Greens wrong on Ministerial funding

November 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins reports:

The Government has been told to boost political party coffers with more taxpayer funding and it probably should. But if MPs want the extra money, they are going to have to swallow some very big dead rats first.

The first is agreeing to come under the Official Information Act, just like the rest of the public service.

This would then allow people to OIA e-mails between opposition MPs, and between opposition MPs and their staff.

I think the OIA should apply to Parliament for financial information, but not communications.

Anyway to the main point:

The ARC is a panel convened once every parliamentary term to review funding for Parliament and MPs. It usually comprises former MPs (on this occasion John Carter and Rick Barker, who have respect across the political spectrum) and an accountant or similar to lend it the air of independence. Its job is to poke into every aspect of parliamentary and state funding for political parties represented in Parliament and decide whether more money, or any other tweaks, are required.

These areas include the costs of running electorate offices, staff pay rates, support staff funding and political party funding, which largely comprises the leader’s budget. Controversially,the leader’s budget is one area where the ARC proposes a boost in funding – controversially because “leader’s budget” is really just a euphemism for slush fund. Millions of dollars in taxpayer funding disappear into these slush funds every year with little public accountability.

The ARC points out that these budgets have not been increased since 2007, so have fallen in real terms thanks to inflation.

Overall funding has not increased – as is the case for most of the public sector.  That is how we have managed to get out of deficit.

But a breakdown of how the funding is divvied up between the parties shines a light on the problem .

National gets by far the biggest cut, receiving $3.7 million in leader’s budget funding. Labour trails by $800,000 on $2.9 million. Parliament’s third biggest party, the Greens, get $1.3 million.

The reason for the disparity is obvious – National got easily the most seats at the last election so qualifies for the most funding as it’s on a per-MP basis.

Note you only get leaders office funding for MPs who are not Ministers. Otherwise National would get twice as much as Labour.

But that’s not where the problem is, according to the Greens and ARC.

As the governing party, National also has a large number of staffers funded by Ministerial Services. And that budget has not been squeezed to anywhere near the same extent.

Figures supplied to the Greens by the Parliamentary Library show support funding for ministerial offices has risen from $26 million in 2007/2008 to about $38 million now.

This is incorrect. Totally incorrect. In fact funding for ministerial office has fallen.

The 2007 Budget allocated $26.72 million for Support Services to Ministers (M47). It came in slightly over that at $26.84 million.

In the 2008 Budget, $27.28 million was allocated. So that was Labour’s last Budget.

Now we turn to the 2015 Budget. And here is where the Greens have made a mistake. There is a total called Services supporting the Executive which is $38.22 million but that includes VIP Transport and Official Visits. The actual comparable line item is Support Services to Ministers and in 2015 is $25.84 million. If you look back at the 2007 and 2008 estimates, you will see VIP Transport and Official Visits are separate items there also. The Greens have compared a sub-total to a line item. This is a basic fail.

So in fact National’s latest Budget has support services for Ministers $1.44 million less than in Labour’s last budget – a 5.3% reduction in nominal terms. I think most taxpayers would be pleased that they have reduced their own support budget by 5.3%.

So the Greens has misled the media with their press release. I look forward to their apology.

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Guest Post: Don’t Save Me a Seat

October 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Katy Hendrikse:

Last week the Green Party decided, in their infinite wisdom, that because I am a woman I couldn’t possibly be capable of earning a place in cabinet on my own merit. I feel so lucky to have a big strong man like James Shaw there to look out for me, and make sure that we can point to a Greens Cabinet and say we are doing well as a country because half of them are women.

Controversially, I prefer that we can point to our Cabinet and be proud of the hard-working, qualified men and women who are working to make New Zealand the best it can be. That the Ministers running our country are chosen on their merits and experience, rather than whether or not they have a penis. That we judge them based on the results they produce rather than their gender.

To have a man say that we need a gender quota to achieve an even gender split in Cabinet is condescending and insulting. I am confident that we will have increasing numbers of female Ministers, but it won’t be because we have been gifted these spots by men. It will be because we have plenty of driven, qualified women in Parliament, and beyond, who are perfectly capable of beating a man for a position.

Under our human rights law, I have the same protection as every other person. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, amongst other things. I do not need my hand held, to get to achieve the same things as a man achieves. Gender quotas only encourage the outdated perception that women are less valuable employees than men. If we want to reduce the gender pay gap, encouraging this perception is not the way to do it. The women we have in Cabinet today have proven that they are every bit as hard-working and skilled as the men in Cabinet – and they didn’t need a gender quota to get there.

James Shaw, I don’t need your condescension or your hand-outs. I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man to save me a spot in Cabinet, or anywhere else – I’d rather earn it for myself.

Katy is the Vice-President of NZ Young Nationals.


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Greens set Cabinet gender quota

October 16th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party will ensure half of its Cabinet ministers are women if it becomes part of the next Government, co-leader James Shaw says.

What if they have an odd number of Ministers? Do they cut one in half?

And what if they have more qualified women than men? Are they saying men will be promoted into Cabinet ahead of women?

Their current rankings are:

  1. Metiria Turei
  2. James Shaw
  3. Kevin Hague
  4. Eugenie Sage
  5. Gareth Hughes
  6. Catherine Delahunty
  7. Kennedy Graham
  8. Julie-Anne Genter
  9. Mojo Mathers
  10. Jan Logie
  11. David Clendon
  12. Denise Roche
  13. Steffan Browning
  14. Marama Davidson

So if the Greens got eight positions, then Mojo Mathers and Jan Logie would have to miss out to Kennedy Graham, even if they were seen as stronger contenders. So quotas can work against those they seek to help.

He moved to head off criticism of the policy on the grounds that hiring should be based on merit, calling it “a virtuous aspiration that usually causes more harm than good” and led to men being chosen over equally or more talented women.

Actually female MPs in National are more likely to make Cabinet than National ones. Only 27% of the caucus are female yet 30% of the cabinet.

Now you could argue for a female quota for caucus, but if Labour had properly implemented its gender quota last election, then Andrew Little would have got a lower list place and not even be an MP, let alone leader. Quotas remove flexibility.

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At least James can ride a bike!

September 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

In NZ there was a bit of excitement over the fact Green co-leader James Shaw can’t drive a car. But in Canada there has been a much bigger scandal – their Green leader can’t ride a bike!

Yahoo News reports:

The revelation that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, a green transportation supporter, cannot ride a bicycle is the talk of Quebec media today.

“I don’t ride a bike,” May told Dandyhorse, a Canadian magazine for cyclists, in August. “I grew up on rural roads, where my mother decided it would be unsafe to ride bicycles.” 

The admission is seen as an embarrassing one by some in the media. Le Journal de Montreal and La Presse both ran articles quoting May saying it was a “catastrophe” for a leader of the country’s environmentally focused federal party to be a non-cyclist.

Maybe Green parties should include it as a requirement in their membership applications :-)



Norman leaves Parliament for Greenpeace

September 11th, 2015 at 1:20 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman will resign as an MP and from the Green Party to head Greenpeace New Zealand.

Dr Norman, who stepped down from the co-leader position in May and was replaced by James Shaw, will leave Parliament next month.

In November he will become Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director, taking over from Bunny McDiarmid, who has been in the role for 10 years.

It is no surprise Dr Norman is leaving Parliament, following on his resignation as co-leader.

The Greenpeace jobs looks ideal for him. The hours will be more family friendly than Parliament, but will allow him to continue his advocacy in an area he feels strongly on. I wish him well.

Dr Norman said he would also resign from the Green Party.

“Greenpeace’s staunch position on political independence is one I have always had huge respect for and it is for this reason that I will [resign].

I think that is being silly. Just because he resigns as a member doesn’t mean people won’t see him as the former co-leader. What will count for Greenpeace’s reputation is their actions. Have they ever disagreed with the Green Party on an issue for example? As a contrast I’m on the board of the Taxpayers Union that has criticised the National Government on scores and scores of issues. Independence is about substance, not just form.

Dr Norman’s resignation will see Marama Davidson become the party’s 14th MP.

Ms Davidson, from Manurewa, Auckland, is a political commentator who has worked at the Human Rights Commission for ten years.

Marama is a very popular candidate within the Greens, and from what I have seen she should be an effective MP.


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The Greens climate plan

September 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party have released their policy on how they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40% below 1990 levels.

This Green Party discussion paper shows that we can reduce New Zealand’s net annual greenhouse gas emissions to no more than 40 Mt of CO2-equivalent by 2030, even if there was a five year transition period for the farming industry. This is an emissions reduction of at least 40 percent below the 1990 gross emissions level and would put us broadly on a straight-line path to being climate neutral (zero net emissions) by 2050.

Now in 2013, our greenhouse gas emissions were 81 Mt, so this is a 50% reduction in just 15 years. I’m not sure there is a country on Earth that has managed that. But let’s look at the details of how they say it can be done.


Firstly they seem to be comparing apples and oranges, which is very misleading. They are talking a net 40 Mt in 2030 compared to a gross 67 in 1990. The net in 1990 was 38,000 according to our official inventory.

So how do they say they will reduce 28 Mt. The break down is:

  • Agriculture 2.2
  • Industrial Processes 2.1
  • Other fossil fuel burning 3.7
  • Waste 3.6
  • Transport 7.7
  • Electricity 4.8
  • Forestry 4.0

Let’s look at each in turn:

  • Agriculture – 2.2 reduction out of 31.7 – 7% decrease
  • Industrial Processes – 2.1 reduction out of 5.1 – 41% decrease
  • Waste – 3.6 out of 5.1 – 71% decrease
  • Electricity – 4.8 out of 5.0 – 96% decrease
  • Transport – 7.7 out of 12.7 – 61% decrease
  • Forestry – 4.0 more on top of 26.7 – 15% increase

I don’t think we can or ever should be 100% renewable as that threatens security of supply. We’re 80% renewable and could see us getting to 95% or so.

The transport scenario is pie in the sky. It is based on 100% of new cars sold by 2030 being electric cars. I’m a fan of electric cars but no sensible Government would ever make a commitment that they will basically ban new non-electric cars within 15 years.

Also not very realistic is saying we’ll save 2.8 Mt a year from biofuels. for the transport sector. The last time biofuels were subsidised to promote them, it led to mass starvation as arable land was converted to biofuels.

The agricultural policy is based on 2,400 farms reducing their dairy herd by 75 cows each or a 15% reduction.

The forestry increase would require 50,000 to 100,000 hectares of land to have pine forest planted on them – every year. This would mean a reduction in farming of that many hectares every year. Wouldn’t want to be a farmer as the Government takes your land off you to plant pine trees on!

Credit to the Greens for having a reasonably detailed plan, and they have shown how we could have a more ambitious target than the current one. However while some aspects of their plan are practical, other aspects are ludicrous – such as the assumption there will be no new petrol cars within 15 years.

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Opposition parties only wants media that agrees with them

August 18th, 2015 at 6:24 am by David Farrar

The opposition parties are showing their true colours.

When TV3 made a commercial decision to change Campbell Live, resulting in the departure of John Campbell, MPs from Labour and Greens decried this as terrible. They said the media needs strong voices. They said it was appalling that John Campbell would no longer be on the air.

However yesterday we saw the opposition parties effectively demand that Mike Hosking be taken off the air, because – well he doesn’t always agree with them.

So think about this. What Labour and Greens are saying is that they only want media that agree with them.

Little said Hosking’s dominance across so many media platforms was concerning.

“The point is that Mike Hosking is extremely influential because of his involvement with Newstalk ZB, TVNZ and the Herald.”

Waa, waa, waa.

If people don’t like what Hosking says, they can choose not to watch him, listen to him or read him.

Little accused Hosking of being “totally aligned to the Government of the day” and showing “no attempt at objectivity”.

If you think he really is biased, then you can complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Press Council or the Online Media Standards Authority.

Instead we have a Muldoon like attack on the media, because basically Little says Hosking doesn’t agree with Labour enough.

At fault was “broadcast media having opinionated people holding prime slots,” he said.

Here is the true hypocrisy. John Campbell had plenty of opinions. Does Andrew Little think John Campbell should not have had a prime slot? Of, course not. Little is just against media who don’t agree with him.

Shaw said it was “pretty obvious” Hosking was biased and there weren’t any balancing voices with the same reach.

They must be kidding.

The vast majority of editorials and opinion columns in Fairfax and APN publications are critical of the Government.

On Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show, you can go all week without hearing anyone say anything vaguely supportive of the Government.

Anyway it is a good thing that Labour and Greens have shown their true feelings. They want a media that agrees with them and they will publicly attack and denigrate people in the media who don’t agree with them.

Who will be next on their hitlist?



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Vance on ACT and Greens

August 17th, 2015 at 1:07 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes:

Pints all round for David Seymour. 

The Epsom MP strived to keep bars open during early morning Rugby World Cup matches.

Consoling beersies for the Greens, who spent much of the week as party poopers after initially opposing Seymour’s bill. They ended it as flakes, flip-flopping on their principles.

I’m a bit biased as I know David, but I really think he has done a very good job to date in moving ACT forward beyond the turmoil of its past.

The whole episode points to a wider identity crisis in politics. In a blind taste test could you differentiate between parties?

Seymour stayed true to ACT’s roots as a voice for business. That does mark a departure from recent predecessor who put National’s interests ahead of all else, including their base support. With his bill, Seymour called out deficiencies in the Government’s alcohol reforms.

Also Seymour’s questions in Parliament have not been patsy questions on charter schools, but sometimes quite aggressive questions on government spending.

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Dom Post on Rugby World Cup bars

August 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Changing the rules, however, proved much more tortured than it needed to be. The ACT MP David Seymour saw an opportunity to throw off the yoke of alcohol licensing laws, and introduced a bill to let pubs open for all cup games. Yet the Greens at first scuppered the effort, concerned, they said, about drunks spilling out of bars as parents dropped children off at school.

So Prime Minister John Key said he would consider urgent legislation, and levelled that the Greens were eternally “opposed to anything that’s sort of vaguely good fun”.

It’s true that the political rituals of this are wearying – the male politicians bragging about how much they enjoy beer, the charge that all those concerned about alcohol harm are wowsers.

Yet the Greens’ complaints were too precious by half. This wasn’t the issue on which to make a heroic stand about the perils of drink. Relatively few people will race to a pub to see the All Blacks stomp on Namibia at 7am on a Friday – and only a handful will drink too much as they do so.

Judging by past Football World Cup games screened at dawn in Courtenay Place, more fans are likely to eat a pub breakfast on their way to work. In any case, several All Blacks games start at 8am, when pubs can be open anyway.

The Greens pointed out that pubs can already apply for special licences to show cup games. But those require outlets to jump through silly hoops, like imposing a fancy-dress requirement or holding a quiz. No-one needs such frippery at 4am.

By yesterday afternoon, the Greens seemed to have realised this – they withdrew their opposition to Seymour’s bill, apparently after assurances that it would be tweaked.

The bill was always open to amendment at select committee. Nothing has changed there.

The real story is that on Tuesday night, after they refused leave for the bill to be introduced, was the annual function of Saunders Unsworth. This is one of those events where half of Parliament attends, along with scores of business and community leaders, plus media.

It is a great networking event. You have around 50+ conversations with different people, normally on very different topics.

I understand from multiple sources that James Shaw and Julie-Anne Genter had dozens of conversations with people there. But there was only one topic. Why the hell did you stop the bill to allow bars to be open for the rugby. As the night wore on, I think they realised how badly they had stuffed up. This was summed up by this tweet from their supporter, Danyl:

The next day the Greens changed their stance 100%.

The opposition to the bill was obviously led by Kevin Hague who denounced the idea of bars being open as appalling – drunken revellers spilling out of pubs as schools open. I wonder if the new co-leader effectively pulled rank and just told his caucus that they need to back down on this, or be tainted with it for years to come?

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Another Green dilemma

August 7th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Proactive Investors report:

What UniBio does is take natural gas and convert it into animal feed using a naturally occurring bacterial process.

It sounds simple enough, but the implications are profound.

Currently, it takes one hectare of land to produce 700 kilogrammes of soy, but the equivalent per hectare figure for UniBio is 25,000 tonnes.

That’s several orders of magnitude higher and represents a significant easing of pressure on scarce environmental resources.

But that natural gas comes from fracking!

Do the Greens think that natural gas should be left in the ground, rather than convert it into animal feed?

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Will Genter trump Robertson?

July 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harmam writes at Politik:

The new Greens spokesperson line-up is notable for three things. First James Shaw has decided not be finance spokesman but to focus on climate change. Though he campaigned for the leadership saying the party needed to improve its economic credibility, he also said the main issue for the party was climate change.

Also a factor is that with the global Paris conference at the year end, this will be a high profile issue for the next six months, so I am sure he sees it as an opportunity to improve his profile.

And Julie Anne Genter has taken finance. Even within the Greens she is known as a policy wonk and having her in that position may further demonstrate how much out of his depth Labour’s Grant Robertson is as Labour’s finance spokesperson.


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The Green reshuffle

July 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The Green Party has reshuffled its portfolio allocations, giving new co-leader James Shaw the economic development and climate change roles held by Russel Norman, whom he replaced.

I would have thought Shaw would be a natural for Finance.

The reshuffle keeps intact the previous rankings of Green MPs, except to the extent that Shaw moves from 12th in the 14-member caucus, but leaves Norman at number three with responsibility for trade and national intelligence and security.

Well that is easy for Dr Norman – he is adamantly against trade, intelligence and security.

Genter picks up the finance portfolio, previously part of Norman’s economics portfolio role, with responsibility for tax and state-owned enterprises.

That is an unusual move. I would not have thought that was her natural area. Possibly this is a sign that Turei wants out also, so they are grooming Genter to take over.


Hayley Holt Green MP?

July 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Well, she’s back at the University of Auckland (part-time) and is seriously stoked with the 96 per cent she got for an essay on Karl Marx. Politics is her latest thing and let’s just say the Green Party might do well to have a chat, even if they’ve already made the same mistake as many others.

“She gets under-estimated an awful lot,” says Ric Salizzo, the self-described High Commander of Prime’s The Crowd Goes Wild.

“People see the pretty girl on television and judge her straight away – well, more fool them because there’s a lot going on.”

And it does happen a lot: people see the model features and hair, then one plus one equals bimbo, or, as the women’s mags alliteratively put it, “bubbly blonde”.

I’ve met Hayley. She’s definitely no bimbo. A very genuine fun person. Her politics were pretty Green back then, so no surprise she’d be thinking Green Party. I suspect sadly her essay on Karl Marx wasn’t about how he was wrong on everything.

If Holt did stand for the Greens, she’d potentially attract considerable support for them.

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Asia-Pacific Greens

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

The Herald reports:

Green parties from as far afield as Iraq and Mongolia have been comparing notes with their New Zealand counterparts at a rare gathering today.

The Asia Pacific Greens Federation congress is being held in New Zealand for the first time, and has brought together Green politicians from 16 countries.

The congress in Upper Hutt was focusing on the impacts of climate change on the Asia Pacific region.

But it was also an opportunity for more established Green parties (Australia, New Zealand) to compare ideas and strategies with fledging Green movements (India, South Korea).

In countries where Green politics was relatively new, some parties had grown quickly.

Green Party Korea co-representative Yujin Lee said her party had registered more than 6000 members since establishing in 2013 – a number equivalent to the New Zealand Greens, which marked its 25th anniversary this year.

But that is out of a population of 50 million. So in the NZ context that is like having 500 members – the same as the Civilian Party or United Future.

Other parties spoke of the difficulty in getting a foothold in the traditional political landscape.

The APGF has 12 full members. They are in Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, NZ, Pakistan, Philippines and Taiwan.

But in reality they are only a significant presence in three countries – Australia, NZ and Mongolia. In all other countries they were not even on the ballot, or were so insignificant they had under 0.5% of the vote.

The Greens globally basically exist only in white European countries. Almost everywhere else they are insignificant.

Korean and Japanese representatives said their governments were expanding nuclear facilities, and defended this move by saying that the nuclear plants created fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Green parties opposed nuclear power, so they had to fight for action on two fronts.

If you want less greenhouse gas emissions, then nuclear power is a very good option.

Foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said it showed that not only were Asia-Pacific countries increasingly responsible for the global share of carbon emissions

Here’s the share by country in Asia-Pacific:

  1. China 22.7%
  2. India 5.7%
  3. Russia 5.4%
  4. Japan 2.9%
  5. Indonesia 1.9%
  6. Iran 1.6%
  7. South Korea 1.6%
  8. Australia 1.3%
  9. Saudi Arabia 1.2%
  10. Turkey 0.9%
  11. Thailand 0.8%
  12. Kazakhstan 0.7%
  13. Malaysia 0.7%
  14. Pakistan 0.7%
  15. Taiwan 0.7%
  16. Vietnam 0.6%
  17. Iraq 0.5%
  18. Uzbekistan 0.5%
  19. Kuwait 0.4%
  20. Burma 0.4%
  21. Bangladesh 0.3%
  22. Philippines 0.3%
  23. North Korea 0.2%
  24. NZ 0.2%
  25. Singapore 0.2%
  26. etc etc

If you can get an agreement between China, US, EU, India and Russia that is over 60% of global emissions. NZ and the rest of the world I am sure would agree to reductions in line with the Big 5, if those five can agree.


An okay Greens policy

June 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Green Party is pushing for climate change to be formally acknowledged in all government legislation.

Co-leader James Shaw has unveiled the policy at an international Greens congress in Wellington today.

It would make it mandatory for new laws and law changes to include climate change impact statements.

Mr Shaw said the measure would mirror the current use of regulatory impact statements.

“So the government makes a lot of decisions all the time, and we have no idea of what the impact is on climate change, or how climate change impacts on those decisions.”

This isn’t a bad idea. Governments make better decisions if they are aware of all of the costs.

But one would have to be careful how you interpret the data. For example take the Government giving beneficiaries an extra $25 a week. That will lead to an increase in consumption and activities such as transport. That would mean that the climate change impact of such a policy is to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Now I doubt the Greens would say beneficiaries should not have got a benefit increase, because it increases greenhouse has emissions. So it shouldn’t be seen as a binary approval mechanism.

But nevertheless,  having the impact on greenhouse gas emissions known for all legislation is not a bad policy, and worth doing. The Government should seriously consider it.

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No surprise whom the Dom Post editorial writer votes for

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

From a recent DP editorial:

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

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

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So it is okay for Greens to sack without cause, but not other employers?

June 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

“We haven’t renewed Ken’s contract,” said Shaw, who replaced Russel Norman at co-leader at the end of May. “We offered the contract to Andrew, who’s accepted it”.

So let’s be clear. They had an employee who wanted to carry on. He was not incompetent at his job. He had been there eight years. They didn’t sack him for incompetence or misconduct – they just decided to choose someone else who they thought would be better.

Now think if any other employer did that? Greens (and Labour) insist that employees not even be given a 90 day trial. They say that once an employee is hired, they must be kept in a job indefinitely, unless the position is made redundant, or they are sacked for incompetence or misconduct. They would kick up a stink if some other employer kicked someone to the kerb, simply because they had found someone better to take their place.

Legally they can do so, because Parliament has special contracts that give employees almost no rights. Their contracts expire when  ever there is a change of leader, MP or an election. And even worse they can dump you at any time if they merely decide you are no longer compatible. They oppose any other employer in NZ having those rights, but happily will use them for themselves.

Many staff in Parliament and the Beehive have “events based” contracts, which come with little job security, but a likely three month redundancy payout on termination.

However, this does not cover staff employed in the various leaders’ offices, meaning Spagnolo faced leaving with no redundancy.

Shaw said that the Green Party’s MPs saw the situation as unfair and so would put their hands in their pockets to cover the cost.

“There are some staff that get a redundancy payment and some don’t depending on what budget they’re on,” Shaw said.

“We…choose to match that so that our staff are treated fairly no matter which category they are under”.

The move means MPs “take the hit on that ourselves”, he said.

Now that is a decent thing to do, and good on them. But it doesn’t mean they escape the underlying hypocrisy of dumping a long serving staffer who wanted to stay on, just because they felt someone else could do a better job.

I’m not against that. My point is why are they opposed to all other employers being able to do the same?

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Green staff changes

June 8th, 2015 at 6:08 pm by David Farrar

Radio Live reports:

He’s only been in the job for a little over a week, but already new Green Party co-leader James Shaw is flexing his muscles.

Mr Shaw has fired long-time chief of staff  Ken Spagnolo, replacing him with communications director Andrew Campbell.

It has not yet been announced who will take Mr Campbell’s position.

Mr Spagnolo had been chief of staff for eight years.

Metiria Turei has attacked Patrick Gower as sexist for tweeting the story:

In follow up tweets, Turei says it is sexist for suggesting that she was not part of the decision. It may be wrong to suggest that she did not concur, but that is an assumption over the fact it happened as Shaw became co-leader with her, not when her and Norman were co-leaders. I’m not sure calling gallery reporters sexist is a smart thing to do – especially as Gower didn’t even write the story – it’s a Radio Live story he tweeted.

As to the substance, well it is a significant change. Spagnolo is liked and respected – including by those in other parties he has worked with. But his replacement Andrew Campbell is also a very smart operator, and also quite reasonable and personable. Id’ say Spagnolo is the better policy and relationship manager, while Campbell is the more skilled political and communications guy. Both good at their jobs, but different skill sets.

It will be interesting to see who Campbell hires to replace himself.

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Greens here but will they ever make Government?

May 31st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says her party’s 25th year has been its most successful yet.

Opening the party’s AGM in Auckland this morning, Mrs Turei marked the quarter-century anniversary of the Greens and its previous incarnations The Values Party and the Alliance.

“We are still here,” she told a crowd of around 200 delegates.

“Not one single party other than National and Labour that stood in the 1990 election is still around, let alone doing better than ever.”

The Greens are still around, and will remain a permanent force in politics. But while they have been around for 25 years, they have also never achieved Government in 25 years. Who has achieved Government:

  1. National
  2. Labour
  3. NZ First
  4. Alliance
  5. Progressive
  6. ACT
  7. United Future
  8. United
  9. Right of Centre
  10. Maori Party

And when will the Greens achieve Government? Well let’s be generous and says Labour wins in 2017 but they can only do so with Winston. Greens blocked out. So Labour-NZ First until 2023. Then National comes back in and say nine years of National. So realistically Greens might get into Government in 2032 – 42 years after 1990.

Mrs Turei was introduced as the “senior female politician in Opposition” and received a standing ovation.

Really? I think Annette King might disagree with that. Annette entered Parliament when Turei was at school.


Greens make the right choice

May 30th, 2015 at 3:02 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

James Shaw has been elected as the new co-leader of the Green Party.

The Wellington-based MP, who has only been in Parliament for seven months, was confirmed as the successor to Russel Norman at the party’s AGM this afternoon.

Mr Shaw said it was an “extraordinary privilege” to take on the top role.

He acknowledged that some people would be disappointed in the result, and said: “I will do everything within my power to earn everyone’s respect.”

Mr Shaw thanked his rivals, Mr Hague, Gareth Hughes, and Vernon Tava.

Kevin Hague, who had been the early favourite for the male co-leader position, placed second after a vote by delegates.

Congratulations to James, and commiserations to Kevin, Gareth and Vernon.

This is a rare opportunity for the Greens to significantly grow their appeal. If they play their cards right, people who have always dismissed them as being an anti-business and anti-economy party may now stop and listen to what they are saying. They may not necessarily get converted, but more of them will now listen.

James has both an impressive business background, but also knows how to communicate to people who are not left wing. Anyone can persuade people who already agree with you, but the skill is persuading people who don’t.

The election of Shaw is not a silver bullet for The Greens, but it is a golden opportunity. They have shown an ability to win votes off Labour – now they may have the ability to win some votes off National. The election of Shaw is a potential thorn for National. However it is also good for people who believe in sensible policy, as eventually there will be a Labour-Green Government, and I’d rather have James Shaw as the Finance Minister in it, than Russel Norman. Not because Russel is a bad person, but his beliefs were shaped by Marxism, and Shaw’s are not. This does not mean Shaw is right wing, or not left wing. He is definitely left wing – but just more centre left than hard left.

Kevin Hague would have been a very good co-leader if he had been elected. As I have blogged previously, Kevin  has achieved a lot as an MP, and would have done so also as co-leader. he was just unfortunate with the timing of the vacancy, and the fact the Greens under-performed at the last election meant that their members were more attracted to a circuit-breaker.

So it will be interesting to see how The Greens go with their new male co-leader. They have the opportunity to grow their support now, but it won’t happen automatically.


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This is what the Greens are against

May 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I was listening to a ted Talk while running. It was by Pamela Ronald who is a plant geneticist. I got quite angry while listening to it, because it highlighted how the Greens and others are battling against science that is feeding millions of people.

You can view or read her talk here. The key extracts:

Now, the same month that my laboratory published our discovery on the rice immunity gene, my friend and colleague Dave Mackill stopped by my office. He said, “Seventy million rice farmers are having trouble growing rice.” That’s because their fields are flooded, and these rice farmers are living on less than two dollars a day. Although rice grows well in standing water, most rice varieties will die if they’re submerged for more than three days. Flooding is expected to be increasingly problematic as the climate changes. He told me that his graduate student Kenong Xu and himself were studying an ancient variety of rice that had an amazing property. It could withstand two weeks of complete submergence. He asked if I would be willing to help them isolate this gene. I said yes — I was very excited, because I knew if we were successful, we could potentially help millions of farmers grow rice even when their fields were flooded.

Kenong spent 10 years looking for this gene. Then one day, he said, “Come look at this experiment. You’ve got to see it.” I went to the greenhouse and I saw that the conventional variety that was flooded for 18 days had died, but the rice variety that we had genetically engineered with a new gene we had discovered, called Sub1, was alive. Kenong and I were amazed and excited that a single gene could have this dramatic effect. But this is just a greenhouse experiment. Would this work in the field?

Now, I’m going to show you a four-month time lapse video taken at the International Rice Research Institute. Breeders there developed a rice variety carrying the Sub1 gene using another genetic technique called precision breeding. On the left, you can see the Sub1 variety, and on the right is the conventional variety. Both varieties do very well at first, but then the field is flooded for 17 days. You can see the Sub1 variety does great. In fact, it produces three and a half times more grain than the conventional variety. I love this video because it shows the power of plant genetics to help farmers. Last year, with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, three and a half million farmers grew Sub1 rice.

This is what the Greens have spent 20 years opposing, and still oppose.

Now, many people don’t mind genetic modification when it comes to moving rice genes around, rice genes in rice plants, or even when it comes to mixing species together through grafting or random mutagenesis. But when it comes to taking genes from viruses and bacteria and putting them into plants,a lot of people say, “Yuck.” Why would you do that? The reason is that sometimes it’s the cheapest, safest, and most effective technology for enhancing food security and advancing sustainable agriculture.I’m going to give you three examples.

First, take a look at papaya. It’s delicious, right? But now, look at this papaya. This papaya is infected with papaya ringspot virus. In the 1950s, this virus nearly wiped out the entire production of papaya on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Many people thought that the Hawaiian papaya was doomed, but then, a local Hawaiian, a plant pathologist named Dennis Gonsalves, decided to try to fight this disease using genetic engineering. He took a snippet of viral DNA and he inserted it into the papaya genome. This is kind of like a human getting a vaccination. Now, take a look at his field trial. You can see the genetically engineered papaya in the center. It’s immune to infection. The conventional papaya around the outside is severely infected with the virus. Dennis’ pioneering work is credited with rescuing the papaya industry.Today, 20 years later, there’s still no other method to control this disease. There’s no organic method. There’s no conventional method. Eighty percent of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered.

And the Greens would say best to let the papaya industry be wiped out. They’re basically against vaccinating plants and crops!

Now, take a look at this pest feasting on an eggplant. The brown you see is frass, what comes out the back end of the insect. To control this serious pest, which can devastate the entire eggplant crop in Bangladesh, Bangladeshi farmers spray insecticides two to three times a week, sometimes twice a day, when pest pressure is high. But we know that some insecticides are very harmful to human health,especially when farmers and their families cannot afford proper protection, like these children. In less developed countries, it’s estimated that 300,000 people die every year because of insecticide misuse and exposure. Cornell and Bangladeshi scientists decided to fight this disease using a genetic technique that builds on an organic farming approach. Organic farmers like my husband Raoul spray an insecticide called B.T., which is based on a bacteria. This pesticide is very specific to caterpillar pests, and in fact, it’s nontoxic to humans, fish and birds. It’s less toxic than table salt. But this approach does not work well in Bangladesh. That’s because these insecticide sprays are difficult to find, they’re expensive, and they don’t prevent the insect from getting inside the plants. In the genetic approach, scientists cut the gene out of the bacteria and insert it directly into the eggplant genome. Will this work to reduce insecticide sprays in Bangladesh? Definitely. Last season, farmers reported they were able to reduce their insecticide use by a huge amount, almost down to zero. They’re able to harvest and replant for the next season.

Yet despite this, the Greens still fight against the science.

Now, I’ve given you a couple examples of how genetic engineering can be used to fight pests and disease and to reduce the amount of insecticides. My final example is an example where genetic engineering can be used to reduce malnutrition. In less developed countries, 500,000 children go blind every year because of lack of Vitamin A. More than half will die. For this reason, scientists supported by the Rockefeller Foundation genetically engineered a golden rice to produce beta-carotene, which is the precursor of Vitamin A. This is the same pigment that we find in carrots. Researchers estimate that just one cup of golden rice per day will save the lives of thousands of children. But golden rice is virulently opposed by activists who are against genetic modification. Just last year, activists invaded and destroyed a field trial in the Philippines. When I heard about the destruction, I wondered if they knew that they were destroying much more than a scientific research project, that they were destroying medicines that children desperately needed to save their sight and their lives.

This is the point at which I got angry. You should be angry also.

Some of my friends and family still worry: How do you know genes in the food are safe to eat? I explained the genetic engineering, the process of moving genes between species, has been used for more than 40 years in wines, in medicine, in plants, in cheeses. In all that time, there hasn’t been a single case of harm to human health or the environment. But I say, look, I’m not asking you to believe me.Science is not a belief system. My opinion doesn’t matter. Let’s look at the evidence. After 20 years of careful study and rigorous peer review by thousands of independent scientists, every major scientific organization in the world has concluded that the crops currently on the market are safe to eat and that the process of genetic engineering is no more risky than older methods of genetic modification. These are precisely the same organizations that most of us trust when it comes to other important scientific issues such as global climate change or the safety of vaccines.

The Greens argue you must trust the scientific consensus when it comes to climate change (and they’re right) but they hypocritically argue against science when it comes to genetic engineering, fracking or basically anything that doesn’t sit well their their near-religious Gaia viewpoint. They don’t believe in science. They just use it when it aligns with their beliefs.

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KiwiSaver for kids?

May 19th, 2015 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

The Greens announced:

The Green Party will deliver Kiwi kids a more financially secure future, while reducing inequality, by introducing a national savings scheme for all New Zealand children.

The Green Party announced a pre-Budget savings policy today, called Kids’ KiwiSaver, which will provide all newborns a kick-start deposit of $1,000, on-going top-up contributions, and matching savings incentives to assist families to save for their children’s future.

With careful saving, most children could reasonably build a nest egg of $12,900 by the age of 18 that they can then use for either tertiary education, a deposit on a first home, or roll over into an adult KiwiSaver account for their retirement. The scheme was fully costed by Infometrics and will cost $224 million over the first three years of operation.

The initial cost is not what is important, but the full annual cost once implemented. This is $248 million a year. That has to be funded, which means increasing taxation, or not spending the money elsewhere.

Is giving 18 year olds a “free” $13,000 they haven’t earned the best use of taxpayer money?

The full benefits of this policy would only be reached in 2037, during which time $1.4 billion net present value would have been spent. Would we get a better return investing that instead in better schools?

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Wellington cut off

May 14th, 2015 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Wellington is now cut off due to the rain, with SH1 and SH2 closed and all train lines also closed.

At this point in time I’d like to remind everyone that the Greens are against Transmission Gully. Their policy I presume would be everyone should walk home!

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Shaw leading to date

May 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I heard from a reliable source last week that in the voting to date, James Shaw has a narrow lead for the Green Party male co-leadership.

The actual election takes places at their conference at the end of May, but the delegates from each electorate get instructed how to vote at their electorate AGMs, which have started.

I’ve commented on the four leaders here:

With no disrespect to Gareth or Vernon, but it appears to be a two horse race between Kevin and James.

The good thing for the Greens is both Kevin and James have considerable strengths, and both should be more successful than their predecessor. It’s a great thing for a party to have a positive choice of leadership candidates.

Danyl McLauchlan blogs:

I’ve been helping James Shaw out with his campaign. Up until now its been impossible to tell how things are going, but now that the branches are voting we have a rough idea and I am cautiously optimistic. It’s going to be close but James could win. My reason for supporting him over Kevin Hague – who I have a huge amount of respect for – is pretty simple. The key role of a leader in a modern political party is to be the public face of that party, to front to the media and the public, and to win new voters. Maybe I’m just blinded by partisan bias, but I think James is going to be a lot better in that core role than the other candidates.

That doesn’t mean he’ll win. Kevin Hague also has a lot of great qualities, and they make him one of the most beloved guys inside the Green Party – which gives him a big advantage in a contest to become leader of it. But being the leader is about connecting with the public, not just the party’s own membership. The best thing for the future of the Green Party is to elect a leader who can grow it.

I agree with this analysis. Kevin is very respected and popular with the members – and with many other MPs. I regard Kevin as a good guy, who would be a good Minister of Health and a good co-leader for the Greens.

However the Greens seem to be stuck at a 10% vote ceiling. James Shaw does represent the best opportunity for the Greens to break through that 10% ceiling, and if I was a Green party member I’d vote for him.

If Shaw wins the male co-leadership and Julie-Anne Genter becomes (in time) female co-leader, then I think the Greens would have a real possibility of shaking off the past, and grow support and votes for the Greens.

But as I said, I think Kevin will do a solid job also. Again the Greens are fortunate to have a positive choice.

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Skipping a meal is not starving!

May 5th, 2015 at 10:07 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party’s 14 MPs will starve themselves on Tuesday to highlight the threat climate change poses to food supply.

Missing a meal is not starvation, it’s a media stunt.

But the Greens are right to highlight dangers to food supply. When food supply gets mucked up, millions can starve.

For many years the Greens and environmentalists pushed for biofuel subsidies and quotas. They cited climate change as a reason to promote biofuels. Helen Clark announced a law to create a biofuel sales obligation.

And what happened, according to the Guardian:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body. …

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt.

So Green policies on climate change helped push $100 million into poverty and actual starvation (not the 24 hour kind). That’s a cure worse than the illness.

Don’t get me wrong – we do need to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. But it has to be the right action (such as research into reducing methane emissions from cows). The wrong action, such as with biofuels, can lead to mass starvation – the very thing the Greens say they are against.

It’s easy to take part if a stupid media stunt. It’s far harder to develop serious policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions without damaging economic growth which provides jobs and incomes so people can afford food.


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