Joyce on Three Waters

Steven Joyce writes:

Then there is the great centralisation. Regional people have watched suspiciously as Wellington takes away their ability to run their local polytech or hospital on the grounds that Wellington knows better, with the unspoken corollary that locals aren’t up to it. Woe betide the first bureaucrat who centralises services away from New Plymouth or Whangārei in the name of efficiency.

Regional businesses fear national pay agreements making it harder to run a niche exporter from places like Gisborne and Invercargill – where such businesses are celebrated and all too thin on the ground. And regional people are sick of hearing about vanity projects in Auckland and Wellington with ridiculous price tags, like bike bridges and light rail.

Yep if there is one thing this Government stands for, it is centralising power in Wellington.

The people are resourceful, direct and get on with getting things done. They don’t stand on ceremony and everyone has to rub along. Regional people are sceptical of Wellington and decisions made there. It’s never hard to find someone ready to tell you about the “shiny-arses” in the capital and how divorced from reality they are.

Wellington is to New Zealand what Austin is to Texas. On almost every issue I poll on, the average response from Wellington is vastly different to everywhere else.

Which brings us back to Three Waters. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that running Hawke’s Bay’s water facilities from Wellington will likely make the needs of Napier and Hastings people secondary to the much publicised water woes of Wellingtonians.

And how much time do you think the good people of Auckland’s water services body will spend thinking about the water issues of Northland?

Somewhere between zero and very little.

Finally, there is the accountability issue. Few in the regions are under any illusion that the convoluted spaghetti of governance arrangements has been set up to suit Labour’s Māori caucus and pretty much no-one else.

Good luck working out who to call if your “water service entity” fails to fix a sewer pipe, or a stormwater drain causes a pothole in the road outside your gate. In past times you’d ring the mayor and get it fixed. Now you’ll be given an 0800 number and no way of voting the bastards out.

This is the key. These reforms will make it impossible for people who fund three waters (through compulsory rates) to vote out those in charge if they do a terrible job.

From rockstar economy to rock economy?

Bryce Wilkinson writes:

For more than three decades, the Swiss Institute for Management and Development (IMD) has compiled annual rankings of competitiveness for 63 of the world’s most important countries. It makes for sobering reading for New Zealanders.

Back in 2017, New Zealand ranked #16 – ahead of Australia at #21.

Five years on, New Zealand has fallen to #31, while Australia is now ranked #19.

A closer look reveals the factors behind New Zealand’s plummeting ranking.

Over the past few years, we have plunged in economic performance, falling from 22nd to 47th place. Government efficiency has also deteriorated markedly from 7th to 17th place.

That’s not a record for this government to feel proud of. And it gets worse.

Altogether, the IMD’s ranking comprises 25 subcategories. In eight of them, New Zealand finds itself in the bottom half of all countries. And these are the categories that really matter: domestic economy, international trade and investment, inflation, productivity and efficiency, attitudes and values, and technological infrastructure.

The IMD noted New Zealand going in the wrong direction on subsidies, inflation, tourism, brain drain, public finances, skilled labour, competent senior managers, and central bank policy.

It’s a depressingly long list.

Is there any plan beyond tax and spend?

RIP Rex Austin

Former Awarua MP Rex Austin has died aged 91. I met Rex a couple of times – he was an MP from 1975 to 1987 and I joined Southern Young Nationals in 1986. He was a devoted representative of Southland and a very hard working MP.

Austin was only the second Maori New Zealander to be elected to a general seat. The first, Sir James Carroll, was first MP for Eastern Maori and then for Waiapu and Gisborne from 1893 to 1919.

There is a good biography of him here.

The $25 million flagpole

It’s not just in NZ we get crazy spending. The Spectator Australia reports:

As soon as the New South Wales state government finishes putting the Aboriginal flag atop Sydney Harbour Bridge, they need to have another ‘Sorry Day’.

I don’t mean a day to say sorry to Aboriginals. I mean a day to say sorry to taxpayers who are being charged $25 million for the gesture.

It costs $300 to climb the iconic bridge. It costs $25 million to whack a flag on the top. Figure that one out.

When installed, the Aboriginal flag will be permanently flown alongside the Australian flag and the New South Wales flag. 

How afraid must the NSW Liberals be of losing the next election – due early next year – that they are prepared to throw so much money at Woke posturing?

Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday said the $25m pole and flag was ‘a small price to pay for unity’.

If the Premier is seeking to unify taxpayers in seething anger against government profligacy, then he may be onto something.

I’m changed $16 in tolls to drive from my home in north-western Sydney to the airport. And I need a second mortgage to afford the fuel. So you’ll forgive me if the Liberals shelling out $25m on a flagpole feels a little excessive.

Imagine being a small business owner in Sydney – battling to pay rent, overheads, and staff in the hope that you’ll be left with some sort of profit at the end of the month. And then you turn on the news and discover the government is spending $25m on a flag.

That is an obscene amount of money. It is almost as much as this Government has wasted on the now scrapped Auckland Harbour Bridge cycleway.

Mr Perrottet told ABC news he was ‘not sure’ why the project cost so much.

I don’t know. But it does, apparently,’ he said. ‘Apparently, that’s the costing.’

Apparently, Dominic Perrettot is the least curious person in New South Wales. 

It’s amazing how blasé you can be when you’re spending other people’s money.

Is the pole made of gold? Is it being imported from Italy? Was it sculptured by Michelangelo?

It could be. You could buy 292 kgs of gold for A$25 million. If the flagpole was sold gold you could get a 10 cm by 10 cm flagpole which is 1.5 metres tall.

More non-policing

Radio NZ reported:

Data has revealed police caught 5000 drivers breaking their restricted licence by carrying passengers when they shouldn’t last year – and prosecuted just one of them.

So that’s a 0.02% prosecution rate!

An OIA response shows they issued written warnings to 10.

And a 0.2% warning rate

Restricted drivers tend to be young and inexperienced. They should not be driving at night or with passengers. They will do so, unless there are consequences for breaking the rules.

Worst time to buy a house in 65 years

Stuff reports:

Bad news first-home buyers, it’s probably the worst time to buy a house since 1957.

How can this be? Labour promised in 2017 they would build 100,000 affordable houses for first time home buyers.

“Given the increase in house prices during 2020 and 2021 and the lift in mortgage rates since the middle of last year, average first-home buyers currently face initial mortgage payments equal to 49% of their income. This figure is the highest on record, surpassing the previous records of 1987 and 2007,” Kiernan said.

Will get worse as interest rates rise more.

Hooton on the Hipkins smear

Matthew Hooton writes:

For five months, Hipkins has allowed the public to believe that Bellis had twice been offered government assistance to return home from Afghanistan but had turned it down – implying she was some kind of drama queen making a political point, rather than a mum-to-be wanting to give birth in her hometown of Christchurch rather than Kabul.

It was a smear, and a lie.

If more were needed to reveal the Government as a mere focus-group-driven, PR charade, five years since the Prime Minister appointed herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction and declaring her Government would build 100,000 new homes, KidsCan founder Julie Chapman reports that “poverty is the worst it’s been for families”, mainly because of housing.

  The State of Child Health Report from Cure Kids, in partnership with the Paediatric Society, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and Otago University’s Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, found that New Zealand’s rates of dental disease, respiratory conditions, skin infections, acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are too high relative to other resource-rich countries. For dental disease and respiratory conditions, hospitalisation rates continue to worsen.

  According to the Government’s Children’s Commissioner, Frances Eivers, “On many measures, New Zealand is currently one of the worst places in the developed world to be a child.”   There comes a time when governments simply must be thrown out. It’s bad enough that the Ardern Government has proven incompetent at delivering any of the things it was elected to do. Its performance over Bellis shows it has now joined some of its most infamous predecessors in the slime.

There is a maximum of 568 days until they can be voted out.

The inflation culprit

Robert MacCulloch writes:

Former RBNZ Assistant Governor & Chief Economist, John McDermott, who was at the IMF, Yale-trained, Director of Motu & winner of the NZIER Economist Award, has slammed the RBNZ’s monetary policy, blaming it for the inflation mess we’re in. We already knew as much, but to have it confirmed by John is a big deal.

This is unusual and hence a big deal. Until the current Governor took over, it was incredibly rare for former Governors or senior staff to criticise the Reserve Bank’s decisions.

“We know that in the long run, excessive money-supply growth causes inflation and that the monetary base is under the control of the Reserve Bank. So why is the Reserve Bank allowing its monetary base to expand long after the emergency Covid settings are no longer needed?

…. It makes for sobering reading when you compare NZ’s monetary experience with that of Norway, a country with a similar population and an identical monetary policy regime … The assessment that emergency monetary settings were no longer needed seems to have been made early in Norway. By the end of 2020, its monetary base was back at a normal level. The result was that the Norges Bank kept inflation under better control than the RBNZ”.

At the end of March the inflation rate in Norway was 4.5% compared to 6.9% in New Zealand.

A very telling graph.

Canadian Senator on hate speech laws

Senator Paula Simons writes:

Let me be very clear. There is no good-faith way to debate or question the reality of the Holocaust, one of the best‑documented, well-researched atrocities in modern history. Anyone who questions or denies or diminishes its full horrors is not engaging in authentic, intellectual debate; they are spreading hate. Holocaust deniers are hatemongers. There is no way to question the reality of the Holocaust that is not, by definition, anti-Semitic.

Downplaying the Shoah is every bit as morally vile. When people who oppose masking rules pin yellow stars to their chests or dare to compare vaccine mandates to the Nazi war crimes prosecuted at Nuremberg, their facile appropriation of the horror of the Holocaust dishonours the memory of all those who died and all who survived.

Yet, my friends, today I rise in this chamber to oppose Bill C-19’s efforts to criminalize the denial or downplaying of the Holocaust.

Attaching criminal sanctions to such statements and actions won’t reduce anti-Semitism. It will, however, give neo-Nazis and racists a platform to play the martyr, to wrap themselves in the rhetoric of free speech and to claim the public spotlight as faux defenders of intellectual freedom. Is this funny? I don’t think this is funny. Maybe you could stop laughing. How do I know this will not work?

I agree. We should ridicule and expose holocaust deniers, not jail them.

I do not believe we can fight hate by criminalizing speech, however vile or deluded. Nor by silencing it, even if we could. Driving hate underground to curdle and fester doesn’t help.

Once we start to criminalize speech, to police what is true and what is false, once we use the Criminal Code and the criminal courts to silence the nasty political fringe, we start down a path that leads precisely where we do not wish to go.

Sadly many want us to go down that path.

Will Stuff follow the advice of its journalist?

Tom Pullar-Strecker writes:

But BusinessNZ is responsible to its members, not you or me, and it is its members’ opinions that matter most right now.

As a lobby group, BusinessNZ can allow companies to outsource their opinions on controversial topics such as tax policy and employment rights, so they can get their points across to politicians and the public without having to directly express views that might annoy some of their customers or staff.

At the same time, I would be surprised if companies in the telco sector, for example, which have been taking increasingly progressive stances on a range of social and economic issues, were entirely comfortable with all the statements BusinessNZ has been making.

Spark chose not to take up an invitation to put some space between itself and the lobby group on BusinessNZ’s Fair Pay campaign, with spokesperson Ellie Cross saying it “didn’t have anything to contribute to this conversation”.

Vodafone spokesperson Richard Llewellyn said it would have a closer look at whether it agreed with BusinessNZ’s representation on Fair Pay and “as members, provide any feedback direct to BusinessNZ”.

Tom seems to be suggesting that major corporates which are members of BusinessNZ should distance themselves from BusinessNZ’s advocacy against so called Fair Pay Agreements.

I’m surprised he is ringing up staff at Vodafone and Spark to see if they will do so, when he could just ask his bosses at Stuff, as Stuff is a member of Business NZ!

Meet a second striker #2

Billy Matara is a second striker.  He attempted to murder a man by shooting him with a shotgun. The victim was lucky to survive.  That was Matara’s second strike offence.

Ironically the attempted murder took place at a hostel for prisoner rehabilitation!

His first strike was an aggravated robbery in which he and another offender terrorised a shopkeeper in their antique shop.  He committed his first strike offence while on bail.

Matara has 129 criminal convictions.  He is a very dangerous man and a hard-core recidivist offender.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern want him out of prison early to continue his lengthy criminal career of seriously harming others.

Under Three Strikes, he has to serve his entire 10 years, 2 months term of imprisonment, without being released early on parole.  Three Strikes keeps him in prison until at least July 2026.

Without Three Strikes he would be eligible for parole after just 3 years, 4 months imprisonment – around September 2019 – almost 7 years less than under Three Strikes.  The sentencing Judge suggested that without Three Strikes, a minimum term of 40% – or 4 years – would have been imposed.  That’s only 6 months more than the bare minimum!

How many more victims will he create in those extra 7 years he gets to be out in the community? Does anyone think he is going to stop at offence no. 130?

Europe’s left abandons pacifism

Oliver Hartwich writes:

Finland and Sweden intending to join Nato is not just a radical departure from decades of Nordic foreign policy, it also shows how the invasion of Ukraine has altered the political landscape in Europe – not just in Scandinavia.

There was a time when many left-leaning politicians in Europe viewed everything related to defence and security alliances with suspicion. Their anti-militarism and pacifism then sometimes merged with a broader anti-American sentiment, especially under US Presidents such as George W Bush and Donald Trump.

Putin’s war has changed such pacifist reflexes.

Perhaps it is no surprise the European left has exhibited a greater resolve and clarity towards Ukraine than many right-wing politicians. That is because many on the progressive side of politics see the brutal aggression against a peaceful, democratic country as what it is: a moral issue, not a business matter.

The PM of Finland is a 36 year old woman who heads up the leftwing SDP. The PM of Sweden is a 55 year old woman who heads up their leftwing SDP. Both are leading their countries into NATO.

With Sweden and Finland joining, all Nordic countries will soon be Nato members (Denmark, Norway and Iceland were founding members in 1949). It is a significant shift, happening at a time when all five countries are led by centre-left parties.

These Nordic developments are historic, but the changes on the left of the German political spectrum are perhaps even more striking. In Germany, it is the Greens who are most in favour of Nato and defence spending these days.

I so wish the NZ Greens were more like the German Greens.

The Greens are one of three coalition partners in the government of Germany. Former female co-leader Annalena Baerbock is the foreign minister, while her male counterpart, Robert Habeck, is the economy and energy minister. Following the invasion of Ukraine, their ministries have become crucial, and Baerbock and Habeck are prominent in the German government.

Habeck publicly advocated sending arms to Ukraine almost a year before the war. He is now fast-tracking any applications for weapons deliveries as a minister. At the same time, he is managing a transition away from Germany’s reliance on Russian energy.

Baerbock, meanwhile, has visited Ukraine several times since becoming foreign minister late last year. She is also the first German cabinet minister to visit Ukraine during the war, while the social democrat chancellor, Olaf Scholz, appears timid and indecisive.

Since the Greens’ roots are in pacifism, their transformation into a party at ease with military engagement is all the more remarkable.

The German Greens are mature enough to realise that when the world changes, their stance needs to change. Brazvo.

Consumer confidence at 34 year low

Radio NZ reports:

The Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply in the three months ended June, falling 13 points from the previous quarter to 78.7.

It is the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1988 and well below the average of 110.2. …

Household budgets were being squeezed in a way they had not been for decades, Westpac acting chief economist Michael Gordon said.

I remind people that the Government plans to soon pass law that will impose an extra tax on employees and employers up to $1,800 a year. Yes household budgets are the most stretched in decades, and Labour wants to whack an extra tax on to reduce your take home pay even further.

This graph is fascinating. It shows that in the past the 12 month outlook has sometimes been very negative, but that NZers have always been optimistic over the five year outlook. This is the very first time in 34 years that more NZers have been pessimistic over that medium term.

Meet a second striker

REPOSTED, ORGINALLY POSTED 31 MAY 2018.

As the Government has announced it wants to repeal the three strikes law, I’m going to start a new feature to show had awfully bad this is.

I will be regularly profiling a second striker. These are people whose second strike has meant they are ineligible for early release on parole. The Government wants to change the law so they can be released after possibly just one third of their sentence.

Hugh Tareha is currently serving a “Second Strike” sentence of 12 years and 9 months imprisonment without the possibility of parole for bashing and sexually violating an 87 year old grandmother in her own home in Napier in 2013.  Later the same day, he burgled a 73 year old woman’s home with the intention of sexually assaulting her.  He was on parole at the time of this offending.

His first strike offence was a home invasion burglary which he committed while subject to a sentence for prior offending.  He invaded the home of a 68 year old woman and attacked her, grabbing her by the throat and threatening her and then robbing her.  He was imprisoned for just 3 years and 4 months. The Parole Board released him early, considering he did not present an “undue risk”, and even reported the day before this attack that they were “pleased with his performance”.  Well done New Zealand Parole Board.

In 2008, Tareha was imprisoned for a home invasion burglary in which he targeted a young woman to whom he was attracted.  He has numerous prior convictions, including others for burglary.

Tareha is a hard core recidivist.

The sentencing Judge for his second strike didn’t think his record of offending was serious enough to invoke “preventive detention” – an open-ended sentence that may mean indefinite imprisonment for the public’s protection.  Thank goodness for Three Strikes, which steps in at this point.

Without the Three Strikes law, Hugh Tareha would be eligible for release by the Parole Board, who got it so badly wrong when they let him out in 2013, after just 4 years and 3 months.

Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, and her Justice Minister, Andrew Little, want this man back on the streets so he can continue his career of home invasions and sexual violations of elderly women.  The people of Napier have good reason to fear this man and the Government’s lenient view of him.

Eligible for release – under Three Strikes:

Around July 2026 (current situation) (8 more years)

 Eligible for release – without Three Strikes:

Eligible for parole January 2018 (if Three Strikes repealed)*

If Labour, with NZ First’s support, repeal three strikes and make it “retroactive” this man will be eligible for immediate release from prison.

* Note the Judge said he would have imposed an eight year non parole period if the three strikes law had not been in place. It is unclear if it is repealed if an indication by a Judge could be applied retrospectively.

Telling the truth is not abhorrent

The Herald reports:

Freshly-appointed Justice Minister Kiri Allan has hit out at comments that the Government is “soft on crime”, calling the rhetoric “abhorrent”.

Allan said such comments ignored the complexities of crime, and in reality, the Government had made no changes to sentencing or penalties.

However, the Opposition claims it is doing just that by repealing the Three Strikes legislation, which is being debated further in the House this week.

They’re about to change the law so the worst of the worst get shorter sentences and/or eligibility for parole. The average second striker has 42 adult convictions and third striker 74, and they want to let them out early.

And not only are hey pushing through a law change to reward the worst criminals, they have voted against the following:

  1. Sep 2018 – voted down bill to allow Police to issue firearms prohibition orders against gang members with a history of firearms or violent offending
  2. Oct 2018 – voted down bill to allow for random testing of drivers for drug impairment
  3. May 2019 – voted down bill to increase maximum penalty for selling or supplying unapproved psychoactive substances from two to 14 years
  4. June 2020 – voted down bill allowing maximum penalty of 20 years for “coward punches” causing death
  5. Mar 2021 – voted down a bill requiring a school to be notified if a registered sex offender lives within 5 kms of the school
  6. Apr 2021 – voted not to proceed with a bill that increases the maximum penalty for assaults on first responders or prison officers to 10 years
  7. April 2021 – voted down a bill imposing a maximum penalty of five years for killing a police dog
  8. June 2021 – voted down a bill that clarified  carjacking is robbery
  9. Oct 2021 – again voted down bill to allow Police to issue firearms prohibition orders against gang members with a history of firearms or violent offending
  10. Apr 2022 – voted down a bill to ban the Government funding gangs
  11. May 2022 – voted down a bill to increase the power of Police to seize assets gained through significant criminal activity

Allan told the Herald the law was a good example of a “knee-jerk reaction” to crime, something she said she was committed to avoiding in her new role.

“There was no evidence that it worked. It had been trialled in places like California and deemed to be an abject failure.

The California law is vastly vastly different.

As for the NZ law, the number of people going on to do a second strike offence after the law passed was significantly down from the same time period before the law passed. So the reoffending rate actually dropped.

In 2018 I profiled some of these second strikers and their crimes. As the Government seems set on repealing the law, I am going to repost these profiles so people can see who they will be wanting to let out early.

NZ plummets in world competitiveness rankings

The annual world competitiveness rankings are out, and New Zealand has fallen 11 places from 20th to 31st.

They note NZ had the steepest drops in economic performance and business efficiency along with domestic economy and labor market.

They explicitly cite:

  • Labour shortages
  • Low productivity
  • High house prices
  • Short term policy thinking

In a global world, competitiveness is critical along with productivity. We’re failing.

Misunderstanding on so called fair pay law

NewstalkZB reports:

Asked what impact the legislation will actually have, Tibshraeny explains: “Fair pay agreements are a way of requiring employers and employees to agree on baseline conditions and pay.”

This is incorrect. It does not require employers and employees to agree. In fact the current law requires such an agreement but this law will allow a Govt appointee to set conditions and pay for an entire industry regardless of agreement.

Under the proposed rules, if a public interest test is met, or 10 per cent or at least 1000 workers in an industry or occupation decide to start a negotiation process with employers, negotiation needs to happen.

Minimum pay and working conditions will only be ratified if a majority of both employers and employees in a sector agree to them. All employers and employees get a vote.

This is not right. If a mere 10% of employees (or in a large industry of 100,000 it could be 1%) say they want an industry wide agreement, then there will be one imposed no matter what employers or employees vote on.

“Presumably, to get a majority on both sides, you will need the conditions to be reasonable,” Tibshraeny says.

No you don’t.

If there is a stalemate in the negotiations, the matter can be passed on to the Employment Relations Authority.

Not so much can, but will. If a proposed FPA is not agreed upon twice, then a union can unilaterally take it to the Employment Relations Authority. There will be compulsory arbitration which will bind every single employer – even if 99% voted against it.

The ERA will establish a panel of 3 people who will have the power to impose terms and conditions on an entire industry or profession – it could be every journalist in New Zealand or it could be every cafe worker – regardless of if they work for a owner operated cafe in Invercargill or Starbucks.

So who appoints the ERA? The Government of course. They are appointed for four year terms, so a Government can quickly appoint an entire slate of ERA members who will be far more likely to rule in favour of the unions (who partially fund the Labour Party).

The Government could have given the power to determine an FPA to the Employment Court. The Employment Court Judges must be lawyers with at least seven years experience and crucially they taken a judicial oath and are appointed for life. a Government can’t just not reappoint incumbent Judges to replace them with friendly faces.

So there is a reason the Government has given the FPA power to the ERA, not the Employment Court.

This legislation is even worse than the national awards of the 1970s. They still required agreement to be reached between employers and unions. This law does not. 1,000 union members can get terms and conditions imposed on 99,000 other workers through the compulsory arbitration clauses.

Nothing on Earth will stop the Government from passing this law, as the unions want this even more than compulsory unionism. But it won’t survive a change of Government, and nor should it.

UPDATE: My post shouldn’t be seen as implying the journalist quoted has not described the law correctly. Rather they have just not assumed that unions would always take a proposed FPA to the ERA if employers did not agree to it.

But personally I think it is almost unthinkable that a union would not do so. They wouldn’t go the the time and expense of drawing up a proposed FPA and just dropping it simply because employers didn’t agree to it. Why would they?

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