Monday, January 31, 2011

Frank Newman: The State of the Universe Address

For politicians there is never a bad time to make promises about the future, after all making promises about the future is much more palatable than defending past and present failings. Labour and National have given their state of the nation addresses, and the Greens have delivered a state of the planet eulogy. Not to be outdone, I thought I would go one better and present an inaugural State of the Universe address. The speech notes go something like this:

1. Tax people more and they will work less.
2. Like unwelcome relatives, once you allow politicians into your life they don’t leave until the fridge is bare.

Mike Butler: Coastal bill two votes from oblivion

Attorney General Chris Finlayson claims that the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill would provide a good outcome for all, but polarized views show that a miracle would be required for the troubled bill to bring a lasting solution to the foreshore and seabed issue. Finlayson’s detailed justification of his troubled bill was published in Saturday’s Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper. That paper’s letters section has run a lively debate on the issue, with letters from opposing viewpoints criticising the bill.

Bruce Bisset, who writes a weekly column in that newspaper under the title “Left Hook” argued, on January 10, that “if there’s one issue that threatens to divide the country this year it’s the marine and coastal area bill”.

Friday, January 28, 2011

David Round: Multiculturalism and Diversity - part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found on the NZCPR website here.

Let us begin by asking a couple of elementary questions.

First, what is so good about diversity? Is it something inherently good? The answer to that surely has to be that it is not. In an ideal world, after all, we would all surely enjoy perfect health, but that is the opposite of diversity. The reality, where some people are perfectly healthy, others are dying, and there is every shade of illness in between, is the diverse situation ~ but that is surely a bad thing. Students do not rejoice in diversity when some fail their exams and others receive low passing grades, while only a few get top marks. But that is diversity. In a (completely impossible) ideal world we would all be rich, handsome, intelligent and healthy ~ but that would mean there would be no diversity in wealth, good looks, intelligence or health.

Karl du Fresne: Perhaps we'll all be too drunk to notice

We are a nation in denial.

In every glossy magazine I open – and in newspapers, to a lesser extent – page after page is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure in one form or another. We are endlessly absorbed with food, fashion, travel, design and other trappings of an affluent, self-indulgent lifestyle.

Roger Kerr: Tax-Free Threshold Awful Policy

The Labour Party’s proposal to introduce a zero rate of income tax on the first $5,000 of taxable income may have populist appeal but it is seriously bad policy.

New Zealand once had a tax-free threshold. Even the Great Populist Sir Robert Muldoon was sensible enough to abolish it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lord Nigel Lawson: Five Myths and a Menace

This is the inaugural Adam Smith Lecture given by Lord Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Pembroke College, Cambridge, UK on November 22, 2010.
I wonder whether enough has been made by Adam Smith scholars, which I do not claim to be, of the intellectual connection between Smith and Charles Darwin. Darwin himself records how, during his last year at Cambridge, he spent much of his time studying Smith. And I have long been struck by the parallel between Smith's explanation of how economic order and growth is secured by the free interaction of individuals seeking their own personal satisfaction, "as if by an invisible hand", and Darwin's revolutionary insight, a century later, of how the remarkable natural order could arise spontaneously as a result of natural selection, without the need for an intelligent designer or divine watchmaker.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mike Butler: Sharples’ separatist dream

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples put his spin on history, the Treaty of Waitangi and progress towards his goal of “Maori control of all things Maori” in a speech to the World Christian Gathering last Saturday, January 15, 2011. While he stressed that his speech was a personal vision for the future, what he said could not go without comment.

Sharples believes his pre-European ancestors were confident, secure, autonomous and generous tangata whenua” who had “well-regulated societies, effective leadership and political organisation, systems of justice and dispute resolution, sustainable environmental protection and resource management regimes.”

He did not say that the “generous tangata whenua” resolved disputes through a series of 500 or more battles, known as the Musket Wars, between 1807 and 1839. Northern tribes such as the rivals Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua were the first to obtain firearms, and inflicted heavy casualties upon each other and on neighbouring tribes, some of whom had never seen muskets. The wars were characterised by their brutality and ruthlessness - with treachery, burning villages, killing prisoners, torture, slavery, and cannibalism.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mike Butler: 'The First Colonist' and Colonist Day

January 22 is just another day whereas February 6 is the Waitangi Day holiday that features protesters behaving badly. But January 22 could be celebrated as Colonist Day since it marks the arrival of the Aurora, the first New Zealand Company ship bringing colonists. Those colonists were greatly influential by being here first, before successive waves of English immigrants. They established the ethos of their cities, and provided the foundation of provincial government, set up in 1853.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mike Butler: WINZ and food bank queues

Work and Income Christmas-New Year rent payment policy may be partly blamed for queues at food banks and WINZ offices around the country in the second week of January every year. Many beneficiaries received two incomes on the week before Christmas, one payment in the week between Christmas and New Year, and nothing until the week beginning January 9.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ron Smith: Slow steaming and perishable trade

Weekend stories concerning a progressive slow-down in the effective operating speed of container ships from New Zealand suggest a growing problem for our exporters of perishable goods, such as chilled lamb or kiwifruit. Not surprisingly, the overall driver of the problem from a shipping company point of view is profitability, which is currently under stress, but the principle factor appears to be rising fuel costs, perhaps exacerbated by increasing sensitivities about global warming (however ill-founded these latter concerns may be).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Karl du Fresne: Scandal seems a mild word in this context

The wretched saga of New Zealand’s Skyhawk and Aermacchi air force jets is limping toward its inevitable, shameful conclusion.

Not only are the RNZAF’s Skyhawk fighter-bombers destined to end up as museum pieces, but undefined “engine issues” now mean its Aermacchi jet trainers will not be brought back into service as defence officials originally hoped. Defence Minister Wayne Mapp is quoted in today’s Dominion Post as being “optimistic” that the 17 Aermacchis could be sold to offset costs, but experience tells us to take this with a grain of salt. For years we were strung along with assurances that the Skyhawks would be sold in going condition; now they are permanently mothballed and virtually worthless. Experience tells us to brace ourselves for an announcement in a couple of years’ time that the Aermacchis will be used as landfill.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ron Smith: Who fired on the ambulance?

Accounts of the recent shooting incident in Kabul, involving the New Zealand SAS, showed a quite familiar pattern. In one account (largely supplied by the owner of the warehouse that was the focus of the operation, to a Times of London reporter) it was yet another military/American blunder in which innocent Afghan citizens were killed by NATO forces. No shots were fired, other than by the troops, and no weapons and no signs of a plot to attack the US Embassy were uncovered. In the other (official) account, the operation was conducted on the basis of plausible intelligence and the NATO force responded to incoming fire; weapons were found. Media judgements were then made on the basis of which account of events the commentator preferred.

Mike Butler: Mohaka settlement generous, but who sold the land and killed the ancestors?

A $20-million Treaty of Waitangi settlement of Mohaka tribe Ngati Pahauwera, signed on December 18, 2010, shows that the government is getting more generous, grievances are more tenuous, and claimants more adept at playing the victim. The deed, signed at Waipapa-a-Iwi Marae at Mohaka, includes cash and ownership of the 15,485 hectare Mohaka Forest, for which the tribe is paying $12-million. The Crown owns the trees but will pay Pahauwera an annual rental starting at $725,900. (1) Around 1087 hectares of Department of Conservation land and two farms are included in the package. The tribe is also the new landlord of Napier’s Whirinaki Pan Pac Forest Products plant.