Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ron Smith: What now for Syria?

As widely predicted (including by me, in a 17 April blog), the United Nations cease-fire has become a tragic mockery.  There is a growing band of international monitors but no cease-fire to monitor.  The only function for this gallant band is to testify to continuing atrocity.  This is not unimportant.  It provided for an independent account of what happened at Houla a few days ago but it wasn’t why they were sent.  To leave the monitors in position is to persist in a wilful denial of what is happening in Syria and it leaves persons, who are in a weak position to defend themselves, at considerable risk.  

Similarly, there is no prospect of success for the associated UN ‘peace plan’.  Manifestly, heavy weapons continue to be used, humanitarian assistance is not being provided and the ‘legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people’ are not being addressed.

Frank Newman: Closer to Europe than we think

Money is leaving the Euro zone and heading across the Atlantic to the US, because investors with lots of money to lose see it as a saver haven. That in itself shows how dire the economic situation in Europe has become because the US itself is not all that flash but it is more attractive than the Euro black hole.

That black hole is getting a whole lot bigger - Spain is now teetering on the edge of the vortex to a debt default. The Spanish government now has to pay 6.7% interest on its debt, compared to 1.7% in the US. That is how much of a risk the markets are now viewing Spain.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: 22% of babies born in 2011 on welfare by year-end

Data released to me under the official Information Act  last week show that 22.2 percent of babies born in 2011  were dependent on a caregiver receiving a benefit (DPB, UB, IB or SB) by the end of the same year.

Over one in five babies reliant on welfare by year-end is a sobering statistic. Almost half of the caregivers were Maori and half were aged 24 or younger.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marc Alexander: NZ Idle

The zero budget released last week was an exercise in managing perceptions rather than achieving anything of lasting value. While the buzzwords of ‘prudence’, ‘restrained’, and ‘sensible’ were bandied about in the tranche of media statements belching out of the Beehive, a closer inspection reveals what wasn’t done to get our economy off the critical list. 

For a start, nothing other than lip-service was done to realistically improve our woeful lack of productivity. With an average growth of a meagre 0.2% growth over the last seven years, it’s no wonder that wages have stagnated and, along with it, our living standards. Given that the major reason is our lack of being able to attract greater capitalization of labour (i.e. investing in technologies to improve productivity), the first thing that should have been tackled was our archaic levels of depreciation. Put simply, you cannot expect to compete with state of art word processors while thumping away on clunky type-writers. We need to depreciate our means of production faster and innovate technologically quicker.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Matt Ridley: How Dickensian childhoods leave genetic scars

Being maltreated as a child can perhaps affect you for life. It now seems the harm might reach into your very DNA. Two recently published studies found evidence of changes to the genetic material in people with experience of maltreatment. These are the tip of an iceberg of discoveries in the still largely mysterious field of "epigenetic" epidemiology-the alteration of gene expression in ways that affect later health.

According to standard theory, genes aren't supposed to change, so you can pass them on to generations untainted by your own mistakes. It now seems they can at least acquire marks of experience during life, affecting how much they are "expressed."

Matthew Hooton: Labour still paying for Clark government’s corruption

The worst part of Shane Jones’ fall over the Bill Liu affair is that it has taken so long. All the important facts were published as far back as 2008 by investigative reporter Ian Wishart and across the blogosphere.

That probably served to protect Mr Jones and his sidekick Dover Samuels, given mainstream media scepticism of Mr Wishart and blogs in general. Even luckier for Mr Jones and Mr Samuels, the story was largely forgotten just weeks later amid the euphoria that followed the defeat of Helen Clark’s corrupt regime.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mike Butler: Deficit reveals cost of bad govt

Fed up with Finance Minister Bill English’s “death by 1000 cuts” Budgets, and disgusted with the whole range of commentators who believe in either big or bigger government, I went to Treasury’s Budget appropriations to see by how much I could reduce the deficit. This is what I have found.

In his Budget speech, English blamed a recession that started in 2008, the global financial crisis, and the Canterbury earthquake for the difficulties he faces as finance minister. I suggest the real culprit is the long shadow of barmy policy of successive governments, including his government.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mike Butler: Russel Norman on CGT (LOL)

Russel Norman seems to have sucked in a few unthinking reporters and sub-editors working for Fairfax, or so it would seem, because he was given space to write the pre-Budget opinion piece in today’s Dominion Post normally reserved for the leader of the opposition.

In that op-ed piece, Norman talks up a “smart green Budget” that “would position our nation to be a world leader in tomorrow's green economy”, and waffles on about “a plan that would take our national debt seriously”, “structural reforms aimed at rebalancing our economy”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mike Butler: Nelson, Wairoa oppose Maori seats

Even Nelson MP Nick Smith thinks the race-relations commissioner is out of line in calling for a law change to make Maori seats on councils a right, rather than leaving it to the public to decide. Commissioner Joris de Bres made his call after residents in Nelson and Wairoa voted against attempts to create separate Maori wards. Results were announced at the weekend.

In Nelson, with just 15, 387 votes received by the cut-off at midday on Saturday -- a 43.4 percent return -- there were 12,298 votes (79.41 percent) against the proposal and 3131 (20.22 percent) for it. Preliminary results of the official poll in Wairoa show that only 47.3 percent of electors opted to exercise their right to vote, with 1306 (51.89 percent) against and 1207 (47.95 percent) for.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Matthew Hooton: Greens eagerly eye finance portfolio

Next week is a job interview for Russel Norman. The Green Party co-leader has his eye on being minister of finance in two and a half years and he wouldn’t be the first Australian or ex-communist to achieve high political office in New Zealand.

Dr Norman is very conscious that achieving his goal requires the Green s to stay well above 10% in the polls and for David Shearer, David Cunliffe and David Parker, Shane Jones and Andrew Little or Grant Robertson to have confidence that making him finance minister would not cause an immediate crash in business and economic confidence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ron Smith: Pacific Nuclear Tests and Veteran Health

The British nuclear weapon tests in Australia (from 1952) and in the central Pacific around Christmas Island (1957-58), involved some 22,000 British service personnel and around 600 New Zealand, mainly naval persons.  In the years that followed these tests there have been continuing claims for adverse health effects caused by radiation exposure, both to the veterans themselves and to their children (genetic effects).  This has persisted to the present day.  In what follows I shall outline the claims that have been made and look at the scientific and epidemiological evidence which is available. 

The range of adverse health effects that has been claimed is very wide.  A (New Zealand) TV1 2005 ‘ExposĂ©’ listed, ‘leukaemia, multiple myeloma, skin cancer, premature-aging, cataracts, infertility and (more generally) premature death’.  There was also reference to the ‘sins’ of the fathers being visited on the children.  ‘One in two children conceived after the tests had genetic defects’.  More recently, a New Zealand veteran, who was on Christmas Island in 1958, attributed a ‘crumbling spine’, ‘kidney problems’ and skin complaints to radiation exposure.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Steve Baron: We need the power of veto over new laws

I’m going into business as a clairvoyant and I think I will make a fortune once word gets out on how accurate my predictions are! I don’t expect to get employment with any government unfortunately because they already seem to know everything—or so they think.

Here are my first three predictions so you can judge my remarkable powers. 1. Grey Power and its collaborators will collect enough signatures within the next twelve months—probably much quicker, to trigger their citizens’ initiated referendum in the hope of stopping asset sales. 2. The vast majority of New Zealanders will say ‘no’ in this referendum—therefore rejecting asset sales. 3. More than $10 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted, when yet again, another supercilious government will ignore the results of a citizen’s initiated referendum.

Steve Baron: Judge Ye Not

Headlines are already calling for the blood of Labour’s new leader, David Shearer; “Left divided over low-profile leader”; “Labour's ‘unfortunate experiment’"; “An implausible prime minister”. Shearer has been judged by his 10 second sound-bites and he has been found wanting in many peoples’ eyes. But what do we really know about Shearer—or any leader for that matter, from a few brief comments on TV or in a newspaper?

I realise that there is no way for each and every one of us to really get to know a political leader personally—that’s just not practical. Unfortunately we have to make snap decisions without really knowing what these leaders believe in or what their vision is for New Zealand. Yet, perhaps, New Zealanders are too shallow and or too quick to judge these leaders?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mike Butler: Implications of treaty in constitution

What are the implications of the view that most people think the Treaty of Waitangi must have constitutional status, and why would the Maori Party have a goal of goal of ensuring that the current constitutional review gives effect to the treaty? Aside from the legal arguments whether the treaty is or should be in or out of the New Zealand constitution a significant body of race-based affirmative action has grown around the Waitangi Tribunal’s interpretation of the treaty, and the government’s response.

So how does the Waitangi Tribunal interpret the treaty? The tribunal says the use of the word “kawanatanga” in Article 1 of the treaty was an inadequate translation of the word “sovereignty”, and this led Maori to believe they “ceded to the Queen a right of governance in return for the promise of protection, while retaining the authority they always had to manage their own affairs”.

Matthew Hooton: Conservatives should share the love around

He’s turning out to be a bit of a slut himself. Since losing his political virginity in 2009 organising a pro-smacking march, Colin Craig has been all around town.

In 2010, he promised undying love to Aucklanders if they made him mayor. In 2011, he spent much of his Conservative Party’s $1.9 million war-chest wooing the people of Rodney. By election day, 8031 were seduced. Now, with Epsom MP John Banks on palliative care, Mr Craig is strutting his stuff around the streets of Remuera and Newmarket. Like a wannabe third wife, he’s not waiting for the funeral.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ron Smith: The first nuclear test at Malden Island

On the morning of 15 May, 1957, I was on the upper deck of HMS Messina, with the rest of the ship’s company.  We were stopped some twenty-five miles northwest of Malden Island.  It was 11am and, since Malden Island is only a couple of hundred miles south of the equator, it was already hot.  Certainly, we would have seemed over-dressed, clothed, as we were in long-trousers, socks and boots, and a long-sleeved shirt.  This outfit was then topped-off with heavy white gauntlets and (of the same material) a substantial balaclava.  The latter two items were what the navy called, ‘anti-flash gear’.

From the loudspeaker system, we heard, “This will be a live run.”  We knew what that meant, because we had practiced this performance.  The Vulcan bomber, whose vapour-trail we could see high above us, was carrying a thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb.  The bomber was flying from Christmas Island, four hundred miles away, across the equator, the base for a series of weapon tests, of which this was to be the first.

Muriel Newman: NZCPR Submission on the Emissions Trading Scheme Review

Submissions on the government's review of the Emissions Trading Scheme closed at 5pm Friday 11 May 2012. Below is the New Zealand Centre for Political Research's submission.

To support the NZCPR's campaign to repeal the ETS, please click here>>>

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Richard Epstein: Beyond Austerity

Grim is the right word to describe the latest economic news from both the European Union and the United States. Throughout the European Union, austerity programs have failed both politically and economically. In Spain, unemployment rates have soared above 24 percent. The Dutch government is on the edge of collapse because of the popular and political unwillingness to accept the austerity program proposed by its conservative government. Romania is not far behind. Greece, Italy, and Portugal remain in perilous condition. France faces a presidential run-off election between President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is moving rightward on immigration issues, and the free-spending socialist candidate Franciose Hollande.

On the American front, the decline of GDP growth to 2.2 percent rightly raises fears that our sputtering domestic recovery is just about over.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bryce Edwards: National soft on tough issues, Labour swallows dead rats

Doesn’t anybody stay true to their principles anymore?

The National Party believe firmly that there should be interest applied to student loans but aren’t prepared to reinstate this policy because of the uphill battle they face selling the policy to the public. Instead they’re reduced to finding a backdoor way to tighten up the cost of student loans. By raising the repayment rate from 10% to 12%, and by effectively lowering the threshold for repayments, they’re creating a tax increase for graduates in the upcoming ‘black budget for students’ – see: John Hartevelt’s Student debt plan cuts pay by $30
Opposition to the proposal was, unsurprisingly, swift and vocal – see for example Isaac Davison’s Four-year allowance cap restricts study for manand Isaac Davison and Kate Shuttleworth’s Outrage at student loan changes.

Matthew Hooton: Key forced to protect Banks, for now

The prime minister had little choice but to handle the John Banks donation affair the way he did. The government budget is due on May 24 and any serious question over its safe passage would risk an immediate credit downgrade, threats to the government’s debt-raising programme, a political crisis unknown since the winter of 1984, and probably a snap election.

John Key and his strategist Steven Joyce won the 2011 general election by the narrowest of margins.  Had Gerry Brownlee’s work in Christchurch not increased National’s vote in that strong Labour city, the government would have been out.  As it happened, it limped back, dependent on both Mr Banks and UnitedFuture MP Peter Dunne on every vote.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Karl du Fresne: What's that about supporting the devil?

In a very real sense, whatever happens from now on in the John Banks-Kim Dotcom imbroglio is immaterial. The public has made up its own mind. Banks has lost where it ultimately counts most: in the court of public opinion. And he has only himself to blame, because Banks has made himself look every inch a guilty man. What has swung people against him is his extraordinarily evasive response to questions – the infantile references to cabbage boats, the pitiful “I don’t remember” mewing – which have been broadcast for all to see, and which are likely to be repeated ad nauseam until, like a maimed animal, Banks is put down.

There are now at least three counts against him.