Hide on Key

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

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

One of the more common and basic mistakes to make in politics is to underestimate your opponent. It’s an easy thing to do. Your opponents are doing it all wrong and so must be either stupid or crooked and perhaps both.

Your team readily agrees and the trap is easy to fall into. And so it is with Labour and John Key.

Labour continues to dismiss Key as a political lightweight who would sell his own mother, in Labour leader David Cunliffe’s words.

They overlook that Key toppled Labour’s best and strongest leader, has seen off Phil Goff and David Shearer, and who Cunliffe has yet to dent. That’s no political lightweight.

Indeed.

Labour pooh-poohed Key’s credentials in foreign policy. He now has David Cameron’s number on speed dial.

Previous New Zealand prime ministers were ecstatic for our future trade prospects with a two-minute “pull aside” at a formal meeting. Key plays golf with the President of the United States on his holidays.

Key, with no fuss, has turned over 13 of his own MPs in just two years to refresh the party. That’s rare political power and skill.

Cunliffe, meanwhile, is stuck with the team that didn’t want him and which includes ministers from the 1980s plus the party’s two previous leaders.

Over a quarter of Labour’s caucus entered Parliament in the 1980s or 1990s.

Clark was a very popular prime minister. Her average in the preferred prime minister stakes was almost 2 times her predecessor Jim Bolger’s. That’s an extraordinary achievement. But Key’s is even more extraordinary. His average is fully 10 percentage points above Clark’s.

That’s a 25 per cent advantage.

Labour has taken to calling Key lucky. They persist in underestimating him. It’s like they just have to wait until his luck runs out.

I got to work with Key. It’s not luck. This is a man who is smart, who works hard and who understands people.

National needs to poll mid 40s or high 40s to win a third term. This would be unprecedented as under MMP no other party has ever got higher than low 40s – even for their first term. But if anyone can do it, Key will.

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Hide rules out Epsom

January 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the Hos:

Good and loyal friends have suggested that I put my name forward to be Act’s candidate in Epsom.

They have supported me over many years and therefore I have given their advice serious consideration.

It’s a crucial role. But for Act’s success in Epsom in 2008, Helen Clark would have remained Prime Minister. And its success in 2011 also kept Labour out of power.

That’s why the attacks on John Banks are so intense and sustained. Act’s success has proved the difference between a National-led Government and a Labour-Green one.

Very true. Without ACT both times, the Maori Party would have held the balance of power and may well have gone with Labour and the Greens.

Act provides a much-needed political counterweight to the other parties calling always for more government spending and ever-more regulation.

We need a champion for individual freedom and personal responsibility. Act is that champion.

Sadly, much bruised.

And now the position of Act candidate for Epsom is open again. I am very pleased Act has excellent candidates in prospect. I have concluded it can’t be me.

I now don’t have the necessary passion and enthusiasm to do the job well. Yes, I loved it and I gave it everything I had. And then some. But it’s gone now. I am not sure why that is. It just is.

There was a time when Winston Peters could rattle an entire government, bringing ministers to their knees. Now, even junior ministers get the better of him.

I think it’s sad. Peters appears like some aged rock star who has partied way too hard and is now up on stage trying to relive the glory days. Or perhaps a champion boxer who has stayed too long in the ring. I wouldn’t want that.

I thought the worst thing for Peters was getting dumped in 2008. No. The worst thing for Peters was getting back in 2011.

New MPs snigger at him. There was a time he would have swatted them down like flies.

Knowing when to go is important in politics.

I have a project under way in Christchurch. We have a third baby due in July. I have new and different challenges ahead.

Plus if Rodney stood again for Epsom, we’d lost him as a great columnist!

In a related story, Cameron Brewer (again) rules himself out for Epsom, but Matthew Hooton is listed as considering throwing his name in the ring saying ACT needs a generational change.

 

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Hide on Labour’s gender quota

November 10th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

The party’s drive to get a precise balance of female and male MPs reinforces the view that Labour is more concerned with itself than with voters. That’s the last thing Cunliffe needs. He needs the party trumpeting what he’s doing for working people, not what the party is doing to itself. …

Labour’s gender balance rule is correctly seen as extreme tokenism.

Hide points out what the quota will mean:

 In 1999, Labour had 37 MPs. In 2002 it had 52. The number of MPs goes up and it goes down. The balance of list to electorate MPs swings even more wildly. In 2002, 45 MPs were electorate and only seven were list. Two elections later, Labour had only 21 electorate MPs but 22 list. More than half of its electorate seats had been lost and its number of list MPs had more than tripled. The party must now factor in every possible combination of outcome and then some to ensure every electoral contingency delivers first a 45/55 female/male split and then ever-after a 50/50 split. That’s not going to be easy. The headache is made all the bigger by 14 of Labour’s 22 electorate seats being held by men.

Achieving the correct male-female balance across all conceivable electoral outcomes means an effective man-ban in all new electorate selections.

If male candidates for Labour win seats, then it means male candidates must be dropped from the list effectively. The only way to stop that will be to stop selecting male candidates for winnable seats until 50% of electorates are male also.

Labour’s future is also for a less talented caucus. That’s because the gender balance rule constrains selection choices. Heck, in 1999, the rule would have cost David Cunliffe his selection.

The real pain may not occur in 2014 or even 2017. It will be when they are in Government and they have to tell male Cabinet Ministers they are being ranked behind some brand new female candidate in order to have perfect gender equality.

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Is there a parallel?

September 18th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An ACT member writes in:

There is a distinct parallel with what happened when Rodney took over the ACT leadership.  Caucus did not back him because they knew him, but he was able to woo the party membership.   In the end it unraveled because a leopard does not change his spots, and the flaws of which caucus members were only too well aware eventually led to his and the party’s demise.

If Cunliffe can pull this off then he is a genius.  I suspect that large numbers of caucus members will be full of foreboding for what the future holds.

I think a comparison of Hide to Cunliffe is somewhat unfair, but the reader is correct that there is a precedent in NZ of a leader being elected without the support of his caucus.

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Some facts from Rodney

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

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

Let’s start with the numbers. They aren’t mine. They come from a recently published Ministry of Social Development “factsheet”.

A total of 76,000 New Zealanders were born in 1993. About 6000 were subsequently abused or neglected; 3000 became known to the Youth Justice system by the age of 17; and 41,000 – more than half – spent time in a household dependent on a main benefit such as the dole or DPB.

The benefit-supported children were six times more likely to be abused than those who were not benefit-supported. And they were 14 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice.

Those in households benefit-dependent for nine or more years were 13 times more likely to be abused and 29 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice.

Staggering.

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Hide on Shearer

July 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in HoS:

Those of us following politics are witnessing the destruction of a party leader. The destruction is all the more remarkable because it’s coming entirely from within. It’s especially remarkable because the parties combined in opposition are consistently polling within a whisker of government. They could easily win.

National is polling extremely well but its necessary support parties are not. Next year’s election is looking a close-run thing. MMP is like that. It’s not how well one party does but how well the parties who can work together in government do in total.

The Labour Party should now be attempting to show themselves, the Greens and New Zealand First united in heading into government. Instead, Labour is failing to unite behind its own leader. It’s a political mess. The plotters within the Labour caucus don’t have the numbers to dump David Shearer. If they did, he would be gone. Minus the numbers, they aren’t quietly getting on with their job. They are, instead, engaged in a guerrilla campaign to destroy their democratically elected leader.

I think they may have the numbers. They just don’t have the certainty of who would win the replacement election.

The plotters’ attacks are deathly corrosive. That’s their purpose. If the plotters can keep up their attacks from the shadows they will inflict sufficient damage. At that point either Shearer or his colleagues and supporters will accept he is damaged beyond political repair. Then the plotters will have succeeded.

Meanwhile, when we are especially in need of an effective opposition, our major opposition party is entirely focused on itself. When we need more than ever to be debating the country’s direction, the Labour Party is busy debating with itself.

The true difference between National and Labour is not philosophy or policy. It’s cultural. It manifests in many ways. The Nats dispatch leaders with the minimum of fuss. They put winning elections and being in government above all other considerations. They don’t do untidy. Labour revel in it.

The tough part for Labour’s plotters is not the damaging of Shearer. That’s easy. Their tough part will be putting the party together once they have succeeded. That’s hard.

They need a unity ticket.

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Hide on leaking

June 16th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

It was Dunne’s basic goodness that did for him. Politicians leak all the time. Helen Clark was masterful. But they don’t get caught. That’s because they know what they’re doing.

You certainly don’t use your Parliamentary email. You don’t discuss with a journalist the possibility of leaking. That gives them the power, either through error or design, to get you sacked.

If you’re going to leak, leak; don’t leave your fingerprints all over it.

The leaking, too, has to have a point: it advances your cause, knocks an enemy off course, distracts the media from your own problems, or helps set the agenda. The leak was of no political benefit to Dunne whatsoever.

Most leaks are to disadvantage the other side. This leak disadvantaged the Government he is part of, and didn’t help Dunne at all. A few people think that maybe Dunne wasn’t the leaker – that he just helped Vance confirm the story and she had a second source. But personally I go with Occam’s razor.

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Norman v Muldoon

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

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

Norman was safe and secure in launching a personal attack on Key. It is Key’s style and strategy not to fire back. But Muldoon would not have sat quietly by. Muldoon would have eaten him up and spat him out.

Muldoon also would never have shared his leadership as Norman does. He wasn’t a touchy-feely, let’s-sit-around-the-table-holding-hands sort of guy. He was leader and that was that. Muldoon would never have tolerated a co-leader.

And then there was Norman crying, “Give me back my flag. Give me back my flag.” That was when he was attempting to stick the Tibetan flag in the face of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping. Muldoon would never have done that. He was polite and respectful to our guests, whatever he thought of their domestic politics.

And if Muldoon did get into a scuffle, he would not have come out second. Once a rowdy group of young protesters shouting “Heil Hitler” attacked Muldoon as he was leaving a meeting. They hit him in the face, kicked his leg and shoved him against his car.

The then Leader of the Opposition decked one and chased the others down the street shouting, “One at a time and you’re welcome”.

Heh. An iconic moment.

Norman is Australian. Muldoon was a New Zealander through and through. In comparing Key to Muldoon, Norman gave us a very sharp reminder that he’s a very recent arrival. No one who lived in New Zealand would ever think Key was in any way a Muldoon. The comparison is bizarre.

Russel has been whining that it is wrong to say he can’t write about Muldoon as he wasn’t in NZ then, saying that means no one could write about Peter Fraser who wasn’t alive in the 1940s.

He misses the point that no one who actually lived in NZ when Muldoon was PM, would compare him to John Key without bursting into a fit of laughter at the ridiculousness of the comparison.

Norman has a PhD in political science. For Muldoon there were two types of doctors: the ones who made you well, and the ones who made you sick. He would have had a very clear view of what sort of doctor Norman was.

Muldoon fought fascism and totalitarianism in World War II. Norman was for several years active in the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Socialist Party.

They are two very different men. Muldoon was popular. His majority in his electorate was unassailable. The best Norman has done is come third.

They are men of different eras. Muldoon was minister of finance the year Norman was born.

But in other ways they aren’t so different.

Muldoon’s policies were to control the economy, fix prices, set the exchange rate, invest in hare-brained schemes, and print money to pay for it all.

He all but bankrupted the country.

In this regard, Muldoon and Norman are peas in a pod.

Matthew Hooton goes down this road also in the NBR:

Sir Robert left office in 1984, roughly when Dr Norman left high school.  At that time, he tells us, he was busy opposing Australia’s “new right” Hawke/Keating government, elected in March 1983, and “peace rallies, anti-nuclear demonstrations and animal rights activism soon became a large part of extra-curricular high school life.”

It is fantastic that the adolescent Dr Norman had time left over to follow developments across the Tasman, including Sir Robert publicly issuing enemies’ lists, banning unfriendly journalists from his press conferences, personally directing monetary policy, ramming through the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, abusing young backbenchers in drunken rages, lying about the country’s fiscal position, provoking a foreign exchange crisis, refusing to follow the instructions of the incoming government and having to be bullied into doing so by his outgoing cabinet.

And on the policy front:

The irony of Dr Norman’s preposterous comparison of Mr Key to Sir Robert is that the party in today’s parliament with an economic programme most similar to Muldoon’s is the Greens.

It is the Greens who advocate greater control of the currency, extra monetary tools and more aggressive interventions by the Reserve Bank.  They are the only main party comfortable with Muldoon-style import substitution and against free trade.  How green were Muldoon’s carless days, designed to reduce reliance on oil?  How stimulatory were his deficits? 

More topically, Sir Robert exercised direct state control of the electricity sector including the state directing what new electricity generation would be built and where.  What else is Labour/Green’s NZ Power?

Instead of an across-the-board GST, Sir Robert favoured lower sales taxes on things he considered good and higher taxes on things he considered bad.

With their promised new “suite of ecological taxes,” the Greens promise the same.

This could be a good question for the Greens. How many of Sir Robert’s economic policies do they disagree with today? Any?

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Rodney writing at his best

June 2nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney gets better week after week as a writer. Today in the HoS:

Air New Zealand’s rejection of would-be cabin crew member Claire Nathan because of the ta moko on her forearm highlights how New Zealand is developing and unfolding in new and exciting ways.

No longer must we think through the consequences of our actions. This is very liberating. For Nathan, her dream was to work serving the diverse customers who fly Air NZ. In the past she would have had to think through personal decisions that might affect her chances of a job. Like having a tattoo on her arm.

Not any more. She can have her tattoo and Air NZ is wrong to object.

The second great development is that you don’t have to suffer the consequences of your decisions in embarrassed silence. You can trumpet poor treatment in the media and instantly become the victim.

The third is that we are quick to spot any hint of racism. Nathan is Maori. Maori traditionally had tattoos. Therefore, Air NZ is discriminatory and racist. We have yet another opportunity to prove again that we are ever-vigilant in battling the scourge of racism.

As I said choices have consequences.

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Hide on Mahuta’s stunt

May 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

I am not sure MP Nanaia Mahuta is the ideal flag-bearer for Kiwi mums struggling to manage babies in the modern-day workplace. Her call to Speaker David Carter for a more mum-friendly Parliament presents itself as a poorly executed political stunt rather than a serious attempt to shine a light on the plight of working mothers.

Mahuta complained, saying she was “forced” to attend a late-night Budget debate with her 5-month-old daughter but had to leave before the vote because her daughter started crying.

She complained to Speaker Carter, declaring: “No child should be in the workplace from nine ’til midnight”. Mahuta is exactly right. Babies at night should be tucked up nice and warm in bed. They certainly shouldn’t be sitting in Parliament.

But her complaint to Speaker Carter is grandstanding and false. Mahuta’s workplace is already the most flexible on the planet. It’s not the Dickensian workhouse that she portrays. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for a mum to be with her baby in the debating chamber until midnight.

Or at any other time.

Not one of Labour’s 33 MPs was required by Parliament’s rules to be in Parliament that night. The only requirement is for a presiding officer and a Government Minister. Two MPs on their own can conduct the business of the House.

And even if you take voting numbers into account:

But even to debate and to vote requires only one Labour MP. There was no necessity under the rules of Parliament for any other Labour MP to be present.

Thirty-two of them could have been home tucked up in bed sound asleep. And still Labour’s opposition would be both duly noted and recorded.

That’s why Mahuta’s complaint is precious. There’s no other workplace where the business can carry on with a 97 per cent absenteeism. Indeed, with that many away Parliament’s business would have been conducted most expeditiously.

It’s true the sole MP would not have been able to vote the full 33 Labour votes against. To do that 75 per cent of Labour’s MPs must be present in the Parliament complex. But note: it’s only in the complex. Only one MP is required to be in the House to vote and to debate. The other 23 can be in their offices snoozing and looking after baby in her cot. Nine Labour MPs could be at home, including with baby, and still Labour would be able to vote full strength.

It was a beat up, directed at the Labour Whips.

It’s wrong for Mahuta to present herself as a mother balancing work and a new baby under such rules. It shows she’s out of touch with the reality of working mums.

It’s also wrong for her to imply that Parliament’s rules forced her with her baby into the Chamber that Friday night. They didn’t. If there was any forcing it would have been by the Labour whips. They control and dictate who among Labour’s caucus must be within the Parliamentary complex and who must attend the debating chamber. It’s not the Speaker’s nor Parliament’s rules.

Mahuta’s complaint is a political stunt. It makes a mockery of how tough it is for mums in the actual workforce.

A fair point. It is I am sure damn hard being an MP and a parent. But not because you have to had your kid with you in the debating chamber. You don’t.

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The case against sacking List MPs

May 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

Then we had the constitutional point. That no one, including the Prime Minister, could fire Gilmore forthwith was presented as a failing of our Parliamentary system. He was a list MP. He had done wrong. He should be fired.

I am not so sure those calling for the summary power to dismiss list MPs would appreciate the consequences.

I had two list MPs in my caucus forever trying to dispatch me. If I had been able to fire them, I would have. And I would still be there. But that’s hardly a satisfactory outcome for anyone.

I agree with Rodney that a party should not be able to sack a List MP. It would turn them even more into creatures of the party.

It would be a power too open to abuse by party leaders to get rid of MPs that challenge their authority.

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Hide on Greens/Labour nationalisation

May 12th, 2013 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide gives 10 reasons there policy is full of holes:

  1. Electricity prices are working. As they should
  2.  Electricity prices are fair and reasonable
  3. Quick! Turn up the swimming pool
  4.  The lights will go out
  5. We all lose as taxpayers
  6.  Businesses shut, jobs gone
  7. What about the planet?
  8. We have choice and competition
  9. Shearer-Norman power
  10.  It’s cheaper to hand out money

No 9 I wish to focus on:

The power market is one of the easiest to enter. Labour and the Greens claim companies are making “super-profits”. If that were the case, they could set up their own power company and fund their election campaign – and lower power prices for everyone. They won’t, of course, because they can’t. There’s no easy money to be made supplying power. The super-profits line is political rhetoric: it’s not true.

This is a very good point. There are no huge barriers to becoming an electricity generator. We have 14 companies that are generators.     If they think the profits are so excessive, why don’t they do what they did with Kiwibank and just set up one new competitor – rather than take over the entire industry?

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Hide on Auckland Transport

April 28th, 2013 at 6:31 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

My research led me to Wellingtonian Tony Randle, who spent months trying to get the analysis underpinning the 2010 Rail Business Case, succeeding only after a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Once Tony got hold of the analysis he found:

1. Basic spreadsheet errors. The spreadsheet fails to calculate the running costs of the second purchase of 26 trains. That ignores $689 million on the train option.

2. Incorrect exclusion of costs from the rail option. The study excludes the necessary funding to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre. Building this access is a necessary part of the rail option.

3. Addition of a second bus tunnel without explanation, adding hundreds of millions to the bus option.

4. Unreasonable assumptions, including a prediction that under the rail option, present bus capacity into the city centre will carry another 20,000 passengers a day without any new bus lanes or busways.

And people wonder why the Government won’t just hand over billions of dollars. I’m not sure what is worse – the massive errors in the analysis, but the fact they wouldn’t release them without the Ombudsman.

The overall impression is that the analysis was slanted to conclude trains over buses, despite the fact that buses may provide a better cheaper service.

The errors and poor assumptions total $1.5 billion. The bias is systematic; each and every mistake favours rail over buses. Correcting for the errors reverses the study’s conclusions and shows the CBD bus tunnel more cost-effective than the City Rail Link.

Tony Randle’s review is damning of Auckland Transport’s report. And it’s damning of the rail option. Auckland Transport’s response? Stony silence.

I’ve blogged on Tony’s work before. I am surprised no Councillor has followed it up. He makes available his detailed spreadsheets freely.

Last December, Auckland Transport released a second report. City Centre Future Access Study also concludes that the city rail link beats the two bus options considered, but now for different reasons to the first report. And, once again, Auckland Transport published the study without the underpinning analysis.

I followed Randle’s lead and requested the spreadsheets and the relevant model output reports. Auckland Transport has refused to supply them to me.

Its latest is a lawyer’s letter explaining that Auckland Transport will provide what I want but only if I pay them $3850.

Oh, and they won’t send me the spreadsheets.

Instead, they will send a printed output. That’s useless to me. It won’t allow me to check the very calculations that Randle showed were so devastatingly wrong in their first report.

I am left to conclude that Auckland Transport doesn’t trust its own analysis. So how can I trust it? And, more especially, how can you?

Very good questions. The spreadsheets should be provided free of charge to anyone asking. They already exist. There is no cost involved in e-mailing them out. The cost of $3,850 demanded is a rort.

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Hide complains National too soft on Shearer

March 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

The frightening part for Labour leader David Shearer forgetting to declare his $50,000-plus offshore bank account is National’s response: next to nothing. The Prime Minister said simply that Shearer’s memory lapse was “unfortunate”.

Unfortunate? That’s scary.

The usual political playbook is straightforward: 1. Make the account suspicious; 2. Keep the story alive; 3. Ensure a public inquiry; 4. Bust Shearer.

The political play is best run by an up-and-coming backbencher. Ministers must be seen as too busy running the country to be bothered.

The backbencher doesn’t allege any wrongdoing. That requires evidence. The only concern is perception.

The backbencher kicks off by asking why an MP and party leader would ever need an offshore bank account. “The political leaders who have secret offshore accounts aren’t the sort we usually have in New Zealand.”

The story is kept alive by pressing hard through the media with new questions every day. Day Two: “Mr Shearer must come clean with just how much he has in his secret account.” Of course, Shearer will refuse. Good.

Day Three: Allege it’s over a million dollars.

Journalists do the rest. They put the million-dollar figure to Shearer. If he doesn’t deny it, then a million dollars it is. If he denies it’s a million, the journalists won’t let go until he declares how much it’s below a million. The account’s dollar value is secured easily enough.

A new day, a new question. When did he last use the account? Who put the money in? When and why? Why hasn’t he closed the account? On and on it goes.

The public inquiry is achieved by making a Breach of Privilege complaint. It’s impossible for Parliament’s Speaker to refuse. If failing to declare $50,000-plus in a foreign bank account is not a breach then MPs are free to declare Mickey Mouse or whatever on their register of interests.

The resulting Privileges Committee is media gold. Shearer must front to a committee of senior MPs, most of whom are on the Government’s side. The questioning is in public, on camera. Week after week he must explain to incredulous MPs how he forgot about having tens of thousands of dollars in an offshore bank account but somehow remembered every year when he completed his tax return.

The whys and wherefores of his overseas banking would be dragged out of him. The committee would want his banking records. He would have little choice but to supply them.

I have absolutely no doubt that what Rodney describes is what would have happened if it was a National Party Leader who failed to disclose for four years in a row a foreign bank account.

Rodney has a theory about why:

But National has done none of this. That means only one thing. National want Shearer right where he is: leading the Labour Party into the next election.

Heh. I think that is reading too much into it. I think it is rather not wanting to appear to be too sanctimonious.

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Rodney says auction the unemployed on trade Me!

March 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide in NBR writes:

We have 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit and plenty of work that needs doing. The 50,000 represent 1000 years of work that doesn’t get done each and every week. The waste is horrific.

The waste follows from the failure to match the unemployed to the jobs that need doing at a price potential employers are willing to pay.

The matching part of the problem is a perfect job for the internet. And, sure enough, US techno whizz Morgan Warstler has the fix: match the jobs and the unemployed on eBay and pay them through Paypal.

In New Zealand our equivalent, Trade Me, is the perfect set-up linking Kiwis wanting to sell with those wanting to buy. It’s similarly perfect for matching those looking for work with those with jobs that need doing. Trade Me should be used to match jobseekers to jobs.

Under the Warstler scheme the unemployed would register on Trade Me to receive their benefit payment each Friday night.  At present, an unemployed 20-year-old receives a benefit payment of $190.84 gross a week.  Let’s make that $200.

Once an unemployed person is registered on Trade Me anyone wanting work done can bid for them to do it.  It’s the perfect way to match the jobs that need doing to those who can do them. 

So how would it work?

The unit of work on offer is a 40-hour week. And the bids start at $40 a week. That appears impossibly low but the government still pays the $200, so the least anyone gets paid for a week’s work is $240. 

The low starting bid ensures the market clears every week. Local retirement villages and community groups would be actively bidding to help the unemployed into work and to get work done.  Specialist contractors would move in to bid for the unemployed and to offer their work to the marketplace.

It’s hard to see the price staying at $40 a week. Especially for good workers.

The bids increase in $20 increments, with the government getting back $10 of each $20 hike. The worker gets to keep the other $10. For example, if the bid goes to $200 the worker keeps $320 and the government contributes $120 of his or her pay.

So basically the benefit abates.

Trade Me enables feedback possible both ways. Anyone familiar with the site knows how that works.

The good workers and the good employers would soon be identified. There would be no better CV than a string of positive comments on Trade Me. Those workers would get their wages bid up and would soon have a permanent job.

The impossibly lazy would also be identified. They could be followed up by government agents.

Likewise, the bad employers would be weeded out. They would be dealt to just as bad dealers are dealt to on Trade Me. The Warstler scheme provides total transparency.

You could trial this with the long-term unemployed – those who have been on the unemployment benefit for over six months.

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Hide on how Governments hurt the poor

March 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide in the HoS describes 10 ways Government policies hurt poor people:

  1. The Government funds the very best schools for rich kids’ education. The price of entry is the cost of a house that’s “in-zone”. Poor families can’t afford it. They are locked out of decent schools and their kids are consigned to third-rate institutions.
  2. Rich girls are subsidised to attend university and become teachers, accountants and lawyers. Poor girls are subsidised to drop out of school and have babies.
  3. The rich teach their kids to work hard and be smart to succeed. The Government teaches poor kids their land was stolen and that to prosper they must work on Treaty claims in hope of winning it back.
  4. Rich boys start work on graduate wages. Poor boys are shut out of the job market by the minimum wage.
  5. Solo mums face the highest effective marginal tax rates in the country. The rich have tax planners and offshore accounts.
  6. Metropolitan Urban Limits restrict the supply of land and inflate the value of existing homes. That’s great for families who already own a house or two. It’s bad for the poor. The Urban Limits shut them out of ever owning a house. The poor are never able to accumulate capital and establish the sense of pride and belonging that home ownership brings. They are tenants for life.
  7. The Government subsidises the winnings of rich horse owners. The gambling of poor people is taxed through the TAB and pokie machines.
  8. The ballet and the orchestra are subsidised. Smoking and drinking are taxed.
  9. Poor neighbourhoods are crime-ridden. The rich live behind locked gates and security patrols and say tougher sentencing and increased policing don’t work. The poor struggle to protect their meagre possessions and to keep their children from the clutches of gangs and drug dealers.
  10. The Resource Management Act, occupational safety and health, and our labour laws protect established business from upstarts who can’t afford lawyers, human resources consultants and three tiers of management devoted to compliance.

A fair bit of truth there.

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Hide on housing

December 3rd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

You gotta love politics.

Think of the care, the anguish, the endless calculations, the budgeting, the fear, the heartache that the average household endures before determining to build a house.

Politics dodges that.

You just announce it. No care. No anguish. No calculations. No budgeting.

And not one house. One hundred thousand houses.

It’s think bigger!

In business you would be dismissed as a quack and jailed for fraud. That’s why politics is so wonderful. It turns the world upside down.

Newspaper editorials have enthused over the policy.

These same editorials condemned finance companies for their recklessness.

The 100,000 house policy makes the finance companies appear paragons of transparency, analysis and proper budgeting.

I am amazed that no media outlet has tried to seriously analyse the numbers behind the policy.

The backers of the 100,000 houses policy don’t have to trouble themselves with a carefully worded prospectus that could land them in jail should the plan go pear-shaped. Nope.

They just have to announce it.

Politics has no need to attract investors. Inland Revenue works day in and day out fleecing citizens of their hard-earned cash precisely to fuel such grand projects, the very stuff and substance of politics.

Yep, the taxpayers are the ones who will for out $30 billion or so in the belief that the Government will be able to sell houses in Auckland for under $300,000 and only lose $15,000 on them.

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Hide on Peter Jackson

December 2nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

Three cheers for Sir Peter Jackson. He’s done it again. Another blockbuster movie. Made right here in New Zealand.

Sir Peter proves anything is possible. I would never have believed that a Kiwi down in New Zealand could make blockbuster movies. Not just blockbuster movies but movies that bust the Hollywood block.

Sir Peter’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was the biggest movie project ever undertaken. The trilogy grossed $3 billion at the box office. It won 17 Academy awards. The final in the series, Return of the King, won 11 Oscars, tying it withBen Hur and Titanic for the most Academy Awards ever.

The Hobbit is even bigger. And, again, Sir Peter has delivered.

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of The Unexpected Journey. The crowd and the enthusiasm for the movie was incredible. It wasn’t just hype. The stars were genuinely overcome by their reception. And their warmth for New Zealand, and for working with Sir Peter, was real. It was a tremendous feeling to be there.

I doubt there is any other city, where a significant proportion of the population would turn up for a movie premiere!

James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, attended. He said the The Hobbit sets a new movie-making standard.

He also had this to say about Sir Peter, elevating the movie industry in New Zealand to a global level: “It’s really only happened a couple of times before, in Los Angeles and maybe London. It’s the first time it’s been done by a single film-maker.”

Jackson’s contribution to New Zealand, and especially Wellington, is almost unprecedented for an individual. I believe his legacy will outlive him and Wellington (and NZ) is well placed to continue as a moviemaking city, even when Jackson is not making films himself.

It’s easy for us to have an inferiority complex. Ours is a small country a long way from the rest of the world. We can easily believe we can’t do as well as the rest of the world. The rest of the world seems richer, bigger and closer to the action.

But Sir Peter proves that wrong. He entered one of the biggest, toughest industries in the world and did it bigger and better than anyone else.

We no longer suffer the tyranny of distance. And, yes, ours is a small population, but that no longer hampers us because now the entire world is only a nanosecond away.

Jackson can be finalising a film on the Sunday, and have it transmitted to Hollywood within a couple of hours.

Oh, The Hobbit has had its share of knockers – political activists, unionists, Peta, the disgruntled and the envious. Our biggest impediment may be the tall-poppy syndrome. But we shouldn’t let nagging ninnies blind us to achievement and opportunity.

Indeed, the Hobbit haters have had their share of publicity. For me, I can’t wait to see the film – especially at the faster frame rate.

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Labour’s housing plans – houses for everyone

November 18th, 2012 at 2:18 pm by David Farrar

As bribes go, this is one of the bigger ones. Labour are promising 100,000 new cheap houses and all you have to do is vote for them. Let’s look at the speech:

The start-up cost of the building programme will be financed through issuing government stock called Home Ownership Bonds.

The money we make from selling the houses will go back into the pot for building more.

The houses will be compact in size. Some will be stand-alone dwellings and others apartments. All of them will be good quality and energy efficient.

The homes will be sold to first home buyers who’ve saved their own deposit, like with KiwiSaver.

We estimate that the maximum needed to be raised for a kick-start will be $1.5 billion.

It will quickly become self-funding though. And because it’s a capital investment, it won’t affect our commitment to balance the books and return to surplus.

Labour don’t seem to understand about this concept called interest. When you borrow money (unless you print it as Russel wants) then you have to pay interest on it.

Now let’s think about this 100,000 house bribe. The average sale price of a property is $410,000. with 100,000 houses that means around $40 billion of capital to be outlayed in advance. The NZ Super Fund say the risk free rate of return is 5.16% on average. Let’s say the Government can borrow at 5%. That is already $2 billion in interest if there is only a year between borrowing the money and selling the house. I am not a property developer but I suspect it takes much longer than that.

But now consider that the Government just selling then at the median price will not help families much. So presumably the Government will sell them at a discount. How much? We don’t know. Say it is a 10% discount or $40,000 per house. That is another $4 billion.

But here’s the sad thing. Unless we do something about the supply of land in Auckland, the increase in house prices will be greater than any discount from the Government selling homes cheaply. Rodney Hide sums this up in the HoS:

There are many reasons why Auckland house prices are high. A lack of tax isn’t one of them.

One reason is that Auckland councils have for years run a deliberate policy to hike house prices. The council doesn’t put it that bluntly, calling it “smart growth” or a “compact Auckland”. But the policy works by hiking house prices.

The policy’s purpose is to get us to live in apartments over train stations. That way we will be more likely to take a train and the mountains of cash that councils have sunk into trains, stations and rail lines over the years won’t look such a waste. …

The policy works by the council running a planning fence around the city, a fence called the Metropolitan Urban Limit. Inside the fence houses can be built; over the fence, not so much. It’s the fence that has us piling on top of each other.

It’s said that the housing market isn’t working. Actually, it’s working perfectly. The council is artificially holding down the quantity of land supplied and people are bidding up the price of the precious little that is available. That’s how a market works when there is a shortage.

The result is easily seen. Average section prices in New Zealand account for 40 per cent of the cost of a new house. In Auckland it’s 60 per cent. There’s a 20 per cent council planning tax on Auckland houses.

It’s not hard to make houses more affordable in Auckland. Just loosen the fence. Land over the planning fence costs only 12 per cent of land inside the fence.

Unlock the planning fence and house prices would tumble. At the very least, the heat would be taken out of the market. Auckland families and couples would once again be able to afford a house

And best of all you won’t need to borrow $40 billion to do it!

UPDATE: Labour say they will sell the houses for under $300,000. I’d say the cost to the taxpayer has just exploded. This is the biggest bribe since Think Big. When the costs of construction exceed what they think it should be, the taxpayer will be left footing the bill.

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Unions accounts

November 4th, 2012 at 11:23 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

The Maritime Union of New Zealand is in the same pickle as the New Zealand Meatworkers’ Union. It, too, has hidden millions of dollars of spending from the legally required public scrutiny.

Following my complaint, the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Neville Harris, has ordered the Meatworkers’ Union to re-file six years’ of accounts (Hidesight, Aug 24).

His clear expectation is that the full accounts be presented for approval at the annual meeting on November 7 and be filed promptly thereafter.

It will be fascinating to see if the union complies. It has fought long and hard to keep its accounts hidden. But I’m backing the Registrar to prevail. He has the necessary statutory power to ensure the union complies with the law.

This is good. Unions get numerous rights and privileges under the law. One of the few obligations to to be an incorporated society, which means their annual accounts must be public documents. Hiding the majority of funds away from public scrutiny is not acceptable.

Rodney writes how the Maritime Union has also been hiding money in branch accounts, which have not formed part of their public accounts they file with the Registrar. He notes in the comments on his post:

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies replied to my complaint as follows:

“In light of the issues raised by the NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union matter, my office is currently reviewing financial statement compliance by those incorporated societies who are registered unions.

This suggests that the Registrar will be investigating all unions to ascertain how many are following the law and disclosing their full accounts, and forcing those which are hiding accounts to publish in full. It will be fascinating to see how many other unions have been doing this.

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

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Hide says Repeal 6A

October 8th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

You win the contract to clean the local hospital. You succeed because you are good at your job and have a good crew.

The previous contractor was slack and expensive. The hospital gives him one month’s notice. It’s a good result for you. And a good result for the hospital.

But then Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act kicks in. Part 6A enables the existing cleaners to transfer your business. The purpose of this provision is to protect “vulnerable workers”.

Part 6A defines the vulnerable workers by the work they do and where they do it. Essentially, it covers industries such as cleaning and food and laundry services. The real protection is to existing contractors.

Indeed, the previous contractor told the hospital it was no use dropping him in your favour because Part 6A means nothing much would change. It would be the same crew on the same wages and conditions doing the same job. 

Part 6A locks in existing workers and sloppy work practice. It doesn’t protect “vulnerable workers”.

It protects slack businesses and poorly trained and managed workers. It’s anti-competitive. It drives up the cost of cleaning and laundry services including for government, which is the major country’s buyer. 

I regard it as horrific that a winning contractor has to keep on the staff of the losing contractor, and the same terms and conditions. It destroys their ability to be more innovative and flexible.

National rightly slammed the Labour government for introducing Part 6A in 2006. But National in government has done nothing.

There has been a required statutory review of Part 6A in 2009. But then nothing. The minister is still sitting on the result.

The evidence is clear. Part 6A can’t be amended. It should be repealed.

I agree. No employer should be forced to employ staff from a competitor. It also destorys any incentive for staff to perform well for their employer, if they know that even if their employer loses the contract they are guaranteed jobs with the next employer.

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Hide on “child poverty”

September 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

This is Rodney Hide at his best as he destroys the myths around “child poverty” which brings up images of kids starving in New Zealand. Rodney says in the HoS:

“Child poverty’s terrible! Kids hungry! It’s getting worse!

“270,000 poor kids. And government? Doing nothing!”

But hang on. All kids are poor. Children typically don’t own much beyond a few toys. That’s true in poor families. And it’s true of rich families.

Children must rely totally on parents and caregivers. On their own, they’re destitute.

And yet we have a report boldly titled Child Poverty. That tugs at the heartstrings and makes great newspaper copy but it’s wrong. The report should properly be titled family or household poverty.

So the “child” part of the term “child poverty” is misleading.

But even that’s misleading. The 270,000 “child poverty” figure refers to relative poverty. Your children suffer in “poverty” if your household’s net income is less than 60 per cent of your equivalent household’s median income. The cut-off income for a couple with four children is just over $1000 a week. Net.

It’s no wonder that one child in four lives in “poverty” – $1000 a week in the hand is well above any lack of comfort let alone starvation. But for the experts, that’s “poverty”.

Raising for kids on $52,000 (net) a year would be tough and challenging. But probably not what most people think of poverty. It is also reflecting that on top of that $52,000 net a year, the family will be getting tens of thousands of dollars in “free” education and healthcare for their kids.

A windfall that doubled all incomes wouldn’t budge the child “poverty” figure. There would still be 270,000 poverty-stricken children. That’s because experts define “poverty” in reference to the middle income.

Making people richer doesn’t fix relative poverty. The only fix is to narrow the spread of income, even if that makes everyone poorer. That’s why experts recommend taking even more income from families above the median income to give to those below it. The fix follows directly from defining “child poverty” as household inequality.

This is key. By the way the poverty industry has defined poverty, the only “solution” is to tax people more and hand out more welfare. It is a front for the classic socialist agenda.

If we had a great depression which saw the top 50% of families suffer a 20% drop in income, and the bottom 50% suffer a 10% drop in income – the poverty industry would claim that fewer families are now in poverty! Seriously.

In these times of huge global economic uncertainty, the focus needs to be on economic growth, not increasing tax and welfare.

News reports now link the poverty report to children turning up to school hungry. But even the gloomiest estimates don’t have 270,000 hungry kids.

Labour leader David Shearer quoted a 2002 Ministry of Health survey to say 83,000 children aged 5 to 14 “sometimes or often went to school without breakfast”. That’s well short of the 270,000 “living in poverty”.

But even the 83,000 figure is exaggerated. The survey found the equivalent of 83,000 kids in the previous week “not” or “sometimes not” eating or drinking at home before school but 76,000 “usually” or “sometimes” eating or drinking on the way to school. Presumably, they are many of the kids who didn’t eat at home.

Data we have not seen in other media reports.

The survey found that the older the child the more likely they were not to eat at home and the more likely they were to eat on the way to school. Also, girls were more than twice as likely as boys not to eat at home. The sex and age differences suggest forces other than poverty at work.

Further, although children from poorer households were more likely not to eat at home before school, they were also more likely to drink Coke and eat chips and be fatter.

Poverty can’t be the cause. A bowl of porridge costs 10 cents. The most nutritious food on the planet is liver. It costs 70c a serve. The second most nutritious is an egg: 50c.

I have nourishing bone broth for lunch. The marrow bones for a good brew cost $10. That’s 50c a meal. Good nutritious food doesn’t cost much. It certainly doesn’t cost much compared to a Coke, a bag of chips or a burger.

The lack of breakfast is not caused by a lack of money. It’s caused by a lack of care. That lack of care can’t be fixed by giving parents more money. Handing parents more money doesn’t make them care more.

Porridge is meant to be one of the best breakfasts you can give your kid.

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Hide on POAL and unions

September 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in HoS:

I later worked as a fitter’s mate in British construction. My workmates would lie, cheat, steal and engage in industrial sabotage. The crew I was part of stole an entire Landrover. That was no mean feat: we were on an island in the North Sea.

We were building a gas stripping plant at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands.

I regularly saw metal scraps tossed into one-metre gas pipes as they were welded up. That was to ensure maintenance work once construction was finished.

Both Lyttelton Port and Sullom Voe were union-controlled. The control was maintained through bullying and violence. I was threatened that a spanner could fall on my head; an English welder had both legs and both arms broken for not following union dictates.

The way I saw it, the bosses got us to do what they wanted by paying us. That suited me. But union bosses got us to do what they wanted through thuggery and violence. I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like them.

This is referred to as the “good old days” amongst the union leaders.

Auckland has a beating heart. It’s the port. And it’s in trouble.

It lost Maersk’s Southern Star services to the Port of Tauranga last December. Fonterra followed in January. That’s $25 million in revenue gone. That’s 15 per cent of the port’s total revenue.

Ten years ago, Auckland handled double the containers that Tauranga did. Now they’re on par. Tauranga is set to pass Auckland.

Tauranga has the flexibility and efficiency that Auckland lacks.

Auckland Port’s dividend to Auckland Council is $20 million. A proper roster would double it. That’s equivalent to a 1.5 per cent rate cut. But the real gain would be to Auckland businesses, jobs and wages. …

The Maritime Union have proved the port bosses’ point through the negotiations several times over. They have gone on strike 12 times. And the port says productivity went up. Every time.

Tauranga is a shining example of a mixed ownership model. The staff are shareholders and are happy. They take pride in completing jobs efficiently.

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Another Rodney column

August 28th, 2012 at 7:14 am by David Farrar

Rodney is on fire at the moment. His NBR column on the Meatworker Union accounts is excellent:

 I was recently told about some serious spending by the New Zealand Meat Workers Union that surprised me. It was so surprising that I thought I should check it out. No problem. I would just look up their audited accounts that the Registrar of Incorporated Societies would hold. That way I could determine if the story I was told was true. I was shocked to learn the accounts aren’t there. The meatworkers have four branches and for the past seven years have only been disclosing the capitation fees paid by the four branches to the national body. For the year ended September 2010 the disclosed income was $712,370. The total income to the union is several million dollars a year. That’s a failure over the years to disclose tens of millions of dollars

Whale has blogged extensively on this in the past. The union thinks it can hide the income and expenditure of its branches by pretending they are not part of the incorporated society. But this is clearly wrong. The law states a union must be an incorporated society.

The law is clear. To be a union, an organisation must be incorporated. And incorporated societies must file annual financial statements that members of the public can inspect. The advantage of incorporation is that it gives a legal personality separate from the society’s members. In return, members of the public can inspect the society’s accounts. But I can’t for the Meat Workers Union. Neither can you. And that’s been the case for seven years.

Sadly, the authorities are not exactly holding the union to account

Parliament has provided the registrar with the power to require records. So I wrote to the registrar pointing out the meatworkers’ failure. I suggested he use his power to get the branch records for the last seven years and make them publicly available. That was back in May. The registrar is Neville Harris, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development, which is part of a new super ministry. He advised me that he had been aware of the meatworkers’ failure to disclose their accounts since November 2011.  My information was not news to him. He explained he had been in contact with the union and was following up with the objective of having it file a “revised financial statement” that includes information relating to the activities of its branches. I have had no explanation why he doesn’t just demand the branch records and why he is speaking of just one financial statement singular when there are several years missing. It’s a complete mystery to me why the registrar just doesn’t demand the branch records and made them publicly available. After all, that’s the law’s requirement of unions and incorporated societies. Mr Harris and I now have had quite a correspondence. I can report that I am no further ahead than when I started. This month he advised me that he has decided the way forward is to obtain an opinion from an external accounting expert and to endeavour to resolve this matter on the basis of that advice. I have no idea why the registrar is seeking that advice. The problem is not an accounting one. It’s a legal one. The simple requirement is that the Meat Workers Union and its branches are required to disclose to the public their income and their expenditure and they aren’t. The person in charge of making sure they do is Mr Harris. Parliament has granted him the power to ensure they do. He is refusing to use that power. Instead, he’s working with the union to get them to file and is seeking accounting advice. Heaven only knows why.

I agree it is simple. The Registrar states you have until x date to file corrected accounts and a failure to do so will result in deregistration. Companies get automatically degregistered for late annual returns, so why does a union get away with seven years of inadequate returns?

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Rodney on Euthanasia – his full column

August 27th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide has written in the Herald on Sunday on why he supports euthanasia, and the so sad case of Martin Hames who had to kill himself because we did not allow euthanasia. Rodney has told the story before, but not to quite the same detail. I can’t abridge it, so quote it in full:

I doubt my friend Martin Hames ever needed a decent pair of pyjamas. But 10 years ago, he went and bought himself a brand new pair.

Martin lived alone. He didn’t own a TV. He didn’t have a car. He was the shyest man I have ever met. I never knew him to have a girlfriend.

Martin worked with me in Parliament. He used to call me Boss even though I wasn’t. It was his way of getting me to do things. He would say, “Focus on the big picture, Boss. Get stuck into government expenditure/apartheid/the-failing-school system.” I almost always followed Martin’s advice.

He had worked for the Reserve Bank then with Ruth Richardson when she was Minister of Finance. He wrote the brilliant book Winston First. That was about you-know-who. He wrote numerous policy papers and penned many speeches. He wrote a marvellous book titled The Crisis In New Zealand Schools.

Martin was wickedly funny and socially awkward. He didn’t so much walk as jerk along. His arms often waved about uncontrollably.

I still laugh when I remember him throwing a cup of coffee over his shoulder.

That was when our gorgeous press secretary told him he could slip sugar into her hot drink anytime he liked.

Martin’s mother had died of Huntington’s disease. Her truly dreadful death took years. In the final stages of Huntington’s the mind loses its ability to control even the simplest movements – even swallowing is difficult and many sufferers die choking.

So, at 19 years old, Martin learned he had a 50 per cent chance of suffering the disease. He decided not to marry. Or have children. The risk was too great. And in his 40th year he got the fateful diagnosis.

We knew what he was planning. But the law forbade us helping or even knowing.

He put his affairs in order. On his own, one night at home, alone, he pinned a note to his new pyjama top: “Huntington’s disease: Please Do Not Resuscitate”. He attempted a massive overdose. But poor Martin. He didn’t get all the pills down.

His neighbour found him. Martin regained consciousness in Wellington Hospital. The circulation had stopped to his legs and the doctors wanted to amputate.

Martin asked what would happen if they didn’t cut his legs off. “You will die”.

“Good,” replied Martin, “I have Huntington’s disease.”

The doctors and nurses understood, wheeled him into intensive care. They gave him pain relief, looked after him. They were truly marvellous.

I dreaded going to see him. I needn’t have. “I am having a great death, Boss. I am getting to say goodbye to my friends.”

His characteristic shyness was gone. Why bother? It was his last day on this Earth.

Ruth Richardson shed a tear. “See,” said Martin, “I always knew you were a big softie.”

The young press sec kissed Martin and said, “See you round.” Martin replied: “Maybe – it’s taking me longer to die than they thought.”

Martin Hames died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of the next morning. His dad was there. He died happy and he died content.

Martin had every right to take his own life. He also had every right to ask for help. But to give that help is against the law.

Martin feared he would slip into madness or lose control before he killed himself and be sentenced to years of suffering that would be hateful to him.

Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill, now before Parliament, would have enabled Martin to plan his death better. He would not have needed to rush to it.

He and I joked one last time. Then he was serious. He said if I wanted to do something in his memory it would be to change our law so no one else had to go through what he had had to go through. He said, “Boss, change it, change it for all the others.”

I told him I would do my very best.

This column’s not as good as you could write, Martin. But it’s my best. And it’s for you.

Up until reading this account some years ago, I had been slightly anti-euthanasia. Coming from a medical family I did not like the idea of doctors ever having a role in ending life rather than preserving it. But I realised how selfish that preference was, when I read the awful choice the current law forced on people like Martin. No one should ever have been forced into having to make the choice he did.

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