Herald says Councillors should vote not abstain

June 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Fairly or not, politicians are expected to have solid, unambiguous positions on every issue. Not for them the shades of grey that influence the decision-making of most people in everyday life. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the Auckland councillors who are thinking of abstaining to allow the council’s 10-year budget to pass are being strongly criticised. Yesterday, Michael Barnett, of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, added to the pressure by saying taking that course would be “a total nonsense”.

They are elected to govern. If they can’t handle the responsibility, they should resign and allow in someone who can.

But ringing in their ears are the dire warnings of the council’s chief executive and chief finance officer, who have told councillors if the budget is not adopted, the council will not be able to set or collect rates, refinance loans or meet stock exchange requirements.

If they vote down Len’s budget, then Len has to put up an alternate budget which can get a majority. That is how it works.

It would surely not be catastrophic if the budget was not adopted. Any difficulties could be worked through as the budget was modified to meet the concerns of Mr Clow and others. This could see the rates impost reduced significantly through a variety of measures, including staff minimisation, enhanced efficiencies, and the selling down of council assets, such as port and airport shares and carparking buildings.

It is not a choice of Len’s budget or no budget. If they vote down Len’s budget, then a revised budget gets put up.

The issue is too important for any councillor to choose not to choose. They were elected to provide a voice for the citizens of their ward. That should not be lost when they are so adamant about the budget’s shortcomings.

Any Councillor who votes for the 9.9% rates increase budget, or abstains on it, will face a vigorous and effective campaign to stop them being re-elected.

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An education reporter on charter schools

June 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s three interesting things about this exchange.

  1. Portraying charter schools as exploiting vulnerable kids, rather than helping them
  2. Portraying charter schools as people making money. As far as I know every charter school operator in NZ is a not-for-profit entity
  3. The tweeter is the NZ Herald’s specialist education reporter

If you were a charter school operator, teacher or parent what confidence would you have that the Herald will report fairly on your school, when the reporter seems to have such a negative view of them.

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Match speeds to risk

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The speed limit on any road should be appropriate to its design and condition, not the subject of a default 100km/h setting. Therefore, a good case can be made for increasing the limit on many of the country’s motorways to 110km/h. And so, too, and even more strongly, can a case be made for lowering it on many of our two-lane rural roads. The latter are, after all, the scene of a high proportion of the fatal and serious crashes in New Zealand every year.

Such was not the case last weekend when 10 people died on the roads. But that did not diminish the good sense in the call by road policing chief Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff for some rural roads to have lower speed limits. He was reacting not to one bad weekend but to a problem that has been apparent for years and has not been tackled effectively.

As Mr Cliff suggests, many country roads, especially those with winding stretches, are simply not designed to be travelled at 100km/h. Many drivers do not have the skills or the required concentration to traverse them with a high degree of safety.

Best international practice, said Mr Cliff, would dictate that the limit should be 70 to 80km/h. At that speed, the chances of a crash being survivable would be much increased.

Some roads such as the Rimutaka Hill Road are very dangerous to do at 100 km/hr. Same with the road to Makara. Likewise many roads are safe for modern cars at 110 or 120 km/hr. I’m all for road speed limits being set based on the characteristics of each individual road.

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Herald calls for all benefits to increase by 24%

May 21st, 2015 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It has long been an anomaly that benefits for the young are raised annually by the rate of inflation while superannuitants have their pensions pegged to increases in wages, or inflation if it is greater.

Wages in recent years have increased at a rate above low inflation, causing benefits to lag the general rise in living standards enjoyed by wage earners and the retired. The cost of indexing working age benefits to wages might be considerable but it seems only fair that it should be done. If fiscally possible, it should be accompanied by a catch-up adjustment to benefit rates over the next few years.

This may be the stupidest and most financially illiterate editorial of the year.

First let us calculate what this would cost.  NZ Super has increased by 78% since it was given a floor relative to wages. Inflation during that time has been 44%, which is how much other benefits have increased. This means that in today’s dollars you would need to increase all benefits by 24% to bring them in line with NZ Super increases.

The current cost of non NZ Super benefits is $7.3 billion, so the cost of the Herald’s editorial policy would be $1.74 billion.

The cost of this policy would be around $1,800 per working family.

So the Herald wants the Government to take an extra $1,800 off every family in work, and give it to people not working, on welfare. They think this is the best use of $1.74 billion. I’m staggered by their detachment from reality.

 

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Rose Patterson on state vs private education providers

May 15th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rose Patterson of the NZ Initiative writes at interest.co.nz:

Early childhood education (ECE) has been under the spotlight.

The New Zealand Herald’s Kirsty Johnston recently reported major quality issues, with 150 ECE providers rated by the Education Review Office (ERO) in 2014 as “requiring further development”.

NZEI union boss Louise Green blames market forces, stating in a press release that “the rapid rise of market-driven early childhood education is putting many children at risk of missing out on quality learning in their early years”.

It is a good thing to question quality, particularly in a sector dedicated to the care of children. …

It is always good to question quality but the figures firstly need to be put into context, and some critical thinking is needed on the claim that quality issues are due to the increase in private provision of ECE.

Johnston reported that 150 providers require “further development”. But that is not the rating that indicates the poorest quality. The “not well placed” rating is the one to be worried about, and is used by ERO when the service is “not performing adequately, is not meeting legal requirements and does not have the capacity to make improvements without support or Ministry involvement”. These are the ECE providers with real quality issues.

Twelve of the 1,593 providers were rated as “not well placed” in the review period 18-month review period to February this year. That’s under 1%.

So the Herald spent an entire week running horror stories about the ECE sector, when in fact under 1% of providers are failing.

Are market forces to blame for this 1% very poor quality as Green suggests? After all, 43% of ECE providers are private.

To answer this, it’s helpful to compare ECE to the schooling system, where only 3% of schools are private. If market forces are to blame for quality issues in ECE, then logically there should be a much smaller proportion of schools with major quality issues.

Indeed, as 97% of schools are state schools.

There are 76 of 2,532 schools currently under statutory intervention. That’s about 3%.

It’s a pity the Herald didn’t include this info, rather than mainly run attack lines from the unions.

The proportion of private providers that received ratings of “not well placed”, “requires further development”, “well placed” and “very well placed” in 2014 was around 0.6%, 13%, 79% and 8%, respectively.

The proportions of community-owned providers receiving each rating, by contrast, was 1.4%, 9%, 77%, and 14%.

Not a big difference. In fact at the failing end of the scale, there are fewer private providers.

Some of the stories that came out in the media about ECE quality are concerning. But the good thing about ECE is that parents have choice.

Exactly.

 

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Herald on Labour’s no enrol no welfare proposal

May 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Labour Party has floated the idea of withholding state support such as Working for Families tax credits from people who are not enrolled to vote. Its general secretary, Tim Barnett, has told a parliamentary select committee this would tackle “pretty compelling evidence that there is a continuing pattern of people not enrolling”. To that most hollow of nuts he would take a sledgehammer. Labour is normally the last party to advocate withholding benefits for any purpose, let alone an electoral one. …

Labour has often railed against plans to make state support conditional on compliance with other social programmes, such as requiring beneficiaries to take pre-employment drug tests or threatening to cut benefits if parents do not have children in early childhood education. Yet those sort of conditions address real and obvious problems. To use benefits as leverage for electoral enrolment is more like tilting at windmills.

So it is wrong to require beneficiaries to be available for work and have their kids in ECE, but it is a good idea to cut off their benefits if they don’t enrol, because the most important thing in society is that beneficiaries are enrolled, so they can vote Labour.

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Herald changes letters of complaints they receive!

May 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

David Seymour sent a letter into the Herald complaining about an incredibly misleading story they ran on funding of charter and state schools. They published his letter, but edited it to be more favourable to them!

Newspapers will edit their own content, but not a good look to edit a letter of complaint! Good on David for publicising the changes they made.

Hat tip: Whale Oil

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An issue for the Press Council

April 23rd, 2015 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

I, like many, was somewhat surprised that after blogging anonymously the waitress revealed her name to the Herald for a story this morning.

Ms Bailey blogs at The Daily Blog that her participation was gained under basically false pretenses, that she thought the journalist was there as a PR advisor to the owners.

One the face of it, there are serious ethical issues here. If I was unkind, I would say Dirty Media, not Dirty Politics.

But so far we have only had one side of the story. We have not heard what the owners say, and the Herald staff involved.

To my mind the most appropriate thing to do would be for Ms Bailey to complain to the Press Council. They can investigate the issue, and after taking statements from all parties, determine if the Herald’s behaviour was a breach of media standards.

UPDATE: The Herald has responded at the end of the story linked above.

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Hosting the FIFA World Cup

April 15th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Six months ago, any suggestion this country could co-host the Football World Cup with Australia would have been dismissed as the stuff of idle dreams. The event would have been seen widely as too big for New Zealand, while Australians remained chastened by the dismal failure of their bid for the 2022 World Cup. Much has changed in that short period, however. Consequently, Martin Snedden deserves full marks for the timing of his effort to galvanise a joint bid for either the 2026 or 2030 World Cup.

The most obvious occurrence has been the two countries’ superb co-hosting of the Cricket World Cup. This proved they could work well together to deliver an event that exceeded expectation on every level. It also suggested they could make the step up to the biggest sporting event outside the Olympics. …

The agenda for a co-hosting bid proposed by Mr Snedden, the head of the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising committee and now chief executive of Duco Events, would build astutely on this new-found positivity. He envisages, first, getting New Zealand stakeholders on board with the idea before convincing Australia of the wisdom of a joint bid. The first part is vitally important. Fifa is keen to support football in particular regions, as shown by the World Cups in the US and South Africa. But it must be convinced both countries will totally embrace the event and use it to build the game.

I admire the ambition, and agree the timing is good. The Cricket World Cup co-hosting worked brilliantly.

But the FIFA World Cup is a different league. There are 853 64 matches (853 is for the qualifiers, 64 is for the final) to be hosted and the costs can be massive. Brazil spent almost US$15 billion on infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup.

It is estimated the US lost $9.6 billion on hosting the 1994 World Cup.

The history of recent World Cups is that FIFA walks away with a huge bank balance, and the host country a huge debt.

 

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9/10

April 4th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Herald politics quiz is here. 9/10 in 35 seconds.

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Good crowd sourcing by the Herald

February 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The New Zealand Herald has today launched an experiment in crowdsourcing following the release of donations and expenses’ returns for candidates at the 2014 general election.

The Electoral Commission has published returns for all 462 candidates, including all 121 current members of Parliament. Donations and expenses for candidates from the previous 2011 election are also available.

This is an enormous potential dataset and the Herald has uploaded nearly 900 documents to its own microsite, Money in Politics, allowing members of the public to interact with and analyse the data.

That’s a smart move. Going through 900 returns would take one reporter ages and drive them to suicide. But many people wil be happy to read through one or two and summarise them.

So far 468 out of 473 donation returns for 2014 have been done.  But only two out of 473 expense returns.

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Herald on troops decision

February 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

No New Zealand government should commit troops to a war zone without a clear awareness of the ramifications. In the case of the fight against the Islamic State, the consequences could be particularly grim.

The barbaric treatment of prisoners signals the fate of any New Zealander who falls into its hands. Then there is the manner in which New Zealand’s involvement will heighten the chances of terrorism on home shores. Finally, there is the reality that our troops will make little difference in a conflict that defies easy answers. Nonetheless, the Government has made the right call in committing more than 100 regular soldiers to a non-combat training mission at Taji Camp, north of Baghdad.

The editorial continues:

The most powerful reason for sending soldiers is the just nature of the cause. Whatever the doubts about the Iraqi Government and the eventual make-up of the region, an entity as evil as the Islamic State cannot be left to flourish. In the past few weeks, the increasingly horrific nature of its behaviour has confirmed that. The international community cannot allow atrocities to proceed unchecked.

This is the key point. And the proposal by Andrew Little that you’ll defeat ISIL by reconstruction projects, not military force, is possibly the stupidest thing he has ever said.

The decision to send troops comes at a time of emerging consensus on how the Islamic State can be eliminated. Its ideology requires continuing territorial expansion. If that does not happen, it will stagnate, losing much of its allure, especially to potential recruits in Western countries.

Good to see the Herald has picked up that key fact, of territory being vital to their success. They are very different to Al Qaeda.

Achieving that containment need not involve major battles. It can be realised by continued aerial bombing and stronger resistance by the ground forces arrayed against the Islamic State, especially the Iraqi army.

Therein lies the role of the New Zealand troops. They may not be crucial to a final victory. But they will personify, once more, their country’s willingness to stand up for what is right.

Doing nothing is, in my opinion, simply wrong.

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Herald on Catton

January 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The lesson to be drawn from the controversial remarks of author Eleanor Catton is perhaps that those who do their thinking on paper have more to lose when they open their mouth. She should be allowed to live down her comments to a literary audience in India this week.

Far from living them down, she wants to amplify them – as is her right:

In future interviews with foreign media, I will of course discuss the inflammatory, vicious, and patronising things that have been broadcast and published in New Zealand this week. I will of course discuss the frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit and silence those who question them, and the culture of fear and hysteria that prevails.

I find it strange that people think that their harsh critical remarks about others are free speech, but if people then in turn make critical remarks about the speaker it is not free speech, but a conspiracy to silence.

The same rationale was in Nicky Hager’s book. Basically people who have centre-right views should not criticise or attack people who say things they disagree with.

Eleanor Catton has every right to travel around the world decrying NZ as a neo-liberal hell-hole. And other people have every right to point out she is speaking nonsense. This Government is so far from neo-liberal it isn’t funny. The last budget was more money for free under 13 healthcare. The announcement this week was an extra 3,000 low income families to get larger subsidies for the rental properties. The Government spends hundreds of millions on subsidies for arts, science, innovation and the like. And the welfare system is one of the most generous in the world.

There is nothing frightening about people exercising their rights to free speech and criticizing someone. Just because you are an artist (or an academic) doesn’t mean you are beyond criticism.

Back to the Herald editorial:

Among many accolades she received in New Zealand, the Herald named her one of its New Zealanders of the Year. We remain proud of her and do not believe she misunderstands these gestures in a country that was proud of her.

Nobody has claimed her achievement “belongs” to the country. It was hers alone.

Her book is a novel set in New Zealand, authentic in its setting in time and place.

Every country takes pleasure in art that reflects it well and counts itself lucky to have artists capable of doing so, especially if its population is small.

As I said yesterday, it was pride in her achievement that saw NZers celebrate her prize, not a desire to minimise the fact that it was her personal achievement.

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Herald on speed tolerance

January 7th, 2015 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Speed, however, has remained a vexed issue. Hence there has been a progressive lowering of the police’s tolerance, culminating in the zero tolerance policy. This has been criticised by many motorists. Some of their complaints are lame. Those who say it has resulted in them spending too much time with their eyes on their speedometers betray a fundamental lack of driving ability. Nonetheless, it is clear that the police must re-examine where they are enforcing the policy.

The Automobile Association is right when it suggests a focus on drivers doing just over the limit on safe urban motorways is not the best strategy. The scrutiny, it said, should be on speeding in higher-risk areas. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, motorways are, by and large, relatively safe, so much so that the speed limit may soon be raised to 110km/h on some of them. Secondly, there is no point in alienating generally good motorists who are caught slightly over the speed limit in such areas.

Absolutely.

The Automobile Association was also on the right track when it suggested there should be an increased number of median barriers on highways. These, whether concrete, semi-rigid or cable, are not cheap. But they appeal as a means of curtailing the number of head-on crashes involving overseas tourists. The outcome of these impacts is generally more serious than other types of collisions. Improving the country’s roads in this manner offers the most rational response to what has become a notable problem.

I wonder what the impact on road safety would be if say 90% of the money that went on speed cameras and policing of the roads, was redirected to improving our current roads?

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NZ Herald on economy

January 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The dawn of a new year invites the mind to entertain endless possibilities, especially in a country so lucky. New Zealand enters 2015 with its dollar nearly as valuable as that of the signature “lucky country” next door. Three days ago Infratil and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund bought an Australian retirement village company for $670 million taking advantage of the rising kiwi. One swallow does not signal a summer of investment that would reverse the direction of transtasman ownership but it is another step of confidence.

When people rail against foreign investment, it is worth bearing in mind, that as our economy does well, it will be NZ companies investing overseas, and if we try and restrict foreign investment in NZ, then we risk being blocked ourselves.

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Herald on ISIS

October 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

If ground forces can rid Iraq of the murderers known as Isis, New Zealand should be there. This country ought to be counted among the nations that are willing to act when the cause is just and military force can be effective.

They key word is “If”.

I don’t think ISIS can be got rid of by force. I do think you can weaken them, but can you eliminate them? If there is an invasion then they just disband for a year, then regroup.

If you are willing to have massive collateral damage, you could destroy them. You surround the area, broadcast that everyone within a certain geographic area should leave the area unarmed, and then destroy every building and person in that area. But the civilian toll would be horrendous as many would not leave their homes, and you would create millions of refugees.

The lessons from the last Iraq war is that you can topple a Government, but it is harder to eliminate armed resistance.

The next likely step will be to dispatch armed “advisers” to train and support Iraq’s troops but on previous experience they would soon be fighting alongside the hosts, as New Zealand’s SAS did in Afghanistan. The way Iraqi forces fell away from the initial Isis advance suggests the foreigners would need to do a lot of fighting.

Yep.

The New Zealand Government should probably call the new Parliament into session sooner than scheduled once a request is received to join the action against Isis.

It’s scheduled to convene on the 20th, in 19 days. I’d be very surprised if the Government made a decision to send troops in before then – in fact surprised if they made a decision to send troops at all.

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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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