Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Bradford fisks Goff

April 26th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A statement from former Defence Minister Max Bradford:

“Comments by Labour MP Phil Goff that the incoming Clark government in 2000 simply followed a decision by the outgoing National government in 1999 to purchase 102 LAV III armed personnel carriers (APC) is, at best, trifling with the truth” said Max Bradford, National’s Defence Minister in 1997-1999.

Mr Goff’s comments were made in response to criticism that the Labour government’s decision to commit over $750m to purchase the LAVs was foolhardy, given that only 11 have seen deployment since their purchase in 2002 (see RNZ report (1) below).

“In 1998, the National government made a decision to purchase only 35 LAVs, which was seen as sufficient at the time. The purchase included a number of LAVs as maintenance and recovery vehicles, so there were fewer than 35 available for combat purposes” said Mr Bradford.

“Although National decided in principle to 102 vehicles at the time, we had serious doubts that 102 were ever to be needed, hence the decision to buy only 35 as replacements for the M113 APCs. There was a serious need for other defence force equipment replacements ahead of the full LAV purchase. These included:

  • a third frigate for the Navy, which never proceeded and only now are the implications being felt
  • new helicopters to replace the 15 or so Iroquois, eventually replaced by 6 NH90s
  • replacements for the A4 Skyhawks: the Clark government scrapped the air combat wing, to help pay for the 102 LAVs
  • replacements for the then-aging Hercules, which only now is being considered
  • replacement of the then VIP transport aircraft with 2 Boeing 757s

“When the Clark government announced the decision to buy 102 LAVs, there was considerable criticism at the time. Indeed, the purchase process was the subject of an Auditor-General Office thorough review and report to Parliament. The Auditor-General found serious shortcomings in Labour’s decision on the LAVs. Now Labour’s chickens coming home to roost”

“I am disappointed that Mr Goff should seek to shift the blame for a stupid Labour government decision in 2000 to proceed with the purchase of 102 LAVs, as the responsibility rests solely with the Clark government, not National. Certain very senior officers in the Army at the time have to share the responsibility for poor advice and a poor decision. We should be thankful that the problems within the hierarchy of the NZDF at the time have now been fixed and I trust the public can now rely on the integrity of the Defence Force to give the appropriate advice to the government today in a difficult international environment.”

“Today’s geopolitical landscape certainly isn’t the “incredibly benign strategic environment” that Helen Clark confidently stated in 2000 should apply to defence procurement decisions, so we must get the very best defence advice nowadays” concluded Mr Bradford.

Useful to have the other side of the story. Amazing only 11 LAVs have been deployed out of 105.

I recall at the time that people calculated it would take six months to a year to transport them all to another country, so it was obvious far too many were purchased.

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Just use the Fair Trading Act

April 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Widespread abuse of the term “organic” in New Zealand means consumers are unwittingly eating food tainted by chemicals, the organic sector says.

The national umbrella organisation Organics Aotearoa New Zealand has been talking to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for more than a year about the need to regulate to protect certified organics producers.

There is no need for regulation, as the Fair Trading Act already covers misleading advertising.

Green Party spokesman for agriculture Steffan Browning has called on the Government to safeguard the value of the term “organic”. For him, waiting until 2017 to look at the issue was “simply unacceptable”.

Companies can become “certified organic”, and by doing this it means they meet an agreed international standard during production, processing, and selling their products.

A certified organic company’s food is free of additives, and has not relied on chemicals during growth.

But certification isn’t compulsory – and there is no legal requirement for claims of uncertified organic produce to be genuine, Browning said.

Marketing claims and the use of the term “organic” on food labels are controlled through the Fair Trading Act, which is enforced by the Commerce Commission.

Under the Fair Trading Act, representations about food must not mislead a consumer, and the producer must be able to demonstrate products are produced organically.

But the industry says there are products falsely-labelled as “organic” on the domestic market.

Then they should complain to the Commerce Commission. We don’t need to set up some new law or government body for this.

Personally I think organic food has no health advantages over non organic food, and the scientific consensus says the same. But I do support people being able to know what they are buying, and that advertising should be accurate. But again, we have existing laws that cover this.

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E-cigarettes discussion on Radio NZ

April 24th, 2015 at 2:22 pm by David Farrar

An interesting interview on Radio NZ with public health expert Chris Bullen. Some extracts:

We have a goal as a country to be Smokefree by 2025, we have about half a million people still smoking, the majority of those people would like to quit smoking or will do as the health effects kick in and we need to offer a wide range of products for those people and to shut the door to those people who have quit or cut down significantly using products like e-cigarettes just seems to me to run counter to what we are trying to achieve. …

if we are trying to get more people off of smoking tobacco, which is an incredibly harmful thing to do, we need to try and get some sensible regulatory sweetspot here about what to do, maximizing some of the public health benefits and individual benefits and minimizing harm to individuals and one of the ways to do this is controlling what people are accessing. One way of doing that is a smarter regulatory approach. …

e-cigarettes I think are much more like a consumer product and probably should be regulated under some sort of consumer regulation around basic quality criteria. Probably no more harmful than a coffee habit so we just have to try to get some proportionate regulatory response.

Professor Bullen has both a medical degree and a PhD in Community Medicine. He is a co-director of the Tobacco Control Research Turanga.

When someone like Professor Bullen is saying that the Government has the wrong approach with e-cigarettes, and a proportionate regulatory approach is needed, the Government should listen.

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Novel – using low inflation to justify high wage claims

April 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

There’s a call for a decent pay rise for workers, now that inflation has fallen for the second quarter in a row.

First Union says the best way to guard against deflation is to increase workers spending power, with a pay rise of “at least three to four percent.”

When inflation is high they claim a big pay rise is needed to keep up with inflation.

When inflation is low they claim a big pay rise is needed to stop deflation.

I think we can assume that there will never be a time when a union doesn’t think a big pay rise is needed.

But it is good that workers will be able to get pay rises that increase their real standard of living, and don’t get chewed up by inflation.

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Submission on NZ Flag Referendums Bill

April 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR ON THE NEW ZEALAND FLAG REFERENDUMS BILL TO THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL COMMITTEE

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

    The overall Bill

  2. I support the bill, without amendment.

    Order of Referendums

  3. Some groups and people have advocated that the first referendum should include a question on whether voters wish to change the flag, and if there is not a majority, there is no second referendum.
  4. I oppose such a move. It could result in no vote occurring on an alternative design, even though a majority would vote for the alternative design.
  5. Such a change could deny a design supported by a majority of voters, being voted on.
  6. It is quite possible a large number of voters could vote at the first referendum that they do not want change, yet could be persuaded that the alternate design is preferable to the current design and vote for it, even though they did not have a problem with the current design. There is a difference between finding the current design acceptable, and saying that no other design could be better.
  7. A flag is not an electoral system. A flag is simply a design, and the most informed way to vote is choosing between the current design and an alternative design.
  8. An electoral system can produce outcomes such as a disproportional Parliament, a lack of women, a majority Government which allows voters to decide they want change, regardless of the alternative. But a vote on a flag makes no sense without knowing the alternative.

    Method of Voting

  9. I am disappointed that only overseas based voters will be allowed to return their votes via the Internet. There is no sound public policy reasons that voters in NZ should not be able to do so also.
  10. Postal voting is a dying method of voting. Restricting the referendum for those in NZ to postal voting is likely to lead to a low turnout, which could undermine the moral legitimacy of any vote.
  11. The turnout for postal referendums in recent times has been declining from 80% in 1997 to 56% in 2009 to 45% in 2013.
  12. While it is probably too late to make the necessary arrangements for this referendum, planning should commence for future referendums as postal referendums will not be viable in the not too distant future. Younger New Zealanders simply have no relationship with a post office.

Thank you for considering this submission.

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Rio Tinto played the Government

April 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Remember how Rio Tinto rorted $30 million from the Government, claiming it would be unprofitable without it, and may close their smelter?

Well stuff reports:

The operator of Southland’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter has posted a $74 million profit despite a volatile aluminium market and high domestic power prices.

Located on Southland’s Tiwai Peninsula, New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) is one of two smelters in the world producing ultrahigh purity aluminium. The profit follows a deal for cheaper power and a $30m Government hand-out in 2013.

Rio Tinto Alcan operating as Pacific Aluminium owns 79 per cent of NZAS. Its $74m profit for the year ended December 31 was a 10 per cent increase on the previous years’ $67m profit.

The result is a vast turnaround from a $548m loss in 2012, which was hit by massive asset writedowns.

The Government got played, and we paid the bill.

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A new low for Key Derangement Syndrome

April 24th, 2015 at 8:35 am by David Farrar

Laila Harre basically compares the Prime Minister to Rolf Harris.

This is a new low for sufferers from Key Derangement Syndrome – a disease for which no cure has yet been discovered.

But this isn’t some anonymous troll on a blog or Twitter. This is from the (former) leader of a political party.

We’ve yet to hear Laila’s views on political figures who pressure staff to have tennis balls smashed into their bodies at high speed. Oh wait, she was working for him and on his payroll, so that is fine.

There is no one in NZ saying what the PM did was fine. But as Rob Hosking noted:

I marvel Not for first time, Key’s biggest asset is the lack of sense of proportion of his opponents.

Indeed.

UPDATE: After defending her tweet and claiming it was justified, she has now deleted it.

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We are already very generous to older students

April 23rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A mature Southland student believes older people wanting to retrain are being discriminated against after learning students over 55 are not eligible for some benefits.

Students over 55 can receive the student allowance, but they cannot receive course-related or living costs benefits available to younger students.

This put the over-55s at a disadvantage when trying to better themselves, 63-year-old Ashley King said.

I despair at the view that taxpayers should fund everything in society, including 63 year olds wanting to do a BA or the like.

First of all a 63 year old should have some savings, compared to an 18 year old.

Secondly an 18 year old will probably world for a further 45 years, making investing in their education a good economic prospect. A 63 year old may only work for two to seven more years.

But even with that, we are still very generous to over 55s wanting to study.

  • They get the 75% or so subsidy on course costs paid for by the taxpayer.
  • They can get a student allowance
  • They can get interest free loans for course fees

That is extremely generous.

 

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The new MP

April 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

It has been confirmed that as a result of Winston Peters winning the Northland by-election, Invercargill will gain a new List MP – Ria Bond.

A few people have been sniffy about her being a hairdresser, but actually she has owned her own salon for over a decade and has been President of the NZ Association of Hairdressers.  This makes her a small business owner – which Parliament needs more of.

The Herald reports:

Ms Bond said New Zealand had too many MPs for its population size, and she wanted a private member’s bill introduced to reduce Parliament’s 121 seats.

Actually we have the smallest Parliament in the OECD for countries between four and ten million population.

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Arthur Taylor on the Helensville Electoral Petition

April 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Arthur Taylor comments (via e-mail proxy) on my blog post on the striking down of his Helensville electoral petition.

In furtherance of freedom of expression , I hope you’ll post my following comments on the Judgement in the Helensville electoral petition case . It was the subject of  comments on your blog on 17 April .

As the Court said in paras. 9, 55, 65 , 83 , 88, 91 & 92 , it decided I did not have standing as a “did not reside in helensville for electoral purposes” , so it did not go on to consider the merits of the case .  However , it  noted at para 92 that most of the matters  were “under active consideration elsewhere” . So JK is by no means out of the woods .  This is definitely not an exoneration of him  or  the lawfulness of the  prisoner voting ban .

My case was entirely  funded by me . Not a cent of taxpayer’s money . I even put up  security for costs prior to the  case .

While the case  was primarily to protect prisoners’  voting rights , it was to protect  democracy in general  that I took the case .  (In Court , I made the point that  if prisoners  votes could be removed in this way , what  was there to stop anyone’s right to vote being removed by a temporary Parliamentary majority ?

Prisoners are liable to  exactly the same taxes as anyone else . I pay  considerable taxes myself .

I thought the rallying cry for all Tories was “No taxation without representation” !

I have never  asked for all prisoners to have the right to vote – only for those yet to be convicted                 ( remands )  and for those who have completed the punishment or deterrent part of their sentences . See para 73 of the Decision . Correspondents of yours such as David Garrett know full well that even though I may not prevail in a case , the Court  invariably notes the proceedings were not vexatious , that is they were well founded.  

Do you think the “politburo” and bureaucratic mandarins , who I take  on , haven’t had their microscopes out looking for grounds for such an application ?

For the edification of some of your commenters , I have always earned far more legally than illegally –  a point  on which even the Police  agree . There are a lot of people in prison who  would  earn very high incomes if they were allowed and encouraged in that direction . That is society’s loss , too .

 Best regards

 Arthur Taylor
A Block
Auckland Prison

I’m always happy to publish a right of reply.

Also happy to see Mr Taylor pays taxes on his income. I would note that I suspect the cost of his imprisonment probably consumes more tax money than he pays!

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Labour’s assumption wrong

April 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Thousands of students in Auckland suburbs including Ellerslie, Lynfield and Te Atatu will be part of a radical education reform that aims to spread the best teaching and leadership.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced another 129 schools across the country have signed up to the flagship Investing in Educational Success (IES) programme.

The schools have more than 45,000 students between them and will be divided into 18 groups or “communities”.

Good to see so many schools signing up.

New Zealand’s education system gives a high degree of control to each individual state and state-integrated school and its board of trustees, and studies have pointed to a lack of collaboration as a major problem.

Who would be against collaboration?

The scheme uses $359 million over four years to create “communities of schools” where principals and teachers are paid extra to collaborate and provide additional teacher-learning time for the schools involved.

There is also a teacher-led innovation fund, which provides funding and time for teachers to research with colleagues within schools.

Today’s announcement by Ms Parata brings the total number of schools involved to 222.

Hopefully over time we will be able to measure progress in schools taking part, against schools that are not.

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said that paying bonuses to teachers and principals from schools in wealthy communities would only enforce inequality in the schooling system.

Ms Parata said almost 60 per cent of the 129 schools signed-up in the second round were decile 1 to 5.

So Labour assumed it was wealthy schools taking part, but in fact 60% are from lower decile schools.

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Some sense from the Government on alcohol

April 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

John Key says he would be “extremely surprised” if a far-reaching ban on alcohol sponsorship and advertising went ahead. 

A ministerial forum on alcohol advertising and sponsorship has put forward a raft of recommendations – including a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sports teams and events.

Organisers of major Marlborough events that rely on sponsorship from the wine industry, including the Forrest GrapeRide and Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon, have said their future would be threatened if the recommendations were implemented. 

That would be a great outcome – a huge drop in the number of sporting events in NZ.

In response to a question by Kent Winstanley during a meeting of young professionals in Blenheim on Friday, Key said the proposal was at an early stage.

“I’d be extremely surprised if it progresses very far.

“We could turn around tomorrow and say it’s illegal for wineries to sponsor the local rugby team and things like that … .

“The problem you’ve got is, where is the money going to come from for those organisations?” 

It was “nonsense” to say that government would help to make up the shortfall, Key said. 

“The government makes that case all the time and it doesn’t happen.” 

As well as removing alcohol sponsorship from sports, the recommendations call for alcohol sponsorship to be removed from cultural and music events where at least 10 per cent of those taking part are under 18. 

Alcohol advertising would be banned, including on social media, where 10 per cent or more of the audience are aged under 18. 

Key questioned how effective the measures would be.

“Does it really impact that much at the margins in terms of people drinking responsibly?

Great to hear the PM so skeptical. We don’t want a wowser Government.

“I think there’s a strong argument for us to continue to educate youngsters about drinking responsibly, but ultimately the fact that Villa Maria might want to be getting its brand name out there, or Cloudy Bay, or whoever – well good on them.

“I’m going to be pretty opposed to dramatic changes there.” 

Again, good to hear.

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Inappropriate if accurate

April 22nd, 2015 at 9:42 am by David Farrar

The Daily Blog has a story from an anonymous waitress who details interactions with John  Key at a cafe where he pulled on her hair as a sort of joke and caused her distress by doing it on a regular basis.

On the assumption that the story is correct, he obviously totally misread the situation, and he caused distress to someone. He eventually realised it, when he apologised with a couple of bottles of wine.

I think he would be stunned to realise how upsetting it was for the person concerned, but regardless you should be able to read a situation better than it appears he did.

This will of course get media attention. If the story is correct, then he should apologise for causing distress to her. I’m sure it was inadvertent and he thought it was a funny game between them. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.

If you speak to staff that work for him, they all say he is one of the best bosses they have ever worked for. Generally those who interact with him only have favourable things to say about him. But again in this case (assuming the story is correct) he appears to have seriously misjudged how what he saw as mucking around, was received, and he failed to pick up on the discomfort caused.

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Is Labour trying to abolish all casual employment?

April 22nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Marlborough Express reports:

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has denied employing workers under zero-hour contracts, despite listing close to 500 staff over four years in this category in parliamentary documents.

Labour health spokesperson Annette King says she has information that shows three New Zealand district health boards, including Nelson Marlborough, were employing workers under the controversial employment agreement.

The claims are made on the basis of documents provided to the health select committee, and viewed by theMarlborough Express. 

As part of its annual review for 2013-2014, NMDHB was asked how many staff the board employed under zero-hour contracts in the last financial year. 

The board response states that 86 workers were employed under this arrangement in 2014, with 89 staff employed under zero-hour contracts in 2013, 169 workers in 2012 and 155 workers on zero-hour contracts in 2011. 

First of all it is statistical nonsense to add up the numbers each year to get a total number. You can do that to things like funding, but not staff.

But when approached by the Marlborough Express, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming backtracked from describing workers as “zero-hour” contract workers, saying the contracts were different to the zero-hour contracts that were in the media spotlight.

“The issue prevalent in the media recently has been zero-hour contracts where staff are required to be available to work at any time, and do not get annual leave, sick leave entitlements etc. 

“This in essence does not allow a person with this type of contract to plan anything or to accept any other work. 

“Nelson Marlborough District Health Board does not have any of these types of contracts, nor does it support this level of onerosity.”

The figures provided to the health select committee were the number of  “Permanent Part Time No Fixed Hour” contracts within the district health board, Fleming said.

This type of contract was different to a zero-hour contract because staff were entitled to annual leave, sick leave and any other benefits of their collective agreements, Fleming said. 

They were free to seek other employment and did not have to be available when requested to work

This is a key difference. I agree that contracts which give no guarantee of hours, yet require an employee to be available to work are onerous and somewhat oppressive.

But that is very different to merely having a casual employment contract where neither employer nor employee have any commitment to set hours.

King said zero-hour contracts were “unconscionable”.

“No-one should turn up to work never knowing how many hours they’re going to work next week and how they’re going to support their family.”

If Annette King is speaking on behalf of Labour, she is saying that Labour wishes to abolish casual work contracts for New Zealand. This would of course be beyond stupid. Many students have casual work contracts, and prefer it that way.

There is a genuine issue around employment contracts that require staff to be available to work, and gives no guarantee of work in return. But when you conflate them with genuinely casual employment agreements, you do a dis-service.

Labour should stop this, and clarify that they are not seeking to abolish casual work contracts for NZ.

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Business groups have received $28.5 million from Auckland Council and predecessors

April 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has released:

Auckland Council has spent $8.5 million of ratepayers money on grants to business groups since November 2010 – and that doesn’t include the $20 million given to the failed Heart of the City group.

Business groups should be funded by business with an idea to keep the Council on its toes. Instead the Super City has turned them into Council cheerleaders thanks to this generous slush fund. We uncovered that a grant was even made for augmented reality wayfinding technology – whatever that is!

Ratepayers deserve answers from the Council as to why this is the best use of $8.5 million, rather than frontline services and core infrastructure. It’s little wonder that rates have increased when the Council takes over a function that has always been the role of the local Chamber of Commerce.

45 separate business groups have received $8.5 million since November 2010. They should be funded by local businesses, if they deem them of value, not by ratepayers.

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The Government should fund quit smoking groups, but not lobby groups

April 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The national target of being smokefree by 2025 will not be met without a massive shakeup of funding for anti-tobacco groups, the Ministry of Health now concedes.

About 12,500 people successfully quit smoking each year, but this needs to more than triple to reach the 2025 target. At the 2013 census, 13.7 per cent of the adult population said they smoked.

The Government committed three years ago to stamping out smoking by 2025, but a slew of reports have warned that the target is looking shaky.

Ministry documents,  prepared for a meeting with quit smoking providers and advocacy groups last month,  said a “business as usual approach” to encouraging people to quit would no longer work. A greater focus was needed on risky groups, such as pregnant women and the mentally ill, and groups that still had stubbornly high smoking rates, such as Maori and Pacific people. 

“More needs to be done … to achieve that 2025 goal,” the documents say.

Dozens of quit smoking and anti-tobacco advocacy groups could be under threat as the ministry puts millions of dollars worth of services up for tender in the open market as part of the ministry’s  “tobacco realignment”.

Groups such as Quitline which actually provide services to help people quit should be funded.

But groups which are primarily lobby groups should not be funded. It is constitutionally repugnant to have Government departments and agencies fund lobby groups to then lobby Ministers and Parliament.

Lobby groups should be funded by members and supporters – not by taxpayers.

Ash director Stephanie Erick said it was true the shakeup could mean the end of her organisation, but it was more important that the smokefree goal was reached.

An excellent view. I agree.

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Are the parents wrong?

April 21st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Figures from the Ministry of Education show the number of enrolments in privately owned early childhood education (ECE) operations has doubled in the past decade, with 90,000 kids now in private centres. In contrast enrolments fell in kindergartens by 22 per cent to 25,000.

So the sector that parents are not choosing is lashing out at the sector that parents are choosing.

Academics, unions, teachers and opposition MPs believe there are quality issues in early childhood education which can be linked to the rise of for-profit centres.

They point to figures that show community-based kindergartens get the best ERO reviews.

I find it frustrating when an article alludes to some data, but neither gives you the data, or even better links to it.

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Much ado about nothing

April 21st, 2015 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Not all children will receive free GP visits as promised by the Government, according to documents revealed by the Greens.

That’s because they have never promised it. It is impossible to promise it as GPs do not work for the Government and the Government can not set their fees for them – unless you nationalise the entire primary healthcare sector.

ACC Minister Nikki Kaye has set the funding level at a rate that will only cover an estimated 90 per cent of doctors’ visits for children who are injured, Radio NZ has reported.

At last year’s election the Government campaigned on making doctors’ visits and prescriptions free for all children under 13 from July this year.

However the Green Party has called out Kaye for deciding 90 per cent coverage was close enough.

This shows a misunderstanding (either deliberate or not) of how the funding level is set.

GPs around NZ will currently charge a wide variety of fees for under 13s. For example some may charge $10 and some may charge $30. Each GP practice can be different to reflect their costs – rent, salaries etc. These are different in Epsom and in Rotorua, for example.

The Government set the funding at the level at which 90% of GPs are currently charging. Now this doesn’t mean that 10% of GPs will still charge a fee. If for example the subsidy is $30 and your charge was  $32, you may well decide that it is not worth the hassle, or the bad publicity, to charge a $2 part fee.

Over time more and more GPs will not charge a part fee, because if they do it is bad publicity, and patients may move.

Coleman and Kaye point out:

“We expect levels of uptake by general practices of the free under 13s scheme to be similar to uptake of the under 6s scheme,” says Dr Coleman.

“Currently 98 per cent of general practices offer free doctors’ visits for under 6s. Initial uptake was 70 per cent in January 2008, and it has steadily increased to current levels. There are only around twelve general practices in New Zealand that are not offering free under 6s doctor visits.”

So the fact the funding is set slightly below the level at which the 10% most expensive GPs charge, doesn’t mean you don’t get close to universal coverage.

But less us look at what the Greens are actually arguing for, and you will see that they are actually arguing for an incredibly appalling waste of scarce health dollars.

They are saying that the level of subsidy should be set at the level above which 100% of GPs currently charge.

Now think about that. The Greens are saying that the subsidy to GPs should be based on what the most expensive GP in NZ charges.

This would result in a massive wealth transfer to GPs. 99% of GPs would get a higher subsidy from the Government, than they were previously getting from patients. This would cost tens of millions of dollars.

And what would be the benefits to families? Well possibly it could result in no part-charges to the families who live in the areas with the most expensive GPs. These are generally the very wealthy suburbs such as Epsom, Wadestown etc. So the richest families in NZ would be the ones who benefit by not having a small part-charge.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but a ballpark estimate is that the cost per additional family subsidised to taxpayers and levypayers would be over $1,000!

You would be spending tens of millions more to eliminate part-charges for a handful of the wealthiest families.

The losers would be every family in NZ who pays tax and ACC.

The winners would be every GP in NZ, and the families who live in the wealthiest areas.

A huge transfer of wealth from middle income and low income NZ to the wealthiest. What the Greens call income inequality – and they are demanding it.

So I’m glad the Greens aren’t in Government, and that the subsidies are set at a sensible point such as the 90% level, rather than having the most expensive doctor in NZ determine the subsidies for the entire country.

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Do we benefit from Five Eyes?

April 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Fisher writes in the NZ Herald:

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Beyond doubt the US (and UK, Australia and Canada) benefit from NZ being in Five Eyes. We get them intelligence they could not easily get elsewhere.

But by the same basis, New Zealand I am sure benefits greatly by being able to access intelligence gathered by the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

This is why countries agree to co-operate on things – when it benefits both sides. And I’d say with this agreement, we gain a hell of a lot more than we give.

We present internationally as a proud, South Pacific country which is forging its own principled path through history. In our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Prime Minister John Key said: “New Zealand has an independent foreign policy outlook that listens to and respects the views of other countries.” Our branding for the bid carried the words: “Integrity, independence, innovation.”

It appears, from the Snowden documents, our “independent foreign policy” is supported by a dependence on the Five Eyes intelligence network of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States.

This argument is made a lot, often by people from the left. But I think it is a nonsense argument to suggest being in Five Eyes is incompatible with having an independent foreign policy.

First I would note empirically that we got elected to the Security Council despite our involvement in Five Eyes known to all UN members. And I am sure those countries no exactly what that means – as they do much the same when they can.

But more to the point an intelligence sharing arrangement is a fairly minor part of overall foreign policy. People judge our foreign policy on numerous things – what conflicts we get involved in, how we vote at the UN, what we say, how we deal with their countries, who we trade with etc etc.

Being independent is not the same as being non-aligned.

Successive Prime Ministers have said New Zealand gets a great deal more our of the relationship than we contribute.

I’d say a huge amount more.

Former Prime Minister David Lange carved a path for an independent foreign policy on nuclear weapons. He said in the famous Oxford debate “we have been told by some officials in the United States administration that our decision (to be nuclear-free) is not, as they put it, to be cost-free; that we are in fact to be made to pay for our action”.

It was a threat made, said Lange, “not by our enemies, but by our friends”.

If we tap the Chinese data link ourselves – assuming we are capable and it is worth the effort – and don’t pass on information, do our Five Eyes partners refuse to tell us of terror plots in our backyard?

That’s being silly, even stupid. Security agencies swap information almost daily to help prevent terror plots. Even unfriendly countries such as China, Russia and the US will share information to help prevent terror plots.

Five Eyes is a formal agreement to share all foreign (not domestic) intelligence information with each other, and (this is important) not to spy on each other. It means we don’t have to ask the US on a case by case basis to access their foreign intelligence, and vice-versa.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

The nation knows about Five Eyes. It will not be a bad thing to debate generally our security arrangements.

But there is a difference between publicising the agreement, and publicising details of specific interception activities. Doing the latter benefits countries other than NZ – the exact thing that it is being suggested the Five Eyes agreement does.

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NZ leads anti fossil fuels subsidy coalition

April 21st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tim Groser announced:

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser today led a coalition of governments calling for the phase-out of subsidies to fossil fuels in the lead-up to a major climate conference in Paris.
 
New Zealand, along with Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland today endorsed a statement to be delivered to the Paris conference that supports the elimination of inefficient subsidies to fossil fuels on environmental, economic and social grounds. The first countries to endorse the initiative were the United States and France which joined New Zealand in Washington to launch the statement.

This is something most people should agree on. I’m generally against most subsidies, and definitely against fossil fuel subsidies.

So how much of an impact do fossil fuel subsidies have?

“New Zealand is leading efforts to urge countries to reform, as this is the missing piece in the climate change jigsaw. More than one third of global carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010 are estimated to have been driven by subsidies for fossil fuels,” said Mr Groser.

Huge.

Many of the “solutions” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are very unpalatable. The Greens want to shoot or get rid of one fifth of the national dairy herd, for example. But this is a solution that should have widespread support.

“Transparency is an essential first step, and that’s why New Zealand was one of the first countries to undertake APEC peer review of our policies. The international review panel has already given its preliminary conclusions, confirming it did not identify any inefficient subsidies.  

Good.

The communique notes:

The majority of fossil-fuel subsidies are also socially regressive, with benefits disproportionately skewed toward middle- and upper-middle income households.

Another reason to get rid of them.

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Not very common sense

April 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An alternate budget that slashes the Christchurch City Council’s work programme and avoids the need for strategic asset sales is being touted as the answer to the city’s financial woes.

The Common Sense Plan for Christchurch was released at the weekend by the six Labour-aligned People’s Choice councillors and is aimed at circumventing the need for the council to sell shares in Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Orion and Enable.

Its release comes less than 10 days out from the closure of public submissions on the Christchurch City Council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) which includes provision to sell up to $750 million in assets in order to plug the council’s $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

The People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Phil Clearwater, Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Pauline Cotter and Jimmy Chen – voted against including asset sales in the draft LTP and have been desperate to find another way to balance the books. 

They propose cutting $700 million, or 15 per cent, from the council’s $4.6 billion 10-year capital works programme outlined in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP) by deferring all non-urgent work, including construction of the city’s planned new rugby stadium.

They also propose asking the Government to use the $37m it has allocated for the new stadium on road repairs and propose asking for another $180m in Government funding for the horizontal infrastructure repair programme.

I’m all for cutting spending. That part of the proposal is good.

However their balanced budget is dependent on waving a magical wand and the Government handing over $217 million. That’s not common sense. That is wishful thinking. The Government has a signed and sealed agreement with the CCC as to how much it will contribute.

Alternative budgets are a good thing if they genuinely propose alternatives such as deferred spending, or different revenue streams – so long as they are revenue streams that the Council can actually use.

This is not an alternative budget. It is a plea for a Government bailout.

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Blogs can have an impact

April 21st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I don’t think many need convincing that blogs have an impact. But a good recent example.

Last Thursday the Government announced a working group to try and stop people using offshore betting websites.

It got reported at the time in uncritical terms. Then nothing for four days.

Yesterday I blogged attacking the announcement.

A few hours later it was a topic on talkback radio, and ACT attacked the announcement also.

And today the Herald has a critical editorial also.

Not a big issue, but it is a good sign that if you do take a view on an issue and make a good argument, then others will see it and if they agree with it, pick it up also.

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Quote of the week

April 21st, 2015 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases; If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if is stops moving, subsidize it.”

– Ronald Reagan

The is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

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No money for Team NZ

April 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The future of Team New Zealand is looking grim after the announcement today that there will be no America’s Cup pre-regatta for Auckland. …

“I think we’re at the end of the road really,” the Prime Minister said.

“Of course Steven Joyce will continue to have discussions with Grant Dalton, but the government’s position has been pretty clear.

“With the event being held 100 percent in Bermuda, that becomes a really challenging issue to go beyond the $5 million we’ve already put in.”

I’m glad there will be no further taxpayer money. I hope Team NZ get enough private sponsors to continue, but I don’t think there was a case for more Government funding.

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Have they not heard of Maori TV or Radio NZ?

April 20th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A lobby group pushing for public broadcasting in New Zealand says the government is denying viewers the right to watch decent public service programming.

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting said they want an alternative network to cater for more serious news and current affairs, in light of uncertainty about Campbell Live’s future.

There is an alternative network – Maori TV. Also Radio NZ. Plus broadcasting is a fading medium. There is no absence of news and current affairs reporting across the media as a whole. But even within broadcasting, there are 20 news and current affairs shows on television – not including the 7 pm shows.

Coalition chief executive and TV director Myles Thomas criticised Prime Minister John Key for his comments on Thursday questioning whether enough people would watch publicly funded broadcast TV

The answer was yes, he said.

So how many people watch Maori TV? How many watch Native Affairs which is on prime time? It is a great current affairs show.

He said New Zealand had one of the lowest government contributions to public broadcasting and a publicly funded TV network was desperately needed.

What Myles means is that taxpayers should be forced to fund a TV station that would spend its entire day and night pushing causes he approves of.

Taxpayers currently put just over $210 million a year into public broadcasting. In 2011 this was:

  • NZ on Air $82 million
  • Maori TV $58 million
  • Radio NZ $36 million
  • Other TV/Radio $34 million

Australia spends around $1.4 billion on public broadcasting (ABC $1.1b and SBS $0.3b).

In US$ this is $161m for NZ and $1,088 for Aus.

The IMF has Australian’s economy at US$1.44t and NZ economy at US$181b.

So our spend as a percentage of GDP is around 0.089% for NZ and 0.076% for Australia. This is a ballpark calculation but shows we are not under-investing for our size.

The Canadian Government contribution to the CBC is around 0.050% of GDP. Again below NZ.

There are thousand of lobby groups who call for more funding for their pet hobby horse or industry. If the Government gave into all of them, we’d be in the same position as Greece.

I’m not against there being a combined public service TV and radio broadcaster. But they would have to operate on the current combined funding for NZ on Air, Maori TV and Radio NZ.

The other thing they would have to do is to be truly politically neutral – something the Australian, UK and Canadian public broadcasters all fail at.

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