Morgan on tax

June 8th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

If we close the worst of the loopholes in our income tax system we’ll not have to collect as much tax from salary and wage earners. Taxation will become more fair and capital will become more productive.

I agree with this. I support a tax system with a broad base and low rates. If we broaden the base, then we can lower the rates. What I’m against though is new taxes being imposed, without other taxes being reduced. Labour for example campaigned to both introduce a Capital Gains Tax and to increase income tax.

The report sets out in detail how to close these tax loopholes. In essence we assume that all assets generate a minimum 5% return, and tax on that basis.

I support a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax but this is effectively a wealth tax and politically would be lethal.

If you are retired on a pension and have used your life savings to get a $1 million house, then you will be deemed to earn $50,000 a year on the house and pay $16,500 or so tax on it.

Taxing capital gains is one thing. But assuming all assets produce a 5% return is another.

UPDATE: Gareth has commented below a couple of times.

Morgan says Labour a bigger threat to Pharmac than the TPP

March 4th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

During the recent TPP furore, Labour made much of the threat to Pharmac from American drug multinationals. And now, just weeks after signing the TPP, the greatest threat to our independent drug buyer comes from Labour itself. …

In 2009 we wrote Health Cheque – the truth we should all know about New Zealand’s public health system. This found that Pharmac was the envy of every health system in the world. The follow up Prescription for Change found that if anything the Pharmac approach – getting the politicians out of decision making and leaving it to the experts – should be expanded across the rest of the health sector.

Instead it is once again under threat from meddling politicians. …

It seems that every three elections Pharmac becomes an issue. Last time around it was the National Party in 2008 arguing for Herceptin to be funded. Late last year Health Minister Jonathan Coleman admitted that Prime Minister John Key had “made a mistake” over his promise to fund Herceptin. Of course back then National were in Opposition and wanted to win an election. This ensured Mr Key was impervious to the uproar over his Herceptin hypocrisy at the time. He was not making a mistake at all, it was pure politicking that led to his call to undermine Pharmac at that time.

Now it’s Andrew Little’s turn. Despite the Helen Clark Government holding the line on Herceptin in 2008, Mr Little is cynical enough to accuse Mr Key of being cycnical and in the same sentence then say that this melanoma drug Keytruda should be funded by Pharmac. He acknowledges that Pharmac is an independent body, but says that sometimes it needs to be overridden. Apparently it’s okay for the pot to call the kettle black.

When the heat comes on in politics, principles go out the window. – we need to all remember that when it comes to assessing the validity of politicians’ utterances.

Both National and Labour have erred here.

The focus by the media has gone on the effectiveness of Keytruda, using some anecdotes of early successes. Pharmac has responded that it is way too early to consider the long term efficacy of Keytruda and they will announce when they think they have enough data to make an informed decision.

The other side of the coin of course is cost. These drugs are hugely expensive, and so to meet Pharmac’s value of money criteria they need to be outstandingly effective. That is the harsh reality that melanoma sufferers – along with several other categories of cancer patients have to face. Pharmac has limited funds (now that is the role of the political process), and its job is to get the most health benefit from that as possible.

We need to bear in mind that Pharmac are negotiating with profit seeking companies here. The more politicians meddle with that, the more the drug companies will milk it. In other words if we keep throwing money at this problem, they will keep putting their prices up.


Mr Little argued that there could be a separate fund for temporarily funding experimental new drugs while we work out if they are effective. This is a ridiculous idea. When in the history of government has it ever been able to stop funding a drug once they start? He also points out that other countries are funding Keytruda. Yes – and a host of other drugs besides, different countries have different funding models.

Keytruda is the first of many such next generation drugs that help people’s immune system to fight cancer – so their own immune system does the heavy lifting in getting rid of the cancer. All these drugs are going to be expensive, and the technology will take a while to be proven. We have to let Pharmac do its job, otherwise we will be having this conversation every few months, politicians will keep running interference in order to covet special interest votes, and our drugs bill will explode.

Unless taxpayers are happy to fund every drug on earth at any price, politicians need to get back in their cages, let Pharmac do its job of allocating the budget. The only political decision should be the size of their budget.

A rare post in which I agree with everything Gareth Morgan says.

Morgan on the Awaroa purchase

February 28th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

If I was Gareth Morgan, all I’d say on the successful crowd funded campaign for the Awaroa land was “Well done”. But  instead he thinks it is a good idea to tell us all how stupid we are.

Morgan blogs:

Congratulations to all those who contributed to the Awaroa crowdfunding campaign – you got your wish. I have no intention to question how people spend their money, but I do think that the price paid was too high – both from a conservation and purely financial perspective.

Umm Morgan is the one who said there is no way it will go for $2 million and the crowd funded appeal will fail as it is worth far more than that. Now he says the price of around $2.8 million was too high.

Public access to this strip of land could very easily have been secured for under $500k and ownership is totally unnecessary to achieve that. To do that they not only needed to get the bidding out of the public arena, but also once the site was purchased the beach could have been covenanted and the land resold.

In other word give Morgan $500,000 to buy the land. He may be right that is a cheaper way to do it, but once the campaign had started, there is no way one could change it mid-way.

But as we all know that purchase was not about rational behaviour, it was all about romance, we fell in love with the pretty picture and after that, the madness of crowds took over. There are two faults with allowing hysteria to win the day.

Hysteria? Really?

I made a rational decision to donate $50. For $50 I could help deliver it into the public estate.

Last time I heard from them they only had about $1m and they needed a hand up given donations were flagging. My response then was to offer a strategem whereby we could stimulate the rate of donations, get the beach for a price below $2m

Umm, no. You explicitly said it would need more than $2 million.

I’ve been very happy to turn down the offers for help to buy Awaroa, and will be looking to spend my money on things that actually improve conservation.

I don’t think anyone expected Gareth to donate, and of course he should decide what he wants to spend his money on. But the backlash he has received he produced himself. He could have quietly gone to the campaign organisers and proposed what he wanted. They could have accepted or rejected it quietly. He decided to publicly blog his offer/demand and now seems bitter the campaign succeeded.

Best Bob Jones letter ever

February 23rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Jones-p1_0 bob-jones2_0


Letter and cartoon copied from NBR.

I know several of the tenants in Solnet House and I suspect would indeed be happy to vacate their offices to allow for the 5,000 metre high statue of Gareth.

I also especially enjoyed the economic impact analysis of the proposal, as it seem more robust than most similar studies, projecting the statue and temple will lead to 20,000 more hotel rooms, 900 more cruise ships and four extra airport runways.

Gareth Morgan on Awaroa Beach

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

Gareth Morgan writes:

Kiwis have generously got behind a campaign to buy 7 hectares of beach and scrub, with the aim to fold it into the Abel Tasman National Park. So far the campaign has raised over $1.3m, attracting over 20,000 donors. Even Stuff has got behind the campaign, no doubt sensing that this foray into campaign journalism could yield them more clicks.

It’s a great campaign and so far 22,457 Kiwis have pledged $1.42 million to purchase the land to donate to the conservation estate.

Over the weekend, Andrew Little has suggested that the public purse could pick up the balance of the fundraising – currently at least $650,000 – given we have no idea what the other bids in the tender are. There is no doubt it is a popular campaign, and fair enough to the donors – after all people can decide to spend their money however they like.  But it doesn’t follow at all that this project is an appropriate way to spend public money. Before any politician commits taxpayer’s money to any project they should think beyond the kudos of the publicity and be sure it is the most beneficial – and hence responsible  – way to spend the next million of other people’s (i.e.; taxpayer’s) money.

It is the norm before any public money is spent for the Treasury to give advice on the value for money that the spend offers. To let politicians to just spray taxpayers’ property around like confetti is a recipe for disaster. While running on their gut political instincts is their natural predisposition, any politician who expects tenure needs to be a bit above that.

I’d be more impressed if Little had pledged his own money to the campaign, instead of demanding taxpayers be forced to fund it. Nothing kills a great community spirit more than politicians trying to muscle into the action and claim credit.

DOC has already said that the land is too expensive at $2m for them to invest. Quite rightly they have done their sums and there are other projects that give infinitely more return to the ecological estate than a piece of sandspit.

We all know DOC has plenty of land in its portfolio and can’t look after the estate it has already. The true conservation dividend it can earn comes from killing stuff – eliminating predators so that our native species can flourish. It does not come from buying more hectares that it can’t protect. Predator free zones are our best investment in conservation.

I agree.

Finally here’s an offer. I will make up the difference between the crowd-funding amount and the tender offer of $2m. I will guarantee that the public have access to the same extent that the current owner has kindly bestowed. But I will go further than that. I will undertake to give the property to DOC once my family has finished enjoying it. But I expect something in return – I want to use the property for my own private benefit meanwhile, just as the current owner does.1

That way we don’t have politicians irresponsibly spending taxpayer funds, there is no risk of public access to this threatened sand-spit being denied, and the beach is guaranteed to end up in public ownership.

I can do this because it’s my money. That’s a big difference from politicians generously promising to spend you money on such folly. What do you say taxpayers – sound like a deal to save you money?

It is a generous offer. However I’m not sure one can combine the public appeal with this offer. People have pledged their donations for a very specific purpose – to donate immediately to the conservation estate. While many donors may be willing to accept Morgan’s offer, there would need to be some mechanism for people who have donated to withdraw if they don’t want to have it done this way.

Two good Gareth Morgan columns

June 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

When we look at our social welfare regime it is full of inequity, so much so that it can be viewed as a tax on poverty. We maintain a mix of targeted benefits, including the dole, invalids, solo parent, Working for Families, and universal entitlement (NZ Superannuation) benefits.

This suggests that on the one hand the point of the welfare in New Zealand is to alleviate poverty and encourage people to make themselves available for paid work – while at the same time enabling one cohort (the baby boomers) to feather our own nest with the most generous of the benefits – with no questions asked.

Proponents of NZ Super insist it’s not a welfare benefit but rather an entitlement in recognition of the elderly’s contribution to the economy. …

How many times have you heard recipients of NZ Super argue that because they’ve paid taxes all their lives they “deserve” the dividend of super, our welfare regime’s highest single benefit? The claim sounds good but it is vacuous.

One way to test the veracity of that claim is to see if the Government has, over the years of tax contribution by the generation now receiving super, built up a cash surplus through budget surpluses or an asset base with all that tax revenue it received. The answer is neither.

I despise this sense of entitlement. Yes you may have paid your taxes for 40 years, but you know what. You also received 40 years of benefits from them, and your benefits were much more than the tax you paid. I know this because you’ve left us the debt.

In a later column Gareth writes:

The challenge facing our younger generations is how to stop my generation plundering the government accounts to an extent never seen before. We hold the votes – who ya gonna call?

One solution might be for a younger generation party to seize the balance of power and then introduce a maximum voting age.

Not a bad idea. I tongue in cheek suggested 61 on Twitter (Gareth is 62).

Why does an older person then get to exercise more influence on a young person’s future well-being than a young person has to influence the (shorter) future of an old person? That seems the wrong way round.

The real worry is as the elderly numbers grow, then they will demand more and more spending on them, at the expense of areas such as education.

19 people to hear Gareth

February 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The views that propelled the National Party close to government a decade ago were “harsh and intolerant,” philanthropist Dr Gareth Morgan told a small audience in Orewa today.

The man who gave those views – Dr Don Brash – sat in the audience to hear his famous 2004 speech described as being a “harsh and intolerant view that is intolerant of anyone who is different”.

“We still have a faction in our midst who see admitting culpability… is giving Maori the upper hand. This section of the community is clearly filled with fear.”

As Treaty of Waitangi celebrations began in the North, the two Pakeha men attempted to solve the problems of the past 175 years in front of small audience of people largely in the same age range. A total of 19 people gathered to hear the pair speak -and almost the same number of media representatives.

I’m not surprised only 19 people turned up. Responding to an 11 year old speech by someone no longer in politics seems rather pointless.

What is not surprising, but sad, is that 19 media turned up to hear a speech by someone who has no special status or knowledge talk on an 11 year old issue to a rotary club. Why do the media think that every utterance of Gareth Morgan is newsworthy?

I’ve spoken to over a dozen rotary clubs, and often have many more people than 19 there. Would two dozen media turn up for my rotary club address? Of course not, but why for Morgan?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is commendable for someone to take an interest in public policy. And there are a few areas where I agree with what Gareth Morgan says, as well as some such as North Korea where I vigorously disagree. But his propensity to declare himself an expert on almost everything, and have media lap up his every utterance is inexplicable to me. Usually people get reported only in an area they have some specialist knowledge of.

Gareth Morgan on why a flat tax is fairer

November 26th, 2014 at 4:22 pm by David Farrar

The video is from Gareth Morgan, but a colleague of his presents it.

A lot I disagree with him on, but not this issue.

Gareth Morgan calls for a Bluegreen Party

September 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

But for me, the most frustrating aspect of the election result is the entrenched inability of the Green Party to grasp that the environmental message is something that appeals to middle-of-the-road New Zealanders, not just Lefties.

Sadly the Green Party’s policies for environmental sustainability have always come with a nasty fishhook – the out-dated edict that social justice can only be achieved by rehashed socialism. This has rendered the Green Party a real melon to mainstream New Zealand – a watermelon to be precise, far too red on the inside for middle New Zealand to stomach. …

The time is overdue for a Bluegreens political party, one that is happy to work with whoever is the senior party in government, and is focussed properly on improving our environment, society and economy together. Without this there is a large swathe of voters who are not represented adequately in Parliament. Can the Green Party assume that role? I doubt it very much, theirs is very much a socialist heritage and they exhibit an ongoing reluctance to get real on the importance of the economy. With their voter support capped at 10% (about the same as the craziest party in parliament, Winston Peter’s conspiracy theorists), the electorate continues to see no hope for the Green Party – the adverse impact on jobs and incomes is unpalatable. …

A Bluegreen party would emphatically express New Zealanders’ preference for clever and clean as the way we want our dollars earned, while leaving National and Labour to fight over how social justice is best promoted – via National’s preference for capacity building through education and training, delivering more flexible employment and wage-setting practices; or via Labour’s penchant for widening and lifting of social assistance, greater progressivity of income tax, widening the tax base on income from capital, and greater protection of labour in the workplace.

That is why today I am calling for a Bluegreen party – a party with a true environmental focus rather than a socialist party in drag. Tomorrow we will look at some of the policies such a party could pursue, policies that without a Bluegreen party are being left off the political agenda completely.

I’d love there to be a Bluegreen party that could constructively work with National to continue to improve our environment and conservation estate. It would be great.

However I should point out such a party has existed in the past. It was called the Progressive Greens and got 0.26% of the votes in 1996. While we have the socialist leaning Green Party, it would be hard to get much oxygen for a Blue Green Party. But if someone can do it, good on them.



Morgan advocates all cats on Wellington to be on leashes

March 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Zealandia will become little more than a “cat food factory” unless something is done about wandering felines, the Wellington City Council has been told.

Hearings began today for submissions into the council’s draft annual plan, with philanthropist and anti-cat campaigner Gareth Morgan among the first to address councillors.

He advocated councils making micro-chipping mandatory for cats to determine ownership, so un-owned cats could be “zipped” and any pets caught wandering could be returned for a fee. There should also be a 24-hour curfew on cats, with them only allowed out on leashes.

Yes, cats only allowed outside on leashes. I can see that happening – not.

Guest Post: Bryant on Morgan and cats

March 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Nick Bryant:

Container loads of parachuting cats – Gareth Morgan’s worst nightmare

The other day in a TV3 news story about Gareth Morgan offering beer to students who front up with the carcasses of dead rats, Mr Morgan said “there’s no evidence whatsoever” for claims that a successful campaign to rid the nation of cats might lead to a plague of rats.  He went on to say that “at most 20 per cent of rats end up as a victim of cats.”

I don’t know if that final point is true or not – though my guess is it’s light.  But he’s quite wrong that there’s no evidence that wiping out cats doesn’t result in a plague of rats.  He probably reckoned he was on safe ground making the claim, given his hoped for decimation of domestic and wild cats could seldom have occurred.  After all, how would you wipe them all out?

Well, it has occurred, in the Bario Highlands in Sarawak, Borneo, and sure enough, the result was a plague of rats – and other nasty creepy crawlies.

I’d read about this in the biography of Tom Harrison, an early anthropologist and the founding father of Mass Observation.  Quite the fearless pioneer, Mr Harrisson did ground-breaking anthropological research amongst cannibal tribes in the South Pacific, and parachuted into wartime Borneo to lead headhunting guerrilla fighters against the Japanese.

David Attenborough describes him as “arrogant, choleric, swashbuckling, often drunk and nearly always deliberately outrageous.  In spite of these contradictions, he became a key figure in every enterprise he undertook.”

The title of his biography is The Most Offending Soul Alive.  I suspect Mr Morgan would have liked him.

What follows is a remarkable account of what happens when you disrupt the ecological balance as Mr Morgan has campaigned to do.  What’s clear is that if Mr Morgan gets backing to kill the nation’s cats, we’re going to have to deal with the rats at exactly the same time.  And even then, what impact that will have on the population of other animals, good or bad from a human perspective, is quite another matter.

 From pages 328 and 329, Tom Harrisson and his Remarkable Life – The Most Offending Soul Alive, 1997 Aurum Press …

 Thanks to an antimalaria program by the World Health Organization, there were no almost no mosquitoes or cockroaches.  But, as Tom discovered, there were no also no cats; they had been poisoned by eating the spray-killed cockroaches.  With the cats gone, there was an explosion in the number of rats.  Without cockroaches, bed bugs, which had never been a serious problem before, proliferated.  One conclusion Tom drew was that although “the benefits of malarial spraying so far are tremendous … there are anxious nights ahead” from the possible danger of typhus, cholera, and plague from the rats, bed bugs and other parasites.  Tom’s moral was “All who wish the ulu well should daily repeat this motto: Do good carefully.”

Meanwhile, he came up with his own method for righting the ecological imbalance.  In a wireless message of November 23, 1959, to Borneo Airways, Tom asked the pilot to “bring some hungry cats to tackle the plague of rats.  I guarantee immediate payment [for] all.”  The plea went out to all Kuching.  Ong Kee Hui and many other old friends contributed kittens for Bario.  Barbara had the thankless job of caring for them until a plane could fly to Bario and deliver the cats and, she hoped, collect Tom.  According to an account that Tom published later, “in all the coast towns … the WHO opened special centres” for donations of “surplus cats.”

The project hit a snag when no plane could be made available that could land on Bario’s short strip, but, as Tom wrote, with the help of the RAF from Singapore “special containers were devised” in which to pack the cats.  One clear day, an RAF aircraft from Singapore collected the cats in Kuching and flew inland.  Then, “into the interior uplands suddenly cascaded parachute-borne containers bulging with cats of every degree of age and race.”  This may have solved the problem of the rats, if not the bed bugs.

I love it – parachuting cats in to kill the rats!

Why dictators shouldn’t drink!

December 27th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un was reportedly “very drunk” when he gave the order that a pair of aides close to his executed uncle should be killed.

The North Korean dictator ordered troops to round-up hundreds of relatives and associates of Jang Song-Thaek, who was shot On December 12 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

The leader ordered the executions after they did not hand business to the military – a move which left the dictator ‘upset’, according to reports in the Japanese media.

The aides have been named as Ri Ryong-ha, the first deputy director of the administrative department of the state’s ruling Workers’ Party, and Jang Su-gil, a deputy director in the same department.

The pair are believed to have joined the grim toll of Jang’s aides – eight are believed to have been executed since the purge, Yomiuri Shimbun added.

I recall Gareth Morgan saying:

“The country is beautiful,” Gareth said. “The country is just fantastic, the farms are perfect. They have no pollution.”

“Frankly I don’t see the DPRK regime through any different lens than I see China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia – even Singapore at times – authoritarian regimes all of them,” he added.

Maybe Gareth and Dennis Rodman could go into business together, based on their shared appreciation of the beauty of fantastic North Korea?

Gareth Morgan offers to take over NZ Football

November 25th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

In my view key to progress of elite football in New Zealand is to integrate the sport from amateur elite to the sole professional team and on to the national team. This in essence is what Australia’s FFA has achieved and the game in that country has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. By comparison New Zealand has languished. To achieve this requires a lift in expertise both in the governance of the code and coaching expertise right down to the most junior elite levels.

To this end I’m prepared to invest $5m in NZ Football so long as the government invests twice that amount, with the focus being on achieving the integration and thereby ensuring our young players develop within an environment that reflects the type of football our most senior teams practice and we produce coaches steeped in that methodology. We need to jettison the almost inbred tendency from grassroots level to play kick-and-chase football that comes about because of our inability to develop players that are good enough at tap-and-go, possession-based football. This is the cultural change we are undertaking at The Phoenix and was behind the Mexican sarcasm about converted rugby players.

A requirement of my proposal is that the current leadership of NZ Football resign and a new board (still a blend of people from within the game and others who know how to build businesses and execute strategy) be appointed with this mandate clearly defined.

I presume Gareth thinks that the successful record of strategy and governance he has brought to the Phoenix should be extended to the NZ Football team.

In the last season the Phoenix played 27 games. They won seven, drew six and lost 14. This placed them 10th out of 10.

I of course expect the Government to hand over ten million dollars tomorrow to implement Gareth’s plan.

Greens keen on Gareth’s fat tax

September 30th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Not content with heralding the economic and agricultural miracle of North Korea, Gareth Morgan is also promoting their healthy food, as Eric Crampton reports from an offline Press article:

He’s barely off the plane after a 40,000-kilometre ride across Russia and Korea. Controversy trailed after him like his billowing motorcycle exhaust, with critics accusing him of becoming a propaganda pawn on his six-year-in-the-planning tour of North Korea.

But he’s still gushing about the experience, and how he lost 6kg in the absence of the processed food – “crap basically” – that dominates the New Zealand food supply. That and the fact there was less food in general, and the wine was terrible. 

There it’s all whole food, that fills you up, takes longer to eat and delivers more nutrients for less energy.

And there, in a nutshell, is the thrust of Morgan’s new book, Appetite for Destruction, co-written with offsider Geoff Simmons. Fake food, he says, is killing us.

Actually it was in North Korea where millions died of starvation.

I’m staggered media still report Gareth as an expert on everything. Is there any topic at all on which he is not an expert?

But he has allies. The Greens like his idea of a fat tax.

The Greens would support an investigation into how a ‘fat tax’ on processed food in New Zealand’s supermarkets could be imposed.

But the government has dismissed the idea, saying it would add to the burden of families in tight economic times.

Why stop at a fax tax. I await them to announce subsidies for vegetables and a ban on food they disapprove of.

Kevin Hague, Green Party spokesperson on health and wellbeing, said he would be interested to read Mr Morgan’s new book as it sounded similar to party policy on combating obesity.

Clear front labelling of unhealthy ingredients and a traffic-light type classification system is a “no-brainer”, said Mr Hague.

We already have extensive labelling. A traffic-light system sounds appealing due to its simplicity, but the problem is it is simple. Milk gets a red light and diet coke and popcorn a green light.

An article explains that  flour, bread and pasts get green lights despite high carbs and lot nutrition. Also:

A bag of sugar, with no nutritional value whatsoever, would get green lights for fat, saturated fat and salt – an obvious red light for sugar. Sweets generally would get green lights for fat, saturated fat and salt. They would get red lights for sugar only – appearing healthier overall than olives and sunflower seeds on first sight.

Back to the fax tax:

In 2011, Denmark introduced a tax on butter, meat, cheese, pizza, oil and processed food that contained more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat, but withdrew it a year later due to difficulty in implementing it.

There was no difficultly in implementing it. It failed. It did not change eating habits, it destroyed jobs and led to a boon in purchasing from other countries. It did however bring in extra money for the Danish Government.

You never hear proponents of these extra taxes say that they’ll use them to reduce other tax rates such as income tax. No – it is all about  revenue grab.

However, the Greens would support an investigation into how to design an effective processed food tax.

I bet they would.

“Spending on prevention of obesity should be the absolute priority for any health minister.”

The absolute priority? Not cancer treatments? Not rheumatic fever? Not maternity services? Not life saving surgery? Not quality A&E Departments. The absolute priority for the Health Minister should be telling people what food choices they should make?

That says volumes about the world-view of the Greens.


A different view on North Korea

September 21st, 2013 at 7:49 am by David Farrar

Retired Australian Supreme Court Justice Michael Kirby chairs a commission set up by the UN Human Rights Council about North Korea.

Now as readers will know Justice Gareth Morgan recently toured North Korea, and his findings included:

  • it was fantastic
  • The country is beautiful
  • The country is just fantastic, the farms are perfect. They have no pollution.
  • huge pride in their personal space
  • those they witnessed were not malnourished or lacking in necessities in clothing or shelter
  • poor, yes, but wonderfully engaged, well-dressed, fully employed and well informed
  • what North Korea has achieved economically despite its lack of access to international money has been magnificent.

So how does that contrast with what Justice Kirby has been hearing from actual North Koreans who escaped:

“The commission listened to political prison camp survivors who suffered through childhoods of starvation and unspeakable atrocities, as a product of the ‘guilt by association’ practice, punishing other generations for a family member’s perceived political views or affiliation,” he said.

Among the stark testimony was that from a man imprisoned from birth, who lived on rodents, lizards and grass, and witnessed the public execution of his mother and brother; from a woman who saw a fellow inmate forced to drown her own baby in a bucket; and from a man obliged to burn the corpses of starved inmates and scatter their ashes on fields.

Mr Kirby also spotlighted torture and sexual violence, detention for watching foreign soap operas or having religious beliefs, kidnapping citizens of South Korea and Japan, massive malnutrition, and the total control by the regime’s propaganda apparatus.

Just fantastic!


Blunt on Gareth Morgan

September 8th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar



Blunt on Gareth Morgan’s praise of North Korea’s economy.

More from Gareth on how wonderful North Korea is

September 5th, 2013 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

NK News reports:

From there, the Morgans got the chance to appreciate the scenic and personal beauty of the international pariah at harvest season.

“There could be problems in the country where we didn’t see,” Joanne said. “So we can’t comment on anything we didn’t see. But what we saw, it was fantastic.“

“The country is beautiful,” Garth said. “The country is just fantastic, the farms are perfect. They have no pollution.”

It’s a paradise! Perfect farms. No pollution!

“You look at their personal gardens, and they have got sunflowers, pumpkin growing over their roof, they (have) tobacco, huge pride in their personal space as well as their communal farms,” Joanne said. While the standard of living is clearly lower than in the South, they said it probably is not much different from South Korea a couple of decades ago, and that those they witnessed were not malnourished or lacking in necessities in clothing or shelter.

Never occured to them, that of course they don’t get to see the areas where three million people starved to death.

“Frankly I don’t see the DPRK regime through any different lens than I see China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia – even Singapore at times – authoritarian regimes all of them,” he added.

Yes, North Korea is just like Singapore. Absolutely.

Gareth Morgan and North Korea

September 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

Having passed successfully through the demilitarised zone Gareth explains to the world’s media why the West’s “beat-up” view of North Korea is completely wrong.

Gareth and Jo and their group were free to set their own route through North Korea, witnessing at first hand the lives of ordinary North Koreans.

What they found surprised them – a people who were poor, yes, but wonderfully engaged, well-dressed, fully employed and well informed. In Gareth’s view, what North Korea has achieved economically despite its lack of access to international money has been magnificent.


Surely this must mark the point at which the media stop taking Mr Morgan as a serious commentator on, well anything.

North Korea used to have the same level of wealth as South Korea. Their economic achievements are not magnificent, but poverty of around US$1,800 per capita. And let us not even talk about the three million who died of starvation in this magnificent economy.

Liberty Scott points out:

So the West needs to “rethink” North Korea now, says Gareth.  It wasn’t just a motorcycle trip. His head has gone soft and he has taken in all the lies and thinks they are awfully nice folk.
The thing is, the guides are.  The people you see are nice, as they are privileged members of the elite painstakingly trying to make sure their country is seen in a good light.  
You don’t need to try to demonise north Korea.  He claims it isn’t a great big prison camp, but who gets to leave Gareth? Who gets passports?  What about the domestic passport system that ensures no one can leave their village or town unless they belong the elite? 
He talks of how everything is tidy and clean and everyone has a job. The Potemkin world he got to see. Escorted the whole way, he claims everything he saw was real, and told was real. 
Scott draws an analogy:
Imagine if he had travelled through Pol Pot’s Cambodia and did this, or Nazi Germany in 1938 talking about how misunderstood the proud German people were and they only want more living space and to be reunified with Germans in Czechoslovakia, and it isn’t a prison camp, the stories about the Jews are lies, demonising them.
Well Gareth – you kind of did that.
Matt Nolan writes:
Praising the economic policies of North Korea, the same North Korea that through central planning and mismanagement had starved a large number of its people throughout the 1990s, the same North Korea with an epidemic of meth addiction, the same North Korea that is 163rd on GDP per capita (5.9% of NZ levels), and the same North Korea that openly and massively restricts individual freedoms (disrespecting the heterogeneity of individuals) and constantly threatens war with the South.
And Eric Crampton weighs in:
Even if Morgan was away from his handlers, everyone is a handler. That’s the point of a totalitarian regime. Any disclosure can get you and your family sent to a concentration camp because somebody else will have purchased an indulgence by dobbing you in. And the safest course is making yourself believe the things you have to say.Compare Gareth Morgan’s visit with a couple other recent Western visits. Here’s Neil Woodburn’s travelogue. Here’s what Curtis Melvin did while visiting North Korea, and subsequently. Melvin’s mapping project would let Gareth Morgan check to see which prison camps he missed along his tour.

As I said at the beginning, this just removes what remaining credibility he had.

Hat Tip: Not PC



Saint Gareth to the rescue again

August 24th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With the furore over his cat campaign fading from memory, Gareth Morgan is about to try telling us what we should be eating.

Dr Morgan’s past activities have included confirming the cause of climate change, deciding which fish to catch and eat, proposing solutions for the country’s welfare and tax policies, and voyaging to the Antarctic to raise awareness about issues in the far south.

At the start of this year, he strode purposefully into his attack on the country’s cats, and will soon try to sort out the nation’s eating habits.

Where would we be without Gareth to solve all our big issues for us. Is there any issue at all he isn’t an expert on?

According to New Zealand Doctor, Dr Morgan and Mr Simmons are “set to challenge the food production, processing and marketing industries as well as health professionals, policymakers and the Government”.

The book will urge a tax on foods that don’t reach two stars for health and quality in a nutrition-profiling system to be agreed by health officials, industry and food standards authorities.

How about a tax on books that don’t meet quality standards?

Denmark of course led the world with a tax on food, as Gareth proposes. The tax lasted around a year before being scrapped as a miserable failure which failed to change any eating habits, encouraged cross-border trading, endangered jobs and was a bureaucratic nightmare for producers and retailers. I expect that means it will soon become policy of Labour or Greens in NZ!

UMR on the cats poll

March 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gavin White from UMR blogs:

Some of you may have seen some of our research commented on in the media earlier in the week. The research has been interpreted as supporting Gareth Morgan’s campaign on cats, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as clear cut as that. 

In other words, don’t believe the spin of a campaign that selectively quoted the results.

The media reports focussed on one statistic: the fact that 54% of New Zealanders supported some form of controls that would reduce the future population of cats, once told that an Otago University study estimates 1.12 million native birds are killed by domestic cats each year in New Zealand. The question cannot, however, be treated in isolation: the other questions in the survey make clear that the sorts of controls people are actually prepared to have are actually pretty mild.

So what were the full results.

  • 62% believe that all cats should be neutered or spayed.
  • 57% think that cats should be banned from areas near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks
  • 53% believe that all cats should be registered and microchipped
  • 42% consider that all cats should wear bells
  • Just 12% believe that cat owners should not replace their cats when they die
  • Only 7% think that cats should be kept indoors at all times of the day.

This reflects I think the common sense approach of New Zealanders. Only 7% agree with the more extreme proposals from Morgan, but a bit over half agree with some of the more moderate stuff.

Gavin also points out:

In the question on banning cats from near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks, I suspect that many people would have used a reasonably narrow definition of the word ‘near’ (e.g. within a few streets of the park boundary).  It would be stretching the case to say that the poll supports banning cats from whole suburbs or towns (like Karori, which is adjacent to the Zealandia wildlife reserve, or Ohakune, which is near the boundary of Tongariro National Park).

A very good point also. It’s good to have pollsters commenting on their own research publicly – they are often the one best placed to know what limits there are in interpreting what it means.

Views on cat measures

March 6th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Backhouse at the Herald reports:

The philanthropist’s Cats To Go website was initially met with outrage from cat lovers, but responses to questions in UMR Research’s monthly online survey show the public may be coming around to his views.

Not really. The survey showed that the moderate proposals have support – as they should. But there is total rejection for his more extreme proposals.

The survey of about 1000 people found more than half supported neutering all cats, registering and microchipping all cats, and banning cats from areas near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks.

This is not surprising. And if Morgan had campaigned on those issues solely, then I’d say he would have got a far better reception.

But two of the measures Dr Morgan advocates were met with far less support, with only 12 per cent agreeing cat owners should not replace them when they die and 7 per cent agreeing cats should be kept indoors at all times.

And these measures were at the core of his campaign. His website is called Cats To Go – not Cats To Be Registered.  The top infographic on his site says “Make this cat your last”.

Far from endorsing his views, this poll is a total rejection of his extremism.

More from the buffoon

February 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Shane Cowlishaw at Stuff reports:

Gareth Morgan has shown his claws in a public catfight with an SPCA board member.

The philanthropist and economist held a public meeting in the Wellington suburb if Karori last night, where he put his case for creating the first “confined cat” suburb, to protect native birds in the Zealandia sanctuary.

As part of his presentation, he produced a “Wanted” poster naming Wellington SPCA board members, accusing them of being ill-equipped to deal with the cat catastrophe.

But one of the wanted men was in the audience, and took issue with Dr Morgan.

Emanuel Kalafatelis said he had been prepared to listen until things got personal. He pleaded: “For God’s sake, let’s not jump into this. Let’s at least get all the facts. Let’s get New Zealand-based facts. Not global facts.”

Dr Morgan responded: “I’m not going to support any organisation which in effect is attacking New Zealand’s wildlife . . . these people have no ethical compass.

Pathetic and puerile. Also a degree of bullying.

He stressed he was not campaigning for the eradication of all cats, but simply restrictions on where they could roam.

“This is not an assault on indoor cats. I don’t care how many confined cats you have – what I care about is where they wander.”

But that is not true. His website is called “Cats to Go“. It has a section on how nice NZ would be with no cats at all. He advocates no one has a cat at all, rather than just keep them inside.

There is room to debate the SPCA policy on cat colonies. There is also room to have an education campaign on keeping cats indoor, putting a bell on them etc. A debate on those issues would be good.

But you can’t both have a sober sensible debate on that, and also be the hysterical person launching websites calling for all cats to go, and personally vilifying SPCA board members.

You can choose the option that gets lots of publicity for yourself, and achieves nothing but pisses people off. Or you can choose the harder option of trying to have a sensible sober debate on responsible cat ownership. It is a shame Morgan has chosen the former and goes for headlines over effectiveness.


January 29th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

No this isn’t a post on Graham Capill. It is back on the issue of cats. A reader e-mailed to say:

If Gareth Morgan had done anything sensible, like say putting “removing apex predators” in, he would have found that it is well understood that removing a species such as cats (apex predator) from an ecosystem causes an explosion of smaller predators (meso predators).   In NZ that would be all the Mustelidae (Weasals, Stoats, Ferrets) and Rats.  It would also lead to an explosion in the numbers of mice who compete for food and possibly an increase in Hedgehogs (who also predate our birds).   Here’s an example of what he might have found   He could also have talked to some actual NZ ecologists, but hey.

Sci Blogs have had some good balanced posts on this also.

The expert on everything

January 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Adam Dudding at the SST profiles Gareth Morgan:

Setting aside the unprovoked Yank-baiting, let’s have a quick recap of the people to whom Morgan has recently offered free, potentially unwelcome, advice.

Cat-owners, obviously, and he embellished his position by telling The Atlantic magazine: “The most oft-heard and erroneous utterance we get here from cat owners is, ‘Oh but my pussy only kills rats and mice, he’d never harm a native bird.’ As you can see this denial verges on explicit stupidity.”

He told Wellington’s Phoenix football team (which he part-owns) it needed to start playing a more “attractive” attacking game (the team has since performed even worse than usual). Fans who disagree are “pathetic” and “don’t know much about the game anyway”, he told Radio Sport.

Last year he told the Greens they don’t understand economics, urged farmers to abandoned “environmental retards” Federated Farmers, and suggested the government totally restructure the tax and welfare systems.

He’s co-authored books setting the record straight on climate change (it’s happening), public health (it needs reform), the world’s fisheries (they’re running out), and the finance industry (it’s ropey). When his investment company, GMI, launched its own KiwiSaver fund in 2007, part of his pitch was that all the other providers were doing it wrong. When challenged last year about the fund’s underwhelming performance, he said investors and the financial media were ignorant.

Taking an interest in the world is one thing, but the sheer breadth of Morgan’s claimed areas of wisdom, and the fact that his personal wealth allows him the time to run around sharing it, have seen him become arguably New Zealand’s biggest know-all.

Everyone is ignorant and pathetic except Gareth it seems.

Naturally, he claims to know what he’s up to.

Apparently, behind the provocations and the droopy moustache lies the coolly calculating brain of a trained economist who still believes in the miracle of the market and the rationality of people – just so long as they’re well-informed (which isn’t to say he’s a fellow-traveller with the free-market fanatics of the ACT party, whom he considers “mad” and “disgusting”).

Questioning the status quo “is just a natural effect of being trained as an economist. You tend to be looking at the public good.”

His methods, as irritating as they may be, are simply about efficiently disseminating high-quality data. “You basically scatter the chooks and then you say, ‘Calm down. I’ve got your attention. Now look at the evidence.’ “

If only that was the case. But in reality his cat jihad is the exact opposite of what you’d expect from even a primary school economist. The most basic thing in economics is you look at both benefits and costs. Morgan has just done a rant about the cost of cats, and ignore any benefits. That isn’t high quality data. That is low quality polemics.

Eric Crampton does what Morgan didn’t, and applies economics to the cat issue. Eric also linked to a website showing with great humour how lethal cats are. Far far more effective than what Gareth Morgan did.

Also Claire Browning at Pundit exposes some hypocrisy:

Gareth’s speech to our 2012 conference was a doozy. A cautionary tale of the “green extreme”, on how “tub-thumping activism” was giving conservation a bad name, he rounded off by telling a 14 year old girl (a guest of ours, who stood up and bravely, passionately challenged him in front of a room of 300 people) that her question was “pathetic” – and somewhere in the middle of it all, offered this:

“2. … polarization of views on conservation – if you’re pro-conservation you’re anti economic growth. This needlessly alienates huge numbers of people from conservation that should be our constituency.

“Considered conservationists need to have the courage now to disown publicly this behavior,” he said, and ensure that those responsible for it were marginalised.

Shouldn’t you at least practice what you preach? Browning also points out:

Gareth’s playing politics. He wants something moderate, if we’re lucky; he’s flying a kite for something extreme.

For better or worse, he’s started a predator-free New Zealand debate. Yay! I wish it were PFNZ we were debating, not cats! I agree with him: “some of the debate has been pretty facile” – chiefly, the information on his own website.

But there’s no use (my friend and former colleague Nicola) whiningabout how the results of this are “frankly disturbing” – rambling about how some of your best friends are cats, etc. He threw a grenade, and lit a fire – he is the grenade, his own wee self-contained incendiary device. Not much cause for complaint about the results, and Gareth sure isn’t complaining.

What we’ve also got is a sort of low-grade civil war in which – redubbing his own words to our conference – “if you’re pro-bird, you’re anti-cat”. And what’s really disturbing here is the lack of policy smarts about it.

Having found your problem, is the response well-targeted? Is it a proportional response? Benefits vs costs?

From the people who weren’t Gareth, we learned what those of us with cats already know: there’s no basis to vilify all cats. Not all house cats are hunters (I’m not offering this on my own observation, although this is also true). Even among those who are, overall, imperfectly, it probably works out:

And Claire provides lots of links.

Having your son earn you lots of money doesn’t make you an expert on everything.

This is not to say I think Morgan is of no value. I’m reading his book on Antarctica at the moment, and it is pretty good. I’ll do a review when I have finished. But any value from his energy and contributions is fast disappearing as he becomes just an angry ranting rich guy. Morgan should practice what he preaches and actually provide us with high quality data.

Richard Boock reviews his performance as a team owner:

If a presentation was to be made on “what not to do as a pro sports team owner”, Morgan’s example this season would be front and centre. It was funny enough when he started rebuking the local media for not being sufficiently sycophantic in their reporting, and threatening to take games away from Wellington unless more people attended. As a Twitter pal mentioned, it was like he was channelling Basil Fawlty, berating folk for daring to complain.

Still, Morgan’s most recent strategy, attacking his own fans’ views as “pathetic”, and “unsophisticated”, and suggesting many didn’t understand the game, was staggeringly funny even by his standards. Forget the pot and the kettle for a moment, the idea he thinks anything positive will come from slagging off his own customer base is standup comedy material. What will he do next to fans? Threaten to lock them out?

One could almost make a comedy show from it indeed!

More on cats

January 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

As the story on Gareth Morgan’s call for a cat genocide is staying topical, I thought I’d elaborate on why it is such a near sociopathically bad idea.

First of all, I think most would agree that yes cats eats birds. And as far as I know you can not train a cat to only eat exotic birds and leave native birds alone, so cats eat native birds and it is bad for biodiversity if a species is wiped out.

I would certainly dispute that non-feral cats alone have killed any species, as do experts.. As almost all cats live in urban areas, any impact from domestic cats is geographically limited. It is estimated 25 million birds are killed annually by predators (possums, stoats, cats feral and domestic). It is also estimated that 1 million birds are killed annually by power lines, so maybe someone will advocate we get rid of electricity to help native birds. And wind turbines are a massive killer of birds overseas – around 1,000 per wind turbine.

Now most would agree it is beneficial to not have native birds killed. But do we as a country ban wind turbines and ban electricity lines, to protect birds? Of course we don’t. Why? Because the benefits from wind turbines and power lines exceed the detrimental impact on birds.

So the question is do we get benefits from domesticated cats? Now I absolutely accept not everyone likes cats. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether people should be allowed to have a cat as a pet because they do want one.

And this is where I think Gareth Morgan and others who advocate NZ should rid itself of domestic cats have something wrong with them, and are lacking in some basic human empathy. Cats can and do play a huge role in quality of life for many New Zealanders, especially more elderly New Zealanders. The companionship they get from cats is incredibly powerful, and the bond a human can have with a pet can be incredibly strong. If you are a elderly New Zealander living by yourself (and a dog is not an option as they need exercise), a cat can make a huge difference to quality of life. And to be honest anyone who thinks a few birds are more important than the happiness so many people get from their cats, has a warped sense of priorities.

Cat owners should of course be responsible. Stick a bell on your cat and get it spayed. But  advocating that NZ become the only country (except maybe Antarctica  in the world that has no cats is just bonkers, and anyone who seriously advocates it has what I regard as very warped values.  Nothing wrong with not liking cats yourself, but something very wrong in advocating no one should have a cat.