The NBR Rich List

July 29th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The NBR Rich List is here.

  1. HART Graeme$7 billion
  2. CHANDLER Richard$4.2 billion
  3. TODD family$3.3 billion
  4. ERCEG family$1.6 billion
  5. FRIEDLANDER Michael$1.5 billion
  6. CHANDLER Christopher$1.4 billion
  7. GOODMAN family$1.35 billion
  8. JENNINGS Stephen$1.001 billion
  9. FAY Sir Michael$900 million
  10. MYERS Sir Douglas$900 million
  11. RICHWHITE David$900 million
  12. COOPER Peter$780 million
  13. SPENCER (late John) family$720 million
  14. JONES Sir Robert$650 million
  15. JACKSON Sir Peter$630 million
  16. DUKE Rod$600 million
  17. FARMER Trevor$600 million
  18. GOODFELLOW family$600 million
  19. NORMAN Anne & David$580 million
  20. MANSON family$550 million

Very few on the rich list inherited their wealth Most are self-made business people and entrepreneurs,

NBR also profile the top 10 philanthropists. They are:

  1. Sir Michael Friedlander
  2. Dame Rosie Horton
  3. John Hynds
  4. Sir David Levene
  5. Sam and Gareth Morgan
  6. Neal and Annette Plowman
  7. Sir Stephen Tindall
  8. Todd family
  9. Sir James Wallace
  10. Green family

Finally Stuff reports:

Despite saying that he hoped to stop appearing on the Rich List, there has been no such luck for Prime Minister John Key whose wealth has increased $5 million to $60m over the past year, according the the 2016 NBR Rich List.

The PM wouldn’t comment on his wealth when the list was released on Thursday – a stance he has taken since debuting on the list as Opposition Leader in 2008.

I have no idea what the PM is worth, except more than me. But I have been amused that his wealth has been estimated pretty constantly at $50 million since 2002 when he became a candidate. I always wondered why it was assumed it would be static for the last 14 years.

If you assumed a very conservative 4% growth it would now be $86 million and 5% growth would be $99 million.

As I said I have no idea if the initial estimate is correct or the current estimates. But the one thing I would guess is that the wealth in 2016 is a lot more than it was in 2002.

NBR online doing well

July 5th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

When NBR ONLINE first introduced its paywall in 2009, people lined up to give it the bash.

Sam Morgan, then a Fairfax director, called it “the brick wall” and he was one of the politer ones.

But it turns out that if you deliver news people can use, they are willing to pay for it.

People did sign on, and new subscription options have seen numbers accelerating over just the past six months to hit 4000 individual paid member subscribers today.

Their numbers are supplemented by 336 organisations with IP (internet protocol) subscriptions that let every staff member access NBR ONLINE from their office.

4,000 individual subscriptions is a good achievement. I suspect the bulk of the revenue comes from the 336 corporate subscriptions but still a useful contributions.

As Fairfax and NZME look at paywalls, they should look at how NBR has managed to do it profitably. From what I can tell, they do two important things:

  • Provide lots of really good analysis, not just news (which you can get anywhere)
  • Have some stories outside the paywall to get visits, but the best stuff behind the paywall so people know it is there and want to see it

NBR on small passenger review

April 26th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

As someone in the pro-Uber, pro-disruptive technology, I was hoping the government would side with Uber but I’m surprised at just how emphatically Mr Bridges has backed the newcomer.

Last night, the transport minister said he would take the “lightest touch” possible as the new rules were finalised.

“I’ve always thought that in politics you’re on the side of the angels if what you’re doing is good for consumers, and ultimately this will be,” he said.

“What I want to see is a regime that allows for new technological innovations but is safe. Some change is required but we’re open to where that goes.”

A very welcome focus on what is best for consumers, not what is best for industry.

More broadly, some fear quality will drop under his laissez-faire proposals. But at least Uber drivers have the incentive that they are constantly being rated by passengers. And, in contrast, we’ve all had rubbish taxi drivers at times who have poorly maintained cars and/or an inability to work a simple GPS. Often the difference is nothing, given the number of taxi drivers who do double duty, whipping off their magnetic taxi badging when they get an Uber hail.

The New Zealand government’s approach is a happy contrast to some countries, like France, which are trying to ban or crack down on Uber; or Australia, were insanely complicated and expensive arrangements are being established (in South Australia, the state government is paying 1137 taxi drivers $A30,000 each as compensation for a law making ride-sharing apps like Uber legal. The $34 million move is being funded by a $A1 tariff on taxi fares that will, of course, make Uber seem even more attractive. Western Australia is introducing annual fees for Uber drivers. New South Wales is introducing a stonking $A250 million taxi industry compensation package, with a $A1 a ride special tariff for five years).

So well done, Mr Bridges.

A very good outcome from Bridges and Foss.

NBR on climate change

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

Nevil Gibson at NBR writes:

The Paris conference on climate change at the end of this year is shaping up as a triumph for world diplomacy.

While expectations may not be high, the result could be surprisingly good.

For the first time we may have an accord with all the major emitters, not just a few. Any global agreement needs to include the top 10 emitters which are China, US, EU, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and Iran. Those 10 economies represent 71% of greenhouse gases. If they can agree on a fair reduction regime, then I believe most of the world will follow.

The main reason for this is that realism and pragmatism will finally win over zealotry and ideology. For too long the climate change debate has been dominated by doomsday merchants – from scientists to environmentalists.

For a variety of reasons and motivations, they say the world is doomed from rising temperatures and want to blame western civilisation.

As recently as today, a leading New Zealand climate scientist says New Zealand’s carbon emissions target should be set according to environmental demands rather than what is practical.

At the extreme these advocates want to tax people out of most forms of transport, heating and power generation. They want the western world to retreat from its high living standards and condemn the rest of it to not rising above their current levels.

In some cases, that means abject poverty. Obviously this is a not a viable position for any country.

Exactly. Climate change is real, and greenhouse gases play a large part in the warming. However that doesn’t mean that we undo the industrial revolution and turn the clock back.

Global climate change caused by man-made greenhouse gases is not the biggest and only existential threat to the planet.

It must be put in context with other pressing problems such as life-threatening diseases, environmental degradation, poverty and much else.


The main one will be an inclusive document to which all nations can subscribe, according to their ability.

But it won’t be like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which phased out production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.

This was a great success. CFCs were a discrete problem, had limited uses and were easily replaced. Climate pollutants – if that is the right word – are rather different.

Most are a waste product of nearly every aspect of modern life. They are also not limited to carbon; methane, soot and nitrous oxide all contribute to rising temperatures.

In New Zealand, most methane, for example, comes from livestock. Other than extinction, no single global tax or regulatory scheme will solve that.

This is a key difference. Yes greenhouse gases have a detrimental impact on the temperature, but they come from highly beneficial activities such as energy and agriculture.

The Green Party policy is to kill off 20% or so of our dairy herd. That isn’t a solution.

The NBR paywall

September 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR has given some details around its paywall, as the Herald confirms they will introduce one in early 2015. Some details:

  • 3,000 individual subscriptions (at $230 each = $690,000)
  • 300 business subscriptions
  • NBR gets 55,000 visitors and 300,000 pageviews a day
  • Total revenune for NBR Online around $1 million a year
  • Print circulation revenue around $2,850,000

I’ve often cited NBR as a rare paywall model that works. They get the mix of free and non free stuff right, and they provide analysis and news you can get elsewhere. People won’t pay for news stories that are covered on a dozen other sites, but they will for quality analysis.


Hooton on why Labour is veering hard left

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

The history of politics in not just New Zealand, but in most countries is that oppositions veer towards the centre. That is where votes are to be won.

Labour has embarked on a policy programme that can only be called radical. They are campaigning to get rid of current monetary policy and interfere in the exchange rate. They are proposing nationalisation of the energy generation sector. They are promising to pay beneficiary families the same at working families for child support (despite the extra costs of working). Their policy programme is resembling what the Greens have been pushing for the last decade, rather than what Clark and Cullen did in Government.

So why have they headed hard left? Matthew Hooton explains in NBR:

The most famous theory in political science is the median voter model.

Developed in 1929 by Stanford economics professor Harold Hotelling, it provides strategic guidance to politicians, anticipates their policy positions and predicts election results.

Broadly, it suggests that, in any two-candidate election, both are best to adopt policy to please the median, middle-of-the-road voter, and that the candidate closest to the median will win.


In politics, the model’s predictive power is proven not just by vast screeds of algebra by microeconomists, game theorists and political scientists, but – unlike much social-science theory – by real-world observation.

Even with apparent exceptions, like Baroness Thatcher’s three election wins, she was indeed closer to the median than failed prime minister Lord Callaghan in 1979, Soviet appeaser Michael Foot in 1983, and even Lord Kinnock in 1987.

UK Labour finally won power when they abandoned the very socialist policies that NZ Labour is now embracing.

So why the lurch to the left?

Do the maths again, but assume three major players, and you get a different result.  Suddenly, there is an incentive to differentiate and diverge. …

Similarly, in politics, the model suggests that, in three-party systems, parties will no longer all cuddle up to the median voter but some will offer more radical policy choices.  It’s argued, as with consumer markets, that this leads to a more lively democracy.

The release of the Labour/Green electricity policy suggests something like this is happening in New Zealand.

The Greens are now clearly established as a permanent third party, with the other small parties melting away.  Professor Hotelling and his academic heirs could have told us this would likely lead to something like the electricity policy, which has already wiped hundreds of millions from the Crown balance sheet, including the SOE portfolio and the ACC and Superannuation funds, and from KiwiSaver accounts.

This explains why Labour has adopted so many Green party policies.

It is no good Labour/Green saying the policy is not radical by arguing that something like it has been implemented elsewhere.  That would be like National saying a 15% flat tax is not radical in a New Zealand context by pointing to Hong Kong.

Exactly. As pointed out previously, the model they cite has generally been adopted in countries moving from a totally nationalised power industry to one with some competition. It has never been used in a country which already has 14 competitive generating companies.

Here’s a competition for readers. See if you can identify all the Labour Party policies that they have stolen from the Greens? Abolishing youth rates was Greens policy, and resisted by Labour initially. As was massive hikes in the minimum wage, and extending paid parental leave.

We also have their lurch to the left on monetary policy, and their nationalisation agenda and the extending Working for Families credits to beneficiary families.

What others ones are there?

The benefits of hands off

February 3rd, 2013 at 8:09 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR:

The bigger the lie, the more likely it will be believed.

Today’s left wails that the global financial crisis has undermined the case for so-called neoliberal economics: free and open economies, price stability as the primary goal of monetary policy, freely traded currencies, prudent fiscal policy and private ownership of productive assets.

David Shearer says “the hands-off, leave-it-to-the-market approach has failed all over the world.” Labour/Green will be “hands on.”

Matthew provides a table to compare how well hands-off and hands-on countries are doing:



Hooton notes:

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the world’s six freest economies are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada (see table).

These six have avoided anything like the deep and prolonged recessions of more interventionist countries.

The IMF continues to forecast higher growth for the six than for countries further down the freedom list.

Even more important, both unemployment and youth unemployment are lower in the more free-market economies.

While I don’t think the labels hands-on and hands-off are particularly meaningful, I absolutely agree with Matthew that the freer the economy the more it tends to grow, and the more jobs are created.

Meet the MUNZers

March 15th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Conor O’Brien at NBR reports:

Half of the Maritime Union’s bargaining team were disciplined and two were sacked during collective agreement negotiations with Ports of Auckland (PoAL),NBR Online can reveal.

PoAL’s organisational strategist Rod Lingard says a series of disciplinary actions made the union look like a “biker gang” rather than a responsible union in the modern era.

“Of the eight people in the union’s bargaining team we have had to discipline four of them,” Mr Lingard says.

Now what were they disciplined for? Was it just because they were union delegates?

Mr McKean was sacked on September 20 for publishing a racist and sexist piece in the union’s national magazine.

We have profiled Mr McKean’s work before.

Mr Harrison was sacked on January 24 after an investigation concluded he made violent threats against a non-union employee and his family, calling the employee a “f**king piece of s**t”.


Mr Findlay was given his final warning after he took a letter from under his manager’s locked door using a ruler.

Oh, a thief.

Another PoAL employee Andrew Angus, a former member of the union’s executive, was dismissed after writing the following job application and posting it anonymously under an administrator’s door. 

Kia ora bro,

I wish to make application for the the position of ship Leading Hand. I feel too intellegant to drive straddles all my life. If it helps I can do a month or two on the sunbed- My great grandfather was one of the priests for the Island of Tualvau and he taught them bannans grown on trees. 

Yours the Best Billy.T. James

Mr Angus was reinstated while his case was heard by the Employment Relations Authority but was sacked a second time after he was caught on camera throwing a twist-lock under a straddle crane. Twist-locks are used to secure containers together on board ships and can cause straddle cranes to tip if they get caught under their wheels. 

Good unions work to have safer workplaces, not sabotage equipment.

Mr Lingard says a fifth union member, official delegate Dave Phillips, who was not employed by PoAL, was served a trespass notice in December after he entered the port’s mess-room and threatened non-union employees with violence.

Remember MUNZ is a proud affiliate member of the Labour Party, and Labour MPs are down on their picket line.

UPDATE: And another MUNZer speaks up to Whale:

Message: u leave cecil walker alone u bastard do u get off on thiskind of stuff tell u what anymore comments about my bros personal life an u r going to get utu i aint fuken jokn etha its not hard to findout were u r so back off

That’s very sad. Not the threat so much – they have a well documented history of threatening and intimidation. But the child like text speak in an e-mail. Please tell me that man is not in charge of a crane somewhere.

Hooton on charter schools

December 9th, 2011 at 11:28 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes in the NBR:

Charter schools have received most attention.

 So obviously will this idea benefit the most disadvantaged children that it is shameful it wasn’t implemented years ago, especially as it can be done under existing legislation.

 The concept is almost left-wing – that all children are different and require a school environment tailored to their needs, not the ideologies of bureaucrats or unionists – and New Zealand already has charter schools of sorts.

Indeed the schools are not new, but the extra flexibility they may have could be.

The Muldoon government first supported Te Kohanga Reo in 1982.  Lockwood Smith followed in 1993, providing the first funding for Kura Kaupapa Maori, Wharekura and Wananga.

Catholic integrated schools and those based on particular pedagogies such as Montessori or Steiner are also effectively charter schools.  Dr Smith’s tenure saw the first state-funded Hare Krishna school.

The idea is to give poor families the same educational choices as rich families, and bring new ideas into the system.

But there will be opposition!

The teacher unions, of course, oppose the idea with extraordinary ferocity.  They know that, if the charter school trial is successful, their vision of a single system, controlled by them, with no ability to compare either students or schools, and therefore no possibility of accountability, will be dashed.  They also know that, without their intervention, the trial is likely to succeed.

Vicious campaigns will be launched against the new schools and the teachers who work in them.

Pickets will try to prevent students from attending them.  The atmosphere the unions engender will encourage attacks on students planning to attend the schools …

Now Matthew may be resorting to a bit of hyperbole here, but if he is correct could we see scenes like the below in New Zealand?

Labour v Leitch

October 1st, 2011 at 10:59 am by David Farrar

Labour doesn’t seem to learn. I’m now awaiting their attack on Richie McCaw. The Herald reports:

Rugby-netball double international Louisa Wall is sticking up for fellow Labour MP Darien Fenton over her attack on the public “bromance” between the Mad Butcher Sir Peter Leitch and Prime Minister John Key. …

But Ms Wall, who is back in Parliament for a second stint as a list MP, said the comments were misinterpreted, and she shared the disappointment at Sir Peter’s support for Mr Key – despite admiring his work.

 “We would have assumed Sir Peter was a working-class champion,” Ms Wall said.
But instead he is a class traitor, is the implication.
Ms Wall, who is contesting the safe Labour seat of Manurewa, said “personal is political”, and Sir Peter could not endorse Mr Key without endorsing his policies.
So if you say something nice about the Prime Minister, Labour thinks it means you hate working people.
The issue made the editorial of the NZ herald today:
For Ms Fenton, though, his broadcast utterances were political treason. That any member of the country’s working class could speak well of a “Tory” leader is anathema. Unthinkable. Unforgivable.

The Mad Butcher was shocked by her withering personal rejection and the attempt to denounce him for saying what he thinks. His former butchery business was also stunned by an inference some had taken that a Labour MP was calling for a boycott of the Mad Butcher stores, many of them in rock-solid Labour seats.

The Fenton comments would have been politically dumb and personally reprehensible at any time, given Sir Peter’s record for serving the communities the MP purports to represent.

But her timing, amid Sir Peter’s well-publicised but tentative recovery from cancer and the joy of all league fans at the Warriors’ late season success, was particularly damaging.
And Matthew Hooton lets loose in the NBR:

Labour has also rounded on Sir Peter Leitch, the Mad Butcher, who, after strongly supporting Helen Clark, now favours John Key. 

Labour List MP Darien Fenton declared she was, and I quote her directly, “never going near him again.” While he was “good in the past” he had “gone way out on a limb.” When asked whether it wouldn’t be better to try to win back his vote, she replied, and again I quote her directly: “Why?” Ms Fenton is guaranteed to be re-elected as a list MP, at the expense of quality Labour people like Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash, who are both doomed.

At, a blog written by Labour and union staffers and other leftist activists, the attacks on Sir Peter, who won his knighthood for services to philanthropy and the community, were even more vicious. One, defended on free-speech grounds by the blog administrators, was: “I wish the Mad Butcher would hurry up and die.”

Hooton concludes:

Such attacks on the Greens, left-leaning academics, the media and the popular Mad Butcher (in the very week his beloved Warriors will finally win the NRL!) suggest some kind of derangement syndrome caused by Labour’s fury at Mr Key’s popularity.

These people have learned nothing from their defeat in 2008. They despise the voters, whom they regard as ignorant and wrong. Unless such bitter and paranoid individuals lose influence within Labour, New Zealand won’t benefit from proper opposition until late 2014 at the earliest.

Matthew has commented that he received more positive feedback on this column, than any other he has written.

Key will serve full second term

July 29th, 2011 at 11:35 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton has written in NBR (offline):

As a rumour, it’s surprisingly prevalent.

  Just as he wanted to be a successful businessman, but not necessarily the world’s wealthiest, John Key wanted to be prime minister, but not necessarily the longest-serving.

  After achieving the top job, he would serve a few years before going out on a high.

  According to the theory, Mr Key would hand over to Steven Joyce sometime before the 2014 election.

This gets pushed a lot, mainly I suspect by Labour. There is a degree of truth to it. I don’t think John Key is obsessed with staying Prime Minister for as long as possible, and I think he could well retire before he loses an election.

However I’ve never thought he would not contest the 2014 election, and seek a third term (if he gets a second). Anyway Matthew asked Key the question about 2014:

When I asked Mr Key specifically this week if he intended to serve a full second term and lead National into the 2014 election, he barely bothered with the usual platitudes about “taking one election at a time” or “serving at the pleasure of the party and the public.”

His answer was not arrogant but it was unequivocal: yes, that was exactly his intention.

So that’s one little rumour we can put to bed.

Hooton on paying for Christchurch

March 4th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton says he’ll pay higher taxes for Christchurch in his NBR column (offline):

With horror still unfolding, it’s too soon to be arguing over how to finance the rebuilding of Christchurch but already politicians are being forced into positions against the public interest.

The government’s opening position was correct.  It would rule nothing in or out. John Key initially applied that policy to a national earthquake tax but, within days, media pressure had him limiting likely new imposts to increasing the $60 annual Earthquake Commission levy to $180.

Bill English also tried to hold the line, refusing to rule in or out cuts to Working for Families and interest-free student loans but was immediately over-ruled in theDominion Postby “a highly placed government source.” “A highly placed government source” with the credibility to over-rule Mr English surely had to be someone who outranks him.

Needless to say, after another day of media hysteria, Mr Key went public and as good as ruled out any interest on student loans.  He limited discussion of changes to Working for Families to those on higher incomes.

This is the point I was trying to make a couple of days ago. Ideally the Government should not rule anything out or in until we actually have a better idea of the fiscal and economic cost. But no Government can risk days of scare-mongering headlines such as “Govt considering tax hike” or “Govt considering abolishing interest free loans”.

Hooton then puts up his case for change:

It’s unconscionable that fit, healthy 65-year-old chief executives will get superannuation when Christchurch primary schools need rebuilding.

Interest-free student loans mean the taxpayer is paying to cut the real value of the loans of doctors, lawyers and accountants rather than rebuilding Christchurch Hospital. They should at least be adjusted for inflation.

The problem with Working for Families is not primarily that it gives welfare to high income earners (although that’s ludicrous) but that it churns billions of dollars and creates massive effective marginal tax rates.

I’ll happily pay higher taxes to rebuild Christchurch. In return, the government ought now to take these issues seriously.

My view is somewhat different. I also believe that the age of super should increase, that there should be interest on student loans and that WFF should be reformed – not because of the earthquake – but because it is good policy to do so.

Hooton on Greens

November 12th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes (offline) in the NBR:

According to their own rhetoric, and that of the foreign environmental lobbyists who dictate it, the Green Party believes that the next century, and perhaps even the next decade, will be characterised by severe global turmoil.

Climate change, they say, will cause mass migration unprecedented in human history, as hundreds of millions leave equatorial regions for the north and south.

The seas will rise, creating refugees not just from small island states like the Maldives and Kiribati but causing havoc in China and India, with their vast coastal populations.

According to the UN, Indonesia, with its 80,000km coastline, 17,000 islands and 240 million inhabitants, will be the country worst affected by rising sea levels, threatening regional security.

Everyone will suffer unpredictable and extreme weather.

And worse, it seems:

“Peak food” will be upon us, with Sue Kedgley foreseeing “a new era of tightening food supplies, rising food prices, food scarcity, panic buying, long food queues and political instability.”

Food rationing, she said in 2008, was already underway in US, as was rationing of rice in Auckland.

Now I have to apologise to Matthew Hooton. I can’t believe even Sue Kedgley said such things. So I resorted to Google. And it turns out Matthew was right – read here.

Pressure on other natural resources also risks global catastrophe.  When China runs out of energy resources, it’s likely to march.

In an effort to help, the Greens’ population policy welcomes “climate change refugees” but also demands that any effects on New Zealand’s environment, society and culture be limited.

Their new MP, Kennedy Graham, tells us that, with a population of 4.1 million, New Zealand is already part of the global population problem.  The global population, he says, must be “drastically reduced.”

Now again, surely Matthew is having us on. Did the Green Party really say the global population must be drastically reduced? Well Matthew may be prone to occassional hyperbole, but it seems he employees excellent staff to do his research, as he is in fact quoting their official policy.

If the Green Party really believes all this, then it must surely also believe that New Zealand’s territorial integrity is at risk, not some time later in the century, but imminently.

New Zealand is already capable of producing at least 20 times our own food needs.

Our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is 15 times our land mass and the world’s fifth largest, while the quota management system means New Zealand can expect to maintain our fisheries stocks long after others have devastated theirs.

Back on land, New Zealand’s coal reserves are greater per capita, in terms of their energy potential, than Saudi Arabia’s oil.

Total mineral reserves may exceed $10 trillion, which we’ve largely decided to leave in the ground.

How splendid that when everyone else has dug up and burned their coal, New Zealand’s reserves will still be in the ground, waiting. …

It’s true that New Zealand is protected by a 2000km-wide moat but that’s unlikely to be sufficient under the Greens’ prognosis.  You’d think they’d argue that New Zealand needs the strongest possible defence forces, up to and including an independent nuclear deterrent.

At the very least, New Zealand surely requires the capability to credibly threaten to sink a fishing or other vessel or to shoot down aircraft.

Surprisingly enough, this is not their defence policy.  The focus is on the UN, as if that organisation would operate effectively in the apocalyptic future they fear.

The Greens argue there should be no Anzac frigates or other warships, no anti-submarine capability and no air strike force.  All equipment not designed for peacekeeping, search and rescue, disaster relief, fisheries and border control tasks should be phased out.

And remember according to iPredict, Labour and Greens at the next election will only have 3% fewer votes than National, and might be able to form a Government. Dr Graham might be Minister of Defence.

Instead, New Zealand should lead the world in finding new ways of looking at and dealing with conflict.

Yep, that’ll do the trick – in a world, we’re told, where hundreds of millions of people are becoming homeless, hundreds of millions more are starving, the equatorial regions are uninhabitable, oil, coal and fish have run out everywhere but New Zealand and we’re all being bombarded with Hurricane Katrinas.

Could it be that, deep down, the Greens don’t really believe their own predictions of imminent environmental armageddon?

Or maybe they just think the UN will save us.

Investigative Journalism & Winston

November 10th, 2010 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

NBR carry an NZPA story on Winston’s latest claim:

Overseas ownership of New Zealand news media outlets is in the political spotlight, with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters saying it has eroded journalism standards.

A traditional opponent of overseas ownership, Mr Peters told NZPA he was concerned about the profits of domestic media, banking and forestry companies going off shore.

“It has also led to serious erosion of media standards and journalism reporting because people are given no time to do any work properly, instant sound bites have become the name of the game, and that is sliding its way into tabloid journalism,” Mr Peters said.

International companies that owned New Zealand media outlets had failed to support investigative journalism and had “squeezed the professional capacity” out of the industry, he said.

“I’m the last one in the world that should be making a sympathetic argument for the journalists of this country, but I’m telling you that’s exactly what happened.”

Proper investigative journalism was essential for the democracy of a nation, Mr Peters said.

Now normally I ignore what Winston says, but the irony here is too great. I actually agree we need more investigative journalism, but we do have some sterling examples of good investigative journalism by Fairfax and APN journalists. Namely the superb work done by reports Phil Kitchin, David Fisher, Audrey Young and others in exposing the tissue of lies Winston told about the funding of NZ First and himself by various wealthy businesspeople. It was investigative journalism at its finest and exposed Peters as a charlatan whose reality was the direct opposite of what he railed again.

The comments thread on the NBR story has some superb contributions, such as Phil Kitchin:

I’d love to get answers to questions Winston has never answered Monaco Consul. But the two answers Winston gave me when I got to speak to him during my investigation into NZ First funding and all the lies about the Spencer Trust were…1) Phil, I’m not speaking to a lying wanker (then the phone went dead), and 2) Phil, I’ve told you I’m not speaking to a lying gripper. Do you know what that is, it is a lying wanker who won’t let go (then the phone went dead).

Yes Winston is an unusual champion of investigative journalism. It is like Al Capone criticising the IRS for not cracking down hard enough on tax fraud.

Bill Ralston chimes in:

Congratulations NBR! That is the funniest story I’ve read in years. Hopefully Winston’s return to the political scene will encourage investigative journalists and grippers to reopen their old files and start digging again and he may get his wish!

And Fran O’Sullivan:

Give us break – Audrey Young (NZ Herald owned by APN News & Media) blew the Owen Glenn fiasco open. Phil Kitchin completed the double in the (Dom-Post owned by Fairfax). Great investigative reporting by two first-class journalists working for Aust owned media but under good Kiwi editors.

Exactly. And remember Labour is working hard to get Winston back into Parliament, as they don’t stand a chance without him.

Journalist of the Month

October 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m quick to point out stories where I think there is something wrong with them, and generally can be quite critical of aspects of our media.

I am not always so quick to point out great examples of journalism, and I should – as we do still have good stories being broken by good journalists.

The journalist who wins my inaugural Journalist of the Month award is Matt Nippert from NBR. His investigations and reports into South Canterbury Finance have been superb – so good even the SFO seems to have acted on them.

The latest NBR story had me stunned – about how Allan Hubbard signed other people’s name on official documents. Now he had power of attorney for them, but instead of signing his name and stating he was acting for them, he signed their name.

And of course the story about the retired freezing worker who owned the Hilton or Hyatt. So good, you’d almost think it was made up – but it wasn’t.


October 20th, 2010 at 2:12 pm by David Farrar

The NBR reports:

The Serious Fraud Office served the notice on NBR yesterday, demanding documents and audio tapes relating to the paper’s investigation of South Canterbury Finance’s dealings over Auckland’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. The deadline for delivery was 9am today.

The Serious Fraud Act Section 5 notice requires NBR editor-in-chief Nevil Gibson to hand over all written and audio notes relating to Mr Nippert’s investigation of the Hyatt Regency, specifically the NBR exclusive story of how one-time meatworker Peter Symes came to own the hotel.

The NBR story by Nippert may be what led the SFO to focus on SCF. It was an excellent story about how the Hyatt in Auckland was officially owned by a retried freezing worker.

The SFO has incredible powers to demand documents. They were given them to use against the bad guys doing the fraud, not against the good guys who helped expose the alleged fraud.

A polite request to NBR for information would be more productive than a section 5 notice.

So far NBR has decided to risk adverse legal consequences:

The National Business Review is in a standoff with the Serious Fraud Office after the SFO this morning refused an invitation by NBR publisher Barry Colman to attend a meeting with the paper.

The SFO instead warned that NBR had been in breach of its statutory obligations under the Serious Fraud Office Act since 9 am today.

The SFO has demanded editorial files relating to NBR’s investigation into the collapse of the South Canterbury Finance group of companies and yesterday threatened its journalists with jail and fines for non-coperation.

The NBR called for the meeting to seek reassurances that its co-operation with the SFO would not lead to further fishing trips for information that could compromise the paper’s confidential sources.

It does look like the info demanded will eventually be provided:

The SFO’s request related to already published material that the paper has no objection to supplying as no confidential sources were violated.

But NBR is seeking an assurance from the Serious Fraud Office that it will not invoke its draconian powers of document seizure in return for NBR’s co-operation into the SFO’s investigations in the South Canterbury Finance collapse.

Mr Colman said today the initial information sought by the SFO had already been published and its release would not violate the confidentiality of any NBR sources.

So NBR are saying yeah we can give you that info but we don’t want to be seen to assenting to further info which will compromise sources.

Mr Colman said today the SFO’s blatant intimidation was appalling and counterproductive.

“We are not the enemies of the SFO. We want the bad guys investigated as well,” he said.

“However, no news service is going to be able to get crucial information from its sources or whistleblowers if they face public exposure. We have taken legal advice and been told the act is so draconian that it is impossible for us to refuse to co-operate without risking serious penalty.

“We have decided to hand over the material they are asking for today because it doesn’t compromise any of the sources of Matt Nippert, the reporter who carried out the investigation.

Good on NBR for not rolling over without protest. If Barry does end up in jail, I’ll smuggle in an iPad to him!

Carter says Jones would be a better leader

October 15th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Carter has finally named an MP whom he says would be a better leader for Labour than Phil Goff – Shane Jones. The NZ Herald reports:

Yesterday on Radio Live, Mr Carter also mentioned Shane Jones as one of those he believed could be a better leader than Mr Goff. He has previously refused to name them.

By coincidence Matthew Hooton writes in the NBR:

Which brings us to Mr Jones.  Just as Mr Brown was ridiculed after his head-banging incident, Mr Jones suffered public humiliation from his penchant for porn.  But time heals, and Mr Jones is the latest manifestation of the Maori leader who can appeal across racial lines.  He’s the Labour man business thinks it can work with.

Moreover, his ambition is great, having been the golden child of his hapu from the day he was born.

Unpopular with Labour’s rainbow and feminist wings, securing the leadership would require him to produce polling showing him as capable of transforming Labour from a possible to a probable.  Even then, he would face opposition from party president Andrew Little, who needs Labour to lose in 2011 if his own leadership ambitions can be fulfilled.

Nevertheless, having decided to stick with politics despite his porn humiliation, Mr Jones is not there to muck around.

He’s already raising his profile and briefing journalists about his comeback.  The time for him to act is now.

And again, by coincidence, TV3’s Patrick Gower blogs:

Watching the miners in Chile, I can’t help but think of the Labour MPs – stuck down a dark hole, with an incredible effort needed to get them out.

It’s leader Phil Goff’s job to get them out – now he’s finished burying Chris Carter.

And one man who needs a lifeline is Shane Jones.

This call is never going to resonate as much as “Bring Back Buck”. But someone has to say it – Goff should “Bring Back Shane Jones”.

Is Jones Labour’s saviour in waiting?

Goff’s discounted truffles

October 1st, 2010 at 2:25 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR (off line) exposing another consequence of goofynomics:

Mr Goff’s policy would slash the price of American pomegranates, now selling at over $30/kg, New Zealand cranberries, selling at $25.30/kg, and Philippine figs selling at $2 each but would leave the price of low-fat milk, wholemeal bread and natural muesli untouched.

The ultimate in excess, fresh Alban truffles, currently selling for $6000/kg in Auckland, would fall by $800/kg under Mr Goff’s policy.  Good luck selling that one in West Auckland.

The residents of Epsom whose like French cusine, will be thanking Mr Goff for knocking $800/kg off the cost of their truffles.

But before they celebrate, I have to take issue with one aspect of Matthew’s claim. You see a truffle is a fungus, and is a fungus a vegetable?

I don’t know the answer for sure. But what I can guarantee is that when the answer is worth $800/kg, the court case will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

And think if the Supreme Court rules that a truffle is not a vegetable, for GST purposes. Then presumably mushrooms will also be deemed not to be vegetables. And so all the supermarkets will have to remove mushrooms from their fruit and vegetables sections.

We may end up with our own version of the 1893 Nix v Heddon when the US Supreme Court had to rule on whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable (it is a vegetable – well at least in the US).

I can see Labour’s GST policy attracting lots of votes from lawyers.

Herald praises Goff

September 10th, 2010 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Hats off to the Labour Party leader, Phil Goff. In suggesting that New Zealanders should start talking about our country becoming a republic, he has gone where influential sitting politicians have feared to tread.

Most, including the current Prime Minister, talk about the inevitability of a republic but are unwilling to do anything to create it.

Others, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, wait until they have retired from politics to voice similar sentiments. Such passivity has dampened the prospect of debate.

I agree.  It has been frustrating that previous Leaders such as Helen Clark refused to openly engage on the merits of becoming a republic. Instead she did republicanism by stealth – changing individual aspects (such as the Privy Council) one by one, without actually engaging the public in a debate on republicanism.

I don’t want a republic by stealth. I want a republic that New Zealanders vote for, as a better way forward. For that debate to happen, senior political leaders like Phil Goff need to engage on the issue.

Yet this is an issue that, given the absence of stridency on both sides, will have to be galvanised by political leaders.

Mr Goff has acknowledged as much in stating emphatically that a republic would be the “making of New Zealand as a country”. If he has his way, that notion will have seeped into the national consciousness by the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

But we should not wait until then.

Matthew Hooton also writes in the NBR today on a republic:

One day, though, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will come to an end, the Prince of Wales will immediately become King Charles III of New Zealand, and we’ll panic and rush reform and get it wrong.

(That’s if he calls himself “King Charles III”.  Apparently he’s keen on being “King George VII”.  Go figure.)

The Queen has carried out her duties with impeccable integrity, never once having been known to interfere in New Zealand’s affairs, even privately, and in effect making us a de facto republic throughout her reign.

In contrast, King Charles (or is it George?), is an eco-extremist, advocate for neo-Roman architecture and devotee of quack medicine and cannot be so relied upon to operate as a responsible constitutional monarch.

Plus he talks to plants.

Heh, Matthew does not hold back.

We’re in the bizarre situation where all important New Zealand leaders, once out of office, apparently become advocates for constitutional reform but no one dares put a hand up when they could actually do something as an incumbent.

Exactly. And Phil Goff has an opportunity to say that if he becomes PM, he will push for having a public debate and vote on constitutional reform.

Well done NBR

August 26th, 2010 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

NBR have announced:

The National Business Review unreservedly apologises for the confusion surrounding our 40th birthday competition. It was never our intention to cause confusion about the voting for the Win Your Weight in Veuve promotion but people have expressed frustration and we have listened to their concerns.

The official winner (as chosen by the judges from the top 10 voted entries) will be announced, on schedule, in NBR print tomorrow.

In addition, the publisher will personally provide Busted Blonde’s weight in Veuve Clicquot to her to demonstrate that NBR will not allow its integrity, transparency or honesty in its dealings with its readers to be compromised in any way. She received the most online votes in the competition and NBR happily salutes that success.

As a responsible host, the publisher would, however, appeal to Busted Blonde to urge her guests to wear life jackets if celebrating their win on Wellington Harbour.

Let the festivities begin.

I’m so pleased that NBR have done this. As I blogged – it was not about the prize, but about integrity and transparency. This is important for any media outlet, but especially NBR which provides a unique role with its pro-business focus. Their decision reinforces that this is important to them – which I salute.

I understand that Busted Blonde will use the winnings for an event which will raise money for a worthy charity, so the outcome is a real win-win.

The NBR Veuve Clicquot competition

August 25th, 2010 at 6:46 am by David Farrar

I am annoyed with the National Business Review. In fact more than annoyed – I am angry.

Readers will have seen my links to their 40th birthday competition. People had the chance to win their weight in Veuve Clicquot and the competition was promoted on the basis of popular vote. Many bloggers got in behind Busted Blonde’s entry and she won the popular vote.

After the published deadline had passed, NBR announced that the popular vote winner would not win the competition (which was strongly implied), but that the top ten most popular would go into a pool, and judges would then select their favourite of the top ten.

NBR has the legal right to change the terms and conditions. This is not a debate about legality. They said the winner would be announced within seven hours of the vote closing. They changed this in the final hours to announcing it a week later, allowing judges to decide on someone other than the popular vote winner.

I deplore what NBR has done. They have acted unethically. If they had made clear at the very beginning that the popular vote winner would not count for anything, and all you had to do was be in the top ten – then I (and others) would have acted very differently. They basically conned bloggers and other social media users into promoting their contest for them under false pretences.

Quite a few people are upset about this. I’ll link to some of these in a second. Some are calling for boycotts of NBR, cancelled subscriptions etc. I’m not going to go down that path. I doubt NBR cares too much about losing my potential subscription (especially as they kindly provide me with a complimentary copy anyway).

My message to the National Business Review is that you have lost something infinitely more valuable than my subscription. You have lost both my respect and my trust. That is hard to do, and even harder to undo.

Both NBR and Veuve Clicquot  are suffering brand damage from this. Already blog posts are climbing up the ladder in Google page ranks. And it has spread over Twitter, with one of the world’s most famous wine critics contacting Busted Blonde wanting details of what has happened.

Posts on this saga are:

As I said, I am angry. Not about the fact Busted Blonde did not win. I am angry that I was effectively conned into promoting their competition under false pretences. Now people may say, it is your own fault. They never stated explicitly that the popular vote winner would win – it was only strongly implied. And you are right – it is partly my own fault. I trusted National Business Review to act honourably. I was wrong, and have learnt a lesson.

UPDATE: I note that on Google NZ, a search for “Veuve Clicquot” already has this post higher ranked that the actual NBR competition.

Final day to vote

August 20th, 2010 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

Busted Blonde is still in the lead, but it could be close.

Go to NBR and vote for her (click on thumbs up sign next to her entry), so BB wins her weight in Veuve Clicquot. This is the final day of voting.

If Busted Blonde wins, I have been told I will be allowed to bring a couple of blog readers along to the party, where the 100+ kgs of champagne will be consumed.

So if you are a fan of Veuve Clicquot, make your case in the comments section, for why you should be my guest at the party, if Busted Blonde wins. Busted and Cactus will help me select the winners.

The great NBR Veuve scandal!

August 2nd, 2010 at 9:20 pm by David Farrar

NBR is running a competition to win your weight in Veuve Clicuot.

My mate Busted Blonde is in equal first place. Most of the VRWC are backing Busted as Busted winning means more Veuve than anyone else winning 🙂

We also like her idea of a picnic on Frank Kitts Lagoon, as what she would do with it, if she wins.

So I’m backing Busted Blonde, and urge readers to follow the link and vote for her.

What is interesting is the person who is in equal first place with her. He has a lovely story:

Verve is my partners favourite drop of bubbles so since I have gone 18 years and not actually married her (make her and honest woman etc) I think I would call up Stu and Sem at The Wharf over on Aucklands North Shore and have a quiet family wedding

However Detective Whale has been at work.

First he discovers that the contestant quoted above has his status on Facebook as married. Whoops.

And then in another post, he details how the venue he mentioned is one of his clients which is a wee bit astro-turfing.

Whale even has discovered his weight, and reckons voting Busted will mean NBR forks over an extra dozen bottles or so 🙂

The speech Goff should have given

June 18th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton in NBR pens the speech he thinks Phil Goff should have given. An extract:

I have told the worst offenders – Chris Carter, Shane Jones and Mita Ririnui – that they have no place in my Labour Party. I told them they will be demoted to the very back of Parliament, with no portfolio, and they will not be members of any cabinet I lead. Mr Carter said that, if I did this, he would resign. I told him that was a good idea. He has since resigned and there will be a by-election in Te Atatu.

National begins that campaign as frontrunner. They won the party vote in 2008. But we will fight hard, because Labour always fights hard for the people we represent.

As leader, I have invited the local Labour Party to find the best candidate – male or female, Maori or Pakeha, gay or straight – but I want a genuine Westie. I want someone who grew up in the tough streets, who knows what it’s like not having enough money to pay the bills, who started a small business, pays their workers well, has become a leader in the community, who coaches kids’ sport in the weekend. I want real Labour.

I like his ending also:

There will be room for Peter Dunne in my government to continue as minister of revenue.  I want the Greens involved in conservation and the environment.  And it is time for Labour and the Maori Party to put our differences behind us.  I apologise for Labour’s disgraceful behaviour over the foreshore and seabed.  We were wrong.  Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples were right.

A new era is being born out of the disgraces of the past.  The Helen Clark era is over.  The Phil Goff era has begun.

The full column is only in the NBR print edition.

If Labour do not mend bridges with the Maori Party, they probably won’t be able to form a Government. Without the Maori Party, Labour and the Greens need to win 62 seats to govern.

Hooton on Privatisation

May 28th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton in NBR points out that in Government Trevor Mallard pushed for private sector investment in some SOEs and/or their subsidiaries. Mallard was right to do so then, and it is still right today. Extracts:

The state manages an SOE portfolio with total assets of $47 billion, more than the market capitalisation of the NZX 50.

Nothing about the portfolio is rational, consisting simply of the leftovers from the large trade-sales of the 1980s and 1990s. Alongside overinvestment in sunset industries, like regional rail and post, sit electricity companies and odds and bobs including a mining company, a manufacturer of pest management products, 371,000 hectares of corporate farms and an educational materials publishing house.

And it is ridicolous to say that this must be frozen in stone for all time.

Mr Mallard hoped that some growth could be funded off SOEs’ own balance sheets but he was also keen for them to partner with the private sector to develop new subsidiaries, which would be listed on the NZX. This, he argued, would provide depth to our capital markets and improve the transparency of the SOEs.
Mr Mallard was clear he was not interested in the type of wholesale privatisations that occurred when Labour had last been in power in the 1980s, but stressed that sell-downs or sell-offs of discrete new SOE investments should be allowed.

This is the challenge. Some SOEs are doing well, and want to expand – often into riskier overseas ventures. They should be able to do so, but the capital for such expansion need not come just from the taxpayer.

Foreign ownership is the big political bogey. If the taxpayer retaining an overwhelming majority stake is not enough, it may even be possible to develop an equity product restricted to the proverbial Kiwi mums and dads. It wouldn’t be as valuable as if it could be on-sold to anyone but that would be something the initial subscribers would know in advance.

Such a policy would not in fact be contrary to WTO rules, as claimed by the CTU.