A bitter valedictory

October 23rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Russel Norman did his valedictory yesterday.  They are normally not partisan affairs, where you reflect on your highlights etc. But Russel decided to compare NZ to Russia:

I believe that democracy is a lot more than voting once every 3 years. In fact, I think in some ways that is the least part of it. It is all the institutions and culture that sits around it. I want to use my remarks to voice my concern about the state of democracy in New Zealand. Democracy is not a black and white thing. There are gradations of democracy. Putin has elections once every several years, or whatever, but that does not make Russia a democracy.

He also effectively compared NZ to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen Queensland Government.

I also think we have developed a bad culture around dissent. Look at what happened to Eleanor Catton

She criticised some people, and got criticised back in turn. The left thing criticising someone is an act of suppression. They seem to think if you are on their side, then you are beyond criticism.

look at what happened to Nicky Hager, and what he is currently going through, after the police raided his house because he dared to criticise and get involved in the Cameron Slater issue

He got raided because he worked with a criminal hacker, and used information from the criminal.

It needs to be said that there are too many cows.

People don’t believe me when I say it is official Green Party policy to shoot (or kill in some way) one in five cows.  Russel has confirmed this clearly.

I would just like to say that my view is that humanity faces some really big challenges in the decades ahead, particularly around sustainability and climate change, and around inequality and poverty, but also around democracy.

All too often Green MPs seem to have a view that humanity makes awful choices and everything is going backwards. In fact the world is a far far better place than it has ever been.

But we also have huge opportunities. The world is finite—that is true—but human creativity is infinite. Human generosity is infinite. Human courage is infinite. So we have access to some fantastic resources. As well as facing these big challenges and problems we have inherited from the past, we have also inherited lots of great things from the past, and we have the opportunity to really create a world of abundance for everyone and for all of us living within the finite limits of the natural world. I think that it is an opportunity that we really should grasp with both our hands, because our children deserve nothing less.

Finally a small amount of optimism.

Norman leaves Parliament for Greenpeace

September 11th, 2015 at 1:20 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman will resign as an MP and from the Green Party to head Greenpeace New Zealand.

Dr Norman, who stepped down from the co-leader position in May and was replaced by James Shaw, will leave Parliament next month.

In November he will become Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director, taking over from Bunny McDiarmid, who has been in the role for 10 years.

It is no surprise Dr Norman is leaving Parliament, following on his resignation as co-leader.

The Greenpeace jobs looks ideal for him. The hours will be more family friendly than Parliament, but will allow him to continue his advocacy in an area he feels strongly on. I wish him well.

Dr Norman said he would also resign from the Green Party.

“Greenpeace’s staunch position on political independence is one I have always had huge respect for and it is for this reason that I will [resign].

I think that is being silly. Just because he resigns as a member doesn’t mean people won’t see him as the former co-leader. What will count for Greenpeace’s reputation is their actions. Have they ever disagreed with the Green Party on an issue for example? As a contrast I’m on the board of the Taxpayers Union that has criticised the National Government on scores and scores of issues. Independence is about substance, not just form.

Dr Norman’s resignation will see Marama Davidson become the party’s 14th MP.

Ms Davidson, from Manurewa, Auckland, is a political commentator who has worked at the Human Rights Commission for ten years.

Marama is a very popular candidate within the Greens, and from what I have seen she should be an effective MP.


Russel Norman resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News has just tweeted that the 11 am press conference of the Greens is the resignation of Russel Norman.

UPDATE: Andrea Vance has said he is leaving in May. Staying on as an MP for now, but resigning as co-leader.

He has been male co-leader for eight years and apart from any personal reasons, I guess he realises that his chances of ever becoming a Minister are dim. Even if the left wins in 2017, Winston is likely to block them from becoming Ministers.

Kevin Hague is the obvious choice to replace him as male co-leader. Well respected by MPs in all parties. If the resignation was in 2016 or later, then James Shaw would be a good contender, but might be too early for him as a new MP. Having said that, Norman become male co-leader before he was an MP.

Norman cites wanting to spend more time with his family as a factor. being a (co) leader is very time consuming and hard on family life.  He’s had eight years in the (co) top job, so the decision is quite understandable. By coincidence just last week I was talking to someone about whether Norman and Turei would contest the next election as co-leaders, and who might be their successors.

Greens predicted petrol would be $10 a litre by 2018

January 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader reminded me of this release by Russel Norman in 2008:

Predictions from prestigious Australian research institute CSIRO that petrol could cost up to AUS$8 – about NZ$10 – per litre within a decade means we need to rapidly change course to avoid serious economic disarray, Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

“Petrol at that price would make the Government’s entire motorway building project a white elephant – modern day Easter Island statues. Our new motorways would be monuments to short sightedness and profligate waste of resources.

“Governments even contemplating building motorways like the billion dollar-plus Transmission Gully project in Wellington or the $2 billion Waterview tunnel project in Auckland are seriously out of touch with reality,” Dr Norman says.

The economic disarray would have come if we had followed Dr Norman’s advice and did our transport planning on an assumption of $10/litre petrol.

If the Greens had intellectual consistency, they would now come out and say that Waterview was justified, as the cost of petrol is now under $2/litre and likely to stay there for years.

“We have no choice but to move to a far less oil-dependent economy, because rising prices will give us no choice.

The Green movement have a history of predicting massive shortages and associated price rises of natural resources, and being basically wrong every time.

Caption Contest

December 23rd, 2014 at 4:53 pm by David Farrar


Stuff has a gallery of some of the great photos their photographers have taken this year. Go check them out, but also I couldn’t resist borrowing this one (by David White) for a caption contest. As always go for funny, not nasty.

Norman attacking the media

December 5th, 2014 at 6:49 am by David Farrar

I don’t think Russel Norman did himself any favours yesterday for his shrill attacks on the Dominion Post and Trans-Tasman. I’ll cover what happened in detail, but let me start by saying that of course the Trans-Tasman MP ratings are subjective. They are the opinions of the three authors. A list from another three people would have different rankings. However Trans-Tasman are the only organisation that actually does a numerical rating for each MP, and has been doing so for over a decade. Hence it is news-worthy, and it is no surprise that media cover their publication.

So we have a party leader publicly berating a journalist because the journalist wrote a story on the ratings. Really? Isn’t this what a certain other party leader used to do in the 1970s? As for the smearing of Trans-Tasman as “far right” (a term used in Europe to describe neo-nazis), that’s idiotic. Certainly it is a business publication and like the NBR has an editorial tone that is pro-business. But it is no more “far right” than Radio NZ is “far left”. It is not a bad thing to have a diversity of views in the media – except for Russel who wants to silence those he disagrees with. I’ve been covering the Trans-Tasman ratings for almost a decade, and in my experience they tend to score Ministers higher than other MPs – regardless of who is in Government. Maybe that is because they see the job as harder. Helen Clark was the top rated MP when she was PM. In 2012 Russel Norman himself was rated the second top MP. Now I actually agree with Russel that some (not all) of his MPs got too low a rating this year. Catherine Delahunty deserved more than 2/10 and Julie-Anne Genter more than 4.5/10. There are lots of ratings different people will have different views on. You would expect a party leader to say he disagrees with the ratings for his MPs. But to smear the newsletter as “far right” and berate a Fairfax journalist for daring to do a story on it is a form of bullying. But he carried on:

Now he is hysterically claiming the newsletter “hates” his MP” because she is so effective, and is instructing the jouranlist to print his words. Rutherford notes:

To moan on social media about how we should print what a co-leader thinks about one of his lower ranked MPs. Nice try.

But it doesn’t end there. Norman retweets someone saying how much they “despise” Trans-Tasman and then calls Trans-Tasman sexist:

It is a panel of three. As for being biased against women, Helen Clark often topped their ratings. Annette King was the highest ranked Labour MP this year. It is true that male MPs get a higher average rating, but the senior ranks of both major parties tend to have more men there than women, so it may just reflect that.

Yes some female Green MPs have got rankings which I think are unfairly low. But every year there are ratings where I disagree with Trans-Tasman. For several years Coromandel MP Scott Simpson got a 2/10 which was bizarrely low. I note this year they have doubled that. One year a (female) Minister got a rating which was probably around double what most people would have given her. Just because you disagree with their ratings doesn’t mean they are biased.

But this isn’t so much about the rankings, but Norman’s behaviour. In the last two weeks we’ve had:

  • Norman lambasting a journalist for writing a story he didn’t like and demanding he print his views on his own MPs
  • Norman smearing a media newsletter as “far right”
  • Norman barging past the PM doing a media stand up and shrieking “Resign” at him
  • Norman using the 2014 post election review conference to effectively blame the SIS for the left losing the 2011 election

I should’t give free advice, but I think such behaviour is a big turn off. It’s an ugly look. He could have made a case for the Trans-Tasman ratings being too harsh on some of his MPs, without doing it as an attack on the media.

Green foreign leader against other foreign leaders!

November 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

It’s time that we grew up as a nation when it comes to diplomatic courtesy. It’s time the Greens revoked their “unofficial ban” on visiting political leaders addressing the New Zealand Parliament.

Some of the world’s most powerful leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping are headed our way later this month after they’ve been to the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

Having political leaders of such calibre addressing our Parliament while it is sitting is not going to subvert our democracy. But the Greens’ overblown and juvenile stance that only New Zealand politicians should be allowed to address a sitting session makes us look absurdly pretentious in comparison to our transtasman neighbour.

Indeed it does.

In a few weeks, three of the world’s most powerful people will be the latest foreign leaders to address the Australian Parliament in what will be memorable occasions for that country’s politicians.

At least one of those leaders — Chinese President Xi — will come to New Zealand for a similar State visit. But those long-standing objections by the Greens have (so far) robbed New Zealand of the opportunity to honour visiting leaders in a way that (at least in Australia) has seen them rise to the occasion with excellent speeches that canvas the importance of the bilateral relationship and strengthen mutual bonds.

Prime Minister John Key has wanted to invoke that tradition here.

But the only occasion (to date) in which a foreign leader — Australia’s former PM Julia Gillard — has addressed our Parliament it had to be outside formal sitting hours.

This was because Greens co-leader Russel Norman — an Australian himself — reckoned having a foreign leader in the House could undermine the democratic sovereignty of Parliament.

Did having Winston Churchill address the US Congress undermine US sovereignty? It’s a very silly justification by the Greens.

UPDATE: The article (and my comments) overlook the changes made to Standing Orders just before the election, which now provide a mechanism for foreign leaders to address the House. The Greens would have had to agree to the change in standing orders, which suggests they no longer have blanker opposition. However the Business Committee has to agree on the details, which means they can veto individual foreign leaders. My thanks to the Clerk’s Office for pointing out the change in standing orders to me.

Wellington voters be warned

August 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The new blockbuster

June 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

dr no


Given to me by a former Maori Party staffer. Not bad.

Jones lashes Norman

March 13th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The bad blood between Shane Jones and the Greens continues. 3 News reports:

Labour’s attempt to muzzle its outspoken MP, Shane Jones, has lasted less than a day.

Mr Jones was told off by his leader for comparing Green MP Gareth Hughes to a screeching bird.

Today he took a shot at Green co-leader Russel Norman, saying he will not be lectured on the environment by an Australian.

Seemingly to prove he cannot be silenced, he let rip at Dr Norman, extending the anti-Australian attack he has used against Countdown to the Australian-born MP.

“I’m not going to have an Australian running the New Zealand Green Party, lecturing me about environment and economics in the north,” says Mr Jones.

And Norman hits back:

Dr Norman launched a counter-attack, accusing Mr Jones of copying Prime Minster John Key.

“The Prime Minister does it quite a lot; he’s also very critical of migrants,” says Dr Norman. “It turns out a part of the Labour Party doesn’t like migrants either. Every time Mr Jones opens his mouth the Green Party vote goes up, so I encourage Mr Jones to speak out.”

I’m not sure comparing Shane Jones to John Key is a great way to attack him. Incidentally never known the PM to be critical of migrants. I think Russel is projecting that the PM enjoys being told he must protect New Zealanders from Australian foreign investment, by someone with a thick Australian accent.

Mr Jones tried to be a team player, telling 3 News he had “to go and deal with the boredom of tax legislation”, but could not resist driving another wedge between Labour and the Greens.

“I like what David Cunliffe said on our behalf yesterday – Winston first.”

Long may the growing war between Labour and Green MPs continue.

Craig proceeds with defamation suit against Norman

March 4th, 2014 at 10:39 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Conservatives’ leader Colin Craig hopes to fast-track a defamation claim against Greens co-leader Russel Norman so a court hearing can be held before this year’s election.

Mr Craig had given Dr Norman a deadline to apologise over comments he made in a speech at the Big Gay Out, but Dr Norman refused to do so.

The Conservatives’ leader today said his defamation claim against Dr Norman would be split into two stages in the hope of fast-tracking a court hearing.

“After extensive discussion and advice from my legal team, I’ve decided to proceed immediately against [Dr] Norman regarding his claims about the place of women.”

I think this is unwise. In defamation cases both sides tend to lose out. Craig looks thin-skinned by resorting to defamation. Norman i associated with personal attacks that go against the Green principles. It’s a lose lose.

Conservatives’ leader Colin Craig hopes to fast-track a defamation claim against Greens co-leader Russel Norman so a court hearing can be held before this year’s election.

Mr Craig had given Dr Norman a deadline to apologise over comments he made in a speech at the Big Gay Out, but Dr Norman refused to do so.

The Conservatives’ leader today said his defamation claim against Dr Norman would be split into two stages in the hope of fast-tracking a court hearing.

“After extensive discussion and advice from my legal team, I’ve decided to proceed immediately against [Dr] Norman regarding his claims about the place of women.”

By narrowing the claim, the job is harder for Norman. He has to defend it on the basis that Craig has expressed views along the lines of women should be in the kitchen.

As I understand it, Craig is not suing for damages, just a declaration that Norman defamed him (and costs). If Craig wins he will have seriously damaged Norman and the Greens (how do you have a co-leader who has been found to be a liar by a court) but he will also have damaged himself by looking litigious. If he loses, then it is all bad for him.

Mind you Winston has sued several people for defamation, and he still makes 5%!

Craig v Norman

February 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has refused to retract his characterisation of Colin Craig’s views on women and homosexuals despite the threat of legal action against him.

Craig, Conservative Party of New Zealand leader, has taken the first steps in defamation action after Norman claimed at Auckland’s Big Gay Out that Craig thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen and a gay man’s was in the closet.

Norman made an almost identical comment in Parliament during his opening speech for the year, but attributed it to the “conservative Right”, rather than Craig.

Craig has instructed his lawyers to take legal action and told Fairfax Media that the Green MP should apologise and retract his comments as “these are not things I think”.

“It is a defamatory thing and I would consider that somebody who thinks those sorts of things would have a lower standing in the eyes of the public … he’s crossed the line,” Craig said.

Norman’s characterisation of his views were offensive and “just wrong”.

“We … see them as defamatory, sexist, derogatory and offensive, so that pretty much sums up my view of them.” 

Norman today refused to resile from his comments, however, saying he found Craig’s comments “offensive”.

This doesn’t reflect well on either man. Russel Norman is the co-leader of the Green Party that claims a core value is “Engage respectfully, without personal attacks“. Norman tramples over that Green value all the time.

However Craig looks thin skinned for again threatening defamation. It may appeal to his support base which don’t like the Greens, but will make the media more hostile towards him as they don’t like politicians who threaten defamation. Also the comments Norman made, while false (as far as I know), are not worse than a lot of political rhetoric.

However there is one aspect to this, which the media have not picked up on. If you look at the letter Craig sent Norman, he is not threatening to sue Norman for damages. He refers to getting a declaration that what Norman said was false and defamatory.  That means it is not about trying to financially penalise your opponent – just having a court say that your opponent lied. It would be interesting to see how a court would rule, if it does proceed. Could Norman remain Green Party co-leader if the court ruled he had defamed Craig?

John Armstrong writes that Craig needs to “harden up and quickly”. It is good advice, but he also overlooks that Craig is apparently not seeking damages, just a declaration that the statements were defamatory.

Norman met Dotcom twice

January 24th, 2014 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

The Diary reports:

Russel Norman visited Dotcom’s mansion twice late last year to talk him out of entering politics, the Green Party co-leader told The Diary. And he left a rather large carbon footprint flying to Auckland Airport and hailing a Green cab for the 44km journey to Coatesville for the meetings.

“I met with him twice, about policy issues and his proposed party. I’ve got a lot of time for Kim, but I don’t support the Internet Party.”

Norman says although he backs some of Dotcom’s views on the GCSB and the internet, he feels he’d be competing for votes. “I tried to talk him out of setting up his party.”

Maybe Russell should have just offered him a spot on the Green Party list instead? Oh wait, he can’t stand for Parliament. But how interesting that the Greens are so worried by Dotcom’s party, that they flew Norman twice (paid for by taxpayers) to Auckland to meet with him and try and talk him out of it.

Greens go Haywire

November 27th, 2013 at 5:16 pm by Jadis

Talking to various Greens sources it has become abundantly clear that David Hay is an ‘interesting’ character.  All sources including the current male co-Leader Russel Norman’s media comments are polite enough publicly but behind closed doors there must be some serious wonder going on.

So let us look at the possible motivations behind Hay’s challenge to Norman. First, there’s the obvious one.  He’s a man who has very little profile (except may be in his own mind) and desperately wants to be higher up the list.  If he was a smart man he’d use the challenge mechanism to rally support behind him to elevate him up the list. He’d be using lots of talk abut how the growing grassroots membership needs more voice, he’d have a very clear plan of what he would say to media and he would also have a few MPs or high profile Greens pre-organised to say more positive things about him – including behind closed doors to media and bloggers alike.  None of that has happened.  Indeed the opposite is true.  So I think we can mostly strike that motivation out.

In the last hour Hay has been interviewed by Duncan Garner on Radio Live.  A pretty soft interview but to be honest give this man a forum and he is going to say some pretty batty stuff.  First there was the fighting talking from Hay of how Russel has been a great leader.  Oops. Then he admitted that Russel would inevitably remain Leader. Oops again.  Hay’s one concern that he managed to express at all was that the Greens need to reposition themselves to takeover Labour’s position and stop being the ‘handbag’.

It is possible that the Greens are so cunning that they are using a moron to shoot across the bow of Labour but I think the obvious is clear.  Hay is acting mostly alone – albeit after a bit of enthusiastic excitement from a few Greens close to him worried about the lack of presence in Auckland. Hay named them clearly in the Garner interview as the likes of Denise Roche and others.

So this leads me to think that something is wrong with the Greens that happens to all parties as they grow.  They have lost connection with their grassroots.  You see, if they had real connection they would have known Hay was going to do this and would have managed the situation – even in a democratic way.  Instead, Hay surprised the parliamentary wing of the Party with his shock announcement.

So, what other motivations could Hay have?  Well, the cynic in me suggests that the Greens could also be copying the Labour model.  Labour’s membership increased by 75% through the leadership contest.  More members means more potential helpers on the ground.  Is it possible that Hay is actually a very loyal, albeit media inept, hack who is doing the Party a service by driving membership and showing how ‘good’ co-Leader Russel really is?  More than a little possible.  Indeed if I were the Greens I might spin it that way to look mildly united and politically savvy.

So, there’s a few possibilities that motivate Hay – is it personal gain to get up the List, is it greater good for the Greens, is it to drive up membership, or is to put a spanner in the works of what has been a pretty well run Greens machine of late?  Whatever it is he is a useless front man.

*And before someone freaks in the comments that this doesn’t seem like a DPF post.  It isn’t. It is Jadis and I am a tad more blunt that friend to all Dpf.

Norman challenged for Greens co-leadership

November 27th, 2013 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Green Party member David Hay is intending to challenge Dr Russel Norman for the party’s co-leadership.

Mr Hay, who was the Green Party’s candidate for Epsom at the last election and is currently ranked number 16 on the party’s list, claims the party needs to be ‘putting its A team forward’.

“Russel has been doing a great job for the Green Party, but he has been co-leader for six years now,” he says.

“While the party has grown in stature and credibility during Russel’s tenure, we have new people in caucus, and there’s fresh new talent among the party membership.”

Mr Hay says he is putting himself forward with a plan to build the party’s base in Auckland, focus on environmental and economic sustainability and lift the party’s performance.

The statement from David Hay is here. He says:

“I think one of the Party co-leaders should be based in Auckland, be well-informed on Auckland issues, and take a hands-on role in building the party’s Auckland base.” 

“The Green Party has under-performed at winning votes in Auckland, and we need to turn that around. Only three members of the Green Party’s 14 MPs are based in Auckland. We currently lack sufficient presence here, in New Zealand’s largest city, where a third of the population live.”

The election will be at the Greens conference in June 2014.

This is the first time an incumbent co-leader has been challenged, and that is significant. There is obvious some discontent, but what is not known is how extensive it is. Is it an Auckland vs the rest issue?

What will be interesting to observe is where the MPs stand. Will they all back Norman or will they consult with their electorates and vote in accordance with their wishes?

Using a tragedy for political point scoring

November 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

When a natural disaster strikes another country, the House normally grants leave for (mainly) party leaders to express condolences to the country concerned. Yesterday John Key asked for leave in relation to the typhoon in the Philippines. It was granted and both Key and Cunliffe gave excellent short speeches expressing condolences and solidarity.

Then Russel Norman got up and decided that he knew what had caused the typhoon – greenhouse gas emissions, and subjected to the House to a lengthy diatribe about climate change. He spoke for probably twice as long as the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition combined, and just used a tragedy for political point scoring. MPs got very very grumpy about this, and the Speaker had to intervene to calm things down.

There is a time and a place to debate climate change. It is not during the condolences to a country struck by a typhoon. Norman showed appalling judgement in politicizing what is by convention a non-political series of speeches. Have a look at the Hansard at the link provided. Key, Cunliffe, Martin and Horan all made short non-political contributions. Then read the lengthy diatribe by Norman.

It takes only one MP in the House to deny leave. If Dr Norman continues to use such occasions to grand-stand on climate change, then there is a significant risk than the next the Prime Minister asks the House for leave to express condolences on a tragedy, an MP will say no.

As for Dr Norman claiming the typhoon was caused by climate change. I quote Brendan O’Neill at the Telegraph:

There are two striking things about this nauseously speedy rush to blame every natural disaster on man’s thoughtlessness or wickedness. The first is how unscientific it is. As some scientists have pointed out, there is no “absolute certainty” that climate change causes things like Haiyan. Indeed, the latest IPCC report says: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” The ugly urge to say “that storm was caused by climate change”, even before serious studies have been carried out, even before the bodies have been counted, is fuelled by the weirdly self-flagellating moralism of the Green movement, by Greens’ never-flailing instinct to “prove” that modern life kills, rather than by any cool-headed assessment of the facts.

Very true.

A key point the Greens gloss over

October 11th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Russel Norman has blogged at Frog Blog:

The Treasury released papers last week recommending that the Reserve Bank move towards a committee structure for making future decisions on the Official Cash Rate (OCR). New Zealand is now alone in relying on a single person – the Reserve Bank Governor – to set the OCR. No other country in the developed world leaves such an important decision to one person.

Treasury gave the following reasons for why it supports the move to a board/committee governance structure:

Note the use of the term board/committee. The difference may seem unimportant, but it is not.

There are two seperate but related issues.

  1. Should the RB Governor solely determine the OCR
  2. If a group should determine it, is the group appointed by the Reserve Bank or appointed by Ministers of the Crown?

There are pros and cons for the 1st issue. You may lose the ability to hold the Governor accountable if he (or she) is not the decision maker, but as Treasury has pointed out there is greater security in shared decision making.

But even if you accept (1), the details of (2) are vital.

To re-ignite this important debate publicly, I’ve drafted new law in the form of a member’s bill to make this simple, uncontroversial change to the Reserve Bank’s governance structure along with the timely publishing of board minutes – another standard practice elsewhere in the OECD that improves the transparency of the Reserve Bank’s decisions.

Dr Norman’s bill would see the Reserve Bank Board set the OCR. The Board are appointed by Cabinet, and his proposal would allow Ministers to appoint people to the Board with a view to lower the OCR, even if it is inflationary, to help the Government out with a short-term growth issue. It would weaken the independence that we currently have.

The Reserve Bank itself noted in a review that in most countries with decisions by committee, the members are mainly internal. Dr Norman’s bill would see the decision made by external people only.

Treasury in their advice say:

There are several ways to construct a Committee; we are focussing on just using senior RBNZ staff to form the Committee to deal with concerns about conflicts of interest and difficulties in finding many experts to serve on the Committee.

An internal bank committee is a very different beast to the RBNZ Board which is appointed by Ministers. The Greens have tried to gloss over this key difference and make it look like Treasury are in support of their bill – which isn’t quite the case.

Having said that if Dr Norman’s bill is drawn, I would support it going to select committee. The issues are worth a parliamentary debate. I can be persuaded in favour of change – but not if the committee responsible for the decisions is the RBNZ Board, as that would be inappropriate and reduce the independence of the Reserve Bank.


Russel Norman thinks tax is not a burden!

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

This is incredible and should ring warning bells about the attitude of a Government with the Greens in it to taxation.


Its horrific that Dr Norman thinks tax is not a burden, and even worse calling it so is right wing.

When the state takes a large proportion of your income, of course it is a fucking burden.  If they didn’t do it, you’d have less more money.

If tax wasn’t a burden, then hundreds of thousands of people would pay extra tax voluntarily. Does Dr Norman wake up every morning and send a donation in to the IRD?

Plus the stupidity of Norman’s comments are highlighted by the fact that he got owned on Twitter by Gareth Richards who pointed out that Dr Norman himself had in the past used the term himself. So in fact Dr Norman was just attacking poor civil servants for using the same term as he had used. He should apologise to the Treasury officials he maligned.

Norman tried to defend his new found view that tax is not a burden on the basis the Government spends tax revenues on some good things. Eric Crampton points out:

Taxes are a bad, public services are a good. Saying the first doesn’t mean denying the second.

Again I’m horrified that we may have a senior economic minister in a future government who does not think taxation is a burden on hard working New Zealanders who fund the tax system. It reflects a neo-marxist view I guess that all income is really the property of the state’s, and we should be grateful they allow us to keep some of it.

Also Eric schools Dr Norman on some basic economics:

More importantly, economists use the word ‘burden’ in a particular way. A few useful notes about Principles-level (maybe intermediate) economics for someone who thinks himself qualified to be finance minister:

‘Burden’ measures the total cost of a tax. The ‘excess burden’ is the amount by which the cost of a tax exceeds the amount collected. Treasury tends to reckon that excess burden is around 20%: it costs us about $1.20 to raise $1.00 in tax. The $1.00 raised is a transfer from the public to the government; the $0.20 is pure loss due to distortions in economic activity consequent to increases in our current mix of taxes.


Russel Norman suggests only “right wing” economists talk about tax burden. Here is a JSTOR search on “tax burden”. There are 61 pages of search results with 100 results per page. Item number 177 on a date-sorted list is famous Right Wing Economist John Maynard Keynes discussing the Colwyn Report on Natinoal Debt and Taxation. Item 398 is rabid right-winger Nicholas Kaldor’s call for wage subsidies to reduce unemployment (1936).

Burden is just the term used by economists to describe the cost of the tax and to help sort out the difference between statutory and economic incidence. Like “While X writes the cheque to IRD, the burden of the tax falls on Y and Z.” That’s it. It’s the standard term used in the main texts to describe this thing. Richard Musgrave (centre, maybe centre-left) uses it. James Buchanan (right) uses it. Pick a random public finance text, you’ll find “tax burden” or “excess burden” somewhere in it.

Then on Twitter Dr Norman goes further rejecting both the labels burden and distortionary for taxes!

My challenge to all those who agree with Dr Norman that tax is not a burden, to write out larges voluntary cheques today to the IRD. That means it is no extra burden on you, and reduces the burden on the rest of us.

UPDATE: Russel has actually referred to the tax burden in Parliament, as has Metiria Turei. This reinforces that Dr Norman should apologise to the Treasury officials for his attack on them for using the exact same language both Green co-leaders have used in the past.

Vance on Norman

July 29th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes:

Recently, the Business and Parliament Trust hosted a bit of a do for politicians and big hitters. The charity is aimed at helping MPs and the business world understand each other better. The seminar was held under Chatham House rules but some tantalising observations leaked out from participants.

Prime Minister John Key spoke, and was well received, followed by Labour leader David Shearer.  Norman, according to reports, was hostile and aggressive.

So much so, that some in the audience were reluctant to ask questions, for fear of being attacked. 

Ironic that Norman compared John Key to Muldoon.

Judging from chatter around Wellington, the antagonism was not an isolated episode.

A representative from an oil company tells the story of how Norman turned on his heel and walked off without a word, after they attempted to introduce themselves.

He has recently been making attempts to get around businesses, but to mixed reaction.

Within the agricultural community, there is genuine apprehension the Greens will be part of any future coalition. Industry players say that outside of environmental concerns, there has been little attempt by  the party to understand its issues.

There is frustration that the Greens overlook, or are unaware, about the sector’s innovative strides. Ideological stubbornness is standing in the way of any constructive relationship with those that earn the country a living, they say.

The Greens are entirely ideological – it is their strength and their weakness. It helps them as a political party, as they are very consistent with what they say. However Government by its nature is about flexibility, and a degree of pragmatism, and the Greens in Government could well prove incendiary, and fall apart as the Alliance did.

But the view that Norman and his party are hostile to business, is a shaping up to be a bit of a conundrum for Labour. Should they be in a position to form a government next year, they must find a role to satisfy both his acumen and ambition. That he would become finance minister is quixotic, and there would be noses out of joint (including Jones’) if he was handed the economic development portfolio. Giving him energy would be an interesting move – but would likely end in a ugly clash with oil and gas companies.

Won’t Deputy PM be enough?

Russel calls for a leak inquiry and then denounces it for being effective

July 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

When the Kitteridge report was first leaked, Green co-leader Russel Norman was outraged by the leak. He suspected it was a deliberate leak by the PMs Office or similar, and demanded the Govt take action.

On 9 April he said:

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? 

So he is calling it a serious offence, if the full report was 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? 

And he calls for serious consequences.

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?

Which was a stupid allegation to make, as the leaking of it undermined the PM’s trip to China.

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?

So he explicitly called for a leak inquiry. He said the leak may be a serious offence, and called for serious consequences.

But now today, he has changed tune and decided that the leak inquiry was draconian, and went too far.

The Prime Minister’s inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report appears to have acted beyond the law by accessing Peter Dunne’s email account log without his permission, and the Green Party has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsmen on this issue, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

Norman seems to be arguing that the Henry inquiry should have merely asked every Minister if they leaked the report, and when they said “no, it wasn’t me”, should have left it there.

If the Henry inquiry had done that, Norman would no doubt have been calling it a cover up.




Trotter on Greens

June 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

“Why has Russel Norman abandoned the Greens attempt to legitimate QE as a sensible means of stimulating the New Zealand economy?”  

With this thoroughly retrograde decision, Russel has brought to a needless and sudden halt his near faultless eighteen month performance as the Opposition’s most astute economic critic of the National Government.  

By abandoning QE, Russel has also deprived himself, the Greens, and any sort of useful ‘Centre-Left’ coalition government, of one of the very few means of mobilising the indigenous capital resources necessary to fund the job-rich, socially-just and “green” economic development New Zealand needs.  

Both the Greens’ and Labour’s promises: to put New Zealanders back to work; on a living wage; in clean, green and innovative export industries; while guaranteeing them and their families an affordable home; effective health services; and a progressive, child-centred education system; can only be achieved at the cost of billions of NZ dollars-worth of new state spending.  

What Chris Trotter is saying is that the policies of Labour and Greens are unaffordable, unless you printed more money to pay for them.

Russel’s QE proposal: Requiring the Reserve Bank to purchase government issued Earthquake Recovery Bonds to a sum equivalent to 1 percent of GDP (approximately $NZ2 billion) to both assist the Canterbury rebuild and bring down the value of the punishingly over-valued NZ Dollar; was one of the very few practical and non-inflationary funding options available to an incoming progressive government. By taking it off the table, what Russel is really telling us is that the Greens’ and Labour’s promises can no longer be paid for.   –

Trotter is right that their promises can no longer be paid for. What he is absolutely wrong on is saying QE is non-inflationary.

The Greens have always made it a point of political honour to be absolutely straight with the New Zealand electorate. If they intend to keep faith with that tradition, then their co-leader and chief economic policy spokesperson needs to step forward now and admit that, with QE off the agenda, the Greens’ promise to give New Zealand a clean, green and innovative economy can no longer by paid for and, therefore, will no longer be included in the Greens’ 2014 Manifesto. And, while he’s at it, Russel should also foreswear any ambition to be Minister of Finance in a Labour-Green government.  

I doubt they will do either. They’ll just hope the public don’t care of promises are affordable or not.


Hosking vs Norman Round 2

June 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking responds to Russel Norman’s claims his figures were accurate:

Well, it seems we have an explanation for where Green Party co-leader got his “40,000 jobs lost in manufacturing” claim.

It is not a good explanation, but at least it is one.

The claim, made in a press release after the release of the latest manufacturing data on Monday, caused no little head scratching.

It came in a press released headed “Manufacturing languishes for four years under National” and went on to claim, “there’s no signs of clawing back any of the 40,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2008”.

It did not seem an unreasonable inference that Dr Norman was talking of 40,000 jobs lost since the change of government. Indeed, that was clearly the inference he wanted people to draw.

The trouble is, none of the three measures of employment back this up, and NBR ONLINE took the time to explain why.

The NBR ONLINE story  prompted something of an online debate, especially on Twitter, where Dr Norman demanded an apology and then conceded he was taking his figures from March-June 2008.

As his earlier statement had carefully avoided saying this, NBR ONLINE does not really feel any apology is owed.

It’s pretty easy. Since 2008 doesn’t include half of 2008. Dr Norman could have said since June 2008 but chose not to. The reason is he wanted to deceive people that the 40,000 jobs lost had happened under National, rather than it being 20,000.

99 people out of 100 would take “Since 2008” to be since December 2008, not since June 2008.

Hosking also makes another useful point:

In principle, politicians really should stop talking New Zealand down. It is shallow, cheap and easy, and it is immensely destructive.

This also applies to politicians’ staff, and to economic and political commentators. New Zealand public discourse was dominated for much of the 1970s to 1990s by an all-encompassing and corrosively negative commentary about this country’s economic prospects.

It did a huge amount of damage to the nation’s morale and skills base. At least it was, at the time, based on a real economic crisis.

When such corrosive negativity is based, as this is, on claims of a bogus “crisis” it is particularly despicable.

It is one thing to point out that the manufacturing industry has had job losses. But for a couple of years now the opposition have been trying to literally manufacture a “crisis” in manufacturing.

As an aside, jobs have grown in manufacturing over the past six months by around 5000 – which means even Dr Norman’s claim of “no signs of any clawing back” of jobs lost is just not true. 

But the timing of that 2004 drop in employment is highly significant. It is also when New Zealand firms started picking up their capital investment, particularly in plant and machinery.

In short, a shift began towards more capital intensive and less labour intensive work.

Let’s burn all the machines, and we’ll have full employment!

Drury vs Greens

June 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has accused Prime Minister John Key of conspiring to establish a surveillance state in New Zealand by encouraging American data-mining company Palantir to set up shop here.

Well that is an 11 on a 0 to 10 hysteria scale.

The comments prompted a savage response from Rod Drury, a business associate of Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, with Mr Drury labelling the attack another example of economic vandalism.

The Greens – working to destroy jobs since 1999. Now actively campaigning against high tech companies being in New Zealand.

Dr Norman later tweeted: “When crony govt meets surveillance state – John Key appoints Peter Thiel’s Palantir to spy on NZers”.

That drew an angry response from Mr Drury who tweeted: “Don’t be w***ers”, and followed that up with “Hey Greens. Cheating NZ out of $200m on Mighty River Power now spinning this rubbish. Please put NZ ahead of yourselves.”

He said the Greens were “ruining relationships and/by insinuating cronyism is vandalism. Politics in NZ is getting nasty. Lift the game.”

Basically just another Muldoonist attack from Nasty Norman.

Suggesting Peter Thiel has ill-will against NZ, and is part of an operation to spy on us is churlish to say the least. He personally donated $1 million to the Christchurch earthquake appeal fund and has a long history of philanthropy – including the Committee to Protect Journalists which promotes the right of journalists to report news without fear of reprisal.

NBR calls Russel out on his porky

June 11th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Russel Norman proclaimed:

“There’s no signs of clawing back any of the 40,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2008.

Rob Hoksing at NBR fisks this claim:

Manufacturing has lost 40,000 jobs, Green co-leader Russel Norman proclaimed yesterday when the latest manufacturing data came out.

He might be right – if you go back to the late 1990s.

However, Dr Norman claimed the sector had lost 40,000 jobs since the current government took office at the end of 2008.

We’ll call that bogus and leave readers to use shorter or pithier epithets if they so wish.

So who is right? Russel Norman or Rob Hoksing?

The full-time equivalent employee numbers, which are included in Statistics New Zealand’s quarterly employment survey, show 18,000 fewer working in the industry over the past 17 quarters since National took office. 

The previous 17 quarters show a 16,700 drop. Remember this was also, mostly, prior to the global financial crisis, in a much more different – not to say optimistic – environment.

The filled job figures, also contained in the quarterly employment survey, show a 20,400 fall in jobs in the most recent 17 quarters, and 18,300 in the equivalent previous period.

So if you go by the QES, Norman is out by over 100%.

The official unemployment measure, the household labour force, shows a much larger difference.

 The number of people employed in manufacturing fell 9400 since the change of government. The previous 17 quarters shows a loss of more than double that number of jobs, by 19,900.

And from the HLFS stats, Norman is out by 300%.

All these figures paint the same picture with a slightly different emphasis: the sector has been employing fewer people for a long time. 

They also show Dr Norman is just making numbers up. 

Making a lot of things up lately to manufacture a crisis in manufacturing.

Norman on Dunne

June 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Russel Norman has facebooked:

1. The Kitteridge report was going to be released anyway, maybe a week after it was leaked. Whoever leaked it simply gave Vance an exclusive, they weren’t releasing any secret document.

2. We don’t know what Dunne may have leaked other than the K report, including from the Intelligence and Security Cttee (ISC) of the Appendix tot he K report – Henry Report says Dunne didn’t leak the classified Apprendix as he didnt have access to it. If there is a police investigation, and it seems that NZF have complained to the police, then that seems the relevant issue. I don’t think this is the central issue but clearly my comments on it have been a cause of some concern.

This looks like a hasty retreat from his position of a few days ago when Radio NZ reported:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the Prime Minister should ask police to determine who leaked the report, and says a police inquiry would have the power to force Mr Dunne to release his emails.

Glad to see the Greens are acting more sensibly on this now.

5. On Privileges Cttee, I’m pretty dubious about giving a bunch of MPs the right to force another MP to release their emails. If there is something criminal then it’s a matter for the police, but otherwise it is only the Kitterridge report and that isn’t sensitive. Of course if it goes to Privileges Cttee then we’ll do our duty to be fair minded about it.

It is a fair point about the undesirability of MPs voting on whether or not to force another MP to release their e-mail. That could set a nasty precedent.

6. On Dunne leaving parliament. Based on the publicly available evidence he hasnt done anything serious enough to call for him to leave parliament.

Glad to see Norman say this. This affair is a long way off the bar for an MP to resign his seat and force a by-election.