Herald on Sunday on Labour

June 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday editorial:

What would John Key have done in David Cunliffe’s position this week? Labour Party members must be asking themselves that question and they probably know the answer. Facing persistent questions on something he had denied, a more cautious leader would have suspected he might be wrong. Cunliffe could have said something such as, “I don’t recall ever assisting a residency application for Donghua Liu but in view of these questions I will check my records”.

That is not Cunliffe’s style, it sounds more like … David Shearer. Less than a year after Shearer relinquished the leadership, Labour’s prospects have gone from bad to worse. This week a Herald-DigiPoll survey found the party on 30 per cent, 20 points behind National. Polls the previous week for One News and 3 Newshad almost exactly the same figures. A fourth poll, published on Thursday, was worse. Labour had dropped to just over 23 per cent.

This is abysmal for a major party just three months out from an election.

Talking of polls, The Political Scientist looks at the Fairfax poll and finds the major trend is Labour voters going undecided. He looks at the support levels if you leave the undecideds in and it is National 44%, Labour 18%, Greens 9% and NZ First 2.5% with around 22% undecided.

The Labour core support is almost half that of November 2012.

Now that they are inside the three months, Labour MPs can change their leader if necessary without reference to the wider membership and affiliated unions whose votes put Cunliffe into the leadership last year. This week, Cunliffe said the Labour movement had a word for any such move against him. The caucus would have recognised that veiled reference to “scabs” as a rallying call to the unions and left-wing members. When its leader has to resort to that sort of talk, Labour is in disarray.

They can’t even release their party list on time, because they’re in crisis.

With no alternative leader coming forward, the party’s only hope is that Cunliffe can be an effective campaigner. There were signs in the leadership contest last year that he might be. His supreme confidence and his theatrical gestures could shine in television debates. But stubborn pride could be his undoing if it prevents him admitting uncertainty or conceding he could be wrong, as it did on the Liu letter this week.

I say he should stand firm, and keep refusing to apologise!

Herald on Sunday story badly wrong

March 30th, 2014 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Susan Edmunds at the Herald on Sunday writes:

The cost of feeding your family a cooked weekend breakfast rose by more than three times the rate of inflation over the past five years — and the price increases aren’t likely to stop.

This makes it sound like breakfast food prices have been rising faster than other costs. Their calculation:

If you served tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, toast, eggs, tinned spaghetti and cereal, with coffee, tea and orange juice this weekend, it would have cost you 6.9 per cent more than the same meal in 2008, and almost 3 per cent more than in 2012. Breakfast food prices have risen more quickly than other prices.

Over the past five years, the compound average annual rate of inflation was 2.1 per cent.

This is so wrong and deceptive, it is appalling.

The story is comparing the cumulative five year price increase of cooked breakfasts with the average annual inflation rate. That is not apples and apples. That is comparing the cost of five apples to one apple.

Yes the average annual inflation rate has been 2.1%. What that means is that prices overall have increased 10.8% from December 2008 to December 2013. The CPI for those quarters was 1072 and 1188 respectively.

So if the cost of breakfast has increased by 6.9% over five years, then the cost of breakfast has increased by around 60% of the overall inflation, not by three times as much. The average annualized increase in breakfast is 1.4% – again far less than 2.1%.

This story should be pulled from their website it is so wrong. I’m not sure a correction can fix it, as its central premise is flawed.

I also doubt some of the data in there. I presume they got more detailed data from Stats NZ than on Infoshare, but even what Infoshare has doesn’t support some of the assertions such as:

A loaf of bread is now 11 per cent more expensive than it was in 2008.

The bread sub-index was 1290 in Dec 2008 and 1374 in Dec 2013 (and down to 1359 in Feb 2014). This is a five year increase of 6.5%, not 11%.

But even if you accept their figures are correct, their assertion is fundamentally wrong. The cost of a cooked breakfast has not risen three times faster than inflation. It has risen slower than inflation.

Claiming sole credit

August 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

It is a small victory but an important one. Parliament’s regulations review committee has upheld our complaint against the secrecy of teachers’ disciplinary proceedings.

Except it wasn’t their complaint. It was Graeme Edgeler’s. Graeme discovered that one could complain about it to the Regulations Review Committee, write the complaint and filed it. The Herald on Sunday then jumped on board and asked if they could be joined to the complaint – something Graeme agreed to.

The HoS has run a good campaign on the issue of teacher name suppression, and I think it is a good thing they joined the complaint. But would it have hurt them to acknowledge in their editorial the person who actually did the complaint, as the news story did?

The Herald on Sunday challenged the rule because we believe, like the Law Commission among others, it is inconsistent with the principle of open justice necessary for public confidence in judicial proceedings at any level.

Again, Edgeler challenged the rule, and the HoS jumped on board. Again – that was a good thing – but just grates to see no credit given to the person who actually was responsible for the victory.

UPDATE: To clarify, the HoS has run a campaign for some time against name suppression for teachers. They also made a complaint to the Teachers Council about the Council’s own rules. So they are not Johnny come latelys on this issue. However I stand by my point that the editorial should have mentioned that the complaint to Parliament was someone else’s – as their news story did. At the end of the day it was the complaint to Parliament’s RRC which got the successful outcome.  I doubt the complaint to the Council directly was going to lead to any change.

It’s partly a cultural thing. Blogs habitually hat tip, link and credit others. Newspapers tend to do so far less often.

HoS on tomatoes

June 24th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The strange HoS editorial:

Consumers of tomatoes, which means almost all of us, are about to face a test of our trust in science. The tomato bins in shops and supermarkets will soon be replenished with stock imported from Australia and, as we disclose today, it will have been decontaminated by radiation.

Oh, no radiation. The same killer force which is used in microwaves, cellphones, and also exists in the environment.

Irradiation was hotly debated in this country more than 10 years ago, when our regulator of food standards, a joint authority for Australia and New Zealand, rejected 1000 submissions against the process and declared it safe.

Science won over hysteria.

Since then, the only irradiated fresh fruit and vegetables approved for sale here have been mangos, papaya and lychees. Lovely as they are, those tropical fruits are not exactly standard consumer items. They are not tomatoes.

Oh, so is there some science the HoS knows of which suggests irradiation has a different impact on tomatoes than mangos? On mangos, it has no harmful effect, but maybe on tomatoes it causes them to mutate and grow feet??

Irradiation does not sit well with New Zealand’s attitude to nuclear physics in other applications, especially weapons, ship engines and electric power stations.

What a stupid thing to say. It is not nuclear physics. The only thing in common is they both involve radiation – which includes x-rays, gamma rays, ultraviolet light, radio waves, microwaves,

I like some of the comments on the editorial:

Sorry, but almost any processed food (tins, jars etc) passes through at least one beam of radiation these days. Many flow gauges monitoring density of product being piped around factories use a radioactive source. Scaremongering by Kiwi growers methinks.

“Gamma Radiation”? Like what we get everyday from Microwave Ovens, Light Bulbs, & the SUN???
Fear-mongering at it’s worst IMAO.

You can either trust science or be irrational.
The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that irradiation produces safe and nutritious food. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and the International Atomic Energy Agency accept the safety and usefulness of food irradiation. The process is also endorsed by the American Medical Association, the Scientific Committee of the European Union, and the American Spice Trade Association among others.

Much ado about nothing. I was a principal partner in California’s first wholesale distributor and retail chain of organic foods and we imported irradiated organically grown mangoes, papayas and pineapples from Hawaii. It’s the residues from pesticides we should be worrying about.

Good to see some people will call bullshit on the nonsense.


Quoting at 28 year old position

May 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten in the Herald on Sunday wrote:

Abolish 15 per cent GST. Replace with 1 per cent financial transaction tax as recommended by the New Zealand Bankers Association. Same money.

Earlier this week I ran into a couple of executives from NZBA. They had the good sense not to read Matt’s column, so were surprised when I told them that Matt said they supported a Financial Transactions Tax.

They do not, of course. It has been a disaster in the couple of countries that have tried it.

They complained to the Herald on Sunday about the misrepresentation, but their complaint was decline on the basis they they once did support an FTT – in 1985!

Would anyone reading that column think that was a 30 year old position, rather than a current position. Of course not. Entirely misleading.

I don’t know why print media are so loath to run corrections. I think it helps your credibility when you do.

I look forward to the Herald on Sunday and Matt McCarten talking about how Labour supports privatisation, because they once did in 1985.

Worth noting one other policy of Matt’s:

 Abolish PAYE on wages and salaries. Replace it with a wealth tax and a capital gains tax when shares, businesses, land and property are sold. People are taxed when they’re cashing up, not when they are making it.

I’m sure Matt does want PAYE abolished, as UNITE doesn’t pay it anyway.

HoS on Ansell

November 1st, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on Sunday my disapproval of the Herald on Sunday story that included mention of John Ansell’s colourblind state campaign in an article about neonazi attacks.

Jono Milne, the HoS Acting Editor has contacted me and John Ansell and assured both of us that there was no intent to liken John and his Colourblind State campaign to the racist attack on an immigration consultant’s office. Their intent was the opposite – the two separate stories were run together to provide a counterpoint: a racist attack contrasted with a “Colourblind” campaign. But Jonathan accepts that some readers may have interpreted it the opposite way, and so he’s split the story back into its original two parts, at nzherald.co.nz.

I’m pleased to see they have done this.


October 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

If this was done deliberately, how very nasty. The HoS starts by saying:

Far-right racists suspected in attack.

An office belonging to a former immigration minister has been hit by vandals in what is being described as a racist attack.


Etched beneath the cracked single-sheet front window were the words “QUACK OSMS”, the latter word in lettering similar to National Front insignia.

An angry Delamere yesterday said a bullet had damaged his New North Rd office and his business was being targeted by an anti-immigration “scuzzbags”. “It looks like a bullet has gone through it and it looks like some sort of National Front message scrawled on the footpath,” he said.

They also mention:

The attack follows the desecration of graves in Auckland’s Grafton Cemetery just over a week ago. Three men have been charged with wilful damage after anti-semitic graffiti and swastikas were sprayed on 20 headstones. In another attack, a Grey Lynn house being renovated was defaced with similar Nazi emblems. Police are investigating whether there are links among the attacks.

But then get this, they also mention:

Meanwhile, outspoken ad man John Ansell has found a new venue to launch his “Colourblind State” campaign after an Auckland business group pulled the pin on him.

I’m sorry but that is despicable to include that in the same story, which basically links Ansell to the National Front, anti-semitics and anti-immigration people. I can’t imagine it was done by accident either.

Does the HoS know the Electoral Act?

August 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday editorial says:

What is plain is that the law, which Prime Minister John Key said “anyone can drive a bus through”, is hopelessly inadequate. Local Government Minister David Carter confirmed this week that the Local Electoral Act will be amended before next year’s local body elections – but it seems the intention is only to bring it into line with the rules of the Electoral Act (which covers MPs). The local version sets no limit on the number or size of anonymous donations. Nor does it stop the use of trusts to ensure donors’ anonymity.

But it is time to go further and stop anonymous donations altogether. Nobody expects disclosure of the source of each coin thrown into a plastic bucket at a meeting. But it is fundamentally inimical to the idea of democracy that people can donate large amounts of money to political campaigns without voters’ knowing about it. Generous donors don’t give money to politicians without expecting something in return, and we should know who is giving what, not for the hell of it, but so that politicians’ behaviour can be assessed in the light of the largesse.

I can only assume the editorial writer doesn’t know the Electoral Act well. It does effectively ban large anonymous donations. No party or candidate can accept an anonymous donation of over $1,500.

There is an avenue where a donor can donate anonymously through the Electoral Commission, so long as they sign statements swearing the recipient party does not know of the donation. It wasn’t used a lot, and I actually support it being removed.

One can debate about whether the limit for anonymous donations should be $1,500 and what the disclosure limit should be ($1,500 for candidates, $15,000 for parties) and should these limits applies to local body campaigns.

Ideally the disclosure limit would be variable based on the size of the campaign. A $2,000 donation to an Auckland mayoral candidate is probably 0.2% of their total campaign spending, while the same donation to a small district council might be 10% of their total spending.

A misleading headline

February 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A headline in the HoS:

Housing New Zealand closes offices in favour of call centre

So this makes it sound like Housing NZ is closing offices.

People in desperate need of housing will soon have to call a national call centre rather than visit a Housing New Zealand office, a change that has angered voluntary services.

And this also makes it sound like Housing NZ is going to a phone only model.

People in need wanting to meet Housing New Zealand staff will have to pre-arrange an appointment through an 0800 number or via their website.

Later on you find that in fact the only thing changing is that people need to make an appointment in advance. There will still be dozens of offices with hundreds of staff meeting and helping people.

So a very misleading headline. Note the article writer does not write the headline – they are made up by sub-editors.


HoS can’t count

February 26th, 2012 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday editorial:

In the big grey building on the hill in Wellington are 121 MPs – one for every 36,600 New Zealanders.

That’s almost a record (they had to redo the seating plan to fit in such numbers) and it’s a big increase on the 99 MPs who represented us in 1996, before the introduction of MMP.

The last Parliament had 122 MPs, so in fact it has dropped. And worth mentioning that the population growth since 1996 means that even without MMP, we would be up to 109 MPs. In another decade or so Parliament under MMP will be smaller than what it would have been if we had continued with FPP.

Do we need so many MPs? Well, Australia’s House of Representatives contains 150 MPS – one for every 152,300 Ockers.

The HoS is not comparing apples with apples. With no second chamber our backbench MPs on select committees do the work which upper houses often do. Also with no state governments, the national parliament and government is responsible for all laws and policies. So what is the total number of legislators in Australia.

  • Federal – 150 + 76 = 226
  • NSW = 93 + 42 = 135
  • Victoria = 88 + 40 = 128
  • Queensland = 89
  • WA = 59 + 36 = 95
  • SA = 47 + 22 = 69
  • Tasmania = 25 + 15 = 40
  • ACT = 17
  • NT = 25

The total number of legislators in Australia is 824. That is one for every 27,700 Australians – a considerably higher ratio than in New Zealand.

The truth may be unpopular but for a country of its size, New Zealand has one of the smaller Parliaments in the world. I researched around 50 different countries for a submission on this a few years back.

Does MMP need so many politicians? No, it would work perfectly well if we went back to 99 MPs – 63 in general electorates, seven in Maori electorates, and 29 list MPs to bring specialist expertise and proportionality.

Another incorrect statement. In 1999 Labour would have had an overhang under a 70/29 Parliament creating a disproportional result. Again in 2002 Labour would have had an overhang.  And such overhangs would be inevitable in the future. A 70/29 split doesn’t produce proportional results when the winning party wins a lot of the electorate seats.

Has the HoS been telling porkies?

November 13th, 2011 at 4:17 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has just put out a statement:

The Herald on Sunday has many questions to answer about the illegal taping of the conversation between National Leader and Prime Minister John Key and Act candidate John Banks on Friday, says National Party campaign chair Steven Joyce.

“There are a number of inconsistencies in the story which together suggest an attempt to conceal a deliberate News of the World-type covert operation,” says Mr Joyce.

“Firstly, the radio transmission device was concealed inside a pouch and placed next to the Prime Minister.  Any camera operator knows that if you are seeking to obtain legitimate audio, you don’t muffle it by leaving the microphone in a pouch. This was an experienced cameraman, and the only possible conclusion is that the concealment was deliberate.

“Secondly, the Herald on Sunday article states the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff to retrieve the microphone during the meeting and was rebuffed. The problem is that no approach was made until after the meeting was over. If the approach had been made during the meeting to inform staff that a recording or transmitting device was left on the table, it would have been retrieved immediately.

“Thirdly, the Herald on Sunday article states that the taping was discovered on the cameraman’s return to his office. That is untrue. When the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff member for the return of the microphone, the cameraman acknowledged he was aware the conversation had been recorded.

“Fourthly, the Herald on Sunday article describes the cameraman as a ‘freelance cameraman’, and makes no attempt to disclose his working relationship with the Herald on Sunday. However in an email to the Prime Minister’s office last night chief reporter David Fisher seeks the return of the wireless microphone, which he says was ‘taken from our staff member’. 

“The conclusion one is left with is that the Herald on Sunday deliberately arranged the taping, in an unwelcome introduction of UK-style News of the World tabloid tactics into the New Zealand media environment, and is now deliberately seeking to distance themselves publicly.

In related news, Whale reveals who the cameraman probably was.

Also a must read comment by Niggly:

2. Whilst it isn’t unusual to leave a wireless microphone transmitter “on” (prior to use), it is actually unusual to leave a wireless microphone transmitter “on” and inside a bag, because that indicates it isn’t about to be used and is using up battery power. Not unless the freelancer was intending to use it ….

3. Even if the wireless microphone transmitter was unintentionally “on” and left inside a bag (and thus unintentionally transmitting) and this was all “innocent” …. then the “freelance cameraman’s” story doesn’t stack up at all after this point because his videocamera’s wireless microphone receiver device would have to have been on and the videocamera (or recording equipment) turned “on” and “recording”. To make this clearer, this last aspect here indicates the recording could not have been made (even with the wireless microphone switched on and transmitting) because for the recording to be made as said here, a receiving device then needs to be deliberately turned on and the “camera operator’s equipment” also had to be on and recording.

Is there anyone out there who thinks it really was an accident?

The secret recording

November 13th, 2011 at 8:03 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

The freelance cameraman who made the recording, whom the paper has agreed not to name, said the recording had been made accidentally after he was stopped by Key’s security staff from recovering the recording device. It transmitted the recording to the camera operator’s equipment but he did not discover until later.

This story is somewhat implausible. If the cameraman had said “I need to recover my recorder”, I have little doubt he would have been able to do so. I am also somewhat suspicious of the claim that he did not realise it was transmitting.

The recording, which was made unintentionally, according to the man who made it, contains fascinating insights into how Key thinks the next Parliament will shape up after the election.

We have chosen not to publish exact details of the conversation, as it was supposed to be in private, and Key last night refused to waive privacy considerations.

This is the correct decision, as it was obtained illegally. The freelance cameraman broke the law, whether intentionally or not,  and should have destroyed the recording, rather than given it to the HoS.

Right-wing blogger David Farrar also supported release if the recording revealed hypocrisy. “If there is something which is contradicted by what they say publicly, it makes the public interest argument.”

I should out this comment in its full context. I said the recording should not be published unless it revealed massive wrongdoing. I further compared it to being on the same scale as the UK phone tapping (albeit further down the scale). When pressed further on what would constitute massive wrongdoing, I gave the example of hypocrisy. I also said that for it to make the “public interest” argument, that is a different threshold to “the public would be interested”.

The fact the HoS has not published it, suggests it is merely interesting, rather than in the public interest.

The recording, which was made unintentionally, according to the man who made it, contains fascinating insights into how Key thinks the next Parliament will shape up after the election.

Well speculating on election outcomes is not exactly a crime. I suspect every MP has conversations like that several times a day.

Social Media generated stories

September 18th, 2011 at 11:40 am by David Farrar

Has the Herald on Sunday sacked all their staff and now just sit there reading social media? Probably too harsh a call, but look at just today’s stories:

I’m all for reporting on news-worthy stuff found in social media, but there is a balance.

Food Prices

March 6th, 2011 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Prices of day-to-day food, groceries and accommodation are rising at almost their fastest rate in the past 20 years, according to an in-depth Herald on Sunday investigation.

Food prices did increase a lot in January 2011. But that does not mean the HoS claims are accurate, and secondly you need to be very careful to jump to conclusions when prices have been fairly stable for 11 months and have only increased since Christmas.

But wage levels aren’t keeping pace – meaning daily life is as expensive as it’s ever been.

A slogan direct from the Labour Party – but wrong. After tax wages have increased for someone on the average wage either 12% or 16% (off memory. You buy food from your after tax income not your before tax gross wage.

Prices for apples, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes have gone through the roof in the past 12 months, rising 50 per cent or more.

Really. Well the official Food Price Index records prices for all of those items. This is done by the neutral Stats NZ, and isn’t influenced by cheery picking stores.

From January 2010 to January 2011 (Feb food prices are due out Friday), the price for 1 kg of apples has gone up 3% only. For carrots it is 26%, mushrooms 4% and potatoes 35%.

So none of thse have gone up 50%, and for two of the four items, the increase is a magnitude less than claimed by the HoS.

Now let’s not minimise that carrots and potatoes have still increased a lot, and this will be a stretch for some budgets. But this is the nature of having a global market for food.

Lamb and fish have also gone up more than 10 per cent, as have cheese, milk and fruit juice.

According to the food price index, the increases are lamb 6%, fish 0%, cheese 17%, milk 9% and fruit juice -1%.

Now maybe the February Food Price Index will come up with results that back the HoS story, but I’m going to wait to rely on the official figures. I also wonder why the HoS did its own survey when they get a free survey done for them every month by Stats NZ – that is robust and reliable.

Yet statistics reveal wages and salaries increased only 1.7 per cent last year.

Again, you pay for your food out of your after tax income, not the nominal gross wage you get.

HoS on Peters

February 6th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday editorial:

Key’s announcement has not necessarily spiked Peters’ guns, but it has given voters a stark choice. “If Winston Peters holds the balance of power,” he said this week, “it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government.”

In fact, voters already had a stark choice: do they want to return to the style of politics that Peters represents? For a return it would be, in the sense of being a seriously retrograde step. …

He is a skilled practitioner of divisive demagoguery, using alarmist and inflammatory language, in particular to cynically foment feeling against immigrants.

A 2005 NZPA article reminds us of some of them:

“There is a significant percentage of Asians in Auckland. That’s my view. If you don’t like it, vote for another party and let race relations go into chaos.” – Peters, in 2005.

“We have now reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand or some other country.” – Peters announcing “flying squads” to search for potentially risky immigrants.

“The government’s lax immigration laws are changing the face of our country forever. At this rate, it won’t take long for New Zealand to be unrecognisable.” – In a statement headlined “New Zealand — The Last Asian Colony”.

“We are being dragged into the status of an Asian colony and it is time that New Zealanders were placed first in their own country.” – In July 2004, following a government decision to increase the number of new migrants in the coming year.

It bemuses me that so many activists on the left are putting all their hopes on Winston – they should be the ones demanding that Labour also rules out dealing with him. Power before principles though.

HoS on Key

January 30th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday editorial:

Putting the merits of the sale plan aside for a moment, Key’s transparency is to be applauded. He said he would not sell off assets without the voters having their say, and they will get it, likely in November.

It is also heartening to see the Government doing something to put the brakes on its borrowing and to stimulate the moribund economy. Apart from the long overdue reining in of state sector costs, National has until now appeared to be indecisive and lacking ideas on how to help spark a recovery.

Of course, the moves are not a panacea, but they are a start. Upwards of $8 billion is expected to be raised in the sales and that money will go towards reducing our debt and into other infrastructure. They will prove a major boon for the sharemarket, with new listings just what the Capital Markets Development Taskforce says was needed to fire up the NZX.

As commentators have said repeatedly in the days since the announcement, the opportunity for mums and dads to invest in solid businesses that we know will continue to generate sizeable profits is likely to appeal to those burned by finance company collapses that have flushed away billions of dollars of savings.

With the Government guaranteeing to keep majority ownership, the biggest obstacle to sell-offs has been removed and there are more reasons to welcome the moves than to oppose them.

So the HoS supports the policy, what about the politics?

Key’s personal rating, however, should have been enhanced by the moves this week. He has been a populist leader so far in his first term and has been reluctant to rock the boat.

We have now seen strong, decisive leadership. That, more than the sales themselves, should be the most comforting aspect of the political week.

I agree.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:08 am by David Farrar

In the story the HOS report:

The horror smash that injured two picnickers yesterday horrified local MP Darren Hughes.

It came just months after he called on Parliament to decrease the legal blood alcohol limit.

Hughes’ bill mirrors the change the Herald on Sunday calls for in its Two Drinks Max campaign, to lower the limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

“There is a problem in that people lose their judgment when they’ve had too much alcohol,” he said.

“It’s no surprise they keep on drinking – because they can’t judge how much they’ve had.”

Hughes said changing attitudes to ensure people had no more than two standard drinks before driving would make a difference.

So presumably the driver who smashed into the picnickers had a BAC between 50 and 80 mg per 100 ml?

Nope – not even close. A separate story reveals:

A 37-year-old man Lower Hutt man tested three times over the legal drink-drive limit.

So that is around five times greater that what the HoS is demanding. I think it is utterly misleading to use this as an example in their campaign to change the law.

This is like calling for the age limit for driving to be increased from 16 to 18 because an 11 year old was caught driving and injured someone.

Two drinks max

October 24th, 2010 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has launched its drink driving campaign. It is primarily focused on persuading individual NZers to pledge two drinks max, with the objective of a law change less prominent.

I have no problems with people pledging not to drive after a certain amount of alcohol. I would note that a flat limit which takes no account of time period seems rather simplistic. Sometimes I may go to the Backbencher at 6 pm and stay on for Backbenches, and after that head into town until 2 am. Over those eight hours I might have four standard drinks (and a lot of non alcohol drinks and food), but would be well under 0.05 BAC.

I do take issue with one part of their story:

Science, too, is on our side. Last year, 129 people died on New Zealand roads as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Many – the transport ministry projects 150-33 lives a year – could be saved if the drink-drive limit was lowered from 80mg to 50mg.

I presume the 150 is a type, and it is meant to be 15-33. I point out again what the official stats tell us:

The only data we have at the moment is the stats on blood alcohol level amongst deceased drivers. They show over the last five years that 18 deceased drivers had a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08.

But that number is misleading as it includes those aged under 20, for whom it is already illegal to drive with a BAC over 0.03. That knocks it down to 12. That is 12 out of 1,168 deceased drivers or 1% of the total.

12 over five years is 2.4 a year. The number of dead drivers is over half the number of total dead on the roads, so I would say 4 – 5 people a year would be “saved” by a law change – that is if assuming those drivers would not have driven if the law changed.

As I said yesterday, I am willing to be persuaded that a change is desirable – but to do that we need to collect better data and not have nonsense claims about 33 lives a year, hen only 1.4 deceased drivers a year test between 0.05 and 0.08.

While I think the two drink max limit is a bit simplistic, I understand the need for simplisticity in mass media campaigns. If the HoS campaign helps reduce the road toll voluntarily – then good on them. I suspect though that it will mainly affect the low risk drivers, and have little impact on the recividist drunk drivers who cause so much of the damage.

Actually, that would be an interesting stat – and one I am do not know of. How many of those drivers who die in fatal car crashes have a conviction for driving over the limit?

The HoS Drink Driving Campaign

October 23rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I received this message on Facebook:

This weekend the Herald on Sunday are launching a major campaign to persuade the Government to lower the drink driving limit from 0.08mg to 0.05mg (of alcohol per 100 ml of blood), the same as Australia, Japan and most of Europe.

Drink driving has devastated the lives of many Kiwis at the hands of drink drivers and they are looking for Kiwis to sign up to a pledge of “two drinks max”.

The aim is to gather thousands of signatures to add weight to their message to Government that the blood/alcohol limit needs to be lowered before more lives are wrecked.

The Herald on Sunday have asked to interview people who are passionate about the cause. If you are interested, please drop me a note via Facebook with your contact details that I may pass onto reporter xxxxxx xxxxxxxx or contact her directly as follows:

I was somewhat amused to also get a call from an HoS staffer today asking if I would join the list of prominent NZers who are endorsing their campaign. I remarked that they must not have read my blog posts on the issue, because in fact I have been somewhat vocal about the lack of evidence for there to be a change.

I am not adamantly against a change. If the research stacks up, then a change from 0.08 to 0.05 might well be justifiable. But we are lacking even the most basic data. The Government has said it is changing the law so this data can be collected, and that is a good thing – then a decision can be made on evidence, not emotion.

The two pieces of data I want are:

  1. How many deaths and injuries are caused by drivers who currently legally drive with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08
  2. How many people drive with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08

With that data we can work out the costs and benefits of a law change – how many NZers currently drive safely at 0.05 to 0.08 and how many cause accidents at that level.

The only data we have at the moment is the stats on blood alcohol level amongst deceased drivers. They show over the last five years that 18 deceased drivers had a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08.

But that number is misleading as it includes those aged under 20, for whom it is already illegal to drive with a BAC over 0.03. That knocks it down to 12. That is 12 out of 1,168 deceased drivers or 1% of the total.

Now a lot of research has shown that it is drivers below the age of 25 who cause the most crashes. We used to have different testing requirements for below and over 25 year olds. I would be pretty comfortable with having the current limits for under 20s extend to under 25s.

So I then ask how many drivers aged over 25 were killed with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08? Just seven? Around 1.4 drivers a year.

Now if we get better data, then I could be persuaded of the desirability of change.  What we need is for blood alcohol samples to be collected from all drivers involved in a fatal accident, and also record how many others died in those crashes. Ideally we would also differentiate those cases where a driver may be over 0.05 but is not at fault – ie they get rammed side on by another driver.

We should constantly look at ways to reduce the road toll, but they should be based on good research which includes looking at what inconvenience or damage is done to current law abiding drivers. Unless you take a balanced approach, then you end up with an end point where say no car is physically able to go at over 30 km/hr. This would reduce the road toll by around 95% – but would greatly reduce the benefits most NZers get from motor vehicles.

Herald on Sunday on The Hobbit

October 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

But plainly the actors want to discuss a collective agreement – essentially unionising the workplace – in order to ensure that wages and conditions are protected. On the face of it, that sounds unexceptionable, but the prime mover in the matter is an Australian-based union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is not registered in this country and which, therefore, cannot legally negotiate an agreement.

And it is hard to read what is going on as anything other than a grab for membership by that group.

And if MEAA got re-registered a a union in NZ, there is no reason it can’t represent that tiny (10%) minority of actors who choose to be members in their negotiations.

But what is unacceptable is their attempt to force every actor to be covered by the MEAA through a collective contract.

Support for the MEAA from the guilds representing the behind-the-camera talent – such as camera operators, designers and lighting teams – has been conspicuous by its absence.

As they are the ones who will be screwed over by the consequences.

Film-making, even on a small scale, is capital-intensive and high risk. Hollywood productions have a long history of being held to ransom by unions. One of the reasons so called “runaway” productions choose to film here is that they relish the versatility and can-do mentality of local actors and technicians.

Many media have missed the point about why the movie may move. It isn’t about whether NZ actors get paid less than other actors (and I am not sure they are), it is about union ransom demands. What really cripples a film is when you are halfway through shooting it and the union calls a strike – holding the production to ransom.

Any move away from New Zealand will not be because of pay rates. It will be because of union tactics.

There is no reason that actors here should be exploited; but there is no evidence that is happening. We are already facing competition from countries offering bigger tax incentives than we do to lure runaway productions. Our actors may rue their disproportionate militancy sooner than they think.

Well remember it is not all actors. MEAA represents only 10% of actors. But yes, the MEAA may end up screwing all actors in NZ if the NZ movie industry gets wiped out.

But it will go even further than that, in terms of bad consequences for actors. Much of the local industry relies on government subsidies through NZ on Air, Film Commission etc etc. And can you imagine there being any political willpower to increase funding to the arts, after a group of actors succeed in destroying the film industry? God no. So there will also be fewer plays, TV shows and local movies for all actors.

If you want to avoid this outcome, consider signing the petition started by Wellington film-maker Chaz Harris, and Richard Whiteside, a Wellington actor. It calls for an end to the boycott. If you sign it, and are involved in the arts, state your involvement.

There are 1,365 signatures to date. That is seven times as many people as are members of the MEAA in New Zealand.

HoS on Foreshore Act repeal

September 19th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson stayed away from the House as the first-reading debate began on the bill repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It was a gracious gesture: although the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill is in his name, he wanted Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia to be first to speak to it.

It was a fitting acknowledgement of the role she played in wrenching the 2004 legislation from the jaws of history.

Which shows that one MP can make a difference.

Unfortunately, some try to depict the repeal as an act of surrender to Maori demands that ancient entitlements be honoured in modern law. But that is very far from being the case.

The 2004 act was a sledgehammer response to a Court of Appeal decision that had not “given” Maori anything: it had suggested that Maori might be able to seek customary title in the Maori Land Court to parts of the foreshore and seabed.

The Clark Government pre-empted that right; the act now before the House restores it. To quote Turia, it reopens a door that was slammed shut.

That is for me the key aspect – that Maori New Zealanders have had restored their right to go to court.

In any case, for those seeking customary title, the bar is set high: applicant iwi must demonstrate virtually uninterrupted exclusive use and occupation of the areas since 1840; areas to which title is granted cannot be sold; and free public access must be preserved.

Which is one reason why Hone Harawira is not supporting it. He thinks that the entire foreshore and seabed should be in Maori title. I believe the correct test is what the Court of Appeal set down – uninterrupted exclusive use and occupation since 1840.

I’m a “political animal”

August 22nd, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Welcome to One News – if you’d like to know how Australia’s elections work, we’re completely incapable of telling you.

That seemed to be the problem for presenter Simon Dallow when he fronted a segment on our closest neighbour’s electoral system.

As an instructional, the Friday night broadcast told viewers little that was accurate about the 1200 candidates vying for the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate.

In fact, it used a completely different voting system to explain what 14 million voters – of 22 million citizens – would be doing with their votes.

The mistake was picked up by political animal and blogger David Farrar. He told Kiwiblog readers: “What a pity they got it so wrong. Simon Dallow, who fronted it, should send an angry-gram to whomever produced that item.”

I wasn’t aware political animal was a formal descriptor!

Throng report an apology from TVNZ:

We’re looking into how we got this so very wrong and sincerely apologise to our viewers for the very embarrassing mistake.

Kudos to TVNZ for being upfront.

HoS on Barlow’s release

August 22nd, 2010 at 5:56 am by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

Another ‘innocent’ man is about to get out of prison.

Convicted double killer John Barlow will next week walk free from Wellington’s Rimutaka Prison after serving about 15 years for the execution-style killings of father and son Eugene and Gene Thomas in 1995.

Barlow was convicted at a third trial after the first two juries could not agree on a verdict. He has had a Privy Council appeal dismissed. The 64-year-old will walk out to the support of his wife, Angela, and daughter Keryn.

The family maintains Barlow is innocent. Keryn has even completed the first draft of a book on the case, which she says reveals some of the torment the family has had to suffer.

As the old joke goes, everyone in prison is innocent.

As for torment and suffering, well my thoughts remain with the Thomas family who lost a father and son. There is no parole for them.

Sunday coverage of expenses

June 13th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports Chris Carter is close to quitting Parliament:

New Zealand’s first openly gay Cabinet minister is close to quitting Parliament because he is sick of being attacked as a “luxury-loving gay boy”.

Chris will quite Parliament at the next election – because his colleagues are so pissed off at him.

“Do you want to live your life with this stuff going on all the time? You know, I love being an MP. But there might well be a point soon where I think this is just not worth it.”

Yes, how dare one have to endure scrutiny of spending.

But he said the public perception of him as living the high-life at the taxpayer’s expense was grossly inaccurate – and he still drives a 1996 Suzuki Swift.

The only thing grossly inaccurate is Chris’ perception. It is a shame – he used to have a well developed political instinct, but it has deserted him.

“I have lots of faults … but arrogance, pride and love of luxury are not among them.”‘

So why the $6,000 of limo hire?

No other Minister has been “forced” into hiring them, as you claim you were by the Australian Government.

Matt McCarten writes:

This week the credit card expenses came out on Thursday and none of it was good for Labour.

A number of former Labour ministers clearly didn’t know where the line between their public responsibilities and personal luxury needs started and finished. …

But what these ministers didn’t get is there are rightly different standards for them. They are in the privileged positions of being leaders, where their personal ethics and integrity are important no matter what their political stripes. Carelessly using a ministerial card for personal luxuries is thoughtless at best and corrupt at worst.

There are two types of politicians – those that think it’s a privilege to be a representative of the people and those who think it’s a privilege for us to have them. You can guess which category the ministerial card abusers fall under.

As we saw in the previous story.

And Kerre Woodham writes:

Phil Goff thundered sanctimoniously that Heatley’s position went to his head.

He’d barely been minister for a year, Phil Goff expostulated, and his sense of entitlement was such that he ordered two bottles of wine with dinner. Heads should roll, Phil finished.

Well, as sure as the karma bus will make a stop at your door, Labour has found itself having to explain away thousands of dollars worth of credit card bills run up by its former ministers.

Karma indeed.

Chris Carter, the serial trougher, was at it again. Despite being advised repeatedly as to what was appropriate use for his ministerial credit card, and despite being sent the entire parliamentary policy on credit card use, just as a reminder, Chris Carter continually bent the rules.

Movies, flowers, fruit and massages – whether the massages had happy endings isn’t specified on the bill – all popped up on Carter’s credit card.

Oh Kerre. Too much detail.

And the HoS editorial:

The most extraordinary aspect of the scandal over spending irregularities that has destroyed Shane Jones’ leadership aspirations – and possibly his entire political career – is that he ever imagined he might get away with it.

In numerical terms, Jones is not in fact the worst offender in the latest round of revelations: his one-time colleague in Cabinet, Education Minister Chris Carter, actually ran up 33 per cent more than Jones – on flowers, designer clothing and spa treatments.

Most gallingly, he used his ministerial card to buy flowers for Lianne Dalziel after she was sacked as Immigration Minister for lying about having leaked documents to a television channel.

The logic by which he could regard it as a ministerial duty to console a colleague who had sought to deceive the public remains obscure to everybody but him, it appears.

The thought of personally paying for the flowers did not occur I suspect.

… principal among them is the requirement that no personal expenditure be incurred on a ministerial card. That means precisely what it says: it does not mean that it is all right to run up private expenses with the intention of later reimbursing them.

Many of us run two or more plastic cards and make daily decisions about which to use, for reasons of our own personal accounting. It is no great burden to do so, and it is the least we might expect of someone carrying a card for which the taxpayer picks up the tab.

No great burden and very common.

The events of the week have surely irretrievably damaged the mana of a man who was widely tipped to succeed Phil Goff as Labour leader and, in the eyes of many, potentially the country’s first Maori Prime Minister.

Sad though that is, there is a sense here of history repeating itself. Winston Peters and John Tamihere were in their turn cloaked with the mantle of future premiership.

Hmmn, it does seem to be a sort of curse.

And finally the SST reports:

Jones is being urged not to resign as Goff looks set to use the scandal to shake up his front bench.

Jones and Te Atatu MP Chris Carter face demotion tomorrow after Goff’s return to a party in disarray over revelations going back seven years.

The release of credit card receipts last week show Carter notched up bills for limousines, flowers and massages, while Jones watched dozens of pornographic movies. He repaid the money before he handed in his credit card, but Carter is still paying money back.

Jones, who has been tipped as a potential leader, is considering his future, but has ruled out resigning.

Samuels said Jones shouldn’t quit. “He has got leadership qualities I don’t think anybody else in the party has. Many in Maoridom would be very disappointed if he resigned.”

And besides if Jones goes, who else will be there to grant citizenship for Dover’s mates?

Finally John Tamihere writes in Sunday News:

THIS week the Department of Internal Affairs disclosed detailed lists identifying expenditure of ministers in the Labour Government from 2003-2008. I was a minister from 2002-2004.

I had no idea I could order massages, flowers, porn movies and booze galore. The biggest scalp achieved by the clever release of this information was Shane Jones.

While others erred and were arguably worse, particularly Chris Carter, Jones is the big story.

He entered Parliament as the Labour Party attack weapon on the Maori Party and as a person who had huge cross-over appeal into non-Maori communities.

He has Dalmatian ancestry and was gaining significant support for a tilt at the Labour leadership once they lose the 2011 election.

I am not sure Jones was going to wait until 2011.  Phil Goff’s leadership has been made much safer by this.

The question is, can he survive as a politician? He is a list MP and does not have a constituency to fall back on. He is at the whim of the back-room Labour Party machinery.

That machinery is driven predominantly by a group of women who stretch across the gay, union and the woman’s divisions of the party. They control the moderation committee that decides where you sit on the party list. I sat on that committee for the 1999 and 2002 elections.

All of Shane’s colleagues are going to tell him he has a future in politics and not to quit. And then come the 2011 list ranking, he’ll be given an unwinnable place.

The blueing of Auckland

April 4th, 2010 at 6:55 pm by David Farrar

Matt Nippert in the Herald on Sunday looks at the blueing of Auckland.

I can certainly recall the days when National held just half a dozen seats or so in Auckland, and now it is Labour that is reduce to single figures in Auckland.

Almost one in 10 Aucklanders voted National for the first time in the 2008 general election. Head-to-head, there was a 15 per cent swing to the right, and four middle-Auckland electorates changed their political colours.

National’s average vote in Auckland was 48.3%, compared to 38.0% in Wellington and 42.1% in Christchurch.

The National over Labour gap in Auckland was 15.4%, compared to 10.9% nationally. Only rural NZ had a bigger gap

Auckland also had the largest swing in the country. National went up 6.9% and Labour went down 8.9%.

This movement was particularly pronounced in the city south of the bridge and north of Manukau: young Nikki Kaye unseated Judith Tizard in Auckland Central; Pansy Wong crucified the opposition in the newly created Botany; leopard-skin-clad Paula Bennett stormed home in Waitakere; and burly Samoan rugby player Sam Lotu-Iiga claimed Maungakiekie from old-school unionist Mark Gosche.

The print copy has an amusing sketch of Paula, Sam and Nikki respectively as Wonder Woman, Super Man and well I am not sure but I think Sheena.

Repeatedly, Labour MPs interviewed for this story refer to their electoral defeat as a movement of tides.

That of course is part of it, but not all of it. For may part, here are some of the factors which led to National winning seats off Labour in Auckland.

  1. Right candidates for the seats
  2. They ran campaigns to win the seats, not just party vote campaigns. A good local campaign will life electorate vote and party vote.
  3. The boundary changes were generally favourable to National, especially in areas like Maungakiekie.
  4. Incumbent MPs were retiring or weak
  5. The Government had lost touch – ie time for a change

Now if Labour are placing all their faith in (5) no longer being an issue, then they may get a shock.

The implication is that if the tide of support went out in 2008, it’ll come back in eventually. But, a year and a half later, there is little sign of a sea change that will wash the left back to power.

One has to make it happen, not just wait for the tide.

Chris Carter, whose electorate seat Te Atatu swung almost 20 percentage points to National from Labour, is almost blase about Patel’s change of allegiance: “By and large the Indian community is still with us – and the South African one is for the other guys. That’s the way it’s always been.”

But not necessarily the way it always will stay.

While Trotter has been bitterly attacked by Labour backbenchers for his diagnosis, their leader concedes he may have a point. “I think that’s probably right,” says Goff of the loss of ‘Waitakere Man’: “There’s a group of people out there who thought that Labour had become too nanny-statist, telling people what to do and not to do.”

Not just nanny state. Too reluctant to give tax cuts, and too keen to grow government spending.