NZIER on harm reduction from cannabis

NZIER has released:

In this Insight, we bring the techniques of policy analysis to the issue of whether prohibition is the best way to reduce harm from using marijuana. Our conclusion is that a better way of lowering harmful marijuana use would be legalisation, combined with heavy taxation, regulation and education. The result should be less use, considerable fiscal savings to the government and the removal of a valuable source of revenue for criminals.

They first state this is about cannabis only, and not other drugs. The reasons you can treat cannabis differently is:

  • deaths from overdose do not occur
  • strength of addiction is very low
  • use tends to start early in life or not at all and declines with age
  • many of the adverse social effects of marijuana are the result of its legal status, not its chemical properties

So cannabis is not the same as P.

Yet despite its illegal status, marijuana use is prevalent. According to Ministry of Health figures, 11% of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over reported using cannabis in the year ended June 2013, with 3.8% reporting that they consumed it at least weekly. 42% of the population reported that they had used marijuana at some time in their life. 11

The result is laws that are routinely flouted by large sections of the population, which brings other laws and the wider law enforcement system into disrepute. The rule of law is important and many studies have shown that countries where laws are respected by the citizenry and enforced justly have higher standards of living than those where laws are allowed to fall into disrepute. 12 We also want to highlight the unintended, but inevitable, consequences of the criminalisation of behaviour that is seen by a significant portion of the population to be pleasurable and acceptable. Because there is high demand for marijuana, but it is illegal, suppliers, who are by definition criminals, will be able to demand higher prices for the product.

Basically this represents a wealth transfer from users to suppliers.

There are many different sources of marijuana available to users in New Zealand, from home production through to purchase from commercial suppliers. Illegality of a popular good is an invitation to organised crime to enter the market. The New Zealand Police has stated that organised crime is linked to every step of the marijuana supply chain.

Buyers and sellers risk victimisation when transacting in a criminal market.

Producers will also probably supply lower quality products than would be likely under a “market” scenario and, of course, the usual protections of consumer and contract law are not available to consumers. Producers will also have to use methods other than recourse to the courts to enforce contractual obligations owed to them.

I think we know what they are.

NZIER recommend:

We would suggest that a five-pronged approach should be studied as a solution to these problems:

  1. legalisation
  2. reduce demand using a tax
  3. regulation; to ensure that consumers are using a safe, quality product and have recourse to consumer protection laws to enforce their rights
  4. education, to ensure that consumers are making informed choices
  5. monitoring of use and effects.

Sounds a good way forward to me.

 

New look for Kiwiblog

After a decade or so of the same design, we’ve done a refreshed look for Kiwiblog. Thanks to Rachel and the team at cre8d design for the work in doing this. Also thanks to the Inspire Net team for making it happen and keeping Kiwiblog running.

The major change is the site is now responsive and should automatically adjust to the size of your device be it phone, tablet or PC. Previously those viewing on phone were directed to a separate mobile site – m.kiwiblog.co.nz which is no longer needed.

A few other changes also. The comments now allow threading so you can reply to a comment directly. This was meant to be the case on the old site but a bug stopped it working. Also only 100 comments per page now loads. This should speed up loading time massively but may mean a bit more scrolling.

We’ve gone to only one sidebar so there is more room for content in the main section of the page. Some of the links previously on the sidebar are now at the top or bottom of the site.

Peters against farmers making more money

Stuff reports:

Dairy giant Fonterra has been accused of “economic treason” after shipping thousands of dairy cows from Timaru to China. …

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said this trend would “cripple our competitive strength” and exporting dairy cows to China was a betrayal of the nation’s economy.

The person guilty of economic treason is Peters who campaigned against the China FTA which has seen exports to China soar.

As usual, Peters is making things up.

However, a Fonterra media spokesperson said the cows that left Timaru had not been sold to the Chinese, but they would be going to one of five farming hubs in China owned by Fonterra.

“We import our own animals to help us maintain our high standards of milk quality, which ultimately helps us secure a premium price for our milk in the Chinese market,” she said.

So this helps Fonterra sell more milk in China. Farmers should tell Peters to butt out of telling them what to do – just as they have with Silver Fern Farms.

Rearing and grazing livestock for export also provided an important additional source of income for many farmers in New Zealand, she said.

So Peters is against farmers being able to produce more income for themselves.

Wikileaks destroying lives

Stuff reports:

WikiLeaks’ global crusade to expose government secrets is causing collateral damage to the privacy of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse, sick children and the mentally ill, The Associated Press (AP) has found.

In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web.

In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case, the site published the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay, an extraordinary move given that homosexuality is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

They’re becoming like Gawker!

“They published everything: my phone, address, name, details,” said a Saudi man who told AP he was bewildered that WikiLeaks had revealed the details of a paternity dispute with a former partner. “If the family of my wife saw this … Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people.”

Assange doesn’t care.

The Saudi diplomatic cables alone hold at least 124 medical files, according to a sample analysed by AP. Some described patients with psychiatric conditions, seriously ill children or refugees.

“This has nothing to do with politics or corruption,” said Dr. Nayef al-Fayez, a consultant in the Jordanian capital of Amman who confirmed that a brain cancer patient of his was among those whose details were published to the web. Dr. Adnan Salhab, a retired practitioner in Jordan who also had a patient named in the files, expressed anger when shown the document.

“This is illegal what has happened,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is illegal!”

The AP, which is withholding identifying details of most of those affected, reached 23 people, most in Saudi Arabia , whose personal information was exposed. Some were unaware their data had been published; WikiLeaks is censored in the country. Others shrugged at the news. Several were horrified.

One, a partially disabled Saudi woman who’d secretly gone into debt to support a sick relative, said she was devastated. She’d kept her plight from members of her own family.

“This is a disaster,” she said in a phone call. “What if my brothers, neighbours, people I know or even don’t know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?”

Medical records are widely counted among a person’s most private information. But the AP found that WikiLeaks also routinely publishes identity records, phone numbers and other information easily exploited by criminals.

Disgusting.

Privacy Commissioner on Intelligence and Security Bill.

The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, writes:

Under current law, there is little to stop the NZSIS accessing any public or private sector database with the consent of the agency concerned, and allowing the SIS to have access is never a breach of the Privacy Act. Cullen and Reddy described this as “open slather”. It also lacks transparency.

Part 5  of the Bill provides for the intelligence and security agencies to have routine direct access tospecified databases, but this access will be governed by “direct access agreements” entered into between the minister responsible for the agency with the database, and the minister responsible for the intelligence and security agency. In preparing those agreements, the ministers have to consult with the Privacy Commissioner, and the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and must have regard to our comments. We will be looking for proportionate access, good record keeping and audit, and sound policies around the retention of the data accessed.

Those agreements will be publicly available. That represents a significant improvement on the status quo in relation to those databases.

That is a significant change.

for the last 23 years, the intelligence and security agencies haven’t even had to worry about complying with the information privacy principles everyone else has to comply with (except for 6 and 7 which provide for your access and correction rights, and 12 which is about unique identifiers).

Neither the Law Commission in its review of the Privacy Act in 2011, nor the Cullen/Reddy review recommended changing that position. However, my office continued to advocate for the agencies to be subject to a greater range of privacy principles.

As a result, the government has agreed that the intelligence and security agencies should be exempt only from principles 2, 3 and 4(b). I’ll be taking that up with the Select Committee, but the Bill as introduced represents a significant advance. Principles will have exceptions to allow the agencies to carry out their statutory functions, and I want to look at whether those are sufficiently clear to ensure the application of the privacy principles will be meaningful. I’d like to have seen a link to a more clearly defined imperative to protect national security, but we’ll keep working on it, and see if we can come up with something workable for the committee to consider.

The fact that the agencies will be subject to nine of the 12 privacy principles means that my office will play a greater role in the oversight of the agencies, and concerned individuals will have a right to make complaints about a wider range of activities.  I’ll work out with the Inspector-General which cases it will make more sense to transfer to her, but again, that represents an improvement on the status quo.

Worth remembering this as the Greens and Peter Dunne denounce the bill.

The Inspector General has been very active in examining the practices and procedures of the GCSB and NZSIS. Of course she is there to ensure they are complying with the law, but she has increasingly pointed out risks and practices that could be improved, even when they are not unlawful.

Take security vetting for example. The SIS holds very personal and intimate details about thousands of New Zealanders who needed to undergo vetting as a condition of their employment. She has reported on her concerns that vetting information could be used by the Service for unrelated purposes. I share that concern.

The Bill proposes that that information be subjected to protections even more stringent than the Privacy Act, so that is another improvement on the what we have at the moment.

Also sounds good.

The new Parliamentary website

Overall the new Parliamentary website is a huge improvement. The layout is cleaner, and information is much easier to find.

It is now much more than just a web version of offline content.  For example the Daily Progress in the House page has hyperlinks to each bill or item before the House.

The draft transcript for each day is no longer one hard to navigate page, but is split up into each debate and much much easier to utilize.

It also has good social media interaction.

But one failing is the site is not responsive. If you look at it on a mobile phone, you get the full site instead of a site designed for phones or tablets. They should fix that asap.

Dunne sees sense

Newshub reports:

A Labour Party Bill that would have ensured contractors are paid the minimum wage is facing defeat because United Future leader Peter Dunne has withdrawn his support for it.

Mr Dunne voted for the Bill on its first and second readings, which it passed by 61 votes to 60.

The Government and employer organisations oppose it.

Mr Dunne now says while the Bill’s intention is sound, he doesn’t think it’s “the appropriate mechanism” to protect vulnerable contractors.

He says he’s been talking to Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse, and has been given an undertaking that other “meaningful steps” will be taken to address problems contractors are facing.

Labour MP David Parker drafted the Bill.

He says people engaged as contractors have few of the protections given to employees under the Minimum Wage Act.

He uses pamphlet deliverers as an example, saying that when their work is broken down on an hourly basis they often earn less than the statutory $14.75 an hour.

Government MPs say the Bill is too prescriptive.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association, and BusinessNZ, say it would make many contracts unworkable.

I’m glad Peter Dunne saw sense. This bill would have ended up effectively turning contractors into employees.

He did the sensible thing and negotiated some stuff from the Government in exchange for deciding not to back the bill. His release says:

“While the intent of this Bill, to provide protection to vulnerable contractors who fall outside the usual bound of the employee/contractor relationship, is sound, in the end I did not consider it to be the appropriate mechanism to provide the necessary protections to vulnerable contractors.

“This is especially so as the Bill blurs the distinction between contractor and employee in such a way that it could result in an unintended consequence of confusing the interpretation of employment law in those sectors identified in the Bill to the extent of actually placing the contractor in a worse remunerative position.

“There is also a lack of clarity as to how pervasive the problem facing contractors is, as there is, on the face of it, little empirical evidence to suggest there is widespread exploitation of contractors.

“Vulnerable contractors do not win in that situation; the only ones who do are employment lawyers,” said Mr Dunne.

 In light of this, Mr Dunne sought and received an undertaking from the Hon Michael Woodhouse as the responsible Minister to take meaningful steps in addressing the problems that contractors may be facing.

“Minister Woodhouse has confirmed to me today that he has asked the Labour Inspectorate to provide an assessment of the extent of any contractor exploitation that they have investigated or suspect is happening within the workplace,” Mr Dunne said.

“Further, Minister Woodhouse has asked the Labour Inspectorate to identify any issues around resourcing for investigating breaches and has confirmed to me that should any issues be identified that these issues will be remedied through any necessary legislative, regulatory or other appropriate mechanism.

“Finally, the Minister has agreed to address the adequacy of existing definitions of what constitutes an employee and contractor in the modern working environment.

“On the basis of that assurance and in light of the concerns I have about the mechanisms in this Bill, I am no longer convinced that it is the answer to the problem it has set out to solve.

A good outcome.

RIP Justin du Fresne

This is very sad news. Justin was a gentleman and a top broadcaster. I always enjoyed going being part of his Friday panels and more recently talking to him on Saturdays. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body.

Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

The Wellington dirty deal

Whispers have reached Kiwiblog of intense negotiations occurring between Labour and Greens in Wellington to try and conclude a deal. The gist of what is on offer is:

  1. Green Party formally endorses Labour candidate Justin Lester for Mayor
  2. Labour stands down its candidate in one of the three Wellington seats and endorses the Green candidate to give them a parliamentary seat
  3. Annette King goes list only, freeing up Rongotai
  4. If Labour-Greens win, Annette is made High Commission to Canberra
  5. The Labour Deputy Leader would normally be Deputy PM, but if King takes a diplomatioc posting this means they can offer Winston Deputy Prime Minister

The negotiations have hit a snag though. While Labour effectively just needs the agreement of the caucus, the Greens would have to have any such deal agreed by their grassroots members in Wellington and they are less than enthusiastic.

If they do manage to conclude a deal, it would be interesting to see which seat Labour offers up. Wellington Central is the best seat nationally for the Greens (they beat Labour on party vote) but I can’t imagine Grant Robertson wants to give it up.

Rongotai is also strong for the Greens, but it is not guaranteed a Green candidate would win as National did win the party vote there.

Ohariu is attractive for them as CR votes get split between Peter Dunne and the National candidate. But if Labour and Greens did a deal, I suspect the CR voters would vote even more tactically to stop a Green MP.

Some in the Greens say they don’t need an Electorate MP, and at 10% are safely over the 5% threshold. Others have looked at what happens overseas when you finally make Government and are worried that they could be at risk in the future and want an electorate seat as a safety net.

Online teaching

The Herald reports:

School-age students will be able to enrol in an accredited online learning provider instead of attending school, under new Government legislation.

The move has dismayed the primary school teachers’ union who say education is about learning to work and play with other children.

Have they not heard of the Correspondence School? Home-schooling?

The radical change will see any registered school, tertiary provider such as a polytechnic or an approved body corporate be able to apply to be a “community of online learning” (COOL).

Any student of compulsory schooling age will be able to enrol in a COOL – and that provider will determine whether students will need to physically attend for all or some of the school day.

The Ministry of Education says this requirement may depend on the type of COOL.

Regulations will set out the way in which attendance in an online learning environment will be measured.

The change is part of legislation that has been introduced by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

She said it was the biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years.

“COOLs will be open to as wide a range of potential providers as possible to gain the greatest benefits for young people,” Parata said.

So basically it is about allowing flexibility.

Te Kura is currently the only correspondence school. The change would open it up to competition.

Act leader David Seymour, who is Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said the changes announced today were not about clearing the way for online charter schools.

That was because there was nothing in the current law that would stop a partnership school allowing students to learn online from home.

An application to establish an online partnership school was rejected by the Government-appointed authorisation board in 2013.

“In principle, partnership schools have offered this opportunity for a long time…who knows what future applications will come forward,” Seymour said.

“I think the jury is still out about whether learning content online is a substitute for the social aspects of actually being part of a school community. But, look, it’s quite possible for some kids that’s exactly what they need.”

Dame Karen Sewell, chair of the correspondence school’s board of trustees, welcomed the changes.

“They will give young people and their whanau the right to choose the education that best suits their needs. Students could choose to learn online or face-to-face, or a mix of both, and have access to a much broader range of subjects regardless of the size and type of school they are attending.

“Many of these young people are referred to Te Kura after long periods of disengagement from education and when all other options have been exhausted,” said Dame Karen.

“Under the proposed changes students, with the support of their whanau or school, could choose to come to Te Kura – or to another COOL – and continue with their learning programme in an environment which may be better suited to them.”

Currently about 23,000 students use the correspondence school each year. About half of those students use Te Kura for subjects or curriculum adaptation which their own school does not provide.

The idea of more than one correspondence school is a good one, with the potential for specialist schools.

Idiots and Bigots

Radio NZ reports:

Yugraj Singh Mahil is pictured on the billboard with another candidate, Anna Casey-Cox. Both are first-time candidates in the city’s east ward, standing as part of the Community Voice group.

Mr Mahil had a busy day handing out leaflets yesterday and did not find out about the defaced billboard, on the corner of Carrington Ave and Vesty Ave, until RNZ told him last night.

“It’s more than insulting,” he said. “People mostly change the appearance of the person but tagging such a group is very harsh, very distressful.”

Mr Mahil said in his 17 years in Hamilton he had never faced that sort of behaviour. “I think this is due to the turban; that happens sometimes, people get confused, they think only Muslims wear turbans.”

The person or persons responsible obviously have a very low IQ, plus equally low decency.

Meet the US Green VP candidate

The Daily Beast has an article on Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party candidate for Vice-President of the US. They focus on his writing for a book edited by a Holocaust denier which includes an article by someone who once made a video explaining how Hitler was right!

His Wikipedia page gives us a lot of other insights into him. Extracts include:

  • referring to the US as a corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity
  • that Israel has more repression than North Korea
  • the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers was a false flag operation by Israel
  • opposed the 2015 Ukrainian revolution as a US supported coup
  • said the shooting down of MA17 over Ukraine may have been a false flag operation
  • said the Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls is probably exaggerated
  • says TPP is designed to “benefit a parasitic white minority ruling class”

 

Saving Hillary’s Hut

The Herald reports:

It played a key role in one of Sir Edmund Hillary’s greatest pioneering adventures, one which elevated him alongside the great Antarctic explorers of Shackleton, Amundsen, and Scott.

Hillary’s Hut – the first building at Scott Base – was the launching pad for the famous Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58.

The coast-to-coast crossing of Antarctica, using the now legendary Ferguson TE-20 tractors, was the first overland expedition to reach the Pole since Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated voyage in 1912.

But over the last 60 years, the hut – one of Antarctica’s most precious heritage sites – has slowly fallen into a state of disrepair.

It has a leaking roof, asbestos that needs removing, melt-pools forming under its floorboards, while unique and historically-important memorabilia inside it are showing signs of damage or corrosion.

Today, the Antarctic Heritage Trust has launched a major fundraising drive to help raise $1 million Sir Ed’s Hut which would maintain it for the next 25 years.

I was lucky enough to visit Hillary’s Hut in January. It is a huge part of history and would be awful to see it fade away.

It has revealed ‘Expedition South’, a month-long journey from one of Sir Ed’s favourite places, Piha Beach where he had a bach for many years, to Aoraki Mount Cook, finishing in sight of the Hillary Ridge.

They will travel the same distance of 2012kms that Hillary and his team did on three
tractors – two of them similar Ferguson TE-20 model tractors that Sir Ed and his
team had, the other a new Massey Ferguson MF5600.

Along the way, the Expedition South team will be stopping at various schools, events, and Hillary hot spots to collect donations from the public.

“We are calling on Kiwis to give a fiver,” Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson said.

“The $5 note has Sir Ed’s face on it so we can’t think of a better use for it than saving his Antarctic legacy.”

I’ll definitely be donating.

Hope the kid is okay

Stuff reports:

An Auckland Council candidate’s campaign launch has been violently interrupted by a sword-wielding man.

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin, who is standing in the Waitakere Ward, was joined by former National and ACT party leader Don Brash for the launch on Great North Rd in Glendene on Monday afternoon.

During a media interview with TVNZ a man pulled up in a car with a young child in the passenger seat.

Brash, who was there to support Rankin, said on Tuesday morning that the “enormous” man was clearly agitated and jumped out of the car holding a sword at least a metre long.

“It looked like a ceremonial sword but it looked like it could do some serious damage if used with appropriate force.”

He believed the man had randomly happened across the interview, rather than arrived to interrupt it on purpose.

Most of those present quickly left the scene but Rankin attempted to calm the man, Brash said.

“I think we were all a bit dismayed by the spectacle.”

Brash said police were called and he left the scene shortly afterward.

Rankin said his main concern was for the young boy in the car and he believed the man to be under the influence of drugs.

“He was ranting and threatening us with his sword.”

A police spokeswoman confirmed they had received a call about the man, aged 42, “yelling and waving” a sword about 1.30pm.

When they arrived the man was gone but his car was later located in Kelston.

A low-speed chase ensued and police drove alongside the man, who still had his child in the car, pleading for him to stop.

Police managed to block the vehicle in on Victor St in Avondale and detained the man for treatment under the care of health authorities.

The child was unharmed.

Good that the kid is unharmed but the man involved obviously has some serious issues and I doubt should be in charge of a kid for any period of time.

$43 million from Citizen Yan

The Herald reports:

One of New Zealand’s most controversial citizens will forfeit nearly $43 million to the police following a money-laundering inquiry.

The Herald this morning revealed William Yan – also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan – struck a deal as the final settlement in a civil case two years after the police raided his Metropolis penthouse.

Most of the settlement is secret but the police have now issued a press release with some of the key details.

“In accordance with the settlement, the High Court has made assets forfeiture orders in respect of property to the total value of $42.85 million.

“This is the single largest forfeiture that has occurred in New Zealand to date and is the first that relates to crimes alleged to have occurred in China.

“The activity underlying the forfeiture orders is alleged money laundering.”

“This settlement is a full and final settlement of the proceedings under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act without any admission of criminal or civil liability.”

Heh, there may not be an admission but you don’t get up $43 million unless they have you by the short and curlies.

The $43m settlement is the latest twist in a saga dating back to 2001 when Yan arrived in New Zealand.

He first made headlines for his links to the previous Labour government and the decision to give him a New Zealand passport, despite having multiple identities and an Interpol alert against his name.

Former Labour Minister Shane Jones overruled the advice of DIA officials, who said Yan did not meet the good character test for citizenship, following lobbying from Dover Samuels, a Labour MP at the time.

By coincidence he was a donor to various Labour Party MPs.

Should someone get parole early so they can be deported?

Stuff reports:

A South African psychiatrist who poisoned his wife is unwell and unable to be deported, his lawyer says.

Colin Bouwer appeared via video link before the New Zealand Parole Board from Rolleston Prison, near Christchurch, on Tuesday.

Bouwer, who has served his non-parole period of 15 years after being convicted in 2001 of murdering his wife, has been served with a deportation order by Immigration New Zealand.

“He will be deported at the end of his sentence,” a spokesman said.

However his Dunedin-based lawyer, David More, said his client was unwell and could not return to South Africa. Release was not sought at Tuesday’s parole hearing for that reason, he said.

This is an interesting case. Most prisoners want to get parole but here Bouwer it seems would rather be in prison in NZ than living free in South Africa.

If he had a fixed term sentence, then he would be released eventually even if he never gets parole. But as he has a life sentence, should we continue to pay the bill to imprison him, when we could deport him?

Can you give someone parole against their wishes?

I tend to think he should be released and deported.

Speaking on behalf of everyone

Robyn Hunt writes at The Spinoff:

I assure David Seymour that assisted suicide is a really big and complicated deal. It is no coincidence that disabled people all over the world oppose it.

Really? Every single one?

Disabled people see assisted suicide as dangerous because of their already marginalised status.

I congratulate the disabled people of the world for having elected Robyn Hunt to speak on their behalf.

There is one small problem.

They didn’t.

A 2015 poll by Populus found higher support for assisted dying or euthanasia laws amongst disabled people, than those without disabilities. The level of support was:

  • Have a disability: 86%
  • No disability or longstanding physical or mental condition: 81%
  • longstanding physical condition 86%
  • longstanding mental condition 89%

It is quite appropriate to raise issues of concern over any proposed law. It is not appropriate to claim to speak for an entire group of people, when you don’t and in fact your view is very much in the minority of that community.

Little on bugging

Stuff reports:

The Prime Minister has weighed in on the All Blacks bugging debacle – and come under fire from the opposition in the process.

When John Key was drawn into the speculation of how the listening device could have made its way into the rugby team quarters – or who could have done it – he revealed that he himself had been a victim of bugging.

In fact, the Prime Minister said he was under the expectation he was being recorded in some instances.

But these revelations didn’t move Labour leader Andrew Little – who doubted the Prime Minister had ever been bugged in New Zealand. …

“I have to say I doubt very much whether he’s been bugged certainly internally in New Zealand. What happens overseas, particularly visiting foreign countries, who would know? But it’s typical John Key – say something outlandish that who knows whether it’s true or not and see what happens. And that’s what he’s done on this occasion.

“I don’t trust him when he says he’s been bugged in New Zealand.

Little again thinks calling the PM a liar is a good political strategy. How has that worked for the last ten years?

Also depending on your definition of bugging there was the secret recording of Key and Banks in 2011 and also in 2008 (off memory) the left activists who secretly recorded National MPs at a function.

Apart from those events already in the public domain, it is now routine for some National MPs and officials to have their offices checked for listening devices, and you don’t do that (which costs a bit of money) for no reason.

As some people think hacking e-mails is a legitimate political activity, why would they stop there and not also try to bug political opponents? My first reaction after the last Hager book was to find out how I could check if my apartment and office were bugged. In the end I concluded a human spy was put into my office, rather than an electronic one. So reassuring.

Prime TV’s “Back Benches”: 24 August 2016–Wellington Mayoral Debate

From Backbenches:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”—WELLINGTON MAYORAL DEBATE: Watch Wallace Chapman, Hayley Holt, the Back Benches Panel and special guests fight for your vote!

BUSES, TRAINS, BIKES AND AUTOMOBILES:  Worse than London, Los Angeles and Istanbul –

Wellington’s morning traffic is getting worse and at a rate faster than Auckland. What’s the solution? Is it more public transport? Is it better cycleways? Is it finally installing the basin flyover? Do we have the infrastructure to handle our population? Is it expected to keep up with demand?

BANNING BEGGARS?: Wellington is the most generous city to beggars in the nation, so it is no wonder the numbers of those begging on the street has increased. But is banning the practice the solution? Is the solution about finding those on the street employment or a roof over their heads or is it more complex than that?

COOLEST LITTLE CAPITAL IN THE WORLD?:  Wellington claims it is the coolest little capital in the world. But can it make that claim? What makes it cool? What’s the best part about Wellington? When someone visits from out of town—where’s the one place you’d recommend? Is Wellington a destination spot? Would extending the runway make it more enticing to tourists? A study says Wellington isn’t a magnet for tourists. How can we change that perception?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 24th of August at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:20pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!  

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Jo Coughlan, Andy Foster, Nick Leggett, Justin Lester, Helene Ritchie and Nicola Young.

Simmons on an FTT

Geoff Simmons of the Morgan Foundation writes on an FTT:

Some are convinced New Zealand would be better off. They think that bankers and traders are getting more than their fair share of benefit out of the globalised economy, that speculation is excessive, this is contributing to the greater volatility and uncertainty in markets so Kiwis are worse off. Given the billions that pass through the financial sector every day, the idea is that clipping the ticket on each transaction would raise a lot of money and reduce both speculation and volatility in financial markets.

However, not all transactions are bad – when you get paid, for example, or make a payment on your mortgage. Or send money overseas to pay for your upcoming holiday. Would you mind someone clipping the ticket on all of those? Of course, you can specify what kinds of transactions you want to target with a tax, such as house sales (via a stamp duty) or share trades or foreign currency deals. But ordinary people still engage in all of those, at the very least through KiwiSaver.

Sure, some transactions are purely speculative, but an FTT won’t just stop those. It is a sledgehammer and would not discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ financial transactions.

So an FTT would be very blunt.

Research has found that (unsurprisingly) people respond to FTTs such as stamp duty by reducing the number of taxed transactions made. In other words, house sales drop. This doesn’t alter the intent of transactions, simply the number. Stamp duty hasn’t prevented speculation on housing, nor reduced volatility in the market. Quite the contrary, having fewer transactions can increase the volatility in the market. Fewer transactions can also have their costs in terms of the efficiency of the economy. Stamp duty, for example, makes it more likely for an elderly person to hold on to a home that is too large for them, and therefore makes it more difficult for families to find the houses they need.

The larger you are the easier it would be to avoid. For example huge financial services companies would simply run credit and debit balances with each other and maybe only physically transfer cash once a year for the net amount.

The experience of Sweden’s FTT has been interesting. When it was introduced, revenue was far lower than predicted because of changes in the number of financial transactions. In fact, the lower number of transactions reduced revenue from Sweden’s capital gains tax, so the government ended up with less revenue overall.

New taxes often have unforeseen consequences. The Mexico sugar tax was meant to reduce sales of soda drinks but the tax is bringing in more money than forecast, which means sales have not decreased.

In short, the FTT appeals mainly to those who seek to get at “wicked bankers and evil speculators” but it’s pretty naive. It is unlikely to raise a lot of money unless there is a global agreement; otherwise it would leak like a sieve, penalise quite innocent and necessary trade, impede economic activity unnecessarily – all features of a bad tax. In the meantime, taxes like the comprehensive capital income tax (CCIT) seem to have much more potential to raise serious revenue and benefit the economy by closing existing tax loopholes.

I don’t think an FTT would be good. As Simmons says, it won’t work unless other countries do it also – and even then possibly not.

I do support a comprehensive capital gains tax (on everything including the family home) but it should only apply when gains are realised. The CCIT would apply even if no gains are realised or even if you make a loss as it assumes a minimum 5% return. That’s more a wealth tax than a capital gains tax.

A good return on investment

The Herald reports:

Destiny Church co-leader Hannah Tamaki has treated herself to a second Mercedes-Benz in seven months.

The wife of controversial, self-appointed Destiny leader Brian Tamaki has this time splashed out on a brand new Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 450 Coupe.

The car has a normal retail price of $153,500.

The Tamakis are obviously shrewd investors. Their decision to invest in the religion market is paying off well, and good on them.

I imagine like all good business people, they looked at what marker would provide the best return on investment. It was probably something like:

  • Residential real estate 10% per annum
  • Commercial real estate 9% per annum
  • Car sales 14% per annum
  • Amway 6% per annum
  • Religion 35% per annum

Deciding to finance their retirement through setting up a religion obviously had the highest potential returns. The risks are greater, but once you cover the capital costs you have perpetual tithe income.