Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Auckland Council charges for pool inspections

January 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

aklpools

 

A reader has sent this in to me. They note:

Just got a letter today that informs me that the Auckland Council will now inspect my pool fencing every three years to make sure it is still there and charge me for the privilege. Revenue generating at its best.

Original inspection received sign-off. It cost a fortune to put in a steel fence. Current charge for initial inspection is $75 – I am OK with that and foolishly thought that was the end of it.

Now it will be inspected every three years at a higher cost of $125 per inspection. For now.

My points are:

  • Why follow up inspections? It is a metal fence set in concrete – we are hardly likely to lift it out of the ground
  • Why more expensive since it is just (supposedly) reaffirming it is still there so technically they could look from the top of our drive and view it rather than inspect it
  • Why can’t we just send in a photo showing it is still there – saves them a trip and us a lot of money

This is revenue generating pure and simple. It is a loose interpretation of Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 section 10 (Every territorial authority shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that this Act is complied with within its district.)Exploitation of vague legislation seen as a revenue opportunity.

Since Len(it’s all about me) came in our rates have increased and services decreased as well as additional charges sneaking into the mix. This is snowballing and there seems to be no vehicle to challenge other than talk to a child at the call centre who sounded very sweet but “that picnic may be short of a sandwich” if you know what I mean. She struggled to know what to say and failed to find me anyone to talk to. Any suggestions for recourse?

The $75 initial charge does seem okay, but checking every three years the fence set in concrete is still there seems indeed just revenue generating – especially as they will cost more than the original check.

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Why drugs and column writing do not mix

January 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong has written a column where he speculates National would agree to Winston Peters becoming Prime Minister, after the election.

John is normally one of NZ’s best political analysts and writers.

I can only conclude that when he wrote this, his colleagues slipped him some synthetic cannabis as an experiment in what happens if you write columns while stoned.

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The Press on education reforms

January 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Prime Minister John Key, in his first big speech of the year, yesterday chose to focus on a subject that has traditionally been a political minefield and one on which the Government has come a cropper in the past. In choosing to unveil some radical new measures, and substantial new spending, with the aim of raising standards and bringing about what he called “a step change in achievement” in schools, Key also went into territory that Labour has regarded itself as having an ascendancy.

But first reaction from teachers, professional bodies and the teacher unions welcoming the proposals – something that must be unique for a National Party policy – indicates that they will likely be accepted and may be smoothly put into practice. They appear to be a serious-minded attempt to to bring about better performance from teachers and schools, one of the most important issues for the performance of the economy and the long-term good of society generally.

Few things could make a bigger difference to inequality than improving the performance of the tail of those in the education system. No amount of law passing or minimum wage hikes is going to make life particularly good for a kid who leaves school unable to read or write.

It is now widely recognised that school achievement is more strongly related to good teaching than to almost any other factor, including, within certain limits, class sizes. Recent studies have also been able to measure the effect of good teaching on the outcomes for pupils’ lives. A good teacher, the studies have shown, makes a measurable impact on pupils’ incomes (according to one American study up to $250,000 over a lifetime) and also produces better, happier citizens.

Recognising this, the changes announced yesterday aim to improve teaching with significant financial incentives and opportunities for the best principals to supervise more schools and improve their results, and for the best teachers to stay longer in the classroom, rather than move on to management, and to pass their skills to their colleagues. Collaboration across schools so the best practices get spread more widely will be encouraged.

One of the reforms will provide for up to 20 so-called “change principals” to earn an additional $50,000 a year for up to five years running schools that are struggling. This idea of trying to attract the best people to such schools to try to turn them around is obviously far better than allowing them to hobble along producing poor results and sometimes eventually falling over and having to be rescued anyway.

Our tolerance for poor results should be low.

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Key and kids

January 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The prime minister’s yearly pilgrimage to Ratana took a detour this morning as he called into a Manawatu early childcare centre for a chat and some cookies. …

Childcare co-founder Lorelei Dekker said the children have been prepping for the prime minister’s visit all week, learning the 101 of New Zealand politics, preparing questions and baking biscuits.

”Their confidence was incredible,” she said.

”He was great at interacting with the kids, he made it all about them and he wasn’t afraid to get down and get dirty, even eating an apple with the children.

”He provides a good role model for our children and at the end of it he was just a normal guy that can talk to kids and that’s just fantastic.”

The PM genuinely loves interacting with kids. I’m not sure if he still does it, but I know his first few years in office, he would always do hand written replies to letters from kids.

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Some fisking

January 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matt Nolan at TVHE fisks Rob Salmond over his claims to be revealing the truth about income inequality in NZ. he points out numerous flaws, including how his figures are not per capita, so as more population enter the highest income band, this exaggerates income growth. Nolan also makes the point:

We have seen median income growth outstrip mean income growth in NZ for a long period of time, implying that static inequality has come down a little bit. 

Another claim which should be fisked is David Cunliffe who said:

“Kids don’t leave their lives at the school gate. When kids go to school hungry and one in five doesn’t even own two pairs of shoes, we can’t expect them to achieve.

I’ve looked long and hard for a source for this claim, but can’t find one. Can anyone find one?

What I could find was the latest NZ Living Standards Report which does ask if everyone in a household has two pairs of good or sturdy shoes. And 92% said they did, and only 5% said they did not because they couldn’t afford it.

Now 20% is four times greater than 5%, so that is some exaggeration.

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Scoop, Newsroom and the Internet Party

January 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

As many will have read by now, Alastair Thompson has resigned as interim General Secretary of the Internet Party:

Scoop website co-founder Alastair Thompson has resigned as interim general secretary of the Internet Party.

Mr Thompson is not available for further comment.

This is obviously a bad look for the Internet Party, losing the key administrative officer a week into it.

It also leaves Alastair in a vulnerable position. Can he immediately return to Scoop, despite having affiliated with a political party – even if now departed.

By coincidence also out yesterday was this announcement:

Sublime Group Ltd is increasing its presence in the media business by seeking to acquire NewsRoom from NZX, says Craig Pellett, CEO of Sublime Group (www.sublimegroup.net). The NewsRoom acquisition is expected to be formally completed shortly.

“Our acquisition of NewsRoom is designed to support our recent investment in and restructuring plans for Scoop Holdings Ltd, which owns Scoop.co.nz,” says Craig Pellett.

“The acquisition is a clear indication that we are committed to being a serious player in the online media sector in New Zealand.”

“NewsRoom is both separate from but also highly complementary to Scoop’s suite of products and when the two are formally aligned under a common legal and management structure together they will provide a strong foundation for future growth. That is our intention, subject to agreement by the board and shareholders of Scoop Holdings Ltd,” he says.

Scoop was a breakaway from Newsroom over a decade ago, and so it is interesting they have ended up back together again. I suspect they’ll merge at some point.

A related challenge is that both media outlets will now be under the effective control of Selwyn Pellett, a prominent Labour activist and donor. How will they deal with editorial independence?

So interesting times in the online media and political worlds.

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Wairarapa Times-Age only giving the Opposition columns

January 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Wairarapa Times-Age has been running columns every Monday from National MP John Hayes, and Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty and Green candidate John Hart. All good.

But as John Hayes has announced he will retire at the election, they have decided that they will immediately terminate his column, and give it to the new National candidate when selected. This is some months off, so it means for a couple of months they will run columns only from Labour and the Greens. So much for balance.

Of course it is appropriate to have the column space filled by the new National candidate, but what harm is done by having it filled by the local MP until a candidate is selected. Do they think readers will benefit by not having anyone giving a viewpoint different to Labour and the Greens?

 

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Norman met Dotcom twice

January 24th, 2014 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

The Diary reports:

Russel Norman visited Dotcom’s mansion twice late last year to talk him out of entering politics, the Green Party co-leader told The Diary. And he left a rather large carbon footprint flying to Auckland Airport and hailing a Green cab for the 44km journey to Coatesville for the meetings.

“I met with him twice, about policy issues and his proposed party. I’ve got a lot of time for Kim, but I don’t support the Internet Party.”

Norman says although he backs some of Dotcom’s views on the GCSB and the internet, he feels he’d be competing for votes. “I tried to talk him out of setting up his party.”

Maybe Russell should have just offered him a spot on the Green Party list instead? Oh wait, he can’t stand for Parliament. But how interesting that the Greens are so worried by Dotcom’s party, that they flew Norman twice (paid for by taxpayers) to Auckland to meet with him and try and talk him out of it.

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More bad news for the manufactured crisis

January 24th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

James Weir at Stuff reports:

Manufacturing kept up its head of steam at the end of 2013, and it may do even better in future and hire more staff, with an industry survey showing continued expansion.

For the first time since 2007, manufacturing expanded every month in the year in 2013, according to latest BNZ-BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI).

The index was 56.4 in December, similar to November’s 57.0 and puts the quarter average at 56.5.

A figure above 50 shows the sector is expanding and below 50 that it is contracting.

BNZ economist Doug Steel said the firm PMI and robust details suggest that the strong rise in manufacturing GDP in the latest national accounts “was no fluke”. More manufacturing GDP growth is expected over coming quarters.”

Manufacturing GDP posted a hefty 1.5 per cent increase in the September quarter.

The latest PMI survey fits with estimates that manufacturing GDP posted another quarter of growth of more than 1 per cent in the December quarter, and looks on track for the same in the first quarter of 2014.

One of the positive signs in the latest PMI was the high level of new orders at 61.4. New orders have topped 60 points in five of the last six months. …

 Overall, BusinessNZ’s executive director for manufacturing Catherine Beard said that New Zealand’s manufacturing scene was a standout performer, compared with other countries during 2013.

It was only six months ago that Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana reported back on their manufactured manufacturing crisis. I think they’re so embarrassed by their Chicken Little routine, that the website is no longer operative.

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Bertaud on City Planning

January 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Alain Bertaud is the former principal urban planner for the World Bank and has written the introduction to the 10th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Some extracts:

Are planners in the worst performing cities paying any attention? And are they drawing any conclusions on how to improve the situation? Or do local governments conclude that the best way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to impose new regulations that will mandate developers to build housing units at prices, standards, and in locations selected by the government?

The last approach, under the name of inclusionary zoning is unfortunately the most common response, as recently seen, for instance, in New York and Mexico City.

Urban planners have been inventing all sorts of abstractly worded objectives to justify their plans for our future cities – smart growth, livability, sustainability, are among the most recent fads.

There is nothing wrong, of course, for a city to try to be smart, liveable, or sustainable.

But for some reasons these vague and benign sounding objectives usually become a proxy for imposing planning regulations that severely limit the supply of buildable land and the number of housing units built, resulting in ever higher housing prices. In the name of smart growth or sustainability, planners decide that densities should be lower in some places and higher in others.

Population densities are not a design parameter whose value depends on the whim of planners but are consumption indicators which are set by markets.

Even the Communist Party of China recently declared that resource allocation is best achieved through markets; why can’t urban planners in so-called market economies reach the same conclusions and let markets decide how much land and floor space households and firms will consume in different locations?

It is time for planners to abandon abstract objectives and to focus their efforts on two measurable outcomes that have always mattered since the growth of large cities during the 19th century’s industrial revolution: workers’ spatial mobility and housing affordability. …

A periodic regulatory audit should weed out obsolete regulations to allow an elastic land supply and to increase households’ ability to consume the amount of land and floor space that would maximize their welfare in the location of their choice. Part of the audit should concern the regulations, taxes, and administrative practices that unnecessarily increase transaction costs when building new housing units or selling or buying existing ones.

The twin objectives of maintaining mobility and housing affordability should drive the design, financing, and construction of trunk infrastructure.

Because the building of trunk infrastructure often requires the use of eminent domain, governments have a monopoly on its design and construction. Here is a new simple job description for urban planners: plan the development of trunk infrastructure to maintain a steady supply of developable land for future development, but leave land and floor consumption per dwelling to the market.

There is no silver bullet to increase the supply of affordable housing. But if planners abandoned abstracts and unmeasurable objectives like smart growth, liveability and sustainability to focus on what really matters – mobility and affordability – we could see a rapidly improving situation in many cities. I am not implying that planners should not be concerned with urban environmental issues. To the contrary, those issues are extremely important, but they should be considered a constraint to be solved not an end in itself.

Urban development should remain the main objective of urban planning.

A lot to agree with there.

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The Finlayson style guide

January 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

By popular request, Chris Finlayson has published his office style guide. I especially like the phrases to be avoided:

  • I note
  • I am aware
  • I understand
  • Delighted
  • Strategy
  • Accessible
  • Outcome
  • Passion
  • Passionate
  • Stakeholder
  • Community
  • National Identity
  • Nationhood
  • I acknowledge
  • ‘Sense of self’
  • cutting edge
  • engage
  • strengthen our voice
  • shared experience as a nation
  • Celebrate

Also how to be succinct:

  • Sentences should be as short as possible. Avoid wordy phrases that can be said more simply.  For example, amend:

      –  ‘in my view’ to ‘I think’; 

      –  ‘I am writing to thank you’ to ‘Thank you’;

      –  ‘you have stated that’ to ‘you said’;

      –  ‘I trust that’ to ‘I hope’;

      –  ‘I wish to acknowledge’ to ‘I acknowledge’;

      –  ‘there are of course’ to ‘there are’;

      –  ‘I would like’ to ‘I want’;

This style guide may catch on!

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A leak involving TV3

January 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An online broadcast of the Prime Minister’s state of the nation speech took live streaming to a whole new level after a reporter treated viewers to, er, a stream of his own. 

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower needed a toilet break after John Key’s speech today but forgot something – his mic was still turned on.

Listeners – thankfully there was no camera in there – were treated to an unmistakable tinkling sound.

Gower was taking it all in good humour, dubbing the incident “leakgate” and said “it could have been lot worse”.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of leaks in my time, but this is the first time it actually involved me taking one. 

“I was caught short, I admit that but I will say this: It could have been a hell of lot worse.”

He offered his apologies to anyone who might have been affected by leakgate. 

Gower is closing the door on a ministerial inquiry.

“I blame technical difficulties that were beyond my control,” he said.

“I am responsible but not to blame. For that reason, I have decided against a high-powered and wide-ranging inquiry.”

That would be a leak inquiry.

This also happened once to a CNN reporter, but worse her toilet break was broadcast on top of a speech by President Bush where she dissed her sister in law.

But probably the worst ever accidential open mike:

Oh dear.

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Educational Reaction

January 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Generally excellent reactions to the major educational reforms announced yesterday. First the positives starting with the PPTA (a phrase not uttered often):

Government plans to put resources into teaching and learning rather than finance and administration are being greeted with optimism by PPTA.

President Angela Roberts said Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that $359 million would be invested in teaching and school leadership over the next four years was a positive one.

She praised his commitment to ““support a culture of collaboration within and across schools” and said the creation of principal and teacher positions to provide leadership and support across communities of schools marked the beginning of a collaborative approach long sought by PPTA.

The Principals’ Federation were almost gushing:

Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding said the announcements were significant for both principals and teachers.

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

The Secondary Principals Association were even more positive:

Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons called it a “wonderful initiative”.

“It’s super, what a game changer, what a tremendous thing.

“They’ve taken the politics out of this and are just looking at the welfare and the benefits for every New Zealander at school now, and in the future.”

Parsons, who is principal of Queen Charlotte College in Picton, has been a critic of many Government policies in the past two years, including the introduction of national standards.

But he joined the PPTA in its view that industry involvement was crucial and the new policies would lift student achievement.

The only union which couldn’t overcome its political antipathy to National was the NZEI:

Creating a new elite group of “change principals” and “expert teachers” misses the biggest reason children do not succeed at school – New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty and deprivation.

With “change principals” the government is again imposing a failed overseas experiment and putting ideology ahead of what will really work for children’s education.”

The NZEI couldn’t bring themselves to saying one good thing about the announcement. This speaks volumes about their motivations.

Meanwhile the school Trustees are excited:

It is good to hear the commitment to working through the practicalities through consultation with the sector, and NZSTA is looking forward to playing a constructive part in those discussions. We have all shown a lot of good faith over the last year or so, including principals’ groups and teacher unions, by engaging in open discussions with Minister Parata. The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum is a good example. It hasn’t always been easy, so it’s good to see that investment in relationship-building bearing fruit.

If we do this right, there is potential for these new positions to make excellence contagious through all our schools. That will be our opportunity for 2014.

I like the phrase “to make excellence contagious”.

Also in support. The NZ Initiative:

The New Zealand Initiative has welcomed the introduction of a four new tiers of teaching positions as a huge step toward lifting the educational performance of New Zealand’s schools.

The think tank has long been a strong advocate for such a policy

The Canterbury Education Pro Vice-Chancellor:

A University of Canterbury (UC) education expert has endorsed the Government’s focus on quality teaching and strong school leadership.

Professor Gail Gillon, UC’s College of Education Pro-Vice Chancellor, says the Government has accurately identified one of the key challenges in the New Zealand schooling system.

“Closing the academic achievement gap between our high achieving students and our struggling learners must be a priority for New Zealand.

“Resourcing Expert and Lead Teachers, as well as Change and Executive Principals to help support a substantial shift in academic achievement in areas such as literacy maths and science education is a very positive step in the right direction.’’

Business NZ:

Targeted investment in principals and teachers is a strategic move that could significantly improve student skill levels, says BusinessNZ.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said funding for leadership and expert teaching in schools would be well placed, as research shows the quality of school leaders and teachers has a big impact on student achievement.

An Auckland University Education Professor:

Professor Graeme Aitken, the University of Auckland’s dean of education, said those in and considering the teaching profession had been given an “inspiring message” about career progression. They would be energised because of the prospect of not having to leave the classroom to progress their career.

And high-quality school leavers would have more reason to choose teaching as a career choice, he said.

The NZ Secondary Principals Council:

Allan Vester, chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council and head of Edgewater College in Pakuranga, said the sharing of knowledge and ideas between schools was crucial.

Vernon Small:

Ask anyone which party is most likely to boost the pay of more than one in ten of the country’s 50,000 teachers by $10,000 a year, no wage wrangling needed, and it’s a fair bet National would not be top of mind.

But that is exactly what John Key did with his education announcement yesterday in a cheeky foray into Labour’s heartland.

It was the latest example of National’s election year plan to trash suggestions it is inflexible, doctrinaire or plum out of new ideas.

Tracy Watkins:

As Key observed after this morning’s announcement, there wasn’t a parent in New Zealand whose heart would not sink if they found out next week their child’s new teacher was a dud – or in Key’s words, “not that great”.

That is why today’s plan will resonate not just with National’s core constituency but also with Labour’s.

National’s plan is to give teachers a reason to stay in front of the classroom rather than move up into management positions in pursuit of better pay.

The Dom Post editorial:

Debates over education tend to be dust-ups in the desert: hot, dry, and futile. John Key’s new proposals are welcome because they are fresh and do not simply cover old ground. They try to build on the strengths of the system and they offer co-operation with the workforce. These are welcome ideas and worth serious discussion. …

Rewarding teachers and principals for sharing their knowledge fits well into the cooperative style of the workforce. And who could object to the sharing of that talent with the more deprived schools? It is the long tail of underachievement, as everyone knows, that is the weak point of our school system. We need to use our inevitably small pool of talent to help kids in poor areas. The new scheme will help with this.

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Government’s bold overhaul of the teaching system presents a challenge to any opponents. How can you be highly critical of steps to lift schools’ performance that have been recommended by the OECD’s leading educationalist and are backed by a large body of international research?

It’s difficult, but the Greens have managed it! They just ignore the research. I’ll come to them.

The cost will not be cheap. A sum of $359 million will be allocated over four years with an ongoing cost of more than $150 million annually. But astutely targeted investment is always worthwhile. And teachers will not be the only winners. Ultimately, children, and especially those in poor socio-economic areas, will benefit. So, too, as performance lifts, will the reputation of this country’s education system.

A worthwhile investment.

Audrey Young:

Prime Minister John Key is on to a winner with his big plans to financially reward excellent teachers and principals.

Key has identified an age-old problem in schools that really good teachers often leave the classroom to progress their careers.

Credible research over the years has linked good teaching to good results by pupils.

Most of us know that anecdotally because we’ve experienced it.

Indeed we have.

So who is against. Matthew Hooton calls it a bold step left and giving into the unions.

Labour can’t really find anything to attack, so merely say we’ll do something like it also and have the normal blame it all on inequality:

National’s underwhelming announcement fails to address the real cause of poor educational performance, which is growing inequality, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

NZ First is mainly supportive:

New Zealand First has commended the extra $359 million the Government is investing in education, but has pointed out that there is no extra funding to get more teachers in our schools.

The most hysterical (not in a good way) reaction was on Twitter. The level of Key Derangement Syndrome there is so great that National could announce free tertiary education for every New Zealanders and many of the normal suspects will decry it as a right wing policy designed to enrich Merrill Lynch. Bryce Edwards has a summary of the tweets, and it is a good reminder of how deranged so many people there are with one labelling it “corporatisation of the education system” which is hilarious considering it is all about sharing and collaboration.

The most negative of all was the Green Party:

National’s announcement of four additional teacher roles won’t address the key reason for our decline in education performance, growing inequality, says the Green Party.

“Growing inequality in New Zealand is negatively impacting on our kids learning. Sick and hungry kids can’t learn. This policy does nothing for kids and families living in poverty.

Let’s put this one to bed. Even if this was true (it is not), this is an announcement on education, not welfare. Turei seems to say we should do nothing to improve the education system while some families are poorer than others. How depressing. I want to see more families doing better, but there is no magic wand. Getting people out of poverty is often a generational thing as you have to confront parenting skills, welfare dependency, employment, drug and alcohol issues, and oh yeah education.

But let’s deal with the big lie. I call it a lie, because the amount of research on what influences educational outcomes is massive. There have been over 50,000 studies. Over 800 meta-analysis done involving 200 million students. Professor John Hattie has done a meta meta analysis of all these studies and identified 138 factors that influence educational outcomes. Not one factor, but 138. Greens think there is just one.

Now socio-economic status is important. It definitely is an influence. There have been 499 studies that looked at its effect. But is it the biggest influence. No. Is it second? No. Third? No. Top 10? Still no. Top 20? Still a no. It is No 32 and home environment by the way is No 31.

So the next time the Greens say the key reason for educational decline is poverty or income inequality, don’t beat around the bush. Call them a liar.

I’m delighted though the Greens have condemned the plans. Parents deserve a choice about the future for their kids, and it looks like they will get one. Bring on the election.

 

 

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The 2013 Kiwiblog Award Winners

January 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Over 500 readers voted in the 2013 Kiwblog Awards. We have the results …. drum roll …

First the closest fought category – Press Gallery Journalist of the Year

The winner is Andrea Vance with 55%, just ahead of Hamish Rutherford on 45%.

Then we have the Minor Party MP of the Year.

With 46% of the vote, Clint of Hey Clint fame is the clear winner. He’s seen as having performed better than those who he advises! Runner up was Kevin Hague on 24% so Green Party figures clean up. Peter Dunne 3rd on 17%, Winston Peters on 11% and Hone Harawira on 35.

The Labour Party MP of the Year was a landslide.

Shane Jones may have got only 13% of Labour Party members voting for him, but he got the vote of 50% of Kiwiblog readers. Louisa Wall was a creditable second at 29% and new Leader David Cunliffe got 20%.

The National Party MP of the Year was an even bigger landslide.

Bill English cleans up with a huge surplus on 61%. Steven Joyce was favoured by 19%, Tony Ryall by 11% and Gerry Brownlee by 10%. Only MPs who received multiple nominations were included in the ballot.

Finally we have the overall MP of the Year.

This category included the Prime Minister, so was more closely fought. But once again the Finance Minister came up trumps with 48% support. PM Key was on 40% and Tony Ryall smooth handling of health had 12% pick him ahead of the PM and Deputy PM.

The list of winners over time are:

Press Gallery Journalist of the Year

  • 2013 – Andrea Vance
  • 2012 – Rodney Hide
  • 2010 – Guyon Espiner
  • 2009 – John Armstrong
  • 2008 – Audrey Young
  • 2007 – Fran O’Sullivan

Minor Party MP of the Year

  • 2013 – Clint
  • 2012 – Russel Norman
  • 2010 – John Boscawen
  • 2009 – Tariana Turia
  • 2008 – Rodney Hide
  • 2007 – Heather Roy

Labour Party MP of the Year

  • 2013 – Shane Jones
  • 2012 – David Cunliffe
  • 2010 – Grant Robertson
  • 2009 – John Key
  • 2008 – Winston Peters
  • 2007 – Phil Goff

National Party MP of the Year

  • 2013 – Bill English
  • 2012 – Chris Finlayson
  • 2010 – Steven Joyce
  • 2009 – Steven Joyce
  • 2008 – John Key
  • 2007 – Bill English

MP of the Year

  • 2013 – Bill English
  • 2012 – Russel Norman
  • 2010 – John Key
  • 2009 – Lockwood Smith
  • 2008 – Rodney Hide
  • 2007 – John Key
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Why does Labour never rail against private crown prosecutors?

January 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Crown Law Office has just published the terms of office for crown solicitors. Many outside the legal profession may be unaware that Crown Law prosecutes very few cases directly. They contract private law firms and lawyers to do it for them as Crown Solicitors.

For those interested the remuneration rates are $240 an our for a senior prosecutor, $192 for an intermediate one and $140 for a junior prosecutor. This is rather more than legal aid rates which vary from $92 an hour to $159 an hour.

Now I’ve got no issue with the long-standing practice of having private law firms be contracted to Crown Law to prosecute criminals. And I presume Labour doesn’t either, as they never changed the practice when in Government, and have no policy to do so.

But it makes me wonder how it fits in with their jihad against private prisons. They say:

Labour believes that incarceration should be the responsibility of the state. There are few more serious powers that a government has than taking away someone’s liberty.

We believe that the act of taking away someone’s liberty and freedom is one of the most invasive state responsibilities, and as such needs to be handled as a core state role.

So on this basis, how can Labour claim the private sector can have no role in managing the prison, but they are fine to prosecute the offenders which leads to them going into prison? I’d say prosecution is arguably far more of a core crown responsibility than merely managing a prison.

My best guess is it comes down to unions. Labour tends to oppose the private sector when it seeks to be involved in an area where the public sector equivalent is highly unionised. Because unions fund, support and even vote on policy and candidates for Labour. So Labour’s often major motivation is to get more members for unions.

Public prison officers and public school teachers tend to be unionised, so charter schools and private prisons are a threat to them, as it may result in fewer union members and hence less support from unions.

Crown lawyers are not particularly unionised, so there is no advantage to Labour in having prosecutions done solely by Crown Law Office. Hence their wildly inconsistent policies, which they dress up as principle.

So the next time Labour rails against private prisons, ask them why they don’t have a problem with private law firms prosecuting on behalf of the state – surely a function which is far more core than merely managing a prison under terms set down by the Department of Corrections.

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Shane Jones wins the battle over oil drilling in Labour

January 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Leader David Cunliffe yesterday said Labour supported deep sea oil and gas exploration “in principle” but would pass laws to toughen environmental protection. …

His comments were in line with those of deputy David Parker last year which followed mixed messages from the party, with economic development spokesman Shane Jones extolling the benefits in terms of jobs while other MPs such as Phil Twyford attended anti-Anadarko protests. Mr Cunliffe yesterday said New Zealand’s law didn’t require world’s best practice in deep sea oil exploration, “so we will be changing the law so it does and we will expect future consents to meet those standards”.

That’s a big victory for Shane Jones. He has been almost the lone voice in favour of deep sea drilling, but now Labour is officially in favour of it also. I suspect it won’t stop some of its MPs still leading protest marches against it though, as they maintain their Yeah, Na strategy.

Of course if there is a change of Government, the Greens might make banning all mining and drilling a condition for coalition!

But for now, good to see some more rational policy from Labour.

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Absolutely brilliant!

January 23rd, 2014 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

I absolutely love the announcements made today by the Prime Minister around education. There are a lot of things that I have to fund as a taxpayer that I resent. But paying top teachers and top principals more is not one of them. The international research is crystal clear that the biggest single factor in a child’s educational sucess is the quality of their teacher. Rewarding top principals and teachers with new roles that can pay between $10,000 and $50,000 more in an excellent investment.

The details announced by the PM are:

So today I am announcing four new roles for principals and teachers in New Zealand schools, and investing an extra $359 million into teaching and school leadership over the next four years.

These are changes that will benefit kids across New Zealand, because high-quality teaching leads to better achievement at school.

The first new role is an Executive Principal.

Executive Principals will be the top principals from across the country.

They will provide leadership across communities of schools, supporting other principals to raise student achievement.

We envisage there will be around 250 Executive Principals, or about one for every 10 schools, on average.

An Executive Principal will remain in charge of their own school but be released for two days a week to work across a grouping of schools, which will include primary and secondary schools.

Executive Principals will have a proven track record in raising achievement and they will pass on their knowledge and expertise to other principals.

They will be appointed by an external panel, for up to four years. Executive Principals will be paid an annual allowance of $40,000 on top of their existing salary, and they will be judged on their results.

So that’s the first new role.

The second is a similar sort of position, again working across a group of schools, but at the teacher level.

These teachers we are calling Expert Teachers, and we intend to establish around 1,000 of these new positions.

Expert Teachers will have a proven track record in raising the performance of their students, particularly in maths, science, technology and literacy.

Expert Teachers will be based in their usual school, but will be released for two days a week to work across their school grouping, under the guidance of their Executive Principal.

They will get alongside other teachers, working with them to develop and improve classroom practice and raise student achievement.

Executive Principals will oversee the appointment of Expert Teachers and the appointment will be for up to four years. They will be paid an annual allowance of $20,000 on top of their usual salary.

Executive Principals and Expert Teachers will drive a whole new level of collaboration between schools and between teachers, with best practice becoming widespread across school communities.

The third new role we are going to introduce is for the top teachers in schools.

We want the best teachers to be recognised for improving student achievement and to act, in a formal sense, as role models for other teachers.

So we are going to introduce a new role – a Lead Teacher. There will be around 5,000 Lead Teacher positions across the country.

Lead Teachers will be high-performing teachers who can demonstrate the best classroom practice.

Their classrooms will be open to other teachers almost all the time, so teachers can observe and discuss classroom practice with a model professional.

Lead Teachers will be paid an annual allowance of $10,000 on top of their existing salary. That allowance is in recognition of their status and their new responsibility in helping other teachers to raise achievement.

These new roles of Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers means more good teachers will stay in a teaching role, because they can see a career path that keeps them in the classroom where they are so effective. And that has huge benefits for the children they teach.

We are going to give extra funding to schools so teachers can take time out of their normal classroom to work with Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.

And we are also going to establish a $10 million fund for schools and teachers to develop and research effective teaching practice in areas such as writing, maths, science and digital literacy.

The final change I want to announce today is that we are also going to better match up schools that are really struggling, with really excellent principals.

To do this we are going to establish a new role of Change Principal.

Change Principals will be top principals who are paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year to go to a struggling school and turn it around.

Around 20 Change Principals will be appointed each year, for up to five years.

At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging.

We are going to change that.

So those are the four new roles we are creating – Executive Principals, Change Principals, Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.

So that is $10,000 more for 5,000 Lead Teachers, $20,000 more for 1,000 Expert Teachers, $40,000 more for 250 Executive Principals and $50,000 more for 20 Change Principals – and most of them having a focus on not just helping their school, but helping their neighbouring schools also.

What is great is good teachers can earn more just by being good at their job, without having to move from the classroom into administration.

I’ve been waiting almost decades for a Government to do something like this, and reward top teachers with more pay. It should both lead to better recruitment and retention, but also should lead to teaching being seen as just as professional and important a vocation to go into, as medicine and law. The NZ Initiative reports on education nightlight how important it is to have teaching seen as an esteemed profession.

Some of the international research around the importance of teacher quality is:

The 2009 report by the international McKinsey agency, shows that over three years, learning with a high performing teacher rather than a low performing teacher can make a 53-percentage point difference for two students who start at the same achievement level.

There is also a quote from Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills for the OECD, January 2014 about the proposed changes.

 “Top school systems pay attention to how they select and train their staff, they watch how they improve the performance of teachers who are struggling and how to structure teachers’ pay and career. They provide intelligent pathways for teachers to grow in their careers with an environment in which teachers work together to frame good practice.

“The reforms now being introduced (in New Zealand), with real career paths, support and evaluation, and recognition including monetary rewards, hold the promise for New Zealand to join that group of countries.”

 I hope all stakeholders in the education sector will welcome this investment. They’d be mad not to.

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What will Labour do with the $1.5 billion?

January 23rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Smellie at Stuff reports:

Just about anyone who pays income tax earns more than $5000 a year, so every single taxpayer would have benefited from the move, largely offsetting Labour’s intention to raise the top income tax rate from 33 cents in the dollar to 39 cents anyway.

That is a good thing, not a bad thing, that all taxpayers would get a reduction in their tax. Every taxypayer would get $525. However with the top rate going up 6%, those who earn more than $8,750 over the top rate threshold would have ended up paying more.

But I always like to look at tax cuts as a percentage of actual tax paid. The $5,000 tax free threshold would mean tax on $20,000 would reduce by 20.8%, tax on $50,000 by 6.5% and tax on $100,000 by 2.2%.

However, by giving itself a $1.5b kitty to play with, Labour has opened up a significant flank for election year attack by National. In effect, Labour is saying that rather than give you your tax money back by exempting fresh produce and the first $5000 of income, we’ll decide how to spend it for you.

Whatever it proposes had better look attractive to the swinging, middle-of-the-road voters that Labour needs to bring its way this year if it’s to have a hope of governing after the election.

I hope Labour does offer a different form of tax cuts. My worry is they will only offer tax increases, and pledge to take more money off families that are working and give it to families not working.

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Results matter, not location

January 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Beneficiary advocates are angry that an Australian company has emerged as the big winner in an experiment that will pay contractors up to $12,000 to help a sole parent or a person with mental health issues into paid work.

How terrible. A company wins a contract to help people into work.

Perth-company Advanced Personnel Management (APM) has won pilot contracts for people with mental health conditions in Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch and Southland, and for sole parents in the Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Nelson and Canterbury – more than any local agency in the Work and Income tender.

So why is this?

APM’s website describes the company as “the largest private sector provider of Australian Government funded vocational rehabilitation services and disability employment services”. It says New Zealand operations started in 2012 with vocational rehabilitation contracts with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

Because they already have significant experience in this area.

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation co-ordinator Kay Brereton said the contracts should have gone to more local agencies such as the West Auckland Living Skills Homes (Walsh Trust), which won one of the mental health contracts, and the Kawerau Job Centre, which won a sole-parent contract.

So they also won contracts, but the whinge is that this Australian company won some also. I’m in favour of having lots of companies win contracts, and then judge them on results.

Strive Community Trust chief executive Sharon Wilson-Davis said she did not bid for the contracts and allowed an existing sole-parent contract to end late last year because she felt it would be impossible to achieve the work placements required to earn fees under the new pilots.

“A lot of these people certainly want to work but sometimes you are better off to get them into further training,” she said.

“Otherwise if you push them into these low-paying jobs, then when those jobs go they are back in the same place.”

Glad they are not one of the companies, with an attitude that it is better to remain out of work entirely, than take up a low paying job which might not last forever.

After the outward signs of success collapsed around her, Misty Leong was comforted by her teenage son.

When her husband left, she had to give up her successful real estate business to look after her daughter who was just 2, her son, and her own elderly mother.

It was 2009, in the early panic of the global financial crisis, and no one was buying houses anyway. Ms Leong went bankrupt. Her $1.8 million property was lost.

“I lost my health, money, property, everything,” she says. “But my son, he says: ‘Mum, you are still strong.”‘

Born in China 46 years ago and brought up in Macau, Ms Leong came to New Zealand in 1989. She worked as a waitress, then in a factory, but quickly opened her own takeaway bar in Forrest Hill on Auckland’s North Shore.

Later she and her husband and a partner started a gardening and home service business, and from there Ms Leong moved into real estate with Century 21 in 2002.

When it all collapsed, she was bereft. “I had no food, no income, no anything. My husband left me with all the business debts and didn’t help me with the children at all,” she says.

Sounds an awful situation. To go from being a business owner with significant assets to bankrupt would be a terrible blow.

She got the domestic purposes benefit. She never stopped looking for a job but had no luck.

But then …

Her break came when Work and Income referred her in February last year to In-Work NZ, the country’s biggest private contractor of welfare-to-work programmes. Within two months she landed a checkout job at Devonport’s New World supermarket. It was only 16 hours a week at first, but in July her hours increased to 22 and the in-work tax credit of an extra $60 a week, paid to single adults working at least 20 hours a week or couples working 30 hours between them, allowed her to move off the benefit.

Still a long way from where she was, but what a great work ethic to not turn your nose up at working in a supermarket.

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Shearer gets it – partially

January 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

David Shearer writes in the Herald:

My research took me to a wonderful school, Owairaka District School, where 8-year-old students served me a lunch of vegetarian pizza from their own pizza oven, salad from their garden, and muffins made with eggs from their chickens and honey from their hives.

Owairaka is a decile 2 school but the children are kept nourished and learning through this innovative garden-to-table programme.

But more critically, they are picking up the lifetime skills of gardening and food preparation – and they are doing it alongside family and community volunteers who also benefit.

It’s win, win, win – so much better than a hand-out for the kids – and it raised a question I have grappled with since my bill was drawn.

Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?

No. It is excellent a Labour MP sees this. Better late than never.

My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking.

Yes.

There’s another critical need for a programme focused on nutrition. New Zealand has 275,000 overweight and obese children. Surely part of what we are teaching – in a practical way – should be around nutrition and good foods to eat.

There are two issues here – obesity and kids going to school without breakfast.

The latter is basically due to bad parenting. It costs just 39 cents  a day to give a child weetbix and milk for breakfast. If a kid is going to school without breakfast, it is not because of lack of money. Low income families get an extra $65 per week per child (plus up to $152 a week for the first child) to help cover the costs of a child.

Nutrition is an important issue, and educating kids on nutrition is worthwhile. Educating parents probably more so. But this can take many forms. I know scores of people who use smartphone apps to check nutritional content of food, and make decisions based on it.

Unfortunately, our current Government has done the opposite. In 2009, then Education Minister Anne Tolley removed the national guidelines to schools which stated that only healthy options should be available where food and beverages are sold at schools.

Sigh, now back to being the food police.  Almost no food in moderation is inherently unhealthy. Trying to categorise foods into always good and always bad is simplistic.

My bill originally aimed to legislate for food to be available in every decile 1, 2 and 3 school that wants it, so poorer communities can have confidence their children won’t be hungry at school.

That’s a start, but I’m going back to the drawing board so we can address the issues of nutrition and encourage self-reliance. We have lost the basic skills of how to garden and provide for ourselves.

So my aim is that my Food in Schools Bill will put resources into schools to help teach those simple skills, and enable kids to eat the food they grow themselves and understand a healthy diet.

Sounds an improvement. But to be honest the elephant in the room is the parents. If the parents do not understand nutrition and a healthy diet, then expecting teachers to change the eating habits of kids is a big ask.

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Why is Daljit Singh still an Immigration Advisor?

January 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Daljit Singh was found guilty of two counts of using forged documents on the 12th of December.

S16 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 states (paraphrased):

a person who has been convicted, whether in New Zealand or in another country, of a crime involving dishonesty must not be licensed unless the Registrar is satisfied that the nature of the relevant offence or matter is unlikely to adversely affect the person’s fitness to provide immigration advice

So why a month later, does the Immigration Advisers Authority still list Daljit Singh as a licensed immigration adviser?

Even worse, they state his licence renewal is in progress!

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Will take more than want

January 22nd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Finance Minister Bill English says he wants Google, Apple and Starbucks and other multinationals to pay more tax and hopes the issue will be raised at economic talks this week.

One can want them to do many things, but they’re not going to. Of course they will locate their tax base in a country with a lower company tax rate.

The minister said this morning that getting corporates to pay their fair share of tax required international collaboration.

“We’re very keen to see them pay more tax. The tricky bit is that it requires combined international action,” he told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

“A whole range of countries are going to need to agree on tax rules for companies like Google and Apple and Starbucks and any number of corporates that you can think of.

Yep there is no unilateral solution. But even multinational co-operation has its limits. It takes just one country not to agree, and that is the country where those companies will be established for tax purposes. It will be good if they can get agreement.

Although Google and other companies had local offices in New Zealand, their tax bills were believed to be out of proportion with their reported sales in this country.

That’s because tax is paid on profits, not sales. ‘ll use a good example.

The latest APN financial statement has revenue of $461 million. Their tax was $652,000. Their tax as a percentage of sales was 0.14%. This is clearly out of proportion to their sales, and APN should immediately pay a fairer proportion.

How about a fair “living tax” of 5% on sales? This would mean APN pays tax of $23 million instead of $652,0000 and Fairfax would pay A$100 million instead of zero. Isn’t this the logical outcome of repeated reporting by APN and Fairfax of other companies’ tax bills in relation to their sales instead of their profits?

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Some electoral tweaking

January 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Late last year the Justice and Electoral Select Committee reported back the Electoral Amendment Bill, which was implementing recommendations from the 2011 election inquiry.

There’s a few changes made by the select committee. They are:

  • Removing the proposed ban on displaying streamers, ribbons and rosettes on election day
  • Allowing the High Court to order a recalculation of the allocation of list seats if there is a successful electorate electoral petition
  • Requiring voters to verbally confirm their identity when being issued voting papers, so one can’t just use an Easy Vote card to get issued voting papers

All seem very sensible.

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Brown may seek a third term!

January 22nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Len Brown has hinted at seeking a third Super City mayoral term in 2016, saying the factors that will guide him are the support of his wife, Shan Inglis, and maintaining his love and passion for the city. …

Asked whether he would seek a third term in 2016, Mr Brown said “There are two things that would determine my view in terms of the role that I have here. The first is that my family support me and the second is that so long as I maintain my love and my passion for our city and our people – and I do, I love this place and I love our people in the very best and the worst of times – then I would do the job.”

I hope he does stand again. That would guarantee a centre-right Mayor.

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Labour dumps tax cuts

January 22nd, 2014 at 12:14 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour has officially dropped its policies of having the first $5000 of earnings tax free and of removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables Leader David Cunliffe said this morning.

The policies were adopted in the run up to the 2011 election under then-Leader Phil Goff but Mr Cunliffe’s immediate predecessor David Shearer in his first major speech as leader almost two years ago indicated that the policies would be dumped.

Labour estimated the policies would cost the Government about $1.5 billion a year in lost revenue.

The GST off fresh fruit and vegetables policy was a piece of populist nonsense and it is good to see it gone. It would have complicated a tax that is praised globally for its simplicity, and achieved little.

The $5,000 tax free earnings policy had some merit – it would have delivered tax reductions to every taxpayer. There is a case to be made that no one should pay tax until they are earning enough to live on, as otherwise you just give it back to them in welfare and have wasteful churn.

“While these were worthwhile policies , we believe there are better ways to help struggling Kiwi families”, Mr Cunliffe said.

Will this be a different form of tax cuts, or just spending increases? I hope Labour go into 2014 offering tax cuts. They offered $1.5 billion of tax cuts in 2011. They may not have been well targeted particularly, but they were tax cuts. Will they offer anything to taxpayers in 2014? Or just tax increases?

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