Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ron Smith: On fruit-loops

One of the weaknesses in the New Zealand democracy is the extent to which the crucial media outlets are dominated by the political prejudices of the individuals who determine policy and conduct the interviews. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in the general fare on National Radio on a Sunday morning, and, specifically, nowhere was it better illustrated than in the cosy discussion of American politics between Chris Laidlaw and Victoria University academic, Jon Johansson, which occurred last Sunday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mike Butler: Tell Smith your views of ETS

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith's handling of the emissions trading scheme means that we are all to face a hike in the price of electricity, petrol, butter, cheese – you name it – in a costly empty gesture to the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Roger Kerr: Spending Cap An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Next month’s budget is expected to include an announcement on some form of legislated cap on government spending. This could be one of the most important reforms the government has so far proposed. The initiative was foreshadowed in last December’s Budget Policy Statement, where the minister of finance Bill English noted that “Controlling the growth of, and getting better value from, government spending should be a permanent feature of the economic landscape.”

Allan Peachey: Turning Around Failing Schools

I have recently spent two weeks in London studying the Westminster style of Government. Perhaps in a future column I will branch out from education and offer some thoughts on that. For the moment however, I will confine myself to some thoughts on the English schooling system, which in many ways is a mess. There are lessons in what I am about to describe for New Zealand.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mike Butler: Holmes preaches global warming

Media celebrity Paul Holmes wants us all to "bite the bullet on reductions to our greenhouse gas emissions” because “if we don’t, by the end of the century we are headed for catastrophe”. The Holmes column, that was published in Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper, is yet another example of a poorly informed celebrity endorsing the beliefs of the climate doomsayers that now occupy the top levels of our government.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mike Butler: Tribe slams no ownership

The Ngati Kahungunu tribe wants ownership of the foreshore and seabed put into “Tipuna Title, activist and lawyer Moana Jackson said in Napier last Thursday. He put his tribe’s proposal to Attorney General Chris Finlayson at a meeting at Napier’s Pukemokimoki Marae meeting, which attracted 150 people, according to a report in the Hastings Mail, published today.

Mike Butler: Nats, tell Key what you think

Those who voted National in 2008 probably didn’t foresee that they were voting to further Maori Party goals. Prime Minister John Key has made that fringe party’s radical objectives mainstream by agreeing to: Fly the Tino Rangitiratanga flag of Maori sovereignty on government buildings on Waitangi Day; devolve about $1-billion a year to Maori social service providers; sign up to the United Nation's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and could enact a radical law change to give Maori de facto sovereignty over the foreshore, seabed, substrate, and airspace.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ron Smith: Classical Deterrence and the Proportionate Response

Classical deterrence was based on the notion that certain events would inevitably trigger a particular response. Specifically, it was taken that an attack on a nuclear-capable state, using a nuclear weapon, or weapons, would result in a reciprocal attack that would cause almost unimaginable damage. For this reason, it was considered that the initial attack could not take place because the party contemplating it could not avoid the conclusion that, whatever objective he might have had and however worthy he had deemed it to be, the cost would be totally unacceptable. During the Cold War this strategic stand-off came to be known as mutually assured destruction, with the acronym MAD also representing what some saw as a fundamental absurdity about the situation.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mike Butler: Finlayson prickly on referendum

The government wants an enduring solution to the foreshore and seabed issue but the attorney general does not want a binding referendum. Attorney general Chris Finlayson got prickly at the suggestion of a binding referendum at a public meeting in Napier on Thursday night, one of a series throughout the country, although he did note that constitutional arrangements exist for a citizens-initiated referendum.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Allan Peachey: The role of Early Childhood education

What is the role of Early Childhood education? This has become a pertinent question given the millions of taxpayer dollars that now go to a range of early childhood educators. Indeed, is it education that is occurring or just supervision?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mike Butler: Whanau Ora social engineering

If you think the Whanau Ora Taskforce Report (1) is all about streamlining the delivery of welfare to dysfunctional families, think again. The 25,000-word report, released on Thursday, April 8, 2010, dreams of socially re-engineering the Maori population to recreate functioning three-generation families interacting under the guidance of tribal leaders funded by a permanent supply of taxpayer money.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lindsay Mitchell: What difference will whanau ora make?

Whanau Ora is a restructuring of welfare services. There is no indication yet that welfare benefits are involved. Whanau ora promises to work with and reduce dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional families experience a range of negative occurrences; truancy, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, criminal offending, poor physical and mental ill-health are some.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Frank Newman: Pay rise, who decides

Throughout the country the perennial issue of councillor remuneration takes on theatrical dimensions in election year. A case in point is a recent meeting of the Whangarei District Council where one councillor is reported to have said, “We’d be seen as great, big, fat greedy pigs if we took this increase. We need to let our ratepayers know that we have sympathy for them…” (The very same councillor that in the last term of council voted for substantial rate and debt increases!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lindsay Mitchell: The distortion of the DPB

Yesterday beneficiary advocate Paul Blair was back in the news claiming the Ministry of Social Development is acting illegally. He is trying to get people who have been relegated from an invalid's benefit to a sickness benefit to come forward and form a body that will take the department to court. Mr Blair describes himself as a qualified barrister. Listening to him interviewed by Sean Plunket this morning he lacks the discipline and gravitas one might associate with that of a practitioner of the law.

Mike Butler: The runanga and the missing money

A Maori health provider was in the news on Wednesday, April 7, 2010, the day before the launch of the much-vaunted Whanau Ora Maori-managed welfare programme, over unaccounted health funding. Waikanae's Te Runanga O Te Ati Awa Ki Whakarongotai has been asked by Capital and Coast District Health Board to return $590,000 of funding, the Dominion Post reported.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Owen McShane: The Smell of Things to Come?

The Waikato Settlement Bill will legitimise this "spiritual" approach to sewage treatment over the whole country. The Bay Buzz newspaper reports on problems with Hasting's new sewage treatment plant here:
Part One - Stinkin’ Pipes! By Kathy Webb
A monumental waste of money, or a marvel of science and cultural sensitivity?

Lindsay Mitchell: Is WINZ toughening up?

According to the NZ Herald people are being bumped off the invalid's benefit and onto a sickness benefit ahead of the new rule changes. The health advisers involved are not a new appointment though. It may be that after the release of last year's auditor general's report, which found a lack of progress in the application of Labour's changes, they have stepped up activity.

Ron Smith: Appeasement comes again?

Last year I wrote a column on this site under the heading, ‘The Chamberlain of the Twenty-first Century?’ The reference at the time was to President Obama’s apparent reluctance to commit to the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and his determination to pursue a non-confrontational policy with regard to the Iranian nuclear weapons programme, about which I also wrote last year. The latter issue has come to the fore again with the publication in the Washington Times of the result of a diplomatic simulation game played at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mike Butler: Tax Working Group errors spotted

Errors have been found in the Tax Working Group’s report on the taxation of rental property by the Zealand Property Investors’ Federation and a leading academic. Writing in the April edition of The NZ Property Investor, federation president Martin Evans said that the working group advised the government that $200-billion was invested in New Zealand rental property, yet it lost $500-million per year resulting in tax refunds of $150-million.

Mike Butler: The river-ancestor bill

Is the Waikato Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill an enlightened vision of bicultural co-management of the Waikato River, or a constitutional dog’s breakfast that could disrupt the supply of water and electricity to Auckland and undermine the property rights of farmers the length of the river and its tributaries? The bill seeks to give effect to the deed of settlement and Kiingitanga Accord by which the Crown and WaikatoTainui agree to a final settlement of WaikatoTainui confiscation claims relating to the Waikato River, and establish co-management to restore and protect the Waikato River. (1)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Allan Peachey: National Standards for Teacher Training

In recent articles I have made much of teacher quality. I have indicated that it is not National Standards themselves that will make more youngsters learn, it is quality teaching using National Standards that will. I have noted that there is now widespread agreement within the education sector that of all the factors that determine whether a youngster will learn or not the pre-eminent one is teacher quality.

David Round: The Conservation Estate Belongs to Us All – not just Maori

It may surprise you to know that the Conservation Act 1987, which governs the Department of Conservation and the public conservation estate, contains a section ~ section 4 ~ which says that ‘[t]his statute shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’. Why is this provision here? The public conservation estate is the property of us all, not just of Maori, and conservation is, or should be, a matter of universal public interest.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Owen McShane: Time to Return to One Layer of Local Government?

The sacking of the Canterbury Regional Council reinforces my growing sentiment that we made a great mistake when, as part of the Bassett reforms of Local Government, we abandoned the long standing tradition of having one layer of local government, but with this layer separated into two kinds of Council. We had District or City councils for the urban areas, and separate Countiy Council (with associated catchment boards and roads boards and other special purpose bodies) for the rural area.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mike Butler: Fostering tribal access

The government’s preferred “no-owner” option to replace the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act would appear to placate pakeha concerns over access to the beach and ease tribal concerns about blocked access to wealth, if any. Clever politics if Prime Minister John Key pulls this one off, but fatally flawed if it enriches tribal leaders at the expense of everyone else.