Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Passport fees

April 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Last August, seemingly as a matter of pride, the Internal Affairs Minister, Peter Dunne, proclaimed that this country’s passport system was “funded purely on a cost-recovery basis”.

Such a service should, indeed, be provided on that basis, with the fee collected being no more than the sum required to issue the passport. Yet despite Mr Dunne’s worthy sentiment, the Government plans to lift that fee when it extends the passport validity period from five to 10 years, even though there seems no grounds for doing so.

The Prime Minister has been coy on the likely cost. It will be higher than the present $135 but less than $270, the cost of two five-year passports, he says. His only attempted justification for the increase is that revenue from processing the documents will fall.

Mr Dunne, when announcing an independent review of passport security and a separate Internal Affairs review of passport costs, made the same point.

“Moving to a 10-year passport could lead to higher upfront passport fees as revenue could decline from processing passports on a less frequent basis,” he said.

Obviously, the longer validity dictates that revenue will fall. But having half the number of passports to deal with surely means that half the number of staff and half the time will be required to do the processing. In that regard, the cost to provide each passport will decline. This suggests the fee should drop. Perhaps the only conceivable added cost will be the under-use of technology that caters for the renewal of passports every five years.

The Herald logic here is not quite right. The passport system will include fixed costs (IT etc) and variable costs. Reducing the number of passports to be processed does not reduce the cost per passport – just the overall cost.

The Taxpayers Union suggests that even now New Zealanders are being overcharged, with the $135 fee being more expensive than nearly every other comparable country.

It also believes, contrary to Mr Dunne’s assertion, that the Government has been receiving more in passport fees than is necessary to cover its costs. The account, it says, has been in surplus since 2001 and has an excess of $20.8 million. The Government must answer such claims, and also provide a rational justification for increasing the fee.

To be fair to the government, it did recently reduce the fees to reduce the surplus. A new passport has dropped in price from $160 to $140 and an online renewal from $140 to $125.

I think there will inevitably be an increase in price due to economies of scale and the fact some costs are fixed. The key is that the Passport Memorandum Account should not build up a large surplus again. It went up to $27 million three years ago and is now down to $20 million. It really should end up close to zero.

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Buchanan on surveillance

April 12th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Buchanan writes in the Herald:

Revelations that the GCSB spies on Pacific island states such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as well as Pacific French territories, followed by news that it spied on candidates for the World Trade Organisation presidency on behalf of Trade Minister Tim Groser (himself a candidate), has been met not with street demonstrations and popular protests but by a collective yawn by the public at large.

Why is this so?

It appears that the New Zealand public is weary of the death by a thousand cuts approach used by Mr Hager and his investigative colleagues. Beyond the usual array of diversions presented by popular culture and media, the reason for this lack of interest seems to lie in the fact that the information released to date is seen as trivial, uncontroversial and never-ending.

For example, Snowden’s files reveal the British spied on Argentina after the Falklands/Malvinas War and carried on until 2011. Is that really a surprise? What is the UK expected to do when Argentina remains hostile to it and has never renounced its territorial claims over the islands?

I can’t think of a least surprising example of spying. Next will Snowden and co reveal the Allies spied on Nazi Germany!

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Common not to agree

April 11th, 2015 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford writes in Stuff:

Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams said the downgrading of flights by MPs may have inadvertently undermined the reason they claimed to need to fly business class.

“MPs travel business class so they can arrive refreshed and get straight into work,” he said.

“The fact that they are trading that for an economy-class seat so they can take their wife suggests that they’re not in Europe purely for work and even makes the argument for business-class tickets questionable.”

Meanwhile, a split may be forming in that organisation on the issue.

On Thursday David Farrar, a Taxpayers’ Union co-founder and board member, wrote on Kiwiblog that it was “pretty standard practice that if someone is entitled to travel business class, to allow them to choose two lower cost airfares instead”.

This was “often cheaper” than a single business class fare, he said.

Sir Keith Holyoake once said he only agreed with 80% of what his own Government did. Likewise I don’t agree with everything National does, and I don’t personally agree with every single media release put out by the Taxpayers Union. This is no surprise – I will always blog my personal views here.

I helped set up the Taxpayers Union because there was basically 2,000 or so lobby groups calling for more spending, and almost none calling for lower taxes and a restraint on spending. I’ve been delighted with how successful the Taxpayers Union has been in its first 18 months.

But that doesn’t mean I personally agree with every media release, and never will. The Board set priorities, and gets involved in determining policy on major issues. We don’t vet every press release, and even among the Board we sometimes have a diversity of views on what is “justified” spending and what is waste.

The Taxpayers Union is not a Cabinet or Caucus where you have to publicly agree on every issue. It is an organisation that exists to fight against wasteful spending, and support lower taxes.

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Restaurant Brands scraps zero hour contracts

April 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Workers at KFC, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut will be guaranteed hours of work as their zero hours contracts are to be abandoned by the company which owns the fast food chains.

Restaurant Brands has committed to end zero hour contracts by July, in a collective agreement struck with Unite Union.

Under the controversial contracts, workers had to be available for work but had no guaranteed hours per week. 

Unite Union said its bargaining team unanimously supported the proposal, which guaranteed a worker at least 80 per cent of the average hours they had worked over the three-month period. 

 

This is a good thing.

Where an employer has regular guaranteed work and hours, they should try and provide some certainty to staff – especially when the staff have to be available for work.

But this doesn’t mean that zero hour contracts should be outlawed – far from it. Not all industries and employers are the same.

Negotiation is the way you deal with these issues, not one size fits all laws.

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Small on ACT’s tax policy

April 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

Sound like a good idea? Tick.

It’s fair. Tick.

It’s a tax cut. Where do we sign?

It’s a politician’s dream policy? Ah, maybe not so much.

ACT and leader David Seymour have in recent weeks hung their political hats on promoting the thoroughly commendable policy of indexing tax thresholds to inflation. 

True, it’s not exactly a Roger Douglas-esque call to arms. “Trash that wussy progressively tax and bring in a flat rate across the board!”

But for a party that must choose carefully when to kick the Government in the slats – and for one that believes in less tax and a smaller state – it is a canny option.  

I agree. It benefits basically everyone who is in employment.

ACT is right on a couple of scores, though.

If it is to be done it’s better it is done now when inflation is low and the impact on the Government’s books is small, though not cost free. English has recently lamented how the low inflation rate, and therefore the lack of extra inflation-driven tax revenue, has made it harder to reach his surplus target  

And the nice thing about a law indexing the tax rates to inflation, is that a left Government can’t use high inflation as a back door way to boost tax revenue.

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Final Northland Results

April 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar
  • Winston Peters NZF 16,089 54.5%
  • Mark Osborne NAT 11,648 39.4%
  • Willow-Jean Prime LAB 1,380 4.7%

Those polls were pretty accurate.

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Standard practice

April 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

However this morning the Office of the Clerk provided a details on the trip which suggested that the MPs who took their partners have downgraded to economy to pay for an additional passenger.

A fact sheet on the delegation said MPs were each allowed one return business class ticket.

“Members may use the amount of one business class return airfare to enable their spouses to accompany them, eg, they may downgrade their airfares to premium economy or economy class,” the Office of the Clerk wrote.

“In this respect, there is no additional cost associated with members spouses or partners accompanying them than if the member had travelled alone.”

The original story on this made it look like both MPs and spouses were getting business class travel. It was very misleading.

It is pretty standard practice that if someone is entitled to travel business class, to allow them to choose two lower cost airfares instead. In fact this often is cheaper than one business class fare.

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What did the Labour/Greens power policy cost the taxpayer?

April 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mark Lister writes in the Herald:

Since listing at $1, Meridian shares have more than doubled, providing investors with a return of more than 100 per cent in less than 18 months. If dividends are included, this return jumps to 125 per cent over the period.

Utility companies such as Meridian are supposed to be predictable companies that offer steady (yet modest) returns. They aren’t supposed to double in price within barely a year the way a high-growth technology share might.

Part of this can be explained by a fall in interest rates over the period, which has made high-yielding shares more attractive and seen investor demand push up share prices.

But with the benefit of hindsight, another key reason for such a strong performance is that they were probably sold a little too cheaply in the first place.

In my opinion, the blame for that rests firmly with the Opposition political parties of the time, Labour and the Greens.

The “NZ Power” reform policy they championed through 2013 and early last year was heavy on emotive rhetoric, and short on detail. Whenever the proponents were quizzed about how it would work or be implemented, there didn’t appear to be many clear answers.

Labour and the Greens seemed to give up on this policy after the last electricity IPO was completed, and it didn’t get nearly as much airtime after that. That adds weight to the view that it was dreamed up only to derail the IPO process.

It was an act of commercial sabotage. They announced it just days before the first sale. It successfully reduced the price people were willing to pay for shares, which meant that the taxpayer lost perhaps a billion dollars due to this policy of sabotage from Labour and Greens.

In that respect, it failed. All it succeeded in doing was creating political and regulatory uncertainty among investors, and reducing the price the New Zealand taxpayer was paid for the 49 per cent of the assets now owned by private investors and managed funds.

The Crown received $1.8 billion (including the 50c a share due shortly) for the 49 per cent of Meridian sold, and that stake is today worth over $3.2 billion. The 49 per cent of Genesis sold down a few months later for $760 million is now worth almost $1.2 billion.

Had it not been for the uncertainty that was created at the time by the Opposition, the IPO sale prices could have been quite a bit higher.

In hindsight, it seems Labour and the Greens might have almost single-handedly contributed to a significant transfer of wealth from the average New Zealander (as the seller) to a much smaller group of people – those who could afford to buy shares in the IPOs.

As someone who invested in all three floats, their policy has made me a five figure capital gain. Thanks Labour and Greens.

While those who bought these shares will be celebrating some excellent returns from investments that should have been relatively boring, maybe the rest of the country is due a belated apology from Labour and the Greens for doing them this disservice.

If Labour and Greens can cost taxpayers one to two billion dollars in opposition, think what they might cost in Government!

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Hehir’s prediction to 2020

April 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir predicts some future press clippings. They include:

  • Willow-Jean Prime ranked 12th on Labour’s List in 2017, with Andrew Little encouraging more tactical voting in Northland
  • NZ First gains 4.6% of the vote but remains in Parliament as it holds Northland in 2017 election
  • NZ First announces coalition deal with National
  • July 2020 – PM Paula Bennett announces ACT and NZ First as preferred coalition partners for 2020 election and encourages tactical voting in Epson and Northland, with Opposition Leader Grant Robertson condemning the deal with NZ First

Labour may regret making NZ First’s only electorate seat, a very blue one.

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Northland now Ngapuhi country

April 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Ngapuhi have pointed out that all three electorate MPs in Northland are members of Ngapuhi – Winston Peters, Dr Shane Reti and Kelvin Davis.

There would not be many countries where all the MPs in a region are members of the local indigenous tribe!

Hopefully having three electorate MPs in Parliament (plus one List MP) will help them reach a settlement with the Crown. They are basically the last major historical settlement to go.

 

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March 2015 public polls

April 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

marpolls

Curia’s monthly polling newsletter is out. The summary is:

There was one political poll in March – a Roy Morgan.

The average of the public polls has National 16% ahead of Labour in March, down 2% from February. The current seat projection is centre-right 59 seats, centre-left 52 which would see the centre parties hold the balance of power.

In Australia Abbott’s approval rating improves this month, but is still strongly negative.

In the United States Obama’s approval rating continues to improve, especially on the economy and health care. Country direction remains strongly negative. Scott Walker shoots up to 2nd place in the polls for the Republican nomination.

In the UK the election is too close to call. You need 326 seats to govern. Current predictions have the anti-Conservative forces for Labour, SNP and Greens on 322. Labour would need both the SNP and Liberal Democrats to govern while the Conservatives would need the Lib Dems, UKIP and most of the Northern Ireland seats.

In Canada the Conservatives remain ahead of the Liberals in terms of projected seats, but Harper has declining approval ratings.

We also carry details of polls in New Zealand on Northland and foreign drivers 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, please go to http://listserver.actrix.co.nz/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/polling-newsletter to subscribe yourself.

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How do businesses collude with the predators?

April 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New, harsher penalties for making, trading or possessing child abuse imagery have been passed into law with unanimous support.

The legislation increased the maximum jail term for possessing, importing or exporting objectionable publications from five years to 10 years.

It clarified that possession included viewing the objectionable material, not just downloading or saving it.

The maximum penalty for supplying, distributing or making an objectionable publication increased from 10 to 14 years’ jail time.

It introduced a new offence of “indecent communication with a young person”, which applied to any communication with a person under 16 years old including text message and online contact.

The bill passed without dissent, but an interesting comment:

Greens also backed the changes, though MP Catherine Delahunty said harsher sentences would not solve the deeply rooted social problems which led to child exploitation.

“We have to ask ourselves in what way do our infrastructures, social structures, and businesses collude with the predators, rather than just saying: “Lock up the predator, throw away the key, block them from the internet, everything will be fine.'”

A serious question to the Green Party. How exactly do businesses collude with child sex offenders?

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Inaugural Media Opinion Statistics

April 7th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Partisans on both sides of politics often make sweeping claims about the media. Some on the left have claimed that the NZ Herald is relentlessly pro-National and that (for example) John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the Government. Others think the opposite.

For some time I’ve wanted to try and collate data on the media, to try and ascertain where the opinion of certain editorials and columnists tends to end up, and for the last five months have been doing so. The data below is imperfect,but it is also new – in that we’ve never seen before a comprehensive analysis of the opinion columns of major newspapers and their columnists.

Some notes on the data:

  • It covers five months – from 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2015. It will continue to be published every six months here-after, to see what changes over time – if anything.
  • It only covers “opinion” columns and editorials. It does not cover news stories. It is designed to shed light on what the newspaper or journalist/columnist thinks – rather than what the story is. Of course it is influenced by the stories of the moment.
  • Data is collated from the NZ Herald and Stuff websites every morning, checking the main pages, news pages, politics pages and opinion pages. It is possible some columns and editorials have been missed if they were not on the websites until later in a day. However if seen on subsequent days they are added to the table.
  • Where a journalist or columnist has done fewer than three columns that reference the Government or political parties, they are not included in the five month summary below, but they may be included in summaries over longer time periods.
  • An editorial or column is assessed against whether someone reading it will feel more positive or more negative about the Government/National, Labour, Greens or NZ First.
  • If an editorial or column is not on a political issue, or just talks about an issue in a way that is neither supportive nor critical of a party, then they are not included. This is just an analysis of columns and editorials that are positive or negatuve for a political party or the Government.
  • This is not an analysis of media bias. This is an analysis of opinion. It is quite legitimate for columnists and editorials to have views that are not split 50/50 between the parties. And it is fair to say one would generally expect an incumbent Government to be criticised more often than it is supported.
  • What may be interesting is the relative difference in tones between different columnists and editorials, and also as this gets repeated in six months, what differences over time there are.

NatMedia

Turing first to the editorials of the three metro newspapers (only they were included), the Dominion Post is the most relentlessly critical of National. Of 24 editorials referencing the Government or National, 22 are critical and only 2 supportive, so 92% negative.

The Herald is close with 79% negative and 21% positive. Hard to see how some people claim it is a pro-National newspaper.

The Press has had only six editorials about the Government or National – four positive and two negatve.

Turning to the columnists, the one who has written the most critical of National is Dita de Boni with eight negative and no positives. Andrea Vance is next with 7-0 and then Tracy Watkins, Brian Rudman, Peter Lyons and Duncan Garner.

Of those with a mixture of positive and negative, John Armstrong is 84% negative, Rodney Hide 80%, Vernon Small 80%, John Roughan 67% and Fran O’Sullivan 64%. Of interest is there is no columnist in the Herald or on Stuff that is 50/50 or mainly positive about the Government.

Combining columns and editorials, the Herald website is 81% negative and 19% positive in its opinion, while Stuff is 85% negative and 15% positive.

LabMedia

Fewer columns and editorials on Labour. The Herald editorial has been 60% positive and 40% negative on Labour while the Dominion Post 25% positive and 75% negative.

The most supportive columnists have been Fran O’Sullivan (100%), John Armstrong (80%) and Audrey Young (67%), while Vernon Small has been 43% positive and 57% negative.

Overall in the NZ Herald the editorials and columns have been 74% positive for Labour and 26% negative. For Stuff it has been 33% positive and 67% negative.

Data has been collected on Greens and NZ First mentions, but not yet enough to publish. Hopefully in six months.

Note again this is not a study of bias, but of opinion. It is also only a five month snapshot. Just because (for example) Fran O’Sullivan wrote three columns positive towards Labour and none negative in this time period, doesn’t mean the same will apply for other time periods. This is why the study will be on-going.

It’s too early for conclusions, but some interesting observations are that the data doesn’t back up some common beliefs.  It is no surprise that Dita de Boni is relentlessly critical of the Government, but somewhat surprising how critical John Armstrong has been.

The assertion that the Herald is pro-National is not supported by their own editorials. The Dominion Post used to be seen as having a centre-right editorial line, but in the last year or so has been a profoundly centre-left editorial line. I understand Anthony Hubbard is now the editorial writer, which would explain the dramatic shift.

Some on the right say Vernon Small is very pro-Labour. Well he writes the most about them, but seems to be the most balanced about them.

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Quote of the week

April 7th, 2015 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

- Thomas Sowell

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

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Passports to return to 10 years

April 7th, 2015 at 7:56 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealanders are set to enjoy 10-year passports once again – but at a price.

It is understood the Cabinet will decide in the next few weeks to extend the passport validity period, which was reduced to five years in 2005.

This will require an amendment to the Passports Act, and is likely to lead to higher fees for renewing a passport.

Prime Minister John Key said officials wanted the validity period to remain at five years. But he hinted that the Government would go against their advice and revert to 10-year passports.

Good. This is why we don’t just have officials determine things. 5 year passports make things easier for officials, but a major hassle for travellers.

Mr Key has previously warned that a return to 10- year passports is likely to lead to higher fees because revenue from processing the documents will fall. At present, it costs $135 to renew a passport. Analysis by the Taxpayers’ Union showed that fee was more expensive than nearly every other comparable country.

They should be done on a cost recovery basis. It is worth noting that there is a growing surplus in the passport fund at the moment.

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A misleading story

April 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Seeing a doctor is becoming a luxury item as housing costs take a toll on family budgets, Christchurch social agencies say.

“We have a number of families who don’t even take their children to the GP until they get really sick and often that’s because they’ve got debts and doctors sometimes won’t see a family until they have cleared previous debts,” Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey said.

I don’t know of any GP that will refuse to see a child because the family owe them money. They may ask the parents to arrange to pay their debts, but they won’t refuse to see a child.

One family with an outstanding bill of $30 were threatened by debt collectors with fees in excess of $1000 unless they paid up, she said.

That sounds preposterous, and I doubt it.

Nine practices in Canterbury operate under the Government’s Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) scheme and 298 Youth Health Services provides free GP visits for 10-24-year-olds.

It is worth remembering that taxpayers not subsidise free GP visits for children up to the age of 13.

This story is based on anecdotes and claims by an NGO. It would be a better story if it referenced actual data, such as the annual NZ Health Survey by the Ministry of Health. The latest survey finds:

  • children who did not visit a GP due to cost in the last year decreased from 6.3% to 5.2%
  • children who did not visit an after hours service due to cost decreased from 4.5% to 3.6%

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be an article on the claims that some families can’t afford primary healthcare. What I’m saying is that the article just repeated claims that had no substance, and didn’t seek out any data that contradicts that.

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9/10

April 4th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Herald politics quiz is here. 9/10 in 35 seconds.

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Satire still legal

April 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A satirical song that poked fun at Prime Minister John Key was not an election advertisement or programme and it was wrong of the Electoral Commission to ban it, a High Court has ruled.

In a decision released today, Judge Clifford of the Wellington High Court found that the Planet Key song by soul and blues star Darren Watson was not election material.

Good. We need more satire.

Personally I think the Broadcasting Act should be changed so that the restrictions on election programmes should be lifted, so that parties and third parties can broadcast advertisements as they want – so log as within the total spending cap. Broadcasting as a medium should be on the same basis as print.

Andrew Geddis has a lengthy piece on the ruling, which is a good read for those interested.

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Should we change inflation target back to 0 to 2%?

April 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Fallow writes:

Should the Reserve Bank’s inflation target be lowered, ask the Bank of New Zealand’s economists.

The target band of 1 to 3 per cent, “with a focus on keeping future average inflation near the 2 per cent target midpoint”, is not, after all, Holy Writ. It was not chiselled into the back of the tablets Moses brought down from Mt Sinai.

The target band has been changed twice already, from its initial 0-2 per cent when Don Brash had the task of dealing to rampant inflation and high inflation expectations, to 0-3 per cent in 1996 and then to 1-3 per cent in 2002, with the explicit focus on the mid-point added when Graeme Wheeler took office in 2012.

I much prefer 0 to 2% than 1% to 3%. It says don’t end up with deflation but have inflation on average at just 1%, which is the best way to protect people on low and fixed incomes.

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Labour’s O’Connor says Police are crap

April 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have taken too long finding the person responsible for threatening to contaminate infant formula with 1080 poison, Labour’s biosecurity spokesman says.

Labour’s biosecurity spokesman, Damien O’Connor, has slammed the police handling of the threat and says he cannot understand why police do not have more leads.

Asked whether police should have caught the blackmailer by now, O’Connor said: “Absolutely.”

“There’re two explanations,” he said. “One, [police] don’t have the competency, or the other is it’s a very sophisticated commercial plot.

This is a particularly stupid statement.

Does Damien think the Police have a magic wand that will show the Police who sent the letter?

The person behind the letter is basically untraceable unless they were rather moronic and put their fingerprints on the letter, licked the envelope etc.

My challenge to Damien O’Connor is to explain exactly how the Police should have worked out and proven who is behind this?

There are of course a number of likely suspects, but how do you prove it?

Police and the Ministry for Primary Industries “don’t have the resources to step in immediately to find this person”, he said.

As a result of the threat, all the extra food security put in place would inevitably have to remain in place, he said.

It is of course normal opposition politics to blame the Government for everything. But again I would ask Damien exactly  what resources are the Police lacking that would allow them to find out who was behind this? A magic mirror?

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Former Solid Energy Chair thinks it can’t be saved

April 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

The chairwoman of Solid Energy quit the state owned mining company because she disagreed with Bill English that the company could be saved, an email shows.

Pip Dunphy resigned from the board of Christchurch-based Solid Energy in February, less than a year after being appointed. Dunphy is a highly regarded professional director, sitting on the boards of the NZ Superannuation Fund, Abano Healthcare and the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund.

I doubt it can be saved. It sells pretty much one product, and there has been a global slump in its price.

This is again a good reminder of why taxpayers should not own commercial companies.

In 2008 the global price reached $180 per mt. Today it is under $60.

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Guest Post: Highest second strike sentence show law is working exactly as intended

April 2nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Highest second strike sentence show law is working exactly as intended

Left leaning pundits have reacted with glee to two recent cases in which Judges have invoked the “manifestly unjust” provision in the “three strikes” (3S) law to avoid what would otherwise have been a sentence of life without parole (LWOP) for two second strikers convicted of murder. I doubt they will say much about Hugh Hemi Tuatua Tareha, who yesterday received the longest “second strike” sentence yet – 12 years nine months –  for sexually assaulting an 87 year old woman.

Tareha is pretty much the epitome of the type of offender 3S was intended to take out of circulation – a violent offender with a lengthy history who has a propensity for sexually attacking elderly women. A propensity which – according to a psychiatric report – is “escalating”, a view which the Probation Service shares.

His most recent offence was not just committed while on parole, but the day after  he had appeared before the Parole Board, which wanted to monitor his progress. At that appearance he fooled the Parole Board a second time – the first was when he was released a year into a sentence of three years nine months for the robbery of an elderly woman because the Board believed he could be “managed in the community”.

At his appearance on  6 November last Tareha, according to media reports,  convinced the Parole Board that he was, “motivated to make changes”. He was warned that he must not take either illegal drugs or synthetic cannabis, and his parole conditions were varied to that effect.

By 10.30 am the very  next day, Tareha was high on alcohol and synthetic cannabis, and attacked his latest victim.  As she weeded her front lawn, Tareha grabbed her as she tried to flee inside her house. He followed her inside where she was “forcefully violated” on the floor of her own home.

 The woman suffered severe bruising, including from kicks administered by Tareha before he left. That same day Tareha talked his way into a 73 year old woman’s house and asked for a “kiss and cuddle”. She persuaded him to leave, and he indecently assaulted her as he brushed past her on his way out.

At trial the Crown sought Preventive Detention, an open ended sentence with a minimum period before an offender can apply to be released. The Judge declined to impose that sentence “by a fine margin”, and instead imposed a  sentence of 12 years nine months – to be served in full because it is Tareha’s second strike.

It is important to note that if was not for 3S, this dangerous sex offender would be eligible for parole in four years, and in all likelihood be out on the street again in  six or seven. Instead, because of 3S, elderly women are safe from his predations for almost 13 years.

It appears Tareha has “mental health issues” which, according to the Judge may not have been adequately addressed during his numerous prior sentences. That may be the case, and if so, the Department of Corrections now  has almost 13 years to make him fit to be back in the community. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

When he is released he will be 44. According to the crim huggers like Mr Workman, he will at that age have lost his propensity to offend. Sadly I doubt that is the case. If he reoffends similarly – as his past suggests he will – he will go away for 20 more years without parole for a third strike.

I genuinely hope his “issues” can be addressed in prison. If they cannot, and he remains a danger to elderly women, then prison is the only place for him. I am very pleased that he will only get one more chance to offend against elderly women before he is eligible for the pension. That almost certainly would not be the case if 3S was not part of our law.

I’m very glad we have the three strikes law and Tareha will have to serve 13 years, not half of that.

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Yardley on e-cigarettes

April 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Yardley writes:

If New Zealand is serious about reaching the lofty aspirational summit of becoming “Smokefree by 2025″, our public health officials must pull the pin on their priggishness to the e-cigarettes revolution.

To date, their obstinateness mirrors the same sniffy self-righteousness that drives the zealots who rail against any form of low-emission household woodburners. A dose of pragmatism is critically overdue.

You may recall that a year ago I wrote about how e-cigarettes had proven to be the great circuit-breaker, unshackling me from my 20-year long, turbulent and intimate tobacco relationship.

A year on, an ever increasing number of my mates and colleagues are testament to the same break-free success, after having failed to do so, through the cessation cornucopia of gum, patches, hypnosis, Champix . . . the works. Some have now gone the whole hog, first substituting tobacco smoking for vaping (inhaling e-cigarette vapour), but are now vape-free, too. In a classic case of horses for courses, e-cigarettes changed their lives.

So this is a first hand recital of how e-cigarettes have helped Yardley quit smoking. However it is still illegal to sell them in NZ, while tobacco is legal. Madness.

Last year, ASH demonised e-cigarettes as the “alcopops of the smoking world”, despite there being no credible evidence that the product is alluring to teenagers. It was sensationalist, sticky-beaked scare-mongering.

One of New Zealand’s leading smoke-free crusaders has taken a far more responsive and realistic approach. Dr Murray Laugesen has been urging the Ministry of Health to stop faffing about over e-fags and formally recognise the product has a positive role to play.

Under New Zealand law, users have to import liquid nicotine for personal use, from overseas websites, and local outlets who have violated this restriction are being prosecuted. Laugeson is pressing the Health Ministry to allow the nicotine for e-cigarettes to be legally sold by our retailers.

On Friday, Laugesen’s latest compelling study was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, which illustrates that e-cigarettes vapour contains a fraction of the toxins of tobacco smoke and far less nicotine. Laugesen’s study reaffirms they don’t cause cancer or kill people.

The Government should listen to Laugeson.

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Kiwiblog joins the parliamentary press gallery

April 1st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’m pleased to announce that the Speaker of the House has accepted Kiwiblog as a full member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, under the rules of the press gallery.

This will allow Kiwiblog to report directly on the House, when it is in session – as well as on interesting select committees.

The criteria for membership is “exclusively or substantially involved in political and parliamentary news gathering”, which Kiwiblog clearly does.

Radio New Zealand has kindly agreed to give up some of their office space, in order to accommodate Kiwiblog into the gallery.

Kiwiblog would like to thank the chair and deputy chair of the press gallery (Claire Trevett and Katie Bradford respectively) for their support of Kiwiblog’s successful application to the Speaker.

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Submission on the 2014 General Election Inquiry

March 31st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR TO THE
INQUIRY INTO THE 2014 GENERAL ELECTION BY THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL SELECT COMMITTEE

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

    Election Day and Advance Voting Restrictions

  2. As advance voting has become more and more popular, a situation has developed where we do not have enough restrictions on electioneering during the advance voting period, and too many restrictions on E-Day.
  3. 630,775 voters advance voted out of 2,416,479 – in excess of 25%. During that period there were stories about voters being handed party or candidate pamphlets as they enter polling places, or even having to go through a barrage of party activists.
  4. I believe we should aim to have similar restrictions in place for the advance voting period, and E-Day. These should primarily be focused on having an advertisement free zone around polling places, and being illegal to pressure someone to vote a particular way.
  5. This would see (compared to the status quo) a stricter regime for the advance voting period, and a more permissive regime for E-Day with the aim of the same regime for both periods. It is hard to justify on first principles why the period during which 74% vote should have a radically different regime to the period when 26% vote. I expect in future years this may approach 50/50.

    Infringement fines for minor breaches

  6. As previously, I propose that the Electoral Commission be given the power to fine parties and candidates for minor breaches of the Electoral Act such as late returns. It is silly to require such breaches to be referred to the Police and take up court time if prosecuted. A fine power will increase compliance with the law

    Broadcasting Act

  7. I repeat my previous submissions than the ban on political parties purchasing their own broadcasting time is outdated and an unjustified restriction of free speech. Worse, it means that different parties have different effective spending limits as a party allocated less broadcasting spend than another, is unable to close that gap.

    Donation Disclosure

  8. I think the donations regime is generally working well, except for the fact most donations are only disclosed after an election. I propose that all donations over the disclosure threshold be disclosed to the Electoral Commission on a monthly basis, by the 20th of the following month. Also during the final two months before an election, on a weekly basis.
  9. Transparency around donations is far more effective and justified that restrictions on who can donate – such as the US has. However transparency works best if the public have knowledge of significant donors prior to an election. The current threshold of $30,000 for immediate disclosure is too high.

    Role of the Police

  10. I have advocated for over nine years that the Police should be removed from their current role of prosecuting electoral breaches.
  11. In 2005 their investigations of electoral law breaches was arguably incompetent. Extremely basic errors in law were made, where they ignored strict liability and confused the difference between spending limits and who can authorize and advertisement.
  12. In both 2008, 2011 and 2014 they did not investigate alleged offences in a timely manner. Most complaints referred to them in 2011 just disappeared into a black hole and no action was taken. I do not blame them for prioritizing other crimes ahead of electoral offences, but it is wrong that there is no timely and effective enforcement of electoral law.
  13. propose that the Committee recommend to the Government that they agree in principle that the Police be removed as the enforcement agency for electoral law, and that they consult on the preferred replacement model.

Thank you for considering this submission. I would like to make an oral submission in support, and look forward to appearing.

 

David Farrar

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