My blog at Stuff is on reining in local government.
In 2002 local councils were given the power of general competence. It meant they could do anything at all, so long as a majority of councillors voted for it. Any amount of spending could be justified so long as it contributed to the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their communities.
For the life of me, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be justified under those criteria. A local council could probably build its own air force and claim it was essential to their social wellbeing.
I deal with the counter view:
Some have argued that these proposed reforms are undemocratic. They say that a local council should be able to spend ratepayers’ money on anything they want, and it is up to the local voters to keep them or sack them. They say the Government should leave it to local voters.
The problem I have with this argument is that many large items of expenditure that councils approve are not known before elections, and councils proceed regardless. Some of them turn into disasters such as the Hamilton V8s. Yes, you can sack the councillors responsible at the next election, but that doesn’t stop you being left with the bill regardless.
And the bill keeps getting bigger.Tags: By the numbers, Local Body Politics, Stuff
In my blog at Stuff, I look at parliamentary privilege:
One of the privileges members of Parliament have is they they can’t be sued for defamation for statements they make in Parliament. This privilege has existed for hundreds of years and is generally regarded as desirable as it allows MPs to expose wrongdoing without being silenced by injunctions and lawsuits.
However, there is a great responsibility on MPs to get their facts right, and to apologise when they get it wrong. They can defame people under the protection of parliamentary privilege, and their victims have no legal recourse.
Winston Peters has a long history of making allegations under parliamentary privilege, and having the vast bulk of the allegations turn out to be without substance. I had hoped that these days were behind us, but this week we have seen two serious allegations made by Peters under parliamentary privilege.
Perhaps one of Mr Peters’ caucus colleagues could ask their leader whether or not he has any proof of his allegation that Mr McKenzie received free overseas travel from Deloitte. And if he is unable to provide them with the proof, implore him not to turn the House of Representatives into a Star Chamber.
Maybe iPredict could do a stock on whether Mr Peters will provide said proof of his allegation, and whether he would apologise for his allegation. I suspect both stocks would sell for under 5c.Tags: By the numbers, parliamentary privilege, Stuff, Winston First
At Stuff I blog on another issue in the MMP review, namely should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections.
However I am firmly of the view that List MPs should not be able to stand in by-elections. I think the results of elections should be transparent, and someone from Dunedin should not suddenly become a List MP because of how the voters in Mana voted. The average voter won’t get to grips with the details of how a list MP becoming an electorate MP means a new List MP enters Parliament, and won’t be making an informed vote.
You can comment at Stuff, or here.Tags: By the numbers, MMP, Stuff
At Stuff I blog on when work testing should apply.
For my part I support having just a 12-month suspension of work testing for sole parents who have further children while on the DPB. There is a wealth of research that children who grow up in households where no adults are in paid employment do far worse than other children in other families – even those of the same income level. The DPB should be temporary assistance for parents who find themselves without the support of a partner. Too many recepients remain on it for well over a decade.
You can comment over at Stuff.Tags: By the numbers, Stuff, welfare reform
At Stuff I blog on the one electorate seat threshold for MMP, as part of a series on the possible changes to MMP. My conclusion:
Overall I think there is a case for removing the electorate threshold, but only if the party vote threshold is lower so that it is easier for parties to make it into Parliament. However, my mind is not yet made up on this issue, as if the threshold is made too low, then stable government is much more difficult, as we have seen in Israel.
You can comment at Stuff, or here.Tags: By the numbers, MMP, Stuff
I also note that on the 3 News poll the CR would have 60 seats, the CL 60 seats and the Maori Party 3 seats. So they would get to choose the Government, and either way it would have a bare two seat majority.Tags: By the numbers, Polls, Stuff
In my By the numbers blog at Stuff I look at the issue of what the party vote threshold should be for MMP. I note:
One of the most important issues is what percentage of the vote should a political party need to get, to gain list MPs in Parliament. Currently the threshold is 5 per cent. You can also qualify through winning an electorate seat, but I plan to discuss that issue in a seperate post.
There are basically four options for the threshold. They are to:
- (A) – Increase it
- (B) – Keep it at 5%
- (C) – Reduce it
- (D) – Abolish itIn general terms, the higher the threshold, the fewer parties will be in Parliament, and fewer parties will be needed to form a government. The lower the threshold, the more parties there will be in Parliament, and more parties will be need to agree to form a government. Also the higher the threshold, the more wasted votes you get.
In my blog at Stuff I say:
But how significant would this law change be, in terms of labour costs? On average it will result in two extra days of paid holidays every seven years. Over seven years there are around 1600 paid workdays, so the increase in labour cost is 2/1600 or 0.12 per cent.
This is a pretty modest increase in labour costs. It is about 1/16th the cost of having a 2 per cent employer contribution to KiwiSaver.
I’m an employer myself, but I’m in favour of this bill. As an employer I budget for 11 public holidays a year anyway when working out my staff costs, and I suspect most employers do the same. This law change would give certainty to both employers and employees, and the impact on labour costs is very modest.
You can comment over at Stuff, as well as here. I also cover in what future years the bill would actually impact.Tags: By the numbers, holidays act, public holidays, Stuff
In my blog at Stuff I blog:
I doubt I was the only person upset and angered at the story of the 17-year-old girl in Wellington whose parents tricked her into a forced marriage. She was imprisoned at home for several months, until she escaped.
Her parents have gone back to Pakistan, but the father is reported to have said he would kill her if he saw her again.
Sadly this can’t just be dismissed as hyperbole. Canada has just had a conclusion to a trial in which a father, with help from other family members, killed his three daughters and one of his wives. This was a so-called “honour” killing. Of course honour had nothing to so with it. Secret wiretaps revealed the father saying “God curse their generation, they were filthy and rotten children,” and “To hell with them and their boyfriends, may the devil s**t on their graves.”
The 17-year-old girl in Wellington may be lucky she escaped such a fate. As New Zealanders, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to minimise this occuring in New Zealand.
You can comment over at Stuff on my thoughts on how we can minimise this.
Tags: By the numbers, Canada, forced marriage, immigration, Stuff
At Stuff I blog on Winston’s dilemma:
The sale of the Crafar farms must pose an awful dilemma for Winston Peters.
The leading bid for the 8000 hectares of farmland is $210 million from Shanghai Pengxin, a Chinese company.
Winston has spent most of the last 20 years railing against the Chinese. He has railed against Chinese immigration to New Zealand, he has railed against Chinese investment in New Zealand and despite being the foreign minister, railed against the 2008 free trade agreement with China (despite its having increased our exports to China by $3 billion and reducing our current account and trade deficits). …
But look at who else is lined up to buy them. Sir Michael Fay leads a group which is offering $170 million for the farms – $40 million less than Pengxin. If Pengxin is turned down, then Fay will pick the farms up for $40 million less than the market price.
Now if there is one person that Winston Peters hates and rails against even more than the Chinese, it is surely Fay. Peters alleged all sorts of wrongdoings by Fay and Richwhite in the late 80s and early 90s, and this led to the Winebox inquiry.
It gives me a certain pleasure to reflect that whatever the outcome, Winston will be unhappyTags: By the numbers, Crafar, Stuff, Winston First
In my blog at Stuff, I ask can Christchurch’s council be saved?
But the pay rise granted to the CEO seems to be the issue that has generated the most heat. Unfortunately for the council it is the one issue they cannot fix. Once an employment contract has been signed, there is no legal way to require the CEO to accept a lower salary. The council cannot legally cancel the payrise. Only if the CEO voluntarily agreed to go back to his old salary could it happen. And it is hard to see what motivation he would have to do so. …
What do you think is the answer? Do you think the council can right itself? Do you think the only solution is to wait for the October 2013 elections, or is a commissioner warranted? Or perhaps, should the local body elections for Christchurch be brought forward to, say, March 2011, allowing residents to sack or re-elect the incumbents? Is an election campaign though what the city needs now?
dTags: By the numbers, Christchurch City Council, Stuff
At Stuff I blog on the u-turn by the Chch City Council on burial fees:
Someone at the very beginning should have said, wait how much money are we talking about here? $350 x 22 people is around $7,000. In the context of total Council expenditure that is petty cash. How could anyone – whether they be staff or elected, think that for $7,000 you should risk offending the families of those who died in the earthquake.
Sanity eventually prevailed, and Mayor Bob Parker announced the fees will be waived, as promised. It is better late than never, but some damage has been done. This should have been elevated to the Mayor when it first emerged – not after it hits the media.
I also talk about a similar issue back in the late 90s, with the then National Government.Tags: By the numbers, Christchurch, Stuff
In my blog at Stuff I propose:
New Zealand should ask for the US to commit to a law change that any copyrighted material released in the US for sale, can also be immediately sold (or re-sold) to New Zealand consumers.
So if a US studio releases an episode on iTunes for 99c the day after it is broadcast in the US, then no more blocking New Zealanders from being able to buy it.
Such a law change would probably do more to reduce infringing file-sharing of TV shows, than any amount of punitive measures.
dTags: By the numbers, copyright, Stuff
There are not a lot of glass ceilings left in New Zealand for women to break through. Two of the last three prime ministers were women. Two of the last five governors-general were women. The Speaker of the House before the current one was a woman. The chief justice role has been held by a woman since 1999 and Dame Sian is not due to retire until 2021. Also the then largest company in New Zealand (Telecom) was headed by a woman just a few years ago. …
Though in 2011 there are not many glass ceilings to break, there is still a serious under-representation of women in Parliament. Sadly the proportion of women in Parliament dropped this year for the first time since 1996.
Now I’m not one of those who advocates that Parliament must or should exactly match the population in gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, left-handedness and so on. I think competence and quality is the most important qualification. However, so long as the MPs are high quality and competent, I think it is desirable that Parliament is indeed a House of Representatives, and our Representatives do reflect the diversity of New Zealand.
So I would like to see more quality, competent women elected into Parliament. But working out what the major barriers are is not so easy. …
dTags: By the numbers, Stuff, women
My Stuff column is on how the election outcome is not settled. I conclude:
So I don’t regard the outcome of the election tomorrow as settled. Certainly National is in a much better position than Labour. But under MMP, even a 23-point lead in the polls does not guarantee you government.
My message to all Stuff readers is to make sure you vote. Do not think the outcome of this election and the identity of the next government is settled. No matter who you support, make sure you have you say and cast a vote today or tomorrow.
Talking of voting, what is the weather forecast for tomorrow?Tags: By the numbers, Election 2011, Polls, Stuff
Over at Stuff I’ve blogged on an actual policy issue, shock horror. I chose law & order as I think it is a great example of a policy that actually matters to NZers, and has huge impact on our lives. An extract:
I regard law and order policies as among the most important, after the economy. Crime affects New Zealanders so profoundly. If you are a victim of crime, your life may never be the same again. Even a nonviolent burglary can leave you feeling vulnerable and violated, while serious rapes and sexual assaults many people never recover from. And those who lose loved ones to criminal acts must relive the horror and sadness constantly.
However, law and order policies affect more than just the victims of crime. Few of us are perfect and never break the law, whether it be speeding, littering, illegal drugs or more serious offences. It is important to have sentences that are appropriate for the crime. We don’t send people to jail for driving at 106kmh, but we might if they were driving at 190kmh for the fifth time, and almost certainly if they kill someone at that speed. …
I think there is some merit in [Labour's] approach. Sending someone to jail should be the last resort, and reserved for either extremely serious crimes, or someone who doesn’t respond to lesser punishments. Once you send someone to jail, they are probably going to remain a criminal for the foreseeable future, so the point of prison becomes protecting the community. Hence I tend to agree that sending someone to prison for just two months is of little value. Either keep them out of jail, or send them away for a decent period.
I suggest people read the full column.Tags: By the numbers, law & order, Stuff
At Stuff I blog on who would be in and out of Parliament based on the average of the polls this week:
If National gains 65 seats, they will gain many new MPs. Highly placed candidates Jian Yang, Paul Goldsmith and Alfred Ngaro were always going to make it in, as were electorate candidates Simon O’Connor, Maggie Barry, Ian McKelvie, Mark Mitchell, Mark Sabin and Scott Simpson. Joining them would be candidates Paul Foster-Bell, Claudette Hauiti, Jo Hayes and Leonie Hapeta.
This would give National its most ethnically diverse caucus ever. They would have 11 Maori MPs, three Asian MPs and two Pacific MPs. They would also have a record 18 female MPs (but their proportion of the caucus would be unchanged).
What people may find amusing is I made a typo in the original, and it read “give National its most ethically diverse caucus”Tags: By the numbers, Polls, Stuff