Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Reaction to Labour’s monetary policy

April 30th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post is supportive:

 Unlike its recent pronouncements on trucks in highway fast lanes, or the flagging national demand for wood, Labour’s ambitious new monetary policy has real heft.

The idea is first to make KiwiSaver compulsory, with payment levels about 9 per cent of income. That’s not monetary policy per se, but it’s a good idea – our savings are chronically low, which pushes up our interest rates.

Compulsory savings are also necessary for Labour’s next big idea – making KiwiSaver payment rates adjustable. Under the plan, the Reserve Bank could recommend increasing savings rates as a way of slowing the economy – or, conversely, lowering them to heat things up.

They have some reservations:

What about low-wage workers, who don’t have mortgages and can’t afford unpredictable shifts in income? Labour is considering exceptions for them, but that poses its own problems.

What about the wisdom of constantly mucking around with people’s retirement savings? Isn’t that an odd message to send, that they are subject to the whims of the economic cycle?

And will such adjustments be as effective as interest rate hikes in cooling the housing sector, the most inflationary part of the economy?

So Labour has some more explaining to do. But the questions should not puncture the idea – some might be unanswerable until the policy is tried.

The Herald is also supportive:

The Labour Party has done well to come up with a constructive monetary policy for the coming election. Its proposal to make KiwiSaver compulsory and use its contribution rate as an alternative to interest rate rises is imaginative and reasonable.

But also a reservation:

But if the bank can merely recommend that a government increase the KiwiSaver levy, the tool might seldom be used. If Labour leads the next government it might welcome recommendations, at least until the combined contributions of employers and earners rise from the current 6 per cent to 9 per cent.

Even Labour, though, would be reluctant to raise the levy in normal economic times, and would make exemptions for the lower paid. The bank would usually have to resort to the official cash rate.

This is a key point – that the Government would make the decision on changing the contribution rate. It means that political considerations will be placed ahead of monetary considerations. The reality is that changing the level of contributions will not be a tool that will be used often – which means interest rates would by far remain the dominant tool.

The Reserve Bank considers changing the OCR every six weeks or so. One could not cope with having the KiwiSaver contribution rate changing more than once a year. Employer software needs to change. Employees need certainty over their take home pay, and employers need certainty over their costs.

So while the proposed tool is not without some value, it is not a tool that can be used frequently or immediately.

Brian Fallow sums up some reaction:

Labour’s proposal to introduce a variable contribution rate to compulsory KiwiSaver as a counter-cyclical tool has received mixed reviews from bank economists.

Most were tepid: It can’t do any harm, it will probably be less effective than Labour hopes.

Probably a fair summary.

But ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie was unimpressed: “It has political bun fight written all over it.

“Will a Government really step up to the plate and alter KiwiSaver contributions [if] asked to by the Reserve Bank? Imagine the bank asked the Government of the day to alter tax rates to help with monetary policy. This would alter public saving as opposed to private saving, but would have similar economic effects. What do you think the response would be?” Bagrie said.

“A change in take-home pay is highly personal. For low-income earners in particular the fact that they will get the money back in several decades’ time will be to all intents and purposes irrelevant.”

Indeed. A low income earner needs the money now – not in 30 years.

And this is one of the problems of universal KiwiSaver – it means the state is making decisions on behalf of each individual family as to how much they need to save – and when. For many New Zealanders it can be more sensible to put surplus funds into a business or paying off a mortgage quicker.

The Herald also looks at winners and losers:

Households struggling to keep on top of their mortgages would be the winners under Labour’s proposed interest rate shake-up, but at the expense of those who can’t afford to get a foot on the property ladder, a budgeting service warns. …

But New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox said the policy to keep interest rates low while forcing everyone to save more raised issues of fairness.

“The people who don’t have mortgages will be in effect subsidising the economy for the people who are obtaining an asset by buying a house.”

Yep – the biggest winners will be those with the biggest mortgages.

Bernard Hickey also looks at the pros and cons:

The Pros

The VSR would allow the Reserve Bank to remain independent and give it another way to slow or speed up the economy. There would, of course, be a Policy Targets Agreement between the Minister of Finance and the Reserve Bank Governor to govern how the VSR could be tweaked, but the decisions on when and how to use it would be made by the Governor.

Politically, the idea of increasing the KiwiSaver contribution rate seems more attractive than raising interest rates, at least for exporters and mortgage borrowers. It means the extra savings are kept by the wage or salary earner, rather than being ‘lost’ to the bank and term depositers.

In theory, raising the VSR would allow the Reserve Bank to avoid putting up interest rates and therefore take pressure off the currency.

The other parts of the policy that didn’t get as much attention may be just as important. Labour is saying the Reserve Bank could use macro-prudential tools such as capital requirements to limit lending growth or pressure on the currency. The Reserve Bank has already partly gone down this path with higher capital requirements for high LVR mortgages and the speed limit.

This wider use of macro-prudential tools could also help reduce the reliance on the OCR.

The Cons

Simply imposing KiwiSaver compulsion and a higher contribution rate may not necessarily improve national savings. The Australian experience has been mixed at best. It turned out Australians felt richer as their superannuation pots got bigger, which encouraged them to borrow even more against the value of their houses.

Compulsion in tandem with Labour’s policy of gradually increasing the retirement age to 67 is controversial within Labour and on the left of politics. There are plenty who argue poorer manual workers are discriminated against. There’ll be some tricky questions around who gets exemptions because of ill health and who can ask to be exempted on the grounds of hardship.

The other risks with compulsion are around the issue of Government guarantees, funds management fees and means testing. If you are forced to save by the Government you could argue your funds should be guaranteed by the Government.

The Australian scheme has become notorious for high fees and compulsion has become something of a subsidy for the funds management industry, and ironically, the banking sector. There would have to be some tough conversations and negotiations around fees. Here’s an excellent Grattan Institute report about Australia’s fees mess.

And finally there is the argument against compulsion that used to be made by the ‘Father’ of KiwiSaver, Michael Cullen, which is that once these funds get very big political pressure will build for means testing, as is the case in Australia. That would rob the current NZ Super scheme of some of the simplicity and fairness behind the universal pension.

I think the policy probably won’t achieve a lot, but it could be a potentially useful extra tool for the Reserve Bank. However to be truly effective you need the Reserve Bank able to decide – not just recommend to the Government.

But one should be aware that monetary policy is ultimately about reducing demand in the economy, and hence inflation. Now increasing KiwiSaver rates could reduce spending by households. But if Government spending is not restrained, then the overall impact on the economy will be insignificant. Fiscal policy and mometary policy need to work together. Just reducing household spending will not work, if government spending is not restrained.

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Changes to ACC and sexual abuse victims

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

The Herald reports:

ACC will pay for every cent of rape victims’ counselling as part of a major overhaul of its sensitive claims system later this year.

The corporation is bracing for a significant increase in the number of sensitive claims in the next six years as the stigma around sexual violence is increasingly broken down in New Zealand.

In response, it was planning an expanded, more flexible service which took into account the sensitivity, length of time, and cost of treating rape-related trauma. These changes were based on the recommendations of a highly critical independent review in 2010. …

ACC strategy manager for sexual violence Emma Powell said the overhaul would give victims more time, funding and choice.

“We are no longer going to be approving 10 counselling sessions here, or 10 there, we are actually saying ‘Here’s 12 months, you and your therapists … build a programme around the person’s needs … and that’s about providing a much more holistic approach’.

“We’re throwing away the calendar and throwing away the clock and just letting people focus on getting better.” …

At present, ACC funded counselling for rape victims but only up to $80 for a one-hour session. Counsellors often charged a “top-up”, or additional fee of up to $90.

Ms Powell said the corporation was concerned that this cost was putting people off a crucial service. Claimants were taking an average of 7.8 sessions despite being entitled to 16 sessions, or more depending on their circumstances.

Under the new service, ACC would cover the full cost of the sessions. The overhaul would also allow victims to shop around for a therapist who they felt comfortable with.

These are very significant changes. The estimated cost to levy payers is an extra $45 million per year.


The new Hunua candidate

April 29th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Hunua selection occurred when I was overseas. The winner from a large field was Andrew Bayly who has an interesting and varied background. Some extracts:

  • managed the listing of approximately 25 companies on the London and New Zealand stock exchanges
  • Chair of a number of private companies
  •  Fellow of the NZ Chartered Institute of Company Management, Fellow of the UK Chartered Association of Certified Accountants; and Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management
  •  recently returned from Antarctica, where he climbed a number of mountains and dragged a sled for 111 kilometres to the South Pole

Hunua was won in 2011 by Paul Hutchison with a 16,797 majority so again it is highly likely Andrew will be an MP after the election.


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Labour proposes a cut in everyone’s after tax income

April 29th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

David Parker has announced:

Introduce a new tool – a variable savings rate or VSR – allowing the Bank to vary KiwiSaver savings rates (which would be universal under Labour) as an alternative to raising the OCR to take the heat out of the economy. This VSR would mean Kiwis would pay money to their retirement savings instead of higher mortgage payments to overseas banks.

Something that people should be aware of is that only a relatively small proportion of households or earners have a mortgage. While a VSR will impact every single person who earns money, by lowering their take home pay to reduce inflation.

What this means is that the Reserve Bank could lift the employee contribution rate to KiwiSaver from 3% to 4.5% (it will be compulsory). If you’re earning $40,000 a year then your take home pay will drop by $600 a year. The biggest losers in this policy are likely to be low and middle income earners who don’t currently have a mortgage. They will face a reduction in their after tax income.

This doesn’t mean the policy is a bad one, just that it creates both winners and losers – and the losers are low to middle income earners without a mortgage.

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A small boost for Defence

April 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has confirmed $100 million in new funding for the defence force in the coming financial year – part of a $535 million package for the next four years.

A $100.9 million investment into operating funding for the 2014-15 financial year, has been confirmed in the coming Budget.

“This significant investment in our defence force, combined with the savings and reinvestment achieved through recent reforms, means the Government is addressing the long term funding gap which we inherited,” Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said.

The Budget, due to be released May 15, will confirm the defence funding approach agreed by Cabinet in November, last year.

The $100.9 million was the first stage of an allocation of $535.5 million operating funding for the NZDF over the next four years.

Our expenditure on defence, as a proportion of GDP, is relatively low for a developed country. The NZDF do very good work around the world, despite our small size.


Will it be the battle of the broadcasters for Labour’s nomination?

April 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour has extended its deadline for the Tamaki Makaurau seat for the third time as it waits for a TVNZ report into the actions of potential candidate Shane Taurima.

I think this tells us who Head Office wants for the seat, considering they keep extending the deadline so Taurima can stand.

If he does stand he is likely to face a challenge from Maori TV’s Julian Wilcox. Mr Wilcox did not return calls, but sources in Labour expected him to announce he would contest the seat soon.

The head of news for Maori TV vs the head of Maori for TVNZ.

I’m uneasy with active broadcasters going straight into politics, as it does make you question how they have managed the conflict between being in charge of news and current affairs for their broadcasters while also being a member of a political party.

I’m not saying no one should go from the media into politics. Far from it. Many good MPs have backgrounds in broadcasting such as Lockwood Smith and Maggie Barry. But Maggie Barry didn’t go directly from hosting a news and current affairs show for Radio NZ into being a National candidate – it was over a decade later.


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Crime reduction targets on track

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

Judith Collins announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the latest Justice sector Better Public Services results for reducing crime and re-offending, are the best quarterly results since the targets were set.

The Better Public Services (BPS) targets set a goal of a 15 per cent reduction in total crime by June 2017, compared to baseline figures from June 2011.

“It’s fantastic news that our latest Justice sector BPS results show the total crime rate has reduced by 14 per cent between June 2011 and December 2013,” says Ms Collins.

“The latest results for this period also show the youth crime rate has dropped by 27 per cent, violent crime is down 10 per cent and overall re-offending is down by 11.7 per cent.
“New Zealand now has the lowest crime rate since 1978 but most importantly, the results mean New Zealanders are experiencing around 56,000 fewer crimes a year, leading to fewer victims of crime.

“The BPS youth crime target has now been exceeded for a second time. We have almost met our total crime target and we’re halfway to meeting both the violent crime and re-offending targets – with more than three years to go.

The drop in youth crime and re-offending is especially important. This is one of the more important government goals, and it is good to see the progress being made.


Has Cunliffe got it wrong again?

April 29th, 2014 at 9:44 am by David Farrar

In a speech to a conference over the weekend David Cunliffe spoke of his grandfather’s service in WWI and specifically referred how his grandfather won the a Military Medal for valour.

However Whale has checked the service records (which are online and available to anyone) and there is no record of the MM being awarded to Bob Tuke, Cunliffe’s grandfather. There was one awarded to an Edmund Tuke, who is Bob’s brother.

Unless the service records are faulty, the claim doesn’t appear to be correct. I presume it is relatively easy to verify – one could ask the NZ Defence Force to confirm.

I think it is important to stress that anyone who served honourably in WWI, deserves our thanks, recognition and honour – regardless of which medals they did or did not receive. To me, they are all war heroes.

However if you are making a formal speech, and referring to medals received by your ancestor, then it is a very good idea to make sure your facts are correct. If you are an aspiring Prime Minister, it is even more important.

UPDATE: The Herald reports that the claim is definitely incorrect.


Is this a record?

April 28th, 2014 at 2:55 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce points out:

The Labour Party’s attempts to talk down New Zealand’s economic performance have hit a new low this weekend with David Parker making at least nine factually incorrect statements in one short interview, Associate Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.

In the interview, with TV3’s The Nation programme, Parker made assertions about low export prices, a poor balance of trade, job losses in the export sector, New Zealand’s current account deficit,  high interest rates, a lack of business investment, 40 per cent house price increases, no tax on housing speculators, and low levels of house building.

Mr Joyce says all of Mr Parker’s assertions in relation to these nine things are incorrect.

Is this a record for a single interview?

The nine inaccuracies are:

Schedule of inaccuracies in David Parker interview on The Nation – April 26 2014

1. “Export prices are going down”

Export prices in fact rose 13.8 per cent in the year to December 2013 (Statistics New Zealand).

The ANZ NZD Commodity Price Index rose 11.6 per cent in the year to March 2014 and is just 6 per cent below its all-time March 2011 peak.

2.  “We are not covering the cost of our imports (and interest)”

Statistics New Zealand reported a merchandise trade surplus for New Zealand in the year to February 2014 of $649 million (1.3 per cent of exports).

January and February’s merchandise trade surpluses were the highest ever for their respective months.

3.  “We are losing jobs in the export sector”

The number of people employed in the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining and manufacturing sectors has increased by 16,100 in the last twelve months. 

Total New Zealand employment increased by 66,000 in the last year or 3.0 per cent in one year. This is the fastest employment growth since December 2006. (Statistics New Zealand Household Labour Force Survey December 2013).

4. “This challenge of getting New Zealand’s current account deficit under control”

New Zealand’s balance of payments deficit is currently 3.4 per cent and has averaged only 3.1 per cent over the last four years.

Under Labour the Balance of Payments peaked at 7.9 per cent in December quarter 2008 and averaged 7 per cent over their last four years.

New Zealand’s Net International Investment Position is currently down to 67 per cent of GDP after peaking at 85.9 per cent in March 2009.

5. “Ridiculously high interest rates”

Interest rates have just edged up above 50-year lows.

Floating mortgage interest rates are currently between 6 and 6.25 per cent. They peaked at 10.9 per cent between May and August 2008.

6. “Exporters…. Aren’t willing to invest in plant”

Investment in plant, machinery and equipment by New Zealand companies was up 7.5 per cent in the December quarter and 3 per cent for the year. Investment in plant, machinery and equipment is now at its highest level ever (Statistics New Zealand – December quarter 2013 GDP release).

Just yesterday, long term New Zealand forestry processor Oji Limited announced a $1 billion investment to purchase Carter Holt Harvey Processing assets.

7. “House prices are up 40 per cent under them”

House prices under this government have increased at around 5.7 per cent per annum, compared to 10.7 per cent per annum under Labour, according to REINZ figures. Total house price increases over the period is 30 per cent, not the 40 per cent Mr Parker claims. That compares with a 96 per cent increase in house prices under Labour.

8.  “You need to tax the speculators. They are not taxing speculators”

Taxpayers who buy and sell houses for income are currently taxed at their personal income tax rate on their capital income.

9.  “They are not building any more houses”

The actual trend for the number of new dwellings, including apartments, is up 95 per cent from the series minimum in March 2011.

The trend is at its highest level since October 2007 (Statistics New Zealand February 2014 Building Consents Release).

Nice to see Ministers do some fisking.

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A Green City Council

April 28th, 2014 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Mail reports:

Welcome to the Green Republic of Brighton and Hove.


Starting with just one councillor in 1996, the Green Party’s rise to power in Brighton has been unprecedented and rapid. In 2010  there was the election of Caroline Lucas as the MP for Brighton Pavilion – the party’s first Westminster seat – and then came the capture of the city council just a year later.


A clever mix of protest, pavement politics and promises of change proved popular with residents, many of them families forced from London by soaring house prices, students, or those attracted by the city’s liberal approach to life.


In 2011, the Greens ousted the Conservatives to become the largest group on the council with 23 seats. According to their leader Jason Kitcat, this was to be the future of British politics.

So what have the Greens done once they finally gained power? In Tasmania, the result was a Government so bad they got wiped out at the polls, and Labor vowing never to deal with them again. How has it gone in Brighton?

‘Winning was the worst thing possible for them,’ said one opposition councillor privately. ‘You can see they still want to be popular the whole time and dislike responsibility.’

The Green honeymoon was short-lived. Take the surreal story of an elderly elm tree.

First the Greens voted to upgrade a roundabout in the city called Seven Dials, but then found that there were protests to protect the 170-year-old tree beside the site. Eco-warriors camped out in the branches and pinned poems to the trunk. The national media showed an interest. So the Greens switched sides, joined the campaign to spare the 60ft elm from the chop and then spent a small fortune altering their own traffic scheme.

Then there was its manifesto pledge for ‘Meat-free Mondays’, which would have banned bacon rolls and beef pies from council-run staff canteens. It led to complaints from manual workers and the proposal was ditched.

Residents were similarly  surprised at Green plans to introduce livestock to one of the main routes into the city  as part of a ‘speed reduction package’. The scheme was deferred after protests.

If we do manage to end up with a Labour/Green/Winston/Mana/DotCom Government it will be very amusing for political pundits. Less so I suspect for voters!

The governing party is fatally split with, inevitably, divisions erupting into the open. Unlike other political parties, Greens do not ‘whip’ members into line to get policies passed, and meetings can descend into rows more suited to the Punch and Judy shows down on the beach.

A slim majority of moderates under amiable council leader Mr Kitcat have fought ceaseless challenges from a cabal of hard-Left councillors led by his deputy Phelim Mac Cafferty, a prominent gay activist.

The different factions are known  as ‘mangos’ (green on the outside yet yellow, like Lib Dems, in the middle) and ‘watermelons’ (green on the outside but red in the middle). The groups sit apart in the chamber during council meetings.

So serious are their differences that outside mediators were reportedly called in to reconcile the two sides. Mr Kitcat narrowly survived the latest attempt to depose him only last month – thanks to the support of his Polish-born wife Ania, a fellow moderate on the council.

And as an example:

When refuse workers went on strike against efforts to stop long-standing Spanish practices in working hours and to harmonise pay with female council staff, they were supported by the watermelons – Mr Mac Cafferty and eight colleagues.

According to one councillor, some  of these staff earned more than £50,000 a year by manipulating allowances and overtime payments. ‘They must be the highest paid bin drivers in the country,’ he said.

The strike last June led to the strange sight of the council leader telling binmen to get back to work, while his deputy joined the picket line as rubbish piled up in the streets.

That’s almost as bad as having a country’s foreign minister campaign against the Government’s trade agreement with China!

A 74-page report on ‘Trans Equalities Strategy’ to eliminate discrimination and avoid discomforting transsexuals asked for gender- neutral toilets and transgender-only sports sessions. Doctors were also urged to stop identifying patients according to gender on forms at GPs’ surgeries.

Residents are being offered the category ‘Mx’ (for Mixter) alongside Mr, Ms and Mrs on council forms. This prevents ‘an unnecessary sense of exclusion and frustration to be forced to accept a title  that doesn’t reflect someone’s gender expression.’

Focusing on the big issues.

They might heed the words of one Brighton shopper I met.

‘They seemed to have so many fresh ideas,’ she told me. ‘Now we just roll our eyes at any mention of the Greens – they’ve turned out even worse than the others.’

Now I’m not saying the NZ Greens will end up the same way, but it is fair to point out that the Greens have never had to actually govern – and governing involves compromise. The Alliance fall apart in Government because they could not reconcile the wishes of their activists with the reality of being in Government. Some Green parties have managed to successfully work in Government – such as in Germany. But others have failed – such as in Tasmania and Brighton.


Another young Diptonite for Clutha-Southland

April 28th, 2014 at 1:03 pm by David Farrar

National has announced:

Todd Barclay has been selected as the National Party candidate for Clutha-Southland at the September 20 General Election.

 Regional Chair Ele Ludemann congratulated Mr Barclay on his selection.

“Todd is an outstanding choice for Clutha-Southland,” said Mrs Ludemann. …

Todd Barclay was raised in Dipton and Gore, and at just 24 years old has established a strong mix of public and private sector experience in the public relations industry.

Working in Wellington and then Auckland, Todd worked for Bill English and cabinet ministers Hekia Parata and Gerry Brownlee. He left Parliament to work for one of New Zealand’s leading public relations consultancies, before taking on a role as Corporate Affairs Manager for Philip Morris.

Todd went to Gore High School, and studied at Victoria University of Wellington. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Commercial Law.

It was a strongly contested field, and says much about Todd that he managed to win the selection despite his relative youth. Todd was also a very young basketball referee in 2008.

Clutha-Southland was won by Bill English in 2011 with a majority of 16,188, so it is fair to say that Todd is likely to be an MP after the election.

This leaves Bay of Plenty as the sole remaining contested selection for a National held seat.

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A temporary ban of legal highs

April 28th, 2014 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government will ban all synthetic drugs within two weeks until they can be proven to be low-risk, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has revealed.

The move comes as Labour plans to announce its own policy on psychoactive substances tomorrow, and follows increasing protest from local communities against legal highs.

Mr Dunne told the Herald this afternoon: “Last Tuesday, Cabinet agreed on a proposal from me to introduce legislation under urgency when Parliament resumes to remove the remaining 41 products from the shelves until such time as their low-level of risk can be proven.”

He said he would have made the announcement earlier but he did not want to encourage stock-piling of the drugs.

The emergency legislation will be introduced when Parliament resumed on May 6, and will be passed under urgency.

“I’m expecting it to be passed that particular week and to take effect pretty much immediately afterwards,” Mr Dunne said.

This meant there would be no psychoactive substances for sale in New Zealand for “some considerable amount of time”.

There are currently 150 outlets selling legal highs nationwide.

The Psychoactive Substances Act required synthetic drug manufacturers to prove their drugs were low-risk before they could be sold.

But a Ministry of Health testing regime and several other regulations were not yet in place.

In the interim, drugs which had temporary approval from an expert committee were permitted to be sold.

Forty-one products are on shelves at present, compared to around 300 before the bill was passed.

“I think that the reason we didn’t include those 41 products initially was that they hadn’t been identified as problematic,” Mr Dunne said.

There’s a degree of moral panic in all this. The number of outlets selling legal highs has gone from 3,000 to 150 and the number of products from 300 to 41. A total ban will not be effective in the medium term.

I’m glad the new regime isn’t being through out – it’s a regime that 120 out of 121 MPs voted for – no matter how much some now pretend they didn’t.

The issue seems to be around the temporary licenses and products remaining available on the temporary licenses for longer than expected as the full testing regime is not yet operational.

So the Government’s move is not entirely unreasonable – but it may become the thin end of the wedge towards total prohibition – which is a policy doomed to failure. I hope not.


Labour being tricky again

April 27th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced they will extend the Veterans’ Pension to all veterans, rather than just those who were injured or impaired. They have an entire page devoted to their policy, and like me, you probably concluded that this means retired veterans will get a higher pension than they currently do.

But no, it is Labour being tricky again. You see the level of NZ Superannuation and the level of the Veteran’s Pension is identical. There are some differences around abatements if in long-term hospital care, but the level of the core benefit is the same.

I was alerted to this by Graeme Edgeler on Twitter. He makes the point that Labour deliberately chose to not include in its materials the fact that the level of the pension is the same. Once again, they’re being tricky. There are benefits to being able to get the Veteran’s Pension – but Labour have tried to con people into thinking they include a higher level of benefit.

Edgeler makes the point that sure you might not expect the advertising to mention this salient detail – but you would expect it to be mentioned in the full policy.


What the story didn’t tell you

April 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Yesterday Stuff had a story about a family being forced to live in a tent in Christchurch.

It’s a great example of why so many people no longer trust the media.

Whale Oil points out the facts that the Stuff story did not include.

  • They had failed to pay rent on a previous property of $2,200. Not paying rent of course makes it hard to gain a rental property.
  • They damaged their last property so badly the cleaning and repair costs were in excess of $1,500

Also buried in the story is the detail that they had turned down an offer to stay at someone’s house – preferring to be “independent” and live in a tent.

Another aspect that does not add up in the story is the assertion that one partner works full-time and the other is on a benefit. As far as I know you can’t be on a benefit if your partner is in full-time work. You can receive WFF and welfare assistance – but not be receiving a main benefit.

I have no doubt there are many families in Christchurch who are really struggling with accommodation. But media should report all the relevant facts – not just run a story probably handed to them by a local MP – without doing any research on it.


Jones says Greens are anti-industry

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

3 News reports:

Shane Jones has taken another shot at the Greens, labelling them anti-industry. And when asked whether a Labour-Greens government would be preferable to a National government, he avoided the question.

Mr Jones will leave his job as a Labour MP in a month and it seems until then he will take every opportunity to attack Labour’s closest ally, the Greens.

“I just felt the Kaupapa the Greens were bringing forward, I always felt it was too anti-industry,” he says. “I’m just not going to fight that fight anymore. If that’s the way they want to run the country then I’ve had enough of it.”

Steven Joyce has pointed out they’re against the dairy industry, farming, oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, free trade agreements and international investment!

Mr Jones says he still supports Labour, but when asked twice whether he would prefer Labour-Greens government over third-term National government, he did not give a clear answer. 

I think the lack of answer speaks volumes.

Shane Jones knows deep down that a Government with Russel Norman as Minister of Finance or Economic Development will actually be against economic development.

Also in an HoS profile:

Pumipi says he should have gone with National. Jones is more oblique: “I will never admit to having joined the wrong party. But I admit to the fact that I have sounded consistently like a guy who doesn’t belong to the modern Labour Party.”

Jones’ political career is not over. Certainly, he is done with Labour. “I’m not naturally left-leaning,” he admits. He does not believe it can win this year’s election if Cunliffe continues with the current strategy, cosying up to the Greens.

Yet on Tuesday Labour will announce they have effectively adopted the Greens’ monetary policy, after fighting against it for 25 years.

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Scott wins Wairarapa

April 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The National Party has selected Alastair Scott as its candidate for the Wairarapa electorate.

Mr Scott, 48, is a former investment banker and the owner of Wairarapa’s Matahiwi Estate winery.

He was selected at a meeting of local party members in Masterton yesterday.

“We’ll be taking nothing for granted in Wairarapa,” regional chair Malcolm Plimmer said.

“Alastair is an outstanding candidate who will be a strong advocate for Wairarapa.”

Mr Scott said he was proud to earn the nomination and was looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“National is making real progress for regions likes ours,” he said.

“I’ll be getting out and about to engage with communities about National’s plan to keep working for New Zealand.”

The father-of-three is also chairman of Henergy Cage Free Eggs, a Transpower director, Massey University councillor, and trustee of Wairarapa Region Irrigation Trust and NZ Scout Youth Foundation.

Congratulations to Alastair. Wairarapa was won by John Hayes in 2011 by 7,135 votes. It has been held by Labour in the past, so I am sure will be vigorously contested by Alastair and the Labour candidate, Kieran McAnulty.

National has so far selected new candidates in the National held seats of Hunua, Invercargill, Kaikoura, Napier, Taranaki-King Country, Waimakariri, Wairarapa and Whangarei.

Selections are still to be made for they very safe seats of Bay of Plenty and Clutha-Southland.

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Reti helps assault victim

April 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Two teenage boys have been assaulted in Whangarei in separate, violent, evening attacks, with one stopped by a GP and political aspirant while the other involved an attacker intoxicated on legal highs who also assaulted police.

Whangarei GP Shane Reti wants the community to unite to stop violence in the city after he helped stop a violent assault on a boy in the CBD while filming a video on Wednesday night about today’s Anzac Day commemorations. ….

Dr Reti, who is the National Party candidate for Whangarei in September’s general election, said he was disappointed by the level of violence he witnessed just after 9pm on Wednesday that involved two young men “kicking the heck out of” a boy on the ground in Rathbone St.

He captured part of the assault on video when he left his camera running after filming a video for his Facebook page at the Field of Remembrance in Laurie Hall Park. 

While driving out of Laurie Hall Lane on to Bank St, he noticed a car stopped in the middle of the road and heard a commotion before realising what was going on – a boy aged 15 or 16 was curled up in the foetal position while two young men took turns kicking him. Dr Reti got out of his car and approached the attackers who stopped the assault.

“The young man was bruised and dazed but conscious and I applied the required medical cares until the police arrived,” he said.

Kicking someone lying on the ground is particularly cowardly and brutal. Hopefully the Police catch the assailants.


Davis’ priorities

April 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Kelvin Davis will become an MP again, once Shane Jones resigns. Not certain how long he will be an MP for as Labour’s gender quotas means 47% of their caucus at least must be female.  So the top few spots on the party list must go to women.

However hopefully Davis will (this time) be given a winnable list place as he seems one of the better Labour MPs. He has written on Facebook what his four priorities are:

Priority 1: no surprises, improving Maori educational achievement, and more importantly, improving Maori achievements through education. I’ll argue to my dying breath that education is the road to Maori success.

I agree. I look forward to some education policy from Labour that is more than just promising to abolish national standards and charter schools – policies both designed to help under-performing students.  Where does Kelvin stand on National’s pledge to pay the best teachers and principals up to $50,000 more in return for them sharing their assisting other teachers? Is Labour going to abolish this also?

Priority 2: Regional Development for Te Tai Tokerau. We’ve got plans and strategies coming out our ears in TTT, but unless a Govt stumps up with some serious dough to implement these plans we’re wasting our time. Even a quarter of 1 percent of the money going into the Christchurch rebuild would go a long way to rebuilding the Tai Tokerau economy. Te Tai Tokerau has endured it’s own tragedy, but it happened over 40 years not 40 seconds. The effects on our people have been equally devastating in the long run. 

Shane Jones was a big supporter of mining for Northland, yet opposed by many in his own party. Where does Davis stand on mining in Northland? Also does he support the mandate for the Ngapuhi settlement, which could deliver hundreds of millions to the region?

Priority 3: Te Reo Maori, it’s in a sad state and one of the reasons is that it has been rendered down in most communities to a ceremonial language that had little relevance to most peoples everyday lives. We need to make Te Reo a transactional language so that if i wish I can walk into any business, bank, supermarket, service station or pub and conduct my business in Te Reo if I choose. It is a right English speakers enjoy without having to think about it. Those who wish to conduct daily transactions in Te Reo do not enjoy this right. There are a number of simple and relatively inexpensive practical activities that can happen to get people speaking Te Reo in the community. A lot of dosh is being spent on initiatives that have questionable impacts on improving Te Reo. They need to be reprioritised.

I’m glad he’s not asking for more money – just a reprioritisation. I’d encourage him to be specific.

The Government currently spends $77 million a year on the promotion of Maori language and culture. Where would he cut money from, and what would he spend it on?

Priority 4: Stopping sexual, physical and emotional abuse of women and children, and yes to men as well.

I was outraged with the Roastbusters scandal and the well publicized sexual abuse/ pedophile cases in Kaitaia over the last few years. 

I sat back and waited for a male MP especially any male MAORI MP to make a stand and say something along the lines of “What the bloody hell is going on that men can treat women and children like this?” I was waiting for a male MP to take a stand and tell all of us men that this abuse is (predominantly) a male problem, and that we need to sort our shit out ourselves. We need to have serious conversations with our sons, grandsons and nephews about how a real man treats a woman. But i bet this is just too hard for most males.  …

So I determined if no other male MP was prepared to stand up and start lecturing men on how we need to treat and love our women and children, and if I was ever in the position again to pick up that mantle, I will.

Some months ago I approached some people who work in this field and told them if i ever get back into parliament, tell me what I need to do to support them. I’ll give them a call soon.

So men, I don’t give a rats arse if I’m accused of not being a REAL bloke, I’ll still be a sports and rugby fanatic, get on the piss, keep up my fishing, shooting and getting lost up in the bush – but i love my wife, daughters, mother, sister, nieces,cousins, friends and colleagues too much to ignore sexual, physical and emotional abuse any longer.

Very supportive of Davis showing some leadership on this.

I support all of the four goals he has outlined (well not sure I agree you need Maori as a transactional language, but agree getting little return for the amount spent), but they key is coming up with specific policies and initiatives to achieve them. Hopefully he will detail these in weeks to come.


Guest Post: Shane Jones, “Heretic Hunting” and Waitakere Man

April 26th, 2014 at 1:59 pm by kiwi in america

David is back next week to resume his regular posting but I wanted to bring Kiwiblog readers’ attention to Josie Pagani’s comments about Shane Jones’ departure at Pundit (thanks to Whale for first pointing it out). She and Cameron’s analysis dovetail neatly with my Guest Post on why Labour is polling so poorly.

She quotes gloats from Labour’s left:

“Here’s what Martyn Bradbury said on the Daily Blog tonight:

Labour dodge a bullet….(it’s like) the relief of a haemorrhoid being surgically removed, losing Shane Jones is no different to that. Good riddance”.

Here’s a taste of what they’re saying on The Standard:


22 April 2014 at 6:40 pm

no shane jones was labours john key and accordingly pushed national policies. HE WAS IN THE WRONG PARTY HENCE HE HAS DISCUSSIONS WITH MCCULLY FOR SOME TIME.”

Some, not happy to stop at driving Shane out, want to see others gone too:

Kerry @plateaunz Protected Tweets  

Goff Mallard and King should have walked the plank.”

There’s no problem finding other Labour party staffers and candidates who share the view that Labour needs fewer not more people on its side, and that it can define itself by throwing people out rather than bringing them in. These are the militants who make every issue, from man bans to building roads a litmus test, and if you fail – good riddance.

The viciousness of these heretic hunters is driving people out of the Labour party at a time when Labour needs all the votes it can get.

If you disagree with these policy police or attempt to debate an issue, you are not just an opponent  – you’re an enemy within.

This is a warning call for Labour; very few extra votes will be attracted to Labour because people like Shane are being driven out. And the more people who are driven out of the party, the more the party is dominated by people who don’t even realise there is a problem, let alone what the problem is. The risk then, is not just that Labour ends up in opposition next year, but that it is in no better position to heal itself for future elections.”

This is Labour’s problem neatly summed up by an insider on the left who grew up learning her quite accurate political instincts watching her father John’s political experience as a key advisor to the Alliance and the Progressives. Josie Pagani typifies the type of well travelled professional with a social conscience that used to find an easy home inside Labour’s once broad church …..not anymore as Pagani’s post was met with negative comments from the left wing’s echo chamber (mickysavage aka Greg Presland, Danyl McLauchlan and others).

Jones saw no future for someone like him in modern Labour and left. Despite getting more positive publicity for Labour over the Countdown Supermarkets alleged stand-over tactics than almost all of his colleagues put together (including David Cunliffe), his potentially centre vote winning messages that the Greens in Cabinet would be a disaster (earning him a telling off from Cunliffe), oil and gas exploration should be embraced by Labour (contradicted by Labour’s energy spokesperson) and speaking out for Waitakere Man were ignored. Jones realised that Labour was behaving like a losing party, was saddled with a flawed leader, had embedded the power of its left wing activists via the party wide leadership voting system and, even if Cunliffe had stumbled across the line on September 20, knew the chances of his being elected to a new Cabinet by Labour’s left leaning caucus were slim.

Pagani joins Chris Trotter in sensing the coming disaster for Labour (albeit for different reasons than Trotter):

“Today there is only one way to stop a calamity, and that is for genuine progressive to run towards the party and demand a focus on jobs, and higher wages, not on banning Nigella, or trucks, or roads, or whatever NGO the Labour party is trying to be this week.

Focus on what Labour is for, and stop being against every passing thing the government does. We want to hear more from people who celebrate New Zealanders and less from the heretic hunters who want to purge the party.”

John Armstrong agrees as well (as David has said in the previous post):

“A fair chunk of these minorities have formal representation within Labour’s organisation. But in seeking to secure their pound of flesh in terms of policy gains in return for votes, their agendas have become increasingly out of sync with the far more apolitical or conservative-leaning wider New Zealand public.

With the left of the party running its own agenda which puts purity ahead of pragmatism, Labour’s appeal is shrinking. Those voters whom Labour needs to capture will see Jones’ exit as a further narrowing of Labour’s appeal. The “broad church” is turning into The Temple of the Tyranny of the Minority.”

The purge that began in 1988 has still not finished and will only stop when Labour is humiliated into an electoral rump that approximates only its core minority constituencies. Jones’ departure, and the factional infighting it has provoked, has merely put the spotlight on the ‘Heretic Hunting‘ driving Waitakere Man into the waiting arms of John Key.

No tag for this post.

Labour’s woes

April 26th, 2014 at 12:13 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Could things get any worse for David Cunliffe than they did this week?

It is quite conceivable they might, of course. Cunliffe’s leadership of Labour still has a way to go before it hits rock-bottom. But this week’s very public exhibition of the disunity which flows freely and abundantly from the deep schisms within the party may well have proved to be sufficiently damaging to have put victory in September’s general election out of reach.

Has there ever been another case of such a senior MP retiring from politics not at a scheduled election – but just five months before the election?

Labour’s embarrassment at losing Shane Jones as a result of a quite brilliant piece of politics on Murray McCully’s part left Labour powerless to hit back at National.

But that was no excuse for the outbreak of factional warfare in the form of the Labour left indulging in a danse macabre on Jones’ still warm political corpse.

Yes the fact some have been celebrating the departure of Jones, shows how divided they are.

Jones’ departure immediately prompted an at times bitter argument over whether he had been of any real value to Labour during his nine years in Parliament. As far as those on Labour’s left flank were concerned, he was just an over-ambitious blowhard who had a way with words but who was driven by self-interest, rather than being imbued with team spirit – something which was amply illustrated by the shocking timing of his going as far as his many critics are concerned. They had two words to mark – or rather celebrate – his exit: good riddance.

For those on Labour’s right flank, Jones had been someone who, for all his faults, could reach into segments of the voting public which those on the left professed to represent, but with which they had long lost touch.

I think what some on the left have missed, is that it is not just about Jones – it is about the symbolic importance of an MP effectively saying Labour is now too left wing for me, because they’re too close to the Greens.

With the left of the party running its own agenda which puts purity ahead of pragmatism, Labour’s appeal is shrinking. Those voters whom Labour needs to capture will see Jones’ exit as a further narrowing of Labour’s appeal. The “broad church” is turning into The Temple of the Tyranny of the Minority.

There is an intolerance of diversity of views. National is comfortable that some MPs did and did not support same sex marriage. Likewise National is comfortable some MPs are economically interventionist and some are small state market libeals. However in Labour if you don’t support Fabian type economic policies and socially liberal policies then you are told you are in the wrong party.

Claire Trevett also writes:

Whether it is truth or simply perception is irrelevant: Jones was seen as the last bastion of the centre ground for Labour as well as providing an important buffer from the view that the party was more obsessed with identity politics and political correctness than everyday grafters.

He was certainly the one who articulated it best.

The party now has to work out how to at least hold those voters and shed the perception it is lurching ever leftwards without Jones.

And wait until the gender quotas come into play and all the top candidates on Labour’s list are women, because they have to do so under Labour’s new rules to ensure equality of outcome.

MP Kris Faafoi said despite the perception Jones was on his own in the centre, others were there as well. “Many think economically he was on the right track as well. I don’t think it’s a sin to have opinions like Jonesy’s in the party at all. I guess it’s our job now to fill that void. We need to, because we need that centre ground.” He had hoped Jones would be “in the trenches with us” for the campaign.

The trouble is that the reality is that in almost every policy area, Labour’s policies have moved to the left and are now closer to the Greens than they are to say what Clark and Cullen did.

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No minimum price for alcohol

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

Judith Collins announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has received the Ministry of Justice report, The Effectiveness of Alcohol Pricing Policies.

The report considers options for a minimum pricing regime and the possible costs and benefits.

Ms Collins says the Government will not be introducing minimum pricing on alcohol as this would hit moderate drinkers in the pocket when there is no compelling evidence that increasing the price of alcohol is the correct approach.

The Government will allow time for the new alcohol reforms to bed in and to assess their impacts, including the development and implementation of Local Alcohol Policies which are likely to take up to two years to come into full effect.

Ms Collins says the Government’s changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act aimed to strike a sensible balance to curb the harm of alcohol abuse without penalising moderate drinkers.

“New Zealanders who drink responsibly and moderately should not be unfairly targeted. Introducing a minimum pricing regime would see alcohol companies earn around $131m extra a year at the $1.20 minimum price point,” says Ms Collins.

The alcohol companies will be hoping Labour wins office as their former spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel, demanded that there be a minimum price of $2 a standard drink. This would mean it would be illegal to sell a bottle of wine for under $15 a bottle.

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Jones cites Greens influence as factor in departure

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

Claire Trevett reports:

Departing Labour MP Shane Jones’ antipathy for the Green Party went so deep he once told Labour’s leadership he would not be a minister if he was “second fiddle” to Green co-leader Russel Norman as deputy prime minister or in a senior economic role. …

Asked whether David Cunliffe had tried to keep him by promising a ministerial post if Labour regained the Government benches, he said he had told Labour’s leadership some time ago he would struggle to be a minister if Mr Norman or other Green MPs held senior posts.

“The Labour Party I came into is a party of New Zealanders. Some are on the left, some are on the right. The sweet spot is in the centre. I’m not interested in ever campaigning for the Green vote or going out there promoting Labour as only being able to govern if it has some sort of Green organ transplant.”

The reality is that Labour’s policies are all veering quite hard to the left. I’m going to do a more detailed blog post on this, but when you compare their policies today compared with say the Clark-Cullen Government – they have moved to the left in almost every case – and most of their new policies are Green party policies.

Stuff reports the response from the Greens:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei hit back this morning, calling Jones sexist and questioning the amount of voter support he brought to Labour.

“It’s probably a good thing that he’s going, he’s very much a 19th century man in a 21st century world, and I’m not sure he’s going to cope with the changes that need to come,” Turei said on Firstline.

“I think there’s been real issues around with Shane and his sexism. I think the comments he’s made and the very derogatory statements he’s made about women in the past, in particular women in authority, has been a real problem.”

She denied Jones had appeal to working class men.

“He’s claiming he’s got lots of support, but not enough that’s kept him in Parliament. I don’t know that he has a great deal of support in his caucus either because that hasn’t kept him inside Parliament.

“At the end of the day, he’s leaving. The Greens are staying. He won’t be part of government, he won’t be a minister and the Greens are intending to be so after the election on September 20,” Turei said.

The problem for the Greens is they have little chance of being in Government, unless Labour also does a deal with NZ First.  And in a piece I do agree with, Tim Watkin states the reality:

Labour and the Greens simply aren’t a viable two-party government as the polls stand, which makes New Zealand First simply vital to any potential change of government. While New Zealand First has left its options open re coalitions and there’s plenty of smart money on Winston Peters’ preference for backing National-led – or at least incumbent – government, any path to a change of government currently looks to lead through New Zealand First.

Labour’s going to have to do some serious growing to find another path to government. So as it stands, if New Zealand First tells Labour it wants a formal coalition (something history tells us Peters prefers), but it will only consider a coalition if the Greens are excluded, well, Labour will have to exclude them.

Yep. Because what else can the Greens do?

When this scenario was put to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei on The Nation she said “if they [Labour] need us for confidence and supply, they need us to be government” and if the Greens are needed, “we, the Greens, are in a very strong bargaining position”.

Except they’re not. At all. If New Zealand First said they would only go with Labour if the Greens were sidelined and Labour bowed to that demand, the Greens would have two choices: Give confidence and supply to that government, or opt out and let a National-led government stay in power. Surely they couldn’t let the latter happen, so they would have to allow themselves to be sidelined. Again.

The Greens can not abstain on supply and confidence, because then Labour and NZ First would not be able to govern.  There would either be a new election or a National-led Government.

And considering how close Jones and Peters are, can anyone imagine Peters will let the Greens become Ministers, when their influence is what drove Shane Jones out of politics?

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Responding to Tim Watkin

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

I blogged on the 6th of April that the latest stories on Countdown seemed to be crossing the line from legitimate criticism to a bit of a smear campaign.

Tim Watkin did a response to my post. Now I’m no longer trekking, I thought I should respond to his points as I stand by my assertion that the latest set of stories were more just putting the boot in by allowing everyone to have a whinge. I stand by my views that in relation to their treatment of suppliers, my belief is that Countdown has behaved badly – and that the action by Shane Jones in exposing this is a good thing. But just because I agree with some criticisms of Countdown doesn’t mean I think every criticism is valid.

Tim first responds to my pointing out that the Mad Butcher chain has been found to have run false and misleading ads against Countdown, so hardly qualify as a credible viewpoint.  He says:

On the programme Mad Butcher CEO Michael Morton criticised various parts of Countdown’s behaviour, including the lawyers’ letters he’s been getting since he started doing comparative advertising. As you rightly point out, David, the Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints by Progressive against the Mad Butcher. You criticised a later TV3 news story for not including that fact, yet you didn’t mention the fact that Progressive has been criticised by the ASA as well. As The Nation host Lisa Owen asked of Morton on the programme, ‘aren’t you as bad as each other?’.

Indeed Morton was challenged a couple of times about his advertising complaints and was forced to admit that Progressive had complained to the ASA about his ads and won the fight. Morton said it was for technical, minor reasons and his argument is that a large company can use lawyers and complaints processes to suck up the time and resources of a smaller competitor. But viewers were left in no doubt about the ASA complaints and their outcomes. There was no “key fact missing” from The Nation or the video at the top of the story you link to. Did you bother to watch that?

First of all Tim misses the point that having a competitor complain about another competitor is pretty worthless. The relationships between competitors is different to that between a retailer and a supplier. Competitors are competing against each other and trying to steal market share from each other. Of course they are aggressive towards competitors. You see this in numerous industries – 2 Degrees vs Telecom and Vodafone. The petrol companies against each other etc. Hotel chains. In fact a common tactic is to block resource consents for your competitors – hence Park Royal Wellington blocked a Hilton being established on the waterfront. Petrol companies used to routinely object to consents for new petrol stations for competitors. And yes both Progressives and Foodstuffs used to try and stop each other supermarkets being built. We also see these tactics in Auckland with the brothel owners fighting each other.

So having a competitor on the show to have a whine about their competitor really adds nothing of news value unless they can point to something of substance that has been done wrong. And all the Mad Butcher could do was say that Countdown complains about their ads. Well considering their ads were in fact extremely aggressive and wrong, I’m sorry if I don’t see that as a good case. The Mad Butcher ads were of a form which used to not be allowed – direct price comparisons naming a competitor. If you run an ad like that, you need to be 100% sure your claims stack up – and they didn’t for the Mad Butcher.

Morton may claim they lost for technical minor reasons, but I suggest a reading of the actual ASA decision does not support that.

I agree that the ASA complaints were mentioned on the programme. But here is where Tim gets overly defensive. I never ever mentioned the programme. I was up the mountains on an incredibly slow Internet connection and could never have watched a live stream of it. What I was commenting on is the stories on the TV3 website. If the stories don’t include key facts from the show, then that is a problem with TV3 – not with me.

Countdown sells Lotto tickets at the tills. Your New World does not do that. As reported on The Nation, Countdown trialled the scheme over summer, it was popular and is now being rolled out to Countdown supermarkets nationwide (currently over 100 have it). That’s new this year and exclusive to Countdown for now, so it’s not a matter of it being “fine at one group of supermarkets, but not another” or “xenophobic”. You can certainly argue that it’s a fine and helpful service for Countdown to offer, but the argument you’re making is based on wrong facts. Jones is right when he makes the distinction between what Countdown does compared to other supermarkets; you can make your own mind up as to whether you think that makes Countdown more convenient or harmful.

Again Tim misses the point. What has this got to do with Countdown allegedly bullying suppliers, or being a bully? It’ just taking some random complaints and including them together so Countdown looks bad.

And I don’t think there is a big difference between having a Lotto counter at a supermarket and having then for sale at each checkout.

Desperate people make bad choices, it seems. Is that purely their responsibility or are Lotto and Countdown also culpable. Remember, Countdown says it’s a caring member of the communities it works in and is one of New Zealand’s largest employers. It’s a good issue to debate, isn’t it? Something a caring society should be thinking about? Why would you mock even the debate and call it a “smear campaign”?

Because it is an issue unrelated to the bullying issue. Has Countdown bullied Lotto into it? I bet you Lotto were keen as mustard to do this.

If one wants w wider debate on gambling, then have that wider debate. Should Lotto be banned entirely. But the debate should be on Lotto – not on Countdown – unless Countdown have done something wrong.

And my point is that you hit Countdown for the stuff they have done wrong. But that isn’t a licence to give air time to every critic of Countdown on every issue, when they have vested interests such as being a competitor. The main complaint of the Lotto sales came again from a competitor – and his concern is not gambling, but that people spend less at his stores when it is a Lotto day.  That is an issue for Lotto – not Countdown.

Third, I’m curious how you know about the contents of the letter. No-one on the select committee would release it to us or even confirm its contents; doing so would have broken privilege. So I can only assume that either an MP has leaked it to you at risk of a privileges committee hearing or that you’ve been briefed by Countdown on this. Isn’t that something you should declare openly?

And talking of smears, Tim did one himself against me. I’m up a mountain in Nepal and Tim thinks I’m in contact with MPs or Countdown in some secret conspiracy. The reality is I was just going on the news report on TV3’s own website that quotes Countdown saying they just asked for a record of what was said. I even linked to the story, so it seems Tim didn’t even read the stories on TV3’s own website – instead he accuses me of being in the pay of Countdown.

I’ve had zero contact with Countdown on this issue, and in fact ever. All I was doing was offering an honest opinion that the latest stories seemed unfair to Countdown, and Tim assumes I must be working for them.

Even worse he suggests MPs were briefing me and breaching the privilege of the House, when all I was doing was commenting on a report on TV3’s own website that quoted Countdown. The only breach of privilege appears to be from the Labour MPs who obviously told Shane Jones about the letter which allowed him to go out and declare it was threatening. TV3 gave great publicity to the claims it was threatening. Well the letter has now been released and is here.

It is a simple request under Standing Order 232. If anyone thinks that letter is threatening, then they are being hysterical.

But the issue here is the producer of a TV show responds to criticism of the reports based on the show by saying he assume the critic is being briefed by Countdown – with an implication that I’m perhaps getting paid by them.

Here’s the irony – not only do I have no commercial involvement with Countdown – I actually have strong ties to many of their competitors and critics. But as always, I don’t let commercial involvement influence my honest opinion on my blog.

Fourth, you have every right to support Countdown in the hours it wants to sell alcohol. But that’s not the point of Yule’s criticism – or that of two others mayors The Nation spoke to. The purpose of the bill National passed last year was that local communities should have the final word on what hours alcohol can be sold in their community. Judith Collin could explain that to you. 

Tim needs to read the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. It does not give local communities the final word on what hours can be sold. It says decisions on hours (and other matters) must be related to the object of the Act and the licensing authority hears any appeals. A local authority can not just pluck any hours of the nether and state they are permitted hours. They need to be able to demonstrate that the hours will help reduce alcohol abuse.  The licensing authority decides on that issue. 

You claim that: “All you do by restricting beer and wine sales to 9pm is annoy a lot of late night shoppers who can’t buy a bottle of wine with their groceries”. That’s a disputable claim, if not plain wrong. It’s not “all” you do. There’s evidence from both here and overseas that a restriction of alcohol sales by just two hours does reduce the social harm caused by excessive drinking. But whether you accept that evidence or not, you’re missing the point. The new law is clear: it’s simply up to local communities to set whatever hours they want on alcohol sales; there’s no requirement for evidence, just for public consultation. 

Again Tim is wrong. There is a need for evidence. Again he should S81 of the Act that requires the LAPs to be reasonable – and reasonable means a requirement for evidence.

You say “Many Councils are falling into the trap of not distinguishing between specialist bottle stores and supermarkets”, but again the law simply requires councils to listen to the local will. If you think that’s bad law, raise it with the National government that passed it.

And again Tim is wrong. They don’t.

Oh, and one other thing. Progressive was informed of the nature of the complaints against it and repeatedly offered right of reply on the programme. Executives were free to make all the arguments you do and more, yet they repeatedly rejected the offer to appear. Why didn’t you mention that in your post?

Because the are under investigation by the Commerce Commission (which is a good thing) and would be morons to go on TV shows while the investigation is proceeding. Once the investigation is over, I hope they do front up. On the main allegation of bullying against suppliers I do feel there is substance to the allegations. But I don’t think the additional issues are in the same category.

You have every right to think that the complaints by Jones, Morton and Yule are just “whining”. But when several independent sources all make complaints of a similar nature about one corporate’s behaviour, especially a company that is currently being investigated by the Commerce Commission for anti-competitive behaviour, I’d say that’s worth a public airing and debate.

Morton is a competitor. He is not independent. Yule is the head of local government in NZ. I have a lot f regard for Lawrence and he does his job well. But the view of local government seems to be (and shared by Tim) is that they can decide local alcohol policies without a need for evidence. Well, they are wrong. The Act says the policies have to be “reasonable” in light of the objects of the Act.

So I’m very comfortable with my original blog post. Tim says it was factually incorrect – but it was not. He just disagrees with my conclusions. That’s fine – but to have a senior producer allege that I am being briefed by Countdown when I criticise the show – well that reflects badly on someone – but I don’t think it is me.


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Mana protesting against better state houses

April 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Protesters egged Prime Minister John Key’s ministerial BMW as it collected him from a state housing development in Napier this afternoon.

Mr Key was unhurt in the incident but one man was later arrested for obstruction.

The incident happened about midday in Maraenui as Mr Key concluded a visit to a new state housing development.

Earlier, about 10 protesters, some clutching Mana Party banners, greeted the prime minister and challenged him about child poverty and enabling synthetic cannabis to be sold.

They shouted: “One, two, three, four, stop the war on the poor,” and “Maraenui under attack, stand up, fight back”.

So what awful thing was the PM doing in Maraenui that Mana supporters think is an attack on the poor? Stuff has details:

Key appeared slightly miffed that protesters heckled him as he officially opened a new housing development aimed at improving the city’s poorest suburb.

Despite the crowds chanting ”Stop the war on the poor”, Key was impressed with the units saying they were nothing like the state house he grew up in, he told residents.

”The protesters, interestingly enough are protesting for us to do the very thing we’re doing. So they probably should have come in and congratulated us instead of yelled at us.”

Five families have already moved in to the Maraenui development which consists of seven two-bedroom single-storey units, centred around a central communal courtyard.

Crete Pinkham felt “lucky” to be living to be living in a warm, dry home.

”There’s no mould! I lived in mould all these years. We’d clean it up and it would grow back.”

So Mana is against low income families being moved into new warm, dry homes. No surprise I guess, as they are now aligned with the multi-millionairre who allegedly pays below minimum wage to his staff.

Over the last six years, the Government had been working to improve the run-down Housing New Zealand stock, Key said.

Large, uninsulated properties were being knocked down for smaller, warmer units.

”Cold damp homes are no place for New Zealanders. We want to put them in the six star properties we have here.”

Key admitted there was still a lot of work to do, including attracting more social housing providers into the market.

What an awful uncaring Government that is at war with the poor. Thank God we have Hone and Kim to lead us to a better place.


The new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

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

The Herald report:

Experienced lawyer Cheryl Gwyn will be put in charge of monitoring New Zealand’s spying and intelligence activities, Prime Minister John Key revealed this morning.

Ms Gwyn will take over the job of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to replace Andrew McGechan QC, a former High Court Judge who was appointed on an interim basis in July.

She is the deputy Solicitor-General at Crown Law, and has previously been a partner at two legal firms, Deputy Secretary for Justice, Acting Solicitor General and chief executive at Crown Law.

Her office will have a larger, more proactive role as a result of Government Communications Security Bureau reforms which passed into law last year.

The reforms increased the scope and resourcing of the oversight regime, and widened the pool of candidates for the Inspector-General role beyond former High Court judges.

The combination of Kitteridge becoming SIS Head and Gwyn becoming Inspector-General is a clear sign that the Government is very focused on ensuring the intelligence agencies act within both the letter and spirit of the law, and that there are no more stuff ups such as occurred at the GCSB.

Retired judges have tended to be not particularly pro-active as Inspector-General. I think Ms Gwyn will be a very pro-active Inspector-General – in line with her new powers.

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