Robertson predicted unemployment would hit 7%

February 8th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Just a few weeks ago Grant Robertson said:

With unemployment set to head towards 7% in the coming year, it is reckless that the government still has no plan to address this.

Oh dear.

Inflation has been outside the Reserve Bank target range for eight of the last sixteen quarters yet he is not planning to take any action. 

And here Grant is complaining that inflation is not high enough!

Winston wants to nationalise EFTPOS!!!

February 8th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Winston rants:

Following the latest EFTPOS outage, New Zealand First is calling on the Reserve Bank to purchase EFTPOS processor, Paymark, which is reportedly on the market.

“Most people don’t realise that the clearing houses behind New Zealand’s electronic banking system are both overseas owned,” says New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“In 2013, ANZ sold EFTPOS New Zealand to American giant Verifone for $70m, while overseas owned ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac want to sell off Paymark.

“If the Reserve Bank is to meet a key purpose of its own Act, ‘promoting the maintenance of a sound and efficient financial system’, then Paymark must come into its ownership.

Winston wants the Government to nationalise the EFTPOS system!

One day he may understand the difference between ownership and ability to regulate. But I doubt it.

How is free tertiary education going in Scotland?

February 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s huge $1.2 billion+ bribe of free tertiary education for all has been done before. By the SNP in Scotland.

This is fortunate for us, as we can compare how students in Scotland fare compared to students in England, which has fees.

Tim Wigmore in the New Statesman writes:

If you are a disadvantaged young person today, your chances of going to university are far worse if you are born in Scotland than south of the River Tweed. The poorest fifth of Scots are 3.5 times less likely to go to university through Ucas than the top fifth; the difference is only 2.5 times in England. Based on this measure, Scotland has by far the greatest level of educational inequality in the UK.

So Scotland with free fees does worse than England in terms of getting poor families to university:

Because of the absence of tuition fees, universities themselves also lack money to invest in bursary and outreach programmes, further handicapping disadvantaged students. English institutions spend over three times as much on financial help for poor students, according to a 2013 study from the University of Edinburgh. English universities also no longer have a cap on the number of students they can take; the cap on the number of Scottish students that Scottish universities can take hurts all students but disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged.

The same could well occur here. Presumably the Government will ban universities from charging fees, which means they will entirely control the income streams for universities.

In an age of austerity, cutting school funding has partly paid for protecting free university education. Spending on schools in Scotland fell by five per cent in real terms from 2010 to 2013 while, in England, it rose in real terms between 2010 and 2015.

This is the opportunity cost I talked about. Rather than invest more money into improving teacher quality, they are just doing middle class welfare.

Nicola Sturgeon is fond of saying that university debt would have meant she couldn’t go to university. This is not only disingenuous – students only have to repay their fees when they are earning over £21,000 – but also ignores that students in Scotland today still leave university with an average debt of £21,000, more than those in Northern Ireland or Wales, which both have tuition fees. When far less generous bursaries from universities are taken into account, many disadvantaged Scottish students will actually graduate with higher debt than equivalent students in England. Perhaps this is why even Scots are becoming sceptical about this middle-class hand-out by stealth: only a quarter of Scots believe that no students should contribute towards their tuition fees.

A student will be around $500,000 better off by going to university. It is not unreasonable they should pay a small portion of the costs of that education, rather than tax everyone for 100% of it.

General Debate 8 February 2016

February 8th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

6 takeaways from the beginning of the U.S. Presidential primaries

February 7th, 2016 at 6:48 pm by kiwi in america

On Tuesday February 2nd, Iowa held its caucuses for both parties formally kicking off the US 2016 Presidential primary election season. First off a disclaimer: I am a Rubio supporter and decided to support him pretty much from the beginning of the GOP debates. With only one result in the bank, we have learned some key things about the race for each party’s nomination.

1 – New Hampshire is more important than Iowa.

This is particularly true on the Republican side. There are two reasons for this. First is that Iowa (IA) holds caucuses and New Hampshire (NH) holds primaries. The significance of the difference is turnout. Caucuses are a gathering of party supporters in a given area (caucus locations mostly match party voting precincts and would have a concentration analogous to the concentration of NZ election polling booths). Organizers for each campaign stand in designated corners of a hall and ask those caucusing to come to their side to be counted. The tallies for each location are then called in to a central location for the final result. Caucuses are usually held in the evening and can be time consuming as you have to register for the party you nominate and that can take some hours before the actual caucusing begins. The time consuming nature of the voting method, the restricted time the vote is held (versus a primary where polls are usually open for 12 hours) and the public nature of your vote in that everyone in the hall can see who you support versus a private ballot in a primary, means the turnout in caucuses is significantly lower than in a primary. In 2012 a total of 121,500 Republicans voted in the Iowa caucus and that represented 19% of all IA registered Republicans. IA had a population of 3,074,000 in 2012 so that’s only 4% of the total population. By contrast in NH with a population of only 1,320,718, in 2012 the GOP turnout at the primary was 225,123 so at 17% it is four times higher than in IA. It’s a crude metric because NH allows Independents to vote in either primary and about 40% of registered voters in NH are independents but you get the drift – more voters vote in primaries than caucuses so in the case of the NH primary, from a statistical point of view, the result is pulling off a larger sample base.

The Iowa GOP caucuses are also much more dominated by evangelical Christians which explains the early victories of Huckabee (2008), Santorum (2012) and Cruz (2016). NH has a demographic breakdown more akin to the wider U.S. General Election population and that explains why, on the GOP side, winners of the GOP primary in NH are very much more indicative of who the eventual winning nominee will be than the winners in IA. Of the 9 elections since 1980, the GOP NH primary has successfully picked 8 out 9 GOP nominees whereas in IA, the figure is only 5 from 9. On the Democrat side, the IA caucus has picked the nominee 7 out of 9 times versus only 6 from 9 in NH so the IA caucus is more determinate for the Democrats whereas the NH primary is more so for the Republicans.

2 – Hillary is a lousy campaigner but, barring an indictment, will still win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton eked out the narrowest of victories over Sanders on Tuesday. In fact, she may have actually lost because reportedly 6 precincts had anecdotal reports of a tied vote that was decided by a coin toss and Clinton won 5 of the 6 coin tosses. Had the coin tosses been 50/50 then Sanders may have won by a whisker. It was of course not meant to be like this. Clinton has all the advantages on paper: a massive donor edge, endorsements of most major party leaders, the support of the DNC (the national party organisation), name recognition beyond any prior candidate for President, a crack campaign team who had supposedly learned key lessons from her 2008 defeat to Obama and her still popular husband Bill (who remains a formidable retail politician) campaigning for her. These advantages were supposed to negate her wooden speaking style and her perpetual inauthenticity. However, her campaign has been beset by pratfalls: a disastrous book launch tour in the summer of 2015, her tone deaf comment about being broke after leaving the White House and, as the summer wore on, the emerging evidence of her home brew email server through which she routed sensitive State department emails that has become a running and growing scandal. When played against the parallel but less publicized scandal of the cash for favours roundabout that Billary ran with their Foundation scoring tens of millions in speaking fees for both Bill and Hillary and mingling the supposed charity work of the Foundation and Hillary’s work as the 4th most powerful member of the U.S. government as Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Hillary’s explanations for her non authorized email system, designed to shield her from Congressional scrutiny, have proven to be patently false particularly, as it has recently emerged in the gradual release of emails forced from the State Department by a lawsuit from Judicial Watch (a right wing lobby group), that a good number of emails were afforded a security classification so top secret that some on the Congressional committees tasked with oversight did not have sufficient clearance to be advised of their content and that even redacted copies cannot be released. When you have the FBI investigating you for causing serious breaches of extremely sensitive classified material and you told the families of the four State Department employees were killed in the 12 September 2012 raid on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya because of uprisings fueled by an obscure anti Muslin video and not the security lapses that she knew about from the outset, you have major credibility issues. This is why an awkward nerdy aging socialist Senator from one of America’s smallest states is getting huge crowds, a wave of on line donors and has not been easy for her to beat.

BUT, for all of Clinton’s manifest failings, she has advantages that should carry her through to the nomination. She is highly likely to lose the NH Democrat primary to Sanders next week but that is mostly due to Sanders’ high profile in New England (Vermont adjoins New Hampshire). The next primary (aside from the obscure Nevada caucuses that produce few delegates) is the South Carolina primary. That is dominated on the Democrats side by black voters who are more inclined to support Clinton over Sanders. After SC is Super Tuesday comprising 14 States and the single largest group of states voting on the same day. Clinton has a natural advantage on Super Tuesday due to her vastly superior ground game and the larger amount of cash on hand to contest in so many states simultaneously. The delegate lead that Clinton should build by the second week in March could be insurmountable for Sanders whose grassroots funding will wither if it looks like he cannot prevail. BUT – if Clinton is indicted for the various breaches of intelligence confidentiality laws by the Department of Justice as a consequence of the FBI’s investigation into her exclusive use of her non-secure email server (and subsequent unauthorized sending of highly classified material via this unsecure network) then all bets are off. Her campaign would be finished.

3 – Trump is not done

Trump has been the most unconventional candidate to run for President since Ross Perot ran as an Independent in 1992 and 1996 (his campaign split the conservative vote allowing Clinton to win with only 42% and 47% of the popular vote respectively). He has broken all the rules and conventions of U.S. politics and got away with it. He engaged in blatant mysogony by insulting popular Fox TV presenter Megyn Kelly by accusing her of erratic ‘time of the month’ behaviour, he mocked a disabled reporter, he insulted Senator John McCain’s widely admired time as a tortured prisoner of the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, he routinely abuses the press and verbally beats up on reporters who follow MSM standard gotcha questioning tactics, he proposes extreme sounding policies that appear to be right wing dog whistles (mass deportation of illegals or banning all Muslim migration for a period of time), he ignores and mocks PC conventions, he routinely accuses his opponents of things that aren’t factual (Cruz being ineligible because he was born in Canada), he largely self-funds and eschews and then taunts the entire GOP donor class, he gets into several fights with Fox News culminating in his boycotting the last Fox moderated GOP debate before Iowa (because Kelly was presenting) and he summed up his seeming invincibility in the polls by saying his supporters would stick with him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue in New York! Despite Trump’s bombast, his abuse of reporters and opponents, his flip flopping on so many key issues (was all for single payer health system now opposes Obamacare that is less government intrusive than single payer and is now against abortion when he was for it), his being a Democrat for so long, being so close to the Clintons and his seemingly flakey policies and inability to grasp important foreign policy issues waved away with a “trust me – I’m a great deal maker and will hire the right people who will advise me”, Trump has defied political gravity for month after month. Most of the talking heads and commentators even on the right predicted a Trump implosion that not only never happened but with each seeming career ending move, he would go UP in the polls.

Kiwis, even those on the centre right, look on with shocked bemusement wondering how Trump could survive. To understand Trump’s rise, you must understand the intense frustration felt by many Republican voters. They watched their party’s mainstream leaders mock, marginalize and block the Tea Party movement and they’ve seen House and then Senate Republicans, once they assumed control of first the House (2010) and the Senate (2014), then cave to Obama and the Democrats on issue after issue of concern to the Republican base (the debt ceiling, sequestration and funding the military, repealing or at least constraining Obamacare, the Corker-Cardin deal on the Iranian sanctions, defunding Planned Parenthood – especially after the damning undercover videos, Islamic refugees and general lack of fiscal rectitude). The anger is palpable and Trump’s ‘take no prisoners’, say it how it is, politically incorrect truth to Republican power is music to the ears of a base that feels ignored and spurned by former Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Some of this group had dropped out of the political process as witnessed by the numbers of GOP voters who stayed home rather than vote for Romney in 2012. Trump also draws from blue collar workers who were Reagan Democrats who find the modern Democratic Party too left wing and captured by special interest groups to ever represent them. Add in his flamboyance, his mystique and perceived success as a billionaire and his name brand recognition from his popular reality TV show “The Apprentice” and you have the makings of a resurgent candidate. All Trump needed was a willing media to report his every outburst and comment and the U.S. media duly obliged. Like a real life soap opera going on in real time, half in disgust and half in morbid fascination, the MSM have enabled and fueled Trump’s rise and rise. By reporting his every move and comment, Trump has sucked the political oxygen out of the room for his opponents.

But in the end, there are SOME political niceties that must still be followed and one of these is a ground game and Iowa is a state where campaign boots on the ground is essential for success and Cruz and Rubio were head and shoulder above Trump in that regard. NH is more philosophically attuned to a Manhattan elite candidate so it would not surprise if Trump does win there but, we have learned from IA that he has underperformed from his polling average by some 5%. This could be because his supporters are happy to tell pollsters they love Trump but don’t actually show up because Trump’s campaign don’t even know who his supporters are or where they live.

Earned media will continue to give Trump a tail wind. But if Rubio’s surge continues and Cruz stays steady, Trump could face a length 3-way race even past Super Tuesday. Another reason why Trump will stay is because of a very important change to the Republican nominating process that was instituted post 2012 and that is that all primary/caucus states pre-March 15th must award delegates on a proportional basis whereas all Republican primaries (and caucuses) prior to 2016 were winner-take-all contests. In comparison, the Democrats have been gradually moving to a proportuional allocation culminating in a full slate of primaries and caucuses in 2008 chosen this way. It was this reform that enabled Obama to beat Clinton. He racked up proportional wins in caucus states where his ground game was superior to Clinton whilst she concentrated on the big primary States. By the time the Pennsylvania, Texas, California and New York primaries came around, Obama had amassed a near unsurmountable lead that could not be overtaken even when Clinton won a number of larger later states because she only won a proportion of the delegates on offer. A winner-take-all system favours an early front runner who can quickly amass delegates and drive his/her competitors out of the race.

Trump knows even if he slips from the No 1 slot that he will still amass delegates in all the voting that goes on prior to mid-March and leave him with enough delegates to soldier on. Trump is self-funded and so will be unaffected by the usual drop off in funding that occurs if a leading candidate funded by donors starts to slip in both the polls and actual primary votes. Even if Trump slips to 3rd later in the race but wins several key early states (say NH and SC), he could continue in the race to Super Tuesday and exert an influence on the eventual outcome denying a Cruz or Rubio campaign an outright plurality of delegates. This is why Trump is here to stay.

4 – Bush will not be the nominee

He didn’t make double digits in IA despite spending big. He’s spent even bigger in NH and is still polling just under 10% in the RCP average of all polls and is 5th behind Kasich. If the results in NH are similar to the polls (see point number 6), he’s toast. Bush has been the biggest victim of the Trump resurgency (along with a clutch of capable and articulate and mostly successful sitting Governors: Walker from Wisconsin, Perry from Texas and Jindal from Louisiana). Trump starved all of them (but particularly Bush) of valuable media oxygen all through the summer and autumn and Bush’s big early war chest has been unable to claw him out of the hole. Bush declared early and jumped to a strong lead and was favoured by the donor and chattering beltway classes and it went to his head. He, like many, waited for Trump to implode and Trump cleaned his clock. Bush sat on $70 million+ for months and did virtually nothing to challenge Trump assuming his pratfalls would collapse his vote. Now he is spending millions attacking Rubio in NH – not the strategy of a rising star. His absence from the political stage for 9 years since he was Governor of Florida showed in his initially hesitant debating style. Negatives such as being seen as soft on illegals and for the controversial Common Core can not be counterbalanced by his story of considerable success as Florida Governor and then there’s the mostly negative legacy of the Iran and Afghanistan wars his older brother got America into. At the end of the day, who really wants to see a rerun of Bush v Clinton. He’ll be out by or just after Super Tuesday.

5- Rubio is the best GOP General Election candidate

That’s what the head to head polls say although such polls at this stage are premature. That said, in watching Rubio debate, it is hard not seeing him eat Hillary Clinton’s lunch. He is a formidable debater. Yes, so is Ted Cruz but in a much more technically pure way where it’s obvious he was the champion debater in high school and university. Rubio however is rawer, visceral and at the same time fluid. He possesses the rare talent that few politicians have (like Reagan, Clinton and Blair) to boil down complex hot button issues of the day into a pithy and emotive sound bite. His back story is superb (son of the impoverished Cuban immigrant), he speaks passionately about the American project, he is telegenic and boyish and yet exhibits an almost breathtaking depth of knowledge particularly on foreign affairs. He is a whole generation younger than Clinton and is a visionary forward thinker who dwells on sunny up lit plains territory whereas Clinton comes across as an old hack deeply mired into everything wrong with U.S. politics and the grab bag of identity and grievance politics that is the hallmark of the modern progressive left. Democrat operatives fear Rubio the most for these very reasons and it’s not hard to see why.

Rubio is still vulnerable most particularly for his support for the so-called Gang of 8 immigration amnesty proposal that came out of a bipartisan Senate effort but was killed by the GOP controlled House and for his relatively short time in the U.S. Senate. But despite this, and his support for corporate welfare canards such as sugar subsidies (a big industry in his native Florida) and the ethanol mandates so big in Iowa, he seems to be peaking just about the right time. He exceeded expectations in Iowa and entry polls (the caucus equivalent of exit polls) saw him pick up late deciding voters in IA 2:1 over Trump and Cruz. He came within 1% of pushing Trump into 3rd place and he seems to be enjoying a statistically measurable bounce coming into the NH primary. This against the backdrop of sustained attacks from Cruz, Bush and Christie.

Will GOP primary voters forgive Rubio for the ‘sin’ of the Gang of 8? Rubio has uttered many mea culpas and stronger more hawkish rhetoric on this subject as have all the candidates since Trump’s more extreme proposals gained traction. He is racking up high level endorsements: several of the former candidates who are sitting Governors have endorsed him (Walker and Jindal) as has recent drop-out Senator Rick Santorum. He scored the conservative wing’s new darling African-American freshman Senator from South Carolina Tim Scott. There are whisperings that Mitt Romney may endorse Rubio as early as this weekend if it looks like he gets within striking distance of Trump. Romney was Governor of neighbouring Massachusetts and many residents of NH are in the Boston TV station viewing range plus Romney has long owned a cabin the NH woods so he is well regarded in the Granite State. Romney’s endorsement, whilst an anathema to the more conservative followers of Cruz, would play very big amongst the more moderate centrist NH GOP primary voters many of whom are independents. An upset win in NH (or running a very close 2nd to a weakening Trump) would propel Rubio to the front of the race especially if Kasich and Christie drop out. Rubio has many electoral strengths and few damaging weaknesses especially when you factor in the more moderate centre that must be won to win the Presidency. His final trump card (pun intended) is he is Hispanic and he could improve on George W Bush’s high-water mark of winning 42% of Hispanics in 2004 (versus the low point of the 27% Romney got in 2012). Yes, Cruz is Hispanic too but his more abrasive combative style is going to be easier for the Clinton camp to exploit than Rubio’s breezy eloquence. Greater electability versus Clinton in the General is a potent argument and Rubio is exploiting it to the hilt.

Primary polls are notoriously unreliable and yet are still reported as if they are

Polling in general has become a more difficult business across the globe even in general elections. Pollsters missed the late surge to National in the NZ 2014 election, the Conservative win in the UK 2015 election, the scope of the GOP wave in the 2014 mid-term elections and the easy Likud victory in the 2015 Israeli elections. Polls for U.S. primary elections are even more fraught for a variety of reasons. The sample sizes tend to be smaller for most (but not all) polls so the margins of error are higher. Primary voters are fickler and a much higher percentage make up their mind at the last minute compared to general elections. Late breaking surges for a particular candidate are missed or more frequently, their extent is understated. This is because of the tighter time frames over which primary polls are often conducted (which is part of the reason why their sample sizes are smaller). Polls conducted in the next major primary/caucus state right after the previous state results are often tainted by the immediate euphoria and media reporting binge surrounding the victory or failure of specific candidates which has the effect sometimes for instance, of overstating the support of an Iowa winner over a candidate that will be more popular in New Hampshire. But if a pollster waits for the post primary vote reporting frenzy to dissipate, they may have too small a window in which to accurately poll before the next vote. And then add into the mix in New Hampshire the fact that over 40% of registered voters are Independents and that NH electoral law allows Independents to vote in either the Democrat OR Republican primary (but not both), one of the hardest things to predict (because the ratio of Indies voting in Dem or GOP primaries swings from election to election based on how competitive the ballot is for each party) is not only WHO Independents will vote for but even which contest they will enter. In a small state like NH, these swings to GOP over Democrat (or vice versa) can bring a larger than expected number of voters into a specific party’s race and if there is a late surge to one candidate in that party’s race, it is much more difficult for pollsters to pick that up. Bottom line: treat the NH polls in the lead up to Tuesday February 9 primary in New Hampshire with a grain of salt.

Alwyn Poole on Euthanasia

February 7th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Alwyn Poole has done a post arguing against legalising euthanasia:

I had two fathers who died two quite different deaths. One, my birth father (who I never met), chose suicide assisted by a shotgun in his back shed. The other, the one who adopted me and brought me up, died of natural causes in his lounge – at home with his wife – in 2006.

Strangely enough, re the debate on euthanasia, it is the death of the second one I want to address. This should not be a nice trendy issue for someone to try and gain electoral support. It has stunning potential to become a slippery slope for a range of groups in society. It also has the potential to confer power to a group of people (doctors) who are highly fallible in a range of ways.

As I said – my adoptive father died naturally at home. His life almost did not end that way. A few months prior to his death I received a phone call at work that my father was “dying that day”. It was a Tuesday and he was in intensive care in a hospital in a small city in NZ. I had spent time there with him on the Sunday and had left him on the improve and​, apparently, ​ in good spirits. 

Ray Poole was 67 years old at the time and had a terminal illness, emphysema, that had progressed. He was not in good shape having been one of those people who had worked incredibly hard (sometimes doing three ​tough ​jobs) to provide for his family and pay his taxes. He most certainly hadn’t helped his health by supporting the NZ ​s​herry industry and overseas owned tobacco companies for a long period of time. His wife, my mother, had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she could go “any time” (which did not actually ​happen ​until ​seven years later​. Luckily she was skeptical of certain timelines too). Her situation clearly was having an impact on him.

Back to the phone call and my dad dying “that day”. I caught a plane and got myself to his fair city. Drove to the hospital and walked into intensive care. With two questions:

  1. What was his condition?
  1. What has happened since Sunday to bring about such a change?

His condition was that he was unconscious and that his oxygen levels were having to be assisted by tubes in his nose. The “what had happened since Sunday” was more startling. Apparently since I had left he had refused food and drink and the staff had allowed him to do so (without notifying family). He was not dying of his disease – he was dehydrated and starving. I asked the nurse in charge how this was allowed. She told me that the “doctors had met and decided that he had no ​’​quality of life​’​ “. This had not been a discussion involving him, my mother, my brother (a nurse), or myself. After I had clearly informed them what I thought of this I then asked what their “plan” was. 

Their plan ​had been to wait until I arrived and then send in a junior nurse with me to “turn off his oxygen and see what happens – then evaluate further.” So I followed her in and she did what she had been told to do by her authority figures. When she turned the oxygen off the saturation levels began to drop off a little. I then informed her that it was time to turn ​it​ back on. She refused telling me it was best that he “slip away now” (my brother, mother and I being treated like uninformed village idiots). She had made that decision but was clearly certain of support from her seniors (who had made sure that they were not there). I was brief and to the point in informing her that she was to turn the oxygen back on and she did so. I then asked for a syringe and a jug of water ​then sat and began to drip water into my father’s mouth. Twenty minutes later he woke up, sat up, and said: “Mate – I would do with another litre of that.”

I then did what I maybe should have done on the Sunday – I stayed and I cared. My dad slowly got better. It was clear that he wasn’t going to live for a long time but he packed life into the next few months. He cared for my mother, he spent time with his grandchildren, he talked with me every day. He passed away naturally when the time came.

Why had he refused food and drink earlier (and been so ably assisted in doing so)? He didn’t want to die but he thought he was being a burden. He thought he deserved it after all he had worked, smoked and drank his health away. He thought he was without hope. He was lonely and afraid of being alone. His wife was sick and, apparently, dying. 

The staff at the hospital took for themselves a “right” and position that does not belong on human shoulders (regardless of what law gets promoted and maybe even passed).​ No human being should be put in a position to decide and assist. ​There are very good reasons that we hold that dying is a natural event and that to the absolute best of our collective ability we care for every human in our society until nature takes its course.

I am always happy to run guest posts for or against an issue.

Not a smart move by Lincoln

February 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lincoln University staff are distraught after they were duped into being frank with a report-writer who turned out to be their future boss.

During the week of January 11, more than 20 staff were asked to meet and be interviewed one-on-one with a “visiting academic”, who was preparing a report for the university’s council.

The man was Professor Robin Pollard, who revealed to a few at the end of their discussions that he was the preferred vice-chancellor candidate. He was given the job, and would start mid-March.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) believed the appointment had been “unnecessarily fraught”, and did nothing to help resolve low staff morale and lack of trust in management at the university.

It was considering legal options, including making a complaint to the Employment Relations Authority about the university’s breach of good faith.

The university said the appointment process had been necessary to respect the need for Pollard’s confidentiality before any offer was made or accepted.

It is a good idea for a prospective CEO to do diligence on  the organisation they are looking to head.

But to mislead staff that you are just a visiting academic doing a report, rather than the likely next VC, is a really bad idea. I’d be very annoyed if that happened to me. You could well say stuff to a “consultant” than you would not say to your ultimate boss.

You can do do diligence or confidentiality, but not both in this way. They should have told those interviewed he was a potential VC, and asked them to not tell anyone, rather than have those staff agree under false pretences.

Whomever signed off on this made a mistake.

Melbourne Age notes the migration flow to NZ

February 7th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Melbourne Age reports:

More people are moving to New Zealand from Australia instead of the other way around for the first time in decades as Kiwis return to a buoyant economy and are joined by foreigners in search of work.

According to new figures released by Statistics New Zealand, 25,273 people migrated east across the Tasman Sea in 2015, compared to 24,504 who went the other way.

This net flow of 769 to New Zealand is the biggest since 1991 and the number of people coming to Australia is the lowest since the same year.

It comes as the country of 4.6 million is experiencing consistent political stability and strong economic performance while other countries falter.

We’re pretty much the only country on the OECD to already be back into surplus after the GFC.

The trend began in the middle of last year and these new figures confirm the anti-New Zealand migration is over, having peaked in 2012 when a total of more than 53,000 fled to Australia.

In 2013, the net migration flow to Australia was 19,600. By 2014, this was down to 3800. 

Halting the “brain drain” was a major campaign commitment of Prime Minister John Key who, after more than seven years in power, is a popular leader running a steady, successful government.

Australians would like some stability in their Governments!

Since John Key became National Party Leader, there have been six PMs of Australia.

The continued economic growth, low unemployment numbers, strong New Zealand dollar, budget surplus and migration success story of the country are all feathers in the cap of the Prime Minister, who last year joked that you “wouldn’t know who’s going to show up” when you’re expecting an Australian prime minister.

Heh.

One victim of this revolving door of political leadership, former treasurer Joe Hockey, last year insisted that the lower tax rates of New Zealand were “unquestionably” part of the exodus.

A top tax rate of 33% is attractive.

The Washington Post has also reported on the change in net migration between Australia and NZ.

General Debate 7 February 2016

February 7th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Lessons from Iowa

February 6th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today has some good lessons from Iowa:

The numbers leave little doubt that Trump made a serious mistake in boycotting the Iowa debate. More than a third of Republican voters (35%) said they made up their minds about which candidate to support in “the last few days.” Among these late deciders, Rubio led the way with 30%, Cruz finished second with 25%, and Trump lagged badly with just 14%. By contrast, among those who had decided earlier than “the last few days,” Trump tied Cruz (both drawing 30%), while Rubio drew only 19%. The Rubio momentum in the final days of the campaign undoubtedly reflected his strong performance in the Iowa debate four days before the caucuses, while Trump’s weakness among last-minute deciders (with less than half the support he got from those who made their choices previously) stemmed at least in part from the bone-headed strategy of failing to appear on that crucial Iowa stage.

Trump thought the debate needed him more than he needed the debate. He was wrong.

Hillary remains profoundly vulnerable on the issue of personal integrity. Among Democratic caucus participants, 24% said the quality that mattered most to them was that a candidate should be “honest and trustworthy.” Among these voters, Bernie Sanders slaughtered Clinton by a staggering 83% to 10%. If the Republicans choose a candidate who conveys a sense of ethics and authenticity, they should be able to peel away some of these Democratic voters — as well as scoring big gains among the independents who care about the honesty issue.

Clinton also has a huge problem with younger voters. Look at the age skew in the entrance polls for Iowa:

  • Under 30s: Sanders +70%!!!
  • 30 to 44: Sanders +21%
  • 45 to 64: Clinton +23%
  • 65+: Clinton +43%

Education Directions on free tertiary fees

February 6th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting analysis of Labour’s “free” tertiary fees policy by Education Directions Dave Guerin – a leading education policy strategist:

  • The policy is quite thin beyond the headline figures. Costings and assumptions have not been provided, so it is hard to test the figures.
  • Making something free normally leads to rationing, and “homeopathy for pets” has been suggested as an area to be curtailed. However, Andrew Little has said that Labour expects a 15% increase in participation (that’s not in the papers released by Labour), so there will be overall growth.
  • If a TEO has fewer sources of income, it becomes more dependent upon the remaining ones. By reducing student fee income, this policy would increase the importance of government funding for TEOs. Such government funding is often constrained due to wider budgetary reasons. Any participation growth would probably be offset by lower income/students, and slower income growth.
  • Apprentices may get less benefit out of this than others, because their fees are generally lower and employers often pay a share of them. Officials will also be cautious about replacing employers’ funds with government funds.
  • The entitlement is defined as years of education rather than EFTS – that would disadvantage part-time learners, and we suspect it might change to an EFTS allowance in time (but Labour is talking to the general public, so would have avoided jargon at this stage).
  • The policy is not targeted, so it will pay the fees of people who are willing to pay fees right now (ie every current fee-paying student). While Labour says that it cares about increasing participation, their policy has the main effect of transferring funds to people who would be students anyway. If you wanted to boost participation amongst people deterred by current fees, you would use more targeted scholarships along with bridging programmes.
  • The policy is affordable, if it is prioritised over other things. Since most students pay their fees with student loans, and around 40% of the value of student loans are written off due to interest-free loans and other factors, Labour only really needs to find about 60% of the costs of fees for its policy (plus their 15% projected growth in student numbers). Labour will have to make a convincing case about its overall budgetary plans closer to the next election.
  • Labour’s stated reasons for the policy (access, retraining, and high debt) aren’t very robust, but the core reason seems to be that senior Labour politicians believe that this is the right thing to do, and that it will earn votes.

So my summary of the above is:

  • Policy does not provide details to back the costing
  • It is likely to lead to course restrictions in some areas
  • Tertiary institutes likely to end up with less funding per student
  • The policy is not targeted and will mainly pay the fees of people already willing and able to pay them
  • The rationale for the policy overall is not very robust – more to do with votes than solving a problem

That’s 9th floor, not 11th

February 6th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ever wondered where our politicians spend their days?

Stuff presents MP Cribs; taking you behind-the-scenes at the Beehive. First up, Prime Minister John Key and his office on the eleventh floor.

That’s the 9th floor, not the 11th floor. The 11th floor is pretty barren and just has a flagpole – commonly known as the roof.

No tag for this post.

General Debate 6 February 2016

February 6th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Australian High Court rules in favour of off shore detention

February 5th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

The High Court has ruled that Australia’s offshore detention regime at Nauru and Manus Island is lawful, dashing the hopes of asylum seekers that detention centres would be closed and they would be settled in Australia.

This ruling will save lives. The hardline policy has stopped hundreds of people from drowning by trying to reach Australia.

Here’s the deaths by drowning by year:

  • 2015: 0
  • 2014: 0
  • 2013: 236
  • 2012: 421
  • 2011: 235
  • 2010: 168
  • 2009: 132

The drop to zero for two years in a row is not a coincidence. It is a direct reflection of removing the incentive for people to pay tens of thousand of dollars to people smugglers.

The full bench of the High Court on Wednesday ruled that the federal government has the power under the constitution to detain people in other countries, finding that its conduct was within the law.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been under pressure to allow child asylum seekers to stay in Australia regardless of the court’s decision. The Greens said on Wednesday that forcing their return amounted to “child abuse”.

No child abuse is when they drown at sea because they are incentivised to try and sail to Australia.

Easton says NZ should sign the TPP

February 5th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Politik reports:

The veteran centre-left economist and long-time Listener columnist, Brian Easton, has come out saying New Zealand should sign the TPP.

In a blog, Mr Easton says that New Zealand achieves international trade successes such as its recent win by having the World Trade Organisation abolish agricultural subsidies because it has international credibility on trade agreements.

“That trust arises from the way we behave in other trade negotiations, including the TPP,” he said.

“The implication is that if we defaulted on the TPPA we would damage that trust and our ability to function effectively in a wide range of other international negotiations we care about, including on climate change.

Getting very lonely for Labour out there.

Vanguard Military School 2015 NCEA Results

February 5th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vanguard Military School is a charter school that Labour and the Greens want to close down.

It’s students come from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, and were often failing in other schools.

Here’s their 2015 NCEA results.

  • NCEA Level 1 – 93.2% vs 83.7% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 2 – 100.0% vs 87.4% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 3 – 93.3% vs 81.3% NZ average
  • NCEA Level 1 Maori students – 95.2% vs 73.0% NZ average

Maori and Pasifika students at Vanguard are achieving 20% better than the national average.

There are already 160 enrolments for 2016. Hopefully they will not be closed down by a change of Government in 2017.

Herald critical of Labour’s bribe

February 5th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

A universal entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education has overwhelming public appeal. Whether it is in the public interest is another question. The policy is expensive: $1.2 billion when fully implemented.

That is a considerable lump of public spending. As always when something of this magnitude is proposed, we should not look at its merits in isolation. Governments do not have infinite budgets and there is a limit to the taxation an economy can provide and remain healthy.

Labour needs to be asked, is this the most worthwhile use of $1.2 billion Is it even the most worthy use of funds allocated to education?

Many professionals (outside the tertiary sector at least) would say raising funding of pre-school education is more socially urgent and productive than relieving school-leavers of an obligation to contribute to the cost of their qualifications.

Most of the $1.2 billion will go to wealthy families who planned to go to university anyway.

University student associations have complained about course fees and loans to cover them since they were introduced. But many thousands of graduates have paid their fees and repaid their loans over the past 20 years.

Tertiary education has seen spectacular growth over that period, attracting foreign fee-paying students as well as meeting New Zealanders’ needs. Why change the funding system now?

Or to put it another way, what problem is this policy designed to fix? Labour’s leader presents it as an answer to the frequent and unpredictable career changes people will need in the workforce of the future. But this “future” has been present for many years now and there has been no sign the costs of retraining have become a problem.

The student loan scheme is effectively a temporary targeted tax on those who undertake tertiary study. Once you eanr above a certain level, you pay a 12% higher tax rate until the loan is paid off.

So what is fairer – those who get the benefits of tertiary study paying a temporary higher tax rate, or all New Zealanders paying a permanent higher tax rate?

The economy is strong in large part because public spending is under control. Expensive proposals that waste money purely for political gain could put the country’s prosperity in peril.

It’s the old tax and spend.

General Debate 5 February 2016

February 5th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Countries wanting to join the TPP

February 4th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Top of their agenda will be what happens to prospective new members over the next two years, before the deal is able to come into force.

Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and Columbia are among those countries that have expressed some interest in joining.

Taiwan has also.

What are their GDPs?

  • Indonesia $890b
  • South Korea $1,410b
  • Thailand $404b
  • Columbia $380b
  • Taiwan $530b

So that’s another $3.6 trillion of GDP likely to join in the next few years.

Yet again Labour wants to walk away from that.

Real wages up even more

February 4th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday:

So real wages have gone up 1.4%

But I got it wrong. The 1.5% increase I referred to was the labour cost index – which is overall cost to employers. That is quite different to how much the average employee earnings have increased.

  • Weekly Gross Earnings average (for FTE) up from $1,102 to $1,135 – a 3.0% increase
  • Average Hourly Earnings up from $28.79 to $29.41 – a 2.2% increase

So taking into account 0.1% inflation the average FT worker is earning 2.9% more in real terms and getting paid 2.1% an hour more in real terms.

DPF away

February 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

From today until late Monday the 8th I’m going to be tramping the Abel Tasman Track.

This means by coincidence I miss the TPP protests and the Waitangi Day protests. Oh dear, how sad.

This will be the fifth Great Walk in recent years. In March I’m also doing the Kepler Track.

After that need to schedule Whanganui River, Lake Waikaremoana and the Routeburn.

I’ve got a small number of posts pre-set to appear, but generally won’t be up with current events so just use general debate for them.

Herald and Hosking on TPP

February 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Looking back, it is hard to recall a greater diplomatic achievement than the comprehensive trade and investment agreement that will be signed by representatives of 12 countries in Auckland today. The post-war creation of the United Nations in which New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser played a role may be as proud for those who remember it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is directly in that tradition.

It represents another advance on the principles of the World Trade Organisation, formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) that was one of the multi-lateral institutions formed by nations seeking world peace and prosperity after two devastating wars.

Even 70 years ago, it proved harder to unite the world on rules for international business and trade than to establish a World Health Organisation and UN agencies for the likes of education and science. The Gatt did not become the WTO until the 1990s when just about all countries in the long communist experiment finally turned to capitalism for the prosperity the West enjoyed.

Now we just need Labour, Greens and NZ First to embrace capitalism again!

Mike Hosking writes:

Good morning and welcome to TPP signing day.

I know, I know, I know. We’ve thrashed this thing to death, but here’s your reality: It’s a done deal.

It will get signed today, the legislation will be passed, and all there is left to do is sit back and basically sees who’s right.

Will it be like every other free trade deal and open new markets, bring new opportunities and boost our wealth? Or are the doom merchants right and we’re heading for corporate armageddon, where we spend the rest of our lives in court and have our sovereignty whipped out from under us?

The really big question not many people seemed to ask in this whole debate was: Why would our Government sign us up to all this so-called trouble?

What Government in its right mind would take us down a path of disaster, and with it the political fallout?

Further, why would 11 other Governments do exactly the same thing?

If this is such a dastardly deal, how is it possible that a dozen countries all got sucked in and put their name to the sort of trouble and political mayhem the placard wavers are proclaiming?

12 Governments have signed it because they all stand to gain more from it than they lose. Trade is not a zero sum gain.

Long term, here’s Labour’s potential nightmare: Assuming those of us who like trade deals are right, as the numbers roll in, as the sales get made, and if this deal is like every other deal, it actually produces way more than the paper work ever indicated, think the China deal which is many times better than was initially thought possible.

As that all happens, Labour is going to be backed into a corner explaining just what it was it couldn’t see that the rest of us could.

The benefits of the China FTA have been much much greater than projected, If TPP goes the same way, Labour are going to look very foolish for campaigning against it.

Key is attending Waitangi

February 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

On Tuesday, leaders voted 38-14 in favour of stopping Key attending, but were overruled by Ngapuhi elders.

Key said marae trustees had issued him a formal invitation after another meeting on Tuesday night, with “all of the same privileges and procedures there’ve been in the past”, and he would attend the event.

However, the large crowds of protesters expected at Waitangi were a complication, with the possibility that it could be too unsafe for him to get onto the marae.

“In a practical sense, if there’s so many people that they physically block the cars from getting in, I can just envisage a situation where I don’t actually get on the lower marae.”

He was “not looking for an excuse to get out”, and said he was happy to defend the Government’s support for the TPPA deal at Waitangi.

Almost any other PM would have happily take the vote as a great reason to not attend, and make them look ridiculous.  It is a measure of his commitment to good faith relations that Key is willing to endure the abuse and threats.

I’m not optimistic that the radicals won’t go over the top and it could get very nasty.

General Debate 4 February 2016

February 4th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Labour’s taxpayer funded campaign office

February 4th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An e-mail from Paul Chalmers, Project Manager of Labour House:

We all know whoever wins Auckland, wins the next election.

That’s why Labour Leader, Andrew Little, has decided to open a fully staffed Labour office in Auckland where he and other MPs will base themselves every week.

That strongly indicates it will be funded by taxpayers from their parliamentary budgets. Labour has no money, so I can’t imagine the party is paying for much of it, if any.

The building will also become the centre of the Labour and the progressive movement in Auckland and the place to co-ordinate the local government and General Election campaigns. 

So by their own words they will be running Phil Goff’s mayoral campaign of this taxpayer funded office. Something they promised they would not do.

Does The Parliamentary Service know this office will be used to run their election campaigns from? That is a breach of the funding rules.