CEOs rate the senior MPs

September 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From the Herald Mood of the Boardroom survey:

  1. Bill English 4.75
  2. John Key 4.49
  3. Paula Bennett 4.21
  4. Steven Joyce 4.06
  5. Tim Groser 3.87
  6. Chris Finlayson 3.84
  7. Nikki Kaye 3.40
  8. Simon Bridges 3.18
  9. Jacinda Ardern 3.18
  10. Grant Roberston 3.11
  11. David Shearer 3.11
  12. Annette King 3.08
  13. David Parker 3.06
  14. Phil Goff 3.04
  15. Phil Twyford 2.53
  16. David Cunliffe 2.45
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7/10 in 42 seconds

September 7th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A bit challenging this week. Quiz is here.

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The Herald’s inequality calculator

September 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a calculator where you enter in your income and it tells you what income decile you are in, and how much your decile has gained over time compared to others.

If you are in the top 10% it shames you with your 29% income growth and tries to make the other 90% resent you.

And then just for balance, it provides a link to a left wing inequality campaign site, for people to join.

Very fair and balanced.

A reader also points out another flaw:

I have checked the fine print and it talks about needing to know your household size to compare like with like but doesn’t refer to what income to include. 

 As an example one woman i know initially did it using just after tax on her pay slip… Didn’t include WFF, tax credits, accomm supplement, cash jobs etc. Once added changed her position by two spaces 

Additionally, we are top bracket – we have grown our businesses in last few years to point where we have gone from employing three people to eleven and a financial position where we had huge debt in the business (that we have now paid off) and now getting dividends plus additional $ with me working more. 

I inputted what we had as income five years ago (I wasn’t working, kids were little, plus still had significant debt in business that we were paying down plus mortgage). The Herald indicator put us at the third tier. We weren’t poor by any stretch of imagination but it was bloody tight – and high stress trying to make a business work. We didn’t claim WFF as don’t believe in it. Damn principles!

 One of the things I love about NZ is ‘ where there is a will there is a way’ – I’d hate to think people will believe we have always been top tier because we just are… Bloody hard work got us there. And we give back where and when we can.  We don’t pull the ladder up behind us. Please recognise we need people like us to employ people and to invest in new ventures. 

Most of those in the top 10% moved there up the scale. We should applaud that, not envy them and want to pull them down.

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Herald on Herald and Slater

August 31st, 2014 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Jared Savage writes:

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a front page story for the Weekend Herald which detailed how Adam Feeley, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, celebrated the criminal charges laid against Rod Petricevic by hosting a drinks function at which champagne belonging to Bridgecorp was served to SFO staff.

Judith Collins was the Minister in charge of the white collar crime agency and her staff did not return my calls before deadline, but promptly referred the matter to the State Services Commission after publication.

Blogger Cameron Slater wrote a post saying it was a “non story” but later changed his mind. To the best of my memory, I hadn’t ever spoken to “Whale Oil” before but contacted him as the story rolled into the next week.

So the Herald contacted Cameron, not vice-versa.

I knew he was well connected to Collins and was trying to find out what he knew.

At the same time, I received a few emails about what was happening inside the SFO office.

Most of it was flotsam and jetsam, interesting tidbits of unverified information or gossip which I decided against pursuing as angles.

I cut and pasted the content of some of those emails, to remove any possible identifying features, and forwarded them on to Slater. So information was shared, there was a bit of “horse trading”, we talked about developments as the story rolled along.

And in their own words they passed on unverified information and gossip to Whale Oil, for Cameron to run, in exchange for Cameron sharing inofmration with them in return.

This sometimes happens with journalistic sources and it’s naive to think otherwise. In total, I wrote six stories about the Feeley/champagne issue and Slater was not the source for any of them. I didn’t know that our conversations about Feeley were being shared with others, like PR man Carrick Graham – and that was naive of me to think otherwise.

Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Slater on-and-off over the years always armed with the knowledge that he comes with a right-wing agenda. There have also been some robust discussions about Herald stories which upset him, such as Luigi Wewege’s role in the Len Brown affair and Maurice Williamson’s links to Donghua Liu.

Journalists talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of stories, much of which is nothing more than rumour or innuendo. Our job is to sort the wheat from the chaff and publish what is accurate, fair and true.

And pass onto bloggers to publish that which isn’t true!

Now I actually agree with Jared. This is how the media world works. You trade information all the time. When I worked at Parliament I would constantly have discussions with journalists where we swapped information. As a blogger, this is still the case today.  Politics thrives and survives on this stuff. Helen Clark used to personally trade info and gossip with senior members of the press gallery on a regular basis. David Cunliffe’s closest advisor is a blogger at The Standard. His Chief of Staff has blogged at The Daily Blog. Three or four of his staff are former (possibly current) bloggers at The Standard.

And this is the point with the Hager book. He has selectively only shown the sharing of information between people on the “right” with Cameron Slater, to make it look like a conspiracy. It is no surprise that MPs and staffers sometimes talk to bloggers and share info with them, just as media themselves do. This is how it has happened for hundreds of years in politics.

I am not saying that means every individual action with regards to the sharing of information was wise or appropriate. Some clearly was not. But it was not a conspiracy or a concerted effort.  One could have published a breathless book on how the NZ Herald conspired with agents of Mark Hotchin to attack the Head of the SFO, and demand a Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Herald – if you were to take the least benign interpretation of the e-mails.

Again my point is for some consistency.

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Cameron Slater and the media

August 30th, 2014 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Collins2email

This is the e-mail released by the PM’s Office. Obviously it has impacted Judith Collins, but if you read the whole thing you’ll see it backs something I have said consistently.

Cameron deals with a huge range of people, including Labour MPs, Green MPs, and almost every media organisation in NZ. The book only showed you his interactions with people associated with National, but this e-mail includes media contact with no less than four different journalists. One specific quote:

I am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding me to run on the blog.

Now let me say again that what Cam says in an e-mail is his interpretation of events. I regard Jared Savage as an excellent investigative reporter. But the e-mail does lead to questions being asked. How is media giving Cam stories, different to a press secretary doing so?

Now again what Cam has written is his interpretation. It may not be the literal truth of what Jared was doing. But here’s the thing – you need to be consistent. If you accept everything in the e-mails written by Cam as the literal truth, then the NZ Herald was feeding stories to Whale Oil, which they could not run in their newspaper. If you do not accept those e-mails as the literal truth, then why would you accept the ones about interactions with people in National as the literal truth?

Is the Herald going to say that everything Cameron wrote about his dealings with us is incorrect, yet everything else is correct?

Will other media subject Herald reporters and editors to the same level of inquiry that they have subjected others named in the hacked e-mails to?

As I said I have high regard for Jared Savage. The point I am making is consistency.

 

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NZ Herald on Green policy to pay in work tax credit to those not in work

August 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Green Party is offering a simple answer to child poverty: give beneficiary parents the same wage subsidies paid to low and middle income earners with children. That, the party calculates, would give beneficiaries an extra $60 a week. “This money will transform life for these kids,” said co-leader Metiria Turei. “It’ll mean having warm clothes, school books, lunch and turning on the heater when they are cold.” If only it was that simple.

It will mean more families will be penalised if they go from welfare into work.

Quite apart from the cost this would present to taxpayers ($500 million a year, the party estimates) it is an admission that the extra $60 a week the Greens would put in the hands of parents might not be spent on warm clothes, school books, lunch and home heating. Child poverty is not simply a matter of income.

If it were, then all children being raised on current benefits would be poorly housed, clothed and under-nourished. People’s circumstances vary greatly and the welfare system has become much better at providing allowances for particular needs.

Living off welfare is hard, but most families manage to do it without disadvantaging their kids significantly. And there is a lot of flexibility with hardship grants for those who need it.

The much maligned benefit reforms of 1991 reduced base rates and introduced or boosted grants for accommodation and the like. Ms Turei, as it happens, became a single parent in 1993. She referred to this in her speech, noting that her daughter has grown up in an era of “shocking levels of deprivation and poverty among our children”. Yet in that era she managed not only to raise a child but obtain a law degree with the help of a training incentive allowance.

Six years after becoming a sole parent, Ms Turei graduated from Auckland University and began work with Simpson Grierson. Her experience suggests that the welfare system as it exists is not necessarily a poverty trap.

Absolutely.

National argues the cure for poverty is employment, not just because work can pay more than welfare but because it provides the social mobility that a benefit does not. A job is liable to bring opportunities to broaden skills and responsibilities, increase earnings and productivity.

Work is about more than higher incomes. It brings masses of other benefits.

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Herald supports call for broadcasting law change

August 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

How absurd that radio programmers cannot play a song that mocks John Key because it may breach the Electoral Act, and how ironic that the singer has been gagged by an act of the previous Labour Government. Darren “Guitar” Watson’s song contains a lyric that, in the words of the Act, “appears to encourage voters to vote or not to vote for a political party or candidate”.

News bulletins on radio and television are exempt from the restriction on “third party advertising” and no doubt by now most people will have heard Mr Watson’s voice and seen an accompanying video that its creators consider more “subversive” than the song. But it is simply silly that the song and video cannot be given airtime in their own right to enliven the election campaign.

Helen Clark’s overreaction to the Exclusive Brethren seven years ago has created a regulatory minefield for anyone outside a political party who wants to inject some argument or entertainment into a New Zealand election.

National shares the blame. It reviewed the advertising rules when it came to office but made only minor alterations to them.

This restriction can’t be blamed on the Electoral Finance Act, or its successor. The restriction on any political programme being broadcast has been in the Broadcasting Act for decades.  The Broadcasting Act gives the state a monopoly on political broadcasting – nothing can be broadcast that isn’t funded by the allocation given out by the Electoral Commission.

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Herald on Craig

July 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

National Party election strategists have made a fateful call against an accommodation with the Conservative Party of Colin Craig. On current polling, the Conservatives have about 2 per cent of the vote nationwide, enough to bring possibly three members into Parliament if one of them was to win an electorate. Now National’s decision not to hand them an electorate means they could win up to 4.9 per cent and all of those votes would not count towards returning National to office.

Not quite. If a party gets 4.9% of the vote, then it is wasted vote and the practical effect is for half of that vote to go to National.

John Key and his team would have weighed up the fact that even one seat won by a potential ally can make all the difference to an MMP election result. If Act had not won Epsom at the last election, the government would have been chosen by New Zealand First, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne, who could all have gone with Labour. The Conservatives, like Act, have nowhere else to go.

Again not quite. Peter Dunne had ruled Labour out prior to the election. But it is correct that without Epsom, the Maori Party or NZ First would have had the balance of power.

Spurned by National yesterday, Mr Craig raised the possibility of a post-election deal with Labour but it is not credible. His social conservatism is the polar opposite of Labour’s beliefs on just about every issue. 

And Labour has ruled him out.

National must have calculated, probably rightly, that to make room for Mr Craig in East Coast Bays would have cost National more votes than his support might be worth. 

That’s my view.

Looking to the long term, National needs the Conservatives to do well without its help. It needs another party on the right with a solid, reliable voting base, much as the Greens have established on the left. Act has failed to find such a base and has come to depend on National’s concession of Epsom. NZ First is a right of centre party but it is based on its leader’s personal appeal and will not survive him.

In an ideal world there would be both a classical liberal party and a conservative party in Parliament.

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Herald on electoral law

July 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It is only a matter of time before bad law comes back to bite those who made it. Provisions of the Electoral Act regulating independent advertising in election campaigns were passed by the previous Labour Government with the support of the Green Party, and only slightly altered by the present Government. Now, seven years after its enactment, the electoral finance law is frustrating environmental groups that want to make climate change an election issue.

Six of them, including Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, Oxfam and WWF New Zealand, started a campaign called “Climate Voter” last month, aiming to force all parties to address climate change before the election. Whatever view may be taken of their cause, no democrat would deny them the right to put it in front of voters. But if they do, the Electoral Commission has ruled, their material will be deemed election advertising and subject to a discouraging array of statutory registration and accounting requirements.

The rules are less restrictive since National rewrote them, but they remain bureaucratic, which makes them onerous and off-putting for people who are not routinely organised for the purpose. The Climate Voter campaign is aggrieved to find itself subject to the act and has decided to challenge the commission’s ruling in the High Court.

“This is about freedom of speech,” said Steve Abel of Greenpeace. “There is a very real risk that if this law goes untested, many advocacy and civil society groups in New Zealand could be gagged. Some may even be forced to take down entire websites.”

I campaigned against the Electoral Finance Act. The most repressive portions of that were removed, but National did a deal with Labour and the Greens and agreed to keep in restrictions on third party advocacy. I believe that was wrong. I don’t think there should be any restrictions on third party advocacy during elections except to correctly identify the promoter of the advocacy.

He is echoing the warnings this newspaper and other critics expressed seven years ago. It is a pity green groups did not speak out at that time.

They went along with the Clark Government’s overreaction to pamphlets circulated before the 2005 election by a small religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren, whose material had been particularly harsh on the Green Party.

Now, the environmentalists want the courts to draw a distinction between that sort of campaign and theirs. “We think the law was clearly not intended to capture non-partisan, civil society groups,” says Mr Abel.

Typical hypocrisy. They’re saying that the restrictions that they no doubt supported, should apply to everyone but themselves.

The Greenpeace campaign is clearly aimed at influencing how people vote. There is a difference between commenting generally on issues, and running a campaign designed to change voting behaviour.

The only reason to regulate such advertising is to prevent it being used to circumvent financial restrictions on party advertising in an election period.

That purpose could be met if the law applied only to overt endorsements. In seeking to regulate all paid advertising of political issues in the three months before an election, the law remains too broad. Its registration and financial reporting requirements are too onerous for all but the most organised pressure groups, such as trade unions, and discourage others who could afford to promote their interests or concerns.

I agree. The law should be amended.

Environmental advocates seem to be under the impression the law applied only to the rich and the conservative. The courts are unlikely to see it that way.

Hoist by their own petard.

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Herald on David Cunliffe – the political years

July 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes the second half of the detailed look by the Herald into the Opposition Leader – as they also did in 2008. Her story is focused on Cunliffe’s political years. Some extracts and comments:

Former President Mike Williams first impressions of David Cunliffe were not as favourable. It was at the party’s 1999 campaign launch and Cunliffe turned up with bright red hair – the result of an overzealous hairdresser for a fundraiser whom Cunliffe claims was “a Tory.”

It ensured he got a reputation for self-promotion before he even entered Parliament. The Herald awarded him “best self promoter,” reporting he also handed out copies of the ‘Cunliffe Courier’ – featuring 22 photos of himself – at the campaign launch.

That’s a great idea. Labour’s manifesto should be the same this year.

Cunliffe caught the media’s attention, if not always for the right reasons. He was dubbed the ‘toyboy minister” and “nakedly ambitious.” Observations of his talent were usually followed by a comment about his ambition and ego. He was mocked for describing his own maiden speech as “passionate.” In 2002, his supporters turned up to the Labour Party campaign launch waving placards with his name on them.

Bit of a pattern.

Cunliffe and Tamihere gravitated towards each other, part of a group of junior MPs including Clayton Cosgrove and Damien O’Connor, and dubbed themselves the “Mods” – short for Modernisers. They met in each other’s offices for drinks and discussed policies and the direction Labour might take in the longer term, post-Clark. They decided to recruit others and Tamihere says Cunliffe returned with loyal Clarkists. Whether it was innocent or deliberate, he was seen to have dobbed them in. …

Tamihere says there was no big blow out and they did maintain a professional relationship. Asked about the Mods’ goals now, Tamihere laughs and says “well, you always go down there with those heady ideals.”
“He’s an extraordinarily talented chap but you never get to see the real David. You get to see the David that he thinks you want to see. And that’s his problem.”

This is what is interesting. There is no doubt Cunliffe was on the right of the party, yet now he is trying to position himself to the left of Helen Clark.

After a lengthy review and two year stand-off with Telecom, Cabinet moved to break the company’s near monopoly by forcing it to open its local network to competitors in 2006.

I thought Cunliffe handled the portfolio very well, and he had a good legacy with the operational separation of Telecom. It was long overdue.

Cunliffe had worked with Michael Cullen since he was a junior MP, but Cullen declined to be interviewed for this piece. Cullen publicly backed Grant Robertson in the leadership challenge in 2013 – and quipped at the NZ Post Book Awards at the time he expected next year’s entries to include Cunliffe’s new book “The Dummies Guide to Walking on Water: How I learned from Jesus’ Mistakes.”

Cunliffe made it too clear he wanted Cullen’s job. Funnily enough I think Cunliffe would be an able Finance Minister.

Somewhere along the line Cunliffe earned the nickname ‘Silent ‘T’ – because of the difference inserting a ‘t’ into the relevant part of his surname would make.

That nickname started before Cunliffe was a Minister. No one knows which of hil colleagues first coined the name, but most think it was Clayton Cosgrove.

I can relate a funny story about the nickname. Was once at an MPs house and a reference was made to his nickname of Silent T. Then a nine year old boy piped up and asked why do people call him “David Cunliffety”. We all pissed ourselves laughing as it would not have been appropiate to correct Master Nine’s assumption about where the T was inserted.

Cunliffe also had to deal with the complex, politically sensitive portfolios of immigration and health in his final years as minister. He undertook a major review of immigration settings

He did that very well also. Prior to his law changes, many illegal migrants could game the system for years and years with numerous appeals. Cunliffe introduced a much better and simplified system for dealing with immigration decisions and appeals.

Cunliffe was at the function when Helen Clark ceded defeat and announced she would step down.

Immediately confronted by the media, he said he had no intention of running to be leader.

However, he now reveals that he did subsequently put his name forward at one stage because he was encouraged to do so. He will not say who encouraged him and said he did not push the matter because he acknowledged he did not have the experience in Opposition. “There was, I think, a fairly widely shared view that perhaps later on it might be appropriate for me to have a chance to lead the party.”

Tizard says she spoke to him at the time. “My view was that it was probably too soon, but my comment was ‘if you think you’ve got the numbers, go for it. If not, get the numbers.'”

Interesting that Cunliffe did look at standing, encouraged by Tizard. It was no secret that Clark wanted Cunliffe to become her successor, so he could keep out Goff.

One minister at the time said Clark had proposed Cunliffe as deputy, but Goff made it clear he wanted Annette King.

Never appoint a Deputy who wants to take over from you. David Shearer learn this the hard way.

Cunliffe was the finance spokesman when Goff stepped on the stage in the election campaign at the end of those three years for the Press newspaper’s debate with Key. Goff held until his ground until Key asked where the money to pay for Labour’s spending promises was coming from with the repeated “show me the money” refrain.

Goff foundered, failing to even bring up the capital gains tax revenue which had been released. After the debate, Goff called Parker off the campaign trail to help with the full costings. They were released in full within days, indicating they were at least almost ready.

Why did he not call in the Finance Spokesperson?

Goff says he does not blame Cunliffe for it. “I take responsibility for myself, I don’t blame other people.”

That’s his public stance. His private stance is very different.

Cunliffe’s campaign was an open pitch to the union movement and activist left. He embraced socialism, and followed it up with a brace of promises, many around wage increases and working conditions. One former colleague observed it was a canny move to target the unions. “If you want to be the boss of that mob you have to look at who’s got the organisational muscle 24/7 to organise for you.”

Boss of the mob – how well phrased.

Asked what the biggest mistake of his leadership has been, Cunliffe says it was the use of that trust. 

We should all thank a certain blogger at The Standard for his fine work in setting it up, and never twigging it might be a bad idea.

Cunliffe’s deputy David Parker publicly backed Shearer in 2011, but refused to reveal who he supported in the 2013 run-off. “I felt whoever was leader, there was a need to build bridges. And I thought I was one of the ones who should do that.”

My understanding is Parker voted for Jones, but Cunliffe was his second choice ahead of Robertson.

Cunliffe says he intends to stay on if Labour is in Opposition after the election when he faces a confidence vote. His supporters agree – Tizard points to Helen Clark staying on after losing in 1996. 

This is the real battle ahead.

There’s also an interesting article on Karen Price.

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NZ Herald on West Coast logging

July 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Government ensured some good will come from nature’s devastation when, under urgency, it passed the West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Act. This was necessary because the Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in such a circumstance. Notably, Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirakatene supported the legislation, going against their party’s stand.

They could not convince other Labour MPs that the interests of the West Coast should take precedence over support for the position taken by the Greens.

The policy differences between Greens and Labour shrink by the day as Labour moves left.

Their stand was right. Conservationists have some qualms about the logging of the high-value trees, especially in terms of the removal of vital nutrients from the forest ecosystem. But it is surely possible to take logs without seriously disturbing the biomass. Indeed, removing some of the trees will probably aid regeneration. Additionally, the legislation contains enough safeguards to suggest appropriate care will be taken.

It’s a win-win. Helps the forest regenerate, and creates jobs.

Cyclone Ita felled an estimated 20,000ha of forest and caused significant damage to a further 200,000ha. In all probability, only a small part of that will be removed. Nonetheless, hundreds of jobs will be created both in the logging and the processing of the timber. That, and the safeguards, mean the public good associated with exploitation far outweighs any concerns about the impact of the logging.

Nor is the protection of native forest being compromised. That Labour and the Greens declined to see as much suggested they were concerned about more than just the felled timber. Several references to the conservation battles that culminated in a halt to the logging of these forests confirmed as much. Probably, they worried that the exploitation of the timber without dire consequence being the cue for the resumption of selective logging.

There is no suggestion of that. Felled timber is being removed from low-grade conservation land for a limited period. Nothing more. This is surely a practical response to an event dictated by nature, and one that benefits one of the country’s least prosperous regions.

It is a practical response. Very sad that Labour joined the Greens in opposing what is pretty common sense.

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Herald on Labour’s school fees policy

July 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Most parents willingly pay the donation. Most school boards of trustees also go to great lengths to ensure that pupils are not discriminated against if their parents do not pay. They are also fully aware of the financial circumstances of the community from which they draw their pupils and, in the case of schools in poorer communities, gain an injection of equity from decile-based funding. A donation that represents just over $1 a week should be affordable to all but the most strapped household. On that basis, Labour’s policy may have rather less appeal than it hopes.

The fact that schools will still be allowed to charge activity fees “for the actual costs of extra-curricular activities such as school camps” adds to that likelihood. The danger is that many will accept the $100 per pupil, but then use other targeted fees to lift the payment from parents. Keeping track of this when it might involve a mountain of costs, such as van rentals for school teams or up-to-date technology, would be extremely difficult. If other fees become commonplace, little will have been gained for parents.

That is the worry – parents end up paying twice. They pay the $100 through their taxes, and still get stung for say $100 through activity fees and the like.

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8/10 in 39 seconds

June 28th, 2014 at 8:46 pm by David Farrar

The Herald quiz is here.

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NZ Herald on bias

June 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It is common in election years for political parties under pressure to attempt to shoot the messenger. In 2005, the Herald was stridently criticised and accused of bias by National supporters for our reportage of Dr Don Brash and the Exclusive Brethren. In 2008 it was the turn of Winston Peters and his New Zealand First people to call for resignations of the editor and political editor for the inconvenient revelation of funding from millionaire Owen Glenn, despite his “No” sign. Last election it was National partisans again, livid at the Herald on Sunday and Herald for John Key and John Banks talking openly before a microphone accidentally left on their “cup of tea” table in a cafe.

This year it is the turn of Labour and its leader, David Cunliffe, incensed at reporting on the donations to the party and its MPs by the controversial Chinese migrant Donghua Liu — and that party’s connections to him.

When you upset everyone equally, you’re probably doing fine.

I would dispute however that the microphone was accidentally left there, but that is ancient history.

Investigations editor Jared Savage began his reports in March on Donghua Liu and the circumstances of his being granted citizenship. The focus then was on Liu’s donations to National after his citizenship was approved by a National minister against official advice. Savage then revealed Liu had been charged with domestic violence, followed by the revelation that National’s Maurice Williamson intervened in Liu’s case by contacting the police — which led to Williamson’s resignation as minister and criticism from some in National of the Herald’s story.

Savage then learned Liu had made donations to Labour as well in 2007, the party claiming no record of such funding. 

This is what is hilarious with the people suggesting the Herald is trying to smear Labour. The story was a story about National, and damaging to National. It just happens that Labour waded in and got all sanctimonious, and then it transpired that they had also been advocating for Liu, and accepting donations from him. It was luck, not planning, that the story ended up biting them.

The core issue remains, however: At a minimum, removing Mr Barker’s China trip and a donation to a rowing club the MP’s daughter belonged to, Labour faces Liu’s claim that he made $38,000 in donations to the party and anonymously through MPs.

Yep. And where did the money go. Hopefully we will find out in time.

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Herald on Labour’s tax the rich pricks more plan

June 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Taxing the rich seems a defining policy of the Labour Party. It plays especially well to its left wing, a point underlined by the Council of Trade Unions’ hearty welcome to the announcement that Labour proposes lifting the top personal tax rate from 33c to 36c for those earning more than $150,000 a year. On other grounds, however, the policy doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only is it unnecessary but it will surely raise far less additional revenue than anticipated.

Labour says the new top rate would raise almost $200 million in the 2015-16 year, increasing to $350 million a year by 2020-21. 

It won’t. The 2000 tax hike for those earning over $60,000 did not produce any significant extra revenue, and may in fact have reduced it. It will just drive high earning NZers to set up a company (28% tax rate) or to move their tax base overseas.

Nor is much of value likely to come from its plan to clamp down on tax avoidance by internet-based multinational corporations such as Google and Facebook. As welcome as this instinct may be, and as unwelcome as the practice of avoidance is, there is little hope that its approach will yield anything like $200 million a year. 

It won’t bring in $1.If anything, it will see them pay less tax in NZ, as they close their NZ subsidiaries, and just have people deal with say their Australian one.

The only was one can deal with global companies choosing a tax base in a low tax country, is through international agreement. Not press releases.

 

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Herald on child poverty

June 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial says:

Dr Boston’s mistake was to suggest that the poorest New Zealand children were now no better off than some children in the slums of India. This statement, he said, was based on observations made when he spent a month late last year in Delhi where his wife worked as a volunteer doctor.

“India has about half of the world’s poorest children, but there are children in New Zealand living in circumstances that are not that much different from those in the slums of Delhi,” he said. “They are in houses that don’t have heating, in caravans that don’t have running water, and in families that simply don’t have enough food of the right kind every day.”

It is undeniable that some New Zealand children are living in the circumstances outlined by Dr Boston. But, equally, it is drawing the longest of bows to equate their plight to that of the many, many children living in the sort of slums associated with India. Child mortality statistics from agencies like the World Bank underline this.

Then there is the matter of the social welfare net in New Zealand. Dr Boston talks of a continuum in which some New Zealand children overlap with the circumstances of children in developing countries, but few will be convinced that the comparison he is making is valid.

Here’s what taxpayers currently fund to help families with children:

  • $1.15 billion in accommodation assistance
  • $182 million in childcare assistance
  • $260 million in hardship support
  • $1.25 billion for the DPB
  • $16.9 million for out of school care
  • $267 million in child support
  • $1.93 billion in family support
  • $494 million for in work tax credits
  • $176 million for paid parental leave
  • $32 million for parental and family tax credits
  • $1.58 billion in early childhood education subsidies

We have an extremely generous welfare state.

It would be a shame if the comparison with the slums of India undermined the book’s impact. But this, unfortunately, is not an isolated example of attempted emotional manipulation by child poverty campaigners. They have also not done their cause any good by insisting that as many as one in four New Zealand children live in poverty. Such statements devalue their case and cast them as extremists. The children they aim to help would gain more from advocacy that is as sober as it is sound.

Comparisons to India help no-one, especially the authors.

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Herald, ODT and Gordon Campbell on Cunliffe

June 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party says it has no record of any contributions from him but there is more than one way to donate to a party. At a Labour fundraising auction in 2007 Mr Liu bought a book signed by Helen Clark for which, the Herald’s sources say, he paid $15,000. The same year he paid an unknown large sum for a bottle of wine at a fundraiser.

Mr Cunliffe, who became Immigration Minister in 2006, claimed this week that not only had he never advocated for Mr Liu in an immigration application but had never met him. Now that the first claim has proven false, the second takes on a different hue. Sadly, it is all too likely that an MP could write in support of an application for an immigrant he had never met.

But none of this matters as much as the word of a party leader bidding to be Prime Minister in a few months. Mr Cunliffe cannot afford to fall from his high horse more than once. This denial might not force his resignation or ouster but it has done Labour no favours. Next time its leader puts on his scolding face, it will be less convincing. That is the price he has paid.

Gordon Campbell is more harsh:

Who knew that David Cunliffe’s speech to last year’s Labour Party conference was not a new beginning, but the last gasp of the credible phase of his leadership? In itself, his 2003 letter to the Immigration Service was innocuous. Yet only a Jesuit could make the fine distinction that Labour is now trying to make between Cunliffe’s inquiry about how long Donghua Liu’s residency application was taking, and outright “advocacy” for that application to be approved. Not surprisingly, such letters are seen by officials as “hurry up” reminders, and are intended to serve as such. This was advocacy; the same advocacy that Cunliffe had just this week denied ever making. Probably he did so unknowingly. Either way though – fool or knave – it’s not a good look.

The inability of Cunliffe and his staff to adequately research Cunliffe’s track record with Liu is also lamentable – especially given that photos of Labour MPs in the friendly company of Liu had already emerged. Yet earlier this week, Cunliffe had been left to paint himself into a corner of denial, only to be sandbagged by the revelation of the letter’s existence. As yet, we are still reliant on Labour Party researchers to verify whether Labour did or didn’t receive a sizeable donation from Liu. It should be remembered that National Cabinet Minister Maurice Williamson resigned because of his meddling in a Police investigation and not over a donations scandal, per se. Yet Labour had gone on to use the meddling/donation link to Liu as ammunition in its general attack on National and its fat cat donors. All it will take now is evidence of a donation from Liu to Labour to put the noose firmly around Labour’s neck.

Clearly, Cunliffe is now virtually a spent force as Labour leader.

Campbell is not so keen on Labour’s next leader:

There is no visible alternative. Grant Robertson is cut from the same hyper-calculating, micro-positioning cloth. What really ails Labour is that it is a centre left party whose parliamentary caucus is terrified – literally terrified – of its own left wing shadow.

Also the ODT editorial:

The grubby pit of current New Zealand politics became even more distasteful yesterday when it was revealed Labour leader David Cunliffe appeared guilty of the actions of which he had accused his National Party opponents.

Despite his denials at a hastily-called press conference, a letter signed by Mr Cunliffe, as MP for New Lynn, shows he advocated for businessman Donghua Liu in a letter to immigration officials, contradicting earlier assurances he had not lobbied for the political donor. …

Labour MPs will be discussing the situation intensely, given the party’s ongoing poor showing in the polls and Mr Cunliffe’s personal polling, and now credibility, sinking lower by the week. …

Morally, Mr Cunliffe should resign as soon as possible, but unless someone taps him on the shoulder to take over the poisoned chalice which is the leadership of Labour, he seems likely to stay on and ride out the controversy until the September 20 election.

And then the ABCs will strike.

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Herald against and Labour undecided on people needing to prove their innocence

June 19th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The most contentious idea involves changing the burden of proof so it lies with the perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence, not the victims. Allied to this is a review of the adversarial system that is said to place an excessive burden of proof on victims, and to lead often to drawn-out proceedings that further disadvantage victims and put many into significant debt.

The report says people with experience of the present model had indicated they would favour a more collaborative system.

The report is not totally out of step in advancing these views. A flipping of the deeply embedded precept of the burden of proof, whereby the necessity to provide proof lies with whoever lays charges, is no longer beyond the pale. Abusive parents must now prove to Child, Youth and Family that they are no longer a threat. As well, bail amendment legislation requires a person on a murder charge or repeat violence, class A drug or sex charges to persuade a judge that the community will be safe if they are released. New Zealand’s appalling family violence record — the police respond to a call relating to this every seven minutes, according to the report — convinces some that there is good reason to further override the principle.

These are about people who have already been convicted of an offence. That is very different to saying anyone charged should have to prove their innocence.

But any such impulse should be resisted. Arguably, the two steps taken by the Government are valid responses to extraordinary circumstances where there is a clear danger to members of society. Both do not involve such a sweeping inversion of the burden of proof principle as would be the case if it were applied to all alleged perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence.

The precept that a defendant has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty is too fundamental to our legal system and too strong a safeguard against wrongful conviction to be so comprehensively dismissed.

Absolutely. But sadly Labour is incapable of even deciding they’re against such a thing.

So I’ve got an idea. If Labour is open to reversing the burden of proof on allegations, then we should start the process by alleging that they have filed corrupt false donation returns and require them to prove they are innocent!

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A silly editorial

June 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

No fewer than 14 National MPs are retiring at the coming election, plus a couple from other parties. While the turnover is refreshing for public life, it carries a cost if every departee gives a valedictory address.

That cost became apparent this week when the Prime Minister remarked that the loss of John Banks’ vote would not make much difference to the Government’s remaining legislation because valedictories would take up much of the time left in this term of Parliament. Really?

They’re a factor, but a minor one. Valedictories are generally 15 minutes so 14 valedictories is a total of three and a half hours.

But if so many are leaving that their valedictories may take up sittings over several days, it is time to ask whether all deserve one. Few voters could name many of those retiring this year. Many are leaving because they have not been able to make much impact and accept that they should give others a chance. More credit to them, but valedictory time should be reserved for those who have made their mark and will be missed.

A pretty appalling snobbery.

No not all retiring MPs are high profile Ministers. But MPs who work to improve laws on select committees, who help develop policy, who represents the interest of their electorates are an invaluable part of Parliament, and the suggestion that some of them shouldn’t be allowed a 15 minute valedictory is nasty, mean-spirited and s form of snobbery

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Herald on ashes bylaw

June 9th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Now, the Auckland Council has ventured into this area. As part of a wider bylaw covering cemeteries and crematoriums, it wants to prevent people scattering ashes in any public place – including beaches and parks – unless they have written approval from the council or Wahi Tapu Maori Komiti, a Maori committee overseeing sacred areas. Even people wanting to scatter ashes in a public cemetery would need to fill in approval forms and pay an “applicable” fee to the council.

Predictably enough, the proposal has attracted a storm of protest.

That anger is justified on several grounds. The council documents on the issue provide no detailed background to suggest major problems are arising from the scattering of ashes, either in terms of health or other risk, cultural sensitivities, or the growing extent of the practice. While cremations have become more popular, there are still only about 3000 a year in Auckland, compared with 2200 burials. That is a long way from the situation in Britain, where problems have arisen from the 420,000 cremations annually.

This suggests that, in the main, the council is looking for a solution where no significant problem exists. 

Exactly. And if there is a problem in a couple of discrete areas, then all you need is a couple of signs there asking people not to spread ashes there. What you don’t need is a law requiring you to gain permission to spread ashes anywhere in Auckland – let alone pay a fee for it.

A funeral celebrant described the council’s proposals as “crass”. That is apt. On an issue that demanded subtlety, it has employed a sledgehammer. Its proposal warrants the most rapid of burials.

It seems Wellington City already has such a policy. It should also be scrapped. I imagine almost everyone just ignores it anyway.

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8/10 in 43 seconds

June 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some fairly obscure ones this week. Quiz is here.

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Herald on EU

June 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial from Tuesday:

From time to time, national referendums have thrown a spanner in the European Union’s plans for closer ties between its members. But never has there been such a broad renunciation of that process as that delivered in the recent European Parliament elections. In an alarming number of the EU’s 28 member states, populist parties from the far right and far left triumphed over their mainstream opponents.

The impact was most notable in Britain, where the UK Independence Party topped the poll with 28 per cent of the vote, and France, where the anti-European National Front did likewise with 25 per cent support. Centrist pro-European parties will continue to be the dominant force in Brussels, but this is not an outcome that can be shrugged off.

It is clear that after 60 years, during which the EU and its forebears have, by and large, orchestrated peace and prosperity, many of its 500 million people have fallen out of love with the pan-Europe ideology.

They complain about the arrogance and expense of bureaucrats in Brussels who are intent on reducing the important of their national parliament. They regret replacing their national currencies with the euro, which, rather than making Europe more equal, has created instability. And those in the north decry an expansion that has saddled them with indebted nations in southern Europe. The EU has, says David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, become “too big, too bossy and too interfering”.

Especially the European courts over-riding national legislatures.

Others, however, believe the EU can be saved by reform.

The latter course can prevail if the European Parliament heeds the unmistakable lesson of this election and puts a brake on the drive towards ever closer union. It needs also to be less intrusive in the everyday affairs of its members. Equally, it must convince Europeans that it provides the framework to outperform other developed countries economically. The most convincing answer to the eurosceptics lies, as Germany’s Angela Merkel suggested, in “improving competitiveness on growth and creating jobs”. At some point, those countries using the euro must also embrace a more comprehensive fiscal union. If that is not done, a return to national currencies is the logical step.

You can’t have monetary union without fiscal union. Which is one reason Scotland won’t be able to keep the pound if they vote for independence – which is unlikely on the polls.

The economic tide is swinging in favour of the pro-Europeans. Much of the EU has been late to catch the global upswing, but even the weaker economies are starting to benefit. They will gain also from the tough measures taken over the past few years. Further, the conclusion of a successful free-trade pact with the United States would hammer home the message that union can deliver more wealth than individual endeavour.

A focus on free trade and freer economies is what the EU needs, not more regulations.

Oliver Hartwich also writes on the EU lack of democracy:

What is democracy? Well, usually democracy is when the people vote in an election and the winner then happens to form a government. It is as simple as that. And what is European Union democracy? It is when the people vote in an election and, regardless of the outcome, German chancellor Angela Merkel decides on the next president of the European Commission.

Oliver’s article is a fascinating analysis of the power games currently going on.

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Editorials on polls

May 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Political opinion polls come so thick and fast during an election year it is tempting to pass over them with indifference.

The results of two announced at the weekend, though, were so contrary to conventional political wisdom that they demanded attention. …

A well-received Budget took the heat off last week, but the consensus was that the first opinion polls taken while those events were still fresh in voters’ minds would punish the Government.

The outcome was quite different – not only were National and the Prime Minister up and Labour, its leader David Cunliffe and most Opposition parties down, National would, if the results were translated into votes at the election, win sufficient seats not to need a support party. 

The well-received Budget may explain part of it. One of the polls found that even two-thirds of those who identified themselves as Labour supporters backed it.

But another part of the explanation for the poll results may be that what transfixes those in the Wellington political bubble can often be less than earth-shattering in the wider world where most voters live.

I think that is right.  I think Labour especially suffers from Wellingtonitis because so few of its MPs come from provincial areas. The test is what the mums are talking about at the school gates or what the chatter is in the smoko rooms. Almost none of them were talking Oravida.

The Herald editorial:

So much for Oravida, Judith Collins, Maurice Williamson. National’s troubles of the past two months have evaporated in two separate public opinion polls taken since the Budget. Colmar Brunton, for TVNZ, and Reid Research for TV3, both find more than half of their sample intending to vote National. This must be devastating for Labour, whose sustained barrage on Ms Collins in Parliament over the past two months does not appear to have moved any votes.

They have moved votes. From Labour to National.

Four months out from the election, Labour is the party in trouble. It ought to be polling well above 30 per cent by this stage to have much hope of success in September. If its result is not 10 or more points higher at the election, it must be doubted it could lead a credible government.

David Cunliffe said his aim is to poll higher than National – at a minimum get into the 40s. 116 days to go.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said of the latest polls, it is “still fairly early days” and they would “bounce right back again”. It is very late in the day. Most voters make up their minds well before the election campaign begins, though it is true that campaigns restore voters’ usual loyalties. Labour is likely to do better than 30 per cent, National will almost certainly fall short of 50 per cent.

But right now the prospects for Labour could hardly look worse. It has fired its best shots in the past two months and the voters are unmoved. The economy is growing, the Prime Minister is popular and so far there is no prevailing mood for change.

But as both editorial say, Labour might make it through a Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana-Dotcom alliance.

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Editorials on Immigration

May 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Immigrants are easy prey for political vultures. Demagogues can win votes by using foreigners as scapegoats, as has happened repeatedly in New Zealand’s history. So the argument about the effect of immigration on housing could easily turn poisonous. It’s important not to let that happen.

The Budget’s big surprise was the revelation of a turn in the usual tide of migration. The outward flow has turned into a net inward movement, mainly because fewer Kiwis are moving to Australia. Now there is concern that the inflow will push up house prices.

Panic measures will not help with this problem, as Labour seemed to realise soon after pledging a cut in net immigration. Asked exactly how big the cut would be, Labour faltered and fudged.

It was almost comical. David Cunliffe said they’d reduce it from 40,000 net to under 15,000. Phil Twyford went further and said it would be 5,000. Then Cunliffe claimed he’d never said what he said and said Twyford had it wrong.

Immigration flows cannot be turned off and on like a tap. The present trans-Tasman inflow could quite quickly reverse as the rebuilding of Christchurch reduces, our growth rate falls, and Australia’s economy rebounds. Big cuts in immigrant numbers would then exacerbate the renewed outward flow.

The country is entitled to control immigration and there might be room for some temporary reduction in immigrants. 

Maybe Labour will campaign on reducing the quota numbers for the Pacific Islands, around South Auckland.

Winston Peters’ anti-Asian campaigns in the 1996 and 2002 elections also caused unnecessary alarm. There is always a receptive audience for this kind of trouble-making, especially among the older, the frightened, and the bewildered.

All the loose talk about the “Asian invasion” and the predictions of racial trouble turned out to be hollow. Auckland now has a large Asian population, but there has been no bloodshed, no ethnic violence, no outbreaks of hatred. New Zealand has shown that it is on the whole a tolerant and welcoming society which copes well with change.

One can debate the size and pace of immigration. These are legitimate topics. But as I pointed out several days ago the number of residency visas is actually lower today than in 2008. The big change is fewer Kiwis are leaving NZ, and more Kiwis and Aussies are deciding to live here rather than in Australia.

The Herald editorial:

In theory, Labour’s policy of managing immigration seems eminently sensible. The party would, said David Cunliffe, aim for “a steady, predictable, moderate flow that’s at a level that addresses skill shortages”. In reality, however, such an approach is impractical. New Zealand has had enough experience with stop-go immigration policies to know that while it might be easy to turn off the tap, it can be extremely difficult to return the flow to the desired level. …

Labour says that threat could be defused by restricting the annual migrant intake to between 5000 and 15,000. It did not dwell on how that would affect the external perception of a policy that could no longer be said to be stable, sage or welcoming.

To reduce net migration to that level, you would need to abolish all residential visas and almost all work visas. Christchurch construction would of course come to a halt.

Additionally, Labour’s policy is based on a false premise. The latest net migration statistics reflect not so much a flood of immigrants as far fewer people being lured across the Tasman, in particular, and an increasing number of New Zealanders returning from Australia. 

I’m glad the leader writes read my blog :-)

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Herald against tax cuts

May 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial yesterday:

Six weeks ago, the Prime Minister was in no mood to offer encouragement to those who thought tax cuts might be in the offing. The Budget would have no plans for such a move, he told the North Harbour Club, while seeking also to dampen expectations of anything significant in the future. It was exactly the right thing to say. Now, however, John Key is singing a different tune. He is talking about tax cuts as a choice, and they are sufficiently in his mind to to have warranted a mention in last week’s Budget.

It stated: “Operating allowances from Budget 2015 will be $1.5 billion a year, growing at 2 per cent for budgets thereafter. This is a moderate increase that will provide the Government with options around investment in public services and modest tax reductions.” In effect, the growing economy is providing the Government with a bit more freedom. But this does not mean that, for the next term of government at least, they should be at the top of the priority list. Of far greater importance is the need to get debt back to under 20 per cent of gross domestic product.

The Government can do both, and it should do both.

As the editorial notes, any tax cuts would come out of the $1.5 billion operating allowance. So the surplus projections already take into account any tax cuts. It is basically a choice of whether the $1.5 billion goes just on extra spending, or a mixture of extra spending and tax cuts.

People say they want higher after tax incomes. The Government can not directly set incomes. That is between employers and employees. But they can set tax rates. The one sure way to boost after tax incomes for hard working New Zealanders is to give them a tax cut.

There is little to indicate that most people feel they are owed tax cuts. New Zealanders are aware that, while the country has emerged from the global recession in relatively good shape, there are more important priorities.

I disagree. Extra spending benefits the small group of NZers that it goes on. Tax cuts can benefit all working New Zealanders.

The surplus projections take into account the $1.5 billion operating allowances. Now a balanced Government might say let’s spent half on extra spending and half on tax cuts. That would not impact the projected surplus at all.

After three years, that would be $2.25 billion of annual tax cuts and $2.25 billion of annual extra spending. Here’s what you could do with $2.25 billion of tax cuts based on Treasury estimates.

  • Reduce the bottom tax rate (up to $14,000 income) from 10.5% to 4%
  • Reduce the 2nd bottom tax rate ($14k to $48k) from 17.5% to 13%
  • Reduce the third rate ($48k to $70k) from 30% to 26% and the second rates from 17.5% to 14%
  • Increase the upper threshold for the bottom rate of 10.5% from $14,000 to $29,000
  • Increase the upper threshold for the second rate of 17.5% from $48,000 to 67,000
  • Have the bottom 10.5% rate apply to $22,000 (from $14,000), the second rate of 17.5% apply to $56,000 (from $48,000) and the third rate of $30% apply to $78,000 (from $70,000)

The Herald is effectively saying that 100% of the operating allowance should go on extra spending. That should be just as unacceptable as having 100% of the operating allowance going on tax cuts.  What I want is political parties to deliver both extra spending and tax cuts.

The debate should be about what the mixture is, but not about whether there should be a mixture. ACT might say it should be 80% tax cuts and 20% spending. Labour might say 75% spending and 25% tax cuts. National might be 50/50. But I have no time for those who say there should be no tax cuts at all, once they are clearly affordable.

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