Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Crown wraps up Singh electoral fraud trial

December 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

3  News reports:

A wealth of evidence suggests Daljit Singh and seven supporters falsely enrolled several people to increase his chances of winning an Auckland local board election, a jury has been told.

Crown lawyer Robin McCoubrey told jurors that documentary and text evidence showed Singh and his supporters were obtaining addresses of people from well outside Auckland in the lead-up to the Otara-Papatoetoe local board elections in 2010.

Mr McCoubrey was delivering his closing address at the High Court in Auckland, eight weeks after the trial of Singh and seven supporters on charges of using false documents began.

Mr McCoubrey says names, addresses and birth details of several people in the Punjabi community were obtained.

They were then sent to the Electoral Enrolment Centre (EEC) to notify them of a change of address so they were registered as living in the Otara-Papatoetoe area, without the knowledge of the people involved.

Mr McCoubrey says several of the people he says were falsely enrolled had testified that they weren’t interested in voting in Singh’s area.

Several of the documents sent to the EEC had fingerprints of the accused on them, and text messages between the accused showed they knew what they were doing, Mr McCoubrey said.

I didn’t realise they had fingerprint evidence. That makes it very hard to deny or explain.
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Best terms of trade in 40 years

December 2nd, 2013 at 2:52 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

New Zealand’s merchandise terms of trade rose 7.5 percent in the September 2013 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The latest increase was due to export prices for goods rising more than import prices.

“Dairy export prices helped lift the terms of trade to their highest level since 1973,” prices manager Chris Pike said. “Both the terms of trade and export prices have been on the rise since the start of this year, reflecting higher dairy prices.”

Terms of trade is a measure of the purchasing power of New Zealand’s exports abroad. An increase means New Zealand can buy more imports for the same amount of exports.

In the latest quarter, the price of exported goods rose 8.9 percent, while seasonally adjusted export volumes fell 2.1 percent. Both price and volume movements were strongly influenced by dairy products.

In the September 2013 quarter, dairy export prices rose 24 percent to their highest level since 2008, and are now 46 percent higher than a year ago. Seasonally adjusted dairy export volumes fell 2.7 percent, which is the fourth consecutive quarterly fall. Seasonally adjusted dairy product values rose 20 percent, following a 4.7 percent fall in the June 2013 quarter.

So which political party wants NZ to doubly decimate our dairy herd (reduce it by 20%) in order to fight climate change? I wonder how many votes know Green party policy is to reduce NZ’s dairy herd by 20%, at a time that dairy prices are giving us the best terms of trade in 40 years. It’s almost an economic suicide note.

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The 2013 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 2nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for the 120 (currently) MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 4.7 (+0.3 from 2012, which is a reasonable increase)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 5.2 (-0.5)
  2. National 5.1 (+0.2)
  3. Labour 4.6 (+0.6)
  4. Green 4.4 (+0.4)
  5. United Future 4.0 (-2.5)
  6. NZ First 3.3 (-0.1)
  7. Mana 2.5 (-2.0)
  8. ACT 1.0 (+1.0)

The small parties all get pretty hammered. NZ First says much the same, and National, Greens and Labour all go up. Labour’s average rating has increased the most.

Top MPs

  1. Bill English 9.0 (+1.5)
  2. John Key 8.5 (+0.5)
  3. David Cunliffe 7,5 (+3.0)
    Steven Joyce 7.5 (+0.5)
    Tim Groser 7.5 (nc)
    Chris Finlayson 7.5 (-0.5)
    Judith Collins 7.5 (nc)
    Paula Bennett 7.5 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. John Banks 1 (+1.0)
    Rajan Prasad 1.0 (nc)
    Brendan Horan 1.0 (-1.0)

Top Labour MPs

  1. David Cunliffe 7.5 (+3.0)
  2. David Parker 7.0 (+0.5)
    Phil Goff 7.0 (+0.5)
    Annette King 7.0 (+1.0)
    Chris Hipkins 7.0 (+1.5)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Russel Norman 7.0 (-1.0)
    Winston Peters 7.0 (nc)
  2. Tariana Turia 6.5 (+0.5)
  3. Metiria Turei 6.0 (nc)
    Te Ururoa Flavell 6.0 (nc)
    Kevin Hague 6.0 (+1.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. David Cunliffe +3.0
    Hekia Parata +3.0
  2. Paul Goldsmith +2.5

Biggest Decreases

  1. Peter Dunne -2.5
  2. Phil Heatley -2.0
    Hone Harawira -2.0
    Pita Sharples -2.0

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.3 (+0.3)
  2. Cabinet 6.7 (+0.6)
  3. National frontbench 7.4 (+0.6)
  4. Labour frontbench 5.8 (+1.7)
  5. National backbench 4.0 (nc)

The Cabinet have improved their rankings this year and the National front bench are scoring very highly. However a significant increase for Labour’s front bench which finally has most of their strongest MPs on it.

Worth noting that as always, I of course disagree with some of the ratings. Some of the National backbench ratings are seriously astray for example.

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The Green Party suppression of dissent

December 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Would-be Green Party leadership challenger David Hay – whose application to stand as a candidate for the party has been rejected – says he is not finished with the party and will today call on the party’s volunteers and candidates to rally behind him.

At number 16 on the party list, Mr Hay was not far off a seat in Parliament with the Greens at the last election. However, following his threat to challenge Russel Norman for co-leadership last week, the party executive on Saturday said he would not be allowed to stand next year.

That prompted Mr Hay to call for both co-leaders Dr Norman and Metiria Turei to stand down.

Last night he told the Herald he planned to increase the pressure on the two co-leaders today by calling on party volunteers to “go on strike”.

That would involve asking them to cease their work on behalf of the party.

The Greens have for years boasted of how democratic their party is, and how they decide things by consensus etc. And then a party member who almost became an MP announces he will seek the co-leader role at their conference next year, and the party hierarchy ban him from being eligible to even be a candidate, let alone a co-leader.

To ban a member from being a candidate is a drastic step. National’s Board uses it very very rarely, and basically only uses it for people who are “mad” or “bad”.

The Greens could leave it up to individual electorates as to whether or not to have David Hay as a candidate. They could have left it up to their membership where to rank him as a candidate. But the party bosses have struck him down. Never again will Green cries of being different ring true.

“The other candidates and volunteers should be very fearful. If they can do this to me as number 16 on the party list … all bets are off in terms of who’s going to be next.”

He claimed Ms Turei was behind the party executive’s move to prevent him from standing next year. Party insiders had told him “it’s got her fingerprints all over it”.

“If this is the way the leadership is behaving we need to put a stop to that,” he said.

So the Greens are now the party where if you declare you want to stand for the leadership, you get banned from candidacy. Sounds like the current co-leaders are very desperate to avoid a vote. I suspect their concern if not that Norman would beat Hay, but that the size of the protest vote for Hay could show how much discontent there is.

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Beware the regulation

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

In themselves, the Government’s proposed amendments to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act contain a reasonable degree of common sense. What can be wrong with changes that aim to reduce the risk of children drowning? And if the new law would mean even portable or inflatable pools need to be fenced off, isn’t it right to encourage parents to adopt best practice and empty them after each use?

The only problem is that the proposal is a further sign of a Government regulatory itch that is now of eczematous proportion.

A fair point.

Regulation appeals to governments because it is the easiest response to a problem. But each affects people’s freedom in some way. At their worst, regulations can also skew patterns of investment and the use of economic resources. That is why any government is right to question whether a planned restriction is strictly necessary. And if one is implemented, it should watch it in practice, not least for unintended consequences, and continue to ask if it is justified.

The Government should, therefore, be asking if changes to the swimming pool legislation are necessary when the most stringent fencing will not save young children from all potential water hazards. Many pools are, after all, not far from beaches or lakes, which cannot be barricaded in the way that private pools are meant to be.

Kids can drown in baths. Maybe we should require baths to be fenced off. Also maybe Councils should have to fence off all streams, rivers and lakes. And kids have been known to fall down drains, so perhaps we need to fence off all drains as well.

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Espiner on oil

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes at Stuff:

I think the Green Party is, overall, a force for good in New Zealand politics and provided it sticks to its core environmental principles rather than social activism it’s likely to do very well again at the next election.

But every now and again the Green Party requires calling out. And its implacable opposition to exploratory drilling by Texan oil company Anadarko off the west coast of the North Island is one of these times.

The hyperbole and rhetoric spewed by the Greens and other assorted opponents of deep-sea drilling for oil and gas is out of all proportion to the risks involved in this venture, and has been driven far more by emotion than it has by logic or science.

A campaign of fear and loathing.

It’s true that deep-sea oil drilling has risk. It’s true there have been accidents – most of them during the 1970s and 1980s, when the technology was still relatively primitive and safety and environmental standards lax by today’s measure.

The notable exception, of course, was Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 people and spilling more than 600,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

A report into that disaster found a litany of safety breaches, poor decisions and cut corners, which sparked a wave of regulation- tightening at other deep-sea oil rigs around the world. Both the energy sector and governmental environment watchdogs agree the industry is far safer now than it was even three years ago.

Those risks will never be completely extinguished, of course. But the same goes for flying in a plane. The chances of your flight crashing are extremely low. Every possible safety precaution is taken. It remains possible you will crash. But you still fly, because the benefits outweigh the risks by such a large margin that most people agree it’s worth it.

No human activity can be made risk free.

The benefits to our economy from deep-sea oil drilling are similarly huge. The Government has estimated the potential returns at $12 billion a year if even one new offshore oil field is found.

In the context of our economy, that’s about the relative size of the worth of Australia’s mineral deposit trade with China. It has the potential to transform New Zealand into a wealthy nation with a high standard of living and first-class social services.

Other nations have become rich from deep-sea oil, most notably Norway, which has managed to keep its reputation as a clean and green nation while pocketing $122 billion, which it uses to fund the world’s most generous welfare system.

Greens and Labour have huge spending plans, but consistently oppose economic development which would help fund that spending.

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Greens dump Hay

December 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am by Jadis

As David Hay feared, yesterday the Greens’ executive took the rare step of dumping him from their candidates pool.  He hasn’t gone quietly though and has suggested the Greens’ leadership should step down.

“The Green Party’s co-leaders need to step down and step away,” Hay said. “We don’t want people like this in Parliament. We don’t want them in Government. We don’t want them in the party. I have completely lost faith in the ability of the party’s co-leaders to stick to the Green Party kaupapa and do what the Green Party does . . . to be fair, transparent, and honest, to do a better type of politics.”

I think the Green Party executive made a real mistake in dealing with Hay behind closed doors.  It would have been more helpful to the Greens’ cause and ‘kaupapa’ if the membership had been given the opportunity to reject Hay and his actions themselves rather than have it come from on high – that would have been the kind of direct democracy that the Greens have talked about for years.

The part of the story that is only starting to come out now is why the Greens’ executive dumped Hay from the candidates pool.  It  is related to his actions and behaviour as a candidate at the last election.  Essentially Hay was seen as unable to stick to agreed campaign strategies and behaved somewhat erratically – sounds pretty Greens-like to me!

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Poto wins Christchurch East

December 1st, 2013 at 5:34 am by Jadis

And predictably Poto Williams wins the Christchurch East by-election.  Williams ends ups with a majority of 4,613.

Poto Williams got 8119 votes, Matthew Doocey 3506 and the Greens’ David Moorhouse came in third with 926 votes.  The Conservatives’ Leighton Baker came in a pretty respectable fourth with 487 votes.

Labour has held the Christchurch East seat since 1922 and last general election Lianne Dalziel had a majority of 5334.

 

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Taxpayer funded cafes

November 30th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by Jadis

The Taxpayers’ Union unearthed a gem of a story this week that highlights an ongoing trend of taxpayer funded cafes:

The Taxpayers’ Union has slammed taxpayer owned company Transpower for spending $1.2million on a staff café and reception area in a building where the lease expires in 2014.

In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building “The Wire” a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, personnel “can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests.

“We want to know how a $1.2million café and reception is better value than sending staff to one of the many cafés within a few hundred metres,” says Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams.  “With the time left on the lease, the cost works out at around $65,000 per month.  That’s a lot of free coffee for only 450 staff.”

“This is a taxpayer owned, state monopoly that instead of keeping our electricity prices reasonable or paying dividends back to the Government, has thrown money into building its own exclusive café in the middle of Wellington’s CBD.”

At a time when retail is finding it tough and the Wellington economy certainly needs a bit of a lift wouldn’t it be more prudent and for the ‘greater good’ to save the $1.2M and encourage staff to lunch or meet in cafes nearby.  Off the top of my  head there are around thirty cafes within a few hundred metres of Transpower.  Perhaps an option could have been to have a scaled down reception area and a couple of meeting or collaborative spaces.

How hard is it for public sector CEOs and management to consider how they spend the tax and rate payer dollar?  Is there really proven staff productivity gains?  Perhaps Dr Strange could provide the evidence for why the $1.2M refurb was needed.

Transpower is not alone.  Treasury [DPF: their cafe was closed many years ago] and others have had taxpayer subsidised cafes over the  years.  At the local government level most of the big councils have on-site cafes.  Just imagine if the staff (who are often major employers in a localised area) chose to spend their money in local shops and cafes.  First, any suggestions of dying CBDs (such as in Hamilton and Wellington to an extent) might get a bit of a lift plus it would be one of the easiest economic development policies implemented.

Ultimately, CEOs need to balance staff contentment with appropriate spend of the taxpayer and ratepayer dollar.

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Colin Craig needs to stick to the real issues

November 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by Jadis

I’ll put it upfront that I am unlikely ever to be a Conservatives voter.  I am far too right wing economically and am a social liberal (most of the time).  However I will take it upon myself to assist the wider public and ask Colin Craig to please get some discipline.  The man who fronted so much of the pro-smacking brigade has a real problem with discipline himself.

The latest is an interview this morning with Sean Plunket Sean asks a simple question about Chem Trails and Colin gives a pretty poor answer:

“I don’t know and when I don’t know I am quite happy to say I don’t know – and apparently this is not the standard Party line that you are expected to know an have a definite view on this.

“I feel it is very honest to say I don’t.”

I don’t have a huge issue with this response.  When he was leader of the Nats Don Brash was well known for saying he wasn’t sure on an issue and that he would get back to a journalist.

The difficulty is Colin then answered Sean’s question about the Twin Towers and said

“it may be more possible (that terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers instead of a government conspiracy)”.

Interesting that he entertains the possibility of a US government conspiracy to kill thousands of Americans.

Colin then goes on to say:

“the real issue if we are talking Monsanto and other very large food corporates is that there is a real issue about food supply, about food labelling about renewable resources about food. I have some concerns about bioengineering, modification of food – I’m not absolutely opposed to it but I think it is a risky track to go down.”  I do not think our food industry should be controlled by one or two big players.”

My issue with Colin is this.  Stop talking about this fluff.  Start talking about the real Conservatives policies, learn to move a question away from the sensational to the sensible.  Please, please start looking credible.  There is a range of issues and policies that Colin should and could be talking about. Here, Colin, I will help out – try this link to the Conservative Party’s web page http://www.conservativeparty.org.nz/index.php?page=Issues

And please don’t get all snippy and think Liberals (even fiscal conservatives and social libs like me) are picking on you.  We’re not… you have created all of this all by yourself.  You actually have some important stories to tell and issues to highlight but you keep missing them because, like a magpie, you keep going for the flashy stuff.

Ignore the silly fluff and focus!  You should be challenging Winston.  Instead Winston is biding his time and has no need to comment at all because you are creating vacuums and filling them with stuff that is so, so unnecessary.  When was the last time you even touched an issue that crosses over Winston’s territory?  You simply haven’t because you are asleep at the wheel.

A friend overheard an interesting comment from a neighbouring table in a café the other day “If there’s ever a time to make me vote National, it’s Colin Craig. We need to make sure Nats get 50%”

That sort of comment above  is being said not because the electorate cant take you seriously but because you don’t take yourself seriously.  Time to look like a leader and focus on the real issues, Colin.

 

* this post is written by Jadis so please don’t lynch poor DPF

 

 

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Another protection order, another woman dead

November 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by Jadis

I think few people will be surprised to hear that another woman has been killed by a man who she had a protection order against.

Police have named Sarwan Lata Singh as the 38-year-old woman found dead at a Wellington home in the suburb of Woodridge early Tuesday.

A man has been charged with her murder – and with breaching a protection order meant to keep him away from her.

The reality is that protection orders are pieces of paper.  They are useful as a means of accelerating action if a person is able to report to Police that the order has been breached.  Sadly, we have had too many cases of late where women in particular have been killed or seriously injured at the hands of someone who had one of these orders placed on them.

So if a breach of a protection order occurs, what can happen?  Police advise says:

The Court will give highest priority to the victim’s safety when considering bail applications. Where there is evidence that a breach of a Protection Order has occurred, the person will be arrested and cannot be bailed by the Police for 24 hours.

A breach includes failing to attend a ‘stopping violence’ programme.

The maximum penalty for breach of a Protection Order is six months in prison or a $5000 fine. The penalty increases to two years in prison where three offences are committed within three years. If other serious crimes of violence are involved, the penalties could be even more serious.

The most recent Ministry of Justice figures show that the number of people  convicted of breaching protection orders, by court location and year is:

    Court location 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013*

Christchurch 145 166 125 140 87

Hamilton 88 118 113 109 51

Rotorua 86 83 89 84 45

Auckland 89 85 83 94 41

Dunedin 50 33 48 49 27

Wellington 60 47 49 58 20

*Up to June 30, 2013

So are pieces the paper the answer?  Probably not but they are part of a multi-pronged approach and this Government has done much to strengthen the legislative framework.

Former Principal Family Court Judge Pete Boshier reflected on his time in the role:

In my time as a judge I have dealt with thousands of family violence cases, and that includes applications by women victims of violence for protection orders. The intensity and range of abuse is deplorable and at times I have felt deeply affected by what I have read. All judges are affected in this way. Family violence in our country will not be eradicated by legislative recognition and ongoing commitment by Police in isolation. Time and time again we need to give messages that family violence is harmful, that it injures our country and that it has enormous consequences. Until we get real about this, our progress in eliminating family violence will be too slow. I dream of a New Zealand in which family violence is not the norm for so many families and where there are happy, safe, secure children whose lives are very different from those of generations that have preceded them.

In the same speech Boshier suggests we create specific charges that are for family violence, ensure that assault charges specifically mention family violence in the way they are recorded and much more to put a public face to family violence offenders.

Of course, these measures all take place after assaults and other forms of violence take place. So, do we leave it down to education programmes to get people to understand what is and isn’t violence, to act early and report often?  What other measures need to be put in place?  There has been much talk of rape culture of late – do we also have a ‘violence culture’ (it could be argued they are one in the same) and is it always ‘over there’ and ‘not in my backyard’?

 

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Poto wounds the KiwiAssure policy

November 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am by Jadis

 

Poto Williams’ hasn’t exactly run a strong social media campaign through this by-election.  Given we are into the final day of campaigning it was good of her to put up a new facebook post (her first since 23 October). To be helpful I’ll post it here:

poto Poto

There is one little problem with Poto’s statement “KiwiAssure will compete with the big insurance companies and get a better deal for local people just the way Kiwibank does.”

Kiwibank has recently been added to the “Fair play on Fees” class action.  It is the second bank to be added after ANZ.

We now have a sufficient number of Kiwibank customers to take their complaint to court and fight to get their unlawful penalty fees back.  We expect thousands more Kiwibank customers to join the campaign as a result of today’s announcement and encourage them to do so before the court documents are filed.

The launch of Fair Play on Fees has seen more than 35,000 Kiwis sign up to date, of which over 6,000 are Kiwibank customers.

So I guess Poto wants KiwiAssure to potentially charge unfair fees just how Kiwibank does.  Great policy that one!

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Hamilton’s non-decision on Fluoride

November 29th, 2013 at 6:37 am by Jadis

Surprise, surprise the Hamilton councillors haven’t made a decision on adding fluoride back into the water supply despite now having two referenda and multiple polls asking them to.

I think the Mayor sums it up nicely:

“We spent the last couple of weeks getting legal advice and talking about court cases in Taranaki and I came here to make a decision,”

“To be frank I think people are over it, we’ve had a year of it and people want a final decision made.”

The Mayor Julie Hardaker was one of five councillors that voted to make a decision while the other seven councillors voted to defer a decision until the outcome of the Taranaki case was determined.  All Hamilton councillors received advice that there was no legal reason to defer the decision making.

The court case in Taranaki was put forward by anti-fluoride groups arguing that the council there had no legal right to add fluoride and that fluoridation breaches section 11 of the Bill of Rights Act which allows people the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment.

The part that is a tad irksome is that the Mayor and others are now calling on central Government to legislate over top of all local government.

“…until central government takes a stand on this issue local authorities are going to continue and continue to have to go through these processes.”

I suppose they’d also like to nationalise the water supply?  While there may be some merits in that – privatising may make even more sense – the lack of joint infrastructure and various levels of disrepair could,, among other things, make it a very costly exercise.

 

 

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Political neutrality and the public service

November 28th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by Jadis

What is going on in the Super City?

It’s hard to work out whether this is a failure in governance or management, but it is certainly another massive fail.  Yesterday a mild-mannered, Council bureaucrat called David Hay told us all that he is going to spend the next seven months campaigning to be the next male co-Leader of the Greens. By March he will need to have impressed the Hui that ranks their list,  and by June he will have sold himself to the whole membership for the big annual line dance.

Problem is that it seems Hay is going to fund his campaign through the ratepayers of Auckland – he is a senior policy advisor.

There’s a time honoured process where once every three years frustrated bureaucrats decide they don’t like having to do what they are told and try to get into Parliament. They stand down from their  pen pushing jobs, campaign, lose, and scurry back to a new public trough.

At central Government level the State Services Commission have a fascinating edict “State servants must keep their jobs out of their politics and their politics out of their jobs.”  Of course public servants can be involved in some campaigning, leaflet drops and the like but the political neutrality line is not to be crossed too much.  The Electoral Commission also has a view during election time.  Section 52 of the Electoral Act pertains to public servants seeking election and suggests that

To avoid the possibility of a real or perceived conflict of interest, the Electoral Act requires public servants that stand as candidates to take annual or unpaid leave from nomination day until the first working day after the election.

Now in Hay’s case, he is only seeking election to be the male co-Leader of the Greens however will he be campaigning on Council time? Is the important line of political neutrality of Council employees crossed by his action to seek the Greens co-Leadership?  Why is it even important?

It is important as Government and Council officials are required to give independent, non-partisan, objective advice. That is why public servants usually wait until the last minute to let their intentions be known – not a good year or so out.

Now that his name is out there, can anyone expect that Hay can use that year also giving objective, unbiased advice to Auckland Council. Everything he does could be trying to gain favour with the Greens membership.  Again, it is that “possibility of real or perceived conflict of interest” that will dog poor Mr Hay.

Which raises some questions, did he tell his bosses before he announced his highly political campaign? Did the bosses tell the Mayor? Did anyone think… hold on a minute, this is a massive problem for the credibility Auckland Council?

My guess – no, no, no.

Rest assured though, by next week they will have expensive lawyers arguing with each other, crawling all over it and charging the long suffering ratepayer for the pleasure.

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A Chorus of one

November 28th, 2013 at 3:38 pm by Jadis

New Zealand First, United Future and the Maori Party have all stated their position that the Government should listen to the Commerce Commission on the Chorus and Copper tax issue. It appears to have been a highly coordinated campaign where each Party stated their position in quick succession.

What does this mean for the Government? Well, the silver lining is that they can ditch a proposal that was fairly unpopular and work on alternative arrangements for assisting Chorus that doesn’t involve internet users paying more and undermining the Commerce Commission.

 

Update: ACT and Mana Party have also added their support. I understand Greens and Labour Party will follow in the next hour.

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Voter Apathy in Christchurch East

November 28th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by Jadis

John Armstrong’s column today highlights the extreme levels of apathy in the Christchurch East by-election.

Byelection? What byelection? With just a couple of days to go until the polling booths open in Christchurch East, one thing is for sure: apathy is the big winner so far. It is difficult to recall a by election that has received such scant attention.

Both National and Labour – which has held the seat since 1919 – have made a point of talking down their respective chances of victory.

In Labour’s case, it is easy to understand why. Christchurch East may be one of the poorest electorates in the country. The long-serving Lianne Dalziel, whose decision to contest the Christchurch mayoralty triggered the byelection, may have secured a solid 5,000-plus majority at the last election. The popular politician may have given a strong endorsement of her would-be Labour successor, Poto Williams.

It is no accident, however, that Williams’ campaign manager is none other than Jim Anderton. It is a measure of Labour’s nervousness that it has called on the experienced former Alliance leader to motivate the party’s volunteers who do the donkey work of electioneering.

Most of the country has no idea a by-election is under way.  And they don’t really need to.  It could be argued that Christchurch East is a seat only ever held by Labour so what is the point of ‘taking a look’ at what is going on there.  The truly startling fact is that Labour are doing so little to showcase Labour.  A lot of this comes down to the candidate.  Poto Williams is underwhelming at best.  Why else get long time campaigner Jim Anderton to lead her campaign and scurry behind Poto cleaning up what she’s said by adding a few more layers of intellectual thought and political spin.  Labour’s problem is so much of Christchurch East being a Labour territory was all about Lianne, not all about Labour.  Poto simply does not have the personality or roots that Lianne had.  Armstrong alludes to this:

Labour has reason to worry. First – and most astonishingly – National won the party vote in the seat in 2011 by a margin of more than 4,000 votes.

That outcome had a lot to do with the decline in support for Labour in successive general elections in what was previously “Fortress Christchurch” for the party.

A Labour victory may hinge on the nearly 3,200 voters who backed Dalziel with their electorate vote in 2011 but who gave their party vote to National doing the same favour for Williams at the expense of National’s candidate, Matthew Doocey.

But there are no guarantees of that happening. Quite the reverse.

While I think it is unlikely Doocey will win the by-election he has done a good, safe pair of hands job.  Yes, he is kind of boring and won’t set the world on fire but as the less favoured to win (remember a Nat have never won the electorate vote in Christchurch East) he is doing everything that needs to be done, he is plodding, shaking hands, kissing babies and looking after the Party vote for the Election proper.  A strong showing by Doocey leads to a good future for him. You see that is the point of it for the Nats – yes, it would be nice to get a surprise win but if it means they can blood someone new into that seat who can in the Election proper keep the Party vote solid then in an MMP environment that is gold.  It seems that the Nats have finally matured into MMP politics – putting solid and safe performers into Labour strongholds means two things. First, can cause a bit of bother to incumbent Labour MPs and second, can increase that all important Party vote.

The reality is that National has nothing to lose.  This by-election is no gauge of support of Government instead it is all on Labour to make sure they win.  And they are nervous.

National has wasted no opportunity downplaying its chances, mostly so it can claim a huge upset should Doocey win. If Labour holds the seat on Saturday night, Key will simply argue that was always going to be the case.

Labour has realised it has a scrap on its hands. The capacity of that party’s machine to prod likely Labour voters in the direction of the ballot box should ensure a Labour victory, though not a large one.

So if voter apathy continues and Labour can’t get enough of the vote out it will suggest there is something wrong with Labour’s machine.

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Mayor Brown lawyering up at ratepayers expense

November 28th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by Jadis

It is worth looking at how much the fallout from Len Brown’s affair is actually costing Auckland ratepayers.  It is clear that there are top and expensive lawyers all over the aftermath of Brown’s various indiscretions.

Mayoral Chief of Staff, Phil Wilson, let it slip to the Taxpayers Union that everything that is being said is being raked over by defamation lawyers. It is one thing to threaten this over the phone but to put it writing seems foolhardy.  It is an eye-wateringly expensive exercise to pore over any and all correspondence, OIA request, phone call and email made to Council or the Mayor’s office about the affair.

Fran O’Sullivan reported yesterday that Council CEO “McKay has brought in a top outside lawyer to advise him in his dealings with the mayor’s office”. Another eye-watering bill on the rate payer – of course.

If McKay has brought in the lawyers then Ernst and Young will have done the same thing  which will be part of the bill for the investigation. If McKay is lawyered up, Brown will have a QC too. There’s only one person who signs off the Mayor’s expenses and that is Chief of Staff Phil Wilson so we can presume the ratepayers of Auckland are paying for a lawyer for him to hide behind too.

Of course the latest is that the Hong Kong trip was not included in the annual return of interests because the Chief of staff didn’t include it.

Mr Wilson said he understood Mr Brown did not file an annual return of interests by July 31 under the code of conduct because it was under review at the time.

“As a consequence, elected members – and myself on Len’s behalf – did not file returns understanding they would be requested to do so at a later date,” Mr Wilson said.

It is all very well to not include the trip on the official return of interests but to deny the trip took place and give multiple versions of what did or didn’t take place makes it look as though a Chief of Staff is hiding something on behalf of his boss, the Mayor.  Perception is everything and it appears that Wilson has failed that long time test in politics.

It may have been a few episodes of two minutes, but this is beginning to look like the most expensive sex ever.

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Boundaries and polling places

November 28th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has a nifty feature where you can view the current and/or proposed boundaries and where polling places are, and whether they voted National or Labour (or Greens). They report:

The Kelston electorate is expected to be safe for Labour but its creation could pose problems for the party in the neighbouring electorates of New Lynn, Te Atatu and Mt Albert.

Labour MP Phil Goff concedes the proposed boundary changes will mean he will compete for a drastically different Mt Roskill that has gained strong National-leaning polling places from Maungakiekie, in turn making it tougher for National’s Sam Lotu-Iiga to retain his seat.

The Herald “mashup” of the proposed electoral boundaries combined with the party votes at 2650 polling places from the 2011 election reveals a reshaped political landscape.

The proposed Upper Harbour electorate is strongly National overall, with a few polling stations on the southern boundaries that could be considered marginal for either of the main parties.

Most of the polling places in Kelston – which would replace Waitakere, currently held by National’s Paula Bennett – are strongly Labour-leaning. These polling places were formerly inside the New Lynn, Te Atatu and Mt Albert boundaries. Consequently, the three electorates end up with more evenly split voting patterns, when earlier they were more favourable to Labour.

Te Atatu, currently held by Labour’s Phil Twyford, loses a moderately Labour-leaning polling place and adds a strong National-leaning one. Auckland Central loses polling places that are either marginal or Labour-leaning.

Another big change is in the Mt Roskill electorate, which loses a number of Labour-leaning polling places to gain strong National-leaning ones.

A crude calculation based on party votes within the proposed new Mt Roskill electorate shows National with a majority of about 1500 over Labour. However, this only takes into account the party vote and only indicates that Phil Goff – who has held the seat since 1999 – will have a closer fight on hand.

Goff would be heard to beat. But a strong fresh candidate who campaigns on time for a change, could do well.

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Auckland Council confirms Brown breached disclosure rules

November 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman at NZ Herald reports:

Len Brown’s office last night confirmed that the Auckland Mayor has not complied with the council code of conduct rules over a trip to Hong Kong.

Responding to an urgent request under official information laws by the Herald, Mr Brown’s chief of staff, Phil Wilson, owned up after chief executive Doug McKay allowed the issue to simmer for two days.

Mr Wilson said he understood Mr Brown did not file an annual return of interests by July 31 under the code of conduct because it was under review at the time.

“As a consequence, elected members – and myself on Len’s behalf – did not file returns understanding they would be requested to do so at a later date,” Mr Wilson said.

Mayors should lead by example. The excuse for not filing is bloody weak.

Mr Brown went to Hong Kong on official business in January without telling councillors. The trip only came to light when Mr Brown’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang hit the headlines last month.

The mayor has refused to answer questions about the six-day trip, but his office said he travelled alone as one of three international guests of a Hong Kong Government-funded “special visitors programme”.

Ms Chuang told the Herald that she had remained in New Zealand.

Two Auckland businessmen, Tim Ashton and Nick Love, said after they got off the same flight as Mr Brown, they saw the mayor and an Asian woman ahead talking together.

A source said the woman was an official who met Mr Brown when he got off the plane.

If the Mayor was invited in his capacity as Mayor, he can’t refuse to answer questions about the trip. Celia Wade-Brown no only notified her Council of a similiar trip, but reported back to them afterwards on it.

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Now paddling pools need to be fenced off!!

November 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Parents with inflatable paddling pools could face $500 fines if they ignore council orders to fence them off or empty them after use under proposed rules to be unveiled today.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson will announce changes to the 1987 Fencing of Swimming Pools Act which, if passed next year, will introduce a new enforcement regime, including $500 fines for those who don’t fence off their pools properly.

The new law will mean any pool where the water is more than 30cm deep – even portable and inflatable – will need to be fenced off.

I can understand fences for permanent pools. But do you have to construct a fence when you have the paddling pool out for a couple of days? Ridiculous.

Officials estimate there are about 60,000 portable pools that will be affected. The Government hopes the changes will encourage parents to adopt “best practice” and empty and store portable pools after each use.

It will encourage 60,000 parents to get rid of their paddling pools.

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Paddling pool nuttiness

November 28th, 2013 at 10:30 am by Jadis

The Herald reports that homeowners may be fined $500 for no fencing around paddling pools of a depth of 30cm or more.

As a parent I have a few questions about this interesting new development:

To meet the fencing requirements what is the cost to fence versus the cost of a paddling pool?  I bought a pool last week for $30.  It now requires a fence and a gate.  The fence will cost more than the pool.  Water is one of life’s cheapest toys.  We also run the risk of water shortages if people choose instead to empty the pool each time it is used – but I am guessing that unintended consequence was never assessed.

Why isn’t a full perimeter fence around a home enough?  Surely I get to decide which children get to come into my property.  They have parents too who can decide whether it is OK to come into my property.

What happened to personal and parental responsibility? I choose to supervise my children (and their friends) when they are in the pool.  Good parents and responsible adults do that – as do those who are responsible parents at the public swimming pool, the river or the beach.

Should we fence off the sea and our rivers and lakes too?

Of the six children who die each decade, how many die because of poor supervision? And how many die in paddling pools versus permanent pools, lakes, ponds, buckets etc?

Yes, it is important we keep our children safe but there needs to be a bit of reality in our policy making.  I don’t want children to die but I do believe we need balance in policy making.

There is another option – we could educate our own children on the dangers of water, teach them to swim and recognise that good parents generally supervise their children in all circumstances and assess the dangers of all situations?  What’s next?  All dishwashing powder must be in a special lock box because children can ingest and get very very ill?  I had better not give them too many ideas.

*Yep, another post by Jadis so don’t all freak out that DPF could be a parent.

 

 

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He wants $4 million of our money

November 28th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Nearing a month of living on the streets without food, Mike Dixon-McIver says only two things will end his protest – death, or a fair deal from ACC.

The 75-year-old ACC advocate has long assisted people with their claims, but has been locked in a six-year battle with the corporation after it tried to prosecute him for fraud.

The case was thrown out, and earlier this year a judge awarded Mr Dixon-McIver full legal costs of $13,000, but the corporation refused to go to mediation to discuss damages.

That led to Dixon-McIver camping outside ACC’s head office in Aitken St, demanding more than $4 million for damages and losses.

ACC agreed to talks, but the protest resumed last month after Dixon-McIver declined a $90,000 compensation offer that he considered an insult.

He wants those of us who fund ACC to hand over $4 million to him. That’s greed.

Dixon-McIver said he believed he would win if he took his case to court again, but did not have the will to spend another three years tied up in legal wranglings.

It had been difficult not eating for almost a month, but he was adamant he would not alter his course of action, even if that meant dying.

Emotional blackmail is so much easier than actually proving your case in court.

I think $90,000 is pretty generous offer. Demanding at least $4 million is sheer greed.

As I found out last time when I blogged on Mr Dixon-McIver:

Incidentally Mr Dixon-McIver seems to have had some compensation issues of his own, after the Employment Court ordered him to pay three months salary and $6,750 for distress, humiliation and injury to feelings to a former employee who was constructively dismissed after he threatened to assault her, following his son assaulting her.

Maybe the former employee should have gone for $4 million also.

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Colin Craig’s strategy revealed

November 28th, 2013 at 7:00 am by Jadis

I was a bit perplexed as to why Colin Craig continues to come out with support for what seems like rather extreme views.  Yes, he is a minority party leader however drip feeding his views on how wonderful Sarah Palin is, that man-made climate change doesn’t exist and now that Chemtrails could exist takes him to a whole new level.  So what is his strategy behind it?  There must be some science and reasoning as to why Colin Craig would be willing to make such public statements – and it isn’t just because he wants Ken Ring as a List candidate for the Conservatives.

I can reveal that a piece of research conducted by UMR Research in 2011 is the likely source of Colin Craig’s vote chasing and strategic planning

UMR polled 1000 New Zealanders and found the following:

  1. 61% of respondents believe there is a God or universal spirit
  2. 55% of respondents believed some people had psychic powers
  3. 33% of respondents believed aliens had visited the earth
  4. 24% of respondents believed that astrology can predict a person’s future

Colin has the first point covered.  We know that he has expressed his own belief in God, his chief executive is apparently a Buddhist and the Conservatives list from last election is peppered with committed and open Christian politicians.  61% of the population suggests to Craig that the Conservatives have an extensive pool to reach into to get to the magical 5% threshold.  That 61% starts to get really interesting when we use math in only a way Craig would know how and add 1, 2, 3 and 4 to each other – that is a potential pool of voters of 173% of New Zealanders.  Colin is on to a winner.

In all seriousness though, Colin Craig and the Conservatives have a huge opportunity.  Espousing these sorts of fringe views means that the serious positioning of the Conservatives goes to waste.  There is a real space for the Conservatives as the Muldoonists of the future and social conservatives.  As a fiscal conservative and social liberal they aren’t my people but there are a swag of voters that Craig should be reaching out to.  Those voters are in the provinces, in the cities, in Grey Power and on school boards BUT do they really want to be associated with a man who can’t shut his trap on such things as Chemtrails?  Time for Colin Craig to get some discipline.

 

* This post is written by Jadis – so don’t freak out that DPF would be so mean!

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Greens go Haywire

November 27th, 2013 at 5:16 pm by Jadis

Talking to various Greens sources it has become abundantly clear that David Hay is an ‘interesting’ character.  All sources including the current male co-Leader Russel Norman’s media comments are polite enough publicly but behind closed doors there must be some serious wonder going on.

So let us look at the possible motivations behind Hay’s challenge to Norman. First, there’s the obvious one.  He’s a man who has very little profile (except may be in his own mind) and desperately wants to be higher up the list.  If he was a smart man he’d use the challenge mechanism to rally support behind him to elevate him up the list. He’d be using lots of talk abut how the growing grassroots membership needs more voice, he’d have a very clear plan of what he would say to media and he would also have a few MPs or high profile Greens pre-organised to say more positive things about him – including behind closed doors to media and bloggers alike.  None of that has happened.  Indeed the opposite is true.  So I think we can mostly strike that motivation out.

In the last hour Hay has been interviewed by Duncan Garner on Radio Live.  A pretty soft interview but to be honest give this man a forum and he is going to say some pretty batty stuff.  First there was the fighting talking from Hay of how Russel has been a great leader.  Oops. Then he admitted that Russel would inevitably remain Leader. Oops again.  Hay’s one concern that he managed to express at all was that the Greens need to reposition themselves to takeover Labour’s position and stop being the ‘handbag’.

It is possible that the Greens are so cunning that they are using a moron to shoot across the bow of Labour but I think the obvious is clear.  Hay is acting mostly alone – albeit after a bit of enthusiastic excitement from a few Greens close to him worried about the lack of presence in Auckland. Hay named them clearly in the Garner interview as the likes of Denise Roche and others.

So this leads me to think that something is wrong with the Greens that happens to all parties as they grow.  They have lost connection with their grassroots.  You see, if they had real connection they would have known Hay was going to do this and would have managed the situation – even in a democratic way.  Instead, Hay surprised the parliamentary wing of the Party with his shock announcement.

So, what other motivations could Hay have?  Well, the cynic in me suggests that the Greens could also be copying the Labour model.  Labour’s membership increased by 75% through the leadership contest.  More members means more potential helpers on the ground.  Is it possible that Hay is actually a very loyal, albeit media inept, hack who is doing the Party a service by driving membership and showing how ‘good’ co-Leader Russel really is?  More than a little possible.  Indeed if I were the Greens I might spin it that way to look mildly united and politically savvy.

So, there’s a few possibilities that motivate Hay – is it personal gain to get up the List, is it greater good for the Greens, is it to drive up membership, or is to put a spanner in the works of what has been a pretty well run Greens machine of late?  Whatever it is he is a useless front man.

*And before someone freaks in the comments that this doesn’t seem like a DPF post.  It isn’t. It is Jadis and I am a tad more blunt that friend to all Dpf.

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Cato on the TPP

November 27th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank – the largest one in the United States. They are huge supporters of free markets and free trade. So with that in mind this article by Bill Watson on their behalf is worth considering:

The prospects for timely completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement are looking increasingly bleak. Just as the president was struggling to secure fast track trade negotiating authority from Congress, a barrage of anti-TPP sentiment erupted last week when WikiLeaks published a classified draft text of the agreement’s intellectual property rules. The text was rightly criticized for enabling Hollywood and other industries to improperly influence U.S. and foreign law in their favor.

The first instinct of trade advocates is to be defensive, but this time the criticism actually offers an excellent opportunity: Instead of mumbling unconvincingly about the political power of innovative U.S. industries, free traders should put their collective foot down and demand a stop. Imposing intellectual property rules through trade agreements has become a political liability that serves special interests at the expense of free trade.

I agree. Some of the provisions in the chapter are aimed at preventing free trade, and restricting parallel importing.

Getting intellectual property out of the TPP would increase the agreement’s ability to open markets, improve its chances for passage in Congress, and bring the negotiations back to what they ought to be about in the first place: lowering protectionist trade barriers.

Hear, hear.

Despite being tightly wedded in the U.S. trade agenda for the last 20 years, trade policy and intellectual property policy don’t fit together very well. Trade agreements are useful because they provide an effective but imperfect way to improve U.S. trade policy. By offsetting the political power of protectionist industries with the political power of exporting industries, trade agreements offer the promise of open markets at home and abroad.

But this model doesn’t make any sense for intellectual property laws. Unlike tariff reductions, extending intellectual property rights in foreign markets does not directly benefit foreign consumers. At the same time, there is the potential for harm to U.S. consumers when international obligations make domestic intellectual property laws harder to reform or, in some cases, stricter than they would be otherwise. Using trade negotiations to set patent and copyright policy gives excessive power to industry without any justification.

All good points.

Global rules already exist that prevent piracy or severe regulatory differences. The World Trade Organization imposes minimum standards for patent copyright protection and prohibits discrimination. Intellectual property rules in the TPP, on the other hand, are about things like extending copyright terms from really long to really, really long. Getting Canada to impose a longer copyright term may benefit Disney, but that shouldn’t be a goal of U.S. economic relations.

WIPO treaties are where changes to international intellectual property laws should occur.

You don’t have to oppose stronger intellectual property laws to recognize that they reduce the value of trade agreements. The United States is expending a significant amount of negotiating capital to secure patent and copyright rules at the behest of a narrow set of industries. As the leaked text reveals, U.S. proposals are facing coordinated opposition from most, and sometimes all, TPP partners. What other negotiating goals have had to be sacrificed in order to push these unpopular rules through?

There could well be an agreement by now, if it were not for the IP chapter.

U.S. negotiators can accomplish more in other areas if they stop fighting for detailed intellectual property provisions. Hollywood and biotech are not the only industries hoping that the TPP will secure foreign markets for them. The American dairy industry, for instance, doesn’t benefit if negotiators give New Zealand a pass on milk barriers in order to secure concessions on medical procedure patents. More importantly, consumers in New Zealand don’t benefit either.

Not sure what milk barriers they men – I presume Fonterra?

Most proponents of the TPP wrongly claim that we must have intellectual property in agreements to get enough political support. That may have been true in the past, but times have changed. U.S. negotiators would do well to remember how the Stop Online Piracy Act crashed so dramatically after internet activists got popular opposition to go viral. Good news about how the TPP lowers regulatory barriers for financial service firms operating in Asia is not going to assuage the online masses who think you’re coming to kill the internet.

A common criticism of the TPP has been that the agreement is not really about free trade. It’s time to fix that and remove intellectual property negotiations from the TPP.

Sadly I don’t think the US Government will change its policy.

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