Friday, January 31, 2014

Bryce Edwards: Political roundup - Act's choice of revival or survival

The stark choice facing the elite Act Party Board members who meet tomorrow to start deciding on its new leader, is one of focusing on either survival or revival. These two aims for the party aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are very much where the two candidates have their strengths and their pitches.

Last night, the Act Party held its one and only public meeting for the three candidates for leadership and the Epsom candidacy. All three candidates appeared later on TV3's Paul Henry Show for an interesting 7-minute item - see: Boscawen on the future of ACT.

Frank Newman: Low interest rate era to end

Yesterday the Governor of the Reserve Bank sent the strongest signal yet that the era of low interest rates is about to come to an end.

Graeme Wheeler said, New Zealand’s economic expansion has considerable momentum. Prices for New Zealand’s export commodities remain very high, especially for dairy products. Consumer and business confidence are strong and the rapid rise in net inward migration over the past year has added to consumption and housing demand. Construction activity is being lifted by the Canterbury rebuild and by work in Auckland to address the housing shortage. Continued fiscal consolidation will partly offset the strength in demand. GDP grew by 3.5 percent in the year to September, and growth is expected to continue around this rate over the coming year.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Accepting the intolerable

There has been a fascinating response to my Dominion Post column last week (reproduced below) about the Bainimarama regime in Fiji.
To recap briefly: I described Commodore Bainimarama as the Pacific’s only military dictator and said his regime had many of the hallmarks of the despot, including such appealing characteristics as nepotism and suppression of dissent. I also said that Bainimarama had been promising elections since 2007 but no one was holding their breath.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: In anticipation of Cunliffe's speech

Tomorrow David Cunliffe will bombard us with statistics about growing inequality. That can be measured in various ways - household income, individual income or wealth.

The best source of data is the Household Income Survey. Just to provide an alternate view, I've pulled out some of the graphs that show a rosier picture than the one Cunliffe is going to paint.

Ron Smith: Prospects for Iran and the Joint Plan

The implementation of a joint plan of action between Iran and the P5+1 countries, concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, has now begun.  What are its prospects of success?  

Of course, there are two sides here.  The P5+1 group may be taken to be more or less agreed on the outcome they desire; which is (so they say) to eliminate any potential that Iran may have to develop nuclear weapons.  On the other side, it seems reasonable to assume that Iran will wish to retain as much as it can of the nuclear infrastructure that it has built up over nearly forty years, whilst conceding what it has to in order to reduce, or even eliminate, the sanctions burden that they have been under.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Frank Newman: Stadiums and pet projects

The Otago City Council has during this last week faced up to something that has been blindingly obvious to most ratepayers for many years – Council’s fancy $230 million covered stadium will forever be a black hole that eats ratepayer money.

In a report to the Dunedin City Council the Council’s CEO said the operating deficits of the last two years were going to get worse. No international rugby tests are expected to be held at the Forsyth Bar Stadium in the coming year and major events are not returning after previous shows failed to attract worthwhile crowds. Quite simply, there are not enough people in Dunedin to sustain the level of activity the stadium requires to come close to being viable.

Richard Epstein: An American in India

 For this populous country, an agenda of economic growth matters most of all.

On December 29, 2013, my wife and I boarded a United Airlines flight from New York to Mumbai for our first trip to India. We spent three days in Mumbai and one in Delhi. That short trip gave me a chance to observe a tiny sliver of a vast, diverse, and contradictory country. The startling contrast between rich and poor is so vividly etched in my mind that I’d like to devote this column to what I observed on my trip. The country’s many microenvironments and the larger macroeconomic picture help explain the great disparity of wealth.

Bryce Edwards: Political roundup – National’s super-smart step to the left

John Key has once again shown himself to be the master pragmatist with an eye for winning votes, even if it requires moving to the left sometimes. The education reforms announced yesterday are a strategic masterstroke and position his National Government incredibly smartly for this year’s election campaign, making National appear bold, fresh, and centrist. 

The new policy cleverly undercuts Labour’s growing emphasis on increasing economic inequality, while also making up ground for some very poorly received reforms and mismanagement in the education portfolio.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: Shearer on "hand-outs"

Ex Labour leader, David Shearer has made some surprising comments in a column published in the NZ Herald today.

Despite sponsoring a private members bill to feed children in decile 1-3 schools he obviously has major misgivings about it.
Since my Food in Schools Bill - to provide food to lower-decile schools - was drawn out of the Parliamentary ballot in October, I've been rethinking this course of action.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mike Butler: Dotcom shows up shallow reporting

“Human headline” Kim Dotcom’s launch/non-launch of his Internet Party has been “a study in the politics of naivety”, journalist and commentator Sean Plunket wrote this week. Writing in in the Dominion Post under the headline "Internet party amateur and vain", Plunket also noted that it has also a glowing example of the gullibility of certain sections of the New Zealand news media and public.

The Dotcom Party launch was leaked on the Whaleoil blog on Wednesday with the logo and details of funding. Left-wing blogger Martyn Bradbury was named as the candidate for Auckland Central, being paid $8000 a month. (1)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Dotcom and Bradbury - a match made in heaven ... or should that be hell?

Some of the greediest people I've known were lefties. In fact I suspect the reason they were lefties is that they were deeply, bitterly envious of people with wealth and wanted a share for themselves.
In a few notable cases, once they discovered their inner capitalist, there was no holding them back. This was true of several people I can think of who were once staunch union activists but later discovered a talent for making money.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Viv Forbes: What keeps us Warm?

What determines surface temperature at any spot on earth?

Apart from a tad of geothermal heat and a wisp of heat from nuclear power generators, every bit of surface energy (including coal and biomass) comes directly or indirectly from the sun. There is no other source of surface heat – everything else just stores, releases or re-directs solar energy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

John Robinson: Killing rewards rubber stamped

A truly bizarre Treaty settlement Bill which is moving inexorably through parliament provides Wellington region tribe Ngati Toa with a wide range of special powers, holding reserves in fee simple, granting of governance arrangements with 11 councils giving special involvement with planning and control of large swathes of the coast.

One “redress instrument” is the right to apply a nga paihau or an overlay classification that “acknowledges the traditional, cultural, spiritual and historical association of an iwi with certain sites of significance”, and thus to set out limitations for access and use by others.

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: The aim must be a sensible, teacher-friendly curriculum

In establishing the review of the national curriculum, the Abbott government is fulfilling an election promise and, as someone who has been intimately involved in curriculum development and debates over more than 30 years, it is a privilege to be involved.

The curriculum, along with teacher quality, parenting, student motivation and ability, and a school's culture and ethos, is one of the most significant factors influencing learning outcomes. As such, it is vital that whatever curriculum is mandated by governments across Australia is academically rigorous, teacher friendly, free of bias and educationally sound.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mike Butler: Pauanui opposes reserve giveaway

Residents of the small Coromandel town of Pauanui are upset that the beachfront strip of land that encircles their town has been offered as part of a settlement to local treaty claimants, Ngati Hei. Pauanui, located just over 40km south of Whitianga, is a popular destination for Auckland holidaymakers in the summer, when the town’s population swells from 740 to 15,000.

The Pauanui Ratepayer and Residents Association said that government treaty negotiator Mike Dreaver, with co-operation from the Thames Coromandel District Council, had offered Ngati Hei sites including the entire Pauanui beachfront reserve and Estuary reserve, effectively “ring fencing” Pauanui from the water.

Matt Ridley from the UK: The real risks of cherry picking scientific data

The Tamiflu tale is that some years ago the pharmaceutical company Roche produced evidence that persuaded the World Health Organisation that Tamiflu was effective against flu, and governments such as ours began stockpiling the drug in readiness for a pandemic. But then a Japanese scientist pointed out that most of the clinical trials on the drug had not been published. It appears that the unpublished ones generally showed less impressive results than the published ones.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mike Butler: Antarctic ice and a ship of fools

Did anyone spot the vanishing global warming theme in the story of the ship of scientists that got stuck in Antarctic ice, requiring a rescue that eventuated on Thursday?

Expedition leader Chris Turney told TVNZ before the expedition set off from Bluff on November 28 that his team would be recording measurements of the oceans and the atmosphere. The data gathered will help scientists predict ocean trends of the future.

He said: "There's some tantalising evidence that we're now starting to see some upwelling of warmer waters around Antarctica which is leading to more melt. You're getting more fresh water coming off the continent of Antarctica and less salty water into the deep ocean, so if that's actually changed, it changes the circulation patterns all over the globe not just in Antarctica."(1)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Dunedin - finger-wagging capital of the world

What on earth has happened to Dunedin? I’ve always thought of it as a city of hard-working, practical, no-nonsense people, reflecting its Scottish Presbyterian heritage. It was the home of Sir James Fletcher, founder of a construction empire, Henry Ely Shacklock, who made the country’s first electric ranges, and Bendix Hallenstein, whose name lives on in the menswear chain he established.
I wonder what such men would make of Dunedin today. Once a southern bastion of industry and commerce, it’s now chiefly known for the torrent of shrill, moralistic scare-mongering emanating from Otago University. It seems hardly a week passes without someone from Otago University, or one of its satellites in Christchurch and Wellington, warning us that our drinking and eating habits are leading us to moral and physical ruin.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: The civilising process

There is a common thread running through many recent stories: paedophilia at Caldicott prep school and in modern Rochdale, the murders of Lee Rigby in Woolwich and by Sergeant Alexander Blackman in Afghanistan, perhaps even segregation of student audiences and opposition to thebadger cull. The link is that people are left stranded by changing moral standards, because morality is always evolving.
What is so striking about the prep school scandal is not only that nobody thought at the time that a predatory headmaster was much of an issue (just the price you have to pay, old chap, for a really dedicated teacher), but that even ten years ago a judge could argue that it was better for all concerned if a prosecution was halted. The idea that the child’s welfare is paramount in such a case is relatively new; it would have seemed laughable in the 1950s.