Herald on Air NZ sale

November 19th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

According to the Labour Party leader, David Cunliffe, the timing of the Government’s selldown of shares in Air New Zealand is arrogant. Describing it as astute would have been far closer to the mark. Shares in the airline have been trading at a five-year high and investment advisers have voiced their enthusiasm for them. What better time could there be for the Government to reduce its holding in the national carrier from 73 per cent to 53 per cent?

That is a good question. Unless you believe that 73% is the exact right amount of shares for the Government to hold. Which is like believing in astrology.

One can make a principled case for 100% or for 51% (or for 0%) but to insist it must be 73% is daft.

The selldown has been criticised because it is being done just before a referendum on the part-sale of state assets. That complaint is misplaced. The focus of the Government’s mixed-ownership model strategy and, therefore, the referendum has always been the part-sale of the state’s three power companies, not an airline that the government acquired essentially by accident. Air New Zealand is very much an ancillary part of that strategy.

The referendum question also includes Solid Energy. It is a very badly worded question. Because if you think the Government should sell off the power companies and Air NZ, but should not sell off Solid Energy (because we won’t get 10 cents for it) then you should vote no I guess. Likewise if you think the Govt should sell more than 49% of any of the five companies, then again you arguably should vote no.

Green co-leader Russel Norman has gone so far as to suggest the selldown could lead to reduced regional services or higher fares.

I wish there was a competition for the most financially illiterate comment of the year, so I could nominate it.

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10/10 in 38 seconds

November 16th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Aced it this week!

Quiz is here.

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The Herald’s 10 greatest New Zealanders

November 13th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has been going 150 years (happy birthday) and profiles the 10 greatest New Zealanders of the last 150 years, as they see it. They are:

Such choices are always subjective. I always regard Peter Fraser as the force behind Michael Joseph Savage, and that Fraser was in fact the more successful Labour Prime Minister.

With respect I don’t know how they can put Richie McCaw on the last. And I say that as someone who thinks he is great (and suspect he is hugely embarrassed at his inclusion). He is an amazing rugby player, and a great captain, but one of the 10 greatest New Zealanders of the last 150 years?

I can only presume the Herald were desperate to include someone whom younger New Zealanders had heard of and could identify with.

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Herald on KiwiAssure

November 5th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Nothing in the policy announced by Mr Cunliffe at the weekend dealt with any of the real insurance policy issues arising from Christchurch. The announcement was little more than a replay of a commercial for KiwiBank which, like it or not, could be saddled with the insurance company. “KiwiAssure will work for all New Zealanders,” Mr Cunliffe declared. It would be “a service-focused, state-owned company that has their best interests at heart”. It would “keep profits from this crucial industry in New Zealand”.

Wisely, he did not quite claim it would offer cheaper premiums than existing companies. Christchurch had an insurance company that did that. AMI had come to dominate the local market by undercutting competitors and the earthquake exposed its inability to meet all of its liabilities.

KiwiAssure could well fail in the case of another large earthquake, and it would do huge reputation damage to NZ Post and Kiwibank if it did.

The AMI experience is salutary for national taxpayers, too, when they hear Labour’s assurance that its company would not carry a government guarantee. The present Government quickly came to the relief of AMI’s policy holders, taking over the worst liabilities and selling AMI as a going concern to the multinational IAG. It is hard to imagine a Labour Government acting any differently if a state-owned insurer fell into the same trouble.

Of course it would have to be bailed out, if it is touted as a state owned insurance company.

Insurance is almost the last business that should be nationalised. Its purpose is to share risk internationally.

That is the key point. It’s incredibly dumb to set up an insurance company that will have all its exposure in one market.

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9/10 in 45 seconds

November 2nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ Herald quiz is here.

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Herald on TPP talks

October 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders will be mildly amused that their Prime Minister has stepped into the breach left by US President Barack Obama’s inability to be at Bali this week to chair an important meeting of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But we can be proud, too, that New Zealand still has a leading role in this project. …

It would be easy for such an ambitious project to become unwieldy and lose focus as more countries join the talks. There is always the risk that late-comers are joining the talks for the sake of appearances rather than with a serious intent.

But the last to join, Japan, seems serious. In fact its reformist Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, may be the leader keenest to have something definite agreed by the end of this year. That goal, set by President Obama, should concentrate the minds of the meeting that it falls to John Key to chair.

If Japan agrees to a phasing out of agricultural tariffs, that would be huge.

But if it can lower barriers to our exports, New Zealand may have to make concessions in other areas. Since trade negotiations typically proceed in secrecy so that positions are not solidified by political pressure, the possible concessions can arouse fearful speculative opposition.

Opponents of TPP in New Zealand fear the Government will have to compromise on pharmaceutical purchasing, forcing Pharmac to buy prescription drugs on terms dictated by suppliers, particularly in the United States. More generally, opponents warn that the foreign companies will be able to claim damages in international courts against any Government decision that harms their investment here.

The other area of potential concern is around the US proposed intellectual property chapter. It has provisions in it such as extending copyright from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. I think life plus 20 is more than enough personally.

To date the NZ Government position has been to reject clauses that would require a change to our existing IP laws. I hope that position continues. There can be economic costs to having overly restrictive IP laws – as Australia has calculated.

 

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The pitfalls of public ownership

October 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Green Party has called the Government’s bail-out of Solid Energy “privatisation by stealth”. Would that it were so. The state coal company will cost the taxpayer $155 million under the terms of the bail-out. It would have been more if the banks holding most of the company’s $380 million debt had not agreed to exchange just $75 million of it for shares in the company.

The banks could have insisted on repayment of all the debt, liquidating Solid Energy and costing 1,000 jobs.

But State-owned Enterprise Minister Tony Ryall is saying little to suggest there is any prospect of Solid Energy going back on to the partial privatisation programme with the power generators and Air New Zealand. More is the pity. The rise and fall of Solid Energy is a textbook example of the pitfalls of public ownership.

There is a case for the Government to own some monopolies like Transpower. There is no case (in my mind) for the Government to own a coal company.

Labour’s state-owned enterprise spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, never tires of the phrase “asleep at the wheel” when blaming ministers for the company’s ambitious investments. But Treasury records show that in 2010, when coal was still booming on China’s continuing steel production and the board of Solid Energy was making big plans to diversify, the Government was cautious.

Indeed. The Government turned down the funding for the big plans. I suspect Labour would have handed over a billion dollars and renamed Solid Energy KiwiCoal.

If world prices pick up and the company can entertain wider ambitions again, it should be sold to the biggest bid. There is no reason for coal to be a state concern and every good reason to relieve the taxpayer of further risk.

Absolutely.

We should sell TVNZ also, while someone will still pay money for it.

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8/10 in 40 seconds

September 28th, 2013 at 10:11 am by David Farrar

NZ herald quiz here.

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Herald on Labour’s home loan policy

September 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour’s new leader appears to think he can manage New Zealand’s financial system better than the Reserve Bank. If he was in power now, he says, he would not allow the bank to include first-home buyers in its mortgage lending restriction to take effect from next week.

The bank is about to limit the amount of lending that retail banks can do on deposits of less than 20 per cent of the price of the house. It is acting out of concern that banks are becoming too exposed to the risk that another house price bubble will burst, causing prices to fall. If that were to happen, the consequences for banks might be costly but for low-equity first-home owners it could be catastrophic.

The little equity they have amassed could be wiped out, leaving them owing the bank more than their house is worth.

If that sounds bad enough, other policies espoused by David Cunliffe would make their position even worse. If elected, he says, Labour would exempt first-home buyers from the new lending limits until its capital gains tax took hold and its low-cost house building programme took effect.

Nothing would be more likely to bring about a fall in house prices than a capital gains tax and an increase in state housing. If Mr Cunliffe had the interest of first-home owners at heart he would not only limit their access to low equity loans, he would do so well in advance of his other proposals.

So Labour is joining the Greens in promoting policies to leave home owners with negative equity!

When it announced the proposed restriction the Prime Minister made it known the Government wanted an exemption for first-home seekers. The bank was unmoved, pointing out that first-home buyers were about 30 per cent of low-deposit borrowers and they had to be included if the measure was to be effective.

John Key gave way, deferring to the bank’s expertise in its statutory jurisdiction. The bank’s so-called independence in these matters has been in the bedrock of New Zealand’s economy for nearly 30 years. In that time its independence has been respected by both major parties in government and when they were in opposition.

Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker, believes the party could exempt first-home seekers without removing the Reserve Bank’s independence; his new leader appears not to care whether the bank’s role is compromised or not.

The independence of the Reserve Bank has been a critical element of our economy. We should be very worried about promises to over-ride its decisions by politicians.

Mr Cunliffe needs to be very careful in this area. As the leader of one of the main parties, his utterances could be damaging to long-term confidence in the economy well before he threatens to be in any position to act.

It is hard to believe he would carry out the promise to over-ride the Reserve Bank’s independence to exempt first-home seekers, if only because of the obvious risk to their equity. He was looking to score an easy political point.

Anything that makes it harder for first-home seekers to get finance is bound to be superficially unpopular, as proven by a poll at the weekend. Political leaders who withstand this pressure and respect the Reserve Bank’s independence deserve more credit for it than Mr Key has received.

Governments are all-powerful in this country, it would be easy to weaken the bank’s legislated jurisdiction and do untold damage to our economy.

Mr Cunliffe’s stance is a worry.

Basically Labour are campaigning on cheap and easy credit – the very thing that caused the global financial crisis. We should be very wary.

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NZ Herald on charter schools

September 20th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorials:

Initially it was going to fund charter schools – or “partnership schools” as it prefers – only in disadvantaged areas of South Auckland and Christchurch. But when applications were invited and evaluated, Education Minister Hekia Parata was sufficiently impressed to widen the pilot. This week, she and Act leader John Banks announced five applications had been accepted for schools in Northland and Albany as well as in South Auckland.

It is no surprise that three of the five are Maori initiatives, one in Whangarei proposed by the He Puna Marama Charitable Trust, one in Whangaruru by the Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust and one from the Rise Up Trust in Mangere. 

Charter schools in the United States have attracted most interest from minorities who feel mainstream education is failing them.

And in some states like New Orleans and DC, they have had a significant positive impact.

The schools will be obliged to teach the national curriculum which, thanks largely to Labour governments, is not very prescriptive about what is taught. They will want qualified teachers and the information they must supply for their state funding will surely be available. Labour’s and the unions’ real objection to charter schools is one of principle and power.

Equality in education, they believe, requires not only state funding but state management of schools, as well as state control of teacher training and, not least from the union’s point of view, national bargaining over teachers’ pay and terms of employment. Even in the US, teachers’ unions still fiercely oppose charter schools.

For much the same reasons – their grip on power is loosened.

As in the US, charter schools’ futures will depend on their educational ideas producing the desired results. These schools are just an extension of the idea that diversity is healthy, choice is fair and an element of competition never did a public service much harm. This can now be put to the test.

These schools will be under intense scrutiny for their use of public money. If they work, even for a small number of students, that money will have been well spent.

Yep. We should judge them on their results. They can get closed down (unlike a public school) if they fail to perform.

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Labour’s challenges

September 18th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Three days in the water and Team Cunliffe has struck its first snag.

The snag is the abdication of deputy leader Grant Robertson. Labour’s new leader and the party’s MPs, including Mr Robertson, did their best yesterday to put a positive spin on the surprise development.

MPs were “joining together” and “putting the party first”, Mr Cunliffe said.

The new line-up featuring finance spokesman David Parker as deputy leader was the “strongest” that could be put forward, said Mr Robertson, who has replaced Trevor Mallard as shadow leader of the House. However, the reality is that the new leader has lost an opportunity to heal the wounds created by the internal feuding that has bedevilled the party since its 2008 election loss.

Whether Mr Robertson declined overtures from the Cunliffe camp, as the bush telegraph suggests, or Mr Cunliffe preferred Mr Parker as his deputy is beside the point. If Mr Cunliffe did not offer Mr Robertson the job he should have.

After a three-way primary contest for the leadership laid bare the divisions between MPs, and the divisions between MPs and the wider party, Labour not only needs to talk unity, it needs to display it. The best way to achieve that would have been for the two main contenders for the leadership – Mr Cunliffe and Mr Robertson – to present a united front to the world.

I understand that if Robertson had clearly stated a desire to be Deputy, Cunliffe would have appointed him. But he was hesitant and not keen – presumably to keep future options open.

That may be an indication Mr Robertson is fearful of becoming entangled in the wreckage should the Cunliffe experiment capsize.

It may also be an indication that Mr Robertson has not yet abandoned his own leadership ambitions.

Whatever the case, Mr Cunliffe has grounds for concern.

Remember that while the members vote for the leader, it is the caucus that has the sole job of sacking one.

Team Cunliffe has successfully rounded the first mark but one hull is lifting out of the water and there are signs some of his crew are thinking about abandoning ship. Anticipate developments.

The best tweet yesterday was about how a capsized Mallard was sighted in San Francisco Harbour :-)

The Herald editorial:

Grant Robertson’s decision to spurn the deputy leadership does not bode well for the Labour Party under its new leader. David Cunliffe had intimated his support for Mr Robertson in the clear hope of reconciling the caucus to the result of the party election.

Mr Robertson, preferred by 16 MPs to 11 for Mr Cunliffe and seven for Shane Jones, had given every impression in the campaign that whatever the result he was unlikely to rock the boat. Now he is making waves.

His decision is a declaration that he does not wish to work too closely with the new leader. Instead he will be Labour’s shadow leader of the House, a role that may let him range widely of his own accord.

The decision suggests he has not put his leadership ambition aside for the time being. If he was content to wait he would have continued in the deputy role, an ideal position for keeping your name to the fore and proving yourself capable in the leader’s absences. But an ambitious and honourable deputy is also supposed to give the leader unconditional support. That perhaps was the obstacle for Mr Robertson continuing in a job he has reputedly done well.

It is hard to interpret the decision as anything other than a lack of confidence, and a desire to keep future options open.

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10/10 in 37 seconds

September 14th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ Herald politics quiz is here.

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10/10 in 42 seconds

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

NZ Herald quiz is here.

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Herald on Meridian sale

August 21st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The structural drawbacks have largely been remedied for Meridian’s part-float, as needed to be the case given that it is easily the largest of the three power companies on the Government’s privatisation list. The sale will involve instalment receipts that allow investors to pay for the shares in two bites while receiving the full dividend. The first instalment will be for 60 per cent of the share price, payable on application, with the balance to be paid in 18 months. This greater affordability is enhanced further by a minimum application of $1000 for the first instalment. There will also be a share cap for New Zealand retail investors, so they will know the top price they will pay in both instalments.

This approach is not unique. It was used for the float of Australia’s Telstra and, locally, by Ameritech when it exited its Telecom shares. In both cases, it answered a particular need to create a heightened attraction to potential investors. It is understandable that it should also be used for Meridian.

David Shearer was comparing this on TV to doing layby at Harvey Norman. Not sure why Labour would want to use such a positive analogy!! Many Kiwis do shop at Harvey Norman and love using layby to make big purchases more manageable.

It is important that many choose to become Meridian shareholders. On the broadest of fronts, a shareholding democracy is about reducing this country’s unhealthy emphasis on housing investment. 

The companies benefit also from the discipline and transparency of a market listing.

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Much better

August 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

10/10 this week in 35 seconds. Quiz here.

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Yay – full context

August 9th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Mother of four Michelle Gordon delayed taking her teenage daughter to the doctor for a fortnight as she was unsure how badly she needed help, and because it costs $25.

She now regrets the wait. Jessica, 14, had a chest infection and had been sick for three weeks before seeing the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics.

“We delayed and delayed, thinking she was maybe getting better, then she went downhill and we really needed to go to the doctor,” says Ms Gordon, whose income is the sole parent benefit. …

Ms Gordon pays rent of $360 a week. She receives income of about $700 including the accommodation supplement and full or partial disability allowances for herself (for fibromyalgia), Jordan (Crohn’s disease) and one of her 8-year-old twins, Caleb (for asthma medication).

I often complain that stories don’t provide full information on someone’s income from the Government, so it is worth praising a story that does do that.

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Horrific – 5/10

August 3rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

My worst score ever. Just 5/10 in 46 seconds. To be fair I have been reading less news while travelling in the US, but some of the questions this week seemed very obscure. How did others do?

Quiz is here.

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A bit of rewriting history

August 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Prime Minister sounds genuinely surprised that somebody in a company operating Parliament’s telephone system would give the records of a journalist’s calls to an inquiry the Prime Minister had commissioned. John Key must not know his own power. …

The Prime Minister ought to have been alert to the risk that something like this would happen when he started a witch-hunt over the early release of the Kitteridge report into the GCSB. When he reflects on the continuing saga of embarrassments he might come to the conclusion that the root of it all is his own impulse to launch inquiries into things that do not warrant them.

This is a significant rewriting of history. In fact the Greens, and other opposition parties, were demanding there be an inquiry into the leak of the Kitteridge Report. This is Russel Norman on 9 April 2013:

Dr Russel Norman: In light of the fact that the cover note on the report says that the appendices are legally privileged and highly classified, does he believe that the leaking of the full Kitteridge report is a serious offence?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That may be possible, but we have yet to see what aspects of the report have been leaked.

Dr Russel Norman: If it does turn out that the full report has been leaked by someone in his Government, what consequences should face the person who leaked this information, which the Government Communications Security Bureau describes as legally privileged and highly classified? What consequences should that person face?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: If appendices that have been given a security classification have been leaked, then there would be significant consequences for the person who leaked them.

Dr Russel Norman: Why does the Prime Minister seem confident that the appendices have not been leaked?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a matter of whether they appear in the public arena. The Prime Minister does not have the capacity to guess whether someone has them sitting in a shoebox under their bed, but I assume that if they think there is some political effect from leaking those appendices that is worth the risk, then we will eventually see them. They are not in the newspaper today.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that so far the only member of his Government who, he has told us, has had access to this report is the office of the Prime Minister, did he or a member of his staff leak the report?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not what I said, actually. What I said to the member was that the report has been circulated fairly broadly across Government agencies in the last couple of weeks.

Dr Russel Norman: If he does not know who leaked the report, will he launch an inquiry to get to the bottom of it, given his previous support for an inquiry into a leak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over documents that were probably quite considerably less sensitive?

The opposition were demanding an inquiry into the leak. They thought (wrongly) that the PMs Office had leaked it as a distraction (a moronic thing to think, but they thought it). If the Government had not held an inquiry into the leak, it would have been pilloried by the opposition with accusations of a cover up.

For the Herald to suggest that there was no need for an inquiry, and it was some impulse from the PM, is simply wrong. This is an inquiry that the opposition demanded.

Here’s Russel again suggesting the PM or his office leaked it:

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Was the timing of the leak part of a communication strategy to divert attention from his inappropriate involvement in the appointment of Ian Fletcher, and to have other Ministers front questions in Parliament?

So the Herald editorial is rather silly. I think they are still sulking over the teapot saga.

Andrea Vance writes of her anger on having her phone records released:

 In other circumstances, I could probably find something to laugh about in revelations that the journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats.

Let alone, the irony that the reporter in question previously worked for the News of the World, the tabloid at a centre of a privacy violation scandal.

But I am that journalist and I’m mad as hell. Anyone who has had their confidential details hacked and shared around has the right to be angry.

My visit to Speaker David Carter’s office on Tuesday left me reeling. My jaw gaped open when he sheepishly confessed that a log of all calls I placed to people around Parliament over three months was released to an inquiry focused on the leak of the Kitteridge report on the GCSB.

On Tuesday, an IT staffer showed me pages of “metadata” – a record of hundreds of calls I made between February and May.

The conversations, of course, aren’t disclosed. But you can glean a lot from matching numbers, time and the dates of published stories.

After the news broke, I fully expected my line to fall silent as sources shied away from being burned. Thankfully, it hasn’t.

That is the very chilling impact from having those records released. If those phone records showed (for example) which Labour MPs had been called the day before a story regarding rumblings about Shearer – then those MPs would effectively be outed.  Journalists work very hard to protect their sources, and they don’t expect their phone records to be handed over to anyone – unless there is a court order or a warrant for them.

 

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Herald paywall coming

July 27th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Drinnan reports:

APN News & Media is gearing up for a subscription model at the nzherald.co.nz website.

The APN board is expected to approve the new model, which is planned to be in place by this time next year and marks a shift to subscriptions accounting for a bigger share of revenue. Chief executive Michael Miller said this week that the time was right to move ahead.

“Ten years ago it was foreign for people to pay anything for digital. Publishers – traditional ones or otherwise – relied on an advertiser-funded model,” Miller said.

“Now people pay for apps every day or for subscriptions to broadband. People are used to paying for digital content.”

A key decision would be how much content to make available for free before charging people for access.

I know a lot of newspapers have gone for paywalls. But apart from specialist newspapers like NBR, I’m not sure how many are actually making money out of them. In a small market like NZ, I think there are considerable risks.

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GCSB views

July 26th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Contrary to the assertions of opposition parties, the changes Prime Minister John Key has made to the Government Communications Security Bureau bill are not merely cosmetic.

Among other things, the changes will require the GCSB to make an annual report on the number of warrants and access authorisations it gets and pro-actively tell the inspector-general of intelligence, whose post has itself been beefed up, whenever it has acquired a warrant to spy on a New Zealand citizen or resident.

In addition, while rejecting the opposition call for an inquiry now into the GCSB, the bill will require a review of its operations, and those of the Security Intelligence Service, the domestic spy agency, a couple of years from now and thereafter every five to seven years.

The GCSB will also have to make an annual report on the number of times it has been called on to help the police, the SIS and other agencies use its specialised surveillance equipment.

If any expansion is required of the agencies that can call on the assistance of the GCSB, new legislation will be needed rather than, as had been proposed, merely executive action. The Prime Minister has also promised to make it clear that the collection of metadata – information about the time and location of a call rather than its content – will be treated as communication and require a search warrant.

All these changes make substantial modifications to the bill as it was first presented to Parliament. While they have not been enough to persuade opposition parties to support the bill, they are sufficient to satisfy Peter Dunne, formerly a strong critic of the bill, which means it will pass.

I agree that the changes are not inconsequential. I note that Labour seem unable to articulate what actual changes to the bill would make it acceptable to them. I think they just hope this will be finally be the silver bullet that gets them out of the poll doldrums. Bit sadly for them, people are more interested in policies on jobs, hospitals and schools than this.

Pete George points out the recent protest action against the bill was organised by Mana’s Martyn Bradbury and Greens’ Max Coyle. I think it is safe to conclude both fall into the camp of would never ever support something done by this Government. The meeting they organised was interesting though:

Labour MP David Cunliffe sat in the front row last night. His party leader, David Shearer, watched unnoticed from the rear of the hall with Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker.

However the Herald disagrees with The Press and wants more changes. However they also say the changes are substantial:

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be an improved piece of legislation when it is amended by Parliament. The changes go much further than the “cosmetic” tag attached by the Greens. Two stand out. The first dictates that the country’s foreign intelligence agency will be the subject of an independent review in 2015 and an automatic review every five to seven years after that. A five-year review echoes the situation in Australia. It also goes quite some way towards satisfying the call by Labour and the Greens for an independent inquiry into the country’s security services, even if they wanted this to precede the passage of the legislation.

The second important alteration states that if a government wants to expand the domestic agencies which the GCSB will be able to help beyond the police, the Security Intelligence Service and the Defence Force, it will have to get the support of Parliament for another amendment bill, rather than Cabinet simply ticking it off via regulation. That negates the possibility of the likes of Customs, the Immigration Department or Inland Revenue using the GCSB’s sophisticated cybersecurity equipment without a considered debate on the ramifications. 

I think that last change was very important.

According to the Prime Minister, the bill represents “a balancing act between national security and doing our best to keep New Zealanders safe, and the privacy of New Zealanders”. Considerable reservations voiced earlier this month by the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commissioner and the Law Society confirmed the first draft fell far short of this objective. The changes in the bill as reported back yesterday and those achieved by Mr Dunne improve that situation somewhat. It is a real shame, however, that they do not go further. The public deserves stronger reassurance.

In another story the Herald notes a further change:

The activities that the GCSB undertake in assisting the police will be subject to review by the Independent Police Complaints Authority under changes to the GCSB bill, which was reported back to Parliament this afternoon by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

It is one of the few changes to the bill in the committee’s report that has not been previously announced.

A further useful addition.

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Herald on man ban

July 8th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Just when the country imagined women were doing well in politics, particularly in the Labour Party, the party’s organisational wing says they are not. It is so worried that women do not yet fill half the party’s seats in Parliament it might allow electorates to ban males from selection as the Labour candidate. Predictably, the “man ban” has been ridiculed from all sides but if Labour wants to do it, why not?

I hope they do!

 They have set a goal of a 50-50 gender balance in their caucus and women make up only 41 per cent so far. To reach perfect equilibrium by the election after next, they may need to turn away good men. Local electorate committees may be able to seek permission of the party’s New Zealand council to say that only women need apply for their selection.

If this is repugnant to the meaning of equal opportunity in most people’s minds, it is not foreign to Labour thinking.

What is amazing is that the political leadership did not see this coming. Richard Harman blogs on this at Frontpage:

Make no mistake this “Man Ban” furore has raised potentially fatal questions about David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Here at “The Nation” last week we got a front row view of just how dysfunctional the Shearer leadership machine is.

First up, it is mind boggling that it was left to Cameron Slater and his “Whaleoil” blog to reveal that the party was proposing to allow women-only  candidate selections as part of a bid to evenly balance its gender representation by 2017.

This proposal is part of the party’s Organisational Review which began work last year.

Its proposals have already surfaced at a national conference; at local LECs and at regional conferences.

They then went to the party’s Policy Council.

Either Mr Shearer is so out of touch with what is happening inside his own party or alternatively — as one Labour source suggested to me over the weekend – he simply wasn’t listening.

But nor, apparently, were the rest of the caucus.

The Herald continues:

Positive discrimination is central to the philosophy and character of the Labour Party. It does not believe in equal opportunity but in equal outcomes, which it believes require the playing field to be tilted in favour of those disadvantaged by race, gender or relative poverty. The “man ban”, even if the executive backs away from the idea in public, is a good defining issue for voters.

I think that is a key difference between National and Labour – the focus on equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities.

To anybody who shares Labour’s belief that women are inherently disadvantaged in competition with men, an idea as drastic as the “man ban” will show how determined a Labour government would be to address remaining gender imbalances in all walks of life.

Imagine what quotas will be introduced by a Labour/Green Government?

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Aced

July 6th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I think a record – 10/10 in 34 seconds. Quiz here.

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Will Rudman apologise?

July 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald is not having a good week. Not only do they run a sob story from a Green Party candidate, without revealing his affiliation – they also had Brian Rudman got it entirely wrong regarding Maggie Barry and the City Rail Link.

Rudman wrote on Monday:

I’m guessing that North Shore National MP Maggie Barry will have experienced a true “Oh bugger” moment when she first heard of her leader’s shock u-turn in favour of building the Auckland City rail link.

In her shoes, who wouldn’t have? Contemplating your own demise has a way of concentrating the mind.

I bet she’s wishing she’d observed the advice of a long-time National PM, Sir Keith Holyoake, who advised new MPs to breathe through their noses for their first term. In other words, the way to avoid terminal embarrassment is to keep your lips zipped until you learn the rules.

But in the sweet euphoria of post election victory, back in November 2011, playing dumb was the last thing on Ms Barry’s mind. She told her local paper to pass on the message to Auckland Mayor Len Brown that there would be a CBD rail link before a new harbour crossing “over our dead bodies”.

The only problem for Rudman is Barry was speaking about a rail link between the airport and the CBD, not the City Rail Link – which is an entirely different project.

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This follow up story in the North Shore Times makes it clear Maggie was referring to the airport-CBD rail project. With regards to the CBD rail loop, she said:

Basically I support the City Rail Link, but only if the business case ultimately stacks up.

Now it is possible Rudman never saw the follow up story. I guess too much too hope for that he would check. But will he now do a retraction with the same prominence as his original column, or will there be some grudging clarification which no one will see?

Maggie commented on Facebook:

During the 30 years I was a Radio and television news presenter and as a senior feature writer for the Listener, I never really expected the same rigorous standards of fact checking from populist columnists as I did from professional journalists. Some columnists are the print mediums version of shock jocks who opine and shamelessly push their own politically biased agendas and don’t much like the facts to get in the way of their stance. Mondays column wasn’t an example of Brian’s finest work but maybe when you’ve been in the job for a long time you think you can get away with tossing off any old purple prose to fill your word allocation. While Brian no doubt had a lovely time dreaming up punishments for a crime I didn’t commit, I take the future vision of Auckland’s transport more seriously than that and judging from the universally positive feedback to the PM’s announcement from my constituents, so does the North Shore electorate. No dead bodies on my side of the political divide Brian.

The decent thing for the Herald to do would be to give Maggie a full right of reply, with the same prominence as Rudman’s article. But many media hate admitting they got it wrong, so I won’t hold my breath.

Does anyone who gets the print edition of the Herald know if they have done a follow up on the Max Coyle story, informing people he is a Green candidate? And there was their housing story that featured the Labour Party vice-president who posed as a house buyer and just happened to say all her problems would be fixed by Labour’s policies. Never saw any follow up to that one either. No wonder fewer people trust the media.

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Another non-disclosure

July 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

 For Max Coyle, increases to his student loan repayments and KiwiSaver contributions have hurt his pay packet the most.

The 29-year-old media sales and marketing consultant, who rents a three-bedroom central Hamilton home with one other, said the increases wiped about $60 off his fortnightly pay.

Max Coyle. That name rings a bell. Surely not the same Max Coyle who also had the Waikato Times do a sob story on the exact same issue in 2011, but with his partner. They didn’t disclose to the Waikato Times that Max was a Green Party candidate.

He says the increase in tobacco prices means an occasional cigarette was a luxury so he’s switched to smoking a pipe “as it works out cheaper in the long run”.

Such crushing poverty – being forced to smoke a pipe instead of cigarettes.

In the earlier non-disclosure case, it was Coyle and his partner who didn’t disclose he was a Green Party candidate to the Waikato Times. But who is at fault this time? Did the NZ Herald know he was a Green Party candidate and activist and simply just decide not to tell us?

Well as Whale discloses, he is actually employed by APN. So surely they were aware he was a Green Party candidate.

So in summary the Herald interviewed one of their own staff members, so he could complain about his poor pay and conditions, yet blame it on the Government without disclosing his political affiliations.

I hope the Herald will correct their non-disclosure, as the Waikato Times did.

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Not comparing apples and apples

July 1st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

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The Herald had a story about how opposition to the Sky City deal has increased since last year from 40% to 62%. But the print version includes this graphic which shows very different questions asked, in terms of options provided.

What would have been the results if the Herald asked the same question as last year, giving an option of approving if the number of machines across the city drops? I guess we’ll never know – which is a pity.

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