Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

If schools become meal providers, what happens at holidays?

January 1st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting comment at Whale Oil:

As I was eating crayfish last night I was wondering who is feeding all those 10,000s of starving kids we keep hearing about who are living in poverty over this xmas New years break while the schools are closed?

I haven’t read any reports of them turning up in droves at A&E suffering from malnutrition …or are they only starving when politicians are not on holiday???

This highlights the problem of making schools responsible for feeding kids, rather than parents. What happens at school holidays?

Fairfax scores 141/200

December 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The 2014 Fairfax predictions have been scored.

  1. “National will get a lift in the polls early in the year as the economic news gets better.” 10/10
  2. “John Key will reshuffle his cabinet lineup in the first two months of 2014.” 9/10
  3. “At least one of the Green MPs will step down before the general election.” 5/10
  4. “Two of Labour’s ‘old guard’ will go on the list to give themselves the option of quitting after the election without triggering a by-election.” 0/10
  5. “Brendan Horan, Eric Roy and John Hayes will not be MPs by the end of the year.” 10/10
  6. “Irrespective of the election result, David Cunliffe will stay on as Labour leader.” 3/10
  7. “The Genesis Energy sale will go ahead, but for the election campaign National will call it a day on the partial privatisation programme.” 10/10
  8. “Conservative leader Colin Craig will stand in the East Coast Bays seat, his party will get into Parliament but will not cross the 5 per cent threshold.” 6.66/10
  9. “The economy will start to flag late in 2014 as rising interest rates start to bite.” 6/10
  10. “The brawl between Judith Collins and Steven Joyce over who will inherit John Key’s crown will heat up as the election approaches.” 2/10
  11. “Mr Key will give the thumbs up to talks with all of National’s potential allies: ACT, the Conservatives, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture. But he will make it clear NZ First will be his last cab off the rank if he is in a position to form a government.” 10/10
  12. 12. “The Maori Party will win two seats at the election.” 10/10
  13. “Key will visit the White House and host a high-profile return visit.” 5/10
  14. “ACT will not get more than 1.5 per cent of the vote.” 10/10
  15. “New Zealand’s push for a temporary seat on the United Nations security council will be successful.” 10/10
  16. “A senior member of David Cunliffe’s office will quit.” 10/10
  17. “Housing will be one of the most contentious themes of the year, prompting National to announce further measures to help low-income and first-home buyers.” 10/10
  18. “There will be upsets in the seats of Napier, Mt Roskill, Te Tai Hauauru, Ohariu and Maungakiekie.” 4/10
  19. “The election will be held in October.” 0/10
  20. “National will form a government with at least two other parties.” 10/10

Not a bad score. Their 2015 predictions come out tomorrow.

Press Council slams Waikato Times

December 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged back in April on a disgraceful front page story in the Waikato Times that published an allegation from Curwen Rolinson (NZ First Youth Leader) on Facebook that the Waikato Young Nationals had purchased 202 copies of Dirty Politics to do a Nazi style book burning.

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As you can see the Waikato Times didn’t only make it their front page lead, they even commissioned a graphic of the book burning.

They were told the story was false. They decided to run it as a front page lead, and now the Press Council has slammed them for it in one of the harsher rulings I have seen.

The Press Council has said:

The Press Council recognises that social media are a frequent source of information that can be checked and developed into stories capable of meeting the standards of accuracy, fairness and balance expected by readers of a reliable newspaper.

In this case the Council does not believe the newspaper had sufficient corroboration of the claim on Facebook. The Times’ additional source, a student who would not be named, claimed to have seen Mr Letcher with more than 200 books. If that statement were true, it does not establish that Mr Letcher intended to burn them.

The Facebook posting as reported by the Times, said, “So apparently the CNI Young Nats (and presumably the NZ Young Nats) are buying up copies of Nicky Hager’s # Dirty Politics….and burning them.” The word “apparently” should be noted. It suggests the information was at best hearsay, at worst an assumption by a person associated with a rival political party.

The Times called it “rumour” but its report also claimed to have confirmed part of the rumour. It is therefore difficult to accept the Regional Editor’s response that the paper was merely reporting an allegation. Its confidence in its own source and its decision to splash the book burning allegation across its front page would have given the story credibility in the minds of some readers. 

While Mr Letcher’s denial was also reported prominently, this does not redeem the report. Newspapers need to be careful when dealing with rumour that is denied. A false accusation can easily be made for the purpose of forcing a political opponent to deny it publicly. That indeed is said to be a device of “dirty politics”. Newspapers should take care to ensure they are not unwitting instruments of it.

Basically the Press Council has said that the Waikato Times was part of Dirty Politics themselves.  They smeared Aaron Letcher on the basis of a Facebook post by a political opponent and an anonymous source.

They refused to admit they did anything wrong:

The Times did not base stories solely on social media but those media often provided tips or starting points for stories. In this case the allegation on social media was supported by a source the Times considered credible and agreed not to name, which is standard practice for news organisations.

Their anonymous source lied to them, as there were not 202 books purchased or in Letcher’s possession. You only have to protect sources that tell you the truth.

The WaikatoTimes could not substantiate this rumour to a standard that meets the Press Council’s principles of accuracy and fairness. Mr Letcher’s complaint is upheld.

The Press Council has upheld, by a majority of 8:3, a complaint against the Waikato Times over a front page report of a claim that Young Nationals had bought hundreds of copies of the book Dirty Politics, intending to burn them.

What I find amazing is that it was  only an 8:3 decision, not 11:0. I can’t think of a more clear cut example, especially when you consider how it was made a front page lead. Of interest the three who said it were fine are all members meant to be representing the public, while all the members representing newspapers, magazines and journalists condemned it.

I hope the  Waikato Times runs the decision of the Press Council with the same prominence as they did the original story, and they finally apologise to Aaron Letcher for the outrageous smear they published as a front page lead, linking him to a purported Nazi style book burning.

UPDATE: The Waikato Times has not mentioned the ruling on their front page, but have it on an inside page. The front page is devoted to the worthy talents of Miss Whangamata.

Tweeting MPs

December 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at some MPs worth following on Twitter.

  1. @jacindaardern. 25,200 followers
  2. @AndrewLittleMP. Followers: 4840
  3. @cjsbishop. Followers: 1850
  4. @grantrobertson1. Followers: 10,400
  5. @jamespeshaw. Followers: 2220
  6. @paulabennettmp. Followers: 3853
  7. @TrevorMallard. Followers: 7391
  8. @winstonpeters. Followers: 9257
  9. @PeterDunneMP. Followers: 5698
  10. @tauhenare. Followers: 6061 (Tau is there as honorary Minister of Twitter outside Parliament).

Some amusing extracts:

Most memorable exchange this year was after someone proposed a sitcom starring Judith Collins and Robertson. Robertson suggested George and Mildred “but with weapons”. Collins replied he was being hard on himself given George was “a lazy, do nothing, gambling moaner”. Robertson replied: “Who said I was George?” Is also humble – of his low ranking on a blog’s “hottest MPs” list: “my hotness is so powerful it is not necessary to talk of it.”

Heh.

After Samoa’s Prime Minister urged women MPs not to forget their housewifely duties, Bennett tweeted: “can’t read the full story, rushing home to cook husband dinner.”

Excellent.

Vance’s MPs to look out for in 2015

December 29th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance details some MPs to look out for in 2015, who may make headlines. They are:

  • Andrew Little, Labour Leader
  • Todd McClay, MP for Rotorua and Revenue Minister
  • Alfred Ngaro, National List MP
  • Chris Bishop, National List MP
  • Phil Twyford, MP for Te Atatu
  • Kelvin Davis, MP for Te Tai Tokerau
  • Stuart Nash, MP for Napier
  • Peeni Henare, MP for Tamaki Makaurau
  • Megan Woods, MP for Wigram
  • James Shaw, Greens List MP
  • Fletcher Tabateau, NZ First List MP
  • Ron Mark, NZ First List MP
  • Judith Collins, MP for Papakura
  • Maurice Williamson, MP for Pakuranga
No tag for this post.

2015 predictions

December 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

In emulation of the excellent Fairfax annual predictions, here are my political predictions for 2015. Some serious, and some less so.

  1. There will be a by-election in 2015
  2. There will be no changes to the composition of the Key Ministry in 2015
  3. Two Labour List MPs will leave Parliament in 2015
  4. The Government will post a small surplus for the 2014/15 fiscal year
  5. Andrew Little will remain Labour Party Leader
  6. Jacinda Ardern will be annointed Labour Party Deputy Leader
  7. Four of the original five charter schools will get good reviews, but one will close
  8. Not a single members’ bill will pass into law in 2015
  9. At least one person on Labour’s list, will waive taking up their spot in Parliament, when vacancies occur
  10. An MP will announce their engagement
  11. Helen Clark will not stand for UN Secretary-General
  12. Labour will reach 30% in at least one poll in 2015
  13. Trevor Mallard will throw Winston Peters out of the House for disorderly conduct
  14. An MP will get pregnant in 2015
  15. Whatever decision the Government makes on helping combat the Islamic State, it will be condemned by the Greens
  16. No ACT MP will be charged with a crime in 2015
  17. A visit to NZ by David Cameron will be announced in 2015
  18. The winning design in the first flag referendum (to decide which goes off against the current one) will have a Silver Fern on it
  19. Claire Trevett will hold onto power as Chair of the Press Gallery, defeating the ABT faction once again
  20. The Government will not give a cent to Sky City for the convention centre

Herald profile of Mark Mitchell

December 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald is profiling some backbenchers. Today is Mark Mitchell, MP for Rodney:

You’ve been in Parliament three years, so what’s the best advice you can give to a new MP?
The best advice I got – and I applied it throughout my whole life – was that when you are embarking on a new job or a new challenge, it is really important to listen, to watch and listen and pick up as much as you can and then start applying what you’ve learned and do the best that you can.

What would be your dream portfolio if you were ever in Cabinet?
My dream portfolio would be trade. I’m deeply passionate about trade and that’s really what drove me back home to get involved in politics. I see the future of our country is tied directly to how well we can continue to trade with the rest of the world.

What do you mean “drove me back home?”
I had my own company when I lived in the Middle East. My company was operating in a lot of emerging markets that are fairly important for New Zealand and I felt we could have been doing better. We were living in Kuwait and basically my wife said to me one day, ‘stop moaning about it and do something about it’. I reflected on it and thought the contribution I could make would be to return home and get involved in politics.

What sort of company was it?
There were two parts to it. I was involved on the management board of a global logistics company, one of the top 10. It was in about 120 countries with about 500 offices with about 30,000 employees. The second part was a security risk management company I formed myself, which was in about 14 countries, and had about 3000 employees which I was the chairman and CEO of. In 2010, when I decided to come back, the company was sold.

So Mark formed and ran a company with 3,000 employees. Very impressive.

Have you got a goal for 2015?
A goal in terms of my electorate is to continue to advance Penlink, which is an important infrastructure project that links the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, back into State Highway One. Locally, I’ve also begun a holistic review of what investment is required to keep our services in line with the amount of growth we are expected to absorb. About a third of all current residential building consents lodged at the Auckland Council are for Rodney. In terms of personal goals politically, I would like to obviously pick up a ministerial portfolio, so I will continue to work hard and show I am capable of taking on that responsibility. And in terms of personal goals, we are defending the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup title in the UK in 2015 and I’m the co-captain, with Damien O’Connor [Labour, West Coast-Tasman].

Mark’s majority in Rodney is 20,230.  He got 24,519 votes and the Labour candidate 4,289!

Scoring my 2014 predictions

December 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

My 2014 predictions were here. Some serious, and some not. How did I go?

  1. Colin Craig will be a Member of Parliament by the end of 2014 – 0
  2. The election will be held in October 2014 – 0
  3. Genesis Energy will be sold by May 2014 – 1
  4. There will be two new Ministers before the election – 1 (Lotu-Iiga and Wagner)
  5. At least one electorate Labour MP will be successfully challenged for their party’s nomination (or will withdraw before the vote) – 0
  6. At least two more National MPs will announce they will retire before the election – heaps did – 1
  7. Brendan Horan will not be an MP by the end of 2014 – 1
  8. The 2014 Budget will project a surplus of between $100 million and $250 million for 2014/15.  1/2 – $372 million projected.
  9. NZ will not win the election for the UN Security Council – 0 – thankfully wrong
  10. At least two Green MPs will be ranked outside the top 15 on the Green list – 1/2 – Browning was on the draft list and Walker went off the list
  11. The Maori Party will have at least two MPs after the election – 1
  12. Len Brown will go – 0.
  13. Hone Harawira will attend less than half the House sitting days in 2014 – have to check but pretty sure he did under half – 1
  14. National will campaign on tax cuts and Labour on tax increases – 1
  15. Jamie Whyte will be elected the Leader of ACT and candidate for Epsom, but ACT will not make it back to Parliament – 1/2 – thankfully wrong
  16. Peter Dunne will be re-elected MP for Ohariu – 1
  17. NZ First will have fewer MPs after the election, than they got in 2011 – 0
  18. A prominent journalist will stand as a candidate for the Kim Dotcom Party – 0 – they all said no
  19. National will both gain and lose electorate seats at the election – 1/2 – lost Napier
  20. After the 2014 election, Parliament will be at least 38% female, up from 34% – 0 – dropped to 31%

Overall – 10/20 – just scraped through.

Is Fairfax showing their colours?

December 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article on Stuff naming 5 people who tried to make NZ a better place, and 7 who didn’t. The author is unknown, but what they write is very revealing.

They name Nicky Hager as someone who made NZ a better place.

They also said Kim Dotcom was in with a chance to make NZ a better place but didn’t as his parties failed to get into Parliament. Does that mean the author thinks NZ would be better if he did get in?

The author also attacks Mike Hosking and Paul Henry:

But both leapt back into the limelight to spout their biased beliefs as Hosking took over Seven Sharp and Henry started The Paul Henry Show to replace Nightline on TV3.

Oh dear we can’t have anyone on television who is unsound, can we.

Labour candidates calls Christianity “toxic wares”

December 24th, 2014 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in Manawatu Standard:

Thursday is Christmas Day. For most New Zealanders, this is not much more than a hard-earned day-off, an occasion to gather with family and licence to eat a quite a bit more than one’s diet allows.

It is also (particularly for children) about the material aspirations of gift giving.

For New Zealand’s Christians, of course, it is also an important religious festival commemorating the nativity of their Man-God. It is the end of the penitential season known as advent and a time of great celebration. …

Instead, the wider culture is now hostile to orthodox Christianity, which is held to a much higher standard of scrutiny than other religions and cultures.

Those who are quite happy to casually sneer at Christians around the office coffee machine seldom have the courage to do the same when other minority identities are concerned.

Where media commentators are purposely respectful of other faiths, they are seldom afraid to propound ignorantly about Christian doctrine or issue bone-headed advice to Christian leaders.

Last month one of Labour’s candidates at the election took to a popular Left-wing blog to publish a tirade against Christians in the party.

The Bible was repeatedly denounced as “snake-oil” and the Christian God was described as “a mean Mutha” who “nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers”.

It’s a free country and those kinds of screeds should not be censored.

But just picture the outcry that would have followed a major party candidate writing anything as remotely incendiary about Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism.

Can you imagine the high-dudgeon and editorial hand-wringing such an outburst would occasion?

This is a good and valid point. There is a double standard. Let’s look at what Labour’s Whangarei candidate wrote:

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it.

Imagine what Labour would say if a National Party candidate wrote about the brutal scars of Islam?

We all know the misery that has been inflicted in this Christian god’s name. There’s a smile from one. We’ve already had a discussion about how this Christian god is such a mean muthafucka that he nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers. 

Again imagine a National Party candidate talking about the misery inflicted in the name of Allah, and how Mohammed was a pedophile. There would be complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it. 

Again try this as “The brutal scars of Islam do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that Islamic fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community, and follows of Islam have been responsible for most of it.”

I’m no fan of the Catholic Church when it comes to their views on sexuality, but last time I checked you didn’t have any Catholic or Christian states that executed people for being gay.

These bible-bashing god-botherers have no greater claim on our time than Amway sellers or other marketers of snake oil. And, yet, even an organisation as broad and inclusive as the Labour Party allows these toxic wares to be purveyed at its meetings. 

One can have a rational discussion on whether party meetings should allow prayers, but the hatred and bile at Christianity is something that would be unacceptable about any other religion – coming from someone who was standing for election just two months ago.

 

 

 

Caption Contest

December 23rd, 2014 at 4:53 pm by David Farrar

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Stuff has a gallery of some of the great photos their photographers have taken this year. Go check them out, but also I couldn’t resist borrowing this one (by David White) for a caption contest. As always go for funny, not nasty.

Let Sky City walk

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

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council and Mayor Len Brown were yesterday blindsided by suggestions from the Government and SkyCity that ratepayer money be used to fund the shortfall in costs for a controversial convention centre.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison yesterday also confirmed his company wants a taxpayer-funded top-up and was willing to walk away from the deal if it doesn’t get it, after last week revealing a rise of up to $130 million for the centre, originally priced at $402 million.

SkyCity was favoured by the Government to build the centre over rival bidders for its willingness to fund and operate the facility itself without taxpayer funds, in return for gambling concessions including more gaming machines and a licence extension.

Mr Morrison said SkyCity “absolutely” wanted a taxpayer top-up and issued a veiled threat to walk away from the project.

“This is an unprecedented investment in tourism infrastructure in Auckland.

If Auckland doesn’t want it, if New Zealand doesn’t want it, quite frankly that’s fine with SkyCity, we don’t have to do this,” he told Radio New Zealand yesterday.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who has overseen talks with SkyCity, said Mr Morrison was “entitled” to try to seek taxpayer dollars. But “I have some slightly more cynical news for him, which is, that’s unlikely to be the case.”

Let Sky City walk, rather than give them taxpayer dollars. They are trying to do a Rio Tinto on the Government and extort some money from them, for something they have agreed to do. I hope Steven Joyce stays firm.

Eric Crampton makes the point:

A government committed to using PPP arrangements also has to be ready to play hardball with contractors who lowball initial cost estimates lest they encourage stupidity in each and every future contract.

The point of what is effectively a PPP is that the private sector partner carries the risk, rather than the Government.

Instead, Mr Joyce said any shortfall which could not be covered by removing costly features, downsizing the centre or more effectively managing construction costs could be offset by an operating subsidy from the council. “The other option is asking for the Auckland Council to come in, not necessarily with capital but if you look at the Wellington Council, they’ve just done a deal to do a convention centre, a much smaller one but they’ve underwritten some operating costs so that might help.”

They should downsize the centre so that it can be constructed for the original price.

The Wellington convention centre deal has actually just fallen over.

The Herald understands SkyCity would also like the council to offer millions of dollars in concessions on costly red tape necessary to build the centre.

Getting rid of red tape for developments would be good.

Have fewer kids ad don’t blame the Sallies

December 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Invercargill couple say their six young kids will go without on Christmas day and it’s the Salvation Army’s fault.

However, the Salvation Army says the parents are to blame for their family’s predicament because they have relied on handouts rather than trying to help themselves.

Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett said their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.

“How can we tell the kids there’s nothing for Christmas?” Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.

Shelly said she was on the invalid’s benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks.Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.

If you are on the invalids benefit, then you have probably been on there long-term. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop having kids, if you are struggling to pay for the ones you already have? Over 90% of families do this. They discuss how many kids they can afford (and want), and restrict their family to that size. Yes, accidents can occur – which is why we have a generous welfare system for families, but primarily you should not keep having more kids if you are on welfare and unable to provide for the ones you already have.

Struggling to afford a decent Christmas for their kids, they thought it was sorted when the Nga Kete trust referred them to the Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which sees businesses and individuals sponsor struggling families during Christmas by providing them with a hamper filled with food and treats.

The family had been on the same scheme last year and received presents for their children, a supermarket voucher and a food hamper, they said.

However, when Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month she was told she had been taken off the adopt-a-family scheme this year, she said. …

Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.

Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.

However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.

The Salvation Army’s aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.

“If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren’t actually helping them at all in the long run.”

Indeed.

Incidentally I think their estimate of their income is low. I make it:

  • Invalids Benefit (couple rate) $217.75
  • JobSeeker (couple rate) $174.21
  • Family Tax Credits (for six kids) $414.00

So that is a total of $805.96 a week net, not $631. On top of that it is highly likely they get the accommodation supplement or a statehouse subsidized rent.

It would be nice if media did not just take for granted what people say they earn, but independently check their entitlements as I have done.

UPDATE: Assuming there are not two Shelley Edwards in Invercargill, it would seem the mother has convictions for fraud and dishonesty, and breaching home detention. The Judge commented:

You are a thoroughly dishonest woman

Also Stuff has closed comments on the article after just a couple of hours, presumably because they were running 99 to 1 against.

This is why trust in media keeps falling. They just present a sob story to their readers with no independent research or fact checking.

NZ inflation targeting led the world 25 years ago

December 23rd, 2014 at 6:39 am by David Farrar

Neil Irwin in the NY Times writes:

Sometimes, decisions that shape the world’s economic future are made with great pomp and gain widespread attention. Other times, they are made through a quick, unanimous vote by members of the New Zealand Parliament who were eager to get home for Christmas.

That is what happened 25 years ago this Sunday, when New Zealand became the first country to set a formal target for how much prices should rise each year — zero to 2 percent in its initial action. The practice was so successful in making the high inflation of the 1970s and ’80s a thing of the past that all of the world’s most advanced nations have emulated it in one form or another. A 2 percent inflation target is now the norm across much of the world, having become virtually an economic religion.

The article has some interesting history on how we made that decision to have the Reserve Bank focus on inflation only. It is a policy that is now followed by pretty much every sane country.

Sadly in NZ the Greens and NZ First rail against it (Greens wanted to print money just a year ago) and Labour has signed up for watering it down. Low inflation doesn’t happen by chance. Who wants to go back to the bad old days of high inflation?

A $100 basket of goods in 2008 only costs $112 today – six years later. But if you looks at the period 1978 to 1984, a $100 basket of goods would have gone up 105% to $205 in just six years.

One of the best way to help low income families is to keep inflation down.

Hat Tip: Eric Crampton

A reader writes in

December 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

I flew up to Auckland today on an Air NZ flight at 5pm. I was in the back row, seat 23C. To my surprise and yes, delight, Steven Joyce and a private secretary had the two seats next to me in that back row.

Steven Joyce would not know me from a bar of soap but he engaged in pleasant chit-chat as we taxied for take-off and I assume he did not know I knew who he was. What really impressed me was that a Minister of the Crown was in the very back seat of such a flight and clearly was happy to be there. I have never in all my years of flying in NZ encountered a cabinet minister in the back row (they are almost always in the first or second rows).

I’ve also had readers e-mail me about how they sometimes see the PM at the Koru Club, and he always queues up to get his own coffee, rather than have a staffer get it for him.

Of course with the new Koru coffee app, no more queuing for it!

Assault complaint against an MP

December 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been investigating an assault complaint against government MP Mike Sabin.

There are no details as to what the complaint or complaints allege, and whether or not they are recent. Hard to comment without knowing more. Sabin is a former police officer.

Dom Post opposes alcohol sponsorship ban

December 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Public health researchers use tobacco as a model for alcohol reform. But the comparison is not fair. Alcohol in small amounts is healthy. For most people, it is not especially addictive. There is no similar risk that a few drinks at a young age mean a lifetime chained to the habit.

That is the key difference.

An advertising ban is a heavy-handed move that would cut off a major funding stream for sports teams and suppress diversity in a market that has shown plenty of it recently. (Consider the craft beer explosion, not exactly associated with problem drinking.)

You ban advertising and sponsorship, and you effectively ban new products.

To the extent that regulations can help, they should be carefully targeted at drunkenness and young people. Banning obscene boozing competitions, as the Government did in 2012, justified itself. Curtailing bar hours, as the police are pushing for in Wellington, also has merit. Scrubbing sponsors’ logos from games mostly watched by adults seems like overdoing it.

May the Government drown the report in a vat of craft beer.

The Press and Herald editorials are also sceptical or hostile to the recommendations.

NZ showing how reform can occur

December 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Hartwich wrote in the Spectator:

Rarely does a government manage to build a positive narrative around the policy changes it implements. However, there are exceptions to this rule, or at least one exception: New Zealand.

At a time when many commentators have given up on the possibility of pro-market reforms, the New Zealand government under Prime Minister John Key demonstrates that they are still possible. More than that, Key shows how despite his government’s reformist zeal it managed to get re-elected not once but twice already.

In my new monograph Quiet Achievers: The New Zealand Path to Reform, published this week, I try to dissect Key’s political management and his leadership style. What I hoped to find were lessons for economic reforms that could be applicable to other countries, whether in the eurozone or in Australia. There are quite a few.

There are two types of reforms. The first are those reforms that are undertaken when there is no alternative, or at least no plausible one. The classic example is Margaret Thatcher’s radical turnaround of Britain. Following the winter of discontent, there really was no choice but to move on from the country’s post-war, half-planned economic model.

The labour market reforms under German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2003 fall in the same category of reform, for lack of a better alternative. As unemployment numbers exceeded five million people, something had to be done. Closer to home, both Australia and New Zealand went for a radical restructuring of their economies in the 1980s and 1990s because circumstances were dire and something had to give.

These emergency-driven reforms constitute what I would call ‘pathological learning’. Policy mistakes are finally corrected only when circumstances have become so dire that even the greatest reform-deniers cannot block change. Eurozone reforms fall into this category as well. We can praise the heroes of such reforms, but their job is comparatively easy. What is far harder to achieve is to lead economic change when conditions are not quite catastrophic yet.

Australia’s more recent experience is a good illustration of this problem. Given the mining and terms-of-trade boom, it was hard to make the case for any policy changes. Instead, the temptation was there to use the proceeds of the boom on new government spending programmes.

Commentators like The Australian’s Paul Kelly and (ex-)politicians like former finance minister Lindsay Tanner have expressed their concerns about this. They argue that our political culture with its short attention spans and focus on headlines and sound bites has made good policy-making difficult, absent a major crisis which forces political action. They certainly have a point.

This is where the New Zealand counter-example is worth examining. True, the last few years of the Global Financial Crisis and the devastating Canterbury earthquakes have hit New Zealand hard. However, the situation was not so bad that it left Key without alternatives. He could have easily used these crises as an excuse to allow his budget to blow out or introduce emergency taxes. In fact, that was very Australia’s response to the GFC and the Queensland floods. Remember the giant stimulus packages and the so-called flood levy?

Instead, Key and his finance minister Bill English did the opposite of such populist activism. They quietly steered New Zealand onto a more sustainable economic path. They kept budgets tight, undertook a substantial overhaul of the welfare system, started an experiment with charter schools, part-privatised some state-owned enterprises, cut income taxes and increased consumption taxes.

It was a combination of policies that did not only put the budget back on a credible path to surplus. It also increased New Zealand’s competitiveness, which has now surpassed Australia’s. It created economic growth and tens of thousands of new jobs.

 

The surplus is not quite there yet, but Hartwich is right that there has been significant reforms in the last six years.

How did the Kiwis do it? How did John Key get away with so much reform?

The answer I have come to in Quiet Achievers is simple. Shunning any reform rhetoric or political grandstanding, Key quietly and slowly goes about his reform business. Reforms are carefully crafted while the public is prepared for upcoming changes and informed why they are necessary. In this way, the reforms are building their own constituency and by the time they are implemented, the measures appear imminently commonsensical. Key’s strategy is one of incremental, silent radicalism.

New Zealand proves that reforms, even in mature democracies, are still possible. They should be possible in Australia as well where they are much needed. Australia has not implemented any substantial economic reforms since the introduction of the GST in July 2000.

For any political leaders wishing to embark on a process of economic reform, whether in Australia or in Europe, a look at New Zealand may well be inspirational.

The welfare reforms are an excellent example of this.

But while there has been good progress in a number of areas, the need for reform is continual, and further reform is needed – especially around land availability.

Goff apologises

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

Stuff reports:

“All witnesses, including Mr Goff, were subject to a confidentiality order of the Inspector-General. The order was made to ensure fairness and the integrity of the inquiry. The disclosure of the report by Mr Goff was in breach of the order,” IGIS said in a statement.

Today’s release said no classified information was disclosed, but it led to “premature media reporting on the content of the report, to the detriment of other witnesses to the inquiry, particularly those adversely affected by the report”.

Gwyn said she would be taking steps to ensure there was greater clarity around release protocols and legal obligations for future reports.

“I have met with Mr Goff and received a full and unreserved apology, in person and in writing. I have accepted that apology, and do not intend to take this matter further.”

I joked on Twitter that now Goff is writing a column for the Sunday Star-Times, will he leak his own column the day before publication to try and spin it! 🙂

Alcohol Sponsorship and Advertising Recommendations

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

The Ministerial Forum on Alcohol and Advertising and Sponsorship has made 14 recommendations to the Government:

  1. Ban alcohol sponsorship of all streamed and broadcast sports
  2. Ban alcohol sponsorship of sports [long-term]
  3. Ban alcohol sponsorship (naming rights) at all venues
  4. Ban alcohol sponsorship of cultural and music events where 10% or more of participants and
    audiences are younger than 18
  5. Introduce a sponsorship replacement funding programme
  6. Introduce a targeted programme to reduce reliance on alcohol sponsorship funding
  7. Ban alcohol advertising during streamed and broadcast sporting events
  8. Ban alcohol advertising where 10% or more of the audience is younger than 18
  9. Further restrict the hours for alcohol advertising on broadcast media
  10. Continue to offset remaining alcohol advertising by funding positive messaging across all media
  11. Introduce additional restrictions on external advertising on licensed venues and outlets
  12. Establish an independent authority to monitor and initiate complaints about alcohol advertising and
    sponsorship
  13. Establish a mechanism to identify and act on serious or persistent breaches of advertising standards
  14. Establish a multi-stakeholder committee to periodically review and assess Advertising Standards
    Complaints Board decisions and pre-vetted advertising

Recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 7 would basically cripple most sports in NZ.

Recommendations 4 and 8 may have merit, as alcohol should not be promoted to under 18s

Recommendations 5, 6 and 10 means increases taxes and have taxes spent on sponsoring sports

Recommendation 9 could also have merit, in that advertising should occur later at night

Recommendation 11 could mean anything

Recommendations 12 to 14 look like the Government establishing its own advertising regulator, effectively abolishing the self-regulatory model.

All in all pretty depressing. On a related note, an article from Patrick Basham on plain packaging:

Two years after its implementation, plain packaging’s impact upon smoking and the illicit cigarette trade remains the subject of vigorous debate. No longer debatable, however, is plain packaging’s negative affect upon the alcohol industry and other non-tobacco sectors of the Australian economy.

The unintended effects of plain packaging have the potential to vastly outweigh the legislation’s intended public health benefits, real or imagined. In fact, Australia’s imposition of plain packaging on tobacco opened a Pandora’s Box of potential trade costs with the nation’s alcohol sector set to become the first example of the policy’s collateral damage.

Indonesian farmers recently rallied in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in support of their government’s targeting of Australian alcohol. The Indonesian trade ministry is preparing to mandate the plain packaging of alcohol products, including Australian wine, with the respective labelling devoted to warnings of the adverse health consequences associated with alcohol consumption.

Providing political support for these plans are Indonesian business lobbyists seeking to protect their domestic market from foreign competition, as well as global and domestic public health NGOs who support plain packaging on all manner of ‘unhealthy’ consumer products, including alcohol and tobacco.

Such support would not have mattered to the Indonesian government if Australia had not opted for plain packaging in late 2011. But, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government could not resist the temptation to become the global ‘leader’ in tobacco control policy. Consequently, Australia is now embroiled in a messy trade dispute that may spill over into a costly trade war.

Eventually the demand for plain packaging will extend to drinks and to food. It’s a bad precedent.

Caption Contest

December 16th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

IMG_4396

Captions below. As always go for funny, not nasty.

Surplus bye bye

December 16th, 2014 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar

Bill English has said:

The Government believes an OBEGAL surplus is achievable this financial year, despite Treasury’s latest forecast today predicting a $572 million deficit (0.2 per cent of GDP) for the year to 30 June 2015, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“These forecasts emphasise the unusual conditions the New Zealand economy is experiencing,” Mr English says. “Treasury is predicting solid growth, growing employment and low interest rates, which help New Zealanders to get ahead. But at the same time, falling dairy prices and low inflation are restricting growth in the nominal economy and government revenue.

“This is making it more challenging for the Government to achieve surplus in 2014/15. However we remain on track to reduce debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.

The Government has limited control over revenue, short to changes to tax rates. But what they can control is spending. If they want to get into surplus they need to rein in spending more. They knew revenue forecasts are always risky, yet allowed spending to keep rising.

Greens again call for cows to be culled

December 16th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Groser said making a greater commitment up to 2030 would be “a big challenge” for New Zealand because 80 per cent of its energy already came from renewable sources.

“Once you’re that high it’s difficult to find low-hanging fruit,” he said.

There were other obstacles.

No solutions had yet been found by New Zealand researchers into reducing the emissions produced by agriculture.

Quite valid points. But the Greens have a solution.

Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham rejected Mr Groser’s claim that there was no “low-hanging fruit”, saying that similar agriculture-based countries had reduced their dairy herds.

This is the Green Party policy – set a limit on the number of cows in NZ. We’ll cripple our economy for the sake of environment purity, despite the fact our total annual CO2 emissions is less than the daily around the same as the weekly growth in China’s CO2 emissions.

Improving teaching

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

An interesting interview in the NZ Herald with Bali Haque. His background is:

Bali Haque is well known in education, having headed schools, a principals’ association and as the former deputy chief executive of the Qualifications Authority.

And

Mr Haque – a former executive member of the PPTA

So what does he see as a problem:

Mr Haque stresses that most teachers do a great job and that socio-economic factors are most important when looking at the “tail” of student underachievement.

But he doesn’t shy away from what he sees as problems within the profession. A big one is teachers he terms “free riders” – those he says refuse to work past 3.30pm, do nothing during their holidays and the very minimum required in class.

The collective agreement has provisions for incompetence – themselves often not acted upon – but not for the relatively few teachers who “hover in the only-just-competent area”, Mr Haque says. In the book, Changing our Secondary Schools, he argues that under the current collective such “free riders” will be paid much the same as those who go above and beyond.

We need to better reward the great teachers, motivate the mediocre teachers to improve, and weed out the teachers who are just not able to connect with students.

He says this should be addressed through a version of performance pay – not linked to one measure such as student achievement, but likely judged by the principal and possibly paid as an end-of-year bonus.

Principals should have more flexibility in how they pay their teachers.

also believes that teachers, through their unions, should look at reducing their holidays from 12 weeks to four or five.

The workload pressures that some teachers complain about are often self-inflicted, he says, and other professions work more flexibly to cope. Because most of the workload happens during the 38 weeks of term time, many teachers cope by working evenings and weekends, leading to stress.

Using some of the current holiday time to call all teachers in to school to carry out tasks such as planning meetings and professional development could go a long way to reducing the overall stress levels in most staffrooms, Mr Haque argues.

I can’t see the unions or teachers agreeing to giving up eight weeks holiday!

Laila quits her membership

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

Laila Harre facebooked:

Today I have officially stepped down as Leader of the Internet Party. I have also resigned my membership.

It is no surprise she has resigned as leader, but to resign your membership also can only be read that she never actually believed in the principles of the Internet Party. It was just a vehicle for her to try and get more MPs for Mana.