Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don Nicolson: Spilt milk

Only in Australasia could milk pricing inspire talkback radio.  Sir Henry van der Heyden, Fonterra's chair, claims the milk we buy is priced internationally.  Dairy farmers meanwhile point to their share of the retail litre being $0.65 with winter milkers earning slightly more.

The clear point is that farmers are not skimming the consumer cream.

Consumers just want to know if they're being ripped off.

Karl du Fresne: A stadium of four million suckers

THE LIKELY cost to Auckland ratepayers of the Rugby World Cup has now been put at $103 million and rising. That includes $3 million-plus for the privilege of acquiring the extra three matches transferred from quake-stricken Christchurch.
Some bonus. 

I’m not sure whether the figure also takes into account the staggering $3.07 million cost of erecting a proposed giant TV screen in Aotea Square – a project the former Auckland City Council approved on the basis of an airy-fairy estimate of $1.65 million.

Owen McShane: The Role of Soils in the Roadblocks to Productivity

Now that I live in the countryside I tend to listen to “Rural Report” and similar programmes on radio. A few Saturday mornings ago I was intrigued by a “Country Life” interview with Ian Kerr, who raises hydroponic lettuce near Lake Karapiro in the Waipa District. It seems to be a nice little business, and a demonstration of how knowledge and skill contributes to productivity and efficiency. As I recall, Mr Kerr grows ten crops of about 10,000 lettuces a year within his hydroponic greenhouse – obviously a highly productive operation on his 60 acre farmlet.

Unsurprisingly, towards the end of the interview the reporter asked if Mr Kerr had plans for expansion. He obviously had plenty of room to expand, both on his land, and in the market place. Mr Kerr explained that while he had plans for all manner of activities, including expansion and diversification of his hydroponic farming, he could not realize them because of the rules in the Waipa District Plan. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ron Smith: Afghanistan: prisoners and torture

I last wrote on this topic in August of last year (‘What to do with the prisoners?’, 25 August, 2010) when, as now, the matter of prisoner-taking by our SAS forces in Afghanistan was raised as a political and moral issue. The matter has now resurfaced through a long article by Jon Stephenson in the latest (May 2011) edition of Metro magazine. Again, accusations of impropriety are made against our SAS forces, and our political and military leadership, in relation to prisoners taken in counterinsurgency operations, in which our forces were involved, and who were subsequently handed over to US custody, or to the custody of various Afghan Government agencies. It should be noted that there is no suggestion that prisoners have been ill-treated by New Zealand soldiers. The focus of concern is rather on what happened to them after they have been handed over and this because of our legal (and moral) obligations under various international treaties and conventions.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Muriel Newman: Local government inspiration

Here is a story from that should provide inspiration to our local government sector. Sandy Springs is town of around 100,000 inhabitants in Georgia, USA - similar in size to Tauranga. Since its incorporation in 2005, it has outsourced all of its services except the Police and Fire Service. As a result, it has improved infrastructure, has no long-term liabilities and has kept rates flat.

Why can't local councils here in New Zealand follow suit?

Owen McShane: Oil Prices and Public Transport

Since the oil spike in the early seventies enthusiasts for public transport have predicted that these high prices for petrol would trigger a public transport revolution as people finally broke their "addiction" to the motor car and changed their travel mode to buses and trains. And in the short term their predictions appeared to be true as public transport use increased and motor car mileage decreased.

However, it was not long before the trend towards increased motor use was re-established and the public transport share either stabilised or even fell.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tim Ball: IPCC Studies And Reports Have Nothing to Do with Climate Change

Most people have no idea what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) actually studies. They believe their reports are complete reports of climate change. This misconception is mostly because the IPCC arranged it and does little to correct it. In fact, they only  look at that portion of climate change caused by humans. Here’s how they limit their study:

“The definition of climate change the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes.”

Roger Kerr: Government Size And Economic Growth

My reading of Treasury material in the last decade on whether high government spending harms economic growth is that size doesn’t matter in its view – the public sector can in principle spend taxpayers’ money as well as they can spend it themselves.

This view implicitly holds that the government is not constrained by problems of information and incentives.  Therefore if there is a problem it is only because not enough is being spent on ‘productive’ categories of spending and too much on ‘unproductive’ categories.  Treasury papers have also been at pains to make the trite observations that government spending can be too low as well as too high, and that the quality of spending matters, which of course it does.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Roger Kerr: Tax Changes Wide Of The Mark

In the Herald on Sunday Bernard Hickey wrote that the tax changes announced in the May 2010 budget had failed. “The company tax cut was supposed to encourage companies to invest here and employ more people.” Together with changes to personal tax, GST and depreciation, this “would bring down the budget deficit and transform the economy from a consuming and borrowing junkie into an investing and exporting powerhouse.”

“Transform the economy”?  No one made that claim.  A Treasury paper released with the budget indicated that GDP might be a modest 0.9% higher in seven years’ time as a result of the tax package.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lindsay Mitchell: Power Goes Too Far

According to the NZ Herald:

Extended family and close friends of child abusers could face up to 10 years in prison if they turn a blind eye to abuse and do not report it.

Justice Minister Simon Power yesterday introduced changes aimed at protecting children from abuse and neglect, including a new offence making people who are close to a family liable if they do not report abuse to the authorities.

Another step too far.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Owen McShane: Why isnt the economy doing better – Part Three

This column presents some of the actions available to councils to reverse the declining residential build rate. If councils do nothing we shall continue the drift into ongoing recession. Central Government action is not enough.

Many Local Authorities’ Annual Plans claim to promote economic growth and development, yet their RMA Plans tend to regard growth as something to be avoided. Indeed, any pockets of growth are assumed to be “out of control” and requiring interventionist “ growth management” to restrain them.

Karl du Fresne: A seriously retrograde step

Even accepting that every institution has a natural lifespan, the impending demise (let’s call it euthanasia) of the New Zealand Press Association is unquestionably a setback for New Zealand journalism – and not just because 40-odd journalists will be put out of work, though I certainly wouldn’t want to be thrown on the job market in the present economic climate. 

Nor is the closure of NZPA simply a matter of sentimental regret, or even one that should be of concern only to journalists.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mike Butler: Fast-track settlements hinder scrutiny

Emboldened by his success in passing the fraught Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill into law, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson wants to change Parliament's rules to fast-track more than 20 settlements before the election. He said that "treaty bills are particularly suited to streamlined procedures because they stem from legal agreements which are already entered into ... but they don't actually have legal effect until the legislation is passed. That's why some iwi become a little concerned at the delays, because they have to wait to obtain the fruits of their settlement." (1)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Owen McShane: Why isnt the economy doing better – Part Two

My last column argued we should double the residential build rate to achieve ongoing growth and development.

This column presents some of the actions necessary to achieve that goal. A complete argument would fill a book; the following are just a few examples of actions required by Central Government:

Free us from Incompetent and Unlawful Proposed Plans.

Roger Kerr: Productivity Growth Still New Zealand's Big Challenge

In its two reports to date the 2025 Taskforce has provided estimates of the income gap between New Zealand and Australia.

Its base measure of the gap is real GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms.

In its first report the Taskforce put the income gap at 35% for 2008. OECD projections in a table in its second report last November suggested that the gap would be 38 percent in 2010.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lindsay Perigo interviews Muriel Newman

Lindsay Perigo interviews Muriel Newman about the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, the foreshore and seabed, and today's hot political issues.

Perigo screens on Stratos TV, Sky 89, on Thursday at 7.30pm.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Michael Coote: Race to the foreshore will drown a nation

Passage of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 into law on March 24 deserves a similar status of tragedy suffered by the general public as the Christchurch earthquake aftershock of February 22.

Christchurch’s disaster saw unforeseen loss of life and property, but the Act inflicted wilful self-destruction of the Crown’s rightful ownership of one of its greatest public possessions in the foreshore and seabed out to the 12 nautical mile limit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ross McKitrick: Earth Hour - a dissent

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour. Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Owen McShane: Why isnt the economy doing better - Part One

Many New Zealanders are asking “Why isn’t our economy moving out of recession?” A growing number of international urban economists, from Paul Krugman to Thomas Sowell, now agree that economies cannot grow out of recession unless they build their way out of it.

Contrary to central-planning lore suburban housing will be the main driver of that recovery. Over its lifetime every new house generates a huge number of jobs, contracts and purchases.

Karl du Fresne: Another PC casualty

BRIAN TRUE-MAY, the co-creator and producer of the popular TV series Midsomer Murders, has effectively been forced to step aside after a magazine interview in which he described the programme as “the last bastion of Englishness” and said it wouldn’t work if it included racial minorities. He thus becomes yet another casualty of political correctness. The po-faced neo-prudes rule.

The essence of Midsomer Murders, the source of its charm, is that it is set in a mythical, rural England where the villages have names like Badger’s Drift, Luxton Deeping and Monks Barton. The characters are quintessentially English, which means white (and often slightly loopy).