Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Parliament 25 February 2015

February 25th, 2015 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “Get some guts and join the right side”?
  2. ANDREW BAYLY to the Minister of Finance: What are the features of the new social investment approach the Government will use in Budget 2015 and in future Budgets?
  3. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “We recognise ISIL is not a short-term threat and there is a lot of work to be done in the long-term”; if so, does he accept this means New Zealand’s deployment may last longer than two years and involve more than training?
  4. Dr SHANE RETI to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What reports has he received about employment growing across New Zealand?
  5. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his answers to Oral Question No 4 on Tuesday, 24 February 2015?
  6. TODD MULLER to the Minister for Social Development: What is the Government doing to support older New Zealanders receiving New Zealand superannuation?
  7. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he agree with KPMG that banks are warning that the “significant deals done at ridiculous pricing” for New Zealand land and property could spell disaster for them?
  8. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister for Small Business: What measures has the Government implemented to support small businesses in accessing the Government procurement process?
  9. RICHARD PROSSER to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by all his statements?
  10. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by the statement made on his behalf last year about his contact with Mr Liu that: “As Prime Minister and the leader of the National Party, Mr Key attends a number of functions up and down the country which are attended by a large number of people. While we don’t have a record of who attends these events, Mr Key recalls seeing Mr Liu at various functions, including a dinner as part of a National Party fundraiser”?
  11. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “we’re actually going to stand up for human rights…”?
  12. Dr DAVID CLARK to the Minister for Economic Development: What was the “range of price escalation” for the New Zealand International Convention Centre as recorded in advice to the Minister dated 26 February 2014?

National:Four patsies on social investment, employment, NZ superannuation and small businesses

Labour: Five questions on Iraq, Minister of Finance standing by his answers, house prices, Liu donation and Sky City

Greens: Two questions on Iraq and human rights

NZ First: One question on MPI Minister standing by his statements

General Debate 3.00 pm – 4.00 pm

A debate with 12 speeches of up to five minutes.

Local Bills 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm 

Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill – second reading

The Bill authorises the (now Auckland) Council to make bylaws specifying places in the district where the business of prostitution or commercial sexual services may not occur otherwise than in a brothel or a small owner-operated brothel.

Introduced: August 2010
1st reading: September 2010, passed 82-36 on a personal vote
Select Committee report: The Local Government and Environment Select Committee recommended the bill not be passed on the basis the matters covered are not appropriate for a local bill, and that existing bylaws can be used

A debate of up to two hours.

Members’ Bills 7.30 pm – 10.00 pm

Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill – third reading

The bill amend the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 to extend paid parental leave to from a maximum of 14 to 26 weeks. It is in the name of Labour’s Sue Moroney.

Introduced: April 2012
1st reading: July 2012, passed 61-60 with National and ACT against
Select Committee report: February 2014: no agreement on whether it should proceed or be amended due to 3-3 split between National and Labour MPs
2nd reading: May 2014, passed 61-60 with National and ACT against
Committee of the whole House: December 2014, passed  with a number of amendments by Sue Moroney defeated 60-61 with National and ACT against

A debate of up to two hours.

Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill – second reading continued

The bill requiring judges to make returns of pecuniary interests to provide greater transparency within the judicial system and to avoid any conflict of interest in the judicial role. It is in the name of Green MP Kennedy Graham.

Introduced: November 2010
1st reading: June 2012, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: February 2014. The Justice and Electoral Select Committee recommended the bill not be passed on the basis that it is not needed

The debate has up to 50 minutes remaining.

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DPF at Act Conference

February 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

David presented to the Act Conference over the weekend.  It was an overview of where the party had come from, the last election, and the possible policy stances Act can advance.    

So let’s take a look at where your support currently is.   ACT got 0.7% nationwide but this was actually 1.4% in Auckland and 0.4% in most other places. And in Auckland you had 2.4% in the Eastern suburbs. So the challenge is to expand from being an Auckland party to a party that can get at least 2.4% everywhere. That would get you almost four MPs.

Polls have shown that you get twice as much support from men as women. One fifth of your support comes from the self-employed and business owners which is significant, and one quarter from the under 30s – well done ACT on Campus. 

In the last three years 25% of ACT supporters cited the economy as the most important issue, followed by taxes on 10% and jobs on 9%. These are of course all linked so almost a half say the most important issues are economic.”

So how can Act gain more voters to increase their representation in parliament and decrease their reliance on the Epsom electorate?

However I think a clear message of opposition to most forms of corporate welfare has potential appeal to not just economic liberals on the right, but also to many on the left. It would make it hard for the left to paint ACT as the party of big business, if they are signing up to your campaigns against corporate welfare. 

Turing to social liberalism, the issue I would suggest ACT focuses on is euthanasia. Is anything a more fundamental human right than being able to choose between quantity of life and quality of life?

This is not some abstract issue. Sadly for many families, they have been through the horrors of a loved one who was unable to make an informed choice to reduce their suffering.  I actually used to be against euthanasia until I listened to the speech Rodney Hide made in 2003 about the death of Martin Hames. It reduced me to tears and made me realise how harmful the current law can be, and converted me to favouring a law change.

It is an issue that is both very real to many, but also very popular. The last public poll on this issue saw 61% in favour of terminally ill people being able to choose when to end their lives and only 18% opposed. A 3:1 ratio in favour is about as good as it gets.

Labour has banned their MPs from advancing this issue, because it may distract them from their core mission of getting more people to join a union. National MPs are discouraged from doing bills on conscience issues. In fact I think National discourages their MPs from doing any bills that haven’t been written by Chris Finlayson for them. The highlight was the West Coast MP’s bill on reforming the law of habeas corpus.

NZ First are generally against euthanasia, except for immigrants. The Greens are admirably supportive, but the suspicion is they see it as a way to reduce carbon emissions. 

More seriously there is an opportunity for ACT here to lead on this issue, and connect to New Zealanders on an issue that resonates, as well as clearly position themselves as the only party not wanting the state to interfere in decisions that belong to individuals.

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Does anyone think Labour would have made a different decision?

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

I’d be interested to hear if anyone seriously seriously thinks that if Labour was in Government, they would have made a different decision about contributing to the coalition against the Islamic State?

I totally believe that the Greens would have. They absolutely and passionately believe that the way to defeat the Islamic State is to do something like employ more community facilitators in under privileged communities, and all will be right with the world. It’s a bonkers view, but a sincerely held one.

But not for one second do I think a Labour Government would have said “No, we will be the only country in Western World not to contribute in a military sense to defeating ISIL”. Which means that their rhetoric this week is just opposition, because they don’t actually have the responsibility to make a decision.

Bear in mind that the last Labour Government sent the SAS to Afghanistan, and military engineers to Iraq.

But I’d be interested to hear a rational argument by anyone that Labour would actually have made a different decision, if they were in Government.

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PM on ISIL

February 24th, 2015 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

From the PM’s ministerial statement to Parliament:

Last November I gave a national security speech which outlined the threat posed to New Zealand by ISIL.

This brutal group and its distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation.

ISIL’s ability to motivate Islamist radicals make it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but regionally and locally too.

It is well-funded and highly-skilled at using the internet to recruit.

Disturbingly, if anything, ISIL’s brutality has worsened since I gave that speech late last year.

In recent weeks we have witnessed a mass beheading and the horrific plight of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

And we’ve seen stories of Western hostages who have been kidnapped and killed in barbaric ways.

ISIL’s outrageous actions have united an international coalition of 62 countries against the group.

The coalition includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Panam, Singapore, Sweden and Spain.

New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.

We stand up for what’s right.

We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.

We have carved out our own independent foreign policy over decades and we take pride in it.

We do what is in New Zealand’s best interests.

It is in that context that I am announcing that the Government has decided to take further steps to help the fight against ISIL.

The Iraqi government has requested support from the international community and has been clear with us that security is its top priority.

We have been clear that we cannot, and should not, fight Iraqis’ battles for them – and actually Iraq doesn’t want us to.

Our military can, however, play a part in building the capability and capacity of the Iraqi forces so they can fight ISIL themselves.

I have been open with New Zealanders that we have been considering an option to train Iraqi Security Forces alongside our longstanding partner Australia, in Iraq.

Such an operation would be behind the wire and limited to training Iraqi Security Forces in order to counter ISIL and legitimately protect innocent people.

Mr Speaker, the Government has decided to deploy a non-combat training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against ISIL.

No surprise. It’s at the lower end of what we could do.

The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.

I’m glad it isn’t open ended.

We recognise ISIL is not a short-term threat and there is a lot of work to be done in the long-term.

Defeating ISIL will mean winning the hearts and minds of those vulnerable to its destructive message.

That will take time.

As I said last year, we have already contributed to the humanitarian cause and we are currently examining options to provide more help.

We are also stepping up our diplomatic efforts to counter ISIL and support stability in Iraq.

As part of this, we are looking at options to base a diplomatic representative in Baghdad to serve as a conduit between the Iraqi government and our military deployment, as well as assess how we can support better governance in Iraq.

We will also expand our diplomatic engagement on international counter-terrorism by appointing a new Ambassador for Counter Terrorism.

Many other countries have done this.

We cannot be complacent, as events in Sydney, Paris and Ottawa have underscored.

To those who argue that we should not take action because it raises that threat, I say this:  the risk associated with ISIL becoming stronger and more widespread far outweighs that.

I know there is already risk.

New Zealanders do too, because they know we are a nation of prolific travellers who have been caught up in terrorist activity around the world many times before.

Mr Speaker, the Government has carefully considered our contribution to the international campaign against ISIL.

We are prepared to step up to help.

New Zealand does not take its commitment to Iraq lightly.

In return we expect that the Iraqi government will make good on its commitment to an inclusive government that treats all Iraqi citizens with respect.

Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision.

I would call it the least bad decision. There are risks. But the greater risk is leaving ISIL unchecked with their ambition to be a global caliphate. They are not terrorist. They are 7th century fundamentalists who wish to have the world live under their 7th century religious doctrine.

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Greens want all GM food banned

February 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party in response to a petition has stated:

The Green Party agrees with the petitioner and seeks a stop to further GM food approval ahead of full safety studies, more comprehensive and enforced labelling, and a reassessment of existing GM food approvals.

It’s been 14 years since a Royal Commission chaired by a former Chief Justice concluded that there was no scientific basis to ban genetically modified organisms. Despite this, the Greens have fought against the science undeterred.

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Parliament 24 February 2015

February 24th, 2015 at 12:02 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here and oral questions here.

Ministerial Statement 2.00 pm – 2.30 pm

It is likely that the Government will make a Ministerial statement on military assistance against the Islamic State. If so then the PM speaks for five minutes, followed by the Labour, Green and NZ First leaders for five minutes each and the PM can reply for up to two minutes. By leave, other party leaders may be allowed to speak. Hence the debate will be from 22 to 37 minutes.

Oral Questions 2.30 pm – 3.30 pm

  1. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement with regard to the deployment of troops to the warzone in Iraq that “I don’t think that’s a matter for a Parliamentary vote”?
  2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “Just passing everything by the barest of majorities isn’t the right way to govern a country”; if so, why?
  3. PAUL FOSTER-BELL to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on trends in Government revenue and how does this compare with forecasts in the Half-Year Update in December?
  4. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: What is the additional amount of gross debt that the Crown has taken on since the Government was elected in November 2008?
  5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  6. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that a 30 centimetre rise in sea level “may not sound much” but “will be significant at a national level” in New Zealand?
  7. STUART SMITH to the Minister for Social Housing: How will the Ministry of Social Development’s social housing purchasing strategy lead to better outcomes for tenants?
  8. Hon PHIL GOFF to the Minister of Defence: What is the level of risk assessed by the New Zealand Defence Force if its personnel are deployed to Iraq and what force protection would be provided for them?
  9. MELISSA LEE to the Minister for Small Business: What steps is the Government taking to support growth for small business?
  10. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he consider that cuts the Government has made to biosecurity have contributed to the current fruit fly outbreak?
  11. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What actions is the Government taking to limit the powers of repossession agents?
  12. CLAYTON MITCHELL to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements?

National:Four patsies on government revenue, social housing, small business and repo agents

Labour: Four questions on Iraq (x2), government debt, and biosecurity

Greens: Two questions on Iraq and sea level rise

NZ First: Two questions on PM and MSD Ministers standing by their statements

Government Bills 3.30 pm – 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Gambling Amendment Bill (No 2) – third reading continued

The bill amends the Gambling Act 2003 with minor policy and technical amendments

Introduced: August 2007
1st reading: August 2007, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: May 2008 and June 2013
2nd reading: May 2009, passed without dissent
Committee of the House: February 2015. SOPs from the Greens and NZ First were defeated. The bill was amended further and passed 108-11 with only NZ First dissenting

The debate has 40 minutes remaining.

Parole Amendment Bill – third reading continued

The bill amends the Parole Act 2002 to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings where the offender has little prospect of release

Introduced: November 2013
1st reading: November 2013, passed 104-15 with Greens, Mana and Horan against
Select Committee report: May 2014: supported with amendments by the majority, with Greens dissenting
2nd reading: November 2014, passed 105-16 with Greens and Maori Party against
Committee of the whole House: February 2015, passed 104-16 with Greens and Maori Party against

The debate has up to 80 minutes remaining.

Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill – second reading continued

The bill increases the penalties for producing, trading, or possessing child pornography.

Introduced: May 2013
1st reading: November 2013, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: April 2014, supported unamiously with no amendments

The debate has 70 minutes remaining.

Statutes Amendment Bill (No 4) – second reading

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

Introduced: May 2014
1st reading: April 2014, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: July 2014, supported unamiously with amendments

The debate can be up to two hours.

 

Appropriation (2013/14 Confirmation and Validation) Bill – 1st reading

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

Introduced: December 2014

This bill is not debated.

 

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DHBs doing better with health targets

February 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest quarterly stats on the DHB Health Targets have been published. They show:

  • Cancer patients waiting less than four weeks for radiotherapy or chemotherapy – 99% (was 65% under Labour)
  • Emergency Department treatment within six hours – 94% (was 70% under Labour)
  • Elective operations at 107% of target (84,022 in 6 months up from 118,000 in 12 months under Labour)
  • 94% of 8 month olds are immunised (was 76% under Labour)
  • 92% of Maori 8 month olds are immunised (was 78% in 2012)
  • 96% of Pacific 8 month olds are immunised (was 87% in 2012)
  • 95% of smokers in hospital given advice or help to quit (was 17%)
  • 89% of smokers seeing a primary health care practitioner given advice or help to quit (was 40%)
  • 87% have had a cardiovascular assessment in last five years (was 46%)

The performance of our heath system is one of the more important things to New Zealanders. Despite the tight fiscal conditions, National has shown sustained significant improvements in outcomes.

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Dom Post on Islamic State

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

The Dom Post editorial:

Islamic State is a gang of murdering fanatics who must be resisted. Almost the whole world agrees with that, so the only question is: how?

New Zealand, as Prime Minister John Key has said, was unlikely to do nothing about Isis. A political force which prides itself on beheadings and crucifixions of the innocent is intolerable to any democratic state.

But not intolerable to those who say it is nothing to do with us.

The problem is that almost every form of Western intervention is fraught with trouble. The West has learnt from the invasion of Iraq, and the long bloody stalemate in Afghanistan, that making war in the Middle East often makes things worse rather than better.

So the choice is extraordinarily conflicted. Honest opponents of intervention should admit that the decision not to fight is deeply troubling because Isis is evil. Honest proponents of intervention should also admit that the war might have a just purpose but it is also probably unwinnable.

Islamic State is different to Al Qaeda. It’s strength comes from holding territory.

The Key Government has decided to send a small military force to “train” Iraqi soldiers. This is defensible in principle. It recognises that the fight against Isis is primarily the task of local people, not of the West. It also recognises, perhaps, that the West has some responsibility for the rise of the terrorist group. They filled a vacuum created by the Iraq invasion and the subsequent chaos. So the West has to help restore the damage. …

All the signs suggest that Key is doing what Keith Holyoake did in Vietnam – sending the smallest possible force into the war, mainly to keep the allies happy and to show the flag. And probably the most that can be hoped for from this war is to contain Isis and stop it from building a lasting fundamentalist caliphate.

If it can’t build the caliphate, it loses its theological reason for being. And it then might lose some of its support, and splinter under its own murderous fanaticism. None of that is certain to happen, but it is a defensible aim for limited Western military intervention. It is the best option available.

I agree.

 

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Quote of the week

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

“I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible.”

– Milton Friedman

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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2014 spend per vote

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

The Electoral Commission has published the spending by political parties on their party vote in the 2014 campaign. I’ve put them into a table to analyse how much each party spent in relation to each vote they got.

spendvotes

It is no surprise that Internet Mana had the worse result for its spend. A massive $1 million for just 34,000 votes. Great proof that money has relatively minor influence on elections.

After two of the joke parties that got under 2,000 votes, then the next worse was Conservatives who spent $1.9 million for 95,000 votes.

ACT spent $17.64 per vote.

Of the four larger parties, the Greens spent the most per vote at $5.02, followed by National at $2.26, Labour $2.10 and NZ First $1.29.

Just looking at the actual spend, National spent the most followed by the Conservatives, the Greens and then Labour. Yes the Greens spent more money than Labour! Labour really were near bankrupt.

Internet Mana was only the fifth largest spender. That is because much of their spending wasn’t on advertising, but paying candidates to stand for them etc.

spendvotes2

This table takes into account the taxpayer funded broadcasting allocation each party had to advertise on television or radio.

The two joke parties has the worst result for their spend, when you take this into account.

Internet Mana and Civilian had around the same return at $32 a vote.

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Herald on EQC

February 23rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The four years since the Christchurch earthquake is more than enough time for a discussion about New Zealand’s system of disaster insurance. The system might charitably be called a public-private partnership – the state’s Earthquake Commission pays up to $100,000 for damage caused by natural disasters, private insurance covers costs above that sum. But as many insured households in Christchurch discovered, it’s not much of a partnership in practice.

They had to make separate claims to the commission (EQC) and their private insurance company and the response was not always harmonious. Many heard from one agency that their house needed replacement and from the other that it could be repaired. Until they could get the public and private insurers to agree, nothing could be done. Since the EQC paid out readily on claims under $100,000, the least serious damage in Christchurch tended to be repaired reasonably quickly while households needing more extensive work suffered confusion and frustration.

The status quo is not satisfactory. I believe the best way forward would be to have EQC being a reinsurer to the frontline companies, supporting them in the case of a major disaster.

Private insurers such as Vero want to retain dual claims management yet none of them want to cover hazards on the scale of earthquakes and floods. But the company believes customers would be better served, or at least less confused, if their private insurer dealt with the EQC on their behalf. That would be more in tune with the way customers are charged as the disaster fund comes from a levy on private household insurance.

Few private insurers could handle a major earthquake without the state through EQC involved. However that doesn’t mean that EQC should deal directly with customers.

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Labour’s new chief press secretary

February 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced Sarah Stuart as their new head of media and communications.

Sarah is a former Deputy Editor of the Herald on Sunday, during its start up phase when it went from no customers to winning many awards. Since then she went on to be managing editor of the APN regional and community papers and then two years editing NZ Woman’s Weekly. She has a formidable media background, as both a journalist and an editor.

I think this is a strong appointment for Labour. Her background in both hard and soft news will be useful as they try to get Little’s brand set as a positive one. She should also be able to manage relations well with the press gallery. I’ve not had any dealings with Sarah for many years, but all my experiences has been she is very pleasant and likeable (which helps in dealing with a diverse caucus).

Social media may be a challenge for her, but that is what you have staff for.

Little has also confirmed former EPMU staffer Neale Jones as the party’s political director in Parliament and Martin Taylor as their research director. A good staff team don’t win you an election (the leader does that), but a non performing team can stop you winning. Little’s picks are looking quite sound.

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A binding referendum on superannuation

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

Stuff reports:

ACT wants a binding referendum on the future of New Zealand’s superannuation and raising the retirement age.

Leader David Seymour says a public vote would end the “Mexican stand-off” between National and Labour, as pressure on the system grows. He believes it is untenable to keep paying out super from aged 65.

In a speech to his party’s annual conference yesterday, Seymour pitched the idea of an independent body to oversee a series of referendums on future of superannuation. And he pointed to an upcoming public poll on changing the flag.

“National won’t address the issue, Labour tried and are now backing away. This is a political Mexican stand-off, with the guns pointed at the younger generations,” he said. 

I’m very supportive of the ACT proposal, especially because it is not just about the age of eligibility.

The idea of a two stage referendum, as we had with MMP and upcoming with the flag, is very sound.

Let an expert panel put up say four different future superannuation schemes, each fully costed. Then New Zealanders can vote on which of the four we prefer and have that go up to a final vote against the current scheme (which is unaffordable).

A key aspect is the current scheme would remain in place for current retirees, and those near retirement. A new scheme would apply say to those aged under 50 only.

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Braunias on Joyce

February 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

This week’s Steve Braunias is rather good. An extract:

Just as I sit down for breakfast the phone rings and it’s Sky CEO Nigel Morrison demanding I come over right now and go through new costings for the convention centre or the whole deal is off. No problem. I grab toast, sausages, tomatoes, hash browns and a lamb chop to go, and scamper across town.

He presents the figures and draws up an architectural plan and says that without government funding the conventional centre will be minus windows, light bulbs and women’s toilets on the third floor.

I tell him if you carry the two and divide by six and move that column over to the left and this column over to the right and shake it all about then it’s entirely possible to make an allowance for three windows and five light bulbs on the second floor.

“Tell you what, sport,” he says. “Gizzus that toast in your pocket and we’ll throw it in the women’s toilets on the sixth floor.”

I weigh up the toast and figure I can always get my hands on some more down the line so I narrow my eyes and say to him, “Deal.”

It’s only when I get back to the office that I remember the convention centre doesn’t have a sixth floor.

Heh.

And:

Just as I sit down to microwave yesterday’s breakfast the phone rings and it’s my mole in the America’s Cup syndicate saying that Dean Barker is in for the chop and without him any chance of winning the next series is lost. No worries. I grab sausages, tomatoes, hash browns, and a lamb chop to go, and head for the waterfront.

I figure that if I delegate one or two minor responsibilities to the Prime Minister then I’ll be able to find the time to helm the black boat to victory, but first I just need a bit of practice.

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The Auckland man in London

February 22nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Aucklanders now have their very own man in London, at a cost to ratepayers of more than $230,000.

Auckland Council’s economic development arm has created a special contract in London for one of its senior executives, Grant Jenkins, who has moved his family to England.

His English-born wife, Kate, was homesick and had been longing to return home for several years, according to a former council staffer.

The Jenkins have set up home with their two children outside London in the village of Bourne End in Buckinghamshire.

As well as paying about $196,000 for a 12-month contract, ratepayers are picking up Mr Jenkins’ work expenses and office costs at New Zealand Tourism’s headquarters in New Zealand House near Trafalgar Square.

Ratepayers have paid an administration fee of about $15,000 for his contract and contributed $19,841 to the family’s relocation costs.

Here’s how you can tell if this is just jobs for the boys. Was this position advertised or tendered? No. An existing employee decided to move back to London, so ATEED created a new job for him there.

Outrageous. Was this signed of by the ATEED Board? Did they ask questions?

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Charter school likely to close

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

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has issued a formal warning to the troubled charter school in Whangaruru which now has a month to show it can rectify its problems or it could face closure.

Ms Parata has released her letter to the trust which runs the Te Pumanawa o te Wairua School advising it was now on notice over its performance and would be audited in a month. The letter said it had failed to meet criteria for truancy and the size of the school roll and there were indications of under achievement.

She would use the audit to decide whether the school had any hope of fixing its problems before making any decision on its future. The letter warned that if the trust did not take immediate action to address the problems, it could face closure.

This is a great example of the enhanced accountability that comes with charter schools. When was the last time you heard of a state school facing closure because it is under achieving and having too many truants?

Four out of the five initial charter schools are doing well, and producing what look to be some great results. One of them is not. But again, this is why the charter school model is useful – the sucessful schools prosper, and the unsuccesful ones close down.

When a state school is unsuccessful, it gets more funding, its neighbours are told they have to shrink their zones to stop parents leaving it, and after around five years of under-achievement, there might be some government intervention.

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Donation refunded

February 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Electoral returns out next week will confirm that a National Party MP received $25,000 from a controversial businessman after Prime Minister John Key had a private dinner with him – at the man’s home.

The PM has always maintained that he met Donghua Liu at a National Party fundraiser but would never say where. Today, the Weekend Herald can reveal that the fundraiser was actually a private dinner at Mr Liu’s $4.75 million home in Remuera, where a smiling Mr Key and Jami-Lee Ross, the MP for Botany, were photographed alongside Mr Liu and his young family.

Afterwards, Mr Liu donated $25,000 that same month to Mr Ross’ election campaign. But the following year, Mr Liu became a political embarrassment for the Government after a Herald investigation revealed the impact of the property developer’s links to the National Party.

Shortly after the election, Mr Ross refunded the large donation from Mr Liu’s company – 15 months after it was given. Mr Ross has since disclosed the donation in candidate returns for the 2014 election due to be released by the Electoral Commission next week.

Mr Liu is upset that Mr Ross refunded the $25,000 cheque, which he regarded as a “slap in the face”.

The 53-year-old pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charges in April last year, but was in the Auckland District Court this week seeking to withdraw those admissions. He was successful and the case is likely to now head to trial.

 

Last night, Jami-Lee Ross said he did not intend to insult Mr Liu and any negative publicity associated to the businessman was not the reason the $25,000 was returned.

He said the Liu donation was given to be used in the local Botany campaign, but was not spent as a $24,000 donation from the National Party covered his expenses.

“So when the [donation and expense] returns were being put together after the election, it was decided the $25,000 should be returned to the donor because it was not used.

I think there is a useful lesson in this for National. I’m all for people donating to parties because they think a party’s policies will be good for NZ. But if a donation appears to be about influence, then parties should be wary.

Returning the $25,000 was the right thing to do, especially after the court case became known.It was of course not known at the time the donation was received.

The suggestion that it was returned because it was not used or needed is somewhat laughable. I’ve never known a party or candidate to return a donation on the basis they didn’t use it. Normally a party holds onto a donation as tightly as a crocodile holds onto its prey.

It is a good thing we have electoral laws that require transparency around donations. It allows the public to judge if they think a significant donation is appropriate or not. In this case, I think National’s concern was rightfully that it would not.

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Greens propose 20% rates hike

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

The Dom Post reports:

Cheaper bus fares and a free service on Saturdays have been proposed for Wellington, but the ideas could hit ratepayers in the pocket to the tune of $20 million.

The Green Party wants to see a three-month trial of “zero-fare Saturday”, as part of a five-point plan to reduce bus fares across the Wellington region.

Why just on Saturdays? Let’s just wave a wand and have free fares every day of the week. Even better, let’s pay people to use the bus!

But bus users were keen on the idea, when asked yesterday.

In stunning news, people who use a service like the idea of other people paying for it on their behalf.

Paul Swain, the regional council’s transport portfolio leader, said some of the Greens’ proposals were already being considered by council staff as part of the long-term plan process.

But the entire package could cost up to $20m, which would be roughly a 20 per cent rates hike, he said. “In my view, that’s unaffordable and the ratepayers would react very negatively.”

So remember that next local body elections – the Greens want a 20%rates hike.

I suspect it would be far more than that. History tells us that you make something “free” and the costs rise almost exponentially.

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Treasury leading the way with OIA

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

Transtasman reports:

The Treasury is trialling the publication of its responses to selected OIA requests. The proactive release of individuals requests follow on from material such as Budget papers and Briefings to Incoming Ministers being released in bulk fashion for some time. Initial OIA requests released range from the Debt Management Office’s replacement of its Matriarch IT system through to Govt funding of NZ America’s Cup Teams. The argument for release is since the work has already been done to respond to the request and compile the information it might as well be more widely released.

I’ve been pushing for this for several years. A lot of very interesting information is released under the OIA, but is never seen by the public except the requester. The FYI tool is a great private sector initiative which allows responses to be viewed if it is used.

But what I’d like to see is:

  1. Govt establishes a www.oia.govt.nz
  2. All substantive responses to an OIA request are uploaded to the site a week after they are sent to the requester
  3. Uploaded documents are tagged with subject and portfolios tags to allow easy browsing

Good to see Treasury heading down this route of proactive release. I hope it leads to other agencies following.

 

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English wants to have the geeks more involved in policy

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

Stuff reports:

Public sector mandarins will have to change their ways by giving geeks a bigger seat at the policy table, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has warned.

Ministers wanted more “facts” and agencies should start referring to people as “customers” not clients, he said. …

English said the structure of government was going to change much more over the next 10 years than it had over the past 30.

“The use of other words like ‘clients’ hasn’t brought about in the past the kind of culture shift that we need,” he said.

English was speaking in Wellington at an annual homage to technocracy, a conference organised by United States firm SAS Institute, a leading provider of software tools to crunch “big data”.

Data and data analytics should be an intrinsic part of policy-making but that was not how the public service was organised, he said.

“We are making a lot of policy with people who know nothing about customers. We are organised with the sociology graduates ‘over here’ and the geeks down the corridor somewhere.” 

Departments didn’t bring technical people who understood their data to meetings unless ministers specifically requested it, he said. 

“That will change. Policy without using these tools won’t mean much to us because our policies are pretty pragmatic. They are focused on getting better results for customers.”

Very much agree data should be a big part of decision making. The analysis of data should occur in both the public and private sectors. An important part of this is to have the Government continue to make its internal data available outside of Government.

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RIP Red Alert?

February 20th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Insider reports:

The Red Alert blog site was once touted by Labour as the place where its MPs would re-engage with the public and members, to debate policy and excite voters. Now it resembles a ghost town, with digital tumbleweed blowing through its pages. The most recent post is from Darien Fenton, talking about her valedictory speech – last July.

Even before that is was dying. I do more posts in one day than they’ve done in the last 12 months.

Maybe the time has come for them to euthanise it.

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The beginning of the dirty deal in Northland!

February 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Greens have announced:

“It is our strategic assessment that we should not run in the by-election and instead focus on our nationwide climate change and inequality campaigns,” said Green Party Co-convenor John Ranta.

What blatant spin. A by-election is the perfect opportunity to get publicity for your issues.

Next look out for whether Labour withdraws!

But I think the left putting all their hopes in Winston are misplaced when Northlanders realise voting for Winston will actually result in them losing an MP in Northland and Invercargill gaining one.

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Petrol price margins

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

MBIE has data on the average margin for petrol in NZ, taking into account the global price of supply.

petrolmargins

Apart from the very recent adjustment in January, one can see a clear trend over the last few years of the margin growing from the normal 10c to 15c range to between 25c and 40c.

Stuff reports:

Labour wants a parliamentary inquiry into fuel costs, concerned that consumers are being ripped off by “unscrupulous merchants”.

While petrol and diesel prices have got cheaper by as much as 50 cents a litre in the last year, consumer advocates say industry profit margins are high and the price at the pump could come down further. There are also questions over rural variations in price.

Labour’s energy spokesman, Stuart Nash, has asked the finance and expenditure select committee to investigate, and the committee will make a decision next week.

The request follows a call from the Automobile Association last month for a ministerial inquiry. Across the Tasman, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is looking at fuel costs.

Nash wants MPs on the select committee to look at pricing and margins along the supply chain.

 

I agree with Labour that a select committee inquiry would be a good thing. The market is not as competitive as it should be, with a doubling of margins in recent years. The answer is not price controls, but it is worth looking at how to improve competition.

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Watergate!

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

The Dom Post reports:

Staff at National Party headquarters have been told to observe council water conservation measures after a garden sprinkler was used in an apparent breach of council rules.

Party manager Greg Hamilton confirmed the sprinkler was running yesterday and said he would remind staff about water restrictions. …

The council’s restrictions allow watering only between 6am and 8am, and 7pm and 9pm. The unattended sprinkler was spotted running at about 8.10am.

I await the call for a commission of inquiry into Watergate!

“As far as the city council is concerned it doesn’t matter if the property is residential or commercially rated. Even if it does have a meter, it doesn’t mean people can start watering when others can’t,” he said.

The challenge is that the allowed hours are not hours when someone will be at a commercial property.

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Green leadership contenders

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

The Herald reports:

Green MP Kevin Hague could have competition for the party’s leadership as two more MPs have tentatively suggested they might enter the contest.

MPs Gareth Hughes and Kennedy Graham would not rule out bids for the male co-leadership position, which will be up for grabs when Russel Norman stands down in May after eight years.

Mr Hughes confirmed yesterday he was consulting with supporters about whether he should enter the race, but said he would not confirm his intentions until closer to the nomination deadline in mid-April.

He is ranked fifth on the party’s list and has gained some profile in lobbying for environmental causes.

Dr Graham, who is one of the party’s senior MPs and speaks for the party on foreign affairs, said he “had not discounted the idea” of entering the leadership race.

Yes a 69 year old leader is a great idea, to compete with Winston!

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