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Parliament Today 22 July 2014

July 22nd, 2014 at 1:16 pm by Jordan.M

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers 2.00PM-3.00PM.

  1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement: “We have a plan, and that plan is working for New Zealand.”?
  2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on regional development, if so, how many regions of New Zealand now have a lower number of people unemployed according to the Household Labour Force Survey compared to when he took office?
  3. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Finance: What measures has the Government taken to support New Zealand families – particularly through delivering better public services to those most in need?
  4. METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?
  5. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received about the progress of the Government’s welfare reforms?
  6. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Finance: Has he seen reports that $4 to $5 billion will be sucked out of the economy due to the 35 percent fall in dairy prices since February, and what policy responses, if any, does he intend to make to counteract this?
  7. LOUISE UPSTON to the Minister of Education: What progress is being made on Better Public Services targets in education?
  8. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister of Police: When was the Minister of Police first informed of the misreporting of Police statistics in Counties Manukau, and what did she do with the information when she first received it?
  9. Hon TAU HENARE to the Minister of Justice: What recent Better Public Services results has she announced for the justice sector?
  10. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: What evidence does she have that the Government’s Investing in Educational Success programme, which removes teachers and principals from their classrooms for two days a week, is the best way to spend over $359 million in order to raise student achievement?
  11. PAUL FOSTER-BELL to the Minister of Conservation: What new initiatives has the Government taken in the Rimutakas and other areas to help the recovery of endangered native bird populations?
  12. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?

Today Labour are asking about regional development, the fall in dairy prices, police statistics and changes to teaching. The Greens are asking about whether the Prime Minister stands by all his government’s policies, and whether the Minister of Finance stands by all his policies. New Zealand First is asking about New Zealand’s economic outlook.

Patsy of the day goes to Paul Foster-Bell for Question 11: What new initiatives has the Government taken in the Rimutakas and other areas to help the recovery of endangered native bird populations?

Government Bills 3.00PM-6.00PM and 7.30PM-10.00PM.

1. Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill - Second Reading

2. Land Transport Amendment Bill- Committee Stage

3. Veterans’ Support Bill - Committee Stage

The Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Commerce, Craig Foss. This bill continues the changes begun by the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 and the Financial Reporting Act 2013. It proposes amendments to the rules on who may perform statutory audits, to the restrictions on legal form for audit firms, to the requirement for independent assurance of financial statements for certain charities, and to the rules relating to how the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants structures itself.

The Land Transport Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Transport, Gerry Brownlee. This bill seeks to lower the adults legal alcohol limits from 400 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg, and from 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 Millilitres (ml) of blood to 50mg.

The Veterans’ Support Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Michael Woodhouse. This bill proposes a new support scheme for veterans of military service that would replace the current scheme prescribed in the War Pensions Act 1954.


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General Debate 22 July 2014

July 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 21 July 2014

July 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

The discipline issue

July 21st, 2014 at 7:19 am by David Farrar

Danyl blogs at Dim-Post:

It’s been a shambolic couple of weeks for Labour. They had their congress and launched a major education policy, carefully designed to attack National where they were vulnerable and attract centre voters back to Labour, and they’ve spent every day since then talking about either Moas, or banning cosmetics, or Cunliffe’s ‘man apology’, or changing the burden of proof in rape cases, or Kelvin Davis’ support for the holiday highway, or te reo in schools – with some Labour MPs supporting this and some opposing – ie they’ve been talking about pretty much anything other than the huge new policy they just launched.

That is a good summary. Labour has been in the news almost every day for a fortnight, but on a different issue – and generally a negative one.

Sounds like Labour are finally working this out, as Stuff reports:

Yesterday’s frontbench meeting is understood to have settled on a radical rethink of strategy for the remainder of the campaign, with Labour set to focus on fewer key policies and messages.

This is sensible. What is alarming is that such a common sense approach is thought to be a radical rethink.

But will the party keep to the script?

MPs are also under orders to be more disciplined. Cunliffe is believed to have had words with veteran MP Trevor Mallard about his plan to revive extinct moa, which grabbed headlines on the eve of a Labour Party conference that was supposed to showcase the leader.

Others singled out for criticism for going “off reservation” include Tainui MP Nanaia Mahuta and Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis, who have both taken opposing views to party policy on issues in their areas.

A senior MP said the latest poll ratings were a concern.

“We have to be bloody good at what we do, we’ve got to be very tightly focused and on message.

“We’ve got good policy, got a good campaign plan, we know we’ve got the troops on the ground, we can pull this up.”

There was an acknowledgement that the public was confused by the number of different signals coming from Labour, and that was blamed on “trying to do too much too quickly”.

“Then there’s another level with people saying things that are completely off the script.”

That included Cunliffe himself, for his apology “for being a man” to a Women’s Refuge conference.

But will Labour be disciplined enough. I doubt here. Here is Sue Moroney campaigning for free Moroccan cooking classes:

And it gets better. Sue also wants free Photoshop classes. Presumably for Labour Party staff.

Do you really think this is a Labour Party that could achieve surplus and run a balanced budget?


General Debate 20 July 2014

July 20th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 19 July 2014

July 19th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 18 July 2014

July 18th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Another Malaysian Airlines flight goes down – this time by a missile

July 18th, 2014 at 5:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Malaysia Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has crashed in near Donetsk, killing 295 people, with Ukraine officials claiming it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched by pro-Russian separatists.

The disaster comes only four months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing on March 8 with 239 people aboard, including New Zealanders Paul Weeks, 38, and Ximin Wang, 50.

First thoughts are with the families of the 295 passengers and crew on board.

Second thoughts are with Malaysian Airlines. Unlike MH370, this doesn’t look like it has anything to do with the actions of Malaysian Airlines or their staff. However I suspect they will face a huge loss of patronage after this.

Hopefully those responsible are identified and jailed.


General Debate 17 July 2014

July 17th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Why media should be open about their personal views

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

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Does this mean my views aren’t coloured by my own philosophies? Of course not! By virtue of being human, I suffer from cognitive biases which can never be fully eradicated. The same goes for every single person involved in journalism. You should never believe anyone who claims to be wholly dispassionate on matters of public affairs.

But one really curious thing about alleged media bias is that it can depend on the reader as much as it does on the writer.

In 1982, Stanford University undertook a landmark study on how people with strongly held views perceive media coverage. The test subjects were divided into two groups – those who sympathised with Israel and those who opposed it. When shown news reports of the Lebanese Civil War, the pro-Israel group complained that the coverage was biased against Israel. The same reports were then shown to the anti-Israel group – who complained that they were biased in favour of Israel.

Both groups felt that the coverage would unduly influence an undecided person towards the opposite position.

As a matter of objective reality, of course, they couldn’t both be right. These studies therefore give us an important insight into how we perceive the news. This is sometimes called the “hostile media effect”.

We see this here with some people convinced the NZ Herald hates the Government and some people convinced they try to help the Government.

Here’s the ironic thing: some studies show that perception of media bias will drop off when the writer is open about his or her personal views on the subject. This could be because if readers know what the writer’s biases are; they will be prepared for what’s coming. Their expectations aren’t injured when they find they disagree with the writer’s conclusions.

You can see why this creates problems for “straight news” reporters who try hard to cover contentious issues without favour. As one researcher in this field once put it: “If I think the world is black, and you think the world is white, and someone comes along and says it is grey, we will both think that person is biased.”

Opinion writers don’t suffer from that problem.

Not that this will placate everybody. There will always be those who fundamentally don’t accept that reasonable people can have differing views.

When confronted with opinions they don’t like, these people really have three choices. First, they can try to persuade their ideological opponents with constructive debate.

Second, they can simply avoid people and media that do not affirm their pre-conceptions. Third, they can try to hound people they disagree with out of the public square.

I believe that a good liberal sees only the first two options as respectable. Again, however, that’s just an opinion.

I think it is beneficial for journalists to be open about their worldview.

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General Debate 16 July 2014

July 16th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 15 July 2014

July 15th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Human rights and civil rights

July 14th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Got sent a summary of a speech to the NZ Initiative by Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson. He said:

One. Civil rights are not the same as human rights. Civil rights are the gift of citizenship; human rights are universal and exist from birth.

Two. Social justice is not the same as human rights. Social justice is broadly about advancing social and economic equity; human rights are about uncompromisingly protecting the autonomy of the individual and their enterprise.

Three. Anti-discrimination is not a human right. Anti-discrimination is about removing unjust prejudice; whereas, apart from equality before the law, human rights can actually be exercising discrimination, such as free association.

Four. Group rights cannot be human rights. Group rights cannot be universal to every person; human rights can only exist for individuals. “

I like the distinctions he makes.


General Debate 14 July 2014

July 14th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 13 July 2014

July 13th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

T is for Tax

July 12th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

One of the big ones. Tax.

Taxes are one of the most tangible links between the government and civil society. We all pay taxes in some form, and in exchange we expect the government to provide certain goods and services: roads, infrastructure, the courts, law enforcement, education, and support for society’s most vulnerable.
From this perspective, the oft-quoted declaration ‘taxes are the price we pay for a civilised society’, widely attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, rings true.
However, it is a common misconception that a dollar taxed is a dollar that can be spent by government on goods and services. In reality, a dollar taxed is a dollar that must be spent on collecting tax, ensuring tax compliance, public administration of policy and, of course, the actual public policy.
Besides, increases in tax rates do not automatically lead to an increase in tax revenue, as illustrated by the Laffer curve. Named after Arthur Laffer, this curve popularised the notion that higher tax rates may actually cause the tax base to shrink so much that tax revenues will decline. Conversely, a cut in tax rates may increase the tax base so much that tax revenues increase.
How so?
Taxes distort behaviour by influencing the personal decisions people make about their work and consumption. For instance, people who would prefer to work longer hours or at a higher pay may work less or refuse a pay rise to avoid being taxed at a higher rate. Higher personal income taxes encourage workers to substitute their preference for work to economic activities that they would otherwise not prefer.
This is known as the deadweight loss of taxation, where the tax system causes individuals to pursue actions they would otherwise not prefer. To gain maximum tax revenue, there must be a careful balance between low rates with a greater tax base, and high rates with a smaller tax base.
There is also the issue of tax incidence, which describes who bears the cost of the tax. For example, increasing the tax on high income earners may not necessarily mean that they bear the cost of the tax. If workers are receiving less money in their pocket, for an equal or greater amount of work, employers may feel compelled to raise their wages to ensure employees receive the same take-home pay. Thus it is employers who bear the burden of a higher rate of income tax.
Taxes are not the price we pay for a civilised society. At best they are the price we pay for a civilised government. But they are also the price of overly bureaucratic procedures, unpredictable outcomes, and the loss of freedom to make our own decisions.


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Artifical milk

July 12th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new milk could threaten New Zealand’s $17 billion dairy export industry.

Made in the lab from yeast, and due to be on shelves in 2016, it will be a product virtually indistinguishable from cows’ milk.

Because it will have the same proteins, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals, it will also taste the same, according to Perumal Gandhi, co-founder of Californian research and development company Muufri.

But the milk will be able to be made without the typical cholesterol, allergen lactose and bacteria in cows’ milk, meaning it will be healthier and won’t need to be refrigerated, giving it a much longer shelf-life.

Soon after its introduction, it would become far cheaper than its cow-made rival, Gandhi said.

I don’t think in the short term, people are going to swap to artificial milk. But we should not discount what the future may hold. As we crack more and more DNA and the like, our ability to create things will expand exponentially.


General Debate 12 July 2014

July 12th, 2014 at 9:03 am by Kokila Patel

Rates to go up under Labour

July 12th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Homeowners and landlords could see hundreds of dollars added to their rates bills under Labour proposals for a sweeping overhaul of the disaster insurance regime.

The policy unveiled by Labour’s Earthquake Commission (EQC) spokesman Clayton Cosgrove would see EQC levies gathered by taking them off insurance premiums and adding them to rates bills so all residential properties are covered.

The levy is currently $207 a year for most homes but Mr Cosgrove said Labour would also lift the maximum payout by EQC from its current $100,000 cap.

Which will see the levy increase. So that may mean you rates end up going up by over $300 a year.

He acknowledged that the resulting increase in EQC’s total liability would mean the levy would probably have to rise but that insurance premiums would not necessarily fall to reflect the fact they would not include the EQC levy.

“I’ve never seen an insurance premium go down.”

So Labour is proposing that our rates go up by $300 or so but that our insurance premiums don’t go down.

Another winning policy.

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General Debate 11 July 2014

July 11th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 10 July 2014

July 10th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 9 July 2014

July 9th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 8 July 2014

July 8th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Hide on unions and Labour

July 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The true donations scandal in New Zealand politics was reported this week without comment. It’s the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s $60,000 donation to Labour.

The EPMU is one of the six unions affiliated to Labour. The affiliated unions pay fees and fund the Party through donations. The donations and fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More significantly, union staff campaign for Labour and the unions run parallel campaigns. For example, Labour is campaigning for the “living wage”. In a parallel campaign the Services and Food Workers Union spent more than half a million dollars last year promoting that exact policy.

It would be interesting to add up the total amount spent by unions on political campaigns. It would be well into the millions.

The union funding of Labour totals in the millions. And what does Labour provide in return? In effect the entire party. The unions get to determine the party’s leader. Their say counts for 20 per cent of the vote. That’s the difference between winning and losing by a wide margin.

Affiliation also buys a seat at the table. The affiliated unions have a guaranteed vice-president position on Labour’s all-powerful New Zealand Council.

They also get their people as MPs. The Labour Party enables the unions to parachute members into Parliament. Labour list MP Andrew Little headed the EPMU for 11 years before entering Parliament.

Imagine the outcry if business lobby groups got to vote on the leadership of the national party, could bus people in to their selection meetings, got a vice-president of the party and get a vote on the list ranking.

And the unions get policy, lots of policy. In 1999 the EPMU gave $100,000 to Labour. The following year the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act. This act gives the unions incredible power over Kiwi workplaces as well as easy access to workers’ pay packets.

The Employment Relations Act nicely closes the loop. The act was provided by the Labour Party. It gave the unions access to workers’ pockets, and that’s the money the unions now tip into Labour’s coffers.

Indeed, in the state sector it’s policy for Government to give union members a bonus to cover their union fees. You and I pay their union fees.

This is sadly true. Taxpayers bribe people to join the union.

Unions and Labour are guilty of “cash for policy”, “cash to sit at the table”, “cash to decide the leader” and “cash to parachute members into Parliament”.

The rort serves to bolster Labour and entrench the power of union bosses.

Unions are highly politicised organisations that only exist now because of the legal privileges bestowed by Labour governments.

The rorting of our democracy by the unions and Labour would make a great expose.

But don’t expect anything soon: it’s the EPMU that represents journalists in this country.

That’s right, our journalists – through their union – help fund the Labour Party.

To be fair the journalist fees don’t get paid directly to Labour. But they help fund the EPMU overall, which allows them to campaign more for Labour.

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General Debate 7 July 2014

July 7th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel