Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Harmful Digital Communications goes to committee stage

March 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new law to stamp out cyber bullying has passed through another parliamentary stage.

MPs debated the second reading of the Harmful Digital Communications bill on Tuesday night. It will create a new offence of sending messages or posting material to cause harm, punishable by up to two years in jail or a $2000 fine. 

Inciting someone to commit suicide will carry a maximum three-year jail sentence.

National and support partners United Future, ACT and the Maori Party voted for the legislation. 

But the bill has critics – including Labour and NZ First. There are concerns the new law will limit free speech, and may criminalise teenagers with harsh penalties.

The law also goes much further than proposals in Australia and the UK, which are less punitive.

Labour’s Clare Curran says she supports the intent of the bill – and cyber bullying is “horrible.”

But the legislation is poorly drafted and there was no input from young people, she added.  Labour are willing to work with Justice Minister Amy Adams with any amendments at the next committee stages.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he had raised “major concerns” about the bill with Adams and cannot guarantee his support at the next Parliamentary stage.

He said there may be some amendments from the Government which will allay fears, but won’t confirm his vote until he has seen them.

“I have given no commitment to support the Bill beyond the second reading, in view of the concerns that have been expressed, and pending the government’s response to those concerns,” he said.

His concerns centred on “criminalisation and law of unintended consequences…concerns about scope of coverage, and enforceability.”

The bill as currently drafted is quite flawed, and I hope the Government does make changes at the committee stage.

The bill addresses a very real problem, but sometimes the cure can be worse than the problem.

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Another panelist quits

March 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Another member of the Auckland Council Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel has resigned, and the Herald understands at least two of the nine remaining panellists are on the verge of quitting.

Kafeba Pergoleze Alvis Mundele, one of only two on the panel who also served in the previous term, tendered his resignation at the weekend.

His resignation follows that of panel chairman Feroz Ali, who quit last week saying the panel was a “token” body, had no real status and that he was unhappy about what it was costing ratepayers.

Excellent. If they all quit, then easy to abolish the costly panels.

“As a pastor and someone who works with the refugees, he was very concerned about how much money the council was wasting on running this panel … which is pretty much just a joke, really.”

Abolish the panel, and split the money saved 50/50 into rates reduction and a community project.

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Winston promises a cannabis referendum – for around five minutes

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

The Herald reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to hold a referendum on legalising marijuana while campaigning for the Northland byelection, but rapidly backtracked on it straight afterwards.

Mr Peters was holding a street meeting in Kaikohe when a man asked whether he would legalise marijuana.

Mr Peters replied: “you want to legalise marijuana? I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a referendum and if the answer is yes, the answer is yes. I’ll give you a vote on the referendum and if the answer is no, it’s no. Yes if you’ve got the majority, no if you haven’t. That fair enough? Wonderful.”

Asked about it later he denied he was supporting any such proposal or putting up a referendum himself, saying his comments were simply the shorthand required on a campaign trail. “I didn’t say ‘I’m going to give you the referendum. I said our policy is a referendum and if you want one, you’ve got to go and get one.”

Pretty clear what he said. Peters is a master of saying and promising pretty much anything.

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Parliament 24 March 2015

March 24th, 2015 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. TIM MACINDOE to the Minister responsible for HNZC: What are the objectives of the Government’s social housing reform programme?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statements that his plan to sell state houses “is not about selling to developers” and he would be “amazed” if the likes of the Salvation Army were hesitant to get involved?
  3. METIRIA TUREI to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Can he rule out selling Housing New Zealand-owned homes to private developers; if not, will any sale be contingent on developers housing low-income or vulnerable tenants in those homes?
  4. ALASTAIR SCOTT to the Minister of Trade: What progress has the Government made in opening up export markets for our regional economies?
  5. DENIS O’ROURKE to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with the Northland Regional Council’s 2012 State of the Environment Report that “large areas of land with prime soils suited for agriculture and horticultural production continues to be subdivided for lifestyle blocks and urban development”; if not, why not?
  6. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: What advice, if any, did he receive from the Treasury on the Government policy to double-lane ten Northland bridges?
  7. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made on its Accelerated Regional Roading Programme?
  8. DAVID SHEARER to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his quote regarding Hon Tim Groser’s bid to be Director-General of the World Trade Organisation that if “he decided to put his name in the ring then the New Zealand Government would give him 100 percent support”; if so, precisely what support did the Government provide to Mr Groser?
  9. STUART SMITH to the Minister for Communications: What are the latest towns to be fully fibred under the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband programme?
  10. SUE MORONEY to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s assertion that we will “absolutely not” see thousands of workers denied their tea breaks under his changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000?
  11. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM to the Minister responsible for the GCSB: Is the spying on candidates vying to be the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation an appropriate use of the Government Communications Security Bureau?
  12. JONO NAYLOR to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What is the Government doing to help small businesses raise funds?

National: Five patsies on social housing, exports, roading, fibre, and small business.

Labour: Four questions on social housing, Northland roads, GCSB and workplace relations

Greens: Two questions on social housing and GCSB.

NZ First: One question on Northland.

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

Statutes Amendment Bill (No 4) – third reading continued

The bill makes changes to 34 Acts.

  • Introduced: May 2014
  • 1st reading: April 2014, passed without dissent
  • Select Committee report: July 2014, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: March 2015, passed without dissent

A provision relating to travel perks for former MPs has been dropped, following objection from the Green Party.

The debate has up to 80 minutes remaining.

Taxation (KiwiSaver HomeStart and Remedial Matters) Bill – second reading

The bill amends the KiwiSaver Act 2006 and the Income Tax Act 2007 in relation to withdrawal of member tax credits for KiwiSaver members purchasing their first home and “corrections” to the tax, social policy, and KiwiSaver treatment of income replacement payments for some veterans and other claimants.

Introduced: December 2014
1st reading: December 2014, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: March 2015, supported without dissent

The debate can be up to two hours

Harmful Digital Communications Bill – second reading

The Bill aims to “mitigate the harm caused to individuals by digital communications and to provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.” by creating a new civil enforcement regime to quickly and effectively deal with harmful digital communications; creating new criminal offences to deal with the most serious harmful digital communications and making some small amendments to existing legislation to clarify their application to digital communications and cover technological advances.

Introduced: November 2013
1st reading: December 2013, passed unanimously
Select Committee Report: May 2014, supported unanimously, with amendments

The debate can be up to two hours.

 

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Devoy on Refugees

March 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A reader e-mails re this story:

A few points on this:
 
Firstly, the Race Relations Commissioner should not involve herself in matters of public policy outside the scope of her responsibilities. She is in a public service role and should keep her opinion on these matters to herself, and not engage in activist issues.

I agree. 

In respect of her view that the quota should increase to at least 1,000 per annum:
 
We have a generally successful refugee resettlement programme.  Largely because we take a number of refugees that we can handle and work closely with to settle successfully.  We want refugees to make a solid contribution to their new country and do well.  In turn, that underpins public support for the annual quota which is crucial.  Excessive numbers with unsuccessful settlement outcomes is not helpful.
 
In effect, we already accept 1,050 per annum as we take a further 300 in the Refugee Family Support category.  This allows refugees to ‘sponsor’ their family members and bypass the usual migration process with its requirements for high education and skill levels etc.
 
I prefer quality of settlement outcomes for those we take, rather than a quantity we cannot successfully settle.  Many refugees have serious educational, health, mental health, language and other challenges that are costly and intensive to address.  We should seek to do that well rather than spread the limited funds too thinly over too many.
 
Could we take more refugees within the annual quota from Syria?  Perhaps.  Worth exploring and it may well be on the radar of officials already.
 
New Zealand is one of just 19 or so countries that takes an annual quota of refugees.  That is the number that needs to increase substantially to address the global refugee issue.  Like climate change, New Zealand can only ever have a minimal effect without the contribution of other nations.

I am sympathetic to calls for a modest increase in our quota. Maybe have it as a proportion of our population, so it rises a bit over time. But this is not a good time to increase it. Net migration is at a record high and infrastructure is going to start to feel some real strains. If anything, we need to temporarily reduce the level of net migration for a year or two – not because we don’t still want migration, just that it needs to be at a level our infrastructure can handle.

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Quote of the week

March 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Every dollar released from taxation that is spared or invested will help create a new job and a new salary.”

- John F. Kennedy

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

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Salmond on GCSB

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

Rob Salmond blogs:

I am not a serial apologist for the GCSB. I think,f or example, that their recently-uncovered trick for feeding New Zealanders’ information to the NSA is entirely too cute. I think this morning’s New Zealand Herald story, however, about the GCSB spying for Tim Groser is somewhat overblown.

The most critical question is whether trying to help Tim Groser’s, ahem, optimistic bid to become WTO Director-General falls within the GCSB’s legal mandate. I say it does. Here’s section 7 of the GCSB Act, which gives the Agency’s objectives:

The objective of the Bureau, in performing its functions, is to contribute to—
(a) the national security of New Zealand; and
(b) the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
(c) the economic well-being of New Zealand.

I can readily see the argument that having our own person at the head of the governing body for world trade, however unlikely he was to actually get the job, would be good for the economic well-being of New Zealand, therefore falling under subsection (c). You could make an argument for (b), too.

If the activity was illegal, then I’m sure the Inspector-General would say so. We have a system of checks and balances to make sure any foreign intelligence gathering occurs within the law. Hager may not like what is done, but that does not make it illegal.

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Boston charter schools

March 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Boston Globe reports:

Boston charter school students outperformed their counterparts at traditional public schools and at charter schools in other urban areas by a striking margin over a recent six-year span, a Stanford University study found.

The strides at Boston charter schools — in both math and reading — equaled what students would have learned if they had been in school hundreds of additional days each year, researchers said in the report, released Wednesday.

The disparity held true for black, Hispanic, and low-income students in both math and reading, and was particularly strong for black and Hispanic students who live in poverty.

As you read this, remember that the two parties that most go on about poverty, are the two who want to abolish charter schools.

In Boston, the average yearly academic growth for charter school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.

Exceptional.

This month, Los Angeles administrator Tommy Chang was named as the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Chang, a former charter school principal, has a reputation for giving schools more freedom to hire and develop budgets, and said he plans to narrow the achievement gap with a focused effort to improve classroom instruction.

Make every school a charter school! Give public school boards the ability to become a charter school and fully manage their own budgets and staffing.

The study compared standardized test scores of charter school students with the scores of Boston Public Schools students with similar demographic backgrounds.

It found that the average academic growth of charter school students surpassed public school students in both mathematics and reading, and at each level from elementary to high school.

So they compare like with like.

Jon Clark, co-director for Brooke Charter Schools, which has schools in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roslindale, said charter schools provide a longer school day and give students intensive personal attention.

Principals have the freedom to hire a staff and craft a budget as they see fit, he said.

That’s the key – local flexibility and control.

Clark rejected the “cherry-picking” argument and said the success charter schools have shown with low-income black and Latino students is the true indicator.

“If you really care about the achievement gap, you can’t look at these numbers and dismiss them,” he said.

But they do.

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A lizard management plan!

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

This is almost too bizarre to be true, but sadly it is. Duncan Garner writes:

This is a tale of a breath-taking rip-off.

It’s about a decent hard-working guy merely trying to build a house.

He is being gouged financially as part of the planning and consent process.

It’s no wonder we have a nationwide housing shortage when these sorts of disgraces are taking place.

The details:

This house construction was supposed to have started months ago at a site that needed some native bush and vegetation cleared. An arborist was called in and prepared a report.

But the local council then elevated it and demanded a whole new plan including an “ecological assessment of any likely/potential adverse effects caused by the clearance”.

Officials also wanted a restoration plan outlining what “supplementary planting” and “weed management” would take place.

Remember this aspiring home owner actually owns the land he is building on.

The council said this must include “subcontracting a lizard specialist to assess whether a lizard management plan would also be needed”. Sorry? A what?

Officials needed to know whether lizards or native geckos exist at the property . . . and whether their lives are in danger.

The work for this new plan would be $3000 plus GST. The cost of the lizard survey was extra – and estimated to be about $1600.

A lizard management plan. Is there a better example of the culture problem that exists at so many councils.

Under local planning rules and the Resource Management Act he must consult with local iwi groups.

They must be notified of his plan to cut down some of the native bush.

All six interested iwi groups have to be contacted.

Some of these iwi groups live hundreds of kilometres away from the building site, but have historical connections to the area.

Three of these groups have so far asked for initial site visits.

These don’t come cheap either. One of the iwi is charging $240 an hour, plus travel costs (and excluding GST).

This iwi goes on to say should a proper cultural impact assessment be needed they will provide the details of the costs involved.

Another iwi group say they see the trees as “taonga in need of protection from climate change, disease and ongoing development and they generally oppose the removal or felling of native trees”.

They also want an initial site visit to assess whether a wider cultural assessment is needed – but the kaitiaki (guardian) can’t do it till April.

Again this is bush on his land.

Apparently some bloke turned up for lizard patrol one night with a torch, barely knowing what he was looking for – and found nothing.

So far they’ve found one lizard in total – 500 metres away from the building site!

I’m sorry, this is a sick joke. It’s a rort and hard-working people are being ripped off.

Yes, we need planning rules and a consent process. But the RMA has created a cottage industry of outrageous ripoffs in the name of cultural political correctness.

This particular consent has been held up for months because iwi groups are gaming the system.

Councils are clearly misinterpreting the law and too many groups have too much power over private property.

This is an abuse of the system. It may be legal but it’s not right.

Government ministers need to read this and do something about it.

Well a major RMA reform bill is before Parliament. But if Northland votes for Winston Peters on Saturday, then the reform will fail (in its current form) and the status quo will continue.

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Penalising shoppers

March 23rd, 2015 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders wanting an alcoholic nightcap will have to stock up earlier or go clubbing if a recommendation for supermarkets and bottle stores to stop selling liquor at 9pm wins council approval.

A council hearings panel is recommending that the closing time for off-licence alcohol sales be brought forward by two hours from 11pm – and trading not start again until 9am the next day.

That compares with an existing national “default” opening time of 7am, which Retail NZ and its supermarket members have been lobbying hard to retain.

 

This is an incredibly stupid decision, if they make it.

The vast majority of people in supermarkets buying alcohol before 9 am or after 9 pm are not buying it to consumer that night. They’re mums and dads or shift workers who don’t have time to do shop during the day, so are doing their weekly shopping early in the morning or late evening, and are just buying some wine or beer for consumption at a later time.

This proposed change will massively inconvenience those families, and have almost no impact on alcohol related harm. Those wanting alcohol that night will simply buy it before 9 pm.

And what harm are they trying to solve by not allowing wine sales in supermarkets at 8.00 am?

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Auckland Council panel chair says they are a waste of time

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

One News reported:

The chairman of Auckland Council’s ethnic people’s advisory panel has quit, saying he can’t keep claiming his $500 meeting fee in good conscience.

Feroz Ali says he has resigned after nine months chairing the panel because he doesn’t feel like his advice was making a difference to the council’s policy decisions.

“I could go on ticking the boxes, attending the dinners and collect $500 but I have ethics and I can’t do that.”

Good on him.

Each panel costs around $150,000. They should abolish pretty much all of them.

Council could invest more in getting its 9300 staff to consult with community leaders themselves, he says.

Exactly – you don’t need a panel to consult. In fact having an in house panel can undermine proper consultation because staff then think that talking to the panel is the same as consulting the community.

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Customs and passwords

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

Stuff reports:

Customs boss Carolyn Tremain has told MPs the department would only request travellers hand over passwords to their electronic devices if it had a reason to be suspicious about what was on them.

Oh that’s okay then.

NOT.

Although the proposed power would let Customs request passwords from any traveller or do random checks on electronic devices, Tremain told a parliamentary select committee that was not its intention.

Instead, the department would only use the power if it was acting on “some intelligence or observation of abnormal behaviour”, she said.

How about acting on a warrant?

“The reality is we have 11 million people crossing the border and a limited amount of resources which we are always going to prioritise by taking a risk-assessment approach. We are not saying every 10th person would be inspected.”

Every 12th?

It is quite appropriate for Customs to have power to search physical luggage at borders, because it is necessary to do so to detect illegal items such as drugs, wildlife, flora, goods etc.

But digital files are different. Just because you are going through an airport is no reason the state suddenly gains the ability to look at everything on your phone or computer. Digital files can of course be transferred electronically without the person leaving their home or country. So claiming you need some special power when you are in an airport is not justified.

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Why charter schools do or don’t work

March 22nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Osborne at USA News reports:

The critics also love to repeat that charters perform no better than other public schools. This statement may have been true in 2009, if one accepts the critics’ favorite study, from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes or CREDO. But a closer look at those results reveals a deeper truth. Where charter authorizers do their jobs, charters vastly outperform traditional public schools, with far less money. Where authorizers fall down on the job, letting failing charters live on just like traditional schools, the average charter performs no better, and sometimes worse.

So the key is to be selective with whom you authorise and move swiftly on failing schools.

In 2003 Ohio gave non-profit organizations both the right to authorize charters and a financial incentive to do so, opening the floodgates to mediocre schools.

In Massachusetts, by contrast, the state board was careful who got a charter and closed schools where kids were not learning. CREDO found that the typical charter student in Boston gained the equivalent of 12 extra months of learning in reading and 13 extra months in math every year, compared to demographically similar students in traditional public schools.

So the debate in NZ should not be about whether to allow charter schools. It should be about what is the authorisation policy.

New Orleans, with 92.4 percent of students in charters, is probably the fastest improving city in America. Graduation rates, ACT scores and college-going rates have all soared. If current trends continue, in fact, New Orleans may become the first major city to outperform its state. CREDO found that charter students in the city gained more than four months of additional learning in reading and five months in math, compared to their peers in traditional schools.

In Washington, D.C., where Congress created a Public Charter School Board, 45 percent of public school students attend charters. Among cities tested by the National Education Assessment Program (which do not include New Orleans), D.C. is now the fastest improving. CREDO found that charter students gained the equivalent of 72 days of extra learning per year in reading, 101 in math, compared to traditional public students.

If we could get those sort of results in South Auckland and Northland, it would be exceptional.

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Seales seeks the right to die

March 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A terminally ill woman is mounting a legal challenge seeking the right for a doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution.

Lecretia Seales, 41, is dying from brain cancer and believes it’s a “fundamental human right” to be able to choose to end her life with medical assistance, if she wants to, before her suffering becomes intolerable.

In a legal first in New Zealand, the senior legal and policy adviser at the Law Commission has filed a statement of claim in the High Court seeking a ruling to determine whether her GP could lawfully administer a lethal dose of drugs.

Assisting suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison but Ms Seales’ case relies on the provisions in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act which protect the rights to not be deprived of life or subjected to cruel treatment.

A fascinating and novel case. It is a pity she has to go to court to get the right to a humane death, but if she succeeds she may galvanise law reform.

Diagnosed in 2011 with an aggressive brain tumour, Ms Seales has suffered gradual paralysis, which has robbed her of the ability to move her hand, arm, leg and eyesight on the left side of her body.

She’s not afraid of death, but of losing her remaining physical and mental abilities.

One can only have the greatest sympathy for her, and her family.

Her challenge closely mirrors a recent Carter v Canada case where the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a criminal ban on medically assisted deaths and gave politicians 12 months to rework the legislation.

The case was originally brought on behalf of two women with degenerative diseases, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor. The unanimous 9-0 decision by the judges found the criminal charge of assisting suicide – which like New Zealand had a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison – infringed on the rights protected in the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights.

A key part of the judgment was the finding that the ban deprived some patients of the right to life.

“It has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable,” wrote the court.

This is beyond doubt the case. Martin Hames was an example of this in NZ. Our current law forces people to kill themselves earlier.

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The Nation 21 March 2015

March 20th, 2015 at 8:50 pm by Kokila Patel

This weekend on the Nation

Patrick Gower interviews National’s campaign chair Steven Joyce on whether National is being out-foxed in Northland and reports from the campaign trail with the old fox himself, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Then Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy talks to Lisa Owen about racism in New Zealand, refugees, and asks if Muslim New Zealanders are being forgotten as the Government ramps up its fight against Islamic State.

And Pacific Economic Ambassador Shane Jones and the Pacific Islands Forum Fishing Agency head James Movick on the intense battle over the Pacific fisheries and the threat of overfishing in New Zealand’s backyard.

We’ll discuss all this and more with our panel: Pacific Studies associate professor Damon Salesa and former Parliamentary staffer and NBR political editor Ben Thomas.

The Nation on TV3, 9.30am Saturdays and 10am Sundays. Proudly brought to you by New Zealand on Air’s Platinum Fund.

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Bracket creep

March 20th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The average household is more than $1000 worse off in tax payments since 2010 because of “bracket creep”, the ACT Party claims, amid a new push for tax brackets to be linked to inflation.

Today the party’s sole MP, David Seymour, released research showing how much the current tax brackets would have moved if they had been linked to the Consumers Price Index (CPI) – the most commonly used measure of inflation – since National cut income tax and raised GST in 2010.

Inflation has been generally low since then. However, adjusted for inflation, the top tax rate of 33 cents in the dollar would have risen to apply from income above $70,000 to above $73,571 from July 1 2014, research by the Parliamentary Library shows.

The threshold for the upper tax bracket, charging 30 cents in the dollar, would have risen from $48,000 to $50,449.

Over time, households which see their incomes rise around the level of inflation pay more tax as they are pushed into higher tax brackets, meaning their spending power actually falls.

A number of areas of government spending are already tied to inflation, from NZ Super and Veterans’ payments to social welfare payments.

According to ACT leader David Seymour, bracket creep was costing taxpayers hundreds of dollars a year.

Parliamentary Library papers showed that someone earning the average income of $51,674 was now $648.91 worse off over four years. The impact builds over time, with the average income earner $356.10 worse off in 2014 alone.

For the “average” household, those with the average income ($88,956 in 2014) had paid another $1036.07 in tax compared to what they would have if tax brackets were adjusted for inflation annually.

Due to low inflation the impact of fiscal drag or bracket creep has been relatively minor. But over time it certainly does add up, as more and more of your income moves into higher tax rates.

Seymour said this afternoon that the increases amounted to “substantial amounts” and increased tax by “stealth”.

The issue needed to be debated because taxpayers were probably not aware of the way tax was increased.

“We believe we should have the argument, rather than stealthily increasing taxes in a way that most people have never consented to and may not even be aware of,” Seymour said.

While he conceded there would be an impact on tax receipts if tax brackets were increased with inflation,  he said the Government could make the change  because of the range of other spending which was linked directly to inflation.

“Anyone who says the Government is unable to do this is being disingenuous.”

Speaking in the House today, Seymour asked whether the current period of historically low inflation was the “perfect time” to introduce indexing to tax thresholds.

Acting Finance Minister Steven Joyce said the Government had previously announced it would consider a tax cut package in 2017, and indexing tax thresholds could be considered as part of that.

Governments generally don’t like legislating for automatically changing tax brackets because it restricts their options for future tax cuts or spending increases.

But that is one reason I do support it. If the Government is unable to increase its tax take by having a high inflation economy, then they need to maintain tighter spending restraint and also have less of an incentive to have higher inflation.

A lot of the surpluses in the 2000s came from ever increasing fiscal drag, as households every year ended up paying more and more tax as nominal incomes rose.

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Welfare reforms working

March 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the number of young mothers requiring a benefit has almost halved since 2009, meaning better lives for these families and fewer long-term beneficiaries.

Figures show that there were 48 per cent fewer teen mums on main benefits at the end of 2014 compared to 2009.

A 48% reduction in teen mums on the benefit is huge in just five years.

Teen parents spend an average 19 years on a benefit, and have some of the highest lifetime costs of any group on welfare.

So what has made the difference:

“Through our major investment in Youth Services we are enabling these young people to take part in education and training to give them the tools they need to get into employment.

“Alongside this we have increased their access to budgeting and parenting courses and childcare. 

I think the new work testing regime has also had an impact – especially the requirement that if you have further children on the benefit, you only have work testing obligations suspended for a year.

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Ratepayers funded an image consultant for accounts staff

March 20th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported last week:

Auckland Council has apologised to ratepayers for spending several thousand dollars teaching staff how to dress better.

ONE News has learned the council paid for an image consultant to teach accounts staff how to apply makeup and choose colours that suited them.

The council spent over $3500 on two sessions with an image consultant at the council buildings on Albert Street with a view to lifting dress standards of the 150-strong accounts team.

Incredible. Were they told fewer cardigans? :-)

“Ironically these are the very staff that are supposed to be keeping a lid on the costs at the council, instead they’re off getting makeup and hair advice funded by ratepayers,” Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers’ Union says.

This story was exposed by the Taxpayers’ Union. This is one of the reasons I helped fund the Taxpayers’ Union. Both central and local government take a much more cavalier approach to spending our money than we would take. The NZTU is almost the only organisation out there dedicated to exposing such waste, and keeping spending down. All the other lobby groups want more spending.

It may only be $3,500 – but it is the attitude that it is okay which is really costly.

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Three silly bills

March 19th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some members bills are very good. But none of them got drawn from the ballot today.

No Right Turn reports:

A ballot for three Members bills was held today and the following bills were drawn:

 

These are all rather silly backwards looking bills.

The first one complains that the Environment Protection Authority is not required to protect the environment. This flies in the face of the reality that the EPA has declined almost all the major off shore projects before it on environmental grounds. This is a bill to fix a problem that does not exist.

NZ First want to have a second vote on a law that has already been passed. Considering that we have avoided any injection of taxpayer funds into the convention centre, their timing is pretty bad for them.

And the third bill is the most stupid. It would, if retrospective, force NZ to withdraw from basically every international trade agreement we have ever signed, pull out of the WTO, and never take part in any future trade deals. And NZ First claims to be pro-exporters!

I predict all three bills will fail to get past first reading.

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Time for Canterbury to have full elections

March 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government has announced:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston have today announced the Government’s proposal for a mixed-model governance structure for Environment Canterbury (ECan).

“We are proposing a mixed governance model for Environment Canterbury with seven members elected across Canterbury at the local elections in October 2016 and six appointed by Government. This proposal enables a majority of elected representatives while ensuring continued momentum on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and earthquake recovery work,” Dr Smith says.

“We believe the mixed governance model is right for Environment Canterbury at this time. It has provided a successful model for district health boards. It enables a local democratic say while also ensuring stability and the specialist skills to deal with the very challenging issues, including water and earthquake recovery,” Ms Upston says.

“The commissioners have done an outstanding job in addressing the acute governance problems identified in the independent review of Environment Canterbury in 2010. While Canterbury had no water plan then, it now has the most comprehensive of any region in New Zealand. The commissioners have successfully rebuilt good working relationships with all 10 councils and with Ngāi Tahu. Where Canterbury had the worst record of any council in 2010 with 71 per cent of consents exceeding statutory timeframes, this is now down to just five per cent. It speaks volumes that Environment Canterbury in 2014 received the Institute of Public Administration’s top Excellence in Regulatory Systems award,” Dr Smith says.

There is no doubt that ECan today is performing extremely well, and is greatly transformed from the old council that basically got sacked for incompetence. Consenting 71% of consents late was beyond unacceptable and the former councillors who allowed this t happen should be ashamed.

However that doesn’t mean that ECan should continue with appointed Councillors. I think it is time to go back to full elections. There’s been two election cycles with appointed councillors, and waiting until 2019 for full elections is too long.

The Government should have gone with this hybrid model in 2013, and then have full elections in 2016. I suspect many of the appoimted Commissioners would be easily elected to ECan, given the opportunity. That would retain the stability.

Now you can make the case that mixed models of elected and appointed reps are suitable, as the Minister has. We have them for DHBs. Now we can have that argument – but that should apply to all regional councils – not just Canterbury.

The Government did the right thing in sacking the Council in 2010. But waiting until 2019 for full elections is too long.

If the Government does stick with this model for 2016, then perhaps reduce the number of appointed Councillors to four (more than enough for continuity) and have nine elected.

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Green bill to replace parents defeated

March 19th, 2015 at 1:11 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A bill in her name, originally known as Hone Harawira’s “feed the kids” bill was defeated in Parliament this evening, by 59 votes to 61 at its first reading.

She inherited the bill from Mr Harawira after he lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat at the election last year.

The bill provided for state-funded breakfast and lunches at all decile one and two schools.

Why not dinners also? I mean if a family is so incompetent that can’t arrange breakfast or lunch for their kids, then surely we can’t trust them to do dinner also. We can’t have kids going to bed hungry. So I think we also need huge state owned dining places where kids can get their dinners for free.

Last week Ms Turei claimed that KidsCan had said that up to 90 per cent of kids in schools went to school without lunch every day – a statement she later corrected and apologised for.

Today she visited Windley School in Porirua where 50 children were fed with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and criticized Mr Key for not agreeing to go with her.

She tabled a KidsCan document showing that KidsCan fed about 15,000 across 448 schools, an average of 33 pupils in each of the participating schools.

KidsCan do a great job, and they get government and private sector support. The Greens and Labour want to replace that with a government funded and managed feeding scheme in all low decile schools regardless of need.

I note the figure of 15,000 students. We have 767,258 students in our school system. So that is 2% of total students. Not 90%.

Mr Key said while some children went to school without lunch, he did not think it was widespread.

He said he had asked Hekia Parata at 1.41 pm today to call three schools, decile one or two, and ask them how many of their students had arrived at school without lunch then he recited the results.

“These are the facts,” Mr Key said. “At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou School, Ruatoria, Decile one, how many children came to school without lunch – answer – zero.”

At Sylvia Park School, decile two – there one or two kids, and at Manurewa Intermediate, a decile one school with a roll of 711, perhaps 12 had gone to school with no lunch, he said.

“Yes there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low,” Mr Key said.

Yet the Greens and Labour want parental responsibility for feeding kids to be abdicated to the state. Its an appalling idea.

We should target and help the families who are not properly feeding their kids. But you don’t do that by having the state step in as the provider of two of the three meals a day.

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Parliament 19 March 2015

March 19th, 2015 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister of Transport: Did Cabinet consider a proposal for sealing roads in the Pipiwai area, as claimed by Dr Shane Reti; if so, why has no funding for this work been announced?
  2. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister of Finance: In light of his statement in the House on 11 March that low inflation “makes it more challenging for the Government because higher inflation pushes up the tax base and enables us to collect more tax in a growing economy”, does he agree that this phenomenon of fiscal drag is just another description for an increase in effective tax rates?
  3. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on New Zealand’s economic growth?
  4. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister of Police: Does he have concerns with the Police’s handling of the alleged offending in the “Roast Busters” case given the release of the report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority today; if so, what are those concerns?
  5. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister for the Environment: Does he propose to implement the Environment Canterbury model in other regional and unitary councils by replacing nearly half the elected councillors with ministerial appointees?
  6. JACQUI DEAN to the Minister of Health: What steps is the Government taking to improve mental health services for New Zealand families?
  7. RON MARK to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in relation to Cyclone Pam “We will continue to do all we can to help our Pacific neighbours”?
  8. NUK KORAKO to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about progress on the Government’s $1.137 billion Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Plan?
  9. Dr DAVID CLARK to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he agree with Moody’s Analytics that “New Zealand has a ‘two-speed’ economy as strong domestic demand cushions a weaker export sector”?
  10. TODD BARCLAY to the Minister for Small Business: What online tools has the Government provided to help small businesses make informed decisions?
  11. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Does he believe students and staff at every university should have the right to participate in the election of university councils?
  12. KEVIN HAGUE to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that “There is not a housing crisis” in New Zealand?

National: Four patsies on economic growth, mental health services, Christchurch education and small business.

Labour: Four questions on Northland roads, “Roast Busters”, the economy and university councils.

Greens: Two questions on ECan and housing.

NZ First: One question on Cyclone Pam.

ACT: One question on fiscal drag and effective tax rates

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm

Appropriation (2013/14 Confirmation and Validation) Bill – 2nd reading

This bill confirms and validates unappropriated expenditure and validates excess net asset holdings for the 2013/14 financial year.

Introduced: December 2014
1st reading: February 2015, passed unanimously

This bill is not debated.

Harmful Digital Communications Bill – second reading

The Bill aims to “mitigate the harm caused to individuals by digital communications and to provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.” by creating a new civil enforcement regime to quickly and effectively deal with harmful digital communications; creating new criminal offences to deal with the most serious harmful digital communications and making some small amendments to existing legislation to clarify their application to digital communications and cover technological advances.

Introduced: November 2013
1st reading: December 2013, passed unanimously
Select Committee Report: May 2014, supported unanimously, with amendments

The debate can be up to two hours.

Statutes Amendment Bill (No 4) – third reading

The bill makes minor changes to the local government acts and the Official Information Act.

  • Introduced: May 2014
  • 1st reading: April 2014, passed without dissent
  • Select Committee report: July 2014, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: March 2015, passed without dissent

A provision relating to travel perks for former MPs has been dropped, following objection from the Green Party.

The debate can be up to two hours.

 

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Guest Post: The Banks Prosecution

March 19th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Flipper:

Flipper hears that there are some very upset people (seriously p****d off is the way one source describes them) at the Court of Appeal, particularly Justices E France, J Wild and F Miller.

The reason?
The Crown Law Office (M Heron/ U Jagose (?) and P Dacre) sat on information that clears John Banks, and did not disclose it either to the C o A or to J Banks’ counsel, David Jones.
Had the information withheld been disclosed to Jones and the CoA, experienced observers assert, the appeal would have been allowed immediately, and no retrial ordered. That would have been the end of the matter, apart for some later unfortunate consequences for the Crown.

To recap, the Crown sent solicitor Rowan Butler to interview Dotcom over the new evidence (from two US businessmen) that Banks would present to the CoA. Banks’ counsel had observed the rules and disclosed that to the Crown. The interview with Dotcom took place on September 29, 2014, and Butler reported to Crown Counsel Dacre in a memorandum, also on September 29. The “Butler Memorandum” introduces a new Dotcom claim – that there were two meetings with Mr and Mrs Banks, one of June 5, 2010 and the other on June 9, 2010. He had earlier asserted that there was only one meeting on June 9. Wylie J, however, found that the lunch was on June 5, as latter also attested by the US businessmen.

The crux of the date issue is that both Mr and Mrs Banks were proven to have been elsewhere on June 9, and could not have been at a “second” meeting/luncheon with Dotcom on that date.

Now, understand this: This information was known to the Crown on September 29, 2014. It was not disclosed to Jones/Banks, nor to the Court of Appeal when it heard the case on October 29, 2014 – one month later. In fact the existence of the Butler memorandum was kept secret by the Crown until finally it was released (received by) to David Jones (Banks) on February 27, 2015.

On March 2, 2015 (the weekend intervened) David Jones filed a memorandum with the High Court requesting a section 347 (discharge) hearing. Flipper hears that the Crown has now agreed to this hearing. But that is not all the bad news for the Crown. It is also said that David Jones has gone back to the Court of Appeal because it appears, on the face of evidence now disclosed by the Crown, that the Court was deliberately misled.

It is of concern to some that SG Mike Heron should have been a party to that, and there have been comments linking the withholding decision to his deputy.

Where this unhappy saga will end is open to speculation. But it surely is:
• Good news for John Banks who has now spent more than a month (all up) in the Courts and appeared before more than 15 Judges;
• Bad news for the Crown Law establishment;
• Likely to give rise to assertions of malfeasance;
Likely to adversely impact on the careers (future Bench appointments) of those involved on the Crown side of the case.

It will be very interesting to see where this ends up.

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Caring about Northland

March 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader (no one associated with or working for a party) has sent through an analysis they have done of Hansard:

I wondered how much Winston cared about Northland before the by-election, so I did a bit of research in the Hansard for last term.  I’ve taken out passing references (e.g ‘the member from Northland’ and ‘from Northland to Southland’) and compiled the results.  (Green mentions are undated because I was focussing more on parties contesting the by-election)

Some tallies – NZ First’s biggest advocate for Northland was . . . Andrew Williams.  He raised Northland 8 times last term.  Sadly for Northland he’s now gone.
Winston referred to Northland 6 times in speeches, plus one session where he raised it while barracking Mike Sabin. In each case it’s usual Winston style – all bluster, without actually looking at the facts (links to the Hansard are in the document in case you want a look).  But more importantly for Northland residents, 3 of the times he mentioned them in the House it was actually attacking spending up there!

Going by these numbers Eugenie Sage cares more about Northland than Winston.

Labour gave 31 mentions, so Northland was clearly higher on their priority list that NZ First’s.  Mind you, a lot of these are about trying to stop the Puhoi-Wellsford highway, so obviously they can’t care about regional development that much.

As for the government ignoring Northland?  The facts do not bear that out – a staggering 63 references! 

So Winston only mentioned Northland six times in the last three years, and half of those were attacking spending up there. Yet some people think he will be an advocate for them.

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Len told he is a dead man walking

March 18th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who are turning their attention to other left-leaning candidates at next year’s local body elections.

The Herald has learned of a meeting last month where key campaign and mayoral advisers delivered the “blunt message” to Mr Brown that he has no chance of winning and should step down.

I would have thought this was obvious a year ago.

Present at the meeting with Mr Brown were key members of his campaign team – Labour strategist Conor Roberts, who ran the mayor’s successful 2010 election campaign; David Lewis, chief press secretary to former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark who ran Mr Brown’s 2013 election campaign; advertising guru Mike Hutcheson; and Pacific Events Centre chief executive Richard Jeffery.

Two senior mayoral staff were also present, chief of staff Phil Wilson and chief policy and political adviser James Bews-Hair.

The meeting was confirmed by four sources, none of whom wanted to speak on the record.

If Len isn’t listening to his closest advisers, who is he listening to?

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