Monday, September 28, 2015

Guy Steward: The Symbolism of the Current NZ Flag

There is a diversionary aspect to the present flag debate. It’s not always easy to know what our attention is being diverted from though. An atmosphere of general bewilderment and indifference is emerging while our politicians try to outdo each other in their flag-changing frenzy. The semantics fly while the country is being divided. The political debate, we are told, is “won in the centre”, but the rhetoric comes from the extremes.

A university publication I read recently states that “Burning and other forms of dishonouring the flag are against the law and therefore a popular form of protest.”[i] Comments like these have the feel of legitimatising such actions and square with the whole move to dump what we have for something else.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Brian Gaynor: NZ strength slows the Tasman drift

The performance of the Australian and New Zealand economies has an important impact on a number of areas, particularly the labour sector and our red hot housing market.

There is usually a large net migration flow from New Zealand to Australia when the Australian economy outperforms us. This normally reduces the demand for New Zealand residential property.

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so - our electricity market is efficient and benefits consumers”

Things you know that ain't so - our electricity market is efficient and benefits the consumer”

When you look at it closely, the electricity market and the associated reforms are riddled with problems that have massively increased costs to consumers.

The first problem is the belief that a market selling kWh on the spot market is efficient.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Karl du Fresne: Royalist, no; monarchist, yes

There are royalists and there are monarchists. Some people might dismiss this as an artificial distinction, but for my purposes it’s a useful one.

Royalists love the glamour and pageantry associated with the Queen and her family. They devour every sycophantic magazine article about them and turn out in their thousands to cheer and wave whenever a royal visits New Zealand.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mike Butler: How the Opera House was devalued

Incomplete advice from engineers plus council indecision has destroyed of the value of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House.

Accounting manager Joanne Guildford told the Hastings District Council’s finance committee that a further $3.738-million “impairment” in the value of the buildings needed to be recorded for 2014/15.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Frank Newman: Amalgamation, RTA changes and earthquakes

The good people of the Hawke's Bay have delivered the final blow to amalgamation agenda of the Local Government Commission (LGC). A referendum of residents has rejected amalgamation by a margin of two to one. In doing so they also delivered a slap in the face of Hastings Mayor and Chairman of the Local Government trade union, Lawrence Yule, and a thoroughly deserved boot up the bum to Basil Morrison, the former chairman of the LGC, who in my view is the epitome of arrogance and disrespect for public opinion.

The victory in the Hawke's Bay reminds me of the expression, people power is stronger than people in power. It's just a shame that people power is so difficult to achieve.

Dr David Whitehouse from the UK: Met Office Shows How To Simplify, Then Exaggerate

A new Met Office report: Big changes underway in the climate system? released this week, is a textbook example of poor science communication.

The report is described as new research. It isn’t. It pretends to be an even-handed assessment of current science, but in reality ties itself up in contradictions whilst trying to imply it knows more than it actually does. It presents a patina of confidence in its ability to advise on what may happen in the future, but can’t bring itself to state clearly the obvious conclusion of the science it surveys. That is, no one knows what will happen to global temperatures in the near future.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Jock Anderson: What Happens When Politicians Listen to The People

Pondering a tsunami of political disbelief in Britain and the United States, freelance journalist Jock Anderson asks: "What Happens When Politicians Listen to The People?"

Political analysts, commentators and news media appear to be struggling to come to grips with a groundswell of electoral uprising on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mike Butler: Domestic terrorism at Kaitaia

The hotheads who threatened travellers, blocked flights, and started fires at the Kaitaia airport last week were not protesting, they were repossessing their land, according to Ngati Kahu treaty settlement negotiator Margaret Mutu.(1)

A 28-hour occupation of Kaitaia Airport by Ngati Kahu, which began just before lunchtime on Tuesday, ended at 3pm on Wednesday in a blaze of tyres and five arrests.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Matt Ridley: Demography does not explain the migration crisis

Even the most compassionate of European liberals must wonder at times whether this year’s migration crisis is just the beginning of a 21st- century surge of poor people that will overwhelm the rich countries of our continent. 

With African populations growing fastest, are we glimpsing a future in which the scenes we saw on the Macedonian border, or on Kos or in the seas around Sicily last week will seem tame?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Jock Anderson: New Zealand Gun Laws Among Best In The World

Freelance journalist and commentator Jock Anderson says rogue shooting is no reason to toughen gun laws.

Calls by the disarmament lobby for tougher gun laws ignore the reality that New Zealand gun 
laws are widely regarded as among the best in 
the world.

Karl du Fresne: ACC and the law of unintended consequences

A letter in last week’s Listener magazine offered an interesting slant on the workplace safety debate.

The writer was a New Zealand geologist who had worked in Australia. He had gone there convinced, as most of us probably are, of the virtues of our no-fault accident compensation system.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Michael Gousmett: Waikato-Tainui’s Privileged Income Tax Status

The existing legislation should be amended to provide that profits from trading derived directly or indirectly by charitable organisations and dividends derived from any company substantially owned by such organisations are assessable for income tax at normal rates.
Taxation Review Committee, 1967

The competitive advantage a charity could gain through the ability to accumulate tax-free profits [enables] a faster accumulation of funds [which would allow it] to expand more rapidly than its competitors.  [This was] the real competitive advantage that trading activities owned by charities have over their competitors.  Trading operations owned by charities would be subject to tax in the same way as other businesses.
Tax and Charities, IRD, June 2001

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - Governments can rely on expert advisers

Things you know that ain't so - Governments can rely on their expert advisers.” (To be honest, not many people now believe this but it seems that governments frequently do.)

In the last few days I have come across two serious derelictions of duty by people relied upon by the government to give sound advice based on the evidence.


Legal threat ahead of council funding vote
The head of a panel that selects Auckland Council's Maori advisers threatened councillors with personal legal action over a vote to release ratepayer money.

Tame Te Rangi, the chairman of the Independent Maori Statutory Board's selection panel, made the threat in a letter to Auckland Council's chief executive, Stephen Town, on July 24.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Jock Anderson: Of Flags And Refugees

Freelance journalist Jock Anderson calls for reasoned thinking when considering two media-driven issues.

No two topics have consumed the New Zealand media as much in recent times as the so-called flag “conversation” and the push to take more refugees.

Reporting on both topics has been at fever pitch as hand-wringing reporters and presenters do their damnedest to foist on the country things many folk are uncomfortable accepting and won’t accept.

Mike Butler: Nick Smith’s RFR cave-in

Housing Minister Nick Smith appears to have caved in to threats of legal action from Auckland tribe Ngati Whatua in a dispute over plans to develop Crown land in Auckland for housing.

Under an agreement announced on Thursday, Auckland tribes will have right of first refusal to develop houses on Crown land, with 40 per cent of construction to be social or affordable housing.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Brian Gaynor: Why world catches cold when China sneezes

What is going on in China and why is it having such a profound impact on world financial markets? The first point to note is that information about the Chinese economy is sparse and somewhat unreliable. 

For example, the National Bureau of Statistics of China released the country’s June quarter GDP growth on July 16, just 16 days after the end of the quarter. These figures showed that the Chinese economy grew by 7 per cent in the three months ended June 30 compared with the same period in the previous year. How could a statistical organisation measure the performance of the huge Chinese economy in just 16 days?

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Employees who won’t do their jobs for whatever reason

The furore over the Kentucky county clerk who refused to officiate in same-sex marriages and went to jail rather than accept a compromise involving her underlings doing the job on her behalf brought out the predictable placard-waving groupies shrieking inane slogans about ‘God’s law’ and religious freedom on the one hand, and pro-same-sex-marriage clichés (e.g. ‘Love wins’) on the other.

To get an insight into the real issues involved, let’s change location to the comparative sanity of Western Europe. There was a very similar case before the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 (Ladele, one of the ‘and others’ in Eweida and others v UK 2013). 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gerrard Eckhoff: Merger talks

At first glance, the Roman legions crossing the Rubicon River 2000 years ago has nothing to do with the parlous state of the NZ meat industry yet the expression “to cross the Rubicon” is exactly what some reformers of the industry are calling for. Crossing the Rubicon has evolved (in English) to mean - there is no going back. Alea Iacta Est ; The die is cast.

The need to change many facets of the meat industry is obvious. Those industries that refuse to adapt - to changing trade patterns, production levels and competition - are doomed to fail as history shows.

Karl du Fresne: Workplace safety debate reduced to farce

Opportunistic grandstanding on one side, incompetent political management on the other. That was my take on last week’s furore over workplace health and safety legislation.

It’s probably not necessary, but let’s revisit the background to this stoush.

Twenty-nine miners died in the Pike River mine explosion in 2010. A subsequent Royal Commission exposed shocking deficiencies in the way the mine was managed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: When rights aren’t right

A stock way of dismissing objections to what someone is doing is for that person to defiantly assert that s/he has a right to do it. This often works. 

The term ‘right’ has an authoritative legal ring to it, although it is often not a legal right that is being alluded to – ‘right’ in common parlance tends to be used in a normative sense, which is to say that which ought to be (in the speaker’s view) rather than that which is. This can create apparent paradoxes, such as a man barred by a court from contacting his children adamantly insisting that he nonetheless has a right to do so.