Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

This could be significant

August 31st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Nigel Stirling writes at Farmers Weekly:

The fight for open access for New Zealand farm exports into the United States has taken a big step forward, with key American agricultural lobbies giving their backing to a comprehensive Pacific Rim trade deal with no exclusions for agriculture.

Thirty-seven of the US’s peak agricultural and farming lobbies have written to their government pledging support for the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade talks, which aim to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade between 12 countries.

In a letter sent to new US Trade Representative Mike Froman and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, the industry groups gave their backing to US negotiators to pursue a comprehensive deal, with no exclusions for agriculture in any country involved in the talks.

The importance of this is quite huge. If the major agricultural lobby groups do not try and block eliminating agricultural barriers and tariffs, then not only is a deal more likely, but it may actually get past the US Congress. These lobby groups have considerable sway in smaller rural states.

“There must be no product or sector exclusions, including in agriculture. Exclusions would limit opportunities in each of the member countries to reach new markets, grow business and generate economic growth and jobs,” it said.

Importantly the letter was signed by the US Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Council.

Both groups have in the past been sceptical about the US joining the TPP and have highlighted the threat to American farmers from opening their domestic market to competition from NZ exports.

They may be starting to see the potential gains from having their own access to some Asian markets.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said the backing from the US dairy industry could be critical in getting a deal past American lawmakers that included agriculture and therefore was beneficial to NZ.

“The political game here is pretty obvious. The way Congress works is through these sorts of letters and people add up the number of lobbies for and add up the number against and that is the political process under way,” Groser said.

The letter was sent to US Government officials last month but came to light only last week.

I’ve been very skeptical up until now that the US might make meaningful concession on the agricultural side. This changes that.

He expected the US to have made an offer on dairy by the time TPP country leaders meet on the sidelines of APEC in Indonesia in early October.

Excellent.

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No Working for Families for those not working

August 30th, 2013 at 6:04 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by the Child Poverty Action Group which challenged the Government’s in-work tax credit, saying it discriminated against beneficiaries.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) had said the credit, which is worth at least $60 a week and applies only to working parents, not those on a benefit, was unjustified discrimination.

The challenge was the subject of a court hearing in the Court of Appeal in May.

CPAG alleged the “off-benefit rule” that the in-work tax credit was available only to those in full-time employment who were not receiving an income-tested benefit breached the Human Rights Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of employment status.

CPAG took the case to the Court of Appeal after both The Human Rights Review Tribunal and the High Court ruled against it.

The Court of Appeal said while it disagreed with the High Court on one aspect of the appeal, it did not affect the final outcome.

The Court of Appeal found that the off-benefit rule, on its face, subjected beneficiaries to different treatment that amounted to a material disadvantage but the rule ultimately did not breach the Bill of Rights.

“This is because the in-work tax credit deliberately created an earnings gap between people on a benefit and people who are working. The objective was to incentivise people into work and improve incomes for families with children,” the Court of Appeal judges said in their decision released today.

Thank goodness for that. It would have been ridiculous to have had the courts say that the Government can not pay a working family (who have costs such as travel to work) more than a family on the benefit.

However Labour and Greens last election both campaigned to change the policy, so that beneficiary families can get the In-Work Tax Credit. I guess they’d have to rename it!

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A neutral public servant

August 30th, 2013 at 4:02 pm by David Farrar

nasty

 

Mr Gall is a neutral public servant, employed by the Department of Conservation.

Whale reports Mr Gall is being investigated for his comments.

Putting aside the nastiness of what Mr Gall has said, he is also wrong. John Key has done nothing to Megaupload. The US Government took action, not NZ. After criminal charges were laid, the NZ authorities were asked to assist in his arrest and extradition – as they are required to do under our extradition treaty. The PM had no part at all in any decision by the US Government or any decision by the NZ Police or assisting agencies.

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1950s calling for their grumpy old man back.

August 30th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jami-Lee Ross writes on Facebook:

Wonders never cease – a letter to the editor in today’s local paper seems to take aim at every working mother.

The writer complains that a local board member seeking reelection has had a baby while in office. He wonders how this is “humanly possible” while also working, then asks to see time sheets for “domestic chores”. 

Yes, the target of the letter is my wife, but I can still hear the 1950s calling for their grumpy old man back.

Hilarious. Sad, yet hilarious.

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Caption Contest

August 30th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

cc

 

Enter your captions below. As always, they should be funny, not nasty. Enjoy.

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Bye bye to software patents

August 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Biz Journals writes:

After five years of debate New Zealand today told most the rest of the world where they can put their software patent laws: Anywhere but New Zealand. The nation voted to ban the controversial form of intellectual property, a move some believe will free up innovators in New Zealand to compete on equal ground against the rest of the world, and could have far-reaching implications if other countries follow suit.

“Today’s historic legislation will support our innovative technology industry, and sends a clear message to the rest of the world that New Zealand won’t tolerate the vexatious practice of ‘patent trolls,’” said the chief executive of New Zealand’s Institute of IT Professionals (IITP)Paul Matthews, according to a ZDNet report.

In the United States, companies like Apple and Samsung have used software patents to batter each other so mercilessly that CNN finally broke down and drew up a score card to try to make sense of it.

It’s great Parliament voted (I think unanimously) to remove the ability to patent software. The problems such patents caused far outstrip their benefits. Copyright of course still applies to the code in any software.

Most of the local IT industry has fought long and hard for this, convincing first a select committee, then the Government that this is the right thing to do. In latter times, working with politicians on getting the wording right also.

It also shows that the TPP negotiations are not a barrier to New Zealand deciding for itself what our intellectual property laws should be. Some said this law was being delayed so it could be dropped as part of the TPP. The bill would not have been passed into law if the Government was about to agree to scrap it a few months later.

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Labour says a protection order revictimises people!

August 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little said:

Victims of violent crime are more likely to be re-victimised than protected by a new Bill letting them to apply for non-contact orders against their perpetrators, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

The Victims Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill creates a new type of court order to prevent offenders convicted of a violent crime having contact with their victim and passed its first reading in Parliament today.

“This Bill is just cynical because the victim would be required to apply to the court for an order — at their own expense — and would be required to square off in court with the very person they are seeking to avoid.”

Umm, it is an option – not compulsory. But a very welcome option for those who want to be able to avoid their previous assailants etc. And I suspect a fair few will happily square off in court if it means that don’t have to worry about having them run into them in an alleyway.

“Protecting victims of crime from on-going threats and intimidation by a perpetrator is the State’s responsibility and can easily be done through sentencing arrangements or parole conditions.”

This is either naive, or disingenous. It can’t be done easily, and most of all it means the decision to seek such an order is not the victim’s, but agents of the state. I’m all for allowing victims to decide for themselves if they wish to seek a protection order.

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Small on Robertson

August 30th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

If the party believes it can win by an incremental improvement, replacing an inarticulate but decent man with a safe pair of hands who can front John Key without making any major slips, then it will choose Grant Robertson.

If it thinks it just needs to remove the negative and turn the focus back on the policy mix and the broader front bench, aiming to pick up a percentage point or five to allow it to form a Left-wing government, in harness with the Greens on 10-14 per cent, then the Wellington Central candidate is its man.

But if it thinks it needs to take risks, that whatever the policy mix a showman, an impresario is needed, then it will opt for David Cunliffe.

If it thinks a slow and steady climb is beyond it and the Labour Party needs a jolt, a risk – even one that could backfire and kill off its chance of a victory in 2014 – then the MP for New Lynn is the “peacock or feather duster” option it will choose.

This is pretty much what I have said also. Robertson is the safer option, but Cunliffe has greater potential reward – and risk.

Mr Cunliffe has clearly made the early running.

While Mr Robertson chose a low-key launch, including an interview in a strangely empty studio, and the third wheel Shane Jones took an even more random approach, Mr Cunliffe went for the doctor.

His launch, with cheering fans, his team of supporting MPs and a tub- thumping speech, could not have made the risks and rewards of choosing Mr Cunliffe clearer.

It made a far greater impact and will have energised his supporters, including his social media crew.

But it sailed dangerously close, if not over, the line between upbeat hoopla and a cringeworthy revival meeting lacking authenticity.

What you thought of the launch probably varied by your interest in politics.

To hardcore left activists, the launch was the Messiah in action. They loved seeing the chosen one in action. And there is a fairly large segment of the NZ population that would respond to a forceful charismatic speaker saying he is going to tax the rich and send the PM off to Hawaii.

To people who are very actively involved in politics (journalists, MPs, staff, former staff) it was somewhere between cringeworthy and hideous, and as Small says shows the risk of Cunliffe.

What is unknown is how it would go down with those who are not activists or “beltway” but just families at home not too happy with the Government and wondering if there is a better alternative.

My feeling is that it wouldn’t go down that well, or at least not if done to that extreme. However a more toned down version could well resonate.

Cunliffe is many things, and one of them is intelligent and he learns from his mistakes. I doubt we’d see a repeat of his campaign launch, hence why I think he is still Labour’s best bet for them.

However as Small says, he is a risk. The infamous speech at the Avondale Markets is a reminder that he can and does over-extend.

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Own goal by Mallard

August 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Barry Soper reports at NewstalkZB:

Over the next three weeks the spotlight will be on Labour and in particular the three wannabes. 

But it’s a party that can’t help tripping over itself as it did yesterday when Trevor Mallard flew into the bear pit, accusing the pedantic Nick Smith of bludging off the taxpayer after he tearfully relieved himself of his ministry last year when his Bronwyn Pullar conflict of interest became an embarrassment. 

Of course he’s repented and is now back in the fold. Mallard claimed he’d stayed on in his taxpayer supplied ministerial home when he wasn’t entitled to. 

Smith tells us he stayed on for a couple of weeks so that his kids could finish their school term which would seem reasonable in the circumstances. 

But big Gezza Brownlee wasn’t going to let them get away with that. He ruffled Mallard’s feathers, saying what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 

If he expected Smith to cough up some cash then what about Dithering David doing the decent thing? 

Since making the dramatic announcement last Thursday, and then refusing to take any questions about it, Shearer got on the next plane out of the capital and will be lying low for the next three weeks. 

He’s still picking up his leader’s salary and the perks that go with the job, which Gezza says is a bit rich given Labour’s view of Smith’s indiscretion. 

More points on the Tory board then as Labour again scores an own goal!

As far as I can tell Trevor Mallard seems to be claiming that if you lose a job which has accomodation as part of it, you should be evicted from that house the same day.

Presumably he thinks if a Police officer resigns, they should be evicted from their Police accomodation immediately. Likewise Railways use to have many homes for staff. Again Labour now seems to say there should be no grace period at all – you should have your furniture thrown out that afternoon.

Presumably Trevor has written a refund cheque for staying on in his ministerial house after the 2008 election, rather than moving out that night.

As this Herald story pointed out, outgoing Ministers were given a dignified time:

Prime Minister John Key pointed out that when National entered Government he encouraged outgoing Prime Minister Helen Clark to remain in Premier House in Wellington as long as she wanted, at no cost.

Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee suggested that outgoing Labour leader David Shearer should have his privileges stripped because he had stepped down and was absent from Parliament.

This is the all too common problem in Labour – go for the easy hit, and not worry about consistency.

UPDATE: Trevor would not have had a Ministerial house as he is a Wellington MP. But his colleagues of course did, and I am sure did not pay rent for staying on for a few weeks after they lost in 2008. Unless they had already packed up before the election!

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Was Shearer set up?

August 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This is unbelievable. 3 News reports:

If David Shearer didn’t jump he was probably going to be rolled – that much, we already know.

But now it’s emerged that it wasn’t just a small faction inside the Labour Party that wanted him gone – it was his entire caucus.

In fact, every single one of them knew Mr Shearer was going to present two dead fish in Parliament last week, and no one stopped him.

They all knew? Not one Labour MP said that it was a massively bad idea? The poor bastard. They set him up. No wonder he is taking a few weeks off.

Whose idea was it? Will we find out?

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Parliament Today 29 August 2013

August 29th, 2013 at 1:08 pm by Jordan.M

Questions for Oral Answer.

Questions to Ministers 2.00 – 3.00 PM.

  1. MAGGIE BARRY to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the New Zealand economy?
  2. Hon PHIL GOFF to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What advice was New Zealand given in New York last night on the likely response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria?
  3. METIRIA TUREI to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statements in relation to Partnership School applicants that “the range of applications we have received is impressive” and what she was impressed with was “the broad range of applicants not the calibre”?
  4. TIM MACINDOE to the Minister of Science and Innovation:How much will the Government invest in new research through the 2013 Science Investment Round?
  5. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he stand by all his statements?
  6. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister for Social Development: How is the Government promoting technology to support young fathers to better connect, interact, and parent their children?
  7. TE URUROA FLAVELL to the Minister of Labour: He aha tāna tātaritanga mō te pūrongo e kii ana, atu i te 11,000 ngā pāhi kua tango mahi i ngā kaimahi i roto i te tau tuatahi o tā te Kāwanatanga 90 rā whakawā mahi; e hia o ēnei o ngā kaimahi he kaimahi Māori, Pasifika rānei kei raro i te tau 25?
    • Translation: What analysis has he undertaken on the report that more than 11,000 employers fired at least one worker during a trial period in the first year of the Government’s 90 day work trial law; and amongst the group of employees fired, how many were Māori, Pasifika and aged under 25 years old?
  8. RICHARD PROSSER to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by all his statements regarding 1080?
  9. GARETH HUGHES to the Minister for the Environment: Why has her Ministry proposed that applications for exploratory deep sea drilling won’t require public notification given that it is the same activity that the Deepwater Horizon was engaged in when it exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010?
  10. DARIEN FENTON to the Minister of Labour: What advice, if any, has he received about whether workers will be better or worse off under the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?
  11. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON to the Associate Minister of Health: What recent announcements has she made regarding publication of rest home audit information on the Ministry of Health website?
  12. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement with regards to Wanganui Collegiate that “integrating the school will ensure…that a Collegiate education is available to a wider number of students”; if so, why?

Today Labour are asking four questions. The first is about Syria. The second is directed to the Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy and whether he stands by all his statements. The last two questions are about the Employment Relations Amemdment Bill and school integration.  The Greens are asking about Partnership Schools and oil drilling. Finally, New Zealand First are asking about the 1080 pest poison.

Patsy of the day goes to Dr Paul Hutchison for Question 11: What recent announcements has she made regarding publication of rest home audit information on the Ministry of Health website?

Government Bills 10.00 AM -2.00 PM, 3.00PM-6.00PM and 7.30PM- 12.00AM. (The House is sitting under Urgency)

1. Land Transport and Road User Charges Legislation Amendment Bill -First Reading

2. Animal Welfare Amendment Bill – First Reading

3. Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill -First Reading

4. Border Processing (Trade Single Window and Duties) Bill – First Reading

5. Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment  Bill -First Reading

6. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill – Second Reading

7. Victims of Crime Reform Bill -Second Reading

The Land Transport and Road User Charges Legislation Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of  Transport, Gerry Brownlee. This bill amends the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Road User Charges Act 2012.

The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister For Primary Industries, Nathan Guy. This bill makes changes to the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to improve the enforceability, clarity, and transparency of the New Zealand animal welfare system.

The Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, This bill establishes a mechanism for a victim of a violent offence to obtain a non-contact order against an offender sentenced to imprisonment for five years or more.

The Border Processing (Trade Single Window and Duties) Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Customs, Maurice Williamson. This bill makes the legislative changes required to support the implementation of the Trade Single Window component of the Joint Border Management System.

The Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment  Bill is being guided through the house by the Associate Minister of Social Development, Chester Borrows. This bill amends the Social Security Act 1964 by making spouses and partners, as well as beneficiaries, accountable for fraud, and by enabling the Ministry of Social Development to recover debt more effectively.

The Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson. This bill replaces the Historic Places Act 1993, which established the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (Pouhere Taonga), to rename the Trust as Heritage New Zealand and reform its governance and structure.

The Victims of Crime Reform Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins. The Victims of Crime Reform Bill is an omnibus bill, which proposes to amend the Victims’ Rights Act 2002; the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989; the Parole Act 2002; and the Sentencing Act 2002, to implement the Government’s reform package for victims of crime.

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The Syria options

August 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

It appears that the Assad regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons against it own citizens, including many children. Other countries now have to decide how to respond to this, if at all. All the options range from bad to very bad – there are no good options, including do nothing.

Some have asked why is it that chemical and biological weapons represent what Obama called a red line. What is the difference between 200 killed by a mortar and 200 killed by saran gas? To the dead, there is no difference, but to the survivors there is a huge difference. Chemical and biological weapons can result in effects which carry on for years and decades – even affecting children yet to be born. That is why the use of them, especially against civilians and children, is seen as so horrifying.

In terms of responses, the preferred response would be for the UN Security Council to declare Assad a war criminal, and that he is arrested and put on trial. The problem is that Russia is blocking any meaningful action by the UN, and even if they did not veto the Security Council, it is not possible to arrest Assad if he wins the civil war – unless external military action occurs.

Now I don’t favour armed intervention in the Syrian civil war to determine the outcome. The rebels may be a cure worse than the disease, with many radical Islamists and links to terrorist organisations in their ranks.

However do you allow Assad to use chemical weapons with no consequences at all, just because Russia says so? The precedent that would set would not be a good one. If there are no consequences for a leader who uses chemical weapons, knowing the impact it will have, then the use of them will grow.

News.com.au reports:

BARACK Obama says the US has concluded that the Syrian government carried out a large-scale chemical weapons attack against civilians last week.

As the Syrian opposition claims Syrian government forces used napalm in an attack on Aleppo, killing at least 10 people, the US President says the US has examined evidence of last week’s nerve gas attack in Damascus which killed hundreds and doesn’t believe the opposition fighting the Syrian government possessed chemical weapons or the means to deliver them.

Mr Obama says he hasn’t made a decision about how the US will respond.

The White House says it’s planning a possible military response while seeking support from international partners. …

The administration says it will take action against the Syrian government even without the backing of allies or the United Nations because diplomatic paralysis must not prevent a response to the chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital last week

I guess this means a missile strike against some military targets. It won’t change things a lot, and could even destabilise things. However doing nothing is equally unattractive. What would be nice is if they can identify the persons responsible for using the chemical weapons and target them. That would provide a good incentive for others not to use them.

Josie Pagani makes the case for intervention at Pundit.

Meanwhile Phil Goff plays silly politics:

Labour has called on the Government to make public the United States briefings received overnight on Syria. …

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said Prime Minister John Key had an obligation to share details of the briefings with Parliament and the public.

Phil Goff has been Foreign Minister. He knows he is speaking a load of crap. It is not the role of the NZ Government to release details of confidential discussions with the US Government. It is the US Government that decides whether to release its briefings, not the NZ Government. For NZ to do so would mean they would never be consulted again.

Why can’t Goff for once just not play domestic politics on what is a very serious issue?

 

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Seems a fair compromise

August 29th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Will Harvie at The Press writes:

But the two groups are distinct and should be treated differently. First are the people with empty sections, who could not buy insurance in the marketplace and were expressly forbidden from buying insurance under the EQC Act.

The second group is people who chose not to insure their residences, or forgot or made some mistake that meant they were uninsured.

It’s unfair that bare-land owners were offered just 50 per cent. It should be 100 per cent. These people did nothing wrong, took all steps practicable and suffered as a result of a natural disaster.

Those who did not have insurance when it was available should be offered 50 per cent. They also did nothing wrong, but did not take all steps necessary to protect themselves and their investments.

I accept the ”moral hazard” argument that compensating the uninsured at 100 per cent would encourage people to skip insurance in the hope that the Government would bail them out.

That sounds pretty fair to me.

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Jones calls it!

August 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A union rally should have been fertile ground for canvassing for Labour’s leadership contenders to glad hand prospective votes.

But while underdog Shane Jones worked the crowd, the two main contenders, Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe, were conspicuously absent.

Council of Trade Union boss Helen Kelly told the South Auckland rally that Cunliffe and Robertson had decided their presence would be a distraction – but it appears the MPs were headed off by union bosses as they were on their way to the event.

Robertson confirmed he was on his way to Wellington Airport when he turned back after a talk with union officials.

Jones decided to attend anyway. Given that his status as underdog is due partly to his having little prospect of garnering an endorsement from union bosses, that was probably not surprising. But he said he only got the word about not attending after jumping on a flight for Auckland.

Given I had already wasted taxpayers’ money in coming here it didn’t seem it was a good idea in using taxpayers money and not fronting,” he said.

Good to see Shane call it correctly.

Did the taxpayer pay the bill for the cancelled flights for the others?

3 News reports that some unionists are not keen on Robertson, for the wrong reasons:

Labour leader hopeful Grant Robertson was dealt a blow in south Auckland today, when members of the religious and socially conservative faction of the party came out in force to make it clear they don’t like that he is gay and won’t be voting for him.

The unions will play a big part in deciding the next Labour leader, but many in south Auckland have another union – with God. And that wasn’t working well for Mr Robertson. 

“I don’t like gay people. I don’t like him,” said one person 3 News spoke to.

“I don’t like gay people. I don’t want to see him as the Prime Minister,” said another.

Maybe giving the unions 20% of the vote wasn’t such a good idea after all, some Labour activists may now be thinking.

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Geo-blocking

August 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Price gouging by international software companies is undermining New Zealand businesses and is unfair on consumers, the Green Party claims.

A survey by the party of more than 100 software and hardware products found prices were about 40 per cent higher on average here than in the United States.

It has called for an inquiry by Parliament’s commerce committee into the pricing gap, similar to one recently carried out in Australia.

That inquiry found evidence last month that Australians were commonly paying more than 50 per cent more than Americans for digital goods such as software, music and computer games bought online.

Multinationals can vary their country prices by detecting prospective customers’ internet protocol (IP) addresses and directing them to different online store fronts, in a process known as “geo-blocking”.

The Australian inquiry recommended that the government amend the Copyright Act to make it clear that it would not be illegal to circumvent geo-blocking by disguising IP addresses.

It also went further, by recommending the government consider banning geo-blocking if that did not have the desired effect.

Both excellent ideas. We are, or should be, one global market.

Victoria University economist Toby Daglish, who is also a director at the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation, said there were three main reasons why prices were higher in New Zealand.

The first was the cost of shipping physical items, and the second was the existence of robust consumer guarantee laws that protected customers.

Lastly, the “elasticity of demand” meant that, while countries with large populations could increase sales by lowering prices, those with a small population were less responsive to price change.

“The extent to which they can get away with that is linked to the extent of how they can stop people from buying things and shipping them here from other countries.”

They charge more, because they can! :-)

Technology journalist Bill Bennett said many pundits scoffed when the Australian Government launched its inquiry, but it had proved quite successful.

“A lot of people said they weren’t going to get a lot out of it because there’s bugger all a government can do . . . but what happened in Australia as a byproduct was the Australian Government managed to negotiate $100m off their bill with Microsoft.

“By getting this stuff out in the open in public, it puts a lot of pressure on.”

Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has instructed officials to work with their Australian counterparts to understand how the findings there may relate to New Zealand.

Not sure we need an inquiry per se as would find the same as in Australia, but anything that highlights the problem and puts pressure on for solutions is probably a good thing.

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No botulism

August 29th, 2013 at 9:13 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Fonterra will still face dual investigations over a botulism scare, even though it has turned out to be a false alarm.

Yesterday the Ministry for Primary Industries said fresh testing of Fonterra’s products revealed they did not contain Clostridium botulinum as announced on August 3 and which sparked an international scare.

Instead, the whey protein used widely in infant formula contained another form of bacteria which could cause products to spoil, but posed no food safety issue.

On August 2, Fonterra informed the ministry it had discovered a bacteria linked to botulism in a product manufactured 14 months earlier at its Hautapu plant in Waikato.

The resulting scare prompted some trading partners to block some or all New Zealand dairy products, while a major state-run Chinese newspaper wrote a scathing editorial about New Zealand testing standards.

Yesterday the Government, the ministry and Fonterra expressed relief at the findings.

New Zealand has one of the most transparent and rigorous food testing and assurance regimes in the world. It means that sometimes there will be alarm over a potential safety issue that after turns out to not be warranted.

However that is preferable to a regime when nothing is said publicly until (for examples) people start falling sick or worse.

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Bail changes

August 28th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Serious violent, sexual or drugs offenders now face greater hurdles to getting bail after sweeping changes to bail laws were backed by Parliament.

The Bail Amendment Bill passed into law this morning by 102 votes to 19. It was opposed by the Greens, the Maori Party, Mana and Brendan Horan.

The bill would require that a person on a murder charge or repeat violence, drugs or sex charges would have to persuade a judge that the community would be safe if they were released.

A very welcome step. Far too many offences are caused by people on bail. This generally won’t impact alleged first time offenders, but will affect those with a history of offending.

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Superannuation vs Education

August 28th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Parker said Mr Key’s position, including his pledge to resign rather than increase the age of eligibility was “just populism” intended as a vote catcher.

“We know that it’s wrong to be spending more on super than education, that it comes at the cost of caring for children, and yet he has got his head in the sand.

Vote Education is $12.4 billion.

Vote Superannuation is $10.9 billion.

I would have though a Finance Spokesperson would know this.

I of course do support increasing the age of eligibility for superannuation, and delinking it from the average wage.

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Dom Post and Grey Power on flexi super

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

The Dom Post editorial:

Ohariu MP Peter Dunne already has one thing in his favour as he pushes for flexible National Superannuation: significant public support.

According to a Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll in February, 49 per cent of people would like to choose when they receive their state pension, with reduced or enhanced rates depending on the age they start drawing payments.

Certainly, Mr Dunne’s proposal, which the Government agreed to consider as part of its confidence and supply deal with UnitedFuture, breathes some fresh air into the superannuation debate. It is well worth the discussion kick-started by a Treasury scoping document issued on Monday. 

A more hysterical response from Grey Power:

Allowing national superannuation to start at age 60 would be a cruel poverty trap for people who are short of money, Grey Power says. …

“This latest idea from Peter Dunne is one of the more cynical, cruel and dangerous bits of stupidity I’ve heard in a very long time,” said Grey Power president Roy Reid.

“It will be a poverty trap for financially hard-pressed people already on low incomes who will be tempted to take an early but low pension with no hope of it ever increasing to the rate that people who can afford to wait until they’re 70 will get.”

Mr Reid says Mr Dunne is a typical MP who has no idea of what life at the bottom of the heap is like.

“It’s like offering a starving family a loaf of bread today, and every day hereafter if you take it now, or two loaves a day and a big box of sausages every day if you wait for 10 years to collect.”

Mr Reid says Grey Power will fight the Government if it takes up the idea – and it wants Mr Dunne out of Parliament.

My God, the hysteria. Grey Power obviously thinks elderly people are so stupid they can’t be trusted to make decisions about what is best for them.

if you are 60 and in bad health, the option of early retirement could be a massive advantage.

Of course there are potential problems, but we need a rational discussion, not mad rants.

I note also that the Grey Power President has declared he wants certain MPs to be defeated. So I hope Grey Power will be registering as a third party for the election campaign.

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MPs and unions wanting to back the winner

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

The feedback I’m getting is that a number of MPs and unions who might have been expected to back Grant Robertson are holding off as to be blunt they don’t want to end up backing the guy who loses. They would prefer Robertson, but if Cunliffe looks too far ahead they will fall in behind Cunliffe.

This means the 12 semi-public meetings could be crucial. If one of the candidates dominates in the first couple, then the opportunistic MPs and unions will swing in behind them. They don’t want to back the loser as the fear is promotions and favours will be based on who you supported.

The 12 meetings are:

 

 

Date

 

Time

 

Location

 

Venue

Saturday

31/08/2013

1pm – 3pm Levin Horowhenua Events Centre, A&P Show Grounds Levin
Sunday 1/09/2013 Afternoon Auckland TBC
6pm Auckland Western Springs College Hall
Monday 2/09/2013 6pm Whangarei Forum North, Whangarei
Tuesday 3/09/2013 Evening Hawkes Bay TBC
Wednesday 4/09/2013 7pm – 9pm Tauranga Wesley Centre  100   13th Ave Tauranga
Thursday 5/09/2013 7pm – 9pm Hamilton Te Rapa Racecourse  Centennial Lounge, Hamilton
Saturday 7/09/2013 1pm – 3pm Nelson Victory Community Centre, 2 Totara St, Victory, Nelson.
Evening Wellington Wellington Girls High College TBA
Sunday 8/09/2013 3.30pm Dunedin Kings & Queens Performing Arts Centre, 270 Bay View Road, South Dunedin
Monday 9/09/2013 Evening West Coast Blackball / Greymouth
Tuesday 10/09/2013 7.30pm – 9.30pm Christchurch Christian Cullen Lounge, Addington Raceway, Christchurch

 Also of interest is the race for deputy. Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Labour leadership contest outsider Shane Jones says he will not try to chose a preferred deputy, but is certain the caucus will choose a woman to fill the role. …

“Without a doubt the Labour caucus will choose, in my view, a woman to be their deputy and I’ll just leave that with them,” he said.

That suggests that if Robertson does not win the leadership, he will lose the deputy spot. All or nothing!

Who are the women who might be in line for deputy.

  • Jacinda Ardern – close to Robertson, who former staff colleague. But would Cunliffe or Jones choose her?
  • Maryan Street – a powerful force in caucus, but maybe better behind the scenes?
  • Nanaia Mahuta – a previous running mate for Cunliffe
  • Sue Moroney – has lost five electorate races, but could end up deputy
  • Darien Fenton – currently a whip, and could help deliver union votes
  • Clare Curran – a South Islander, well connected in influential ICT industry
  • Megan Woods – also a South Islander, would help get the vote out in Christchurch
  • Ruth Dyson – probably seen as too much part of the past
  • Moana Mackey – close to Cunliffe, a possibility if he wins and Mahuta too busy with family
  • Carol Beaumont – pedigree union background
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Yay – no taxpayer money for Wellington Airport

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

Stuff reports:

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is confident the Government will rethink helping pay for an airport runway extension.

I’m confident they won’t.

That’s despite Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce quashing any hopes the Government might put its weight behind the plans.

But Ms Wade-Brown this morning said a business case and resource consent were being worked through. When the business case was complete, the Government would ‘‘keep an open mind’’, she said.

Infratil say the new runway will cost $300 million and they want taxpayers and/or ratepayers to fork up $200 million of it. Outrageous.

In any case, taxpayer funding would not necessarily be needed, she said.

So Celia wants ratepayers to fork up the entire $200 million?

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Is Political Idol over?

August 28th, 2013 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

It seems question time may have been too much for the Labour leadership contenders yesterday. In a very rare move, no Labour MP is asking a question to the Prime Minister today, even though it will be his last question time for three weeks (as overseas next week).

Maybe a National MP could seek leave of the House for all the three contenders to get a free question to the PM on any topic they choose?

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A shame

August 28th, 2013 at 10:14 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Xero will write down $700,000 after deciding to axe a software tool designed to help people manage their personal finances.

The company said 12,000 people used its personal financial management tool, Xero Personal, but it had not “taken off” as the company had hoped.

Those customers had not been included in Xero’s customer tally of businesses using its cloud-based accounting product, which stood at 193,000 at the start of the month.

“A few years ago, independent personal financial management looked like a complementary space to accounting, especially for small-business owners,” chief executive Rod Drury said.

“While a valuable service with many fans, we haven’t seen a mass market of consumers willing to pay for PFM products. The market just hasn’t taken off for any players and relies on advertising-based models that aren’t our business.”

Xero would “wind down” development work on Xero Personal and axe the service on November 30 next year, he said.

That’s a real shame, as a user. I paid around $50 a year for Xero Personal and found it an easy way to classify and track my personal spending. You have to manually import in bank statements but generally I could do all my bank accounts and credit cards in around an hour a month.

Xero Personal helped my realise why my expenses were exceeding my income!

What was really useful was I could classify some expenses as business expenses and have it automatically generate an expense claim in my Xero business account. A big time saver.

Any recommendations for other good software that tracks personal spending, and can import bank statements into it?

At least I’ve got it for another 15 months.

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David Cunliffe in 2008

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

The Listener profiled David Cunliffe in 2008. Some extracts:

First off, new Minister of Health David Cunliffe doesn’t want to be Prime Minister. “No. it’s a bastard of a job and I have a young family. I don’t think the two would go together.”

They must grow up quickly!

He is a Labour Health Minister, yet has (through his wife) private health insurance. He’s in a Labour Government, yet has long advocated private-public partnerships for infrastructure works

Does The Standard know this?

In his final years as a diplomat, Cunliffe clearly sought more. He later wrote: “Foreign Affairs had provided a great education in ‘how the world worked’. But it was a Government perspective – and I believe then, as I do now, that only in partnership with the business and community sectors can Government truly be effective.”

And this one:

Cunliffe’s centrist tendencies are at odds with Labour’s roots. He would be, for example, the first health minister to favour private health insurance. “My wife has private health insurance with her work. We have no intention of discontinuing that.”

David Cunliffe is doing what every good United States politician does. You veer to the grassroots for the primary, and then veer to the centre for the actual election. What this means is we have no real idea what policies could emerge from a Cunliffe leadership.

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10 biggest anti-fracking lies

August 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Phelim McAleer, the producer of FrackNation, details his list of the top 10 lies told about fracking:

  1. Anti-fracking activists are nice people who love debate
  2. Everyone hates fracking
  3. Fracking is brand new and untested (started in 1947)
  4. Fracking makes your water flammable
  5. Fracking contaminates drinking water – one million fracked wells, zero cases
  6. Fracking uses a lot of dangerous chemicals – actually 0.5% only
  7. Fracking causes breast cancer
  8. Fracking uses a ton of water – 5% of that used to water lawns
  9. Fracking should be banned because it causes earthquakes – so do hydro dams and geothermal
  10. Fracking destroys the landscape and disturbs bucolic rural America – generally only for a few days

d

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