Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

How about letting parents and kids decide?

November 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Dunedin secondary school pupils may be forced to attend the school nearest to them if one option proposed by the Ministry of Education is adopted.

The ministry has put up for discussion four options for improving the efficiency of the Dunedin secondary schools network.

It is efficient to force people to attend a certain school, but that doesn’t mean it is right. Educational outcome is more important than efficiency and if parents want to send their kids to a further away school, they should be able to.

Roll figures for 2015 show the city’s secondary schools have capacity for 9252 pupils, but 1513 spaces are not used in Dunedin – the equivalent of two secondary school rolls.

To make the network more efficient, option one is to implement a system in which the majority of an area’s pupils attend their local schools.

In other words force people to attend a school they don’t want to. This means poorly performing schools will not lose students, and hence have no incentive to improve.


Tuhoe wants to battle welfare dependency

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

The Herald reports:

Welfare, says Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger, is a “disease” that has sapped the motivation of his people.

“Being a beneficiary is a type of servitude,” he says. “It doesn’t nurture self-realisation or honour or self-respect. It destroys all of that, and the disease spreads from the individual to the family to the neighbourhood to the community.”

Kruger for Parliament I say.

Welfare is necessary for those who need temporary assistance. But unless one has a severe disability, it should not be a long-term source of income.

Another story reports on an initiative:

The Tuhoe iwi is negotiating to take over social services for its people in an ambitious bid to end welfare “dependency”.

The tribe wants to take over welfare payments, schools, healthcare and housing within its Urewera tribal area from Whakatane south to Lake Waikaremoana.

Tuhoe chief executive Kirsti Luke said a majority of Tuhoe people in that area were on benefits, and tribal leader Tamati Kruger said the iwi aimed to change that.

“We are declaring war on dependency,” Mr Kruger said. “Our motivation is that if we want to be a vibrant people, to be a productive people who live up to their beliefs and to their faith as to what life is all about, and the honour that has to be part of humanity, then this is clearly what we have to overcome – because being a beneficiary is a type of servitude.”

Mr Kruger said Tuhoe had put a proposition to the Government to make better use of the $55 million a year taxpayers spend on welfare benefits for 4934 Maori beneficiaries around the Tuhoe tribal area. At the last Census, the tribe had 35,000 members.

“We believe that we can design a system where there is a transition from benefits to wages and salaries,” he said.

In principle this is a great idea.

But there are constitutional problems. Just because someone is a member of Tuhoe doesn’t mean their welfare payments can be paid through Tuhoe without their consent. There would need to be some sort of opt in process.

But if there is a way they can make this happen, it is worth doing. Success is not guaranteed, but Tuhoe should be in a better position than WINZ to work with its own members to reduce welfare dependency.

The iwi has set up its own doctors’ clinic in Taneatua, without state funding. More than 500 of its 884 enrolled patients were not previously enrolled at any clinic in the Bay of Plenty.

Tuhoe is now negotiating with the Education Ministry to share control of the 15 schools in its area and use them as hubs to develop health services, skills training and jobs.

Again, good to see positive leadership.

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Herald says Len should not go to Paris

November 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Many Aucklanders would have been open-mouthed with amazement at the announcement that Mayor Len Brown is going to the world climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month. The audacity of the discredited mayor never ceases to amaze. He ought to have resigned long ago but any credit he recovered with his decision last week not to stand for re-election next year probably evaporated with this announcement. What purpose can he serve at the climate change conference?

Sight seeing?

The conference is going to hear that his council has set a target of reducing Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, and that it is preparing for the impacts of climate change such as severe weather events, floods and sea level rise.

The Council’s target is nonsense because the Council has almost no ability to impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland.

National governments can impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a charge on such emissions, determining energy sources etc. A local authority has no such power, so the 40% target is basically wankery.

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Expat Kiwis repaying their loans

November 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The threat of a tap on the shoulder from Customs has led to more overseas Kiwis paying back their student loan, the Government says – including one who wrote a cheque for close to $100,000.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the target of collecting $100 million in a single year through the overseas-borrowing initiative would likely be met next year.

That’s great. Moving overseas is not a good reason to not pay your debts.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations has criticised the Government for compelling students to repay their loans through a policy of fear rather than supporting them with a more intuitive repayment scheme, saying it could drive graduates away.

Actually the Government did that also. It introduced a scheme where if you make voluntary repayments, you get an extra 10% knocked off your loan. NZUSA attacked that as favouring the wealthy. This has been NZUSA’s problem – they have been seen for too long as a branch of the Labour Party.

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NZ Herald implores people to donate to Labour

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

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Labour Party’s financial deficit problems should be of concern to all New Zealanders. It is not necessary to be aligned with National or Labour to recognise that a healthy democracy needs two parties capable of providing sound government. …

The country will go to the next election with sensible alternatives on offer, to re-elect National for a fourth term or decide it’s time for a change. Three-term governments have usually been enough for New Zealand voters, but normally the mood for change is evident by this time. Labour may have to hang in for a longer haul and it needs help. It deserves a fair deal from those doing well in an economy that took two parties to put right.

So the NZ Herald is imploring people to donate money to the Labour Party. Good to know where they stand.

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Eight Councils moving forward with online voting option

November 19th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Louise Upston has announced:

Five district councils and three city councils have been invited to demonstrate they can meet the government’s requirements for an online voting trial. If successful, the councils will be able to offer online voting alongside postal voting in the local government elections next year.

Whanganui, Rotorua, Matamata Piako, Selwyn and Masterton districts have confirmed their interest as well as Porirua, Palmerston North and Wellington cities.

“The councils must meet a strict set of requirements before they can offer online voting,” says Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston. “They need to show they will manage the risks – notably issues of security and fairness – and they must preserve public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system.”

That’s a good mix for a trial of small and large. The population in each Council is:

  • Wellington 191,000
  • Palmerston North 80,000
  • Rotorua 65,000
  • Porirua 52,000
  • Selwyn 45,000
  • Whanganui 42,000
  • Matamata Piako 32,000
  • Masterton 23,000

Online voting will be an option for those who want it. Postal voting will still be available and no doubt the method used by the majority.


Parliament 19 November 2015

November 19th, 2015 at 11:51 am by David Farrar

The House is still in urgency today debating and voting on three bills through all stages.

They are:

The House will sit from 9 am to midnight with one hour breaks at 1 pm and 6 pm. Normally there is no question time under urgency, but the Government sought leave for question time to still occur.

It is likely the House will finish with the third bill this afternoon.

The questions are:

  1. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: What pressures are facing the public health workforce as a result of this Government’s decision to fund core Crown health expenditure to cover “most, but not all, inflationary pressures”?
  2. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that the Government is focused “on reinforcing the business confidence needed to invest, create more jobs and increase incomes”?
  3. RON MARK to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  4. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister for the Environment: Has he given clear national direction to local authorities to help them protect coastal communities from rising sea levels; if not, why not?
  5. PAUL FOSTER-BELL to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding property investment in schools?
  6. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied the Government has fulfilled its 2008 commitment to tackle truancy; if so, why is the truancy rate now higher than it has ever been?
  7. ALASTAIR SCOTT to the Deputy Prime Minister: What steps is the Government taking to allow New Zealanders to choose our future flag?
  8. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Does he stand by all his statements?
  9. KELVIN DAVIS to the Minister of Police: By what percentage has the crime resolution rate decreased overall since 2008?
  10. BRETT HUDSON to the Minister for Communications: What is the current status of the build programme for Ultra-Fast Broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiative?
  11. MARAMA DAVIDSON to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What plans does New Zealand have to help our Pacific Island neighbours given that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, has recently appealed to New Zealand to “stand with us Pacific Islands countries and increase their commitments”?
  12. KRIS FAAFOI to the Minister for Building and Housing: Is he confident that all taxpayers’ money allocated for his HomeStart roadshow is being spent appropriately?

National: Four questions on business confidence, school property, NZ Flag and broadband

Labour: Four questions on health spending, truancy, crime and Homestart Roadshow

Greens: Two questions on sea levels and climate change

NZ First: One question on PM standing by his statements

ACT: One question on Treaty Minister standing by his statements


Online GST

November 19th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Todd McClay announced:

Revenue Minister Todd McClay says measures proposed in a tax bill introduced today are about fairness and equity.

“It is about creating a level playing field for collecting GST and putting New Zealand businesses and jobs ahead of the interests of overseas suppliers”, says Mr McClay.

These measures are an important first step in the Government’s efforts to deal with increasing volumes of online services and other intangibles purchased from overseas suppliers that should, under New Zealand’s tax rules, be subject to GST.

“GST should apply to all consumption that occurs in New Zealand.  This is what makes our GST system fair, efficient and simple,” says Mr McClay.

“The growth of online digital and overseas services means the volume of services on which GST is not collected is an increasing challenge – for the Government in terms of the GST revenue foregone, and as a matter of fairness for New Zealand suppliers of services and intangibles who must account for GST in their pricing structures.”

Mr McClay says the proposed measures will apply GST to cross-border “remote” services and intangibles supplied by offshore suppliers (including e-books, music, videos, and software purchased from offshore websites) to New Zealand-resident consumers, by requiring the offshore supplier to register and return GST on these supplies.  

I haven’t got a problem with this. I will have a problem if the de minimis threshold on imported goods is reduced to such a low level, your books and minor purchases are stopped at the border.

The key issue here is how many overseas retailers will actually agree to register. Some will, but not all. The FAQ notes:

Why would offshore suppliers comply with the proposed rules?

When similar rules have been applied in other countries, offshore suppliers – particularly large international suppliers that account for the majority of cross-border services and intangibles – have demonstrated a willingness to comply. For many of these companies, failure to comply with their obligations would pose a significant risk to their reputation.

So I imagine Amazon, Apple will comply. But will Ebay as they are just an auction house, not a retailer?

The bill is here. It says a supplier will treat a customer as being from NZ if there are at least two non-conflicting pieced of evidence, from the below:

  • the person’s billing address:
  • the internet protocol address of the device used by the person or another geolocation method:
  • the person’s bank details, including the account the person uses for payment or the billing address held by the bank:
  • the mobile country code of the international mobile subscriber identity stored on the subscriber identity module card used by the person:
  • the location of the person’s fixed land line through which the service is supplied to them:
  • other commercially relevant information.

The IP address inclusion could be problematic. They are not necessarily a reliable guide to where someone is from. It also means that someone who uses software to mask their country of origin (very useful if you wish to view videos from other countries, or subscribe to US Itunes or Netflix) could end up breaching the GST Act. However a prosecution would only occur if the GST amount was substantial.

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Garner proposes Nick Leggett for Wellington Mayor

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

Duncan Garner writes:

OK capital dwellers, here’s a tough trivia question for you.

What has Celia Wade-Brown achieved in two terms as mayor and decades on the Wellington City Council? Take your time, have a good think.

More cycleway campaigns, more ratepayer money for the arts and libraries and – maybe – a longer airport runway. That’s pretty much it after five years as mayor.

Now her council is embroiled in an unnecessary and expensive legal scrap over a ridiculous decision to pay a living wage to council contractors.

Simply put, the capital lacks leadership – and as a result is suffering from inertia.

Perhaps she was only ever an accidental mayor anyway, winning by just 176 votes in 2010 under the STV voting system.

Wade-Brown talks about projects still to come but hasn’t she had her time? Surely the city needs a fresh, dynamic leader. Consensus politics sounded like a nice idea but has proved a failure.

Wellington needs to come together, amalgamate the councils, and be more bold and ambitious.

The recent Local Government Commission proposal was probably  a step too far and drew strong opposition in Wairarapa and Hutt Valley. But Wellington, Porirua and maybe even Kapiti could easily amalgamate without unduly affecting communities.

And there’s already an heir apparent: Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett. The capital needs a shot of adrenaline – and this guy can work across party lines and he supports this kind of amalgamation.

Some very good sources tell me he is now seriously considering running in Wellington.

We do not need two mayors 20km apart. It’s ridiculous.

Leggett is popular in the northern suburbs, is a finalist in next week’s Wellingtonian of the Year awards, and boasts the biggest majority of any mayor in Porirua’s history.

Wellington can no longer wait for fresh leadership. The capital needs a unifying mayor, not a flake overseeing a stagnant pond.

Even Auckland Mayor Len Brown has finally come to the conclusion that it’s time to give up. Wade-Brown should follow suit.

I don’t think Wade-Brown will seek a third term, but time will tell.

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Chinese does not mean foreign

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

The Herald reports:

Labour MP Phil Twyford says he will not be intimidated by an alleged smear campaign that is apparently backed by foreign property speculators.

Labour’s housing spokesman will reportedly be targeted by controversial political consultant Simon Lusk at the 2017 election because of his strong stance on offshore buyers.

TV3’s Duncan Garner said last night he was told Mr Lusk was being funded by “Chinese money” to carry out a “direct mailout” that would focus on the Te Atatu MP.

Asked to respond this morning, Mr Twyford said: “I think it’s interesting that foreign property speculators are so concerned to defend the tax-free mega-profits they’re making in the Auckland housing market that they’re willing to hire the National Party’s dirty tricks machine to do their work for them.”

Phil Twyford makes the same mistake as he made in his research in which he claimed up to 40% of Auckland house purchases are made by foreigners because they have Chinese sounding surnames.

I don’t know anything about this rumoured campaign, but Chinese money is much much more likely to refer to local Chinese who felt greatly offended by Twyford claiming that most purchasers with Chinese surnames must be foreigners.

You see the interesting thing is that Twyford is the MP for Te Atatu.  And Te Atatu’s electorate profile shows 24% of residents are Asian. So I guess he has pissed off a huge number of his own constituents, and they’re the ones who want a new MP – one who doesn’t insult them.

So Twyford has just gone and made it worse for himself by referring to his own constituents as foreign property speculators.


Parliament 18 November 2015

November 18th, 2015 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

The House is in urgency today debating and voting on three bills through all stages.

They are:

The House will sit from 9 am to midnight with one hour breaks at 1 pm and 6 pm. Normally there is no question time under urgency, but the Government sought leave for question time to still occur.

Each bill if fully debated will have six hours of debates for the main reading plus committee stages which I estimate could take seven hours, so the total time could be up to 23 hours. But as some are not overly controversial, it should be shorter.

The questions are:

  1. JAMES SHAW to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his answers to Oral Question No. 5 yesterday?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all of his Ministers?
  3. JONATHAN YOUNG to the Minister of Finance: What proportion of the economy is made up by the services sector, and how can the Government boost the productivity of this sector?
  4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?
  5. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister for Primary Industries:Does he agree with the advice of the Prime Minister in regard to dairy prices made in November last year when the average price at the global dairy auction was US$2,561 a tonne for farmers not to get too worried, and that the price would bottom out soon and start climbing again; if so, can he advise what is the latest average price at the global dairy auction?
  6. Dr JIAN YANG to the Minister of Education: What progress has been made on the Investing in Educational Success initiative?
  7. JULIE ANNE GENTER to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with the Secretary of the Treasury that “there could very well be some merit” in evaluating and funding rail infrastructure on the same basis as state highways and other transport infrastructure?
  8. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Social Housing: Is she embarrassed that families are living in cars?
  9. JOANNE HAYES to the Minister of Conservation (Acting): What are the benefits of the Pike29 Great Walk, and the extension of the Paparoa National Park that takes effect today?
  10. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister for Economic Development: Does the withheld NZTE-funded report on why most of the lambs died on the taxpayer-funded farm in the Saudi desert confirm or disprove the statement by Hon Nathan Guy on 18 June 2015 that he thought the lambs could have died in a sand storm?
  11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Deputy Prime Minister: Is he confident that the money spent on the Flag Referendum is appropriate and lawful?
  12. IAN McKELVIE to the Minister for Food Safety: What initiatives has the Government put in place to encourage the food and beverage industry to reduce the sugar content of their products?

National: Four questions on the economy, education, the Pike29 Great Walk and sugar in food

Labour: Four questions on PM having confidence in Ministers, dairy prices, families living in cars and the Saudi farm

Greens: Two questions on Minister of Finance standing by his statement and transport funding

NZ First: Two questions on Finance Minister standing by his statements and the flag referenda


The President of the Czech Senate

November 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

All these Europeans just look alike!

TVNZ reports:

“It’s all part of my global master plan to increase my sphere of influence in the world and make people believe I have so many more people under my control,” Mr Key quipped to reporters later.



King confuses minimum and average

November 18th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shots have been fired over surgical figures, with the Health Minister accusing Labour’s Annette King of misleading Parliament by claiming Auckland DHB had raised its pain threshold for patients needing surgery. 

Auckland DHB has hit back saying it has not, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has accused King of deliberately “fudging the facts’. 

Misleading the house is a serious offence, which in some situations is dealt with by the privileges committee and the House has the ability to punish someone for contempt if that person is found to have deliberately misled it.

It is not clear that King deliberately misled Parliament. She may have been genuinely confused herself. But she should admit her mistake.

The allegations centred on figures tabled in the house last week, which King said showed Auckland DHB had lifted the points threshold for patients to qualify for hip and knee surgery from 50 points in 2013, to 70 points. 

But Auckland DHB has disputed their use, saying Labour’s research arm asked two different questions over the two information requests, with the 2015 request only asking for the average [Clinical Priority Assessment Criteria] score for those who had qualified. 

“This is a different question, and refers to the average acuity (severity of the condition) for patients who had received surgery for their hip or knee. We said 70.

“This is not the threshold for treatment,” a DHB spokesman said.

“The requests were for two different pieces of information which were provided. The two responses are not comparable as the request was for two different pieces of information.

One is a minimum, and one is an average. King is absolutely wrong in comparing the average in 2015 with the threshold or minimum in 2013.

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Another billion demanded

November 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Hikoi for Homes has demanded $1 billion a year more for pubic housing.

This brings the total of extra spending demanded by politicians and lobby groups since the May Budget to $9.4 billion per year.

To fund these demands we would either have to move the top tax rate from 33% to 77% or increase GST from 15% to 24%.

And that’s just to cover six months of spending demands from the left.

I’m hoping their demands will exceed $14 billion before 12 months are up, at which stage the top tax rate would need to be 100% to fund their demands.


Auckland Council assets

November 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports on a report which values various assets owned by Auckland Council, and how much they could get for them.  Rather than borrow billions of dollars, they could free up capital from these assets. It’s what most rational organisations would do.

The list includes:

  • Watercare $8.5 billion
  • 5% of parks and reserves $2.3 billion
  • Airport shares $1.4 billion
  • Four golf courses $1.4 billion
  • Port shares $1.1 billion
  • Mt Eden volcanic view shafts $0.4 billion
  • Pensioner houses $0.2 billion

Increasing rates by 10% and having debt double is a political decision. There are alternatives.

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Labour running deficits

November 17th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

The Labour Party has run at a deficit for at least two years, forcing it to dip into its cash reserves and highlighting one of the problems the party faced in last year’s election.

A copy of the party’s financial report obtained by the Herald shows it recorded a $71,373 deficit in 2014 and an even larger $104,915 deficit the year before, a shortfall president Professor Nigel Haworth put down to the costs of byelections and its leadership contests.

Running a deficit in election year may not be unusual, as you tend to gather income over a three year period and spend most of it in election year. But running a $105,000 deficit in 2013 indicates a serious financial problem in Labour.

Their net assets have dropped to under $200,000 in 2014. A couple more $100,000 deficits and they’re bankrupt.


Parliament 17 November 2015

November 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. NUK KORAKO to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to support a more diverse and resilient New Zealand economy?
  2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?
  3. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: What is the impact on patients and staff of not covering all inflationary pressures in health?
  4. Dr SHANE RETI to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that elective orthopaedic surgical discharges have increased by 34 percent, from 18,240 in 2008 to 24,439 operations this year?
  5. JAMES SHAW to the Minister of Finance: What advice, if any, has he received from Treasury in the last 18 months on the importance for New Zealand businesses of certainty about long-term policy settings?
  6. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “the Government would not be chasing around the unemployment numbers, 3 months to 3 months. We take a longer-term point of view because that is the realistic one”; if so, how many quarters in a row has unemployment risen?
  7. CHRIS BISHOP to the Minister of Revenue: What progress has been made on the Government’s investment property tax reforms announced as part of Budget 2015?
  8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements?
  9. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she have confidence that she is receiving quality independent advice from her officials?
  10. DENISE ROCHE to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Did New Zealand oppose Australia’s effort to try and remove the “climate change displacement coordination facility”, which would have created a body to help people escaping the effects of climate change, from the draft text of the UN climate agreement?
  11. MELISSA LEE to the Minister for Small Business: What Government resources are available to help small businesses keep themselves safe online?
  12. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister of Justice: On what date did she or her department instruct the Parliamentary Counsel Office to begin drafting the legislation to create a supervision regime for deported offenders that will be debated today?

National: Four questions on the economy, elective surgery, property tax reforms and cybersafety

Labour: Four questions on health funding, unemployment, education advce and Australian deportees

Greens: Two questions on Treasury advice and climate change

NZ First: Two questions on Finance and Health Ministers standing by their statements

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

Support for Children in Hardship Bill – committee stage continued

This Bill is an omnibus Bill introduced under Standing Order 263(a). The Bill strengthens work expectations and increases assistance for parents on a benefit and who have dependent children from 1 April 2016.

  • Introduced: May 2015
  • 1st reading: May 2015, passed 109 to 12 with NZ First opposed
  • Select Committee report: October 2015, supported by majority with amendments with minority reports from Labour, Greens and NZ First
  • 2nd reading: November 2015, passed unanimously

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

Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Amendment Bill – committee stage continued

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

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

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




Victoria Crone for Auckland Mayor?

November 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Xero New Zealand managing director Victoria Crone has confirmed she is considering running for mayor of Auckland.

The career businesswoman said she had been approached to stand at next year’s election and was currently giving the matter thought.

That’s hugely exciting. I think Crone would bring great skills to the job, and I also think she could win.

As Aucklanders face average rates rises of 10% (and for some it has been much more than that, and for many years),  think they would welcome someone who isn’t a typical politician who will just put rates up further to fund their pet projects. There’s a lot of waste in the Council’s spending.

Crone is not a household name but the story of accounting software company Xero’s explosive growth is well known, and she has a high profile in business circles.

Xero is arguably our most well known and even iconic Internet start up. It has created hundreds of jobs for NZers, is beloved by the 200,000 or so users and also hugely popular with accountants.

Crone has two young daughters and competes in multisport events in her spare time.

She recently addressed the Labour Party conference about the future of work, and earlier this year wrote an opinion piece on the small business policies of both major political parties.

Crone can work across the political spectrum.

Local issues commentator and transport blogger Patrick Reynolds said if a candidate like Crone did not understand that local government was not a business “well then we’re in trouble”.

“I’m kind of bored with people who claim that we need business people running the country and our cities,” he said.

“Obviously we want it to be business-like, but it doesn’t have any of the clarity of outcome indicators like a business does, like shareholder returns.

It is not a business, but business skills can be incredibly useful in local government. First of all successful business leaders are leaders. They have to be able to work with diverse teams, and get agreement on a clear direction.

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Quote of the Week

November 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before.” 

– H. L. Mencken

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

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Craig not standing for leader – for now

November 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Colin Craig will not be seeking re-election as leader of the Conservative Party he founded, saying it would be “unreasonable” while there was an open police file against his name. 

But should his legal battles be cleared before the 2017 election, he would “absolutely” seek a position on the party’s list. 

Newly-elected Conservative Party board chair Leighton Baker said the party and Craig had agreed he would not go on as leader.

But there was “no hurry” to appoint a new one, as the new board looked to settle in and rebuild its membership firs

That could suggest that they will keep the role vacant until such time as Craig is cleared, if he is cleared.

He expected his legal battles would be cleared up before the next election however, and he would seek a place on the party’s list. 

“These things are a little bit difficult to be absolute on the timeframe.

“But as soon as I reach that point I would be contacting the party and saying ‘look, I’ve got all clear, I’m happy I’ve cleared it away’ – obviously the party is going to have to be happy with that but my feeling is I’d definitely put my name back in the ring,” Craig said. 

“I mean I support the party, I’m happy to stand and I got a fair few people to vote for me.”

I have to say I find it hard to see how the Conservatives can make 5% after all the damage from the infighting. But time will tell.

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Drug subsidies

November 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Thomas Lumley blogs at Stats Chat:

There are new, very promising treatments for some cancers, which work by disabling one of the safety mechanisms in the immune system so that it can attack the tumour. These treatments have been approved in the US for melanoma and the most common type of lung cancer, and they look better than anything we’ve seen before.  The problem is the price, more than NZ$200,000.

In New Zealand, roughly 2000 people die of melanoma or lung cancer each year. At the current market prices, a course of treatment for each of them would absorb more than half of Pharmac’s budget.

It would cost $400 million a year for the one drug.

There really are people whose disease completely vanished, but only about one in sixteen. Two thirds didn’t see any response. Even for the people who have no detectable disease we can’t yet know if the benefits will last a few years or a lifetime.

Pharmac is not going to fund these treatments at anything like the current price in the current budget. That’s not a matter of debate or public pressure. It’s just not happening. It won’t add up. Conceivably, the government could decide to come up with the money to fund the treatments outside the current Pharmac budget. I don’t think that would be the best way to spend the money, but I’m glad to say this is the sort of decision I don’t get to make.

$400 million for a 1 in 16 cure rate is unlikely to occur.

Over the next few years, other companies will introduce treatments that attack the same or related immune checkpoint targets, and competition will make the price fall. At some point, it will be worthwhile for drug companies to make Pharmac an offer it can accept, as happened recently with Humira, Pharmac’s current top spend (which turns off the immune response in a somewhat similar way to how the new cancer treatments turn it on).

Five years ago, you couldn’t get these treatments if you were a billionaire. In ten years or so, I expect these or similar treatments will be effectively free to New Zealanders. At the moment, we’re in the painful transition period, where the manufacturers can afford to target only the wealthiest individuals and insurance companies.

Exactly. There is always that transition period from no one can afford it (as the average cost of a new drug approved by the FDA is $4.5 billion) to when governments can subsidise it for most people.

Incidentally Pharmac’s budget has increased 25% since 2008 – from $636 million to $795 million. In real terms that’s an 11% increase.

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Capital Gains Tax for property now law

November 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The requirement for capital gains tax to be paid on investment properties bought and sold within two years has passed into law.

The so-called ‘Bright-Line’ test for residential land was announced by the Government as part of May’s Budget to try to dampen property speculation and better enforce already existing taxes on capital gains. It will require tax to be paid on any gains from residential property bought after October 1 and sold within two years. The exceptions to the rule are the owner’s main home, an inherited property or the transfer of property after a relationship break up.

Revenue Minister Todd McClay said it was an important tool to ensure property speculators paid their fair share of tax. Where properties are sold on after that two year period, the pre-existing law will continue to apply. That means if a property was bought for the intention of making a profit, income tax must be paid on the gain when it is sold.

It will be interesting to see if this has much impact on the property market. Combined with the Reserve Bank new rules, and the requirement for overseas purchasers to have a NZ IRD number, and there could be a reasonable impact.

I actually do support a Capital Gains Tax, but only under these circumstances:

  • Personal income tax rates and company tax rates must be dropped so that overall tax revenue remains the same (or reduces)
  • It must be comprehensive with almost no exceptions, so our tax system remains relatively simple and it doesn’t then provide incentives or disincentives for particular forms of investment.

A comprehensive capital gains tax is estimated to bring in $9.1 billion a year. This would allow us to do the following:

  • Drop bottom tax rate from 10.5% to 5% for income up to $14,000
  • Drop second rate from 17.5% to 10% for income from $14,000 to $48,000
  • Drop the two top tax rates from 33% and 28% to 25% for income over $48,000
  • Drop company tax rate from 28% to 25%

That would cost $8.8 billion.

So we’d have a tax system where you pay 5% and 10% for those earning below the average wage and then 25% for earnings over that – still pretty progressive.

So a broad base low rate tax system is good. But bringing in new taxes, without lowering other taxes should be resisted strongly.


Herald on Taxpayers Union

November 15th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has an in depth feature on the Taxpayers’ Union second birthday.


The context not reported in the media

November 13th, 2015 at 6:58 pm by David Farrar

Pete Burdon blogs:

The comment John Key made in Parliament yesterday about rapists and child molesters has been taken out of context to make it sound worse than it was.

This post is not written to debate the rights or wrongs of the comment, but to point out what it actually meant in context. I was in the public gallery at the time.

The Prime Minister was asked what the Government was doing for the detainees. His response what that the best support was to get them back to NZ while awaiting their appeals. He added that it would take longer for some like rapists and murderers because he wanted to make sure that other New Zealanders on the same commercial flights as them were safe. That would take more time and could involve other options like chartering planes.

When this explanation was dismissed by opposition MPs, he said something like, “You can support the rapists and murderers, but I’m more concerned with the safety of other New Zealanders when they are coming home.”

In that context, it’s more understandable why he made the comment. He wasn’t talking about rapists and murderers generally, but only those who could potentially be a threat to other travellers. You would think that’s a sensible response, but judging by the response to his reasoning for the delays, Labour appeared to disagree with it. That led to his comment. This context has been left out of many media reports.

Hansard backs up this interpretation, if not the exact words:

Andrew Little: Which of his statements of earlier today is correct: his statement to Radio New Zealand that the New Zealand detainees are “free to leave” and “are staying there voluntarily” or his statement to reporters that the New Zealand detainees who wanted to leave face many weeks of delays in a remote detention centre before they can go anywhere?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start, I did not make the last statement. What I did point out was that it depends on the circumstances. In terms of an individual, there are a number of factors that have to be considered: firstly, as I pointed out this morning, whether the person has travel documentation, a passport; secondly, whether the person has a history of violent or criminal activity; thirdly—

Hon Annette King: You said it was easy.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is not actually easy, because these people—some of them are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers. These are the people whom the Labour Party is saying are more important to support than New Zealanders, who deserve protecting when they come back here.

Burdon is correct that the context is that Key was explaining that you just can’t out some of these people onto a commercial flight if they have a history of violent activity. Labour rubbished this, which is what Key responded to.

Later on he said:

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We spent a considerable portion of the one-on-one meeting that we had with Malcom Turnbull talking about this issue. Two Ministers have gone to Australia to talk to Minister Dutton about this issue. I have raised this issue with Prime Minister Abbott. There have been considerable conversations going on. When it comes to these people coming home to New Zealand, they are free to come home, and we will allow them to come home and we will ensure that they can come home as long as they have the travel documentation. They cannot go on a commercial aircraft if they are violent or if they have mental health issues. I have a responsibility to the New Zealanders here at home that they are looked after. What the Labour Party is saying is: “To hell with the rest of New Zealanders; these people should be put on a commercial aircraft and despatched to New Zealand.” Well, you back the rapists; I—[Interruption]

So Key was focusing on Labour saying he should just be able to magically wave a wand and fly every detainee back here tomorrow. Key pointed out why that is not possible for ones who have serious violent offending, and his comments were aimed at that.

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US Senator says NZ and Australian TPP negotiators were too good

November 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

UNGN reported:

“I understand that renegotiation may be difficult, particularly with so many parties involved,” Sen. Orrin Hatch said, adding, “The alternative to renegotiation may very well be no TPP at all.”

Republican U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said Friday that the Obama administration might have to renegotiate parts of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the text of which was released Thursday. …

Hatch said he was concerned that negotiators failed to secure 12 years of protection for next-generation biological drugs, which could push companies to leave the industry, make it more difficult for innovators to recover investments made in new products and leave Americans subsidizing cheaper medicines in other nations, according to Reuters.

Biological drugs are given a minimum of five years of data protection under the agreement, along with an extra buffer for administrative processes. The U.S. campaigned for 12 years of protection to ensure incentive for innovation, while Australia and New Zealand pushed for five years to give patients access to cheaper medicine, according to BioPharma Reporter.

Hatch said the U.S. should not have agreed to Australia’s “greedy” demands for a smaller monopoly period.

Do you remember Jane Kelsey telling us for years how the the NZ Government was going to sell us out to the US.

Here’s the reality. A top US Senator is saying that the Australian and New Zealand negotiators were too strong, and that the deal should be rejected because there is not enough in it for big US pharmaceutical companies.

If I was an Australian or NZ negotiator, I’d be rather pleased that a senior US Senator is saying you were too stubborn and got too good a deal for your own countries, at the expense of the US.