This will stop the traffic blockers

Stuff reports:

The British co-founder of Extinction Rebellion has been given a record five-year prison sentence in the UK after a judge said he had “crossed the line from concerned campaigner to fanatic”.

Roger Hallam was found guilty of conspiring to block traffic as part of a Just Stop Oil campaign on the M25 over four days of disruption in November 2022. …

Judge Christopher Hehir told the five eco-plotters: “I acknowledge that at least some of the concerns are shared by many, but the plain fact is that each of you has some time ago crossed the line from concerned campaigner to fanatic.

“You have appointed yourselves as sole arbiters of what should be done about climate change.” …

“People missed flights, people missed funerals, students were delayed for their mock exam,” said the judge. “A child with special needs on his way to school missed part of the school day and [missed] his medication which placed the taxi driver at risk as he can become volatile without his medication.

“An individual suffering from aggressive cancer missed an appointment as a cancer patient and had to wait another two months for another appointment.”

The right to protest is not the right to take the law into your own hands and stop people going about their lives. As the judge noted, their actions caused real harm to people.

Best Trump bandage meme

This is very very clever. For those who don’t know, Temu has incredibly cheap items (often 80% cheaper than NZ prices – I am a regular shopper) but often what you order turns out to be much smaller than what you assume.

A moral blight on NZ

The final report on the abuse and neglect of children, young people and adults in the care of the State and faith-based institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand between 1950 and 1999 is here.

I’ve not yet read the whole thing, but I will. The history they reveal is a blight on New Zealand. Just a few extracts:

  • 200,000 NZers in care were abused
  • Around 1 in 3 in care were abused
  • Some children were “trafficked” to members of the public for sex
  • Patients at Lake Alice were tortured
  • 14% of all diocesan clergy were accused of abuse
  • Patients at Lake Alice were given electric shocks without anaesthetic
  • Lake Alice patients were also given painful and immobilising paraldehyde injections as punishment and emotional control.
  • Staff at the facilities encouraged fighting and abuse between the children
  • Children at facilities faced severe corporal punishment, sometimes inflicted with weapons and to the genitals

This is not history from 100 years ago. This is the second half of the 20th century.

So many New Zealanders who suffered at the hands of the state and faith-based institutions. It must not happen again.

Heated tobacco products

Stuff reports:

Associate Health Minister Casey Costello has cut the excise tax on Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as she aims to make them more attractive as an alternative to smoking.

Costello, who is also Customs Minister, has cut the excise rate on HTPs by 50% effective from 1 July – a move silently dropped on the Customs website.

Costello refused to be interviewed by RNZ but a spokesman said she had made the move to reduce the cost of the products to encourage smokers to switch to safer alternatives.

But Janet Hoek, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, told RNZ that the move seemed weighted in favour of the tobacco industry.

This is just common sense – you tax less harmful products less than more harmful ones to encourage substitution. This is why vaping is not taxed at the rate of tobacco – because vaping has led to a huge decrease in the smoking rate.

You need to recall there are two type of public health activists – those who will follow the science to reduce harm (ASH) and those who judge policies purely on whether or not they are good or bad for the industry they despise.

The CDC states:

The emissions created from heated tobacco products generally contain lower levels of harmful ingredients than the smoke from regular cigarettes. However, that does not mean heated tobacco products are safe.

Also a good article at The Conservation.

So you should not take up heated tobacco products if you do not smoke or only vape. But if you smoke then heated tobacco seems less harmful than burnt tobacco. There is less evidence on their level of harm than vaping, but the harm hierarchy broadly appears to be:

Smoking > Heated tobacco > Vaping > No nicotine products at all

And so what the Government is doing with tax is:

$1773/kg > $887/kg > no tax = no tax

So they are not signalling HTPs are less harmful than vaping, just less harmful than smoking.

Watching an Olympic Opening with an Olympic Coach

In 2012 my great friend – and triathlon coach of my son at the time – Jack Ralston – and I sat on his bed and watched the opening of the London Olympics. It was the 28th of July in London and we marveled at the performances of Britain’s best musicians (and Rowan Atkinson) and the wonderful spectacle. Jack reminisced about his marvelous experiences coaching at Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and World Championships.

What was very poignant for me was that my good friend was terminally ill – he passed away on the 26th of August. His funeral included incredible tributes from Jack’s daughters, his brother Bill, Rod Dixon, Hamish Carter and Geoff Shaw as they told of what Jack meant to them and those near them. There were hundreds of Jack’s athletes present..

The Post Office, Nike International, NZRU, Gym Sports NZ, NZ Netball and many others benefitted from Jack’s business acumen and accumulated experience. On many occasions Jack would regale people with aspects of this business experience and stories of working with Phil Night, Bill Bowerman, Pete Sampras, Mary Pearce, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, the Brazilian football team, Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, Henry Rono, etc.

Coaching was one of Jack’s great loves and with over 200 national titles in athletics, triathlon and multi-sport to his athletes his abilities in this area are clear. The 200 titles is, in fact, a significant understatement – it was often the case that Jack’s athletes were in 2nd and 3rd places in those races too with many more spiked throughout it. Jack was steeped in the work ethic and methods of the great Arthur Lydiard. When interviewed in the late 1990s Lydiard was asked if the time of the European athlete had gone – replaced by the genetic ability of the Africans. Lydiard’s reply was terse – New Zealander’s (and others) had “gone soft” and he backed it up by stating that the NZ male 800m (1962), 1500m (since bettered), 1 mile (1982), 3000m (1982), 5000m (since bettered), 10,000m (1977) and marathon (1983) records had stood for so long.

If you were a Ralston athlete and followed his schedules you had very little chance to be soft. National and international champions such as Paul Amey, Terenzo Bozzone, Cameron Brown, Hamish Carter, Peter Clode, Andrew Curtanye, William Curtayne, Clark Ellice,  Jamie Hunt, Steve Lett, Liz May, Graham O’Grady, Michael Poole, Nathan Richmond, Jenny Rose, Geoff Shaw, Ben Visser, Rex Wilson, etc, etc, etc…will all testify to that and the value Jack was to them in their careers. Jack always played down his own athleticism but a 3000m PB of 8:17 is something many young athletes would envy today. Jack considered becoming good at running and/or triathlon was straight forward – train very hard and race harder.

I did meet for a day with the great Arthur Lydiard to document many of his views on how athletes can become successful. Arthur was adamant that on every street in our country there were HUGE abilities to be developed. Whenever I work with young people on academics, sports or the arts I always try and hold to that perspective. I avoid the word “talent” and strong prefer “developed ability”. Our running greats; Snell, Halberg, Magee, Dixon, Walker, Quax, Moller, Roe, Audain, Willis, etc, worked incredibly hard – as have current world indoor 1500m champ Geordie Beamish, James Preston (who recently broke the 62 year old 800m record of Sir Peter Snell), and 1500m runner Sam Tanner. Those three are well worth watching at the Paris Games and I give Beamish more than a bolters chance in the 3000m Steeplechase.

As I look forward to watching the Olympics I will remember Jack and his stories. I will also hope that many hard working kiwis do very well (many on a dime) and keep in mind that you are a champion to get there and that all winners have put many years and immeasurable effort into developing their abilities.

If anyone needs a reminder of just how incredible our greatest runner was – this is a superb reminder.

Why Councils should focus on climate change adaptation not mitigation

Eric Crampton writes:

Policy problems should be dealt with by the level and part of government best placed to deal with them.

Good public policy should recognise subsidiarity. Local problems should be dealt with locally. But not all problems are local. A council issuing its own currency to address perceived failures in national-level monetary policy would not be a great idea.

Council-level policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions are about as sensible as councils trying to take on monetary policy or building up their own armed forces. It isn’t that monetary policy and national defence aren’t critically important. It’s rather that those concerns are best handled by central government.

Yes importance doesn’t mean it is appropriate for local government.

Last week, Act Party MP Mark Cameron lodged a member’s bill prohibiting regional councils from considering greenhouse gas emissions from consented activities when deciding on resource consents.

Unfortunately, and hopefully unintentionally, Act’s press release claimed the Bill would “prohibit regional councils from considering climate change as a factor in their plans”.

Blocking councils from planning for increased flooding and for rising sea levels would be pretty stupid. That kind of land use planning is core council business.

Climate change adaptation is very much a role for local government.

Different parts of the country have very different opportunities for mitigating emissions and for sequestering carbon. When New Zealand reaches net zero, parts of the country will remain net emitters and other parts of the country will have net removals. It is impossible to tell, in 2024, which greenhouse gas emissions in 2060 will remain difficult to reduce. It is also impossible to tell which path technology may take for removing emissions from the atmosphere: trees may be surpassed by other options.

Hitting the net zero target at a national level will be hard enough to do cost-effectively. Trying to do it within each region misses out on opportunities where abatement is cheaper in some places than in others. The only sensible way of bridging those differences would be allowing emissions trading between regions – and that’s what the existing Emissions Trading Scheme already does.

Yep use the ETS to reduce emissions nationally.

Shane Jones compared Te Pati Maori to Harry Potter Death Eaters

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones is calling out Te Pāti Māori for its “racist” rhetoric and says their continual use of “racism”, “genocide” and “Pākehā supremacy” is driving a divide between New Zealanders.

Jones told Radio Waatea host Dale Husband that a new ideology emerged in Te Pāti Māori in the three years when New Zealand First was out of Parliament, and its relentless blood shaming of Māori or others who don’t believe in their philosophies was inciting racial disharmony.

Calling the Government genocidal is inherently a call to violence.

Jones said it is that type of inflammatory commentary from Te Pāti Māori that is driving a bigger wedge between Māori and non-Māori.

“It’s a type of blood shaming and that term mau mau to toto Māori, it means blood traitor and the fact that’s now part of the Māori political lexicon is a deep indictment on the Maori Party. It’s almost as if they’re trying to run some sort of blood classification scheme out of Harry Potter.

He is basically referring to the Death Eaters, who were supporters of Lord Voldemort! I guess he is fighting rhetoric with rhetoric – but at least his is fictional. Those who have been actual victims of genocide probably don;’t appreciate TPM using it to refer to mere policy disagreements over whether the Maori Health Authority should be a standalone agency or within another agency.

The dud deal that was never needed

The Post editorial:

In February this year, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau told her fellow councillors it would further “kill” Courtenay Place if they didn’t back a $32 million deal with a multinational company.

The deal was to buy the land under the Reading Cinemas complex so the international owners could use the money to finally fix the quake-prone building and get it back open.

It was an idea met with fierce opposition by some – councillor Iona Pannett called it corporate welfare and councillor Ray Chung said it was the worst commercial deal he had ever seen.

It was a transfer of wealth from ratepayers to a multinational company.

It was also shrouded in secrecy, only adding to councillors’ unease and angst. Councillor Ben McNulty took to social media to try to explain to ratepayers why he felt so conflicted, but ultimately voted for the deal, which he described as a “carrot”, given the council had no sticks to force Reading to fix the building.

“So on the choice of using a generous carrot with guaranteed outputs versus leaving the site to rot until 2035 (which Reading’s financial position means they will do), I’ve taken a massive punt on backing the former.”

Those who voted for it had all the justifications in the world, but they chose to overlook the obvious – that without the Council dangling corporate welfare to the owners, they would not just let an asset sit there. They notion it would rot until 2035 was fantasy.

Three months on and a possibility nobody seemed to consider during the past year of controversy has emerged – the derelict Reading Cinemas complex is for sale.

Entirely predictable and probably would have happened earlier if the Council didn’t keep trying to throw money at the owners.

It’s clear Reading has been unable to develop the site for years, and the fact it’s now selling it – within months of the council deal ending – confirms just how attractive and last-resort the deal was to the multinational.

Putting the site up for sale is the right thing to do, paving the way for development and revitalisation of a key part of Wellington’s city centre.

Funnily enough, it achieves exactly what Whanau was trying to do with her doomed deal, but without ratepayers having to pay a cent.

Rather than further killing Courtenay Place, the deal falling through appears to have delivered it a lifeline.

Absolutely, and those Councillors who voted for the deal should be ashamed they were so gullible with our money.

My submission on new three strikes bill

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR ON THE
SENTENCING (REINSTATING THREE STRIKES) AMENDMENT BILL TO THE JUSTICE SELECT COMMITTEE

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission. 

The overall Bill

  1. I submit that the bill should not proceed, unless significantly strengthened, as it has been so watered down to be ineffective, may actually lead to shorter sentences and will provide false reassurance to the public regarding serious violent and sexual offenders.

The former three strikes law

  1. I regarded the former three strikes law as generally being a good and effective law. Data released by the Ministry of Justice comparing the five years before and after the Three Strikes law showed that the number of second strike offences before the law was 103 and after the law was 68 – a 34% reduction
  2. I thought it was very unhelpful that the Ministry has refused to release data to do a more up to date comparison of 10 years before and 10 years after the three strikes law. I would recommend the bill be amended to require the Ministry to publish such comparative data at least annually.

Not carrying current strikes over

  1. I was stunned when I learnt that this bill would not carry over all the strikes from offenders under the previous three strikes law. The decision not to do so will greatly reduce any effectiveness as a deterrent, and make New Zealanders far less safe by effectively resetting all serious recividst offenders to zero strikes.
  2. The Government seems to have been captured by officials who seemingly labeled any continuation of the former strikes as retrospective legislation. This is a weak and incorrect assertion that is obvious to anyone who has read S12 of the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee guidelines.
  3. Legislation is retrospective if it applies to an event or action that has already taken place. Carrying the strikes over would have no impact on an individual for their past actions, unless they commit a crime in future. The punishment will apply to their decision to commit a crime, in the knowledge of what the law now provides.
  4. The guidelines state if a penalty is increased between commission and conviction, the lesser penalty should apply. Carrying the strikes over would be consistent with this, as they would only apply to crimes committed after this bill is passed into law.
  5. I would note that every person who has a first, second, third or fourth strike under the old law was told by the relevant judge that they had gained a strike, and what the consequences of further offending would be.
  6. The argument that differences between the old and the new law made it too difficult to carry over strikes is also fallacious. 

The new threshold for strike offences

  1. The former law meant that anyone who commits a crime designated as serious violent or sexual offending (generally crimes with a maximum sentence of seven years or more) would automatically get a strike. This new law proposes that only if a judge sentences the person to two years or more in prison, will a strike be obtained.
  2. This is a terrible idea. It removes the idea of certainty of consequence (a strike) and will reduce the number of serious violent and sexual offenders who get strikes by over a third. Considering the only impact of a first strike is a judicial warning about future offending, why would you want to massively reduce the number of serious offenders who get warnings? Many heinous crimes get a sentence of under two years, and the whole idea is to discourage further offending, and punish it if they continue.
  3. There is a case for a two-year threshold for third strikes, which I will deal with later. But having a threshold for first and second strikes weakens the law so much, it turns it into a Claytons law.
  4. As noted by Labour MP Dr Webb, this law could well lead to criminals getting shorter sentences for their first strikes. It is no secret that most judges don’t like a law that reduces their discretion, and hence will be incentivized to impose sentences of under two years to avoid triggering a regime they disapprove of. 

Judicial discretion

  1. The original law had a provision for some judicial discretion for second and third strikes if the outcome would be manifestly unjust. The use of this provision morphed from previously being extremely rare to so common that a majority of third strikers were exempted from the normal third strike consequence
  2. Even worse, the Supreme Court in an unprecedented decision effectively overrode the three strikes law and declared in the Fitzgerald case that a maximum sentence no longer need be given for a third strike (the parole provision is what was subject to manifestly unjust) if doing so would “shock the national conscience”
  3. I happily concede the Fitzgerald case was one with an unjust initial outcome as his offending was relatively minor. However that can be dealt with in other ways, as I will explain later.
  4. The problem this Supreme Court precedent set is that judges then lowered dramatically what they considered would shock the national conscience. In the case of Zacquirin Tikena-Stuchbery, the High Court ruled that a 14 year sentence for his prolonged violent and brutal beating of a woman (his third strike) would shock the national conscience and instead gave him a five year sentence with parole eligibility in 2.5 years.
  5. This decision so outraged me that I decide to test whether the sentence set in statute would really have shocked the national conscience. So in an omnibus poll I described the offending to respondents and asked to choose between three sentence options, being:
    a) 14 years with no parole (the full third strike)
    b) 14 years with parole eligibility in five years (a third strike reduced by being deemed manifestly unjust)
    c) 5 years with parole eligibility in 2,5 years (the sentence ignori9ng three strikes law)
  6. A plurality of 43% chose (a) and a further 38% chose (b) so 81% of NZers (including 76% of Labour voters, 81% of Green voters and 75% of TPM voters) were comfortable with a sentence that the Judge had deemed would shock the national conscience. This illustrated how totally out of touch with ordinary NZers many judges are. For those interested only 10% of respondents chose (c)
  7. I recommend that if this law is strengthened and proceeds, that language be inserted to make clear that use of manifestly unjust provisions should be exceptional and rare, and that no other Act invalidates the provisions of this Act.
  8. While outside the remit of this committee, I would also advocate that the Minister of Justice in his third reading speech (if it proceeds) explicitly state that any Judge who feels that imposing a sentence under this law would shock the national conscience, resign their warrant as the appropriate form of protest, rather than ignore the clear intent of Parliament.

A threshold for third strikes

  1. While I oppose having a sentence threshold for first and second strikes, I do believe that there is a principled case to have one for third strikes – the strike where you actually get a longer term of imprisonment.
  2. A two year threshold for third strikes (as in the Judge finds under norming sentencing guidelines the offence would not have resulted in a jail term of over two years) will prevent cases such as Fitzgerald.
  3. It would also eliminate the need for manifestly unjust provisions for the third strike.  

Other changes from the old law

  1. The change in the second strike penalty for murder from life without parole to life with a 15 year non-parole period seems sensible.
  2. A 20% reduction in third strike offences for guilty pleas also seems sensible to avoid needless trials
  3. A minimum 10 year term for third strike manslaughter and life with non-parole for 20 years for third strike murder also seem sensible and better than the old law.

Thank you for considering this submission. I would like to make an oral submission in support, and look forward to appearing.
David Farrar

Critical minerals

Newsroom reports:

In a Cabinet paper about the critical minerals list and broader strategy, publicly released last week, Jones said the development of a critical minerals list was an important part of work to “secure access to essential minerals needed for our economic functions”.

“The clean energy transition is driving a global demand for minerals production, and countries are developing their resources on the back of this demand. Projections by the International Energy Agency suggest the demand for each of the five most important critical minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, and neodymium) will likely increase between 1.5 and 7 times by 2030,” Jones’ Cabinet paper said.

This is more vital than people realise. If we want clean energy, we need more mining of minerals that are used in solar panels, electric cars, batteries etc.

The work has been a long time coming: in 2019, the Labour-led government committed to a list of critical minerals as part of a 10-year strategy, although a spokesperson in 2021 said the work was still “in its conceptual stages”.

LOL – another Labour delivery triumph. Conceptual stages is code for we forgot about it.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union’s new Critical Raw Materials Act has set a range of targets, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the bloc is not dependent on any single non-EU country for more than 65 percent of its strategic raw materials.

This is sensible, and should be applied in any area of critically important imports. If you are totally reliant on just one country, then you reduce your ability to independently disagree with them on issues.

Meet a zero striker #7 – George Pomee

George POMEE is a Third Striker.  He is a recidivist aggravated robber.

Aged in his late 20s, he already has over 10 criminal convictions as an adult.  He is a gang associate.

For his third strike, he was convicted on 2 counts of aggravated robbery and kidnapping. He is a menace to law abiding society.

Under the Government’s proposed re-introduction of Three Strikes 2.0, he will be on a clean slate.  His prior strike offences count for nothing, and he is a zero striker.

Just as bad, under the Government’s proposed Three Strikes 2.0, Mr Thomson would not qualify as a Third Striker if he did it all again!

Submissions on the law close at midnight tonight!

You can sign up for campaign updates to toughen the law and support the campaign at https://www.stop3strikessellout.nz.

You can make a submission at https://www.stop3strikessellout.nz/submission

This QR code will also take you to the site.

The biological qualification game

Greg McGee has a fascinating article on Newsroom about writing a female character under a female pseudonym. He states:

I’m really not interested in whether the writer is a biological male writing characters who are biological females, or any non-binary variation of those, or biological Europeans writing biological Māori or biological old writing biological young, or tall writing short, or fat writing thin, nor any of the vice versas. It’s easy to reduce that old writing maxim – write what you know – to its logical absurdity: my writing world would be limited to tall, white, red-headed males with big noses, 70 or younger, who would only have lived and experienced exactly where and what I have.

Believe the words on the page or don’t. Find them authentic or not. We should trust that the author’s engagement with the world depicted and the characters who people it will determine its authenticity. Often one page is enough. We shouldn’t need an authorial biography or biology to authenticate them: the words work in their mystical way, or they don’t.

That should be the great ongoing strength of the novel. Television scripts and screenplays are necessarily bogged in bureaucracy. If you want funding from the NZ Film Commission or NZ On Air, you can’t help but play the biological qualification game, and prove that the fingers that hit the keyboard have some relationship to the gender and ethnicity of the principal characters on the page. 

Nice to see McGee defend writing and authencity as being more than biology. Sadly this is becoming a minority view.

J D Vance

Henry Olsen writes:

I’ve known Vance for more than a decade and can attest to his smarts, his seriousness and his undying devotion to America and its working class.

He is an ideal pick for Trump and one that presages the transformation of the Republican Party into a true, multi-ethnic working-class coalition.

I met JD at a political seminar in 2015. We quickly bonded over our shared interest in using public policy to help the country’s struggling working-class voters. In this pre-Trump age, that was not a popular position within the GOP.

But that didn’t matter to him. JD was interested in helping people, not currying favor with an insider elite.

His breakout bestselling book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” was further proof of that sincere, deeply held desire.

A clear message ran through the vivid personal story and shocking anecdotes: America’s elite class has betrayed the workers who make America great.

The pick of Vance is fascinating. He is a rare conservative intellectual. I disagree with his stances on tariffs and Ukraine, but he has a genuine passion for improving the lives of working class Americans.

But any vice president works to serve his or her boss while carving out a separate identity. Vance’s identity will be uniquely thoughtful and uniquely appealing.

Assuming Trump wins this year, Vance is the likely frontrunner for the presidency in 2028.

Ridiculous

Stuff reports:

The owners of a private island in Northland have been told to put a barrier around a swimming pool beside the sea, which they say posed “a similar or arguably greater risk to children”.

This is crazy. Not only is it a private island with no children living there, but the pool is next to a rather larger pool called the ocean.

Eames also acknowledged that the owners didn’t have children aged under five, and that the island received few visitors, but “children are likely to frequent any household at some time in the life of the building”.

This just shows how crazy and inflexible some regulations are, or those who administer them. Maybe they should be forced to fence off the ocean also!

The Health NZ problems

Shane Reti announced:

In response to serious concerns around oversight, overspend and a significant deterioration in financial outlook, the Board of Health New Zealand will be replaced with a Commissioner, Health Minister Dr Shane Reti announced today. 

“The previous government’s botched health reforms have created significant financial challenges at Health NZ that, without urgent action, will lead to an estimated deficit of $1.4 billion by the end of 2024/25 – despite this Government’s record investment in health of $16.68 billion in this year’s Budget,” Dr Reti says.

“Health NZ first reported a deteriorating financial position to me in March 2024, despite earlier repeated assurances by the organisation that it was on target to make savings in 2023/24. 

“In the months since, the situation has worsened. Health NZ is currently overspending at the rate of approximately $130 million a month. 

“That’s why today I am announcing the appointment of Professor Lester Levy, the recently appointed Chair of Health NZ, as Commissioner for a 12-month term. This is the strongest ministerial intervention available under the Pae Ora Act and not a decision I have taken lightly, however the magnitude of the issue requires such action.

“The issues at Health NZ stem from the previous government’s mismanaged health reforms, which resulted in an overly centralised operating model, limited oversight of financial and non-financial performance, and fragmented administrative data systems which were unable to identify risks until it was too late.

This decision is no surprise, and the reasons why are multiple.

The merger was not what was recommended

The Heather Simpson review did not recommend merging all 20 DHBs into one monoithic entity. She recommended moving to 8 to 12 DHBs.

Labour ignored this and decided to do in health what they did to the polytechnic sector, and try and centralise everything.

The timing was awful

Deciding to try and do the largest possible reform of the health system during a global pandemic was nuts. Even if the decision was correct in principle (and it wasn’t), it should have not been implemented during a period where the health system was struggling just to cope.

Top level governance and management was needed

A world class CE would be needed to pull off a merger of 20 DHBs and 80,000 staff. The CE appointed had merely been CE of a DHB for three years. I have no reason to think they were not a good DHB CE, but what Health NZ needed was someone with massive experience in change management and leadership.

There were some good people on the Health NZ board, but a board can only act collectively through formal meetings. This is partially why they changed Lester Levy from a Board Chair to a Commissioner. Effectively Levy is now the Executive Chair, and the CEO is more akin to a COO.

The merger added many layers of bureaucracy

Rather than reduce management jobs, the merger has increased them. For example each DHB used to have a CIO. I’d almost guarantee you they are all still there (maybe different titles) but now they will have above them a Regional CIO, then a Deputy CIO and a NZ CIO.

The PM has said in some areas there are 14 layers between the patient and the CE. Decisions that used to be made locally quickly now go up to Wellington and wind their way through multiple layers. They have both regional and national bureaucracies on top of what was in each DHB,

Costs can exceed savings for many many years

In theory one HR/payroll system is better than having 20. But when you already have 20 operating then, you need to build what may be an entirely new system with bespoke design that can cope with the requirements of all 20 former DHBs. This will cost a huge amount, and at the same time you need to maintain all the existing systems, and then work out a transition plan which can also be highly costly and disruptive.

Health spending is increasing not decreasing

The problems with HealthNZ are not due to National not increasing funding.

In 2019 real health spending per capita was $3,610 (on 2017$). In 2023/24 it was $4,270 and in 2024/25 it will be $4,330.

As a percentage of GDP health spending was 5.74% in 2019, 6.82% in 2023/24 and projected to be 6.90% in 2024.25.

Chloe Swarbrick channels Ben Shapiro

1 News reports:

Facts more important than feelings – Swarbrick on Tana interview …

Greens co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick has hit back at ex-Green MP Darleen Tana’s claims she was unfairly treated, saying “feelings are one thing … but facts are another”.

Swarbrick is quite right that facts are more important than feelings. But it is unusual to hear her use a phrase made famous by Ben Shapiro.

The Economist on education

The Economist writes:

Policymakers should focus on the fundamentals. They must defend rigorous testing, suppress grade inflation and make room for schools, such as charters, that offer parents choice. They should pay competitive wages to hire the best teachers and defy unions to sack underperformers. This need not bust budgets, since small classes matter less than parents imagine. Fewer, better teachers can produce stronger results than lots of mediocre ones. Japanese pupils thrash their American peers in tests, even though their average secondary classroom contains an extra ten desks.

Fascinating about Japan.

Another task is to gather and share more information about what kinds of lessons work best—a task many governments neglect. Unions may prefer it when good teaching is seen as too mysterious to measure, but children suffer. World-class school systems, such as Singapore’s, experiment endlessly, fail quickly and move on. Others keep on doing what does not work.

There is no shame in changing things, if the status quo doesn’t work.

Union corruption in Australia

News.com.au reports:

The South Australian branch of one of Australia’s most powerful unions has been placed into administration.

It comes after the news the Victorian Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) was referred to the state’s corruption watchdog following allegations of bullying, intimidation and criminal links.

This is a large union with assets of A$310m and 400 staff.

Allegations include:

  • underworld figures had infiltrated the state’s union within the construction industry.
  • bikie gang members had infiltrated the state’s union within the construction industry.
  • officials from CFMEU had threatened violence.
  • officials from CFMEU illegally banned firms from major construction projects.

I remind people that NZ Labour tried to introduce laws like they have in Australia that would make unions far more powerful and able to negotiate industry wide agreements with a minuscule proportion of members.

A Democratic donor on Trump and Biden

Mark Pincus writes:

I maxed out my giving in the last four presidential elections to the Democratic candidate: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Biden again, this cycle. 

Perhaps that makes me sound partisan, but I don’t align with either party. Like many of my peers in Silicon Valley, my views can be described as libertarian. I’m skeptical of big government, and both parties have recklessly printed money and spent the U.S. into a deep, dark debt hole. 

And unlike a lot of President Biden’s donors, I don’t think everything Donald Trump says or does is awful. I’ve been encouraged by the unwavering support for Israel he’s shown at the RNC this week. And looking back, I like that Trump was tough on China and Iran, and that he pushed European countries to contribute their fair share to NATO. 

I am also very scared of the extreme left, who seem to hate capitalism—a force I see as the engine of our exceptional country.

So why did I throw my support behind Biden?

Because throughout this campaign I have thought that a second Trump presidency is risky. In the past he has supported right-wing policies on abortion and climate. He’s also been oddly positive about dictators like Vladimir Putin. 

At this week’s RNC, the party of Trump sounds more mainstream. Who knows which Trump we will get? It’s a gamble. 

In December I attended a small lunch conversation with Biden. He was engaging and thoughtful. Our interactions gave me confidence that he still had enough drive to beat Trump a second time and be a reliable leader.

Seven months later, I have a radically different perspective. Biden looks even riskier than Trump. His debate performance made his age and competency the central issue in the 2024 election. And Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be moving further left by the day. 

Many of us are left wondering who is currently running the country. How else to explain the insane proposal he just put forward to put caps on grocery prices and rent increases?

Biden campaigned on being the moderate candidate. But in office he has been pushing a policy agenda Bernie Sanders would love – rent controls, price controls and student debt write-offs.

Only one strategy has a chance for the party and the country: an open convention. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Turning the convention into an open forum would be dramatic and exciting, and offer the best chance to produce a leader with a positive, mainstream agenda for our country. Someone we could trust more than Trump, but with a platform that is also about economic growth, secure borders, support for allies like Israel, and climate and civil liberties protection. Josh Shapiro, Gretchen Whitmer, and Cory Booker are strong contenders. There are also black swan outsiders who could energize this race.

I think Biden will go soon, but I think they will avoid an open convention by having him endorse Harris.

UPDATE: This was written before Biden announced he will step down as candidate, and he has endorsed Harris. I’ve left it on the schedule as I think the points made about Biden implementing such bizarre policies from the hard left.

Meet a zero striker #6

Wiremu Allen is a Third Striker.  He has more than 60 criminal convictions, including for aggravated robbery.

He has been a member of both the Mongrel Mob and the King Cobras gangs.

For his first strike, he strangled his partner. Fortunately she survived.

For his second strike, he committed a robbery.

For his third strike, with an associate, he committed a home invasion armed with pistols. He bashed the victim and his associate shot the victim in the knee, before robbing him and fleeing the scene. He was sentenced to the maximum term of 7 years imprisonment for the Third Strike conviction for wounding with reckless disregard.

But under the Government’s proposed re-introduction of Three Strikes 2.0, he will be on a clean slate.  His prior strike offences count for nothing, and he is a zero striker.

Just as bad, under the Government’s proposed Three Strikes 2.0, Mr Allen would not qualify as a Third Striker if he did it all again!

This is because it is proposed that a person would only be a striker if they had been sentenced to more than 24 months imprisonment for all strike offences.

For Mr Allen’s first strike offence – injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm – he was only sentenced to 10 months imprisonment.  For his second strike offence – robbery – he was sentenced to just 13 and a half months imprisonment.

Neither meet the Government’s threshold to be considered a striker AT ALL!

Now this is where it gets interesting: 

Two years ago, a: prominent politician opined:

“It is unimaginable that offenders such as Wiremu Allen, who was convicted of a third strike offence which entailed breaking into a house, demanding money from the victim and then shooting him, would not receive the maximum mandatory sentence today.

“Labour’s soft on crime approach has made New Zealand a less safe country.

“Victim advocate groups submitted strongly against the repeal, noting more victims will be created by the Bill. Repealing Three Strikes means that offenders will be back in the community earlier, creating the conditions for more offending.

“National will reinstate Three Strikes. This legislation is necessary to ensure repeat offenders are sentenced in line with the expectations of the communities they want to live in.”

Who was that politician?  Well, it was none other than the National Party’s Justice Spokesman, Paul Goldsmith, who is now the Justice Minister!!! Three Strikes repeal makes New Zealand less safe (national.org.nz)

Two years after making the above statement, Paul Goldsmith of 2024 should listen to Paul Goldsmith of 2022, not Ministry of Justice officials who hate three strikes.

You can sign up for campaign updates to toughen the law and support the campaign at https://www.stop3strikessellout.nz.

You can make a submission at https://www.stop3strikessellout.nz/submission