Editorials 27 May 2010

May 27th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald talks racecourses:

Not so long ago, Avondale and Ellerslie enjoyed virtually equal status in the world of horse-racing. The Avondale Cup was a highly prestigious event. How times have changed. This week, the Avondale Jockey Club suspended racing at its course after its meeting on July 3 because of severe financial problems. …

The same applies to Avondale. Its potential closure is not just a matter for the club and the industry. It is about a community and city resource that would be lost forever. Even now, the course is valuable for more than just racing. It is the venue for a Sunday morning market, and the club leases the infield to the city council for football and cricket. Other events could be held there. If the course were closed and the club raced elsewhere, Auckland, which proclaims so often that it wishes to be known as a vibrant city full of attractions, would lose one of its entertainment options.

Can’t say I care too much.

The Press criticises ACT over its ETS campaign:

The misleading and alarmist figures being propagated by the ACT Party and Federated Farmers about the cost of the carbon emissions trading scheme which will start in July are a last gasp from groups that have had difficulty accepting the idea at all.

In their latest scaremongering, ACT and Federated Farmers have suggested that the financial impact of the scheme in higher fuel and electricity prices has been seriously underplayed by the Government and that consumers, and particularly farmers, are in for an unpleasant shock when the scheme begins.

And the Dom Post reserves judgement on the three strikes law:

Now that the three-strikes legislation is in place, its real trial begins.

Supporters believe it will see a drastic fall in the number of serious offences – ACT MP David Garrett, pressed on Radio New Zealand to give a figure, said he expected a 5 per cent to 10 per cent fall in violent offending in the first five years of the law’s operation.

That will be easy to assess from the crime statistics.

I believe we will see a fall in serious violent offending, but only after a few years as it takes time for people to get a first strike, let alone a second or third strike.

If the new law had been in place when Graeme Burton began his life of offending, he would have been unable to shoot and kill Wainuiomata father Karl Kuchenbecker in Lower Hutt. At the time he killed Mr Kuchenbecker, Burton had more than 100 convictions. He was on parole for an earlier murder.

Exactly.

The ODT focuses on the creation of an artifical organism:

Even in the rational world of biological science, the publication in Science of the findings of an American-based team of researchers caused considerable excitement.

A bacterial cell had been controlled by a chemically synthesised genome.

That meant that the cell began replicating and making a new set of proteins entirely controlled by man.

In the secular world, this was briefly sensational, and described somewhat effusively as the creation of the world’s first “artificial cell”. …

There is no doubt that the team employed at the J. Craig Venter Institute has achieved an important technical step towards the goal of creating artificial or synthetic life.

But we are a very long way indeed from realising some of the speculation: the construction of human limbs or body parts or even a human being in the laboratory.

That remains in the realm of fiction.

For now.

I believe that within two generations, humans will be living to 150 or older as science discovers uses for stem cells, gene therapy etc.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Racing under Winston

November 1st, 2008 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government did not use to give money to the racing industry like they now do. Before Helen appointed Winston Minister of Racing, Vote Racing was just $300,000 a year which paid for a couple of policy people in the Department of Internal Affairs.

He then introduced a number of policies that were of great benefit to the racing industry, and to companies active in the industry. I’ll take them in turn:

Aligning duty rates

The New Zealand Racing Board used to pay duty at around 18% and Winston got the rate reduced in the 2006 budget to 4% which is the rate paid by casinos. The cost of this is $33.6 million a year.

Now this policy was not opposed by Treasury. They said it was good policy, and I think National even supported this move. It did seem silly to have different rates. Having said that there is a difference between supporting a policy because you think it is a good policy, and supporting a policy because you think it will attract money from the affected industry or are in their pocket.

Accelerated depreciation for bloodstock

In the 2006 budget, Winston also proposed accelerating the depreciation period for purchases by New Zealand taxpayers of stallions that have not previously been used for breeding in New Zealand at a cost of up to $1.5 million per annum.

Treasury also supported this.

Further depreciation for bloodstock

Winston then tried to get accelerated depreciation extended to shuttle stallions in 2007. Treasury said:

Treasury does not support funding for this initiative, as it is low priority and represents low value for money. The depreciation rate for shuttle stallions is already concessionary relative to their economic life, and approving the request would represent an even greater concession. Furthermore, the depreciation rate for shuttle stallions should be lower than that for stallions not previously used in New Zealand, as the latter have a higher risk profile. Approving the request may also increase the risk of tax avoidance and set a precedent for wider extensions.

Further, there is also a risk that approving the request could increase the risk of these assets being used in tax avoidance schemes. In the 1980s there were significant tax avoidance schemes incorporating inflated values for bloodstock, which took advantage of the accelerated write-down rates available. In addition, approving the request may set a precedent for further extensions to the new depreciation rules.

But Dr Cullen ignored his officials to keep Winston happy so he could deliver to his funders. The cost for this was an extra $1.5 million a year also.

Racecourse Facilities

In the 2007 budget, Winston started to really deliver directly for his funders. He got Helen and Michael to agree to $1 million a year for the establishment of a contestable fund to enhance workplace safety and to raise the quality of facilities at racecourses.

You might wonder why we do not have a Vote Skiing to raise the quality of facilities on ski fields and improve skifield safety?

Again the officials were not convinced. Treasury showed they were not against all spending – they supported the accelerated depreciation and the reduction in duty. Treasury said:

Treasury does not support funding for this initiative, as it is low priority and represents questionable value for money. In particular, it is unclear as to the extent of under-maintenance of racing facilities and why clubs cannot raise sufficient revenue for improvements on their own, e.g. through increased entry fees, sponsorship and community fund-raising.

There is little information provided beyond the anecdotal about the extent of under-maintenance of racing facilities and why racing clubs cannot raise sufficient revenue for improvements on their own, e.g. through increased entry fees, sponsorship or community fund-raising. This makes it difficult to gauge the potential value for money of the proposed contestable fund

But once again Michael and Helen gave Winston his baubles.

Race Money

Then came the most outrageous policy for his benefactors. The Government would stump up millions of dollars every year to be used as prize money in races or to quote the proposal “the establishment of a fund to promote feature horse and greyhound racing carnivals and to increase stake money in feature races”.

And again Treasury tried their best to stop Winston looting taxpayer money to pay back his financial backers. But again Michael and Helen agreed to back Winston and gave him $3 million a year.

Treasury does not support funding for this initiative, as it is low priority and represents questionable value for money. In particular, there is insufficient supporting information around why and to what extent racing clubs are unable to generate sufficient revenue through traditional sources, or the extent to which feature race stakes need to be bolstered to increase the racing industry’s profile and encourage greater investment. There would also be potential precedent implications across other industries from creating such a fund.

So how much does this all total up to? Well over a three year electoral cycle it is $121.8 million.

That’s what you call a good return on investment for $250,000 or so of donations.

Personally I think Winston sold himself too cheap.

Tags: , , ,