Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ron Smith: Public service and public propaganda

There is a renewed campaign for more financial support for Radio New Zealand on the basis of a supposed public service it performs. In part, at least, this latter claim is based on a fundamental obligation to deal fairly with different interests in society, and, particularly with political interests as we run up to a general election.

The reality is rather different. National Radio offerings are frequently slanted to a particular point of view, either through the choice of topic, through the clear prejudices of the presenters, or through the choice of guests. For New Zealanders who want to see the full range of interests and views reflected in the broadcast medium, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs and it does raise a question about the continuing support of such organisations, from the public purse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Owen McShane: Let’s Unleash Auckland and aim for 10% Growth

Sometimes it takes severe external shocks to free us of the constraints that limit our ability to take advantage of our opportunities. Could the financial shocks now being played out in Europe and the US actually help unshackle our thinking so we can truly “seize the time”?

Some of us are optimistic about our prospects because of the World Cup and the Rebuilding of Christchurch. My instinct is to remove both these eggs from the basket. The track record of major sporting events is not good – the hosts often wake up with a hangover. The rebuilding of Christchurch is a cost – repairing all those broken buildings diverts capital from newly productive enterprise.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Roger Kerr: From Passive to Conditional Welfare

Recently John Key announced plans to introduce a form of what’s known in the world of welfare as income management.  The hands-on approach, targeting ‘disengaged’ 16 and 17 year-olds and teen sole parents, would put oversight of their benefits into the hands of private sector social service organisations. A ‘competent adult’ would provide intensive mentoring in life skills such as budgeting and parenting, manage the young person’s bill payments and rent, and ensure they were in education, training or work-based learning. Money for basic living costs would be loaded on to a payment card that could only be used on food and other necessities and not on things like cigarettes and alcohol.

While the move is undoubtedly paternalistic, the state is in effect being asked to be father and mother to these teenagers anyway.  And who could argue that it makes sense to hand a bundle of money over to an at-risk young person already in difficulties and with few positive role models in their lives, and expect them to manage it well?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Steve Baron: New Zealand - Parliamentary or People Sovereignty?

In 1840 the British government signed the Treaty of Waitangi with indigenous Maori tribes which gave Britain sovereignty over New Zealand. In 1852 the New Zealand Constitution Act was passed to implement the British Westminster style of government, which is based on the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty.

British constitutional theorist, Prof. Alfred Dicey said that Parliamentary Sovereignty was, “the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament”. Given that New Zealand does not have a codified (written) constitution, this gives the government of the day supreme power, making it unaccountable to voters apart from once every three years at an election.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ron Smith: Fukushima: the consequences

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March of this year, caused enormous damage over a wide area of the east coast of Honshu. It also inflicted major damage on key nuclear assets, near the provincial city of Fukushima. Specifically, the coastal site of Fukushima-Daiichi, which housed six reactors, was so badly affected as to raise questions, not only about the future of the Fukushima-Daiichi site but also about the future of nuclear power in Japan and, indeed, around the world.

At the moment of the earthquake, only three of the Fukushima reactors were in operation. All three immediately went in to automatic shutdown, as they were programmed to do. However, the cores of shutdown reactors (reactors where fission is not longer taking place) still contain fission products, which continue to decay and produce heat. They thus need continuous cooling. The genesis of the problem at Fukushima was, because of damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, that this cooling could not be maintained. Electrical power was lost and back-up arrangements were damaged. There is also evidence that essential pipe-work, serving the reactor cores, was also damaged. The net effect of this was a meltdown of the overheated fuels rods, which damaged the reactor containment structures. This made maintaining cooling even more difficult, since water that was inside was able to escape.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Baron: Unemployed Youth: The Bane of Society

We are seeing riots around the world, many of which appear to be fueled by delinquent youth looking for an opportunity to express their anger with society. Many of which have a burning desire to take what is not theirs and what they have not earned. Unemployment rates amongst these youth have risen dramatically through the continuing economic down-turn. Unemployed teenagers walk down the streets of every town in New Zealand, spray cans hidden under their hoodies, usually looking for trouble rather than work.

I sat outside my local cafe listening to their derogatory comments as our local Senior Sargent drove past a group of them, in his unmarked car. They knew who he was and he knew who they were, as he glanced sideways with a glaring eye. These youth have an unemployment rate three to four times that of the entire work force. With an economic down-turn fewer jobs are available, making them more vulnerable to unemployment. This is partly because of their lack of skills and work experience. Maori and Pacific Island youth face even higher unemployment rates than Pakeha. Why would an employer employ a youth when he could have someone much older and far more experienced for the same minimum wage? It's just common sense really.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Karl du Fresne: New Morning Report host too nice

IT’S NEARLY nine months since Simon Mercep took over from Sean Plunket on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, plenty of time to allow a measured assessment. And I have to agree with Listener columnist Joanne Black that the pleasant, mild-mannered Mercep is too similar to his co-host, Geoff Robinson.

Like many Morning Report listeners, I was surprised that Radio New Zealand didn’t replace Plunket with a woman, or at least someone with a style that contrasted more sharply with that of the veteran Robinson. Mercep is a competent interviewer but lacks Plunket’s take-no-prisoners approach. Admittedly there were times when Plunket was more aggressive than he needed to be and his hectoring style became tiresome, but it worked overall because of the contrast with Robinson. It was the old good-cop, bad-cop dynamic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Owen McShane: Maori at the Crossroads

A group of Maori organizations and Iwi leaders are sending some clear signals to other Maori, and to Government in particular, that they are standing at a crossroads.

One road will take Maori into a future in which they participate in the modern world, and contribute to economic growth and development, driven by technology development and employing people on high wages. They may also benefit from growing dividend streams as a result of significant investments in state owned enterprises.

The other road locks them into the world view of tribalism, and in particular enforces the religious beliefs of pre-European times, such as mauri, and taniwha and which regards science as the enemy – being the “latest force of colonization”.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Frank Newman: Rich list and rorts

There are a couple of observations to chat about. The first is the commentary surrounding the publication of the annual Rich List, the second about why property will remain the preferred investment for a very long time.

The Rich List invariably attracts a polarised debate; those celebrating the virtues of enterprise on the one hand and on the other, those promoting the plight of the poor by contrasting the extremes. (The latter is usually a lead in to reasons why those who have accumulated wealth should be taxed more and given to those who - for whatever reason - have accumulated little or nothing.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mike Butler: Better ideas needed on welfare reform

The leader of the National Party, which claims to believe in personal responsibility, and individual freedom, wants to change the privacy laws to track down the 11,900 teens aged 16 and 17 who are not in education, training, or work, and who do not receive a benefit, and put them on a training scheme. Has anyone else spotted the irony?

Prime Minister John Key also told the National Party’s conference yesterday that young people aged 16 or 17 on a benefit, and the 1000 DPB recipients aged 18 will have essential costs such as rent and power paid directly by the government, and will have money for basic living costs like food and clothing loaded on to a payment card. It will not be possible to buy cigarettes or alcohol on the card. Only a smaller discretionary amount will be paid directly into bank accounts.

Steve Baron: 2011 Electoral Referendum – A Calculated Political Manoeuvre by PM

I can assure NZCPR readers that MMP, FPP, PV, SM and STV are not sexually transmitted diseases—but depending on which of these options New Zealanders choose in the electoral referendum at the next election, it will make an enormous difference to the eventual make-up of future governments and parliament.

When thinking about a voting system New Zealander's need to ask what it is they want from their electoral system. Is it best to have a system that creates a government that can govern alone, or a system that reflects the make-up of the population as a whole and the wishes of the average voter? Should voters have other checks and balances, like Switzerland's direct democracy system or is just one vote every three years enough? Another question to consider is why another referendum is being held so soon after the change from First-Past-The-Post to MMP?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mike Butler: Understanding deficits

Standard & Poor's cut the rating on US Government debt from AAA to AA+, mainly because the political impasse on Capitol Hill has indicated that further budget deficit reductions will be difficult to achieve. What does this all mean? Is there an easier way to understand this, and, most importantly, how is New Zealand doing?

The U.S. 2011 Federal Budget annual spending: $3,820,000,000,000 ($3.82-trillion)
Income: $2,170,000,000,000 ($2.17-trillion)
New Debt: $1,650,000,000,000 ($1.65-trillion)
Amount Cut: $38,500,000,000 ($38.5-billion) – about 1% of the total budget.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Owen McShane: What is it with Bovine Eructation?

Imagine an atom of carbon floating around in the atmosphere just above a farm. That is one atom of C in the air – but packaged in the gas called carbon dioxide or CO2. (If it was an atom of carbon it would be either diamond or graphite powder and would be lying on the ground.)

The molecule of carbon dioxide gets captured by a nearby blade of grass and gets turned into a useful protein or carbohydrate by photosynthesis, and helps build the blade of grass. (There is a chance it will be exhaled as CO2 by the process of respiration but let's ignore that.) Then along comes Daisy the Cow who eats the blade of grass and starts digesting it in her rumen, and in other parts of her intestinal tract. Some of these atoms of carbon will be stripped off the oxygen and ingested into the cow, turned into protein, and finally turn up on your dinner plate as steak or whatever.

Roger Kerr: Education - for many there is no choice

Recently the Maori Into Tertiary Education (MITE) Summit brought together 200 Auckland tertiary education providers to tackle the problem of young Maori dropping out of school with little or no qualifications.  They noted that of Maori who started secondary school in Auckland in 2004, well over half had left before completing five years, and little more than 10 percent went on to do any tertiary study.  

Across the country and all ethnic groups, Maori have the lowest rate of achievement of basic numeracy and literacy standards and the highest rate of dropping out of school with no qualifications.  But the problem is not confined to Maori: far too many students in low socio-economic groups of all ethnicities are failed by our school system. Put that alongside our youth unemployment rate of 17.4 percent, Maori youth unemployment of 24.8 percent, and 62,000 NEETS (15 to 24 year-olds not in employment, education or training), and an obvious question arises: what is wrong with our education system?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mike Butler: Why revisit the 11 'full and final' treaty settlements made before 1958?

Ngai Tahu, Waikato-Tainui, Taranaki tribes, and Tuhoe all agreed to and accepted final cash settlements to their grievances between 1944 and 1958, a study by a professor employed by the Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit reveals. South Island tribe Ngai Tahu received land in 1906 to settle a grievance about lack of adequate reserves. That tribe wanted to rescind its 1944 final settlement in the late 1960s, and agreed to a further final settlement in 1973 in return for a higher annual payment. The latest round of settlements that started in 1985 resulted in a further final settlement of $170-million in 1998.

Richard Hill, who did the study in 1989, is professor of New Zealand studies at Victoria University, Wellington, and oversees the schedule of the Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit. His study provides an overview of the sequence of events that led to 11 settlements from 1944 to 1958, with a close looks at the evidence that shows they were regarded at the time as final. He also detailed settlements agreed upon in the 1920s for the lakes around Rotorua and Taupo.

Steve Baron: Understanding the International Monetary System

To understand the future we need to consider the past. In the turmoil from the international credit crisis, bank defaults and sharemarket crashes, what does the future hold and how did this international monetary system develop to what it is today?

In this article I will examine the changes in the international monetary system over the last 100 years. I will explain how this system has developed from the days of merchantilism and the international gold standard, to the hybrid system of today. I will explain how these changes came about, why they were considered a good set of rules at that time and why they were eventually superseded by the next order. The possible return to the international gold standard will also be considered. As will the possibility of a world central bank along with a single world currency and finally, I will suggest a new consideration that needs to be examined to ensure the international monetary system is delivering its full potential.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mike Butler: Mana Party wants commissioner to help distribute treaty settlement cash

Wealthy tribal corporations do not ensure tribal members benefit from settlements; therefore the Mana Party wants an independent Treaty of Waitangi Commission. Such a body would oversee the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal, the party's first annual general meeting in Auckland over the weekend was told. (1)

Co-vice chair Annette Sykes told the meeting that the current Treaty settlement process does not lead to the distribution of benefits to the people from the tribal corporations. A commission would be independent of the government, and Maori would vote for a commissioner at the general election, who would act as an independent arbiter.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mike Butler: Politics and the blogosphere

May be that information on the internet will have more influence on the outcome of this year’s election than television, radio, newspapers, election meetings, and billboards. The effect of the internet prompted the Close-Up television current affairs programme last week to discuss racist and offensive comments after a personalised plate featuring the word “Maori” was listed for sale on Trade Me.

Internet use first made a difference in the 2004 United States presidential race. The most successful campaigns relied on it to gain advantages over their competitors. Large numbers of adult Americans relied on the internet to learn about the campaigns, to help make up their minds, to help others make up theirs, and to register and vote.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

David Round: Tragic Lessons from Norway

Norway’s recent terrible tragedy, I am sorry to say, marks a new and dreadful stage in the civil war which is slowly but surely beginning to break out in much of Europe and which threatens to finish off its enfeebled civilisation. It was a dreadful thing, and completely indefensible; but it was also inevitable, a natural consequence of the misguided, intolerant policies of a haughty elite contemptuous of the views of ordinary citizens; and it was predicted, by people rather more perceptive than those elites. But the elites, confident of their own superiority, were not listening, and I do not know how many of them are listening even now.

Until now I have known nothing at all of Norwegian politics, and little of modern Norway except for a vague picture of it as an enlightened, hard-working, high-minded, generally humane, enlightened and public-spirited society. The Scandinavians ~ this is the general impression at this distance ~ seem more or less to have made a success of socialism. P.J.O’Rourke, I remember, in a book on economic systems, chose four countries to illustrate ‘good socialism’, ‘bad socialism’, ‘good capitalism’ and ‘bad capitalism’. Sweden, Norway’s next-door neighbour, was good socialism. Helen Clark liked them….

Mike Butler: Bloodshed, bad decisions, and brooding discontent in 11 latest settlements

What are the 11 claims worth more than $216.64-million that are about to be passed into law, possibly under urgency in a bundle late at night? They tell a fascinating story of struggle, bloodshed, bad decisions, and brooding discontent. Since these settlements are not going to be subject to scrutiny by parliament, or by the mainstream news media, here is what they are all about.

These groups have signed Deeds of Settlement and are now awaiting settlement legislation for the Deeds to become unconditional: Ngāti Manuhiri, $9-million; Ngāti Makino, $6.7-million; Maraeroa A and B Blocks, $1.8-million; Ngai Tāmanuhiri, $11.07-million; Ngāti Porou, $90-million; Ngāti Pahauwera, $20-million; Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, $27.83-million; Rangitâne o Wairau, $25.374-million; Ngāti Kuia, $24.874-million; Ngāti Manawa, already settled in CNI plus interest on $12.2-million; Ngāti Whare, which was also already provided for in the 2008 Central North Island Settlement.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lindsay Mitchell: Greens plan is a blueprint for poverty

The Greens plan to lift 100,000 children out of poverty is unworkable and defies reason on a number of counts.

First the definition of poverty is relative. It puts a number of children below a specified threshold. Arbitrary thresholds are exceedingly troublesome in their own right. The US is currently grappling with a new and better way to measure poverty. In the UK not so long ago hundreds of thousands of children were lifted out of poverty overnight simply by moving the threshold! A move no less silly than the Green's proposal as we shall see.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Karl du Fresne: What hope for balanced coverage?

On Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon, Kathryn Ryan provided a graphic lesson in why the Alasdair Thompson affair became so overheated. Interviewing Bruce Goldsworthy, who took over the running of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) after Thompson was sacked for his comments about women’s productivity, Ryan left listeners in no doubt about where she stood on the issue.

Normally a scrupulously fair and even-handed interviewer, she adopted an uncharacteristic hectoring tone – unnecessarily, I thought, since Goldsworthy seemed almost indecently keen to join her in rubbishing his former boss. It would be fair to assume, on the basis of this interview, that Ryan is one of the many women who regard Thompson as a sexist dinosaur for whom burning at the stake would be too charitable a fate.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Steve Baron: Urgency: An Attack on Our Democracy?

We have been hearing a lot of discussion recently about the 'Urgency' procedure being used far too often in parliament and how it is abusing our democracy. The New Zealand Herald published an editorial entitled Bulldozed rush of legislation makes mockery of democracy. The editorial raised fears that a huge amount of non-urgent legislation was being pushed through parliament under urgency without following the democratic process, saying, “It has adopted a bulldozing approach that is disturbingly at odds with democratic Government”. Pushing this legislation through meant there was no time for public debate or input.

Urgency is a process used in parliament to extend the sitting time of the House to enable it to complete certain business. A motion for urgency can only be moved by a Minister of the government.