Monday, September 29, 2014

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: How to teach what it means to be Australian

Celebrating diversity is only feasible when there is a willingness to commit to the values and beliefs that underpin and sustain tolerance. Now that Islamic State terrorism has arrived on our soil it's time to ask the question: what does it mean to be Australian?

There's no denying that during the 1950s and 1960s the prevailing mood was nationalistic and pro-British.  When I was at school, for example, every Monday morning at assembly we neatly lined up in rows, saluted the flag and sang God save the Queen. With our hands on our hearts children would then recite the oath of allegiance and promise to "cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law". The world map on the back of our workbooks was covered in red, proving that the sun never set on the British Commonwealth.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mike Butler: Nats Left, Right, and Centre

The 61-seat majority achieved by Prime Minister John Key and the National Party a week ago, unprecedented since the adoption of the MMP electoral system in 1996, has some wondering what a single party majority government would bring. Key has already said ruled out a lurch to the Right. A bigger threat is a spread to the Left to suck further support away from Labour and the Green Party and to widen the National Party base from centre-Right to centre-Left.

As a reminder, the political Left-Right distinction hinges on ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, with those on the Left believing the state does the best job and those on the Right believing private sector individuals or companies do better.

Mike Butler: Quota woes for HB tribe

Hawke's Bay Seafoods has hired a high profile legal firm to explain in court alleged discrepancies between the amount of fish the company said it caught and the amount exported.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Primary Industries led a raid on sites in Hawke's Bay, Wellington, Tauranga, Gisborne, Chatham Islands and Christchurch. The police Asset Recovery Unit "froze" eight properties and five vehicles through the High Court. Hawke's Bay Seafoods leases the fishing quota of a local tribe, Ngati Kahungunu.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Chris Trotter: Where Has The Election Left The Left?

Where has Labour's worst defeat in 92 years, left the Left? Before answering that question, it might be helpful to offer a few suggestions as to where National’s stunning electoral victory has not left it.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth from some left-wing tweeters and bloggers notwithstanding, the Left is not in some antipodean approximation of Nazi Germany, or even Fascist Italy. Nor has it been deposited, overnight, in the Kiwi equivalent of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 America. John Key is not der Fuhrer, or even il Duce. And Steven Joyce is not Dick Cheney, waiting to be whisked away to “an undisclosed location”.

Karl du Fresne: This was not in the Left's script

What an extraordinary election campaign. And what an extraordinary result. I am writing this column on the morning after. By the time it’s published, most of the dust will have settled. But even at the time of writing, I think some firm conclusions can be drawn
Obviously the result can be seen as an endorsement of the National-led government. But for me the really significant point was that voters overwhelmingly repudiated concerted efforts by outsiders to sway the outcome. New Zealanders were emphatically saying this was their election and they weren’t going to have it hijacked by agenda-driven activists, some of them with no stake in the country.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Richard Epstein from the US: The Vogue of "Social Responsibility"

In September 1970, the late Milton Friedman published a bold manifesto entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in the New York Times Magazine, where he argued that businesses do not need to engage in various charitable or public-spirited activities, even those that generally meet with approval from shareholders. 

The best defense of the Friedman thesis is that any discrete corporate effort to advance collateral ends will not enjoy the unanimous consent of all corporate shareholders, so that the contribution operates like an implicit tax on dissenting shareholders.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mike Butler: Moment of truth for Harawira

Former MP Hone Harawira blinking while refusing to admit defeat was probably the standout moment in election coverage last night. Harawira’s performance was pivotal for Kim Dotcom, the "billionaire" German internet entrepreneur facing extradition to face copyright infringement charges.

Dotcom launched the Internet Party in March of this year, and entered an agreement with Harawira's Mana Party under which the parties could demerge six weeks after polling day. Dotcom donated $3-million to the Internet Party, and shortly after former Alliance Party leader Laila Harré was announced leader.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Matt Ridley in the UK: It's an official protection racket

Nobody seems to agree whether Islamic State is best described as a gang of criminals, a terrorist organisation or a religious movement. It clearly has a bit of all three. But don’t forget that it aspires, for better or worse, to be a government. A brutal, bigoted and murderous government, its appeal is at least partly that it seems capable of imposing its version of “order” on the territory it controls, however briefly. It reminds us that the origin and defining characteristic of all government is that it is an organisation with a monopoly on violence.
The deal implicit in being governed is at root a simple one: we allow the people who govern us to have an exclusive right to commit violence, so long as they direct it at other countries and at criminals.

Jeremy Sammut from Australia: Hard conversation about Aboriginal culture and child protection

Conservative social commentators have indulged in 'divisive grandstanding' by linking Aboriginal culture to the abuse and neglect of Aboriginal children, according to Ngiare Brown, the deputy chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

These claims suppress the hard conversation we need to have about Aboriginal culture and child protection.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Steve Lafleur from Canada: Mid-Sized Cities Can Attract Tourists by Being Themselves

People flock to major cities to take advantage of unique experiences. In theory, most of the types of activities tourists seek out can be replicated most anywhere, but people are willing to pay a large premium and go out of their way to see a show on Broadway, or eat a Philly cheese steak in Philadelphia. 

These unique experiences don’t merely appeal to tourists. They are part of what keep people coming Downtown after hours, rather than staying in the suburbs. Having a glass of wine or coffee at a patio on a cobblestone sidewalk can be a much more enjoyable experience than doing in a suburban strip mall.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Politics isn't all dirt, even if it sometimes looks that way

Don’t despair. Things are not as bad as they seem. At least that’s the optimistic message I’ve taken from all the unedifying political argy-bargy of the past few weeks.
It’s easy to think the worst, mind you. First, there was the YouTube video of Christchurch students moronically chanting “F… John Key”. That was a low in New Zealand politics, but it took only a couple of weeks to be surpassed in loathsomeness by a “song” – I use that word in the loosest possible sense – in which a semi-literate swamp-dweller snarled that he wanted to kill John Key and f … his daughter.

Frank Newman: RMA racketeers

Unfortunately the population at large do not appreciate how much the Resource Management Act (RMA) has destroyed the economy. I guess they don't because they are not engaged in the RMA process so it does not affect them directly.

Bob Jones summed up some of the problems in an article called "Councils promoting rackets of cultural correctness a disgrace" (NZ Herald of the 9/9/14). It's well worth a read. Here are some snippets from the article.

Matt Ridley from the UK: Whatever happened to global warming?

On Sept. 23 the United Nations will host a party for world leaders in New York to pledge urgent action against climate change. Yet leaders from China, India and Germany have already announced that they won't attend the summit and others are likely to follow, leaving President Obama looking a bit lonely. Could it be that they no longer regard it as an urgent threat that some time later in this century the air may get a bit warmer?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reuben Chapple: "Rednecks" and their discontents

“Redneck” is an imported American term that has no place in New Zealand’s public discourse. 

It refers to “poor Southern white trash”, who before the American Civil War, were the overseer class on the estates owned by rich planters. They’d sat on horses toting whips and guns, overseeing black slaves as they went about their work in the cotton fields.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Try free enterprise in Europe

The financial crisis was supposed to have discredited the “Anglo-Saxon” model of economic management as surely as the fall of the Berlin wall discredited communism. Yet last week’s numbers on economic growth show emphatically the opposite. The British economy is up 3.2 per cent in a year, having generated an astonishing 820,000 jobs. We are behaving more like Canada, Australia and America than Europe.
If you think one year is too short, consider that (as David Smith pointed out in the Sunday Times) Britain’s GDP is now 30 per cent higher than it was in 1999, whereas Germany, France and Italy are just 18 per cent, 17 per cent and 3 per cent more prosperous respectively. For all Britain’s huge debt burden, high taxes and chronic problems, we do still seem to be able to grow the economy. Thank heavens we stayed out of the euro.

Frank Newman: Affordable housing

The latest issue of ANZ Property Focus included a feature on the 2013 census. This comment about housing was particularly interesting.
"Rising prices for residential land have made the quarter acre dream unattainable for many NZ households. The proportion of standalone houses has fallen from just over 80% of the private dwelling stock in 1991 to just over 75% by 2013. Despite this, the average consent for a new residential dwelling averaged 198 square metres in the March 2013 quarter, as compared to just 174 square metres in early 2001 and 138 in the early 1990s. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stephen Franks: Competition to end parole

ACT and the Conservatives are making excellent criminal justice policy announcements. If both are in Parliament we might see an end to the cosy major party consensus that has fostered our high rates of serious violent and youth crime.

Garth McVicar's announcement on parole is more straightforward than I had expected. Most criminals come up for parole at one third of their Judge-given sentence. Garth says:

Barend Vlaardingerbroek from Lebanon: Colonial boundaries here to stay

When ISIS announced the founding of the Islamic State, its propaganda machine made a big deal of the fact that it was scuppering the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 that was to shape the political map of the post-Ottoman Middle East. This agreement was negotiated between the British and the French, with Russian complicity, with a view to establishing each Western power’s sphere of influence and ensuring that others kept their noses out.

It was not, of course, the first time that the imperial powers had drawn lines on maps of regions far away from home.