Herald calls for sale of Ports of Auckland

July 6th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The second reality that needs to be recognised by all concerned is that New Zealand does not need another port. The country already has too many.

If ports were run by the Government rather than local bodies, they would have been rationalised long ago. If port companies were answerable to private shareholders, the same thing would have happened, probably more efficiently than by government design. If Ports of Auckland was on the sharemarket, it would not be still enraging Aucklanders with these bids for more of the harbour. Its shareholders would have found it more worthwhile to co-operate with their nearest competitor, the Port of Tauranga.

Ports such as Tauranga are on the sharemarket and Tauranga has bought into Northport at Marsden Pt. With co-operation between Auckland, Tauranga and Northport, the need to ship goods into and out of this part of the country could surely be accommodated without further encroachment on the Waitemata – or dredging a $5 billion “super port” on the Manukau or the Firth. No such nonsense would be contemplated if the Auckland Council floated even part of its needlessly owned port. The city needs a council with the courage to do so.

The Council owning the Port has meant it is less responsive to the public.

SST on Labour

July 3rd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The SST editorial:

At 100, like many centenarians, this country’s Labour Party is looking confused and befuddled. It appears to have forgotten what it stood for when it was young and vibrant.

Under Little, this party that once stood against unthinking imperialism has campaigned to keep the Union Jack on New Zealand’s flag – perhaps keen to safeguard that Royal telegram! This party that once stood for workers making new lives in a new land, now wishes to stop immigrants investing in property in New Zealand; this party that once stood for diversity now makes overseas investment policy by tallying up “Chinese-sounding names”. Little is busy battling defamation claims, rather than fighting for Labour principles.

Ouch.

Herald says abolish zoning

June 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Ironically, “the right to attend the nearest school” was the principle advanced by a previous Epsom MP, Christine Fletcher, to have zoning restored in a partial reversal of the competitive elements of the “Tomorrow’s Schools” reform. But withdrawing that right from future residents is only one possible solution Mr Seymour has proposed. Another, he suggests, would be to block students who lived in the zone without their parents. He says schools have told him of foreigners buying a house in the zone, staying just long enough to gain permanent residency and their child’s enrolment, then leave the child here with relatives or acquaintances.

His third and most obvious suggestion is to build more high schools in the area. The Ministry of Education bought land for a new school from the Auckland Trotting Club in 1999 but the school has not eventuated. It was opposed by residents who feared for their real estate values. The restoration of zoning has created a monster capable of defeating the ministry’s reasonable plans. Mr Seymour’s proposal to pull up the drawbridge against new arrivals may be the only political solution but it would be simpler to abolish zones and restore schools’ freedom to enrol aspirants from anywhere.

That is my preferred policy. You’d need a safeguard where the Ministry can direct a school to take a student if say they have not been accepted into any school within 5 kms (urban) and 50 kms (rural), but otherwise leave it to parents and schools.

The current zoning system gives choice only to those who can afford to buy a house in the zone foor the school they want.

Herald argues for oppressive values

June 16th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

One of those basic Western, liberal values is a tolerance of diverse views and open debate. Muslims who come here may arrive with distinctly non-Western values on the status of women and decency in dress and relationships. They justify their restrictive codes of dress and conduct on a sense of respect and self-respect that they find deficient in Western liberal values. Westerners find that sort of respect oppressive but it is good to have our attitudes challenged. To bar people because they do not share them would be the antithesis of basic Western, liberal values.

Not at all. Does the Herald editorial writer think for example we should welcome in members of the KKK because it is good to have our values challenged? How about neo-nazis from Europe? Would having more neo-nazis in NZ be good for our NZ as they will challenge our values? By the same basis, I don’t want people immigrating here who think gays should be stoned to death, that execution is the appropriate punishment for apostasy or that women are second class citizens.

Herald on Labour’s housing policy

May 23rd, 2016 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party surprised many people last week, and dismayed some of its own supporters, by advocating the complete abolition of boundaries on urban expansion.

Its housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, endorsed the Government’s view that boundaries imposed by the Auckland Council have been a major contributor to the escalation of house prices. His announcement was timed to get in ahead of an urban development directive to councils expected from the Government soon, possibly in the Budget on Thursday. But Labour’s proposal goes further than Mr Twyford believes the Government’s national policy statement is likely to go.

“What we are calling for is the abolition of the urban growth boundary, not softening it, not making it more flexible,” he says. “And not just doing what the Auckland Council advocates, which is periodically adding in more parcels of land zoned for development. All that does is feed the speculative land market.”

I hope the Auckland Council listens, but I fear they won’t. And Phil Goff is refusing to back the policy, which is a bad sign.

The main condition is that development on the urban fringe must pay the full cost of the additional infrastructure they need and the party has proposed an interesting method by which this could be financed. It wants the Auckland Council to be allowed to issue infrastructure bonds that would be repaid from rates levied on the newly developed properties.

Developers are already charged for the cost of connecting their subdivisions to a city’s services but Auckland planners have long opposed urban sprawl on the basis of its infrastructure costs, so clearly those costs have not been fully covered in developers’ contributions. Infrastructure bonds could fill the gap. In fact, they could permit more amenities to be built in these new communities than have usually been provided from development levies because bonds are effectively a loan to future residents whereas development levies are built into the upfront cost of houses. …

Infrastructure bonds would enable those savers to share the gains from housing the population boom without pushing up house prices. The bonds might also attract some housing investors, reducing their demand for houses and slowing the rise of prices. New Zealand offers few investments as safe as houses and has an unsatisfied demand for bonds as secure as these. Labour is thinking well.

I agree. I like their policy on bonds rather than developer contributions up front.

Dom Post on Wicked Campers

May 7th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A rare good Dom Post editorial:

The use of drugs by favourite childhood characters is likely to encourage impressionable young people  to see drug use as funny and cool, the office finds. That is surely right. So now the firm will face serious trouble if it allows these vans to hit the road again. 

It’s hard to object.

However, this finding deals only with the drug-themed camper vans. The sex-themed ones will be dealt with separately, and they might prove a tougher nut to crack. If there is no kind of incitement to breaking a law, for instance, the case against them becomes harder to sustain.

And here the argument for finding them objectionable and in effect banning them becomes more fraught. To repeat, even oafs have the right to express themselves, even when they are just using their freedom of speech to manufacture outrage in order to make money.

In this case the company’s “jokes” are disgusting and anti-women and many people have taken offence at them. And of course anyone travelling along the highway can’t avoid seeing them. They are not like sexually explicit or offensive material available in private to consenting adults.

It is also true that the material is arguably far more offensive than anything else on public display. But does that mean they must be banned in the way that the company’s drug-use material has been?

That is a tough call for a liberal society.

And one that should not be made, and if so would probably be illegal.

Yes they are offensive, but it is not the role of the state to ban things merely because they are offensive. The test is objectionable which is far higher – torture, rape, child abuse etc.

I’m all for private citizens and business owners putting pressure on Wicked Campers to remove the offensive slogans. Campgrounds can refuse to allow their vans to camp in them. Petrol companies can refuse to serve them. That is the way to deal with them. Having the state ban a sexist slogan is not a power we want to encourage.

Herald on Salvation Army report

February 19th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Salvation Army’s annual stocktake on New Zealand’s social health has earned high credibility. It owes this to its recognition of progress as well as problems.

Its latest “state of the nation” report notes continuing improvement in many of the country’s most persistent concerns. Child poverty, for example. It finds children in material hardship, as measured by an absence of some essentials, has dropped from 21 per cent at the peak of the 2008-09 recession to 14 per cent last year, the level it was before the recession. That trend is not evident in the more standard statistical measure of poverty – living on less than 60 per cent of the median household income – but that is because earned incomes have risen.

Average weekly earnings rose 3 per cent last year while the cost of living rose only 0.1 per cent. Half of the increase in earnings came from pay rises, the rest from working more hours. At the same time, unemployment dropped for a second year in succession, though the proportion of the population employed did not rise as much as it did in 2013 and 2014, the peak of the Christchurch rebuild.

The population grew again by 2 per cent, slightly greater than the growth in employment which suggests the numbers retiring exceed the increase in new workers and immigration.

Perhaps most heartening, the report says increases in the statutory minimum wage have helped lift the incomes of the lowest paid faster than the highest paid employment, in finance. The gap may be wide but, contrary to careless rhetoric, it is apparently not necessarily getting wider.

Beneficiaries and their children do not benefit from increases in the minimum wage. Their incomes are indexed to price inflation rather than wages. That ought to change. But at least basic benefit rates will be raised by $25 from April 1.

The Salvation Army estimates 16.4 per cent of children are in families dependent on benefits, the lowest proportion since the late 1980s. That figure is close to the 14 per cent found lacking some of life’s essentials, suggesting the true extent of child poverty is around 14 per cent, not the 25 per cent often quoted by academic researchers.

Perhaps the best news of all, the Salvation Army’s findings are in pre-school education, which is now reaching beyond children in better-off areas thanks to efforts to reach the poorest deciles. Last year, 92.5 per cent of pre-school children received early education. It is a remarkable figure even if the quality of the education is uneven.

So good progress on child poverty, weekly earnings, unemployment, benefit levels, minimum wage and reducing welfare dependency plus pre-school education.

Not everything is improving. House prices moved further out of reach of first home-seekers in the year to last September. While the rate of capital gain slowed in the year to December, reflecting new taxes and lending restrictions on rental property, rents are rising more sharply as a result.

A compassionate country will never succumb to complacency while any of its citizens are in poverty or distress, but it does no harm to acknowledge the success of concerted effort.

Definitely still more to be done.

Herald on Awaroa Beach

February 11th, 2016 at 9:58 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour leader Andrew Little thinks it would a good idea for the Government to chip in and support the social media campaign to buy a sliver of land in Golden Bay.

Which destroys the whole community spirit behind the bid. Forcing taxpayers to fund the purchase works against people donating their own money. I’m happy to voluntarily donate money to the bid but not happy for my taxes to be used on it.

At the 11th hour, Gareth Morgan entered the debate, offering to make up the difference between the amount raised by the social media exercise and the $2 million tender guidance. He promised to hand the beach over to DoC after his family had finished enjoying it. Unsurprisingly, the offer has been declined. Contributors to the fund would have been justifiably reluctant to subsidise anyone’s acquisition of a private beach.

Many donors said they would withdraw their pledges if this happened.

Meanwhile, the crowdfunding appeal for Awaroa Beach deserves to succeed. The owner may be asking more than DoC thinks it is worth, but its value is whatever a willing buyer is willing to pay. The appeal is a rare opportunity for the public to decide.

The fund now stands at $1.77 million with 28,515 backers.

ODT also against Labour’s free fees policy

February 10th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

It is, in the end, the middle classes who are most likely to take up tertiary education in its various forms, just as they have gained from the costly interest-free student loans.

While the policy is to cover post-school education, including apprenticeships, it is not the poor and disadvantaged who will be the primary beneficiaries.

Former prime minister Helen Clark basically bribed the electorate with its own money on the student loans and family support payments.

Now comes another transfer to help, largely, the relatively well off.

It is taking $1.2 billion a year from all New Zealanders and giving it to the people who will be the highest earning in society.

There must also be doubts about the price tag being limited to $1.2billion.

For a start, it is clear extra spending on free fees will have to be matched by extra institutional funding for increased demand.

And the extra demand will be way way more than 15%.

It is also true the current system of part-payment – the Government still pays the majority share of most courses – focuses the mind.

Not only are students likely to give more consideration to the value of their courses to them, but it also means more accountability from teachers.

Students paying for studies have proved much less likely to put up with second-rate teaching or second-rate programmes.

You don’t value things as much when they are “free”. This policy will see a significant decline in quality.

Herald critical of Labour’s bribe

February 5th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A universal entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education has overwhelming public appeal. Whether it is in the public interest is another question. The policy is expensive: $1.2 billion when fully implemented.

That is a considerable lump of public spending. As always when something of this magnitude is proposed, we should not look at its merits in isolation. Governments do not have infinite budgets and there is a limit to the taxation an economy can provide and remain healthy.

Labour needs to be asked, is this the most worthwhile use of $1.2 billion Is it even the most worthy use of funds allocated to education?

Many professionals (outside the tertiary sector at least) would say raising funding of pre-school education is more socially urgent and productive than relieving school-leavers of an obligation to contribute to the cost of their qualifications.

Most of the $1.2 billion will go to wealthy families who planned to go to university anyway.

University student associations have complained about course fees and loans to cover them since they were introduced. But many thousands of graduates have paid their fees and repaid their loans over the past 20 years.

Tertiary education has seen spectacular growth over that period, attracting foreign fee-paying students as well as meeting New Zealanders’ needs. Why change the funding system now?

Or to put it another way, what problem is this policy designed to fix? Labour’s leader presents it as an answer to the frequent and unpredictable career changes people will need in the workforce of the future. But this “future” has been present for many years now and there has been no sign the costs of retraining have become a problem.

The student loan scheme is effectively a temporary targeted tax on those who undertake tertiary study. Once you eanr above a certain level, you pay a 12% higher tax rate until the loan is paid off.

So what is fairer – those who get the benefits of tertiary study paying a temporary higher tax rate, or all New Zealanders paying a permanent higher tax rate?

The economy is strong in large part because public spending is under control. Expensive proposals that waste money purely for political gain could put the country’s prosperity in peril.

It’s the old tax and spend.

Herald and Hosking on TPP

February 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Looking back, it is hard to recall a greater diplomatic achievement than the comprehensive trade and investment agreement that will be signed by representatives of 12 countries in Auckland today. The post-war creation of the United Nations in which New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser played a role may be as proud for those who remember it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is directly in that tradition.

It represents another advance on the principles of the World Trade Organisation, formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) that was one of the multi-lateral institutions formed by nations seeking world peace and prosperity after two devastating wars.

Even 70 years ago, it proved harder to unite the world on rules for international business and trade than to establish a World Health Organisation and UN agencies for the likes of education and science. The Gatt did not become the WTO until the 1990s when just about all countries in the long communist experiment finally turned to capitalism for the prosperity the West enjoyed.

Now we just need Labour, Greens and NZ First to embrace capitalism again!

Mike Hosking writes:

Good morning and welcome to TPP signing day.

I know, I know, I know. We’ve thrashed this thing to death, but here’s your reality: It’s a done deal.

It will get signed today, the legislation will be passed, and all there is left to do is sit back and basically sees who’s right.

Will it be like every other free trade deal and open new markets, bring new opportunities and boost our wealth? Or are the doom merchants right and we’re heading for corporate armageddon, where we spend the rest of our lives in court and have our sovereignty whipped out from under us?

The really big question not many people seemed to ask in this whole debate was: Why would our Government sign us up to all this so-called trouble?

What Government in its right mind would take us down a path of disaster, and with it the political fallout?

Further, why would 11 other Governments do exactly the same thing?

If this is such a dastardly deal, how is it possible that a dozen countries all got sucked in and put their name to the sort of trouble and political mayhem the placard wavers are proclaiming?

12 Governments have signed it because they all stand to gain more from it than they lose. Trade is not a zero sum gain.

Long term, here’s Labour’s potential nightmare: Assuming those of us who like trade deals are right, as the numbers roll in, as the sales get made, and if this deal is like every other deal, it actually produces way more than the paper work ever indicated, think the China deal which is many times better than was initially thought possible.

As that all happens, Labour is going to be backed into a corner explaining just what it was it couldn’t see that the rest of us could.

The benefits of the China FTA have been much much greater than projected, If TPP goes the same way, Labour are going to look very foolish for campaigning against it.

Herald backs Greens costing policy

February 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Amid the fanfare surrounding Labour’s education policy release at the weekend, it should also be acknowledged the Green Party has made a good start to the year, with a proposal that is reasonable, moderate and financially responsible.

The suggestion an independent unit should be set up within Treasury to provide costings of each party’s election policies is one the Government will find tough to turn down.

Much as it might like to, social policy initiatives from the Opposition can easily be dismissed as fearfully expensive without reliable figures – Labour’s free tertiary plan being a timely case in point.

Labour have a long history of under-estimating the costs of policies – interest free student loans and KiwiSaver ended up costing many times more than they originally said it would.

I support an independent costing agency, but one has to realise that there will always be assumptions which are debatable.

To cost Labour’s education policy, the first step is to work out what would be the cost if the Government paid all the tertairy fees for current students, instead of lending them money for them. That is quite easy to do, and uncontroversial.

The harder part is calculating how many more people will enrol if tertiary education is free. Labour say they think there will be a 15% increase. I think this is massively low. Tertiary providers will be able to earn $15,000 or so if they can sign up any adult who has never been to university (or other tertiary). They’ll be going through rest homes convincing retirees to enrol in courses.  It could well be a 100% increase.

An independent costing agency will have to try and make a “best guess”. This may be based on what has happened in other areas when something is made free – for example what increase has there been in public transport use by retirees since they got free travel. They may be able to look overseas. But even Treasury in the past has vastly under-estimated the cost of policies such as Kiwisaver and interest free loans. Humans respond massively to incentives, and this policy provides huge incentives to providers to sign people up.

The public would be best served if once a policy was submitted to the unit its findings were automatically made public.

Parties might not welcome the risk, and might withhold some proposals from an evaluation, but that would do nothing for their credibility.

The agency should be subject to the OIA.

 

Dom Post on WCC secrecy

January 30th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Wellington City Council is full of big ideas and grand announcements at the moment. Plenty of them are worth supporting.

But confusion and secrecy too often seem to follow in their wake – especially when it comes to the money involved.

First this week came word from three councillors that the costs of the Island Bay cycleway – already political dynamite in the south coast suburb – had blown out to more than double its projected $1.7 million budget. Yet council chief executive Kevin Lavery said that was completely wrong, and the cycleway was on track to meet its budget.

This yawning difference is amateur stuff – all four were in the same meeting. One side is barking wrong, and ratepayers need to know which it is.

Yes, we do.

I’m generally supportive of cycleways but the Island Bay one appears to be a clusterf**k. It has made the area more dangerous.

Meanwhile, the council’s triumphant announcement that Singapore Airlines will fly a new route from Wellington to Canberra from September also turns out to have strings attached for ratepayers.

The council, it emerges, is set to pay as much as $800,000 a year in subsidies to the airline for the next decade. The money will come from its Destination Wellington fund, which aims to “attract business, talent and investment” to the region.

Like the council’s Economic Initiatives Development Fund, which sank $300,000 of ratepayer money into the recently-failed call centre business CallActive, it also seems wreathed in secrecy.

But why should Wellington City Council applaud the arrival of an airline without revealing that it will help bankroll the new route? That isn’t commercial sensitivity; it is a sort of deception on the ratepayers.

It is deception and it also shows the Council a soft touch with ratepayers money. Other businesses will be lining up to try and get some dosh.

Dom Post on costing policies

January 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The Greens’ idea of an independent agency to cost parties’ new policies is a good one, and the Government should take it up.

I agree.

Prime Minister John Key has been dismissive so far, but he should remember that it is his side of politics that typically claims superiority when it comes to financial literacy.

“Show me the money!” Key famously called to former Labour leader Phil Goff during a 2011 election debate. It was part of a broader charge that Labour had wildly underestimated the costs of its policies during that campaign.

Perhaps he was right and perhaps he wasn’t. But if there had been an independent authority to give its own take, voters needn’t have taken Key’s word for it.

The parties of the left tend to always dramatically under-estimate the cost of their policies. This is why National should support such an agency. It would mean we would have credible estimates of what their policies would cost, and voters would better understand how much more in taxes would be needed to fund them.

The Greens will have mixed motivations for announcing their sober new policy. It would be straightforwardly useful to the party, for one, by handing it more resources to propose feasible ideas.

It is true parties can pay to have their policies costed at the moment but this is not independent. Normally a party hires an ideologically sympathetic economics firm to cost the policies using the most favourable assumptions. Hence they tend to greatly under-estimate the true costs.

If one was to set up such an agency, one could help fund it by reducing the funding for parliamentary parties in recognition of the fact they would no longer have to pay for their own costings.

More sophisticated policy from the small parties would be nothing to lament; consider that at the last election, NZ First promised to wipe GST off all food, which it laughably said was “fully fundable” by cracking down on $7 billion in tax avoidance.

NZ First had such outlandish policies they were in fact impossible to cost. They’re more slogans than policies.

Where the Greens have it wrong is to suggest the agency be a unit of the Treasury. That is no recipe for a truly independent institution; its budget, staffing and priorities might easily be massaged into oblivion by a minister eager to avoid embarrassment, or a bureaucrat happy to help with the same.

It should either be an independent advisory body to Parliament, or else made part of an investigative agency such as Audit New Zealand.

I think it should be part of Parliament. It could come under The Parliamentary Service, as the Parliamentary Library does.

The Press on a 4th term for Key

January 27th, 2016 at 8:32 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

So what are the potential threats to Key’s hopes for a fourth term? Unless something goes drastically wrong between now and the second half of next year, it looks unlikely the Labour Party under Andrew Little will be in a position to pull together the next government.

They need to persuade 200,000 more NZers to vote Labour to be in with a chance.

In terms of successors to Key being actively groomed or quietly blossoming within the National Party’s caucus, there will be some definite contenders post-2017. But In terms of challengers who might actively challenge his leadership before that election or after, that is harder to foresee.

Near impossible to imagine.

If Key does lead National to its fourth successive victory, it will then become a question of when he might stand aside. Would it be within a few months of the election or as late as possible? That last strategy runs the risk of locking a leader into the next election campaign and yet another possible term as prime minister. Voters will need to know how far into that fourth term he might stay as leader.

He can’t say in advance because you become lame duck, but my pick would be during the latter half of the 2nd year, so after around 11 years in the job.

Who might be Key’s possible successor? It depends who you listen to, but the personable, fifth-ranked Paula Bennett is a rising star of some charisma. Now minister of climate change issues as well as social housing and state services, she is also associate minister of finance, a sign, some say, that she is being groomed by Key.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is a steady pair of hands but would be a case of “been there, done that”. Steven Joyce has vast experience and is in the same mould as a Bill Birch or Michael Cullen, but does not have the populist touch needed. Neither does Gerry Brownlee.

Then there’s Judith Collins – she has her supporters in caucus but may be a bit too divisive. Jonathan Coleman and Simon Bridges are possible leaders of the future, and so is Amy Adams, but she is currently a long shot.

I should point out Bill English has said he will never seek the leadership again.

That Key says he realises he is not indispensable appears an encouraging sign of self-awareness, a trait some other leaders have struggled to master. Short of a major change in fortunes, he could well still be prime minister in two or three years’ time.

Key has actively worked to promote successors, unlike some of his predecessors.

Herald calls for fern flag to fly on bridge

January 11th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

This is a serious and urgent request of whomever is running the Government in the Prime Minister’s absence. Please fly the proposed new flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge, either on one pole alongside the existing flag, or on both poles.

We will be voting on them in just two months and it is vital to see the proposed alternative in action before we can decide.

Until we see how it looks fluttering in a breeze, lying limp and performing in various conditions, we cannot know whether its design really “works”.

I agree. Both the current flag and the alternative one offer should fly. Having New Zealanders seeing them on flagpoles will better allow for an informed vote.

Dom Post on Iraq

January 5th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Finally, there is something to cheer in the international war against Isis.

The Iraqi army, famously the “cowards” of NZ First MP Ron Mark’s imaginings, took the city of Ramadi this week, capital of the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar.

That is an important turnaround from six months ago when Isis took the city at a canter.

Some of the army’s newfound cohesion and tactical nous is reportedly down to the training and equipment it has received from US troops; perhaps New Zealand’s small deployment of trainers has also played a role in the revival.

If so, that is gratifying: it hints that the US coalition, which toiled for months in Iraq and Syria with very little impact, might be having some useful impact after all.

It’s a beginning, but a useful one.

Back in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key will surely draw some comfort from the victory in Ramadi – he has already declared himself “vindicated” after a brief trip to visit New Zealand’s troops in Iraq. But there could easily be more twists to come – this war has been bleakly unpredictable, while even an Isis in retreat poses a threat in Western cities.

Key presumably understands this: he has stressed his unwillingness to extend the New Zealand deployment, no matter how that undercuts his sometimes righteous rhetoric about fighting Isis.

The Labour Party, on the other hand, added to its recent record of vacillations before Christmas by floating the possibility of sending the SAS to the war, months after it had opposed sending trainers to Iraq.

I have no idea what their policy now is. They condemned sending trainers in, and now are talking about sending the SAS in.

Herald backs down on uninformed editorial

December 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Friday the NZ Herald editorial proclaimed:

Strange things started to happen rather quickly. Not enough subscribers were keen to switch to the more expensive connection, so Chorus raised the price of copper connections to $45 a month to make fibre more attractive.

An organisation of users protested. The Commerce Commission, which can regulate network pricing, stepped in and forced Chorus to lower its copper charge to $32.45. At that, Chorus appealed and the commission has spent the past three years reviewing its calculations.

The following Wednesday their editorial back downs:

Last Friday, our editorial expressed concern that the charge being set for telecommunications on the copper network was being artificially inflated to make the Government-inspired roll-out of fibre optic cable more competitive.

That view has been strongly contested and we need to reconsider a number of issues. Few costs in an economy are more important than the price of its vital infrastructure.

Chorus, the network provider, does not set its own charges. They are done entirely by the Commerce Commission. We have been assured the charge determined by the commission last week has nothing to do with the cost of fibre connections, the uptake of which is at 16.4 per cent of customers served so far.

Kudos to the Herald for admitting they got it wrong. Not so good they did an editorial in the first place they was so poorly researched.

Herald is right – leave it to Pharmac

December 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Theirs is an invidious task, never more so than this week when it had to tell us it would not fund a drug for melanoma, Keytruda, that is being hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of this cancer. Clinicians say it is the only treatment that seems to be effective against advanced inoperable melanoma. Chemotherapy and other regular cancer treatments are not.

Keytruda is state-funded in Australia and England but here Pharmac’s assessment committee has marked it low priority for funding, because of uncertainty about its benefits and extremely high cost. A course costs around $300,000, which anyone given a terminal diagnosis would pay if they could. Some can and do. But it is beyond the means of most and beyond Pharmac’s budget when it weighs up all the demands on its funds.

There was a hint yesterday that the Government could come to the rescue. “Watch this space,” said one of its MPs, Judith Collins, on breakfast television. She compared it to the breast cancer drug Herceptin, that was not accepted for funding by Pharmac but in 2008 the National Party promised to fund it if it came to power, and duly did so. Pharmac does “a great job”, said Ms Collins, “but every now and then something comes along and you’ve just go to say, something has to give on this”.

The Labour Party had been even quicker to take the decision out of Pharmac’s hands. “We would fund it,” said its health spokeswoman, Annette King. With politicians like these, who needs professionals to assess efficacy against costs?

If a Government provides additional funds to cover the costs of a particular drug, it does not upset the careful decisions that Pharmac has to make about the best use of its budget. But each time a Government does so, it reduces the integrity and fairness of the public health system. It is easy to make emotional decisions, especially where cancer is concerned. And of all cancers, melanoma may be the most scary.

I agree with the Herald. We set Pharmac up so medical and other professionals could assess which drugs provided the most benefit for their cost. This is the right way to do things with a limited budget, and MPs should not step in over them to fund additional drugs based on the success of a lobbying campaign.

ODT on reshuffles

November 30th, 2015 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

Labour leader Andrew Little has previously said he intends to provide a new look for his team before Christmas, but how he can do that with such a limited number of MPs will need some imagination.

I expect the reshuffle will be relatively minor.

There are a limited number of options for Mr Little.

He wants to lead a so-called new team into next year so the voting public can see Labour is a government-in-waiting.

But surely, if someone is going to set the political stage on fire from the Opposition benches, they will have done so by now.

The Greens have stolen the thunder of Labour by electing relatively unknown James Shaw as co-leader.

Mr Shaw has hogged headlines and is often the first call for media when seeking an alternative opinion to the one espoused by the Government.

I often hear from media that Green MPs respond quicker as they just say what they believe, while Labour MPs have to have multiple conferences to come up with a position on an issue.

Labour’s top three MPs, Mr Little, deputy-leader Annette King and finance spokesman Grant Robertson are all from Wellington.

And from all accounts that will not change. No Australian leader would be electable if his or her top three MPs were all from Canberra.

In all honesty, former failed leaders, Mr Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe must go.

However, their personal interests outweigh the best interests of the party, despite anything they may say.

Labour does not look or sound united.

There is a reason for that!

I’ll do another post later today on the actual reshuffle, after it is announced at 11.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.