No surprise whom the Dom Post editorial writer votes for

June 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From a recent DP editorial:

It also allows the Greens to use its natural advantage as the brainiest and most wonkish of the parties to gain clear political advantages.

You can almost smell the love. This is not a column, but the official editorial of the Dominion Post.

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Dom Post editorial repeats lie twice

February 26th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial asserts:

And indeed charter schools do not operate on a level playing field.

They appear to get much more money per pupil than most state schools. …

They receive more money than state schools and therefore their pupils do better.

Once upon a time an editorial may have opinions you would disagree with, but its fact would not be incorrect. Now it seems an editorial thinks if you repeat a lie twice, then that makes it okay.

The Ministry of Education has a site that shows the actual funding for two partnership schools, compared to state schools of similar size and decile.

The decile 3 primary charter school receives $647 a student less funding than a comparable state school.

The decile 3 secondary charter school receives around 1,142 a student less funding than a comparable state school.

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Dom Post on Islamic State

February 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Islamic State is a gang of murdering fanatics who must be resisted. Almost the whole world agrees with that, so the only question is: how?

New Zealand, as Prime Minister John Key has said, was unlikely to do nothing about Isis. A political force which prides itself on beheadings and crucifixions of the innocent is intolerable to any democratic state.

But not intolerable to those who say it is nothing to do with us.

The problem is that almost every form of Western intervention is fraught with trouble. The West has learnt from the invasion of Iraq, and the long bloody stalemate in Afghanistan, that making war in the Middle East often makes things worse rather than better.

So the choice is extraordinarily conflicted. Honest opponents of intervention should admit that the decision not to fight is deeply troubling because Isis is evil. Honest proponents of intervention should also admit that the war might have a just purpose but it is also probably unwinnable.

Islamic State is different to Al Qaeda. It’s strength comes from holding territory.

The Key Government has decided to send a small military force to “train” Iraqi soldiers. This is defensible in principle. It recognises that the fight against Isis is primarily the task of local people, not of the West. It also recognises, perhaps, that the West has some responsibility for the rise of the terrorist group. They filled a vacuum created by the Iraq invasion and the subsequent chaos. So the West has to help restore the damage. …

All the signs suggest that Key is doing what Keith Holyoake did in Vietnam – sending the smallest possible force into the war, mainly to keep the allies happy and to show the flag. And probably the most that can be hoped for from this war is to contain Isis and stop it from building a lasting fundamentalist caliphate.

If it can’t build the caliphate, it loses its theological reason for being. And it then might lose some of its support, and splinter under its own murderous fanaticism. None of that is certain to happen, but it is a defensible aim for limited Western military intervention. It is the best option available.

I agree.

 

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Uber editorials

January 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Some of the complaining is down to professional jealousy and turf-guarding. But it has also posed important questions around passenger safety. So it is welcome that the Government will review the regulations around “small passenger services” – the umbrella term covering taxi companies and private hire outfits. Uber is classed among the latter group, which exempts it from certain lengthy rules around fares, meters, back offices, taxi licences and signage. That’s for the good – these rules simply don’t apply to Uber – and it helps the company offer lower prices than taxis.

But the classification also allows Uber more dubious advantages: no need for security cameras mandatory in most taxis; no need for “area knowledge” and language standards that many taxi drivers must meet; less onerous rules around reporting complaints.

It’s not clear why Uber should enjoy such perks. Its model is fundamentally an advance in ease-of-payment and passenger-driver matchmaking – not an advance in safety. And that is the main reason for having rules: to do what is reasonable to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.

 

The security cameras were not put in to protect passengers, but taxi drivers. And they shouldn’t be mandatory anyway.

The editorial misses the key difference between Uber and taxis. With a taxi you get basically no choice as to who your driver is. With Uber you can choose your driver, and you get to see what other passengers have said about them. It is potentially a far more powerful model for safety and quality.

It is like Trade Me – your reputation is vital. Get some bad reviews, and people won’t trade with you.

So the Dom Post misses the point when it says Uber has perks because it does not need to meet taxi standards. Taxis gets regulated by their companies and the state. Uber drivers effectively get regulated by passengers – if your driver gets you lost, you’ll give them a bad review.

The Press takes a more enlightened approach:

It is, however, one of the most disruptive businesses of all those businesses whose disruption is based on technology and it has aroused fierce resentment, among taxi companies in particular. In some countries it has been banned.

Taxi companies say Uber has an unfair advantage because although it operates as a taxi service it is not subject to the multiplicity of regulations that taxi companies must obey. Uber insists, and the Transport Agency at this point agrees, that it is a hire-car service and it fits within all the applicable regulations.

The differences between taxi and hire-car services are that taxis may be hailed in the street and charge by the metered distance they travel, plus extras like credit-card and eftpos fees.

Hire-car services must be booked in advance for a fee agreed in advance. Uber’s drivers are private operators with their own cars. Customers engage them via a smartphone application. The differences between the services can become blurred, however, and taxi companies say that some Uber operators are stepping over the line.

Some of the taxi companies’ fears, such as those about safety, can probably be discounted. Uber drivers, for instance, are vetted and must have a public passenger licence.

Passengers and drivers rate each other and Uber dismisses those drivers with consistently poor ratings. Because of the way they are hired, any misbehaving driver (or passenger) could also usually be traced.

There is, however, a strong argument for saying that taxis are over-regulated. Foss says that the Government wants to allow innovation to flourish. The review he has proposed must allow that and should not be used as a device to shut innovation down.

I’d be impressed with a taxi firm that tried to emulate Uber rather than close it down. Why not allow us to easily rate our taxi drivers and have that info available to passengers? Why can’t a taxi company inform a passenger which cabs are nearby, and allow the passenger to choose the one they want?

 

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Dom Post on Wellington Local Government

January 1st, 2015 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

For Wellingtonians, barring the earthquake we’re always half-expecting, the super-city decision looms as the biggest event. Mooted for years, it’s already provoked loud opposition from most of the region’s mayors; they’re concerned about a loss of local autonomy and the costs of a merger.

They’re mistaken. The current menagerie of mayors and councillors is overkill. Wellington is a modestly-populated region with a shared heart.

It needs bolder, more coherent leadership, and residents should grab the opportunity for a shake-up.

We don’t need eight Mayors for the region.

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Dom Post opposes alcohol sponsorship ban

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

The Dom Post editorial:

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

That is the key difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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The revolution that changed our lives

July 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

It was years ago today that the Lange Labour Party won the election that would change all our lives. This proved to be one of the major reforming governments of our history, comparable with the Liberals of the 1890s and the Labour government of the 1930s. It made profound changes in our economy, our foreign policy, and in race relations. Some of these changes were for the better, and some were not. We are still wrestling with the legacy of David Lange and Roger Douglas.

National’s Robert Muldoon was a backward-looking leader who had in many ways painted his country into a corner. Douglas used the economic crisis – massive internal and external deficits, a frightening overseas debt – to push through a Right-wing, top-down revolution which never figured in Labour’s election manifesto. New Zealand was hauled into the era of Thatcher and Reagan by stealth. At the end of six years, the government had a deserved reputation for failing to tell the voters of its real intentions.

Some of the economic changes were clearly needed. A brutal assault on costs was inevitable. An excessively protected economy imposed unnecessarily high costs on ordinary New Zealanders. Exchange rates, wages, prices and interest rates could not continue to be set by prime ministerial fiat.

Has someone told Labour today this?

But Douglas and his friends went way beyond sensible reforms and deep into the swamps of ideology. His massive privatisation and flat-tax proposals of December 1987 were shrink-the-state Hayekian politics dressed up as economic orthodoxy. That forced the fatal showdown between Douglas and Lange killed the government. It was a civil war that Labour had to have.

Douglas said his revolution would put New Zealand on a new, high-growth path. It didn’t. His excuse was that the job was left unfinished. Only ACT and Tea Party Republicans still believe that. The last 30 years have seen huge changes in economic theory that have demolished central parts of the Reaganite-Rogernome credo.

That’s the assertion of the editorial, but I don’t accept that. I think it is a shame Lange destroyed his own Government by going against the wishes of his own Cabinet. It would have been great to see a flat tax implemented.

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A sensible Dom Post editorial

July 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

 A group of Wellington apartment dwellers is angry about noise from nearby pubs.

Thankfully their gripes have been dismissed by those they have complained to: Wellington City Council, noise control officers and the district licensing inspector.

Wellington prides itself on its hospitality credentials – its array of coffee haunts and brew pubs, restaurants and noodle houses and, yes, late-night dance bars.

The whole colourful mix is part of the city’s identity. It sets it apart from other New Zealand cities, and features prominently in Wellington’s branding.

These residents live very close to Wellington’s main hospitality stretch – Courtenay Place and its surrounding lanes. They simply cannot expect to dictate the area’s noise levels and closing hours.

They have chosen to live in the heart of the city, and they need to accept the consequences of that choice.

On the plus side, they have easy walks to workplaces, and the harbour, and all of the city’s attractions. On the more challenging side, they face an increased likelihood of noise and late-night rowdiness.

Bar owner Nick Mills has a convincing point when he says “I thought you lived in the city to enjoy the vibrancy, not to object to the noise”.

Absolutely. They should go live in Tawa if they want peace and quiet.

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Dom Post on MFAT

July 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Something is seriously wrong at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Diplomats must speak with one voice when dealing with foreign states. In the case of the alleged Malaysian sex offender, they did not. The official line was that the Government wanted Malaysia to waive Muhammad Rizalman’s diplomatic immunity. But informally the diplomats were apparently telling Malaysia the man could go home.

This is either wilful disobedience or extreme incompetence. It is hard to believe that any diplomat would knowingly subvert the Government’s expressed wishes and policy. Sacking would be the only possible punishment. But the incompetence is just as serious, and on the face of it should also lead to dismissal.

I don’t think you make employment decisions on the basis of editorials, and also you decide on the basis of someone’s overall job performance, not just one stuff up. However I do agree this is very serious.

One astonishing revelation is that the ministry’s chief executive, John Allen, did not know the key details about the Malaysian fiasco until last Friday. He says this was the result of the ministry’s policy of “compartmentalisation” of information. This policy has clearly gone too far if it means that an extremely serious situation is kept from the ministry’s own boss. “Compartmentalisation” on that scale is madness.

I agree. MFAT has a secrecy culture that goes to extremes, and in this case is madness.

There remains a suspicion, after all, that the present shambles has its roots in the disastrous restructuring of the ministry under McCully’s watch. That “redisorganisation” led to a revolt of the ministry’s most senior staff and then to an apparently botched witchhunt ordered by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.

The whole project was misconceived and mismanaged, based as it was on the principle that the ministry could operate with far fewer experts. 

I argue quite the opposite. I think this shows why change was necessary. Some (not all) MFAT staff regard themselves as a law unto themselves. They think foreign policy is their exclusive preserve, and the wishes of the Government of the day has little to do with how they do their jobs. Yes Minister struck close to the truth here.

I suspect this is why John Allen wasn’t informed. He may be the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, but’s he not a life-ling diplomat – so he wasn’t told.

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Dom Post on Labour’s List

June 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Labour’s list is not inspiring. There are few fresh people in winnable positions, because the party has been unable to chop out dead wood. There are half a dozen sitting MPs who should have retired, but didn’t. This adds to the voters’ impression, once again, that Labour is a party not yet ready to govern.

Politicians who are past their use-by date rarely go voluntarily. And perhaps Labour leader David Cunliffe decided that a forced purge would simply be too damaging to a party that is already in trouble. Renewal can be another name for bloodbath, although National has managed to refresh its line-up without great strife. Perhaps renewal is easier in a party that is doing well.

So we are left with the current caucus dominating the winnable list, and a number of unimpressive MPs in constituency seats. These are of course more difficult to shift than list candidates who can simply be moved down the rankings. But someone should have tried harder to persuade Ruth Dyson to retire this time. The West Coast’s Damien O’Connor and Mangere’s Su’a William Sio similarly add no value to the Labour Party brand and should move on. Hutt South’s Trevor Mallard dresses up his decision not to seek a list place as a magnanimous gesture to help Kelvin Davis in the north. 

Which is nonsense. Only if Mallard loses Hutt South, would his not being on the list help Kelvin Davis.

Labour does have the virtue of taking the issue of women’s representation seriously. It aims for 45 per cent of women MPs, although it would reach this figure only if it wins more than 30 per cent of the total vote. On present polling that looks an ambitious target.

Yep. So what happens if their caucus is not 45% female? Does the President resign for breaking the constitution?

Labour’s list is not at all a “fantastic array of talented candidates”, as Cunliffe claims. But the party’s problems lie far deeper than the list. It has altogether failed to win over the voters of New Zealand. It can blame the factitious charm of Key, or the economic upturn that came at an unhelpful time in the electoral cycle, or whatever other excuse it likes. The voters, whether they are right or wrong, are still broadly happy with the country’s direction. And Cunliffe has utterly failed to sell himself as a plausible alternative prime minister. All the signs suggest that Labour will have another dismal day on September 20.

If Labour do do badly on 20 September, then their lack of new blood will make 2017 even harder for them.

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Dom Post says Cunliffe leadership is a train wreck

June 21st, 2014 at 10:47 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Labour ditched former leader David Shearer because he struggled to string two sentences together on a good day. So surely it couldn’t have got any worse, right? Wrong.

It’s a train wreck under David Cunliffe and Labour’s MPs are grumpy, nervous and wondering what they may be doing for a crust after September 20. The prospect of losing your job and the $150,000 salary always focuses the mind.

And by bad timing, the Labour Party list gets released this weekend. On the latest Fairfax poll, Labour would get only six List MPs. So anyone outside the top six of the effective list, may be toast.

Cunliffe has taken the party backwards when he promised to take it forward. Could Labour be on track to record its worst-ever election defeat? Yes.

When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

That was the high point.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse.

My God, that is a harsh editorial.

Look at these basic mistakes. He started the year not knowing the crucial details of his baby bonus speech, he then foolishly accused Prime Minister John Key of living in a flash pad while he slummed it in a downmarket $2.5 million mansion in Herne Bay.

He set up a secret trust for his leadership bid and was caught out. He claimed his grandfather won a war medal when it was his great uncle. His CV had mistakes in it. He used Grant Robertson’s leadership statement as his own and this week – the howler – denied he knew Donghua Liu or had ever advocated for him – before a letter emerged to prove otherwise.

It isn’t the one or two mistakes. It is that they are so regular.

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams admitted to me this week that Labour’s MPs will all be discussing the possibility of replacing Cunliffe. They now have 48 hours to prepare to roll him.

They can ditch him on Tuesday – but they won’t.

I expect Robertson has the numbers if he wanted to press the issue. But he doesn’t want the job – just yet. Hence his support for Cunliffe this week and his rather cheeky throwaway line that Cunliffe will serve three of four terms as prime minister, before he takes his chance. You just know he didn’t mean that.

There is no doubt Grant has the numbers. It isn’t even close. But he doesn’t want to be Mike Moore. so he will sit back.

UPDATE: According to people who have read the print edition this is not an editorial but a column by Duncan Garner. No wonder it was quite blunt!

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Dom Post on Cunliffe

June 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

David Cunliffe itched to be Labour Party leader for years. After losing power in 2008, the party lumbered along under two failing leaders. He barely hid his ambitions to replace them.

Now, 10 months into his tenure, he should take a moment to enjoy the role. Barring a miraculous campaign performance, he’ll be finished soon.

Ouch.

The heart of the problem is Cunliffe’s judgment and temperament, which have been found lacking yet again. Under direct questions on a specific matter, about a public figure involved in repeated scandals, the Labour leader got it completely, insistently wrong.

He followed up the blunder by issuing veiled threats at caucus colleagues considering disloyalty – all but calling them “scabs”.

That was a huge mistake. It was obviously the pressure getting to him. But the pressure of being opposition leader is nothing compared to the pressure of being Prime Minister.

If Cunliffe was ahead in the polls, or if this was an isolated misstep, he could shrug it off quickly. But his support is so low, and his gaffes so familiar, the impression will linger longer than the incident itself: that he is not up to running the country.

From his secret trust for donations to his leadership bid, to his laughable description of his $2.5 million Herne Bay home as a “doer-upper”, Cunliffe has repeatedly made a fool of himself in awkward, revealing ways.

Combine those mistakes with a haughty, serious style, a tendency to preach instead of persuade, a fondness for vague rallying cries (with liberal talk of “Kiwis”) instead of insights that speak to people’s concerns, and Cunliffe’s predicament is not surprising.

Despite all that MMP means Labour could get to form a Government despite winning say only 25% of the vote. The election will always be close.

Yet the way things stand, it isn’t making a case for anything much. Cunliffe’s leadership is a big part of that. If he can’t urgently change something – and so far there’s little to suggest that he can – then he should get ready for the inevitable end.

92 days to go.

Also today is the start of the regulated period where the parliamentary budgets can no longer be spent on most advertising, and any spending by parties must fall under the spending caps.

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Gower on the dirty deal

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

Patrick Gower blogged:

The Hone-Dotcom-Laila political triangle is one of the dirtiest deals in New Zealand political history.

It is as dirty as National-Act in Epsom.

It is as dirty as the Key-Dunne deal in Ohariu.

Frankly, Lalia Harré made me feel sick today when she said “it’s time for New Zealanders to take back MMP”.

That’s because Laila Harré is wrecking MMP.

Hone Harawira is wrecking MMP.

And Kim Dotcom is wrecking MMP.

They are using Harawira’s seat and MMP’s “coat-tail” rule to get a back-door entry into Parliament.

It is a rort.

It is a grubby deal, made all the worse by the fact Harawira holds the Te Tai Tokerau seat – a Maori seat.

The Maori seats are special. They have a unique constitutional role which is to give the Tangata Whenua a place of their own in the New Zealand Parliament.

The Maori seats have been hard fought for.

Never, ever was it envisaged they would be used as a back-door entry for a German millionaire to get his proxy into Parliament.

His $4,000,000 proxy. We should refer to Laila as the four million dollar woman!

Gower is right to point out that this does weaken the case for retention of the Maori seats.

This will give those opposed to Maori seats ammunition to get rid of them.

A referendum on keeping MMP at the moment would be very interesting. Likewise on the Maori seats!

Sadly, the Internet Mana deal has diminished the mana of the Maori seats.

And even sadder too, this deal involves money.

Harawira wants Dotcom’s money.

Annette Sykes wants Dotcom’s money.

John Minto wants Dotcom’s money.

They are all willing to pervert the MMP system for the sake of money and it is a venal deal.

Don’t try and tell me Laila Harré cares deeply about the internet. She cares about getting into Parliament.

Her first press conference was about pretty much every leftwing issues there is, and almost silent on Internet issues except vague platitudes on the importance of the Internet – something that was dated even back in 1996 – when Harre entered Parliament initially.

I have a lot of respect for Harawira, Sykes and Minto. They have spent their lives fighting for what they believe in – for points of principle.

But that respect has been tarnished.

They are obsessed by power, obsessed by money and will trample over the rights of New Zealand voters to get it.

This Internet Mana deal is so wrong.

I feel sorry for all those who signed up to the Internet Party thinking it was about Internet issues. Instead it is merely a vehicle for Dotcom to fund the Mana Party into Parliament. They should be honest and cut out the middle man, and just have Dotcom give the money directly to Mana. Harre is not a candidate for the Internet Party. She is a candidate for Mana. I bet you there isn’t a single Mana Party policy she disagrees with, and she probably doesn’t even know what policies the Internet Party has.

The Press editorial is no less strong:

There can have been fewer link-ups in New Zealand politics more cynical and crassly opportunistic than the one just formed between Hone Harawira’s Mana Party and the Internet Party, masterminded and financed by the internet developer Kim Dotcom. There is not the shadow of any principle involved in it.

Before he arrived in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom’s public image was of a high-living, luxury-loving party animal. For all his technical skills, there is not the slightest evidence that either now or in the past he has had a serious political thought in his head.

It is almost certain his only contact with the poor and dispossessed whose interests Harawira purports to represent would have been as employees. Indeed he may be a little startled to find that he is financing the far-left Laila Harre, the newly announced leader of the Internet Party.

As for the internet issues the Internet Party is supposedly concerned about, if Harawira and Mana had any particular interest in them before Kim Dotcom and his money came on the scene they kept very quiet about them.

Sames goes for the Internet Party Leader.

The ultimate composition of the next New Zealand government may wind up in the hands of a fringe collaboration bankrolled by a German fugitive from American justice. New Zealand politics should be better than that, surely.

The Dom Post editorial notes:

Harre’s arrival sharpens a dilemma for Labour. If its Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis defeats Harawira, it could cut Internet-Mana’s throat and waste a lot of votes for the Left bloc. The best strategy might be for Labour to go softly on Harawira without actually cutting an Epsom-style deal with him. This would require a U-turn, even if it is done in semi-secret.

I understand there is a huge shit fight in Labour over this. Kelvin Davis thinks that he can win the seat as Hone cuddling up to German multi-millionaires will go down like cold sick with many Te Tai Tokerau constituents. If Davis is allowed to run an aggressive campaign for the seat, he could win it.

But Cunliffe and McCarten don’t want to win it. They need Mana-Dotcom in Parliament. So they’ve decided that they will unofficially not campaign to win the seat. This makes Davis the sacrificial lamb who would love to the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, not a List MP.

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Dom Post on marriage of convenience

May 28th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

So the Maori radical and the German squillionaire have spawned their odd little party. No surprise there. The deal suits both partners. The Internet Party now has a chance of getting into Parliament whereas before it had none. And Mana wins a chance of finding more supporters among the geeks and the worshippers of Kim Dotcom.

Radicals like Mana’s John Minto reject Sue Bradford’s charge that they have sold out to the wealthy German. Bradford, staunch and true to her ideals as usual, has predictably stormed out. But, in a sense, Minto is right. He has not abandoned his support for progressive taxes and soaking the rich. He has not had to swallow a dead rat.

What is glossed over is how can you stand up for low paid workers, when you effectively merge with a party controlled by a guy who is accused of not even paying the minimum wage to his staff.

The only question now is: will this political oddity, bred on the wrong side of the bed, have any appeal to the voters? Its best hope is to win about 2 per cent of the party vote – double what Mana got last time – and bring the still-unnamed leader of the Internet Party in on the list. If Annette Sykes won Waiariki, that would be a big dollop of cream on the cake.

Actually if Sykes won Waiariki, then the Internet Mana Party would have one fewer List MP and the Internet Party leader may not get in.

Maybe the geeks and the radical Maori and Pakeha can persuade enough voters to back their odd little band. It’s also perfectly possible that Harawira will lose his seat to Labour and Sykes will fail in Waiariki. That would sink the Internet Party, which will certainly not pass the 5 per cent barrier by itself. The whole strange experiment could easily collapse.

I suspect Labour will quietly tell Kelvin Davis not too campaign too hard so Harawira retains his seat.

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Editorials on Immigration

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

The Dom Post editorial:

Immigrants are easy prey for political vultures. Demagogues can win votes by using foreigners as scapegoats, as has happened repeatedly in New Zealand’s history. So the argument about the effect of immigration on housing could easily turn poisonous. It’s important not to let that happen.

The Budget’s big surprise was the revelation of a turn in the usual tide of migration. The outward flow has turned into a net inward movement, mainly because fewer Kiwis are moving to Australia. Now there is concern that the inflow will push up house prices.

Panic measures will not help with this problem, as Labour seemed to realise soon after pledging a cut in net immigration. Asked exactly how big the cut would be, Labour faltered and fudged.

It was almost comical. David Cunliffe said they’d reduce it from 40,000 net to under 15,000. Phil Twyford went further and said it would be 5,000. Then Cunliffe claimed he’d never said what he said and said Twyford had it wrong.

Immigration flows cannot be turned off and on like a tap. The present trans-Tasman inflow could quite quickly reverse as the rebuilding of Christchurch reduces, our growth rate falls, and Australia’s economy rebounds. Big cuts in immigrant numbers would then exacerbate the renewed outward flow.

The country is entitled to control immigration and there might be room for some temporary reduction in immigrants. 

Maybe Labour will campaign on reducing the quota numbers for the Pacific Islands, around South Auckland.

Winston Peters’ anti-Asian campaigns in the 1996 and 2002 elections also caused unnecessary alarm. There is always a receptive audience for this kind of trouble-making, especially among the older, the frightened, and the bewildered.

All the loose talk about the “Asian invasion” and the predictions of racial trouble turned out to be hollow. Auckland now has a large Asian population, but there has been no bloodshed, no ethnic violence, no outbreaks of hatred. New Zealand has shown that it is on the whole a tolerant and welcoming society which copes well with change.

One can debate the size and pace of immigration. These are legitimate topics. But as I pointed out several days ago the number of residency visas is actually lower today than in 2008. The big change is fewer Kiwis are leaving NZ, and more Kiwis and Aussies are deciding to live here rather than in Australia.

The Herald editorial:

In theory, Labour’s policy of managing immigration seems eminently sensible. The party would, said David Cunliffe, aim for “a steady, predictable, moderate flow that’s at a level that addresses skill shortages”. In reality, however, such an approach is impractical. New Zealand has had enough experience with stop-go immigration policies to know that while it might be easy to turn off the tap, it can be extremely difficult to return the flow to the desired level. …

Labour says that threat could be defused by restricting the annual migrant intake to between 5000 and 15,000. It did not dwell on how that would affect the external perception of a policy that could no longer be said to be stable, sage or welcoming.

To reduce net migration to that level, you would need to abolish all residential visas and almost all work visas. Christchurch construction would of course come to a halt.

Additionally, Labour’s policy is based on a false premise. The latest net migration statistics reflect not so much a flood of immigrants as far fewer people being lured across the Tasman, in particular, and an increasing number of New Zealanders returning from Australia. 

I’m glad the leader writes read my blog :-)

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What price trolleys?

May 5th, 2014 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Sad as it will be to see them go, Wellington should get rid of its trolley buses. The case is sound.

To work properly, public transport systems need to be fast, reliable and affordable. Wellington has fine public transport, with unusually high passenger numbers, but trolley buses are hampering it on all of these fronts.

To keep the trolleys running, a major $52 million electricity infrastructure upgrade looms. Beyond that, simply maintaining their overhead wires costs $6m per year.

And money spent on the trolleys is money that could be spent on providing more or faster public transport.

Critics say dropping trolley buses is environmentally daft, because of their low carbon emissions. (They’re responsible only for what’s produced by generating their electricity).

In fact, the bus fleet will get cleaner from 2018 regardless of which replacement option is chosen, because of the significant fuel-efficiency improvements in new diesel buses.

On a deeper level, it’s clear the best way to reduce transport-related carbon emissions is to get people out of their cars. That’s not easy – as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott once put it, ”even the humblest person is king in his own car”.

Maybe they could invest some of the money used on trolleys into safer cycleways, which is near zero carbon emissions for use!

The best counter to this is an excellent, reliable public transport system. Every measure that makes buses faster and cheaper encourages more people to take them. Green MPs of all people should recognise this, and drop their Save the Trolleys talk.The other argument for holding on to the buses is nostalgia; they’ve been a recognisable feature in Wellington’s urban landscape since 1924. 
This is fair up to a point, but the buses are working vehicles that people rely on, not municipal decorations.

No one should get too misty-eyed over this. Only 20 per cent of the city’s current fleet are trolleys. They don’t operate at weekends at all, and they’re frequently hauled off entire routes when roadworks or other problems arise.

So the city should say goodbye to the buses. 

I like the trolleys, but I don’t think sentiment should stand in the way of doing what’s right.

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Views on McCarten

February 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

The New Zealand Left suddenly finds itself in the position of the dog who caught the car. For years, slagging off the Labour Party as a bunch of neoliberal sell-outs has been one of the Left’s favourite pub and parlour games. But now, with one of this country’s most effective left-wing campaigners just one door down from the Leader of the Labour Opposition, the Left, like the bewildered pooch for whom the fun was always in the chase, has finally got what it wanted and must decide what to do with it.

Yes, it is a huge victory for the far left.

If Cunliffe and McCarten are allowed to fail, the Right of the Labour Party and their fellow travellers in the broader labour movement (all the people who worked so hard to prevent Cunliffe rising to the leadership) will say:

 “Well, you got your wish. You elected a leader pledged to take Labour to the Left. And just look what happened. Middle New Zealand ran screaming into the arms of John Key and Labour ended up with a Party Vote even more pitiful than National’s in 2002! So don’t you dare try peddling that ‘If we build a left-wing Labour Party they will come’ line ever again! You did – and they didn’t.”
 
Be in no doubt that this will happen – just as it did in the years after the British Labour Party’s crushing defeat in the general election of 1983. The Labour Right called Labour’s socialist manifesto “the longest suicide note in history” and the long-march towards Blairism and the re-writing of Clause Four began.
Not sure comparison to Michael Foot are helpful to Labour.
The Dom Post:

So the dinosaurs are back. Richard Prebble returns to run ACT’s election campaign. Matt McCarten returns to become Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff. The ironies are multiple. These two were the chief brawlers in the brutal and byzantine ruckus within Labour over Auckland Central in the 1980s.

A generation later the two will once again be on opposite sides of the political war. 

Not opposite sides. Prebble is campaign manager for ACT, not National. McCarten is chief of staff for Labour.

Mr McCarten is a similarly divisive figure, and already his old comrade Mr Anderton has said he won’t work for Labour this year, apparently because of Mr McCarten. Labour is billing Mr McCarten’s return as a symbolic healing of the rifts in the Left-wing family, but clearly the rifts do not heal easily.

What was interesting is that Cunliffe said he was sure Jim would still be supporting Labour, and then Jim said he won’t be while McCarten is there. What is surprising isn’t Anderton’s views, but that no one spoke to him in advance and hence Cunliffe said something that was contradicted an hour later.

The Herald:

But that presumes Labour’s existing voter base also favours a move to policies aimed at attracting the lost tribes of the left. There is a risk surely that some working, non-unionised, moderate social democrats will see a Labour Party raising taxes, advancing union interests, expanding the state and redirecting wealth to support beneficiaries and the poor as altogether less appealing.

Most non voters are proportionally under 30. I’m not sure a return to 1970s policies will be appealing to them.

Labour’s result in 2011 was its worst for generations. Its poll rating now, under Mr Cunliffe, has not increased much at all from its early-30s standings under David Shearer, despite promising expanded paid parental leave and a baby bonus for all those earning up to $150,000 a year. 

In August 2013 when Shearer was Leader, Labour’s average poll rating was 32.4%. In February 2014 their average poll rating is 32.2%.

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Dom Post on TVNZ

February 19th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

State broadcasters are like Caesar’s wife: they have to be above sin and seen to be so. That is why Shane Taurima had no choice but to resign as head of TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit. He had used the broadcaster’s buildings for a Labour Party meeting, and its email to organise a Labour meeting held elsewhere.

He broke the rules that require taxpayer-funded broadcasters to be politically neutral. State broadcasters must not use their position to promote the interests of any political party of whatever kind. Mr Taurima sought the Labour candidacy at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election last year, but the actual party brand is irrelevant. He would also have had to resign if he had held an ACT party meeting at his workplace.

It is not clear which other TVNZ staff members were involved in the meeting or in other party activities. The company’s internal inquiry will find out and then TVNZ managers will have to decide what to do. Mr Taurima knew he could not defend himself and did the honourable thing. 

The honourable thing would be to not have done it in the first place. According to TVNZ management Taurima told them when he was rehired that he would not stand again.

Mr Kenrick said TVNZ had sought commitments from Mr Taurima after his tilt for Labour at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidacy before restoring him to his role heading the department. “The key focus was to get him to make an explicit choice between journalism and politics, and to make commitments around that. We relied in good faith on those commitments.”

Did he lie, or just a few weeks later change his mind and not bother to tell them?

Whether other sackings are called for is a matter of judgment.

The staff in that unit are all basically taxpayer funded, as it is not a commercial unit.

State broadcasters have a special duty to be politically even-handed. This does not mean, as some believe, that the journalists should have no views of their own. Every sentient human being has certain political beliefs or attitudes, and journalists are no different. But state journalists must be professional and not push any party’s barrow.

Mr Taurima insists that he has never allowed his personal politics to influence his work as a journalist, and it is interesting that the prime minister has not claimed any political bias at TVNZ. In fact he thinks they are fair.

The PM has been very nice, when he could put the boot in. For my 2c I don’t think Taurima’s interviews showed political bias. He pushed David Shearer hard when he interviewed him. The issue is his breach of ethical standards, not his previous interviewing.

Mr Taurima was allowed to return to the company after he failed to win candidacy, and this is a defensible decision. Again, the expectation was that Mr Taurima, once he had taken off his Labour Party hat and put on his broadcaster’s one, would act in a professional and politically neutral way.

However, it is now reported that in January he facilitated a Labour meeting – held on a marae and not on TVNZ property – on how to win the Maori vote. This meeting was also attended by Labour leader David Cunliffe. Mr Cunliffe says he strongly supports a politically neutral state broadcaster. Did he ask himself, then, why Mr Taurima was running this highly political meeting?

I’m amazed warning bells did not go off.

Will Taurima still seek the Labour nomination for Tamaki Makaurau? Will they select him?

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Dom Post on change not wanted

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

The Dom Post editorial:

John Key’s Government came into office in the midst of the global financial crisis. Nobody was expecting things to improve quickly. Most people expected them rather to get worse. Mr Key made no promises of instant gains.

On the other hand, his Government’s management of the economy was a moderate one and did not go for a hard dose of austerity. It reduced the deficit over two terms rather than bringing it back to nothing with a bump. The result was that our economic pain was relatively mild, at least compared with Britain and the United States.

The Key Government’s response to inheriting a structural deficit wasn’t to slash and burn with a frenzy of spending cuts. It was very moderate and middle of the road. Initially some infrastructure spending was accelerated to help soften the recession, and then new spending was slowed down. The extreme response came from Labour who went on the record opposing every single measure of fiscal restraint. They said a cap on public sector employees would be a disaster. They opposed saving money through efficiencies in back office functions.  I can’t think of a single act of fiscal restraint that they haven’t opposed.

Now the Government is signalling a less stringent approach to the budget, with increased spending in areas like paid parental leave. It recognises that the voters feel they have done their penance and a modest pay-off is in order. 

As we head back into surplus, we gain choices again. Deficits do not give you much choice. There are broadly three things you can “spend” a surplus on – debt reduction, extra spending and tax cuts.

A moderate balanced party will propose all three. I expect parties may disagree with each other about the exact proportions, but the extremists will only push those that fit with their ideology. Will Labour go against the 70% who don’t support tax increases and go into the election only promising tax increases, and not offering any tax cuts?

Labour leader David Cunliffe has not produced a big turnaround in the party’s fortunes, and time is running out.

National’s slogan this year will be some version of “Don’t put it all at risk”, and at present the signs are that it will work. There is not yet a deep-rooted feeling of economic dissatisfaction. There is not yet a widespread dislike of the Government. So the basic competing slogan – “it’s time for a change” – is not decisive.

Labour are promising to expand welfare payments to families earning up to $150,000 a year. Policies like that are what will put it at risk.

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Dom Post on Ratana

January 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The only question now is: how many seats will the Maori Party lose this year? The party has lost the main reason for its being, which was the repeal Labour’s foreshore and seabed legislation. It has not really found another central cause to replace it. It is losing its two most distinguished politicians, Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia. And it has suffered the slow suffocation that all small parties suffer when they get into bed with a larger one.

The Maori Party may well lose one or even two electorate seats, but it is worth reflecting that if they lost two, then their party vote last time was high enough that they would have gained a list seat.

As the Maori middle class grows, it will produce more National supporters. At present, National’s share of the Maori vote remains small, of course, but it will rise, just as the Black Republican vote in the United States has increased. 

National picks up more support from Maori on the general roll than the Maori roll, but only post-election polls pick this up. In terms of the Maori seats, the records are:

  • 1996 – 6.1%
  • 1999 – 5.7%
  • 2002 – 4.2%
  • 2005 – 4.3%
  • 2008 – 7.4%
  • 2011 – 8.6%

So very modest increases.  But much better than the US where in fact black Republican vote has been declining (except for 2004).

And already we have seen a notable rise in the number of National Maori MPs in the general seats – a trend which might have been encouraged by the link between National and the Maori Party.

National’s 9th Maori MP is sworn in this week – Jo Hayes. The breakdown of Maori MPs by type of seat is interesting.

  • Maori Seats – 7 – Labour 3, Maori Party 3, Mana 1
  • List Seats – 12 – National 5, Greens 3, Labour 2, NZ First 2
  • General Seats – 6 – National 4, Labour 2

It is MMP, however, which has had the most dramatic effect on Maori representation in parliament. The share of MPs of Maori descent in the house is now greater than the proportion of Maori in the wider population. This increase is wholly good, because it means the Maori voice is better heard in the national marae. 

The proportion is now 20.7% of Parliament are Maori. This compares to Maori being 14.1% of the overall population and just 11.3% of the adult population. So that is a very significant over-representation.

Some argue that we no longer need the Maori seats as a result, and indeed the Royal Commission which recommended MMP also believed the Maori seats would not be needed.

This may indeed be true, but it may be better to put off abolition until a majority of Maori approve it. 

I agree abolition should only happen by consent, but surely it is time to start that conversation, and even have a referendum among Maori on whether they wish to retain the Maori seats, bearing in mind how over-represented Maori MPs now are in Parliament.

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A newspaper that pays no tax complains about tax avoidance!

January 16th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Taxes are what we pay for a civilised society, according to the great American Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes.

If that is so, then aggressive tax avoidance is an offence against civilisation.

I’d love to know what the Dom Post defines as aggressive tax avoidance. I presume it means tax avoidance done by other companies, but not by ourselves.

Google, for instance, whose slogan used to be “Don’t be evil”, in 2012 paid a mere $165,000 in tax in New Zealand. Amazon paid $1.6m tax on sales of $46.5m. And Apple paid $2.5m on sales of $571m. Does anyone think these companies are paying their fair share?

I’ve got a much better example. Fairfax Australia (owns the Dom Post) paid no tax at all last year on revenue of A$2.01 billion. That’s outrageous I’m sure the Dom Post agrees, and I look forward to them joining with the NZ Herald to campaign on their owners paying more tax. The fact it means they may have to sack a few editorial staff to afford their increased tax bills I’m sure is not what is preventing them from not being total hypocrites.

Or maybe the Dom Post will say you can’t compare them to Google and Apple because tax is paid on profits, not revenue. Well yes they are, so why the hell did the editorial not mention that actual profits made by Google and Apple in New Zealand? They made a conscious decision not to tell their readers that essential piece of information.

For the record I’m all for the IRD taking court action against tax avoidance that is artificial, as defined in the Tax Act. They do this on a regular basis. For example, they are battling APN (NZ Herald) for $48 million.

Some will argue that companies are entitled to minimise their taxes. Tax avoidance, after all, is legal, unlike tax evasion. Some even say that companies owe their loyalty only to shareholders, not the taxpayer, the government or their fellow citizens.

This is plainly wrong. Taxes provide the schools, hospitals, infrastructure and social services on which we all depend. Corporations benefit directly from state-funded education, research, roads, courts and public health programmes. So they should contribute to “the cost of civilisation”.

I agree people should pay their taxes. Fairfax has paid no income tax in the last year. This means they are not contributing to the cost of civilisation. According to their editorial it doesn’t matter what their taxable profit is, as that may have been minimised by accountants. Amazon paid tax equal to 3% of their revenue. As the Dom Post seems to think you should pay tax on revenue, I think Fairfax should pay A$60 million immediately as their contribution to the cost of civilisation.

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A very weird editorial

January 6th, 2014 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Today’s Dom Post editorial is very weird. It links the Obama-Key round of golf to the US-NZ thaw in military exercises and that the US is trying to limit China’s influence in the Pacific. It goes on to warn about getting too chummy with the US.

It is one of the more bizarre editorials of recent times. First of all it ignores the fact that Obama is well known for not using golf as a diplomatic tool. Only 5% or so of his games have been with elected officials, half of them with Joe Biden. He played a round of golf with Key, because they get on well and were both in Hawaii. To try and make this all about China is frankly weird and off the planet.

Even worse, they seem to be suggesting that the game of golf was a bad thing, because it might offend China. Jesus Christ. Seriously? I can only presume the normal editorial writer is on holiday, and this one was written by a 17 year old intern.

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Dom Post on living wage

December 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The stated aim of Wellington City Council’s living wage policy is to reduce poverty and lift workplace morale and productivity. If only life were that simple.

It is not. Poverty can no more be eliminated at the stroke of a pen than world peace can be delivered by a beauty contestant wishing for it.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s council is not reducing poverty. It is simply taking money from one group of citizens – ratepayers – and giving it to another much smaller group – the 450 council staff who presently earn less than $18.40 an hour.

Exactly.

The gesture would be admirable if councillors were funding the $750,000 cost out of their own salaries, but they are not. It is easier to be generous with other people’s money than one’s own.

Even worse, at least one Councillor who voted for the living wage, refuses to implement it in his own business. He won’t pay it himself, but will vote to force ratepayers to do so. He is of course a member of the Labour Party.

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Dom Post on referendums

December 17th, 2013 at 5:54 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The referendum on state asset sales was not the first held under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993. It was the fifth.

If opponents of partial privatisation believe the Government is now honour bound to reverse its position on state asset sales, then previous governments were presumably honour bound to give effect to the popular will expressed in referendums on firefighter numbers, the size of Parliament, tougher prison sentences and smacking.

Yes I look forward to Labour and Greens announcing that the first act of a Labour/Green Government will be to reduce the size of Parliament to 99. If they refuse to do so, then by their own rhetoric they are being arrogant and out of touch.

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Disagreeing editorials

December 13th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post says the MFAT leaks were justified:

That is why the leakers could argue they had a wider duty than their narrow duty of loyalty to the Government. Of course bureaucrats should not and must not leak willy-nilly. A broadly impartial public service should be able to be trusted with certain kinds of information. Leakers know they run a risk if caught. They must be quite certain that the public benefit of the leak outweighs the duty of confidentiality. And they must be prepared to face the music if caught.

In this case there was a wider public duty and therefore the leak was justified. No government has the right to demand silence from the victims of a misbegotten purge. No government should expect the “debate” to be confined to the victims and their executioners. No government should seriously expect this sort of thing not to leak.

I note the Dom Post was the recipient of many of the leaks.

The Press has a different view:

The proposed restructuring, which had been ordered by the new head of MFAT to better align the ministry with New Zealand’s evolving trade promotion and diplomacy needs from Europe to Asia, aroused enormous opposition within the ministry. MFAT people had, of course, every right to oppose the changes. But, as Rennie observes, at that stage the correct and professional way to do that was through the proper process, which had then barely begun. In this case, the public servants concerned were not blowing the whistle on any impropriety but were seeking rather to shortcut and sabotage a proper process.

This is key. The Tier 3 managers resorted to sabotage before the process had barely begun.

The motive, at least so far as the leaker of the Cabinet papers is concerned, was ultimately to discomfit the Government. That person could not be identified with certainty but there was a strong suspicion it was a former member of the Labour Party research unit. Other MFAT individuals may have been trying to protect themselves and their own positions in MFAT.

The point about leaking and whistleblowing is that they are justified as serving the public interest by the need to protect the integrity of an institution or a system. In this case, the leakers undermined the system by taking on what amounted to a party-political role. They also undermined the honourable cause of whistleblowing.

I agree with The Press.

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