the government of the day cannot interfere with. A change of government in New Zealand results in minimal disruption to the day to running of the bureaucracy.


The US bureaucracy is much more politicized. The top three tiers of management of any Department of the Executive are all political appointees who are appointed by the President in consultation with his/her appointed Cabinet Secretary for that Department. These appointees are the eyes and ears of the Administration throughout the bureaucracy and are considered one of the major spoils of winning the White House. When there is a change of Administration, there are usually over 3,000 political appointments that have to be made throughout the Federal Government with a number of first tier management and sensitive legal positions requiring Senate confirmation. A change of Administration has a huge impact on the Federal bureaucracy with many decisions shelved until appointments can be made and key ones confirmed – a process often taking several months. It is the main reason why the new President is not sworn in until usually near the end of January following his/her election in early November.


New Zealand

NZ has had no second tier regional government like states or provinces since the abolition of the provinces in 1876. The next tier of government after the national government is city and regional councils.


The US has 50 states that have unique status amongst nations that have states or provinces. The Constitution enumerates specific powers that the President and the Federal government have – anything outside these specific roles is the preserve of the States. The States preceded the Federal government with the whole notion of American nationhood being founded on it being a Federation of existing States (the 13 original colonies). The Constitution makes provision for the addition of new states the last two being added (Hawaii and Alaska) in 1960. Each State has its own Constitution, its own legislatures, its own Executive (headed by the Governor) and hierarchy of courts that are a microcosm of the Federal system. Each state’s laws can be very different and the Supreme Court often rules on disputes of jurisdiction between State and Federal governments. This is no more apparent than in the vastly differing electoral laws from State to State. Just a few will suffice: some states have lieutenant governors, some don’t – some have only joint tickets whilst others elect the lieutenant governor separately (and can be from an opposing party). Some states require special (by) elections for vacated Federal Congress seats (House or Senate) within specified time frame of the seat being vacated, others grant the sitting Governor the right to appoint an interim Congressman or Senator. Some states are actually called Commonwealths (Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky) and not all call their lower chamber the House or the upper chamber the Senate. Some states term limit their elected officials, others do not. Each state decides which Executive offices are elected and which are appointed.

Election dates/terms


Elections in the US (apart from special or by elections) are always held on the first Tuesday in November and each elected office has a set term. The Presidential term is four years with a term limit of two terms. Each Federal Senate term is for six years with staggered terms so that a third of the Senate members are up for re-election each election cycle. Federal House of Representative terms are for two years. Governors’ terms are for four years. State upper and lower chamber terms are determined by each state but most have two year terms for both. Elections held outside Presidential elections are called mid-term elections. There are no snap elections. The President or a Governor cannot decide when to go to the people – the terms and elections dates are constitutionally mandated.

New Zealand

The normal term of a NZ Parliament is three years and a General Election must be called no later than three years after the last General Election however the Prime Minister of the day at any time can instruct the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and issue writs for a new General Election. There are no legal restrictions to this power proscribed in the Electoral Act however in practice so-called snap elections are usually only called in unusual circumstances. Vacancies (either by death, resignation or conviction of a crime carrying a 2 year or longer sentence of an MP) are handled differently depending on whether the MP was a List or Electorate MP. A List MP vacancy is filled by the relevant party appointing the next person on their party list and that person is sworn in as an MP by the Speaker in the next sitting day of Parliament. Any Electorate MP vacancy six months before a General Election is usually left vacant until the election by convention between the governing party of the day and the Opposition. Any other Electorate MP vacancy is filled by a by-election in that seat fought on the same boundaries as the last General Election with the date of the by-election decided by the Prime Minister.

Electoral boundaries

New Zealand

Boundaries of NZ electorates are re-drawn after each 5 yearly census when the total number of new North Island electorates is determined after applying the so-called South Island quota. A tolerance is set at plus or minus five percent above/below the quota as the outer limit of the population of each new electorate. Any electorate above or below the quota will have to have its boundary redrawn. A body called the Representation Commission redraws the boundaries to incorporate the additional electorate(s) required by population growth arising from the census determination and the same time keeping all new electorates inside the tolerance band. The Representation Commission comprises senior civil servants convened by the Surveyor-General, the Government Statistician, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Chairperson of Local Government Commission and each major political party can appoint a non-voting observer. The Commission takes into account communities of interest when redrawing boundaries. Interim boundaries are released for consultation and submission and parties can suggest minor changes around community of interest grounds that don’t breach the population tolerance.


All district boundaries for the US House and State upper and lower houses are drawn by the States. Almost all states this is done by the partisan legislatures on a simple majority vote while a handful have semi-autonomous bodies somewhat akin to our Representation Commission. As each party in power at the State level seeks to gain the best electoral advantage for their party, it results in a few bizarre shaped electorates that have had boundaries drawn around communities that vote more for the party in power re-drawing the boundaries – so called gerrymandering. The party in control of state legislatures during the ten yearly post-census re-districting process can have a propound impact in some states on their chances of winning House seats.

Campaign financing


Campaign financing in the US is strictly regulated by the Federal Elections Commission or FEC and all donations made by individuals or corporations to candidates must be publicly disclosed. There is a $2,600 individual donation limit per election (primary and general elections are considered separate elections) per candidate and a $32,000 limit on what individuals/corporations can donate to a party per year. There are no limits as to the amounts people or organizations can donate to PACs (Political Action Committees). While PACs are limited to donating $10,000 to individual candidates per election importantly there are no limits on other expenditures such as generic attack ads that don’t promote a particular party or candidate. Candidates for President once nominated by their respective parties can opt for Federal funds for their party’s convention costs ($18 million) and after their party’s convention, for General Election funds capped at $91 million. Candidates can choose to opt out as Obama did in 2008 and 2012 and Romney did in 2012.

New Zealand

Individuals or entities donations to parties over $15,000 must be disclosed by the party and an aggregate of donations over a 12 month period totaling $30,000 must also be disclosed. Individuals or entities can make undisclosed donations to a limit of $50,000 to the Electoral Commission and advise the Commission as to which party it is to go to. The donation limit for individuals donating to a candidate is $1,500 and candidates are restricted to expenditure of $25,700 for a General Election. There is a spending cap of $50,000 on groups or individuals arguing for a positon in Citizens Initiated Referenda. Third party groups seeking to be involved in electioneering with advertising/prompting parties or candidates spending more than $12,500 in advertising must register as a Promoter with the Electoral Commission and show the Promoter’s name and address in advertising material. There is a cap of $308,000 of expenditure by registered Promoters during what is called the regulated period (begins 90 days before the election),


New Zealand

The only primary elections held in New Zealand are those held by the Labour Party since its 2012 Constitutional change allowing party members and unions to join with the caucus in deciding a new leader. There is no restriction on the number of candidates that can stand in an electorate seat meaning few candidates except in safe seats win over 50% of the vote.


Primaries in the US are designed for General Election match ups to be a two horse race ensuring the winner gets a plurality of votes. Because the two major parties are such large board ‘churches’ encompassing conservative and liberal wings, there is intense competition within a party to win the right to be the candidate in the general election. Candidates for office compete against each other for the right to be the party’s nominee and this applies not just for President but for all levels of government from Congress down to county and city races. For races where one party has historically dominated, it is common for the opposing party to only ever have one candidate thus not requiring a primary. At the Presidential level, each state’s primary election process is used to allocate delegates for candidates at the party’s national nominating convention. Some states’ parties award these on a winner takes all basis (the Republican preference) while others allocate delegates proportionately (the Democrat preference – it was how Obama beat Clinton). There are three main ways this is done and each state decides which method is used:

Primary-a secret ballot is conducted on a date chosen by the state party (and approved by the national party) amongst approved participants. Primary voting takes place at the same polling places as general elections and is overseen by neutral county election officials. The winner is by simple plurality. Primaries can be open (any registered voter can participate), partially closed (only registered party members and independents can participate) or closed (only registered party members can vote).

Caucus-this method is only used in Presidential primaries and is only open to people registered to vote for the party holding the caucus. Caucuses are held in an evening from 630pm onwards usually at school halls in designated locations across the state. Each candidate has an advocate at each hall and promotes his/her candidate. After a few short speeches, the candidate representatives take a corner and caucus goers gather to the corner of their preferred candidate. Wooing of voters can go on for hours. The votes for each candidate are tallied and aggregated at the state level.

Jungle primary-no separate pre-general election primary is held and all candidates for all parties stand in the General Election and the two highest voting candidates (regardless of party) face off a few weeks after the general election in what is called a run-off election.

Ballot initiatives/Referenda


Referenda are a frequent part of US elections. These are only held at the state, county and city level and not the federal level. Most are citizens initiated (usually requiring only 5% of registered voters certified by election officials in the jurisdiction) and others are tax or bond related as required by State law to raise sales and other taxes and to authorize the issuing of debt bonds for municipalities, state owned utilities and school districts to raise money for specified projects. Some states the results of referenda are binding on the state legislature who must then pass a law reflecting the sentiment of the passed ballot initiative and it must be signed into law by the Governor. BCIR as they are called enable the general populace of a state to ensure that popular laws vetoed by the governor of a party opposite to that controlling the state legislature can still get such measures passed into law. It is not uncommon to have upwards of 20 ballot initiatives for EACH general election.

New Zealand

NZ has CIR which is triggered when 10% of registered voters, certified by the Clerk of the House, vote to have a particular issue put on the ballot. The government of the day decides the timing of the referendum with most scheduled at the same time as a general election. As a matter of course, the results of a referendum are not binding on the government and indeed NZ governments have a tradition of ignoring the results of CIR. Other referenda are government initiated and revolve around an issue that a political party promised to put to the people. These can be indicative (as in the case of the proportional representation referendum of 1992) designed to see the people’s best choice of a range of options or binding (in the case of the MMP vs FPP referendum of 1993 that saw NZ change to MMP) where two options only are put to the vote with the government of the day committing to pass the results of the referendum into law.


New Zealand

There is no recall provision in NZ.


Various states offer voters at the state, county and city level (either Governor or lower/upper chamber) and concerning local judges the ability to challenge the result of the last election by forcing a special election seeking to oust a particular politician or judge. Recall elections arise over controversial issues that have so inflamed local voters that they are able to get sufficient voters in that jurisdiction to petition to hold a fresh election for that race only. A recall election needs to have a challenger for voters to choose from between them and the incumbent. Recall petitions can be filed by a challenger within the incumbent’s own party or opposing party. If the challenger wins the recall election then they replace the incumbent.

No tag for this post.

Boris backs Kiwis to work in the UK

November 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

London Mayor and parliamentary hopeful Boris Johnson is backing a report by a British think-tank which calls for New Zealanders and Australians to freely live and work in Britain.

Mr Johnson has written a foreword to a Commonwealth Exchange report which calls for Kiwis and Australians to be given the same rights to travel and work in the United Kingdom as people from the European Union. …

It recommended establishing a “bilateral mobility zone” which would allow Kiwis and Aussies to travel and work in Britain and Britons to travel and work reciprocally in those two countries. A similar argument was made for Canada.

Sounds a great idea.

For those who argue NZ would be swamped by British workers, well look at the benefits of CER where we have an open labour market with Australia.

It won’t happen of course, but is a good idea.

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Population proportions under 14 years old

October 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The World Bank has interesting data on what proportion of a country’s population is aged 14 and under.

The smallest are:

  1. Hong Kong 12%
  2. Japan 13%
  3. Germany 13%

The largest are:

  1. Niger 50%
  2. Uganda 48%
  3. Chad 48%
  4. Angola 48%
  5. Afghanistan 47%

NZ has 20% aged under 14.

Those with such high proportions will have both low life expectancy but sadly very high birth rates.

No tag for this post.

A Brand idiot

October 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

UK comedian Russell Brand said people should be “open-minded” about the view that the US government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. 

People should also be open-minded about the view that Russell Brand has an IQ of 45.

In an combative and at times cringe-worthy interview on BBC’s Newsnight, the author and actor said he found the relationship between the families of former US president George W Bush and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden “interesting”.

And next Mr Brand will declare how interesting it is that his brain cells are lonely.

He should stick to comedy – something he is very good at. Politics, less so.

Why the BBC thinks his views are newsworthy just because he is an entertainer – I do not know.

Hadley Freeman at The Guardian sums it up well:

Whereas last time Brand had the laconic ease of a man who knew he was starting from a place of low expectations, this time around he displayed the kind of ecstatic hypomania you’d expect of a celebrity who long ago exceeded the outer limits of his knowledge on this particular subject and is now coasting on the adrenaline of his own messiah complex. Watching this interview reminded me not of a firebrand in his full pomp but of the 1971 Woody Allen film Bananas, when the president of San Marcos has been overthrown and replaced with a hirsute revolutionary leader. This leader promptly goes mad with power, which in this case is expressed by changing the official language of San Marcos to Swedish, and ordering all citizens to change their underwear every half hour.


A moving standing ovation

October 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Canadian Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers receiving a standing ovation in the Canadian House of Commons.

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NZ won election on the first round

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Now I’ve had time to check the detailed voting results, impressed that not only did New Zealand beat Turkey to win a spot on the UN Security Council, we also got more votes than Spain, and made the two thirds majority in the first round of voting.

To be elected you need 129 votes out of 193 member states, and NZ got 145 in the first round. Spain was on 121 and Turkey 109.

It then took two further rounds to elect Spain, as the normal pattern followed of states slowing peeling off the lowest polling candidate.

A win on the first round, scoring more votes than Turkey and Spain is truly impressive. Especially when you consider Turkey starts with almost all the Muslim countries on side, and Spain starts with almost all of Europe and the Spanish speaking countries. NZ stars with basically just Australia!

It would be interesting to see how each country voted, but I can’t find this online.


A terrorist attack in Canada?

October 23rd, 2014 at 11:16 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

At least 30 shots are fired inside the main building of Canada’s Parliament Hill, after a gunman shot and wounded a soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa.

Ottawa police are hunting multiple gunmen in the shooting incidents near the Canadian war memorial and nearby Parliament Hill.

A Canadian soldier was shot and killed at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa early today (NZ time) and a gunman was shot dead in a nearby parliament building, media and witnesses reported. Buildings remained locked down.

At least 30 shots were fired in dramatic scenes in the heart of the Canadian capital, starting around 10am local time (3am NZT).

Canadian media outlets are reporting the soldier was Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist serving in Hamilton from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regiment.

Officials have named the gunman shot dead as 32-year-old, Canadian-born, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Reuters has reported Mr Zehaf-Bibeau was was a Canadian convert to Islam, according to US officials. He is from Quebec and has criminal convictions for drug possession and parole violations.

Ottawa police spokesman Chuck Benoit said two or three gunmen were believed to be involved in the attacks. 

Gilles Michaud, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, called it a ”dynamic, unfolding situation.”

Ottawa Hospital said it received two patients, both listed in stable condition, in addition to the soldier.

“Condolences to family of the soldier killed, and prayers for the Parliamentary guard wounded. Canada will not be terrorised or intimidated,” cabinet minister Jason Kenney said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in a caucus meeting in parliament when gunfire erupted in the building, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, a former policeman, told the Toronto Sun.

Harper was later safely removed from the building, and parliament was locked down.

Fantino said parliament’s head of security, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), had shot a suspect dead.

“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Fantino said. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”

The Sergeant-at-Arms should him dead personally! Wow. One always thinks of those roles of nominally being in charge of maintaining order – not active duty. He is being feted justifiably as a hero. Mr Vickers is 58 years old.

It is somewhat sickening that these attacks are spreading to countries like Canada and Australia, and being done by people born in those countries.

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Dear Dita – Nz voted in 2012 to recognise Palestine

October 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Dita De Boni writes:

If New Zealand becomes a member of the UN Security Council early tomorrow, hoping to get a pay-off for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in schmoozing we’ve done to get there, let us see how much of an independent voice we will retain. …

Nevertheless, if we get there, the true test of New Zealand’s independence of thought may come sooner than we think. A movement is gaining pace for countries around the world to recognise the independent state of Palestine, with the British Government’s House of Commons having just voted to do exactly that. The vote is largely symbolic – Prime Minister David Cameron and many of his ministers abstained. But it comes in a week in which Sweden became the first major European country to recognise the Palestinian state, and also within a week in which many of the world’s largest countries voted to give Palestine $5 billion to rebuild itself after the devastating 50-day war earlier this year.

The world is largely aghast and impatient with the continuing blockade of Gaza, the repression of its citizens, and settlements that continue to encroach on their land. Yet America continues to stymie efforts to grant Palestine any kind of legitimacy.

Currently, all Five Eyes countries, led by the US and including New Zealand, refuse to recognise an independent Palestine. Will we be able to take a contrary view, even if we wanted to, if we are sitting at the top table after tomorrow?

Before you lambast NZ as being a vassal of other countries, purely because we have an intelligence sharing agreement, it would be useful to check history.

In November 2012 Stuff reported:

New Zealand has voted in favour of a United Nations resolution recognising a state of Palestine.

The UN General Assembly today overwhelmingly voted to grant Palestinians “non-member state” UN observer status.

Now to be fair to Dita, I doubt  many people recall a story from a couple of years ago about NZ voting to recognise Palestine. But it would be useful to check, before asserting that New Zealand refuses to recognise Palestine.

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The Internet Party of Ukraine

October 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Love this ad by the Internet Party of Ukraine.

Related to this Stuff reports:

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.

Here’s another of their campaign videos

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.


An excellent Nobel Peace Prize winner

October 11th, 2014 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

With the prize, Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner, eclipsing Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915.

That’s a great choice.

Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC’s Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education.

To advocate for such a worthy cause at age 11 is impressive enough by itself.

The shooting of her saw three bullets fired from close range. One hit, and went into her forehead and under her skin into her shoulder. As of today no one has gone on trial for her attempted murder.

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Remember peak oil?

October 10th, 2014 at 6:55 am by David Farrar


This shows the known or proven level of oil reserves since 1980, from BPs annual oil report.

Do you recall how we were told for year after year we were at or about to hit peak oil, when production would reach a peak, and the associated oil depletion theory?

Well two things have happened. Production has not peaked and has increased every year, and the reserves are not getting smaller, but also are increasing.



My favourite Australian Human Rights Commissioner

October 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Age reports:

New national security laws, which could see journalists jailed for up to 10 years, are likely to restrict the legitimate scrutiny of Australia’s security agencies, according to human rights commissioner Tim Wilson.

“The law is too broad,” Tim Wilson, who was appointed to the Human Rights Commission by Attorney-General George Brandis last year, said.

“There is the potential for botched operations to go unreported when ASIO really needs to be held accountable.

“Security operations should not be reported on if lives are at risk or if they are current operations. The media would usually approach this in a cautious and considered manner.”

Mr Wilson, a former policy analyst at the libertarian Institute of Public Affairs, is known as the “freedom commissioner” because of his commitment to civil and political rights such as freedom of expression.

I’d like to see a similar appointment to our Human Rights Commission – a Commissioner with a focus on the right to freedom of expression – even when that freedom offends people.

Wilson is also in the news again, criticising again the Government hat appointed him on the issue of the burqa:

AUSTRALIAN Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has rejected calls to ban the burka, saying the move is not consistent with a tolerant society.

But Mr Wilson does believe it is legitimate to ask people to remove head wear and clothing if required at security screening to establish their identity.

“There’s no basis to ban the burka. To ban the burka is inconsistent with religious tolerance and liberal values,” Mr Wilson told The Australian.

It is indeed. Again good that Australia has a consistent voice for liberal values.

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Cameron announces tax cuts

October 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron launched an audacious bid to woo voters in next year’s general election by pledging to raise the personal income tax threshold by £2,000 a year as well as lifting the 40% tax band to £50,000.

Casting the Conservatives as the “trade union for hardworking” people, the prime minister reached out to aspirational voters in Middle Britain by unveiling a £7.2bn double tax cutting promise, which prompted a rapturous reception at the Tory conference.

Increasing the tax-free personal allowance from £10,500 to £12,000 would, Cameron said, ensure that full-time workers on the minimum wage were exempt from paying income tax.

Excellent. We shouldn’t tax low income workers, just so we can then top their incomes up with welfare. We should have lower taxes and less welfare.

Pledged to deal with “fiscal drag”, the process by which lower income earners are dragged into paying higher tax rates, by announcing the threshold at which the 40% tax rate is paid would be raised from £41,900 to £50,000 by the end of the next parliament in 2020.

Also good.

Would be good to have the NZ Government firm up its commitment to tax cuts.

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The polite protesters

October 3rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been cleaning up after themselves after a night of battles with police who used tear gas and pepper spray in a crackdown condemned around the world.

Thousands of people are occupying the Admiralty district of the city in continued opposition to the Chinese Government’s refusal to let them select their own candidates for leadership elections in 2017, allowing only Beijing-backed politicians to stand.

As protests continue, people have been seen distributing food and water as well as cleaning up after themselves in the famously orderly city.

At the main protest site at the city’s Government headquarters, students sorted plastic bottles for recycling even as they wore goggles and plastic sheets to protect against pepper spray.

A polite note was also seen left on a vandalised police van, apologising for the damage.

I approve. The fact the protesters are acting so nicely makes the crack down on them by authorities look even worse.


Abortion rights around the world

October 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian has a fascinating graphic showing abortion rights around the world.

I’ve summarised the data by region below.


4% of countries do not allow an abortion in any circumstance, even to save the mother’s life. They are Malta, the Holy See (which to be fair has few pregnant women), Chile, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

96% allow abortion to save the mother’s life.

Only 67% of countries allow abortion to prevent physical harm to the mother and 64% to prevent mental harm.

If the mother was raped, or it was incest, then that is lawful reason for an abortion in only 52% of countries. Foetal impairment is also a legal ground in only 52% of cases.

36% of countries allow abortion for economic or social reasons and 30% have abortion legally available on demand or request. The region with the most liberal abortion laws is Europe and Africa has the least. Oceania is low also, but in NZ we effectively have abortion on request – but not as a legal right.


11 pictures showing the fall of the USSR

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

All Day has 11 pictures showing the fall of the USSR. It was the most significant geopolitical event since WWII. Worth checking out.


Will Hong Kong protests end in deaths?

September 29th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hong Kong police have fired volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests and baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings against illegal demonstrations.

Chaos had engulfed the city’s Admiralty district as chanting protesters converged on police barricades surrounding other demonstrators, who had earlier launched a “new era” of civil disobedience to pressure Beijing into granting full democracy.

Student and pro-democracy leaders late on Sunday urged supporters to retreat due to safety concerns amid speculation police could fire rubber bullets as tensions escalated.

Some supporters peeled away although thousands remained. Chan Kin-man, one of the co-founders of the Occupy Central movement, said its leaders would remain until they got arrested.

Police, in lines five deep in places and wearing helmets and gas masks, used pepper spray against activists and shot tear gas into the air. The crowds fled several hundred yards, scattering their umbrellas and hurling abuse at police “cowards”.

The demonstrators regrouped and returned however, and by early evening tens of thousands of protesters were thronging streets, including outside the prominent Pacific Place shopping mall that leads towards the Central financial district.

“If today I don’t stand out, I will hate myself in future,” said taxi driver Edward Yeung, 55, as he swore at police on the frontline. “Even if I get a criminal record it will be a glorious one.”

A former British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a formula known as “one country, two systems” that guaranteed a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China. Universal suffrage was set as an eventual goal.

But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city’s next leader, prompting threats from activists to shut down Central in what is being seen as the most tenacious civil disobedience action since Britain pulled out. China wants to limit elections to a handful of candidates loyal to Beijing.


I hope the protesters win, and China backs down. Of course such a back down has to be in a way they can save face,

But if they crack down, instead of back down, I think Hong Kong will suffer from it – many will decide that it is just becoming part of China, rather than having some autonomy, and they could migrate to Taiwain, Singapore and other places.


New Australian spy powers

September 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Australia’s spy agency could soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet after new anti-terrorism laws passed the Senate on Thursday night.

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 last night with bipartisan support from Labor. …

The new bill also allows ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations have condemned.

They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor.

The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer.

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Brandis confirmed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be able to use just one warrant to access numerous devices on a network.

The warrant would be issued by the director-general of ASIO or his deputy.

“There is no arbitrary or artificial limit on the number of devices,” Senator Brandis told the Senate. …

A third bill enabling the collection of internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement and spy agencies will be introduced later this year.

These changes in Australia show how benign the law is in NZ, by comparison. Some differences:

  • Mass surveillance allowed in Australia, but not in NZ (confirmed does not happen by the IGIS and Provacy Commissioner)
  • Law changes rushed through Parliament in a few days, as opposed to NZ which had a public submission process
  • Warrants can be issued by ASIO themselves with no need for warrant to be signed by a Minister and a judicial officer
  • Metadata collection and storing to be legalised in Australia, but not legal in NZ

So the NZ law is relatively narrow, and has checks and balances built in. The Australian law is not.

After concerns were raised by Labor and Senator Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.

Well that’s something!

“The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence,” Palmer United Party Senator Glen Lazarus said, speaking out against Senator Ludlam’s amendment.

Oh dear.I’m glad I am in NZ.


This is a good time to abolish the SIS and GCSB!

September 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Green Party policy is to:

We would therefore institute a select committee enquiry into whether the SIS should be abolished and its responsibilities returned to the police. …

we will abolish the GCSB and close its two signals intelligence bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana immediately.

Meanwhile in Australia:

A TEEN terror suspect under investigation for making threats against Prime Minister Tony Abbott was shot dead by police last night after stabbing a Victorian police officer and a federal police agent.

The injured officers, both from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team, are in hospital in a stable condition. …

Senior intelligence sources confirmed that the terrorism suspect had been among a number of people whose passports were recently cancelled.

It is believed that the man was well known to police, and had displayed Islamic State flags in the local Dandenong shopping centre.

And globally:

A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday, in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS, U.S.-led coalition.

If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” an ISIS spokesman says.

Note the reference to “any other disbeliever”.

The Herald editorial notes:

What should New Zealand do? Does this country have malcontents who would embrace even ascetic religious fundamentalism for the sake of a cause? Have any been with Isis and returned? Should this country, too, offer special forces to assist Iraqi troops on the ground? That depends on whether the new Iraqi Government is better than the last, and whether US air support alone might be effective, as it was in protecting Kurdistan. The decision must not be influenced by the possibility of terrorism at home. As Australia has shown, good intelligence can keep us safe.

This is worth reflecting on.

That doesn’t mean that the GCSB should be allowed to do what it wants. Absolutely not. I am against mass surveillance of New Zealanders (which does not occur in NZ). But be aware the Greens are not just against mass surveillance – their official policy is to abolish the GCSB entirely – and look at abolishing the SIS also. They take an unbalanced view on these issues, and that view has dangers as our closest neighbour comes under attack.

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More concern in Australia

September 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

ARMED Australian Federal Police officers will take back command and control of Parliament House in Canberra after fresh revelations suspected terrorists were planning a potential attack on the nation’s capital and the country’s highest office.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning confirmed the Daily Telegraph report that intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” involving a potential random attack on Parliament House, with fears among national security and intelligence agencies that the Prime Minister and other senior government officials were prime targets.

The “chatter” about Parliament House had been intercepted and they now held fears the building had already been “scoped out” for pre-planning of a “Mumbai” style attack involving automatic weapons.

The chatter, intercepted by spy, police and counterterrorism agencies, ­revealing talk about access to Parliament House was confirmed by two senior intelligence officials. It is believed the chatter also involved possible reprisal attacks against ASIO.

In response, senior security sources have identified the most vulnerable entry point to parliament was the entrance to the ministerial wing, which could be infiltrated by “taking out” two unarmed parliamentary security officers who represent the only sentry point to prevent instant access to the PM’s own courtyard.

From there a potential terrorist would have a direct line of sight into the PM’s office, they confirmed.

It is understood several armed AFP officers have been redeployed to Parliament House. Over the next few days their numbers will be dramatically increased to secure the building, which under current arrangements is among the least secure official buildings in the country.

This is a pity. We want people to be able to visit Parliaments as bastions of democracy, and not see them as armed fortifications.


Russia now moves against the Internet

September 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Kremlin is considering radical plans to unplug Russia from the global internet in the event of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at home, Russian officials hinted on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin will convene a meeting of his security council on Monday. It will discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens from the web “in an emergency”, the Vedomosti newspaper reported. The goal would be to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty in cyberspace. The proposals could also bring the domain .ru under state control, it suggested.

Russian TV and most of the country’s newspapers are under the Kremlin’s thumb. But unlike in China, the Russian internet has so far remained a comparatively open place for discussion, albeit one contested by state-sponsored bloggers and Putin fans.

According to Vedomosti, Russia plans to introduce the new measures early next year. The Kremlin has been wrestling for some time with how to reduce Russia’s dependency on American technology and digital infrastructure, amid fears that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. It has mooted building a “national internet”, which would in effect be a domestic intranet. These proposals go further, expanding the government’s control over ordinary Russian internet users and their digital habits.

The most ominous element, he added, was the security council’s apparent proposal to take control over .ru, as well as the domains .su (for Soviet Union) and .рф (Russian Federation in Cyrillic). These domains currently belong to a non-government organisation, the coordination centre of the national domain, rather than to government. Many are currently hosted abroad.

There comes a point at which Russia goes from merely being an authoritarian country to a dictatorship. It’s sad to see Russia continue to slide backwards.


Scotland vote breakdown

September 20th, 2014 at 7:32 am by David Farrar


This is a breakdown of the Scottish independence referendum vote by council. It is sorted from largest to smallest.

Only four of the 32 councils voted for independence. They represented 22.1% of the Scottish electorate.

The largest area, Glasgow, did vote for independence. Edinburgh voted more strongly against.

10 of the 32 areas voted No by 60% or more. The highest yes vote was 57.3%.

It will be interesting now to see what extra powers are devolved to Scotland, and whether this leads to an English assembly or parliament. The more that gets devolved to Scotland, the more unacceptable it will be to have Scottish MPs in Westminster voting on laws that affect England only. David Cameron has announced he will propose a change along these lines, but will have to get the agreement of Labour or the Lib Dems.


Scotland votes No

September 19th, 2014 at 5:23 pm by David Farrar

While I intellectually was a supporter of yes, I am emotionally pleased the the great United Kingdom remains intact. More importantly it was a decision made be residents of Scotland, for Scotland. A massive turnout – over 90% in some areas.

I’ll do a fuller analysis tomorrow.

At this stage with 31 of 32 councils reporting. yes is at 44.6% and no at 55.4% so not that close. The margin is around 380,000 votes.

Three out of 31 voted yes, with the highest yes being 57.4% in Dundee City.

28 have voted no, with the highest being 67.2% in the Orkney Islands.

The closest result is Inverclyde with 27,243 yes and 27,329 no.

Not a fan of Alex Salmond. His challenge now is to be humble and lead a constructive negotiation for more devolution.

David Cameron will be relieved. He did not want to be the PM who presided over the dissolution of the United Kingdom, and it may have cost him his job if yes had won.