Herald on power prices

July 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One in five Auckland households switched power companies last year, helping them save an average of $136 in the process.

The Electricity Authority’s annual review of the industry’s performance showed that 385,000 households changed their electricity provider in 2014 using Government-sponsored tools. That was fewer than the previous year, when 396,000 consumers changed companies.

The review by Government’s electricity regulator said the biggest savings were made in Bay of Plenty, where people changing providers saved an average of $318.

Households on the East Coast were most likely to switch companies – nearly a third moved to another retailer in 2014.

The review said growth of electricity brands – including a record-high 27 retailers – had fostered the high rates of company-switching. Aucklanders had the most choice with 21 companies, four of which had joined the market in the past year.

Great to see competition working.

The authority said prices had risen more slowly than retailers’ costs, which suggested that competitive pressure was limiting price rises.

However, prices still increased last year despite the more competitive market. Statistics New Zealand figures showed power prices rose 3.6 per cent – more than three times the rate of inflation.

This is the increase in the 2014 calendar year, but …

In the last quarter, Statistics New Zealand said there was zero change – the lowest annual change since 2001.

Yep a nil annual increase. Here’s the increases for June years for the last few years:

  • 06/07 6.0%
  • 07/08 6.7%
  • 08/09 5.3%
  • 09/10 1.0%
  • 10/11 7.6% (GST increase)
  • 11/12 3.7%
  • 12/13 3.3%
  • 13/14 4.5%
  • 14/15 0.0%



Parliament 29 July 2015

July 29th, 2015 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Finance: How has the New Zealand economy been affected by recent international economic developments?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “it is highly unlikely, actually, that the Government will have to pay any more through Pharmac. But on the basis that it had to pay a tiny bit more, the Government would fund that increase”?
  3. KEVIN HAGUE to the Minister of Health: What advice, if any, has he sought or received on threats to public health in New Zealand?
  4. Dr JIAN YANG to the Associate Minister of Education: What investment is the Government making in Auckland schools to manage growth?
  5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  6. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: Has core Crown health expenditure kept up with health demographics and inflation growth since 2009/10?
  7. BRETT HUDSON to the Minister of Energy and Resources:What recent reports has he received on competition in the residential electricity market?
  8. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her Government’s commitment that if partnership schools don’t succeed “the Government will be just as quick to close them down as we have been to establish them”; if so, how much taxpayer money is expected to be received by the Whangaruru partnership school between 28 May 2015, the date the Ministry recommended the termination of its contract, and 1 January 2016?
  9. TODD MULLER to the Minister for Building and Housing: What further progress has the Government made to deliver on its policy of delivering more houses in areas of need?
  10. KELVIN DAVIS to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his answer during Oral Question No. 9 yesterday that “No, I have not received any reports” which contradict the official account of the number of attackers in the Littleton serious assault case?
  11. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent reports has he received on the growth of the New Zealand horticulture industry?
  12. DARROCH BALL to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements?

National: Five questions on the economy, Auckland schools, electricity market, state housing and horticulture

Labour: Four questions on TPP, health spending, charter schools and Mt Eden Prison

Greens: One question on public health

NZ First: Two questions on PM standing by his statements and Anne Tolley standing by her statements

General Debate 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

A general debate of 12 speech of up to five minutes for a maximum of an hour.

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

New Zealand Flag Referendum Bill – committee stage

The Bill establishes a process for the holding of 2 postal referendums, firstly to determine which alternative flag design is preferred by voters, and secondly to determine whether that alternative flag or the current flag is to be the New Zealand flag.”

  • Introduced: March 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2015, passed 76 to 43 with Labour and NZ First opposed
  • SC report: June 2015, supported with amendments by the majority, Labour dissenting
  • 2nd reading: July 2015, passed 63 to 58 with Labour, Greens and NZ First opposed

There is no set time limit for the committee stage. As the bill has three parts it is likely to be at least three hours.

Appropriation (2015/16 Estimates) Bill – committee stage continued

This Bill authorises the individual appropriations contained in The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the year ending 30 June 2016.

  • Introduced May 2015
  • 1st reading: May 2015, passed without dissent
  • 2nd reading: June 2015, passed 63-58 with Labour, Greens, NZ First against

The debate is an 11 hour debate divided into ten sector debates. The sectors are:

  • Economic Development and Infrastructure Sector – done
  • Education Sector – done
  • Environment Sector – done
  • External Sector – done
  • Finance and Government Administration Sector – done
  • Health Sector – current
  • Justice Sector
  • Māori, Other Populations and Cultural Sector
  • Primary Sector
  • Social Development and Housing Sector

Each debate is a minimum of eight speeches of up to five minutes each, led off by the relevant select committee chairperson.


Mercy backfired

July 29th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When Tony Robertson was found guilty of abducting and molesting a 5-year-old girl a decade ago, a judge could have locked him up indefinitely.

If he had received preventive detention then, it’s likely Auckland mum Blessie Gotingco would still be alive now.

But 10 years ago, the sentencing judge opted to show mercy towards the then-teenage Robertson standing in the dock before him – in the hope he would turn his life around while behind bars and emerge a reformed man.

But it didn’t happen.

And Blessie died.

In prison, Robertson completed no courses of treatment.

He was repeatedly denied parole because of his lack of reform.

He continued to deny responsibility for his attack on the 5-year-old girl. It was all a police frame up, he insisted.

Just as he now denies raping and murdering Blessie Gotingco – her death was an accident, and evidence of rape was planted by police, he said.

At least this crime will have a life sentence, and his denial of responsibility should mean he never gets out.

Robertson’s offending began at age 16, in 2003, and included convictions for assault, aggravated robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, wilful damage, threatening to kill, burglary and receiving.

Then came the Tauranga kidnapping, when he was 18, in 2005.

The offending took place over two days, the worst of which was on December 15.

On December 14, he attempted to lure two children into his car with promises of Christmas presents, saying he knew their mothers and would take them home, court records of the case show.

And when he was caught:

And when questioned over testimony from the other children he tried to entice, who had identified him, he said: “Maybe I’ve got a twin brother that drives the same car as mine.”

Not exactly remorseful was he.

Having been found guilty, he was shown leniency by the sentencing judge.

“You are not simply to be assumed a lost cause at the age of 19,” Justice Patrick Keane told him at that time.

The judge opted not to sentence Robertson to preventive detention – which could have kept him locked up for the rest of his life.

Crown prosecutor Simon Bridges (before he became an MP) had pushed for the tougher sentence, arguing further that if preventive detention were not meted out the sentence should be at least 12 years.

But Justice Keane said that though it was possible the kidnapping and abduction was the start of what could become a pattern, Robertson had a history of violent, rather than sexual, offending.

Sadly the Judge got it wrong. I can see why at 19 he was reluctant to  give him preventive detention, but let us hope he gets it now.

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Human Rights Commission badly skews data

July 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Human Rights Commission said:

A gender stocktake of appointments to state sector boards reveals some Government ministers are doing very well while others need to try a lot harder says EEO Commissioner Jackie Blue.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs gender stocktake of state sector appointments shows little has changed in ten years: including those years when Labour were in power.

“It’s 2015 not 1915: Ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards must do better, they have no excuse but to do better,” said Dr Blue.

“I congratulate those ministers close to achieving equity and urge their colleagues to see them as best practice.”

“Ministers doing well include: 45% (Upston) and 50% (Tolley, English) and those who have slightly surpassed 50% (Woodhouse, Coleman, Dunne, Parata). Minister Goodhew achieved 66% female representation and the case must be made that future appointments need re-balancing.”

“However ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards (McCully, Bridges, Brownlee, Key) have a lot of catching up to do.”

However the Human Rughts Commission made a fatal error, as reported by Claire Trevett:

Women’s Minister Louise Upston and Transport Minister Simon Bridges are among those copping blame for the deeds of their predecessors after analysis named and shamed ministers with low rates of appointing women to boards.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue released information showing the percentage of women appointments to boards in ministerial portfolios, broken down by individual ministers.

However, the analysis was based on appointments in the 2014 year and many were before the election resulted in a reshuffle of portfolios.

That means many ministers are now either benefiting from or being blamed for the deeds of their predecessors.

The Human Rights Commission should apologise to the ministers it named. The stocktake by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs just referred to portfolios, and it was the HRC which then attributed them all to the current Ministers, rather than the Ministers in office for most of 2014.

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So Kiwis prefer Australian anthem to our own?

July 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has described the national anthem as a “dirge” and said many New Zealanders preferred to sing along to the Australian anthem than our own.

Mr Little made the comment during debate in Parliament on the Flag Referendums Bill, a bill Labour is opposing despite Mr Little’s own desire for a new flag and Labour’s 2014 policy to start the process to secure that change.

Mr Little said while thousands of New Zealanders wanted a change of flag, they did not believe it was the right time.

“This is not a poor reflection on New Zealanders, many of whom would like something different. Many of them want a change to the national anthem too, because they are sick of singing a dirge every time you turn up to a festive occasion. Most of them sing along to the Australian national anthem before they sing along to our own.”

I don’t know any Kiwis who do this. Genuinely interested if you do.

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General Debate 29 July 2015

July 29th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

How Greek pensions bankrupted Greece

July 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

There are several factors in the bankruptcy of Greece. Their accounts were fraudulent.  People didn’t pay taxes. Corruption. But bigger than all of that was their pensions.

The Greek pension system shows what happens when you get a culture of entitlement, and a belief that the Government should fully fund your retirement, rather than you.

Here’s some facts about the previous Greek pension system:

  • The average Greek pension equates to 95% of your final salary, compared to an average 40% for Europe
  • Employees could retire and get the pension at age 55 if their occupation was deemed arduous.
  • Hairdressing was deemed an arduous profession
  • Greece has the highest number of 110 year olds in the world, as families would keep claiming pensions of dead relatives

Some other facts about Greece public spending:

  • Greece has four times the numbers of teachers than Finland yet Finland ranks at the top of the education tables with the Greeks are at the bottom.
  • Greek teachers are better paid than Finnish teachers
  • Over 25% of Greeks in employment are government employees
  • The average wage for train workers is €66k
  • The Institute for the conservation of the Kopias Lake employed 1763 people, and the lake that has been drained since 1930
  • Redundant workers have to get paid at least two years salary
  • By 2060 it is projected that 86% of the population will be dependent on the state

So when people blame what has happened in Greece on Germany or the IMF or austerity, well …..

Basically this is a result of extreme left policies of making more and more people dependent on the state, and not enough people to fund it.


Intolerance in Reims

July 28th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A young woman was beaten up by a gang of girls as she sunbathed in a park wearing a bikini.

It is thought the five attackers objected to their victim being immodestly dressed in public.

They pulled her hair, punched her and slapped her around the face, leaving her badly bruised.

The incident, which has prompted outcry on social media, took place as the 21-year-old victim, Angelique Slosse, lay in the sun with two friends in a park in the French city of Reims, north of Paris.

As the gang walked by, words were exchanged. At one stage one of the attackers was heard to say: “Go and get dressed.”

Another verbally abused her for “immorally” exposing so much bare flesh in a public place. Miss Slosse replied to their comments and was attacked. She suffered severe bruising and has not been able to go to work since the incident last Wednesday.

The five attackers, aged between 16 and 24, were arrested.

Police said the victim was not able to tell them whether her attackers were motivated by religious views.

Last night the local police superintendent, Julie Galisson, said: “It was a fight between young girls which degenerated after one of the authors of the aggression said, ‘Get dressed, it’s not summer’.”

One of those arrested would not leave Miss Slosse alone and this degenerated into violence, Mrs Galisson said.

She added: “As is clear from the statement of the victim and those implicated, there is no religious or moral element which explains the aggression.”

I’d bet a huge amount of money that the attackers are Muslim, and their aggression was religiously motivated.

The Independent reports:

The authorities have not named them but said that they all came from housing estates with large Muslim populations.

It is incidents like this that cause people to question whether those with strong Islamist beliefs can integrate into non-Muslim countries.

This is not just a case of not integrating, but trying to force your religious values onto other citizens by force.

Religion should be personal to you. Live life as you think your God demands. But the moment you start using force to try and compel others to also live by your religious beliefs – well it is a form of religious fascism.


Dickinson on global impact visas

July 28th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Michelle Dickinson writes:

“One hundred inspired New Zealand entrepreneurs can turn this country around.”  Sir Paul Callaghan

I was there specifically to hear his announcement on something I’m passionate about and have recently had a small involvement in called Global Impact Visas (GIVs).

Today the government officially announced it would be considering them.

John Keys official speech said that the government “will consider a new global impact visa targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.”  The bigger question is what should these visas look like in order to shape a global export focussed New Zealand?

Remembering that GIVs do not yet have a formal policy framework, I think its an exciting time to be in as we can create something with a unique design for a fast changing economy.

From think tank conversations I’ve been involved in, the purpose of the visa seems to be to give a limited number of high impact entrepreneurs and investors the ability to establish or be involved in new ventures each year by moving to New Zealand.  My arguments with this visa design is that it must be flexible around the concept of how success is measured, which can not just be financial success if we are to attract entrepreneurs with global impact potential.

So why might we want this flexibility?

As I spend time on the West Coast of the US, some of my entrepreneur friends who live in Silicon Valley and LA find themselves stuck because they dropped out of university (or never even started) in order to pursue their tech creating dream.  This is great until you see the points system that our immigration systems rate you on which focus points on how much work experience you have, how many tertiary degrees you have and how much money you have, which scores unfavourably for many incredible young tech entrepreneurs.  We only have to look at our current non degree holding home grown stars, Sam Morgan, Peter Beck and Sir Peter Jackson to see that our current scoring system can let incredible people fall through the cracks.

The GIVs offer a way to rank potential candidates on merit which can include their local and global impact potential.  How this is measured however is still very much being debated, but I think it needs to ensure that those who do not qualify under our existing visa schemes but have potential for impacting New Zealand enterprises have a visa entry route which recognises their unique skills.

If they can come up with a scheme that is fair but flexible, I think it is a great idea.

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DHBs should be appointed not elected

July 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A leaked document suggests removing the control of District Health Boards from elected representatives in a proposed overhaul of their governance structure.

The Capability and Capacity Review leaked to Radio New Zealand is part of a series of reviews implemented in the health sector when new Director-General of Health Chai Chuah was confirmed in the role in March.

Currently most DHBs have 11 members, seven of whom are elected at local government elections.

The remaining four are appointed by the Minister of Health.

I have long advocated that DHBs should be entirely appointed by the Government. The Government funds DHBs and is accountable the performance of the health system.

Having elected members actually allows the Government to avoid accountability and responsibility. The problems at a DHB are then blamed on the DHB members, instead of the Government.

But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said major changes were unlikely.

The review was a third party report, and not Government policy, Coleman told RNZ.

A pity.


A mad Cambridge professor

July 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

A Cambridge Professor has made the astonishing claim that three scientists investigating the melting of Arctic ice may have been assassinated within the space of a few months.

Professor Peter Wadhams said he feared being labelled a “looney” over his suspicion that the deaths of the scientists were more than just an ‘extraordinary’ coincidence.

But he insisted the trio could have been murdered and hinted that the oil industry or else sinister government forces might be implicated.

The three scientists he identified – Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science – all died within the space of a few months in early 2013.

Professor laxon fell down a flight of stairs at a New year’s Eve party at a house in Essex while Dr Giles died when she was in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London. Dr Boyd is thought to have been struck by lightning while walking in Scotland.

Shit those oil companies are good. Anyone can arrange a push down the stairs or a lorry to strike you, but it takes special genius to arrange a lightning strike.

Prof Wadhams said that in the weeks after Prof Laxon’s death he believed he was targeted by a lorry which tried to force him off the road. He reported the incident to the police.

Asked if he thought hitmen might have been behind the deaths, Prof Wadhams, who is Professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, told The Telegraph: “Yes. I do believe assassins possibly murdered them but I can see that I would be thought of as a looney for believing this.

A looney? No, not at all.

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Parliament 28 July 2015

July 28th, 2015 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “I don’t want to ban foreigners from buying residential property”?
  2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  3. DAVID BENNETT to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the state of the New Zealand economy and what do these reports show?
  4. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: When was he or his office first briefed on the contents of the draft New Zealand Health Strategy?
  5. JAMES SHAW to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “New Zealand is never going to sign up to the TPP unless we believe it is in New Zealand’s best interests”?
  6. BARBARA KURIGER to the Minister for Social Housing: What work is being done to ensure social housing is available for those most in need?
  7. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his reported statement that the slowdown in growth this year had come at the right time in the electoral cycle?
  8. DAVID CLENDON to the Minister of Corrections: How many Final Warning Notices, in accordance with SERCO’s contract with the Crown, have been issued since SERCO took over management of the Mt Eden Corrections Facility?
  9. KELVIN DAVIS to the Minister of Corrections: Does he agree with the statement made by the Department of Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith that “not everything is broken” in relation to SERCO’s management of Mt Eden Corrections Facility?
  10. ALASTAIR SCOTT to the Minister of Immigration: What measures has the Government announced to help spread the benefits of migration across New Zealand?
  11. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Trade: Is the effect of Article 139 of the New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement that it allows restrictions to be introduced on foreign buyers of New Zealand homes, including Chinese buyers, so long as subsequent agreements with other countries are no more generous?
  12. NUK KORAKO to the Minister of Education: He ahaērāmahiāwhinakiakahakēatu ai teako o tehungarangatahi i Te Reo Māori?
    • Translation: What is being done to help more young people learn Te Reo Māori?

National: Four questions on the economy, social housing, immigration and Te Reo Māori

Labour: Five questions on housing x 2, DHBs, Mt Eden Prison and economic growth

Greens: Two questions on TPP and Med Eden Prison

NZ First: One question on PM standing by his statements

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

New Zealand Flag Referendum Bill – second reading

The Bill establishes a process for the holding of 2 postal referendums, firstly to determine which alternative flag design is preferred by voters, and secondly to determine whether that alternative flag or the current flag is to be the New Zealand flag.”

  • Introduced: March 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2015, passed 76 to 43 with Labour and NZ First opposed
  • SC report: June 2015, supported with amendments by the majority, Labour dissenting

The second reading consists of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes each for a maximum of two hours.

Appropriation (2015/16 Estimates) Bill – committee stage

This Bill authorises the individual appropriations contained in The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the year ending 30 June 2016.

  • Introduced May 2015
  • 1st reading: May 2015, passed without dissent
  • 2nd reading: June 2015, passed 63-58 with Labour, Greens, NZ First against

The debate is an 11 hour debate divided into ten sector debates. The sectors are:

  • Economic Development and Infrastructure Sector – done
  • Education Sector – done
  • Environment Sector – current
  • External Sector
  • Finance and Government Administration Sector
  • Health Sector
  • Justice Sector
  • Māori, Other Populations and Cultural Sector
  • Primary Sector
  • Social Development and Housing Sector

Each debate is a minimum of eight speeches of up to five minutes each, led off by the relevant select committee chairperson.


How about Option 4 for Chch – give us our money back!

July 28th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore is spearheading a group calling for a city council-led earthquake recovery.

Moore, a long-term mayor before Sir Bob Parker, and architectural designer Barnaby Bennett are among the founders of the Option 3+ group, which has attracted 649 members on Facebook within two weeks of its creation.

Moore said the group was about “capturing our city back” from “Wellington’s hands”.

I’m all for that, if it means they also no longer want Wellington’s money.


du Fresne asks if Hager is a journalist

July 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

Central to the case, it seems to me, is whether Hager is entitled to call himself an investigative journalist.

That’s apparently how he prefers to be described, and most of the media oblige him by using that term. The court heard that the Crown accepts he is a journalist.

This ishelpful for his image because the word “journalist” conveys a sense of professional impartiality.

But to my knowledge Hager has never worked as a journalist in the commonly understood sense of the word, and I resent him appropriating the description.

Journalists follow certain rules. They are expected to approach issues with an open mind and to report them in a balanced and objective way.

(Some people dismiss objectivity as unattainable, but in fact it’s a wise and perfectly workable principle that has underpinned mainstream journalism for decades.)

Ideally, if not always in practice, journalists are expected to maintain a certain detachment. Where there’s another side to a story, they are expected to report it.

I think that last part is key. Journalists are meant to tell both sides of a story.

Everything he does is calculated to challenge and undermine what we loosely call “the establishment”.

Sure, he uses journalistic skills, and uses them very well. He could show journalists a few things about digging beneath the surface and uncovering information that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

But that’s partly a reflection of his motivation, which is that of a doggedly determined Leftist crusader.

What he does is entirely legitimate and even praiseworthy in an open democracy, providing it’s done lawfully.

Hager’s books make an important contribution to informed debate and help voters make decisions on important issues, such as state surveillance and honesty in government.

But does that make him a journalist? I don’t believe so.

He was more accurately described in police documents as a political author.

You could also call him an activist (which he apparently dislikes), a campaigner, an annoying pebble in the shoe of the establishment – but not a journalist.

I think author is the best description.

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NZ has third highest material living standard

July 28th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand families have the third-highest material living standard in the world, a local study has found.

Researchers at public policy research institute Motu used data from 800,000 households across 40 countries to create the new measure for wellbeing, which took into account homes that included a 15-year-old.

The measure is based on ownership of possessions such as books, internet connections, whiteware and cars, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a house.

These are measures that actually matter to families – far more than whether the guy down the road has an even better car.

The top 10 are:

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. NZ
  4. Australia
  5. Liechenstein
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Ireland
  8. Norway
  9. Sweden
  10. Italy

They did look at inequality also. NZ was in 20th out of 40 countries.

Motu senior fellow Dr Arthur Grimes said the results should call into question the widespread negative impression of living standards in New Zealand compared with other developed countries.

“Our results show New Zealand is still a great place to bring up children, at least in material terms.

“Not only do we have wonderful natural amenities, but contrary to what GDP statistics tell us, most Kiwi families have a high standard of material wellbeing relative to our international peers.”

A great place to live in, NZ is.


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General Debate 28 July 2015

July 28th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Quote of the week

July 28th, 2015 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“A robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims, by his spending giving a boost to retail trade, would find few converts; but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the “multiplier effect,” it unfortunately carries more conviction.”

– Murray Rothbard

The is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

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Guest Post: All jails are bad

July 28th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

All New Zealand jails are bad…apparently

The headline on Monday said “Jails bad. Full stop”. The story beneath revealed that – surprise surprise –  serious incidents occur  in  all  the country’s jails, both state and privately run. Even union boss Beven Hanlon, who usually repeats a “state prisons good, private prisons bad” mantra ad nauseum, was quoted as saying state run prisons were just as bad as privately run  ones. What is the problem?

First the basics. To get sent to prison in New Zealand you generally  need to be a really bad bastard. Those sent to prison have, on average, appeared in court eleven times,  before finally being sent to jail. That is eleven court appearances, not eleven charges. At each appearance, a criminal might be facing a number of charges. By the time prison is the sentence, all the other non custodial alternatives have been tried.

Prison inmates are, by and large, there for serious or repeated violence, class A drug dealing or manufacture, or sexual offences against both  other adults and children. Although people like Kim Workman imply inmates are largely poor unfortunates who had a bad day when they committed the offence(s) for which they are arrested and  jailed, this is nonsense. Anyone  who has any experience of our prisons – particularly the members of  Mr Hanlon’s union – will tell you so.

So, a group of violent dangerous men all grouped together without much to do;  places where ongoing problems and violence are just the way it is? Well, actually, no. I have been inside prisons in both New Zealand and the United States. The atmosphere in United States  prisons  could not be more different from those  in New Zealand.

In 2007 Garth McVicar, Stephen Franks and I made a study tour of  the US to learn more about three strikes laws – especially how to avoid the well publicised injustices which the early version of three strikes gave rise to in California. We also visited prisons and spoke to both prisoner lobby groups, public defenders, and probation officers. We learned a great deal.

In Arizona we visited both ordinary prisons and the famous tent jails for which Sheriff Joe Arpaio is so well known. The very first thing we noticed was how well behaved the prisoners were. Some of the guards  were middle aged women. None of the guards were armed. Prisoners obediently and quickly complied when one no nonsense lady ordered them to “stand up straight behind the line”. When ordered to move they moved. No-one answered back. No prisoner said anything. Talking wasn’t allowed.

At the tent jail we visited it was lunchtime.  For lunch the prisoners were  all in a large airconditioned  mess hall – about 200 of them. Our group was shown through by one  unarmed guard.  The men had the kind of faces and body language one sees in jails here. But the atmosphere was entirely different.

One or two of the prisoners shouted out derogatory remarks about the food they were getting. On the spur of the moment I decided to share lunch with them – a filled roll, a pot of yogurt and a piece of fruit – rather than the lunch laid on for us. As the men moved closer to our small group – and our lone guard – I instantly regretted my decision. I asked if we had anything to fear (whether we did or not I was already frightened). Our guard said “Oh no…they’ll move back if I ask them to”. And he did, very softly. And they did.

My first thought was this behaviour must be obtained through intimidation and violence. We asked if we could speak to the prisoners one on one, and speak to whoever we wished to. Our hosts readily agreed, and so we did. I remember stifling guffaws as one tattooed middle aged female  inmate told an earnest young journalist accompanying us that this was her first time in prison.

We were not told of any  violence by the guards, although many inmates complained that the rules were “ real strict man”. They moaned about the food, and of course about the oppressive heat in the cell blocks which were not airconditioned. What is not well known is that inmates volunteer for Sheriff Joe’s famous chain gangs, and being sent to tent jail is a privilege to be earned. Five minutes inside the blocks and you understand why.

Since that visit I have become aware of various claims of wrongful death in Arizona prisons. No doubt those commenting on this piece will post links to such stories with alacrity. It goes without saying that no-one should be killed in jail.

Some years after the US trip I found myself an MP, and made it my business to visit as many New Zealand prisons as I could. The atmosphere was starkly different from those in Arizona and California. There is an air of barely suppressed violence in every one. Most notably, the prisoners are visibly contemptuous of their guards. They know  the guards can do very little to them. The prisoners can no longer be put in solitary confinement or fed bread and water  for disciplinary infractions. No extra time can be imposed. Parole Boards no longer hear evidence  from those who have been in charge of the freshly scrubbed and shaved inmate appearing before them meekly claiming to be ready for release.

One short visit to a few US jails doesn’t make me an expert on prison management.  However one would have to deaf dumb and blind not to see the glaring differences between their prisons and ours. How do they do it? Would their methods be acceptable here? Would their methods be culturally transferable? I don’t know. What I do  know is I felt a damn sight safer in the company of one guard in Arizona than I did with half a dozen prison officers tagging along in New Zealand.

When even Beven Hanlon is saying public prisons are just as bad as the private ones, it’s time to take very hard look at how we are managing our prisons and our prisoners. It’s time to take some lessons from overseas, learn from them,   and where appropriate  adopt them here. Just as we did with three strikes.

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Public Service Sick Leave

July 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Inland Revenue Department staff are being hauled before their manager if they have even one day off ill, as the tax agency grapples with its high level of sick leave.

The meetings, dubbed “welcome back conversations”, are part of a new initiative – Supporting Positive Attendance – introduced after the IRD noticed skyrocketing rates of staff taking sickies.

After starting the project two years ago, it had gone from second worst to third worst department in the public sector. The tactics have raised the eyebrows not only of staff, but also of an employment expert who says the department is dancing close to the edge when it comes to obligations under the Holidays Act and possibly the Privacy Act.

But the IRD is standing by its policy and says the initiative has saved taxpayers $6 million in two years.

A spokesman said that since the project was rolled out over 2013/14, average sick leave taken each year had reduced by nearly two days a person.


What I find interesting is the huge differences in average sick leave per employee by agency. You have:

  • MSD 10.5
  • TPK 9.7
  • IRD 9.1
  • Customs 8.3
  • Stats 7.9
  • SFO 4.7
  • MFAt 4.3
  • Treasury 3.8
  • DPMC 2.9
  • Defence 2.6

Now you can understand MSD and IRD being higher because many of their staff will be call centres.

But why would staffers at Stats NZ have twice as much sick leave as those at Treasury?


Euthanasia already happening in NZ

July 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Doctors and nurses are playing increasing roles in prescribing, supplying or administering drugs that may hasten a patient’s death, according to new research.

A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs.

Sixteen reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.

But in 15 of those cases, it was nurses who administered the drugs. 

Researchers acknowledged the actions of the GPs would generally be understood as euthanasia, but the survey did not use that term. 

In the survey, led by Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Phillipa Malpas, GPs were asked about the last death at which they were the attending doctor.

Of the 650 to respond, 359 (65.6 per cent) reported that they had made decisions, such as withdrawing treatment or alleviating pain, taking into account the probability that they may hasten death.

Some made explicit decisions about hastening death.

Of the 359, 16.2 per cent withheld treatments with the “explicit purpose of not prolonging life or hastening the end of life”.

So euthanasia is already quite widespread – but with no legal protections for patients. If we legalise euthanasia, then we put in place a legal process where we can be sure any actions taken are with the consent of the patient, and is necessary tostop their suffering.


Supporting trade academies

July 27th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuart Middleton from MIT writes:

The New Zealand Herald is right to call for more enrolments in trades academies. Yet to protect teacher management jobs from funding cuts, the NZ Post Primary Teacher’s Association (PPTA) recently advised against secondary schools enrolling numbers of students in trades academies.

The argument put forward by the PPTA is that they will lose funding for the one day per week that the student attends trades training.

Cutting the number of students able to access trades academies would dramatically disadvantage those students – particularly those in low decile areas. Trades academies are proven to keep students in education longer and to improve their employment outcomes.

That’s the important outcome.

South Auckland has experienced real success with these initiatives. As an example, the MIT Tertiary High School (introduced in 2010) has produced fantastic results for students who weren’t achieving in mainstream schools – its NCEA pass rate is comparable to decile 10 schools, and students are learning skills which will prepare them for real jobs in the future.

Early access to vocational and technical programmes is the key.

Importantly, the students’ results improved in their other subjects, not just the trades. Research, including a study undertaken by the MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways, shows that students learning in trades academies perform much better across all of their schooling.


The issue for the PPTA is that this training is best undertaken by the tertiary sector. It is cynical to deny students these opportunities simply because it would decrease a school’s funding. It is perverse that a higher premium is placed on a relatively small amount of staffing, than on the success that trades training can deliver to students.

We will only get different results by working differently. The PPTA needs to work with the opportunities, instead of resisting them. Mixing conventional school subjects with trades training is a winning combination and the only way that New Zealand will achieve excellence in both achievement and equitable outcomes across our communities.

By withdrawing students from trades training, the disadvantage for many students will far outweigh the funding advantage to a few adults.

Well said.

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A reader on Uber

July 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

A bit of feedback for you, and if you choose to publish, I hope will send a bit of a message from a platform that has been an advocate.

Bride and I have adopted Uber and loved the app, the service and the convenience. We also loved the price (typically not overly price sensitive – but it was a distinct bonus). However, last nights experience was not so good and had an element of biting the hand that feeds.

We were traveling from Khandallah to Newtown for a party leaving at 6.30pm. Clocked on the app to be told that there was a ‘surge rate of 1.5x normal rate’ to encourage more Uber drivers onto the road. We swallowed the dead rat and booked. $56 to Newtown (with a driver who bad mouthed other cab companies from start to finish – chatty guy and nice enough, but not classy or my preferred backtrack en route).

Leaving party went to book via app, ‘surge rate 2x normal fare applies’. Bollocks to that. Called Wgtn Combined, cab there within 15 and happy to text on arrival as was p!ss!ng cold and we were down a driveway. That same journey was $43 (and blissfully quiet!).

I know you have been a vocal advocate of Uber and market driven demand, I though I might whore your platform to fire a shot across their bows and warn them against premature complacency.

I recently had a 2x surge rate also, but that was from Wellington Airport at 1.30 am in the morning. Normally when prices get that high, I’ll choose a taxi instead. However there were none there, and around 30 people in a queue waiting for one.

So I had a choice of paying a higher rate for a guaranteed ride in ten minutes, or spending an indefinite amount of time queuing for taxis. I went for the Uber.

So yes I am a fan of Uber, but also not an uncritical one. My main frustrations to date are:

  • Not enough drivers in Wellington. Often have a fair wait for a driver
  • The estimated times for a pick up are often on the low side – ie they say six minutes and it takes ten
  • Surge pricing does occur fairly often

But overall still very happy with them.


Have the Police decriminalised cannabis?

July 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


Salient reports:

Chris Fowlie is the head of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and he really doesn’t like the way the police enforce the Misuse of Drugs Act. In a recent post on The Daily Blog, he argued that the authorities maliciously target harmless dope smokers, causing them far more harm than a joint ever could.

The statistics he cites appear to back up his argument: since 1994 there have been nearly half a million drug arrests, accounting for 11 per cent of all recorded crime. 85 per cent of the arrests were for cannabis, and 87 per cent of those were for personal amounts. On average, that equates to the police arresting 15,800 users a year for possession of personal amounts of pot. That’s 43 a day, or one every 33 minutes.

Fowlie says these statistics “are illustrative of how drug policing in New Zealand has gone off the rails”. But actually, the opposite is true: a closer look at the data shows that in fact there has been a huge decline in police arrests for possession and use over time. In averaging out arrests over two decades, Fowlie focusses on the noise and misses the signal.

You can see the trend above.

In the period between 1994 and 2014, annual recorded offences for possession of all illicit drugs halved. Offences for cannabis possession specifically did likewise. More interestingly, recorded offences for using illicit drugs fell from 1,307 down to 260, which was largely driven by 1,046 fewer cannabis use offences. The Police prosecute significantly fewer people for possession and use of drugs than they did two decades ago.

And this has occurred at a time when Ministry of Health figures suggest that the prevalence of drugs in New Zealand has remained stable and, particularly in the case of cannabis, relatively high. The data shows that 42 per cent of Kiwis aged 15 and over have smoked pot at some point in their lives, and 11 per cent have smoked pot in the past year. That’s 397,000 past-year tokers. The same survey showed that only two per cent of past year cannabis smokers reported experiencing legal problems as a result of their use.

So why have arrests halved if use has remained the same? There’s a simple answer: the Police are decriminalising cannabis in New Zealand.

I wouldn’t go that far. I would say that the Police are sensibly prioritising crimes that actually have victims.

Another explanation for the decline is that there has been a wider shift in the way that police approach low-level criminal offending. Wilkins says that “it would be a mistake to say it is a change that is specific to drugs. It reflects a wider change in police philosophy.” He believes the trend extends to other low-level crime, such as petty theft, and says the decline in arrests is a case of better allocation of police resources. “There’s a desire to be more effective and efficient, so that means reprioritising low-level offending.”

This is supported by the data. At the same time as possession and use charges for cannabis have come down, the number of manufacture and import charges have increased. The last 20 years have also seen the rise of meth, which Wilkins says has taken up more policing resources.

“If you’re a policeman and you have two markets—meth and cannabis—you have to ask yourself, ‘which is the best use of my time?’”

And I’m for prioritising meth over cannabis.

Encouragingly, Police Commissioner Mike Bush agrees that alternative approaches to prosecution can lead to better outcomes for users. Last month he heaped praise on Auckland Constable Scott Wolfe, “whose empathy for a methamphetamine addict helped turn her life around”.

In a post on his “Commissioner’s Blog”, Bush explained that Constable Wolfe “arrested the woman for possession of a cannabis pipe and, recognising the signs of methamphetamine use, discovered she had a heavy addiction and was living in a car”. Instead of prosecuting the woman through the traditional court system, Constable Wolfe referred her instead to Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou—The New Beginnings Court, which is focussed on homeless and disadvantaged people.

“She’s now in rehabilitation, has reconnected with her child and made huge improvements in her life,” said the Commissioner. “This is a superb example of the difference we can all make by showing a little understanding and using our initiative.” Indeed.

Yep, a good call.

Yes, there is. Professor Mark Bennett, a lecturer at Victoria University’s Law School, says that “if a certain offence will not be followed up on and there is little danger of detection and/or prosecution, there are questions around the legitimacy of this from both a rule of law and democratic perspective.”

The police can’t just decide to stop enforcing the laws of the land without there being repercussions. Dr. Dean Knight, another law lecturer at Victoria, says that one of the roles of the police is to follow the democratic will of the people and enforce the laws they voted for. “The Police probably shouldn’t effectively repudiate laws through non-enforcement,” he says.

We might think it’s fine for the Police to decriminalise pot, but what happens if one day they decided to stop prosecuting theft, say? Or assault? Or corruption? This is particularly concerning given the fact that the public is largely unaware of changes in police policy.

We already have this with electoral offences. Over many years the Police have shown no inclination to prosecute electoral law breaches.

But there is always going to be a degree of Police discretion over how actively they enforce some laws. Otherwise they’d be arresting jaywalkers or the like.

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What To Watch This Winter (July 2015)

July 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer



Martin Freeman is brilliant as Lester Nygaard in the 2014 SOHO TV series FARGO spin-off of the 1996 film.

What does one watch after Breaking Bad?  Can anything be as good?  Is life doomed as half-baked forever afterward as you wait for the next season of GoT or The Walking Dead?

There’s Season 2 of True Detective (starring a surprisingly different-looking Rachel McAdams of The Notebook) or Season 2 of Ray Donovan. Both are great, but neither quite cut the blue crystal meth. When the rellies were over from Perth recently, I forced everyone to watch FARGO (1996), because you’re not truly human till you’ve watched FARGO, don’cha know.


The classic and now iconic, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) FARGO 1996.

FARGO was that supremely awesome 1996 genre-breaking neo-noir black comedy crime thriller set in Minnesota and North Dakota near the Canadian border and based on real events.  One of the key characters is dialect.

The Coen brothers are such excellent film makers.  In 2006, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and inducted into the US National Film Registry for preservation. Has won heaps of awards.

It starred that surprise find Frances McDormand (above) as Marge (‘Margy’) Gunderson, a heavily pregnant local Minnesota police chief, and other well-known actors, such as William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard) whose inept crime falls apart due to bungling and the persistent police work of the extremely normal Marge.  McDormand hasn’t been seen much since she played in a weird movie with George Clooney and Brad Pitt (Burn after Reading, 2008) in which Clooney plays an adulterating serial sex addict and Pitt plays his favourite crazy guy again (Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys). 

SOHO to eternal praise has extended the 1996 FARGO film by creating a TV series that picks up exactly where the film left off.  A suitcase of cash is stashed in the snow along a fence line in snow-swept wastes with a red windscreen scraper stuck in the ground to show where it is.  And the Fargo legend continues.

The TV series is as brilliant as the film (described by some as the best new TV series). It stars Billy Bob Thornton as a seriously evil psychopathic serial hitman working amongst a cast of ordinary Joes over several years. Main protagonist is Lester Nygaard (rhymes with Lundergaard from 1996) played by Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins The Hobbit).  All are just excellent. Allison Tolman re-plays ‘Marge’ but as Deputy Molly Solverson also pregnant like Gunderson in 1996. The Police Chief is ‘Sol Goodman’ of Breaking Bad (Bob Odenkirk) whose character in BB was so rich, the character spawned his own spin-off TV series as the ambulance chasing small-town crime lawyer. In Fargo 2014 he retires at the end of Season 1, due to the trauma, and Molly takes over as police chief, to complete the Marge Gunderson circle.

The series is full of black comedy and then sudden, unexpected violence, all the more black because of the ordinariness of it all (ceramic ducks on the back wall and sensible woolen jerseys with snow flake patterns).  The juxtapositions are jolting. Well worth a watch.

I just LOVE this series.  Season 1 is finished on SOHO but Prime is re-running it again on 4 and SOHO have SOHO POP-UP on 11 that runs the series as a marathon back-to back if you watch for that.

Here’s a quote from 1996:  “So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.” ~ Marge Gunderson.

Don’tcha know!

Here’s a  great clip from the TV series.



Safer at work than home

July 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Unions are running a campaign which is basically claiming the Government (and employers) for all work place deaths. They arrange crosses at protests to try and suggest that every work place death is preventable and they are all the fault of the Government and employers.

So I thought I’d look up the ACC data on all accidental deaths. How many accidental deaths occur in workplaces, as opposed to home or other places?

Do we blame the Government for deaths at home, or just those at work?

This is not to say that some work place deaths are not preventable, and that sometimes the employer is responsible. That is why we have prosecutions. In some industries such as forestry the death toll has been horrendously high.

But what I reject is the notion that every death is preventable and is the fault of the Government or the employer.

So what does ACC tell us on fatal accidents.


These are for 30 June years. So over the last five years only 12% of fatal accidents have occurred in work places. 32% have occurred at home and the rest on the roads, sports fields hospitals and other places.

Also of interest is the total number of fatal accident claims has actually fallen since 2010/11.

Do we know what proportion of the workplace accidents, involved employer culpability? In some accidents there are definitely things the employer could have done to have a safer workplace. But in others, it might be procedures were not followed, or just sheer bad luck (you slip etc).

Our workplace accidents rates are higher than many other countries and need to be lower. But that doesn’t mean all workplace fatalities are the fault of the employer or due to the nature of our OSH regime. Men are 20 times more likely to die in workplace accidents than women. Is this all due to what occupations they are in, or a reflection that men are often less risk averse (with bad results).  Changing male culture around risk may be just as important as workplace safety regulations.