Saturday, March 31, 2012

Steve Baron: MMP Review Committee submissions

As many people will be aware, the MMP Review Committee is now taking submissions to get suggestions from New Zealanders as to how they want to see the MMP system changed. Following is the submission by Better Democracy New Zealand. We would encourage anyone that is slightly interested in our political system to make a submission, even if it is just the quick 5 minute option. Submissions can be made at

Better Democracy New Zealand is a political lobby group founded in 2003. It is represented by most, if not all, political cleavages in New Zealand. The reason this movement came into being was to put pressure on politicians to improve our democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.

Karl du Fresne: Four months in and National's looking wobbly

It would be overstating things to say the wheels have fallen off the National government four months into its second term, but they’re looking decidedly wobbly.

Pumped up by its resounding election victory and freed from the constraints it imposed on itself with its ultra-cautious first-term agenda, National has been far more ambitious this time around. There’s a new toughness in its approach, though it still shrinks from tackling some of the big issues such as Working for Families, national superannuation and interest-free student loans.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mike Butler: $162.67m more paid under treaty

Five Treaty of Waitangi settlement bills with financial redress totalling $162.67-million were passed unanimously on Thursday for Ngati Manawa, Ngati Whare, Ngati Porou, Ngati Pahauwera and Ngati Maniapoto. Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson ushered these deals through. The eye-glazing detail means that little is reported in the mainstream media other than the fact they were passed plus acknowledgement of the ritual Crown apologies, and maybe some singing and wailing from the public gallery.

For those seeking an understanding of the financial redress paid, the cultural redress given, special deals, who the tribes are, how big, where located, and their activities in our short history, read on.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marc Alexander: The case against race-based rights - The Waitangi fish-hook.

To supporters of the ever increasing cash payouts from the treaty of Waitangi grievance industry, it means racial and social justice – a means of compensation for past and present discrimination supposedly borne from colonialism. To critics, it has only perpetuated the problem of discrimination while creating a host of new problems.

Philosophically, to show prejudice in favour of maori (whether in terms of rights to collect shellfish from the foreshore denied other citizens; specifically funded projects for health, education and so on centred on maori-centric world views; or even the statutory requirement to have maori seats on councils, ethics boards etc) contradicts the obvious dictum that you cannot do away with race-based discrimination by policies which promote it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Richard Epstein: City Planners Run Amok

The Upper West Side (UWS) of New York City operates in a moral and political universe different from my own. Currently, its confident progressive worldview has precipitated a major land use controversy. On the urging of the UWS “community” and its elected officials, the City’s Department of Planning has endorsed this modest proposal “for new or expanding establishments” on Broadway, Columbus, and Amsterdam avenues. These are major commercial streets, yet the proposal seeks to limit store frontage on them to forty feet for general retail and twenty-five feet for banks.

The proposal earns its “modest” label, because, as the Planning Department confidently notes, the rule would not limit the overall size of the business, the configuration of its interior space, or its kind of operations. Still, many businesses and banks currently exceed the proposal’s limit, often by multiples of four and five.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mike Butler: Settlement top-ups for two tribes

Treaty of Waitangi top-up clauses in Waikato-Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements could be triggered this year, a government spokesman confirmed this week, although the Office of Treaty Settlements said that information on the total value of settlements under the relativity mechanism would not be released “at this time”.

Both Ngai Tahu and Waikato-Tainui negotiated relativity clauses, of the sort that used to characterise union wage negotiations, as part of their original settlements, entitling each iwi to a percentage of all future Treaty settlements once they exceeded $1-billion in 1994 dollar terms.

Frank Newman: The promise of better local government

On Monday Nick Smith was standing next to Prime Minister announcing a comprehensive and contentious reform of local government. On Wednesday he was standing in Parliament announcing his resignation as a minister. 

From the high peaks of 21-years as a career politician, to the valley of public disgrace within 48 hours - such is the precarious nature of politics. I imagine no-one other than Nick Smith will care enough about his Shakespearian fall from grace to reflect on the consequences for him personally, but there are many who will be reflecting on the implications for the “Better Local Government” reform package that he designed and promoted just a few days before.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mike Butler: Takapuna deal shabby

A row that has erupted over the sale of a $41.7-million block of prime Auckland waterfront land cheaply to Maori as part of a big treaty deal shows the sort of shabby unintended consequences resulting from a flawed attempt to right alleged historical wrongs.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the 3.2ha Takapuna Head site, used by the New Zealand Navy as an officer training school, is being sold back to Ngati Whatua for $13.8-million - but the iwi has been given freedom to do what it likes with the land.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mike Butler: Be careful with the constitution

The constitution is not broken, there is no urgency for change, and any change should be done carefully with widespread support, an inquiry to review New Zealand’s existing constitutional arrangements in 2005 concluded. That review is a logical starting point to analyse the current review, which is a a joint initiative of the Maori Party and National.

The 2005 panel, which received 66 submissions and heard from senior jurists and academics, recommended that parliament should designate a select committee to identify and deal with changes with constitutional implications as they arise (page 5)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Richard Epstein: Is Women’s Empowerment a Bureaucratic Imperative?

Times are tough. Both the European Union and the United States are facing stagnant economic growth, high levels of unemployment, excessive debt, and an aging population. I am not alone in urging the European Union and the United States to make major reforms of their labor markets as an essential step toward economic growth. Sadly, serious progress on reform has lagged behind on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet, in at least one respect, the United States is in far better shape than the European Union. I refer to the advancement of women in business, particularly their representation on corporate boards. For the EU, compulsion is the preferred path, while in the United States, to date, voluntary action is the name of the game.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Steve Baron: Internet Piracy

Internet piracy is the downloading or distribution of unauthorised copies of intellectual property such as movies, television, music, games and software programs. It hurts people just like me, as an author, when our intellectual property is basically stolen or given away. When that happens creators don't make any money and are deprived of income. Now in my case that hasn't amounted to much as my books have not hit the best-seller lists yet, but it can mean the loss of a ship load of money for many others.

According to one report, in 2001, software piracy robbed the US economy of 105,803 total jobs, $5.9 billion in total wages, and $1.8 billion in total local, state, and federal income tax revenues. Companies like Microsoft spend a fortune on research and development to create intellectual property. They are quoted as spending $9 billion a year. When businesses spend that much money they expect protection and they expect good returns.

Mike Butler: Bolivian constitution a model for NZ?

Bolivia provides the model for the sort of constitution New Zealand should have, according to Maori studies professor Margaret Mutu, who launched the Independent Constitutional Working Group, a response to a review that stems from the National Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Maori Party.

Mutu, who works at Auckland University and is chairperson of and treaty settlement negotiator for Far North tribe Ngati Kahu, courted controversy last year when she said the immigration of whites threatens Maori due to alleged supremacist attitudes that whites bring with them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ron Smith: Looking at maps of war

For some weeks now an Iranian website has contained a long article detailing the targeting of Israel by Iranian missile forces. ( The site is administered by a prominent Iranian member of parliament who is also Director of the Iranian Parliamentary Research Centre. His name is Ahmad Tavakkoli. At various earlier times he has held senior governmental positions and is said to be close to the Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

The article in question is entitled, ‘The Theological Necessity of the Destruction of Israel’! and apart from a series of detailed maps of Israel, naming specific sites for destruction, it has a substantial commentary on their significance in both Farsi and English. Here is sample which follows the heading, “Israeli people must be annihilated”:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Matt Ridley: The beginning of the end of wind

To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine — despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Muriel Newman: Remembering Owen McShane

I had the privilege of knowing and working with Owen over many years, but since establishing the New Zealand Centre for Political Research in 2005, we had a particularly close association. Owen frequently provided expert commentaries for our weekly newsletter and this blog, and was extremely generous with his time, advice, and expertise.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Steve Baron: NZ not confronting the Important Issues

Just as inflation was the scourge of the 70's and 80's, income inequality (the gap between
the rich and the poor) has become the scourge of today. A famous Kiwi once said that New
Zealanders would not understand a fiscal deficit if they tripped over it in the street and perhaps they do not understand much about income inequality either, or how it effects them—but they should. It is an issue that past and present governments have been ignoring—probably because they are not sure how to fix the problem.

'Income inequality' are two words that quickly spurt with enthusiasm from the mouth of most devout socialists. Even though I consider myself a capitalist (with a social conscience), these two words have been concerning me also.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mike Butler: Special deal for Scottish NZers?

Scottish culture continues as a distinct subculture within New Zealand. It is largely invisible, but bagpipes, kilts, sporrans and dirks come out of the cupboard for weddings, funerals, and at highland games. At the risk of being abused as a Scottish New Zealander basher, I wondered how it would be if clan chiefs got a special deal from the government, and people of Scottish descent were paid cash for grievances, get rights to first refusal on government property, and have to be consulted if the government was to do anything. Here is how it would look:

Scottish New Zealanders would have a special status because they were here first.

Karl du Fresne: Asserting the right to feel offended

What a furious reaction my fellow Dominion Post columnist Rosemary McLeod provoked with her recent column about transgender people. (Boy, I hope I’ve got the nomenclature right here. Terminology is such a minefield these days – get something even slightly wrong and you’re likely to wake up to the chanting of a noisy picket line at your gate.)

In McLeod’s case, 50 people calling themselves “Queer Avengers” protested outside the Dominion Post offices claiming the paper was guilty of something called transphobia. The Stuff website was bombarded with angry comments, including demands for the columnist’s dismissal and accusations of “hate speech” – a coded term for anything that upsets the over-sensitive.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Richard Epstein: The Austerity Morass

A close look at the economic woes at home and abroad raises this unedifying question: who has proved more inept at handling the current economic crisis, the European Union or the United States? To Paul Krugman, this question has an easy answer: The Europeans for their maddening insistence on fiscal austerity when large government expenditures and credit infusions are needed to prop up a sagging economy. With fiendish glee, Krugman denounces the EU’s austerity measures as “pain without gain.”

The spending cuts of the EU nations, Krugman argues, have shrunk their economies, without offering any prospect of generating long-term growth. The Europeans, it seems, have emulated the worst of President Herbert Hoover’s skinflint budgets that helped prolong the Great Depression. The United States, which this time around has been more liberal with the purse, has suffered far less damage than the EU, which shunned Keynesian prescriptions.

Owen McShane: Why so much Dissent?

There is a wave of dissent spreading throughout the Western World in response to the failed experiment in central planning at the local and regional level of Government. For some reason we have suffered decades of top-down local planning in spite of the total failure of central planning in economies as diverse as the Soviet Empire, Maoist China, and North Korea.

This wave has now become a flood and is attracting attention in all quarters. During the property boom, triggered by the planners’ excessive regulation of land markets, and powered by the speculative bubble and lending, the rapid inflation in land prices allowed the planners to fund their excessive interventions and compliance costs, and of course their own salaries and fees, because the “speculators” and developers could absorb the costs.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ron Smith: North Korea comes in from the cold?

It is just about twenty years now since the present leader’s grandfather (Kim Il Sung) participated in just such a process, as has now been announced, for North Korea. North Korea (more properly known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Korean, DPRK) has apparently offered to suspend various nuclear activities, and allow the return of IAEA inspectors, in return for aid. Kim Il Sung died before what became known as the Agreed Framework was signed in 1994, so that the North Korean leader responsible for the commitments entailed, was the second in the Kim dynasty, Kim Jong-Il (father of the present leader, Kim Jong-Un).

In the original agreement, the focus of the international community was on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, based on the production of weapon’s grade plutonium in a reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea pledged to cease this production, to not reprocess spent fuel from the plant, and to cease its development of nuclear weapons. In return for this, North Korea was to receive energy resources, specifically fuel oil, and, in the longer term, help to build up a civilian nuclear power capability. The 1994 Agreed Framework was widely supported, including (financially) by New Zealand.