Sunday, May 29, 2011

Muriel Newman: Restoring Democracy – a speech to Grey Power

As we look ahead to the November election, many New Zealanders will be thinking “here we go again” – months of electioneering and loads of Party promises only to be followed by three years of a Parliamentary dictatorship where governing parties do what they want irrespective of the wishes of voters. All too often, long-term problems, that everyone knows need to be addressed, are deferred in favour of populist short term political considerations. This is one of the main reasons why the country is failing to prosper.

Candidates always pledge to represent the views of their electorates - if they are elected. But once they win office they become the puppets of their Party machines, lacking the courage to “cross the floor” on contentious issues in order to truly represent the views of their constituents.

Mike Butler: Maori infanticide

Glad to read that the Office of the Children's Commissioner’s "Maori Parenting" report, released last Thursday, blames Maori family violence on European missionaries, because now we can discuss the tradition of Maori infanticide.

A new parenting programme targeted at Maori tells them that prior to Europeans arriving, children were considered gifts from the gods and Maori families shunned child abuse. The researchers suggested abuse arose only after Maori were introduced to corporal punishment in missionary-run

Ron Smith: A Wingnut fights back

The latest issue of New Zealand Skeptic, features a major article by Michael Edmonds, entitled ‘Dealing with Wingnuts – which way to turn?’. It purports to be about the problem of communicating science to the layperson. It is, in fact, an arrogant and self-satisfied diatribe against those who have the temerity to disagree with him. Wingnuts, we are told, are political extremists, ‘unhinged activists’, ‘hardcore haters’, and paranoid conspiracy theorists’, who ‘propagate misinformation to confuse public understanding’. Clearly, they are persons who constitute a serious threat to society.

In the very first paragraph, Edmonds gives two examples of the sort of ‘wingnuttery’ he is talking about. One of these is resisting the challenge of ‘climate change’. I suppose he means by this, expressing doubt about the thesis that the planet faces a serious problem concerning anthropogenic global warming. I also suppose that he intends us to understand that persons that have such doubts, such as, for example, Associate Professor de Freitas at Auckland University and Dr de Lange at Waikato (as well as all members of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition) are unhinged activists, etc... The 31,486 American scientists who recently established a website dedicated to this same proposition, presumably fall into the same category.

Karl du Fresne: Better Behaviour in Courts!

The TV news recently showed us a defendant in the dock in Waitakere District Court on charges of escaping from police custody in Auckland Hospital.

Throughout his appearance, he was gesticulating and waving. At one point he made a defiant gesture to the TV camera. The reporter told us the man appeared to be conducting a conversation, using signs and gestures, with someone in the body of the court.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Frank Newman: Kick-starting the economy

Last week the Northland Regional Council (NRC) heard submissions to its Annual Plan. The main point of contention was the Council’s proposal to hike rates 19% largely to create a funding pool for “worthy” projects.

Their reason for doing so, in the words of one councillor, was because the market place had failed to uplift the region. He pointed to the fact that Northland was disgracing itself by lagging behind all other regions in key social statistics like crime, household income, education standards, life expectancy, and so on. His point was this. Because the free market was failing to deliver the desired social well-beings, the NRC would have to do so.

Robin Grieve: ETS to Slash Farm Incomes by Eleven Percent

According to figures produced by the ETS Review Panel the Emission Trading Scheme will slash NZ farm incomes by between nine and eleven percent in 2015. New Zealand farmers will be the only farmers in the world kneecapped by their own Government in this way. The Review Panel attempted to justify this by saying that Australian farmers, while not included in the Australian carbon tax scheme, would be subject to the Australian Carbon Farming Initiative.

The ETS Review Panel shows either bias or ignorance here because the New Zealand ETS and the Australian Carbon Farming Initiative are not comparable, they are chalk and cheese. Under the ETS New Zealand farmers will pay for livestock emissions of nitrous oxide and methane. Under the CFI Australian farmers do not pay for any of their livestock emissions but they can be paid for reducing them.

Roger Kerr: Is Tax the Rich Good Policy?

The Labour Party plans to increase the top personal tax rate on higher income earners if it wins office at the November election.

We have gone down this path before. The last Labour-led government raised the rate from 33 to 39 cents, ostensibly to gain more revenue for social spending.

The move was unnecessary. With economic recovery and reasonably prudent spending in its first term of office, that government soon found itself with large fiscal surpluses.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Frank Newman: The End is Nigh!

Today life on Earth is going to end. We know this to be true because Christian evangelist, Harold Camping, says "The Bible guarantees it!”.

And if Harold is not right then we know it will end soon anyway, because environmental evangelist, Al Gore, says "science guarantees it!”. Al Gore is in fact a lot smarter than Harold Camping, and for a number of reasons.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Owen McShane: A Post-Budget thought for the Week

The budget is based on Treasury forecasts of 4% annual growth in the economy. They must be dreaming.

First. Rebuilding Christchurch does not add to overall growth – investment is simply transferred from the rest of the country to Christchurch, and hence puts a damper on growth everywhere else. (The broken windows fallacy.) 

While this transfer is partially offset by overseas insurers these overseas funds are only a partial offset against total costs. And future insurance premiums, paid to those same overseas insurers, will rise, and increase costs, in the longer term.

Lachlan McKenzie: Revenue is not profit

The 2008/9 season was an annus horribilis for the nation's 11,618 dairy farms.  In that season, 11,618 farmers under the Commodities Levy Act paid a levy to the industry good body, DairyNZ.  It’s considerably fewer than the 17,244 quoted in the Dominion Post and was not an auspicious start to a piece that has done a great injustice to farmers and to the understanding of basic commerce and accounting.

Yes, the average dairy farm may have had $500,000 in revenue in 2008/9 but it also had $558,500 in expenses. You don't have to pay tax on red ink whether as a private citizen or as a business.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Michael Coote: Is NZ headed for the PIIGS sty?

Country debt burdens keep bubbling to the surface as serious concerns, even as a lengthening string of positive US economic data suggests some of the worst risks to markets have been skirted. Nuanced attitudes are emerging to the problems plaguing the PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.

Hedge fund managers, who are often willing to rush in where fools fear to tread, have begun making positive noises about some PIIGS even as they write off the hopes of others. Greece is a basket case, widely expected to default, with the only argument left being how long it will take. Portugal doesn’t look much better. But Ireland is in favour as a bargain for debt securities because its underlying economy is holding up better than expected, and Spain is being viewed as a near miss for collapse and consequently a golden opportunity.

So what is the distinction between PIIGS that will flounder and those that will bob back up to the surface again? The magic words are “economic growth”.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mike Butler: Would we burn effigies on Parihaka Day?

Parihaka Day celebrations are wanted to replace Guy Fawkes Day each November 5, according to a petition from Donald James Rowlands and 891 others presented to Parliament last week by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia. What could be wrong with a musical outpouring throughout the nation, along the lines of the Parihaka International Peace Festival, to replace the fireworks, bonfires and effigy burnings that mark a failed Catholic plot to kill a Protestant king in England 406 years ago?

Turia said Parihaka Day would commemorate November 5, 1881, when villagers in the coastal Taranaki settlement peacefully awaited arrest by 1500 colonial troops. The invasion of Parihaka was not something to be proud of, but was part of New Zealand history, whereas Guy Fawkes was not, Mrs Turia said.
But what would a Parihaka Day commemorate -- passive resistance to white settlement, or an aggressive colonial government asserting the law? I guess it would mark resistance to white settlement.

Karl du Fresne: That 'Infamous' Orewa Speech

Sometimes it’s the apparently offhand remark, the casual throwaway line, that gives the game away. A journalist can convey almost as much with one loaded word as with a full-on rant.

In an item on National MP Georgina te Heuheu’s impending retirement last week, TV3 political editor Duncan Garner referred to her falling-out with former National leader Don Brash following Brash’s “now infamous Orewa speech” – Garner’s words – in 2004.

Let’s get this straight. “Infamous” means evil, vile or disgraceful. Brash’s Orewa speech, in which he attacked race-based privilege and advanced the perfectly laudable principle of one law for all, was infamous only in the eyes of Maori radicals, the political Left and much of the parliamentary press gallery.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ron Smith: Watching the Media

My 25 April blog on SAS involvement in taking prisoners in Afghanistan, who might subsequently be subjected to ill-treatment, suggested that the New Zealand policy of not officially taking prisoners at all was untenable, but that the purposes of the Jon Stephenson Metro article complaining about it, went beyond mere concern for human rights. It was, I argued, part of a continuing campaign by left-wing, anti-American interests, to force the withdrawal of New Zealand troops from the Afghan campaign. Comments by the parties (NZDF and Stephenson and his supporters) over the last week have done nothing to address either of these issues.

Of particular interest to me over the last two weeks has been the performance of National Radio’s Mediawatch. In the first treatment of Stephenson’s story (on 1May), we were treated to a gushing interview, with no probing of the evidence on which it relied and no critical questions, such as why, when his ostensible concern is human rights, he did not ask Colonel M* of the Crisis Response Unit about the treatment of captives in his charge.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lindsay Perigo: The Rice for the Putts

I wonder how many television viewers there are like me for whom watching the six o’clock news on TVNZ or TV3 was until recently a staple of their daily routine but who now repair to online sources for their news because the network bulletins have become unwatchable—or more precisely, unlistenable? An army of airheads has been let loose on the airwaves who have no business being anywhere near a microphone sounding the way they do. They don’t speak, they quack. Many newsreaders and most reporters on flagship news bulletins now sound like panicked ducks at the start of the shooting season.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wayne Brown: Value for Rates and Taxes

I really dislike paying rates and taxes and these two are my biggest bills by far. I want some value back for them, and that is what drove me into the Mayoralty to at least get the most out of what we pay in rates. Some progress has been made- less staff, more business like approach, faster service, more concentration on things like roads, parks, sewers rather than meetings and reports, but there is still a long way to go.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Frank Newman: National's worst nightmare

When prime minister Key returned home from smoodging and rubbing shoulders with the world’s royalty and social elite he found a very changed political landscape by brash acts to his right and left.

If National MPs are not worried, they should be. And they have only themselves to blame. Political arrogance has once again come at a price.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ron Smith: The King is dead, long live the King

I valued my association with Rodney Hide, in the early days of ACT, when I was an active member of the Party. He was an affable colleague and a memorable expositor of social and economic policy. Later, I collaborated with him in a persistent but, ultimately unsuccessful bid to get the truth about the shooting, in East Timor, of New Zealand army private, Leonard Manning. I was impressed by his work ethic and his persistence. By this time, I was no longer a member of the Party. Later, again, I noted (from a distance) his effort to remake himself physically, which cumulated in his high profile participation in ‘Come Dancing’. It is deeply ironic that this admirable project also provided an incident that gave his political opponents endless opportunity for mockery. But, ultimately, it was the failure of the ACT Party under his leadership to make any progress in the opinion polls with another election looming that brought the final humiliation this week. I hope he will leave Parliament, at the end of the year, with the appreciation of his colleagues, and of Party members, and I hope that his obvious talents will find a suitable outlet from that point on.

Karl du Fresne: Big-boots journalism

One of the most striking aspects of the drama surrounding the Act leadership has been the venomous nature of much of the media coverage.

I can’t think of any political party that has aroused more naked hostility from journalists. Even when the press gallery was gunning for Winston Peters, there was a tendency to cut him some slack because … well, because he was Winston Peters, and everyone expected him to be shifty, evasive and generally behave disgracefully.

No such tolerance is exercised when it comes to Act. The media malice is undisguised and unrelenting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mike Butler: Glad Brash is back

Brash is back and I am glad because now I have something worthwhile to vote for. Anyone who follows New Zealand news will know in detail how the former leader of the National Party and former governor of the Reserve Bank took over leadership of the ACT Party, without being a member of the ACT Party, by taking his cause to the public through the media.

Brash’s hostile takeover of the ACT Party had the potential of raising the eyebrows of political commentators around the world since it was unusual and unexpected. But such a takeover was made possible by the failures of ACT Party leader Rodney Hide AND National Party leader John Key.