Herald on Labour’s housing policy

May 23rd, 2016 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party surprised many people last week, and dismayed some of its own supporters, by advocating the complete abolition of boundaries on urban expansion.

Its housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, endorsed the Government’s view that boundaries imposed by the Auckland Council have been a major contributor to the escalation of house prices. His announcement was timed to get in ahead of an urban development directive to councils expected from the Government soon, possibly in the Budget on Thursday. But Labour’s proposal goes further than Mr Twyford believes the Government’s national policy statement is likely to go.

“What we are calling for is the abolition of the urban growth boundary, not softening it, not making it more flexible,” he says. “And not just doing what the Auckland Council advocates, which is periodically adding in more parcels of land zoned for development. All that does is feed the speculative land market.”

I hope the Auckland Council listens, but I fear they won’t. And Phil Goff is refusing to back the policy, which is a bad sign.

The main condition is that development on the urban fringe must pay the full cost of the additional infrastructure they need and the party has proposed an interesting method by which this could be financed. It wants the Auckland Council to be allowed to issue infrastructure bonds that would be repaid from rates levied on the newly developed properties.

Developers are already charged for the cost of connecting their subdivisions to a city’s services but Auckland planners have long opposed urban sprawl on the basis of its infrastructure costs, so clearly those costs have not been fully covered in developers’ contributions. Infrastructure bonds could fill the gap. In fact, they could permit more amenities to be built in these new communities than have usually been provided from development levies because bonds are effectively a loan to future residents whereas development levies are built into the upfront cost of houses. …

Infrastructure bonds would enable those savers to share the gains from housing the population boom without pushing up house prices. The bonds might also attract some housing investors, reducing their demand for houses and slowing the rise of prices. New Zealand offers few investments as safe as houses and has an unsatisfied demand for bonds as secure as these. Labour is thinking well.

I agree. I like their policy on bonds rather than developer contributions up front.

APN and Fairfax merger talks confirmed

May 11th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

APN News & Media has today confirmed plans to demerge NZME and revealed it is in discussions with Fairfax Media about a potential merger of their New Zealand businesses.

“If completed, the combined company will be a leading New Zealand media business, offering depth of news, sport and entertainment coverage across a diverse mix of channels including print, digital and radio,” an ASX announcement says.

The two entities have been in preliminary discussions about a potential merger, which will be subject to approval by both companies’ boards, shareholders and the Commerce Commission. The merger is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, subject to all necessary approvals.

I suspect Commerce Commission approval will take longer than six months.

Another NBR story reports:

A merger of New Zealand’s two largest media organisations could be approved on a counterfactual basis, despite competition concerns, a leading competition lawyer says. …

Competition lawyer Andy Matthews says while other countries have rules about media ownership to ensure a diversity of views in the media, “New Zealand’s never had that.”

“From a pure competition perspective, what’s going to happen if these guys don’t get together? Will they survive? It would be inappropriate to stop this because this is how industries respond to change,” he says. …

“It’s a highly fragmented market. I would have thought on the face of it a merger wouldn’t be anti-competitive. It’s an industry in crisis. Do you look at newspapers and online news separate or the same? Does the platform even matter anymore?” he asks.

The merger is undesirable, but the status quo may be even more undesirable as without it one or both companies could shrink significantly.

But the merger would also lead to huge job losses. Estimates I have seen suggest perhaps 1,000 or so.

One key issue for the Commerce Commission might be whether the Herald and Stuff websites would merge.On the print side there is almost no competition already. Radio has plenty of competition. But the websites may be the area where they have competition issues.

Also parliamentary reporting may suffer, as if the two offices merge, then you lose the competitive tension of each office trying to develop exclusive stories.

When will the Herald report on APN’s tax dodging?

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

The Herald has been running a series on multinationals, and the low level of tax they pay in NZ.

But there is one multinational they have ignored.

That is APN, which by coincidence owns the NZ Herald.

The Herald keeps looking at tax paid in relation to revenue, so we should do the same for APN. What are the stats?

  • Revenue – 2014 $843.1 m, 2015 $850.0 m
  • Tax paid – 2014 $9.2m, 2015 $19.8m
  • Tax as a percentage of revenue – 2014 1.1%, 2015 2.3%

But that isn’t the real shocker. Here’s the real hypocrisy.

The 20 companies being targeted by the Herald have all paid the amount of tax they are legally bound to pay. APN HAS NOT.

Look at their annual report:

The Company is involved in a dispute with the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (IRD) regarding certain financing transactions. The dispute involves tax of NZ$64 million for the period up to 31 December 2014. The IRD is seeking to impose penalties of between 10% and 50% of the tax in dispute in addition to the tax claimed. The Company has tax losses available to offset any amount of tax payable to the extent of NZ$48 million.

On 22 February 2013, the Adjudication Unit of the IRD advised that it agrees with the position taken by the IRD. Accordingly, the Company was issued with Notices of Assessment denying deductions in relation to interest claimed on certain financing transactions. In response to this step, the Company has commenced litigation in the High Court of New Zealand to defend its position in relation to this matter.

APN, the owners of the Herald, are tax dodgers. The IRD has pinged them for $64 million of tax, and penalties of up to 50% (which they generally only do if they think it is in bad faith). And APN are fighting this in court.

How on earth does the Herald have the gall to lecture other companies on the amount of tax they pay, when their own parent company has been found by the IRD Adjudication Unit to have illegally dodged $64 million of tax.

10/10 in 47 seconds

February 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald Politics quiz is back.  10/10 in 47 seconds.

Herald on Salvation Army report

February 19th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Salvation Army’s annual stocktake on New Zealand’s social health has earned high credibility. It owes this to its recognition of progress as well as problems.

Its latest “state of the nation” report notes continuing improvement in many of the country’s most persistent concerns. Child poverty, for example. It finds children in material hardship, as measured by an absence of some essentials, has dropped from 21 per cent at the peak of the 2008-09 recession to 14 per cent last year, the level it was before the recession. That trend is not evident in the more standard statistical measure of poverty – living on less than 60 per cent of the median household income – but that is because earned incomes have risen.

Average weekly earnings rose 3 per cent last year while the cost of living rose only 0.1 per cent. Half of the increase in earnings came from pay rises, the rest from working more hours. At the same time, unemployment dropped for a second year in succession, though the proportion of the population employed did not rise as much as it did in 2013 and 2014, the peak of the Christchurch rebuild.

The population grew again by 2 per cent, slightly greater than the growth in employment which suggests the numbers retiring exceed the increase in new workers and immigration.

Perhaps most heartening, the report says increases in the statutory minimum wage have helped lift the incomes of the lowest paid faster than the highest paid employment, in finance. The gap may be wide but, contrary to careless rhetoric, it is apparently not necessarily getting wider.

Beneficiaries and their children do not benefit from increases in the minimum wage. Their incomes are indexed to price inflation rather than wages. That ought to change. But at least basic benefit rates will be raised by $25 from April 1.

The Salvation Army estimates 16.4 per cent of children are in families dependent on benefits, the lowest proportion since the late 1980s. That figure is close to the 14 per cent found lacking some of life’s essentials, suggesting the true extent of child poverty is around 14 per cent, not the 25 per cent often quoted by academic researchers.

Perhaps the best news of all, the Salvation Army’s findings are in pre-school education, which is now reaching beyond children in better-off areas thanks to efforts to reach the poorest deciles. Last year, 92.5 per cent of pre-school children received early education. It is a remarkable figure even if the quality of the education is uneven.

So good progress on child poverty, weekly earnings, unemployment, benefit levels, minimum wage and reducing welfare dependency plus pre-school education.

Not everything is improving. House prices moved further out of reach of first home-seekers in the year to last September. While the rate of capital gain slowed in the year to December, reflecting new taxes and lending restrictions on rental property, rents are rising more sharply as a result.

A compassionate country will never succumb to complacency while any of its citizens are in poverty or distress, but it does no harm to acknowledge the success of concerted effort.

Definitely still more to be done.

Herald on Awaroa Beach

February 11th, 2016 at 9:58 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour leader Andrew Little thinks it would a good idea for the Government to chip in and support the social media campaign to buy a sliver of land in Golden Bay.

Which destroys the whole community spirit behind the bid. Forcing taxpayers to fund the purchase works against people donating their own money. I’m happy to voluntarily donate money to the bid but not happy for my taxes to be used on it.

At the 11th hour, Gareth Morgan entered the debate, offering to make up the difference between the amount raised by the social media exercise and the $2 million tender guidance. He promised to hand the beach over to DoC after his family had finished enjoying it. Unsurprisingly, the offer has been declined. Contributors to the fund would have been justifiably reluctant to subsidise anyone’s acquisition of a private beach.

Many donors said they would withdraw their pledges if this happened.

Meanwhile, the crowdfunding appeal for Awaroa Beach deserves to succeed. The owner may be asking more than DoC thinks it is worth, but its value is whatever a willing buyer is willing to pay. The appeal is a rare opportunity for the public to decide.

The fund now stands at $1.77 million with 28,515 backers.

Herald critical of Labour’s bribe

February 5th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A universal entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education has overwhelming public appeal. Whether it is in the public interest is another question. The policy is expensive: $1.2 billion when fully implemented.

That is a considerable lump of public spending. As always when something of this magnitude is proposed, we should not look at its merits in isolation. Governments do not have infinite budgets and there is a limit to the taxation an economy can provide and remain healthy.

Labour needs to be asked, is this the most worthwhile use of $1.2 billion Is it even the most worthy use of funds allocated to education?

Many professionals (outside the tertiary sector at least) would say raising funding of pre-school education is more socially urgent and productive than relieving school-leavers of an obligation to contribute to the cost of their qualifications.

Most of the $1.2 billion will go to wealthy families who planned to go to university anyway.

University student associations have complained about course fees and loans to cover them since they were introduced. But many thousands of graduates have paid their fees and repaid their loans over the past 20 years.

Tertiary education has seen spectacular growth over that period, attracting foreign fee-paying students as well as meeting New Zealanders’ needs. Why change the funding system now?

Or to put it another way, what problem is this policy designed to fix? Labour’s leader presents it as an answer to the frequent and unpredictable career changes people will need in the workforce of the future. But this “future” has been present for many years now and there has been no sign the costs of retraining have become a problem.

The student loan scheme is effectively a temporary targeted tax on those who undertake tertiary study. Once you eanr above a certain level, you pay a 12% higher tax rate until the loan is paid off.

So what is fairer – those who get the benefits of tertiary study paying a temporary higher tax rate, or all New Zealanders paying a permanent higher tax rate?

The economy is strong in large part because public spending is under control. Expensive proposals that waste money purely for political gain could put the country’s prosperity in peril.

It’s the old tax and spend.

Herald and Hosking on TPP

February 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Looking back, it is hard to recall a greater diplomatic achievement than the comprehensive trade and investment agreement that will be signed by representatives of 12 countries in Auckland today. The post-war creation of the United Nations in which New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser played a role may be as proud for those who remember it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is directly in that tradition.

It represents another advance on the principles of the World Trade Organisation, formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) that was one of the multi-lateral institutions formed by nations seeking world peace and prosperity after two devastating wars.

Even 70 years ago, it proved harder to unite the world on rules for international business and trade than to establish a World Health Organisation and UN agencies for the likes of education and science. The Gatt did not become the WTO until the 1990s when just about all countries in the long communist experiment finally turned to capitalism for the prosperity the West enjoyed.

Now we just need Labour, Greens and NZ First to embrace capitalism again!

Mike Hosking writes:

Good morning and welcome to TPP signing day.

I know, I know, I know. We’ve thrashed this thing to death, but here’s your reality: It’s a done deal.

It will get signed today, the legislation will be passed, and all there is left to do is sit back and basically sees who’s right.

Will it be like every other free trade deal and open new markets, bring new opportunities and boost our wealth? Or are the doom merchants right and we’re heading for corporate armageddon, where we spend the rest of our lives in court and have our sovereignty whipped out from under us?

The really big question not many people seemed to ask in this whole debate was: Why would our Government sign us up to all this so-called trouble?

What Government in its right mind would take us down a path of disaster, and with it the political fallout?

Further, why would 11 other Governments do exactly the same thing?

If this is such a dastardly deal, how is it possible that a dozen countries all got sucked in and put their name to the sort of trouble and political mayhem the placard wavers are proclaiming?

12 Governments have signed it because they all stand to gain more from it than they lose. Trade is not a zero sum gain.

Long term, here’s Labour’s potential nightmare: Assuming those of us who like trade deals are right, as the numbers roll in, as the sales get made, and if this deal is like every other deal, it actually produces way more than the paper work ever indicated, think the China deal which is many times better than was initially thought possible.

As that all happens, Labour is going to be backed into a corner explaining just what it was it couldn’t see that the rest of us could.

The benefits of the China FTA have been much much greater than projected, If TPP goes the same way, Labour are going to look very foolish for campaigning against it.

Herald backs Greens costing policy

February 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Amid the fanfare surrounding Labour’s education policy release at the weekend, it should also be acknowledged the Green Party has made a good start to the year, with a proposal that is reasonable, moderate and financially responsible.

The suggestion an independent unit should be set up within Treasury to provide costings of each party’s election policies is one the Government will find tough to turn down.

Much as it might like to, social policy initiatives from the Opposition can easily be dismissed as fearfully expensive without reliable figures – Labour’s free tertiary plan being a timely case in point.

Labour have a long history of under-estimating the costs of policies – interest free student loans and KiwiSaver ended up costing many times more than they originally said it would.

I support an independent costing agency, but one has to realise that there will always be assumptions which are debatable.

To cost Labour’s education policy, the first step is to work out what would be the cost if the Government paid all the tertairy fees for current students, instead of lending them money for them. That is quite easy to do, and uncontroversial.

The harder part is calculating how many more people will enrol if tertiary education is free. Labour say they think there will be a 15% increase. I think this is massively low. Tertiary providers will be able to earn $15,000 or so if they can sign up any adult who has never been to university (or other tertiary). They’ll be going through rest homes convincing retirees to enrol in courses.  It could well be a 100% increase.

An independent costing agency will have to try and make a “best guess”. This may be based on what has happened in other areas when something is made free – for example what increase has there been in public transport use by retirees since they got free travel. They may be able to look overseas. But even Treasury in the past has vastly under-estimated the cost of policies such as Kiwisaver and interest free loans. Humans respond massively to incentives, and this policy provides huge incentives to providers to sign people up.

The public would be best served if once a policy was submitted to the unit its findings were automatically made public.

Parties might not welcome the risk, and might withhold some proposals from an evaluation, but that would do nothing for their credibility.

The agency should be subject to the OIA.

 

Herald calls for fern flag to fly on bridge

January 11th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

This is a serious and urgent request of whomever is running the Government in the Prime Minister’s absence. Please fly the proposed new flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge, either on one pole alongside the existing flag, or on both poles.

We will be voting on them in just two months and it is vital to see the proposed alternative in action before we can decide.

Until we see how it looks fluttering in a breeze, lying limp and performing in various conditions, we cannot know whether its design really “works”.

I agree. Both the current flag and the alternative one offer should fly. Having New Zealanders seeing them on flagpoles will better allow for an informed vote.

Herald backs down on uninformed editorial

December 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Friday the NZ Herald editorial proclaimed:

Strange things started to happen rather quickly. Not enough subscribers were keen to switch to the more expensive connection, so Chorus raised the price of copper connections to $45 a month to make fibre more attractive.

An organisation of users protested. The Commerce Commission, which can regulate network pricing, stepped in and forced Chorus to lower its copper charge to $32.45. At that, Chorus appealed and the commission has spent the past three years reviewing its calculations.

The following Wednesday their editorial back downs:

Last Friday, our editorial expressed concern that the charge being set for telecommunications on the copper network was being artificially inflated to make the Government-inspired roll-out of fibre optic cable more competitive.

That view has been strongly contested and we need to reconsider a number of issues. Few costs in an economy are more important than the price of its vital infrastructure.

Chorus, the network provider, does not set its own charges. They are done entirely by the Commerce Commission. We have been assured the charge determined by the commission last week has nothing to do with the cost of fibre connections, the uptake of which is at 16.4 per cent of customers served so far.

Kudos to the Herald for admitting they got it wrong. Not so good they did an editorial in the first place they was so poorly researched.

Herald is right – leave it to Pharmac

December 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Theirs is an invidious task, never more so than this week when it had to tell us it would not fund a drug for melanoma, Keytruda, that is being hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of this cancer. Clinicians say it is the only treatment that seems to be effective against advanced inoperable melanoma. Chemotherapy and other regular cancer treatments are not.

Keytruda is state-funded in Australia and England but here Pharmac’s assessment committee has marked it low priority for funding, because of uncertainty about its benefits and extremely high cost. A course costs around $300,000, which anyone given a terminal diagnosis would pay if they could. Some can and do. But it is beyond the means of most and beyond Pharmac’s budget when it weighs up all the demands on its funds.

There was a hint yesterday that the Government could come to the rescue. “Watch this space,” said one of its MPs, Judith Collins, on breakfast television. She compared it to the breast cancer drug Herceptin, that was not accepted for funding by Pharmac but in 2008 the National Party promised to fund it if it came to power, and duly did so. Pharmac does “a great job”, said Ms Collins, “but every now and then something comes along and you’ve just go to say, something has to give on this”.

The Labour Party had been even quicker to take the decision out of Pharmac’s hands. “We would fund it,” said its health spokeswoman, Annette King. With politicians like these, who needs professionals to assess efficacy against costs?

If a Government provides additional funds to cover the costs of a particular drug, it does not upset the careful decisions that Pharmac has to make about the best use of its budget. But each time a Government does so, it reduces the integrity and fairness of the public health system. It is easy to make emotional decisions, especially where cancer is concerned. And of all cancers, melanoma may be the most scary.

I agree with the Herald. We set Pharmac up so medical and other professionals could assess which drugs provided the most benefit for their cost. This is the right way to do things with a limited budget, and MPs should not step in over them to fund additional drugs based on the success of a lobbying campaign.

Herald seems to blame security services for terror

November 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Governments will also be aware that each time public fears are heightened, the political climate becomes more difficult for some immigrant communities. In Australia, three-quarters of the population believes a large-scale terrorist attack is likely within the country and a quarter believe one is imminent, according to a poll at the weekend.

Australia has had two terrorist attacks in recent months, and several more attempted. So it is quite rational to believe more are likely.

New Zealand is not immune to these fears and tensions, or indeed the threat that causes them. But so far, our Government has not seen fit to raise the level of alarm. The Prime Minister says one or two of about 40 people under watch are under fulltime surveillance. No country should have cause for terror if its security services are doing their job.

I profoundly disagree with that sentence. It is blaming the security services of terrorist attacks succeed.

Think if one wrote

No country should have cause for fear of crime if its Police are doing their job

Just as the Police can not stop crime in advance, security services can not stop all terrorist attacks. It is impossible. Hopefully they stop most. But if one or more people are determined to kill unarmed members of the public, they will often succeed.

Herald on Goff

November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Pointedly, Mr Goff offered to bring “a different personality” to the role in his announcement on Sunday. The pity was that he did not offer much else that was different, or indeed much at all. He promises to eliminate wasteful spending and needless bureaucracy. So do they all.

Can he point to any spending committed to by the current Council he does not support? If not, then why should people think rates won’t continue to skyrocket?

He aims for rate rises no higher than at present.

No higher than 10% per annum!!!

He supports higher density residential development and the central rail link. He will not allow the port to expand but he will not sell it, or even shares in it. He will not sell any “strategic assets”.

These are all off-the-shelf positions for a candidate from Mr Goff’s side of politics. Nothing he said on Sunday gave any sign he has been thinking deeply or originally about Auckland and the problems of the council, and what he might do with the sole executive powers of the mayor. Mr Goff has had a long time to consider these things.

It’s swapping one Labour Party Mayor for another.

 

Herald says Len should not go to Paris

November 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Many Aucklanders would have been open-mouthed with amazement at the announcement that Mayor Len Brown is going to the world climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month. The audacity of the discredited mayor never ceases to amaze. He ought to have resigned long ago but any credit he recovered with his decision last week not to stand for re-election next year probably evaporated with this announcement. What purpose can he serve at the climate change conference?

Sight seeing?

The conference is going to hear that his council has set a target of reducing Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, and that it is preparing for the impacts of climate change such as severe weather events, floods and sea level rise.

The Council’s target is nonsense because the Council has almost no ability to impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland.

National governments can impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a charge on such emissions, determining energy sources etc. A local authority has no such power, so the 40% target is basically wankery.

NZ Herald implores people to donate to Labour

November 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Labour Party’s financial deficit problems should be of concern to all New Zealanders. It is not necessary to be aligned with National or Labour to recognise that a healthy democracy needs two parties capable of providing sound government. …

The country will go to the next election with sensible alternatives on offer, to re-elect National for a fourth term or decide it’s time for a change. Three-term governments have usually been enough for New Zealand voters, but normally the mood for change is evident by this time. Labour may have to hang in for a longer haul and it needs help. It deserves a fair deal from those doing well in an economy that took two parties to put right.

So the NZ Herald is imploring people to donate money to the Labour Party. Good to know where they stand.

Tertiary fraud

November 16th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A little over a year ago we learned a tertiary education provider, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, had given the players and staff of the New Zealand Warriors league club an 18-week tourism course in one day. An investigation into such funding irregularities resulted in the institution returning $5.9 million to the Tertiary Education Commission.

Since then, investigations into six tertiary institutions, from Southland to the Bay of Plenty, have identified more than $25 million in misappropriation. One of them, we reported this week, has been stripped of its registration.

Why is this happening on such a scale? And how is it that only one of these places has been deregistered? On the face of it, this is fraud with public funds.

This is a reasonable question. If the only sanction for shall we say creative accounting is that you have to pay the money back, then these issues are likely to continue.However if the sanction is deregistration, then tertiary providers should be far more cautious.

It is well past time that when found out, these places face much greater penalties than merely handing back the money if they can. The Serious Fraud Office needs to make an example of someone. A salutary prosecution could wake up the sector to take its social responsibility seriously. It needs to ensure no course is a waste of money and everyone’s time.

If we prosecute people for stealing $1,000 from the Government, shouldn’t we do it if they steal $25 million?

Herald says Len should have gone by now

November 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Mr Brown ought to have resigned a long time ago. He has done no good for Auckland by remaining in office once it had become obvious to all around him that he could not again be effective. For two years, the council has been drifting and fractious, lacking leadership in the position that was given more executive power than any other in New Zealand local government.

His decision not to seek re-election next year is the next best thing to an admission that he no longer should be there.

His main legacy will be the 9.9% rates increased after he promised 2.5%.

Herald targets Max Key

November 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday does a major story on inequality. And who do they decide to run not one, not two, but three photos of to illustrate their article? Max Key.

That’s appalling. Max Key is a 20 year old, just out of his teens. He is not a politician – his father is. You can argue about whether or not he gets a mention at all, but to run three photos of him is just targeting him because of his father. It’s very sad.

The Herald have a fixation with him. This article is possibly the lowlight, but in total they have had 52 articles that mention him in the last year. They should stop.

Herald backs Ardern

October 19th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour needs to project the image of a fresh, new potential government.

Ms Ardern can help project that image. Ms King cannot. The bigger problem for Mr Little may be that Ms Ardern probably projects that image better than he does, and the last thing he needs is a deputy whose promotion might cause her to be seen as a rival to himself. Ms Ardern no doubt would deny any wish to replace him, and mean it, but if her public reception was much better than his, she would be a contender.

That is the trouble. Ardern as Deputy Leader might soon overtake Little in the Preferred PM polls.

This time next year, if the polls have not improved for Labour, some in the party may well push for yet another change of leader. Having held two contests in the previous term of Parliament, it is running short of candidates. Grant Robertson, who stood in both unsuccessfully, has accepted he will not be the next leader. Ms Ardern, who was going to be Mr Robertson’s deputy had he succeeded, has not been tarnished by the result. She could be a credible candidate; all the more so if by then she has been deputy leader for a year.

That’s almost an endorsement of Ardern to be Leader!

Clark, Labour and TPP

October 6th, 2015 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Sometimes it takes someone a little removed from the fray to put the right perspective on an issue.

New Zealanders have sorely needed such insight on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so deeply polarised are they about its potential benefit to this country.

And there could be few people better placed to supply this than former Prime Minister Helen Clark. …

Ms Clark’s statement, a rare one on a domestic issue since she became the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, emphasised how foolish that would be.

What had always haunted her as prime minister, she said, was the development of a series of trade blocs of which New Zealand was not part. That would be “unthinkable” for this country as an export-orientated, small trading nation.

“So, of course, New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.” …

Ms Clark’s statement also carried a message for her former Labour colleagues.

Curiously for a party that formerly embraced free trade, it has insisted its support for the TPP is contingent on the meeting of several “non-negotiable bottom lines”.

Labour may imagine this plays well with those people adamantly opposed to the pact.

But most importantly, as its former leader implies, it reveals a failure to to appreciate the big picture. That dictates a small trading nation cannot afford to stand aside from an agreement of such magnitude for the Asia-Pacific region.

The partisan part of me wants Labour to vote against TPP, as I think it will continue their descent away from electability. But actually it would be a bad thing for NZ to lose its long-standing bipartisan support for trade deals.

Liam Hehir writes:

When Helen Clark came out in broad endorsement of New Zealand’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she lifted the lid on what is going to become a real headache for Andrew Little. If negotiation of the mammoth trade treaty is completed (which could well have occurred by the time you read this) the Labour Party is going to have to make a decision about whether or not it will throw its support behind New Zealand joining the bloc.

Until now, Labour has been assiduously ambiguous on the subject. This seems to be because some swivel-eyed members of the party base are convinced that the treaty is a sinister National Party scheme to outsource sovereignty to Halliburton, Pfizer and the Rothschild family. Not wishing to alienate these noisy activists, the party has been careful to avoid expressing any enthusiasm for the deal.

Yet …

But at the same time, it has not ruled out supporting the deal should agreement be reached. A significant chunk of Labour’s parliamentary caucus is serious about governing. They care more about pragmatism than party slogans and, when pushed, they care more about the national interest than they do about oppositional politics.

But are there enough of them? I’m not sure there are.

The problem is that weasel words will only get you so far. Complaining about the secret negotiating process won’t cut it once the negotiations have been wrapped up and the terms of the deal have been laid bare. The debate then has nowhere to go but to the ultimate merits of the thing.

Despite persistent claims to the contrary, joining the TPP is going to require the enactment of implementing legislation. When those votes are called, Labour MPs will need to make a call on turning its back on vastly improved access to markets representing nearly 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Whatever decision is made, somebody is going to have to be disappointed.

I think it will be the party activists. If the TPP represents a halfway-decent deal for New Zealand, my bet is that Labour MPs will give it their blessing. There will be some public handwringing, of course, and reservations will be loudly stated. Unlike NZ First or the Greens, however, Labour is simply too integral to our political system to indulge in fantasies of the country prospering as a hermit kingdom closed off from the world economy.

I hope Liam is right, but I am less optimistic. They have abandoned bipartisan support for stable monetary policy that targets inflation, and in recent elections have had a policy of effective nationalisation of electricity generators.

For Helen Clark, the only Labour leader to have won a general election in almost 30 years, to say that “of course” we should “be in on the action with the TPP” starkly exposes the reality of the situation. Labour is a serious, mainstream party. It is inclined to deal with the world as it is.

If Labour don’t support TPP, I can see a number of election ads quoting her words back to them!

Politik says NZME job losses may hit 150

September 24th, 2015 at 6:50 am by David Farrar

Politik reports:

The NZME media group which includes Newstalk ZB and the NZ Herald is thought to be looking for over 100 redundancies as it restructures.

It has so far publicly refused to confirm any numbers but details of the plan leaked to POLITIK indicate that the company may be looking to terminate at least 150 staff.

That would put a huge hole in New Zealand’s largest media company and has the potential to impact on its highly regarded journalism.

The numbers being talked about would make this the biggest media mass redundancy New Zealand has seen.

Tough times for those affected.

POLITIK understands staff will not have specific desks but instead will be required to “hot desk”.

One journalist who asked where they could keep files was told in future hard copy files would be located in the company library in Ellerslie and could be delivered to Victoria Street.

Hmmn journalists with no desks or files.

Herald confuses minimum and median

September 22nd, 2015 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

The Herald headline:

Aucklanders can expect to pay minimum of $400 a week

The first paragraph:

Auckland renters can expect to pay a minimum $400 a week – regardless of property type or size, according to Trade Me Property’s monthly report on median rents across New Zealand.

Stats Chat points out:

From a quick TradeMe search for Auckland rentals, with an upper limit of $350 a week: 525 listings.

And the Herald’s rather basic mistake:

What they mean is that the median is at least $400/week in every category of property type or size, not the minimum.

I can forgive a newspaper for not knowing the difference between mean and median. But conflating minimum and median is a horrific error, which makes the headline and lead paragraph totally wrong and misleading.

More redundancies at the Herald?

September 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

It’s now understood that other senior staff at the NZ Herald being ‘consulted’ about the proposed plans to facilitate the creation of NZME’s “world-class integrated newsroom” (ie, more than likely being made redundant) also include Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon, feature writer Alan Perrot and columnist John Roughan.

They seem set to join veterans John Drinnan, Brian Rudman and Michele Hewitson (see below) on today’s casualty list.

Must be tough times for those at the Herald.

If John Drinnan goes, it will be a pity. As a writer who focuses on the media, I read all his columns religiously and often learn stuff I didn’t know. I didn’t agree with everything he wrote (of course) but found him far more balanced that Mediawatch on Radio NZ (which I also listen to always, but find it has such an anti-commercial flavour). He also engages regularly on Twitter, in a useful way.

I’ve never understood why anyone ever agrees to be interviewed by Michelle Hewitson, as she generally skewers them not so gently. But I almost without fail read her interviews as they can be insightful in a way few are.

Rudman’s views are always pretty predictable, but his focus on Auckland issues was good. We need more scrutiny of local government.

John Roughan writes far less than he used to, but I like his columns as he would often go against the prevailing mood, and argue something unpopular.

One NZ Herald staff member says, “It’s a bloodbath.” Another tells NBR that 30% of editorial staff are getting the chop. The number is unconfirmed, but would still mean editorial is getting off more lightly than sales where sources suggest that up to 40% of staff could receive their marching orders.

The print media commercial model is failing, and online media revenue is not in the same league. Eventually business models that work will come through, but until they do it’s a hard time for those in the media.

Herald on anti flu vaccine health workers and unions

August 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It beggars belief that any nurses employed in public hospitals would be allowed to decline vaccinations against winter flu. It strains credibility further to hear these nurses complain they are obliged to wear face masks in the wards. And it is nothing short of disgraceful their national union, supported by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, backs them up.

I agree.

The flu is not chicken pox. People die from the flu. Lots of people. Why would a hospital worker not want a free flu vaccine?

Plenty of people outside the public health services decline flu vaccines, even when provided free in workplaces. This is a free country and people are free to make unhealthy decisions for themselves, even when their decision reduces the immunity that can be provided for the community. The best health authorities can do is to promote and practise good sense, based on medical research.

Nurses and other health professionals are also free to question the wisdom of immunisation or any other medical practices if they wish, but if so they should look for a job with an alternative provider.

If you accept a job in a hsopital working with sick people who are especially vulnerable to illnesses such as influenza, then you lose discretion over whether or not to have a vaccine. Just as if you accept a job as a teacher, you may have a dress code to comply with.

And Waikato DHB hasn’t even made it compulsory. They’ve just said wear a mask, if you won’t get one – and you work in clinical areas.