Monday, December 30, 2013

Ron Smith: Nuclear tit for tat

It looks as if the recent announcement (26 December) by the head of the Iranian atomic energy authority, that Iran will shortly begin to manufacture a new, improved design of uranium enrichment centrifuge is intended as a tit for tat response to the American congressional move to enhance sanctions on Iran whilst the Geneva discussions are proceeding.  

It especially looks like this, since the Iranian announcement is based on a motion before the Iranian parliament, supported, apparently, by nearly half of its membership.  Be that as it may, it is certainly necessary to ask ourselves what this development means, especially since the Iranian parliamentary motion is also advocating an increase in the present target level of enrichment from 20% to 60%.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Marriage – What’s Love Got To Do With It?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
What’s love but a second-hand emotion?
... What’s love but a sweet old-fashioned notion? – Tina Turner 1993

In the aftermath of the Australian High Court ruling last week that same-sex marriage (SSM) law enacted by the ACT was invalid, all the usual arguments for and against SSM were trotted out by the opposing camps, and as usual were given plenty of airing by the media. Not that anything new was said as far as I could tell, but it gave us all the opportunity to reflect on the issue and our own positions on it. In the course of these musings, two things struck me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mike Butler: The UN and the new totalitarians

If you ever wondered about a link between climate change propaganda and the growing influence of the United Nations, Totalitaria by Ian Wishart links government surveillance, Agenda 21, the Earth Charter, national education standards, and church corruption with Satanism in high places.

Wishart is a New Zealand journalist, author and publisher, and the editor of Investigate magazine. He established his credentials as a leading investigative reporter when he uncovered the two key fraudulent transactions in the so-called Winebox affair of the early 1990s.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Frank Newman: Interest rates to hit homeowners and businesses

2014 is likely to be a tough year for debt burdened home owners and businesses. As expected, last week the Governor of the Reserve Bank left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 2.5%. Of greater interest was his commentary.
The Governor has for some time warned borrowers that interest rates will rise. Last week he was more specific. The first of the interest rate increases is likely to be announced on 13 March 2014, and rise 1% (100 points) in 2014 and by 2.25% over the next two and a quarter years (through to mid-2016).
That means a family with a $200,000 mortgage is likely to be paying about $40 a week more in interest this time next year, and $85 a week by June 2016. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Paid Parental Leave extension unwarranted

The government is reportedly reconsidering its opposition to extending Paid Parental Leave from 14  to 26 weeks. This comes despite Treasury advice that there would be "minimal benefit from increasing the length of parental leave."

Last year Treasury analysed who was using paid parental leave, labour market outcomes, and child health outcomes. It found that, "...there is not a strong evidence-based argument to support extending the length of paid parent leave."

Treasury's report states, "...the majority of mothers return to work when the baby is six months old...". Marginal benefits to labour market participation and child health and well-being would therefore be small. Additionally, it notes, "...the most vulnerable children are likely born into families where parents are not eligible for paid parental leave...".

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Steve Baron: City Councilor Accountability

Part of obtaining a University Economics degree is to understand a concept called ‘Moral Hazard’. A moral hazard occurs when the actions of one party change to the detriment of another, after a financial transaction has taken place. Another aspect of moral hazard is the ‘Principal-Agent Problem’. This is where one party, called an Agent, acts on behalf of another party, called the Principal. These concepts highlight a dilemma—how to motivate an Agent to act in the best interests of the Principal, rather than in their own best interests.

It’s a dilemma we face throughout New Zealand when we Principals (Voters) attempt to get our Agents (Councillor’s) to turn up to Council meetings—something we expect of them, given we remunerate them accordingly, in the hope  our city will be managed in the most effective way possible. The problem is that when one or more of these Councillors don’t take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions (or inactions in this instance), this leaves other Councillors’ to take on more responsibility for the decisions that are made. It may also mean that there is less diverse thought and scrutinizing involved in the decision making process. It also means that voters feel ‘screwed’, to put it in colloquial terms.

Matt Ridley: China's growth comes not from dirigisme, but from low-level freedoms

I know very little about what was discussed inside the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party. The meeting was held in secret — although one of the subjects discussed was said to be greater government transparency. About all we know is that “unprecedented” economic and social reforms were discussed, including such things as rural property rights. But, to judge by a new wave of Mao worship, persecution of dissidents and reinforced censorship, political reform is less likely than economic.

In other words, the Chinese Communist Party is trying to continue pulling off the trick that has served it ever since Deng Xiaoping defeated the Gang of Four: more economic freedom combined with less political freedom. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Frank Newman: Incompetent Kaipara

Last week the Auditor General, Lyn Provost, tabled a report into a 20-month review of the Kaipara District Council’s (KDC) mismanagement of the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme. For an auditor, the language in the report is unusually forthright and clear. The only muddling comes when the Auditor General justifies the short comings of her own department, the government Audit Office. 
Ms Provost summarises her findings as follows:
 “I summarise it as a woeful saga. Overall, the inquiry found that:
·        KDC failed to attend to its fundamental legal and accountability obligations.
·        KDC effectively lost control of a major infrastructure project.
·        Some of the work done on behalf of the Auditor-General has fallen short of the    standards I expect.”

Mike Butler: Panel ignores nation’s pulse

While the Constitutional Advisory Panel claims its final report, released on Thursday, is simply taking the pulse of the nation, this separatist-dominated group pushes its view on the Maori seats, the Treaty of Waitangi, and appears to have renamed the nation "Aotearoa New Zealand".

Despite receiving a large number of submissions wanting the Maori seats to go, the panel recommends against their abolition, saying “it is inappropriate for the longstanding rights of a minority to be taken away simply because the minority is outnumbered”.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Steve Baron: Craig should be taken seriously

Politics is a dirty business and politicians are usually public enemy #1. Probably quite deservedly as well, given the long list of disreputable politicians with names like Donna Awatere Huata, Taito Philip Field and David Garrett heading the ‘Roll of Dishonour’.

One politician yet to be elected to Parliament and fast becoming the politician’s enemy #1 is Conservative Party Leader, Colin Craig. If you believe what the current crop of politicians have to say about Mr Craig you would expect to meet a crazy man, a religious zealot, a homophobe or even a skinny Kim Dotcom.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Matt Ridley: The Frackers

This is a review of a book on the people who made the shale gas revolution: Gregory Zuckerman's, The Frackers.

In the long tradition of serendipitous mistakes that led to great discoveries, we can now add a key moment in 1997. Nick Steinsberger, an engineer with Mitchell Energy, was supervising the hydraulic fracturing of a gas well near Fort Worth, Texas, when he noticed that the gel and chemicals in the “fracking fluid” were not mixing properly. So the stuff being pumped underground to crack the rock was too watery, not as gel-like as it should be.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mike Butler: Bigger councils not always better

Hot on the success or otherwise of the creation of the Auckland Council, it appears the Local Government Commission is embarking on a cookie-cutter approach to solve real or imagined local authority under-performance by imposing merger schemes in the regions and in so doing conjuring up nominated Maori boards.

Hawke’s Bay is the most recent target of this initiative. On Tuesday, the Local Government Commission released a draft proposal to merge the region’s five local authorities – the Napier, Hastings, Wairoa, and Central Hawke’s Bay councils and the regional council -- into a single unitary Hawke’s Bay Council run by one mayor, nine councillors, five community boards, and a nominated Maori board.