Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Tobacco control measures

February 12th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Increasing tobacco taxes by as much as 50 per cent a year could form the “backbone” of efforts to make New Zealand smoke-free, politicians have been told.

Tobacco taxes increased by 10 per cent at the start of the year, and academics and anti-smoking groups have encouraged Parliament’s finance and expenditure select committee to support a bigger price hike.

Otago University public health professor Nick Wilson, who has studied the best-value methods for reducing the impact of smoking, said politicians were “on extremely strong scientific ground” when raising taxes on tobacco.

“It’s one of the most powerful things that can be done to improve the health of the population … tax can be the backbone of the strategy.”

My personal view is that increasing the excise tax is a sensible measure to reduce smoking. However this should not be done to increase the overall level of taxation, so any increase in excise taxes should be compensated by reducing income tax rates or increasing thresholds.

There is a point at which increasing the price will lead to significant growth in the black market, as has been seen in many countries. I’m not sure at what point this becomes a bigger issue, but policy makers need to be aware of this.

Wilson said the issue of e-cigarettes, which are not currently approved for smoking cessation in New Zealand, was “a very complex area” due to the amount of new studies coming out every week.

It would be best to control their use through pharmacies until their benefits and dangers were fully known, he said.

So you can buy tobacco from the dairy but e-cigarettes only from a pharmacy? Not sensible.

National Maori Tobacco Control Leadership Service kaiwhakahaere Zoe Hawke said tax increases were a “foundation policy” that anti-tobacco organisations could use to improve quitting rates. …

“We need to remove nicotine from the products out there and do some transitional moves to help people move away from it, and e-cigarettes could potentially be something that will help with that too.”

Good to see an open mind there.

T&T Consulting director Sue Taylor said the smoking health programmes already in place were not doing enough to help people quit, and a significant price increase would make a big difference.

Taylor said tobacco taxes should be increased by 50 per cent this year, followed by 25 per cent each year until 2020.

I suspect that level of increase would see more move to the black market. The 10% increase per year has worked well to date.

She did not support e-cigarettes as they “normalised” smoking, and was also concerned that the majority of e-cigarettes were produced by tobacco manufacturers.

“They’re still trying to double-dip everywhere, they’re still trying to introduce other ways of continuing to have the population addicted to nicotine, so we seriously need to think about how we’re going to tax those as well.”

This statement is a tell-tale sign that the motivation of the person is to damage companies they don’t like, rather than just focus on harm reduction. It’s like the anti alcohol crusaders who attack “Big Alcohol” but say craft beers are fine.

Health New Zealand smoking policy researcher Murray Laugesen supported a tax increase, and said the Government should look at legalising the use of e-cigarettes.

“They’ve killed nobody so far, against 4000 deaths [a year] from ordinary cigarettes.”

A startling statistic.

10 issues in 2016

February 12th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff lists 10 political issues for 2016:

  1. Spies – what will the intelligence agencies review recommend?
  2. Iraq – will the two year mission be extended?
  3. Ship Visits – will the US come?
  4. Polls – can Labour look viable?
  5. Tax Cuts – will we get any?
  6. Surplus – will we get another?
  7. Water – will there be a deal with Maori?
  8. TPPA – will anyone ever understand Labour’s position?
  9. Housing affordability – has Auckland cooled?
  10. Social services – how much of a role will the private sector play?
No tag for this post.

Labour’s latest TPPA position – they’ll renegotiate it!

February 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Labour Party won’t pull out of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement if it wins power, but would back itself to win changes on aspects it doesn’t support, leader Andrew Little says.

Yeah sure you will. 11 other countries will re-open negotiations two years after it has been signed and ratified because Andrew Little wants them to.

The deal is the deal. It is not going to be changed.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Little confirmed the party would not pull out of the TPPA if in Government.

However, it would fight “tooth and nail” to win changes on aspects of the deal it did not support, such as the prohibition on banning foreign property buyers.

The TPPA allows a de facto ban through stamp duty. This is hollow pretend anger.

While foreigners were currently allowed to make submissions on New Zealand legislation, Little said the TPPA would “elevate that process to an obligation” by requiring the Government to notify partners about potential law changes.

Oh shock horror – law changes have to be notified in the Official Gazette now. What an awful obligation.

This is complaining about trivia, and avoiding the substance.

Little did not say whether he would pull out of the TPPA if he failed to win changes, but said he would be confident of success.

Here’s a question for Andrew. What proportion of trade deals ever get renegotiated after they have been signed and ratified? Is it 50%? 10% 5% 1%? Under 1%? He’s dreaming.

“The comments now coming out of other countries, even Hillary Clinton now saying the thing needs to be tweaked, I’m confident that over time we can get some change.”

The changes Hillary Clinton wants are not ones that would benefit NZ. Plus her rhetoric is just that. She doesn’t actually mean it.

Key on Labour

February 11th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Some extracts from the exchange in Parliament on Tuesday:

Last week we were greeted with a new unemployment rate here in New Zealand: a dramatic fall to 5.3 percent. That is a very strong performance. We have the third-highest employment rate in the OECD , we have very strong results of growth for young people, and, of course, wages are rising faster than inflation. That was greeted with absolute joy by New Zealanders, with one exception—one exception. It was a great annoyance to the Labour Party and, in particular, to Grant Robertson, the doom merchant when it comes to employment. Grant Robertson is worried about a robot taking his job. A cynic could say: “Too late, one already did.”—the job he wanted

Heh.

Well, when we think “TPP”, we think Trans-Pacific Partnership; they think “two-position party”—that is what “TPP” says to them. This is because when it comes to David Shearer, he rightfully said to the New Zealand Herald—before he got a good spanking from the leader—“I’ll be voting for it. There’s no change there. Nothing’s changed my mind and the international interest analysis—fantastic.” Phil Goff, he is definitely voting for it, because it is, to quote Phil, the same as the China free-trade agreement taken under Labour. Helen Clark, she is a tremendous supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In fact, every Labour leader in the last 20 years supports the agreement except the current one.

Unsure if Cunliffe does or doesn’t. The Cunliffe who was a Minister in the Clark Government would, but the Cunliffe who was Opposition Leader may not.

So when you look at Andrew Little’s positions—and I will grant you he has had more positions than the Labour Party has had leader in the last 5 years—he says he hates the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. He got asked a pretty simple question by Mark Sainsbury: “Will you withdraw New Zealand from the TPP?” Do you know what his answer was? It was: “We won’t.” He is going to kick up bobsy-die , but no, no, he will not. So then they asked him: “Will you vote against it?” A pretty simple question. He went: “Yeah, well, we already said—aah—if there—yeah—er—aah—if this legislation—aah. We don’t get to vote on TPP,” he said. What about pulling out? That apparently is incredibly difficult to do, even though the text, of which he has read 500 of 6,000 pages, says you can just do it by simply putting in notification for 6 months. When he was asked “Why won’t you pull out of TPP?”_—this was my particular favourite for the summer—he said: “Because we are the free-trade party.” Yeah, right. “We are the free-trade party.”

They once were a party of free trade. No longer.

So what he thinks is the problem is that other people, other corporations, other Governments can come to New Zealand and they can put a submission in against our law. That is apparently the problem. Here is a little technical issue. The first issue is, quite right, they can do that. In fact, anybody is free to come to New Zealand and put in a submission at our select committees. It is called open and transparent Government. But what did Andrew Little do at the end of last year? I know. He rushed off to Australia to go to put a submission in against its legislation and last night he was telling me to give David Cameron a ring, so I could put in a submission about their legislation.

Wonderful skewering of the hypocrisy from Labour. They are saying it is awful other Governments can put in submissions on our laws, yet he is himself demanding the NZ Government do the same.

The last issue is theoretically we can be sued under the provisions of investor-State. Well, do not accept my word for how difficult that is. Let me quote this for you, from Phil Goff who said, and quite rightly so because he actually understands what he is talking about when it comes to this area: “The barrier to get investor-State dispute is very high, and the chance is very unlikely.” We have had investor-State in this country for 30 years. Forget about a case being won. There has not been a case taken in 30 years.

Quoting Goff – I love it.

Parliament 11 February 2016

February 11th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement that “we’ve slowed the growth of public spending” given growth in health spending has slowed from over 9 percent under Labour to just 2.6 percent over the last five years, and what impact has this had on district health boards?
  2. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR to the Minister of Finance: What is the outlook for the New Zealand economy, and how does this compare with other developed countries?
  3. MARAMA FOX to the Minister responsible for HNZC: What assurances can he give that the remediation work needed on the estimated 57,500 non-compliant houses, as identified in the2014 Trial of Rental Housing Warrant of Fitness Scheme report, will be carried out as a matter of priority?
  4. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Transport: What announcements has the Government made recently on the East-West Connection roading project in Auckland?
  5. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: When the Prime Minister said in his Statement to Parliament this week that there is now a $17 billion shortfall from Budget 2015, leading to “slightly higher debt”, exactly how much higher net and gross debt is now forecast, and when will that debt peak?
  6. TIM MACINDOE to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he seen about the number of tourists that visited New Zealand over the summer season?
  7. METIRIA TUREI to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with the findings of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment Report that “the socio-economic status of students is probably the most important risk factor associated with low academic performance”?
  8. CLARE CURRAN to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is she satisfied there is no conflict of interest in recent appointments to the board of Radio New Zealand?
  9. MARK MITCHELL to the Minister for Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made about economic development in Northland?
  10. RINO TIRIKATENE to the Minister of Customs: Does she stand by all her answers to Oral Question No. 11 in the House yesterday?
  11. DENIS O’ROURKE to the Associate Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied with the rate and seriousness of accidents involving overseas drivers, in light of the work the Government is doing to target overseas drivers?
  12. STUART SMITH to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent reports has he received on the growth in wine exports?

National: Five questions on the economy, Auckland roading, tourism, Northland and wine exports.

Labour: Four questions on health spending, government debt, Radio NZ Board, and Minister of Customs standing by her answers

Greens: One question on student achievement

NZ First: One question on overseas drivers

Maori Party: One question on Housing WOFs

Debate on PM’s Statement 3 pm to 6.00 pm

Of the 13 hour debate there are six hours 49 minutes remaining, or 41 speeches.

Government Bills

It is likely the Government will adjourn the PM’s Statement debate at some stage and progress some bills.

Home and Community Support (Payment for Travel Between Clients) Settlement Bill – first reading

This Bill implements a settlement between the Crown, District Health Boards, providers of home and community-based care and support services, and certain unions on behalf of home and community-based care and support employees.

  • Introduced September 2015
  • 1st reading: October 2015, passed unanimously
  • SC report: December 2015, supported unanimously with amendments

The first reading consist of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each, for a maximum debate of two hours.

 

Maureen Pugh maiden speech

February 11th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Some extracts from Maureen Pugh’s maiden speech:

My ancestors include amazing pioneers who helped shape New Zealand into what it is today. I can trace them back to include Thomas Bracken—journalist, poet, and politician. He was the first person to publish the words “God’s Own Country” when referring to New Zealand and the man who wrote the words to our enduring national anthem. I am a fifth-generation Coaster brought up in Cobden. The lesson of my upbringing was how focus and drive are keys to capitalising on the opportunities available to all New Zealanders. Having a plan, taking calculated risk, and never being afraid of hard work delivers dreams.

A good West Coast attitude.

In 2014 the West Coast – Tasman electorate was hit by Cyclone Ita. The storm left thousands of hectares of forest broken and lying on the ground. I championed this issue, and thanks to the Hon Nick Smith and a very pragmatic Government, we saw urgent legislation passed through this House, enabling the harvesting of some of those trees off the conservation estate. With good stewardship by Department of Conservation ecologists and management, we have seen a world-class harvesting programme create jobs and provide high-value timber to the market. No devastating haul roads built, no destruction of waterways—just consideration for our native forest within the conservation estate, and by working together, we made the most of a disastrous event.

The Greens opposed this of course.

I have a vision of a sustainable West Coast-Tasman region, neither disrupted by nor vulnerable to commodity downturns—a unique and beautiful region, which substantially adds not only to the visitor’s experience but also to the local and national economies. A key to making that vision a reality is bettering the road network around the South Island. Not only would improving this route provide new tourism experiences, it would also expand opportunities into the small communities of West Coast-Tasman. I am referring to the development of a road through South Westland across the Cascade River and from Buller through to Tasman via the Wangapeka. Something that, as an MP based in West Coast-Tasman, I will go in to bat for. Improving this route would be a game-changer for some small towns. Tourist numbers would multiply exponentially in Haast, glacier country, Hokitika, Greymouth, Karamea, Mōkihinui, Hector, Ngākawau, Waimangaroa, Westport, Tapawera, and Motueka. With the right support, these roads would provide an entirely new, core economic alternative, creating jobs, businesses, and amazing experiences tourists seek.

Road access to the Coast is rather challenging.

Now that’s a Labour deficit

February 10th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

labrot

Whale Oil has a copy of the Rotorua Labour accounts.

It shows:

  • $770 income for the entire year!
  • $10,542 of expenses
  • So expenses are 13 times their income!
  • Debt of $2,946 from the 2014 election

This is in a seat Labour used to hold. Now they can’t even raise $1,000.

HDPA on TPP protests

February 10th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

HDPA writes in the Herald:

The opposition to the TPP was ugly. Worse than that, it backfired. At first, the crowds of thousands walking Auckland’s streets in protest were impressive.

Until you talked to them.

Too many of them didn’t even know why they were protesting.

“I dunno, to be honest,” was roughly what one man said.

Probably typical of most there.

The sight of Sue Bradford wrestling with police – again – can do quite a good job of drawing attention to a cause.

But the sight of Sue Bradford sitting on the tarmac in the middle of a main road to deliberately disrupt the traffic of a city already cursed with motorway constipation is just infuriating.

How did the TPP become the fault of Aucklanders who are just trying to get to work?

How did it require vandalism of one minister’s electorate office?

How would molotov-cocktail bombing another minister’s office stop it?

Nasty stuff. This is I guess what they mean by non-violent.

But what TPP-haters have done is drive the thousands of ordinary Kiwis who don’t really understand the deal and its implications straight into the arms of the TPP fan-boys and girls.

Whose argument are you more likely to believe: the guy who can relay the solitary blog post he’s read on how great the TPP is, or the guy lying in the middle of the road clutching a molotov cocktail because he’s angry about something vaguely to do with the price of medicine?

The anti TPP antics appeal to their own core activists, but are a turn off to middle NZ.

ODT also against Labour’s free fees policy

February 10th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

It is, in the end, the middle classes who are most likely to take up tertiary education in its various forms, just as they have gained from the costly interest-free student loans.

While the policy is to cover post-school education, including apprenticeships, it is not the poor and disadvantaged who will be the primary beneficiaries.

Former prime minister Helen Clark basically bribed the electorate with its own money on the student loans and family support payments.

Now comes another transfer to help, largely, the relatively well off.

It is taking $1.2 billion a year from all New Zealanders and giving it to the people who will be the highest earning in society.

There must also be doubts about the price tag being limited to $1.2billion.

For a start, it is clear extra spending on free fees will have to be matched by extra institutional funding for increased demand.

And the extra demand will be way way more than 15%.

It is also true the current system of part-payment – the Government still pays the majority share of most courses – focuses the mind.

Not only are students likely to give more consideration to the value of their courses to them, but it also means more accountability from teachers.

Students paying for studies have proved much less likely to put up with second-rate teaching or second-rate programmes.

You don’t value things as much when they are “free”. This policy will see a significant decline in quality.

Parliament 10 February 2016

February 10th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. JONATHAN YOUNG to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on employment in New Zealand?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment in light of student loan debt being set to pass $15 billion this year?
  3. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Transport: What announcements has the Government made recently setting out its commitment to the City Rail Link project in Auckland?
  4. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: Does he have confidence in the Governor of the Reserve Bank; if so, is he confident that the Policy Targets Agreement he signed with the Governor in 2012 is being fulfilled?
  5. MARK MITCHELL to the Minister of Trade: What progress has been made to advance New Zealand’s trade links with the rest of the world?
  6. METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement to Parliament yesterday that he’s in government to make this country a better place for New Zealanders and their families?
  7. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Is he satisfied with his oversight of the tertiary education sector?
  8. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister for Building and Housing: How does the number of homes consented in the last quarter of 2008 compare with the last quarter of 2015?
  9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Hon Steven Joyce; if so, why?
  10. MELISSA LEE to the Minister for Small Business: How will New Zealand small businesses benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?
  11. RINO TIRIKATENE to the Minister of Customs: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “We will confront the P problem, using the full force of the Government’s arsenal”; if so, why does an experienced Customs officer say that only one in 10 illicit drug imports is being seized at the border?
  12. RICHARD PROSSER to the Minister of Conservation: What was her reasoning behind approving the transfer and release of silver carp near Lake Taupo?

National: Five questions on employment, Auckland City Ral Link, TPPA x 2, and building consents

Labour: Four questions on student debt, inflation, tertiary education sector and P

Greens: One question on PM’s statement

NZ First: Two questions on confidence in Steven Joyce and Lake Taupo

Questions to Members

  1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Member in charge of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill: Why did he draft the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill?
  2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Member in charge of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill: What problem does the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill seek to address?
  3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Member in charge of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill: What problem does the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill seek to address?
  4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Member in charge of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill: What problem does the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Preventing Name Change by Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill seek to address?

The MP in charge is Dr Jian Yang. Not sure why Qs 2 to 4 are identical.

Debate on PM’s Statement 3 pm to 5.45 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Of the 13 hour debate there are nine hours 18 minutes remaining, or 56 speeches.

Maiden Speech 5.45 pm to 6.00 pm

New National List MP Maureen Push will give her maiden speech

Government Bills

It is likely the Government will adjourn the PM’s Statement debate at some stage and progress some bills.

Taxation (Annual Rates for 2015-16, Research and Development, and Remedial Matters) Bill – committee stage continued

The bill is an omnibus bill that significantly amends ten different tax acts,especially in the area of child support.

  • Introduced: February 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2015, passed unanimously
  • SC report: September 2015, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: October 2015, passed unanimously

There is no time limit for the committee stage but it is estimated to be a five hour debate as the bill has four parts and preliminary provisions to debate. Three parts have been agreed to, so there are probably one to two hours remaining.

The Minister has two SOPs.

Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Amendment Bill – committee stage continued

The bill amends the Weathertight Home Resolution Services Act 2006 to remove any doubt about the validity of the criteria, deem certain claims determined as ineligible to be eligible, and to widen the definition of qualifying claimant.

  • Introduced: February 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2015, passed unanimously
  • Select Committee report: July 2015, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: September 2015, passed unanimously

There is no time limit for the committee stage but it is estimated to be a three hour debate as the bill has two parts and preliminary provisions to debate. One part has been agreed to, so there are probably one to two hours remaining.

 

Walker on TPP and soverignity

February 10th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald interviews the chief TPP negotiator for NZ, David Walker:

The first trade deal for which he was chief negotiator was the P4, the predecessor to the TPP comprising New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile.

His first big one was the China deal in 2008, the first free trade agreement China had negotiated with an open economy.

While there were similarities between the China and TPP agreements, the China deal was less ambitious in trade in services than TPP, which also went further on intellectual property, and had more extensive treatment of labour and the environment.

“But in most respects we’re dealing with a similar range of subject matter in both agreements.”

The combination of having led the China negotiations and the TPP talks affords him the description of New Zealand’s most successful trade negotiator.

The China deal especially was a great success. TPP has not gained us quite as much, but it is much much harder to negotiate with 11 other countries, than one.

So what is his response to the claim that the TPP undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty? “An international treaty to my mind, it’s really sovereign countries coming together in the joint exercise of that sovereignty, deciding what they will do together, or what they agree not to do in concert with each other.

“And sometimes that is going to act as a constraint on individual action. That, in fact, is the purpose of the treaty-making process in the first place and that arises no matter what policy area the treaty is in respect of, whether it is an economic treaty or a security treaty or a human rights treaty.”

Little’s rantings about sovereignty are intellectually dishonest. The TPP no more impacts our sovereignty than the China FTA, the Kyoto Agreement, the Antarctic Treaty or the UN Convention against Torture.

A stairwell is a lot cheaper than a lift

February 10th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has spent almost $20 million on a redesign of its new office block, including $2.5m on a 12 floor staircase named “the Stairway to Heaven” by the Opposition. 

The MoE said the revamp of Matauranga House, in Bowen Street just up the road from Treasury, will come in $3m under budget and save $27m on accommodation and running costs over the 15 year term of the lease.

But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the cost was over the top.

“Huge expenditure like this on a gold-plated office will certainly stick in the craw of teachers and student up and down the country. Is this the Stairway to Heaven? It would need to lead to somewhere pretty special for that sort of money,” Hipkins said. 

Gold-plated because it has a stairwell?

An MoE spokeswoman said the staircase was needed because there were only four lifts in the building and eventually it would have 25 per cent more staff than when MBIE occupied it. There would also be an estimated 1000 visitors a month.

It was not “a Stairway to Heaven” but was the cheapest way to handle the extra traffic. The alternative – a fifth lift – would have cost up to $4m.

Choosing a stairwell over a fifth lift is an excellent idea. Not only is it $1.5 million cheaper, but it means staff and visitors can use the stairwell to go between floors, rather than have to use the lifts. So it is good for fitness, and saves money. Plus lifts have notoriously high ongoing maintenance costs.

MoE had been working out of four buildings in Wellington and those leases were due to expire early this year. The revamp had been funded out of existing baselines. The office space was 6000 sq metres less than its previous premises, down from 22,500 square metres to about 16,500.

So what Chris Hipkins is attacking is that the Ministry has reduced the size of its office space by 27% and has a lease and running costs $27 million cheaper over 15 years than previously?

I know the role of the opposition is to attack wasteful spending (as the Taxpayers union does also). But sometimes spending isn’t wasteful, but actually saves money. I think Chris could benefit with better targeting.

Other changes would see phone costs cut by about $330,000 through scrapping traditional desk phones and providing staff with headsets and Skype

Good to see smart use of technology.

Eventually all staff would “hot desk” with only a locker but no desk of their own – a first for a government department or ministry. The design was open plan, and even chief executive Peter Hughes did not have his own office.

Which presumably is how they have managed to reduce their floor size by 6,000 square metres.

Parliament 9 February 2016

February 9th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Prime Minister delivers a statement to open the year with. He, and other party leaders (with at least six MPs) get 20 minutes each and all other MPs get 10 minutes.

The debate will last 13 hours which will mean four speeches of 20 minutes and 68 speeches of 10 minutes.

If they do not break for any other business, they will complete. six and a half hours of the debate today.

 

Greens on ETS

February 9th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An evaluation of the Emissions Trading Scheme shows the Government has “weakened the scheme to the point of ineffectiveness,” says Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

The Government released three technical reports last week, to help New Zealanders engage with a public review of the ETS. 

One of those, a Ministry of Environment report into the performance of the ETS, found it provided businesses nearly no incentive to look at how to reduce their emissions.

Shaw said that with expenditure of $40m on setting up the ETS, and despite it being the Government’s main policy for tackling climate change, it was failing.

“The ETS is supposed to provide businesses with an incentive to reduce their emissions – but two thirds of businesses no longer give any consideration to the ETS when making business decisions.

The Greens are correct that the ETS is not sending a price signal to businesses that will greatly impact production of greenhouse gas emissions.

But this is more due to the collapse of the global price of carbon after the failure of Copenhagen some years ago. The agreement in Paris may see prices rise.

The cost per EU unit was 30 Euros in 2006 but by 2007 had fallen to 10 cents.  So it is not just NZ that has had the challenge of a trading scheme with low prices.

However that is not to say local policy settings don’t have some impact. The 2:1 subsidy was needed to cushion the initial impact, but I think it is time for that to go.

Jones says shift Waitangi Day celebrations

February 9th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Labour MP Shane Jones has thrown his weight behind calls to shift Waitangi celebrations involving the Crown, away from Ti Tii Marae. 

The national day and lead-up was marred by in-fighting among trustees of the lower marae. Drawn-out confusion over whether Prime Minister John Key was even invited, and a gagging order placed on him by some trustees led to his withdrawal from Waitangi celebrations at the weekend. …

Northland-based Jones, now New Zealand’s economic development ambassador to the Pacific, said he supported the calls.

“Unfortunately all Tai Tokerau (Northland) tribes are tainted by the Te Tii Marae circus. Their decision that the PM could go on the Marae but not talk makes a mockery of Marae culture.

“What were they thinking, that the leader of the nation would stand and hum Pokarekare ana?” said Jones. 

And Jones further says:

He said a vote over whether trustees would extend an invitation to the Prime Minister this year was “farcical”.

“Such hui and decisions showed that Marae cannot cope and an alternative venue should be used to prevent Waitangi looking like wairangi (delusional).”

Why not shift it around New Zealand and allow different Iwi to host it? I’m sure Ngai Tahu would put on an exceptionally good Waitangi Day, for example.

You could rotate it among all the Iwi that have completed Treaty settlements with the Crown.

Quote of the week

February 9th, 2016 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader. Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing ‘compassion’ for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.”

– Thomas Sowell

The quote of the week 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.

So what did I miss?

February 9th, 2016 at 6:59 am by David Farrar

So as far as I can tell, now being back in the world with Internet, I missed:

  • TPP protests that did of course turn violent
  • PM not attending Waitangi Day at Waitangi Marae as the hosts thought not allowing the head of government to speak wasn’t insulting
  • Someone threw a dildo at Steven Joyce

Sounds like it was a good five days to go tramping!

No tag for this post.

Robertson predicted unemployment would hit 7%

February 8th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Just a few weeks ago Grant Robertson said:

With unemployment set to head towards 7% in the coming year, it is reckless that the government still has no plan to address this.

Oh dear.

Inflation has been outside the Reserve Bank target range for eight of the last sixteen quarters yet he is not planning to take any action. 

And here Grant is complaining that inflation is not high enough!

Winston wants to nationalise EFTPOS!!!

February 8th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Winston rants:

Following the latest EFTPOS outage, New Zealand First is calling on the Reserve Bank to purchase EFTPOS processor, Paymark, which is reportedly on the market.

“Most people don’t realise that the clearing houses behind New Zealand’s electronic banking system are both overseas owned,” says New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“In 2013, ANZ sold EFTPOS New Zealand to American giant Verifone for $70m, while overseas owned ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac want to sell off Paymark.

“If the Reserve Bank is to meet a key purpose of its own Act, ‘promoting the maintenance of a sound and efficient financial system’, then Paymark must come into its ownership.

Winston wants the Government to nationalise the EFTPOS system!

One day he may understand the difference between ownership and ability to regulate. But I doubt it.

How is free tertiary education going in Scotland?

February 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s huge $1.2 billion+ bribe of free tertiary education for all has been done before. By the SNP in Scotland.

This is fortunate for us, as we can compare how students in Scotland fare compared to students in England, which has fees.

Tim Wigmore in the New Statesman writes:

If you are a disadvantaged young person today, your chances of going to university are far worse if you are born in Scotland than south of the River Tweed. The poorest fifth of Scots are 3.5 times less likely to go to university through Ucas than the top fifth; the difference is only 2.5 times in England. Based on this measure, Scotland has by far the greatest level of educational inequality in the UK.

So Scotland with free fees does worse than England in terms of getting poor families to university:

Because of the absence of tuition fees, universities themselves also lack money to invest in bursary and outreach programmes, further handicapping disadvantaged students. English institutions spend over three times as much on financial help for poor students, according to a 2013 study from the University of Edinburgh. English universities also no longer have a cap on the number of students they can take; the cap on the number of Scottish students that Scottish universities can take hurts all students but disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged.

The same could well occur here. Presumably the Government will ban universities from charging fees, which means they will entirely control the income streams for universities.

In an age of austerity, cutting school funding has partly paid for protecting free university education. Spending on schools in Scotland fell by five per cent in real terms from 2010 to 2013 while, in England, it rose in real terms between 2010 and 2015.

This is the opportunity cost I talked about. Rather than invest more money into improving teacher quality, they are just doing middle class welfare.

Nicola Sturgeon is fond of saying that university debt would have meant she couldn’t go to university. This is not only disingenuous – students only have to repay their fees when they are earning over £21,000 – but also ignores that students in Scotland today still leave university with an average debt of £21,000, more than those in Northern Ireland or Wales, which both have tuition fees. When far less generous bursaries from universities are taken into account, many disadvantaged Scottish students will actually graduate with higher debt than equivalent students in England. Perhaps this is why even Scots are becoming sceptical about this middle-class hand-out by stealth: only a quarter of Scots believe that no students should contribute towards their tuition fees.

A student will be around $500,000 better off by going to university. It is not unreasonable they should pay a small portion of the costs of that education, rather than tax everyone for 100% of it.

Alwyn Poole on Euthanasia

February 7th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Alwyn Poole has done a post arguing against legalising euthanasia:

I had two fathers who died two quite different deaths. One, my birth father (who I never met), chose suicide assisted by a shotgun in his back shed. The other, the one who adopted me and brought me up, died of natural causes in his lounge – at home with his wife – in 2006.

Strangely enough, re the debate on euthanasia, it is the death of the second one I want to address. This should not be a nice trendy issue for someone to try and gain electoral support. It has stunning potential to become a slippery slope for a range of groups in society. It also has the potential to confer power to a group of people (doctors) who are highly fallible in a range of ways.

As I said – my adoptive father died naturally at home. His life almost did not end that way. A few months prior to his death I received a phone call at work that my father was “dying that day”. It was a Tuesday and he was in intensive care in a hospital in a small city in NZ. I had spent time there with him on the Sunday and had left him on the improve and​, apparently, ​ in good spirits. 

Ray Poole was 67 years old at the time and had a terminal illness, emphysema, that had progressed. He was not in good shape having been one of those people who had worked incredibly hard (sometimes doing three ​tough ​jobs) to provide for his family and pay his taxes. He most certainly hadn’t helped his health by supporting the NZ ​s​herry industry and overseas owned tobacco companies for a long period of time. His wife, my mother, had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she could go “any time” (which did not actually ​happen ​until ​seven years later​. Luckily she was skeptical of certain timelines too). Her situation clearly was having an impact on him.

Back to the phone call and my dad dying “that day”. I caught a plane and got myself to his fair city. Drove to the hospital and walked into intensive care. With two questions:

  1. What was his condition?
  1. What has happened since Sunday to bring about such a change?

His condition was that he was unconscious and that his oxygen levels were having to be assisted by tubes in his nose. The “what had happened since Sunday” was more startling. Apparently since I had left he had refused food and drink and the staff had allowed him to do so (without notifying family). He was not dying of his disease – he was dehydrated and starving. I asked the nurse in charge how this was allowed. She told me that the “doctors had met and decided that he had no ​’​quality of life​’​ “. This had not been a discussion involving him, my mother, my brother (a nurse), or myself. After I had clearly informed them what I thought of this I then asked what their “plan” was. 

Their plan ​had been to wait until I arrived and then send in a junior nurse with me to “turn off his oxygen and see what happens – then evaluate further.” So I followed her in and she did what she had been told to do by her authority figures. When she turned the oxygen off the saturation levels began to drop off a little. I then informed her that it was time to turn ​it​ back on. She refused telling me it was best that he “slip away now” (my brother, mother and I being treated like uninformed village idiots). She had made that decision but was clearly certain of support from her seniors (who had made sure that they were not there). I was brief and to the point in informing her that she was to turn the oxygen back on and she did so. I then asked for a syringe and a jug of water ​then sat and began to drip water into my father’s mouth. Twenty minutes later he woke up, sat up, and said: “Mate – I would do with another litre of that.”

I then did what I maybe should have done on the Sunday – I stayed and I cared. My dad slowly got better. It was clear that he wasn’t going to live for a long time but he packed life into the next few months. He cared for my mother, he spent time with his grandchildren, he talked with me every day. He passed away naturally when the time came.

Why had he refused food and drink earlier (and been so ably assisted in doing so)? He didn’t want to die but he thought he was being a burden. He thought he deserved it after all he had worked, smoked and drank his health away. He thought he was without hope. He was lonely and afraid of being alone. His wife was sick and, apparently, dying. 

The staff at the hospital took for themselves a “right” and position that does not belong on human shoulders (regardless of what law gets promoted and maybe even passed).​ No human being should be put in a position to decide and assist. ​There are very good reasons that we hold that dying is a natural event and that to the absolute best of our collective ability we care for every human in our society until nature takes its course.

I am always happy to run guest posts for or against an issue.

Education Directions on free tertiary fees

February 6th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting analysis of Labour’s “free” tertiary fees policy by Education Directions Dave Guerin – a leading education policy strategist:

  • The policy is quite thin beyond the headline figures. Costings and assumptions have not been provided, so it is hard to test the figures.
  • Making something free normally leads to rationing, and “homeopathy for pets” has been suggested as an area to be curtailed. However, Andrew Little has said that Labour expects a 15% increase in participation (that’s not in the papers released by Labour), so there will be overall growth.
  • If a TEO has fewer sources of income, it becomes more dependent upon the remaining ones. By reducing student fee income, this policy would increase the importance of government funding for TEOs. Such government funding is often constrained due to wider budgetary reasons. Any participation growth would probably be offset by lower income/students, and slower income growth.
  • Apprentices may get less benefit out of this than others, because their fees are generally lower and employers often pay a share of them. Officials will also be cautious about replacing employers’ funds with government funds.
  • The entitlement is defined as years of education rather than EFTS – that would disadvantage part-time learners, and we suspect it might change to an EFTS allowance in time (but Labour is talking to the general public, so would have avoided jargon at this stage).
  • The policy is not targeted, so it will pay the fees of people who are willing to pay fees right now (ie every current fee-paying student). While Labour says that it cares about increasing participation, their policy has the main effect of transferring funds to people who would be students anyway. If you wanted to boost participation amongst people deterred by current fees, you would use more targeted scholarships along with bridging programmes.
  • The policy is affordable, if it is prioritised over other things. Since most students pay their fees with student loans, and around 40% of the value of student loans are written off due to interest-free loans and other factors, Labour only really needs to find about 60% of the costs of fees for its policy (plus their 15% projected growth in student numbers). Labour will have to make a convincing case about its overall budgetary plans closer to the next election.
  • Labour’s stated reasons for the policy (access, retraining, and high debt) aren’t very robust, but the core reason seems to be that senior Labour politicians believe that this is the right thing to do, and that it will earn votes.

So my summary of the above is:

  • Policy does not provide details to back the costing
  • It is likely to lead to course restrictions in some areas
  • Tertiary institutes likely to end up with less funding per student
  • The policy is not targeted and will mainly pay the fees of people already willing and able to pay them
  • The rationale for the policy overall is not very robust – more to do with votes than solving a problem

That’s 9th floor, not 11th

February 6th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ever wondered where our politicians spend their days?

Stuff presents MP Cribs; taking you behind-the-scenes at the Beehive. First up, Prime Minister John Key and his office on the eleventh floor.

That’s the 9th floor, not the 11th floor. The 11th floor is pretty barren and just has a flagpole – commonly known as the roof.

No tag for this post.

Easton says NZ should sign the TPP

February 5th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Politik reports:

The veteran centre-left economist and long-time Listener columnist, Brian Easton, has come out saying New Zealand should sign the TPP.

In a blog, Mr Easton says that New Zealand achieves international trade successes such as its recent win by having the World Trade Organisation abolish agricultural subsidies because it has international credibility on trade agreements.

“That trust arises from the way we behave in other trade negotiations, including the TPP,” he said.

“The implication is that if we defaulted on the TPPA we would damage that trust and our ability to function effectively in a wide range of other international negotiations we care about, including on climate change.

Getting very lonely for Labour out there.

Vanguard Military School 2015 NCEA Results

February 5th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vanguard Military School is a charter school that Labour and the Greens want to close down.

It’s students come from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, and were often failing in other schools.

Here’s their 2015 NCEA results.

  • NCEA Level 1 – 93.2% vs 83.7% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 2 – 100.0% vs 87.4% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 3 – 93.3% vs 81.3% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 1 Maori students – 95.2% vs 73.0% NZ average

Maori and Pasifika students at Vanguard are achieving 20% better than the national average.

There are already 160 enrolments for 2016. Hopefully they will not be closed down by a change of Government in 2017.