Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mike Butler: The great treaty divide

Investigative journalist Ian Wishart has turned his attention to the treaty industry in his new book “The Great Divide: The story of New Zealand and its Treaty” at a time when a lop-sided advisory panel could enshrine “treatyism” into a written constitution.

Digitised archives, the internet, and Google searches mean written history is no longer controlled by academics, or worse, government agencies that believe they can indoctrinate generations with an authorised view of the past. Wishart has trolled through archives often 200 years old that are freely available online to let the protagonists of the past tell their story in their own words.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Nanny State in the bedroom

DEBATE on Labour MP Sue Moroney’s paid parental leave legislation has largely focused on whether it’s affordable, but surely there’s a much bigger issue here. The notion that parents should be paid to carry out the role nature programmed them for – namely, looking after their children – represents a huge intrusion by the state into what has historically been deemed a private matter.

That this aspect of the debate has been virtually ignored demonstrates how thoroughly we have been conditioned to Big Government involving itself in people’s lives.

Denis Hampton: Treaty Myth Persists

In December 2010 the Government confirmed that it would conduct a wide-ranging review of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements.  An advisory panel co-chaired by Emeritus Professor John Burrows and Sir Tipene O'Regan of Ngai Tahu has since been appointed.  The panel will consider a wide range of topics including whether New Zealand should have a written constitution and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand's constitutional arrangements.

In recent years there has been considerable debate – often heated – on what the principles of the Treaty are.  Little thought, however, has been given to what the words of the Treaty actually mean, or more to the point, what the good folk of 1840 had in mind when they put their marks on those early documents.

Muriel Newman: Today is Tax Freedom Day

Today, April 28, is Tax Freedom Day as far as the central government tax burden is concerned. It is the notional day of the year when the average New Zealander stops working for the government and starts working for themselves.
The average New Zealander spends almost a third of the year effectively working for central government. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mike Butler: Tribe loses $14.5m treaty payout

Taranaki tribe Ngati Tama lost all of a $14.5-million Treaty of Waitangi payout it received in 2003 in failed investments. (1) A meeting last weekend attended by about 200 people was given full details of a disastrous string of investments by a seven-member Ngati Tama Development Trust. An emotional Wiremu Matuku of New Plymouth later told the Taranaki Daily News.

The biggest single investment was more than $12.5-million with Australian-based computer software company My Virtual Home Ltd, which is in liquidation with no assets. Other investments included $4.39-million with Tu Ere Fishing Ltd, now likely to offer a minimal return, and $1.19-million with property investment company Open Group Ltd which has no current estimated value.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mike Butler: What Maori and non-Maori think about separate seats

What do Maori and non-Maori think about separate seats and whether the Waitangi Tribunal should be abolished? Two polls four weeks ago gave a taste of current thinking – one was a poll on separate representation in Waikato and the other a Colmar Brunton survey.

A poll conducted by the Waikato District Council got a clear message, from 80.06 percent of those who voted, that the district was not ready for separate Maori seats. Of the 12,672 (30.16 per cent) electors who voted, 10,111 were against the idea, while 2517 favoured it. Results were announced on April 5.

Rick August: Welfare Reform in Canada

The typical approach to combating poverty is to build up the welfare system and transfer more money to the poor. Unfortunately, welfare in Canada has been a detriment to both the poor and to society, leaving people reliant on the very programs that were meant to help them. Welfare reform has been tried for decades and yet nothing has changed – the system still doesn’t work. It’s time to give up on welfare reform, dismantle the existing welfare system and create a new system that focuses on getting people in to work and on personal responsibility.

The issue of poverty in Canada is a subject of vigorous public debate. Several Canadian jurisdictions have announced poverty reduction strategies, and there is pressure on all other governments to do the same. A common theme in anti-poverty advocacy is to build up the welfare system as a way to reduce poverty. I argue quite a different approach. I argue that welfare, as it has developed over the last half-century in Canada, has been a detriment to both the poor and to society. I argue for its demise, through an incremental process that makes welfare less and less necessary, and ultimately dispensable in its present form.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: Something is growing but I'm not sure it's poverty or inequality

The Waikato Times reports :

"New Zealand's biggest growth industry isn't agriculture or manufacturing – it's poverty, a Waikato University professor says. Social scientist, Professor Darrin Hodgetts, said New Zealand was "growing poverty". "It's our growth industry and it's growing at three times the OECD average," Prof Hodgetts said ahead of a public lecture in Hamilton tonight.... New Zealand had gone from one of the most equitable societies – in terms of income  distribution – to one of the worst. "And the cracks are getting bigger."

Look at the following graphs from the OECD Factbook:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ron Smith: The Future of Syria

There is an overwhelming suspension of disbelief in the bulk of public comment on what is presently happening in Syria. We have now had more than twelve months of political action from the overwhelming non-Alawite population, which has been countered with increasing ferocity by government forces, using heavy weaponry. The insurgents have responded with progressively increasing violence themselves and despite heavy civilian losses (perhaps up to 15,000 over the 12 month period), there is no sign that they will give up.

In this context it must be asked, what is the point of the of the much-trumpeted United Nations cease-fire initiative, apart from a need to be seen to be ‘doing something’? Already, for reasons that are obvious, the cease-fire is failing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Phil McDermott: From Connection to Dispersal - urbanisation in the 21st Century

Trade, transport and city growth: Commentators have long studied connections between cities and how these influence their development.  The city is the natural focus of trade-based theories of growth.  Exporting a surplus, based on local resources and specialisation was – and is – considered the way  to city wealth.

In this world, transport is the key to the trade portal.  The cities that dominated world trade in the 19th and 20th centuries were those best connected, initially through their ports and sea links complemented later through strong ties over the airways.  Mega-ports and airport hubs were  marks of city success.
This blog raises the possibility that this model is changing, and we need to change our thinking about the future  of our cities with it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oliver Marc Hartwich: Losing sight of the lucky country

This is going to be my last column I will be writing from Australia. After nearly four exciting years at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, I am moving to Wellington to head a new think tank, The New Zealand Initiative.

I have moved countries several times before, and each time it felt like I was closing a chapter and beginning to write a new one. As I make my moving arrangements, I am excited (and even a bit scared) about this plunge into the world of ideas in New Zealand. The only certainty at this moment is that this chapter of my life in Australia is about to end. Although I have had a fantastic time here, and feel nothing but great affection for and indeed gratitude to Australia, I am leaving with an underlying sentiment of disenchantment.

Gerry Eckhoff: The "H" word

The “H” word is not allowed to be used in (parliamentary) debate nor does it seem by the mainstream media when the great asset sale debate is engaged.

I have a few questions for those opposed to asset sales. Would any of you folk be able to confirm that Ngai Tahu have recently sold a large forestry block (18,251 hectares) to a Swiss company. This sale represents the largest area of NZ land sold to “foreign devils” in recent times. Now I understand Maoridom strongly opposes the Government selling off assets. So how does that work? 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mike Butler: Sign up for Whanau Ora feast

Thousands spent on food, chefs, and family travel is the latest headline generated in the name of Whanau Ora, a Maori Party initiative. The scheme is designed to provide comprehensive support for vulnerable families, bringing together all the agencies that deliver different forms of welfare, like housing and benefits, as well as justice, the police and truancy services. The Dominion Post obtained under the Official Information Act details of the 25 most recent successful applicants of the Whanau Integration Innovation and Engagement Fund.

A $5000 contract agreed with a whanau trust in Hawke’s Bay included: $400 for venue hire, $1000 for food, $1200 for resources, $600 for a cook, $500 for administration fee, $300 for travel, and $1000 for facilitators.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Matt Ridley: 17 Reasons to be cheerful

April's Reader's Digest carries an article based on excerpts from my book and an interview with me: "The world has never been a better place to live in," says science writer Matt Ridley, "and it will keep on getting better."

1. We're better off now
Compared with 50 years ago, when I was just four years old, the average human now earns nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), eats one third more calories, buries two thirds fewer children, and can expect to live one third longer. In fact, it's hard to find any region of the world that's worse off now than it was then, even though the global population has more than doubled over that period.

Karl du Fresne: What happens when the school principal is a controlling bully?

I was contacted recently by a primary school teacher. She tracked me down after reading something I had written about a nasty incident in which two Northland school principals bullied a colleague who had dared to speak out in favour of national standards.

I was alarmed by what this teacher told me. A relative newcomer to New Zealand, she had been attracted here because we had a high literacy rate and, in her own words, “seemed to be doing all the right things in education”.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Frank Newman: Mayor in the $1,257 hot seat

The NZ Herald has this morning run an article about Hamilton's Mayor, Julie Hardaker, spending $91,000 last year to run her office. As is expected, the list of expenses were scrutinised by those, one assumes, who could not be counted as being among her supporters, and the entrails published in the media with the to be expected remarks of outrage. The expense items of outrage included the cost of an airport lounge membership ($994.78), and an office chair – a $1,257 chair to be more precise.

While I am not too bothered with the extent of the items generally, a comment made by the Mayor does reflect the essential problem with politicians (and others) who spend other people’s money on their own little indulgences.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mike Butler: Secret treaty deals not acceptable

A secret briefing on the deal to give $13.8-million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua, revealed at a public meeting at the Devonport Navy Gym on Saturday, has infuriated Auckland Mayor Len Brown, and has sharpened a feeling of injustice in the North Shore community.

A copy of the secret briefing to the Hauraki Gulf Forum was used to berate Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and National Party MPs, according to news reports. Takapuna-Devonport Local Board chairman Chris Darby revealed the secret briefing. Finlayson, who tried to explain that the deal to give Ngati Whatua the 3.2ha of land had been done transparently, appears to think that secret deals are quite normal.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mike Butler: Finlayson’s furtive deals infuriate

A secret briefing on the deal to give $13.8-million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua has infuriated Auckland Mayor Len Brown. A copy of the secret briefing to the Hauraki Gulf Forum was used to berate Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and National Party MPs at a public meeting at the Devonport Navy Gym on Saturday, the New Zealand Herald reported. (1)

Hauraki Gulf Forum members come from three government ministries, six councils and local iwi. Christine Fletcher, Sandra Coney, Mike Lee, Denise Roche, Paul Downey, Des Morrison and Wayne Walker were Auckland Council's members. Roche and Coney had left by the time the secret briefing occurred, the NZ Herald reported. Takapuna-Devonport Local Board chairman Chris Darby revealed the secret briefing.

Marc Alexander: Labour or National... Is there much of a difference anymore?

The last few years have prompted a number of people to become increasingly cynical about politics and all the more suspicious of fidelity to one party or another. Grumpy voters can’t see much of a difference in our expensively elected ‘party pamphlets’ hawking their party’s latest propaganda like trained parrots – only less cute. The public now discerns the divide between Labour and National as simply one of degree rather than a fundamental difference of principles.

Labour is seen to be the protector of ‘workers’ rights’ and seemingly has no problem in gouging the pockets of the rich to do so, handing out as many entitlements as they need to woo voters (think ‘Working for families’; progressive tax system etc). National meanwhile, champions ‘business’ but when push comes to shove, has little problem with extorting as much money from the ranks of the employed to help defray the cost of economic failure for those businesses deemed ‘too big to be allowed to fail’.