Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Speaking on behalf of everyone

August 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Robyn Hunt writes at The Spinoff:

I assure David Seymour that assisted suicide is a really big and complicated deal. It is no coincidence that disabled people all over the world oppose it.

Really? Every single one?

Disabled people see assisted suicide as dangerous because of their already marginalised status.

I congratulate the disabled people of the world for having elected Robyn Hunt to speak on their behalf.

There is one small problem.

They didn’t.

A 2015 poll by Populus found higher support for assisted dying or euthanasia laws amongst disabled people, than those without disabilities. The level of support was:

  • Have a disability: 86%
  • No disability or longstanding physical or mental condition: 81%
  • longstanding physical condition 86%
  • longstanding mental condition 89%

It is quite appropriate to raise issues of concern over any proposed law. It is not appropriate to claim to speak for an entire group of people, when you don’t and in fact your view is very much in the minority of that community.

Little on bugging

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

Stuff reports:

The Prime Minister has weighed in on the All Blacks bugging debacle – and come under fire from the opposition in the process.

When John Key was drawn into the speculation of how the listening device could have made its way into the rugby team quarters – or who could have done it – he revealed that he himself had been a victim of bugging.

In fact, the Prime Minister said he was under the expectation he was being recorded in some instances.

But these revelations didn’t move Labour leader Andrew Little – who doubted the Prime Minister had ever been bugged in New Zealand. …

“I have to say I doubt very much whether he’s been bugged certainly internally in New Zealand. What happens overseas, particularly visiting foreign countries, who would know? But it’s typical John Key – say something outlandish that who knows whether it’s true or not and see what happens. And that’s what he’s done on this occasion.

“I don’t trust him when he says he’s been bugged in New Zealand.

Little again thinks calling the PM a liar is a good political strategy. How has that worked for the last ten years?

Also depending on your definition of bugging there was the secret recording of Key and Banks in 2011 and also in 2008 (off memory) the left activists who secretly recorded National MPs at a function.

Apart from those events already in the public domain, it is now routine for some National MPs and officials to have their offices checked for listening devices, and you don’t do that (which costs a bit of money) for no reason.

As some people think hacking e-mails is a legitimate political activity, why would they stop there and not also try to bug political opponents? My first reaction after the last Hager book was to find out how I could check if my apartment and office were bugged. In the end I concluded a human spy was put into my office, rather than an electronic one. So reassuring.

Prime TV’s “Back Benches”: 24 August 2016–Wellington Mayoral Debate

August 23rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

From Backbenches:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”—WELLINGTON MAYORAL DEBATE: Watch Wallace Chapman, Hayley Holt, the Back Benches Panel and special guests fight for your vote!

BUSES, TRAINS, BIKES AND AUTOMOBILES:  Worse than London, Los Angeles and Istanbul –

Wellington’s morning traffic is getting worse and at a rate faster than Auckland. What’s the solution? Is it more public transport? Is it better cycleways? Is it finally installing the basin flyover? Do we have the infrastructure to handle our population? Is it expected to keep up with demand?

BANNING BEGGARS?: Wellington is the most generous city to beggars in the nation, so it is no wonder the numbers of those begging on the street has increased. But is banning the practice the solution? Is the solution about finding those on the street employment or a roof over their heads or is it more complex than that?

COOLEST LITTLE CAPITAL IN THE WORLD?:  Wellington claims it is the coolest little capital in the world. But can it make that claim? What makes it cool? What’s the best part about Wellington? When someone visits from out of town—where’s the one place you’d recommend? Is Wellington a destination spot? Would extending the runway make it more enticing to tourists? A study says Wellington isn’t a magnet for tourists. How can we change that perception?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 24th of August at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:20pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!  

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Jo Coughlan, Andy Foster, Nick Leggett, Justin Lester, Helene Ritchie and Nicola Young.

Simmons on an FTT

August 23rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoff Simmons of the Morgan Foundation writes on an FTT:

Some are convinced New Zealand would be better off. They think that bankers and traders are getting more than their fair share of benefit out of the globalised economy, that speculation is excessive, this is contributing to the greater volatility and uncertainty in markets so Kiwis are worse off. Given the billions that pass through the financial sector every day, the idea is that clipping the ticket on each transaction would raise a lot of money and reduce both speculation and volatility in financial markets.

However, not all transactions are bad – when you get paid, for example, or make a payment on your mortgage. Or send money overseas to pay for your upcoming holiday. Would you mind someone clipping the ticket on all of those? Of course, you can specify what kinds of transactions you want to target with a tax, such as house sales (via a stamp duty) or share trades or foreign currency deals. But ordinary people still engage in all of those, at the very least through KiwiSaver.

Sure, some transactions are purely speculative, but an FTT won’t just stop those. It is a sledgehammer and would not discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ financial transactions.

So an FTT would be very blunt.

Research has found that (unsurprisingly) people respond to FTTs such as stamp duty by reducing the number of taxed transactions made. In other words, house sales drop. This doesn’t alter the intent of transactions, simply the number. Stamp duty hasn’t prevented speculation on housing, nor reduced volatility in the market. Quite the contrary, having fewer transactions can increase the volatility in the market. Fewer transactions can also have their costs in terms of the efficiency of the economy. Stamp duty, for example, makes it more likely for an elderly person to hold on to a home that is too large for them, and therefore makes it more difficult for families to find the houses they need.

The larger you are the easier it would be to avoid. For example huge financial services companies would simply run credit and debit balances with each other and maybe only physically transfer cash once a year for the net amount.

The experience of Sweden’s FTT has been interesting. When it was introduced, revenue was far lower than predicted because of changes in the number of financial transactions. In fact, the lower number of transactions reduced revenue from Sweden’s capital gains tax, so the government ended up with less revenue overall.

New taxes often have unforeseen consequences. The Mexico sugar tax was meant to reduce sales of soda drinks but the tax is bringing in more money than forecast, which means sales have not decreased.

In short, the FTT appeals mainly to those who seek to get at “wicked bankers and evil speculators” but it’s pretty naive. It is unlikely to raise a lot of money unless there is a global agreement; otherwise it would leak like a sieve, penalise quite innocent and necessary trade, impede economic activity unnecessarily – all features of a bad tax. In the meantime, taxes like the comprehensive capital income tax (CCIT) seem to have much more potential to raise serious revenue and benefit the economy by closing existing tax loopholes.

I don’t think an FTT would be good. As Simmons says, it won’t work unless other countries do it also – and even then possibly not.

I do support a comprehensive capital gains tax (on everything including the family home) but it should only apply when gains are realised. The CCIT would apply even if no gains are realised or even if you make a loss as it assumes a minimum 5% return. That’s more a wealth tax than a capital gains tax.

Minto wants employers to be able to cut salaries unilaterally

August 23rd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

“So how do you pay for that? We would pay for it by reducing the salaries at the top management level in the council,” Minto said.

There were 317 people being paid more than $100,000 at council, along with 13 receiving more than $200,000, he said.

“What we’re saying is the maximum should be $160,000, which is four times the living wage.

“If I won the mayoral race the very first thing would be I would suffer a reduction in salary from $187,000 to a mere $160,000,” Minto said, adding the chief executive would receive the same pay.

So Minto thinks employers should be able to break employment contracts and unilaterally cut the pay of employees.

I wonder what his mates at Unite think of that concept.

Does NZ have the best designed Government in the world?

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

Dylan Matthews at Vox argues NZ has the best designed Government in the world. He cites three things which are crucial:

  1. NZ’s MMP system which delivers proportional results but also retains electorate seats
  2. NZ’s Unicameral Parliament with no Upper House. He argues Upper Houses tend to be useless and undemocratic.
  3. NZ’s Constitutional Monarchy which provides a Head of State with no legitimacy to interfere in domestic politics

I’d don’t agree with all his arguments but he makes a good case. I’d add a 4th. No state parliaments. No disputes over what is the role of central government and state governments, and no duplication of multiple police forces, education ministries etc.

No tag for this post.

Praise for Finlayson

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

Audrey Young writes:

But largely, in terms of parliamentary opposition, it is down to a triumph of process by the minister in charge of the GCSB and Security Intelligence Service, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

After the 2013 experience, it became clear that the Prime Minister needed to delegate legislative detail to someone else and future reforms needed to be collaborative.

Finlayson was born to the role.

The tributes flowing from other parties to him in Thursday’s first reading debate were incredible. He has clearly given parties a sense not just that they have been consulted but that their opinions matter.

He has deliberately left undecided the most important definition in the bill, “national security”, for the select committee to debate.

And he is sending it to a select committee of Parliament, not the statutory intelligence committee chaired by Key that heard submissions on the 2013 changes.

This is quite significant that it has gone to the Foreign Affairs and Defence committee rather than the Intelligence Committee which is National and Labour only. A sign of good faith. The FADT Committee also has Greens and NZ First on it.

Finlayson’s meticulous preparation for the bill goes well beyond the respectful treatment of other parties.

Seven Cabinet papers have been released, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has issued myriad fact sheets on the proposed changes.

In 2013, it was near impossible to get an official answer to my many questions about what various parts of the bill meant; this time there is information overload.

Which is good.

Meet the future NZ First Minister of Finance

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

NZ First’s Clayton Mitchell stated:

A predator-free New Zealand by 2050 is likely to cost trillions, not millions as the government claims, says New Zealand First.

“The National government’s promise to make New Zealand predator-free for the bargain price of $28 million is nothing but greenwashing,” says Conservation Spokesperson Clayton Mitchell.

“Zealandia, a predator free plant and bird sanctuary in Wellington, cost $17 million to set up with an operating cost of $867,000.

“Using these figures as a yardstick, the cost of keeping the entire country predator free and maintaining it would see a capital expenditure cost of $1.67 trillion and an operating cost of $91 billion per annum – as New Zealand is 98,000 times larger than Zealandia.

“The operating cost alone would be 40% of New Zealand’s GDP.

This may be the stupidest release put out by NZ First since they complained about the Reserve Bank being owned by foreigners.

They really are the Donald Trump party. Their level of stupidity has hit a new low.

Quote of the week

August 23rd, 2016 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Wealth – any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.”

– H. L. Mencken

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.

Māori King rejects Labour

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

Mihi Forbes at Radio NZ reports:

The riverside at Tƫrangawaewae marae was abuzz this afternoon as nearly 1000 people gathered to hear the Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitia, deliver his annual speech.

Celebrations have been going on for several days at the marae in Ngāruawāhia for the tenth anniversary of his coronation, which is today.

However, what caught the crowd’s attention was the unscripted closer, where he told those gathered that he would not be voting for Labour again.

He said he had changed his mind about the party after its leadership said it would not work with the Māori Party.

The Labour Party keeps trying to destroy the Maori Party, rather than work with them.

In another story they report:

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox was in the crowd and saw the speech as the king’s nod of approval.

“It was as close as I think an endorsement was going to be and I appreciate his words.”

So how did Nanaia Mahuta take the king’s comments? “If that’s the intention of the Māori Party certainly under Tuku’s presidency then that could be a very different landscape.”

Māori Party chairman Tukoroirangi Morgan has been in the role for less than a month and is on record as pledging to win all the Māori seats at the 2017 election including Hauraki Waikato.

“It’s as I said, it’s a momentous occasion it’s not often that the King would make that kind of announcement here in front of the motu.”

Waikato has had a long relationship with the Labour Party and Ms Mahuta has held the seat for 17 years, but that relationship is well and truly severed with the king saying he’d no longer vote for Labour.

Maori politics is getting more interesting.

More Winston inventions

August 22nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hundreds of would-be bus drivers could be granted visas to work in New Zealand, Winston Peters claims.

The NZ First leader said bus company Go Bus was “considering employing 200 drivers from the Pacific.”

But …

Go Bus managing director Calum Haslop said his company had “talked to Immigration New Zealand about the prospect of bringing Pacific Islanders into the country and offering them jobs.”

However, he said that was unlikely because of the high number of applications from local jobseekers.

So only if they can not get locals would they look overseas. As it should be.

The company had only advertised locally, not overseas.

Again as it should be.

A spokeswoman for NZ First said “a lady who came in” told them about the company potentially hiring 200 people from Samoa.

“The lady told us and I believe her,” she said.

The spokeswoman said “the lady” likely found out about the bus drivers thanks to “word of mouth”.

This is what NZ First regard as credible. A lady came in and told us, as she heard about it word of mouth.

It would almost be a joke if not so serious.

But NZ First did not have a copy of an advertisement to prove it had been run offshore. 

Evidence? What’s that.

A new public holiday

August 22nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The battle for a public holiday to commemorate the New Zealand Lands Wars has been won – now, all they need to do is set a date.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English made the announcement on Friday during the return of the Rangiriri battlesite to Maori at Turangawaewae.

The historic site was handed back at the 10th anniversary celebrations of Maori King Tuheitia’s reign.

I’ve looked for a press release confirming this, but can’t find one. I assume the reports are correct. It just seems unusual for such a significant announcement to have no release attached to it.

Work was underway to determine the day best suited for the celebrations.

“One of the things they are asking to consider is it does not clash with any particular battle site commemorations, so that it can be a clean and stand alone date and then people can have their commemorations on their dates free and clear of any hinderances,” Papa said.

June, September and October seemed to be “fairly clear”, he said, and “everyone would likely prefer a warmer month”.

A decision around the date was expected before the end of the year.

Creating a specific day to remember the land wars would lead to more people exploring what it meant.

I’m happy to have one of our public holidays to be to commemorate the NZ Land Wars. They are part of our history.

However I don’t think employers should have to fund an extra day’s holiday pay for it. So the new public holiday should replace an existing one to keep them at 14.

Both Queen’s Birthday and Labour Day are fairly meaningless to most NZers. I say replace one with Land War Day (or some better name) and the other with a New Zealand Day.

UPDATE: It appears the media reports were incorrect and a public holiday has not been announced. There will be a commemoration day but it will not necessarily be a public holiday.

 

Wgtn Light Rail has a BCR of 0.05

August 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The cost of light-rail “utopia” for Wellington could be headed down as a group of councillors say half a billion dollars can be shaved off its price tag.

According to the group, modern street trams could link the city to the airport and southern suburbs for $450m to $650m, depending on the route they took. 

Greater Wellington regional councillors Paul Bruce, Sue Kedgley and Daran Ponter have united to push for light rail to be put back on the agenda, ahead of local body elections in October.

They’re supported by two regional council candidates Dr Roger Blakeley, and Dr Russell Tregonning. 

Do not vote for any of these people. They are unwilling to accept fiscal reality.

Even Celia Wade-Brown was willing to accept reality when it emerged that the benefit to cost ratio for light rail in Wellington was 0.05. That is a benefit of $5 for every $100 spent. Slightly better than burning $100 notes.

First of all never believe costings made up by politicians saying they think it can be done for half the price.

But even if they were right, the BCR would be 0.10 instead of 0.05. That is still an appalling waste of money.

You can be very pro public transport but think light rail is bonkers due to the cost. Think of the opportunity cost if you spent $500 million on say dedicated bus lanes. You could have buses every five minutes on every route probably.

Spinoff/SSI Auckland poll

August 22nd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Spinoff reports:

Phil Goff has established a commanding lead in the Auckland mayoral race with less than four weeks until voting begins. The former Labour leader and Mt Roskill MP recorded 60.3% of decided voters in a new poll conducted by Survey Sampling International and commissioned by The Spinoff in association with Jennings Murphy. His closest challenger at this stage is former Xero executive Victoria Crone, on 15.5%.

Crone has almost double the current support of John Palino, who finished second to current mayor Len Brown in the last election. The news is dismal for the other candidate from the right, Mark Thomas, who has the support of only 3.3% of decided voters, trailing even leftwing firebrand Penny Bright, on 4.6%.

Even the combined backing for the three leading centre-right candidates – Crone, Palino and Thomas – at 26.7%, remains less than half that of Goff.

So Goff has a 45% margin. Massive.

While the leading candidates have nailed their colours to the mast of rates control, “reducing rates” ranked third when respondents were asked to select the top priority for a new Auckland Council. The leading issue, selected by 50.7% of people, was housing, followed by public transport on 33%, reducing rates on 29.5% and cutting bureaucracy on 19.2%. Picking up the rear was berms, which 1.2% selected as the top priority, while 3.2% said none of the above.

No surprise with the issues.

There was a largely grim report card, meanwhile, for Brown, who is standing down after serving two terms as the first mayor of the amalgamated Auckland, and will hope to be remembered more for the Central Rail Link and the Unitary Plan than the sex scandal that threw his mayoralty off course a few days into the second term. Just over 41% of those who answered rated his performance as “fairly bad” or “awful”; 36.7% said “average”; and 21.7% “excellent” or “fairly good”.

Only one in five voters say he has been a good Mayor.

UPDATE: The stories have glossed over almost 50% of the sample were undecided. So Goff has 60% of decided vote but 30% of total voters. Still a commanding lead but not a sure thing.

Ratepayer funded propoganda

August 22nd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A community paper put together by a group that gets city council funding is under fire for endorsing the political platforms of two staffers standing for election.

Veteran city councillor Dave Macpherson and political hopeful Max Coyle are campaigning in the city’s West Ward on a “no water meters” platform.

The pair also volunteer at the Western Community News, which is distributed bi-monthly to 18,000 residents in the city’s west. Macpherson is listed as the paper’s production editor and Coyle the publishing manager.

Any group is free to endorse anyone they want and publish anything they want.

But if you do so, you shouldn’t get ratepayer funding. Ratepayers should not be funding such stuff.

The Western Community News is published by the Western Community Centre in partnership with Fraser High School.

The centre receives $91,000 in council funding a year.

However, Tolan said the newspaper was funded solely from advertising revenue and was put together by volunteers.

Then it should be able to continue fine without the centre getting $91,000.

But just as bad is this, also reported by Stuff:

A faction of city councillors are calling for the council’s propaganda rag to be scrapped, saying it’s been hijacked by political opponents. …

Councillor Garry Mallett said residents had contacted him over concerns about the binned Claudelands article.

The council had a responsibility to respond to residents’ concerns urgently.

“There are people out there who believe that this [Claudelands article] is an attempt to influence an election,” Mallett said.

“They think this was a clumsy, clumsy, attempt by someone as yet unknown, or someones, to try and influence the election.

Any publication ratepayer funded has to be information not advocacy and the binned Claudelands article was clearly advocacy.

Ministry for Vulnerable Children

August 21st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The ‘Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki’ is set to begin operating by April 2017, with Tolley as the current Social Development Minister taking responsibility for it.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft criticised the name as “stigmatising and labelling” and has vowed to only use the Maori name “Oranga Tamariki” which meant the wellbeing of our children. He urged all New Zealanders do the same. 

He has a point. The name isn’t great. I’m not sure what name is better, but am sure there is one.

However, Tolley said the new name makes it “crystal clear” that it exists to support and protect vulnerable children: “That is its only job. We cannot shy away from this. We can’t hide it and dress it up as something else.”

Pressed on RNZ’s Morning Report on Friday morning about what she’d call the new ministry, Tolley said she would use its formal title but probably also refer to it as “my ministry”.

“I’ll probably call it ‘my ministry’. I’ll use both names and the full name depending on the occasion.”

Asked why it hadn’t just been called the ‘Ministry for Children’, she said the reason was simple.

“We’re not focusing on all New Zealand children, there’s over a million New Zealand children and young people. And most of them are perfectly capable… they live in great families who look after them and make sure they have great futures.”

“This ministry is going to be unashamedly focused on those children that for one reason or another, are vulnerable.”

Tolley has a strong point about this agency is not about all children. I think it is critical that it has a focus on the children in need of state support and intervention.

Most children do not need the state getting involved. We don’t need a Ministry for Children. Most families do a great job raising their kids. An agency that focused on every child would end up serving those in actual need much worse.

So I agree with Tolley that the focus should be on vulnerable children only. However it would be good if there was a name which was slightly less stigmatizing. The name may put some families off make contact.

A rare Trump policy that has some merit

August 20th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

As readers know I am no Trump fan. I don’t like his narcissism, most of his policies, and much of his style.

But that is not to say he is wrong on everything.

His policy to ban every Muslim in the world from entering the US, either as a migrant or tourist was one of the most reprehensible policies he has had. It treated 1.4 billion identically, that their religious affiliation was all that mattered. It would have treated Malala Yousafzai the same as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He has now retreated from that, and proposed “extreme vetting”. USA Today reports:

In calling for “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard — since abandoned — that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs.

“We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” Trump said Monday, explaining how he would deter terrorists from entering the U.S.

I think there is a case for vetting on the basis of extreme ideology. Not as Trump describes it though.

Of course anyone who is an actual terrorist will not be allowed to migrate. No-one disagrees with that. But are we saying that anything short of being an actual terrorist is okay? Would you want Anjem Choudary migrating to NZ?

This is where again it is useful to differ between Islam and Islamism. Within Islam you have a huge range of views from those who are incredibly devout and support sharia law as the law of the land to those who are liberal and see their religion as merely something for their personal behaviour.

Christianity has a similar variety from extremely liberal Anglicans to ultra Conservative Catholics to some fundamentalist baptists groups such as Westboro.

Within Islam though those who hold extreme views (such as supporting the death penalty for apostasy) are a significant number. They are not a majority but a large minority.

George Borjas at Politico makes the case for vetting:

In particular, is it really that big a departure from what we have done in the past if we also asked green card applicants: “Do you believe that religious law should supplant the Constitution of the United States?” Or if we asked: “Do you believe that the law should treat people differentially based on their gender, their race, or their sexual orientation?” And would it really be that unreasonable if we had second thoughts about admitting persons who answered those questions in the affirmative? Are there really that many Americans who would disagree with the notion that a reasonable immigration policy should, in Trump’s words, keep out “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred”?

I think we should ask questions to exclude people who for example think apostasy should be a crime.

Of course, it is sensible to wonder whether such filters are effective. I doubt that the 9/11 terrorists admitted in their applications for foreign student visas that they planned to use their flight training to fly planes into the World Trade Center. But the fact that such filtering is far from perfect does not imply that we should not have any filters whatsoever. If nothing else, the perjury in the visa application gives the government an easy way for detaining and deporting dangerous immigrants living in our midst, even after they become American citizens. The falsification or concealment of relevant facts during the application process provides grounds for the removal of a green card, for the revoking of naturalization, and for eventual deportation.

It will not be of course 100% effective but perfect is the enemy of good. Asking such questions would give grounds for removal, but also it may discourage people from migrating to a country where they will not integrate.

Human Rights Commission on intelligence reforms

August 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Human Rights Commission has given cautious support to the Government’s spying reforms.

However, the human rights watchdog says it is concerned about the broad definition of national security in the legislation, which will come before Parliament tomorrow.

Chief commissioner David Rutherford said today that the proposed changes to laws governing the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB) addressed concerns the commission had previously raised about the agencies.

These concerns included stronger authorisation for spying warrants, greater oversight of the agencies, and strengthened requirements regarding compliance with human rights law.

Rutherford said the proposed changes were “a significant improvement” but there were aspects of the bill which were still a concern.

“Chief among these is the definition of national security,” he said.

Defining national security threats is probably like defining spam – quite difficult to do, but you know it when you see it.

Hooton on teacher unions

August 19th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR:

It was education minister David Lange who first had the vision to try to fix this system with his bulk funding proposal in 1988, shared by his successors Phil Goff and Lockwood Smith.  Despite Smith’s opt-in trial in the early 1990s, which showed bulk funding was overwhelmingly positive for teachers and students, union militancy meant all three education ministers ultimately failed and the full centrally controlled system was restored by Helen Clark’s union-friendly government in 1999.

It goes without saying that, until now, John Key’s poll-driven government has had no inclination to revive the issue, daring only to confront the unions over Anne Tolley’s national standards proposal, also vehemently opposed by the union bosses on the grounds it could be used to provide information on teacher efficacy.

That said, both the union bosses and Mr Key are acting rationally from their own perspectives. Any form of bulk funding – even Ms Parata’s half-hearted “global funding” proposal – would slowly weaken the hold of union bosses over schools. Over time, principals would start to evolve the structure of their schools to better meet the needs of their students. Tired older teachers would more easily be moved on to administrative roles. Successful younger teachers might be paid a bit more, at first informally but later under new non-union employment agreements. Part-time specialists in science, art or critical thinking could be hired more easily, working in more than one school.

It goes without saying that the unions think giving principals more flexibility to run their schools along these lines must be stopped at all costs and they have a history of being prepared to go to any lengths to retain the status quo.

In most workplaces, staff would welcome greater flexibility!

There is a right to protest

August 19th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green MP Jan Logie says it is worth debating whether New Zealand should introduce a no-protest zone around abortion clinics, similar to those enforced in some Australian states.

Sure and I’d like to debate whether NZ should introduce a no-protest zone around political party conferences.

In the Australian states of Tasmania and Victoria, filming, intimidation and protests are banned within 150m of abortion centres. In New South Wales, a bill to provide a 150m “safe access zone” has just been introduced by a Green MP on the grounds of ensuring the right to medical privacy.

Logie said the Green Party had no plans for a member’s bill on the issue but another speaker had raised the Australian example. There were different views expressed on it and she believed a broader discussion was needed.

“I do think there’s is a genuine issue around the impact of those protests directly targeting women and making their lives worse.”

And protests around party conferences target delegates and make their lives worse.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand president Terry Bellamak said protesters didn’t have a place outside health clinics.

“Women experience harassment as intrusive and intimidating, even if protesters are silent.

“It’s just not kind. To stand outside where someone is just trying to go about their day getting health care and to be silently judging them.

“It’s the 21st century. We all have the freedom to make our own moral choices.”

Including the freedom to protest.

I’m pro-choice. I think those who do protest outside abortion clinics are misguided and insensitive and do indeed make what can be a traumatic experience even worse for those involved. I wish they didn’t protest, just as I wish the Westboro Church didn’t picket funerals. It reflects badly on them.

But they have a right to protest, and I don’t think no-protest zones are a good idea.

Progress with Uber

August 19th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Uber and the Government could be on the brink of a truce following a promise from Transport Minister Simon Bridges to make the vetting process for commercial drivers cheaper and faster.

Just a week ago Bridges warned Uber drivers could be taken off the road completely if they didn’t start following the law – since April the company’s drivers have failed to go through the required vetting process.

Bridges accused the $60 million business of “mocking” New Zealand’s safety compliance rules, saying the Government had “zero tolerance for illegal behaviour”.

But on Tuesday Bridges extended an olive branch to Uber saying he was “going to make sure it’s much cheaper and takes much less time” to get a P endorsement passenger carrying licence.

Simon has been in fact saying this for some time. It is the right thing to do.

While Uber is doing its own Ministry of Justice and driver licence checks before deciding if someone can drive – these checks don’t cover criminal convictions beyond seven years, a medical fitness to drive or overseas criminal convictions.

Responding to Bridges’ comments, an Uber spokesman said, they want to work with the Government to ensure Kiwis have access to a “quick and affordable accreditation process that puts consumer safety first”.

 “It is encouraging that Minister Bridges has committed to reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining a Government P-Endorsement.”

The cost of a P endorsement, which Bridges says is less than $2000, is prohibitive and he’d like to see it brought down to around a third of the cost.

Plans are in place to speed up the process for undertaking the vetting process and Bridges expects both those issues to be cleared up once a Bill is introduced to the House. 

“Once we’ve done that, whether you’re a taxi, Uber or some other ride-share operation, there will literally be nothing to complain about. It will be a low compliance level playing field for everyone.” 

It should be low compliance because technology provides a much better safety guarantee than in the past. Look at how things have changed:

  • With Uber you know your driver’s identity 100%. With a taxi it is reliant on you remembering the name on their ID card
  • With Uber you have the exact route recorded. You can prove where the car was at any point in time. This increases safety and also reduces fraud potential as seeminhly occured with ECan
  • With Uber you never pay cash or need cash on you
  • With Uber you get prompted to review your driver every single time. With a taxi you need to do go to the hassle of ringing up and complaining
  • With Uber drivers with a rating below 4.5/5 get dumped as drivers.

This provides a huge amount of safety and security.

So the Government should make driver safety checks quicker and cheaper to recognise this. But also until they do, Uber should not use unlicensed drivers who breach the law.

Trying to turn contractors into employees

August 19th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Kirk Hope of Business NZ writes in Stuff:

Business is concerned about a proposed law that would be harmful to business and the economy.

A Labour Party member’s Bill, the Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, is due for its third reading in Parliament soon and currently looks as if it might have enough votes to be passed into law.

If so, it would be a bad law.

The Contractor Bill is seeking to pay contractors a minimum wage.

On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing. No-one supports people being paid less than the minimum wage; certainly BusinessNZ firmly supports employees’ right to minimum wage protections.

The only problem is that contractors aren’t employees.

Contractors sign up to contracts for services and are paid for outcomes, not paid by the hour.

Requiring contracts to specify hourly or weekly pay rates would have the effect of turning them into quasi-employment agreements.

Perhaps this is the aim of the Bill – to get rid of contracts for services altogether, or to create confusion about using them.

Confusion would be the inevitable outcome.

Blurring the line between employment agreements and contracts for services would throw doubt on a lot of business law. New tax rates and new employment laws would have to be created to apply to the strange hybrid that ‘contracts’ would become.

Sectors that use contracts for services a lot would be beset by uncertainty – manufacturing, building and construction, transport and many others.

The construction industry in Auckland and Christchurch would be affected. People earning their living as contractors would be most harmed by the uncertainty.

This confused outcome would result because the Contractor Bill itself is confused.

By focusing on a minimum ‘wage’ it seems to assume that a contractor always has only one contract with one client, and assumes that the single client should be paying an equivalent of the minimum wage or more.

But in fact most contractors provide their services to many clients, not just one.

An electrician or plumber for example would engage with many clients over a working week, earning a combined income well above the minimum wage.

This bill basically turns contractors into employees. Labour has never liked contractors. They think everyone should be an employee and in a union.

The Contractor Bill confuses employment agreements with contracts for services.

The correct place to have minimum wage protections is in employment agreements. Every employment agreement must pay at the minimum wage or higher, a practical protection for every New Zealand employee.

But it’s not practical to try to put minimum wage protections in contractors’ contracts. it would make many of them unworkable and would cause confusion in the marketplace.

The Contractor Bill appears to have been drafted by people with no experience with commercial contracting and who do not understand how contracts for services work.

The Labour Party in other words.

The Bill is supported by Labour, Greens, Maori Party and NZ First, and is opposed by National and ACT. The single vote of MP Peter Dunne could decide whether the Bill passes or not.

Business hopes that MPs currently supporting the Contractor Bill will think hard about the consequences of their vote.

The push for this bill is not coming from contractors. It is from unions who see it as a first step to turn contractors into union members.

Dead donors make the best donors

August 18th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Green Party has received its largest ever donation, and says it knows nothing about the donor.

The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

The party’s general manager Sarah Helm said she believed it was the largest one-off donation in the Greens’ 25-year history.

Riddoch, from Nelson, was not a party member and did not appear to have any formal connection to the Greens.

“She wasn’t particularly known to the party at all – we haven’t been able to determine any link,” Helm said.

“She must have just been a quiet, latent supporter of ours.”

I always say a dead donor is the best donor as no one can suggest they are expecting any favours in return for their donation. You can’t appoint a dead person Honorary Consul to Monaco for example!

Comparing South Auckland decile 1 schools

August 18th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ report:

South Auckland Middle School asked for a review of its decile rating last year and in June the Ministry of Education decided it was a decile 1C school, meaning it had a high concentration of children from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Charter schools – which the government calls partnership schools or kura hourua – are funded as if they are decile 3 schools, but can ask for a review once they reach their maximum roll.

Now the unions always say it is unfair to compare decile 1 schools and decile 10 schools as decile 1 schools have the poorest families and poverty is the main cause of educational under achievement.

So now we know SAMS is a decile 1 school, we’ll do what the unions say and compare it to other decile 1 schools in their neighbourhood, plus a decile 7 and decile 10 school.

schoolcompare

So SAMS students are achieving at twice the level of the public decile 1 schools. Their achievement level is on par with that of a typical decile 7 school and now too far off a decile 10 school.

So surely the unions would be over the moon that you have a decile 1 school achieving such great results. But no, they go for excuses:

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said the school’s results were not comparable to those of regular decile one schools.

She said the fact parents had to apply to enter a ballot to enrol at the charter school meant it was enrolling a different cohort from neighbouring schools which accepted whoever turned up, even if it was during the middle of the year.

“The moment you have even a ballot process, you are already in a selection process,” she said.

Oh what crap. It is a random ballot, not a selection process where you can pick the best students. Any impact is at best minor and in no way can explain the massive gulf in performance.

Robertson does a semi-apology

August 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour MP Grant Robertson has offered an apology of sorts to the chief statistician for suggesting there had been “political interference” in the production of the latest unemployment figures, saying he is sorry if she took any offence. …

Robertson said on Wednesday he accepted MacPherson’s assurances that the agency remained independent, and was sorry if she felt offended by his remarks.

“If she’s taken offence, that was not my intention and I certainly would apologise to her for that…

The normal weasel apology.

The data showed that unemployment dropped 0.1% in the quarter. This would normally be a minor story. Robertson’s shooting himself in the foot has meant that all week there has been a focus on the unemployment data and the relatively low unemployment rate. Here’s how we compare with others:

  • France 10.2%
  • Euro area 10.1%
  • Ireland 9.7%
  • EU 8.6%
  • Canada 6.9%
  • Australia 5.8%
  • NZ 5.1%
  • US 4.9%
  • UK 4.9%
  • Germany 4.7%