Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

The new living wage!

February 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rev Waldegrave has waved his wand and come up with a new living wage of $18.80 an hour. This means that David Cunliffe, Len Brown and Celia Wade-Brown must all implement this new wage because they have promised to ensure all government staff in their sector get paid whatever Waldegrave says they should get paid.

The stupidity of their pledges is highlighted by what Waldegrave has done. You see he has not done a full recalculation of the Living Wage. He has just increased it by 2.1% because that is how much market wages have gone up. But that is a bastardisation of his own process, as his living wage calcualtion is meant to be based on how much you need to spend – not how much other wages have gone up.

So why has Rev Waldegrave done this? What would be the living wage if he had just recalculated it based on the latest data using the methodology he used to calculate the original living wage? Well it would be a staggering $22.89 an hour. They obviously realised that figure would get them laughed out of town, so they decided to pick another figure out of thin air.

So the true living wage figure is now $22.89 an hour. Waldegrave has gone for a more acceptable figure because this is about politics, not any form of impartial calculation.

So my question to David Cunliffe, Len Brown and Celia Wade-Brown is which living wage figure are they promising to pay all government staff and contractors?

Is the $22.89 figure that it should be, based on the original living Wage methodology they signed up for. Or is it the $18.80 figure, which means that they don’t care about what the actual living age is – they will just insist all staff be paid whatever figure Rev Waldegrave determines is correct every year?

Go read the report. It makes very clear that the formula they used for the living wage last year, would produce a living wage of $22.89 if applied this year. They’be basically dumped that formula because it is so ridiculous. But that is the formula Cunliffe, Brown and Wade-brown signed up to.

So the left are effectively saying it should be illegal for a 16 year old school leave, living at home, who works in the government sector to be paid less than $46,000 a year.

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Craig v Norman

February 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has refused to retract his characterisation of Colin Craig’s views on women and homosexuals despite the threat of legal action against him.

Craig, Conservative Party of New Zealand leader, has taken the first steps in defamation action after Norman claimed at Auckland’s Big Gay Out that Craig thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen and a gay man’s was in the closet.

Norman made an almost identical comment in Parliament during his opening speech for the year, but attributed it to the “conservative Right”, rather than Craig.

Craig has instructed his lawyers to take legal action and told Fairfax Media that the Green MP should apologise and retract his comments as “these are not things I think”.

“It is a defamatory thing and I would consider that somebody who thinks those sorts of things would have a lower standing in the eyes of the public … he’s crossed the line,” Craig said.

Norman’s characterisation of his views were offensive and “just wrong”.

“We … see them as defamatory, sexist, derogatory and offensive, so that pretty much sums up my view of them.” 

Norman today refused to resile from his comments, however, saying he found Craig’s comments “offensive”.

This doesn’t reflect well on either man. Russel Norman is the co-leader of the Green Party that claims a core value is “Engage respectfully, without personal attacks“. Norman tramples over that Green value all the time.

However Craig looks thin skinned for again threatening defamation. It may appeal to his support base which don’t like the Greens, but will make the media more hostile towards him as they don’t like politicians who threaten defamation. Also the comments Norman made, while false (as far as I know), are not worse than a lot of political rhetoric.

However there is one aspect to this, which the media have not picked up on. If you look at the letter Craig sent Norman, he is not threatening to sue Norman for damages. He refers to getting a declaration that what Norman said was false and defamatory.  That means it is not about trying to financially penalise your opponent – just having a court say that your opponent lied. It would be interesting to see how a court would rule, if it does proceed. Could Norman remain Green Party co-leader if the court ruled he had defamed Craig?

John Armstrong writes that Craig needs to “harden up and quickly”. It is good advice, but he also overlooks that Craig is apparently not seeking damages, just a declaration that the statements were defamatory.

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Fewer students leaving school unqualified

February 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Hekia Parata announced:

The number of students leaving school with an NCEA Level 2 qualification has seen a significant increase across the board in 2013, says Education Minister Hekia Parata.

The provisional results for 2013 show that 76.8 per cent of students left school with at least NCEA Level 2, compared with just over 74.3 per cent in 2012.

That’s an increase of 10.3 percentage points since 2008.

10% more students leaving school with a basic qualification is a great result. Students who leave with no qualification have a very dim future. If you want to make a difference to poverty and inequality, then having fewer students leave school without NCEA Level 2 is an important step along the way.

The change for Maori and Pasifika students is pronounced:

  • Maori students achieving NCEA Level 2 has increased 14.2% from 44.4% to 58.6%
  • Pasifika students achieving NCEA Level 2 has increased 16.5% from 55.3% to 71.8%

Parata notes:

“Over the past five years we’ve focused on collecting data from across the whole education system so we can see how it’s performing at every level and where we need to target resources.

“It has helped us identify which students need what kind of support through programmes such as Pasifika Power Up, Youth Guarantee, Achievement 2013-17, and Trade Academies.

“As part of our Better Public Service Targets, we are focussed on 85 per cent of all 18 year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2017. This target has encouraged schools and their communities to set their own targets and work towards achieving them.

Using data to target resources is sensible. Scary how so many people oppose the Government collecting any data on school and student achievement. Great to see so many schools successfully working to lift achievement rates.

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A day of horrors for Labour

February 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Monday started off badly enough for Labour with the weekend poll showing them 17% behind National.

Then they veered towards the ridiculous with David Cunliffe saying that he thinks the National Party may be paying people to follow MPs about.

It got worse when Cunliffe attacked John Key for living in a $10 million mansion, as this shifted focus on the fact he lived in a $2.5 million mansion himself.

Herne Bay is one of the country’s most expensive suburbs. Mr Cunliffe’s road, Marine Parade, is considered the suburb’s best street.

What this means is that Marine Parade is the most expensive street in the entire country.

“We bought the worst house in the best street,” says Mr Cunliffe. “It was a do-up; it probably wouldn’t be the average of the area.

John Key is open about the fact he has been successful and is well off. Cunliffe does not help himself when he describes a $2.5 million house on the most expensive street in New Zealand as a “do-up”.

Then the news broke that TVNZ had been hosting Labour Party campaign meetings, and that a senior TVNZ manager has resigned after hosting a hui which David Cunliffe attended.

A disaster of a day for Labour. No political management. And just to make it worse, the Taranaki Daily News reports that a young photographer was asked by David Cunliffe to delete a photo she took of him.

Where was Cunliffe’s press secretary. It is their job to stop the Leader doing stuff such as asking for photos to be deleted, or expressing paranoid musings that the Government has hired spies to follow MPs about. Likewise his staff should be pointing out to Cunliffe that you shouldn’t attack John Key for living in nice house, when you live in a $2.5 house on the most expensive street of New Zealand. It really is shambolic. If they are like this in opposition, how would they go trying to actually run a country?

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An appalling breach of neutrality at TVNZ

February 17th, 2014 at 10:27 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reported:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists.

They’ve even held a meeting in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour.

The unit’s manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.

Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

Mr Taurima’s a Labour Party activist. He could be standing as a Labour MP this election.

Documents obtained by 3 News show the state broadcaster is being used to help Labour’s cause.

Labour’s electorate committee for the Auckland Maori seat Tamaki Makarau has been using TVNZ as a base.

Last year, a meeting was held at the Maori and Pacific unit’s Hobson headquarters, next to TVNZ’s main building, with Labour Party activists swiped through security.

On the agenda was “fundraising” – making money for the Labour Party.

This is appalling and there must be a full independent inquiry into how this happened. Having the resources of the state broadcaster used to help the Labour Party fund raise and campaign plan is not far off political corruption.

This is not about the actions of Taurima alone. He was a known Labour Party aspiring candidate. TVNZ hired him back after he sought Labour’s nomination for Ikaroa Rawhiti. They knew his affiliations when they hired him back. Did they explicitly tell him he could not remain politically active?

There are so many questions about this, I don’t know where to start. Here’s a few.

  • How did TVNZ become aware of Labour Party use of their facilities?
  • Did they only take action once they became aware it would become public.
  • Why was Taurima not sacked, and allowed to resign?
  • Who at TVNZ knew about the Labour Party campaign meeting held at their offices, and who swiped all the activists through?
  • Who decided to rehire Taurima, after he quit to try and be the Labour candidate for Ikaroa Rawhiti?
  • Was Taurima explicitly warned or counselled about political activity?
  • How many TVNZ Maori unit staff are Labour Party activists? At least four are known of, which destroys any notion that the TVNZ Maori Unit is delivering politically neutral programmes.
  • Did any Labour MPs attend the meeting at TVNZ premises? Did they not think this was wrong, if they did attend?
  • Was Labour Head Office aware that TVNZ was basically the host for their Tamaki Makarau branch?
  • Did David Cunliffe not think there was anything wrong with attending a sesssion on how to win the Maori vote, run by the head of the TVNZ Maori Unit? Should this not ring warning bells?

There must be a full external inquiry into this. Either the TVNZ Board must commission an independent inquiry into how this occurred, and how to prevent it happening again – or the Auditor-General should be asked to investigate.

UPDATE: A further story in Stuff reveals:

  • TVNZ only found out about this due to the TV3 story.
  • Taurima only resigned once the story came to light
  • TVNZ knew that Taurima wanted to seek Labour’s nomination for Tamaki Makaurau

This is a really bad call by TVNZ. They hired someone who had just weeks earlier been a Labour Party candidate, and who wanted to stand for Labour again at the next election. They never should have hired Taurima again. By doing so, they turned their Maori unit into a branch of the Labour Party.

No one would say that you can never return to broadcasting after being a candidate. Paul Henry stood for National in 1999, for example. But that was in his past when he went onto TVNZ. It is very different to hiring someone weeks after they have been a candidate – and when they are still planning to run again.

UPDATE2: Taurima has put out a press release:

It is with immense regret and sadness that I have resigned as General Manager of Māori and Pacific Programmes at TVNZ.

I love and respect the work of all my TVNZ colleagues and regret any damage that my actions may have had on them, and the incredibly important and quality work they do.

I have been a member of the Labour Party since I contested the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidacy in 2013.

I have attended party hui and fully accept that some of my actions in supporting Labour may be seen to have crossed the line and I apologise unreservedly.

I categorically deny that my political affiliations have had any influence on any editorial decision that I have made during this time or at any time in the more than 12 years that I have been honoured to work in many roles at TVNZ. However, questions have been raised that have brought into question the integrity of the crucial work of my colleagues at TVNZ. This is unfair and unacceptable and as a result I have resigned.

I respect that an internal investigation is underway into the actions of three of my former colleagues and my heart goes out to them at this time..

I have seen the word activist used to describe my now former work colleagues. They are not activists. They are passionate friends and people that I love and respect who committed to provide some support to me. They are wonderful people whose enthusiasm led to some poorly considered decisions. Decisions that were not to benefit them individually.. I do hope their actions do not impact on the passion, commitment and loyalty they each provide as valued employees of TVNZ.

I have made no decisions around my future and will be making no further comment at this time.

I apologise again for any damage or upset that my actions may have caused.

Taurima made some very bad judgement calls, as he admits. For me the real issue is that of TVNZ management. Did they hire him back without asking if he planned to stand again?

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Opposition to higher taxes broken down

February 17th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The recent Fairfax poll asked respondents if they support or opposed raising taxes to pay for new spending. 69% said they were opposed and 25% in favour which means the net disapproval was -44%.

I was interested in the breakdown by party vote, which Fairfax kindly supplied. The net disapproval for supporters of each party against higher taxes was:

  • National voters: -59% net disapproval
  • Labour voters: -23% net disapproval
  • Green voters -0.5% net disapproval
  • NZ First voters -55% net disapproval

No surprise National voters are against higher taxes. Pleasing to see NZ First voters just as strongly against. What was fascinating is that most Labour voters are against increasing taxes to pay for new spending. Only 36% supported that with 59% opposed. The Greens were the only party not to be strongly opposed and they were split pretty much down the middle.

Also interesting to look at the demographics of opposition to higher taxes. They include:

  • Under 30s: -38% net disapproval
  • Maori: -50% net disapproval
  • Europeans: -40% net disapproval
  • Students: -32% net disapproval
  • No qualifications: -67% net disapproval
  • Post-grads: -22% net disapproval
  • HH income under $50k: -46% net disapproval
  • HH income over $100k: -32% net disapproval

So three fascinating things here:

  1. More Maori than Europeans oppose raising taxes to pay for more spending
  2. Those with no qualifications at all are far more opposed than the small number of people with a post-graduate degree
  3. Those with household incomes below $50K more opposed than those with HH income over $100k

So if parties go into this election vowing to raise taxes to pay for more spending, they will be seriously out of touch. As we head back into surplus, I want parties to be offering tax cuts, not tax increases.

The detailed results are here, for those interested – Fairfax poll breakdown

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The flag debate

February 17th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Fewer than two in five Kiwis want to retain the current flag, despite its defenders arguing it is the standard our troops fought and died for.

A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll has found that only 38.6 per cent do not want a change to the current blue ensign incorporating the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.

But with almost 19 per cent “not bothered either way”, the call for a change, put on the table for debate by Prime Minister John Key earlier this month, is hardly overwhelming either.

The survey found that just under 18 per cent wanted the flag replaced with the silver fern – Key’s personal favourite – while another 23.7 per cent want a change to something other than the silver fern.

Key said the result was a strong starting point, with a narrow majority even before a campaign had begun. “My instinct would be that more coverage would more strongly make the case for change. I take a lot of heart from the poll.”

So 42% support change and 39% oppose it. That is a pretty good starting position.

Here’s what I would do, to facilitate New Zealanders being able to make an informed decision on the flag. A simple three step process.

  1. Launch a design competition and panel to consider alternate flag designs and short-list four of them.
  2. Have a referendum with the general election where voters vote for their preferred alternate design to go up against the current design out of the four short-listed designs.
  3. Then around six to twelve months after that referendum, have a binding final referendum where the design that won the first referendum goes up against the current design

I think having two separate votes is essential. You need a clear simple A vs B choice for the final vote, where NZers have had time to consider the merits of the alternate design to the status quo.

The first referendum is also essential, as that gives the final alternate design legitimacy. You will never get wide-spread agreement on an alternate design that is foisted on people. But people will get behind the winner of a fair vote, even if they had a preference for another design.

I have a preference for the silver fern on black design. But if that didn’t win the first referendum, I’d probably support whatever design does win so long as it is an improvement upon the status quo which I find absolutely unappealing and far too similar to Australia’s.

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Will a $2 a week saving increase uptake by 2000%?

February 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green solar energy policy of a slightly lower interest rate on loans for solar power would reduce loan repayments by around $2 a week.

I am very sceptical that a huge number of people will decide to take out a $10,000 to $15,000 loan to save $2 a week.

But let us be generous. Let’s say that the $2 a week saving will result in twice as many people deciding to install solar power. What sort of increase is that?

Well currently there are 40 to 50 installations a month. So we will be generous and say an extra 50 a month or 600 a year.

Yet the Greens claim there will be an extra 10,000 a year. Yes they claim their $2 a week reduction in interest rates will result in a 2000% increase in solar panel installations.

If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale.

 

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Dom Post on change not wanted

February 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

John Key’s Government came into office in the midst of the global financial crisis. Nobody was expecting things to improve quickly. Most people expected them rather to get worse. Mr Key made no promises of instant gains.

On the other hand, his Government’s management of the economy was a moderate one and did not go for a hard dose of austerity. It reduced the deficit over two terms rather than bringing it back to nothing with a bump. The result was that our economic pain was relatively mild, at least compared with Britain and the United States.

The Key Government’s response to inheriting a structural deficit wasn’t to slash and burn with a frenzy of spending cuts. It was very moderate and middle of the road. Initially some infrastructure spending was accelerated to help soften the recession, and then new spending was slowed down. The extreme response came from Labour who went on the record opposing every single measure of fiscal restraint. They said a cap on public sector employees would be a disaster. They opposed saving money through efficiencies in back office functions.  I can’t think of a single act of fiscal restraint that they haven’t opposed.

Now the Government is signalling a less stringent approach to the budget, with increased spending in areas like paid parental leave. It recognises that the voters feel they have done their penance and a modest pay-off is in order. 

As we head back into surplus, we gain choices again. Deficits do not give you much choice. There are broadly three things you can “spend” a surplus on – debt reduction, extra spending and tax cuts.

A moderate balanced party will propose all three. I expect parties may disagree with each other about the exact proportions, but the extremists will only push those that fit with their ideology. Will Labour go against the 70% who don’t support tax increases and go into the election only promising tax increases, and not offering any tax cuts?

Labour leader David Cunliffe has not produced a big turnaround in the party’s fortunes, and time is running out.

National’s slogan this year will be some version of “Don’t put it all at risk”, and at present the signs are that it will work. There is not yet a deep-rooted feeling of economic dissatisfaction. There is not yet a widespread dislike of the Government. So the basic competing slogan – “it’s time for a change” – is not decisive.

Labour are promising to expand welfare payments to families earning up to $150,000 a year. Policies like that are what will put it at risk.

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More shark jumping

February 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

David Cunliffe has suspicions the Government’s paying someone to keep tabs on other Party leaders, following revelations of Winston Peters visiting the Dotcom mansion.

Oh dear God. This is almost comical. Look at the nice political party jump over the horrible shark, like Fonzie did.

John Key has admitted he heard about the visits from right-wing blogger Cameron Slater.

A big surprise, as Cameron wrote about the visits a couple of weeks ago.

Mr Cunliffe doesn’t believe it’s as innocent as that.

“More likely it’s some form of private individual and one can only speculate of the relationship between the National Party, that blogger and whoever else is doing the work.”

David Cunliffe wants to know where the information came from in the first place – and if MPs have been tailed.

People gave Colin Craig a lot of (deserved) shit for not ruling out moon landing conspiracies on the spot. Well how much worse is it when the Leader of the Opposition openly muses paranoid conspiracy theories about MPs being tailed by Government paid spies.

I mean seriously. This is even more demented than the GCSB being the source of the info on Winston’s visits.

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Campaigning against individual responsibility

February 17th, 2014 at 6:53 am by David Farrar

The health ****s are gathering today. Stuff reports:

Health advocates are drawing battle lines against “Big Food”, claiming drastic intervention is needed to stave off a diabetes crisis in New Zealand.

As adult obesity nears a third of the population, individual responsibility for diet and exercise is clearly not enough, said Dr Gabrielle Jenkin, an Otago University of Wellington health academic who is co-ordinating a seminar today in Wellington.

Government policymakers were reluctant to legislate against “Big Food” – industry powers such as Fonterra, Coca-Cola, Heinz Wattie’s, fast food chains and Foodstuffs and Progressive supermarkets, she said. Many so-called nutrition research bodies were sponsored by Big Food, she said. Dietitians New Zealand, for instance, stated on its website that it is backed by Unilever and Nestle.

How terrible. I’ve got a rule of thumb which is often correct. When so called researchers are more focused on the companies involved in an industry, than anything else, they’ve lost perspective. They just want to damage the companies they personally disapprove of.

Jenkin said “tainted” research was presented at select committees as unbiased fact. “They’re corrupting science.”

The translation here is that anything I disagree with is corrupt.

She claimed Big Food was more powerful than Big Tobacco, and likely to be more aggressive if policy turned against it.

The industry put the onus on individuals to fight obesity, so governments tended to promote diet and exercise rather than legislating against unhealthy food, she said.

Of course it fucking is, because there is nothing wrong with so called unhealthy food in moderation. I almost never eat chocolate due to its very high calorie and sugar count. But when I go tramping, then I buy some chocolate to make up scroggin for energy during the tramp.

I don’t want any fucking busy bodies legislating to tell me I can’t buy chocolate because it is unhealthy.

However,some governments had stood up to Big Food. In Britain, manufacturers have been forced to reduce fat, sugar and salt, and New York’s governor attempted to restrict portion sizes and introduce nutritional information in restaurants.

Including nutritional information empowers choice. That is a good thing. But having the state try to regulate portion sizes and dictate food composition is barking mad. These researchers seem to think that individual choice and consequences have no role in society.

Over 20 years I became very large. This was not due to advertising, or sugar in fizzy drinks or anything like that. It was simply because I ate too much food. It wasn’t the type of food as much as the amount of food. And then a couple of years I lost most of it by simply eating less and exercising more. It is that simple. Not easy, but simple.

In New Zealand, politicians remained cowed by Big Food, she said. In deprived towns and suburbs, fast food outlets were so numerous as to be unavoidable.

So effing what? It isn’t compulsory to go in. And even if you do, one can actually get quite healthy food in them. It’s about balance, not about banning food.

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Green solar power policy

February 16th, 2014 at 4:01 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Government will loan households up to $15,000 at low interest rates to help them install solar power if the Greens are elected.

Party co-leader Russel Norman launched the new energy initiative this afternoon in Auckland, estimating that it would save a family $100 on electricity bills a year.

“Power prices have risen 22 per cent since National came to power, which means energy companies are making big profits while ordinary New Zealanders struggle to pay their bills,” Dr Norman said.

Under the proposed scheme, New Zealanders would be able to borrow the full cost of installing photovoltaic panels and then pay it back via their council rates over 15 years.

Greens had a target of 30,000 installations in three years, and hoped that the boost for the solar industry would create 1000 jobs and also make the technology cheaper by increasing demand.

The party said that a typical solar-powered system cost $10,000, and households would be able to get loans of up to $15,000.

Interest on the loan would be charged at the Crown’s low sovereign interest rate – currently 4.1 per cent. This rate was not fixed, and could increase over time.

Greens’ policy document said that a 3kW solar-powered system would produce $1000 of electricity a year.

Because households would be paying off the loan at $900 a year, it was expected to save families $100 each year for the first 15 years.

Solar power is a great supplemental power source. However it costs a lot more than other power sources. It can make sense to borrow to install a solar power kit, but you need to be damn sure you’ll be at the place you currently live in for at least the next 15 years.

Also the slightly lower interest rate may not result in much greater take up than at present (and remember the more the Government borrows, the more that rate of borrowing will increase).

A $10,000 loan for 15 years at 4.1% according to Sorted is $74 a month or $888 a year. So yes in theory you can save $2 a week under this policy – but that is not much for a 15 year commitment. But at 6.0% current floating rate, is it only $84 a month so are people going to flock to solar power being it is $10 a month cheaper for a 15 year loan? I’d be amazed.

And what if costs of solar installations increase, if demand does increase? If they cost $15,000 not $10,000 then the cost is $111 a month for 15 years.

This isn’t a terrible policy. There are far far worse policies around. Greater uptake of solar power would be a good thing – but mass uptake will only occur when the costs of solar power becomes comparable to other power types.  I just don’t think a 4.1% interest rate compared to a 6.0% interest rate will make much difference to uptake.

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Roughan on Super age

February 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Roughan writes in NZ Herald:

To my astonishment I have passed the age of 60. In fact two more years have passed since that milestone flew by. In no time at all, I’m going to wake up one morning to realise I can claim the public pension and Winston’s card.

This is ridiculous. It really is.

Babyboomers have begun to declare 60 the new 40 because it’s true. It’s not just that we feel as fit and well as we were at 45, but human longevity has visibly rocketed in our lifetime.

My grandfather died at 66, my father is now 86. At this rate, unless the age of entitlement is raised I could be receiving the pension for a quarter of a century.

I have no need to stop work at 65 and I know I am not unusual.

I believe the age of eligibility should increase. Also a case for means testing, so long as the administrative cost of doing so wasn’t too high compared to the spending saved.

John Key has not made many political mistakes but even on his side of the fence there is a feeling he went too far when he solemnly promised the terms of national superannuation would not be altered while he was Prime Minister.

It was a mistake. No one should ever make a promise beyond the next term. We have elections to allow parties to offer different policies in the future. It is unfortunate that Labour’s scaremongering over superannuation in the mid 2000s resulted in Key going too far with his promise. I suspect he regrets making such an commitment.

But he did. He not only promised no change while he is PM, he pledged in writing that he would resign as both PM and an MP if he broke his word. I do not want him to break his word, because it would result in a Labour/Green/Mana Government. I suspect Labour would ever have signed up to increasing the retirement age except for the political benefit that it puts pressure on Key to break his word, which would politically cripple him.

It should be a lesson for future leaders that they should never be pressured into making a commitment beyond one election.

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10/10 in 34 seconds

February 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A gentle quiz this week.

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Smellie on TPP

February 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Smellie writes 10 things he says TPP opponents don’t want you to grasp:

  1. The secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations is typical of any such exercise.
  2. The bogey of corporations being able to sue governments is not only overblown, but corporations can do that now, without a TPP.
  3. Corporations might try to sue but they’ll be whistling if the government is acting in the public interest.
  4. United States corporate interests are obviously among those seeking influence on the TPP agenda, but that doesn’t mean the US Senate and Congress are on board.
  5. US politicians know less about what’s in the TPP negotiating documents than US corporate lobbies.
  6. No-one knows what the TPP could be worth to the New Zealand economy
  7. The US on the backfoot on many of the most contentious issues
  8. This is the end of Pharmac. Balderdash.
  9. The deal will be done behind closed doors. It can’t be. Every Parliament of every country involved will have to ratify any deal signed by leaders.
  10. There’s no guarantee TPP will come in to land.

It is quite legitimate to oppose some of the things that the US (especially) is asking for in the TPP, I am strongly opposed to many of their proposals for the intellectual property chapter. But there is a difference between opposing some of what the US is asking for, and demonising the TPP negotiations as a whole.

Matthew Hooton makes a similiar point in his Cunliffe’s Four Fails:

Mr Cunliffe’s fourth fail was over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) about which Labour has been fully briefed by the government, through Mr Goff.

Pandering to the Greens, Labour’s radicalised membership and Auckland anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey, Mr Cunliffe called for the TPP negotiating text to be released.

The good news is that Mr Cunliffe accepts this can’t happen while negotiations are under way and that the text should remain secret until it is finalised.

He says, however, it should be released two weeks before it is “signed.”

It is difficult to know what Mr Cunliffe – who claims, implausibly, to be “a former New Zealand trade negotiator who worked on the GATT negotiations and bilateral trade agreements” and to have “represented the New Zealand dairy industry overseas in many markets and on many occasions” – even means.

He cannot seriously be proposing that New Zealand unilaterally release the text without the agreement of the other parties.  That would see New Zealand excluded from all further international negotiations on any topic.

He must also know there is no two-week gap between a treaty being “finalised” and it being “signed.”  At trade minister level, they are the same thing.

Trade agreements are negotiated under the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  When trade ministers do reach agreement, there is seldom even a formal signing ceremony.  Instead, the agreed text is released as part of a communiqué and each country then decides if and when it will ratify it.

For the TPP, the US Congress has not granted President Obama fast-track negotiating authority, reserving the right to re-litigate each clause.  The text will be debated in detail in our parliament and media.  While the cabinet holds the formal ratification power, Parliament retains the right to legislate over the top of it.

 It could be a long time – even years, if other TPP countries have difficulty ratifying the deal – between a final TPP text being publicly released by trade ministers and it ever being finalised and ratified to come into force.

If he really ever were a trade negotiator, Mr Cunliffe would surely know this.

Matthew is a former press secretary to a Minister of Trade Negotiations.

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Fairfax poll breakdowns

February 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some interesting data in the breakdown of the Fairfax poll. Now note that these can be small sample sizes with high margins of error. But still some value in them.

I’ve listed National’s support from the strongest to weakest demographics:

  • 65+ yr olds 55.5%
  • Men 53.6%
  • 45 – 64 52.6%
  • Lower NI 50.6%
  • Auckland 50.2%
  • Upper NI 49.8%
  • All 49.4%
  • South Island (rest) 49.1%
  • Canterbury 47.8%
  • Wellington 47.3%
  • 30 – 46 46.1%
  • Women 45.7%
  • 18 – 29 40.6%

The interesting thing about those breakdowns is that older voters always turn out in much greater proportions than younger voters. Also interesting how strong Auckland is for National.

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About time

February 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A 16km expressway north of Wellington has had resource consent granted by a Board of Inquiry.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had proposed the expressway be built between Peka Peka and north Otaki.

The road was part of the Wellington Northern Corridor, a development considered to be of national significance, so was referred to the board by Environment Minister Amy Adams last April.

The decision followed the Board’s consideration of the application, submissions, evidence and a two week hearing.

Its decision could be appealed to the High Court on points of law only, and it could not be overturned by ministers.

NZTA’s state highway manager Rod James earlier said the road was expected to be open by mid- to late-2017.

I spent close to 90 minutes stuck in traffic at Otaki and Waikanae last Sunday. This expressway can not come quickly enough. Having SH1 go through the middle of shopping centres with intersections and traffic lights is madness.

My big hope is that all these developments get underway before the end of the year, as a change of Government could well see them scrapped.

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Armstrong on Jones

February 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

The applause from his colleagues ought to be long and loud when Shane Jones arrives for Labour’s weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday. This week was Labour’s by a country mile thanks to Jones’ carefully conceived, astutely timed and precisely targeted blitzkrieg-style offensive on Countdown, the Australian-owned supermarket chain.

In the space of just a few minutes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Jones made an extremely serious allegation regarding Countdown’s business practices. In doing so, he also entrenched Labour as the White Knight on the frontline of the Supermarket Wars.

It’s all about repositioning Labour more firmly in voters’ minds as the consumer’s friend who will confront big business greed rather than being a corporate lap-dog like National.

It’s about ensuring the economic debate at this year’s election concentrates on prices, wages, income inequality and child poverty – not economic growth forecasts, Budget surpluses and debt repayment where National has a huge advantage.

Yep a very good week for Shane Jones. It may backfire if he has over-egged the problem, but from what I have heard it does seem that there is some fire behind the smoke.

In fact, it could have been the perfect week for Labour had David Cunliffe not wasted an opportunity to nail the Greens to the wall, thereby making it very clear to the public who is going to be the boss in any Labour-Greens coalition Government.

Norman’s musings aloud on the Greens’ stance on Dotcom’s fight against extradition was a major gaffe. The Greens seem to believe that the wide discretion the law gives to the Minister of Justice amounts to carte blanche for the minister to pick and and choose who goes and who stays.

That discretion in the law is obviously there to deal with any anomalies or unforeseen circumstances.

Norman’s mistake was to talk about blocking Dotcom’s extradition if given the chance, while in almost the same breath referring to Dotcom not going ahead with the launch of his Internet Party which would have dragged votes off the Greens and other left-leaning parties.

Norman might argue he was talking about two very different things. But it was inevitable Key would link them and declare the Greens, who have attacked National’s electoral accommodations with minor parties, were about to strike a far more dodgy one of their own.

It is unwise to declare publicly you would try and veto extradition of someone, at the same time as you’re trying to negotiate an agreement for him to support your party, instead of setting up his own one.

So a good week for Jones, and not a good one for Cunliffe.

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Focusing on the big issues

February 15th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Finlayson and Justice Minister Judith Collins were among several ministers to receive Official Information Act requests from the Labour Party about whether they had a dress code, or had issued dress instructions to their staff.

It is understood Attorney General Chris Finlayson’s office was a target of the OIA after speculation he had banned ‘casual Friday.’ It is well known he frowned upon casual Fridays in his previous life as a lawyer. A spokesman for Mr Finlayson confirmed they did not have an official casual Friday but denied Mr Finlayson had banned it, saying it had never been discussed. He said there was no dress code.

“There is no dress code, but it is a professional environment. Certain clothing choices would be discouraged, such as bare feet or ‘Annette King for Rongotai’ t-shirts.” He pointed out having a casual Friday would technically be a dress code.

“That would be a stipluation of something you wear at work.”

In her reply to Labour, Ms Collins said she did not have a dress code and the request was clearly a “cry for help” from Labour for dress tips.

“You have now sent me two requests for this information which have been processed and answered. Most taxpayers would consider this a gross waste of taxpayer funds. I, however, am willing to believe your repeated request reflects a genuine cry for help and is recognition of the collective good dress sense shown in this office.”

Knowing some of the staff in that office, I can testify that they do have an excellent collective dress sense. Paula Bennett’s office and Amy Adams’ office also score very highly :-)

A spokesman for Labour said the request was sent to several ministerial offices because it had been told some staff were spoken to about their clothing. “We were looking into some issues concerning staff treatment in ministerial offices and wanted to see if it was isolated or reasonably wide spread.”

I encourage Labour to keep focusing on the big issues!

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Rio Tinto profits

February 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Rio Tinto will not reimburse the $30 million Government subsidy it received to keep Tiwai Point open, in spite of posting a $3.7 billion 2013 profit.

Opposition parties have slammed the payment as “corporate welfare at its worst” in light of the profit announced today.

However, Prime Minister John Key said the payment had been necessary to save hundreds of jobs.

The Government announced in August last year it would pay $30m to the New Zealand subsidiary of corporate giant Rio Tinto to persuade it not to close the Tiwai Pt Aluminium smelter. In return, the company gave the Government a commitment to keep the smelter until January 2017.

Rio Tinto yesterday surprised investors with a better-than-expected profit and dividend in its full-year results presentation.

The diversified miner announced a dividend of US$1.92 (NZ$2.30) after reporting underlying earnings of US$10.2b for 2013.

First of all let me say I opposed the subsidy to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Point open. I don’t think the Government should have paid it. I think Rio Tinto bluffed them. So I am not in any way defending the Government’s decision.

But the suggestion that because Rio Tinto globally made a huge profit, means that the subsidy was not needed is erroneous and a red herring. What matters is whether Tiwai Point is profitable, not the rest of the company. If you own ten stores and nine of them are highly profitable and one makes a big loss, then you will close the loss making store unless you can make it profitable.

Now as I said I disagreed with the decision to pay the subsidy, but I understand the reason the Government did it. They did not want to risk that Tiwai point would close, and 800 jobs or so would be lost. Ironically Labour keeps insisting that National is a hands off Government that doesn’t intervene to protect jobs. Yet when they do, they complain.

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Latest poll

February 15th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fairfax have their latest poll done last weekend.

It has National 17% ahead of Labour and 7% ahead of Labour/Greens combined. Those saying NZ is heading in the right direction are 64% compared to 36% wrong track.

Very pleasing is that 67% are opposed to raising taxes to fund new initiatives, with only 27% in favour. Parties should be offering tax cuts, as NZ heads back into surplus, not tax increases.

Labour have dropped 2% in this poll and under Cunliffe not making more of an impact than David Shearer did. This poll result comes out in the same week when one Labour MP showed his colleagues how to run an issue well, and get most of NZ onside – as Shane Jones did with Countdown. More than a few of his colleagues will be wondering if the party made the wrong choice.

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A mandate for Ngāpuhi

February 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson announced:

All Ngāpuhi members will be entitled to vote in elections for representatives to the independent mandated authority that will negotiate the iwi’s historical Treaty settlement with the Crown, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson and Minister of Māori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples announced today.

The Ministers today said they have recognized the mandate of Tūhoronuku to negotiate as an independent mandated authority for the settlement of the claims of the country’s largest iwi, Ngāpuhi. Tūhoronuku will become a separate legal entity from Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi, and new elections will be held for its governance board.

This is a very significant step forward. Ngāpuhi are the last of major Iwi to settle, and it has been a hugely complex and lengthy process to get a mandate recognised.

“Ngāpuhi has been going through a lengthy and robust mandating process since 2009, the longest and largest in the settlement process to date,” Mr Finlayson said. “Around 60 hui were held, including 20 hui in the lead up to the formal mandate ballot in August and September of 2011 throughout NZ and in Australia. 76% of those who participated in the ballot were strongly in favour of granting a mandate to negotiate to Tūhoronuku.”

There are a minority opposed to the proposed structure for negotiations, but a 76% vote in favour is clearly a mandate.

What this mandate recognition means is that the actual negotiations can now start, and hopefully we’ll get a settlement in the next couple of years. This makes it very possible that by say end of 2016, all the major historical claims will be settled. That will hopefully focus attention on whether one needs to retain the Waitangi Tribunal going forward – or should so called contemporary claims just be dealt with through the court system?

Anyway congratulations to the very hard working Ngāpuhi negotiators for finally achieving recognition of their mandate.

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Will English go for Clutha-Southland?

February 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Outgoing Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English has not ruled out standing for the Clutha-Southland electorate seat, currently occupied by his brother Bill, in this year’s general election.

Conor English announced his resignation from the nationwide organisation, effective from July 23, last week, stating there were “many opportunities” he would like to pursue.

There has been speculation these opportunities might include putting his name forward for Clutha-Southland, to be vacated by his brother, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

Yesterday, Conor English said the chances of him standing for the seat were very low, but, when asked if he would consider putting his name forward, he would not rule it out.

Off memory Conor sought the nomination for Awarua in 1993, but was beaten by Eric Roy. If he had won it, then Bill and Conor would have been neighbouring MPs. Conor also worked in the Beehive in the 1990s for John Luxton.

It will be interesting to see who seeks the nomination. It is basically a seat for life, so I hope a lot of talented people contest the selection.

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Another Labour lie

February 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has proclaimed:

The Easy-Vote card which has been used in the last couple of elections should be reinstated says Labour’s  Justice spokesperson Andrew Little .

This is a lie. The implication is that the card has been removed. The Easy-Vote card will be used in the 2014 election in the same way as it was in 2011.

The Electoral Amendment Bill which had its second reading today removed clauses in the original Bill that would have seen the use of the Easy-Vote card confirmed for all future general elections.

No, this is deceptive. The Electoral Commission proposed *extending* the use of the card so that one would not need to check a name off the electoral roll at the time of voting, if they had a card. The Justice and Electoral Select Committee *unanimously* declined to do this as it would have meant that scrutineers would have no chance to effectively object to a vote card being issued, as they would not know who the voter is purporting to be.

The key thing is these changes do not in any way remove the Easy Vote card and they were unanimously agreed to by the Select Committee – which includes several Labour MPs on it. There was no minority report.

Andrew Little is outright lying when he says he wants the card reinstated. He knows it has not been removed. It will be used in the 2014 election in the same way as in 2011. It is a very useful device as it gives the returning officer the page and line number of the voter so they can be quickly located on the electoral roll.

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Tax then ban

February 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A tax on sugary drinks could save lives and reduce New Zealand’s obesity burden, new research shows.

Research published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows a 20 per cent tax on sugary soft drinks would prevent 67 deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and diet-related cancers per year.

Its author, Professor Tony Blakely, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, said a tax on sugary drinks would be a simple and smart move to fight obesity and related illnesses.

“If you’re thinking of one tax or subsidy on food, then this is [it],” Blakely said.

No it isn’t. The fax tax introduced in Denmark was a disaster and was scrapped.

3 News reports:

Should fizzy drinks be banned? And should there be a fizzy drink tax? Next week a conference of public health specialists in Auckland will meet to discuss these questions.

They claim it will save lives, curb obesity, diabetes, risk of stroke, cancers, and several other health issues.

The American Heart Association say that the upper limit of sugar we should get each day is three teaspoons for children, six for women and nine for men, but New Zealand data suggests we get three times that amount, ingesting 30 teaspoons a day.

Public health specialist Simon Thornley recently took a visit to Rangitoto College to see what was on the menu at the school canteen these days.

To Mr Thornley, this love affair with sugar is a full blown addiction, complete with binges, requiring increasing doses for satisfaction and finally withdrawal when we kick the habit.

He wants a sugar tax and restrictions on sale, just like tobacco, starting with a ban on sugary drinks and food in schools.

There is no end to the ambitions of these campaigners. It starts with tobacco, then it’s alcohol, then it is fast food, then it is soft drinks then it is probably chocolate – they want it taxed, restricted, not advertised and then banned. They do not think we should be allowed to make choices.

There is nothing wrong with having a coke, occassionally. Personally I almost exclusively drink the diet or zero versions because of the calories in the full versions – but that is my choice. Almost every food and drink has some calories in it. Apple juice does. No food is universally good or bad. It is all about frequency and portion size. Taxes and bans punish everyone.

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