Dom Post editorials dripping with venom

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

Today’s Dom Post editorial is a great example of how they have become the sort of rant you expect to see on some blogs, since their change of editorial writer a bit over a year ago.

I think editorials should generally criticise the Government. That is not my point. But is is the highly emotional language used that really lets the Dom Post down. They differ massively in tone from other editorials such as the Herald, Press, and ODT.

Some quotes:

  • “English and his loyal servant, Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf” – so the CEO of the Treasury is now a “servant”
  • “English’s minions” – the staff are minions, all language used to personalise it to English
  • “Treasury has wheeled out another lame-brain excuse”
  • “This is hilarious balderdash”
  • “Bennett’s flummery”

Calling people minions. You pretend to be a serious newspaper and you write like a 10 year old trying to be insulting.

Now to avoid doubt I have no problem with the substance, being that Treasury should be criticised for going over its staffing cap. I agree. But day in and day out, the Dom Post leader writer turns any issue into a personal attack on Ministers. And hey that is their right, but the style of writing is akin to The Standard or The Daily Blog, rather than what was once a good newspaper.

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Herald seems to blame security services for terror

November 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Governments will also be aware that each time public fears are heightened, the political climate becomes more difficult for some immigrant communities. In Australia, three-quarters of the population believes a large-scale terrorist attack is likely within the country and a quarter believe one is imminent, according to a poll at the weekend.

Australia has had two terrorist attacks in recent months, and several more attempted. So it is quite rational to believe more are likely.

New Zealand is not immune to these fears and tensions, or indeed the threat that causes them. But so far, our Government has not seen fit to raise the level of alarm. The Prime Minister says one or two of about 40 people under watch are under fulltime surveillance. No country should have cause for terror if its security services are doing their job.

I profoundly disagree with that sentence. It is blaming the security services of terrorist attacks succeed.

Think if one wrote

No country should have cause for fear of crime if its Police are doing their job

Just as the Police can not stop crime in advance, security services can not stop all terrorist attacks. It is impossible. Hopefully they stop most. But if one or more people are determined to kill unarmed members of the public, they will often succeed.

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Herald on Goff

November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Pointedly, Mr Goff offered to bring “a different personality” to the role in his announcement on Sunday. The pity was that he did not offer much else that was different, or indeed much at all. He promises to eliminate wasteful spending and needless bureaucracy. So do they all.

Can he point to any spending committed to by the current Council he does not support? If not, then why should people think rates won’t continue to skyrocket?

He aims for rate rises no higher than at present.

No higher than 10% per annum!!!

He supports higher density residential development and the central rail link. He will not allow the port to expand but he will not sell it, or even shares in it. He will not sell any “strategic assets”.

These are all off-the-shelf positions for a candidate from Mr Goff’s side of politics. Nothing he said on Sunday gave any sign he has been thinking deeply or originally about Auckland and the problems of the council, and what he might do with the sole executive powers of the mayor. Mr Goff has had a long time to consider these things.

It’s swapping one Labour Party Mayor for another.


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Herald says Len should not go to Paris

November 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Many Aucklanders would have been open-mouthed with amazement at the announcement that Mayor Len Brown is going to the world climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month. The audacity of the discredited mayor never ceases to amaze. He ought to have resigned long ago but any credit he recovered with his decision last week not to stand for re-election next year probably evaporated with this announcement. What purpose can he serve at the climate change conference?

Sight seeing?

The conference is going to hear that his council has set a target of reducing Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, and that it is preparing for the impacts of climate change such as severe weather events, floods and sea level rise.

The Council’s target is nonsense because the Council has almost no ability to impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland.

National governments can impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a charge on such emissions, determining energy sources etc. A local authority has no such power, so the 40% target is basically wankery.

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NZ Herald implores people to donate to Labour

November 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Labour Party’s financial deficit problems should be of concern to all New Zealanders. It is not necessary to be aligned with National or Labour to recognise that a healthy democracy needs two parties capable of providing sound government. …

The country will go to the next election with sensible alternatives on offer, to re-elect National for a fourth term or decide it’s time for a change. Three-term governments have usually been enough for New Zealand voters, but normally the mood for change is evident by this time. Labour may have to hang in for a longer haul and it needs help. It deserves a fair deal from those doing well in an economy that took two parties to put right.

So the NZ Herald is imploring people to donate money to the Labour Party. Good to know where they stand.

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Tertiary fraud

November 16th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A little over a year ago we learned a tertiary education provider, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, had given the players and staff of the New Zealand Warriors league club an 18-week tourism course in one day. An investigation into such funding irregularities resulted in the institution returning $5.9 million to the Tertiary Education Commission.

Since then, investigations into six tertiary institutions, from Southland to the Bay of Plenty, have identified more than $25 million in misappropriation. One of them, we reported this week, has been stripped of its registration.

Why is this happening on such a scale? And how is it that only one of these places has been deregistered? On the face of it, this is fraud with public funds.

This is a reasonable question. If the only sanction for shall we say creative accounting is that you have to pay the money back, then these issues are likely to continue.However if the sanction is deregistration, then tertiary providers should be far more cautious.

It is well past time that when found out, these places face much greater penalties than merely handing back the money if they can. The Serious Fraud Office needs to make an example of someone. A salutary prosecution could wake up the sector to take its social responsibility seriously. It needs to ensure no course is a waste of money and everyone’s time.

If we prosecute people for stealing $1,000 from the Government, shouldn’t we do it if they steal $25 million?

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Dom Post says Little not the right leader

November 11th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Andrew Little wanted to clear the decks of old policy and shine a light on the new Labour captain – himself. The result was strangely depressing.

Little had moved long before last weekend’s annual party conference to kill off the remnants of the Leftish policy Labour touted last year. 

The capital gains tax and a rise in the pension age were officially dumped at the conference without fuss from delegates.

 Also dumped was the power policy, a joint effort with the Greens to tackle the electricity oligopoly that keeps forcing prices up. And much of the conference took place in secret.

This was creating a desert and calling it peace.

 Little now stands on a bare platform with no significant policy. The fact that nobody much cared when he threw out the old policies might be taken as a sign of a newly unified Labour Party. Or it might be a sign that Labour is a corpse. It doesn’t have the strength to fight or even to disagree with itself. So the attempt to hide everything behind closed doors wasn’t even needed.

Having no policy to sell, Little tried to sell himself. His “impassioned” speech was in fact awkward and unconvincing.

Labour’s strategy appears to be to have no actual policy and try to convince people they are both for and against the TPP!

Labour can’t even take the step of injecting new blood into its leadership with the fresh face of Jacinda Ardern.

Her qualities are modest, but she is a sign of life. Labour has few other such signs.

Little tries to build a personal link with voters by talking about his family. Perhaps he thinks that mentioning his flinty Tory dad will create a sense of paradox or at least a spark of interest. 

Neither as a union politician nor as a parliamentarian has Little been a bold or lively reformer. He has little charisma and a lack of new ideas. 

It’s hard to believe he will lead Labour out of the wilderness.

As far as I can tell their plan seems to be to aspire to get 34% of the vote (which is what they got when they lost in 2008) and hope Winston can do well enough to put them into Government along with the Greens.

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Herald says Len should have gone by now

November 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Mr Brown ought to have resigned a long time ago. He has done no good for Auckland by remaining in office once it had become obvious to all around him that he could not again be effective. For two years, the council has been drifting and fractious, lacking leadership in the position that was given more executive power than any other in New Zealand local government.

His decision not to seek re-election next year is the next best thing to an admission that he no longer should be there.

His main legacy will be the 9.9% rates increased after he promised 2.5%.

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Herald backs Ardern

October 19th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour needs to project the image of a fresh, new potential government.

Ms Ardern can help project that image. Ms King cannot. The bigger problem for Mr Little may be that Ms Ardern probably projects that image better than he does, and the last thing he needs is a deputy whose promotion might cause her to be seen as a rival to himself. Ms Ardern no doubt would deny any wish to replace him, and mean it, but if her public reception was much better than his, she would be a contender.

That is the trouble. Ardern as Deputy Leader might soon overtake Little in the Preferred PM polls.

This time next year, if the polls have not improved for Labour, some in the party may well push for yet another change of leader. Having held two contests in the previous term of Parliament, it is running short of candidates. Grant Robertson, who stood in both unsuccessfully, has accepted he will not be the next leader. Ms Ardern, who was going to be Mr Robertson’s deputy had he succeeded, has not been tarnished by the result. She could be a credible candidate; all the more so if by then she has been deputy leader for a year.

That’s almost an endorsement of Ardern to be Leader!

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Clark, Labour and TPP

October 6th, 2015 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Sometimes it takes someone a little removed from the fray to put the right perspective on an issue.

New Zealanders have sorely needed such insight on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so deeply polarised are they about its potential benefit to this country.

And there could be few people better placed to supply this than former Prime Minister Helen Clark. …

Ms Clark’s statement, a rare one on a domestic issue since she became the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, emphasised how foolish that would be.

What had always haunted her as prime minister, she said, was the development of a series of trade blocs of which New Zealand was not part. That would be “unthinkable” for this country as an export-orientated, small trading nation.

“So, of course, New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.” …

Ms Clark’s statement also carried a message for her former Labour colleagues.

Curiously for a party that formerly embraced free trade, it has insisted its support for the TPP is contingent on the meeting of several “non-negotiable bottom lines”.

Labour may imagine this plays well with those people adamantly opposed to the pact.

But most importantly, as its former leader implies, it reveals a failure to to appreciate the big picture. That dictates a small trading nation cannot afford to stand aside from an agreement of such magnitude for the Asia-Pacific region.

The partisan part of me wants Labour to vote against TPP, as I think it will continue their descent away from electability. But actually it would be a bad thing for NZ to lose its long-standing bipartisan support for trade deals.

Liam Hehir writes:

When Helen Clark came out in broad endorsement of New Zealand’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she lifted the lid on what is going to become a real headache for Andrew Little. If negotiation of the mammoth trade treaty is completed (which could well have occurred by the time you read this) the Labour Party is going to have to make a decision about whether or not it will throw its support behind New Zealand joining the bloc.

Until now, Labour has been assiduously ambiguous on the subject. This seems to be because some swivel-eyed members of the party base are convinced that the treaty is a sinister National Party scheme to outsource sovereignty to Halliburton, Pfizer and the Rothschild family. Not wishing to alienate these noisy activists, the party has been careful to avoid expressing any enthusiasm for the deal.

Yet …

But at the same time, it has not ruled out supporting the deal should agreement be reached. A significant chunk of Labour’s parliamentary caucus is serious about governing. They care more about pragmatism than party slogans and, when pushed, they care more about the national interest than they do about oppositional politics.

But are there enough of them? I’m not sure there are.

The problem is that weasel words will only get you so far. Complaining about the secret negotiating process won’t cut it once the negotiations have been wrapped up and the terms of the deal have been laid bare. The debate then has nowhere to go but to the ultimate merits of the thing.

Despite persistent claims to the contrary, joining the TPP is going to require the enactment of implementing legislation. When those votes are called, Labour MPs will need to make a call on turning its back on vastly improved access to markets representing nearly 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Whatever decision is made, somebody is going to have to be disappointed.

I think it will be the party activists. If the TPP represents a halfway-decent deal for New Zealand, my bet is that Labour MPs will give it their blessing. There will be some public handwringing, of course, and reservations will be loudly stated. Unlike NZ First or the Greens, however, Labour is simply too integral to our political system to indulge in fantasies of the country prospering as a hermit kingdom closed off from the world economy.

I hope Liam is right, but I am less optimistic. They have abandoned bipartisan support for stable monetary policy that targets inflation, and in recent elections have had a policy of effective nationalisation of electricity generators.

For Helen Clark, the only Labour leader to have won a general election in almost 30 years, to say that “of course” we should “be in on the action with the TPP” starkly exposes the reality of the situation. Labour is a serious, mainstream party. It is inclined to deal with the world as it is.

If Labour don’t support TPP, I can see a number of election ads quoting her words back to them!

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Dom Post editorial supports free speech

October 1st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Two kinds of liberal politics collided at Victoria University this week, when holidaying Israeli soldiers arrived to speak about their country’s 2014 invasion of Gaza.

That war was disproportionate in every sense, from Israel’s vastly superior military power to the Palestinians’ far larger death toll (2251 Gazans died). It was also miserably familiar – one more act to prolong the hatred and bloodshed in a region already drenched in both.

On the face of it, then, the call by a group of academics and student activists to stop the event had a certain logic. Why should proponents of the war be allowed to talk while many of its victims are dead? And what might they offer that, say, a United Nations report in June, which found suggestions of war crimes on both sides, does not?

Call that one kind of liberalism, one that believes people can be disqualified from even offering their perspective, at least in an official setting, because their actions are so objectionable.

The problem is it’s completely wrong. The better, simpler liberalism is the one that insists on allowing people to say their bit, even when it offends.

This is Voltaire’s famous credo – “defending to the death your right to say it” and all that. It’s fundamental to a democracy, which relies on ordinary people making their own minds up. And it’s supposed to be an idea that animates a university, a place where every theory ought to be able to be debated freely.


So Victoria’s English lecturer Dougal McNeill may be right to castigate Israel for the Gazan war, or to call the soldiers’ speeches “apologetics for military violence”, but he is entirely wrong to think either means the soldiers should be barred from talking.

The irony is he uses his free speech to try and prevent the free speech of others. Even worse he tried to prevent students from hearing that speech.

The point is not that activists are wrong. It is that they are so convinced they are right that they are prepared to shout down anyone who disagrees. This is a grim, insidious way of thinking.

They believe their right not to be offended outweighs other’s rights to make speech or receive it.

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Dom Post on Pandas

September 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Wellington would love to have pandas in its zoo, of course. Pandas have a unique appeal to human beings: nature made them look like a cross between a clown and a teddy bear. So arguments about the economics  and politics of pandas tend to get trumped by an overwhelming cuteness factor.

So true.

Prime Minister John Key is keen to stoke the panda cause, for two reasons. He wants to cuddle up even closer to China, our economic patron. And he knows that politicians who come bearing pandas can’t lose.

So it was that Andrew Little, the hapless Labour leader and an anti-panda politician, got it wrong again in Parliament this week.

Anything National talks about, and Little is against it. Raise benefits for the first time in 43 years, and Little condemns the Budget!

Finally, panda politics are murky. The panda circus is run by China, a ruthless police state, which gives its pandas to political and economic  favourites. This means John Key might get one.

The question then is: How to divide the cost of pandas? The Government says it would help, and so it should. After all, this is a geopolitical project of John Key’s, so his administration should contribute most of the money.

Wellington would also benefit, of course, so it would have to put in money too, but there are strict limits here. Wellingtonians are as prone to panda-madness as anyone, but Wellington ratepayers have notoriously cold hearts.

Apart from vague geopolitical benefits, I don’t see benefits to taxpayers. Any taxpayer contribution should be minimal. Pandas will not get any more tourists to NZ. They will get many more people coming to Wellington, so hence there is a case for ratepayer funding. However a price tag anywhere near $10 million is just way out of the ballpark.

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Idiotic Dom Post editorial

September 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Now we’re fighting about whether the Red Peak flag should join the final four for the referendum later this year. And it obviously should. The Flag Consideration Panel botched its job and ended up with three fern designs and a koru. What sort of choice is that?

The Red Peak movement has gathered 35,000 signatures on an online petition. That can’t be dismissed as just a digital bubble or a storm on a Facebook page.

Yes it can. It is exactly that. 1% of NZers have spent 15 seconds to sign an online petition.

A UMR poll of the 40 long listed designs found Red Peak 35th of 40. It was close to being the most disliked design of the 40, being in the top 4 for dislike or least preferred in every demographic.

John Key says the Government would have to change the law to allow a fifth finalist. So what? His administration will change the law at the drop of a hat if it really wants to.

So this pathetic, once great, newspaper is reduced to arguing that Parliament should pass a special law and over-ride the independent panel because a few thousand people spent 15 seconds signing an online petition. What a joke.

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Herald on anti flu vaccine health workers and unions

August 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It beggars belief that any nurses employed in public hospitals would be allowed to decline vaccinations against winter flu. It strains credibility further to hear these nurses complain they are obliged to wear face masks in the wards. And it is nothing short of disgraceful their national union, supported by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, backs them up.

I agree.

The flu is not chicken pox. People die from the flu. Lots of people. Why would a hospital worker not want a free flu vaccine?

Plenty of people outside the public health services decline flu vaccines, even when provided free in workplaces. This is a free country and people are free to make unhealthy decisions for themselves, even when their decision reduces the immunity that can be provided for the community. The best health authorities can do is to promote and practise good sense, based on medical research.

Nurses and other health professionals are also free to question the wisdom of immunisation or any other medical practices if they wish, but if so they should look for a job with an alternative provider.

If you accept a job in a hsopital working with sick people who are especially vulnerable to illnesses such as influenza, then you lose discretion over whether or not to have a vaccine. Just as if you accept a job as a teacher, you may have a dress code to comply with.

And Waikato DHB hasn’t even made it compulsory. They’ve just said wear a mask, if you won’t get one – and you work in clinical areas.

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A plastic bag tax?

July 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The war on plastic bags is now a global struggle, and New Zealand should join it.

This week a proposal for a compulsory levy on plastic shopping bags will be debated at the Local Government New Zealand conference. In fact, the time for debate is over. Now we need action.

Plastic bag levies, or even outright bans, are now common throughout the world, because bags are an environmental menace. They break down slowly and so they continue to blight the landscape and kill sea life and animals for many years.  

It has been estimated that the world uses about a trillion single-use plastic bags each year. Millions end up in the ocean where they kill sea life and birds, including endangered species. Cattle deaths from swallowing bags are a problem from Texas to India to Africa. The bags clog drains and cause floods. Light plastic bags can blow for hundreds of kilometres and blight the rural landscape.

Taxes on plastic bags have proved surprisingly effective, as is shown by a major 2014 report for the American Earth Policy Institute.  Denmark brought in its levy more than 20 years ago, and within a year usage had dropped 60 per cent. Ireland’s 2002 levy is  one of the most celebrated: it reduced the average use from 328 bags per consumer, the Institute reported, to 21. 

There can be a case for taxing something, if it has external effects which impose a cost of society as a whole – hence alcohol and cigarette taxes.

However my starting point is always that any new tax must not be used to increase the overall level of taxation (which is too high). So if you was a tax on plastic bags, then I want income or company tax reduced by the same amount that tax would bring in.

Plastic bags do have a negative impact on the environment, so there can be a case for a tax on them. This is preferable to a ban which is highly undesirable. How undesirable – well Eric Crampton estimates it would kill 20 New Zealanders a year.

But be careful of some studies claiming they have led to a big fall in bags used. These may be studies where people self-report use. Sales data is more accurate. The TPA at the Hill reports:

“City revenue figures, meanwhile, show no continuing decrease in the use of disposable bags. In fact, bag tax collections have proven remarkably stable since the nickel-per-bag fee debuted in January 2010,” the report added.

At the time the tax was imposed, D.C. estimated that they would collect $1.05 million in revenues in 2013. The actual haul – more than $2 million. Year-over-year, revenues even increased… by the equivalent of 200,000 bags.

But don’t expect the proponents of the tax to throw in the towel. Brian Van Wye, who works at the D.C. Environmental Department, still denies that the tax is meant to bloat the government’s balance sheet, insisting that the “objective is to change behavior.”

Using that logic, the next step may be for D.C. to double down. After all, if a $0.05 tax isn’t working, perhaps they can increase the per bag fee to $0.10 or $0.25. Since tax-and-spend liberals don’t think their logic is to blame, they have one recourse to this failing policy – more taxes.

That is my fear. That is why any new tax should be offset by tax cuts elsewhere. That reduces the incentive for people to use this as just another way to tax families and businesses more.

The Guardian also reports:

In Northern Ireland, which introduced a compulsory 5p charge on plastic bags last year, there was a 71% drop in consumption. In England, which has yet to implement such a rule, usage rose by 5%. Meanwhile, Wales, which brought in charges two years ago, saw its similarly precipitous fall go into reverse, with a rise of nearly a fifth. It seems the immediate change in behaviour reaped by the new charges is short-lived and it doesn’t take long for old habits to re-emerge.

So it is not actually clear that a tax at such a low level has a significant long-lasting behavioural change.

That said I’m not against such a tax, so long as other taxes are reduced to compensate.

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ODT on climate change target

July 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

The Government’s commitment to a higher but unambitious emissions reduction target will surprise few.

Similarly, the reactions of Labour and the Greens are expected. What is being witnessed are the policies of a pragmatic Government and standard opposition positioning. …

Mr Groser says this is ”respectable” and in line with what the United States, Canada and Japan are promising. Australia is yet come out with its figure.

The US target is 26% to 28% (by 2025) below 2005 levels.  Canada’s target is 30% by 2030.

Mr Groser does say the Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met, but at this stage that seems to involve primarily a review of the emissions trading scheme. This was weakened by National and, as acknowledged, needs toughening.

Unexpectedly, the price of carbon collapsed and the scheme failed.

National is sceptical about ”green growth”.

It argues the best advice it has received is that lowering emissions will cost the economy, at least in the short and medium term.

The cost of even its limited commitment is put at $1270 a family a year, not a massive amount for some but significant nonetheless.

In its pragmatism, National knows it will not appeal to the green vote whatever it does, so there is little to gain electorally from doing much more than the minimum.

It knows, too, despite the relatively high level of climate change scepticism in this country, the majority of voters have some concerns and it must be seen to be doing something.

Most voters, however, will reject being hit significantly in the pocket.

From that point of view, National has its policy about right. Legitimate fears, however, must arise because the climate does not play politics.

The efforts of New Zealand and the rest of the world could well be too little too late.

The ETS is having little impact on emissions as the price of carbon has declined. However if there is a binding agreement in Paris, then the price may increase, and the ETS will start to impact again.

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Herald on UN Security Council

July 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealand campaigned long and hard for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Now that our turn has come to chair the council for a month, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says we will put at the top of our agenda an attempt to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Nobody can accuse him of picking the easy ones.

Indeed. It will be amazing if we can make a breakthrough – but worth trying.

But our diplomats will be under no illusions of how difficult it will be to interest Israel in a UN initiative. The UN is regarded with resentment and contempt among conservative Israelis who seem to be the majority these days.

Not just conservative Israelis. The UN is incredibly biased against Israel.

As things stand in the Middle East, Israel has the upper hand and is enjoying relative calm while Islamist terror wracks the surrounding states. Attention is off the West Bank settlements and conditions in Gaza. Israelis who now believe permanent siege is their only possible security are content with the status quo. It will be hard to convince them to try yet again for genuine peace.

It’s not the Israelis you need to convince of peace. They’d like nothing more. It is the Palestinians that have rejected pretty much every peace proposal over 40 years. They’ve been offered territory equal to the 1967 boundaries, and even part of Jerusalem. They’ve been offered their own state.  But they insist on a “right of return” to Israel which would mean the effective destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

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Dom Post on TPP

July 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

US President Barack Obama has thrown the last of his political capital behind the deal, to the consternation of his own party. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suggested he’s willing to kick against the agricultural interests that have long kept in place big farming subsidies in his country.

And trade ministers from all the other countries are delighted; “it’s show time”, our own Tim Groser said.

He should hold the razzle-dazzle and make it clear that New Zealand will only sign up to the deal if it’s plainly a good one. That means meaningful access to new markets where New Zealand exports are likely to succeed. It means serious wins like those that came with the free-trade deal with China, or, much further back, the one with Australia.

I agree. We don’t want a deal like the Australian-US FTA which had little actual trade access benefits.

I don’t mind if there are long or even very long transition times for the lifting of tariffs and quotas. What is important is the end goal – which must be far far fewer tariffs and quotas.

A leaked TPP chapter from May shows the US pushing as hard as ever for new rights for pharmaceutical companies. Pharmac, New Zealand’s economical drug-buying agency, is a special target. Doctors without Borders calls the TPP “the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicines”.

The Government says it won’t let Pharmac be gutted. It must hold to that – or drop the TPP. No plausible tariff cuts that would make up for it.

The US pushes for a lot. They, like everyone, has to compromise. I would be very surprised if TPP has a significant impact on Pharmac.

Equally worrying are the TPP’s “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanisms. These give big companies an opaque new forum to sue governments that pass laws they don’t like. They were invented to protect companies operating in countries with dodgy records on the rule of law, but they are spreading all over the world. They have no place in New Zealand – and deserve to be dropped from the TPP.

This is where I disagree. ISDS mechanisms are extremely common in trade agreements, and protect NZ companies also. More to the point half a dozen trade agreements signed by Labour had them in. This is not some new mechanism – they have been included on trade agreements for decades. The devil is in the detail. Our negotiators have been very skilled at getting wording that allows us to pass laws and regulations on public policy grounds, without triggering claims under such clauses.

Trade is a positive force that has helped raise living standards and lift millions out of poverty around the world. Many trade deals have been huge positives for New Zealand, even if painful for particular sectors.

Good to see recognition of this.

Yet the TPP seems to be as much about stomping on valid local regulations as it does about stripping away trade protections. New Zealand has to be clear about the difference.

My ideal trade agreement is one which says:

Country A can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B, and Country B can sell whichever goods and services it likes to the citizens and companies of Country B.

Sadly we’ll never get that. But hopefully TPP will have significant trade access. Without it, it won’t be worth it.

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Herald says Councillors should vote not abstain

June 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Fairly or not, politicians are expected to have solid, unambiguous positions on every issue. Not for them the shades of grey that influence the decision-making of most people in everyday life. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the Auckland councillors who are thinking of abstaining to allow the council’s 10-year budget to pass are being strongly criticised. Yesterday, Michael Barnett, of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, added to the pressure by saying taking that course would be “a total nonsense”.

They are elected to govern. If they can’t handle the responsibility, they should resign and allow in someone who can.

But ringing in their ears are the dire warnings of the council’s chief executive and chief finance officer, who have told councillors if the budget is not adopted, the council will not be able to set or collect rates, refinance loans or meet stock exchange requirements.

If they vote down Len’s budget, then Len has to put up an alternate budget which can get a majority. That is how it works.

It would surely not be catastrophic if the budget was not adopted. Any difficulties could be worked through as the budget was modified to meet the concerns of Mr Clow and others. This could see the rates impost reduced significantly through a variety of measures, including staff minimisation, enhanced efficiencies, and the selling down of council assets, such as port and airport shares and carparking buildings.

It is not a choice of Len’s budget or no budget. If they vote down Len’s budget, then a revised budget gets put up.

The issue is too important for any councillor to choose not to choose. They were elected to provide a voice for the citizens of their ward. That should not be lost when they are so adamant about the budget’s shortcomings.

Any Councillor who votes for the 9.9% rates increase budget, or abstains on it, will face a vigorous and effective campaign to stop them being re-elected.

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Match speeds to risk

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The speed limit on any road should be appropriate to its design and condition, not the subject of a default 100km/h setting. Therefore, a good case can be made for increasing the limit on many of the country’s motorways to 110km/h. And so, too, and even more strongly, can a case be made for lowering it on many of our two-lane rural roads. The latter are, after all, the scene of a high proportion of the fatal and serious crashes in New Zealand every year.

Such was not the case last weekend when 10 people died on the roads. But that did not diminish the good sense in the call by road policing chief Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff for some rural roads to have lower speed limits. He was reacting not to one bad weekend but to a problem that has been apparent for years and has not been tackled effectively.

As Mr Cliff suggests, many country roads, especially those with winding stretches, are simply not designed to be travelled at 100km/h. Many drivers do not have the skills or the required concentration to traverse them with a high degree of safety.

Best international practice, said Mr Cliff, would dictate that the limit should be 70 to 80km/h. At that speed, the chances of a crash being survivable would be much increased.

Some roads such as the Rimutaka Hill Road are very dangerous to do at 100 km/hr. Same with the road to Makara. Likewise many roads are safe for modern cars at 110 or 120 km/hr. I’m all for road speed limits being set based on the characteristics of each individual road.

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Herald calls for all benefits to increase by 24%

May 21st, 2015 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It has long been an anomaly that benefits for the young are raised annually by the rate of inflation while superannuitants have their pensions pegged to increases in wages, or inflation if it is greater.

Wages in recent years have increased at a rate above low inflation, causing benefits to lag the general rise in living standards enjoyed by wage earners and the retired. The cost of indexing working age benefits to wages might be considerable but it seems only fair that it should be done. If fiscally possible, it should be accompanied by a catch-up adjustment to benefit rates over the next few years.

This may be the stupidest and most financially illiterate editorial of the year.

First let us calculate what this would cost.  NZ Super has increased by 78% since it was given a floor relative to wages. Inflation during that time has been 44%, which is how much other benefits have increased. This means that in today’s dollars you would need to increase all benefits by 24% to bring them in line with NZ Super increases.

The current cost of non NZ Super benefits is $7.3 billion, so the cost of the Herald’s editorial policy would be $1.74 billion.

The cost of this policy would be around $1,800 per working family.

So the Herald wants the Government to take an extra $1,800 off every family in work, and give it to people not working, on welfare. They think this is the best use of $1.74 billion. I’m staggered by their detachment from reality.


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The Press against increasing the size of Council

May 19th, 2015 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The suggestion that Christchurch residents support  more councillors is rather surprising.  There has been no hint of it in public debate recently. The last time the number of councillors was reviewed six years ago there was no hint of dissatisfaction with the council’s size and that review passed virtually unnoticed. …

There is no doubt that the governance decisions councillors must make in the rebuild are of fundamental importance and require close attention. But councillors are well paid for their work and it is far from clear that increasing the numbers will improve the decision making. Indeed, studies on board governance suggest that the council is somewhere near an optimum level for efficiency and performance. To take an obvious if not quite exact parallel, the boards of giant companies making billion-dollar decisions are rarely much larger.

 Any suggestion of a council increase will have to go to public consultation. Ratepayers are unlikely to support it. What they want is sound and efficient decision-making, not a handful more decision-makers.

The Council struggles to make sound decisions with 13 Councillors. Going to 19 will only make the problem worse.

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Herald on Labour’s no enrol no welfare proposal

May 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Labour Party has floated the idea of withholding state support such as Working for Families tax credits from people who are not enrolled to vote. Its general secretary, Tim Barnett, has told a parliamentary select committee this would tackle “pretty compelling evidence that there is a continuing pattern of people not enrolling”. To that most hollow of nuts he would take a sledgehammer. Labour is normally the last party to advocate withholding benefits for any purpose, let alone an electoral one. …

Labour has often railed against plans to make state support conditional on compliance with other social programmes, such as requiring beneficiaries to take pre-employment drug tests or threatening to cut benefits if parents do not have children in early childhood education. Yet those sort of conditions address real and obvious problems. To use benefits as leverage for electoral enrolment is more like tilting at windmills.

So it is wrong to require beneficiaries to be available for work and have their kids in ECE, but it is a good idea to cut off their benefits if they don’t enrol, because the most important thing in society is that beneficiaries are enrolled, so they can vote Labour.

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Hosting the FIFA World Cup

April 15th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Six months ago, any suggestion this country could co-host the Football World Cup with Australia would have been dismissed as the stuff of idle dreams. The event would have been seen widely as too big for New Zealand, while Australians remained chastened by the dismal failure of their bid for the 2022 World Cup. Much has changed in that short period, however. Consequently, Martin Snedden deserves full marks for the timing of his effort to galvanise a joint bid for either the 2026 or 2030 World Cup.

The most obvious occurrence has been the two countries’ superb co-hosting of the Cricket World Cup. This proved they could work well together to deliver an event that exceeded expectation on every level. It also suggested they could make the step up to the biggest sporting event outside the Olympics. …

The agenda for a co-hosting bid proposed by Mr Snedden, the head of the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising committee and now chief executive of Duco Events, would build astutely on this new-found positivity. He envisages, first, getting New Zealand stakeholders on board with the idea before convincing Australia of the wisdom of a joint bid. The first part is vitally important. Fifa is keen to support football in particular regions, as shown by the World Cups in the US and South Africa. But it must be convinced both countries will totally embrace the event and use it to build the game.

I admire the ambition, and agree the timing is good. The Cricket World Cup co-hosting worked brilliantly.

But the FIFA World Cup is a different league. There are 853 64 matches (853 is for the qualifiers, 64 is for the final) to be hosted and the costs can be massive. Brazil spent almost US$15 billion on infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup.

It is estimated the US lost $9.6 billion on hosting the 1994 World Cup.

The history of recent World Cups is that FIFA walks away with a huge bank balance, and the host country a huge debt.


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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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