Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Child poverty can't be cured through the benefit system

Without doubt one of next year's major election issues will be child poverty. Most of the voices heard on this issue, including the Children's Commissioner, blame the problem on inadequate wealth redistribution. Either wages or benefits are too low. Child poverty is therefore a product of the collective economic system and solving it becomes the responsibility of government.

I disagree. We are commonly told that approximately 270,000 children live in homes with incomes that fall below 60 percent of the median household income. Less focus goes on who these children are and why their parents are poor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ron Smith: Oil and Greenpeace - the 'hooligans' are at it again!

There is a lot to debate in regard to oil exploration around New Zealand, both on land and in the adjoining seas.  Oil already makes a substantial contribution to our economy and provides well-paid employment.  It has the potential to do a great deal more.  Of course there are dangers.  Accidents can cause loss of life and environmental damage.  Manifestly, this is not peculiar to oil.  As we know too well, people can die in coal-mining, or in off shore fishing, and there are potential environmental consequences from farming, especially intensive dairy farming, which is at the heart of our present relative economic security.  For some there is also the matter of anthropogenic global warming, which condemns oil exploitation and coal mining, however safely conducted.

We need to reconcile these things.  We need to apply serious cost/benefit analysis.  How much value do we put on the potential revenues and employment possibilities that might come from exploitation of our untouched oil assets?

Richard Prebble: Politically Incorrect thinking

Our government has adopted the lofty goal of making New Zealand smoke free by 2025.  There has been some discussion on whether tobacco prohibition is practical but none on what will be the unintended consequences.  A packet of twenty cigarettes now cost $17 and the price is set to rise by 10 percent a year. The assumption is that the price will cause all smokers to quit.  While the number of smokers has been falling for forty years our experience with hard drugs shows that price is no barrier for an addict. 

The reported rise in amount of duty free cigarettes entering the country indicates that the price has caused an increase in private “importing”.  Down my road a farmer is, legally selling tobacco plants. Soon criminals will organize the private importing and growing.  We are creating the conditions to grow organized crime.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mike Butler: No retreat on race-based funding

Just eight years ago, the headline announced “Government in retreat over race-based funding”(1). The nation was heading for a general election. National Party leader Don Brash had delivered his nationhood speech on the drift towards racial separatism the preceding year that had sparked a surge in his party’s support -- the biggest gain by a political party in a single poll in Colmar Brunton's polling history.

The “retreat over race-based funding” was part of the Labour government’s strategy to recoup the ground lost to National in the February poll. The interesting aspect of the Herald report was that no one seemed to know a total cost of race-based funding.

Karl du Fresne: Regime change at Radio New Zealand

There’s an “under new management” sign, figuratively speaking, outside Radio New Zealand’s head office in Wellington. Paul Thompson, former editorial chief of the Fairfax media group, recently took over as RNZ’s chief executive.

Thompson is a stranger to the public broadcasting culture from which RNZ’s bosses have traditionally been recruited. His predecessor, Peter Cavanagh, came from Australia’s state-owned ABC. The incumbent before that, Sharon Crosbie, had been a high-profile RNZ broadcaster, though she had also done time in private radio.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Frank Newman: Oil, gas, cheese and scones

This week I had the good fortune to spend a few days in New Plymouth. It’s a fairly long trip so I had plenty of time to contemplate what I would find on arrival. It’s an oil town, of course – right in the heart of the oil and gas fields on and off-shore Taranaki.
Being one who does listen to the news and therefore inescapably the spin coming out of the Green Party and its activist networks, I had expected to see oil rigs blotting the landscape and contaminated waterways and beaches. I didn’t. What I did see was a prosperous community doing well on the back of the oil industry.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mike Butler: Gift now partnership denied

The Waitangi Tribunal, in a report on the Tongariro National Park claims released on Tuesday, said that Maori did not nobly gift the cluster of mountains, including Ruapehu and Tongariro, to the Crown in 1887. The tribunal renamed the transaction a “tuku” (offer) and asserted that it was actually an offer of joint guardianship of the peaks.

Such a conclusion appears to involve a blatant and self-serving reinterpretation of history resulting from applying treaty principles dreamed up in 1987 to a significant event that occurred 100 years earlier.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mike Butler: Settlements class action planned

It was only a matter of time before claimants would try to take action against the government alleging the treaty settlement process is flawed, divides tribes, and causes fighting within tribes.

Wellington-based lawyer Moana Sinclair visited Taranaki this week to offer claimants the opportunity to support a class action lawsuit against the Crown that includes claims from Rangitane o Manawatu and Deirdre Nehua, the widow of far-left activist Syd Jackson. Sinclair said five Taranaki sub-tribes had expressed interest in supporting the lawsuit.

Karl du Fresne: The tyranny of the mob - again

Sigh. Here we go again: the tyranny of the mob. Emboldened by numbers and anonymity, the finger-waggers swarm on to Twitter and Facebook, demanding the heads of RadioLive broadcasters Willie Jackson and John Tamihere for asking supposedly inappropriate questions of the friend of an alleged Roast Busters victim. Moral righteousness is never so easy as when there are thousands of you and opinion is never cheaper than when you can join the shrill chorus of condemnation without having to identify yourself.

We have been here before. We saw it with the furore over the late Paul Holmes' throwaway remark - which I suspect was meant ironically, although that point was lost in the moralistic clamour that ensued - about Kofi Annan being a "cheeky darkie". We saw it again when Alasdair Thompson was hounded from his job because he made a perfectly legitimate remark that was deemed offensive to women.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ron Smith: Beyond Reasonable Doubt - Polonium-210 and the death of Yasser Arafat

According to a recent report on the death of Yasser Arafat, supplied exclusively to Aljazeera, elevated levels of the radio-isotope polonium-210 were found in the exhumed remains of the former PLO leader.  These were such as to ‘moderately support’ polonium as the cause of his 2004 death.  So was polonium used to kill him and if it was, who did it?

There is no doubt that polonium-210 is a lethal poison.  It was used to kill former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.  This was established by a post-mortem conducted at the time, although the investigation into the cause of his death was not without some difficulty (This appears to have been the first known example of the use of this agent). 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mike Butler: Talking up Maori sovereignty

Two Far North elders used the commemoration of the signing of the 1835 Declaration of Independence at Waitangi, on October 28, to talk up a separate Maori government. What’s wrong with that? The only reason anyone outside the little commemoration knew about this was because a Maori TV reporter covered it, and that reporter did so without questioning the mixture of half-truths spouted by the elders.

Elder Nuki Alridge, according to Dean Nathan in a Maori Television report titled “Maori Government Challenge Before Ngapuhi”, described the 1835 Declaration of Independence as “a sovereign covenant bequeathed to their descendants” that the Crown “continues to trample”.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Steve Baron: People speak but aren't heard

Ain’t democracy wonderful, we’ve just finished deciding who will run our local council and now we get to decide if the government should sell up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand, in a referendum?

Well, no actually… those politicians we elected in 2011 were evidently sprinkled with magical pixie dust which makes them far more intelligent than the rest of us. They have the power to ignore any citizens’ initiated referendum they choose—something they have done on every single citizens’ initiated referendum that has ever been held. Elitism has triumphed over collective wisdom—the Prime Minister and a dozen or so Cabinet Ministers know better than 3 million New Zealand voters.

Steve Baron: System means a lot of votes don't count

While 58% of Wanganui voters posted in their vote in the recent elections, around New Zealand, turnout was lower than ever before. The question I now want to ask voters is… how many of you who voted, actually wasted your vote? If your Council election do not use a system such as STV (Single Transferable Vote), then there were probably many of you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Richard Prebble: Insight into Politics - David Cunliffe

Being Leader of the Opposition may be the worst job in politics but it is also the job with the best prospects.  Do the job well and you are rewarded with the politics top job.  So it is rather important to discover who David Cunliffe is.

Commentators are not sure where to place David Cunliffe on the political spectrum.  So let us try.

Where would place a person who is an Anglican Minister’s son, was educated at the prestigious United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, got a BA with first class honours from Otago, a Fulbright scholar to Harvard, spent seven years as a diplomat, is married to a prominent lawyer, has two sons and lives in Herne Bay?

Ron Smith: Education and Propaganda

A functioning democracy requires institutions that provide for its citizens an unfettered opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.  It also requires a free and unbiased media, especially in regard to that part of it that is in public ownership and under official control.  I have commented on the manifest deficiencies of the New Zealand media in this respect on earlier occasions.  See, for example, my ‘Public Service and Public Propaganda’ of August 2011, which focussed on National Radio and the persistent radical bias of the bulk of its presenters and guests. 

But there is a third leg to the democratic ‘stool’ and that is an education system that seriously prepares its future voters to play a part in determining the sort of society in which they will live, rather than be merely election fodder. 

Mike Butler: Rental WoFs, standards, politics

Housing Minister Nick Smith has asked officials to investigate a rental property warrant of fitness scheme, to be trialled on Housing New Zealand properties by early next year. (1) Contractors have already checked state houses looking at the external condition, guttering, roofing, whether doors are securable, whether drains work, and whether there is loose wiring, insulation, or smoke sensors..

The WOF issue was proposed a year ago by the Children’s Commissioner as a measure to combat that favourite vote-catcher of tax-and-redistribute politicians -- child poverty. The Manawatu Tenants Protection Association were the first to call for rental property warrants of fitness, and that was around 13 years ago.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fiona Mackenzie: Monkey Business in the Town Hall

Strict Maori powhiri protocol was imposed on Auckland Council’s inauguration last Tuesday (29th Oct). Women councillors were directed into the back row behind all their male colleagues, then to the end of the line-up for the hongi. One councillor said she was “shoved” into the back, while another explained that the women simply followed each other. It’s hard to imagine these strong, assertive women willingly being so meek and submissive – especially as their ranks contain at least one ex-MP, two ex-mayors and a deputy mayor.  Wherever the truth lies, the appearance of discrimination and rudeness towards our democratically-elected councillors (and, by inference, all women) was shocking.

Whoever was responsible is obviously unaware that: 1) sexual discrimination is illegal in New Zealand workplaces and government, and 2) in politics, one must be seen to be doing the right thing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Same-sex marriage – a looming quandary

When Marriage Acts are amended to bring same-sex couples within their ambit, those couples become subject to the existing restrictions imposed by blood and family ties (consanguinity and affinity) which forbid people from marrying someone too ‘close’ to them. So if a woman can’t marry her brother, uncle or nephew, she can’t marry her sister, aunt or niece either. Simple, right? As far as it goes, yes. But not once we consider the rationale behind consanguinity restrictions and what the application of the ‘marriage equality’ paradigm to them is likely to lead to.

Admittedly, the effect of consanguinity on marriage custom is not quite as straightforward as I have implied above.

Mike Butler: A day we all can celebrate

Fed up with the endless anti-coloniser protest that takes place every year on Waitangi Day, here’s an idea. Why not create a new day of national pride to mark – our independence from Australia? A day of celebration and national unity could mark November 16, 1840, the date on Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter under which New Zealand became independent of New South Wales and was empowered to set up a legislative council, an executive council, and courts, under a governor.

The driving force behind this new national day is Ross Baker of the One New Zealand Foundation, a group that gained attention in 2006 when it shadowed the government’s Treaty2u propaganda road show around the country, countering biculturalist spin with historical fact.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mike Butler: Should this treatyist remain a sir?

Prime Minister John Key gave three reasons why former Justice Minister Doug Graham should retain his knighthood, with the first reason his role as Treaty Negotiations Minister. So what was so great about Graham’s work in treaty matters?

Graham went down in the 2008 collapse of the Lombard finance company along with Bill Jeffries, Lawrence Bryant, and Michael Reeves. The Supreme Court last week turned down an application for an appeal against their convictions, but it granted them leave to appeal against their sentences.