Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Views on private prisons

April 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday looks at the private prison debate:

The news of a declining number of people returning to jail comes as work gathers pace on a new $300 million private prison being built at Wiri, South Auckland, due to open next year.

Currently, the country’s only other privately operated jail is the 960-bed Mt Eden remand prison in Auckland.

Critics believe the construction of a for-profit facility signals a move towards more of the public system being placed in private hands. Even libertarians believe law and order is the most basic function of government. Surely justice and prisons are the last things we should privatise?

As I have previously blogged, almost all our prosecutions are done by private law firms. It’s been this way for decades. If you think the private sector has no role in providing services in the justice sector, then to be consistent you should be advocating for Crown Law to hire hundreds of extra lawyers and take on all prosecutions itself.

He believes Serco has learned from teething troubles he encountered during his time at Mt Eden. By its second year in charge, Serco had vastly improved its performance and was meeting 95 per cent of the targets set for its six-year deal.

The latest report is here. Mt Eden is outperforming most public prisons on (not having) prison escapes, positive drug tests, violence rates and rehabilitation and also exceeding its targets on reducing assaults, positive drug tests and complaints.

In the face of problems overseas, why are we building a $300m private facility at Wiri? The New Zealand Government will be locked into a 25-year contract, for which Serco is obliged to outperform public prisons by 10 per cent – meaning it will have to show a 27.5 per cent reduction in reoffending, the same as at its Mt Eden operation.

Excellent. Set a higher target for the private prison. If reoffending drops then everyone is a winner.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s Corrections spokeswoman, warns that future governments may have to prop up private prisons because of the long-term contracts. “The secrecy surrounding the deal with Serco is a concern,” she adds. “Would Government have to start injecting vast sums of money into the private sector if things started to go wrong? We should be spending money on cutting crime and making the streets safer, not building more expensive prisons.”

What secrecy? The contract for the management of Mt Eden Prison is on the Corrections website. And it’s a silly statement that means nothing to say we should spend more money on cutting crime, not building more expensive prisons. It isn’t a choice of one or another. The Government is spending heaps more on rehabilitation which cuts crime, and the crime rate is dropping significantly. However some of the existing prisons are almost falling apart and their facilities are ancient. Having a more modern prison like at Wiri will assist rehabilitation. So it is not a choice of one or another.

Private prisons, by their nature, have a vested interest in crime rates staying high. That’s according to Dr Jarrod Gilbert, University of Canterbury sociologist and gang expert. “It costs more than $92,000 a year to keep a prisoner locked up in New Zealand, so there has to be a conflict of interest when it comes to rehabilitating people if you are making money from them being in your facility.”

Oh what nonsense. Their contract requires them to reduce reoffending rates. They don’t get paid if they fail.

Does Dr Gilbert also argue that private law firms should be banned from being crown prosecutors because they have a vested interest in keeping crime rates high?

One recent convert to the private system is Mike Williams, former president of the Labour Party and chief executive of penal reform organisation the Howard League.

“We have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world behind the United States and have had a sky-high rate of reoffending,” he says.

“It is time to bring some new thinking into the system and the new focus on having less people return to jail is welcome. It is an experiment that is worth a go.”

Even the hardline Sensible Sentencing Trust is behind Corrections Minister Tolley’s drive to cut re-offending. “If private companies can do a better job of turning criminals into decent human beings, then we are all for trying it,” says spokesman Garth McVicar.

If Mike Williams and Garth McVicar agree on something, then that says something.


A massive change in RMA consenting on time

April 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

The 2012/13 Resource Management Survey shows the Government’s first phase of RMA reforms aimed at improving consenting processes are paying off, however further reform of our planning frameworks is still required.

The survey of how well councils are implementing the Resource Management Act shows that 97 per cent of consents were processed on time for the 2012/2013 period, compared with 95 per cent in 2010/2011.

“This is a vast improvement from the 69 per cent of resource consents processed on time in 2007/08,” Ms Adams says.

Only 3% are no longer processed on time, compared to 31% under Labour. The non-compliance rate by local authorities has dropped by 90%.

When National left office in 1999, the compliance rate was 82%. This dropped to 69% by 2007/08 under Labour. Since then the trend has reversed thanks to the law changes made by National and generally opposed by Labour.


Has it turned to just mindless bashing of Countdown?

April 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

On the original allegations against Countdown, I’ve praised Shane Jones for the work he did in exposing their allegedly ugly tactics of asking for retrospective payments from suppliers. I don’t think such a practice (if it happens) should be condoned.

But yesterday, it turned into almost a smear campaign against Countdown. They were accused on TV3 of everything from threatening a select committee, to bullying competitors also, to bullying Councils to shock horror selling Lotto tickets.  I think a line has been crossed, and we are now just seeing a degree of mindless bashing.

Let’s look at the various stories, starting with the Mad Butcher stores:

Now, chief executive of the Mad Butcher Michael Morton told The Nation Countdown does not just bully its suppliers but also its competitors.

“I believe they have a cultural billing within the whole organisation,” he said.

“If you look to the information that came out and the allegations that were made about the supply and the tactics that were done there. The fact that when we do any comparative advertising to them, we get smashed with lawyers letters. They come down like a sledge hammer.”

There’s a key fact missing from that story. As much as I love the Mad Butcher, in this case his (former) stores are the bad guys. You see their advertisements were found to be false and misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority:

The Mad Butcher’s advertising that claimed to have cheaper meat than Countdown has been labelled “misleading” and “likely to deceive”.

Earlier this year, The Mad Butcher ran print, television and radio advertisements claiming “Jo from Onehunga”, a randomly selected shopper, paid 30 per cent more for lamb chops, schnitzel, mince, pork chops and eye fillet steak at Countdown than at The Mad Butcher.

But an Advertising Standards Authority decision released on Monday upheld the complaint of Progressive Enterprises Limited, which owns Countdown.

The decision said the ad was not comparing like for like as no basket shop was undertaken by Jo, four out of five products in the Countdown basket couldn’t be purchased at the time, and 1kg meat packs couldn’t usually be bought at Countdown.

The Countdown prices given were from Onehunga, and weren’t reflective of national pricing, it said.

“The advertisements made comparisons that were likely to mislead or deceive consumers,” it said.

“The advertisements falsely claimed a price advantage in this instance.”

I’m sorry, but no sympathy. You tried to deceive consumers about your prices, and your competitor complained your advertisements were false and misleading. That isn’t bullying. That’s just good sense.

Then the next bash was shock horror they sell Lotto tickets:

Labour MP Shane Jones has again taken aim at Countdown, raising concerns about lotto sales at the supermarket’s checkouts.

Lotto tickets are being sold despite new evidence that people spend less on food when there is a big jackpot.

You can now buy lotto at the checkouts in 100 Countdown supermarkets around the country. That makes buying a ticket more convenient, but Mr Jones says that is the problem.

“With Countdown putting a one-armed bandit at every Countdown checkout counter, you’re bringing gambling into the community,” says Mr Jones.

That’s just pathetic. I’ve been buying lotto tickets at New World for over a decade.  Why is it fine at one group of supermarkets, but not another? This is just smearing Countdown.

Mr Morton says the lotto jackpot should be capped, and Mr Jones agrees the jackpot can get too big. But he says the availability is the real problem.

“I really want to have an immediate review of the Gambling Act,” says Mr Jones. “Is it really in society’s interests to have lotto and gambling available at every checkout counter in the Aussie-owned supermarket?”

Now we’re getting effing ridiculous. Shane Jones wants to cap the size of the jackpot for Lotto? He should go join the Green Party.

And he think lotto tickets can be sold in supermarkets, so long as they are not owned by Australians? This is just xenophobic bashing.

And to answer his question, yes it is in society interests  that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who enjoy Lotto can buy tickets conveniently for it. Apart from the enjoyment they get from it, money from Lotto funds Sport NZ, Creative NZ, the NZ Film Commissions and thousands of community groups. They get almost $200 million a year from people voluntarily playing Lotto.

Then we have Jones making things up about a threat:

Labour MP Shane Jones has accused Countdown of threatening a parliamentary committee with legal action, amid an investigation into extortion allegations.

Mr Jones made the allegations on The Nation this morning, claiming a letter threatening legal action against the commerce select committee is “around”.

But both Countdown and the committee deny the existence of a threatening letter, the latter labelling Mr Jones’ allegations “obviously” wrong.

“I am not sure how Shane knows about that… but he is obviously wrong,” commerce select committee chairman Jonathan Young told NZ Newswire.

The so called threatening letter merely asks for a transcript of the last hearing – which is a routine request.

And finally we had complaints that Countdown are appealing against decisions imposing hours on beer and wine sales that are more restrictive than the national default hours:

Well in many cases they fighting against what a lot of councillors do and that is to limit the sale of alcohol in supermarkets. The default position is from seven a.m to 11 p.m. Most councillors in New Zealand are adopting a nine a.m to nine p.m approach and in some cases Countdown in particularly and Progressive have appealed that on the basis that they want it to be open to 11 p.m.

I actually support Countdown on this issue. All you do by restricting beer and wine sales to 9 pm is annoy a lot of late night shoppers who can’t buy a bottle of wine with their groceries. Many Councils are falling into the trap of not distinguishing between specialist bottle stores and supermarkets. If you go to a bottle store at 10 pm, you are almost inevitably buying alcohol to drink immediately. But if you are buying alcohol from a supermarket at 10 am, then it is generally not for immediate consumption. The retail data shows very few people buy just alcohol from supermarkets after 9 pm. They are doing their regular shopping, and just happen to include some beer or wine with that.

So it is quite reasonable for a supermarket to question decisions made by local politicians, if they are not actually going to reduce alcohol harm – and instead just punish supermarket shoppers and supermarkets.

As I said at the beginning, Countdown’s alleged behaviour towards suppliers appears to have been bad, and that is now being investigated by the Commerce Commission. But all these other complaints are looking a a bit pathetic to be honest. Complaining that your misleading ads were complained about or that Countdown sells lotto tickets is just whining.


9/10 in 49 seconds

April 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NZ Herald quiz here.

Tags: ,

Providing a legal and sought after service

April 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A fiercely anti-abortion lobby group is putting pressure on the National Party not to select an experienced doctor whose job has involved authorising and performing abortions.

Right to Life said the potential selection of medical practitioner Rosemary Fenwicke as a candidate in Wellington Central “would have serious consequences for the National Party at the forthcoming election”.

Abortion is legal in this country, and regardless of one’s personal views on it, I don’t see any issue with a candidate being a doctor who has performed a legal service that women have requested.

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said: “The National Party would be most unwise to nominate Dr Fenwicke for the Wellington Central electorate or any other electorate, or even for a place on the National Party list.

“Those in our community who defend a culture of life would be deeply concerned should Dr Fenwicke be nominated as a candidate for Parliament.”

He claimed that she supported abortions at any time during pregnancy “for any reason, or for no reason”.

I don’t believe that to be true. Can Orr provide a quote?

Dr Fenwicke has previously been the target of conservative MPs who unsuccessfully tried to prevent her from being elected to the Abortion Supervisory Committee in 2007.

Independent MP Gordon Copeland argued at the time that her appointment was a conflict of interest because in her roles as a consultant and surgeon she had power to both authorise and perform abortions.

The committee’s latest report in December showed abortion rates were at their lowest in 20 years.

The Wellington Central seat has been held by Labour since 1999. Labour MP Grant Robertson won it in 2011 with a 6376-vote majority over National’s candidate Paul Foster-Bell.

Mr Foster-Bell – who entered Parliament on the list in April – is seeking the nomination to represent National in Whangarei.

I can’t comment on who may seek that National nomination for Wellington Central as it is during the period when names can’t be revealed. But what I will say is that I don’t think someone’s day job should be a reason for people not to vote for them. Their views on political issues is a quite valid consideration, but I don’t think their job is.

Tags: , , ,

Why criminal histories should be shared

April 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The tragic deaths of two Dunedin children shot by their father Edward Livingstone earlier this year could have been prevented if New Zealand and Australian police shared information on criminal convictions, TVNZ has reported.

Livingstone killed his two children Bradley, 9, and Ellen, 6, at their mother’s home in Dunedin in January, before turning the gun on himself.

TVNZ reported tonight that Livingstone had previously been convicted for arson in Sydney, after trying to burn down his then-girlfriend’s house when she broke up with him.

The incident occurred 30 years ago.

He also assaulted a flatmate during the same incident, ripping the phone from his girlfriend’s hands to prevent her from calling police, TVNZ reported.

New Zealand judges were unaware of Livingstone’s past conviction and behaviour when he appeared before the courts for twice breaching a protection order against his ex-wife, Katharine Webb.

Three months before Livingstone shot his children, the 51-year-old was discharged without conviction for breaching a protection order against his family for a second time.

We can’t know if this extra info would have made a difference, but it could well have. Even though it was 30 years ago, the behaviour was so extreme I think a Judge would have taken it into account. Having said that I think a second breach of a protection order should be jail anyway.


Overseas travel on the benefit

April 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

More than 21,000 people have had their benefits cut since rules around overseas travel were tightened, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

More than $10.5 million has been saved since July last year by suspending the benefits of those who chose to travel, Ms Bennett says.

The largest group of suspensions applied to nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4800 sole parents.

More than 1750 people had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips.

The figures don’t include people receiving superannuation.

Hard to be looking for a job when you’re overseas!

Almost 5000 people have had their benefits cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.

Ms Bennett said although the rules are tighter, they still allow for overseas travel on compassionate or health grounds in certain cases for job seekers.

People without work obligations may in most cases travel overseas for up to 28 days.

Sounds reasonable.


Caucus room now a war room

April 4th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has ejected MPs from the caucus room to turn it into a war room, moving all key political staff into a vast open-plan office.

National has a war room also. It isn’t at Parliament though. It is at National Party HQ, where the staff are funded by members and donors – not by taxpayers.

Of course parliamentary staff always play a significant role in election campaigns, but for my 2c the campaign should primarily be driven from the party HQ.

The new strategy office is the brain-child of chief of staff Matt McCarten and is aimed at making sure the party is co-ordinated and quick on its feet. Labour MPs will now be sent downstairs to a smaller room for their weekly meetings.

I guess that is the good thing about having so few MPs – you can fit into the smaller room :-)


Very disappointing – no tax cuts

April 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The May Budget will have no plans for tax cuts, Prime Minister John Key confirmed yesterday, and he sought to dampen expectations that there would be anything significant in the future.

I’m very disappointed that there will be no tax cuts. Hard working New Zealanders deserve a boost to their after tax income.

In no way do I expect tax cuts for the 2014/15 year as the surplus is so small. But I was hoping that the Government would signal tax cuts in the future years.

When the Government’s accounts move into surplus, Governments have basically three things they can do with the surplus.

  • Increase spending
  • Reduce tax levels
  • Pay off debt

I believe a good Government does all three. If for example your projected surplus is $4 billion you might increase spending by $1 billion, reduce taxes by $1 billion and retain a surplus of $2 billion to pay off debt.

We’ve yet to see the size of any future projected surpluses, but if they are projected to be greater than say $2 to $3 billion (which allows contributions to resume into the NZ Super Fund) then tax cuts are affordable and desirable. And I want to see National commit to them.


Watkins on economy

April 3rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

 It speaks volumes about David Cunliffe’s bad week that on the day John Key delivered his pre-Budget speech, it was the Labour leader who copped it on the street over the Government’s failure to make a big dent in unemployment.

To be fair the gentleman in question abusing the Labour leader didn’t seem a fan of either major party.

Labour’s headache, six years on, is that National has been hugely effective at painting the Clark-Cullen years as a decade of tax and spend, compared with its own narrative of scrimping and fiscal prudence.

The reality, of course, is not quite as straightforward – despite the “zero” Budgets, government spending has continued to rise each year under National. But there is no dispute that when it came to power, the country was staring down the barrel at a decade of deficits and skyrocketing debt.

More than a decade of deficits. That was the original projection, but the revised forecasts were for a permament structural deficit that never went away – meaning debt would grow and grow and grow until the inevitable happened – as in Europe.

The May Budget will show that National has done a remarkable job of turning that around by bringing forward the return to surplus by some years and lowering the debt trajectory.

That it has done so by reining in spending, rather than slashing and burning and introducing austerity measures as seen in Europe and elsewhere, makes that feat even more remarkable.

It’s almost harder to do it by just restraining new spending, rather than cutting existing programmes. It’s politically easier, as people protest a spending cut more than not increasing spending. But from a government point of view, finding enough money by hundreds and hundreds of small efficiencies is harder work than just slashing a couple of programmes.

But the counterfactual – that a Labour government would not have responded to the global financial crisis in a similar fashion – can never be proven or disproven.

I don’t quite agree here. Sure you can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. But you can judge Labour off its own press releases, statements and speeches. For five years they have consistently opposed and condemned every single move of fiscal restraint the Government has done. They battled against any reduction at all in public service numbers. They decry any efficiency gains as cuts – even if the money saved goes into frontline services. They opposed the reductions in KiwiSaver subsidies. And almost without exception all their policies are to spend massively more. The one noble exception is their superannuation policy.

So I don’t think it is unfair to judge Labour on the basis of their own statements. If we accept they believe what they say (a big call I know), then one can only conclude that there is no way New Zealand would be heading back into surplus next year if they had been in Government,

Tags: ,

Labour MP says Pacific church leaders just in it for the money

April 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Labour MP for Mangere, Su’a William Sio, says stories of Pasifika leaders encouraging their communities to turn blue are exaggerated. …

Su’a William Sio says this is being led by a small Samoan group that is following the money.

Not sure this is the way of keeping church leaders onside – accuse them of just being motivated by money as the reason they are no longer supporting Labour.

“They are generally business entrepreneurs, and so they believe the lie about the brighter future and I think they’ll get a backlash from the Pacific public.”

Also reveals a bit of a paternalistic attitude that implies they should be content working in a factory, rather than trying to own their own businesses.


Adams 1 Media 0

April 3rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A Taranaki Daily News columnist wrote on the conspiracy pushed by a Labour blogger that Amy Adams had some conflict of interest around her actions as Environment Minister, on the basis she also owns a farm. I guess they think owning farm land means you can’t be Environment Minister.

Anyway look at this “clarification” that the Taranaki Daily News had added to the column:

In this article Taranaki Daily News columnist Rachel Stewart raised questions about the links between Environment Minister Amy Adams and the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme in Canterbury.

The column suggested the minister had the power to dismantle a Water Conservation Order so that the Rakaia River could feed that irrigation scheme, and this decision would benefit farm holdings she owned.

The Taranaki Daily News acknowledges the minister had no such power.

Rachel Stewart wrote the Minister had done things “by the book” but also suggested that to say the Minister had not abused her role would be “a big stretch”.

The Taranaki Daily News acknowledges that Minister Adams declared a pecuniary interest in the Central Plains Water scheme and transferred her responsibilities as Environment Minister to Minister Gerry Brownlee in April 2012.

We also acknowledge there has only been one Cabinet decision made regarding the Central Plains Water Scheme and on that occasion, Mr Brownlee took the paper to the relevant Cabinet committee. Ms Adams, who does not own a dairy farm in Canterbury, excused herself from the Cabinet committee where it was discussed, and took no part in the discussions.

Wow, that is a huge backdown. You’d think they’d check their facts before making such serious allegations.

Tags: ,

Planet Labour

April 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe is adamant he and his party will both start rising in the polls as the election approaches.

He is also casting doubt on recent statistics suggesting crime is at a three-decade low, and an IMF report which named New Zealand’s economy as one of the world’s fastest-growing.

So on Planet Labour the polls are wrong, the crime stats are wrong, the GDP stats are wrong and the IMF is wrong.

I’d like to visit this dimension one day.


What if everyone voted

April 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew at Grumpollie does some calculations:

The discussion over at Dim-Post inspired me to have a play with the New Zealand Election Study (NES) data.

Each wave surveys a fairly large sample of voters and a small sample of non-voters. So I was having fun, and I started to wonder what would happen if all the non-voters with a party preference had got out and voted on Election Day.

There are a bunch of caveats to this analysis, including the small sample size and how representative the sample of non-voters was. BUT, if we assume for a moment that the data were broadly representative, then inspiring all non-voters to get out and vote wouldn’t have had a massive impact on the 2011 result.

Andrew calculates that if every non-voter with a preference had voted, then National would have gone up 0.1%, Labour up 1.7%, Greens down 1.0% and NZ First down 0.8%.

So my take on this is that just inspiring a larger turnout won’t necessarily help Labour. In 2008 it would have,but in 2011 it wouldn’t have.


Key Derangement Syndrome hits a new low

April 2nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar



Toothfish is an anonymous environmental activist, who has facebooked this poster which he or she wants donations for, so they can run at least 1,000 of them.

41 people on Facebook have “liked” the poster including former Green candidate and social media campaigner Max Coyle. Now to be fair to the Greens, I am sure the vast majority of them would find the poster as disgusting as the rest of us. There is a reason Coyle is “former” with them.

Personally I hope he/she gets lots of donations for his or her campaign as I can’t think of anything more likely to increase support for National than people seeing those posters.


Sense from US education secretary

April 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at the Herald reports:

Efforts to ensure all Kiwi kids can access early childhood education are “way ahead” of a similar American push, says the US Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan has been in New Zealand at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Wellington, one of the biggest events in world education.

In an interview with the Herald, America’s top education official also said charter schools could be a valuable opportunity for New Zealand.

Mr Duncan, who has previously hosted Education Minister Hekia Parata, said he was keen to learn more about New Zealand’s early childhood education while here.

“We are pushing very, very hard back home in the States to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,” he said.

“And I think, frankly, New Zealand is way ahead of us in creating those kinds of opportunities at scale.”

The National Government wants 98 per cent of children starting school in 2016 to have participated in quality early childhood education.

In the 2007/08 year $807 million was spent in ECE. The budget for the current financial year is $1.48 billion which is a massive 83% increase in six years. For some reason, Labour and Greens call this a cut!!

The US has more than 5600 public charter schools in 42 out of 50 states, and one in 20 students nationally attends one, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Despite being widespread they do face opposition. Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has been highly critical of charter schools.

Asked for his overall verdict on them, Mr Duncan said there was “huge variation”.

I’ve visited some amazing, amazing schools that are absolutely closing achievement gaps. We need to learn from those examples and replicate them. [But] when you have low-performing charter schools you need to challenge that status quo as well.”

Duncan is a Democrat, and a former head of the Chicago public schools. When he says some charter schools have done amazing work at closing achievement gaps, he is worth listening to. Why does the left want to close them down in NZ, rather than give them a chance to succeed?

Mr Duncan said the idea for the schools came from union leader Albert Shanker, who hoped to establish “laboratories of innovation”. Successes could then be spread to the wider education system.

“I think there’s a great opportunity there for this country.”

The left in NZ should embrace charter schools, as many of the left in the US have done.

Tags: ,

Labour and Ilam

April 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s high hopes of gaining traction in the National stronghold of Ilam got off to a false start yesterday.

The day started off promisingly, with two nominees – Riccarton-Wigram Community Board member Debbie Mora and Left-wing blogger James Dann – set to contest a selection meeting next week.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has held the Ilam seat since 1996 and, while Labour is unlikely to win the seat, the party had hoped to target it and make the contest there a referendum on the Government’s handling of the quake recovery and Brownlee’s role.

A week may be a long time in politics but try 17 hours.

That’s the time between Mora’s campaign team proudly announcing, through a press release, that she wanted to be the first female to represent Ilam and a brief email, from the same source, saying Mora was out of contention because of “unforeseen circumstances”.

Somewhat Mickey Mouse.

Mora said her campaign manager, Luc Chandler, was “a bit over-eager” in sending out the first release last night.

She had wanted him to hold off for 24 hours – a sensible move considering she was sorting out a possible medical operation.

But then it got even worse when news of Mora leaving the race was given to media – before Labour Party officials were told.

Oh dear.

It leaves plenty of uncertainty over whether the selection process will continue with Dann the anointed candidate or if Labour will have to rethink and get some competition back into the race.

I hope Dann is selected, as that may stop the media quoting him as merely a Christchurch blogger, rather than a Labour candidate as the Herald does.

Tags: , ,

Pacific church ministers switching to National

April 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s master strategy is to get 250,000 extra voters in South Auckland and elsewhere voting for them. I’m not sure how their strategy will fare in light of this story at Stuff:

A small group of influential Pacific Island clergy have sparked fierce debate in South Auckland after they declared they would switch their support from the traditional Labour Party to the National Party.

That is basically unheard of.

The action, taken at the Manurewa flea market on Sunday, is under fire on Pacific Island social media.

The ministers involved have been criticised for not consulting their parishes.

The move has also sparked another meeting next Sunday when, under the auspices of a Samoan Catholic Church, 23 churches will meet to discuss political parties and Christian values.

It’s not an issue for me, or most people, but they may have noticed that not only is Labour’s caucus already over-represented with LGBT MPs, they’ve selected a further four LGBT candidates and inevitably Taurima also. There has always been a tension between their socially liberal activists and some of their more conservative supporters.

A Seventh Day Adventist minister, Teleiai Edwin Puni, said he and five other Seventh Day Adventist ministers – all recognised in the Pacific community – met National MP Cam Calder on Sunday.

“If we are to defend our Christian values and build a brighter future for New Zealand families, we need to engage our Pacific people and vote National,” Puni said.

Cam Calder converts South Auckland to National – well done Cam! :-)

Fundamentalist pastor Sooalo Setu Mu’a said they had been supporting Labour.

“To change from wearing red to blue is not an easy thing for our Pacific communities who have been voting Labour over the years.”

No party can take any group of supporters for granted.

National has two excellent Pacific Island MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Alfred Ngaro. I suspect their hard work may also be a factor in some Pacific voters reconsidering their traditional allegiances.

Tags: , ,

Talking down NZ’s contribution

April 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I know being in opposition is hard, but you don’t have to try and portray a victory as a defeat. David Cunliffe on NewstalkZB:

TIM FOOKES:     Exactly. So the earlier the better, and I will get to one of your calls in just a moment, but just a quick comment on the issue that came out late last night over the court ruling on whaling, I think this is a significant victory New Zealand and Australia.

DAVID CUNLIFFE:             It’s fantastic. Well, it’s a significant victory for Australia. Where the hell was the New Zealand Government? I mean, we had New Zealanders testifying, but once again, the National Government’s asleep at the wheel. Kiwis hate whaling. We hate whaling and previous governments had a really strong record against it. Why did we leave it to the Aussies to take the thing to the International Court?

So did we leave it to the Aussies and was National asleep at the wheel. Let’s look at the official court ruling from the International Court of Justice:


New Zealand was represented by no less than the Attorney-General, the Deputy Solicitor-General, an Ambassador, five MFAT staff and one of the Attorney-General’s staff. Not exactly asleep at the wheel.

NZ is mentioned 53 times in the judgement.

Also while looking through the transcript a few other fibs:

Well, they did rise in some cases by more, although there has been a real open jawing since of the residential versus industrial power prices and, of course, now, thanks to John Key and his mob, half of that money goes to private investors, most of them offshore. 

Over 70% of investors are domestic. False.

TIM FOOKES:     Well, it’s – look – I am looking in your eyes. Why, then, is John Key so popular? Why does…

DAVID CUNLIFFE:             He has had a long time at it, which is good for him, and I’ve only had a few months, so I’ve got work to do. I completely acknowledge that. Second thing is, he has got the best PR that money can buy. He’s got more money than God. 

How did attacking John Key for his wealth go for David Cunliffe last time he tried it? He doesn’t seem to learn.

And is he really saying that John Key is popular because he uses his personal wealth on purchasing public relations?

If one-quarter of the missing million vote it’s game over red rover, you’ve got a Labour led government, right? One-quarter of the missing million vote – game over. And we’re going to get them to the polls.

Such confidence.

UPDATE: A commenter has pointed out it was Helen Clark who dropped the legal action against Japan on the basis NZ could not win. So Cunliffe was a member of the Government that decided not to take legal action, and he criticises National as being asleep at the wheel, when they are the ones who actually decided to take legal action.

Prime Minister Helen Clark will push for a diplomatic end to whaling after the Government dropped plans for legal action against Japan.

Miss Clark said “fantastic” legal advice – from New Zealand whaling commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer – suggested it would be difficult to mount a successful case at the United Nations International Court of Justice.

What an own goal. Maybe a journalist could ask David Cunliffe if he voted in Cabinet in favour of not taking legal action.

Of course he doesn’t seem to think it is fair to point out what he did in Government. From NewstalkZB:

TIM FOOKES:     But, hang on, it was eight and a half per cent or close to 10 per cent in those 2007-2008 years, as well. So why…

DAVID CUNLIFFE:             Yeah, and we could go back to the Holyoake years, and justify all sins by saying, well, when Rob Muldoon was a boy, or Keith Jacka was in Parliament, you know, things were different then. Well, sorry, the current Government has been in power nearly six years. It’s time they manned up and took some responsibility. They cannot get away with excuse after excuse, wah, wah, wah, it was different under Helen Clark. Sorry, guys, grow up. 

Holyoake was Prime Minister 50 years ago. There is a big difference between harking back 50 years and pointing out the record of Labour the very last time they were in office, ad their leader was a senior Minister.

Tags: , ,

Christchurch’s next Mayor?

April 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Mike Yardley writes:

He’s the bolter, the bloodhound, the big-hitter. And he is fast stapling his presence on to the city’s consciousness.

Cr Raf Manji, the most impressive newcomer to council, wasn’t elected to office with a pasteurised set of opinions from party central or enslaved to a rigid ideology.

He is an independently minded raging pragmatist, spearheading the drive for better performance and fiscal restraint. The hear-no-evil, see-no-evil culture of conceited mediocrity is what sunk the previous council regime. Its prime adversary was the fearless first-term tiger, Cr Tim Carter.

Manji appears to have picked up the baton from Carter, bringing the same financial rigour and razor-sharp scrutiny to the table.

Take the past fortnight, for example. Manji has publicly grilled council staff for failing to adopt any measures against feckless freedom campers.

The council has had the power to regulate freedom camping for two years. Two years, amigos! Manji has blasted their “dithering” as “just ridiculous”.

I’ve heard several people say very good things about Cr Manji. As Yardley says he’s an independent focused on improving performance and holding the management to account. Dalziel is doing fine so far, but if things don’t improve over the next two years, I won’t be surprised to see Manji standing for Mayor.

Tags: ,

Does plain packaging work?

April 1st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The tobacco industry has ramped up efforts to persuade New Zealand against plain packaging, by circulating research claiming to show the policy has not worked in Australia.

However, tobacco control experts have dismissed the findings and say it will take years to see the effects of the policy.

Philip Morris, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes, has drawn attention to “three separate data sets that demonstrate plain packaging has not reduced smoking rates in Australia”. Two are company-funded surveys of smoking prevalence, by Zurich University and by policy consultancy London Economics. The third is industry sales data, released by the company, showing a 0.3 per cent rise in the volume of tobacco delivered to retailers last year. …

Philip Morris Australia and New Zealand corporate affairs director Chris Argent said that since plain packaging took effect in Australia, “hard data shows that the measure has not reduced smoking rates and has had no impact on youth smoking prevalence”.

“The plain packaging ‘experiment’ in Australia has simply not worked.”

The two surveys tracked prevalence – one of them looking specifically at youth – before and after the introduction of plain packaging.

My view on plain packaging is that *if* plain packaging does reduce smoking rates, then I think it can be justified. However it should only be introduced if the evidence is that it does reduce smoking rates.

The Cancer Council Victoria said the Zurich authors of the youth study had committed a “breathtaking error of logic” in looking for an immediate drop in prevalence. Adolescents’ uptake of smoking was gradual, starting with the first puff, passing through experimentation to an increasing number of cigarettes smoked each day. Plain packaging would take years to affect youth prevalence “because the change needs to occur early in the period of uptake to divert adolescents from becoming regular smokers as they age into adulthood”.

Professor Janet Hoek, of Otago University, echoed these views.

She said it would have been remarkable if the interviewees, after just one year of plain packaging, had “completely forgotten associations the tobacco industry has carefully cultivated over the last decade”. Researchers had always expected plain packaging’s effects on prevalence to occur over the “medium term”, as branding links were replaced in people’s minds by adverse responses to tobacco and smoking.

The logical response to this is to not introduce plain packaging in any further jurisdictions until you do have the evidence that it reduces smoking rates.

In my experience many public health advocates are motivated more by hatred of the companies that sell the products they see as harmful (and tobacco is), rather than actually reducing the harm of the products.

In terms of waiting to see if they work in Australia, one challenge is other measures like changes in excise tax may impact smoking rates also, and we may never know what is the cause of any change.

That is why my preferred way forward is to introduce plain packaging in one region of New Zealand (a large one, maybe even the entire South Island) and then over time measure the change in smoking rates in that region to the rest of NZ. If the change is a greater decline then you have the evidence to introduce it to all of NZ. If there is no measureable impact, then it should be scrapped as ineffective.

Some will say why not do plain packaging, even if it doesn’t work, because anything that hurts tobacco companies is worth doing. Well I can sympathise with that, but I think the precedent it sets is a serious one. Inevitably you will then have certain groups then advocate plain packaging for other products they disapprove of – spirits, beer, wine, soft drinks, fast food etc.


Len’s personal gym

April 1st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland ratepayers have paid $5200 to provide a personal gym for Mayor Len Brown in the Auckland Town Hall.

A new treadmill and multi-gym were installed in a small room on the ground floor of the Town Hall weeks after he was elected mayor in 2010.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the mayoral office requested the equipment for Mr Brown to manage his health and because he could not easily get to a gym.

I thought this was an April Fool’s joke when I first heard about it.

Len gets a large Mayoral salary. It is not the Council’s job to have ratepayers fund him with a personal gym.

The Prime Minister does not have a personal gym. He either goes running or uses the general parliamentary gym which is available to all staff and MPs.

Len’s sense of entitlement is obviously out of control.

Mr Brown refused to answer questions yesterday about the gym equipment.

Not big on fronting up is he.



Cunliffe tries to deflect over his secret trust

April 1st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Breakfast on TV1:

DAVID CUNLIFFE:        Absolutely not. In fact there’s a huge difference between what I did, which was to open up a campaign trust that wasn’t even under the Electoral Act, it was an internal party matter, for a trivially small amount of money and said to all of the potential donors through the trustee, you must make yourselves public. The Prime Minister has done none of that. The Prime Minister’s trusts have taken millions of dollars over the last few years and he’s refused to name even a single donor. So I’m afraid the National Party is in absolutely no position to be high minded with me. I have done everything I can to be transparent and frankly, I’ve had about enough of National’s hypocrisy on that matter.

This is a bare faced lie. The Prime Minister, unlike David Cunliffe, does not have any secret trusts for donors.

The National Party used to have trusts for donors to donate through, but they were wound up in 2007 – long before John Key became Prime Minister.

Cunliffe just doesn’t get it. It’s the hypocrisy. He railed against secret trusts and then set one up himself. His party passed a law effectively outlawing the use of such trusts for political parties, and he went and set one up for his leadership contest.

Also the amounts of money are not trivial. The disclosure limit for personal donations and gifts is $500. His secret donors donated ten times the disclosure limit.

And he has not done everything he can to be transparent. He still refuses to name the two remaining secret donors. Rather than face the embarrassment of New Zealanders knowing who his donors are, he refunded the money. That is not transparency.

Tags: ,

Fiscal restraint to continue

April 1st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says don’t look to National for a big spend-up in the Budget or in the election campaign, despite the forecast surplus in the next financial year.

And he said some of Labour’s promises, such as extending free early childhood education to 25 hours week, would send New Zealand back to deficit.

The surplus is looking to be relatively modest. As we move into surplus, we don’t want to blow it all of extra spending. A sensible party will “spend” a surplus on a combination of debt reduction, extra spending and tax cuts. Parties may disagree on the exact proportions between the three, but what is unbalanced is a party that only promises one or two of the three.

Part of the surplus had to be used to repay debt and could also be used potentially to build the New Zealand Superannuation Fund or build up the EQC fund.

“In the end if you are going to have the argument that in the bad times, like a Christchurch earthquake or a recession, the Government should borrow money to stimulate or support the economy, by definition in the good times you’ve got to prepare for another rainy day.”

Exactly. This is indeed the time to start paying off debt.

The half yearly fiscal update in December forecast the first surplus to be just $86 million, reach $5.6 billion in 2017 – 18. Finance Minister Bill English had set the new spending allowance for the next four years at about $1 billion a year.

“Bill English’s view is that $1 billion is pretty much the new normal,” he said. …

Labour in Government spent on average $3 billion to $4 billion extra every year for the last five years in office.

Growing spending by $3 billion a year is and was unsustainable.

Mr Key cited Labour’s promise to increase early childhood education from 20 free hours a week for three and four years old to 25 hours a week.

The policy doesn’t take effect until July 2017 but Labour has costed it at $57 million in the first year and about $60 million after that.

Mr Key said the cost was more likely to be $600 million, $700 million or $800 million.

Labour have a long history of under-estimating the cost of their policies. Also what is most important is not the initial costs during the transition, but what is the ongoing annual cost once fully implemented.


March public polls

April 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar



The above graphs tracks all the public polls since the election, averaging them out every month. The trend for Labour over the last six months is quite pronounced.

The newsletter summary is:


There were five political polls in March – a One News Colmar Brunton poll, a Fairfax Reid Research poll, a NZ Herald Digipoll and two Roy Morgan polls.

The average of the public polls has National 17% ahead of Labour in March, the same margin as in February. The current seat projection is centre-right 64 seats, centre-left 56 which would see National form a Government.

In Australia Labor retains a narrow lead, but there have been improvements in the national mood.

In the United States President Obama’s numbers are stable overall but dipping for handing of foreign policy – probably due to the Ukraine crisis.

In the UK Labour’s lead has dipped to just 3% in the wake of a generally positive budget for the Government. David Cameron’s ratings are also increasing.

In Canada the Liberals remain ahead in the polls, but no party is projected likely to win a majority.

We also carry details of polls in New Zealand on the Kim Dotcom, the NZ Flag, Countdown, Len Brown, income inequality Labour’s baby bonus plus the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues go to to subscribe yourself.