Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gary Judd: Our Poisoned Language

Our Poisoned Language is the heading to Chapter 7 of Nobel laureate Frederic Hayek's 1988 work The Fatal Conceit. 

It came to mind when reading a report in NBR — "English takes swing at critics on 'poverty'":
Asked about measures to tackle poverty and child poverty, Mr English told a Maxim-organised gathering in Auckland last night that those terms have been taken over by ideologues and the government does not trust the way those words are used.  
"The term 'poverty' has been captured by a particular idea of how you measure poverty and a particular solution to it. That is, you measure it relative to incomes, and the solution is mass redistribution."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: We are a Christian nation under threat

A 17-year-old charged with planning an attack involving home made bombs in Melbourne; an Islamic school in Adelaide sacking a moderate teacher, scrapping its music program and putting a stop to singing of the national anthem; and an Islamic school allegedly banning girls from running.

A Muslim-organised meeting at Melbourne University where women are segregated from men, a video in Sydney where children are seen shouting anti-American slogans, and the Lindt café siege.

Matt Ridley from the UK: Fossil-fuel divestment makes no sense

It's ineffective, unethical, hypocritical, mistargeted and based on errors

Institutions and pension funds are under pressure to dump their investments in fossil-fuel companies. The divestment movement began in America, jumped the Atlantic and has become the cause célèbre of the retiring editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger. The idea is that if we do not “leave it in the ground”, the burning of all that carbon will fry the climate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brian Gaynor: Challenge to stop housing boom turning into bubble

The latest Reserve Bank Financial Stability Report concludes that New Zealand’s financial system is sound and operating effectively. 

However it identifies three main risks:
  • Soaring house prices – house prices are overvalued on several measures, particularly in Auckland, and individual debt is high relative to income.
  • Dairy industry debt – financial stress in the dairy sector could rise markedly if low global milk prices persist beyond the current season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: In defence of Russia's stance

The outcome of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage (SSM) came as no surprise. No clairvoyance was required – just the realisation that the best allies the SSM ‘Yes’ campaigners had were the ‘No’ camp. As usual.

Every time this issue comes up in Western society, it’s the same story: the musty old authoritarian order of yesteryear coming up against the fresh new egalitarian avant-garde – or so both sides appear to be intent on making it seem.  Throw in a slick ‘Yes’ campaign capitalising on most people’s naïve misunderstandings concerning ‘discrimination’ and ‘equality’ and there’s only one possible winner. And that’s coming from a stalwart defender of male-female exclusivity in marriage – me!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Frank Newman: Budget 2015

Economically the 2015 Budget was steady as it goes. Politically it was masterful.  

Child poverty

The main talking point was the $790m child hardship package which includes a $25 increase in core benefits for beneficiaries with children. Increasing benefits is something no-one had expected, and certainly not from a National government.  It is fair to assume this "generosity" is in part due to the savings that have accrued and will continue to accrue from National's welfare reforms which require beneficiaries to find work.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Matt Ridley from the UK: How to increase natural capital

Decoupling human activity from land and wildlife helps nature: review of Dieter Helm's book Natural Capital:

The easiest way to get a round of applause at a conference of ecologists is to make a rude joke about economists. Nature-studiers think money-studiers are heartless vandals who demand the rape of Mother Nature in the quest to build up piles of financial assets at the expense of natural ones. Dieter Helm, an Oxford professor, is a professional economist but he is bravely crossing the floor into ecology and wants to show how to build up “natural capital”.

Richard Epstein from the US: The "Income Inequality" Warriors

The critical political struggle of the 2016 presidential election may well be the redistribution of wealth. How that issue plays out is likely to depend on whether it is cast in terms of economic growth or income inequality. 

If the Republicans successfully push the growth agenda, then the Democrats will be on the defensive. If the Democrats drive home the theme of income inequality, then the Republicans will squirm. This is a contest that the Republicans should win if they play their cards correctly.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mike Butler: Marketing treaty myths to migrants

Auckland Regional Migrant Services, an organisation that insists on referring to "Aotearoa New Zealand" and regards the Treaty of Waitangi as "the founding document", runs workshops for new migrants facing questions about the Treaty of Waitangi at job interviews.

While employers in the private sector rarely require “cultural safety”, private businesses that contract to government agencies may be required to run an attitude scanner over applicants in the way that government employers do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mike Butler: Another no to Maori ward

Fourteen polls one message was the graphic response of advertising specialist John Ansell upon Friday’s news that 83 percent voted against establishing a Maori ward in New Plymouth.

Ansell created a graphic with that title to show that whenever a contentious Maori issue is put to a vote, opposition ranged from 52 percent against (Maori wards in Wairoa which has a Maori population of 46 percent) to 95 percent against (discharge from conviction for the Maori king’s son).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Karl du Fresne: Alcohol's mystical hold on Otago University students

TVNZ’s Sunday programme this week included an item about student partying in Dunedin. Residents unlucky enough to have noisy, drunk, inconsiderate students as neighbours have had a gutsful, and who can blame them?
The programme included footage taken in a student flat famous for its parties. An occupant proudly showed the reporter his rubbish-strewn bedroom, still trashed after the most recent revelry. To say it wasn’t fit for a dog would be an understatement. No self-respecting rat would have tolerated the mess and filth.

Frank Newman: New Plymouth Mayor should resign

Andrew Judd just does not get it. The New Plymouth Mayor had to "go for a drive" and a bush walk to "internalise" the results of a local referendum that had 83% vote against the creation of a separate Maori Ward in the District.

What Mr Judd does not get is that as an elected representative he was elected to represent people - to be a voice of the people. He was not elected to impose his own views on the community. The problem Mr Judd has in particular is that there is a canyon like divide between his views are those of the community.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Frank Newman: Limited liability?

A recent High Court decision (December 2014) has important implications for property investors specifically and business people generally. The decision has shattered the rule that companies have limited liability. It is now clear that there are situations where shareholders do not have the protection of limited liability and may be pursued for recovery of a debt.

The case involves three  companies: Lewis Holdings Ltd; Steel & Tube Holdings Limited (STH), a public company listed on the stock exchange; and a subsidiary of STH called Stube Industries Limited (Stube). In June 2013 Stube was placed into liquidation by STH.

Matt Ridley: Ancient DNA makes pre-history an open book

Low-cost, high-throughput DNA sequencing—a technique in which millions of DNA base-pairs are automatically read in parallel—appeared on the scene less than a decade ago. It has already transformed our ability to see just how the genes of human beings, their domestic animals and their diseases have changed over thousands or tens of thousands of years.

Mole News Archive

 Taranaki hapu heads to High Court over land claims
A South Taranaki hapu has headed to court in a bid to have its land rights and mana retained.

The Araukuku hapu, which falls within the domains of Ngaruahine and Ngati Ruanui iwi, lodged an application with the High Court at Wellington on Friday, after it was denied an urgent hearing about its claims by the Waitangi Tribunal last week. The hapu is seeking a High Court review of the decision.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - carbon capture

Things you know that ain't so - carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) will soon be an effective way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide”

CCS involves removing carbon dioxide from the exhaust gas of coal and gas-fired stations and sequestering it underground or under the sea. Some people believe it will cut man-made CO2 emissions by 80% and so prevent a climate catastrophe.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lindsay Mitchell: The End Child Poverty petition

The DomPost today published my response (below) to Unicef's National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers' column
 On the matter of child poverty, Deborah Morris-Travers writes, "let's be clear" but then isn't. She doesn't spell out the key demand of the End Poverty petition. It is to extend the In Work Tax Credit (IWTC) - a creation of the last Labour government - to beneficiary parents. She writes about parents who "can't find enough work" implying that a lack of jobs is driving child poverty.

Brian Gaynor: Companies more transparent when they’re listed

One of the major issues raised by the Ports of Auckland wharf expansion controversy is whether Auckland ratepayers have greater transparency and more influence over the company than they did when it was listed on the NZX.

Similar transparency and influence issues can be raised regarding Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy and Mighty River Power, all NZX listed and more than 50 per cent owned by the Crown.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Frank Newman: Provincial headwinds

Last month the Governor of the Reserve Bank announced the overnight cash rate (OCR) would remain unchanged at 3.5%. There were no surprises in that, but the commentary surrounding the six weekly review was less bullish about the next change being a rise.

Dr Wheeler said, "The timing of future adjustments in the OCR will depend on how inflationary pressures evolve in both the non-traded and traded sectors.  It would be appropriate to lower the OCR if demand weakens, and wage and price-setting outcomes settle at levels lower than is consistent with the inflation target... The Bank expects to keep monetary policy stimulatory, and is not currently considering any increase in interest rates."

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: Private school tuition trumps SES status

One of the perennial questions parents face, when deciding where to send their children to school, is whether government or non-government schools achieve the best results. Given the financial commitment involved it is only natural to ask which school sector achieves the strongest outcomes.

Judged by recent comment pieces in the Fairfax Press like 'No academic advantage in private schooling' and 'Public, private schools give same results, 30 studies show' it appears that the evidence is clear.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mike Butler: Few surprises in Whanau Ora waste

Is anyone surprised that the auditor-general said it is difficult to work out what the one-stop-shop Maori welfare programme Whanau Ora has achieved? Auditor General Lyn Provost found that Whanau Ora, a flagship programme of the current government, cost $137-million in its first four years of which $40-million was swallowed up in administration.

“Devolving welfare funding to tribal authorities creates a huge opportunity for the misuse of public money, and creates an immediate incentive for welfare needs to grow, to attract more funding”, was what I wrote when I filled out a feedback form about six years ago when Whanau Ora was being planned.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: VE Day 70 years on – the enduring allure of the Third Reich

One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.                        - Churchill, 1935
It is remarkable to see the spell that the Third Reich continues to cast over people three generations on from the war. I’m not talking about skinheads who think they’re cool by giving the stiff-arm salute and barking ‘Sieg Heil’ (often mispronounced), but about ordinary, decent people from across the social spectrum. It is grudgingly conceded by social scientists that many people from all walks of life nowadays feel an affinity with Nazi Germany, although they are mostly advisedly prudent about expressing those feelings openly.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Frank Newman: Work that does not require a building consent

I recently looked at the latest review of the Building Act 2004. Part of those reforms widened the range of building work that does not require a building consent, but before looking at the exemptions there are a couple of important points to clarify.

A building consent should not be confused with a resource consent. Just because a building may not need a building consent does not mean it may not need a resource consent, which regulates planning issues.

The second important point is that even exempt building work must be done to Building Code standard. So it's not a case of just banging something up - the job needs to be done properly. Not all building work needs to be done by a registered builder, but whoever does the work does need to do it to Code.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lindsay Mitchell: Too many children continue to be born into welfare dependency

If there is one statistic that epitomises the state of modern family under decades of benefit influence it's the following.

Each year I put the same question to MSD (adjusting dates obviously):

At December 31, 2014, how many benefit recipients aged 16-64 had a dependent child born in 2014?
This time the answer  is 11,149 - or 19.4% of all children born in 2014. Still nearly one in five.