Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Air support sounds okay

October 12th, 2014 at 4:28 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports:

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand could offer the airforce’s “airlift capacity” as part of a contribution to the international military action against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Key is also signalling that Cabinet will tomorrow take the first step towards cracking down on New Zealanders who go to fight alongside IS, by extending the time passports can be cancelled and by making fighting with IS an explicit criminal act.

Speaking on TV One’s Q+A programme, Key said a range of options were being considered for New Zealand involvement in the IS conflict but more work was needed before a final decision.

Any action should be “useful, practical and work”, he said. That could range from humanitarian action, which was already under way, and include military options such as training, “to ultimately people who would be there right on the front line”.

“The last bit is some sort of military support, but not necessarily people on the ground, so it could be airlift capability.”

I’m very against sending actual combat troops such as the SAS in. But something such as airlift capability sounds a good way of supporting the effort, without risking getting bogged down in a long-term conflict with no exit strategy.


The cost of corporate welfare

October 12th, 2014 at 8:22 am by David Farrar

The Taxpayers Union released a report on Friday:

  • Since National took office, corporate welfare has cost taxpayers $1-1.4 billion ($600 – $800 per household) per year
  • If corporate welfare was abolished, enough money would be saved to reduce the corporate tax rate from 28% to 22.5%
  • If applied to personal income tax rates, the saving would allow the 30% and 33% income tax rates to be lowered to 29%
  • Alternatively, the 10.5% rate (applicable to the first $14,000 of income) could be reduced to 7%.

Some of the corporate welfare spend is justified, such as tourism. But what Government often misses is the opportunity cost. That if we didn’t spend all that money, what could you do instead – such as cut taxes. Imagine the top tax rate being just 29% or the company tax rate 23%. That would help boost economic growth also.

I encourage people to read the full report by Jim Rose. Is very well done.

Tags: ,

Watkins on the path ahead

October 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Housing changes signalled by Key’s Cabinet reshuffle point the way. Budget 2015 is likely to see a big shift in resources away from Housing New Zealand to third-party providers like The Salvation Army and Presbyterian Support Services for the provision of social housing.
The aim is to boost the availability of social housing, minus any ideological hang-ups about who provides it, and divest the State over time of a housing portfolio that is growing more decrepit by the year and fails to meet demand in areas of highest need.
I don’t care who owns it. I care about if housing is available to the right people, in the right areas, in the right sizes for an affordable price.
Helen Clark’s mistake in being too slow to rejuvenate her caucus left a very deep impression on Key. He has been far more proactive, creating an expectation that there is no room in the caucus for seat warmers.
The departure of a slew of National MPs at the last election is evidence of his more ruthless approach, as is his approach to Cabinet reshuffles.
For the first time that anyone can remember Key has made a practice of demoting ministers for performance issues, rather than the more traditional route of sacking minister’s only when they have transgressed.  This has given him room to constantly renew his Cabinet. Key rang the changes with a reshuffle which he hopes will mitigate the effects of third-termitis.
Key keeps reshuffling his Cabinet while Labour keeps reshuffling their leader :-)
The big unknown is the Green Party. They have ruled themselves out of any deal with National, but being hitched so firmly to Labour has been their curse.
The choice for the Greens now seems stark – either supplant Labour as the major Opposition party. Or position themselves as a permanent party of coalition with Governments of the Left or the Right.
That is pretty much their choices. Even when Labour wins power, they may shut the Greens out again, in order to get a centrist party on board.

Robertson’s plan

October 11th, 2014 at 9:04 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Grant Robertson has made his pitch for the party leadership, signalling a crackdown on banks, supermarkets and power companies and a plan to rebuild the party.

As he moved to counter the momentum building behind former party president Andrew Little’s bid, Robertson formally filed his nomination yesterday, signed symbolically by Maori MP Rino Tirikatene and Mana MP Kris Faafoi.

He is expected to launch his campaign in Auckland next week aiming to reverse the 2011 leadership launches where David Cunliffe overshadowed him.

As rumours swirled in the party that Cunliffe may withdraw, given Little’s hit on his union base, Robertson yesterday promised ‘‘a three-year programme to rebuild and reconnect the Labour Party as the driving force for progressive change’’.

The rumours over Cunliffe withdrawing have been around for weeks, but I’ll believe it when it happens.

But he defended key policies, saying Little had ‘‘possibly got ahead of himself’’ by questioning plans for a higher pension age, centralised wholesale power prices and a capital gains tax.

It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, if the different contenders put forward different policy programmes.

He endorsed aspects of former MP Shane Jones’ criticisms of supermarkets as one way to address issues that mattered to voters.

‘‘New Zealanders pay way too much for food  …  in a country where we produce enormous amounts of food. We need to look at supermarkets in the sense of the duopoly and what needs to change in the Commerce Act and how do we protect consumers,’’ he said.


I remind people of this graph, when Labour start talking food prices.

Low pay in supermarkets was also a problem.

‘‘We say to the supermarkets, ‘you’re in our society this is how we want it to be’.’’ 

Does anyone else see the problem here? In one breath you say food prices are too high and in the next that you want to increase costs for supermarkets.

He said Labour did not make the argument for lifting the minimum wage, which he agreed with.

‘‘But when he went into workplaces  …  you could see the workers there were worried that their boss couldn’t afford the minimum wage.’’ 

Smart workers.

But Labour first needed to build confidence and lift its vote to 40 per cent. It was easy for National to run a scare campaign about the Greens or Internet-Mana when Labour was on only 25 per cent, he said.

Yep. People don’t worry that much about the coalition partners when the main party is strong, but when the main party is weak, then it is more of an issue.

Lifting the vote from 25% to 40% is no small thing. That’s convincing 360,000 New Zealanders to change their vote to Labour.

Tags: ,

Why are some Ministers “Minister of” and others “Minister for”

October 10th, 2014 at 2:38 pm by David Farrar

Someone asked me this question on Twitter, and I wasn’t sure so I asked the Cabinet Office if there were any guidelines about why some titles are “Minister of Health” and others “Ministers for Arts, Culture and Heritage”.

The short answer is that the PM decides, so it is up to him.

The longer answer is that the following factors are taken into account:

  • usually, when new appointments are made to established portfolios, the portfolio titles remain the same (whether “of” or “for”, especially if the title is used in legislation)
  • “of” is often used where the portfolio relates directly to an actual Ministry or Department (eg Minister of Health, Minister of Justice, Minister of Corrections)
  • “for” is often used where the portfolio description is more “generic”, eg where the Minister is responsible for a particular topic or area (eg Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage);
  • sometimes, for reasons of sense or style, it just makes sense to use “of” or “for” (eg the former “Minister of Women’s Affairs has been changed to “Minister for Women”).

That makes a lot of sense. The last point especially resonates. Being the “Minister of Youth” or “Minister of Women” would sound very weird. Would be a cool business card though that said “Minister of Youth” :-)

For those interested these are the different titles:

Minister Of

Civil Defence
Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Energy and Resources
Foreign Affairs
Internal Affairs
Local Government
Maori Affairs
Pacific Island Affairs
Science and Innovation
State Services
Veterans’ Affairs
Youth Affairs

Minister for

Arts, Culture and Heritage
Building and Housing
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Climate Change Issues
Disability Issues
Economic Development
Ethnic Communities
Food Safety
Land Information
National Security and Intelligence
Pacific Peoples
Primary Industries
Regulatory Reform
Senior Citizens
Small Business
Social Development
Social Housing
Sport and Recreation
State Owned Enterprises
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Workplace Relations and Safety
Whanau Ora
(the) Community and Voluntary Sector
(the) Environment

My thanks to the Cabinet Office for their prompt and helpful response.


Robertson is nominated

October 10th, 2014 at 1:49 pm by David Farrar

The choice of nominees is interesting. Kris was a strong Shearer supporter and Rino is a member of the Maori caucus, and voted against same sex marriage. While one can read too much into these things, I suspect the choices were made to show Grant can unify and appeal widely.

I noted that it is dated today. I do wonder if it was actually signed around six months ago? :-)

Tags: ,

Little puts policies on the table

October 10th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Little signalled a major shift in direction if he won the leadership, including the likely ditching of unpopular policies such as raising the pension age.

At a press conference today, the former union boss also signalled a rethink of a capital gains tax, power reforms and free doctor visits for over-65s.

Little said the policies were raised constantly on the campaign trail as either scary or unaffordable.

Most Kiwis were pragmatic enough to realise when some policies seemed “too good to be true”, he said.

His approach could pitch him against finance spokesman and acting leader David Parker, who advocated strongly for Labour’s policy mix.

Little is right to say their policies were part of their failure. Kudos to him for being the only candidate willing to say so.

Parker is the architect of three of those policies, and it will be fascinating to see what he now does.

In terms of the four policies, here’s my views on them.

  • Power reforms – this one is near barking mad. If any one policy scared the entire business community off Labour, this was it. A de facto nationalisation of the industry, with the state setting the price for all generation. Even the guy whose work they claim it is based on, came out and said it was crackers (in more polite terms). This policy must go for them to be credible.
  • Super age to 67. Personally I think this is one of their better policies. But Little is right that there was a backlash from union members about it. Blue collar workers saw it as Labour wanting them to work two years more than previously. However it is fiscally the entirely correct thing to do. The motivation for the policy was to embarrass Key over his silly pledge not to raise it, but they’ve tried that twice now and failed. Also Labour can’t govern without Winston, and Winston will never agree to it, so why take the flak for it?
  • Capital Gains Tax. Apart from being riddled with exemptions, the problem with their CGT policy is that it was one of several new taxes, and NZers saw it as Labour just wanting to tax families and businesses more. I shouldn’t give Labour free advice, but what they should do is copy the Greens with their carbon tax, and say yes we will have a CGT, but we will reduce income and company tax to compensate. This way it is about a fairer tax system, not about taking more money off families and businesses. That would neutralise the issue. However it would mean Labour not having all the extra money for spending.
  • Free doctors visits for over 65s. I don’t think that was a particularly unpopular policy for Labour – just a cynical one that didn’t work.

As I said I think it is a good thing to have a leadership candidate campaign on specific policy changes, as it gives members a chance to vote on them.

Little’s performance in New Plymouth may be an issue however. Not only has did his electorate vote in 2014 drop 12% from what it was in 2011 (and is 28% lower than Duynhoven in 2008), but Labour’s party vote in New Plymouth dropped 9% in 2014 and is 28% lower than in 2008. In absolute terms 2,954 fewer people in New Plymouth voted Labour in 2014 than 2008 and 4,646 fewer people voted Little than Duynhoven.

Tags: ,

Why are we funding a golf tournament?

October 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The New Zealand Open has been given a major boost, with next year’s national golf championship securing increased government funding and live television coverage.

For the first time the New Zealand Open will be broadcast live in New Zealand and to overseas territories, including Australia and Japan.

And for the fifth straight year, the government has increased the amount of taxpayer funding going to the event.

At a press conference in Auckland today, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced a major events development fund investment of $700,000 a year for the 2015 and 2016 events and a one-off cash boost of $250,000 – to be matched by event promoter Sir Michael Hill – to ensure live broadcasting continues.

I don’t think we should be funding a golf tournament. I know the argument is that it is an investment in tourism, but that means we assume that golf tournament would not have occurred and been televised without taxpayer funding – and I doubt that is the case. It is just easier for organisers to hit up taxpayers rather than find additional sponsors.

On twitter several people made good arguments for it as a tourism investment, but I’d like to see hard figures about actual increased visits, rather than just awareness.


Miller on Dotcom

October 9th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoffrey Miller at The Diplomat writes on The Downfall of Kim Dotcom:

Outwardly, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party campaigned against mass surveillance and for free tertiary education and marijuana law reform. But by the end, New Zealand voters saw through the party – officially registered only in May this year – and deemed it a vanity project designed only to win Dotcom enough political support to hold the balance of power under the country’s proportional voting system and veto his extradition to the U.S. An unusual alliance with Mana, a leftist party advocating for the interests of New Zealand’s underprivileged indigenous Maori, seemed like a bold tactical move on paper, but was a disaster in practice. Dotcom’s flamboyant lifestyle and seemingly limitless cash ended up destroying Mana’s credibility of standing up for the downtrodden.

What’s amazing is none of the comrades to Mana still see the problem. At most they just think they needed to manage Dotcom better.

Dotcom led party-goers in a repeated chant against the country’s center-right prime minister, John Key. A video of the “f**k John Key” chant was uploaded to the official YouTube account for Internet Mana and widely circulated through social media. But many New Zealand voters appeared disgusted by the negative campaigning against an enormously popular incumbent.

Yep. That was a significant turning point.

The fact that no credible proof emerged at the “Moment of Truth” to support Dotcom’s much promised “big reveal” – which revolved around an outlandish conspiracy theory that New Zealand had granted him residency only to make it easier for the United States to extradite him – only added to voters’ impression that he was a charlatan.

In May, Kim Dotcom described his pet political party as his “gift to New Zealand.” On election night, he was forced to concede that his very brand had been toxic. For John Key, Dotcom turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. New Zealand voters’ loathing of Kim Dotcom and his tainting of the country’s left played no small part in delivering Key’s center-right National Party a landslide victory.

What we don’t know is if the damage to the left is short-term or long-term. But it has reduced the left’s presence in Parliament to just two parties.

Tags: ,

Hone’s recount increases Kelvin’s majority

October 9th, 2014 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

The recount results are out and Kelvin’s majority has increased by four votes to 743. What a waste of time and money.

This now means the writs can be returned and MPs officially declared elected.

Tags: , ,

And Little makes three

October 9th, 2014 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has announced:

I have decided to contest the Labour Party leadership.

There are three immediate issues to deal with: creating greater cohesion across the caucus, rebuilding the relationship between caucus and the Party and, most importantly getting the process under way to listen to the voters who have abandoned us.

I have demonstrated skills from my time as a union secretary and former Party president in challenging the status quo and lifting organisational performance.

Andrew has a reasonable chance of winning the contest.

If he can avoid being the lowest polling candidate on first preferences, then he is likely to pick up most of the second preferences from Cunliffe or Robertson supporters.

So Andrew has two challenges, to allow him to win:

  1. Gaining enough first preferences to get him to at least second place.
  2. Having enough caucus votes so that if he wins the overall ballot, he doesn’t face Cunliffe’s problem of being seen not to be backed by his own caucus

I think he has a reasonable chance of achieving the first. I would have thought he would take votes off Cunliffe mainly, especially the union votes.

The bigger challenge is getting a credible number of caucus voters. Very roughly (have not yet done exact count), Grant has around half the caucus, Cunliffe a quarter and a quarter don’t want either (sort of Camp Shearer people). Even if Little gets six or seven of the ones who don’t want either, that is not enough to be credible. Camp Robertson is fairly solid for him. So again his best strategy will be to win two or three Cunliffe caucus members over so he can get to 10 or so.

We’ve yet to see if David Parker enters the race. I’ll do more detailed analysis once the final contenders are known.

Tags: ,

Small on Labour leadership

October 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

Cunliffe cannot possibly be the answer. Leading the party to a historic defeat is one reason.

Having not much more than a handful of first preferences in the caucus ought to be another.

The lack of any public (as opposed to party activist) enthusiasm for him is a third.

A return to Shearer ought to be unthinkable. He has the back story of bravery, can do the statesman thing and is formidable on foreign affairs.

But he still has not mastered the fatal hesitancy when dealing with other topics that dogged him through his leadership.

Like Cunliffe he would mark a return to the past.

Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis have also been mooted. But they are too inexperienced and come from too far back in the caucus.

They may be the dream of a faction of the caucus, notably the ones who were enamoured of Jones, but neither is a viable choice at this stage.

So who?

There seems to be a growing expectation then, that whoever stands Robertson will win.

BUT Robertson also comes with a problem. Not his gay-ness, though for some it is a still an issue. Some in the party are concerned that conservative voters, especially Pasifika ones in South Auckland, would rebel and may even start their own party if Robertson is chosen.

New Zealanders are likely to be more tolerant than many in Labour and the unions think, but it is playing on some minds.

A bigger difficulty for him, though, is not caucus, confidence or competence . . . it’s speaking to voters in an everyday way, stripped of platitudes and bureau-speak. If a consensus does emerge it may be around him, and that may be the safest option.

Labour can ill-afford another mis-start. But he has work to do to present a coherent “vision” for the party and the country in a way that speaks to everyone.

Grant’s biggest challenge will be convincing New Zealanders that someone who has never spent a day working in the private sector (well post study anyway) can lead a Government with competent economic management.

But if we are to suffer a primary race, is there a third player who could energise it and offer a genuine alternative to a hackneyed run-off?

David Parker has been there before and pulled out, but his speech to the Labour conference was a surprise package that had many in the party sitting up and taking notice.

He manages to espouse Labour values while steering away from identity politics.

There is a lot of pressure on Parker to stand. He’s pulled out or refused twice before.

Andrew Little – a former union boss and party president – could energise the troops, would be an easy sell to the unions and speaks to the Left and Right of the party from Labour’s solar plexus.

He is also respected in business circles and that can only be good for fund-raising.

But at this stage he would probably draw fewer first preference votes in caucus than Cunliffe.

Little could potentially win, but if has the support of just five MPs or so, then he risks also looking like a leader without his team behind him.

So the best outcome for Labour? Robertson as leader, with caveats.

Little, Parker and Jacinda Ardern providing the deputy, finance and social policy leadership.

The only thing missing from that is a prominent role for any Maori and Pasifika MPs to reflect their importance and loyalty to Labour.

Two at least must be on the front bench when the dust settles after the leadership race.

Davis and Sepuloni?

Tags: ,

George FM in trouble

October 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Electoral Commission has referred Mediaworks to police after a broadcaster on George FM urged people to vote for the Green Party on election day.

The commission said the Auckland-based station broadcast statements on September 20 which were intended to influence people how to vote before the polling booths closed – a breach of electoral rules.

In a statement, the commission said it also took the view that the short broadcast by George FM was an election programme, which was a breach of the Broadcasting Act.

A Mediaworks spokeswoman said the company took its responsibilities as a broadcaster seriously, and trained its staff about election day rules.

“Unfortunately on Saturday 20th September, one of the announcers on George FM was a volunteer, and was unaware of their responsibilities under the Electoral Act.”

At 4.50pm on election day, the volunteer said on air that he had voted for the Greens and encouraged listeners to do the same and vote out the National-led Government.

It staggers belief that someone could think it is okay to broadcast on air on election day that they want listeners to vote for the Greens and vote National out.


3 News on Nash

October 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The Labour Party leadership race has been hit by its own version of Dirty Politics.

3 News has obtained an email showing MP Stuart Nash wanted to set up a rival party with help from a key figure in Nicky Hager’s book.

Mr Nash is denying the threat of the email forced him to quit the race.

“That is simply not true. I have never been blackmailed into standing down,” he says.

The email links Mr Nash to Simon Lusk, a notorious right-wing political operative, who usually works with National, is a close ally of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and a key figure in Mr Hager’s book, Dirty Politics.

The e-mail has been circulating for some time, allegedly written by Nash’s 2011 campaign manager. I saw it a few days before the election but could not authenticate it as it did not have any headers, so didn’t run it. I thought it might be a fake, as the language was so strong in condemning Nash. I didn’t pass it on to anyone, but I gathered it had spread quite widely so not surprised it eventually got into the media.

The email, from 18 months ago, shows Mr Nash’s Napier campaign manager, Rob Johnson, complaining that: “You had two friends of yours commission a report from Simon Lusk to the tune of 10 grand as to whether you could gain more influence by establishing your own political party in competition with Labour.”

However Mr Nash said he is “Labour to the core”.

In his email, a furious Mr Johnson calls Mr Lusk an “enemy strategist” and Mr Nash “reckless” and “naive”.

He warns Mr Nash if Mr Lusk’s involvement gets back to certain members of Labour, his entire campaign and career could be torpedoed.

Mr Lusk says he does not disclose his clients.

“Although in this case I will make an exception and say Stuart Nash has not paid me.”

Mr Lusk was paid by “Troy” and “Ned”. 3 News can confirm Troy is Troy Bowker, former Hawke’s Bay boy-turned-multi-millionaire Wellington investor, who knows Prime Minister John Key from the London investment banking scene.

Mr Bowker said today a group of business contacts wanted to set up a centre party, but Mr Lusk’s report said “it wasn’t viable” – and Nash said “no”.

The question that isn’t answered was when did Stuart know about his friends commissioning a report from Simon, and did he say no before he read the report or afterwards? In other words were they acting as an agent for Stuart, or totally independently or somewhere in between?

Also of interest would be the report itself. Maybe Stuart could release a copy of it! :-)

Mr Nash says Mr Johnson got the wrong end of the stick with the initial email and calmed down after it was explained, staying on to help him win Napier at the election.

But Mr Johnson’s email had already been passed on within Labour.

Mr Nash was called by acting leader David Parker on Sunday and officially pulled out of the leadership race the same day. It seems inevitable that if he pushed on, it would have been used against him.

There is correlation, but that may not causative. I think the moment Andrew Little started saying he was looking to stand, it made a Nash candidacy less viable.

UPDATE: I understand Mr Lusk is very upset at the suggestion that one of his reports would cost only $10,000.

Tags: ,

Seymour door knocking just weeks after the election

October 9th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The fact he door knocked a Miley Cyrus pre-party is quite hilarious. The more significant thing to note is that it is just three weeks since the election and David is already door knocking constituents. That’s hugely commendable.


Guest Post: Three strikes about to bite hard

October 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett, former ACT MP:

Three strikes about to bite hard

When the three strikes (3S) bill was making its way through parliament I told Clayton Cosgrove – in response to an interjection – that it might be ten to fifteen years before 3S would really start to bite. Although Cosgrove immediately tried to make capital from my answer, I was not  unhappy with that prediction – in fact I thought it a little optimistic. In my view we have taken a generation to get into the mess we are in with violent offending, and it might take a generation to reverse it. It seems I was unduly pessimistic.

Unless there are extremely good reasons which would preclude such a result, we are about to get our first  “strike” offender sentenced to Life Without Parole (LWOP) for murder as a second strike.  Justin Vance Turner, aged 28, has pleaded guilty to murder. It is his second “strike” offence, and accordingly, he should be sentenced to LWOP in accordance with s.86E (2) of the Sentencing Act. That section requires that a stage two offender guilty of murder should serve a sentence of LWOP “unless the court is satisfied that given the circumstances of the offence and the offender, it would be manifestly unjust to do so.”

The “manifestly unjust” provision was one of the conditions the Nats required in order for them to support the 3S Bill beyond first reading. It did not take long for ACT to agree to the amendment. The words “unless…manifestly unjust” have already been defined in case law. It is a very high hurdle to surmount. If for nothing else, Justice Graham Lang’s sentence notes will be pored over by everyone interested in 3S to see what he says about that phrase in the 3S context.

So what  “circumstances of the offence and the offender”  could cause Justice Lang to sentence to life imprisonment with a finite minimum Non Parole Period (NPP) instead of LWOP? As for the offence, in my respectful view there is absolutely nothing which would justify giving Turner the benefit of the “manifestly unjust” proviso. If the news report is accurate, the hapless victim – a homeless man – was kicked and punched until unconscious, and then Turner “continued stomping on him with enough force that  his head bounced off the floor.”

Given that Turner told police his intent was to kill, it would seem he had little choice but to plead guilty – although I suspect the motivation for the plea at an early stage (the trial was to begin on 1 December) was to try and avoid LWOP on the basis of an early guilty plea. Again in my respectful view, that is no reason to depart from the presumption created by s. 86E (2). Nothing in the 3S provisions of the Sentencing Act suggest early guilty pleas should be a factor in sentence.

What about the “circumstances of the offender”? Because of privacy laws we know little about him other than he has a first strike to his name  for serious  violent offending. There is a suggestion from the terms of the remand that his fitness to plead may have been an issue, but clearly that is no longer the case.

Again in my respectful view, if the court was to find that because of some psychological condition falling short of a “disease of the mind” which would be a reason for an acquittal Turner was prone to episodes of extreme violence, this ought to be even more reason to lock him up for the rest of his life. It is clear from his actions that he is a menace to society, and given his age, he will be for a long time.

One option the Judge has is to decline to impose LWOP, but to give a very lengthy NPP – say thirty or even forty years. If the Judge chose to go down that route the sentence would almost certainly be appealed. That is no bad thing, as it would give the Court of Appeal the chance to make some observation on the decision to apply the “manifestly unjust” proviso, and on the length of minimum NPP that ought to be imposed if the proviso was applied.

Finally it should be noted that LWOP as a possible sentence for murder was not  part of the original 3S Bill, although it was passed into law at the same time. At the 2008 election both ACT and the Nats campaigned on making LWOP available for our worst murderers.  From the aftermath of the  2014 election it appears both ACT and the Nats have lost the appetite  for law and order measures. In time, 2008 -10 may come to be regarded as a brief “window”  which opened and allowed our justice system to start dispensing real justice to killers – and their victims.

Tags: ,

Council for Civil Liberties against a voluntary oral health scheme!

October 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Young unemployed New Zealanders are being sent daily reminders to brush their teeth as part of a project an advocacy group says is “beneficiary bashing”.

The Ministry of Health-funded campaign sent participants daily reminders via text message, asking young people on welfare whether they have brushed their teeth that day, and asking them to respond if they had.

The scheme was designed to address oral health problems and reduce the number of beneficiaries requesting expensive emergency dental care grants, the Guardian reported

But it has been condemned by advocates of civil liberties, who say the scheme degrades those on welfare by implying they cannot remember to take care of themselves.

If you’re a teenager on welfare, you are not taking care of yourself – and you generally do not have a great range of life skills at that age.

But more to the point, this appears to be a voluntary scheme.

The Ministry of Health had worked with Work and Income to round up a “large number” of unemployed people in Christchurch to take part in the project, according to reports.

So beneficiaries decided to opt into the scheme. So what the heck are people on about?

Participants in the 10-week programme received a series of “motivational” text messages, in what was thought to be a world-first.

The teeth-brushing messages were likened to smoking cessation services which had seen success with text reminders.

Rates of participants brushing their teeth rose from 53 per cent to 73 per cent during the trial.


But  New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Batch Hales said it was a “beneficiary-bashing process under the guise of a do-good scheme.”

“If they wanted to help people they’d give people free dentist visits,” Hales said.

Oh My God. What a warped world view. They’d rather have the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, than help people to help themselves. The Council seems to think getting free fillings is a better option than brushing your teeth regularly so you don’t need fillings.

The scheme meant people were not considered to be “grownups” able to take responsibility for simple elements of their own healthcare such as brushing their teeth, he said.

Well only 53% were.

A national oral health survey conducted in 2009 found dental decay was the most prevalent chronic and irreversible disease in New Zealand.

So long as it is voluntary, then I see no issue at all – in fact it appears to be a hugely cost effective scheme that has produced great benefits – a 20% increase in good oral hygiene.


Hone’s recount

October 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mana leader Hone Harawira has filed for a recount of the votes in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

He lost the seat on election night to Labour’s Kelvin Davis by a margin of 739 votes, and has refused to concede defeat since. His party has concerns about votes that were rejected.

Harawira admitted on TVNZ’s Marae programme that his refusal to concede defeat was a tactic to stretch out the use of his parliamentary perks and pay packet.

“One of the good things about not conceding, for those of you in politics, is if you concede on the night all your travel benefits stop at 12 o’clock,” Harawira said.

“If you don’t [concede], you get to fly round the country and go and see all your people for the next two weeks.”

Say a lot doesn’t it. But he actually got it wrong.

But a spokeswoman for Parliamentary Services confirmed declaration day was typically the date at which parliamentary travel entitlements were cut off for former MPs, regardless of whether they’ve conceded.

“Travel benefits cease for former members on the day they resign or on polling day, if they do not stand, or on declaration day if they stand and are unsuccessful,” she said.

Declaration day was Saturday, when the commission announced the formal election result with the count of the special votes.

So the recount won’t get him extra votes. So why is he doing it? Spare money from Kim to burn?

Mana general secretary Gerard Hehir said the party had some concerns over the way some votes were discounted.

“Particularly around special votes,” he said.

“We understand almost 1000 special votes have been rejected and we’ve just got a lot of concerns irrespective of whether it changes the outcome or not.

There is no way a majority of 700+ will change with the recount. The general rule of thumb is only do a recount if under 200 votes.

UPDATE: Hone is now accusing the Electoral Commission of racism. A very bad loser.

Tags: ,

Expanding the investment approach

October 8th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Agencies that spend $34 billion worth of public money each year face a big upheaval as new State Services Minister Paula Bennett rolls out an “investment approach” from the welfare system across the rest of the public service.

Ms Bennett’s promotion to fifth place in the new Cabinet, in charge of one of the Government’s three key coordinating bodies, the State Services Commission, is a sign that senior ministers want to get better efficiency across the whole public service in the same way that Ms Bennett has driven it through her welfare reforms.

In welfare, her “investment approach” calculated the average lifetime costs of every person who went on a benefit, then shifted staff efforts into those with the highest likely lifetime costs.

That meant pouring resources into “wraparound” support for the most at-risk groups such as for teen parents, who cost taxpayers an average of $246,000 in their lifetime, while giving less support to unemployed jobseekers who cost an average of only $116,000.

Ms Bennett, who also gets an associate role with Finance Minister Bill English, said her new jobs would let her take a similar approach more broadly.

“I definitely think we need some reform in state services and in how we are doing cross-agency work, which you can only do to a certain level within a portfolio. So State Services gets me to oversee and overlook all of it,” she said.

“And both Minister English and I have the intention of rolling out the investment approach wider than just Work and Income. You can see how it fits particularly with those children who are most vulnerable across all different agencies. We’re talking about the same children. If we know who they are earlier, then we’re willing to invest more for that long term gain, both for them as far as what they can achieve in life and it always makes sense as well balancing the books.”

I’m a big supporter of the investment approach which may mean spending a bit more money early on, if it will save money down the track.  However this also means that low quality spending should be canned in favour of spending that produces the biggest benefit.

The reshuffle coincides with a Productivity Commission inquiry into “enhancing productivity and value in public services”, ordered in June by Mr English and outgoing State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman.

The commission has published an “issues paper” today asking for public feedback on how the Government should drive better productivity through the way it buys social services worth $34 billion a year from state departments, district health boards, schools, early childhood and tertiary education providers, the Accident Compensation Corporation and more than 4000 non-government organisations (NGOs).

NZ Initiative director Dr Oliver Hartwich said the investment approach could justify putting more resources into higher quality teachers in low-decile schools to help their students get better jobs in future, or into child health services to reduce future costs when those children grew up.


We should spend more money on the under 5s and less on the over 65s – to be blunt.

Tags: ,

The terror threat

October 8th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The number of New Zealanders planning to serve as foreign fighters in countries like Syria is “far more” than one or two, Prime Minister John Key says. …

He is also planning a major speech once Parliament resumes that looks set to challenge Kiwi perceptions that New Zealand is far removed from terrorist threats.

The speech signals Key’s intention to front-foot security and intelligence issues more aggressively after much of National’s second term was beset by controversy surrounding the GCSB.

Key warned that New Zealand was in a far from benign environment, using the rise of Kiwis seeking to join groups like the Islamic State (Isis) as an example.

“I hope to be able to spell out the risks around foreign fighters. There is no question the Security Intelligence legislation needs reforming.

“If I was to spell out to New Zealanders the exact number of people looking to leave and be foreign fighters, it would be larger than I think New Zealanders would expect that number to be.

“The number currently fighting overseas . . . is relatively small but it’s certainly far more than one or two.”


That is concerning. Even if they go over there with good motivations (to free Syria from Assad), there is a significant risk they get radicalised as they are fighting alongside extremists.

He singled out the rise of foreign fighters as a particular issue for the Government to deal with, likely through legislative change. He would seek cross-party support. “If we cancel a passport for someone who is looking to go overseas as a foreign fighter . . . in other jurisdictions they [are cancelled] for a much longer period of time . . . we think there are some glaring deficiencies there.”

The Greens will knee jerk oppose any change I can almost guarantee. It will be interesting what Labour does. I suspect the primary process will force all the leadership contenders to reject out of hand any possibility of bipartisan support for a law change. But Labour then runs the risk of being on the wrong side of public opinion, as the average New Zealander has little time for those who go off to fight alongside ISIS.

The Herald reported:

Mr Key also wanted to reform SIS legislation. However, he said he would prefer to do that on a bipartisan basis with Labour under its new leader.

If he could not secure Labour’s support, “then there’s a very strong chance that I won’t progress changes in that area”.

It is best to have bipartisan support in this area. So if the Labour leadership contest means Labour won’t support any changes, then they probably won’t proceed – which will be interesting if the lack of a new law leads to problems.

Key confirmed, meanwhile, that New Zealand was expecting a request to join the international effort against Isis.

Deploying the Special Air Service was likely to be among the options considered by New Zealand “but we’ll just need to assess that”.

I hope we don’t do it. The risk of mission creep is too high. We should make some contribution to the international effort, as 60 other countries are doing. But it should not be troops on the ground.


Tags: ,

Advice for new Ministers

October 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Once again this is a collaborative effort from talking to some former Ministers and former Ministerial staff – and current ones.

  1. Never fuck with DPMC. They know everything.
  2. Never fuck with the PMO. They talk to the PM up to ten times a day, and you probably talk once a week at best.
  3. Occasionally walk your own release around the gallery – don’t get totally aloof from the media.
  4. Don’t try and be the Dept CEO’s CEO. It is tempting to try and do everything, but that is not a good use of your time, and just annoys the department. You’re the Minister, not the CEO.
  5. Accept your department will stuff up sometimes and make mistakes which you have to shoulder. You can’t be absolutely risk adverse for then nothing happens in your portfolios. The challenge is to make sure the same mistake never happens twice.
  6. Treat your staff well at all times – they are working almost as many hours as you. The Beehive is a cauldron of gossip and unhappy staff radiate discontent. Almost without exception the most politically successful Ministers have the happiest offices.
  7. Move your family to Wellington if you want to keep them. You will now be in Wellington four to five nights a week instead of two.
  8. Don’t neglect the electorate. Your electorate in theory likes having their local MP as a Minister – but not if it means they see less of you. What matters to them isn’t what bills you’ve had passed through the House – but have you remained accessible and helpful as a local MP.
  9. Be a political Minister not just a manager. You should have some some policy goals for your portfolios, and not just be there to implement the Department’s agenda.
  10. Early on ask Bill English if you can spend a couple of hours with him, learning how to manage a massive workload and your diary. Bill has the heaviest workload of any Minister yet he manages to make it home for dinner with his family four to five nights a week. Success is not working from 6 am to midnight six days a week. It is being effective with fewer hours.
  11. Don’t just talk to CEOS. Make sure 2nd and 3rd level managers can tell you what is really happening. Even ring them directly from time to time. Don’t let the CEO become your only source of information.
  12. Treat all with respect, including the newest lowliest MP. You will not be a Minister for ever and friends come and go but enemies accumulate.
  13. Don’t screw the crew. Also be aware that even if you just go out for dinner (because you’re hungry) with a staffer or journalist, then half of Wellington will be gossiping about it the next morning, and speculating on whether the relationship is more then professional.
  14. Meet stakeholders regularly, don’t become remote. Even if the meetings are little more than information sharing, portfolio stakeholders like to be able to access their Minister. A reputation for being hard to get into see can spread quickly.
  15. When the Minister of Finance in your first Budget bilateral tells you your departments are the most bloated, and your vote is personally jeopardising the Government’s fiscal plans – be aware he says that to every new Minister. But also be aware he will win, until you are a senior Minister
  16. Your staffing decisions are most critical. Generally do not make your backbench executive secretary your Senior Private Secretary (unless they are very experienced). Grab one of the old hands – they will keep you from being sacked for breaching the cabinet manual. There is a big difference between being a sole charge secretary and managing a ministerial office of 8 to 12 staff. Many Exeecutive Secretaries can and do make the transition – but not necessarily immediately. You can bring them in as a Ministerial Secretary and then once they have experience in a ministerial office, step up to being an SPS.
  17. A political advisor should be political. They should see pretty much every paper you see, and their job is partly to point out the potential political problems. They should also be someone who can talk to your departments with some authority on your behalf.
  18. It can be a good idea to ask your departments to provide a short (say two page) summary of every paper they send you. This helps you quickly see the important stuff. However this is not a substitute to reading the full documents also. Or at a minimum make sure your political advisor and/or SPS have read the full documents also and provided their own summary if necessary. They may have a different view to your department as to what is important.
  19. Don’t just accept as your portfolio secondees, the recommendation of the CEO. It is quite common to ask for the CEO to provide a list of several departmental staff who are interested in working in the Minister’s office, and make the decision yourself. Getting the right secondees in can be crucial to your effectiveness.
  20. Have a chat to the outgoing Minister and find out where the bodies are buried.
Tags: ,

What If?

October 7th, 2014 at 4:09 pm by David Farrar

Some What If questions.

What if National, not ACT, won Epsom?

National would go from 60 to 61 MPs and have a majority in a Parliament of 121. They are currently in the “just missed out” place on the St Lague formula. So Paul Goldsmith would be an electorate MP, Maureen Pugh a List MP, and John Key would have a majority.

What if National, not United Future, won Ohariu?

Dunne’s seat is an overhang. Parliament would be 120 MPs, not 121. National and ACT could govern.

What if National won Epsom and Ohariu?

National would have 61/120 MPs and have a majority – just.

What is the Maori Party did not win Waiariki?

National would gain a seat, as would Labour and National would have a majority of 61/121 .

What if Hone Harawira won Te Tai Tokerau?

National and Greens would lose a seat each, as Mana would have two seats. National would have 59 MPs and could govern with ACT and United Future.

What is the threshold was 4% below what the Conservatives got?

The Conservatives would have 5 MPs. National loses three, Labour one and Greens one. National on 57 could govern with Conservatives on 5.



Tags: ,

Sir Roger Douglas on Labour’s predicament

October 7th, 2014 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Sir Roger Douglas:

The election was clearly an absolute disaster for Labour. The party’s inability to deal with the result is apparent for all to see.

Renewal has several parts and needs to start with a recognition of what went wrong and move towards the changes needed to rectify the situation.

Labour needs to acknowledge: 

  • It lost touch with the feelings, concerns and expectations of voters.
  • That in the process it lost credibility.
  • That a lack of policy consistency and communications consistency cost it dearly.
  • That winning back lost credibility will take time, and consistency will be absolutely vital.
  • That voters often saw Labour as the voice of vested-interest groups, rather than average New Zealanders.
  • That Labour failed to state clearly what it was trying to achieve and how it would go about implementing new approaches.
  • That Labour locked itself into becoming the advocates of processes that could no longer achieve the goals the party set for itself.

So what does Labour need to do about their current situation?  Labour needs to: 

  • Start by restating the social goals they stand for today – goals likely to be very similar to those spelled out by Walter Nash in 1939.
    • a reasonable standard of living
    • access to an adequate education
    • a good health service
    • a good income in retirement
    • a social welfare system that gives people a hand-up, rather than a hand out, and does not lock them into dependency
    • a society which gives people opportunities for self-fulfilment.
  • That’s the easy part – the hard part is how does the party make those goals the foundation of a serious programme to transform New Zealand?
  • To do this the party needs a vision of where it wants New Zealand to be in 25 years time.
  • Next, are the current, or preferred means, capable of achieving these goals? The means Labour used in the 1930s no longer suffice.
  • The question then becomes – can Labour do this? Are Labour members free to think in new, fresh ways?

That’s why they need time to work through the challenges which are:

  • To realise that simply electing a new leader is not enough – the party needs a leader who is in tune with the new realities that exist in New Zealand.
  • Positioning and consistency of policy and communication are vital.
  • This new positioning and the policies need to reflect, and be in tune with the feelings, expectations, and concerns of most New Zealanders. The party needs to explain for example:
  • The goals the policies seek to address.
  • The importance of productivity and efficiency which old Labour did so well. The Party needs to explain that waste consumes resources that would otherwise be available to improve fairness.

For instance, that without efficiency, a more equitable society is impossible.  (This requires a big shift for the Labour Party of the past 15 years.)

  • How the party will, in future, deal with privilege which remains widespread.
  • How it will be the champion of ordinary New Zealanders, not the unions, not the teachers, not the nurses nor the social workers, as they do today.
  • How Labour will deal with the fact that huge increases in spending on health and education have gone to the benefit of providers, rather than consumers. I acknowledge this is hard when the party has been the voice of nurses, doctors and teachers at the expense of the consumer for so long.
  • Explain to supporters why high tax rates have a negative effect on jobs and real wages, and tend to lower productivity which is essential if wages are to rise.
  • How the party will deal with middle-class capture in areas like university education where most of the beneficiaries of state spending are the children of people who could afford to pay more towards educating their offspring.
  • How the party will free people from welfare dependency put there by institutions created in the 1930s, and stoked by policies devised in the 1970s.
  • Why competition in the provision of government-funded services is just as important as it is in the private sector.
  • Explain to New Zealand that there is no such thing as a free lunch e.g. tell people that healthcare now takes 56c of every dollar of all personal tax they pay instead of 40c a few years ago, and what Labour will do about it.
  • Demonstrate that Labour has got to grips with poor incentives to work and how those poor incentives have encouraged socially destructive behaviour.
  • How Labour will shift resources in education, housing, health and welfare in response to changing demands.
  • How Labour will deal with uneven rates of government assistance (e.g. health) for different services and different categories of patients.
  • Whether Labour will continue to provide universal access to many health and welfare services or instead move towards targeted assistance? And if there is to be change, what principles will drive it?
  • How Labour will deal with government waste.

Getting this right will be vital for Labour – recognising that the present welfare system has changed people’s attitudes, and in the process has had effects on society. It is important to understand this if the policy the party goes forward with is to have any likelihood of working.

But, isn’t this simply moving into National party territory?

No – it need not be – why?

  • Because National is the party of the status quo.
  • Despite opposing many of the policies of the Clark government they now act as if those policies were their own.
  • National has borrowed and added to New Zealand’s debt by $60 billion over the last six years rather than get to grips with wasteful expenditure.
  • National has borrowed billions of dollars to fund consumption, rather than investment.
  • National has spent billions of dollars each year on corporate welfare with little or no beneficial results to show for it, and all at the expense of the average New Zealander.
  • National has run budget deficits, but a deficit of courage and imagination has been their main legacy.

National’s do nothing, sit-still, status-quo approach to economic and social policy provides Labour with a real opportunity to get back up on its feet.

What will it take?

  • An upfront admission that Labour has got a lot of things wrong for the last nine to 15 years, and what has led to this conclusion.
  • A set of principles that will guide Labour’s policy decision-making that New Zealanders understand and can measure. For instance:
    • Each genertion should pay for itself.
    • Each family should take as much responsibility as possible for its members.
    • State assistance should be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.
  • A set of principles like these would drive policy-making towards:
    • No personal income tax for low-income earners. This would limit churning where a lot of tax collected goes on the bureaucracy that then redistributes it.
    • A guaranteed minimum income for those in work.
    • Retirement – risk and healthcare savings accounts for all aimed at driving efficiency in these areas.
  • Paid for by:
    • An end to corporate welfare.
    • An end to middle-class welfare capture.
    • Moving the age of retirment to 70 over 20 years.
    • Better efficiencies in health, education and welfare.
    • An end to Working for Families, once a guaranteed minimum income arrangement has been worked out carefully.

Labour also needs to explain: 

  • That what is important to existing and potential Labour voters is people, not institutions. That Labour policy will in future put people ahead of institutions, unlike the current National party.
  • That provider capture in health and education is a thing of the past, and that funding will instead go to the benefit of pupils, patients and other consumers, not to service providers. That is not to say providers would not do well. They will so long as consumers benefit.
  • An all-out effort to reform the distribution of resources amongst the social service institutions to ensure resources move to the greatest need in terms of social goals.
  • An end to corporate welfare and middle-class welfare, thus enabling tax reductions across the board, and especially for the lower paid.
  • Reform of healthcare (following a review) including looking at individuals’ health savings accounts (Singapore style). Aim at better outcomes, greater efficiency, more fairness.
  • Reform of education. Adopt as a basic principle that no one should fail. Make clear that the current 30% failure rate is not acceptable.
  • Local government in Auckland has been a failure and Labour will change that.

But most of all, New Zealanders will need to believe Labour is for real. Working through these principles will take time.  A good strategy would be to have a locum tenens leader while the necessary work is undertaken. Always remember that any extreme left-wing policies usually hurt the poor, and the poor know it. Such policies would quickly see Labour back to where it is now.

Above all, a top-class opposition would be great for New Zealand.  What’s the chance of that – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50%?

Tags: ,

Voting Blocs 1938 – 2014

October 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


This shows the results for each bloc of parties from 1938 to 2014.

Right parties are National, ACT. Christian and Conservative parties, and since 2008 United Future.

Left parties are Labour, Values/Greeens, Alliance and Mana

Centre parties are Social Credit, NZ Party, NZ First, Maori Party and United Future up until 2008.

What I find interesting is the total left vote since 1999. It has been:

  • 1999 – 51.6%
  • 2002 – 51.2%
  • 2005 – 47.6%
  • 2008 – 41.6%
  • 2011 – 39.6%
  • 2014 – 37.3%

MPs salaries

October 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Following confirmation of the size of the Executive, and composition of Parliament, here are the salaries different MPs will be on:


Worth noting that David Seymour as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary is paid only slightly more than the Green Party Whip.

Also note that while the Green Party Leadership is shared, they get just one leader’s salary. I suspect what they do is split the additional $34,370 between them so they each get $164,985.

Select Committee Chairs and Deputies have yet to be determined. There are 14 main select committees, but it is possible there will be less than 14 chairs and deputy chairs as some MPs may be a chair of one and a deputy of another. I’ll update once committees are known, if it changes.

The total salary bill for the 121 Ministers and MPs will be $21,942,420. They each are eligible for a 20% (of base MP pay) superannuation subsidy which is $29,560 each, so if all 121 take that up, that is an additional $3,576,760 bringing total remuneration to $25,519,180.

The “median” MP will get $152,400 salary and $29,560 superannuation subsidy, which is $181,960. The average (mean) salary per MP is $181,342 plus $29,560 which is $210,902.

For a fair number of MPs, they take a significant pay cut entering Parliament. For others, it is the most money they have ever earnt, or will earn. Overall I think the levels are about right, but as always they should set the pay levels to be constant for an entire term of Parliament.