Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Budget 2016

May 26th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The surprise in the Budget this year is that there is no surprise!

The last few years there has been a significant surprise such as the increase in welfare benefits or free primary health care for under 13s. There was no surprise this year, just the normal allocation of spending.

There’s nothing in the Budget to get particularly excited about, but also nothing to condemn. Of course that won’t stop the usual suspects condemning it in strident tones, but the reality is that the Government has spent all the money it has, and spent it in the areas you’d expect them to.

What is pleasing is that surpluses of $700 million are projected for this year and next year. That’s a very small surplus, but we are one of the few developed countries around that has managed a surplus. Most of our peers are not forecast to hit surplus until at least 2020.

The Economy

  • Average economic growth of 2.8% projected
  • NZ has been 7th fastest growing economy over last five years, among developed countries
  • Surplus for this year projected to be $700 million and the same for next year. Then in 2018 hits $2.5b and $5.0b in 2019. So unlikely to see tax cuts until 2019.
  • 200,000 more people in work than three years ago and further 170,000 jobs projected
  • Average wage projected to hit $63,000 a year – was $47,000 in 2008
  • Net debt to peak next year at 25.6% of GDP then fall to 19.3%

Spending

  • Operating Allowance are around $1.5 billion a year compared to $4.3b a year of last term of Labour
  • Core crown expenses at 29.7% of GDP, down from 34%.

Health

  • $2.2 billion extra for health over four years
  • $1.6b for DHBs
  • $169m for disability support
  • $124m for Pharmac

Infrastructure

  • $2.1 billion more for infrastructure being $1.4 capex and $0.7 opex
  • $857m for the new IRD system to replace the 25 year old system
  • $883m for schools funding 480 new classrooms, nine new schools and rebuilding Christchurch schools
  • $115m for regional roads
  • $190m for Kiwirail

Innovation

  • $761 million for innovation being $411m for science and innovation and $257m for tertiary education.
  • $97m more for health research
  • $95m for regional economic development
  • A 49% increase in funding for the Marsden Fund

Social Investment

  • $640 million for social investment including $200 million for replacing CYF
  • $200 million more for housing for 750 more places for those with most pressing housing needs, $42m for 3,000 emergency housing places, a new emergency housing grant and $36 million to continue home insulation. Also $100m to free up land in Auckland for housing

Other

  • $17m more for Antarctica NZ
  • ETS two for one subsidy to end, saving $356 million
  • $100 million for freshwater improvement
  • Cumulative spending commitments on Christchurch now reaches $17b
  • Tobacco excise tax to continue to increase at 10% a year taking a pack of 20 from $20 to $30. An extra $425m of tax revenue
  • The top 10% of income earners now pay 45% of income tax. The bottom 50% of income earners pay 10% of income tax
  • Those on the top tax rate (earning over $70,000) contribute 60% of income tax revenue

The new GCSB Director

May 26th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

He had an early exposure to the murky world of espionage when called on as director of the Office of Treaty Settlements to give evidence about claims the intelligence agencies had spied on Maori organisations and provided information to the Crown in their negotiations.

That was news to him at the time, says Hampton, and – as it turned out – news to the intelligence agencies also, given that it turned out to be a “complete hoax”.

“So I’ve not necessarily believed everything I read. But yeah, there was public concern so I wanted to reassure myself there wasn’t a basis for it. But people don’t need to take my word for it: the [Michael Cullen, Patsy Reddy] report did a really good job of looking at what GCSB does and concluded they don’t consider there is any mass surveillance underway.”

Hampton’s appointment is the next step in the evolution of the GCSB as it is brought blinking into the public glaze after years of living in the shadows. Like his predecessors – acting director Una Jagose and, before her, career public servant Ian Fletcher – Hampton’s appointment breaks with the tradition of GCSB directors drawn from the military and diplomatic worlds.

I think that has been a major beneficial change under this Government – that both the SIS and the GCSB are no longer run primarily by ex military staff. Nothing against those staff, but there was a culture that absolutely everything had to be secret, rather than assessing the balance between operational security and transparency.

Prior to the GCSB, he was at the Education Ministry (helping sort out the Novopay debacle), Crown Law and chief talent officer at the State Services Commission. And like his counterpart at sister agency the Security Intelligence Service, Rebecca Kitteridge, Hampton brings a public service sensibility to the job. He is focused on GCSB’s “customers”, and liberally uses words like accountability, transparency, and added value – things the GCSB was not so good at a few years ago.

The change has been difficult and necessary; the story of the GCSB’s bungled spy craft in relation to German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom is now history, but it remains dogged in controversy as the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, probes a series of allegations, including that the agency wrongly spied on Kiwis in the Pacific, and used its eavesdropping powers to snoop on rival candidates for the job of World Trade Organisation boss when our Government was backing former trade minister Tim Groser for the job.

Hampton says he can’t talk about the specifics of any of those inquiries but points out they are “legacy” issues, pre-dating not just himself, but his two predecessors.

But, as he is at pains to note, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the GCSB collects foreign intelligence.

“One of our three core roles is to gather foreign intelligence. That is what we are [tasked] with doing. It’s not for us to set out own intelligence priorities, they are set for us by the Government of the day. Nor is it for us to decide what to do with that intelligence. We are not an enforcement agency. But the fact we do seek intelligence about the intentions, capabilities, and activities of foreign parties shouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s one of the key reasons we exist.”

The Inspector-General reports will be interesting. I doubt much will come of the Pacific inquiry as from what I have read any material picked up accidentally from NZers in a foreign country is disposed of. The WTO inquiry could be more interesting as that will focus on whether gathering intelligence on that contest fits within the purposes of the Act.

The intellectual giants of NZ First

May 26th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZ First has added a new party policy to its list – voting the opposite to ACT leader David Seymour.

In a weird twist of events on Wednesday night NZ First pulled its initial support for the Official Information Act (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Amendment Bill purely because Seymour had decided to vote for it.

It passed its first reading in October after United Future leader Peter Dunne and the Maori Party broke ranks with National and ACT to get the Labour bill over the line.

Seymour, who is under-secretary for education and responsible for charter schools labelled it a “silly bill” but rather than lobby members to oppose it he decided to vote for it as well.

The bill is designed to make under-secretaries subject to the OIA but Seymour claims it’s a “stunt bill” targeting him. 

Speaking in the House on Wednesday night NZ First MP Denis O’Rourke said his party was “comforted” by the fact Seymour initially opposed the bill because he “always gets things wrong”.

“So by supporting it we thought we must be getting it right.”

But Seymour’s voting in favour of the bill at its second reading meant NZ First had to have a “re-think” and now “feel strongly that we must oppose it,” O’Rourke said.

What pathetic puerile politicians. You might expect this from ten year olds, but not MPs.  How can anyone take them seriously when they decide how to vote in Parliament based on this.

Little on housing

May 26th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Andrew Little says it will take a Labour-led Government a single term in office to fix the housing crisis the Government denies even exists.

Well that’s nonsense as almost every major city in countries like NZ is facing the same price increase for housing. There is no magic wand that will change the fundamental challenge of demand rising faster than supply. But there are things that can help. But their impact will take a long time.

Last week the party announced a new policy to relax the rules around Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL), which Mr Little says are artificially driving up prices.

“We said we would change the rules on urban limits so we’re not having this arbitrary distinction between properties in Pukekohe selling for $600,000 — that’s just for a section — then just over the boundary you know, properties actually at a more reasonable sort of level,” he told Paul Henry on Monday.

“There’s this arbitrary rule that’s been created that’s just causing this ridiculous inflation in section prices.”

Great to see Little campaigning on this also though. I was worried that Twyford had got the policy through caucus when they were all sleeping. But if Little is promoting it, that means Labour is committed to it – which is good.

Mr Little says if the council doesn’t approve the Unitary Plan later this year, a Labour-led Government will override it and open up the land anyway.

Excellent. I wish National would say the same.

Hide on the Little blunder

May 25th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The good thing about stunts is that you get to prepare them. You get to choose when and where and have time to develop and craft your message. You have staff and MPs to check things out.

It is important to check every detail and every fact from every angle. The journalists will pounce on the slightest mistake to write a story contrary to the one that you are hoping to make.

You especially have to check the talent. Involving real people is good but they can wander off message.

A lot of work normally goes in to anything like this, and even more if it involves the leader.

The issue was housing. The problem overcrowding.

The journalists were given the address. Turn up and Labour will show you 17 poor people at one address living in a tent.

The journalists are there ahead of you. Everything is ready to go. But then the homeowner wanders out to tell the journos there is no problem, there is no overcrowding, the tent is for furniture and material while he renovates.

The homeowner sounds content and aspirational. He’s fixing up his house. He’s looking to the future. It’s a disaster.

It was.

It’s hard to comprehend how such a monumental error could be made. Had the local MPs not talked to the homeowner? Had Little’s staff not checked and rechecked the story?

I don’t have the answers but the stunt reinforces the impression that Little is unlucky and bumbling. The story will have hardly registered to most and will soon be forgotten except by political tragics such as myself who will tell and retell the story to highlight the importance of preparation and how things can go horribly wrong.

Labour has no route to power without the support of Winston Peters. Peters can’t abide amateurs. He isn’t about to make one Prime Minister.

Also if Winston has a choice between a party polling in the 40s, and in the 20s, he won’t go for the one in the 20s.

Greive on Bryan Bruce’s education “documentary”

May 25th, 2016 at 2:01 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Grieve writes:

Last night TV3 screened a “special report”, “written, directed and produced” by Bryan Bruce, the veteran of dozens of documentaries over the years, many of which he has fronted with a familiar, bleakly beseeching on-camera presence.

This one was called World Class? Inside NZ Education – A Special Report, and was comfortably the most asinine of those I’ve seen from the man, a windy and handwringing collection of reckons and I thinks which saw him jet around the world to have confirmed for him what he had already decided – that our education system is fucked, and neoliberalism is to blame.

Pretty much every documentary from Bruce is the same – neoliberalism is to blame.

It was a rambling, incoherent mess of a product, at once disdainful of testing and reliant on it, dated in its construction, sloppily assembled and wilfully misrepresentative of both the intent and reality of the teaching systems it assessed.

And they were the highlights.

We see some kids getting on a train to go to school in Wellington, which he unaccountably finds offensive – choice is an enemy in his mind.

How dare parents and students have a choice of school.

Bruce went into this project with supreme self-righteousness and certainty of his perspective. He was driven by the powerful nostalgia so many of a certain age and gender experience for life before the fourth Labour government. He sought out people who would echo his opinions. Then he delivered us his findings from the mountain, and sat back waiting for the applause.

There’s a lot of people like Bruce. They think the 1970s were some magical utopia and they’re been railing against everything that has happened since 1984.

In the end the enduring image I’ll take away from this truly awful hour is the unedifying spectre of an old pākehā man, wandering slowly toward the camera and plaintively asking – certainly not for the first time – why the world has to change. I hope I never have to see him pose the same question again.

Sadly I suspect NZ on Air will continue to fund them.  A quick search shows they have funded at least 17 documentaries from him which means he has received from the taxpayers over $1.7 million.

Parliament 25 May 2016

May 25th, 2016 at 11:59 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here. (link available after 1 pm)

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he still stand by all his statements; if so, why?
  2. JOANNE HAYES to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking in Budget 2016 to deliver better public services – particularly for the most vulnerable New Zealanders?
  3. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statements with regard to housing that “we take responsibility; we need to do a better job of it”, and “we need to do more”?
  4. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with all of this Government’s spending choices?
  5. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What new investment is the Government making in health research?
  6. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: What dollar increase in core Crown health expenditure is required to meet all demographic and inflationary cost pressures in 2016/17?
  7. SIMON O’CONNOR to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made towards achieving the Government’s national health targets?
  8. METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: Tū ai a ia i runga i te mana o āna korero katoa?
    • Translation: Does he stand by all his statements?
  9. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: Why has he brought forward spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 into Budget 2016?
  10. MELISSA LEE to the Minister for ACC: What initiatives are being delivered to reduce the number of people injured in New Zealand?
  11. JAMES SHAW to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Did she make a bid for Budget 2016 to cancel Government-held carbon credits to compensate for the past use of “dubious” credits, in order to meet New Zealand’s climate commitments?
  12. RINO TIRIKATENE to the Minister for Primary Industries: Was he aware in 2013 of the pervasive illegal dumping of fish from inshore trawlers, as documented in the MPI reports on Operation Achilles and Operation Hippocamp?

National: Four questions on Budget 2016, health research funding, health targets and ACC

Labour: Four questions on housing, health spending, spending and fishing

Greens: Two questions on PM standing by his statements and climate change

NZ First: One question Pm standing by his statements

ACT: One question on Government spending

General Debate 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

12 speeches of five minutes each for a maximum of one hour.

Members’ Bill 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

 

Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave and Work Contact Hours) Amendment Bill – second reading

This bill extends paid parental leave to 26 weeks. It is in the name of Labour MP Sue Moroney

  • Introduced: July 2015
  • 1st reading: September 2015, passed 61 to 60 with National and ACT against
  • SC report: April 2016, committee tied on the bill

The second reading consists of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each so the debate is a maximum of two hours.

Overseas Investment (Protection of New Zealand Homebuyers) Amendment Bill – first reading

This bill bans non-residents purchasing residential property. It is in the name of Labour MP Phil Twyford

  • Introduced: November 2015

The first reading consists of 11 speeches, being two ten minute speeches, eight five minute speeches and a five minute right of reply for a maximum of 65 minutes.

Oaths and Declarations (Endorsing the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill – first reading

This bill will allow a person taking any oath to also state that they will perform their duties in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is in the name of Maori Party MP Marama Fox.

  • Introduced: November 2015

The first reading consists of 11 speeches, being two ten minute speeches, eight five minute speeches and a five minute right of reply for a maximum of 65 minutes.

Social Security (Stopping Benefit Payments for Offenders who Repeatedly Fail to Comply with Community Sentences) Amendment Bill – first reading

This bill would give the Department of Corrections the power to issue warnings to persons who have not complied with community-based sentences, with the consequence of withholding benefit payments. It is in the name of National MP Mark Mitchell.

  • Introduced: November 2015

The first reading consists of 11 speeches, being two ten minute speeches, eight five minute speeches and a five minute right of reply for a maximum of 65 minutes.

Obama celebrates charter schools

May 25th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The White House announced:

Our Nation has always been guided by the belief that all young people should be free to dream as big and boldly as they want, and that with hard work and determination, they can turn their dreams into realities. Schools help us uphold this ideal by offering a place for children to grow, learn, and thrive. During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate the role of high-quality public charter schools in helping to ensure students are prepared and able to seize their piece of the American dream, and we honor the dedicated professionals across America who make this calling their life’s work by serving in charter schools. 

Charter schools play an important role in our country’s education system. Supporting some of our Nation’s underserved communities, they can ignite imagination and nourish the minds of America’s young people while finding new ways of educating them and equipping them with the knowledge they need to succeed. With the flexibility to develop new methods for educating our youth, and to develop remedies that could help underperforming schools, these innovative and autonomous public schools often offer lessons that can be applied in other institutions of learning across our country, including in traditional public schools.

This is from a Democratic President.

Taxpayer funded motels

May 25th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has what is meant to be a sob story about a women who owes WINZ $60,000. But I think most people who read the story will be horrified by how much money taxpayers are spending on this family.

A mother of eight has been lent $60,000 by Work and Income to pay motel bills because she has been banned from state housing for a year.

The Mangere woman, aged 28, has been put up in motels with her partner, 30, and eight children aged from 5 months up to 11 years for the past 10 months.

She’s 28 and he’s 30, and they have eight kids. Problem number one.

Work and Income is paying $1200 a week for their current motel, where they have been for five months. Some of their earlier bills were for up to $1700 a week.

On top of the massive welfare payments they’ll be getting, taxpayers are also paying $1,700 a week for them to stay in a motel, That’s how generous our welfare state is. There is of course no chance it will ever be repaid I’d say.

The woman, who asked to be called “Jane”, said she was suspended from all Housing NZ properties after her last state house was found to be contaminated with “pure” methamphetamine (“P”).

Social Development Ministry housing chief Carl Crafar said the family was evicted from the house last July due to the meth contamination.

“They are currently not eligible for a Housing NZ house, and have admitted to using meth in their past three Housing NZ properties,” he said.

But Jane said the contamination occurred before she moved into the house three years earlier.

“I have never used meth or cooked it in my life,” she said.

She was sure that no one else used the drug while she lived there.

So it is just coincidence that their last three houses has tested positive for P.  This means taxpayers have probably spent tens of thousands of dollars decontaminating the houses.

She said her partner worked as a builder until the family was evicted, but then stopped work to support her.

So neither of them are working.

She said the family received $800 a week in jobseeker support, family tax credits, accommodation supplement and temporary additional support.

It would be far more than that. They are eligible for:

  • Jobseeker support $375
  • Family Tax Credits $542
  • Accom Supplement $225

So that is around $1,150 a week plus their temporary additional support and plus the cost of the motel not met by the accom supplement.

I can’t imagine there is another country around which would be so generous in supporting a family with eight kids, who aren’t working, and who lost state house eligibility due to drug contamination.

Latest poll

May 25th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A Newshub Reid Research poll was released yesterday. Details are at Curia.

The Newshub story says Key has plummeted as Preferred PM as he has dropped 1.5% in 6 months. This is of course not even statistically significant let alone a plummet of any kind.

I thought it would be useful to compare the Preferred PM ratings of May 2016, with May 2007 – the same point in Labour’s third term.

In May 2007 the PM was at 30% Preferred PM and in May 2016 the PM is at 37% Preferred PM.

In May 2007 the Opposition Leader was at 32% Preferred PM and in May 2016 the Opposition Leader is at 9% Preferred PM.

So Clark was trailing by 2% in May 2007, while in May 2016 Key leads Little by 28%.

Also for those interested in May 2007, National in Opposition was 12% ahead of Labour in the polls. In May 2016 Labour in Opposition are 16% behind National in the polls.

Yet Newshub trumpet their poll as bad news for National!

Brash on inflation targeting

May 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

The first central banker to introduce inflation targeting to the world, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Don Brash, says it is still relevant and today’s low inflation problem is probably something that will fade away.

“If you say ‘we don’t like inflation targeting’ what do you propose instead? It’s not at all clear what the alternative is,” the former governor told Fairfax Media.

“You’ve only got one instrument you can only really hit one target effectively. What target is it? Logically it should be some rate of inflation, I would have thought. Is inflation targeting desirable? Absolutely in my view. Is it sufficient? Probably not.” 

Dr Brash saw parallels with the Gulf War when oil caused a period of high measured inflation and “most central banks said you’ve got to ignore that”.

“We know that monetary policy has only a short-term effect on employment and on real growth.” 

Some used to argue that low inflation caused high unemployment but there has been a huge amount of empirical evidence to show this is not the case.

New Zealand targets annual inflation of between 1 and 3 per cent over the medium term, guided by a future midpoint of 2 per cent, versus the preference for 2 to 3 per cent price growth in Australia.

Wellington has shown a willingness to review its inflation target since its seeding in 1988. The concept was originally embraced as a way to protect the integrity of monetary policy setting from political meddling around election cycles.

Former prime minister Sir Rob Muldoon “used monetary policy in a very, very cynical political fashion”, Dr Brash recalls. The RBNZ was asked to find a way of “Muldoon proofing monetary policy” and that evolved into New Zealand’s policy targets agreement. It aimed for zero to 2 per cent growth, which is the same thing as price stability plus or minus 1 per cent.

I think we should still have this as the target range. I prefer 1% inflation to 2% inflation.

 

Not a rare dolphin

May 24th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand freediver William Trubridge has backed a campaign urging fast food giant McDonald’s to stop sourcing its fish from New Zealand waters after the leak of a report which revealed the unreported capture of a rare dolphin.

The leaked report of a 2013 investigation by the Ministry for Primary Industries, titled Operation Achilles, followed the unreported capture of a Hector’s Dolphin, a close relative of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin.

This is just the latest part of a ten year campaign by a German group targeting the NZ fishing industry.

And the media report the propaganda without any critical analysis.

The Maui’s dolphin is very endangered. Only around 55 remain.

But that is not the dolphin which was caught in 2013. So they are calling for a boycott of all NZ fisheries, because a non-endangered dolphin was caught by accident three years ago.

Mr Trubridge, who earlier this month broke two world records by diving to 124m and back on a single breath, is supporting the campaign.

“What decent human being or company could possibly buy fish from an industry that fights for the right to kill every last Maui’s dolphin?

But no Maui dolphin has been caught or captured let alone killed in recent years. The area they are in is highly protected. And the industry is not fighting for any right to catch or kill any dolphins, let alone Maui.

• Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins on earth and live only in New Zealand.

• Maui’s dolphins have declined from an estimated 1800 in the 1970s to less than 50 as a result of fishing.

• The closely related Hector’s dolphin is also threatened, with several populations numbering fewer than 100 individuals.

Now note they talk of Hector as having several populations of under 100. Makes you think that perhaps there are just 400 or 500 Hector’s dolphins in total. In fact there are around 7,400. Why did the NZ Herald not bother to tell us the total number? I presume because they just repeat the data fed to them by the German group.

Parliament 24 May 2016

May 24th, 2016 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

  1. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister for Building and Housing?
  2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, why?
  3. TODD MULLER to the Minister of Finance: How will Budget 2016 build on the Government’s commitment to a more productive and competitive economy while delivering responsible fiscal management?
  4. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: What is his answer to Fran O’Sullivan’s question, “Was John Key’s brain fart on the tax front an involuntary exercise or was it calculated”?
  5. KEVIN HAGUE to the Minister of Conservation: Is she confident that the Department of Conservation can carry out its work considering the inflation-adjusted reduction in Vote Conservation allocation it has endured under her Government?
  6. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister for Building and Housing:What steps has the Government taken to dismantle Auckland Urban Limits that were identified by the Productivity Commission report in 2012 as a key problem for the city’s housing supply and affordability?
  7. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Building and Housing:Does he stand by his statement when asked about the housing crisis, that “the idea that suddenly happened in May 2016 is a figment of some people’s imagination”?
  8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
  9. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister of Transport: What recent progress has been made on construction of the Government’s Western Ring Route motorway in Auckland?
  10. STUART NASH to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the Police have sufficient funding to meet the expectations of the public?
  11. TODD BARCLAY to the Minister for Communications: What recent announcements has the Government made to improve New Zealand’s response to cyber security incidents?
  12. MARAMA FOX to the Minister for Social Development: In the revamp of CYFS, will she be strengthening the appeals process for the review of decisions that may prevent incidences such as the death of Moko Rangitoheriri; if so, how?

National: Four questions on Budget 2016, Auckland urban limits, Auckland motorways and cybersecurity

Labour: Four questions on confidence in Housing Minister, tax cuts, housing and Police

Greens: One question on conservation funding

NZ First: Two questions on PM standing by his statements

Maori Party: One question on child abuse

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill – committee stage

This Bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 to require smoke alarms and insulation in residential rental properties.

  • Introduced: December 2015
  • 1st reading: December 2015, passed unanimously
  • Select Committee report: April 2016, supported with amendments, Greens dissenting
  • 2nd reading: May 2016, passed 107 to 14 with Greens opposed

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.

There are two SOPs from the Minister and Metiria Turei. Dr Smith’s are minor amendments. Turei’s seeks to give tenants rightts to renew tenancies as of right, and for a minimum fixed term of three years. It also lists 30 things that must be provided for in all rental houses.

Taxation (Transformation: First Phase Simplification and Other Measures) Bill – committee stage continued

The bill amends the following statutes relating to taxation in order to facilitate easier communication with Inland Revenue, simplify tax rules and provide for the sharing of information. The Acts amended are: the Income Tax Act 2007; the Tax Administration Act 1994; the Goods and Services Tax Act 1985; the KiwiSaver Act 2006; the Child Support Act 1991; the Student Loan Scheme Act 2011; the Gaming Duties Act 1971 and the Accident Compensation Act 2001.

  • Introduced June 2015
  • 1st reading: October 2015, passed unanimously
  • SC report report: March 2016, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: April 2016, passed unanimously

There is no time limit for the committee stage but it is estimated to be a four hour debate as the bill has three parts and preliminary provisions to debate.

There are two SOPs from the Minister and Julie-Anne Genter. Michael Woodhouse’s are minor amendments. Genter’s seeks to set up a register of foreign trusts.

Human Rights Amendment Bill – committee stage

This bill establishes a full-time Disability Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission, and make changes to the role and structure of the commission.

  • Introduced: October 2011
  • 1st reading: November 2013, passed 105 to 15 with Greens and Mana against
  • SC report: April 2014, supported with amendments by majority, Labour and Greens dissenting
  • 2nd reading: May 2015, passed 73 to 48 with Labour, Greens and Maori Party against

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.

There is one SOP from the Minister with minor amendments

Extending Sitting 9 am to 1 pm Wednesday

  • Hineuru Claims Settlement Bill 2nd reading
  • Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngā Pōtiki Claims Settlement Bill 1st reading
  • Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill 1st reading

 

 

Labour commits to tax hikes

May 24th, 2016 at 9:56 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tax is set to be a major battle line in the 2017 election after Labour’s Grant Robertson signalled his party would increase some taxes to pay for its policies – a stark contrast from National’s expected tax cut platform.

Mr Robertson addressed the issue of tax in a pre-Budget speech on today, saying before the election he would set out a tax policy including measures to ensure Labour could raise the revenue needed to pay for its promises in health, education and housing – a clear signal some taxes would be raised.

Labour MPs have already demanded or promised an additional $2.7 billion a year of annual spending. That alone (and this is before they even get into their election manifesto) would require everyone earning over $70,000 a year to pay 45% tax on income over that level. Or alternatively they’d need to increase GST to 17.5%.

 

Actually middle income households have done best

May 24th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Since 2007, the income of a household in the top 10 per cent (90th percentile) has increased by at least $28,000, while a household in the bottom 10 per cent (10th percentile) has had gains of just $3100.

By focusing on the gross increase, instead of the percentage increase, Stuff basically produces a nonsensical figure.

Of course the top 10% of households will have higher gross increases than the bottom 10% of households. Just as Vodafone will have a bigger gross increase in sales than the corner dairy. If Vodafone increases its sales by $100,000 in a year that would be regarded as a horrendous failure. If the corner dairy increases its sales by $100,000 they’d regard that as the best year ever.

So this is why we use percentages – something Stuff fails to do, in order to support a narrative.

So what can we learn from the Stuff data:

In 2015, a household with an income in the middle (median), earned $76,180 annually compared to $58,237 in 2007.

For a household nearer the bottom the increase has not been so pronounced. A 20th percentile household (richer than 20 per cent of households and poorer than 80 per cent) has seen its annual income increase by $5200, from about $28,900 to $34,100. 

At the other end of the spectrum, an 80th percentile household has seen its income increase by $24,300, rising from about $110,800 to $135,000. A 90th percentile household had income of $175,700 in 2015, up by $28,000 since 2007.

Here’s the percentage increases for the percentiles above:

  • 20th percentile – 18% increase
  • 50th percentile – 31% increase
  • 80th percentile – 22% increase
  • 90th percentile – 19% increase

So those on the 90th percentile have actually had much the same relative increase as those on the 20th percentile. And households in the middle are the ones that have done best.

Note of course this is not actually studying individual households. The households in the top 20% in 2007 will not be the same households in the top 20% in 2015. We have reasonable income mobility in NZ where households move from one decile to another.

Quote of the week

May 24th, 2016 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“People who are in a fortunate position always attribute virtue to what makes them so happy.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith

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.

Latest poll

May 24th, 2016 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at Curia the latest poll (Roy Morgan). It basically reverses the previous month’s poll. Seat projection is CR 57 and CL 51 so NZ First would hold the balance of power.

Herald on Labour’s housing policy

May 23rd, 2016 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party surprised many people last week, and dismayed some of its own supporters, by advocating the complete abolition of boundaries on urban expansion.

Its housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, endorsed the Government’s view that boundaries imposed by the Auckland Council have been a major contributor to the escalation of house prices. His announcement was timed to get in ahead of an urban development directive to councils expected from the Government soon, possibly in the Budget on Thursday. But Labour’s proposal goes further than Mr Twyford believes the Government’s national policy statement is likely to go.

“What we are calling for is the abolition of the urban growth boundary, not softening it, not making it more flexible,” he says. “And not just doing what the Auckland Council advocates, which is periodically adding in more parcels of land zoned for development. All that does is feed the speculative land market.”

I hope the Auckland Council listens, but I fear they won’t. And Phil Goff is refusing to back the policy, which is a bad sign.

The main condition is that development on the urban fringe must pay the full cost of the additional infrastructure they need and the party has proposed an interesting method by which this could be financed. It wants the Auckland Council to be allowed to issue infrastructure bonds that would be repaid from rates levied on the newly developed properties.

Developers are already charged for the cost of connecting their subdivisions to a city’s services but Auckland planners have long opposed urban sprawl on the basis of its infrastructure costs, so clearly those costs have not been fully covered in developers’ contributions. Infrastructure bonds could fill the gap. In fact, they could permit more amenities to be built in these new communities than have usually been provided from development levies because bonds are effectively a loan to future residents whereas development levies are built into the upfront cost of houses. …

Infrastructure bonds would enable those savers to share the gains from housing the population boom without pushing up house prices. The bonds might also attract some housing investors, reducing their demand for houses and slowing the rise of prices. New Zealand offers few investments as safe as houses and has an unsatisfied demand for bonds as secure as these. Labour is thinking well.

I agree. I like their policy on bonds rather than developer contributions up front.

Gibberish from NZ First

May 23rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Have just read the NZ First minority view on the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill. It is literally gibberish:

New Zealanders work the second longest hours in the OECD.

New Zealand First does not support the amendments presented to the Commerce Committee.

We note that New Zealand has some of the most liberal shop trading hours in the world with only 3.5 days annually restricted and absolutely no restriction (aside from certain sectors) on opening hours.

Fundamentally the main purpose of the bill was, initially, to allow councils to consult with their communities regarding Easter Sunday shop trading, with employees given the opportunity to decline work without repercussion. However this has unintended consequences on employees and employers.

Example: Because any employment history must be disclosed, during the recruitment process.

A majority of submitters were, however, opposed to this. It was discussed that by allowing for policy provisions, rather than a bylaw, this concern would be adequately addressed.

Maybe a cat jumped on their keyboard?

Isn’t this what the left call dirty politics

May 23rd, 2016 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The commercial fishing industry has accused a German activist-academic of waging a “determined anti-fishing agenda” in events surrounding the release of a research paper this week.

The University of Auckland research paper,Reconstruction of Marine Fisheries Catches for New Zealand (1950-2010), also known as the Simmons report after its lead author, was embargoed for release at 9.30am on Monday.

(NBR did not receive a copy of the report but was alerted to it after a flurry of media statements supporting it from the Greens, etc.)

All the opposition parties had their statements ready to go, indicating that the academics involved had been working with them on it by giving them advance copies.

Seafood NZ chief executive Tim Pankhurst says the report was widely circulated among opposition parties and Greenpeace at the weekend. He issued a detailed response soon after the embargo was lifted.

I don’t have a problem with this, but when others do it, some on the left call it dirty politics.

Mr Pankhurst says the German environmental organisation NABU was aware of the Simmons report’s contents a month before its release and told Seafood NZ as much.
 
Its spokeswoman, Dr Barbara Maas, visited Seafood NZ on April 14 and warned she also had evidence of alleged collusion between the MPI and the fishing industry; that she had a copy of an internal MPI document allegedly confirming that there was reference to it in the Simmons report; and she would make her claims public when the report was released.

“She further claimed she had 105 international conservation organisations ready to back a call for a boycott of New Zealand seafood if dolphin protection was not increased,” Mr Pankhurst says.

“Dr Maas first called for such a boycott in 2012 and again in 2014 but gained no traction, given the extensive protections in place and no Maui [dolphin] captures.

Dr Maas has been trying to get a boycott against the NZ fishing industry for years and years – at least seven. And the media report this as something new, as we see in the Herald:

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been being urged to stop sourcing its fish from New Zealand waters following the leak of a confidential report which revealed the unreported capture of a rare dolphin.

The leaked report of an investigation in 2013 by the Ministry for Primary Industries, titled Operation Achilles, also revealed New Zealand fishing boats had illegally dumped large amounts of healthy fish — a finding which prompted the ministry to launch an inquiry this week.

McDonald’s sources some of its fish for the Filet’O’Fish burger from New Zealand waters, and environmental campaigners are now urging it to drop New Zealand fish from its menus.

“We are not attacking McDonald’s,” Nabu International spokeswoman Barbara Maas said. “They have a huge opportunity here to do the right thing and bring about some real change in the New Zealand fishing industry — they could say they saved the Maui’s dolphins, and how good would that be for their brand?”

The group will soon launch a campaign which includes billboards with the message: “Buy New Zealand Fish Get Dead Maui’s Dolphin Free.”

All part of the co-ordinated campaign against the NZ fishing industry.

NBR continue:

“The Seafood NZ response to Dr Maas’ latest claims was that it was beholden on her to produce evidence of such serious allegations. Her threats amounted to economic sabotage, if not blackmail.”

Egged on by opposition parties.

 

 

No tag for this post.

A partial victory

May 23rd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Customs will likely get powers requiring a person to provide a password or access to their electronic devices – but a threshold such as suspicion of criminal activity will have to be met.

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner today announced that the Government has agreed to a series of proposals that will modernise the Customs and Excise Act, and a Bill will be drafted for introduction later this year.

When proposed changes were released by Customs in a discussion document last year, a particularly controversial area was about access to electronic devices.

Currently, when Customs examines a person’s electronic device the owner is not legally obliged to provide a password or encryption key.

The agency says if people refuse, it can leave no way to uncover evidence of criminal offending even when officers know the device holds that evidence.

Customs’ preferred option was to require passwords for electronic devices without meeting a threshold, such as suspicion of criminal activity.

Critics of the proposal, including the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, have cited what they see as serious workability issues around the proposed change to require passwords, including the fact a person can have documents or files in cloud storage, meaning they will not be kept on an electronic device.

Today, Ms Wagner said that would not happen – but in some circumstances people would likely be required by law to provide passwords.

“The Government has agreed in principle that Customs needs to meet a statutory threshold before examining electronic devices. We have asked Customs to do further work on what this would look like in practice and report back prior to introduction of the Bill.

I was one of those aghast at the original proposal, which gave Customs an unlimited power to search your laptops, tablets and phones – just because you were going through an airport.

Requiring a a statutory threshold before the power can be exercised, such as reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, is a lot better than what was originally proposed. But it will depend on exactly what the threshold is.

I’m still unconvinced that this power is needed at all. Customs needs to give some specific examples of why this power is needed, so we can assess it better.

I absolutely support the right of Customs to make physical searches of luggage and persons when you go through airports and the like. People can be smuggling in drugs, guns, biosecurity hazards etc.

But any material on your electronic devices is not the same thing. You can e-mail it or transmit it around the world regardless of where you are.

Crone proposes more transparency for Auckland

May 23rd, 2016 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

Vic Crone has announced:

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Victoria Crone says if elected Mayor, she will open the council books, introduce six monthly report cards and establish an Independent Budgetary Office. Ms Crone says she has floated the ideas with Councillors, professionals and members of the public, and they say it’s about time.

An Independent Budget Office

“I will introduce an Independent Budget Office (IBO) for more robust budget advice on strategic, long-term, and large-spend investments. This will include providing much needed cost-benefit analysis that is relevant and digestible for the Governing Body, local boards and the public.

“Council is no small operation with a huge average $6bn of spend annually in the 10-year plan so it has the ability to fundamentally change the way we live. But there is serious concern, particularly in the business community, around the strength of advice behind its large-scale multi-million dollar investments.

“Independent investment analysis with the IBO will ensure we are taking these decisions seriously and getting it right the first time. The non-partisan IBO will also carry out reviews to make sure these approved investment decisions are delivering the outcomes promised.”

With a spend of $6 billion a year, this is a good idea to have independent verification of budgets.

Opening council’s books

To help improve confidence and engagement, Crone says she will initiate a comprehensive transparency programme making council information publicly available in an easily accessible way.

“I’ll initiate a strong data programme that effectively opens council’s books at a line by line level. This information will be available to the public to search and analyse, covering any area of expenditure (excluding commercially sensitive data) as well as full reporting around employee and contractor numbers,” says Ms Crone.

“If we’re doing things right, we’ve got nothing to worry about. If we’re not, that’s motivation to sort it out so we get it right next time.”

This is something all local Councils should do (and the Government). Many states in the US do this, and some Councils in the UK. You allow citizens to scrutinise the payments ledger, which is a great way to discourage waste. If a transaction looks suspicious, then you can do a LGOIMA request asking for details of it. They call these Armchair Auditors Acts.

The Mayor’s Report Cards

Finally, Ms Crone says she will introduce Mayor’s report cards to help Aucklanders understand council’s role and the context of key priority issues for the city.

“Six-monthly Mayor’s Report Cards will update us on progress in our priority investment areas. Transport and housing are definitely issues of urgency that would be at the top of the list needing clearer key metrics on progress,” Ms Crone says.

“These are a cost effective and coordinated set of initiatives that will bring improved performance, transparency, trust and confidence, around the workings of Auckland Council and CCOs.”

For more more information see attached policy document or visit www.vic4mayor.nz/policy.

Also a good idea.

We have three candidates for Council (Crone, Thomas and Palino) all proposing specific policies to improve the Council. As far as I can tell Phil Goff has not a single detailed policy, and his platform appears to be simply to spend even more money than Len did.

Ontario trying to introduce taxpayer funding of parties

May 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Christine van Geyn writes:

Few things are as revealing of the underlying values of the current Ontario Liberal government as its most recent proposals for election financing reform. The proposals show an absolute lack of faith in voters, and a movement to replace the speech of civil society with government-controlled speech. All on the taxpayers’ dime.

The draft legislation introduced on May 17 includes a taxpayer subsidy of $2.26 per vote to political parties, and limits on speech by civil society groups without corresponding restrictions on government advertising.

The taxpayer subsidy of $2.26 per vote would give a total of $10.7-million in taxpayer money to politicians, with the governing Liberals receiving the most at $4.2-million. That’s $10.7-million that is not paying to build roads or bridges. It’s $10.7-million of your money that is not filling in potholes, assisting autistic children, or paying doctors’ salaries. You will be forced to hand over your money to political leaders for them to run attack ads and stuff your mailbox full of flyers.

This is what Labour wants in NZ. Because they are so unpopular that supporters have stopped donating to them, they want to force taxpayers to fund their party instead – as do the Greens.

A revealing speech

May 23rd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The speech by Andrew Little this weekend was very revealing, but not in a good way. The Herald reports:

Mr Little said in the eight years under a National Government, the proportion of economic growth that went back to working New Zealanders in wages had dropped from 50 per cent to 37 per cent. Instead he accused National of favouring “those at the top” through policies such as allowing foreign trusts and tax on multinationals.

These are the same policies of course that existed under the last Labour Government, but lets ignore that for now.

Stuff further reports:

Little said just 37 per cent of economic growth had gone into the pay packets of working families since National came to power – down from over 50 per cent under the previous Labour government. 

That meant the average family had lost out on more than $13,000 under the Government, and would miss out on $50 a week this year.

The use of this statistic is rather revealing, as to both how desperate and also how ill informed Labour are. Three things I’d note:

  1. In all my years of politics I’ve never known a voter to talk about the proportion of economic growth that goes to wages. 99% of NZers don’t even know such a statistic exists lets alone give a flying f**k about it. I’m not sure I’ve even hear of it before. It reeks of desperation in trying to find an obscure economic statistic that they can campaign on. Voters care about jobs, wages, hospitals, schools and families – not the proportion of economic growth that goes to salaries. Wages have in fact risen twice as fast as inflation in the last seven years.
  2. Little seems to believe that the Government sits around the Cabinet table and determines what share of economic growth will go to wages. The Government does not create the economic growth and decide which sectors generate it and where. While policies have some small impact, the over whelming factor is decisions made by tens of thousands of businesses.
  3. Use of this statistic goes against Labour’s efforts to show they understand the modern economy. They are effectively railing against entrepreneurs and innovation. Why might a smaller share of economic growth by going to salaries. Well companies like Xero and Uber. They’re great for the economy (and customers) but according to Little they are robbing working NZers of $50 a week.

So Labour have managed to look desperate, ill informed and backwards in one speech. That’s quite an achievement.

Claire Trevett reports in the NZ Herald:

The centrepiece was a very convoluted piece of research about the proportion of economic growth returned to workers. Labour had concluded New Zealanders were getting $50 less a week than they would have been.

It was effectively meaningless beyond showing what clever clogs they were to have worked out such a thing.

Maybe their staff were so busy working on finding this obscure statistic, that they didn’t have time to do due diligence on the home they claimed had 17 people living in it!

It also opened Little to questioning on how Labour would get that back into the pockets of those workers.

Ban tech companies?

Labour selects Invercargill

May 23rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s Invercargill candidate for the 2017 general election says National’s policies are failing Southland and she wants discussions on state housing, health funding and digital infrastructure in the city.

Dr Liz Craig, a public health doctor, was named as the party’s candidate on Friday. …

Craig is best known for her child poverty advocacy work. She was also Labour’s Clutha-Southland candidate in 2014.

A mother of two, Craig is married to David Craig, and lives between Dunedin and a small farm in Romahapa.

She plans to spend most of her time in Invercargill after her nomination and has been house hunting for an old villa.

In her spare time Craig is re-planting and restoring native trees in Romahapa and also studies Te Reo Maori at the Southern Institute of Technology.

Co-chair of the Invercargill Labour Party, Sue McNeill, said Craig was a candidate of high calibre and determination.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour’s nominees in provincial seats were quality.  

“I am looking forward to Dr Liz Craig joining our caucus in 2017.”

Little looks silly when he says stuff like this. You can say they’d be a great MP etc, but stating as a certainty she will become an MP just looks deluded.

Here’s Labour’s record since 2005 in Invercargill:

  • 2005: PV 14,369, EV 13,518, lost by 2,052
  • 2008: PV 12,927, EV 12,750, lost by 6,664
  • 2011: PV 9,296, EV 11,012, lost by 6,263
  • 2014: PV 8,553, EV 10,044, lost by 7,482