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?

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.


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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.


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.

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?

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!

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.

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.


Much ado about nothing

April 21st, 2015 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Not all children will receive free GP visits as promised by the Government, according to documents revealed by the Greens.

That’s because they have never promised it. It is impossible to promise it as GPs do not work for the Government and the Government can not set their fees for them – unless you nationalise the entire primary healthcare sector.

ACC Minister Nikki Kaye has set the funding level at a rate that will only cover an estimated 90 per cent of doctors’ visits for children who are injured, Radio NZ has reported.

At last year’s election the Government campaigned on making doctors’ visits and prescriptions free for all children under 13 from July this year.

However the Green Party has called out Kaye for deciding 90 per cent coverage was close enough.

This shows a misunderstanding (either deliberate or not) of how the funding level is set.

GPs around NZ will currently charge a wide variety of fees for under 13s. For example some may charge $10 and some may charge $30. Each GP practice can be different to reflect their costs – rent, salaries etc. These are different in Epsom and in Rotorua, for example.

The Government set the funding at the level at which 90% of GPs are currently charging. Now this doesn’t mean that 10% of GPs will still charge a fee. If for example the subsidy is $30 and your charge was  $32, you may well decide that it is not worth the hassle, or the bad publicity, to charge a $2 part fee.

Over time more and more GPs will not charge a part fee, because if they do it is bad publicity, and patients may move.

Coleman and Kaye point out:

“We expect levels of uptake by general practices of the free under 13s scheme to be similar to uptake of the under 6s scheme,” says Dr Coleman.

“Currently 98 per cent of general practices offer free doctors’ visits for under 6s. Initial uptake was 70 per cent in January 2008, and it has steadily increased to current levels. There are only around twelve general practices in New Zealand that are not offering free under 6s doctor visits.”

So the fact the funding is set slightly below the level at which the 10% most expensive GPs charge, doesn’t mean you don’t get close to universal coverage.

But less us look at what the Greens are actually arguing for, and you will see that they are actually arguing for an incredibly appalling waste of scarce health dollars.

They are saying that the level of subsidy should be set at the level above which 100% of GPs currently charge.

Now think about that. The Greens are saying that the subsidy to GPs should be based on what the most expensive GP in NZ charges.

This would result in a massive wealth transfer to GPs. 99% of GPs would get a higher subsidy from the Government, than they were previously getting from patients. This would cost tens of millions of dollars.

And what would be the benefits to families? Well possibly it could result in no part-charges to the families who live in the areas with the most expensive GPs. These are generally the very wealthy suburbs such as Epsom, Wadestown etc. So the richest families in NZ would be the ones who benefit by not having a small part-charge.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but a ballpark estimate is that the cost per additional family subsidised to taxpayers and levypayers would be over $1,000!

You would be spending tens of millions more to eliminate part-charges for a handful of the wealthiest families.

The losers would be every family in NZ who pays tax and ACC.

The winners would be every GP in NZ, and the families who live in the wealthiest areas.

A huge transfer of wealth from middle income and low income NZ to the wealthiest. What the Greens call income inequality – and they are demanding it.

So I’m glad the Greens aren’t in Government, and that the subsidies are set at a sensible point such as the 90% level, rather than having the most expensive doctor in NZ determine the subsidies for the entire country.

What did the Labour/Greens power policy cost the taxpayer?

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

Mark Lister writes in the Herald:

Since listing at $1, Meridian shares have more than doubled, providing investors with a return of more than 100 per cent in less than 18 months. If dividends are included, this return jumps to 125 per cent over the period.

Utility companies such as Meridian are supposed to be predictable companies that offer steady (yet modest) returns. They aren’t supposed to double in price within barely a year the way a high-growth technology share might.

Part of this can be explained by a fall in interest rates over the period, which has made high-yielding shares more attractive and seen investor demand push up share prices.

But with the benefit of hindsight, another key reason for such a strong performance is that they were probably sold a little too cheaply in the first place.

In my opinion, the blame for that rests firmly with the Opposition political parties of the time, Labour and the Greens.

The “NZ Power” reform policy they championed through 2013 and early last year was heavy on emotive rhetoric, and short on detail. Whenever the proponents were quizzed about how it would work or be implemented, there didn’t appear to be many clear answers.

Labour and the Greens seemed to give up on this policy after the last electricity IPO was completed, and it didn’t get nearly as much airtime after that. That adds weight to the view that it was dreamed up only to derail the IPO process.

It was an act of commercial sabotage. They announced it just days before the first sale. It successfully reduced the price people were willing to pay for shares, which meant that the taxpayer lost perhaps a billion dollars due to this policy of sabotage from Labour and Greens.

In that respect, it failed. All it succeeded in doing was creating political and regulatory uncertainty among investors, and reducing the price the New Zealand taxpayer was paid for the 49 per cent of the assets now owned by private investors and managed funds.

The Crown received $1.8 billion (including the 50c a share due shortly) for the 49 per cent of Meridian sold, and that stake is today worth over $3.2 billion. The 49 per cent of Genesis sold down a few months later for $760 million is now worth almost $1.2 billion.

Had it not been for the uncertainty that was created at the time by the Opposition, the IPO sale prices could have been quite a bit higher.

In hindsight, it seems Labour and the Greens might have almost single-handedly contributed to a significant transfer of wealth from the average New Zealander (as the seller) to a much smaller group of people – those who could afford to buy shares in the IPOs.

As someone who invested in all three floats, their policy has made me a five figure capital gain. Thanks Labour and Greens.

While those who bought these shares will be celebrating some excellent returns from investments that should have been relatively boring, maybe the rest of the country is due a belated apology from Labour and the Greens for doing them this disservice.

If Labour and Greens can cost taxpayers one to two billion dollars in opposition, think what they might cost in Government!

How do businesses collude with the predators?

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

The Herald reports:

New, harsher penalties for making, trading or possessing child abuse imagery have been passed into law with unanimous support.

The legislation increased the maximum jail term for possessing, importing or exporting objectionable publications from five years to 10 years.

It clarified that possession included viewing the objectionable material, not just downloading or saving it.

The maximum penalty for supplying, distributing or making an objectionable publication increased from 10 to 14 years’ jail time.

It introduced a new offence of “indecent communication with a young person”, which applied to any communication with a person under 16 years old including text message and online contact.

The bill passed without dissent, but an interesting comment:

Greens also backed the changes, though MP Catherine Delahunty said harsher sentences would not solve the deeply rooted social problems which led to child exploitation.

“We have to ask ourselves in what way do our infrastructures, social structures, and businesses collude with the predators, rather than just saying: “Lock up the predator, throw away the key, block them from the internet, everything will be fine.'”

A serious question to the Green Party. How exactly do businesses collude with child sex offenders?

Which Green candidate has been best at growing the party vote?

March 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Danyl McL has blogged:

My friend James – last seen on this blog demagoguing it up at the Te Aro Meet the Candidates event – has entered the Green Party leadership contest. I’ll be helping him with his campaign so will possibly not be the most impartial commentator on the race.

The data-based argument for James’ leadership is basically the chart below. He wasn’t an MP when he ran in Wellington Central last year yet more people there voted Green than any other electorate in the country.

A commenter has responded:

With all due respect to James, that’s a very poor starting point for a data-based argument. Wellington Central is choc-full of green votes because the demographics of the seat heavily lean to young urban liberals. If the Greens didn’t make 30% in that seat, then we’d all be calling it a poor result.

I agree that saying Shaw should be leader because his seat gets the most party votes is a poor argument.

What would be a better analysis is how much extra party vote has a candidate got in a seat, when they have stood there.

Let’s look at 2011 and 2014. First of all 2011.

The median increase for the Greens that year was 4.2%. Some selected seats:

  • Akl Ctl (Roche) +7.3%
  • Wgtn Ctl (Shaw) +7.1%
  • Rongotai (Norman) +7.2%
  • Ohariu (Hughes) +5.3%
  • Chch Ctl +5.1%
  • Northcote (Tava) +4.2%
  • Hague (WCT) +3.3%

So Shaw got the largest party vote increase of the four candidates in 2011, and Hague the smallest. However Shaw’s increase was around the same as the neighbouring Rongotai and Auckland Central.

Now for 2014 where the median change in party vote was dropping -0.2%:

  • Rongotai (Norman) +2.2%
  • Wgtn Ctl (Shaw) +1.7%
  • Northcote +0.7%
  • Akl Ctl (Roche) +0.5%
  • Ohariu +0.2%
  • Chch Ctl -0.9%
  • Hague (WCT) -1.2%

Tava and Hughes did not stand in an electorate in 2014. However the party vote in Northcote in 2014 exceeded the median by more than in 2011.

The increase in Wellington Central in 2014 is much more than the similar seat of Auckland Central.

And the drop in West Coast-Tasman is one of the bigger drops for the Greens.

So while the data used by Danyl was flawed, his conclusion was not. The Greens have improved their vote more in seats where Shaw stands.

Greens economic knowledge

March 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Lisa Owen on The Nation asked the four leadership contenders for the Greens some basic economic data questions. The responses:

  • Kevin Hague said economic growth in the last year was 0.25% when it was 12 times that at 2.9%
  • Gareth Hughes said inflation was 2.0%, more than double the 0.8% it is
  • Vernon Tava said the official cash rate was 7.8%, over double the 3.5% it is
  • James Shaw was the only one close saying unemployment is just over 5.0% when it is 5.7%

And bad news for rich pricks from the wanabee leaders:

Hughes: I would have a discussion with our members, and I think 40 per cent is a good rate for above 100,000, and I think we could look at a higher rate for income over a million dollars.
50 or 60 per cent?
Hughes: Well, I don’t want to put a number on it.

Maybe 70%?

And they want to extend legal personhood to all inhabitants of Gaia:

We’re running out of time, gentlemen. I want to ask you, James — you say that the rights of personhood should extend to all habitants of the Earth. What do you mean by that?
Shaw: Well, we give corporations legal personhood. So humans have legal personhood. Also, corporations have legal personhood. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River and Te Urewera also have legal personhood, and I think that that is a great way of starting to think about protecting our environment.
So does that mean the rimu, the chicken and the snail — they all have personhood along with me — the same?
Shaw: Well, a corporation has the same legal personhood as you do.
I hear what you’re saying there, but I’m asking you about these other things. Does that mean we all have the same rights?
Shaw: No. I’m talking ecological features. So this is sort of playing out differently in different parts of the world. It’s a new area of law called Nature’s Rights Law or Wild Law as it is sometimes referred to.
But in your maiden speech you talked about all inhabitants. So all inhabitants of the planet, should they have personhood?
Tava: I totally agree with this, because what it means is that you grant legal standing to those things, because at the moment we’ve got this really perverse situation where we treat animals, trees, so on, only as property, or even worse, something that’s not owned at all.
So Vernon thinks all the inhabitants…
Shaw: We have to remember, we used to treat black people as property as well. And over the last several hundred years, we’ve gotten a little more enlightened about that. We used to treat women as property as well in our legal system. So this is just talking about expanding our view of what rights extend to.

Black people are people. Female people are people. Snails are not people. Pretty simple.

Hague: It does seem a little bit odd to me, I must say. I’m interested in talking to Vernon and James about that. I think that we do need to have constitutional protection for our natural environment, but I’d go in the opposite direction in relation to legal personhood. I would take it away from corporations, cos I think that’s damaging to our society.

Not sure which candidate is more scary – the ones that want to recognise snails and trees as persons, or the one saying remove legal rights from corporations, which is basically saying do away with most property rights.

I never thought I could feel wistful for Russel Norman, but they are managing to make the former marxist look like the moderate!

Shaw runs after all

March 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance reports:

Wellington-based MP James Shaw will bid to be the Green Party’s co-leader, after earlier saying it was “highly unlikely” he’d run.

It is understood the first-term MP is planning to make the announcement on Monday, after telling caucus colleagues at a meeting earlier this week.

Last month Shaw said it was too early in his parliamentary career. However, he appears to have had a change of heart after being approached by supportive members, including at a recent policy conference in the Hunua ranges, south of Auckland.

Shaw would not confirm his candidacy, saying only: “I’m thinking about it, and considering it and as I have said before I will make up my mind when nominations open.”

A source indicated Shaw will pitch himself as a fresh face, with new ideas, against front-runner and “status quo” candidate Kevin Hague.

On the back of a disappointing general election result, Shaw is set to argue the party needs new strategies if it wants to increase its vote beyond 10 per cent. But the 41-year-old also needs to win over those in the party who are suspicious of his business background. Like Hague, he is known to favour a bi-partisan approach to politics.

The Greens are fortunate that they will get to choose from four candidates – all offering quite different skills, backgrounds and future directions.

Hague is the front-runner and the likely winner. I blogged here on his strengths. He is the safe choice, and would do better than Norman, in my view.

Shaw is a bigger risk to the Greens, but also offer potentially bigger benefits. I think he is the candidate most likely to grow their vote and smash through the ceiling of 10% they seem to have hit.

The current leadership and strategy of the Greens couldn’t exceed 10% despite Labour hitting an 80 year low of 25%. It is hard to see them doing better by staying on the current path.

Shaw has the ability to change the brand of the Greens as extremists and anti-business. He has the potential to allow the Greens to break through 10%.

Even if Labour wins in 2017, the Greens may still be shut out of Government by NZ First. To avoid that fate they need to grow their vote. Shaw offers them that option.


A third Green co-leader contender

March 10th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Vernon Tava, a Green Party co-convenor in Auckland, is reported to be throwing his hat in the ring to be the party’s new male co-leader.

Mr Tava has decided to stand for the leadership.

Dr Norman was not an MP when he first co-led the Greens and it’s always been possible someone from the party who is not in parliament will stand.

Mr Tava retweeted The Nation’s tweet revealing his intention on Saturday.

He is a Waitemata Local Board member and is deputy chair of the board’s finance committee as well as being involved in work on parks and open spaces, and heritage, urban design and planning.

“I dedicate most of my time to the local board but I also work as a lawyer at the Auckland Community Law Centre, formerly the Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office, representing and assisting clients on low incomes,” he says on the board’s website.

His campaign site is here. He seems to think that the Greens should aspire to more than being a prop party for Labour:

Are we a party of the left with environmental credentials (Red-Greens)? Or are we a true party of sustainability – environmental, social, cultural and economic – willing and able to be an independent entity with a decisive influence on government policy? The left-right spectrum is only one aspect of political action and if we limit ourselves to only being able to deal with one end of that spectrum we are far less able to move the focus of politics to genuine sustainability. The urgency of local and global ecological crises demands that we work across political lines. The Greens need to be an independent political axis around which governments turn.

He sounds far too sensible to get elected.

To many younger voters (and potential voters) left and right hold little appeal; we will only win them over with evidence-based, problem-solving approaches rather than coming from a position of ideology.

Evidence-based decision making? he’s doomed!

Greens still against cell phone towers

March 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands more cellphone antennas and roadside cabinets could be installed without community consultation under a proposed environmental rule change.

Telecommunications firms would be allowed to install 3.5 metre-high cellphone antennas on street lights, power poles, multi-storey buildings and on any rural structure without resource consent, the Government has proposed.

Excellent. The safety issues have been proved 1,000 times over, and just adding them onto existing structures shouldn’t need a resource consent.

Green Party environment spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Government appeared to have little regard for environmental outcomes or community input.

“We support National Environmental Standards but they need to be used to protect the environment, not to override the right of local communities to have a say,” she said.

Do they want their cellphones to work, and to have Internet access?

This is basic essential infrastructure. If a tower is going to block someone’s view etc, then they should have a say. But this is just about adding them to existing structures.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said they would “reduce by thousands” the number of resource consents required to install wi-fi panels, street cabinets, light pole antennas and cabling.

Tens of millions are spent on an entirely wasteful process, as they inevitably gain the consent.

Hughes standing for co-leader

March 5th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Fifth-ranked Green MP Gareth Hughes has confirmed he’s standing to become the Green’s male co-leader.

The 33-year-old who’s in his third term as an MP says his candidacy is for a generational shift in New Zealand politics .

West Coast based list MP Kevin Hague has already put his hat in the ring and is considered by some to be the front runner.

The party will decide on who the male co-leader is at its conference in late May.

It’s good Green members will get a choice.

I don’t agree with Gareth on most environmental issues, but he has done a lot of good work in the Comms/ICT sector and has built up a lot of respect for his approach to issues in this sector – even by those who disagree with him. If there had been a change of Government, many said he would be a good Comms/ICT Minister.

It is hard to see him beating Hague, but the fact that Hague is seven years older than the retiring Norman may be a factor – hence why Hughes is talking generational shift.

Not sure if James Shaw has totally ruled out standing, but it seems unlikely. Kennedy Graham is talking about it, but I think the real contest is likely to be between Hague and Hughes.